Monday, November 14, 2011

2010 - 2011 Annual Run Report

With the one year anniversary of my diagnoses of Lymphoma this week, I have decided to compile some statistics from the past year...

  • Chemotherapy Sessions: 11
  • Nuelasta Shots: 10
  • Anaphylactic Shock: 3 due to allergies to chemo drugs
  • Surgeries: 2 due implanting my iv port also pneumonia with an infection outside of my lung
  • Paracentesis: 2 (for a total of approximately ten liters of fluid removed from my stomach)
  • Days in the Hospital: 20 including some in I.C.U.
  • Blood Draws: I lost track, but it is easily over 100+
  • Friends made: hundreds and a heart felt thanks to each and everyone of them
  • Lives touched through the Blog and Social Media: thousands, but still not enough

This concludes a short list of things that have happened to me in the past year and in no way includes every event. My life has been changed and I must say for the better. Having gotten a wake up call about making life changes, diet changes and an overall attitude adjustment is hard thing to do at 48, but it has been accomplished.

What else have I learned this past year and what are some common misconceptions I have heard and some things I want to be heard and or talked about.... Cancer is not a death sentence... you may not lose your hair while going through chemo, but getting older may be a factor..Why can't all patients get equal treatment? Why is your attitude so important? Why do we focus only on breast cancer? This in no way takes away from the Departments that have worn pink or "wrapped" their rigs in pink to acknowledge it...what about the rest of us? Are we any different? What about those that worked the "pile" after 9/11? In the perfect world we all would be treated equally but this is far from being a perfect world. Sorry if any feathers get ruffled, just stating my feelings.

Even though I started this post a few weeks ago, work has been hectic and with the addition of a new granddaughter to the family, I have been a bit busy. Today I am sitting in a chair and receiving a Chemo treatment (add another to the run report), so I have a little free time on my hands. A new facebook page has been started with the same name as this blog and the hope is to continue to help spread the word and also help answer questions. Please stop by and "like" it. Well the Benadryl is starting to kick in so I guess it is time to say bye for now. As always, Take Care, Be Safe and Never Forget!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

It's Been Awhile, Thank You's and Updates

I would like to apologize to the readers of my blog for not posting in awhile. It's been a crazy couple of months and things for the most part are going good in my life. Let's start with the Thank You's...FF'SGIRL, thanks for the guest post. I was having a hard time expressing the emotions my friends and I were feeling leading up to and on 9/11. I have the honor of being friends with Firefighters from all over the world and am eternally grateful to each and every one of them. Along with the friendship comes the "oneness" that we all feel, whether active, retired, paid or volly. In a past post I made it clear that when a Brother cries, we all cry with him. On 9/11, there were way too many tears shed and way too many of my friends shed them.

I did participate in a Memorial Stair Climb and was able to complete half. This was very important to me and in no way was I going to let my cancer or treatments get in my way. Just putting on my old lid brought back a lot of memories, both good and bad. The other thing I noticed how heavy that old beat-up thing weighed..maybe it's me just getting old. I am not sure if it was the helmet or my shirt that read, "Bin Laden can kiss my royal Irish ass", but I made some new friends that day.

There were many people that participated that day, along with FF were many from the public sector. I was given a bit of hope that the message "Never Forget" was being delivered.The one thing I did do was to inform some of the "climbers" about the names they were carrying. To me the FDNY is the elite of the elite in the battle against fire and those that were lost were some of the best of the best. Each step was a time for reflection and thought and I was honored to participate. I must also thank my kids and their families for coming out and supporting the old man; they know how important this is to me. Next year I plan on giving it another go and completing the whole climb.

As far as the battle against cancer, I am still winning the war with only a few minor setbacks. My white counts have been a little low and I have had to postpone a few treatments to later dates, but now we seem to be back on track again. The draw-back of low white cell counts is the inability to fight off diseases and the possibility of ending up back in the hospital with pnuemonia again. I have had to alter some plans as far as seeing the grandkids and the kiddos and I am grateful they are so understanding during this time. I have gotten the flu shot this year and ouch, that was a pain in the arm, I also am taking mega doses of vitamins c and b12 along with a daily multi-vitamin to try and ward off any sneaky bugs out there. The anniversary of my diagnoses is quickly approaching and my life has changed so much in the last year. I have met and talked to some great people who have helped me in many ways...

As always, Take Care, Be Safe and Never Forget

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Never Forgetting

Since well before the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th attacks, FFBC had been looking for a way to commemorate the event. It’s been a deeply personal and painful journey this year, for us, and many, many of our friends. We've struggled with what to say, and how to say it. And the truth of the matter is even after 10 years, there are no words that can express the grief, the anger, and the soul consuming sorrow.

We proudly claim some of the absolute Bravest as our dear friends. In addition to our own sorrow, we feel the sorrow of those in the brotherhood. The anger for the unjust treatment of those that are sick today because of the dedication and work they did 10 years ago on the pile. The grief for those lost on that tragic day, and the days since from cancer and other diseases caused by the toxic cloud they were immersed in.

We had planned to be in New York for the 11th, but as fate would have it, Tommy’s hospitalization earlier in the year would change those plans. Instead, Tommy participated in a 110 story stair climb with Texas Firewalkers (I’m so terribly proud of him – he completed 55 floors!), and had the honor of representing those lost from Engine 4, including Paul Tegtmeier, a brother from their Volunteer days in upstate NY. Paul’s life long dream was to get on with FDNY, and had been with them for 18 months on September 11th.

The Heroes of Engine 4:

Calixto Anaya Jr James Riches Thomas Schoales

Paul Tegtmeier

Honoring those lost on FDNY Engine 4

The following morning, he reported in for his chemo treatment. (Dr. wasn't pleased, but wasn't surprised to hear about his stair climb). There was good news -- February is looking like the last round of chemo!!

Our thoughts and prayers continue each day for the family and friends that lost loved ones in the terror attacks, not only in NYC, but also in VA and PA. Your sacrifices will never be forgotten.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Best Medicine Money Can't Buy

Going through my monthly trial of chemo can take it's toll on a me both physically and emotionally. The cocktail of drugs is a both a blessing and a curse.

