Thanksgiving 2000

November 28, 2000|

Thanksgiving 2000

It was great to be home. I don’t want to bore you too much with the details but I will pass along a few tidbits. I was housebound most of the weekend, because of my low immune system. Actually the exact words as I left the hospital two weeks ago from my doctor (a bit of a pessimist, you could say) was that 100%, no 75% of the patients who left after this massive chemo were readmitted because of fever. I guess I made the 25% cut. Any surprises there?

Thursday, I was up early watching my old show choir, the Youngstown Connection, open the Macy’s Parade. They were the ones with the skittle-colored sweatshirts swirling around Katie Couric and Matt Lauer at the beginning of the show. Katie, what a babe. The rest of the day was spent with family, eating lots of food, showing off my baldhead and playing Beyond Balderdash (the official Schlatter-Canning board game of the millenium).

Friday I was allowed out of the house to shop at the local Christian bookstore to load up on CD and book specials. I think Kara (who drove up from Canton for the sale and to see me) and I spent like 2 hours there. A constant stream of visitors came by the rest of the night. It’s just great to see people, ya know.

Saturday, I went to the mall (behind mom’s back, eek! Germs! Colds! Flu’s!) to find a new hat and to help find a dress for my second mom, Beth, for her class reunion that night. No luck with the hat or dress. Robin, Beth and I ended up at my house, after my mom gave an extremely demanding call to be home by 2pm. I was very upset about having to come home at 2pm. We got home by 2:30pm, started to eat lunch when a funeral procession of 10 cars went up our usually empty street. At least I thought it was. Then I recognized one of the cars and sprinted out our backdoor only to be greeted by 25 or so members of the Connection from past and present. They all piled in my living room and we sang old Connection songs like “When You’re Smiling,” “Blue Skies,” “Candle on the Water,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” By the time we were finished, I hadn’t cried, but a good number of folks were. It was very touching. I then went to their practice later that afternoon and gave a talk to the new members of the Connection about what it means to be in the group and the responsibilities they now hold. I’ll put a page up soon about Connection when I get a chance.

Planes, Trains and Low Immune Systems

Cool thing coming back, everyone was so worried that I would catch a cold and end up in the hospital. That was never so more evident then on Monday morning when I was taking an Amtrak train from Philly to New York. It was put into my head to take the 11am train. So I went online and got my ticket for the 11:15am train. Crazily, the train before mine was sold out, and the train after mine was sold out.

Here’s where it gets freaky. Those trains were PACKED. I was pretty scared at the station. I start thinking, “The train is going to be full, I am going to get a cold, mom is going to kill me, Dr. Moskowitz is going to beat me down, help God!”

The call goes up for our train, and the line is really short. Really short. By the time we were off, there were two other people in my car! And by the time we arrived at Penn Station, there were only like ten people on our car! I wonder how that happened, somebody’s watchin’ over me.

Up Next, Darth Vader

I am now accessorized out. I have a great hat (spandex ski hat, can you beat spandex?!) and a great new pair of glasses, courtesy of Jordan Opticians in Brooklyn. Thursday I go in for a CT Scan to see how well the past two chemos have worked. My dad and prayer lady Kim both independently think that there is going to be a miracle and everything will be gone. I would love that, personally, but I am not betting the ranch on anything. Rather I know I need to prepare now for the last battle- the actual transplant. Five straight days of chemo and then not having an immune system for a few days is not going to be easy, but I feel that I can lessen the effects by bulking up, getting in better shape, and preparing mentally for the challenge. It’s kinda like Luke Skywalker going to Endor in “Return of the Jedi”. Preparing to face the dark side, which is totally a part of him (“Luke, I’m your father”), but he has to defeat it anyway he can. Just call me Art Skywalker.

Results from the CT Scan next week, stay tuned.

Let it snow!

November 22, 2000|

Let it snow!

