Friday, November 30, 2007

No Parking

My friend Chris sent me this today, and I liked it so much I had to post it here...

This is something that I find fascinating, and it is more common than one would expect. I am not sure why people don't secure their wireless, whether they don't care or just can't because the instructions on how to do so are difficult to understand. And it can be, as there are numerous options. In my neighborhood, I can see several access points. Thankfully, most are secure, but a few are not. If a wireless network is unsecure, that can leave any computer on that network vulnerable. Now-a-days, even if you use WEP encryption, you are not fully secure. There are several ways to get the encryption keys, easy enough even for the most inept script kiddie. Another danger with unsecure networks, and this is a biggie, is that naughty people may do bad things over the connection like kiddie porn and threatening emails. If the traffic gets traced, it comes back to the owner of access point. Not good.

My wireless network is probably the strongest in the neighborhood. I use a Cisco 1231 b/g wireless access point (all of my network equipment...router, switch, access real Cisco stuff. I am a CCNA after all!) I have two antennas, a high-gain yagi directional antenna on the roof pointed to my parent's house, and a smaller omnidirectional in the ceiling of the hallway. I'm pretty sure every wardriver in the Greater Dayton area has been to my neighborhood to get on my juicy 6 Mb DSL.

I use WPA for connection authentication, and TKIP for data encryption from the computer to the access point. You have to know the pre-shared WPA key to get access, then the TKIP encrypts the data so a sniffer would see gobbledygook rather than your data. At least it is pretty well protected, for now, since encryption methods are being cracked all the time. For even better security, you can apply MAC address filtering, thus only allowing connections from any physical network card which you have registered with your access point. I have not done this because I have lots of wireless devices and work on computers at home, and it would be a chore to track all of that.

I plan on implementing a RADIUS server on my network so I can dump the "pre-shared key" on WPA, and implement 802.1x. This will allow me to set up logins on a server, and the computer or device will have to authenticate by an appropriate username and password. This is also known as WPA-Enterprise and is usually used in large companies. I was working on this before I came down with cancer and have not gotten back to it.

I am implementing a wireless solution at work using a centralized Cisco controller, with all the fancy-schmancy security features. This is a great solution, albeit expensive. I have had great success with it so far, and I am excited to get more access points installed. I have also learned a great deal about wireless and its associated security functions, and I am really eager to learn more.

So, if your wireless is open and exposed to God and everybody, GET IT SECURE!

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I was a jerk this morning.

I left work to go to speech therapy. My speech therapist is a very nice, younger lady whom we will call "J". I pulled into the parking lot behind the doctor's offices (same building as my E, N & T doctor, Dr. S) and tried to maneuver into a parking space that was close. There was one that I wanted, but I was not in a good position to pull into it. I drive a full-size car, so maneuverability in tight areas can be tough.

I went further into the lot, pulled in, backed out and went to the space I wanted. I pulled as far to the left as I could so I could turn into the space easily. Another driver entered the parking lot and pulled up pretty much nose-to-nose with my car, obviously wanting by...on the proper side.

I made a somewhat rude gesture, as if to say "Can't you see I am trying to get into this space?!" I managed to get into the space awkwardly, and had to back in and out a few times to straighten up. Had the person backed up, went around on the right (there was plenty of space) or just plain not been there, I could have pulled in just fine. I mumbled a few "choice" words under my breath about the other driver, and went on my way.

On the way across the parking lot, the lady driver from the offending car spoke to me, and said "Good morning!" I said "Good morning!" back as pleasantly as I could and smiled at her.

I didn't realize until I got to the elevators that the lady was none other than MY SPEECH THERAPIST! Now I really felt like a prick; she is one of the nicest people I have ever met. She has such a disarming quality about her personality. And she has the prettiest green eyes, almost a yellow-green.

I did not want to go to my appointment, because I didn't want to face her. I was afraid of the possibility of confrontation, which is new and different, too. I did go to my appointment, and it was ok, no problems and no mention of anything that happened in the parking lot.

