Category Archives: Art’s Letters

Beat Up and Beat Down

January 1, 2003|

Beat Up and Beat Down

It’s been awhile since I last wrote. For that I apologize, but it has been some trying times. Today is really the first time that I have had the necessary energy to catch up on emails and write. It’s been a battle. The pain in my hips and back has been unbearable. My only relief was a few pain-killers mixed with a hot bath. Nothing was worse than finding that we had run out of hot water. It was demoralizing.

I also started getting these amazingly uncomfortable bouts of chills. These keep me grounded at home, as they attack at anytime. In the middle of family parties, watching movies, etc. I would get an attack and that was it. After a few Tylenols and latching myself to heater do they go away.

To make things even worse, the classic Hodgkin’s symptom of night sweats started last week. In the middle of the night, you wake up and you are drenched. It is so uncomfortable. Wake up, change clothes, get more towels for the bed, it’s a mess.

My nights typically consist of all three. It’s been a nightmare, I dread going asleep. I may get 45 minutes of sleep before one of them flares up.

The only consolation is that I moved home to Ohio (which I was planning to anyway a few months ago when I was healthy) and am in my original comfortable bed.

NEW Up Next

I have a Rituxin treatment tomorrow here in Youngstown. In two weeks I make a quick trip to New York to have a few scans done and to meet a new doctor who has a possible new therapy for me. There are not many therapies available to me, so we can only hope that I qualify for this one. Not sure what happens next. Wish I had more good and encouraging news.

Another Relapse

December 13, 2002|

Another Relapse

The latest test results came in. They weren’t a shock or a surprise, given the current circumstances- incredible amounts of pain, dry itchy skin and swollen lymph nodes. The Hodgkin’s Disease had returned.

There wasn’t anything I did or didn’t do to bring it back. Instead there were just a few Hodgkin’s Cells floating around that hooked up with each other and multiplied. It’s so amazing how it virtually happened over night. I had a phenomenal autumn, having gained most of my weight back and gotten into decent physical shape. One day, that’s all it took. The blip showed up on the PET Scan, the nodes swelled and the pain grew.

I started treatment immediately. Yesterday I had the first of four weekly infusions of Rituxin, a drug, that has some success against such reoccurrences. After the Rituxin there are few options available. Maybe get a second infusion of Billy’s cells. Maybe do low dose chemotherapy. Not much more. I can’t do any more transplants or high-dose chemotherapy regiments. It would probably kill me.

I’m extremely disappointed and hurt. Just as things were turning a corner in my life, this happens. Running out of options. Running out of time. Running out of hope.

Something’s Amiss

December 9, 2002|

Something’s Amiss

Two weeks ago, a few days after receiving my “good” test results, I felt an unusual pain in my groin area. Upon further examination, I discovered a number of swollen lymph nodes. They didn’t bother me too much, evident by the fact that I was out dancing with a bunch of friends till 2:30am that Saturday. Gradually the pain increased. My doctor became very concerned. Before I left for Ohio for Thanksgiving, I spent almost all day Tuesday at the hospital getting tests done, including a needle biopsy with a surgeon. The biopsy proved inconclusive, so I was put on the docket for a real biopsy (surgery where a lymph node(s) is removed).

In the meanwhile the pain has increased greatly. To combat the pain, I have been put back on some serious pain killers. Typically I am in one of three states nowadays- asleep, in pain, or high. I haven’t really left the house for a few days.

Last Thursday morning I had my biopsy. It went quite well. Thankfully my parents came in and have been helping me. They’ll be here until we get the results, which should happen on this Wednesday. It could be anything from a reoccurrence of the Hodgkin’s Disease, to a really strange infection, to a weird virus, to a new type of cancer.

Thank you for your calls and emails of concern. I appreciate you much. I don’t know what to make of all of this and have no freakin’ clue as to what is going on.


November 19, 2002|


So we got some strange strange results today. Let me preface by saying that I feel absolutely fine, have no symptoms, and have even put on 8 lbs. in the past three weeks. So it came as a tad bit of a suprise when we got the results. The CT Scan came out absolutely clear. Didn’t expect that. The MRI came out absolutely clear. Expected that. But the PET Scan showed a node lighting up in the lower right rib cage. Just one. Not even a big one. Not even brightly. It’s just a blip.

