Colon Cancer Killed My Wife. It Doesn’t Have to Happen to Yours (or you)!

This is a bittersweet week for me. This coming Saturday marks one year – one year! – since my wife Pam died. There will be another special post later this week commemorating this first anniversary. Pam died of complications from colon cancer. Seems it wasn’t enough she suffered a stroke in 2014 and then was diagnosed with an ulcer in late 2019.

No, the bastard Cancer came calling in 2020 in her colon and there wasn’t a damn thing we could do about it. Chemo therapy was the only suggested treatment but by that time she was too weak to withstand the treatment.

Since then, I’ve tried to pass along information that may help to educate and inform what we went through and what may possibly help stem the tide from something like this happening to you or your loved ones. In this case, being aware of what colon cancer is and does and, possibly how to deal with it, if not manage or eradicate it, is the reason behind this post.

Earlier this month AARP published an article about this and it seemed timely to pass on to you. If not you, pass it on to someone you truly care about. “What to Know about Colorectal Cancer” covers a lot of bases and is worth the read.

Also, just recently published this week in Wired magazine, is an article – “This AI Could Help Wipe Out Colon Cancer” – about a new FDA-approved device, GI Genius, which helps doctors identify precancerous polyps. It helps an unpleasant procedure become that much more effective.

Oh yeah, since a lot of blog posts do not necessarily include photos, I wanted to make this one a bit more human and personalized by featuring a photo of Pam and me from years ago. I happen to be a cancer survivor (leukemia) while Pam turned out to be a victim of colon cancer. Just goes to show you that the Big C doesn’t give a damn how old your are or what you look like. It can strike anyone at anytime. Unfortunately!

Be wise. Stay aware. God’s speed!

Cute couple on a cruise some years back. Pam’s at right.

All Work and No Play . . .

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I could write this line over and over again to make this a very long blog post. But, I won’t. It is not my intention to produce a remake of The Shining, a Jack Nicholson epic from yesteryear.

Yet, I enter into this week’s post of Joe’s Journey with my mind, like Jack’s, going everywhere and nowhere. Oh, to be sure, there are a lot of things going on in my world and some are even significant. This week, well, April 7 specifically, is a special webinar on Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia or CLL. That’s what I was diagnosed as having some years ago. Times and registration can be found here.

The other thing of personal note is this month marks the first anniversary of my wife’s untimely death. I’m dedicating a special blog next week to her and the anniversary. By all accounts it does not feel like an entire year has passed since she died of complications from colon cancer.

I’m still going through things pertaining to her small estate along with the myriad items one amasses over the years! Prior to the holidays, my mind was in overdrive with the things I had to do; and then it wasn’t. I just stopped. Everything.

Now it’s the early stages of Spring and I’m gradually starting to sort things out again. Except the memories; they’re with me forever, the good and the unpleasant.

Oh, sure, depression in some form is ever-present. Positive thinking and an upbeat attitude sometimes struggles to be on top. I manage but this pandemic quasi-isolation (even now) is taking its toll. But, I know I’m not the only one.

There are tons of folks who haven’t yet received their vaccine while others are recovering from hurricanes from months ago in my home state of Louisiana and elsewhere. There is still plenty of pain and suffering going around and yet I’m doing good to maintain some semblance of semi-sanity in my portion of the world.

We all need to stay as positive as possible and think as constructively as we are able. After all, we don’t want page after page after page of this written on our computer screens . . .

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Don’t worry Wendy and Pam, I’ll be okay.

(SFX: Sound of ax being dragged along floor)

Advances in Treatment for CLL, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

I’m a cancer survivor, specifically of CLL. As best I can, I try to share any webinar and other events that promote materials and information pertaining to this cancer and what’s being done to combat it. Next Wednesday is no different and this blog post is about just that. So, clear your calendars for next Wednesday’s special Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s webinar on advances in CLL treatment.

Wednesday April 7, 2021

1:00 PM to 2:30 PM   Eastern
12:00 PM to 1:30 PM   Central
11:00 AM to 12:30 PM   Mountain
10:00 AM to 11:30 AM   Pacific

Please join us to learn more about:

Current and emerging therapies for CLL

Managing side effects to promote a better quality of life

The impact of COVID-19 on CLL treatment decisions

Speaker

Tanya Siddiqi, MD
Associate Clinical Professor
Director, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Program
Department of Hematology & HCT 
City of Hope Medical Center
Duarte, CA

To register by phone, call (855) 922-1531 or

Register via Web

someday is today - LLS logo

Blood Cancer Conference is Free and Virtual this Saturday

SATURDAY
MARCH 27, 2021
9:30AM – 1:30PM (CT)

This virtual Blood Cancer Conference (BCC) is one of many programs developed by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to meet the needs of patients, survivors, families, and oncology professionals, the people who deal with blood cancer every day, and the people who care for them.