I write you now as I peer out of the window of my house in scenic Youngstown, Ohio, seeing a shower of snow envelope my front yard, eating homemade applesauce, drinking hot tea and listening to the new Backstreet Boys CD. Yes, these are the moments we all crave, but don’t always get – a chance to go home when we really need it, remembering familiar sites, seeing people you love, and thanking God for the all the blessing that He has given us. It feels good to say the least.

Education 508, don’t fail me now!

I tried my hardest. I did. I pulled out every stop, every technique I had been taught in Education 508: Managing People (termed by Professor Fred Dwyer “how to get whatever you want out of anybody”). I used my finely tuned negotiating skills honed in Peter Himmelfarb’s Management 2 : Negotiations. Nothing worked. So I gave in. Christmas time would be spent in New York doing the Stem Cell Transplant. I guess, though, if you are stuck somewhere at Christmas time, New York would be the place. I got Thanksgiving, so I got a win out of it. Win-win, that’s what it’s all about. Missing Christmas in Ohio and missing Marc and prayer lady Kim‘s wedding is gonna stink, but I am excited to face this next battle head-on and beat it as soon as I can. I gotta lot of traveling to do this next year, a lot of you to visit all over the country, so I gotta be healthy.


I really don’t have any profound or wise words for Thanksgiving, sorry to disappoint (Isn’t the site enough!).

I do know that ever year at every family gathering for my mom’s side of the family, including Thanksgiving, as the oldest male grandson, I have been made to say the blessing before the meal. There is no doubt in my mind I will be called to do it again this year. What will I say? I dunno. I am afraid if I start thinking too much as I am praying I will start crying (is it possible to go through a mid-life crisis at 22? I find myself crying all the freakin’ time!…). Even right now as I write and try to think about what to say, I have no clue. I have 20 hours to work on it…better get to work, there’s just so much to be thankful for, where do I began (sniff, sniff, tear, tear… )…

The Day After

November 18, 2000|

The Day After…

Again, thank you very much, I got confirmation on the 80% deal below from more doctors when I was in the hospital. I grilled them all. 80 sounds so much better than 36, huh?

The actual stay at the hospital isn’t bad, it’s "the day after". I was just beat, and slept like 20 hours that day. The other four was spent trying to extract various forms of chemo liquid out of my body out of whichever orifice was most readily available. A little graphic, I know, but we are all adults here.

Really, for those going through similar situations, "the day after" really is the worst. After that, day by day things get better. For me, I have one more (GIANT) "day after" to endure. Let the countdown begin, ya know.

Nothing eventful here otherwise. Yesterday was spent watching college football the entire day. I couldn’t do much more. I must have seen that "AFLAC" duck 40 times yesterday. If I hear "AFLAC" one more time….

Moby and Michael Jackson

Oh, yeah. I had to shave my head Tuesday. It wasn’t dramatic or anything. Tuesday morning in the shower, I pulled my hand out of my head and I knew it was over. Hair coming out everywhere. Luckily I have two factors in my favor in this fashion risk. A new pair of trendy glasses (despite the fact I need glasses…) and a fashion world that readily embraces baldheads. Randolph, one of my friends who works for May Co. and is Mr. Fashion, in talking to him on Friday, said, "You’ll look like Moby!" Yeah, that’s it! I’ll look like Moby. Moby is a deejay/musician from England who is white, skinny and bald. I think that is an accurate comparison. He’s a pretty good looking guy to boot. I’ll take that comparison! One point for Randy!

By the way, if anybody out there has any good bald tips, hats, etc, please pass them along too. It gets cold up there real quick!

I also, then, mentioned to Randolph that I may need to wear a mask if I go home to Ohio this week when I travel (to stay away from germs). He then said, "You’ll be like Michael Jackson." "Huh?" I snorted. "Yeah, Michael Jackson wears a mask whenever he goes anywhere so he won’t get germs on him or get sick." OK, so Michael Jackson is this musician from Detroit, who is white, skinny and has hair….I’ll just drop that comparison.

