Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Enemy

Look carefully around you; there are terrorists amongst us. These terrorists are ruthless killers and torturers. They are equally cruel with children, adults, men and women. Their weapons of mass destruction are very difficult to find, and that happens only after they have already claimed at least some part of their victim. The measures used to combat these weapons can be just as damaging to those affected. Although many survive, many perish from the effects of either the original attack or the rescue efforts. Many of those that survive are scarred forever, left with pain and burn marks, and dependent on medications that are costly and full of side effects. Our government seems to do less to combat these terrorists on our own American soil than in invading other countries in search of ghostly weapons of mass destruction. If some of the resources used in war efforts abroad would be channeled to combat the real enemies here at home, then our citizens could avoid the devastation these terrorists cause. Our enemies work in a well organized group and its name is known to all. It is not the Talisban or Al-Qaeda. We know these terrible enemies as CANCER.

Two years ago, my wife Tracey was diagnosed with breast cancer. Last month the doctors, by sheer accident, discovered that her cancer had returned. This time it developed on her spinal column, fracturing her T5 vertebra, and threatening her ability to move and function. The fracture itself has left her in considerable pain, but that is supposed to diminish with the use of radiation. Although "chemo" (which nearly destroyed her quality of life last time) is not part of her treatment now, she is being given medications to further combat the estrogen in her body and to help reinforce her bone structure. These will have, no doubt, an effect on her. She received her first shots yesterday and today she is experiencing bone pain similar to that of chemo.

There are rumors to the effect that cures for many cancer types are available now but that drug companies are not making them public because they would lose billions of dollars in treatment costs. One whole area of medicine (oncology) could be nearly wiped out if these medications would surface. What is a fact is that we should do a lot more to find cures and prevention steps for all types of cancer. The scars (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) left by the disease and the current treatments are simply barbaric. It is time for cancer to be gone.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lessons from the CEO

I came across these words and I thought I needed to share them with everyone:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air.

You name them--work, family, health, friends, and spirit, and you're keeping all of these in the air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four balls--family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.


1. Don't undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others. It is because we are different that each of us is special.

2. Don't set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you.

3. Don't take for granted the things closest to your heart. Cling to them as you would your life, for without them, life is meaningless.

4. Don't let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past or for the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live ALL the days of your life.

5. Don't give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying.

6. Don't be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect. It is this fragile thread that binds us together.

7. Don't be afraid to encounter risks It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave.

8. Don't shut love out of your life by saying it's impossible to find. The quickest way to receive love is to give; the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly; and the best way to keep love is to give it wings.

9. Don't run through life so fast that you forget not only where you've been, but also where you are going.

10. Don't forget that a person's greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.

11. Don't be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.

12. Don't use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved.

This was written by the President and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, Brian G. Dyson. It was used at Georgia Tech's 172nd Commencement Address Sept. 6, 1991.

The complete speech is at

My Alma Matter is up there with Harvard

Who would have thought it possible? The Rochester Institute of Technology (R.I.T.) is being put side by side with a University such as Harvard. That is big news for any of us that graduated from that school.

Look at the April 13 issue at Doonesbury Comic Strip.

Way to go RIT!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Are you sitting down?

For many years, those words have been used as a preamble for important news. One can usually tell if the news are good or bad by the way those words are spoken. On Monday, April 3, Tracey called me and almost immediately asked me if I was sitting down. The tone of her voice told me it was not good news. She told me that Dr. Madden, her medical oncologist, had called her and confirmed that the mass on her back was cancer — indeed, it is the same breast cancer that she discovered in April 2004 and that has changed her so much.

It all started in early March when Tracey went for a routine bone scan. The results came back abnormal and showed a compression fracture of one of Tracey's thoracic vertebrae (T9). This type of fracture has very few possible causes. In Tracey's case the most likely reason was cancer. We met with Tracey's medical oncologist and decided to do a CatScan to confirm the existence of abnormal cell activity near the affected vertebrae. The CatScan confirmed such but also revealed no other unusual spots in her chest or abdomen. On Thursday, March 30, Tracey had a biopsy of the affected area, including the removal of a small part of her vertebrae. We received the results of such on April 3.

Dr. Madden estimates that we can fight this with radiation therapy alone. Perhaps they can repair her T9 vertebrae after radiation is over. We have an appointment with the radiation oncologist on Tuesday, April 11, to map the needed treatment.

Tracey continues to amaze me. Despite the pain she is in due to the fractured vertebrae and the neuropathy caused by the original chemo therapy, she has her "game face" on and is ready to fight this new occurrence. And so am I and everyone around her.

I hope to see the day when we no longer have to worry about cancer, and that the isolated cases of such disease can be treated in an efficient, painless manner that does not involve burning someone (radiation) or running a poison through their veins (chemo). Current treatments remind me of those used in the dark ages, where patients died more from the cure than from the disease.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Lessons from Mowing

One of the nice things about growing older (not old, but older) is that you tend to learn valuable lessons even from seemingly mundane tasks. Saturday was the first time I actually tried to mow our backyard. A few days earlier I had tried to start our mower, but it refused to crank up. So Saturday I asked our neighbor if I could borrow theirs while I took mine to the repair shop. When I got back to our yard, I looked at our mower and decided to try to start it again. This time I sprayed a little WD40 in some areas that may need lubrication and tried to start it. After trying several times the machine fired up. Lesson #1 for the day: don't give up so easily. I realized that I give up on mechanical problems a lot easier than I give up on computer problems. Why? Is it lack of knowledge and understanding? Perhaps so. I decided then that, since I will be using small engines (mowers, weed eaters, etc.) for as long as I can see in the future, I will enroll in some sort of course to learn to work on them. I may not be able to fix every problem (some situations require special tools that would not make sense to buy) but I will learn to handle the smaller tasks (such as fixing the pull rope that starts my mower).

As I started mowing I realized that my usual mowing pattern was not going to work -- some portions of the lawn were too tall for my mower. I quickly changed to a different pattern rather than forcing the issue. Lesson #2: be flexible and observe for the need to change.

Mowing progressed slowly but surely, and I found myself enjoying more and more the nicer lawn I was seeing. I finished mowing in what seemed no time at all. Lesson #3: learn to enjoy the process as well as the end result.

And those are the lessons I learned from my first mowing session of 2006. :-)