589 Days

I had a cancerous tumor in my body for 589 days, that I know of. I know it was there longer, but to my knowledge, the tumor existed in my body from the day I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer on 2/26/2018 until 10/9/2019 when the metastasized tumor was removed after it moved from my colon to my stomach.

From the time I was diagnosed, I was told that I had eighteen to twenty four months to live. I told the oncologist when she told me that, I think I said something like ‘OK. Well, we’ll see.’ I was rarely negative about the diagnosis. I decided that remaining positive about my life was easier to deal with than being a negative person all the time.

I looked at the world with a different lens. When I go into the bank, or the store, I try to get to know the people who are helping me. I almost always greet them by name. I decided to be the positive stage 4 colon cancer guy.

When I would go in for routine, occasional, PET scans, I would see the same technician, Jay. He told me once that I was the most positive stage 4 colon cancer patient he had ever met. I took that as a compliment.

I rarely passed up an opportunity, either standing in line at the grocery store, or wherever, to tell people about my diagnosis. Not because I was looking for sympathy, but because I was trying to make people aware that colon cancer can strike anyone. I convinced the guy who owns my favorite Italian restauant to go in and get a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy wasn’t what found my tumor, because of where it was located, but it would and will find it in most people if they have the cancer.

I made several mistakes along the way. I told my kids that I was going in to find out if I had an expiration date when I was going in to get my diagnosis. To me, it was humorous. To them, not so much. When I first got home from the first colon cancer surgery, I felt great. We had just moved from Bothell to Edmonds, and so I took it upon myself to rearrange my home office. Heavy furniture and all. Wasn’t the smartest move.

On October 9th of this year, I had another surgery. That oncology surgeon removed the cancerous tumor from my stomach. He also removed a mass that may or may not have been a lymph node and may or may not have been cancerous.

I was in the hospital for a week, recovery and learning to poop again.

On the 17th of October, I came home from the hospital to recover there. So far, so good. I can’t lift over twenty pounds until mid December. Initially, I was not going to be able to drive for two weeks, but those restrictions were thankfully lifted fairly soon after being put in place.

I work from home. So I answer email, and I answer phone calls, just like I normally would, if not a bit slower than normal.

I met with the oncology surgeon today, the 28th of October. He’s pleased with my progress. He removed the staples that had been in place and I meet with him again in a week.

I meet with my oncologist on November 11th. I hope to stay cancer free for a while. I know there is a chance it will come back, but in the meantime, I plan on living life.

Get your colonoscopies. Get your blood work done. Your life depends on it. It saved mine, for now. I’d like to think I can encourage one or two people to do the same. You are important. You may not think you are, but you are. Even if life seems difficult right now, it could ALWAYS be much worse.

I couldn’t have recovered as well without the love and support of my parents, my wife, my inlaws and my kids. And my granddaughter, whom I’ve been able to see a few times since coming home.

Thank you all.

Security Cameras

I recently set up security cameras at my house, and had a neighbor ask about them, so I thought I would write a post about them.

I looked for quite a while for some good security cameras. You can never be too safe anymore. I looked at the Nest cameras from Google, but their support costs were outrageous. I look at a few others, then I came upon the Wyze Camera.

HD color, and they have night vision as well. I can view the cameras remotely on my iPad or my iPhone, and the quality is crystal clear. Additionally, they can take thirty two gig micro-SD cards that will allow them to keep a long, long amount of footage, plus 12 second clips that get kept on the web for free.

I bought these housings to keep the cameras from getting wet – Wyze camera housing, they work great.

I don’t have any outside electrical outlets, so I ordered these, Long USB power cords which allow me to string back to where I do have an electrical outlet in the garage.

Political Posts

A funny thing happened the other day.

My wife came to bed and said “I’m really glad you didn’t get into the latest political fray on Facebook.”

I had to laugh a little bit.

Shortly I was diagnosed with cancer, I decided that arguing politics on Facebook was fruitless. My beliefs are my beliefs, and your beliefs are your beliefs.

Arguing for or against isn’t going to change your mind. It’s not going to change my mind.

A few weeks back, I made a backhanded comment that I thought about running for the governor of Washington. While it would be nice to think that I would even have a remote chance of getting more than ten votes, I have zero interest in running for governor. Mainly because the things I would want to change about the state aren’t easy fixes. Nor would they be popular choices. That’s cool. I understand that.

A few years ago, I was at a Thanksgiving dinner at a relative’s home. As sometimes happens, the discussion turned to politics. Because of some things I said, I was called a racist. We left the Thanksgiving dinner shortly after that occurred. We haven’t been invited back. Nor would I go back if I was invited.

I don’t mind if you disagree with me. That’s cool. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. Sticks and stones may break bones, but calling me names doesn’t hurt me, it just makes me angry. I have little room for anger in my life

I have bigger issues to deal with, in my opinion.

So keep fighting with each other on Facebook, and Twitter, and wherever else.

