Introduction

The "Hotel Melanoma" moniker is a metaphor for living with my particular brand of cancer. Except for those lucky few of us deemed "cured", all we cancer survivors are guests of one of the many, many branded hotels in the "Hotel Carcinoma" chain. We can check out any time we like, but we can never leave. Meanwhile, let's be livin' it up; and please support cancer education, prevention, and treatment research.



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Carefree Highway

“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.” An Irish Blessing

The rooms and corridors of The Hotel Melanoma are all too often over-filled with suffering and sorrow. The pain of surgery, the grueling sickness from brutal chemotherapy and immunotherapy regimens, and the never-ending grieving over lives cut short by the arbitrary and capricious serial killer that is melanoma. Hoping and praying that all who are suffering will soon catch a break on their long journey down Melaroad, I’ll leave you with my rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Carefree Highway”…



Pickin' up the pieces of my C-shattered dreams
I wonder how the old moles are tonight
The bane was tans and I'll be damned when I recall the waste
C left me not knowin' what to do

Carefree highway, let me slip away on you
Carefree highway, you seen better days
The mournin' after blues from my head down to my shoes
Carefree highway, let me slip away, slip away on you

Turnin' back the pages to the times I love best
I wonder if C'll ever do the same
Now the thing that I call livin' is just being satisfied
With knowin' I got no one else to blame

Carefree highway, I got to see you once again
Carefree highway, you seen better days
The mournin' after blues from my head down to my shoes
Carefree highway, let me slip away, slip away on you

Searchin' through the baggage of my mean cancer thief
I wonder if the fears have closed my mind
I guess it must be wanderlust or tryin' to get free
From the good old fateful peelin' we once knew

Carefree highway, let me slip away on you
Carefree highway, you seen better days
The mournin' after blues from my head down to my shoes
Carefree highway, let me slip away, slip away on you
Let me slip away on you

Carefree highway, I got to see you once again
Carefree highway, you seen better days
The mournin' after blues from my head down to my shoes
Carefree highway, let me slip away, slip away on you

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day



Our friends at The Skin Cancer Foundation are suggesting we perform a couple's skin exam for Valentine’s Day. And they’re not talking about a twofer appointment with a dermatologist.

This sounds like quite a lot of fun, but I’m guessing it just isn’t happening for me this year. Hoping it does for you, I’ll sign off with The Hotel Melanoma rendition of The Beatles’ “Drive My Car”…



Asked my girl what she wanted fourteenth
She said, "Baby, can't you see?
I wanna be faded, a star of sunscreen
But you can do something in between”

Baby, you can jive my scar
Yes, you’re gonna see boudoir
Baby, you can jive my scar
And maybe I'll love you

I told that girl that my doc checks were good
And she said, "Baby, it's understood
Skin checks at clinics, it’s all very fine
But I can show you a better time"

Baby, you can jive my scar
Yes, you’re gonna see boudoir
Baby, you can jive my scar
And maybe I'll love you

Peep peep'm, peep peep, yeah

Baby, you can jive my scar
Yes, you’re gonna see boudoir
Baby, you can jive my scar
And maybe I'll love you

I told that girl, I can start right away
Then she said, "Listen babe, I got something to say
I got no scar and I’m faking that part
But I've found enquirer and that's a start"

Baby, you can find my mars
Yes, you’re gonna see boudoir
Baby, you can find my mars
And maybe I'll love you

Peep peep'm, peep peep, yeah
Peep peep'm, peep peep, yeah
Peep peep'm, peep peep, yeah
Peep peep'm, peep peep, yeah

Friday, January 30, 2015

Help Wanted: Angels

I’ve been a slothful blogger this past month, I guess because I’ve been preoccupied with operating a snow blower, paint brush, and tennis ball chukker. None of which I’m especially talented at. But I had the pleasure of speaking with a couple of representatives of Imerman Angels this past week and was duly inspired to sit down at the keyboard and do something more productive than taking more jabs at Patriots Coach Bill Belichick on Facebook.

Imerman Angels provides 1-on-1 cancer support by matching cancer fighters with a “Mentor Angel” who has experienced a similar cancer situation, giving fighters the chance to receive support from a peer who is truly familiar with the situation. (They also have a program for cancer caregivers.) They have a need for more melanoma survivors of all ages and stages to serve as volunteer Mentor Angels. I’ve been one and it’s a great way to “give back” and help someone who’s just checked into The Hotel Melanoma. And I can sure remember a time when I wish I’d had a Mentor Angel to provide some much-needed help, inspiration and courage, and that time could come again. Please consider getting involved with Imerman Angels; somebody out there needs your help.

