C1D8 in the books…

C1D8 – that’s clinical trial talk for Cycle 1 – Day 8.  Felice and I are here in Houston and had a fun filled day yesterday at our favorite Houston Hang out – M.D. Anderson’s Clinical Translational Research Center (CTRC) also known as temporary lab rat cages :-).

I was approved to be a subject in Clinical Trial: NCT03093870. 

What’s that mean?  The first thing it means is that the care plan is driven by the requirements of the trial sponsor, in this case, Aslan Pharmaceuticals.  They are recruiting 490 participants worldwide for this study.  I believe that there are 11 trial sites in the US and MD Anderson has an allotment of 15 subjects.

The purpose of the trial is to determine if the combination of Varlitinib (trial drug) and Capecitabine (Xeloda) works better than Capecitabine alone.

All subjects in the study receive  Xeloda.  Half the participants will receive the trial drug – Varlitinib, the other half will receive a placebo.  The only way that I’ll know if I’m receiving the trial drug will be certain side effects. It is a double blind study.  The subject doesn’t know and the Doctor doesn’t know.   Both drugs are oral.  It involves taking 8 pills twice a day.  Each cycle is 21 days.   Xeloda is 14 days on, 7 days off.  Varlitinib / placebo is daily.  

During the first cycle, I come to Houston each week for observation and toxicity checks.  The day starts early with labs.  Then I meet with the research nurse.  She coordinates  the rats (aka subjects) for various clinical research projects that she has been assigned to.  There is a huge amount of infrastructure that exists to support clinical trials.  There is an entire unit, which I reference above – CTRC, that handles all of the trial patients, administering drugs, conducting data gathering, and works with the trial sponsors on executing the trials in accordance with the trial protocol.  The trial sponsors, typically large pharmaceutical companies, pay big fees to the trial cites to conduct their studies.  The sponsors need access to qualified subjects, MD Anderson and other research driven facilities are obvious partners.  The hospitals gain their reputations off of the cutting edge treatments that they provide and luring patients which entrenches their position as key research partners.  This particular trial has very specific criteria based on the nature of disease, general health of the subjects, the number of previous chemotherapy treatment attempts, etc. 

Once I finish with the research nurse, Dr. Wolff comes in.  He checks out my labs, does a quick physical, discusses how I am handling any side effects and approves me to continue on, or at least that is the plan.   Once I’m done with the Doc, time to go check in to the CTRC.  The rooms are really small – large enough for a bed, chair and TV.  When the nurse, EKG tech, lab tech, Felice and I are all in there at the same time, there is no room to move.  The observation process called for by the study is very precise.  There needs to be a series of EKG’s completed 45 minutes prior to taking my dose of drugs.  Then another series of EKG’s 5 minutes before the dose followed immediately by a blood draw and then take the drugs at a precise time.  The nurse today was counting down the seconds until I took the dose, which appeared to be a little bit unnecessary.  After taking the dose, EKG’s and blood draws at specific intervals occur over the following 8 hours.  Fortunately, this extended observation period only occurs on D1 and D8.  After the first couple weeks – the observation windows occur at various times, generally at the end of each cycle.  

The biggest bureaucratic process is actually getting the drugs.  They don’t begin to process the request at the pharmacy until the Doc has signed off on the subjects participation or continued participation.  That order goes to the Investigational pharmacy.  That is a pharmacy that is in a different location from the general hospital pharmacy.  The investigational drugs are segregated from all other drugs.  There is a laborious process of dispensing the investigational drugs, going through a triple check before they are sent over to the hospital pharmacy.  All of this turns into wasted wait time for Felice and I.  We can’t check into the observation area until I have physical possession of the drugs.  On day 1, last week, it took almost three hours for the drugs to get to the pharmacy, which pushed back my observation time – we didn’t leave the hospital until right around midnight.  So why the hell am I going through all of this?  Chasing hope.  Pretty simple.  Dr. Wolff said that it is likely that Xeloda would be the next line of treatment that he would have suggested.  His feeling was that my general health is strong, and while all tumor growth is concerning, the growth that was found in my scans last month didn’t represent an ‘oh shit’ discovery and I have the time to pursue the trial and see how it goes.  His position is that it just broadens my ‘medicine cabinet’ and keeps other treatment options open.  