I can almost guarantee you, if you were in person, face to face, you wouldn’t argue with each like y’all do on Facebook or Twitter. Or maybe you would. If you would, I feel sorry for you.

Just one man’s opinion.

Fear

Fear – It’s an emotion that many of us experience.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about fear since I was first diagnosed with cancer a little over a year ago.

I’m not fearful of the cancer. I’m not fearful of the treatments, because they help me hopefully eradicate the beast that is cancer.

I’m not fearful of dying, whether that be of cancer, or old age, or getting hit by a driver in the Lynnwood Fred Meyer parking lot. (Which some days seems more likely than the other two scenarios)

I’m not fearful of standing up for people who are being mistreated. I’ve done it in the past, and would do it again. Wrong is wrong. Period.

I’m not fearful of pointing out shoplifters. Wrong is wrong. Period.

I’m fearful of stupid things. Things that are irrational to be fearful of, in many ways.

– I’m fearful of heights
– I’m fearful of not doing the right thing
– I’m fearful of flying insects. Bees and bee variants especially
– I’m fearful of running out of money and not being able to take care of my family
– I’m fearful of my companies failing, and having the investors think less of me because we failed.
– I’m fearful of disappointing the people that I care about. I’m not a mega successful person, I’m a guy who just gets by. Frequently by the skin of my teeth.
– I’m fearful that in 1989, when I decided to enter the computer field, that along the way, I’ve made so many missteps that I’ll be asking people if they want fries with that, should I need to look for another job.
– I’m fearful that at some point a situation will present itself, and I will look the other way and someone will get hurt, or worse.

Remember Riley Howell. He did the right thing. I pray that given the circumstance, I would do the right thing as well.

Home Automation

I’ve long been interested in home automation. Some people said it was because I was lazy. I prefer to think of it as automating things to make life easier.

The first thing I did was to purchase an Amazon Echo

Then, I bought a couple of Amazon Smart plugs

With that, I set up a fan and a living room light. So I could say ‘Alexa, turn on the living room light’ and the living room light would turn on. I also set up a fan, because my wife, even when it is 14 degrees outside, likes to have a fan going in our bedroom at night. So either one of us could say ‘Alexa, turn on the bedroom fan’ and the bedroom fan would turn on.

Worked well. Was simple.

When we moved into our house in March of 2018, we had a small issue in the master bedroom. The light switch, when it was turned off, turned off the electrical outlet by the bed. So for the longest time, at night, we had to do one of two things:

a) Unscrew the light bulb and leave the light switch on, so we could charge our phones at night
b) Leave the light switch off and use a different electrical outlet.

This bedroom has only two electrical outlets. One next to the bed (controlled by the light switch) and one on the complete other side of the room. So for the longest time, what we did is we just unscrewed the light bulb and left the light switch on.

We rarely used the light in the bedroom anyway. Since we just use it for non-lit activities 99.9% of the time.

But that got kinda old. Yes, we could have an electrician come in and resolve the issue. But that seemed really stupid to have someone come in and rewire an electrical socket when we could just unscrew the light bulb.

Fast forward to November of last year. I was looking on Amazon, which I do sometimes, and found this product The Kasa Smart light bulb . The beauty of this product is that it connected to wifi and could be easily controlled by Alexa. So now, I just say “Alexa, turn on the bedroom light” and we have light in the bedroom. Works great. Never noticed how many times a light in the bedroom is useful. Now, we have once again.

I have many other home automation tasks that I would like to do, later down the road.

I’d like to get an Amazon Fire TV to control the TV with my voice.
I’d like to get a smart lock for the front door. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten up, paranoid that I haven’t locked the front door. It’s usually, locked, but it would be nice if I had something like this August Smart Lock so I can either look at my phone from anywhere in the world and see if the door is locked, or alternatively I can say ‘Alexa, lock the front door.’

I’m sure there are other things that I can do, down the road, but for now, that’s where I have begun. If you have any questions, or would like help setting up your own smart home, I’d be happy to assist. It’s not difficult, it’s not scary, and can actually be a time saver and give you peace of mind.

320 Day Update

320 days ago, I was diagnosed with colon cancer.

A bunch of chemotherapy treatments later, I’m still here to type this.

A few people have asked for an update. Here we go.

Chemotherapy, has thankfully, been extremely smooth, for me at least. Up until late August.

In late August, my platelets wouldn’t get back up to a high enough level for me to continue getting chemotherapy. So, we decided (well, my oncologist decided) that the best course of action was to take a break and see if my platelets would regenerate themselves and I could continue treatments.

In November, I had a PET scan on the day before Thanksgiving. The PET scan showed that the tumor was shrinking. So, this is a good thing.

Went back in the Monday after Thanksgiving, hoping that I could continue chemotherapy. Alas, my platelets had risen, but not significantly enough for me to continue treatment. So it was decided, once again, that treatment would be postponed yet again to see if my platelets would cooperate.

