Blessed with colon cancer

At the end of February, just as Laurie and I were about to move to Edmonds from Bothell, I began having breathing issues.  I would walk maybe 20-30 feet, and then have to stop and catch my breath.  I went to the doctor and had some blood tests done.

I received a call back that same afternoon, telling me that I was low on blood and needed to go to the ER immediately.

I went to the ER, and was given four transfusions of blood.  They did some CT scans of my front and my side and discovered that I had an 8 cm tumor in my colon.  It was cancerous.  I spent the next two days in the ER, waiting for a room to become available at Swedish First Hill in Seattle so that I could have the tumor removed from my colon.

I was transferred to Swedish First Hill two days later.  I had an operation which took out the tumor and 1/3 of my colon.  I now have a semi-colon. 

After more tests, it was determined that the cancer had spread from my colon to my stomach.  The tumor that is in my stomach is too embedded in the fibers of the stomach to remove.  So, I need to start chemotherapy very soon to see if we can reduce the tumor.   The cancer won’t go away, so the chemo is just to improve my quality of life.

Honestly, I’m not in pain.  At least at this point.

I feel blessed to have colon cancer.  I know, you are sitting there reading this saying to yourself “Is he insane? Has he lost his mind?”  The answer is No.  I’ll explain why.

1 – I got cancer.  God chose me to have the cancer
      a) He didn’t give cancer to one of my kids. 
      b) He didn’t give cancer to one of my grandkids.
      c) He didn’t give cancer to my wife, or my parents, or my in-laws, or even my ex-wife.

He chose me. 

I’m not afraid of dying. I know where I am going after I pass away.
I don’t intend to let the cancer get me without fighting, kicking and screaming, doing whatever necessary to prolong my life.  But I’m not afraid for myself.

I’m more concerned about my wife, and my kids, and my parents, and my in-laws, and my friends, and others around me.

Cancer has already brought my wife and I closer.  It has also brought my parents closer to my wife, and my in-laws closer to me. 

I’ve had outstanding surgeons and doctors taking care of me.  I’ve met some outstanding people who work selflessly in the hospital taking care of patients, day in and day out, with little thanks other than a paycheck.

I’ve made it a point to always thank each and every person who has helped me along the way.  Whether it is the person who is trying to find a vein to take a blood draw, or the surgeon who took out the tumor.  Or the emergency room nurse who has come in for the third time because when I was trying to sleep, I turned wrong and set the stupid IV alarm off.

Cancer chose me.  I didn’t choose cancer.  But I intend to fight it with all I have to live and take care of those people around me the best I can, for as long as I can.

Home Office Plans

With those of you who have dedicated home offices, I’m curious your thoughts. Looking to build out a home office possibly in the near future. Will be dedicated to working from home, which I do 95% of the time. Here are my requirements so far:

– Decent desk. I hate small desks and I cannot lie. I have made a plan for a desk that is 8’x30″ x 8’x30″ in an L shape configuration. Should be big enough. But you can never have too big a desk, IMO.

– Desk will be facing the door, not with my back to the door or any windows. Sniper red dots are hard to see and I would prefer to stay out of the ‘light’, so to speak.

– Connectivity – I currently have Frontier FIOS which I would have in the new space. My plan is to put in eight network drops in the office, five by my TV and two in my wife’s office. You can never have too much networking, IMO. CAT6a which will allow for gigabit networking. Overkill? Probably. Don’t care.

– Large whiteboard made from melamin (tile board) on one wall.

– Possibly a large chalkboard on another wall. Not sure.

Biggest questions I have at this point are lighting. I don’t like to have lights on during the day. I don’t like fluorescent and I’m not sure LED is the way to go. Thoughts?

I’ve been researching home offices for many, many years. Here are a few I found for inspiration:

http://www.stefandidak.com/office/

https://danielheth.com/office/

http://www.hanselman.com/blog/NewJobNewHouseNewBabyAndDesigningATotallyNewHomeOffice.aspx

Yes, each of these is WAY overkill and more than I can or want to do. I use them as inspiration only.

I have failed

Fifteen years ago, I accepted a position as a technical support manager and IT manager for a small software company in Everett, Washington.  That company later branched out into a software company and an on-line plan room.  I worked for them for ten years.

After ten years, the CEO said he was shutting the company down because he had Parkinson’s and couldn’t deal with the stress.

I was giving the opportunity to take over the company.  I wrote up a plan, it was accepted, and five years ago, I took over both companies 1,828 days ago.

Everyone essentially quit, except for myself and another person.  She stayed with me to help me run things.  If she hadn’t, I’d have been more lost than I really was already.

For four years, we did pretty well.  But starting about a year ago, after we had rebuilt the website for the on-line plan room, and revamped many things, people started to stop returning our calls.

The economy really sucked at this point, but we endeavored to survive.  We cut expenses.  We took layoffs, both she and I. 

