Friday, September 23, 2011


Life is slowly getting back to normal since I returned home earlier in the week.  I've taken Dr. Hwu's advice and am trying to mentally ease into the unique position of having no future treatment on my calendar.  I'm as afraid to allow myself to trust that the treatment completely worked as I am afraid to imagine that it did not.  It's the elephant in the room that we will just sit next to for a while, getting comfortable with before trying to figure out what it means.  Physically, having spent most of the past month in the hospital has left me a ninety pound weakling.  My skin is peeling from the top of my head on down as if I somehow, ironically, got a sunburn.  Except this sunburn is chemical and from the inside out.  And for some strange reason I permanently smell a strong odor exactly like that of Lipton instant ice tea (some side affects are more weird than worrisome).  I remain, and will remain for many months, on heavy duty antibiotics as the new immune system continues to grow.  But no real lasting complaints from the recent treatment, just the side effects of the extended sedentary time.  I'm now back on the bike trainer and slowly getting the engine running.  I feel good and I'm having a hard time holding back and pacing myself, if you can imagine that.  I've limited my rides/workouts to increase by only 10% at a turn which should keep me out of trouble.  I'm still not sure if I'll be riding one of the easier bike rides in the LiveLong/LiveStrong event here in south Florida next weekend.  I'm more concerned about my road skills than my legs, and since charity events are notorious for being bike crash-fests I would prefer to avoid injuring my already sensitive hip.  As of today we have over 1,400 registered riders and runners for the event with over $125,000 raised.  The goal of 1,600 participants should be easily met by next Saturday.  This is an amazing accomplishment for an inaugural event that, I think, guarantees that it is made an annual event.  Zimmerman and zMotion have really pulled this off.
     Something else I did this week was to watch Charlie Sheen's roast on television.  I believe that life’s lessons can be found as easily in the gutter as on the windswept mountaintops or the self-help section of a bookstore.  Those who do not believe this miss out on quite a few opportunities to learn a few things.  So whatever you may think of Charlie and his recent troubles, I think his summer holds a lesson for us all.  Successful people – and we cannot deny his success just because we disagree with how he celebrated that success – tend to do successful things.  At the apparent end of his crazy train ride he moved forward, not backwards.  He laughed at himself, learned from the experience and moved on.  He did not execute a reversal or a return to some previous self, but moved forward.  This seems to be evident in a newfound appreciation for what is good in his life, a renewed love for those who love him.  He appears to be turning a potentially lethal episode into a chance to improve himself.  In his own words, "I'm done with 'winning' because I've already won."
This phrase stuck in my mind this week because I’ve recently claimed in this space to be “winning” but am realizing that I, too, have already won.  Both in terms of learning valuable life lessons from a traumatic episode and also from passing a milestone in my battle with cancer.  A year ago today I made an appointment with my optometrist because I was having unexplained limited field of vision in my right eye.  This would eventually be exposed as a tumor and my initial cancer symptom.  Stage 4 melanoma cancer patients live, on average, one year past their initial symptoms of the disease.  There is nothing absolute about that number or date, or any such statistic, but that's how my situation was framed by the oncologists when I was diagnosed.  That wound up the countdown clock that started ticking in the back of my mind.  For what it is worth, today I am now past that dreaded milestone.  I have now beaten those particular odds.  And cancer has already left me a much better person - a little worse for wear,  but a better human being then when I started.  I have a newfound appreciation for my life, for my loved ones and for the great adventure upon which I continue.  And I’m not only still here, I'm very much not dead.  At the Melanoma Research Foundation's online community the stage 4’s that have beaten the odds are called the “undead.”  So that’s me, from today onward - the undead.  May I wish myself many happy returns.
    Still, we always need to keep our eyes on the prize as we pass such milestones.  For me that prize is having the three best letters is the alphabet – NED – entered in my medical records.  NED, or ‘no evidence of disease’, is the closest you can get to being declared cured of cancer.  That goal feels more real than ever now, and I swear I can almost see it if I look hard enough.  I move towards it now with increased determination, with a little more energy in my steps, because I've already beaten the initial odds against me.  What else can I do?
     So time for a score update:  William 1, cancer 0.


  1. Hi William, I am a cyclist from the Orlando area, and just surgery for stage 2 melanoma two weeks ago.So after a series of ailments I am on the other end, overweight and out of shape. I just found your blog today and read the whole thing. What a ride you are on, you are one tough guy. I hope with what you just wrote this means good things to come. You can be one of those who beats the "odds" and be one of the ones who goes NED for more than 5 years. I hope others will heed what happened to you and check their skin for changes and wear sun screen.

    You are a champ and maybe someday I can ride with you.

    Brian Gentry

  2. Wow again!!!!! You will be an NED... and I will too. Learned so much and still learning from you.. I only hope I will be as strong as you are , whatever comes my way... I cant write as well as you.. but I sure been reading alot..and learning.
    Hang in there,you getting closer all the time to NED!!! I love you "MOS" your mom

  3. Happy anniversary. Here is to NED.

  4. Don't worry about not doing the Livestrong ride. You will have plenty of people riding it for you. You can do it next year.

  5. You are no longer "William". You are NED and here's to you being NED for a very, very long time.