If I receive the control drug (Varlitinib) and there is some type of strong response, the small inconveniences that go along with the trial bureaucracy will be worthwhile.  I have had several people ask how long I will remain on the trial.  The answer is – as long as it is working, assuming I am able to tolerate the side effects.  What does ‘working’ mean?  The definition of ‘working’ may be stabilization.   Of course, my definition of ‘working’ is steady reduction of the new tumors and no new signs of progression until there is no evidence of disease.    You leave the trial if you have disease progression, or if you are unable to tolerate the side effects of the drugs. 

In the meantime, I’m just glad to be in treatment.  It’s an awful feeling to have something growing inside of you and not  doing anything about it for what appears to be an eternity – 3 weeks.  Seriously, those that know me, know my temperament.  Send me an email, I generally respond as it is landing in the inbox.  Drop me a text and I’ll typically respond before you have hit send.  Place a small tumor in my liver and wait 3 weeks to start trying to attack it?  Are you kidding me?   

I’m 15 doses into this treatment process.  It takes some adjustment.  I have to take the pills twice a day, take them shortly after eating something, and take them around the same time of day – within reason.  I have to log each dose.  This is on top of the other various things that I’m trying to do every day to support my health during treatment.  A growing list of basic, daily tasks that either promote wellness or potentially stave off side effects.   For the most part, I still feel great.  I’ve had some subtle queasiness and experienced a very slight energy drop.  Of course, my mind is also expecting side effects, so hard for me to differentiate between psychosomatic issues and real side effects.  Regardless, there is no question that I feel a little different.  The side effects of the drugs are cumulative, the hope is that I am able to tolerate the side effects.  So far so good.

So we all know that cancer sucks.  Treatment sucks.  Having cancer and not being able to have treatment – that would really, really suck.  So regardless of the inconvenience’s, the gradual onset of the side effects, make no mistake, I feel very, very fortunate to have treatment options and to feel pretty damn good.  Whatever shortfall I have in terms of the way I feel is the chemo, it’s not the cancer.  There is a huge difference in outlook between feeling ‘yuck’ because of chemo than feeling sick from disease.  

I have run into so many people in the last several weeks that share their prayers and good wishes.  Your prayers along with the text messages, emails, phone calls – all very much appreciated and make a huge difference!

Thanks for all your support!  Mike. #cancersucks #ShaneStrong

Belief

With the Jewish holy days upon us, I want to share a story about my relationship with G-d. I leave out the ‘o’ in G-d, as many Jews do, as a sign of respect. I’m definitely not in a position to show disrespect to G-d!

Shortly after my diagnosis in February, Felice and I were on a walk somewhere. I don’t recall the specifics of the walk, but I recall the conversation. Felice questioned whether there really was a G-d. Of course, looking back, it’s an understandable comment. Her father passed very quickly after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis about 6 years ago. This left her as the care provider for her mother, Arlene, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Arlene passed away Thanksgiving weekend this past November. Less than 2 months later, I began the diagnostic path that led to my diagnosis. So, in retrospect, the comment shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise.

At the time, I was focused more on the fresh challenge that was dumped on us like a ton of bricks, and shocked to hear those words coming from her. Felice is grounded in her faith and has always had stronger ritualistic conviction than I, by a lot! I reacted with , ‘what the hell are you talking about?’ She continued that it is hard for her to believe in a G-d that would allow so many bad things to happen to good people. I suppose that she was grouping me in with ‘good people’ :-).

