A “Mixed” Report

I didn’t get the news I was hoping for from my CAT scan last week. It’s not all bad news…but certainly not all good news either. A “mixed response” is the term the radiologist used.

The tumor in my pancreas shrunk slightly and is now 1 centimeter x 1 centimeter, which is about the size of a fingernail. In my liver, a 2 x 2 cm tumor is gone and two other tumors shrunk slightly and are now in the 1 x 1 cm (fingernail) range.

On the bad news side, one tumor in my liver grew from 1 x 1 cm to 3 x 3 cm and two new tumors have appeared that are both in the 1 x 1 cm range. My latest blood tumor marker number also went up to 46 (below 40 is normal), which is another indicator that there is still tumor activity in my body.

Compared to my first scan back in April, the size of my tumors are significantly smaller…but the big c is fighting back in my body…so we’re going to keep fighting as well and try to zap the suckers with a stronger chemotherapy regime.

In my first six chemotherapy treatments, we used a “platinum” drug that has a history of being very effective against my type of tumors. The only trouble with this drug is that it has potential for permanent side effects…specifically neuropathy (numbness) in your feet and hands…and because of its toxicity, there is a limited amount that you can take.

Dr. Ocean is going to put the platinum chemo back in my therapy for the next six treatments with the hope that this can reverse the current activity.

I also met last week with Dr. Eileen O’Reilly at Sloan Kettering, the best cancer research hospital in New York City. Dr. O’Reilly is one of the world’s top oncologist’s and she has done a lot of work in the field of the Brca2 gene, which is the type of mutation that I have. Dr. O’Reilly will be consulting with Dr. Ocean on my case and hopefully in the near future I will be a candidate for one of the Parp Inhibitor drugs that Dr. O’Reilly has helped develop and shown to be effective in pancreatic patients that are in remission.

The side effects from chemotherapy have been making me quite sick the last three months, so I was really hoping for a scan report that would allow me to get off chemo. But I’m still optimistic about the future and thankful that the drugs have worked so well thus far.

As I told Zach last week, if you would have told me back in April that I would have eight good months and then things would go down hill, I would have taken that. Well…I’ve had eight good months…and am looking forward to a great 2015!

Medical/Personal Update:
Maria and I will be in Kansas and Nebraska visiting family this week…and then I’m headed to Colorado for a couple of days of snow skiing with a college buddy, Tom Beam.

When I was first diagnosed, I wondered if I would ever ski again and I also really hoped that I would at least make it to Christmas. Maria, Zach, and I had a wonderful Christmas together…and I’m excited for our upcoming trip to see family and also to experience the thrill and beauty of strapping two boards to my feet and flying down the mountain!

I am blessed!

My best wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy New Year.

Next Stop: Facing Your Fears

Make this your best year yet!

Tis the season…for New Years resolutions. Actually, I’ve never been a fan, mainly because the darn things are so hard to keep. If you’re like me, you get motivated for a month or two but then seem to slip back into old habits and are left with the frustration of not following through on your resolutions.

Twelve years ago, however, I adopted a New Years “philosophy” that has worked quite well, so I’d like to share it with you today.

As an Athletic Director at Oregon, Nebraska, and Texas A&M, Bill Byrne liked to hold a Head Coaches and Senior Staff retreat each late spring/early summer. These were always a day-long event and sometimes involved going to an out of town location for a two-day retreat.

At the retreats, we discussed department accomplishments, goals, and visions/plans for the future. The camaraderie and encouragement among fellow staff members were often times the best part of the retreats. Bill also liked to bring in speakers from outside the department for motivation and new ideas.

In May of 2002 at our University of Nebraska retreat, our outside presentation was a “Your Best Year Yet” seminar. I was excited for the presentation because I was at a point in my career where I was ready to move up or move on if necessary to continue to grow professionally.

It turned out the seminar was not that good. The material was just okay and the two presenters weren’t much better. In all fairness, doing a motivational seminar for a group of head coaches and administrators at a major university is a tough task. This is a group of highly motivated individuals who teach motivation to their athletes and staff every single day.

But while I was uninspired by the seminar I still wanted to make the best of it and even made a list of four things…determined to see if I could make the next year my best year yet. Here’s what I wrote down:

• Be named an Assistant Athletic Director.
• Increase my annual salary by least $10,000.
• Become more involved in the overall Administration of the department.
• Be open to opportunities outside the University of Nebraska.

In a private meeting with Bill Byrne, I told him of my goals for the next year and he assured me that the top three goals would indeed happen in 2003.

But in December of 2002, Bill left Nebraska for Texas A&M. The new Athletic Director at Nebraska, Steve Pederson, was someone I knew well, had worked with in the past, and I was confident and hopeful for a bright future. In just a few months, however, I became uncomfortable with the philosophy and direction of the department…and I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Steve was an Athletic Director who acted like he had all the answers and wasn’t interested in any one else’s ideas or opinions…he just wanted to surround himself with people to carry out his ideas. He wanted “yes men.”

I didn’t want to leave Nebraska…it was home…and I loved working for the Huskers. But I knew I wouldn’t be happy in the new regime so looking for opportunities at another University or with a Professional team was something I started to consider.

Then in May of 2003, I got a call from Bill Byrne. He wanted me to come down and work at Texas A&M. Accepting his offer was a no-brainer…I knew Bill was a great guy to work for…and his offer achieved my goals and then some.

• I was named a Senior Associate AD…three administrative levels up from my previous position at Nebraska.
• My salary increased by $50,000.
• I became the 3rd highest ranking administrator in the department.

In my ten years at A&M, I continued my “make this your best year yet” philosophy. I also kept my personal philosophies of “always strive to get better” and “do something BIG for Texas A&M Athletics.” I encouraged my staff to set those same goals…even our many student workers. We all had the opportunity to do BIG things that could make a BIG difference in the success and future of Aggie Athletics.

In my annual performance evaluations with those under my direct supervision, I would always be sure to ask them one question: “What was your biggest accomplishment for Texas A&M Athletics this past year?” Sometimes I was disappointed in their answer and I let them know it. But that was the exception, and as a result the departments under my supervision were doing BIG things and were constantly striving to get better.

Texas A&M is a tradition rich University, and my proudest accomplishment there is that I did a number of BIG things. Many of my ideas and plans are now part of the tradition at Texas A&M and continue to have a BIG impact on the success of Aggie Athletics.

When I was diagnosed with the big c last April, I asked myself “could I still make this my best year yet even though I’ve only been given one year to live?” It’s why I set goals to do things, go places, and see people despite my illness…to “get busy living” instead of waiting to die.

Thanks to The Last Train, I can honestly say that I have made the best of my situation and have had a positive impact on those around me and hopefully on my “riders.”

In 2015, my philosophy will be the same. I want to make this “my best year yet!”

Medical/Personal Update:
Tomorrow, December 19th, is a big day…and not just because it will be our 33rd wedding anniversary. I will have a CAT scan tomorrow where we will get a clear picture of my tumors. Since my blood tumor marker numbers have remained in the “normal” range for the past four months, I am optimistic that I will get good news from my scan. Hopefully, my tumors have continued to shrink and the best news of all would be for me to be cancer free. What a great Christmas gift that would be!

I also have an appointment with one of the world’s leading oncologist’s at Sloan Kettering (the top cancer research hospital in NYC) to see if I qualify for a new treatment program that she has developed. Hopefully, I can get in her program which has shown success in pancreatic patients who have had positive results on chemotherapy.

Say a little prayer for me, please. And if you feel so inclined…you can make it a BIG prayer!

Next Stop: Results of my 4th CAT scan.