I have stated in the past how the steroids will drive you crazy, keep you up to the point of total exhaustion and push your emotions from one end of the spectrum to the other. I know this and it still pisses me off to no end. I can go from laughing to crying at the drop of a hat and not know why; I have tried (with zero results) to find a remedy to no avail. My brain seems to be in a sensory overload phase where even a word, a song or a picture can stir memories that I would like to forget.

I consider myself to be very fortunate in knowing that my cancer is in remission, but then feel sad for those that are not. I can not even begin to tell you how much my family and friends have become some of the best therapy money can't buy. My closest friends are some folks that I have never met face to face, but without them I would be lost. To them I am eternally grateful and I also know that some day I will get the chance to give them the hugs that I owe them for what they have done for me. I am also blessed with a very loving family, that may be spread apart by miles, but not by the love they have shown me.

Then there are my kids and their spouses..I could not be prouder of them if I tried. Then there are the two most beautiful, care free little girls that I love with all my heart and soul, my granddaughters. Neither one is old enough to understand what I am going through and I am glad. I got to see them both today and talk about a moral booster. When I saw the younger of the two and kissed her on her cheek, I guess my moustache must have tickled her because she smiled and laughed. Talk about making me smile, wow..gotta love it!

Now, the other one is starting to become a little "lady" at the ripe old age of ohhh, seventeen months. Well, Pops (me) got lucky and won tickets to the circus!! Little Miss Priss, her dad, mom and I enjoyed a nice dinner together at an Italian Restaurant, where let's just say the pasta got tossed around more than the salad, (She has a good arm for her small size).

Then it was off to the circus and I was hoping that the lights, sounds and animals would be something she would enjoy. She did not let me down. She clapped, smiled and pointed at the different things that she saw from the time we walked in the door. I for one was pointing at the ridiculous prices of the souvenirs that they were hocking. I took a picture of her and my son looking at the stuffed "kitties" at $23 and the snow cones that ranged from $8- $12, depending on the cup!! Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I sent the picture to some friends and family via my phone. A couple of responses back included one from my brother who asked, " Yikes, are you at the circus or at Tiffany &Co.?" and from a close friend, "better be a damn good snow cone". Needless to say, nothing was purchased. Once the show started, I enjoyed watching her small eyes try to take in all of the action. To me, that was better than anything that was going on in the ring. We made it to about intermission and then she started to get tired and restless and we knew the show was over for us. At that point I really didn't care since this little girl had given me a night of enjoyment and fun.

I also need to mention that come this winter she will have a little sister joining us and then there will be three little girls for me to love. I may be dealing with some crap in my life, but I think I am one of the luckiest guys around.....Till next time, be thankful for the little ones in our lives, they can give us the greatest rewards....

Monday, August 15, 2011

Probies at the Clinic (plus a few old timers)

Today was a day of firsts for many, (one is too many), folks. I watched from my chair as the nurses tried to explain the goods and bad of chemo. For me the ritual of I.V.s and the litany of meds is just second hand, but I could see the look of fear in their eyes. I noticed a couple that are about the same age as me with the wife receiving chemo for the first time and the husband for support. Maybe support is not the best word to use with this idiot. All he seemed interested in was.."How long do we need to be here?", "When can she go back to work?", "yada, yada , yada", this guy was on my short list of people that needed a swift kick in the ass..Ahh, sweet justice.."the nurse said "Uh, may want to listen and THEN you can help your wife". I believe he was not used to being talked to by a woman or maybe he was just in denial of this whole situation, but he got up and left. That really helped the poor woman as she sat and listened to the nurse go through page after page of instructions and warning signs.

The young lady sitting next to me is all of twenty one years old and is suffering from leukemia. Twenty young and so timid, with the look of a total despair. She was surrounded by her family, her Dad, Grandfather and older sister. Sometimes I think that having family around is a great thing but there are days that as in her case they can be overwhelming. The dad and sister sat and were constantly texting and calling on their phones. The poor grandfather was working a Rosary so fast that I swear I smelled smoke from the well worn beads that looked as if numerous prayers had been recited over the years..I know that they were there to help support her, but it seems they were more of an issue...As she sat getting prepped for chemo, I felt bad for her..The folks that were there in support had their own "all too important " issues to be involved in, so in reality she was just as alone as I. Never once have I asked my family or friends to attend a treatment with me. What the hell are they going to do? What the hell are they going to say? Some battles I think are best fought alone and by doing this you get to be a better fighter in your daily battles. My family has been there for me when I have asked and never once has turned down a request for help when needed. This being said..if you are going to be with a loved one that is getting chemo or is just going to the Dr. , remember there is a reason they are there and don't add to an already stressful situation..

How many of you have ever been to a clinic or hospital and spent any time in an infusion room? I will try to give you a little perspective from where I sit and am able to see and what I hear..First off, if you want privacy about your condition, your meds and your daily bodily functions and what your insurance covers or doesn't...ain't gonna happen. Twenty five recliners made with the finest plastic that money can buy, twenty five IV trees with pumps.. all the available space is usually filled to capacity. Add in the seven or eight nurses and aids and it gets a wee bit crowded.. Personally I don't give a rat's butt, as I am very open about my lymphoma and not afraid to share. There is a very diverse group of patients and it changes on any given day that I've been here. The same questions cross my mind every single time I come to chemo...How did we become the chosen few? How many like myself will go into remission? How many will die? I can tell the folks that have given up and pretty much "checked out"..sad. One thing I hear from the conversations that is a constant is, with the older folks a lot are ex-military and/or ranchers and the younger are very wide ranged in their types of cancers and life experiences.

I am getting tired and i see a nap in my future. The Benadryl is kicking i always ask...Please pass this blog on to anyone that you feel it would help and Thanks for taking the time to stop by. If you have any questions or comments please let me know. Take Care, Be Safe and Never Forget..

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Chemo, The Hell Days and The Cebu

How can I best describe the days of going through Chemotherapy? Well it is something I know is working and I also know I am in for a few days of Hell. Before we go any further, some of you are probably asking, what is a cebu? We'll get to that in a bit, trust me.