I may have explained it to her, in not so many words, that my jaw has been hurting me quite a bit lately. Every time I move my jaw, a sharp pain jolts from my cheek up to my ear. Quite painful, actually. On the way to work this morning, I sneezed and nearly lost control of my car because of the severe pain.

One thing that I have noticed since the cancer is that I have mellowed out. Back in the day (cliche, no?) I would have just stopped my car and flipped the bird and maybe even kick the door of the offending car in and start a fight or something. I used to be in a perpetual bad mood, but now I don't really talk out loud to other drivers as I am driving along or make commentary on how stupid every other driver is. You know how it is, you are driving along and another driver does something stupid and you holler to no one in particular a few choice words. I find that I don't really think bad thoughts about other drivers, or other people, anymore either.

I am coming to think that getting cancer may be a blessing in disguise. I don't need any more blessings like that, thank you very much! I would like less painful, less invasive blessings, if you please.

Update: I am now 227 lbs., loss of 71 lbs. so far.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


My birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day this year. Pretty cool, that. It is always nicer to have a big to do, like a huge dinner, than just cake or pie. I don't like having a big deal made of my birthday, and generally refuse presents...especially of my parents since they tend to give me lots of stuff throughout the year. Like food and clothes and such.

I don't ask for anything, either. This is the status quo. Mother will take me shopping and try to coerce me into getting a new shirt or pants or lazy shirts or drawers and such. Again, I usually refuse and most of the time she just goes ahead and buys whatever she thinks I would look good in. Her choices are perfect for me, I must say. If someone asked if my mommy picks out my wardrobe, I'd have to say yes.

She grouses at me for not wearing jeans and sweatshirts and such. Instead I usually wear some kind of patterned button-down shirt and khaki-style pants. This is what I wear to work. She always says that I'm too dressed up. I say I'm comfortable, end of story.

I did get clothes for my least a few days in advance. Since the cancer, I have lost about 70 pounds, and none of my old clothes fit very effectively. With the exception of sweaters, sweatshirts, socks and drawers, I have had to get all new clothes. I tried wearing my old pants to work, but the belt had to be cinched so much, the waist was all bunched up. And it looked really, really stupid. Thankfully, it is getting cold for wintertime which means that my oversize sweaters (I prefer them really big) can cover a multitude of sins. But I now have a few pair of properly fitting pants and shirts, so I will not have to wear any of my old clothes unless I am desperate, or I start eating like I used to.

Really, the "official" birthday gifts were...
Mother's gift was tickets for me and Dad to go see the Columbus Blue Jackets play the Detroit Red Wings in Columbus. (Jackets won!) I like to go see them play at least once a season, it is always a good time. Mom and Dad go up for the New Years Eve game, and stay overnight at a nice hotel.

Father's gift was a new PDA/cell phone. My old cell phone, that I bought off eBay since my contract wasn't up for renewal, went flaky. I wasn't about to pay full price for a new phone, especially since I needed a fancy-schmancy PDA/Phone combo. Dad's contract was up for renewal, so he suggested we get a new phone off his renewal. He's perfectly happy with his old Motorola phone, since it is without all of Verizon's VCast garbage. So he funded the purchase of a new PDA phone for my birthday, and we scammed Verizon and switched the phones around when they were not looking! So Dad has his same phone, and the new PDA phone is on my account. I feel so evil. Well, the truth is, Verizon doesn't care. As long as you pay them plenty of jing every month, they don't care what you do.

So, I have had a happy birthday. Being able to spend time with my parents, and the big Thanksgiving meal, was the best gift. I'm glad, too, that I was here to enjoy them.

The Help Desk

The help desk policy at my company...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Things That Annoyed Me Today

Note: Some of the below might be deemed unpleasant to those with weak constitutions...

I must be grasping at straws for something to blog about. I was bored at work today, so I blogged about my water softener. A water softener for goodness sake!

