Note: All underlined words are links to the sites I am currently discussing.
Team Fist Bump (#teamfistbump) is on a mission: These journals are being published, then shared by many in an effort to reach others needing help in understanding the obstacles suddenly thrust upon them by the diagnosis of cancer. Join our team today by sharing this journal, saying a prayer for Kathy, or giving her an electronic hug or Fist Bump along with an inspirational message in the comments. To read Our Journal’s Previous issues just click the issue you would like to see:
Week 1 (Diagnosis), Week 2 (Biopsy), Week 3 (PET Scan), Week 4 (The Oncologist) , Week 5 (Bone Biopsy), Week 6 (Acceptance of Learning The Stage), Week 7 (Immunotherapy), Week 8 (Team Fist Bump is Intensifying), Week 9 (The New Norm), Session 2 (Immunotherapy), Session 3 & 4 (Immuno/CT Comparison)
Wednesday – Friday / March 7 – 9
Kathy comes home from work early on Wednesday, feeling fatigued from treatment the day before. However, we are in high spirits after learning Tuesday that the treatment seems to be working and all tumors are shrinking.
I am sorry to say that our excitement on visiting everyone caused us to forget to take pictures of many family members. Of course we realized this later. I’ll try to show the family by finding pictures taken at other times.
Kathy and I set off on a trip that will take us through 10 states in 2 weeks. Our goal: To meet as many family members as possible. We have been talking about a trip like this for years and now, because certain priorities in life have suddenly changed, we hop on a plane to take us to the starting point of a nearly 3,000 mile road trip!
DAYTONA BEACH, FL
Saturday, March 10
Can you imagine two big NASCAR fans landing at the airport in the same city as the most famous super speedway in the world? As the airplane touches down, Kathy and I briefly discuss speeding off in our rental car to find, and catch a glimpse of this famous track. This track has special meaning to us. Not only is this the race we look forward too all winter long because it’s where the NASCAR racing season kicks off, but it’s the track a driver we both idolized passed away.
On the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt was killed in turn 4 as he helped his son, Dale Jr. win the race by blocking another driver from gaining ground on the final turn of this race.
As our plane taxis to the gate we will disembark the plane from I glance out of the window and spot the track right next to the airport. My jaw drops as I find myself alongside the straightaway between turns 2 and 3! All I can say is, “Wow”!
We rent a car a learn quickly that we have arrived in time for the beginning of the famous Daytona Bike Week! Five minutes into our 2 week road trip I find myself laughing so hard I nearly peed my britches!
We stop at the gas station you see above. I cautiously enter the parking lot – there are motorcycles everywhere. I park and stare in wonder at the track across the street as Kathy goes inside to get us some waters. A couple minutes later Kathy opens the door and quickly hops into her seat. She looks at me laughing and says, “I thought that car,” pointing at the car to our right, “was the rental! I got in it and noticed a pack of Marlboro’s on the dash and jumped out real fast. The lady on the Harley in the next parking spot saw me and started laughing when I told her what I had done.”
I about died laughing. We definitely started the trip off by making good memories!
PALM COAST, FL
Saturday, March 10
We depart Daytona and start on the short 25 minute drive to Palm Coast, FL, where we will start our trip off by visiting my dad, Mark, and step mother, Barbara. It’s been years since I have seen them and Kathy has never met them.
All I can say is that this visit is an inspiration of strength, courage, and devotion. Barbara has a rare disease that affects her nervous system, and my father devotes every minute of every day to bringing her comfort and quality of life. Barbara is an inspiration in every word and action she does. She always wears a smile and her words convey love and peace in every subject. Instantly, Kathy and I see the immense love that exist within the walls of this home.
Early Sunday morning, just as the sun begins peaking over the horizon, promising a glorious sunrise, my dad and I hop into my rental and head off for a local convenience store to buy some frozen shrimp to use as fish bait. Not only has my dad spotted manatee swimming in the small canal behind his house but he’s seen some pretty big fish as well. One thing about these small saltwater canals is that you never know what you might catch. We are hoping to hook a few lunkers!