BCC attendees receive the most current information and access to local resources to help navigate and make informed decisions about their treatment and survivorship.

OUR DISTINGUISHED PANEL OF SPEAKERS AND THEIR SESSION TOPICS

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TX BCC 3.27.21 pix Matsui Naina
TX BCC 3.27.21 pix Patel Veeraputhiran
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Details and Registration

Conference login information will be provided to participants after registering.

For questions, please contact:

Dawn Guerrero, Patient & Community Outreach Manager
972.996.5905 ● TX.BCC@LLS.org

Recollections of a Gentle Man: RIP Lin Lauve

Alas, it seems as if the Death March of friends and colleagues I’ve known for years and grew up with continues on. Most of them came as a complete surprise to me. The latest is no exception.

Linden (Lin) Lauve III passed away peacefully last Friday and a memorial service is being held this morning in Sugar Land at St. Laurence Catholic Church on Sweetwater Blvd.

Oh, where do I begin?! This is not intended as an obituary. That’s already been written. I simply offer up some recollections of my friend and former business partner whose relationship I enjoyed and respected.

Lin was by all accounts a true gentle man. I’ve only known a few in my life; my father and uncle were two of them. Lin had a very dry wit and at times it went unnoticed by those not aware. That wit was joined by an insatiable curiosity for the weird and out-of-the-ordinary in life, such as a sign post which made little or no sense at all.

From that perspective, we were more like brothers than friends, both having an appreciation for the weird and wanting to try and explain it to those either interested or bored. We had fun doing both.

Lin was a true marketer, especially on the consumer goods side of things. He was especially interested in and had a passion for research and branding. He never quite understood, though, why our clients never looked upon research with the same intensity that he did.

When it came to our clients, he very much took to their side of thinking even at the expense of the agency. I remember one evening over cocktails, he and I were enjoying a rather robust “discussion” on why a client should not agree to one pricing option we had set because it was too expensive. Lin was aghast; he thought I was taking advantage of the client when I was trying to point out the client should not consider that option because of the high cost. He became so passionate for the client that he lost his objectivity and, therefore, could not understand my reasoning for wanting to shock the client back into reality.

He eventually came to his senses the next morning and presented things in a much calmer fashion, much to my relief.

One of my favorite times shared with Lin was when we’d convene in my study and talk over, well, you name it. While we did discuss business and strategy and creative, we also hit upon politics and a few other sacred cows not spoken in “polite society.” Our conversations were just that, conversations. They never gave rise to arguments or his storming out. I never stormed out either; then, again, it was my house.

Both of us truly appreciated these times. It was a way for our thoughts to be given the light of day and not face unintended recrimination. When we disagreed, we said so.

Though after awhile, we saw each other less and less, our conversations always remained interesting. We looked forward to the next. Unfortunately, these past few years have not been kind to either of us. My thoughts and time have been with my wife who died last April and my own health and future. During this time, communication with Lin had ceased and I regret that.

However, I do not regret the happy times spent in many hours of conversation and meaningful dialogue. Those I shall always treasure. Rest in Peace my dear friend. You’ve earned it. While you’re at it, feel free to look up Pam in the Hereafter. I’m sure you both have some catching up to do.

Managing Cancer Pain: What You Need to Know

Reminder – Tonight, Thursday – Don’t Miss It!

March 11, 2021

Program: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Virtual-Online program through Zoom

Please join the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) for a free virtual education program for patients and their families. Participants will learn about pain associated with a cancer diagnosis. 

Carlos Roldan, MD, FAAEM, FACEP
Department of Pain Medicine, Division of Anethsthesiology,
Critical Care, and Pain Medicine
MD Anderson Cancer Center

Dr. Roldan’s contributions to MDACC have been significant, in that he has increased
research activity in the Department of Pain Medicine and is consistently seeking out
innovative approaches to pain management.

Dr. Roldan will provide an overview of pain as a result of a cancer diagnosis, how to communicate with your healthcare team about your pain and provide information on medications  to treat cancer pain. There will be a Questions & Answers portion after Dr. Roldan’s presentation. 

Participants will learn about the resources available in their community and those provided by
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We encourage you to invite your caregiver and family members.

To register you will need a valid email address: please click on REGISTER

If you do not have an email address, please call Erika Pomares,

Senior Patient & Community Outreach Manager at 832-463-3613 to register.