I did what I needed to do to financially survive, which allowed me to continue to support my commitments, including my ex-wife and children and my new wife.

I had a runway.  I had a runway of about a year, given my expense level. That runaway ends in September.  There is a brick wall at the end of the runway and I will end up hitting it very hard.

I failed.  I failed my wife, my children, my ex-wife, my investors, my customers, my employee, and most of all, I failed myself.  I really thought that like like Kevin Costner in the ‘Field Of Dreams,’ if we built it, they would come.

For  a while, customers did come.  But customers decided that free was better than paying for a (IMO) superior service with superior customer support.  They just couldn’t get over the hurdle of paying for a service when they could get a different service, albeit with less features, for free.

I haven’t figured out how I can provide my services for free and still be able to pay my bills.  It just doesn’t work that way in my world.  I don’t have the backing of Google or Microsoft or Warren Buffett. 

I hope I’m wrong.  I hope that I am somehow able to pull out a miracle in the next two months.  But the outlook is bleak, both for the business and for the economy. 

I feel drained.  I feel like I’ve failed so many people.  It keeps me up at night, honestly.

I certainly understand how people get into debt and become homeless now. It’s not all drugs and alcohol and bad choices.  Certainly a lot of it is, but sometimes, it’s just plain dumb luck and life.

Anybody have a winning Mega Millions or Powerball ticket they could loan me?

I want to go back

I want to go back in time. 

– I want to go back to when I was 20 years old, going to Western in Bellingham and live in a dorm instead of off campus in an apartment by myself. I probably would have enjoyed college more.

– I want to go back to when I returned from Western and started working at Target and use the money that I earned to put a down payment on a small house instead of buying a new car and a cool CD player for the car.

– I want to go back to when I  quit a very good job at a technology company and NOT go to work for the law firm in Seattle.  I might still have hair if that happened.

– I want to go back when I was in my late teens and spend more time with my grandparents.  I miss them.

– I want to go back to when my divorce was going on and hire a lawyer.  Maybe I wouldn’t have been financially ruined instead of taking the high road.

– I want to go back and tell people who heard one side of my divorce story to hear the other side of the story.  Their minds might change.

– I want to go back in time and spend less time dealing with things that ultimately didn’t matter and pay attention to those things that actually did matter.

– I want to go back in time and get a degree.  A degree that makes me an employable person in the real world.  Instead of muddling my way through life.

– I want to go back five years and re-think whether taking over two failing businesses was the right move.

– I want to back to when I was working for Buttonware and the developers offered to teach me to code in C++.  I didn’t have the time.  Sure wish now I had taken the time.

– I want to go back in time to when I was living in the small house in Edmonds.  To make the decision NOT to move to a larger, more expensive house and just be content with what we had at the time.

– I want to go back to a time where I didn’t constantly worry about money.  There was a time in my life where that was the case.  I miss that.

But I can’t go back. I can only move forward.  I can only learn from the mistakes I’ve made (and I’ve made quite a few) and do my best to move forward. 

Life’s funny.  When you are going through good times, it’s easy to not see that there will also be bad times.  When you go through difficult times, it’s hard to see that there will be good times again sometime down the road. 

I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had.  I’m happy with the place I am at at this point, love my wife, love my kids.

But there are so many things I would change, given the opportunity.  But that is just wishful thinking.  The time is now to move forward, do the best I can, and try to live a life where I take care of those people who depend on me.

I promise them I’m doing my best, even when I fall down.

Seventy Eight Years Ago Today, My Father Was Born

 

My father is the greatest human being to live on the earth.  Maybe not to you, maybe not to everyone, but he is the greatest human being to walk the earth as far as I am concerned.

Growing up, I watched him go to school to better himself and get a Masters Of Business Administration at night so he could get a better career to take care of his family.

As we were growing up, my brother and I had very few things that we missed out on.  Nothing that I can think of.  My father was there, every step of the way.  Was always at sporting events and school events.  Was always cheering us on no matter what we did.

As we grew older, we both grew rebellious.  Me more so than my brother, but my father continued to love us and treat us very well.

When I grew up, I wanted to be a father.  I wanted to be as good a father as my father had been to my brother and I.

I know I’m not the same decent father that my father is, but I try.  Very hard.  But it’s a very high bar that my father set for my brother and I. 

Anyway, I love my father very much.  I’m SO happy that I get to enjoy him still to this day.

 

Happy 78th birthday Dad.  I love you.  I’m trying to be as good a father and person as you are and always have been.  I promise.

Digging out of the closet

 

For many years, I’ve struggled with being happy.  I’ve struggled with being the best person I could possibly be, and trying to make the right decisions so that I didn’t feel like I was a disappointment to everyone else around me.

I’ve struggled many years with worry.  Worry about being jobless.  Worried about being homeless.  Worried about being looked at as a failure compared to other people.

