Ken's Cancer Survival Blog

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Ken
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Ken's Cancer Survival Blog

Postby Ken » Thu Feb 01, 2007 1:07 am

This site is for you and your success in the law school application process and law school thereafter. Thus, please forgive that this blog is totally unrelated to that purpose. However, because I feel very close to the readers of this site and I think it will benefit my healing to write about overcoming cancer, this blog is dedicated to me beating the cancer I was just diagnosed with. Because I handle tragedy in a unique way (viewing it as a springboard to evolution, an essential part of life's rich pageant), I hope you will find inspiration in my recovery. I know I find inspiration in the thought that others may grow from what I need to overcome and learn from.


Life can change instantly. We all know this, but few fail to truly heed the lesson. The key is to live a life so great, that one does not fear death. Do not get caught in routines. Instead, try to live so that every interaction with another, every moment alone, has the potential for greatness. I know this because I have already been forced overcome two tragedies in my life (a near fatal accident of being hit by a speeding car while walking on the sidewalk and the loss of my sister). As I blog about below, I am again faced with a severe challenge that will require all of my mental and physical abilities to overcome, but I know I am up to this task. While I have quickly gained a strong mindset for surviving this cancer, overcoming these other two tragedies has armed me against facing tragedy and the right mindset that is required.

My goal is to not only beat the cancer, but to make my surviving cancer a net gain, that is whatever I lose in this battle I will more than make up in greater wisdom and happiness for myself and as importantly, for others in conveying whatever future lessons I will learn.

This saga started three months ago when I began to feel some pain in my lower back. This seemed innocuous enough, for as a father of two young children I am constantly bending over and picking up my daughters. Also, being tall and now 34 years-old seemed to make me more susceptible to this common ailment. Still, I decided to tackle it head on and quickly went to physical therapy and began a regimen of exercises.

As the months went by, the pain did not get much worse but at least the exercises seemed to prevent the pain from getting worse. However, last week for no apparent reason, there was a huge increase in my pain, where pain in my back shot through my body with a rhythmic intensity that made it impossible to focus on anything but the chronic pain.

Also, last week I had three buttons pop off my pants as my stomach was expanding. I must really be adding weight, another reason I decided to take action and see a doctor.

On last Monday I saw the doctor who took X-rays of my back. He said that while my back was very tight to the touch, the X-rays showed it to be in good shape and that my back problem was likely minor. However, to play it safe a MRI was scheduled for the next day. I went home a happy man that night, thankful that my problem seemed quickly and easily curable.

On Tuesday morning, I was the first to arrive at the MRI center at 8:00 am. After being in the center of the MRI machine as loud bangs went off all around me (it sounded like a terrible orchestra), I left the center and was told that my doctor would get my file later that day but would likely call me in a few days.

When just two hours later my doctor called, I became a bit concerned. “Ken, we do not believe you have any problems with your back. Instead, it appears that your kidney is enlarged and this inflammation is causing your back pain.” Thinking of my uncle who had kidney stones, I said, “Do you think this could be caused by kidney stones?” “Perhaps,” he replied, “however, there are several other worse alternatives that we need to explore as well. Please drop everything you are doing and do some blood work at noon and take a CAT scan at 3:00 pm and we have an appointment with an internal medicine doctor at 5:00 pm.”

With the blood draining from my face, I called several clients and cancelled appointments for that day and did Internet research on kidney stones right after my blood test. While painful, kidney seemed a battle that could easily be won.

At 3:00 pm, I entered the Radiology lab ready to learn what my fate held. I was laid down in the middle of a large machine that went back and forth over my body, with radiation coursing through my body, thereby allowing the doctors to see the internal workings (and dysfunctions) of my body. Still in good spirits, I bantered back and forth with the technician and appreciated her joking on how much of my body was exposed with the short tie-ins not made for tall people.

I had an hour before my next doctor’s appointment, so I asked if the radiologist could give me the diagnosis now while I was waiting. After a few anxious minutes in the waiting room, a young looking doctor with blond hair opened the door, smiled and said, “Hi, please come back with me.”

Walking into her office we both sat down and when she turned to me her smile left and a seriousness covered her face and chilled my body. “I do not know how to say this to you. We are both the same age and you should not have this, but unfortunately the CAT scan uncovered a very large tumor that is growing in your pelvis region.” She then showed me this mass that was the size of a softball.

Both amazed and scared, I held back tears as I uttered, “Is this cancer?”

She replied, “It is too early to tell, but that is the most likely outcome.” At this tears started coming down my eyes, and she squeezed my hand. “I’m sorry, I must be being too blunt.”