80, Baby

November 14, 2000|

80, Baby

So I go to visit Dr. Yahalom yesterday, my new radiation oncologist. It appears that radiation is going to be put on my calendar. So Dr. Yahalom quickly peddles into the room followed by two croonie doctors and briefly goes over my regimen. And then he says something to the effect of “You’ll be fine. 80% or so of young guys like you make it through fine and are in remission.” I thought he said 80%. So I asked, “Did you say 80%??? Dr. Moskowitz and the material I read said 36%.” He answered, “Old data. New data from last week. Over 80% of patients like you who do radiation and the stem cell are in remission. You’ll be just fine.” I was in total shock. 36% vs. 80%. Big difference, huh? We’re gonna be OK.

102 pups, Michael Eisner and Jack Tripper

This is actually a long long story but I will keep it super short. Yesterday Marc (the guy marrying prayer calendar chief Kim) was in town to see the premier of 102 Dalmatians at Radio City Music Hall, through his company, Quaker Oats. Fortunately, he had an extra ticket and pass, so I went along with him. So we saw the movie, and then afterward, just like in People magazine, they had a party to celebrate the opening. The party took place at the restaurant at Rockefeller Center. Tons of celebs were there, free food and alcohol galore, beautiful people everywhere, it was crazy. So somehow Marc and I ended up in the VIP room and stumbled upon Michael Eisner and the stars of the movie. We knew we shouldn’t have been in there, but we played the part well – Marc on his cell phone and me on my new e-mail pager- looking important. That’s the key! If you look like you belong there, no one will throw you out!

After experiencing the star treatment, we went back to mingle with the “peasants” and out there we saw Ivana Trump, the chic from “Wings” and Marc’s hero, John Ritter (the guy in “Three’s Company”). Marc was like, “I gotta meet him! I gotta meet him!” And I was like, “NO! Leave the guy alone! He’s with his kids, he’s eating, LEAVE HIM ALONE!” So we did.

Then, as part of the party deal, we went ice skating with all the celebs and kids at the world famous Rockefeller Center ice skating rink. The ice was spotted with black dots just like a Dalmatian. It was amazing. The pictures, barring any problems like I had today, will be up by Thursday. It was such a cool evening, esp. since I won’t get to do social stuff like that for awhile. And it probably is the last time I’ll see Marc for a long time, since it looks like I won’t be able to go to his wedding because of my new schedule. Sad, but what can he or I do?


So here’s the deal.

This week: chemo at Memorial Sloan Kettering Tuesday-Thursday, then recovering at home.

Next two weeks: recovering

Thanksgiving: maybe in Ohio, maybe in NYC? All on doctor’s orders

First week of December: Radiation planning and simulation

Second and Third week of December: Radiation twice daily on the weekdays (on the lower back, not very difficult, but I will have to work from home)

Fourth week of December: go home to Ohio for Christmas, drive back the following day to start Stem Cell Transplant

Fourth week of January: go back home to Ohio to recover (tentative)

Fourth week of February: go back to New York, get stronger and get ready to go back to work!

Last week of May: CT Scan to determine if I am in remission!

Thanks, y’all. And on a side note, I have been swamped with e-mails, so if I don’t respond immediately it because of sheer volume, not because I don’t love you. I feel like I need a secretary sometimes! Do send the emails though, I will email you back, it just takes time. Thanks again!

November 12, 2000

November 12, 2000|

Happy Monday! Well I have some great news to start this week off, so hopefully this will help your week begin on a happy note.