Anyhow, I was annoyed by several things today.

Nortel Symposium
This is software by Northern Telecom that manages the call centers we have at work. For some reason, the call center manager cannot run any reports. It is something goofy with Crystal Reports and Active Directory and all that. I can run the reports for her direct from the server, but it is easier for her to do it. I've tried everything, and I still cannot get it to work. Our phone system vendor is of no help either.

Cisco Wireless Controller
The wireless LAN I am implementing at my company is based on Cisco's lightweight access points. These have a central controller that manages every aspect of the entire wireless infrastructure. Pretty great, actually. The problem is that I installed Internet Authentication Service on one of our Windows Domain Controllers and I could not get any machines to securely connect to the wireless network. The RADIUS server portion of IAS was configured properly...or so I thought. I had put in the wrong IP address for the Wireless Controller in the IAS configuration, so the RADIUS server would never respond to any requests from the Wireless Controller. Once I changed it, it worked like a charm. Just another idiot problem that took me three days to figure out. Duh.

3com Switches
I am losing my faith in 3com. Today, out of the blue, our core switch in one of the main buildings died. So, pretty much everyone lost connection to everything. I had to fanagle all the connections from that switch into the already overloaded other core switch in that building. Now I have to plan on a way to recover if I lose another one. I really want to replace the whole ball of wax with Cisco stuff, but we need money.

My Tongue
This is the gross one. Mom and I went out to eat at Olive Garden, my favorite restaurant. I ordered the cheese ravioli with meat sauce. I didn't think it would be too bad. My mouth, especially my tongue, is still very sensitive from the radiation damage but pasta and their associated sauces seemed to agree with me best. After finishing the salad, I felt something strange in the back of my mouth. It was a piece of skin that had sloughed off of the side of my tongue, and my tongue began to bleed. I tried to continue eating, but the acid in the tomato sauce burnt the sensitive sore that had just been created. I thought I was done with this crap. Late in the radiation, the roof of my mouth was shedding every few days in a bloody that that's over with, I guess it's time for my tongue to start! Dammit! Hopefully I will be able to handle the luscious Italian food for lunch tomorrow.

I promise that I won't let my blog become a least not often...

Water Softener

Note: I am usually loathe to recommend a product or brand, but this is a big exception.

One of the things that I liked about "This Old Crack House" was that Mr. & Mrs. C had a water softener installed, and that it was still there when I took possession of the house.

You see, the water in Fairborn is crap. Sure, it is chlorinated and filtered and all that, but it is still nasty. The smell of chlorine is overwhelming at times. There is so much lime in the water it is literally hard as a rock...any wonder one of the biggest industries in town is a cement plant?

Years ago, my father installed a whole-house water filter. This is a polyester wound cartridge held in a clear container and all the water for the house runs through it. The cartridge is supposed to be good for six months of filtration. Uh...yeah, right. In a month the cartridge is completely black.

Anyhow, I was happy that I now had a water softener! Showers were so much better, laundry so much cleaner. My water did not smell of chlorine anymore. Yippee!

Then one day I awoke like normal and went and turned on the shower. Nothing came out of the tap. I tried the sink, and again, nothing. I thought that I might have forgotten the water bill and they shut me off! Crap! I rushed to the basement stairs and stopped dead...I heard water running. I went down in to the basement and was treated to a flood of biblical proportion. Part of my basement was about two inches deep in water.

Thanks to the uneven floor in my basement, not everything was flooded. The furnace and water heater are situated on concrete pads, so they were high and dry. But, the water softener was definitely the culprit as water was gushing out from the salt chamber. I bypassed the softener to return water to the house and checked it out more carefully. I could not see any obvious reason as to why the softener would suddenly leak the hell over my basement.

The water drained away slowly, the ancient floor drain needing a good roto-rooting. I was late for work, so I left it to drain away all day and went to work.