I stopped and looked at her and said, ‘there is absolutely a G-d and G-d is good. Look at our beautiful children that G-d gave to us. Look at that adorable little grand daughter of ours that G-d blessed us with. Look at the wonderful life that we have shared together and the opportunities that were given to me to pursue and live so many dreams. Of course there is a G-d and there is a reason that this challenge has been presented to us. G-d owes me nothing, we’re all square’.

I’ve never been one for the strong ritualistic practice of Judaism. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have faith. Judaism believes that G-d is omnipresent and that our prayers are always heard. I believe that and accepted that as fact from the time I was a young boy. I buy into the importance of synagogue and understand that many people feel a greater spiritual experience from community prayer. I believe that synagogue and observance is important out of respect to those that sacrificed in order for us to have the freedom to practice our religion, and I respect those that honor and preserve the sanctity of institution based practice. I just don’t believe that ritualism is the measure of how religious somebody is. When people see me at the occasional religious service, it is generally to be there with Felice. Think what you may, no offense or disrespect intended, it’s just the way it is. Make no mistake though, I believe in a greater being and believe that I have experienced the miracle of prayer. People everywhere are praying for me. I have prayers coming from all religions and I truly believe that when I experienced the Abscopal response that neutralized much of my cancer, that it was a sign that prayers were heard.

My plea to G-d wasn’t to spare me or even to cure me. I asked to level the playing field. I told G-d that I trusted that there was a reason that I was saddled with this situation, but that I felt ‘sucker’ punched and would appreciate a chance to fight this with a level playing field. If G-d was trying to get my attention, the approach was very effective!

Possibly G-d brought this challenge to me so that I could deliver hope to others that face overwhelming challenges in their lives. Possibly to awake awareness in others about the fragility of their health, not to take it for granted and to relish the day -each day is a gift! I have to assume that it’s more than just the bad luck of the draw, I have to believe that there is a reason. Without that core belief, then I might question whether there is a G-d also.

So now, I have a fresh challenge. While it might knock me back a bit, I still have complete faith that G-d has a reason and I will continue to have faith that regardless of what happens next that G-d will watch over me.

So during this time when Jews all over the world are observing Rosh Hashanah, and begin this period of renewal and introspection leading up to Yom Kippur, I want to wish L’shana Tova to those that are celebrating the Jewish holidays and share my appreciation to all of you, from all religious walks, that bring me such inspiration through your power of prayer and the sharing of your positivity and support.

Mike #cancersucks #ShaneStrong

The Next Chapter…

Sleep on Monday night was hard to come by.  Our flight was canceled from CVG to Houston.  Not really a big deal, but the schedule was already tight on Tuesday.  Dr. Wolff had warned me that they are even busier than usual right after holiday weekends.  Sending him a text on the Monday night of a holiday weekend  to move my schedule around created some anxiety, but he responded that he would get things taken care of.  Still sleep was unlikely.  I was so excited, nervous, and anxious that sleep wasn’t happening!