Dr. Perales had no clue what to make of it. The PET Scan is the most sensitive of the scans, but, as he said, it’s too sensitive sometimes. He was puzzled as to what it could be. I have no pain there, it doesn’t show up on the CT Scan or the MRI, what the heck is it?

As my dad says, “Nothing can ever be easy with Art.” 🙂 So, what do I do? Other than getting my quarterly scans a few weeks early (December 27, for those keeping track at home), nothing. Keep on moving onward with my plans. Dr. Perales said to go forward. That’s good.

But frankly it is frustrating. Why? I would like to think that I would be able to fix this. Exercise, eat right, get plenty of sleep, something, anything- I would do it to erase this blip. But there is nothing I can do. Nothing. I must have asked Dr. Perales a half-dozen times what I could do. He replied the same answer everytime: “Nothing.” What will happen will happen I guess.

That’s all I have for now, I’ll keep you posted as I get more information. For now though, it comes down to December 27. Pray for the blip. Pray for the blip.

November 13, 2002

Cheating Death?

‘Oh Art…the funeral was horrible. So many people…all so hurt and wondering why God took Scott (or as his students referred to him, Mr. Scott). You know, older people (adults) can maintain their composure at times like this…at least most can. But seeing those kids…seeing them crying and hurting and asking “Why” was the worst part of it.’

Last week a high school classmate of mine passed away from a heart attack at the age of 25. Scott was a gigantic mound of a man, one of two twins who roamed the offensive line of our football team. Even though I haven’t seen him in more than five years, I can still visualize his giant devious grin that was constantly present on his face as it was yesterday.

From what I understand he was healthy and living a normal life. A few friends e-mailed me about what happened. One e-mail, from my friend Vince (my esteemed editor, whenever I get around to writing my book) particularly hit home, especially given the significance of this week (my 9-month scans). It read:

‘…I did, in fact, go to the funeral. I blew out of work early on Wednesday, leaving around 3 p.m. I had Thursday off for the funeral. When I told my co-workers I had to go back to Youngstown for the funeral for a high school friend, they thought it was my friend who had been fighting cancer for the better part of the past three years (that’s you, dumb***!). I told them that actually, you had a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, and if we all said our prayers and ate our Wheaties, the doctor would tell you that you were in remission…’

At first I just laughed- typical Guerrieri sarcasm. A day later, though, it struck me. This was serious business. Statistically-speaking- that should have been me. I soon realized that I had, in a sense, cheated death. Ashamedly, I haven’t appreciated or savored it. I forgot where I’ve been. It’s my human condition. It’s all of our human condition. We have short memories.

The ‘Why’ Question

It’s all too familiar. I’ve been thinking about it constantly for the past three years and frankly I don’t have an answer for my own situation, let alone anybody else’s. Why do such tragic things happen?

I only know of three sufficient thoughts for such a question. They’re not answers. Honestly, I’m not sure what they are. Regardless, I munch on them frequently.

1. God knows what He’s doing. In the oft told story of Job, when Job asks God the question ‘Why?î how does God respond? He goes off on Job asking him if he understands the workings of God’s physical creation. Job has no clue. Then he gets it. We don’t have the mind of God nor the ability to comprehend God, and therefore we don’t know why. Only He does. We just need to trust in His judgment. Scary, for sure. Reminds me of what CS Lewis wrote in ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobeî allegorically speaking about God.

‘…Said Susan, Is he- quite safe?’… Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver… Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.’

2. There is a question that is answerable. ‘Why?’ is a question of the past. We can’t change the past. We can change the future. Therefore, really, the question should be ‘to what end?’ To what end can I/we/God create good out of such a situation.

3. ‘Jesus wept.’ It’s the shortest verse in the Bible. Perhaps it is one of the most profound. Where is Jesus weeping? It’s at the home of a friend of his who just died. What kind of a god weeps? A weak god? A wimpy god? A god who is helpless to help alleviate human suffering? Contrary. It’s a god who suffers. Suffering is an inevitable part of love. We have one who knows more than we do and yet suffers with us in the moment. What a comfort that can be.


Tuesday is my big day. Unlike at the six-month test, I am not nearly as nervous or concerned. I feel good. Will that be reflected in the tests? We’ll see. Maybe I’ll cheat death once again.

Sweatin’ With the Oldies

October 30, 2002|

Sweatin’ With the Oldies

“Up, one, two, three, four, good, now chair squats- one, two, three four…now lift those arms high, reach, reach, reach, reach…”

A few weeks back I came to a conclusion: I wanted to join a support group. I figured I had the free time, the desire to talk and the desire to listen. It would be nice to meet others in the same predicament as myself. Perhaps it could even be a cathartic experience.