Now I was disappointed. I had no water softener. Now I was subject to the crap water that everyone else has to deal with. This led me to wonder about how long my water heater would last...every time it heated or filled, you can hear large chunks of limescale hitting the sides of the tank. (Yes, a new water heater is in my future...)

The next weekend I dismantled the poor water softener. Then I discovered the reason: the side of the resin tank, the fiberglass reinforced tank, had ruptured. I was able to guess that the reason this happened is that the realtor, when the house was first put on the market, had hired a firm to winterize the house...and they did not drain the water softener. There was a big gash in the fiberglass where the water had frozen and weakend the tank, and the standard water pressure had finally gotten to it and split it the rest of the way. Needless to say, I was not happy, but there was nothing I could do. It was a Kenmore softener, so I got online and priced out a new tank, which was still available, and the resin to go in it. The price was about 3/4 that of a new, fancier softener. I decided to wait and suffer.

When tax time rolled around, I got my refund and set about looking for a new softener. I wasn't convinced that a new Kenmore or GE or other brand from a big box store was for me. The reviews were mediocre for most of them. Then I stumbled across a number of online stores that allowed you to "roll your own" water softener.

The place I chose to buy from was Ohio Pure Water Co. They had the most comprehensive website and I was duly impressed. They also had great prices. I ordered a 32,000 grain kit, along with several upgrades and a fancy-schmancy Fleck valve (the Cadillac of softener valves, I soon discovered) that meters the water usage so it doesn't recharge the resin prematurely.

It arrived in pieces...lots of pieces. However, the instuctions were very clear. Upon reflection, it was actually pretty easy to assemble and could be done without the directions. I had it installed and running in about two hours. Since I was working on the plumbing at that point, I also replaced the incoming plumbing after the water meter, and added several valves and a set of super filters that absorb chlorine and viruses and other garbage.

I have never been happier with a major purchase like this. The people at Ohio Pure Water were very friendly and will help in any way they can. If you need a softener, skip the big box stores and go to them, you won't be disappointed.

All told, I spent about $800 to make sure my water is a clean as possible. It was very much worth it. After seeing the filter at my parent's house turn black in short order, and a major Air Force base being extremely close to the well fields for our town, I wasn't willing to take any chances.

I still drink bottled water.

Please visit

Sunday, November 25, 2007

This Old Crack House

In my description here on the blog, it says I live in a nondescript house in a nondescript town. This is true. I live in "This Old Crack House".

About four years ago, the elderly lady that lived here, Mrs. C, passed away. So her family cleaned up the house and put it on the market. This is not an expensive neighborhood, so it was priced pretty low. Along comes a nice young man who had come into some money, and he buys the place and moves in. At first, everything is great. He's quiet and friendly, takes good care of the place. The yard is always neatly trimmed and his parents are very nice. He attends the local university and, surprisingly, he doesn't drive.

Eventually, weird things start happening. The stream of traffic in and out of the little house increases. People start coming and going all night and day. The neighbor on the other side of the house tells us she smells wafts of pot smoke coming in her open windows, and discovers her daughter has been hanging around with some of the people that come and go.

Then he gets a dog. A very sweet golden retriever named Peanut Butter. He says that it belongs to a friend of his that was deployed to Iraq. This, we think, is great and we help him out by giving him a large dog crate and some dog food. That dog was so sweet, just like a typical golden!

Then, one day, the sun is a normal day. Mom goes to work, dad is already on the road, and I gather myself together (I'm living at mom and dad's at this time) and go to work just like every day. I think this was a bank holiday, because the lady on the opposite side of my parent's house was home, and she was a loan officer for a local bank.

I went out with friends that evening, but mom came home like normal. The neighbor comes running over and relays the story of the day's events.

Apparently, about an hour after we left, there was an invasion of law enforcement. Local police and sheriff, the ATF, DEA and FBI were everywhere and they raided the little house and carted away the young man, along with quite a bit of stuff. Animal control came along and picked up the dog, the house was locked up tight and there it sat for a long while.