My next scheduled appointment is on January 14th. I get my blood tested at that time, and will know where we are with regards to platelet levels. I’m optimistic at this point.

I also have another PET scan scheduled for the 4th of February and then chemo will HOPEFULLY resume on February 11th.

I will share with you all when I know more. I appreciate all the love and support and encouragement that we at #TeamStrockStrong have received.

22nd Annual Edmonds Classic Car Show

Today in Edmonds, there was a very large car show.  The 22nd annual Classic Car Show.

Lots of cars.  Lots of people.

Some interesting things I saw:

  • A Delorean, well preserved or well restored
  • A prototype electric Jaguar.  With door handles that pull out automatically when you approach the car with they key (I wonder where they came up with that idea? (Tesla)
  • A couple Ferraris
  • A 1986 Honda Prelude, which made me think of my friend Jenny Gleason Howard, who had a Prelude when we worked together.

https://www.mikestrockphotography.com/Edmonds-Classic-Car-Show

The link to the photo gallery is above.  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Last car show for the year I think. Next week starts high school women’s soccer and pee-wee football (if I can find the field).  Hopefully I will have a couple high school senior shoots as well, and a family that we used to live near might want a family session.  We shall see.  Keeps me out of trouble.

European Theater Day 2018

There is a gentleman who you may of heard of by the name of Paul Allen.

He has a museum in Everett, Washington called The Flying History and Air Combat Museum.

Mr. Allen has purchased and restored a large number of World War II aircraft, and tanks, and today, there was a European History day where a number of those planes flew.

Mr. Allen has had these planes meticulously restored, and they fly.  You will not very often (if ever) see this group of aircraft fly, at least in the Pacific Northwest.

I enjoy photography.  It keeps my mind off my cancer.  I like airplanes, as long as I don’t have to fly in them.

Oh!  There were also TANKS!  Firing tanks!

It will be interesting to see if this event continues now that commercial flights will be taking off from Paine Field in the near future.

So I went up to experience this event for myself today. I found out a few things.

The museum collection is huge.  It was very well attended.

Photographing flying aircraft is difficult.  It requires decent reflexes and decent equipment.  I don’t have the greatest reflexes.  But you work with what you have.  I think I did a decent job.  I hope you enjoy the photos.  It was a fun day, even if I forgot to wear my hat and got sunburned. LOL

European Theater Day September 1st, 2018

Cancer update at five months

Five months ago, I had surgery to remove a third of my colon.  Soon after that, I started chemotherapy every two weeks.

 

The goal, according to the oncologist, was to ‘improve my quality of life.’

I thought the quality of my life was pretty good, once the tumor in my colon was removed and I could breathe again.

Five months in, I recently had a CT scan.  That CT scan shows that the tumor (which had moved from my colon to my stomach, without my permission) has shrunk.  So, the chemo is working.

Am I still Mr. Positive about having cancer?  Most days.

Am I still going to fight tooth and nail and with whatever I have to beat this damn disease? Absolutely.

I’ve been blessed by the chemo treatments.  I’ve not had many of the side effects that other friends have had with their chemo treatments.

No loss of hair (didn’t really have any to lose, except on my back, which is all still intact.)

No loss of appetite.  I lost 30+ pounds after the surgery, but I am back to my fighting weight, plus (unfortunately, according to my oncologist).

No loss of energy for the most part.  I do get tired for a few days after chemo treatments are done, but that usually goes away.

I have neuropathy, where my mouth and fingers are effected by the cold.  I can’t drink cold fluids for a couple of days after treatment ends.

The only real issues I’ve had are with my white blood cell count (for which I am now taking a medication to help with),  and now I’m having some issues with my platelets.

To be honest, I didn’t know what platelets were before this whole cancer mess began.  I’m learning lots of new things.  Most of which I didn’t want to learn.  But it is what it is.

God has a plan.  So far, His plan seems to be that I stick around for a while longer.  My goal is to be around for at least 50 more years.  That’ll make me 102.  Same age as my grandmother when she passed away.  I think it’s a good goal.

Anyway, thought you’d all like an update.  Cancer is a pain.  I don’t recommend it.  But if you get it, or have it, remain positive.  I believe a lot of the non-issues I’ve had with treatment are due to the fact that I’m remaining positive.

Everyday is not positive.  Believe me.  For quite a while, I wasn’t sure if doing things that were ‘future based’ were worthwhile, because of the diagnosis.  But I’m past that point now.

I’ve got things I want to do.  I’ve got places I want to go.  I’ve got accomplishments I want to accomplish.  I’d like to see all my kids graduate from high school .  I’d love it if I got to see my grandkids graduate from high school as well.

Many of you follow along with me on Facebook.  Know that I appreciate each and every one of you and the love and support you have shown me, my family, my in laws and especially my wife.  It is greatly appreciated.  As my oncologist told me, they are my inner onion.  The one’s closest to me.

You, my friends,  are my outer onion.  I keep you close, and promise not to make you all into onion rings.  That’s all for now.

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.