So I called the Post Treatment Resource Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering, intent on finding a group. Is there a group for twenty-somethings I could join?’ I asked. ‘Frankly, we can’t let you in it,’ the social worker said, ‘You would scare the other participants. You’ve been though too much. These kids are just getting through their first round of treatment and are having enough trouble. If they see you, their minds could start working, and they would freak out. But we do have another group for you. It’s on Mondays from 3:30 to 5:00. It’s a holistic treatment group- nutrition, physical therapy and all. You’ll love it.’

I was a tad concerned. Who the heck is able to get off work at 3:30 to come to a support group? I soon discovered the answer.

Let’s just say I brought the mean age range of the group down to the seventies. Alas, the median, it is still stuck in the eighties.

That’s not to say the group is not great. I am just the young whippersnapper.

So every Monday afternoon the octogenarians and I pepper a nutritionist with questions. ‘Is the Atkin’s diet healthy?’ ‘Are vitamins necessary?’ ‘What are the best foods for gaining weight?’ ‘What are the best foods for losing weight?’ ‘What are the best foods to ‘cleanse’ the colon?’ ‘What are the best foods to eliminate flatulence?’

Patiently, and with much understanding, Donald, our nutritionist answers all of our questions. It’s an answer, though, filled with a gusto and passion that could only come from a man who has a degree in Nutritional Anthropology. (Yes, such a course of study exists.) Slowly, I am finding myself learning more and more about cuisine, cooking, and calories. The proof? I am eating healthy while gaining weight (2 lbs in two weeks!). I still slather all of meals with Ranch dressing and American cheese singles, but it’s low-fat Ranch and low-fat cheese singles.

Next Donna comes in, ready to pump us up. OK, perhaps pump is too strong a word. Rouse? Stir? Budge? Whatever the word- she comes in with a challenging routine of low-impact aerobics. By the end of the set the group is wheezing, winded and hunched over. Except me. And darn well I shouldn’t be. Why?

a.) I’m 24.

b.) I rollerblade or lift for 45 minutes a day.

c.) I’m 24.

I usually modify the routine by adding weights. Then it gets difficult. ‘No more squats! No more squats!’ I scream from the safe confines of my house, as the neighbors peer in the window wondering what the heck is going on.

Do you know what is most astounding? Of all the participants, I am the one with the most experience with cancer; I have been through the most! I’m 24! The young whippersnapper! I probably scare them too.

I passed two random but significant moments in my life.

Kordell Jr.

For the first time in three years I played a game of touch football while hanging with the boys in Chicago. Promptly, on the first offensive series, I threw an interception. It was the most enjoyable interception I have ever thrown. I can play football again. That alone is revolutionary.


I found a large accumulation of hair in my shower drain. It wasn’t from Davi, my roommate. He is quite closely shorn. We haven’t had any guests in awhile. It must have been from…me? I can clog the drain again. That alone is revolutionary. XP

Frequently I get e-mails from readers which read like this: ‘Art, where is the latest update? You haven’t updated in three weeks…Helloooo!’

So Webmaster Patrick and I recently converged in a melding of the minds during our boys’ weekend in Chicago. Out of that pow-wow, we came up with new ideas to freshen the web site. Look for some new features to appear, especially on the e-mail front. We hope to have a list-serve function that will alert you via e-mail when I have updated the site with a new entry or new pictures. No more frustration at lack of a new update. Are you excited?

Nine Months

No, I’m not pregnant. Rather my nine-month check-up has arrived. On November 11, I have a date scheduled with three different suitresses- Miss PET Scan, Miss CT Scan and Ms. MRI. It’s a big day. I hope to impress them all- hoping to hear from all of them those precious words, ‘all clear.’ A clear scan? I can be healthy again. That alone would be revolutionary- especially to a young whippersnapper like myself.


October 15, 2002|


It’s been two days since my spontaneous adventure to Boston. I’d been there since Wednesday, attempting to turn a not so insignificant corner in my life. For the first time in two years, I am making tangible plans for my future. So that’s why I was there, at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. After a long, challenging and strenuous journey, I have arrived at a crossroad, a fork in the road. What now do I do with my life?