No such luck though. It could be just the time of year. I do miss one nice fish due to a malfunction in my tackle and we see something large surface right between our bobbers, but are unable to land anything. The relaxation, wearing shorts, and no place to go made the day valuable enough though.
The highlight of this trip was bonding with my father. He spends hours discussing his daily routines. Intentionally, or unintentionally, teaching me what it takes to be a good caregiver. He shows me exercises that he does daily to keep himself in good physical condition. I’m not afraid to admit that I didn’t repeat these exercises on the spot because I would have struggled to make them look so easy:) This guy is a beast!
Kathy falls in love with both of them. My dad’s devotion to Barbara touches her, and Barbara’s outlook on life inspires her. As we drive away we are in awe of how much this visit has done for us. Thank you dad and Barbara. We can’t wait to visit again!
PANAMA CITY, FL
Monday, March 12
It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t start the Panama City segment of our journey off by giving thanks to Rhonda D., of Dothan, AL. You might remember her as the winner of the Team Fist Bump Appreciation gift (Amazon Echo & T-shirt). We have never met her in person and she is willing to meet us at a location on the way to Panama City. Unfortunately, as we are making our way to the point of the meeting she informs us that she is suffering from a stomach bug and didn’t want to chance Kathy catching it. We will catch you next go around Rhonda!
So, we continue on toward Panama City. This is more of a drive-through than visit. You see, Panama City is the town I lived in as a child and there are a couple of stops I must make. Here is the list:
- We visit my cousin Missy. It’s always great to see my cousin!
- We plan to go by my Aunt Jo’s but she has a cold and we can’t chance it spreading to Kathy. We will see her another day!
- We visit the grave site of my grandfather (Bubs), grandmother (Cassie), and baby brother (He died soon after birth). Love and miss you!
- We visit another cemetery to visit my grandfather (Tom), grandmother (Dickie), and uncle (Harry). Love and miss you!
- We drive by Bub’s and Cassie’s house where I remember climbing the plum and pecan trees as a boy.
- We drive by my childhood home and still see the fireman’s sticker I received in kindergarten to place on my bedroom window.
- We drive 2 doors down to see the faint white circle of paint me, my brother, and neighborhood friend placed there 43 years ago. Boy did we get whooped good for that little fiasco! Kathy got a kick out of this, lol.
- We drive by Tom and Dickie’s house along Pretty Bayou.
Leaving town, I wonder if I’ll ever see it again.
PENSACOLA BEACH, FL
Monday, March 12
As we arrive in Gulf Breeze (Located on the outskirts of Pensacola), weary from our first leg of the journey, we check into our hotel and decide to hold off on further exploring until the next day. We need a good nights rest.
Tuesday morning we wake up ready to roll! We pack and load the rental then cross the bridge onto Pensacola Beach. This beach is located on a long peninsula and our ultimate destination on this beach is Ft. Pickens, located on the very tip. Of course, along the way we stop so Kathy can walk on the beach (My crutches don’t do so well in the sand) and we can snap a few pictures:
After a slow, 20 mph drive along the peninsula’s length, we arrive at Ft. Pickens. This fort is amazing and holds a lot of history, some of which I will list below the pictures.
- Ft. Pickens was built by the United States and construction lasted from 1829 to 1834, with 21.5 million bricks being used to build it. Much of the construction was done by slaves.
- By the time of the American Civil War, Fort Pickens had not been occupied since shortly after the Mexican-American War. Despite its dilapidated condition, Lieutenant Adam Slemmer, in charge of United States forces at Fort Barrancus, decided Fort Pickens was the most defensible post in the area. He decided to abandon Fort Barrancas when, around midnight of January 8, 1861, his guards repelled a group of local civilians who intended to occupy the fort. Some historians claim that these were the first shots fired in the Civil War. Despite repeated Confederate threats, Fort Pickens was one of only three Southern forts to remain in Union hands throughout the war.