Home for the Holidays

After a long period of uncertainty and confusion over my schedule of the next few months, a break through finally occurred on Thursday after meeting my primary doctor, Dr. Moskowitz. I finally wrestled a schedule of events out of him and it looks like I will be able to go home for Christmas! That was such exciting news! I will put up my new calendar of events when I get a chance, but it ends up I won’t start my in-hospital stem cell transplant till after December 26th. Before that I have a round of radiation (it’s OK, it won’t be as bad as last time!) and a round of chemotherapy this Tuesday – Thursday. Thanksgiving is still up in the air, but I can totally deal with being in New York on Thanksgiving. During high school, I was in the Macy’s Parade singing and dancing (let the jokes begin), and I have always wanted to see it in the audience. I may get my chance, as I may not be allowed to travel home. (Flying is out the question, but driving could happen.)

The Wedding

Tentatively I am not going to be able to go Marc and Kim’s wedding, which is incredibly heartbreaking for me, as I am in the wedding, and, more importantly, I was there for the inception of this amazing relationship, and I want to be there on the day when it completes, so badly. I am hoping I can push back the transplant a week. If so, then I will be able to spend more time in Ohio, seeing a lot you (and also working from home, can’t beat having a laptop!). We’ll see what happens. Hopefully a week will not matter in the treatment schedule.


I got a chance last week to talk to a former professor about her stem cell transplant, which took place four years ago. She is doing fine now and is in remission. One of the analogies she used for this procedure really has stuck with me. She said this is like using an atomic bomb to kill a fly. Previously we used a fly swatter (chemo and radiation) to kill the fly, but it didn’t work. So now let’s bring out the big guns. I have really thought and visualized on that analogy. Despite my doctor’s pessimism, we are going to show him that this a-bomb is gonna work and that he should be on our side too.


I also have read a really cool story that symbolizes what I really feel, too. There is this story in the Old Testament (Daniel 3) about these three guys who refuse to bow down to a golden idol. When the king finds out, he goes bonkers and orders them to be put into a giant furnace to die by fire. When he talks to the three guys, they say to him, “…we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the images of gold you have set up.”

I can honestly say I feel that way about my situation. God can totally heal me and prove to Dr. Moskowitz and all the other pessimists that despite the odds He saved me. But if He doesn’t heal me, I still will believe in him and trust Him. That’s tough to swallow, but I have come to that point. He’s sovereign.

Prayer and Fasting Calendar

I am totally blown away everyday when I get emails from Kim and Pat seeing more and more people signing up to take a day to pray and fast for me. I feel so humbled and honored. For those of you who are trying to figure out what is going on with that deal, you can e-mail Kim and she will help you out. (Also congratulate her, she’s getting married in 7 weeks!). I have also found a couple of links that will help you to understand the purpose of fasting and how and what to do. This fasting may be on a day for me, but it is totally a day between you and God. Hopefully you will be as blessed as I am. Thank you and please keep in touch and send in your stories, letters and learnings!

November 8, 2000

November 8, 2000|

Hi Y’all!

I apologize for taking forever to write this latest update. Here it is! Enjoy!

Everyone’s getting hitched!

I don’t know why, but for some reason, most of my best friends have gotten married/are getting married this year or next. Even my medium brother is getting in on the act, with his wedding date set for June 20th, 2001! With that in mind, I hopped on the New Jersey Transit train to Philly and met up with Webmaster Patrick, Greg, and John to celebrate Marc’s bachelor party. We ended up surprising Marc with my visit, as I told him that I wouldn’t be able to make it down because I was too sick. When he got out of the Explorer on Locust and 43rd Street and saw me walking down the sidewalk, he tackled me with giant hug, crushing the catheter on my chest and opening a giant chest wound. Just joking! Ha! Surprises are the best!

No serious injuries actually occurred and we ended up having a great weekend, hitting Marc’s favorite landmarks around the city and recreating points in Marc and Kim’s courtship using Greg’s video camera. Patrick, who is 6’2″, 230 lbs played the part of Kim in the video. We, at least I, hope to get the video up on the Web. The pictures from the weekend will be up on this site very soon! Considering my incredibly difficult and rough previous weekend, it was just amazing to be able to hang out with old college friends and reconnect in person. Very soon, it looks like, I will be the last of bunch to get married, and I am only 22! Wow. The pressure is on.