Fortunately, Tuesday’s flight was flawless and we pulled up to MDA at 11:30.  It was crazier there than it has ever been.  Blood work that usually has about a 5 minute wait time was about 1/2 hour.  A elderly man named John sat across from me as I was waiting for labs.  His wife, Delores, was a couple seats away in a wheel chair.  Their daughter, probably about 60 was with them.  Delores was clearly uncomfortable and barking orders to her husband, John.  That’s how i found out their names.  It’s not as if we all walk into the lab waiting area and introduce ourselves :-).  She wanted a straw for water.  I thought they wanted water.  There is a water machine close by, I offered to go get them water, but they pointed out that they had a bottle of water – they needed a straw.  John was clearly stressed about satisfying and comforting Delores. The daughter just sat there, I guess somewhat numb that her mom was not happy.  The lady sitting next to Felice interrupted and said that she would go to the cafeteria and get them straws.  Wow – humanity at work! A few minutes later, she came back with a fistful of straws.  John was trying to put 2 of the straws together so that they could reach the bottom of the bottle.  By now, Delores had her daughter emptying this large ‘beach bag’  filled with sweaters, and all types of supplies, to find their straws.  At the bottom of the bag was a straw.  It was a long straw, able to go to the bottom of a tall bottle of water.  This made Delores happy.  Delores is clearly suffering from painful mouth sores and wanted to drink some water and needed the straw to be able to avoid having the water touch her mouth sores.  Everybody around Delores could sense her discomfort – all wanted to make her comfortable.   It’s just so wonderful to see humanity working – every visit it appears in some way.    Caregivers with patients – all here for the same general reason – cancer!  Some frustrated like Delores, some reaching out to sooth her frustration, like the nice woman next to us.  John received a phone call – it was Dennis his friend, checking in on them.  I only know this because the whole room of over 100 people could hear he was talking to Dennis :-).  After the call, he yelled over to Delores that Dennis said to give her a hug.  Delores then went back to have her blood work drawn.  When she left, she smiled at all of us.  Their little entourage smiled at us, waved, wished us well.  I called over to Delores and wished her well.  Then called over to John and reminded him that he owed her the hug from Dennis.  Paths crossed and moments shared, with no thought to age, race, religion, politics, nationality or otherwise.  The only hatred here – cancer!

We’re all in the same place, all with a common fear.  It’s so humbling, the experience is overwhelming.  The elderly woman volunteer that is playing the piano in the lobby, missing more than an occasional note, but passionately bringing music to those that sit and listen.  She’s just doing what she can do to soothe those that need soothing.   

 I can’t share with you all how fortunate I am to have found MD Anderson.  Yeah, it sounds dramatic.  I’m certain that if not for the various things that led me to MD Anderson, I would not be where I’m at.  Don’t get me wrong – there are great things happening at cancer care centers everywhere, every day, but there are certain events that occur in life that could only occur in particular circumstances and for my cancer at this moment, those circumstances could have only occurred at MD Anderson.   After my bloodwork, fast forward an hour to my scan prep.  Leslie, my radiation tech, is going through the prep routine.  We were talking about my blood work, my radiation experience, my miracle.  She has been at MD Anderson for almost 12 years.  She told me that many times a day, she is with patients that come to MD Anderson with bleak outlooks, prognosis like mine and worse that get their disease in control, become NED (No Evidence of Disease – fka remission) or complete cures.  It’s what keeps her loving what she does.  She’s for real.  She’s genuine.  She loves being a part of seeing patients live. She moved to Houston to get a job there.  She worked at other places in Houston to wait for the opportunity to be there.  We’re all in the same place – all with a common enemy – cancer!

Leslie was checking numbers from my blood work, which were already starting to post in the system.  She printed them off for me.  I was excited to see another big drop in my primary marker C19-9.  I scoured the rest of my blood work, later spending a lot of time comparing various parts of the report to be prepared for my meeting with Doc Wolff today.

Unfortunately, while my markers have dropped and all my metastatic activity remains inactive, there is new activity in my liver.  The Doc said that my Abscopal response appears to have been transient, although they know so little about the Abscopal effect, that it’s difficult to really speculate.  We now appear to qualify for the trial that I didn’t qualify for before and Dr. Wolff feels that now is a great time to give that a try.  So we’re back on to a treatment path.  

I have been blessed with this miracle that gave me the last couple months free of the cloud that is cast by being in treatment.  I have been blessed with the miracle of eliminating so many of the threats that this disease presented me with, through whatever Abscopal response I have experienced.  I am healthy and strong and will enter the treatment with optimism of great outcomes ahead.  Of course I am disappointed that I don’t get a free pass to being cancer free.  I am well aware of the emotional roller coaster that we are on.  While my family urges me to have reasonable expectations, I call bullshit!  They’re very involved and are extremely supportive in every way, but they’re playing the game from the sideline.  I’m in this game and on the field all the time!  I play to win – all the time.  That’s the only way I know how to play.  That means that my expectations are to win.  Of course, in this game, there isn’t a straight pathway to victory.  There are setbacks, but we moved many steps forward and are taking small steps back.  