I didn’t think I’d actually make the trip to South Hamilton, Massachusetts. At least not this soon. I signed up for the prospective student program a month ago, never intending to actually make the trip. Somehow a number of quirky events fell into place and I found myself the day before I had to arrive contemplating the logistics of the trip. All of sudden I was on the Mass Pike gazing at the changing colors of the leaves. What was I doing?

For most people, this would have been a simple road trip- an exploratory expedition complete with free food, free lodging and a chance to see a New England Autumn. For me it was much more. It was admission. I was allowing myself to concretely contemplate my future. I was giving myself permission to peer into what could be a viable vocation for my life. If. A big “If.” If the health holds up.

I used to have a five-year plan for my life. It was organized to the most minute detail, down to the year I would get married (despite having zero prospects on the horizon). Don’t you love us Type-A ESTJs! Thankfully, and I do mean thankfully, cancer snatched such foolishness away. Instead I was forced to concentrate on the day and how I would best make use of the twenty-four hours given to me. Now, though, as things are looking bright, I need to start looking to the future, in addition to still living completely for the day. It’s an optimistic approach, certainly, but a cautiously optimistic approach. It’s a big step, a dang big step. For anyone emerging out of crisis mode in life, to start focusing on the future, goodness, it’s quite scary and nerve-racking. But wow, is it exciting. It’s admitting something. It’s admitting you have a future. It’s sticking your foot out to take that first step. The next journey is about to begin.

I am not sure what’s going to happen and I’m certainly not sure of which road to take. Threats of the cancer and threats of the peripheral side effects (soreness, infections, colon issues, etc) abound. But I view them as bags to carry along the journey. They don\’t deter my first step. My step is my own.

Do I want to go into the ministry? I don’t know. I know my talents. I know my strengths. I know my weaknesses. I know my interests. I know what makes me come alive. I know what energizes me. Where that leads me remains to be seen, but I know myself.

As for what happened, I had an absolutely fantastic time. I was really impressed by the school, the students and the faculty. I enjoyed Boston, despite getting lost numerous times while driving downtown. Streets- they just end and pick up a block later. Some one-way streets reverse, becoming one-way streets in the opposite direction. I thought I was smoking crack. And there was a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner. Every corner! In Philly you have your Wa-Wa. In New York City you have your Starbucks. In Boston you have your Dunkin’ Donuts.

Thank you for your calls and e-mails, your support and your encouragement, your prayers and thoughts. I hope you are as excited for the future as I am, whether it includes hoagies, cafÈ lattes, or Munchkins. I admit, I personally, can’t wait.

For those Youngstowners…

October 2, 2002|

For those Youngstowners…

My dad is helping out another family who have a daughter with leukemia from Youngstown. Kayla Hankey, 12 years old, is having a bone marrow transplant in Cincinnati for recurring leukemia. To help raise money for the procedure and other incidentals, the family is holding a fundraising dinner. Here are the details:

Date: October 20 from 1:00 to 4:00

Place: St. Patrick’s Church 3667 North Main St. Hubbard, Ohio

Cost: $5.00

Contact: Fred Canning at 330-792-5215 for information or to purchase tickets.


Attack of the Killer Colon

Ain’t no way I’m going back. Ain’t no way. I swore to myself that they would have to a.) find me, b.) fight me, c.) tranquilize me, and d.) drag me back. There was no way I was going to return to Sloan Kettering, or any hospital as an inpatient.

It’s funny how we eat our own words, isn’t it?

So here I was, Thursday morning, doubled over in pain. The abdominal cramps were becoming too excruciating to bear. I tossed and turned all Wednesday night. I had to relent. Even I, who have become somewhat indifferent to pain, realized I had to surrender. To the hospital I drove.

After waiting what seemed to be an eternity (‘Memorial Slow Kettering’), I was admitted to the 11th floor. The emergency CT Scan had showed the cause of the intense cramps and unending bloody diarrhea- an inflamed colon, otherwise known as colitis.

No one was sure of the origin of the colitis. There were the usual suspects: infection, bacteria, fungi, graft v. host disease. Thankfully I recovered quickly with bowel rest and antibiotics.

I didn’t really mention my admittance to anyone. It wasn’t because I was depressed, despondent or didn’t want to talk. Moreso, I have just gotten uncomfortable calling people out of the blue and saying, ‘Hi! How are you doing? Me? I’m OK. Back in the hospital…’ It’s just plain awkward. So I don’t advertise.