Mourning Memories . . . Sigh!

I’ve been gone for awhile as you may have noticed. When I looked back at my last posts, I was surprised to see that some were in mid to late April and May. I guess I had forgotten that I posted so shortly after my wife’s death, but I did. Today, August 15, marks the fourth month-a-versary of her passing, so I thought it appropriate I post a blog this evening.

She’s looking over me as I type this, from her black box perched atop my bookshelf in my new apartment. Since she left, life has been topsy-turvy to say the least. Since March, really, life has been a horrid whilrlwind. I still can’t believe she’s gone. Shortly after she died, all sorts of plans had to be made, including an unplanned move. Now, I’m getting rid of stuff, trying to empty three garages I’ve had here in the complex since Pam and I moved here some three years ago.

FUN!!

Mourning the loss of a loved one would be stressful enough but when one throws in moving during a pandemic, well, then, it all becomes a bit too much. There are days I don’t even want to get out of bed; some days I don’t. There are others wherein all I want to do is sit and think – for hours. Those of you who have lost a loved one, especially a spouse, can feel my pain and I yours. Those who haven’t yet, brace yourself.

The quiet, the quiet, it gets so quiet when I’m here with my thoughts. Some days I don’t even want to turn on the stereo and listen to some soothing jazz. Seems I’ve gone from one extreme to another; the nurses caring for Pam would come to the apartment at all hours during the day, joining the caregiver before she left late afternoon. It was very difficult to concentrate. Now, most of what I have is silence, especially since I moved to another apartment in my downsizing efforts.

Of course, the pandemic hasn’t helped, with everyone basically staying to themselves. I hardly go out anymore except for when I absolutely have to do so. The more I hear about it, the more I feel as though it’s going to be like this for several more months. Our lives are already upside down.

Faith has helped. So has talking to Pam everyday and night. But there’s no kidding myself: I am alone. For the first time in nearly 30 years, I am alone. Oh sure, I have friends and some family who check in on me periodically, but it’s not the same as when your partner is here.

I don’t know how often I’ll blog again. In the past, I tried to do so at least once or twice a week. Now, I really don’t know. I’d like to think I could share something once a week, either of a personal nature or something over on my creativity blog. We’ll see.

Not everything one writes is worthy of publication, yet every time one writes is worthy of brainwave generation. Maybe I can strike a balance somewhere in between.

What do you think, Pam?

Career Anxiety in Uncertain Times: Creatives Offer Own Suggestions

We’ve all been through it and we’ll all go through it again. Currently, with this COVID-19 virus mess infiltrating the globe, we’re experiencing things that most of us have never felt or been a part of before. Each one of us is having to learn new ways of living, working and experiencing life.

Anxiety is running pretty high, as is stress and uncertainty. This post highlights what a few people from various creative fields try and do to make the most of our circumstances. Granted, it’s a fairly lengthy piece but the feedback and perspectives yielded by these fellow practitioners are worth the read (no brag, just my opinion).

These insights from writers, photographers, designers, and illustrators — on what they’ve learned about feeling stuck, the comparison trap, and trusting yourself in times of uncertainty — are especially even more pertinent now.

1. Learn to differentiate between feeling and fact.

“I think we all have feelings of inadequacy and it’s both normal and necessary to self-assess our skills and knowledge,” explains Stockholm-based illustrator and print designer Adriana Bellet. “The tricky part is to be able to differentiate when it’s just a projection of our insecurities and when it’s actually a fair warning for us to brush up on our knowledge and keep ourselves up-to-date by developing a new skill.”

For Cape Town-based writer, speaker, and coach Pierre Du Plessis, it helps to distinguish between what is feeling and what is fact. “Simply because I’m feeling stuck, uncertain, or like a failure does not mean it is necessarily true. It helps me to take a step back, look objectively at the situation, my own talents, and listen to the voices of those who support me to get past these emotions.”

2. Life happens while we’re busy making other plans.

While New York City-based illustrator Thoka Maer has never had a grand plan, but nothing was purely down to chance for her either. “For the most part, I trust my intuition, frequently ask ‘why not’ and also put in a truckload of work.”

woman wearing pink top

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

This trifecta — trusting yourself, calling on curiosity, and doing the work — can lead to career-defining moments. “In 2012, my Tumblr with original GIFs suddenly blew up. That was unexpected momentum that slingshot me into some good opportunities,” adds Thoka.

Even our best laid plans can feel like they were penned by a stranger after some months or years pass. This rings true for Elif.