So now we’ll celebrate another month or so before treatment starts.  The celebration tour begins with a quick trip to Chicago to see our kids, go to Hamilton and Billy Joel.  Then off to Indy to connect with some of my Indy fraternity brothers and catch the Colts and Bengals with some of my kids.  We’ll be back to Houston late next week for pre-trial tests with the hope of beginning treatments later in the month.  Weekly visits to Houston for a while that will gradually change into every three weeks.  

Every step, every turn in this journey brings a new appreciation of Now – the moment!  I once again have the taste of what feeling good feels like and I want desperately not to lose that.  Unfortunately, the side effects of the treatment are going to take some toll.  So far, I’ve been fortunate to have managed through those side effects reasonably well in prior treatments and am resolved that I will continue to handle the side effects as well as possible.

Both Felice & I appreciate the way that our community and our friends from near and far have embraced our challenge and feel so fortunate to have your continued support as we take on this next chapter.  The support, the prayers, the positivity all matter.  I know this to be true!  Your notes and texts, the phone calls all matter too!  I will continue to update as we move forward.  

Mike  #cancersucks  #ShaneStrong

 

 

My Birthday Wishes

Yes, it is my birthday today.  I am 58 and feeling great!  While I haven’t always been one to celebrate birthdays in a big way, this year it’s different.  Felice and I were talking at lunch today.  I’m pretty sure we both believed that I would be around  for this birthday, but neither of us had any dream or vision that I would feel this good, so while every day is a special day, and every birthday is special – this one has a different feel than any I can recall.  But the celebration is more a sense of renewed excitement about tomorrow.  The one gift which I cherish, is of course the one that can’t be bought – good health.  I am happy to share that all of labs were ‘perfectly normal’ and my cancer marker dropped from 3 weeks ago!  I am now waiting to confirm when I get to go to Houston next and have scans.  The labs are a critical factor, the marker movement is positive, but having scans will give us a much better picture of where I’m at.

While I celebrate being 58 and feeling great, I can’t dismiss how fortunate I’ve been to find myself in this position, so I have some birthday wishes for all of you.

#1 – If you aren’t in a habit of having regular checkups, pick up the phone tomorrow and schedule one.

#2 – Have your blood work done regularly, monitor it, ask questions when anything is not normal.

#3 – Create a ‘hit by a bus plan’.  It’s the one thing that created great angst for me immediately when I was diagnosed.  I’m a reasonably organized person, but I hold the keys to a lot of information that would create a lot of anxiety for Felice and my family if I were hit by a bus.  Most people probably have their legal estate docs in place, but if you don’t – do it!

Passwords – even if you use a password keeper, does your spouse, significant other or whoever would be dealing with your estate & household matters know how to access it?  If you don’t use a password keeper, consider downloading one from your App Store, get your passwords up to date.

Start creating a log of things that need to be dealt with around the house, who you turn to for those things.  Creating a continuing log for anything that has the potential to be overlooked – tax items, private investments to name a couple.

These are just some of the practical things that everybody needs to have organized, none of us know when that ‘bus’ might cross the median – you get the point!

Of course many of you do all these things above, but if I can encourage someone that isn’t to take some action; it will be a sliver of a silver lining from this surreal nightmare that we have been living through.  My most important wish for you is to celebrate today – every day is a special day, don’t wait for a birthday to celebrate.  When you live with a cloud in the background, you realize that so many of the things that people get caught up in are just not important.  Today matters.  Yesterday is in the rear view and doesn’t matter anymore and tomorrow is not guaranteed.  Take the trip.  Worry less.  Don’t waste time on things that you just don’t give a shit about, and don’t waste time on the things you can’t control.   

And do as I did today – Eat the cake :-).  

Thanks to all of you that wished me a happy birthday today through your phone calls, text messages, facebook posts, and emails.  I truly appreciate and thrive from all the positivity that comes from you all!