As for my broken vow, well, I realized over the weekend that it was just plain stupid. It’s shortsighted and thoughtless. Given my circumstances, of course there will be times when I’ll have to be admitted again. It’s my choice of how I respond to the situation. Hard lesson, but absolutely necessary.

Other than my latest colon adventure, things have been rapidly improving. I gained 10 lbs. last month and slashed my pulse by 20 beats per minute. And my immune system? Almost back to a normal level.

I (heart) My Thesaurus

To occupy my summer, unbeknownst to some, I have been working feverishly to write a book. My afternoons typically were spent at Starbucks reading and writing- desperately trying to learn the craft. My nights were crammed with late night forays on the web, researching publishers, agents, writing workshops, classes, and potential competitors. My OCD-ness (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) about the whole project peaked a few Tuesdays ago when my friend Courtney walked into Starbucks, sat across from me, and exclaimed, ‘You’re studying the Thesarus!?!’ I wasn’t really. I was making flashcards. ‘Quiescence.’ ‘Cajole.’ ‘Salubrious.’

Recently, after exhausting my work on the Internet, my pocket Thesaurus, and ‘Publishing for Dummies,’ it hit me; I’m not ready to write a book. It’s not from a lack of skills, material, or free time. It’s a matter of timing. The wounds- still too fresh. My adventure- nowhere near over. My perspective- changing daily. So why rush? The type A voice in my head is going bananas. ‘What are you waiting for? Do it! Write now, right now!!!’ The type B voice repeats over and over, ‘Be a patient patient. Be a patient patient….’ Could I be, daresay, maturing? Eeeeek!


Finally, I’m learning to love my neighborhood. It is quite the unique area. Last week, while I was watching the premiere of ‘Ed, ‘ I heard what sounded like rapidly discharging firecrackers. ‘Bangbangbangbangbang! Bang!’ But those ain’t no firecrackers. Those were gunshots. Living on the border of the ‘hood teaches a man the difference. A few minutes later the street was swarming with cops. In a newspaper the next day was an article detailing the shooting. Homie, some G got capped wit’ a gat. (Translation: Somebody was shot.) Not only was he shot, though, he survived and drove himself to a hospital down the street. Who gets shot in the head and survives, let alone is able to drive? Craziness. Just another Brooklyn shooting.

When I got home last night, there were safety cones lining the street in front of my house. What’s going on? This morning I walked outside to find giant trailers and semis parked where the cones once stood. Coolly strolling down the street, away from the ‘hood, I saw bright lights, cameras and a cluster of director’s chairs. Finally my curiosity bubbled over and I asked a random guy, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Shooting the latest Mariah Carey video. She’s gone though, left Saturday. This is the last day of shooting.’ Dejected I moseyed home. A giant poster of Mariah once adorned my wall, back in the day. Mariah Carey was in my neighborhood and I was stuck in the hospital with colitis. And my chance at being in a music video, dashed. Craziness. Just another Brooklyn shooting.


Light the Night

September 13, 2002|

NOTE: Make sure to watch “Good Morning America” on ABC on Tuesday, September 17, 2002 from 6-9AM. I’ll be in the audience along with others from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society promoting “Light the Night.” (

September 11, 2002

I didn’t plan on writing anything today. There is already information and media overexposure going on. Why contribute to the madness?

But the wind. The wind today is like nothing I’ve seen in my two years in New York City. It is omnipresent.

I walked on the patio this morning to a stiff breeze swirling the branches of the oaks overhead. While rollerblading later on in the park, I was pushed to my utmost limit as I skated straight into gust upon gust. There was no escape as it seemed to be blowing from every direction. Watching TV this afternoon, a dust-storm brewed in the pit where the World Trade Center once stood. The characteristically composed reporters at Ground Zero struggled to be heard as their microphones picked up nothing but the wind whistling by.

Is this wind, this draught, this squall really a coincidence? Is it there to remind us that there are matters, occurrences and events we will never understand? Is it a gentle reminder today to help us recall our purpose in life? Is it a reminder that something, Someone, is in charge? Is it a memorial- a heavenly memorial?

‘My heart is in anguish within me;

The terrors of death assail me.

Fear and trembling have beset me;

Horror has overwhelmed me.

I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest-

I would flee far away

And stay in the desert;

I would hurry to my place of shelter

Far from the tempest and the storm.’

-Psalm 55:4-8

‘I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.’

-Ecclesiastes 1:14

‘Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands?”

-Proverbs 30:4

‘They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey Him!’

