Archive for March, 2012

Graduation Day!

There is a big old sea bell hanging in the hall of the St.Francis Radiation treatment center.  You get to ring it when you finish your last day of radiation treatment.

I rang it today. Loud and long. Not that I have anything against the modern miracle that is microwaving a section of the human insides in order to expedite the exit of cancer from ones body.  But I am also not going to miss my friend, Linear Accelerator, either.

They give you you a little diploma that is signed by all the technicians who have worked with you over the course of your treatment.  It’s cute.  I’m sure it will become more cute as time passes and the nasty side effects of treatment  wear off over time.  Radiological Oncologist thinks it could take two or three weeks for the fatigue and pain to wear off.  Still, it’s a really cute thing to do.  You know?  The could have just shaken my hand and said — “Hope this don’t kill you before the cancer does.”  Sometimes it felt that way, from the treatment not from the people.

There’s a short little check in my friends.  Just a little something to say I feel like celebrating tonight.

Tate

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A Second (or is it third?) opinion

I am posting today because I know some of you are curious about the results of the Sloan-Kettering re-test of my slides.

So.

The results are in and as much as I would have liked them to say — “Damn who made this diagnosis?”  “Whoever it was had their head firmly up their…….” — that ain’t the case. The report letter is very short and the statement is that it confirms the original diagnosis.  It does possess, for a small letter, a large number of technical references and numbers.  Luckily, in our immediate sphere of friends we have no shortage of Dr.’s to whom we can fax this and get some common language interpretation.

How do I feel?  I feel like I don’t have to re-fortify.  For the past few weeks I have been digging in my heels by researching, reading and preparing to fight Adenocarcinoma. I’ve been reading Bernie  Siegal; I have found out, to my joy, that my therapist, someone who has been privy to my deepest insecurities, fears and joys over the last 3 years is a Bernie Siegal fan — on Tuesday he gave me a great healing visualization; my good friend has hooked me up with a very wonderful, and I believe very powerful, cranial-sacral therapist; I’ve learned more in the last three weeks about nutrition (especially on what to eat to battle cancer) than I had in the entire previous 3,117 weeks of my life. .  What if the re-test had come back as jungle rot or some desert fever?  Re-directing ones energy, especially radically doing it in order to survive  is difficult and honestly is something I’m glad I didn’t have to do again. I’m glad to know my opponent.

This is the second life threatening fight  I’ve had in 60 years.  I won the first one, I’m gonna win this one.

Tate/Greg/Uncle Greg/Uncle HAM/U.G.

 

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An Evening of Ass Kicking

Within about 24 hours of getting the news about Tate’s illness out, we got a call from our wonderful friends Jacques and Julia (Pistell – I’ll call her JP in this entry so that no one gets her confused with me) to let us know they wanted to plan a benefit to help with Tate’s medical bills.  As JP said, Jacques’ coping strategy for just about everything is to put on a fabulous event. I asked Tate how he felt about this and he said he felt tremendously grateful that he had friends who could and would do this for him when there are so many that struggle with Cancer and have no such resources.

For those of you outside of Hartford, Jacques and Julia work at the Mark Twain House and Museum.  HartBeat and The Mark Twain House have collaborated on several projects over the years and most recently HartBeat celebrated our 10th Anniversary in their “Great Hall.”  Now on Monday, April 2nd at 7pm, The Mark Twain House and Museum and HartBeat Ensemble will present,

An Evening Of Ass Kicking

-A benefit for Greg Tate

Of course the theme of the event was Jacques’ idea: Our favorite Hartford performers (as well as some out-of-state guests) will read, sing or dance a piece from their favorite ass-kicker, survivor or trouble-maker.  The evening will invoke the energy, spirit and laughter we can all use to help Tate kick this cancer’s ass.

So stay tuned for more info and announcements of performers as they are confirmed.  Save the date on your calendar. You won’t want to miss it.

Carry it on,

Julia

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Feeling Hope

I think one of the hardest parts of Tate’s diagnosis, and dealing with the health care system, has been maintaining a feeling of hope.  Tate’s heard about the difficulties and side effects of chemo.  Of radiation.  We’ve heard statistics that are frightening.  And while nobody has given him a long-term prognosis, not hearing that is just as frightening as listening to bad news. 

I’m a nurse and I know that health care professionals are all taught not to ever give false hope.  We don’t want to make promises that we can’t keep.  But giving hope doesn’t mean giving false hope.  False hope is based on a fantasy, a dream.  That doesn’t mean that hope isn’t out there.  Without something to hold on to, it’s very difficult to face the next day.

Last night, Tate and I went to a support group run by Bernie Siegel.  He’s a retired surgeon who has worked for over 30 years with cancer patients, as well as others with life-changing illnesses, to think positively and remain hopeful.  Bernie believes in the power of positive thought, the power of laughter and the power of love.  It’s almost impossible to be in his presence and not feel the strength of that power.