Mike. #ShaneStrong. #cancersucks

 

 

Hope…’The Abscopal Effect’ & ‘Bonus Time’

Did we just “catch a break”?!? 😀

That’s the text that I received just minutes after I updated my Caring Bridge page a few weeks ago.  It was from my good friend, college fraternity brother, turned 30 year business partner, Geoff Hyman.

Geoff had read my Caring Bridge post, where I shared that I had received some really great and surprising news, arising during my recent visit to MD Anderson.  (You can see the complete Caring Bridge update at:  https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/mikeshane2 )

Geoff’s text caught me off guard.  I responded – “I think so…”

It’s from my ‘Mantra’,  which I posted on my Caring Bridge site back in May (in photo  below).  I wrote my Mantra in the days following my diagnosis.  It was my way of organizing my runaway emotions, accepting my situation and creating a framework for how I intended to maneuver through the challenge.  This is the excerpt from my Mantra that Geoff was referring to:  “I’m going to trust in the medical process and be infinitely resolved  that I will catch a break through my treatment process.”

mikes-mantra.jpg
As I mentioned, the news we heard that day caught both Felice & I by surprise.  It’s taken the last couple weeks to absorb.  The ‘phenomenon’ my Doctor said I was the beneficiary of is called ‘The Abscopal Effect’.  It is a freakishly rare biological effect that can occur when undergoing radiation therapy.  In my case, the radiation appears to have done it’s work on the target, which was the very large mass on my liver and the abscopal response enabled my immune system to go fight the active lymph nodes.  From the radiologist report, all of the remote activity appears to have been ‘resolved’.

‘The Abscopal Effect’ can’t be ‘created’ on purpose.  The occurrences are so rare that it is difficult to locate those that have had it happen to them.  A recent article published by the National Institute of Health stated that between 1969 and 2014 there have been 46 reported cases.  I was blown away by that.  I expect there are a lot of unreported cases, but regardless, 46 reported cases in 45 years.   That’s rare.   There are an increasing number of trials to prove the principle that combining immunotherapy and radiation therapy can create an abscopal response.   Wikipedia uses the term ‘phenomenon’ in defining ‘The Abscopal Effect’ – when it happens to you, it’s a MIRACLE!

For now, it’s a waiting game.  I’ll have blood work this coming week.  Those results may or may not give us an indication as to whether I experienced (or continue to experience) a limited or robust abscopal response, at the least it will be a data point.  Then we’ll go back to Houston for scans – most likely right after labor day.  These scans should give us much more information.

Everybody says that cancer is one continuous roller coaster.  We got shoved on to the roller coaster back in January and hit some lows pretty quickly, but now the coaster shot straight up.  Obviously, I’d love to ride on up to the next level for a while.  I can’t try and prepare or anticipate for a drop, I’m not wired that way.  If or when the coaster drops, I’ll deal with that then.  Felice prefers to wait on the sideline so that we can go ride on the comfy train together.   I’m jumping on the coaster.  It feels too good to dream of miraculous outcomes and have a vision of life without the shackles of perpetual treatment.  While I feel this good and am able to be fully active again, full of energy; I want to take it all in and enjoy the feeling of being healthy again.

I have frequently visualized feeling healthy again, but not this quickly, so I’m just riding the coaster!  Just a few weeks ago, we were preparing to enter a clinical trial that had the potential of creating a lot of unpleasant side effects, without any sense for whether it would work, or how long I would be in treatment.  Today, I’m playing golf, taking walks, exercising and doing things with more energy and excitement than I could have imagined at this time. Felice and I use the word ‘bonus time’ any time we have had the kids home for any extended period.  Now ‘bonus time’ has a new meaning to me.  While I’ll be very disappointed if this ‘bonus time’ is brief, it’s still bonus time.  It’s a reprieve that few, with my diagnosis have the opportunity to experience, it’s bonus time that I am blessed to be experiencing.  For me, it’s a miracle…I don’t know what tomorrow brings, none of us do.  I do know what it is like to lose your health, suddenly without warning.   I know what it is like to face the fear that uncertainty brings, and I know what it is like to scurry to get things organized so that Felice and the family could manage our affairs if I ‘got hit by a bus’. 