“No, please tell me everything.”

From there she showed me many diagrams showing the tumor and its pushing against my kidney, causing the inflammation, and pelvis bone. The greatest news I received is that the tumor had not spread to other parts of my body. While I was devastated, I still recognized that this was excellent news. I tried to hold it together as I learned more about the size and severity of my tumor.

Not accepting the doctor’s offer to drive me to my next appointment, I took her farewell hug with solace for I desperately needed comfort. Through bleary eyes, I saw the technician and receptionist that I had been joking with earlier look at me sadly, clearly knowing the diagnosis as well.

Once outside of the office, I entered an empty bathroom in the hallway and began openly crying. What about my eighteen-month old daughter who always clung to me and wanted Daddy? If I died she would never have enough memories to know who I was. I thought of my lively three-year old daughter, perhaps she had enough time with me to remember me if I did not survive. And my poor wife, pregnant with our third child, how could she raise three children on her own? As the tears cascaded down no answers came forward.

Looking into the mirror, the tears stopped as my solution materialized. I had already been through two life-altering tragedies and had overcome them through learning lessons from these horrific events. Although painful to experience, these events are what fast-forwarded my development. By focusing upon evolution and long-term growth that I learned from these tragedies, I was able to better able to accept these events with the resulting wisdom being my solace. Through surviving this cancer, I would become a wiser person, more compassionate father, and better friend. In the future, I would have more to offer others and myself by beating this cancer. I used the two tragedies in my past as springboards to evolution and while I wish I never had this cancer, I realized I too would grow from it as well.

I also knew that I had to be strong for my family. As a father of soon to be three children and the sole wage earner, the security of my family rested solely in my attitude and how successful and quickly I could overcome this disease.

By focusing on a better future, it allowed to handle the severe sorrow I felt right then. With this realization I hugged myself and said to the mirror, “Ken, you are too strong for this cancer to beat you.” While the cancer inside my body was incontrollable, I tinge of self-confidence returned as I could control my reaction to this cancer.

I looked at my watch and it was 4:45! In only 45 minutes my life perspective had been changed. But thankfully, in the last few minutes I felt that I controlled my life again and would both defeat and learn from a life event that no one would ever have predicted. No longer crying and breathing normally, I got in to my car and headed to Stanford hospital for my next appointment.

At my appointment, the doctor was also surprised that I would have such a large tumor at 34, while in great health, a non-smoker, and with no history of cancer. Further evaluation and blood tests showed that it was likely a sarcoma, a very aggressive cancer of the muscles, or lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system. Future tests for tomorrow are scheduled where I will have a portion of the tumor removed and a biopsy will tell me what I am up against.

I told Megan, my wife, the news of the cancer. We promised each other to be strong for ourselves, but more importantly for the girls. I am already joking with my daughter that Daddy will look cute with a shaved head and that she will help Daddy with the first hair cut. While this is something I never expected, I am doing better than even I would have thought. Still a bit surreal, I do have moments of doubt and fear, but generally of confidence and love of self.

I am ready for this battle and whatever results may come. I have philosophically prepared myself for this battle by the life I have lived. By making evolution the focal point of my life, I can accept tragedies instead of wasting time by fruitlessly asking “Why me?” The reality is that I do have cancer at the age of 34. While this is bad luck, I have the power to make it a good outcome as I have before in the past.

One small positive of my having cancer, I do not have the chronic back pain I thought I had (bad attempt at humor).

I will blog more as I learn more from upcoming test results. Thanks for your interest in the journey that cancer recovery will take me on. I can handle pain if I know that in the end I will learn from it and what immortalizes those lessons is for others to then learn as well. Knowing that I am not in this alone but have the support of my family, friends and TLS readers is comforting.

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Good news from the Doctor

Postby Ken » Fri Feb 02, 2007 12:15 am

Dear TLS Readers,

I cannot thank you enough for your well wishes in my other thread. It is really encouraging and keeping my spirits and energy up.

Few would greet the confirmation that they have cancer with happiness, but I did today. For as I mentioned earlier, there was a slight chance that the tumor was benign, but it was pretty much either lymphatic cancer, which is a cancer of the lymph nodes and quite treatable, or sarcoma, which is more like a cancer of the muscles and is very hard to treat.

At my appointment today the doctor said, "We received the biopsy results back and you have lymphatic cancer."

"Thank you!" I blurted out, surprising my doctor. Overall, I saw this as great news for I had few false hopes of the tumor being benign.