Tate was the only man (other than Bernie and his son) who was at the meeting.  No surprise there!  So Bernie started by asking Tate about his feelings about his cancer.  When asked what color his chemotherapy would be Tate said it was green.  Bernie’s face broke into a huge smile, and he said “green’s the color of life.  That’s good.  That’s really good.” 

There was a woman at the meeting who is friendly with some of Tate’s friends.  She shared that she heard about his diagnosis from those mutual friends, and that the love those friends had for Tate was palpable.  She talked about how loveable Tate is and how valued he is by those in his life.  It brought me to tears, and it helped Tate talk about how he has been trying to learn to appreciate his right to be loved for a long time.  Which brought him to tears.

The entire evening was filled with a sense of hope.  And hope is something we left with.  Laughter is abundant in Tate’s life.  If nothing else, Tessa and Elijah are a constant source of laughter and joy.  And the rest of his community is as loving and supportive as anyone could hope for. 

As Tate would say, “We’re gonna slap that rascal.”  Not just slap it, but win.

With love and hope,

Karen

 

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Just when we thought we had a plan…

Oy. ok.  So as Tate mentioned in the last post, last week we were at Hartford Hospital getting a second opinion. We saw a wonderful medical oncologist who read the pathology report and agreed with both the diagnosis and the course of treatment.  However, were also in the process of getting other opinions. The people that Ashley works with recommended that she send all of Tate’s records to a world renowned retired specialist in this field.  This unbelievably kind doctor read the 330 pages that lead up to the pathology report.  He was very unsatisfied. In a conference call yesterday, he spoke to all us from Miami.  Karen, Tate and I were here in Hartford, Dezi was is Chicago and Ashley was in DC.  Modern technology.

He feels that there were too many unanswered questions (such as what the lump on his clavicle actually was, why it popped up so quickly and why it went away) and that the biopsy was unable to determine for sure that it was stage 3 Adnocarcenoma. He says the report uses terms like “consistent with adnocarcinoma.”  He explained that cancer treatment is so dependent on the exact type and stage of the tumor, that he does not feel comfortable going with “all signs point to” types of diagnosis.  He said that he did not think we wwere talking about malpractice or anything but just in his words, “the junior varsity team.”  He recommended that we have the actual slides (ie the actual tissue sample) to Sloan Kettering Cancer center where they specialize in diagnosing difficult cases like these.

So what does this mean?  We are not totally sure. This doctor did not offer another diagnosis. He was as stumped by all the varying symptoms as anyone else.  But he  says that should mean at least further testing.

This morning Tate arranged for the slides to be sent to Sloan.  We hope to hear something by the end of the week.  In the meantime, he is continuing with the radiation.

The doctor said, “look you want to look back on this and know that you did everything you could and used all of the resources available to you.” Tate is extremely fortunate to have exceptional resources available to him. So that is what we will do.

Peace,

Julia

 

 

 

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First Report from the Treatment Scene

To begin.  I divert a little.  To all of you who live in and around Hartford I want to warn you that there may be Tate sightings.  Julia is convinced that I need exercise, as do all Dr’s, nurses and friends in  general so, especially on mild days, you may catch sight of me walking around on Warrenton.  Should you see that, I encourage you to catch up to me, pretty easy thing to do as I ain’t no speedy hare right now, and say hello.  Better yet.  If you are looking to pay me a visit I encourage you to pick a day where we might walk together.  Your support has been so great since I started this fight that visualizing walking with friend(s) presents as medicine.  Good stuff.

BTW.  If you don’t live near and want to travel here from far away to walk with me — I would love that as well.

Okay.  So.

Had first check in with Oncologist today.  We made each other happy.  He, after looking me up and down several times declared, with a smile, that I looked much better than he thought I would.  I, because while sitting alone with Karen in his examination room I looked up to see that the only book he had on his counter was “Love, Medicine and Miracles” — by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.  To my surprise, this man that I had completely summed up as an aloof scientist with no room in his soul for anything alternative is a person interested in Dr. Siegel’s work.  Blow my hair back!  Also, I believe he has politics that fit with mine.  He has mentioned more than once how rigid it is for immigrant people (he is Romanian) in this country and how tightly they have to toe the line here in  order to “not be in trouble”.

Report wise — White cells a little down, not concerned; red cells, normal; platelets, normal.  Pretty solid for having done a round of Chemo and 8 radiations.  Next Chemo on the 14-17.

BTW II. We got the 2nd opinion. Agrees with the diagnosis and thinks the treatment is aggressive and good. Opinions 3 – 5, I kid you not, are coming in the next week. Radiation slapped hard today.  Took me a few hours to recover.

 

Peace,

Tate

 

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