Simply ordinary observations from an ordinary person - sometimes having to do with health care issues, sometimes not. Topics will change as my attention wanders. Yours probably will too....

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I can see now that's it's difficult to write a blog when feeling distraught, sad, angry, and afraid. We've had several disturbing events in my area lately: the tragic death of a talented eye surgeon and his beautiful young family in the Montana plane crash; the tragic shooting deaths of 4 Oakland police officers; the tragic murder/suicide of a family in a South Bay condo - bad news followed by bad news. It's been enough to make me stop reading the papers for awhile.

As sad as those stories are, they happened to strangers. It's possible to fold up the newspaper and walk away from the heartache a bit. But when something bad happens to one of my favorite friends, the heartache doesn't go away and taking time to write a blog post doesn't take high priority. That's where I've been the past 3 weeks.

Two years ago, as soon as he had stable health insurance, my friend went to have an ugly mole checked out. That one was fine, but the "freckle" on the side of his neck wasn't. The biopsy came back positive for early stage melanoma. He had surgery two weeks later and all the docs were confident about the results. He has followed their instructions to the letter - no sun exposure, regular chest x-rays and blood tests, and twice a year skin checks at the UCSF melanoma clinic. All has been well.

Last month he felt a petite pea sized lump at the site of the original surgery. He received varied opinions from "it's not a concern" to "wait and see" to "let's be cautious and take the d*#n thing out, even tho it's most likely fat or scar tissue." He had it taken out and it was a lymph node positive for melanoma. F*#K!

He went back to UCSF for a series of scans and discussions of treatment. Everyone was confident that the scans would be negative and they scheduled him for another round of surgery to remove all lymph nodes in the general regions of the petite pea. The scans were not negative. He has systemic melanoma in the lymph nodes and multiple pin-point lesions in both lungs. All of us - my friend, his doctors and family and huge circle of friends and coworkers - feel as if we've been slammed against a wall. These microscopic wayward cells have caused unmeasureable amounts of tears and fears and anger and brave reassurances and gestures of generosity. We're going through the exact same patterns as all the other millions of people who get a cancer diagnosis, but this diagnosis is ours and it hurts.

And the worst part is - he SO does not deserve this. He is an amazing person; happy, positive, always making people laugh, enjoying life and helping everyone else enjoy it too. The first response from all of us when we heard the news was "OMG, this is so unfair!"

So, he will be going to UCSF in 2 weeks for an intense 5 day bombardment of immunotherapy, followed by one week of rest, and then another 5 days of treatment if it can be tolerated. In the meantime he's getting the garden ready for summer, planning ahead for adjusting his work load, celebrating Easter with adoring 4 year old twin nephews, and focusing on each 24 hour period.

I'm leaving now to go to Target to buy an iPod shuffle, so he will have some soothing sounds when the fever, shaking, and fatigue begins. OMG, this is so unfair.

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