The young man's parents came along a few weeks later. The power, water and gas had been shut off and they listed the house for sale. His parents used an extension cord from our house to run a vacuum to clean up the house, and they took what was left of his stuff. The told us that he had been sent to prison for dealing drugs. He had been hanging around with a tough crowd, and he had been involved with them before. There wasn't a whole lot of his stuff left, though, since the house had been broken into a number of times while laying vacant.

Mother was worried about the dog, Peanut Butter. After hearing about the house being raided, she called around to find out what happened to the poor thing. Thankfully, she discovered that the dog had been reported stolen from a nearby town and it had been reunited with its grateful family. Mother was prepared to adopt the dog if it was still at the pound, even though we have three dogs already. He would have, in my opinion, made a great addition to our family...he was very gentle and sweet, and got along quite well with our existing pets.

The house sat on the market for more than a year, and was close to entering foreclosure. One Saturday, dad and I were at the barber and he said that I should buy the house next door. Right out of the blue! I thought about it more and more the next week, and then decided to look into it. I called the realtor, put in an offer and found out that it was to be sent to sheriff's sale in less than a month.

Without going into detail, the realtor didn't think I would be able to get it done by time of the sheriff's sale. However, with the help of my chosen mortgage broker, the lovely Erika, I was able to get everything done in less than seven days. There were a lot of trials, issues with the realtor and the original lein holder. I had issues with the mortgage broker's manager, too, which eventually lead to Erika leaving the company. I, however, am very happy with the little house.

When I took possession of the house, the first thing that I had to do was clean it from top to bottom. This was no small task. I took a few days off work and dove straight in. The previous owner's parents had cleaned it up pretty well, and had removed all of his stuff. This, however, left several other people's possessions...clothes, mementos and more. A shocking amount of stuff. The trash man would NOT be pleased!

I started setting out all kinds of crap, huge boxes full of clothes and papers, boxes of photo albums and more. The entire front of my house along the street was filled with crap! It did not take long for people to start showing up and carting off vast quantities of stuff. There was one lady in an old, beat up Ford Escort...already chock full of stuff...that stuffed even more into it. She took all the boxes of clothes and some of the other garbage. Someone even came by and took an old, nasty mattress. They left the box spring, but took the mattress. It was stained and stunk badly! Eeeeewwww!

My dad and I completely rewired the house before I had the electric turned on. The plumbing was in great shape, and the furnace and water heater are functional. They left a perfectly good, brand new gas dryer. The washer was crap, but mom and dad gave me their old washer when they bought new. The fridge left there is still running strong after a good scrub.

I still need to put in a new bathroom and a new kitchen. The driveway needs replaced, as well as the windows. The basement and attic need more insulation, and I could use more outlets around the house. I need to add in more network and cable jacks in a few places to make it more convenient to connect to the internet. Other than these few nit-picky things, I love my little house.

The little house was built in 1940. It was once owned by my grandfather and grandmother. When papaw's brother, Noah, built a new house next door in 1970 (my parent's current house), they lived in it for a few years before they eventually traded houses! They did things like this all the time. Eventually, they sold the house to Mr. & Mrs. C, who lived there until they both passed away.

I certainly hope that I have brought back a sense of pride and happiness to the little house, "This Old Crack House".

Monday, November 19, 2007

Friends and Family

As an addendum to my previous posts, I neglected to state the importance of my friends and family. I am not sure how I would have survived if it was not for them thinking about me and looking after me. I know this sounds sappy, blah, blah, blah. But, it is true. I did not leave the house except for medical appointments (and work in the early days) for about three months total.

It is, unfortunately, typical for cancer patients undergoing treatment to shun visitors. We are tired and fatigued and all we would want to do is sleep. Even the desire to watch TV...for a TV addict like myself...was gone.

My mom and dad were especially important. Mom, incessantly demanding and pleading that I eat, was a blessing. We have been through so much together over the years, I could not normally survive without her. Some would say I am a momma's boy, and they would be right! This is why I moved into "This Old Crack House" next door. More on this in a future blog entry.

