Figgie “Fig” Palmer (2003-2017)

You came into our lives in 2011, already  8 years old, and set in your ways.  We took you in, thinking it would only be for a little while until your owner was ready to take you back.  However, you immediately captured our hearts and filled an empty spot in our family that we didn’t even know was there.  We knew you had found a permanent place in our family.

You had a calm, almost regal manner about you.  In no time, you established that you were in charge. I loved how quickly you began keeping Georgia-Girl in line, and when Bubba joined our family in 2012, you never relinquished your top position, even though he outweighed you by 50 lbs!

You brought so much joy and love to us.  You loved all our kids, but had a special fondness for our youngest, Zachary.  You loved your stuffed animals almost as much as you loved us.

 

You watched over me while I was recovering from back surgery in 2012, sleeping on my side of the bed for three weeks.  You warned us before Tania’s second seizure, even though we didn’t understand what you were trying to tell us at the time.

You suffered through torturous bath times, celebrated numerous kids birthdays, tolerated Georgia and Bubba’s never ending quest for attention.

For the months after my cancer surgery and through my radiation treatments, you again took on the role as “mother hen” for me.  You slept next to me every night. You followed me around the house everywhere I went.  In the mornings, when I  would let you, GG & Bubba out to potty, you would hardly leave my side as I sat on the back porch waiting for you.

Even as your age began to take it’s toll on you, your constant watch over us never waned. You never complained, and you never stopped being loving towards us.  Thank you for being such a loving friend.  We all miss you terribly, but we are thankful that you are no longer in pain.

So…Um…Hey?!?!

Hey there everyone.  It’s been quite a while since we last talked.  A lot of “life” has happened since my last post.  Some good and some not-so-good, but for sure, there has been a lot of it!

After putting a few posts on FB over the past couple of months, I have gotten a fair amount of feed back from folks, saying that I need to blog more.  The thing is, I don’t feel like I have anything of value to offer right now.  Life is tough and at the moment, and I am just surviving (barely).

Over the last 4-5 months, I have unintentionally retreated into a dark corner of myself, reducing activities to the bare minimum…getting up every day, doing what has to be done, crashing into bed in the evening, watching a little TV then and going to sleep. Running, social media, blogging, date night, even church attendance has pretty much ceased.  It wasn’t a conscious decision.  It just happened.  I guess it’s kinda like debt, or weight management. It just kinda sneaks up on a person, without them realizing it.  Every day, becoming more and more overwhelmed with the physical pain and the problems of life, I have been giving up things I didn’t have the energy or time for, focusing on just “getting through the day”. Lately, the pain and despair has been as relentless as my desire for forward progress.

I know I have to turn the corner on this thing somehow, and I am resolved to do so. There are at least a few positive things that have begun over the past several weeks that will hopefully help me move in the right direction.  For one, I have changed anti-depressant meds and that has made a world of difference.  I am much more clear minded now and have the motivation to get up in the mornings.  Also, they have finally started weening me off the high doses of opioid pain medication that I have been on since my surgery 17 months ago.  One of the side effects of being on this type of pain med for so long is the body builds up a tolerance to it, and the pain can become intensified unless you increase the dosage.  I was at a point that I needed to either go up, or start getting off of it and learn to cope with the pain.  I chose the latter. That has been really tough, and I still have several months to go, but I already feel mentally clearer as I am coming off of it.

To be sure, I am still in a hard place.  There are many days where I still mourn the loss of things I used to take for granted: eating/drinking normally and pain free, sleeping soundly, singing loudly, boundless energy and motivation, even stupid things like whistling or drinking through a straw.  There are days, when I doubt I’ll ever regain even a portion of the active life I had before cancer.  Thankfully, there are also people around me that refuse to let me wallow in self pity and constantly remind me  how far I’ve come since March of last year.

Thanks again to all of you who have been there for me, encouraging me. I am so grateful for all of you.  I know the way out of this is through it, and hopefully my story will soon turn back to a positive direction to be an encouragement to others as well.