Along with the cancer cells that chemo kills, it also kills off good cells too. There are also the residual effects that go along with it that can and can't be seen. I can't begin to tell you how many times I get asked why I have not lost my hair. Chemo affects different people in different ways and the things it does to me are not visible on the outside. On the inside, I am an emotional wreck due to the steroids that I am given. I received my treatment this past Monday and Tuesday and finally by Saturday I was able to get some "real" sleep. The combination of lack of sleep and the drugs left me in an emotional whirlpool. I would laugh and then cry for no apparent about feelin like you are going nuts, wow. I never have had this last as long as it has this time and can only think it has to be due to my overall health getting better. At my next visit with my Oncologist this will be first and foremost on my list of questions to ask him!! I am still dealing with the issues with my surgery and have been prescribed a number of drugs to try and combat this. The constant nagging pain in my ribs has started to subside, but the numbness is still there from the inscion site to my abdomen. I guess with time this too shall pass.

One thing happened this week that I feel I must share with you. I have no idea what goes through the minds of the braniacs at my insurance company. Before I rip them a new one, I also have to thank them for providing the best Doctors and staff here in Central Texas. So here is what happened that just blew me away. As stated, I have tried a litany of pain killers and a nerve blocker (Gabapentin). Since I was having such an issue sleeping, I talked to my Dr. about a sleep- aid. I do not and will not take any over the counter medication or herbal supplement without checking first. That being said, I was given a prescription for Ambien and was off to the local pharmacy. Here is where my problem with the insurance company began. They were more than happy to fill scripts for heavy duty pain meds, but balked at covering the sleep-aid. I was floored to say the least and by that time the Clinic was closed so I had no choice but to go home aggravated and tired. The hundred degree weather also was not helping my mood. The next day I was back at the Clinic and not in a very good mood. I had no reason to be mad at them and they got on the phone with the pharmacy and then the insurance company and finally the script was okayed. Long story short, I have given up on the drugs and will only take them if I just can't deal with the pain.

Sitting in my apartment in South Austin can get a bit boring. Armed with a TV (which I despise), a cell phone and lap top to keep me connected with the world my life goes on. Oh, I do have my fish tanks, a tarantula (free to a good home) and my two cats Sammy and Merle. The cats have now gotten the title of "Battalion Chiefs" since they more or less run the show here. Somehow they have negotiated better working conditions than most unions have, but it's all good. They seem to know when I am feeling down and for the price of a clean litter box, some kibble and canned food are well worth it. The cell phone keeps me in touch with my family (which I will be ever grateful to), a very special person who keeps me sane and the Drs., insurance companies, etc. The lap top and internet give me an out at all times of the day and night. Having made friends world wide is a blessing. Time zones don't exsist and I am thankful for friends in Spain, Ireland, Scotland, New Zeland and just about every other continent and time zone there is. I also have made friends from New York, Pennsylvania, Florida to California and all points between. Thank you gentlemen and ladies, without you I would be lost. This Fourth of July weekend I would ask all of you to remember and think of those that serve and have served in Our Military. Without them we would not have the freedoms we have today. THANK YOU!!

Now, the Cebu. First you have been warned, there is a pretty "catchy" little tune and I don't want to hear it if you find yourself humming along or getting it stuck in your head. I really want to thank my best friend for introducing me to this, since I laughed for a long time and still do when I hear it. So, this is a story about a boy, a sick cebu, a sad cebu and a mute cebu. I later learned from my kids that this was made to teach kids lessons about religion. Sorry, I just related to the boy and the cebus. I dare ya, click on the link and enjoy . As always, Take Care, Be Safe and Never Forget. This weekend, Thank a Vetran, thanks.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

So, I Went to the Doctor Today (June 22, 2011)

I should have known that today was going to be a day like no other. I guess it all actually started yesterday (6-21), so let me start there. I was scheduled for my P.E.T. Scan which meant that I could not eat any carbs, drink any caffeine and had to fast beginning at six a.m. The lack of carbs was no problem, the caffeine was an issue. I need that little "pick me up" to get the day going. If you do not know what the P.E.T Scan is, please look at my post titled "So I Still Have Cancer (But Refuse to Let it Stop Me)", it is explained there. Since the scan uses radioactive material, it is not done in the clinic. You get to go into a "mobile scan unit", this is basically an eighteen wheeler trailer with nice caution signs plastered all over it. Since you need to be relaxed for the scan, you sit in a recliner and listen to soft music and what I think was the sounds of waves on a beach. The lights are turned down and it is a bit chilly in there. I also believe that some folks might be nervous about the scanner, it is like being slid into a tunnel head first which feels like a confined space training drill. The whole reason for this scan is to see how much the cancer has spread or diminished. From my stay in the hospital, my oncologist was able to see a reduction in my lymph nodes from the scans I had there. We were hoping for good news from this scan, but we had to wait and see what this scan said. I was anxious to find out what the scan results would be and was told that since my appointment with my Doctor was at 3:15 Wednesday, they should have the results back....

After a celebratory Slurpee, I headed home starving. Thanks to my daughter I had some leftover food from Fathers Day and was ready to have some. Penne pasta with sauteed chicken, broccoli and garlic was looking real good. It was great Fathers Day and even better Tuesday night!! Thank you Baby, you are going to be a great cook and look forward to your next invite for dinner. After a big bowl of pasta and some fresh peaches for dessert, I was feeling good and ready for a nap. Since I am still having some issues with rib pain from my recent surgery, I took some meds and laid down. There was also another thing that was on my mind. All the meteorologists in town were talking about a chance of rain. For those that don't know, I live in Austin, Texas and it has been about a month or so since we have had any measurable rainfall. What we have had is day after day of relentless hundred degree plus temperatures for many days in a row. I did get some rest and woke up with two wishes on my mind, good test results and rain. I looked at the radar images and saw that there was rain to the north and west and it was heading this way. I have seen this before and have also been disappointed numerous times as the rain always seems to fizzle out before getting here. So I watched and waited and waited and watched for what seemed like forever. I even joked with a great friend on Face Book about the weather and we both laughed as it was starting to look like the same old, same old. But about midnight things started to change. The wind was picking up and I could see flashes of lightning. Could it be true, was it going to rain? About an hour later the rain came and I went to bed listening to the steady rain. It continued for the rest of the night till about six and in the end we got about two inches here in South Austin!! Not enough to put a dent in the drought, but it did cool things down and put a smile on a lot of faces. One great thing had happened, but there was still the questions about the results...