Other great news is that the tumor is alone and has not spread. This makes the likelihood of a successful treatment much more likely. I really am feeling great right now for I feel it could have been much worse.

On a painful note, the doctor sawed off a small piece of bone from which they will do another biopsy to determine if the cancer has invaded the bone. If it has not, things look good and I can start chemotherapy next week.

During periods of tragedy people often read inspirational books, such as philosophy or the bible. However, I actually have gained the most from rereading my memoirs (not yet completed) where I discuss the recovery from being hit by a speeding car while I was walking on the sidewalk (the driver was on severe drugs at the time). The passage I wrote below holds true today as it did then and is shows that the greatest way to not fear death is to love life:

Should I have died from the accident, I would have wanted my funeral to be a celebration of my life, rather than a tearful mourning of my loss. Although neither afraid nor overly concerned with dying, I have always accepted the possibility of an early death and have lived my life accordingly. While continually preparing for a better future, I consistently sought happiness and fulfillment in the present moment. I danced with glee and abandon as I paid homage to my sacred self. I drank knowledge from the fountainheads of Frederick Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, Stendhal, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In sum, I sought to discover myself and thereby actualize my potential.

There should be no sadness from the end of a life well lived, only a rejoicing party commemorating its accomplishments. One should not fear death, but instead fear the living of a mediocre life filled with missed opportunities and consequent regrets. It is those who live the greatest lives that fear death the least.

Thank you again for your support! I am feeling great and ready to tackle this cancer, with greater wisdom and happiness at the end of my tunnel.

Cheers,

Ken

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Ken
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More good news

Postby Ken » Sat Feb 03, 2007 12:00 am

Dear TLS readers,

Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers. I have more good news to pass along, the results from the bone marrow biopsy came back and no cancer was found in the bone. Thus, even though the one tumor is the size of a softball, that is the only cancer that has been found. I do not know if one can be called "fortunate" when you have cancer, but I feel that with those who get cancer I have been fortunate.


I have a funny story to relate. Because I am slated for chemotherapy either next week or soon thereafter, the doctor recommended that I consider going to a sperm bank. While our third child is due in April, my wife and I thought we should keep our options for a 4th child open so this morning I went to the sperm bank.

I was dressed quite formally. Immediately, I asked the receptionist my joke:

Why did the man dress in a tuxedo to his vasectomy?

Because if you gonna be impotent, you might as well look impotant (said as a mix between important and impotent).

She got quite a laugh, especially when I told her the chemo could give me an involuntary vasectomy, thus here I am.

After taking my profile and paying the bill ($2200 for 10 years of storage, a bit pricey for a high-tech freezer but what can you do), I was led to a room with a couch, playboys, and a TV with several videos on it. I was impressed that they had entered the 21st century with the television, I was just expecting a few magazines. She said, "The room is locked and there is no rush, just find whatever suits your fancy and then bring the sample out when you are done." With a smile she said, "Enjoy yourself" and walked away.

I will spare you the details, but in due time I emerged successfully.

I always considered those ads you saw in college where you could get $50 by donating your sperm. Now I saw the inner workings and had my curiosity satisfied. Something I did not thing I would end up participating in, and certainly never anticipated that cancer would get me there.

I enter this weekend in great spirits ready for my chemotherapy next week. I will take a few days off to give my update some meaning, but so far so great!

Cheers,

Ken

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Doing Well - Bald & Sexy

Postby Ken » Thu Mar 08, 2007 4:21 pm

Sorry to have not posted for some time, but my update is all positive.

My tumor continues to shrink and also the pain I was experiencing from the tumor has greatly declined as well. I am happy to report that the things I loved to do before - dance party nights with my daughters and taking long walks, I have been able to resume again.

Other positive news is that I just went through my second round of chemotherapy and did not feel much pain. After the first round I felt sick and weak for days afterwards. Conversely, I was nearly normal after this round as my body may be getting more use to it. Only 4 more rounds to go!

I had high school friends fly in from Florida to see me over the weekend and catch up. Losing my hair from the chemo therapy (I went from a full head of hair to looking a bit patchy in a few days), I decided to shave my head. We had a blast, and first did a mohawk and I am flexing my muscles and posing as a tough guy. I then did a little patch on the top of my head. Just a great time and I am happy to report that the shiny head actually looks quite good, with the concensus being that I have a well shaped head. Some of the ladies even say I look better like this, but that may just be cancer kindness. I will definitely try to post some photos soon once I get them from my friend for they are hilarious.