- Captives from Indian Wars in the West were transported to the East Coast to be held as prisoners. From October 1886 to May 1887, Geronimo, a noted Apache war chief, was imprisoned in Fort Pickens, along with several of his warriors.
Tuesday, March 13
Several years ago, while on a work trip to replace some malfunctioning survey equipment on board a vessel my company was working on I stopped at an oyster bar in Mobile. While eating I texted Kathy to tell her how good the food was. She was jealous and I promised to take her there one day. Now, on our way to visit my family in Louisiana, I can make good that promise!
Wintzell’s Oyster House is a must see! It offers numerous oyster dishes that are out of this world. As you can see above, Kathy and I get a sampler dish where we polish off everything but the shell…I even found a pearl in one of mine!
After this fantastic lunch (It was actually an early dinner due to being delayed 3 hours on I-10 due to an accident) we decide to further explore the area. Kathy mentions to me that she was touched by beach fever and wanted to see another one. I happen to know that the last of the white, sandy beaches are located just to the south of us, on Dauphin Island. Any further west and the white sands disappear, replaced with mud and mud colored sand.
DAUPHIN ISLAND, AL
Tuesday, March 13
After crossing the bridge onto the island and asking for directions to beach access points where I don’t have to huff it a quarter mile on crutches to reach sand we find this wonderfully quiet spot. Besides a couple of boys playing along the shore we had the place to ourselves.
We enjoyed watching the birds diving to find dinner and just made small talk. It was a special time. We left here and found another spot along the beach to park, just in time to witness the crew change taking place on a platform not too far offshore. The two crew boats you see in the picture above came right along the shore. I pointed out to Kathy that the men we saw on the boat’s deck where happy, just like I use to be when it was almost time to hop in my truck and head home. That was pretty cool.
We sit for a while just watching everything going on around us then start the car to head for Louisiana.
I-10 wesrbound through Mississippi!
Tuesday, March 13
We arrive late, mom is in bed. Wes, my step father is up. It’s good to see him. He’s a tough old oil-field man that never makes a big show of emotions. People often confuse this with him not liking them but that’s far from the truth. His love is shown through actions more than words. This is typical of any man that has spent his entire life working in the oil-field, where words don’t make the man, actions do. He and Kathy have a special bond I think. He calls her, “That damn Yankee,” but to the trained ear you can tell it’s all in love. Personally, I think her tough New Yorker attitude gives her an advantage when dealing with Wes. He’s a good guy and I think the world of him, and truly appreciate how he treats my mom.
Within ten minutes of us arriving the car is unloaded and we are all in bed. Been a long day.
The next morning mom is up when we make our way into the living room. My mom and Kathy really have a tight bond. They hug and cry while me and Wes kid them a bit. They missed each other and it warms my heart to see the two of them get along so well. Mom cooks breakfast and we devour it. They plan on hosting a Bar-B-Que later in the afternoon. Kathy and I decide to take a trip to a nearby lake to see if we can spot some alligators warming themselves in the sun. We tell mom we’ll be back in time for the Bar-B-Que that evening and head off for a bit of exploring.
We spend a few hours by the lake looking for gators and sitting out in the sun. We Spot a few but no big ones. We think if I was able to do some hiking we might find some in the more remote locations along the lake shore, but we’ll never know. It’s a good few hours spent talking and enjoying each other’s companionship.
After several hours we start thinking of the steaks that will be cooked soon. We don’t want to be late so we head off.
We get back to the house and sit on the back porch while mom and Wes prepare the pit. My sister, Sandy comes by with Ethan. Also showing up are my niece Kayla with her daughter Capri. And later, Daniel, Capri’s father. We enjoy a great evening of sitting around and hanging out.
The pics below show Capri explaing to me how things will be while I’m staying at grandma’s house, Capri showing me how to properly operate my boot, Kayla & Capri, Nephew Ethan, and Sis, Sandy and Ethan with a big red fish (Had to use old pic of sis).