The day drug on as I tried to stay occupied as I waited to go to the clinic. Finally I went to get my results and of course I was early. I got the weekly blood draw done and went upstairs to wait and see the Doctor. Tick, tock, tick, tock, time was just creeping along. Then I was called back, vitals were taken and all were good. Now I was sitting in an exam room anxiously waited while thumbing through various magazines. Then came the knock and the Doc entered. He had the results and asked if I was ready for the results. Before I could answer, he said "Tom, I have some great news". He then informed me that my cancer was in COMPLETE REMISSION!!!!! Wow, I didn't know what to say except "thanks Doc". We discussed what lie ahead , which included more Chemo, but we would be eliminating one of the drugs after a few more treatments and then we concluded that by the end of the year I would be done with my treatments. I was on cloud nine and I told the nurses that I have gotten to know and sent out a text to my family and close friends to advise them. I called my Mom to give her the good news and kind of floated home. Ok, I'll be honest, I did stop and get a pizza to celebrate this great news. After eating I talked with my best friend and decided I would lay down for a while. I forgot to mention, I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for another type of med that was going to help with my rib pain. I did rest, but couldn't sleep as my mind was racing just thinking about what had happened...Remission, what a great word...

At this time I want to thank all my friends and family for their continual support and prayers. Without y'all I don't think I would be where I am today. This is not the end of my battle but I am beating this disease one day and one treatment at a time. There are some other folks that deserve a huge thank you. The Doctors, Nurses, Receptionists, Schedulers, Financial folks, the Great women that draw my blood every week and the rest of the staff at Texas Oncology deserve my heart felt thanks. I have never seen such devotion to their jobs and the continual support that I have been given there. If (God forbid), you find yourself or know someone that would benefit from their services here is a link to the South Austin site I can not give them enough stars or kudos for what they do. I am not going to name individuals because I don't want to leave anyone out and so many of them have been a part of my life in my lowest times and also the good times. Thanks again.

As I said, this is not the end of my battle and not the end of this blog. I will continue to write about what I am going through and also add in some posts on other topics.If you have an idea or an issue that you would like me to discuss, either leave a comment or email me at Once again, THANKS to ALL, without each and every one of you, I know that this day would not have come. And as always... Take Care, Be Safe and Never Forget!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Note to All the Fathers, including Myself

 Happy Fathers Day to all the fathers that are reading this. I want us to remember the Ultimate Sacrafice that the Brothers of FDNY, Boston Fire and the Charleston Fire Depts. suffered this Father's Day Weekend. June 17,2001, three FFs from FDNY perished in what was to be known as "The Fathers Day Fire". Thank you to Steve for the memories and pictures In Boston, June 17,1972 the "Hotel Vendome Fire" claimed the lives of nine of Boston's bravest. Here is a link to details of the fire . Lastly on June 18,2007, there was "The Charleston Nine",who perished while fighting a fire at The Sofa Super Store . Prayers and thoughts go out to the families and especially the children that lost Fathers at these tragedies.
 You may be asking why I am starting this post with such somber news. This is to illustrate that any day might be your last and not to take things for granted.

This past week I have had the chance to talk with some friends about Fathers Day and one theme kept comming up...remorse. It seems that many of us never were very close to our own dads for different reasons. One friend told me the story of his father. His dad had been cheating on his mom and had left her heartbroken to marry a woman ten years younger than himself. What was once a happy family was left in tatters. Even though my friend tried to reconcile quite a few times it was all in vain. Cards that were sent for various holidays, his birthday and fathers day were returned by the"new" wife, further widening the gap between father and son. By his dad's own choice he missed out on his grandchildren, great grandchildren and never got to really know my buddy. Then the call came from his mom..."your father has passed". All my friend has now to remember his father is a handful of old photos and a gnawing void of what could have been. A sad ending to a sad story. Not wanting to follow in his dad's footsteps, he is very involved in the lives of his kids and grandkids.

Another friend told me about his relationship with his father, I began to wonder if we grew up in the same house. As far back as I can remember, my dad was always there for me. He was hard working and always was trying to better himself and provide more for his family. He coached my teams in various sports, took me to games at Shea Stadium, the Football and Baseball halls of fame,to museums and even the drag races. We went to (and hosted) family reunions yearly. The importance of family was instilled upon me from day one, thanks Dad. Another thing I am grateful for is that I was introduced to differnt cultures and various cuisines. We moved alot when I was growing up and the NY to Texas trip happened three times. Was it hard moving and making new friends? For me, not really..I am not exactly shy around others and this was a great life lesson that I continue to use every day. Well, time marched on as did my dad...I was now married and starting a family and my dad continued to move upward in his career which entailed a move to the Dallas area, then Atlanta before finally settling down in Tampa. "Settling down" did not mean just sitting around and maybe playing a round of golf or two a week. Dad was involved in many civic and fraternal organizations along with being very involved in the Catholic Church. As oft times before, he was never satisfied at the local level and soon took positions on the State level of different organizations. Always the leader, a pillar in the community and the corner stone that held things together. But like these objects, he was not one to show many emotions (he would have been a hell of a firefighter in that respect), the words "i love you" didn't come until later in his life. As he got older he started to mellow and began to open up a little more, dare I say it was like he was letting his  gaurd down, ever so slowly. Then came the news that dad had cancer and the prognosis was not good. That's when the emotions really started to come. Just talking to him on the phone he would sometimes get sentimental and start to cry. Mom got on the phone and said it was the chemo and the cocktail of drugs that they were giving him, was it? I began to wonder. I did get to see my dad before he died and knew things were  not good. Gone was the man that was always so independent and always in charge. The clincher was when he would ask me to drive him to the store or a visit to the clinic to see his doctor. I never, ever remember my dad asking for help, he was always the one that was helping others.  Cancer had taken a toll, as did the chemo and radiation and dad became another casuality to this dreaded disease. It has been over two years since my dad passed and I miss him alot. Happy Fathers Day dad, love ya and wish you were here to see your great grandkids.