Until next time, and who knows when that’ll be, I’ll sign off with The Hotel Melanoma rendition of “Help” from The Beatles…



Help, I need some buddy
Help, not just any buddy
Help, you know I need someone
Help!

When I was younger, so much dumber than today
I never needed anybody's help in any way
But now these days are gone I'm not so self-assured
Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me?

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My tan dependence seems to vanish with skin flays
And every now and then I need a listener
I know that I just need you like I've never done before

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me?

When I was younger, so much dumber than today
I never needed anybody's help in any way
But now these days are gone I'm not so self-assured
Now I find I've changed my mind, I've opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me?
Help me, help me, ooo

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Braiser's Ledge

A new research study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that most cancers are primarily caused by bad luck rather than poor lifestyle choices or defective DNA-- biological bad luck in the form of random mistakes in cell division which are completely outside of our control. But don’t throw away your sunscreen and SPF duds because this study also found that basal cell skin cancer (the researchers apparently didn't include melanoma as one of the 31 types of cancer covered in the study) doesn’t fall into the ‘just bad luck’ category and is instead linked to sun exposure.

There’s no doubt that my diagnosis of Stage IIIc melanoma at age 50 wasn’t just the result of random mistakes in cell division and that my years of unprotected fun (and work) in the sun were a contributing factor. The price of my foolish braising was sixteen cycles of in-patient biochemotherapy treatments, which one of my nurses described to my wife as dosing me to the ledge of death while treating the severely toxic side effects so that I didn’t fall over the cliff. Which I very nearly did in a couple of Code Blue events during treatment.

Wishing I knew back then what I know all too well know, I’ll sign off with a lyrical “Dear 16-year-old Me” message, to the tune of AC/DC’s “The Razor’s Edge”…



There's frying on the left
And parching on the right
Don't cook up in the sky
You're gonna die of fright
Here comes the braiser’s ledge

You're living on the ledge
Don't know wrong from light
Mel’s breathing down your neck
You're running out of lives
And here comes the braiser’s ledge
Here comes the braiser’s ledge
The braiser’s ledge

Braiser’s ledge, to praise the red
Braiser’s ledge, to sun in beds
To praise the red

Here comes the braiser’s ledge
Here comes the braiser’s ledge
Well here skin comes to cut to shreds
The braiser’s ledge

The braiser’s ledge [it's the braiser's ledge]
Gotta braiser’s ledge [well, the braiser’s ledge]
You'll be cut to shreds [that you'll be cut to shreds]
By the scalpel’s edge [gotta razor's edge]
Gotta razor’s edge [by the scalpel's edge]

Monday, December 29, 2014

Blessedly Boring



Melanoma is an arbitrary and capricious bastard that kills one person every hour in The United States. But I’m apparently not going to be one of its casualties. And I don’t quite know what to make of that.

Eleven years out of biochemotherapy treatments- the primary ingredient of which was a boatload of Interleukin-2 in the convenient twenty-four hour bag- I’m a blessedly boring patient. Purely precautionary scans in April showed no evidence of metastatic disease. And over the past weeks and months I’ve begun, for the first time in over a decade, to contemplate the prospect of growing old.

Like, should I apply for Social Security benefits when I first become eligible to receive them in 2015 and “get it while I can”? Or should I wait until my “full retirement age” or beyond in hopes of receiving a bigger monthly check for a couple of decades or so? Should I “age in place” or move to one of those ‘Geezer Village’ patio home communities? What would it cost to install a stair lift to ferry me to my second floor master bedroom? Would it be possible to engineer a snow blower attachment for my motorized wheel chair? These are questions that it’s quite nice to have.

I’ve often wondered whether there’s something ‘special’ about my immune system or the DNA of my melanoma cells that would explain why IL-2 seems to have worked so very well for me but not at all for too many others. If so, I very much wish I could reduce it to a tasty liquid extract to be served at every Happy Hour at The Hotel Melanoma Lobby Bar.

Wishing all my melahomies a very medically boring 2015, and hoping the New Year will bring more treatment breakthroughs, I’ll sign off with another ode to melanoma to the tune of U2’s New Year’s Day…



All is quiet on New Year's Day
A world in white gets underway
I want to scream at you, flee from you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year's Day
On New Year's Day

I am free from you again
I will flee from you again

Plunder of blood red fry
A crowd has gathered, black with pride
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspapers says, says

Say it's true, it's true
We can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one

I, I will begin again
I, I will begin again

Oh, maybe the time is right
Oh, maybe tonight

I am free from you again
I will flee from you again

And so we are told this is the Golden Age
Bad moles are the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to scream at you, scream at you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year's Day
On New Year's Day
On New Year's Day