-Mark 4:41

‘Can you see God? You ever seen him? I’ve never seen the wind, but I’ve seen the effects of the wind, there’s a mystery to it…’

– Billy Graham

September 9, 2002

Ante Up

Did you ever make a promise to do something and then completely forget about it? Did you then emphatically deny any such promise was made, only to have it subsequently shoved back in your face with a written document? Wasn’t it such a beat-down?

Back in February, in the middle of my transplant, I sent out a flurry of thank you notes to various individuals who contributed vast amounts of time, effort and resources. Included in that category was my brother Billy. He was the most important of the contributors- for obvious reasons. I must have been in some sort of chemotherapy drug-induced haze when I wrote his note because a month later Billy asked me (voice-cracking and all) ‘Where’s my steak dinner? You promised me a steak dinner!’

I retorted, ‘You’re smoking crack! I never promised you a steak dinner! Crack smoker!’

Billy deviously grinned. He sprinted to his room and returned with a piece of paper. ‘Thank for your saving my life. I owe you a steak dinner…Art.’ He gleefully read.

‘Dang!’ Caught red-handed.

My mom let out a loud whoop that the neighbors could hear.


On September 20, 2002, an assorted group of friends, family and myself will gather at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse to recommence the ‘Celebration’ Dinner. (You are certainly welcome to attend, just RSVP with me.) Billy will be leaving class early, making the trek from Philadelphia to Manhattan, in order to feast on a free filet. Maybe I’ll even pay for his fixins and creme brulee. At least he doesn’t have that in writing…I hope.

Speaking of Steak…

At my last doctor’s appointment, Dr. Perales, after giving me the great news, proceeded to scold me. And you wouldn’t believe why. Can you believe I was scolded for eating TOO healthy?

This summer I made a determined effort to eat healthy. No more sugar. No caffeine. Vegetables. Fresh fruit. Few carbohydrates. Lots of white meat. If any man were going to keep this cancer away with nutrition, it would be me.

At least that’s what I thought.

In the meanwhile I didn’t gain an ounce. I actually lost weight, falling to an all time Art-low. I was down to my junior high school weight. “You look like an anorexic Calvin Klein model.”

Once Dr. Perales uncovered the reasoning beyond my low weight- he gave it to me good. He abused me like a red-headed step child. None of the books, articles and reports I had read were scientifically true he said. All of the hype about blueberries, green tea and broccoli were just that- hype. Not an ounce of scientific proof verified that such foods are anti-cancer. And sugar- it has never been scientifically confirmed to increase cancer cells. He let me have it good. My parents sat by, nodding their heads in approval. ‘How could you believe such tomfoolery?’

‘But in Lance Armstrong’s book…and in that Nutritionist’s Guide to Cancer book…and in…’

So now I am on a new diet. It’s called the ‘Eat Anything Diet.’ I find foods I like and I eat them. Even better, it’s doctor recommended and approved.

I still generally stay away from caffeine and sugar, they make me even more jittery than normal. Otherwise, I am loading up on protein shakes, steak, chicken, grilled corn, grilled bananas (my Brazilian roommate’s favorite- don’t ask- it tastes like Elmer’s paste), pasta, ice cream, burgers, fries, pizza, burritos…I’m going to town.

Thanks to all for your wonderful words of encouragement. The road to recovery is long, arduous and filled with potholes. Thank you for fixing my flats, furnishing fuel and wiping my windshield. It’s been a blessing.



All Clear

August 27, 2002|

All Clear

It was a tense week. I used the extra nervous energy to my advantage. In an absolutely incredible breakthrough I conquered the formerly unconquerable hill in Prospect Park on roller blades, without stopping. It was like climbing Mt. Everest. The air was thin and my mind was clouded. Billy goats and sherpas climbed around me. I almost blacked out. I almost stopped. I didn’t. I conquered the hill.

But things were still tense.

I was so anxious on Monday night at Starbucks that I couldn’t do my normal reading or writing. My mind was racing around an endless track at unbearable speeds. I needed to find a worthy distraction.

I shoved my shoulderbag in the car and sped to Coney Island. After a few rounds in the batting cages and in the video arcade I was able to breathe easier. And the cheese fries from Nathan’s, those helped too. Tuesday was the big day.

I was expecting the worse. Like a post-it note slapped on my forehead, a nagging pain in my lungs and along my spine had become a constant reminder of my current situation. I thought, without hesitation, the note read “The cancer has returned.”