So yes I have an appreciation for what I once took for granted.   Felice recently said, ‘I just don’t know how you’re at peace with all this’, referring to my overall sense & belief that my health is good.  I told her that I understand, this has all just happened so fast,  but I just have a feeling.  Back in January, when my Doctor wanted to have me take more tests, I knew that there was something serious going and on.  I just knew it.  I hoped that I was wrong, but as the days passed, I knew.   It’s the same way I feel now, I know things are going to be alright – at least for a while.  That’s a hell of a lot better than where I was, so I have an inner calm about getting  ‘bonus time’, no matter how long.

I now also know the power of all of the positivity that so many of you share.  I know the power of your prayers and I have been given a new view of how wonderful people are.  We have seen the true goodness in people.  Friends have come out of the woodwork to support both Felice and I in the kindest of ways.  It has shown us both a new vision of what it means to ‘be there’ for those in need.  We continue to be so appreciative of all that you do and the genuine way that so many of you have wrapped your arms around us in hopes of providing us comfort.

So yes Geoff, we just caught a break!

Mike #ShaneStrong. # CancerSucks

 

 

Today, I savor the flavor…Wile E. Coyote strikes!

This last week, I posted about golf.  Many readers shared how they could relate.   I’ve mentioned a number of times how much I enjoy writing.  I didn’t realize that it would help my golf game also.    

For the last 30+ years, my arch-rival on the golf course has been my former partner and close friend, Jeff Fourman.  For those that don’t know Jeff, he is a good athlete, with an innate ability to see and do things on the golf course, that the average player doesn’t see and is unable to regularly do.  He is, and has always been, a much better golfer than I am. 

The handicap system in golf, allows players of different skill levels to play together and compete – and compete we do.  Both Jeff and I are pretty competitive people and neither of us like to lose.  Unfortunately, as it has proven out over the years,  I’ve had to learn how to handle losing, especially when it comes to competing with Jeff on the golf course.  Our competition on the golf course has always been rooted in good sportsmanship, fair play, good friendly competition; of course with a reasonable amount of money at stake.  

I can’t even begin to calculate what my losses to Jeff have been on the golf course.  There was a time when I thought I should send a 1099!  There have been glimpses of times when I have had the upper hand, but they have been so few and far between.  He wants to beat me as badly as I want to beat him – he never tires of beating me and I never give up chasing him. 

It was several months ago when I was flipping through the channels and happened to see the old Road Runner cartoon.  It was then I realized that I am Wile E. Coyote.  For those that haven’t seen Road Runner, there are two characters – The Road Runner, which is a really, really fast ground bird of some type and Wile E. Coyote, a coyote.  Wile E. Coyote is always chasing the Road Runner.  It’s his life’s calling.  The Road Runner is evasive, always outsmarting and outplaying Wile.  It never fails that just at the moment that Wile appears to be catching the Road Runner, BOOM – an anvil falls out of the sky and lands on Wile, or Wile runs blindly off a cliff.  Wile can just never catch the Road Runner, and I can almost never beat Jeff.

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So on those days when I am able to catch Jeff with his guard down, catch him a little off his game and win – those are great days!  Today, was one of those days and I find it very interesting that it comes just after writing the post about Golf.  I shot an 81, which is by far my strongest round of the season.  It’s the kind of round that might happen once or twice a season for me.  Golfers – every one of us – will say that it was just one great round, not to be repeated.  We might even believe that, but inside, we fantasize that this is our new standard.  That typically lasts until the next round!