When I see clients, I just tell them that I am a big Britney Spears fan and shaved my head to be just like her. They usually laugh and just let it go at that .

My only real regret is that while successfully battling the cancer, I have not had as much time to update and work on the site. I appreciate everyone continuing to post and am amazed at how quickly our article count is growing. Please stick around as I will be adding more content in months to come.

Cheers,

Ken

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Free, Free at last!

Postby Ken » Thu Oct 04, 2007 11:59 pm

Today has been a liberating day. I just heard from my doctor that my scan showed what I hoped to be the case, that I had fully beaten the cancer and that it was gone from my body. While the radiation was done in early August, they could not do the scan until now because they had to leave time for the radiation to leave my body. The scan measures abnormalities and radiation makes one totally abnormal, hence the reason for the 2 month delay.

It has been a stress filled 2 months for they have included two instances of my fearing that the cancer had come back. The first one was a blood reading where there is an indicator for cancer that can be measured and a reading above a 240 means that cancer is likely. When I came in for diagnosis, when my tumor was the size of a softball, my measurement was a 270. After the chemo had beaten the tumor my measurement dropped down to a 155. But I recently had a test come back at 237, right on the cusp of indicating that I had cancer. My doctors expressed concern but told me not to worry about the measurement. Easier said then done, although I tried to be optimistic.

My worries were compounded when they were feeling my body for lumps, a common way of testing for lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes, which is what I had). Because a lymph node growing abnormally large is a sign of having lymphoma, the doctors became concerned over a large bump I had on my collar bone that they did not find before. I had a bump on my other collar bone, but this one was much larger and could be a new tumor. With no way to determine if I had cancer or not I had to wait for the 2 months to get back my test results.

I went through my finances with my father, determining how long my wife and children could afford to live in Palo Alto without my earnings (I did not have life insurance, feeling it was better to self-insure since I was healthy). We determined that with my reserves and my father's retirement savings we could keep our children in our Palo Alto home and schools for another 10 years. It is an eerie feeling to plot your family's financial future with my being absent from the equation.

Thus, amongst all of this uncertainty I am relieved to have this test show that I have truly beaten the cancer and that the concerns that arose were nothing to be concerned about. According to my doctors, there is an 80% chance that I will never have to deal with this kind of cancer again.

Even with all of this uncertainty, I worked hard to be happy during these two months. There simply was no rational decision but to be happy. For I hoped that with my strong spirit and immune system I was likely going to be fine. And in the unlikely event that the cancer would win, I was going to enjoy and leave a positive legacy in my remaining time with friends and family. Why bemoan the possibility of death, instead I focused upon my living every day to the fullest, waking up happy and thankful and not letting work stress bother me.

While I have always focused on preparing myself for the inevitability of death, I admit that I am very happy to be alive and have many years in front of me. Holding my young children, there is such a relief knowing that I will be able to watch and help them grow up.

Of course, having such a near death experience makes me more spiritual. I am now rereading my writings on the Church of Ken, the Ken Commandments, and worship myself even more than before. I am further liberated from the few ties holding me back from before.

Tomorrow I shall go to work in a crazy, clown like outfit. I will spread the joy and freedom from constraint that I am now feeling.

Having overcome 3 tragedies in 20 years, I am amazed at my resilence. Generally evolution is done on a generational basis, but through my tragedies and the lessons I have learned from them I feel that I am wiser, stronger and dare I say sexier than I would have been without learning from and growing from these tragedies.

Whether I have conquered enough suffering for a lifetime or if I am due for another major tragedy on my tragedy a decade pace, I feel ready and prepared to do battle. Most of all, I feel worthy of the title of philosopher for through weathering the storms I have faced so triumphantly I know that my personal philosophies have merit on how to live a life worth living (ironically by living such a great life, one is no longer afraid of death, but of course surving is perferred).

Onward and upward,

Kenneth Jack DeLeon the I

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Ken
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Thank Science!

Postby Ken » Mon Dec 31, 2007 2:28 am

The cancer has been fully beaten! With my strong test results and where I stand, my oncologists stated that there is a 90% chance that I will never have to face lymphoma again.

THANK SCIENCE!!

When telling my friends and acquaintances of my beating cancer I frequently heard "Thank God!" in response. This was more from those who do not know me well and my atheistic leanings. But whenever anyone bellowed "Thank God!" I always responded, "Thank Science!"

Whether God exists or not is a matter of one's opinion. However, a clear fact is that the cancer would have been fatal without the thousands of hours of scientific research on cancer that have been done to take what was before a death sentence and instead provide hope for millions. Scientific evolution is providing mankind with the tools that those 2000 years ago would assuredly deem to be miracles of God. The reality is that science is our means to achieve the potential of mankind.