The next afternoon, Thursday, me, Kathy, and my mom are invited to my nephew’s school to eat lunch outside in celebration of Book Week. I decide to bring a copy of my book, The Adventures of Nick and Billy, so I can donate it to his school’s library.
I wasn’t expecting the surprise request by his teacher to talk to his class about the book and being an author in general.
I must admit I was scared to death when the request was made but decided I must take this giant step since it’s something I really want to do some day. I’m glad I accepted the invitation! These kids are great. I was thrilled when they all held up their hands wanting one of the three book markers I had on me. Of course the kids were worried that I was cutting into their recess time so when I mentioned this they all said they wanted to go and play:) It was a great experience for me, as well as a challenge I now know I can handle!
On Friday, the last full day of our visit, me and Kathy take a trip with mom to the casino. My sister Sandy even came out to meet us after work. For any of you that have ever visited a casino have you ever hit the “Max Bet” button by mistake? Well, Kathy did, lol, and the Max Bet was $5. She won $1,400! Of course after she split it with me and we continued playing the winning number didn’t look nearly as impressive by the time we left.
On our way to the casino you can see modern day crawfish/rice farming operations
We leave there early because Kathy and I will be driving to Tennessee tomorrow for the next leg of our journey. We go to bed early, wake up early, and say our good-byes. Mom and Kathy are crying good even though mom and Wes will be driving their camper to NY for a visit in April or May.
Eventually, we haul ourselves into the car and hit the road, pilot and co-pilot, starting our northern turn.
Saturday, March 17
Early Saturday evening we pull into my brother, Paul’s, and Sister-in-Law, Julie’s, drive way. We are greeted by their 6 month old, 80 LB, Bull Mastiff/ Rottweiler mix puppy. Paul and Julie come outside to control the situation as this baby beast’s excitement threatens to cause excess slobber on our faces and bruises on our butts. Cooper, the old and mellow(er), Silky Terrier, is yapping away but no threat to grossly coating us in slime or knocking us to our derrieres.
Once all luggage is brought inside we relax on a comfy sofa (Sorry I stole your spot for a few days bro) and catch up on old times. Paul is careful to stay in Kathy’s good graces. Paul jokes how Kathy didn’t always love him like she does now. Certain childhood pranks that carried into adulthood weren’t accepted too well by my wife, lol. Now, after getting to know each other better they have formed a close bond. Julie and Kathy are like sisters, which indeed they are. I love to hear them carry on.
We will only be here for one full day. Paul and Julie talk about an interesting park and museum near-by that we can visit tomorrow. Sounds like a plan!
On Sunday we load into a car and head off for the museum. We won’t make this an all day affair because Paul has planned for us a Bar-B-Que of his world famous, cajun season injected pork loin! Kathy and I are game for that!
One of the bloodiest Civil War Battles took place at Stones River. As I walked through this beautiful museum my heart broke for the young men, and boys (Union & Confederate), on those cold, violent days of December 31, 1862 – January 2, 1863. Pictured above is me and Kathy (Left) & Paul and Julie (right)
When we get back to the house Paul begins building a fire in his back yard where we can gather while the meat is cooking. Joining us will be my nephew Ben, nephew Gavin, niece Taylor, Mr. Bud (Julie’s father), and Mrs. Claudine (Julie’s Step-mother). Sorry I didn’t get good pictures of you Ben (Posing took place after you left) and no pictures of Julie, Mr. Bud and Mrs. Claudine. I’m horrible when it comes to remembering the camera while everyone is together!
Taylor and Ben (Left), Paul manning the fire (Center), and Gavin, me, Kathy, and Taylor (right)
We have a great evening full of good food, laughter, beating dogs off before they beat us, and reliving old stories. The next morning, as we are preparing to leave, and after Paul had gone to work, I receive a call. Paul is installing security equipment at Ingram Books, which just so happens to be the distributor of my books. Sara, a worker there wants to meet me and ask that we stop by on the way out of town.