My own ordeal with cancer has opened my eyes to many things. No longer do I take things for granted and cherish the time I get to spend with my kids and grandkids. I can only offer this bit of advice and you can take it for what it is worth...To the Dads, love your kids and be a part of their lives, who knows what is around the next corner of your life. And to those who still have a dad around, put away any petty crap that you and your dad have gone through. Don't be like so many others that never say "I love you dad", till its too late and he can no longer hear you...

Happy Fathers Day Dads, here is someting to enjoy, I think I heard everyone of them...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Social Media and Me

If you had asked me about social media about eight months ago, my response would have been, "uhh, can I buy a vowel?". I had no clue what a wild and crazy ride I was about to go on. First a big Thank You to all that have viewed this blog. It has had over 700 visits since I started it around the end of April!!  An even bigger thank you to my Webmaster, without whom I would be lost. A few things have been added such as "Websites of Interest" and a little favorite of mine..."Little Rascals FD". This blog will continue to chronicle my dealings with chemo, Drs. and personal insights, but now more features will be included. The Websites of Interest will help to bring important issues to the forefront and also showcase sites that I feel need to be checked out. If you have any suggestions or would like your site featured, email me at . I would also like to thank my friends at . This is a great site that features Emergency Preparedness. Where else can you find posts about Pet Safety, Floods, Haboobs (it's not a dirty word) and oh yeah, a little blurb from me on Grill Safety. Please check out their site and pass it on. Much like this blog if you feel it can help someone don't keep it to yourself. I guess in my opinion, that's how this Social Media thing should work...sharing of information.

Speaking of sharing information, let's chat about Twitter. This seems to be the mega clearing house of information. If you want to know anything about anything you can find it there. I venture to guess that if a spider breaks wind in the deepest jungle of the Amazon, someone will "tweet" it. OK, so you have your celebrity and sports tweets and now the new topic "weiner tweets". I prefer to follow Fire, Police and EMS agencies along with breaking news and weather reports. Honestly I follow over 1200 different agencies, people and groups and I really have no idea what may show up in my stream. You can follow me on twitter ( @tommyhark ),  why you may want to do this I am not sure. You can see what I think is important to share or is just so goofy I have to pass it on. I will admit I do get overwhelmed at times at the speed and amount of information that flys by. I may get one tweet out and twenty more might be waiting in the queue. I don't have a clue how folks including my friends follow a gazzilion interests, but more power to them. I also get tweets from a few friends and agencies sent to my cell phone. Why? I am a news junkie and hate missing out on some "big event". All in all, I give Twitter a big thumbs up, if you want the latest news, weather or gossip, create an account (it's free) and Happy Hunting.

If thats not enough Breaking News for you. let me suggest this site to you . This is raw and uncut video. The feeds may vary from live choppers or other news agencies. What you watch is up to you, fires, weather, chases or one of my favorites, "the old", over turned 18 wheeler and cows running everywhere. Now that's funny right there. So the Police were not amused, but still fun to watch. Want to have some real fun? Call a friend or relative in a different state and let them know what's happening in their neck of the woods. The usual response, "what the hey, how did you know that?". My response..."Connections", that gets them wondering. Although this is a great way to "see" breaking news let me warn you first. I sat for hours watching the feeds from the Joplin Tornado and sat in disbelief at the damage and loss of life. It took a while to digest what I had seen. During my time as a FF and EMT I was exposed to some horrific incidents. Nothing prepared me for what I saw on that day, nothing at all. Much like the Meteorologist from The Weather Channel that was "chasing" this storm, I was at a loss for words. As I stated this live and uncut...the devestation was real, the victims were real and unfortunatley so were the people that lost their lives. My prayers still go out to those folks and also to those that are still suffering due to weather and wildfires that have had a deadly grip on the U.S. and many foriegn countries. Another feature is the ability to "chat" live. This is a great way to get or give information and also see what others have on their mind. At most times there is a moderator that keeps guests and their comments in check. But like most things, a few bad apples sneak in and try to ruin it for all. Props to the Admins, you don't get thanked enough for dealing with the idiots.

That being said, let's talk about Shout Boxes (SB)...Oh boy, where do I start? The shout boxes are definately a double edged sword. I will not post any links to any I may frequent. Just know that there are plenty out there and maybe, just maybe, try to show some respect for others on the sites. These are mostly open to the public and you never know who might join in or who is lurking. Due to my cancer and treatments, I have some time on my hands and the SB have been a blessing and curse. There are people that may live in another part of the world or time zone so chances are there is always someone to talk to. Like I said these are mostly public forums and so like the "public", you get good people and the ahem..scum. Yes, I have been "cloned", made fun of and also been treated rudely. I try not to let it get to me but there are times it gets old. Some people enjoy this type of behavior and evidently have no respect for themselves or others. That is all I will say on that topic but I want you to know that I have made some great friends in the SB and I am a better person for it. Once again, kudos to the Admins that sit with the "banned" button armed and ready. But as in life people and their interests change. That friend you made may be around for a day, a week or longer. Then all of a sudden you find yourself asking "hmm, I wonder what became of so and so?" Enjoy the time you have and don't dwell on what you can't control. A few words of advice, unless you are in a SB that deals with these topics avoid them... religion and politics, nobody ever wins those arguments and never will. One more....BBQ, sauce or no sauce, Texas vs Carolina is another touchy subject. Since this is my blog...Texas and no sauce!! I must apologize to my greatest adversary on this issue but ha ha, sorry.

