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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Update: My Cancer Adventure Continues

The mail yesterday brought a delightfully deranged gift from my friend, W:.B:. Andrew Hammer in Virginia. Yes, it's a plush, stuffed stomach. Biggest laugh I've had in weeks.

As I have publicly announced last month ("Yes I have cancer. You thought I was a Scorpio."), I was diagnosed with stomach cancer at the end of March, and I started chemotherapy about two weeks ago. The treatment is aggressive to keep the cancer from spreading.

I have discussed my traveling schedule with my oncologists and surgeon. In the beginning, they advised me to "keep to my usual routine." I don't think they fully comprehended that my usual routine was to take week-long driving trips, sleeping in the back of a van, hauling book boxes around, getting up at 7AM for a Masonic breakfast with lunatic early risers, while being kept out until 2AM by far more rational night owls. While they are understanding of my situation, doctors seem bizarrely more concerned with keeping me alive than they are about me swanning about the countryside. And I misunderstood the regimen schedule when this saga began- it's considerably longer than i thought. So, I have now been advised to cancel my traveling events in May and June.

Skipping over the ickier details, the plan is to kill as much of the tumor with chemo as is possible for an initial nine weeks, hack out the part of my stomach that is affected, replumb the whole mess, and follow up with another nine weeks of chemicals. That puts the surgery at approximately the end of May or beginning of June. In the meantime, I'm wearing a portable chemo pump around my neck, that's about the size of a 1970s cassette deck.

I'm not used to having my wings clipped, and this was supposed to be a very busy spring and summer. But I'm told I need to shut my squeakhole about the inconvenience, and be a little more upbeat about the "not dying" side of things.

This does NOT mean I am getting worse—quite the opposite. Everyone has been quite positive and optimistic, and most important, no one has taken Alice out in the hall and suggested a long, final Caribbean cruise, and maybe a nice party where everybody brings a funny story about Chris. But I am being sternly warned about fatigue, weight loss and other side effects, and just the simple technical challenges of traveling, versus trying to keep to the chemo treatment regimen.

The funniest part of this mess is that, after losing 90 pounds over the last year, I'm being told to eat 3,000 calories a day in anticipation of the eventual appetite loss. Criminey. I didn't eat 3,000 calories a day when I was at my most alarmingly spherical circumference.

I apologize for waiting to make these scheduling decisions until now, which puts many brethren in a bind for their events, but my health issues and answers have been changing on a daily basis, with lots of unknowns. I hope you understand. I will be happy to help any of you find a substitute, unless you want to try to reschedule in the Fall. I'll do whatever I can to attempt to assist from my end.

I remain the luckiest guy in Freemasonry, and Alice and I both appreciate the literally hundreds of emails, letters, cards, phone calls, and stuffed stomach toys that have been coming in. In spite of my grousing, early detection of this condition, along with the friendship of all of you, have been the greatest gifts for which I am truly thankful.


  1. The brightest hopes for your future and that of your family.
    Greg O'Connor-Lafayette Lodge #123

  2. Chris, you will be in my prayers every day. Stay strong Brother. There are many pulling for you. Dogman, MA. GRAND CHAPTER, WIDOWS SONS.

  3. Thoughts and Prayers, positive energy and any other therapy I can send your way Brother!!

  4. Your health, courage and persistence are in my prayers, Brother Chris.

  5. Prayers for you and a quick recovery.

  6. Sending prayers and positive energy your way, fellow Prepster and film foxhole ally.

  7. I guess I wasn't aware that there was a market for stuffed replicas of body parts. I can deal with the the stuffed stomach and am thankful you don't have rectal cancer. Who wants to see a picture of a stuffed a ... Uh, never mind.

  8. Glad your keeping your spirits. Keep getting better and you'll be back to your "normal" routine soon enough.

  9. Praying for you. Doesn't surprise me that you're getting better, though, as so many brothers rely on you for Masonic information, they might dig you up and kill you again if you did die!

    So really, you don't have any choice but to get better. :)

    Hope things go well for you through the chemo though. I have one uncle who just finished chemo for esophageal cancer (strange, as he was never a tobacco user), and one who is currently undergoing chemo, I believe for stomach cancer as well. They're both doing fine now, but it is a long, arduous process.

    Stay confident and positive, and know there are hundreds of people out there thinking about you and wishing you the best.

    I mean, I still haven't had the pleasure of meeting you. One more reason you can't up and die. ;)

  10. Get well soon my friend, or I'll come find you and kick your Masonic ass.

  11. Nah, I'm too impatient to do something as stupid as dying.

    My cancer is in my stomach, right at the base of the esophagus. The two parts have different cell structures, so you either get stomach or esophageal cancer—they don't usually cross over. Smoking doesn't have anything to do with esophageal cancer. The biggest cause seems to be acid reflux that makes both organs susceptible to attack by cancer. Didn't cause mine, but if you have recurring acid reflux and you love really spicy food, get it checked, pronto.

    That said, no one knows what caused mine. For all I know it was the 10-12 Diet Dr. Peppers I drank every day for 15 years.

  12. I will also keep you in my thoughts and prayers, Brother Chris.

  13. Adding you to my prayers Brother Chris! I haven't been to your Blog in a month or more, and was sending your link to a potential new brother...and read this. Stay positive and know that there are thousands of brothers out there wishing you a healthy recovery! Thank you for all you do for the fraternity.

  14. Wishing you the best on a speedy and full recovery.

  15. Thoughts and prayers, Bro. Chris.

    I would send you my "stuffed stomach", but I'm still using it!

    Remember the Lou Costello response in boot camp;
    Drill Sergeant: "Throw out your chest!"
    Lou: "But I'm not through with it yet!"

    You hang in there, Brother, we all love you!!

    Darrell G. Waddell - Daylight Lodge #760 F&AM - Louisville, KY

  16. I continue to keep you in my prayers. I survived something very like this myself and feel certain you will also join the "Kicked the Big C's Arse Club." It;s a great group, and best of all -- no memory work!

  17. I went through my own bout with cancer (though not stomach cancer) about 15 years ago. It was rough but I lived and am stronger for it. Since then I'm astonished at how far they've come both with chemotherapy drugs and anti-nausea medication. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts, but I suspect you'll pull through just fine.

    P.S. A friend was recently diagnosed with diabetes and received a stuffed pancreas from another friend. Apparently there's quite a lively trade in plushy organs. (Don't know if there's a black market, or if anyone has fallen asleep and woken up with their teddy bear's kidneys missing.)

  18. Prayers and healing energy coming your way!!

  19. Bro Chris,

    I am so sorry to hear about your failing health with the big C. I am sure a lot of us has been touched by cancer and I hope & pray you will win your battle with cancer.

    Mario Baylon Jr
    Lincoln Lodge No 34 Philippines
    Lodge Jose Rizal 1045 NSW Australia

  20. Brother Hodapp, Having been through Prostate Cancer and currently fighting Bladder Cancer, I can understand the inconvenience you are feeling. I feel the same way until I realize that not that many years ago, we would both be planning that Caribbean vacation with our wives. I'll take the inconvenience, thanks. The alternative involves wearing that lambskin apron for the last time. You are in my prayers. Know that you have contributed more to modern Masonry with your writings than you could know. I hope we will one day meet on the level.

    John Ruggiero, Ancient York Lodge, Lowell, MA

  21. Long time reader, and first time commenter. Just wanted tell you to keep up the good fight!

    Light & F. Love!

  22. Chris,
    Keep the faith Brother and keep up the fight. Know that you are not alone and there are many that are pulling and praying for you.



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