‘Till next time…

Relentless. Forward. Progress.

kp

Over Worked, Over Medicated and Over Confident

 So how’s your week been?  Mine has been a bit rough.  In fact, if I am honest, the last couple of months have been much more than “a bit rough”.  So here’s the deal.  It has been great getting all the encouraging feedback about my positive attitude and my progress getting back into running after cancer surgery and radiation treatments, but the truth of it is, my life is hard, and frankly, it’s overwhelming me at the moment.

So first, let me say, I am not writing this post looking for sympathy or to have a pity party…I’ve had more than enough of both already. I do want you to understand my frame of reference for the point of this post though, so I feel you need to understand to some degree the weight that I am under at the moment.

To start, my load at work is quite heavy at the moment. After working as a manufacturing and design engineer for 17 years I have moved into the role of Supply Chain Manager for the company I work for.  With no training or experience I have found myself responsible for all purchasing, production planning and customer service for the company. My friend and mentor, who was to train me to replace him when he retired, passed away just a few months after I took on the role and since then, I have been flying solo, learning as I go and being pushed into 60+ hour work weeks more often than not.

In addition to the trouble of teaching myself a new job, the pain meds I am currently taking affect my cognitive function, making even more difficult at times to do my job as Supply Chain Leader. I desperately want to get off my pain meds, but I can’t. Despite the fact that it has been 3 months since I completed my radiation treatments, my mouth, sinuses and jaw are still healing, I am still passing bone fragments out through the skin in what is left of the roof of my mouth, and eating is still often difficult. The 3-day pain patches I am on, are highly addictive, and because I metabolize or absorb the medicine slightly faster than normal, on the third day of every patch, I’ve been going through withdrawals. So despite my wishes to get off my pain meds, they have actually increased my dosage to offset the 3rd day withdrawals.

To top that off, about two months ago, we were give a 60 day notice to move out of our rental house.  My family and I now have only 7 days to find another rental home and move. So far, we have not found a home in our school district that allows dogs, can accommodate a family of six and is in our price range.

All of this, along with the normal stress of being a parent of four busy kids has been piling up on me for the past few months. A few weeks ago I began having frequent episodes of both depression and panic attacks. It finally became severe enough that I began seeing a counselor to find a way to cope with it all.  After a couple of sessions, I’ve have been diagnosed with Situational Depression/Anxiety Disorder.

Now don’t get me wrong, in spite of everything I’ve written above, there are many good things going on.   Our four kids are doing well in school.  They are doing great in Cross Country, Marching Band and Cub Scouts too. Tania is continuing to recover from her migraine surgery, and even though there have been complications, she has’t had any migraines in a while, and she’s been able to actually get out little. I am back to running consistently. I had a clean 3 month PET scan a couple of weeks ago.  Even though it’s stressful, I am back at work full time, and starting to make small progress on catching up on my backlog of work. The adjustments they made to my pain medication seems to be helping, and they have started me on a prescription for the SDAD.  All great things!

So what the heck is up with me? Well, I have come to realize that this is not about work or moving, or family or cancer, but about me coping with loss:  loosing a core part of my identity.

If you asked me to tell you who I am in 20 words or less, I would quote you the bio under my picture at the top of this page:

“Christ-follower, husband, father, laugher, ultra-runner, cancer survivor, cubmaster, engineer, singer/musician/writer, November beard grower, dork.”

In my mind though, a large part of my identity is in the fact that I am a “self-made man”.  My dad bailed on us when I was about 12.  Although, he was in and out of my life from then until he died of cancer about 8 years ago, we never had a “father-son” relationship. Although I had a great mom and grandfather that loved me and served as great role models, I was forced in a lot of ways to grow up on my own.  I taught myself to ride a bike, drive a stick shift, balance a check book, change my oil/brake pads, do my taxes, paint a house…the list goes on.  When I got married, the trend continued.  Buying that first house, retirement plans, being a father…just me and Google and lots of prayer.  As a result, over the years I have developed a fairly high opinion of my ability to adapt/learn, a confidence that I can do or learn to do anything. I truly believed that there are no challenges I couldn’t overcome.  Even when I didn’t have the answer, I’ve always been confident that I could/would find it.  That confidence has served me well in life, in my career and even as an ultra-marathoner.

