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

style='visibility:hidden;width:0px;height:0px;' width='0'/>