The thrill of hope, a new and glorious morning

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The Gift Wrap Crusher

I have a dog. A unique and curious fellow, and although I try hard not to talk about him too much, I feel he is the best one to tell this story. He is the kind of dog that yelps when you touch his armpits, smiles when you frolic with him, and tries with all his might to be a real boy. His face has more expressions than mine, and we have become expert conversationalists. Perhaps it is in his genes, or perhaps it is in mine, but we are the peas and carrots of man and his dog.

A year ago this month, I had to wake my dog up in the middle of the night. He was sound asleep at my feet, but when I got the call that Tyler was sitting in the emergency room with an abnormal X-ray, I couldn’t move fast enough. I picked him up, quickly and suddenly. My little man screamed. He shook and he glared at me, and when I tried to pick him up again, he screamed once more. My heart was pounding and all I could think was, I still couldn’t move fast enough.  Continue reading

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Treatment Update: Day 32

Hello Team,

This post comes from UCSD ER, where Tyler is being admitted back into the hospital for neutropenic fever, so far hitting 103 degrees. Basically, his immune system is at zero, and something, we don’t know what yet, has triggered an infection in his body. He has just submitted all his labs and will have full cultures done in the next few days. Until the results come back, he will be treated for general infection via IV antibiotics. If the lab results indicate a localized or specific infection, antibiotics will be adjusted to target. In the meantime, he will have to have a stay-cation in the cancer ward for the next few days until his white cell counts boost his immune system and the fever clears. Kind of stinks, but it is necessary, and good that we know how his body is tolerating the chemo, so that dosages and cell support can be adjusted in the future. Plus, we were warned that this may be inevitable, with no immune system, this was a potential outcome.

Some better news is that Tyler’s liver enzyme levels are trending towards normal. Over the last week he has been experiencing abnormally high levels that were limiting the amount of medication and types of food and supplements his liver could safely process.

Some extra good news is that Leigh is here this week, so Tyler will have extra Team members in the cancer ward with him. Plus, he will get all the good nutrition to help him fight the best fight possible.

Please continue sending your healing thoughts, prayers, vibes, energy. The last few days have been really hard on Tyler’s body. He has literally been drained of his bad (and good) cells, and it is painful and tiring. We are trying to remember to think of the chemo as our ‘friend’, but it is hard when it is creating a violent fight against the cancer inside of him. A heck of a bloody war, but revolutions are not always pretty. Keep fighting Chemo, Tyler is using all his might to keep the battle grounds intact.

The World’s Strongest Man

Clay and Ty

Team Tyler meets Team Treska

If one is lucky enough to meet Clay Treska, as I was on Tuesday, it won’t take you long to notice his physical strength.  And if you’re lucky enough to spend some time with him, to hear him speak, to share his story, and his outlook on life, one quickly comes to the realization that his strength goes far beyond the physical.  If mental and spiritual muscles could be flexed, his would be bursting at the seams.

A framed picture of Clay hangs in the infusion center at the Moore’s Cancer center, where I go twice a week for blood work and occasional outpatient treatments.  Before I had the opportunity to meet him, I saw this picture, and stopped and stared in amazement.  On the left of the frame is Clay, weakened and bed-ridden.  On the right is a seemingly different person, muscles bulging, competing in the Kona Ironman World Championships.  For those that don’t know, Kona is the big one.

To call his story an inspiration would be perhaps the world’s biggest understatement. His cancer came back. They told him there was nothing they could do. They used words like ‘terminal’. They made hospice arrangements.

With a nothing to lose attitude, and a fighting spirit, he went out on a limb, emailing Lance Armstrong’s oncologist.  To his surprise, he got a response.  There was a new combination stem-cell/chemotherapy treatment in development that just might be worth a shot.  He was admitted to UCSD’s clinical trials program, and began treatment immediately. The rest of the story (and it is still unfolding) is described in detail on Clay’s website TeamTreska.org, in a variety of media and youtube videos.

If you have a few minutes, I would encourage you to check out his site. This particular clip doesn’t cover the entire story, but I thought it was worth sharing and happens to feature my primary oncologist, Dr. Peter Curtin, who was Clay’s doctor as well:

To Clay: Thanks for being the person you are, and for reminding us all of the opportunity that exists in every challenge.

–T

P.S. I have to thank the love of my life Natasha Moshirian for secretly setting up this visit.  When Clay walked in and introduced himself, I think my jaw hit the floor.  Thanks Tash!

Treatment Update: M-I-Z-Z-O-U Thank You!

Team Tyler Mizzou

Bald head, Mizzou shorts

Belated happy new year to everyone, and greetings from Room 356 West at Thornton Hospital.  I’m back for round 1B of my Hyper CVAD regimen.  If all goes to plan we’ll get started on chemo this afternoon and I’ll be here for a 4-5 day stay-cation.  Here’s hoping all goes to plan.

I have a lot to be thankful for as 2012 begins, and a lot of thank you notes to write as I pass the time here for the next few days.  Your greeting cards, text messages, emails, words of encouragement, and all around kindness and generosity are helping me to stay positive.  For that, I am grateful.

And I’m feeling love and support, not only from my friends and family, but from people who don’t even know me!  Let me elaborate… Continue reading

The rebel

A clenched power fist, Tom? On the holidays?? Are we at a Rage Against the Machine show,  ready to start an Occupy San Diego protest? Didn’t your mom ever tell you ‘no politics at the dinner table?’ Ok, guilty as charged — but if you’ll indulge me off the bat, I promise that somewhere here lies the makings of what more learned men might call ‘a point’.