In October of last year, I had a very down point in life.  I had to make some very painful decisions that would affect people around me.  I tried to make the best decisions I could make, given the information I had at the time. Given the obstacles that I had in my way at the time, I made the best decisions I could, and I moved on.

I’ve always struggled with being the ‘sad’ guy.  I even had a friend who I worked with sixteen years ago approach me and give me a book on why I shouldn’t commit suicide.  It had never crossed my mind. 

Fast forward to about three months ago.  I’m getting all my stuff together to do my taxes.  I prepare everything and look at the amount I owe.  I couldn’t believe it.  So I waited for my wife’s information and did her taxes.  Then I re-did the taxes, filing jointly.  It brought the amount down substantially, but it was still a very large amount of money that I owed.  I had and have never owed taxes in my life.  I’ve always had more taken out of my check so that I didn’t run into that situation at the end of the year. It was a struggle.  Dealt with.  Major league pain in the ass though.

At that point, I thought, “I’m worth more dead than I am alive.”  If I take ten to twelve Tylenol PMs one night, maybe I’ll just go off to sleepy land and never wake up again.  My problems will be over.

Then I thought about the people around me.  My wife.  My kids.  My ex-wife.  My parents.  My wife’s parents.  The few friends I have who I actually can call friends who would help me if ever I was to have an issue I needed to discuss or a problem that I faced.

Growing up, I was never bullied.  I had kids make fun of me because my head is shaped like Beldar from Saturday Night Live due to hydrocephalus.  But in fifth grade, I picked a kid up and drug him through a mud puddle.  He was one of the kids who picked on me.  Pretty much, being picked on stopped there.  Thankfully.

Many kids and adults are bullied.  Many take their own lives because they are bullied.  Many people take their own lives because they feel overwhelmed by the circumstances that they face in their lives.  I feel sad for them.

Yes, I considered suicide.  But, even if my issues in life are sometimes very difficult, I have found that life is worth living.  Reach out to those around you.  Reach out to people who may not otherwise have friends to talk to.  If you have a friend you haven’t heard from in a while, reach out to them.  Say “Hey, I’m just checking on you.  You doing OK?”  It might make a world of difference to that person. You might even save a life.

I’ve had a couple friends reach out to me in the last several weeks, for which I’m grateful. 

Am I over the hump?  Of being thinking that I’m worth more dead than alive, yes.  I still struggle some days with a sadness, because frankly, at six hundred and ten months old, I thought I would have life figured out a bit more than I do.  I thought I’d be in a better place in life.

But then I remember that God has gotten me through 100% of my struggles to date.  So I guess I’m batting 1,000.  May not seem like it some days.  But I am.

I have a wife who loves me, and kids who love and tolerate me.  My parents still love me and I’m thankful to have people in my life who care. 

What was the purpose of this entry?  I’m not sure.  I guess what I’m saying is that you should reach out to those around you.  You NEVER KNOW what might be going on in their lives where just saying “Hello old friend, I’ve not heard from you in a while.  You doing OK?” might make a difference in someone’s life.

My Grandmother has passed away at the age of 101

This morning, my mom called me to tell me that my grandmother had passed away at 102 years old.

Not unexpected.  She’s had failing health for many years.  I received a phone call about eight years ago that they didn’t think she would make it through the night.  Miraculously, she did.  At that point, I was pretty sure she was going to outlive us all.

I remember many things about my grandmother.

  • I remember trips to church, the church that she and my grandfather so dearly loved.  She took care of the flowers and he took care of a lot of the  maintenance around the church.
  • I remember trips to the zoo.  Trips on the ferry to Kingston.  Trips on their boat out in the Sound, either just putzing around or fishing.
  • I remember her driving home from church in her Pontiac GTO, burning rubber at stoplights.
  • I remember her gingerbread.  I remember that she made the best cookies ever, called Jubilee Jumbles.  For me.
  • I remember she loved my brother and I and my two cousins.
  • I remember she loved people.  More than anything, I remember she loved people.  She went out of her way to love people.

I remember that my grandmother was a strong, confident woman.  She loved God.  She loved people. She loved my grandfather.  She loved to have fun.  She loved to garden.

But most of all, I remember she loved me.  No matter what, my grandmother loved me.  100%. 

The last few years, even though I lived two miles away from her, I didn’t get over to see her as often as I should have.  She had failing health, I was “too busy” or honestly, I wasn’t interested in seeing her in her state of failing health.  She had Alzheimer’s and the one of the last times I saw her, she didn’t recognize me.  I knew it wasn’t her.  I knew it was the disease.

I loved my grandmother with all my soul.  Always have, always will.  I will miss her.  But I know, deep down, she is in Heaven.  My grandfather is rejoicing because he has his wife back.  My grandmother is happy because she is out of pain and she is in her forever home with my grandfather and her friends who left this world before her.

I’ll miss you Gram. Truly I will.  Thank you for the love you showed me and showed others.  I’ll see you again someday, I’m sure of that.

Love,

Mike.