Of course, Jeff shrugs off the loss, he knows even Roger Federer can lose occasionally.  He handles it well and when paying his losses; knows it’s just a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’ he’ll see that money again.  If he wasn’t such a nice guy, it would be pretty reasonable for him to go Ray Zalinsky (Dan Ackroyd’s character in Tommy Boy) and say ‘Savor the Flavor, cause it sure the hell won’t happen again’!  

So today…I savor the flavor!Screen Shot 2018-07-14 at 8.54.23 PM

 

Golf – more than just a game

It was great hearing from many of you about the blog.  It is really very therapeutic for me to share by writing.   I’ve been a little tired lately.  Playing golf in the heat has likely taken a bit of a toll on me.  I have not been willing or ready to admit that either the radiation or the cancer, or some combination of the two cause me to just not operate at full throttle.  Of course my golfing buddies love it – I am like an ATM machine to them :-).  The only salvation is the fact that they haven’t yet tried to start doubling the bets around the 13th hole.  The other day, I could feel the energy just leave – it was pretty frustrating – struggling to get to the last hole.  The heat definitely hasn’t helped.  

People that don’t play golf, don’t generally have a great understanding as to why enthusiasts find the game so addictive.  Recently, a good friend asked if I ever improve.  I laughed and said ‘hell no’.  In my mind, I get better, there are moments where I play fairly well, but over the years, my scores haven’t improved.  Same holds true for most of the guys I play with.  So what makes me excited to go out and play, especially when temperatures are in the mid 90’s?  I love the challenge.  I love the competition and I love the camaraderie.   Those are the surface factors that drive my passion for the game.  It goes much deeper than that though. My love for the game is rooted deep into all the metaphors that exist between golf, business and life.  My son can tell you the countless number of times that I used golf as a teaching moment.  In recent months, he’s turned the table on me and thrown some of those lessons back at me.  In golf, perfection isn’t achievable.  Golf shots rarely go exactly where you expect them to go, but even after the worst of shots, you have to move on to the next shot.  You may not care for the position that the previous shot placed you in, but you can’t look back, you have to move forward.  Each shot creates a different situation and each situation creates a new and unique pathway towards the hole.  You have to make well thought out decisions when you consider each shot and accept the outcomes.  You catch good breaks and bad.  If you dwell on the bad, you can make a bad situation worst.  You are ultimately accountable for what happens on the course.  I always get a kick out of hearing people blame their bad shots on the course, the condition of the bunker, how thick the rough is and ignore the fact that they just made a bad swing.  Of course, often the course makes the shot more difficult, but few are willing to take accountability.  I make a lot of bad shots, and while I get frustrated, generally I laugh at how flawed my shot was.  After all, it’s a golf shot – that’s all it is – just a shot in a game.  If I’ve learned anything since my diagnosis, I’ve learned that the wonder of golf is being able to play!  

I recently had the opportunity to see kindness through golf.  When I was diagnosed, I had to cancel several golf trips, most notably having to back out of an Ireland golf trip that I had planned.  Clearly, I have to put my health ahead of golf right now.  But, yes, I hate missing out.  Going on a golf trip to Ireland with 7 of my regular golfing buddies was a tough trip to cancel.  My friends knew how much I wanted to go, so they took me along.  What?  Did I trip you up there?  You read it right – I went along, just not in the way you may be thinking.

I woke up to a text with this pic of me on the plane with a few of the guys

ontheplane

(Chris Pulos, John Barron, Mike Emoff)

I even got to be in the cockpit for a while

copilot

When in Ireland, golf is #1 priority, so I got out to the course

onthecourse

(Gary Pavlofsky, Chris Pulos, Mike Emoff, Bob Newsock)

After the round, time for a cold one on the bus

onthebus

(Jeff Fourman, Gary Pavlofsky, Chris Pulos)

Of course, the #2 priority on a golf trip – time for lunch

atlunch

(Jeff Fourman, Erv Pavlofsky)

When these pictures started coming in, I laughed so hard, but admit that I was also a little overwhelmed by their kindness.   Let’s be serious, guys just aren’t typically this thoughtful :-). Golf – more than just a game.