We are dynamic, ever-changing beings. And just like ourselves, our environment, culture, and the technology we have to respond to are constantly changing too. Being fit enough to respond to those is a relevant skill for this century.” — Elif Gürbüz

Such an attitude can lead us to entirely new professions. For Johannesburg -based sketchnoter Roy Blumenthal, a new career came from an unexpected tap on the shoulder. “I was at a conference, doodling my observations in my notebook,” he recalls. “At the end of the event, someone sitting nearby asked if I was a visual facilitator. I wasn’t. I was an advertising copywriter, filmmaker, and industrial theatre creator, but we exchanged business cards. After some practice, I reached out and she hired me for my first paid gig as a sketchnoter.”

3. Careers are about direction, not speed.

Pierre has experienced how leaning into a specific direction can help us spot new opportunities. “There is something to commitment and being clear on what you want that allows the rest to manifest,” he points out. “If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you there. Better it is you who chooses the destination and then make adjustments on your route as you go.”

Continue reading

Creative People Living with Emotional Health Challenges

I have anxiety. And depression. I’m on medication as are a lot of other folks, all for different reasons. COVID-19 has us all self-quarantined whether we want to be or not. That’s traumatic in and of itself, with and without the kids in the house.

Having just lost my wife to cancer about a month ago, I’m living alone. There are times I deal with it alright while other times I struggle. Other times, I just simply “lose it.” Part of my therapy is to do what I’m doing now, maintain my writing with these blogs on subjects not only applicable and interesting to me, but also to others.

This post is one of them. I’m traveling on a journey whose destination is unknown to me. I can’t even think about calm seas when I’m constantly being battered by rough seas. The meds help, particularly Duloxetine. My emotional peaks and valleys run more evenly and for that I’m grateful.

Perhaps some of you can relate to this as well as to some of the quotes below. I hope this helps put you on a more even-keeled journey. If you’re of the creative bent, your emotions, like mine, can be both your worst and best friend.

Being a creative person, with high sensitivity and intensity, can increase our vulnerability to emotional challenges like anxiety.

Actor Amanda Seyfried experiences emotional and mental health issues, like almost I in 5 people each year in the U.S. In a magazine interview, she commented about her experiences and using an antidepressant medication used to treat anxiety:

Amanda-Seyfried-Allure-768x456“I’m on Lexapro, and I’ll never get off of it. I’ve been on it since I was 19, so 11 years. I’m on the lowest dose. I don’t see the point of getting off of it. Whether it’s placebo or not, I don’t want to risk it. And what are you fighting against? Just the stigma of using a tool?

A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category [from other illnesses], but I don’t think it is.

“It should be taken as seriously as anything else. You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there. Why do you need to prove it? If you can treat it, you treat it. As I get older, the compulsive thoughts and fears have diminished a lot. Knowing that a lot of my fears are not reality-based really helps.”*

Many creative people are born with the personality trait of high sensitivity, which can help nurture creativity, but also lead to vulnerabilities to stress, anxiety, overwhelm, unhealthy self esteem and other challenges.

Psychologist Elaine Aron thinks “high sensitivity increases the impact of all emotionally tinged events, making childhood trauma particularly scarring.” Elaine-Aron-The-Undervalued-Self-video-300x170

In her book The Highly Sensitive Child, Dr. Aron notes that some sensitive adolescents may drink and use drugs to try to overcome anxiety or depression through self-medication. From article Sensitive to anxiety. Continue reading

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL): What Are My Treatment Options?

Have Leukemia? No Options? Listen Up . . .

FREE TELEPHONE/WEB EDUCATION PROGRAM

THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2020

1 :00 PM to 2 :30 PM Eastern Time
12 :00 PM to 1 :30 PM Central Time
11 :00 AM to 12 :30 PM Mountain Time
10 :00 AM to 11 :30 AM Pacific Time

SPEAKER
Dr.Jennifer Woyach

Dr.Jennifer Woyach
Associate Professor
Section Head, CLL and Hairy Cell Leukemia
Associate Division Director, Clinical Research
Division of Hematology
Department of Internal Medicine
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH

 

Ask Dr. Jennifer Woyach a question during the Q&A Session!

WE INVITE YOU TO LEARN MORE ABOUT:
• Treatment options for CLL
• Side-effects management
• Ways to effectively communicate with your healthcare team about quality-of-life issues

 

To register by phone, call (855) 775-3850.

Register

 

Program Support

Support for this program is provided by Genentech & Biogen; Pharmacylics, An AbbVie Company & Janssen; and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.