Fast forward to present day:  That confidence has been shaken.  At my lowest point during radiation, I came to terms with reaching my physical limits.  I saw it was okay to receive help when you need it.  Even though I am used to being the one offering help, there is no shame in being on the receiving end of that at times. Eventually, that happens to everyone. This is something different. I have now reached the limit of my own self-confidence.  When I lay down at night, I cannot confidently tell myself that I’m going to figure how to make it all work. I don’t believe that I will be able to come up with a solution to all these problems.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, to admit I am not who I thought I was.  That I don’t have the answers.  That I can’t do it all myself.

But maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.  The fact that I now know there are limits to my “load carrying capacity” doesn’t negate anything I have accomplished.  This has been an incredibly humbling experience.  I am so grateful at how understanding and supportive my wife and kids have been through this.  In the end, I have to accept that I can’t fix everything by myself, I can’t solve every problem on my own…and now I know I don’t have to.  Instead of finding my identity only in what I’ve accomplished on my own, I’m finding it through my part in the family I am helping create, and faith in the God I serve.

We have had several  family conversations about our (and my) situation.  It has brought us closer together.  I still don’t have the answers yet.  I am not sure what we are going to do, but now I know together, me, my wife and kids will figure it out together!

‘Till next time…

Relentless. Forward. Progress.

kp

Hip Ablation, Fun at the Dentist & the Black Bean Co. 

Today was awesome! Well, not really. It kinda sucked, but in the end, there was some good.

To start out, I had to take my daughter to the Orthopedic doctor due to some hip pain she has been having. It started after an intense workout on the bridge with her Summerville XC team and has not gotten better with time. Turns out she has an ablation where her quads attach to the top of her hip bone. Prognosis is good, but she will have to rest it for a couple of weeks, which she was not happy about.

After dropping her back at school, I had to head back to Charleston to have my obturator realigned AGAIN after not being able to eat last night without filling my sinuses with couscous (yeah, it’s as gross as it sounds).

The good news is, the “new guy” in the office did a better job today than he did the first time on Wednesday.

The entire morning while at both doctor offices, my phone was blowing up concerning some issues at work that needed my attention. As soon as I was done with my appt I decided to test out my realigned dentures and get on WiFi to deal with some work issues. I used the new Zomato app to find the closest vegetarian friendly restaurant with WiFi and discovered a new gem: The Black Bean Co.

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The Green Beach Burrito (black bean burrito w/ mango salsa, roasted tomatoes & mixed greens) was great and thankfully I was able to eat it!  Also, I was able to log in and solve a couple of problems for work while I ate.

After all that, I still managed to get back to the plant and put in about four hours so I could enjoy a three day weekend!

Of course, I got home and foun that out i-net, phone & cable have been out all day and a service tech won’t be out until Tuesday. To be honest everyone in my family (including me) is tech-addicted, but although everyone was frustrated, they were all dealing with it and reading books!

So, now that dinner is done, I’m typing this post up on my iPhone and the I’m planning to read my new copy of UltraRunner Mag before bed to inspire me for tomorrow ‘s long run (8-10 miles).

Just another day in the life…’till next time!

Relentless. Forward. Progress.

kp

5 Months Later…

It’s been 5 month since my surgery, and I’ve made a lot of progress.  I’m not where I want to be yet, but I am much better off than I was after my surgery and after finishing radiation treatments.

I know it has been a while since my last post.  There’s been some pretty good and some pretty lousy things in the last 6 weeks, so here’s a recap:

Good Stuff:

  1. I’m back into running again!  Had my first 20+ mile week and started my 18 week training plan for the Ledesma Sports Medicine Rails to Trails 50K in January.
  2. I finally made it back to working full time at the plant.  Even though I get a bit tired by the afternoon, it feels good to put in a full day at the plant, and get home before diner.
  3. Kids are back in school! I have two seniors this year…Lord, have mercy!
  4. Made the transition to eating mostly vegan.  I am eating pretty much 100% vegetarian and about 90% vegan.  Still give in for eggs and cheese on rare occasions.  I am actually loving it!  I feel great, recovery is faster, and much less GI issues from my medications, not to mention all the new dishes I have discovered.  My favorite so far is my own version of Beans & Greens.
  5. Had an AWESOME day out paddle boarding on Shem Creek with my whole family, my brother-in-law, and his two kids a few weekends ago.  Too much fun!