Bringing in the Herd

Monday was the first day of stem cell harvesting. It is amazing to see how it all works. Attached to my catheter are two tubes. In one tube they connected a hose that took the blood out of my body. My blood then went into a machine and was whirled around, separating my blood into four different components, white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, and plasma. The white blood cells the machine kept, and the rest was sent back into the other tube back into my body. It was a very easy procedure and best yet pain-free. I just sat there, read the paper and then napped. We needed 7 million stem cells. Monday we gathered 2.8 million, Tuesday we gathered 3.4 and today we collected the remainder.

The best news was not actually collecting the necessary cells. The best news ended up being that I could stop giving myself shots of white blood cells. I remember earlier in the summer watching my friend Robin give herself shots for her arthritis. Whenever she would stick the needle in her thigh, I would freak out, scream like a little girl and run out of the room. I just hate needles and blood. I vowed to Robin that I would NEVER EVER give myself shots like that.


SO what happens? We all know. In order to produce enough white blood cells to harvest, I would have to give myself shots of Nepogen, which produce white blood cells. The first time I attempted it, I almost cried. Then I missed my thigh. Then I had blood everywhere and on the couch. My dad was watching the entire time, holding back laughter. The visiting nurse who was teaching me, she almost soiled her drawers. And there’s me sweating blood because I am so nervous to put a little tiny needle in my thigh.

Eventually I learned to do the shots in my stomach, much less painful and easier to insert. Today, when the doctor told me I could quit giving myself shots, I shed a tear of sadness. I had gotten good at it.

I guess we all have fears. Me, you all know what mine is by now. But if you would have told me that I would have gotten used to giving myself shots a week ago, I would have screamed in your face (like a little girl). Now look at me, I LIKE it! It’s amazing what we can do, once we conquer our initial fears. What are you afraid of?

Your Stories and Learnings

Because I believe that this whole adventure of mine is a two way street between you and me, I have been thinking ways to use all of the good stuff I get everyday from you. To do that we have created another page, called “Your Stories and Learnings.” A lot of you write me email responding to my experiences with learnings of your own. Well, we are going to put them up (with your permission). Others of you have inspirational stories that you have shared with me and would like to share with others. We’ll put those up too. If you too have learned something from my experience and my stories, share that too. Just e-mail me at and we will post them up. I look forward to seeing your responses.

November 2, 2000

November 2, 2000|

Just wanted to write a quick note to everyone…I receive a lot of emails, but one of them I received today really struck me, so I want to use it as an update and through some other words too.

Today was great.

Simple as that. Nice to be back on my feet, full appetite back, at work for a couple hours polishing off 100s e-mails and meetings and seeing the co-workers. It is nice to be back in such a great environment and I am going to miss going in to work when I have to go in to the hospital for that month. I feel so much better though, tons more energy, and more importantly, the drugs have worn off. I can think! Woohoo!

Art’s learning from simple e-mail:

Today is my day to fast and pray for you. I’m really humbled by it all, but I will stand in the gap for you. You can count on it. Don’t really know what to say that God hasn’t already revealed to you through this journey…

I’ve just finished reading your Latest Update. It can’t be easy thinking about spending Christmas in the hospital. Don’t lose sight of the Magic of Christmas. It’s all about giving…

– anonymous (to you) emailer

Man, I was totally struck by that last statement, and I want to really say thank you to my teacher in that lesson. It’s so easy to get caught up in what we are missing. I am so guilty. I love Christmas, the smells and sights and sounds of the season. It is my favorite time of the year, by far. I mean, can you really beat singing Christmas Carols on a cold winter night while sipping on some frothy hot chocolate in a warm J Crew sweater and scarf!?!

But those things are not what are important about the holiday. It is all about giving. It is humbling to have to be reminded of that lesson. I feel such a renewed spirit to as why I may be placed there at that time and wonder how everything is going to work out.

