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Best news ever!!!

I went for my annual throat checkup at my throat surgeon's clinic.

It was as painful, uncomfortable and torturous as usual. Nothing more, nothing less. The cameras up the nose and down the throat, the hold my tongue while you shove a couple of fingers down the sides of my throat and chastise me when I gag and almost vomit, the same old routine I've been through so many times over the past years. You can read up on my previous visits in the archives here.

But I was not prepared for the end of our visit. As I set at his desk he looked over my previous results, my PET scans, my evolution, ... Finally he looked at me and said that after 6 years of monitoring, and as the past 3 years have been stable, he considers me cured. He considers that I no longer need the regular exams and scans. He dictated a letter to my generalist and my original radiation therapist with an explanation and stating that I no longer need scheduled exams. We all agree that I should be extra careful and monitor my throat area myself. If anything unusual appears (loss of voice, voice change, long-lasting sore throat, any lumps anywhere, ...) I should call my specialist who will book me in for an urgent verification.

No more invasive throat exams? No more unbearably suspense-enducing PET scans? I can deal with that.

It appears as though my throat condition will no longer evolve. The state it is in now is the state it will continue to be in for a very long time. I've learned to live with the eternal dry mouth, thick mucus, sensitive internal throat walls, stiff side of the neck around the surgical scar area and even the loss of balance. I will continue to do so with the knowledge that, although it will most likely not get any better, it's not going to get any worse any time soon.

No more cancer? No more exams?

Best news... Ever!!!


Steve Jobs dies of cancer at the age of 56

It's rare that a subject truly logically spans both of my blogs (Cancer Geek, about cancer, and Derek Erb about me and tech and jazz and wine and everything else that turns me on). But this is one of those rare topics.

I wasn't going to write anything. But a post by Robert Llewellyn over on Google + pushed me to express myself...

Although I'm a bit younger I know that 56 is way too young. There's not enough I can say about how much cancer sucks. I was diagnosed with throat cancer 6 years ago, at 42, and went through all of the treatment which is why I'm still here and writing this now.

Jobs was an idol of mine. The Da Vinci of the tech world: both an artist and a scientist. Able to see technology as something beautiful and look at it differently. Able to envision tech in the future in such a way that it was a pleasure and not just something amazingly practical. Plus, let's admit it, that man had 2 of the biggest balls in the tech world. He knew what he wanted and he did what it took to make it happen. Knowing better than your clients what they will want is not fascism. It's a megalomaniacal understanding that you actually know and understand some things that they don't. If car designers built cars as they thought they should be instead of how they think we want them to be and how the petrol companies ask them to be we would all be flying around (literally) in electric cars which pilot themselves. Just an example.

Steve Jobs may not have been the inventor of everything he brought to us. But he knew how to improve upon just about anything and take something which we often found little interest in and make it beautiful and wonderful. Hell, he could even take 3 quotes from 3 other people and create 1 simplified and powerful quote so beautiful that we forget the other 3 "originals". In the tech world he made it so we no longer remember the Walkman, the original Windows Mobile smart phones which were around for years and the Windows tablets which were around for a decade. He wasn't the first with any of those. He simply made them so much better that we actually wanted them. He knew what we would want because he knew what he would want and what would make him happy. Steve was one of the few remaining tech CEOs who literally giggled with pleasure over technological advances, products and achievements. He loved this stuff and we, who love the same stuff, loved him.

In the end though Steve Jobs was a man. An amazing man. Who really lived. He leaves behind a wife and children. The world lost, yet another, valuable man.



Six years later ... Still Cancer Free!

Six years ago, today, I got the worst phone call in my life. Bad news. That lump we removed? Cancer.


My life changed from that moment on. I became a cancer victim. I also immediately became a cancer fighter. I then fought through my own personal war with battles which seemed worse than hell itself. But, to be honest looking back at them now, they were actually quite relatively easy in comparison to so many battles I have heard about since. Eventually I became a cancer survivor.

Last year I hit that extremely important 5-year milestone. I had watched my survival odds evolve over the years: 20% that first year, 40% the next, 60% the next, 80% the next and finally... we all agreed: I have survived. I hated those odds. As a tech geek I was obsessed with the numbers and the overload of information I could get... everywhere. 

Now it's 6 years and I am still cancer free. I still have a few handicaps which will most likely stay with me forever:

  • the rather obvious scars (neck & chest),
  • the constantly dry throat and constant need for water, 
  • the inability to eat dry foods (bread, pasta, rice, ...) without some form of sauce, 
  • the inability to smoke anything, 
  • the inability to drink undiluted spirits, 
  • the Kryptonite-like aversion to certain chemicals, which make me choke with coughing spasms, such as nail varnish (polish) remover
  • acutely weakened eye-sight (tri-focals from now on)
  • and lately the apparent, and extremely frustrating, effects of Chemo Brain

I've learned to live quite well and quite happily with those little handicaps. I often forget that I have them and try to do something normal like bite in to the end of a baguette while walking without water... I then run to find a drink of something, anything, somewhere... quickly.

I have learned to deal with these little handicaps quite well as I certainly prefer them to the alternative: dead cancer victim.

Six years now and I celebrate often. This is just another year, of what I hope will be many, without cancer.




I Had Cancer

I just found this on the Internet. A social network specifically for cancer survivors. It's aptly called I Had Cancer.

As a proud cancer survivor I joined and set up my page. I haven't filled that much in yet. But I'm sort of exploring it for the moment...

I'll add more info here as I use the service.

Their site : http://www.ihadcancer.com

My page : http://www.ihadcancer.com/derekerb/

They're also on Twitter (@IHadCancer) and they have created a Facebook page as well as a You Tube page.



The Blog Split

It's taken me a long time to come to this decision. I spent a pretty good portion of my day today splitting this blog in to two different blogs. This blog will now be dedicated only to my experiences with cancer while the new blog will include everything else I want to talk about.

Unfortunately SquareSpace does not make this easy. After discussion with their Tech Support the only valid option I could come up with which would allow me to keep everything (pictures, comments, ...) was to start from scratch.  I re-imported my old blog from Blogger in to my new personal blog. Luckily I have 3 screens on my desktop. I loaded my cancer blog on one screen and my new personal blog on another screen. I went through each and every entry from the current back to the beginning of this blog. If I wanted to keep it only on the cancer blog I would delete it from the personal blog or vice-versa. If I wanted to keep it on both, as there were some entries which were both generic and included information which might be of interest to those following my cancer-related experiences, then I left it. After deleting an entry SquareSpace would go back to the first page of the blog so I would have to use the Archives section to go back to where I was.

I now, finally, have two different blogs for different purposes:

Cancer Geek
My blog for my experience with cancer and it starts from my finding my first lump, not knowing what it was, and continues through diagnosis, surgery, treatments and followups and will continue.

Derek Erb
My blog for everything else. This is where I can add just about anything I want to ramble about which does not fit on a tweet in Twitter and which I want to share with more than just my friends on Facebook. It can be simple diary entries as to what I've done or what's happened at a given moment or my thoughts on products, technologies, services and systems of interest... to me. Although it starts from when I first started blogging, January 2005, you will notice a big hole from September 2005 through December 2005. All of my entries for that period are on the Cancer Geek blog.

I am hoping that these two separate blogs will make it easier for readers who are only interested in one or the other aspect of my life and ideas.

This will also be part of a new web presence I am currently working on which will allow me to create a home for all of my various activities throughout the Internet...

I apologise for the relatively quick, and certainly unfinished, page layout of both blogs. I will be playing around with that in the future. But I wanted to get the content out there, and the separation in place, to allow me to move forward in the other aspects of this project.