Not-so-good Stuff:

  1. Still having lots of mouth pain…mostly in my right jaw.  Doctors say this is normal from the radiation treatments, and will get better over time, but may take several more months.
  2. Also having to do stretches 3-4 times every day to maintain my range of motion in my jaw.   At the moment, I can only open my mouth wide enough to fit a small cherry tomato in.  Anything larger than that, I have to cut.  It makes eating a challenge and has slowed my eating tremendously (which is probably a good thing).  This too should improve over time, but may take 6 months or more.
  3. And then, I’ve had a couple of these bad boys work their way out of my mouth…bone fragments from the surgery.  They are small, but I swear they were a foot wide while they were coming out!
  4. About two weeks ago, I tried to start coming off my pain medication.  I have been on a 100mcg/hr Fentanyl patch since my surgery.  I change it every 3 days, but it runs out around 12 hours before then, and I feel pretty lousy until the next morning.  I thought that I was doing well enough to start coming off of it, and my doctor agreed to give me 75 mcg patches.  It was a bit of a disaster…felt like absolute crap for about 5 days before I gave up and decided now was not the time.
  5. Also, we were also notified that we have to move.  Our landlord has given us notice that we have to be out by the end of September.  The house we are renting is not ideal for us.  It is a bit small, and old, and the yard is not fenced in, but with all we have going on, now is not the best time to be moving.  Oh well, at least he agreed to give us to the end of October!

All in all, its been good.  There have definitely been some tough times, but we have made it through them and I am getting stronger every day.  Thanks again to everyone for your continued prayers and support.  Until next time!

Relentless. Forward. Progress.

kp

Great Day

So, today was a pretty great day. To start, I finally got to meet and run with a great guy, local ultra runner and   my “virtual” friend, Masumi Herota. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the conversation and the company as I ran the bridge for the first time since this whole “cancer thing” started. 

Masumi and I had met in passing at a few races in the past, but had only spoken through FB before today. I’m talking about this because Masumi is doing something that means a lot to me. He has organized a 72 hour run to raise money for the American Cancer Society. 

Here’s the website:

Masumi’s American Cancer Society 72 Hour Park Circle Run

and the Facebook page:

ACS 72 Hour Park Circle Run Facebook Page

It is amazing and generous what he is doing. Please donate to and/or support this event!

The rest of the day was great as well. I got to spend some more quality time with my wife. I took today off from work to celebrate our 20th anniversary (which was Wednesday). We did a little walking and shopping downtown Charleston and then got some dinner and watched a movie. 

All in all, a pretty great day!

Until next time!

Relentless. Forward. Progress.

kp

Random Update….Update

So, most of you who know me, know that I am an eternal optimist. I always try to offer hope and encouragement to people no matter the circumstances. This is true about most of the things I put on social media, and even in my conversations with people in the “real world”.

Having said that, I promised when I started documenting this journey that I would give you the good, the bad and the ugly…so when my wife read my last post, she called B.S. on me.

First off, let me say, I love that about my wife. She is just awesome that way. Secondly, let me clarify…I did give you the truth, but not the whole truth. I gave the Facebook, positive slant, “here’s the face I put on for strangers” version.  So, in the spirit of full disclosure, here’s the real deal;

I’m still on a pain patch that gives me constant narcotic pain medicine. I change it out every three days, but it wears off in about 2 1/2 days, so the last twelve hours before I change, I am pretty miserable. I am dreading when the doctor tells me there are no more refills.

Even with the patch, I still have a good bit of mouth pain, especially when I eat or when I talk a lot. The side of my mouth where my gum used to be attached, is still very tender. That also is where my dental prosthetic seats, so there is constant pressure and rubbing, especially when I talk or chew. It truly sucks.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m going to beat this, and I know I’m getting better every day, but it is a painfully slow process. I do really hope to be run/walk/running in a couple of weeks, but the reality is it will probably still be mostly walking. It will come in time, but probably will take more time than I want.

So, if you are reading this and are fighting your own health struggle know this, you can persevere. You can make it. It will be harder than you think, and it may take longer than you think. Hang in there, you’ve made it this far. You can do it!

Relentless. Forward. Progress.

kp