Sooooo, to wrap this up. I have and will continue to use and support Social Media, but like anything it is easy to get all wrapped up in this wave. Enjoy the ride, have fun and if you need the "floaties" use 'em. I do want to leave you with one more link. This is an article I came across in Country Line Magazine ( ) entitled "Father's Day. Want to Reconnect? Then Disconnect" . Before anyone gets there shorts in a wad, I think that there are some valid points made...enough said. Take it for what it is worth to you and what you do is your choice. Take Care, Be Safe and Never Forget

Ooops, almost forgot. I did see the Cardiothoracic Surgeon yesterday. I wanted to know if I would ever get a pain free night of sleep. I am getting tired of moving from the bed, to the recliner, and to the couch to try and get comfortable. After an x-ray, the Dr. informed me "all looks good and the pain from surgery may linger for a while, try some Aleve". So I left with a little more info than when I walked in (emphasis on little). After buying the Aleve I noticed the warnings. Well due to one of my medications it was not reccomended I take it. Then I called my Oncologist, he advised me to take the Aleve for three days and we would go from there.  Well if last night was any indication, we will be talking Monday. On a happy note, I got to spend some time with my daughter and granddaughter. We went out for lunch and had a great time. Thanks to you Baby and your baby, you made my day.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

So, I Still Have Cancer (But Refuse to Let it Stop Me)

I am determined to not let this Lymphoma get me down and I want to lead a "normal" life, but sometimes I push it too far. I went to chemo this past Thursday and Friday and afterwards the "pushing" began. I now see why athletes use steroids to enhance their performance. This in no way condones those actions and after getting them during chemo I see how detrimental they can be. They totally mess up your normal thinking and sleep patterns, but hey you feel great and think you can conquer the world. By now you are probably asking, "Ok, what did you" It all started on Thursday night and barely sleeping and finally, by earlier this morning a light came on. Yes, the past five days I have had alot of fun, (paid for it) and my dumb ass just kept right on going.
After receiving chemo Friday I decided to peruse some thrift stores in South Austin and see if anything struck my fancy. Being the big spender that I am, I spent a few bucks on some t-shirts and had enough fun and was ready to head home. Upon leaving the store I looked over and there went the city bus. Just great. I rely on Public Transportation to get around and I knew the next bus would not be here for at least thirty minutes and so starts the stupid choices. I was tired, cranky and hot and not in the mood for this minor set back. Being the intelligent person that I am, (insert rude comments here), I decided to walk home. What the heck, it was about a mile and it was a balmy high ninety degree day out, a mere walk in the park as it was.  Sothe march began, I got home totally exhausted and started to make plans for Saturday. I rested and played around on the computer using social media to get my mind off things. My son's wife and daughter were going out of town to visit relatives and we were going fishing, hell yeah. I had also seemed to put the continual dull ache in my back from the thoracotomy aside and pushed foward.
Six in the morning comes mighty early unless you have been up most of the night, but enjoying the outdoors and the company of my son far outweighed the cost. At least in my mind it did. Quoting the new jargon "fail". After a great breakfast and a few coffees it was time to show some fish who was boss. Needless to say, the fish won. It was great being at McKinney Falls State Park.
I still remember going there with my Dad in the mid seventies and then taking my kids there when they were younger, a beautiful slice of nature not far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Austin. As you may notice from the link, limestone cliffs and rocks seem to be everywhere. Armed with caffiene and pain killers, I was ready to take on the world. We hiked and climbed our way to different areas only to catch some monster three inch perch. It was worth it, we also let some kids out hiking with their parents give it a shot. Seeing the joy on their little faces made me and my son happy. About noon, we decided it was enough, the pain pills were wearing off and I was getting tired. Saturday night and Sunday were pure hell. I moved from the bed, to the couch and then the recliner, trying to find some relief. I tried to take my mind off things by turning to Social Media. I tweeted, chatted on Face Book and also "talked" to friends in a Shout Box. I found myself fading in and out during conversations, so I just kind of gave up. An appointment for my nuelasta shot and an office visit with my Oncologist awaited me on Monday. BP, weight and blood work all looked good. After chatting with the Doc, (who was not impressed with me pushing things), we did make a schedule for future visits. Yes, more chemo, blood work etc. I am looking foward to the week of June 20th. I will be getting a PET scan. This will explain the procedure, but in a nutshell, I will find out how many treatments are left. Wish me luck!!
Not having learned from the weekend, I decided to go traipsing about on Monday afternoon and yet again Tuesday. After eating dinnerTuesday evening, crash...I slept through numerous texts and calls about an eight alarm fire in RI. After coming to about midnight, I noticed a friend on FB. I got the skinny on the eight bagger and a few other "jobs", I missed. We chatted for a bit and then it was off to bed.
So, it is now Wednesday...I have decided to stay home and not do a thing, what a concept. My daughter and granddaughter will be taking me to meet with the Cardio Thoracic Surgeon on Thursday. I still am dealing with the pain and aggravation after my surgery and hope to get some answers. I will keep you posted on the outcome. I am also working on a post about Social Media and how it has affected me. Till then, Take Care, Be Safe and Never Forget.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When a Brother Cries, We All Cry With Him

It saddens me to write this post as one of our own has lost a loved one due to the careless behavior of a drunk driver. Time and time again as firefighters we have to deal with people who think that they are ok to drive after drinking. Not only do they put themselves in danger, but they never think about the others on the road or even those that respond to help them. Going to a call always has it's inherent dangers whether Paid or Volunteer, and arriving on the scene is not much safer. We have all seen or heard of cars plowing into a rig or police car by another drunk driver. Police will never be able to stop every DWI or DUI driver from driving, so what can we do to help? If you see a vehicle driving eratically notify 911 imediatley. If you are at a bar or party and see somone staggering to their car try to stop them. Do not put yourself in harms way, most people that have been drinking can be beligerant or even aggresive. If you have been drinking, think about what you have seen, we are not above the law and alcohol affects us just like anyone else.Enough is enough. Please, please, please...think about what we can do so another family does not have to suffer.

Jim aka E32 lost his niece this past Friday in a MVA caused by a drunk driver. She was like a daughter to him and his family is devestated. She was only 25 years old and leaves her husband and two young children ages 2 and 6 behind. My own kids are about the same age and being a father and grandfather, I can not begin to think of what he and his family are going through. To lose a loved one is always hard, but to lose one so young can make us start doubting our faith. We will never have the answers as to why this had to happen. What we can do is keep Jim and his family in our thoughts and prayers at this dark hour.

The viewing for Erin Glasson Chapparo will be held Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 from 6-8 p.m at the Dougherty Funeral Home. The funeral is 12:30 p.m. Thursday June 2, 2011.