Anyway, while I hope to give you all some learnings and wisdom that I have gathered, please send me yours. This website, this event, all of this, is a two way street that I hope we all can grow from. We are blessing to each other and for each other.

Weekend off…

Funky Phat Webmaster Patrick, John, Greg, and I are going to be hanging out all weekend to celebrate Marc’s (Kim- the prayer calendar lady’s fiancee’s) bachelor party- so we are taking a break, but look for an update on Tuesday, with a ton of new photos and updates. Thanks for prayers, e-mails and thoughts. It was a tough week, toughest yet, but it feels good to know that when you are down in the valley, others are there right next to you, helping you get out of it, working together in ways you never thought or imagined possible.

November 1, 2000

November 1, 2000|

It sure has been awhile since I last wrote, or at least wrote under a coherent state. After finally coming to somewhat of a normal state of thinking and being, I have concluded that was by far the worst week I have had in my adventure.

Down with morphine…

I was originally I big fan of morphine and other painkillers. No more. J Coupling the effects of the morphine (for the back pain), with the anesthetic for the surgery with a massive dose of a new chemo (read the side effect pamphlet this afternoon for the first time – brain confusion for up to week is one of them – should have read a little earlier…)

My brain was so fried (and still is somewhat), that I couldn’t comprehend simple thoughts. It was almost like I would reach to connect thoughts together but there was nothing up there. Mind confusion is too simple a term to use. Even now I struggle to explain the experience, but let me reassure you that it was/is horrific. At least with pain you have your thoughts, which allow you to set a threshold, which helps in terms of preoccupation (ignoring the pain) and also lets you utilize effective visualization techniques (which I still am learning and have discovered are amazingly effective). Here, there was nothing. I was a zombie. I am only hope (and I think I am right) that the rest of the chemo isn’t that draining.

Breaking out of Jail

Getting out of hospital might be slightly easier, I feel. Finally I was released on Tuesday afternoon, afternoon spending another night on Monday under observation.

I know there has to be tons of studies on the effects of hospitals and the mind. It was doubly a cruel experiment for me to have been under not only a drug haze, but also hospital haze (a term I have devised to describe the feeling of being in hospital – even for a short time. You know, you get tired, your mind gets drained and drab, depression slowly kicks…). I was so incredibly thankful to get home. I ended up yakking the rest of the day (I think because of the emotional and mental stress), but I would take a whole day of yakking over being in a hospital any day.

Thanksgiving…Christmas…New Year’s… 12th floor bound

That’s what it looks like for me unfortunately. This is my favorite time of the year, and I guess there is no better place to spend it than in New York. Just not from the bed of my hospital.

The rundown so far:

Next week: outpatient stem cells taken out

Two weeks: chemo treatment 2 (in hospital for 3 days, 2 nights)

Four weeks: radiation on back (maybe…up in there air) outpatient

If so…Six/Seven weeks: Stem cell transplant (in hospital for 2-3 weeks)

If not… Five/Six weeks: Stem cell transplant

That’s it! Much quicker than we thought, I’ll be back on my feet by February. 😉

36, baby.

That’s the number. I want to write more about this, and I probably will later. But that is the statistic from Sloan Kettering, by their research. That is the percentage of patients who are going through what I went through so far and am going to go through actually end up in remission (no cancer). 36.

I have never been one observe the odds. Getting into the Connection, (a Web page will be up on them soon!), there was no way the odds were with me. Being on the air at a radio station at the age of 20, the odds were against me. Getting into Penn, there was no way the odds were with me. Getting a job at Goldman Sachs, there was NO way the odds were with me.

Naw, odds don’t faze me.

It’s amazing for me, instead, to see at what level I think I can get to and see how God picks me up and carries me beyond where I could ever believe. The odds are a good thing. It shows that my healing was not from my positive attitude, not from a great education, NOT from luck. Naw, it was from One who transcends odds, and can do, and will do immeasurably more than I can or will ever to understand. Yeah. 36, baby.