My dad, the best dad in the entire universe, told me recently that he was so proud of me. He said that I took my disease in stride...that I took it like a man. That comment from him made me feel so good, I could not tell because I didn't have the words. He has told me similar things, like after graduating from high school and college and other events throughout my life, but this seemed to have special meaning.

It is helpful when you are going through a problem...any problem...that you have a kindred spirit to help guide you. My friend Beverly, a nurse at the nursing home where my mom works, was a cancer patient also. She guided me through some of the toughest times and made herself available to me whenever I needed it. I didn't call her, but a number of times I should have. Of more importance, she served as a counselor to my mother, helping her though this time and telling her what to expect. She, thankfully, is now cancer free.

I also have to mention my boss, Hank, who donated some of his ETO time to me so I could enter into EPI for the 6 weeks off. He actually recommended that I take time off, bless him!

And thanks to my friend Chris, with whom I work, for taking a lot of the load off of me during my illness. He bears the brunt of many of the issues people have at work, but he suffered doubly so during the time I was gone.

But I have to admit one thing...there is a certain truth that we have learned at my company. If one of us is gone, any of us, nothing happens. Nothing. There are no major problems whatsoever. My boss has gone on vacation, no problems. Chris takes off a day, no problems. I was off for 6 weeks, no problems. That is to say no MAJOR problems like servers dying, computers exploding, etc. It is a nice feeling, really!

And to the many people out there that were thinking of me and praying for me, thank you so much. It really helped.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cancer, Part 3

The aftermath...

Yes, I am done with my treatments and I have gone back to work. I still have a few lingering problems, though. I have no appetite still, and my tongue is very painful. I cannot eat bread or anything heavy like that, lest it become stuck in my throat.

I've been living on macaroni and cheese, and other assorted pasta-and-cream-sauce dishes as these go down the easiest. My mother constantly pesters me to eat more, but I cannot. Though I am eating more than I did during treatments, I am still losing a little bit.

My skin has healed, and the acne is gone. I still have a lot of fatigue, but I am able to put in a full day at work as long as I take it easy. It was not easy to be off for those six weeks, I began to go stir crazy. You can only watch so much daytime television before you become insane.

It was surprising when the bills started coming in. The company I work for has great insurance, thankfully. Lots of people at work bitch and moan about the piddly amount we have to pay on our checks for insurance. Every two weeks, we pay something like $17 for a single. This is not much considering that insurance rates constantly increase. Our company has to pay over $5 million dollars per year for insurance premiums to cover all the employees.

I received the bill for the radiation treatments. Each treatment cost $1,291. The total was $38,400 for the radiation alone. I have yet to receive the bill for the chemotherapy, but Dr. M2 stated that the seven doses I took would cost about $40,000. The total I had to pay for everything, with copays and prescriptions and the like, was about $150.

This was, I think, the most shocking part. I knew that it would be expensive, but my goodness. How can someone without insurance handle this? This shows the state of health care in this country. The doctors have to charge so much because insurance companies only pay a fraction for the services rendered. Doctors have to make a living, too. And don't start about the obvious well-to-do nature of most doctors. They invariably have lots of patients, so they are bound to make good money...and they should.

People say that the answer is to offer socialized medicine like in Canada. That is a good idea, in theory. If you go to Canada and see how things operate, you'll discover that it is not very good in practice. People wanting surgeries now are coming to the US and paying our exorbitant prices.

And don't get me started on Medicaid and Medicare.

Cancer, Part 2

If you have stayed with me so far, then you should be up to I shall continue...

I had my first appointment with Dr. M1. He examined me and looked at all the data and recommended radiation therapy daily for about eight and a half weeks. I didn't know what this entailed, but then he explained it. They will be using some advanced medical systems that are fully computerized to direct the radiation to the specific areas needed to prevent damage to other areas that do not need to be treated.