Erin's Online Legacy Guest Book

For more information contact:

James J. Dougherty Funeral Home Inc.
2200 Trenton Rd.
Levittown, Pennsylvania,19056
Phone: 215-943-7240

Contributions for Erin's children can be made at the following:

Anthony and Jasmine Glasson Chaparro
In care of Citizens Bank
2309 Lincoln Hwy.
Langhorne, PA 19047

Monday, May 30, 2011

Giving Bad News Really Sucks

I was a Lt. on our Rescue Squad and I still remember having to tell a family member "I'm sorry, there is nothing more we can do at this point". Whether it was an elderly person that we had administered C.P.R. to or a loved one killed in a MVA, it was never easy. Then there were calls that involved members of our own Department. The Capt. of the Squad's son was killed in a motorcycle crash and trying to keep her away from the scene was a very difficult, if not impossible, thing to do. It even happened to me. My brother was driving home one night and slid off the road and ended up upside down in a small creek. Upon arriving on the scene, I immediately recognized the car and I was held back by fellow Firefighters and EMS members. When the “thumbs up” was given I finally was allowed to see him. Luckily he only suffered a broken nose and bumps and bruises. Even though at the time, wearing a seat belt had not been hammered into our heads by TV, radio or print ads, he was. I was a believer after one month in the FD after seeing the carnage of people being ejected, crushed or having to be cut out with the Jaws of Life. From that day on I always buckled up and also made my passengers.

Today I will be making the hardest phone call in my life. I am going to tell my Mom I have cancer. You are probably saying "Wait a minute, you were diagnosed in November and have been going through chemo, why now?" Let me explain. My Dad died a little over two years ago from cancer and it has taken my Mom till now to where I think she can handle the news (I hope and pray). At the beginning I also had a blood clot in my right leg so I was able to play it of with that. Also in talking to my Brother and my Aunt, (who is almost like a sister), we all thought it was for the best. Mom was still grieving the loss of my Dad and we felt that the news would push her over the edge. Honestly, I am scared shitless. I know she is going to be pissed off that she is just now finding out. But after getting positive news about my lymph nodes getting smaller and seeing my brother and his wife after they came for a quick visit, it's time. They have seen me, I am not dying and they can also help explain my situation. Yes, I have lost a lot of weight going from a 38" waist to now a 32. Like I mentioned it is not due to the chemo but changing my eating habits and exercising. O.k. is 08:30 here in Texas and 09:30 in Florida; I am making the call, wish me luck. I will be back to let you know how it all turns out.

Well, that did not go as bad as it could have. I believe she now understands our concerns and now knows that I will keep her completely informed. What a relief and I am glad that is over.

On another note, today is Memorial Day and I would like to thank all that served and also those that we have lost due to their service in the Military. Thank You. I would also like to include Firefighters, Police and EMS...Thank You...Take Care, Be Safe and Never Forget

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Minor Setback, Prayers and Thanks

Since starting this blog a little over a month ago I have been on a physical and emotional roller coaster. There were the highs of becoming a grandfather again with the birth of my second granddaughter. My son advancing to the interview stage in his quest to become a meber of the Austin Fire Dept. Finding out that my chemo is working and my lymph nodes are getting smaller was a day I won't soon forget. Also opening up to more of my friends through the use of social media and getting such an overwhelming response world wide has been a high point and a few more were mentioned in earlier posts. Then there were the lows...being hospitalized for what I thought was pnuemonia and then having a thoracotomy done due to an infection near my lung. Then my son got the news that he and his fellow applicants must go through their interviews again because of some idiots indiscretion. Here is a link to that news: . Then there was yesterday. I got up at the crack of dawn to have my coffee and oatmeal, shower and head off to another round of chemo. Well that wasn't to be. Over the weekend I noticed that my gum was tender and was starting to hurt. I started to gargle with salt water and mouthwash in hopes that that would alleve it. By Monday morning there was more pain and my cheek was swollen, not a good sign. I went to the clinic and started the process of getting ready for chemo. First the co-pay, the blood draw and then off for infusion. Upon arrival to the infusion room the nurse on duty noticed my cheek and held off hooking me up to my pre-meds till I saw my Oncologist. My weight was taken along with my B.P. and temp. all was good so far. I waited for the Dr. and finally he came in. He was happy with my vitals and blood work, as all the other numbers were good. He also listened to my breathing and informed me the xrays that were taken last friday looked good along with the scars from my surgery.  Then there was the issue of my swollen cheek. He looked at my teeth and felt my cheek and stated that I had an infection in a salivary gland and that an antibiotic was in order and that my chemo needed to be postponed a week. He then told me that due to my weakened immune system, this was not uncommon. Damn my luck, time to make lemonade from this lemon. I was a little nervous as my brother and his wife were coming to visit over the Memorial Day Weekend. I was not sure how I was going to feel after getting my chemo, sometimes it has left me weak and with my ribs still sore I was afraid I was going to ruin their visit. With that issue gone I was feeling better about their visit. I am looking foward to seeing them as it had been over two years since I last saw them and that was at my Dad's funeral. So a weekend of mexican food, BBQ and checking out Austin await me!!

Now on to the prayers... On Sunday the city of Joplin was devestated by a horrific series of tornadoes. I was glued to my computer watching  the terror unfold in front of me live. I had never seen that type of destruction before in my life and evidently niether had the reporter from the Weather Channel. His name is Mike Bettes and he was going from car to car, house to house talking to the locals that were looking for neighbors or loved ones. You could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice, this was taking a toll on him. I commend him for a job well done during such trying times.Nobody realized at the time how wide spread the damage was. As I watched more and listened to  the live scanner feed I knew this was not going to be good as it was starting to get dark. At the time of this posting the death total was at 116 and expected to rise. Along with the window of  opportunity for finding survivors was beginning to close, came the news that more severe weather was expected throughout Tuesday. My heartfelt prayers go out to the families that have lost loved ones, the survivors that now have nothing and the rescue workers that have worked non stop around the clock trying to find survivors and dealing with what is left of a fractured city.

