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Steven Howard

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Steve's Happy Cancer Fun Blog [Nov. 27th, 2011|08:59 pm]
Steven Howard
Okay, the radiation didn't work. Well, it worked, but not 100%. I'm pretty sure it got rid of one tumor altogether, but the big one that was causing most of the pain and bleeding is still there. It's smaller, which is good, and the pain and bleeding went away, which is also good. But the tumor is still there and starting to be ... not painful, but uncomfortable at times, and there's a little bit of bleeding.  Which is bad. So I'm starting on a series of chemotherapy treatments tomorrow. Unlike the last time, this won't involve being hooked up to a pump for 48 hours at a time every other week. It'll just be several hours at the doctor's office every week for four three-week cycles, with a week off between each one. So, three weeks on, one week off, three weeks on, etc., for a total of twelve treatments. Or possibly more.

These will be more powerful drugs than the ones I had last time, with a greater chance of side effects, including hair loss. If I ever remember to make an appointment, I'm going to get my hair cut really short so that if and when it does start falling out it won't make quite so much of a mess. As my hair is way too long now, I was thinking about putting up some before-and-after pictures. Which I may still do if I can manage to take a picture of myself that I think doesn't look horrible.

So far I haven't been able to do that. It's not that I think I look horrible, it's that the pictures themselves are crappy. Maybe I'll get Brandyce to take some, rather than trying to take them myself.
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Enough of that [Aug. 20th, 2011|07:27 am]
Steven Howard
Yesterday was my last day of radiation and oral chemotherapy. Now I've got a couple weeks to recover from that before I see my oncologist to discuss the next step, which will probably be the always-exciting "waiting game" process where they take periodic scans and see what happens.
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Neat Thing I Saw Today [Jul. 19th, 2011|07:19 pm]
Steven Howard
This is pretty awesome: www.sillof.com/.  He makes custom action figures based on recreating the Star Wars characters in different milieux. My favorites: Steam Wars, West Wars, Noir Wars.
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Oncology Update [Jul. 16th, 2011|07:27 am]
Steven Howard
I've had about two weeks of radiation and oral chemotherapy, and it seems to be going okay. I'm pretty sure the one big tumor that I can actually feel is getting smaller. At any rate, it's bleeding less and the pain is getting better. The pain's also ... different in a way that I can't really put into words.

The treatments themselves are a piece of cake. Every weekday I go to the office and just lie down on a table and stay still for five minutes or so while this big Star Trek machine rotates around and makes occasional buzzing noises. I don't see or feel anything, and I literally spend more time driving to and from the office than I do in the machine. And then the oral chemotherapy is just a couple of (really, really expensive) pills that I take twice a day after meals.

I've got some anti-nausea medicine which I take every day before the radiation therapy as a preventative measure, and then "as needed" if I experience any nausea -- which has happened all of once in the past two weeks. I'm tired a lot of the time, and my appetite's a little off. Other than that, side effects haven't been much of an issue. 

I see the radiation oncologist once a week, and so far that's been pretty routine. I'll see my medical oncologist in just over a week.
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Cancer update: Treatments start Tuesday [Jun. 30th, 2011|09:07 am]
Steven Howard
After weeks of tests and scans and waiting around for broken machines and insurance company paperwork, I'm finally starting radiation therapy next Tuesday. It's supposed to last six or seven weeks, after which I'll probably be doing some chemotherapy as well.
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Cancer, again [Apr. 24th, 2011|08:34 am]
Steven Howard
Careful readers will recall that a couple years ago (in fact, almost exactly two years ago), I had some colo-rectal cancer. I got better. By which I mean, surgeons, oncologists, and a whole slew of nurses, aides, and other medical professionals did their jobs and after surgery, a week or so in the hospital and six months of chemotherapy, the cancer was gone. By the end of 2009, I felt fine and was basically back to my old routine with no significant lifestyle changes. I had a clean PT scan later that year and a clean colonoscopy the next spring (May, 2010, a little over a year after I was first diagnosed). I've also been seeing my oncologist quarterly and getting bloodwork done that showed no signs of tumor markers.

But earlier this year a tiny bit of what's probably that same cancer came back. And, as is the way with cancer, didn't stay all that tiny for all that long. I first noticed it as diarrhea, later with mild nausea and loss of appetite. I was a little lax in getting it taken care of, assuming (incorrectly) that the clean blood report from my oncologist visit a few days earlier meant it probably wasn't cancer. Long story short, the digestive problems got worse, an emergency room CT scan showed a suspiciously large mass in my large intestine, and a quickly-rescheduled colonoscopy (originally set for May, a year after the last one) confirmed a large mass obstructing my bowels.