There are side effects, however. Severe sunburn. Fatigue. Lethargy. The radiation would probably kill one or more of my salivary glands, or at least damage them, causing thick and nasty saliva. My throat would become raw from the radiation. I might lose my hair in select areas.

I'm here to tell you, they aren't kidding.

I went to an appointment with the medical oncologist, Dr. M2. We spoke of the chemotherapy regimen that I was to take. He decided to put me on a new drug that is approved for head and neck cancers called Erbitux. This is a different form of chemo in that it is a drug rather than chemical. You see, with traditional chemotherapy, they load you up with poisons that will hopefully kill the cancer before it kills you. The side effects were that I would get acne. Severe acne. But I won't lose my hair. I immediately said OK, and got on the schedule. I would be taking one dose every Friday afternoon for seven weeks.

One thing that Dr. M2 told me that I found really interesting was that this drug, Erbitux, is what got Martha Stewart in trouble. You may remember back a few years ago, Martha was sent to jail for insider trading of her ImClone stock. Apparently Erbitux had not gotten FDA approval for treatment of something, and she found out and sold her ImClone stock before it took a dive.

My first appointment with Dr. M1 was to get pictures, x-rays and a CAT scan so they could program the computers for proper targeting of the radiation. This entailed fitting me for the mask. What a weird experience that was! They laid me down on a moving table, the same they use for the CAT scan, on a special backboard. In a heated unit, they pulled out a plastic mesh board which they placed directly over my face and attached it to the backboard. It molded to my face and hardened in an instant. This mask would be used in the radiation to make sure everything was aligned properly. They used lasers built in to the walls and ceiling to set the targeting.

So, thus began the adventure. I would go to the office and they would put me on a backboard and attach the mask. It was a little bit disconcerting for the first few times, I felt trapped. But, the device that delivered the radiation was not enclosed like a CAT scanner or MRI, but it was large. It would go around me 360 degrees, stopping occasionally and whirring and buzzing. In about 10 minutes, it was done.

I thought that I strong enough to work through this ordeal, and I did for a while. I would steal away in the early afternoon and go to treatment and come back and finish working. This worked out great for a while.

Then the side effects caught up to me. I fell asleep at work quite often. My friend, Chris, who works at the same company I do (what would I do without him) would cover for me with phone calls and such to take the load off. My boss, Hank, suggested that I take leave, but I thought that I could make it. As time went on, and I started taking heavier and heavier drugs. I decided to take Hank upon his offer.

I did not have enough ETO, or Employee Time Off, to cover the five days before the EPI, or Extended Personal Illness, would kick in. I had almost 400 hours of EPI available. Thankfully, Hank donated me about 27 hours of ETO to get me to the EPI stage. I decided to take off six weeks and Dr. M1 agreed. So, I gathered up my work laptop, so I could keep in touch and monitor some of the projects that were going, and went on leave.

On the first day, my mother insisted that I move back in to her house. I could sleep in the spare bedroom. I would not have my little house, my little sanctuary. It was comfortable, though, and reminded me of the years that I lived there. I still had satellite TV and my iPod, and I could still go wherever I if I really cared to.

My throat was raw. My skin was going to break down, and it did. I had severe sunburn symptoms on my neck and face. My throat was raw and I could barely swallow. I could hardly open my mouth. I was constantly tired. The acne was starting to take hold pretty dad called me a little spotted pup. Hardy, har, har!

I was put on a number of drugs, including an opiate-based pain patch which worked quite well. I was also taking copious amounts of Vicodin for acute pain relief. I felt like House. Cancer patients are in the catbird seat where good drugs are concerned...they will pretty much give you anything you want.

When I started this ordeal, I was 298 pounds. I was definitely not a little guy. Since I had no appetite at all, and I could not taste anything due to damage on my tongue from the radiation, and when I did try to eat it was excruciatingly painful and I usually threw up everything, I started to lose weight rather quickly. Dr. M1 demanded that I have a feeding tube installed into my stomach. After reading about it online and discussing it with my mother, I said "Hell, no!" Dr. M1 was not happy at all, but there was nothing that he could do.