Thank you for meeting me Sara! I can’t wait for my return and look forward to the promised tour of the facility. After a final farewell to my brother, Kathy and I get back into the rental and continue our trek north.
Tennessee Titans Stadium and the Kentucky State Line
Monday, March 19
Next stop, Michael and Beth Duczeminski’s home in Memphis, Indiana. We pull into their driveway and out they pop, wearing full Team Fist Bump gear!
Michael, Kathy’s brother, is a native New Yorker that moved to Indiana after retirement to be closer to his two daughters and grand kids. They live a quiet life and this is just what Kathy and I need after going nonstop since our flight to Florida, ten days earlier.
Soon after our arrival one of the daughters, Jennifer, shows up with her family. Husband Ryan, who played an instrumental roll in getting the pumping systems updated around New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina showed the world how inadequate they were, son Nathaniel, who will one day play college soccer (Just my opinion), two daughters Marin, who will one day find a career in dancing, Ella, who is also an amazing soccer player, and son Wil, a cutie pa-tootie (Per your Aunt Kathy). We kick back and enjoy warm conversation while the sounds of children wrestling and playing can be heard in the back ground.
They don’t stay long because they have a flight to catch in the morning for Texas. They are going to meet Ryan’s parents for a little vacation. We give hugs and bid farewells until the next time.
The next day we rest! Oh, that feels so good. Snow comes, followed immediately be 17 cardinals that invade the bird feeder in Michael and Beth’s back yard. No more shorts but beautiful scenery!
That evening we go out for some steaks at Longhorn then slowly make our way back to the homestead. We get to bed early with full bellies. Tomorrow we set off on our next leg of the journey two hours to the north.
Michael and Beth remind me so much of ourselves. They are quiet, love the outdoors, and revolve their lives around family. Good people I am proud to call family.
Wednesday, March 21
Kathy’s niece, Sara, is sporting her Team Fist Bump armor when we arrive. The rest of the gang is working or at school so we sit around and chat. It doesn’t take long before school buses can be heard dropping kids outside. They arrive separated by grade: Ben the eldest and quite possible a future Bass Master Elite Fisherman is first, followed soon after by Sam, the baseball star and Eli, the little cutie, pa-tootie (Kathy’s words Eli so don’t hold a grudge big-guy). Later that evening Jason arrives home after a long day at work, making certain former bad guys are staying on the path to good guy-ism.
This is a young family going through the typical young family way of life. The three boy’s constant wrestling brings me back to the days of me and my brother at their age. I can’t help but wonder if Jason gets as aggravated with them on long road trips as my father use to :).
On Thursday, the father and kids head off for work and school. Sara hangs out with us. Since Kathy and I are leaders of a team (Kathy’s Team Fist Bump) and we will be taking part in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life event in Pine Bush, NY this June 2nd, we busy ourselves which fundraising business. This is a big deal!
Since Kathy’s diagnosis, we have learned first hand how important and wonderful this organization is. For those that can’t make the event and want to help our team reach it’s goal click here and donate as little as $5 to help find a cure for cancer. It is beyond easy and only takes 1 minute. Or you can join our team by clicking here and set yourself a goal. It is recommended that you set a goal of $100 and if you raise this amount you will receive a Relay T-shirt!
That afternoon everyone comes home and me and Ben, the oldest son, take off to visit the Bass Pro Shop located 5 minutes down the road. This kid loves fishing and really empresses me with his technical knowledge. We have a good time. Can’t wait to do some fishing with this guy!
The next morning we load the car and set forth on the final leg of our journey – Home Bound!
One note worthy event happened to us in Ohio. Frank Jr., of F&F Industrial Equipment in Middletown, NY called me and explained that he and his family (F&F Industrial Equipment is a family owned business) would be happy to sponsor Kathy’s Team Fist Bump in the Relay for $250! This caused us to ride through Ohio on a cloud.
