Where Do I Stand?

Today was my day to visit the surgeon’s office. Andrea, their uber nurse, was waiting to remove the 18 staples from my belly. Yeah, this hurts a little.

I was much more interested in a re-read of my pathology. My memories from the hospital are hazy at best.

My tumor was 4.5 cm in diameter and the cancer was well contained within the mass. Additional material was removed until the margin contained no cancer cells. The cancer had invaded the duodenum, removed in my Whipple as a matter of course.

Sixteen lymph nodes were removed and tested. One was positive for cancer.

“So right now,” I asked, “if you went back in I’d be visibly cancer free?”


Alas, pancreatic cancer isn’t that easy. That one lymph node means chemo and possibly radiation. I remember the oncologist saying it would probably be a short protocol, but reality trumps all.

There are undoubtedly microcells hiding somewhere. They’re too small to see. They’re patient.

Truth is, I’ll probably never be cured of cancer. My desire is to remain vigilant and aggressive.

On the Facebook’s Whipple Warriors board there is an oft used acronym: NEGU. Never Ever Give Up.

Opioids And Me


Did you see “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver’s HBO show, this past Sunday? The main topic was prescription painkillers, specifically opioids.

I’ve thought about this topic a great deal as someone who anticipated (and endured) loads of pain from my surgery. I still have 18 staples holding my belly together.

The first few days following my Whipple are a blur. I know there was a button to push for pain relief delivered IV. I’m told there’s a fifteen minute lockout between presses, but basically any time I saw it I pressed it!

How can you tell if it works or not? I was so wracked with pain at that point it’s tough to say.

A few days later I went off the pump but had Ativan and Dilaudid available on-demand. I used an Ativan to sleep one night. I’m not sure if I used the Dilaudid or not. Probably not.

I have been conditioned to be scared of narcotics.

Dilaudid may be habit-forming, even at regular doses. Take this medicine exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Never share the medicine with another person. MISUSE OF NARCOTIC PAIN MEDICATION CAN CAUSE ADDICTION, OVERDOSE, OR DEATH

It seemed OK to persevere some pain to avoid them. I’m not that much of a stoic. Judgement call. My intention was to err on the side of caution.

The pain was pretty bad my first night home. A gas bubble was trapped under my rib cage. I popped a Dialudid.

It definitely put me in an “I don’t give a shit” mood. It was too stony — like marijuana on steroids. I wanted the relief without being incapacitated. With the Dilaudid all I could do was lie on the couch and consider using the remote control sometime in the distant future.


We have medical marijuana here in California. I have a doctor’s recommendation as required. I switched and began treating my pain with pot.

Hurt still hurts. Neither pot nor narcotics insulate you from pain. It is just easier for me to control my dose by deciding if I want a few more puffs at any given moment. And I can still function — even write this blog entry.

Over time the pain has gotten less and less. It is now mainly a continuous background feature. It’s there, but you mostly don’t think about it.

My recovery is coming along really well and very quickly. I am astounded.

Not Driving The Dirty Car



I walk by my car on the way to Helaine’s car. It’s parked in front of the house 24/7.

Damn it’s dirty!

We’ve got lots of dust and pollen flying around here. The car looks like the before in a Simonize ad. Embarrassing.

For the past few months it’s hardly been used. Now, not at all. It will be three years old in December and it hasn’t turned 17k yet.

I stopped driving as I tried to control my early diabetes. Now… let’s just say I’m unsafe at any speed.

Over the years I’ve tried unsuccessfully to convince Helaine and Stef to drive my car(s). It’s fun and waiting at the curb. Neither will touch it.

It will stay dirty a while longer.

How Goes The Recuperation?


Let me tell you what I just told Helaine. Things are moving along nicely. No one knows what recuperation should be. This one seems cautiously smooth and fast.

I read the stories. Some Whipple grads take weeks or months to get where I am. I would think I’m three or four days ahead of schedule after a week. My goal of returning to work Monday seems reachable.

I am in pain. Don’t misunderstand. It hurts!

If I didn’t know what it was I’d be seeing the doctor to find out! It is constant 24/7.

Sixteen staples hold my tummy together. There are dozens more stitches buried within. ‘Nuff said.

This is not my first trip to the chronic pain rodeo. It hurts whether you do stuff or not, so I do stuff. The more I move, prevailing wisdom says, the faster I heal. I seem to be a good healer.

It is luck. No skill involved.

No pain meds either.

We went to Costco today. I got to drive a motorized shopping cart.

Dream. Come. True.

Sushi for dinner with Stef and Helaine. And then the debate.

At least I’m getting better.

Sweetest Thing Ever


The candidates were mid-debate when Doppler started barking. Unusual. I called out to Helaine to see if she needed help.

The next thing I knew Helaine was racing to my studio. There was someone at the door. It’s football day. We are appropriately attired for football not people.

I opened the door and there stood my neighbors and their children. They’d made cards and posters and they wanted to wish me well.


I started to cry.

“We moved to this area specifically because there were going to be kids. With kids there’s life,” I said.

This was a genuinely super sweet moment. I’m crying again.

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California Is The Proposition State

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The Clock Is Counting Down

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