Dr. M2 was less shocked about my weight loss. He said since I was big to start with, and healthy, that it was less of a problem to lose weigh quickly. He said, specifically, "if you weighed 74 pounds soaking wet, then we would have to take measures."

I am now down to 230 pounds. This is a weight loss program that I would not recommend.

Cancer, Part 1

A few months ago I was diagnosed with cancer.

Imagine you are a guy (or girl) sitting at work and getting a call from a doctor saying that they have found cancer in a biopsy. What would you initial reaction be? I just sat in the "pink chair" in stunned silence. I didn't know how to react, since I had never been truly sick before. I called my boss and told him the story and he sent me off for the day.

I did not know what to do next. So, I drove to where my mom works, since I handle their computer network, and talked with her and caught up on some nagging issues with their system. Needless to say, she was devastated.

The whole reason I got cancer to begin with is, in itself, unusual. Years ago, my wisdom teeth had grown in, and I was going to have them removed. The problem was I had no insurance and didn't have the $750 to have it done. Mom said that she would pay, but I told her no, that I should pay. My wisdom teeth were not bothering me so I left them alone. Needless to say, big mistake.

Fast forward to 2007...I had a nagging sore in my mouth. One of my wisdom teeth had grown in crooked and I was literally chewing on my cheek. It was really bothering me, so I made an appointment with my dentist. He referred me to an oral surgeon, Dr. K. At the first appointment, he felt sorry for me and removed the offending tooth, and the remainder would be removed two weeks later.

At my next appointment, Dr. K was shocked. The lesion in my cheek had doubled in size. This concerned him, so he removed it and sent it off to a lab for checks. This is when I had gotten the call. It was cancer, but the margins were clear which is supposed to mean that they got it all. So, it may not be a problem but he referred me to an ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr. S, for follow-up.

At the follow-up appointment, Dr. S checked me out and got me signed up for a CAT scan, but determined that everything seems to be OK, for now. He recommended several follow-ups to make sure nothing was happening abnormal. At the next appointment, they told me that they discovered in the CAT scan three places in my neck and jaw that were suspect.

Dr. S sent me to a local hospital for a "ultrasound-guided needle biopsy" of a tumor in my neck. This, in and of itself, was an intriguing experience. I was able to watch the whole thing on the computer monitor...the same monitor that the doctor was using to direct the needle. He showed me where the tumor was and the needle as it collected cells in the tumor. Interestingly enough, this was a painless procedure. The most painless of the whole ordeal, to be sure.

The results were returned. It was indeed cancer. So, Dr. S referred me to a radiation oncologist, Dr. M1, as well as a medical oncologist, Dr. M2.

Needless to say, mom is hysterical. I, on the other hand, seem to be calm, cool and collected. I decided to go into this thinking that it is an interesting and unique experience. I have to say, that it was and still is interesting. I never knew how high tech the medical community was for cancer care. I was, however, unprepared for the things to come.


This is my first blog post. I never thought that I would be doing this. I mean, who would want to ready anything that I have to say...or anything that ANYONE would want to say?

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading a number of blogs. Some have been great, such as the blog of Shari in "My So-Called Japanese Life" (link on the lower right). This blog truly opened my eyes as to how interesting a blog can be. You get a glimpse into someone else's life, how they live, what they do and more. It truly delivers an experience of what it is like to be someone else.

I am sitting here watching "Robin Hood" on the BBC and trying to figure out what I would say in a blog. Actually, I have been thinking about it for days now. Is my life interesting enough for a blog? I really say no, but I have had so many good thoughts that I couldn't help but try. I am certain that I won't blog every day like the truly dedicated...I don't have THAT much to say, but if I can give you just a glimpse into my wholly uninteresting life, then I will have succeeded.

So, enjoy. Or not.