Shoot, I’m losing my audience already…(why did I have that red bull and vodka and shot of espresso before I started typing??). Ok, I need a quote….ahh, a rabbit out of a hat; this one ought to do just fine:

But he who dedicates himself to the duration of his life, to the house he builds, to the dignity of mankind, dedicates himself to the earth and reaps from it the harvest that sows its seed and sustains the world again and again.

(Boom — now I’ve got my game face on). The beautiful and quite apt words above are from Albert Camus’ appropriately titled essay, ‘The Rebel’. In that work, and in much of his life’s thinking, Camus dedicated himself to the overarching proposition that, despite man’s sometimes befuddling existence, and the often cumbersome predicaments put in his place, there is only one option at the end of the day: to rebel. You might rightly ask: Rebel against what, and for what purpose? Camus had his own litany of responses, both political and metaphysical in nature, but the takeaway of it is that in spite of much of the pain, frustration, and loss that living provides for us, this life simultaneously provides us the ability to rebel against those bumps in the road in order that all that is beautiful, sublime, and ineffable around us might again be revealed. It is a constant process, politically, socially, and personally, but by rebelling against those conditions that bring us tribulation, we can nonetheless reassert our humanity — and as an extension — know love. Continue reading

Survival of the Fittest

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Fitness is key for an immune system boost and keeping healthy organ function. The oncologists recommend as much exercise as possible. Tyler is taking this to the limit. As immuno-compromised chemo patients must avoid crowded gyms, Tyler is taking full advantage of the great outdoors to get his heart pumping. Sun is warm, grass is green. A beautiful late afternoon at the UCSD track.

Treatment Update: Day 5

“Keep your face always upward toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

-Walt Whitman

I could get really philosophical right now. My family says I have a knack for the wishy-washy (they use a more vibrant term), but what I have witnessed this past week is such a flood of love and support from friends and family, that I cannot help but feel slapped in the face on how I was handling our gift of life. Two weeks ago I had a definite list of priorities. Figure out my job situation, train to be faster (or fast as, let’s be realistic here) Tyler on bike,  train my dog to stop barking at select people he doesn’t like, train my dog to not bark at animals on tv, train my dog to not cry when his armpits are touched, and follow Ms. Leigh’s assigned diet to keep me healthy. Easy enough, but enough to keep me busy.

Then we got slapped. All of us. Every single one of you. I know you feel it. What the heck is going on here? Why Tyler? Why the most healthy, strong, beautiful, kind, loving, hard-working, passionate person we know? God knows. A few weeks ago my coworker was diagnosed with cancer, and asked me, ‘What did I do, why am I being punished?’. This is not a punishment, I told her, you can’t see it now, you might not see it for a very long time, but this is a lesson. Her eyes got big and I saw the wheels turning, ‘Maybe this will bring my family closer?’.

Maybe. I said.

So here we are, and my heart is open, and your hearts are open, and I have played team sports my whole life, but I have never felt a camaraderie like this. My priorities have changed, and at the top of my list: FAMILY, FRIENDS. Make my relationships count. This is all we have. This is what we are here for.

Tyler with my soccer star cousin Hamid

So Team Tyler, without further delay, I have the current update for our Hero.

He is kicking cancer in the heart, literally. So far the most uncomfortable side effects are coming from the steroids. Hiccups, irritability, difficulty sleeping, an overall ‘weird’ feeling. Sound harmless but they are magnified in this 10 x 10 room. Cell counts are currently still normal, but are expected to drop significantly in the next few days. That is when we should expect weakness and an increased risk for infection. His spirit is strong and his eyes are bright. So far, so great.

Bracelets are not in yet, I will post as soon as they are delivered.  And, special thanks to my lovely cousin Kathryn Kopczynski for sharing the quote at the top–Tyler loves Whitman  🙂

Team CHIP for Team Tyler!

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I had a nice visit with some of my friends and co-workers from CHIP today (www.sdchip.org). They wanted me to know that they love me me and are fighting alongside me. I missed the company holiday party last night, but they were kind enough to drink a toast in my honor, make the killer get-well banner, and completely spoiled me with an amazon Kindle for christmas. THANKS TEAM CHIP!

Team Tyler – get ready to unite!

I received this message today from my family in Milwaukee, I am super pumped on this idea and I hope you all are too:

Hi Tash,

Kathryn came up with a really great idea for Team Tyler. There are 600 lime green “TEAM TYLER” rubber wrist bands coming your way — in about 7 days. You can hand these out to  your family and friends to symbolize that we are all a united front under “TEAM TYLER”.  Lance Armstrong started this bracelet movement to increase awareness of the disease and solicit support. Lance beat it and so will Tyler. Please mail us a dozen so that we can also wear the bracelet and be on the team!

We’re thinking of you all!
Love,
Aunt Debby, Kathryn, Uncle Jim and Anthony

Stay tuned Team Tyler – bracelets are on the way! A BIG HUGE THANK YOU to Aunt Debby, Kathryn, Uncle Jimbo and Anthony. Great idea guys, we love you!

And so it begins

TyTash

Tash & Ty

Irony is a difficult thing to describe, but I think most people recognize it when they see it.  Let me give an example by way of a story and a recent experience of mine.

The University of Missouri is the oldest land-grant university west of the Mississippi.  The school is proud of its history.   I’m not usually one for big pep rallys and choreographed celebrations, but at Mizzou homecoming is unavoidable.  For the weeks (and months) leading up to homecoming weekend, the campus is a frenzy of activity.  Floats are  constructed, skits rehearsed, songs and dances perfected, hotel rooms reserved, parties planned, community-service projects performed, and blood is donated. Continue reading