And finally the thanks.... I want to thank all of you that have read my blog and have shared your personal stories of losses and victories with me due to different reasons. I also want to thank a friend that is in the hospital as we speak and said that by reading my blog, it was helping him get through his time of need. That is the purpose of this blog. Not for me to "piss and moan" about my issues but to try and let others know that they can over come adversity by having a positive attitude and being thankful for the positive things that are there amongst the negative. Once again I ask that you pass this on to anyone you think it will help. God Bless, Take Care, Be Safe and Never Forget. As a side note please keep our friends in the FDNY whose stations are slated to close in your prayers and hope that the City sees the error of their ways. Thanks...more to come in the near future...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Being Open and Sharing

Last night I heard another member on TheBravest.Com talking about needing a procedure and having to see a "cancer" Dr. At this point I knew I had to step in. I have been reluctant to share my own experiences with my fellow Brothers and Sisters for fear I would be "treated" different. I have been blessed as I mentioned to find out that my chemotherapy is working and I know that I will beat this disease.There were a few members that I have gotten closer to that I have confided in during my ordeal. By and large the general membership had no idea, I was still the same person I always was and they had no clue. I do not want to hear "poor Tex, I am so sorry to hear that". I know I am winning and also know that I have the support and prayers of everyone on the site. Well the cat is out of the bag and my only wish is that my blog will offer some hope to those that are dealing with cancer or other ailments. There are alot of us on there that have been beaten up due to job related injuries, getting older or just being dealt a bad hand. We are there for each other as a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen. Firefighters are not the best at opening up, sharing their feelings or asking for help, trust me I know this all to well. Like I said I hope all that read this will know that things can and will get better no matter what you are dealing with. Also, I ask that you pass this on to someone that has gotten depressed or seems to have given up hope.I hope each and everyone of you takes the time to be thankful for the good you do have in your life whether it is your family, friends or a special person. Thank you for your time in reading this and Take Care, Be Safe and....Never Forget.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Bad, The Good and the Blessed

This past few weeks have been a roller coaster. The Bad: A week ago I came to the E.R. due to a cough and general weakness. Well, after being checked, I had a fever of 103.5. After further testing I was diagnosed with a slight case of pneumonia. A scan was order and a small amount of fluid was found near my lung. A Thoracentisis  was ordered. The Radiologist had a hard time extracting the fluid as it was quite "thick". In a few hours a Cardio Thoracic surgeon will be using a robotic device to remove the fluid and scraping the external lung wall. Since all tests are not back, we are not sure if this is related to my lymphoma or not. This leads to The Good. My Oncologist has been one of the multiple Drs. that have been following my case. Since I have received a few scans, my Oncologist has noticed a decrease in the size of my lymph nodes. The Chemo seems to be working. Once again, along with the bad, some good news has shown through. Now as far as being Blessed. My Daughter and her Husband have presented me with my second "Yellow Rose of Texas". Both Mom and baby are doing well. My Son and Daughter in law, who have my first Granddaughter have let me know another grandbaby is due in December. In addition my Son interviewed with the Austin Fire Dept. Life is Good

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mutual Aid, a time to call?

Being Firefighters, calling for help can be a very hard thing to do. Should we call that extra Engine, Truck or even Rescue? Alot of Officers feel that by calling for help shows  a sign of weakness or an ill equipped Dept., sorry but a bunch of crap in my opinion. I would rather see rigs moving to help, than getting in a situation where they are needed ASAP!. Equipment can be sent "home", no harm, no foul. Try teling that to a trapped FF or a victim in need. Just like in the FD, asking for help during treatments is a fine line. I have been blessed with a great family and friends that do support me and listen when i need to vent. Do they all hear the same thing? In a word, no. My family, unfortunatley was exposed to the devestation of Cancer as my own Father was taken from us. A great man, who's life was snuffed out way before his time, a pillar in the Church and multiple fraternal organizations. A shame and a waste. My friends and co-workers sometimes don't have a clue. I realize that thier intentions are good, but I have Cancer yes, not a death sentence. I work in retail now and have for the last five plus years. I have customers that know me and are concerned. Yes,I have lost weight (not from the Chemo, but better diet and exercise). Still, I get the questions day in, day out. Sorry, I don't do pity or "poor you" ,well. Still, there are times that I do need help and find the resources that are there. I got a nice shock last week. I was at the clinic and was told the Financial Counsler would like to see me. I went in sheepishly thinking I missed a payment. Nope, my insurance was not covering my Nuelasta Shot. A nice thing to find out after getting about eight or so. The cost, eight grand a piece.....needless to say I was devestated, first off evidentely this was not "breaking news" to the clinic, to me it was. After, asking what could be done, I was told that the drug maker will help defer the cost and I would pay a $15 copay. As far as the balance? They are working on it. If you need some "mutual aid", there are programs to help you. Put aside your ego and request it. There are links on this page of some great organizations that can help and more will be added. Please ask if you need to. You may also contact me If I can help I will. Stay safe, stay positive and God Bless

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A time to think, how can I help?

I started fighting fires in 1980. I was a young cocky Irish/Italian kid in Upstate NY. I trained hard, never backed down, had some FDNY guys in my Dept. and I was hooked. All us young guys wanted to be like them...we watched, we learned and then a few got the chance. "Wanna ride out in the City?"..Hell yeah.  I rose to the rank of Lt. in the Rescue, then moved to Texas. First off, a Leather Helmet was foriegn here in Austin at the time. What the Hell, I saw a bunch of cows? My time here lasted a few years and after 8 years I was out.. Not by choice, more of location and a young family. I still kept listening via scanner, carried my gear and rescue kit. Helped where I could. Years and time pass and in Nov 2010..diagnosed with lymphoma....I lost my Dad almost two years prior to cancer. My mind went through so many emotions, I thought I was going nuts. I started reliving my life, the goods, the bads, the uglies. Then the doubts came from the job...the what ifs. could I have saved him/her?..did I make the right call?. As I changed my life due to cancer, better diet, exercise, healthier living. It was time to give back. I fought fires and beat them..I can fight cancer. I am going through chemo and was at the clinic today. I have taken my knowledge and ability to deal with bad situations and used them to help others. You know what, the feeling of being helpful to the community has returned. I sit and talk to others that are lonley, have no family or just have given up. All I can ask is use your skills, you were trained to help. You never forget that..Being a FF is not a job, its a life...Never Forget. And remember those that gave the ultimate sacrafice.

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