JOURNEY HOME: MIDDLETOWN, NY
Friday, March 23
It is a long drive home. Bitter-sweet is as good a way as any to describe it. We already miss our families tremendously, but there was no denial in the fact that our comfortable seats at home were calling our names.This final leg of the journey was completed by two people without an ounce of stress within themselves. The 2,700 mile trek which is nearing it’s completion had been spent entirely with loved ones – just what Kathy and I needed after the months of stress we have endured.
We stay over night in a hotel just west of Scranton, PA, leaving early in the morning for the remaining 2 hours of our trip home. On Saturday, March 24, 2018, around noon, in Middletown, NY, there was one very happy cat!
SESSION 5: IMMUNOTHERAPY
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
We arrive at Memorial Sloan Kettering around 9:00 AM. The night before, at the Hyatt House, was peaceful, relaxing, and fun. We had a good dinner and better breakfast, then headed on down the road to get ‘er done.
We are early because Kathy will be seeing a pain management doctor today. Her hip has been bothering her in the region of the bone cancer so we want to rule it out as the cause and get the pain back down to nil.
The doctor is very friendly and decides to send Kathy to a Physical Therapist to work out the muscles in this area. We will make an appointment for next week to begin PT.
When Dr. McFarland sees us he tells Kathy that all blood work looks good. Other than the hip pain everything looks good so he sends us off to the treatment waiting room.
Kathy’s name is called and we follow the lady to Treatment Suite #16. The nurses come in and get the Pembrolizumab flowing. While Kathy listens to country music I begin calling from the list I had put together of local businesses that I’ll try to persuade to sponsor our team for the Relay For Life event. Out of the fifteen I call, ten sound interested and request that I email them the information. In the week following I never got one call back, blahhhh.
Treatment finishes up and we decide to stop off on the way home to visit the grand babies. We stay for a couple hours then head home – Grand baby Fix satisfied. We predict Kathy will come home early from work tomorrow given the past side effects after treatment so we go to bed shortly after we get home.
Vacation over – Time to resume the fight!
LETTER TO POTENTIAL TEAM SPONSORS
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Michael Hoard, Team Captain of Kathy’s Team Fist Bump. Our team will be participating in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life event in Pine Bush, NY, on Saturday, June 2, 2018. I am writing to humbly ask for your business’ support in sponsoring our team. I am attaching the RFL sponsor form where you can see the different sponsor levels and the benefits offered for each.
Kathy’s Team Fist Bump was born soon after my wife Kathy was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer in November of 2017. Our team was nurtured from the beginning by friends and family that stood beside us, giving us strength as we set off on this new and terrifying journey. Today we have hundreds of members from around the globe.
On the day of the event, Team Fist Bump will have a tent set up where we will feature several authors, including myself, that will be autographing their books. All profits from book sales will be donated to the American Cancer Society. Throughout the day, Kathy will join members of our team on the track, proudly representing Team Fist Bump.
While your donation will help ensure our team’s success for the event I would like to share a couple of benefits to your company as well:
- All donations businesses make are tax deductible.
- The American Cancer Society offers a comprehensive benefits package to all sponsors. What would be a better way to promoting your business than partnering your name with finding a cure for cancer?
- Team Fist Bump has a Facebook page with hundreds of followers that will see your name when we announce sponsors.
- My author website/blog has over 4,400 followers. I will add all sponsor names to the ‘Events’ page of my website.
- Following the event, I will publish a blog article detailing the day – emphasizing that the success of this event was a direct result of the generosity of the businesses and individuals that took part.
- This will not be a one-time deal for Team Fist Bump. We plan on attending all events that we possibly can. Your name can be a part of us as we grow and become known to more and more people!
Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Team Fist Bump looks forward to joining hands with your business in finding a cure for this awful disease! Please share this letter with any friends of yours that might want to become a member of our team as well!
With Kindest Regards,
Team Captain: Kathy’s Team Fist Bump
SPONSORSHIP FORM LINK
KATHY’S TEAM FIST BUMP FLIER