Archive for August, 2012

A different kind of relationship: the results

August 22, 2012

am ok. I did not have a restful sleep but my eyes are dry. My morning meditation ritual helped along with a short prayer of gratitude for another day given.

The call came in at 4:02 pm, yesterday, in the middle of a conference call again. My effort to make it a normal day is about to be interrupted. From the caller id I knew it was the hospital, the only question now is who will be delivering the ‘message’.

“Hi, Bo. Dr. B (the radiologist) from Swedish.” Ah, that familiar warm voice. I called my wife to be with me and put Dr. B. on speaker. She greets my wife warmly.

My relationship with Dr. B is unique and defined by difficult circumstances; we are not golfing buddies nor does he run marathons like I do. We seldom talk, socially, and the only time we catch up is on moments like this; when he has to deliver a message, most often difficult messages.

Like an auditor, his words are carefully chosen.

“Although, the scan images does not show conclusively, because the tumors are small, the existing tumors in your lungs showed progressive growth activity. Also, there is a some inflamation in your colon that was detected, which cannot be determined from the scan as tumor activity.”

As he continued to explain, I can see my world slowly shrinking again. I can never get use to this. In the background I hear him use trigger-words that put walls around me: more chemo, colonoscopy, more tests, and doctor’s appointment.

What do I need to do to make this disease go away? WTF. How many more years must I bear this? Useless redundant questions.

There is no subtle way to this madness or in delivering difficult messages, that’s why I love Dr. B. Each time I have a scan, he is there for me to give his professional opinion and heart-felt encouragement. Our relationship has grown with each call. We shared 15-minutes of deliberate and warm conversation, and within that time my life has changed again.


P.S.  Dr. B told me I have to see my oncologist Dr. M on Thursday for my treatment plan.  Back to the drawing board.  Arrgh.

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A better coping mechanism

A better coping mechanism

August 20, 2012

need a better coping mechanism. Tomorrow, I have my PET scan the result of which can change my life again in the immediate future. I should be use to this since I am already first name basis with all the hospital technicians who have assisted me.   This should be my sixth time.

The problem is not the procedure itself, which is painless, but the results that comes after. My anxiety is already heightened by a call this morning from the hospital interrupting a lively conference call:

“Hi, Mr. Alvarez. This is the hospital reminding you of your schedule appointment tomorrow” say the pleasant lady (Why do they have to so pleasant?)

“Have you ever had PET scan procedure before?” Uh…huh. I grudgingly mumble.

“Remember no food after midnight, just water. And remember to bring the doctor’s order.” Uh…huh.

“Have a nice day.” Uh…huh.

I should not be even writing about this to take my mind off tomorrow’s procedure. Pray, I could almost hear you say. Yes, I know.  My mom would even go to the extent of offering a mass for me.  Thanks, mom. That’s her way of coping.

My hour of reckoning will come tomorrow afternoon when the scan images have been read by the doctor. Then the call is made. This time around there are no pleasant ladies calling, depending on the results, either my oncology nurse would call asking me to come to see the doctor or my oncologist himself calling with the good news.

At moment I feel fine. I look fine others would say. My last treatment was May and since that time I have enjoyed every moment of freedom from chemo. I am running strong but still have to break world records. I will get there.

That’s the point. Knowing I will get there or through this challenge takes the edge out of tomorrow’s uncertainty.


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Sense of urgency

August 15, 2012

ince coming back from Manila, I feel a sense of urgency. It is not so much to respond to the many work email that greeted me upon my return but, it is the sense that I have such limited time to do the important ‘things.’ I am sure some of you may have experienced this feeling too. In my case, it is about my precarious life of living with cancer.

I have a scheduled PET scan coming up next week (August 21), the result of which can change my life again. It can mean more treatments or surgery, or it can mean I run Berlin and NYC marathon as planned. So what can I accomplish in less than a weeks time?

Many…if I keep things simple.

I am sure I have already accomplished many things also, which can be the envy of others. However, this full realization of limited time and the after-glow of spending precious moments with my mom gave me resolution to try something new.

Like writing a book about my mom and life itself: A Sense of Urgency.

Gulp!  There I have committed. How I am going to do it? I wouldn’t even know where to start. All I know is just like running, I do it with one-step-at-a-time. Perhaps in writing, it is all about one-word-at-a-time.

When you think about it I got this far with a pair of well-used running shoes, wobbly legs, tired feet, and chemo-battered body, so what could be worst.  Writing definitely is less painful compared to running or undergoing chemo, so I am ready for what surprise awaits me as I start this new adventure.

Moreover, I do not like to experience regret in the future. I think this is what motivates me just to even try: running a marathon, finishing all my treatments, or just for the sake of trying. In this instance, I don’t want to have to say ‘I wish mom was here to read this tribute.’

Hopefully, it is also a tribute to those who try to beat cancer like my cancer-survivor friends, ChrisB, NoreenK, and others. Or it is homage to those who have tried and are no longer with us, like my cousin Manuel.  It can be your story too if you think about it.


P.S. I am nursing a nagging plantar fasciitis on my left foot. I know I should rest it but I have an ‘urgent’ commitment to be on the starting line for the Batavia (IL) Half Marathon on August 26.  It is dubbed ‘Half Madness’, which is my kind of race.


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Where did time go?

July 26, 2012

am currently in the Manila, Philippines on holiday. It is to make good on a promise made to my mother to be at her 80th birthday (July 24). All my siblings were going to be there so I would not miss it.

I always look forward to seeing my mom because I know her time with the family is precious. I have learned my lessons too: to make time for what is important in life and that each day given to me is cherished. So we had a party for her, or rather, she threw a party for us—a Hawaiian luau party.

Five years ago, on her 75th birthday, we gave her a surprise party. Surprise! We were also complete back then, along with her friends and our extended families. However, it was more fun this year. Her guest came in their best Hawaiian clothes; there were leis, hats, Hawaiian dancing, and serenading. There was even ballroom dance instructors for her guest. That’s the way to throw a party party, mom!

Many came out inspite of the heavy rains. Some of them remembered me when I was still a child in their care or in my mischievous stage. It brought back good memories of my childhood.  Where did time go?

My nephew and niece dug up old and recent pictures of mom and the family, and created a slideshow of her 80-year journey. Set to beautiful music and heart-felt dedications, it showed the fullness of her life and surrounded by people who love her. Where did time go?

My mom willingly gave herself to others and they willingly loved her back. It was an envious moment. I saw how happy she was and that in itself was priceless. Her joy can also be seen from the people who attended. My mom made it possible for her friends to see each other. I was able to see my other cousins, aunts, and uncles. While it was the birthday of my mom, it was a reunion, fellowship, and thanksgiving as well.

I am grateful, blessed, and overwhelmed. The Hawaiian night was a tremendous success with plans underway for the next party …an Arabian night party. Can you picture seniors belly dancing? OMG.

Aloha! From Roberto, Renato, Rubi, and Raul


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