While I realize that those who were praying for my recovery and proclaimed "Thank God!" only met well, their efforts would have been better spent promoting scientific research and eliminating the barriers to stem cell research that have been raised on religious grounds (I was tempted to say religious reasons but that seems an oxymoron at times).

Thank Science and all of my doctors that I am healed. Amen!

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Ken
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Re: Ken's Cancer Survival Blog

Postby Ken » Thu Jan 31, 2008 2:02 am

Great photos of me at the links below make this entry worth reading.

Hair Shaving Party

To battle my cancer I went through several rounds of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy attacks all quickly multiplying cells, which cancer cells are since they are mutating at a rapid rate. However, the chemotherapy cannot distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous cells that are quickly multiplying. Thus, other quickly multiplying cells, such as one's cells that grow hair, are also attacked during chemotherapy which is why cancer patients are often bald.

Most people would be depressed by this turn of events, for not only is there the possibility that the cancer will be fatal, but it is also making one's hair fall out. But the same confidence and optimism with which I tackled my cancer I displayed while losing my hair.

I called up all of my friends and said that I was throwing a head shaving party. While drinking, everyone had to partake in shaving my head. I then asked my friends to vote for a hairstyle and of course the Mohawk won.

Here are some photos from the "party":

Image


Image


I work the mohawk for a few days to work (when you have cancer you can get away with more) and was finally getting the respect I deserved from clients. After that I shaved my head and have to say I liked that look as well for I found that I have a good looking melon. 8) My wife joked that she had a whole new man to love. Additionally, I have cured my fear of baldness for I saw how I would look if I lose my hair and was totally cool with it.

While my hair is now back, I keep it very short for I like that look better (a new avatar will be posted soon). I now have a whole new "look" thanks to cancer. People never mention the positives when they talk about cancer :shock:

The choice I made to be confident and happy throughout my battle with cancer was one of the main reasons was able to overcome it so quickly (from a tumor the size of a softball to cancer free in 8 months).

And for any spammers out there, avoid messing with TLS for I pity the fool who messes with TLS!

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Ken
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Re: Ken's Cancer Survival Blog

Postby Ken » Sun Mar 23, 2008 1:23 am

A Test in Life Philosophy

I recently faced a test on the strength of my philosophies. The test was whether one can avoid worrying about upcoming news that could result in living or dying. On Thursday I had a PET scan which would determine whether the cancer had been fully eradicated from my body and had not come back or if instead it had come out of remission. This was the first test since I was deemed cancer free 4 months ago and this period right after remission is when it is most likely to come back. If it comes back a second time, it is often not treatable. Thus, whether or not I was cancer free could literally be a life or death outcome.

But should one worry about something that one has no control over? I decided no, for while it would be easy and natural to fret every moment until the results came back, I decided that since worrying would have no impact on the result, to not focus upon the outcome until I heard back from Stanford Cancer Center. Thus, I stoically waited to hear back and did not dwell upon my upcoming results.

This is not to say that I did not jump when I heard the phone ring tonight and saw that it was Stanford on the caller ID. With great joy and relief, I just found out that I am still cancer free and now at this point it appears 95% certain that I will not have to battle lymphoma again.

Cheers to everyone (as I have a glass of champagne in my hand) as we should enjoy every moment. With this burden relieved, I look for TLS to really take off in the next year.

To life and living,

Ken

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Ken
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Re: Ken's Cancer Survival Blog

Postby Ken » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:08 am

I always wondered what it must be like when one first learns of death and has their first fear of mortality. Sadly, I witnessed this with my daugther as a result of my cancer. When the doctor was discussing the three types of cancers he felt the tumor could be, he stated that I could have either lymphoma, testicular cancer, or sarcoma, which is pretty much a death sentence.

While talking with my wife about my potentially types of cancers and the not very good prognosis if I was determined to have sarcoma, I told Megan that I may not make it to 35 if I have sarcoma. My older daughter Graham was in the background playing with her dolls and I did not think she was listening to me.

That night she started crying and hugged me and said "Daddy, I do not want to turn 4. I want to stay 3 forever and be with you." We talked further and I found that she associated birthdays with possibly dying and was scared. As I held her and told her she would have a great birthday and love being older, I was saddend by this loss of innocence I indirectly caused.

Now cancer free and completing my memoirs I am thankful every day I get to hug my daughter.




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