So, into the hospital for surgery to relieve the blockage and to get some samples to biopsy. When those results came back I had a mostly encouraging chat with my oncologist. It's really scary if it comes back while you're treating it. If it comes back two years after you've stopped, not so scary. Also if it's really the same cancer from before then we'd probably be successful even if we just used the same drugs and methods we did last time. (Although the actual course of treatment is yet to be determined, since I'm still recovering from the surgery). He also told me, "The one thing we were never able to do was see your cancer in a blood test." That means relying more on scans and 'scopes for the monitoring stages once this current tumor is treated.

So that's where we are now. I'm going to see him in about four weeks and we'll work out a treatment plan. I have every confidence that the amazing world of 21st Century medical science can repeat its achievements and get me more-or-less back to normal in ... well, in what will seem like forever while it's going, honestly, but in retrospect will probably be comparable with the first time around. Watch this space for more exciting oncology news.
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Adventures in Journalese - Headline Writing [Feb. 21st, 2011|07:46 am]
Steven Howard
Actual headline (well, sub-head) in the Press-Telegram this morning: "Experts see no signs that tech bubble is about to burst again." My first thought was to wonder if these are the same experts who didn't see any signs that the last one was about to burst until after it did. My second thought was that since the attached story is actually trying to sell the idea that this isn't a bubble, calling it a bubble in the headline (well, sub-head) is sort of stupid.

But then "sort of stupid" is about what I've come to expect from the PT, especially when it comes to headlines, so there you go.
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Idle thoughts during the dog show [Feb. 15th, 2011|06:14 pm]
Steven Howard

You know how people make up cute "breed names" for their mutts? Labradoodles, cockapoos, that kind of thing? We used to make fun of those people by saying Lucy was a "spow" -- spaniel/chow chow mix.  Well, the AKC has recognized a bunch of new breeds and created the best hypothetical mixed-breed breed name ever.

leonberger   +  redbone coonhound


Leon Redbone

(A Leonberger/Redbone Coonhound mix would be a Leon Redbone.)
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Open Letter [Jan. 4th, 2011|06:15 pm]
Steven Howard
An open letter to the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, and all other NFL teams in the market for a new head coach.


In your upcoming hiring decisions, I urge you to seriously consider Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden. I'm sure he'd be an excellent asset to your organization and well worth whatever extremely generous contract terms you can offer him. On behalf of all Monday Night Football viewers, I implore you. Please, somebody, give this man a coaching job.


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It Just Bugs Me: Holiday Edition [Dec. 23rd, 2010|06:11 pm]
Steven Howard
Whether you like it or not, you hear a lot of Christmas songs these days. And by "these days" I mean basically the last two months of the year. And sometimes, when hearing these songs that I've heard dozens if not hundreds of times in my life, I find myself listening to the words. And then thinking about them. (This is generally regarded as a mistake, but what can you do?) And when that happens, I sometimes notice things that don't seem to make a whole lot of sense on reflection.

Now, there are probably perfectly good explanations for most of these things. It could be that words have changed meanings over the years, or that they're referencing some old holiday custom that we don't know about any more, or any number of other things that I could no doubt learn about with a minimum of research, but I don't care. I'd rather just list a bunch of them in a presumably humorous or at least light-hearted manner and then move on.

In no particular order:

The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Okay, so first of all, who is this "true love" who sends you a present every day and also sends another one of everything he sent the day before? Are you dating Fibonacci? And really, other than the rings and maybe, maybe some of the poultry, I'm not sure how well these things work as gifts. I mean, I guess he could hire the musicians and the maids and send them over (and is he sending the same ones every day, or are the ones from the previous days still hanging around?), but how do you give Lords and Ladies as presents? I mean, aren't they, like, nobility? Even if you're the king and not just a very generous boyfriend with borderline OCD, they don't belong to you in the sense that you can give them to somebody for Christmas, do they?  And while we're on the subject, I think that having a bunch of lords just a-leaping willy-nilly all over your house would get old pretty quick. They're probably scaring the turtle doves.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. This starts off on a bad foot with the title. Really, is smarmy condescension the tone we want in our holiday songs? I think not. But what gets this one onto the list is the line "Through the years we all will be together, if the Fates allow." The Fates? Really? How do they enter into the picture? When did they start exerting influence over who spends Christmas where? And was this before or after the Rankin-Bass special where Santa Claus gets his magic powers from pagan forest spirits?

The Christmas Song. And again, I have to take a passing shot at the title. Don't give yourself airs. There are plenty of Christmas songs already, so yours can't be the Christmas song. Go come up with a real title and get back to us.  This is also the song where the singer apparently hates people who are 93 or older, but what I'm on about right now is the the line before that: "Every mother's child is going to spy, to see if reindeer really know how to fly."  Now, I've seen reindeer (or as my people call them, caribou) and it never occured to me that their earthbound nature was attributable to a lack of knowledge. Apparently it's not their relatively bulky shape and distinct lack of wings or any wing-like structures that prevents small ungulates from taking to the air, it's just ignorance.  (Speaking of ignorance, I'm not 100% sure that reindeer are ungulates, but it's a funny word so I'm deliberately not looking it up just in case they aren't.)
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