I snatched the papers off the desk in the examining room. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from Dr. Perales. I read the reports myself. “There is a normal physiologic pattern of radiotracer uptake and distribution seen throughout the remainder of various body tissues and organs with no evidence of FDG avid viable malignant tumor.” “No pelvic lymphadenopathy or ascites is seen.” “No enlarged mediastinal, hilar or axillary lymph nodes are seen…” Six months post-transplant and the scans are clear.

I am not out of the woods just yet. Yes, it is great news. I couldn’t be more pleased. But remission isn’t declared for another 6 months. That means two more rounds of PET and CT scans in November and February. I’ll breathe much easier then.

Thank you for your prayers, encouragement and support. I still have a few more hills to conquer. Only with the above will I be able to do so.



Happy Birthday Art!

August 22, 2002|

Happy Birthday Art!

‘Happy six months old Art!’ That’s what you all should be saying to me. Technically, I’m 24 years old and my birthday is February 28. Truthfully though I was reborn six months ago when I was injected with my brother Billy’s stem cells.

To celebrate the occasion I didn’t receive a cake, a card, or even a present. Instead, I had an all day affair at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. At 8:35am, I was injected with radioactive insulin for my PET Scan. So much for staying radioactive-free on my birthday. At 3:45pm, I polished off the last drips of my Crystal Lite & Contrast mixture for my CT Scan. At 3:55pm, I was injected with the IV Contrast. So much for staying Contrast-free on my birthday.

Truthfully I was scared and am scared. The scans, ah, they’re cake. It’s waiting for the results that make the heart pound, the adrenaline flow and the mind race. The wheezing in my lungs, what could that be? And how about the pain along my spine, could the cancer have returned? Why has it taken me a month to get over a silly head cold? Why haven’t I gained any weight? Will I ever be healthy? Will I make it to see my next real birthday? The questions had been circling like sharks for the past two weeks. Tuesday. Is it possible to wait that long?

An Involuntary Reaction

The accordion player could have been a corpse for all I know. At first glance I thought it really was a skeleton wearing a seer-suckered suit, bifocals and mesh ball cap. A cheesy teethy grin lingered on his face. The light breeze from the bay could have been bristling his fingers against the keys. The stiff crosswind from the ocean, only 200 yards away from the makeshift stage where he sat, could have been the propelling force needed for the expanding and contracting motion of his arms. The two other members of the band didn’t look dead, but they didn’t look so hot either. They must have all been octogenarians. It was a peculiar sight to see that sunny Sunday afternoon.

When the trio launched into their first song, a smile crept upon my face. It was an involuntary reaction. Filled with worry, a frown doting my face, I had been battling the sharks. But the music, it almost made me giggle. The pace was slightly faster than a crawl, for arthritic hands can only move so fast. The guitarist strummed softly. The accordionist twinkled in and out. The drummer sang. ‘When Irish eyes are smiling…’ I couldn’t help but smile.

I was fastened to my bench. I wasn’t afraid of losing it-there were only seven people in the crowd- but I was enchanted. I must have looked strange- a twenty-something boy, sitting alone on a bench, grinning from ear-to-ear.

A few songs later the group played ‘Happy Birthday’ for an older gentleman seated near me who looked like Abe Simpson, bolo and all. The gentleman bounced up, grabbed a girl and did a lil’ jitterbug to everyone’s delight. ‘Good ol’ boy is 97 today!’ the drummer announced. I couldn’t help but smile.

The band took a break. It’s not easy to play five straight songs with arthritic hands. I went to the arcade and played skeeball and pop-a-shot basketball. I gave the tickets I had won to a cute four-year-old girl. By the look on her face, you would have thought I gave her gold. I couldn’t help but smile.

The band was back on, joined by another old coot playing a trombone. They were really jamming now. A crowd of twenty had formed. The 97 year old rose again and boogied. A father waltzed with his little girl. The rest of the audience cheered in delight. I couldn’t help but smile.

It was a little sad for me to leave Ventura Harbor that day. I still had to drive up to Santa Barbara that afternoon. I opened the door to my rental car, a PT Cruiser with wood paneling. I couldn’t help but smile. I rolled down the windows, cranked the CD player and drove along the California coast at 70 MPH. The sun was shining, the ocean was glimmering and the mountains were looming in the distance. For the afternoon the sharks had gone away. And I couldn’t help but smile.