Monday, November 22, 2010

"Don't Worry .............Be Happy!"

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Last year at this time I was in the middle of radiation treatments with chemo. The daily treatments had destroyed all of my taste buds. I couldn't taste the difference between turkey or cranberry sauce? It all tasted like cardboard. My taste is back about 75% now, so I'm looking forward to flavors of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a happy time which reminded me of a song that my son, John Michael, would sing and whistle when he was 4 or 5 years old. That was somewhere around 20 years ago but I can hear him singing it like it was yesterday. Some of you may remember the song. It was a Jamaican kind of island tune with the main words being "Don't happy".

Little J.M. would walk around just singing this little tune day and night, and he was, so happy! Thinking about it now, I kind of understand the connection of being happy by not worrying. (Now I can't get that song out of my head! It drives me nuts when this happens, well at least it's not a fast food chain jingle...those are the worst!)

Back to "Worry". When I found out that I have Squamous Carcinoma Cell Cancer of the Head and Neck, and then learned what it is, I was faced with some choices. I could very easily worry about my health, our financial demise, the effect on Lisa, the kids and grand kids, OR, I could choose not to worry, and yes, be happy, which I knew was the desire and for the betterment of all concerned.

Easier said than done. So how did I do this almost magical feat? If you have a few minutes, I'll be glad to share:

The first thing I found was "Worry" is something that we put on ourselves. I see this a lot with the young adults. Work, school, internships, clubs, booze (whoops, that was my college days!) but you get what I'm saying? How do you take on so much and then not worry about getting it done? And then some of you are blessed with children to raise during this building stage of your lives! Wow, been isn't easy.

However, if we bring "worry"on ourselves, can't we just choose what, and when, to deal with things? You bet your day planner we can! I have mastered it. The first thing I do if I catch myself wanting to worry about something is ask myself: "Is there anything I can do about this right now with what I have to work with?" The answer is almost always "No". If the answer is "yes", then I need to get off my butt and do something...immediately! If I can't do anything about it at the time, or I don't have what I need to work with, I choose not to worry about it and make a plan on how to deal with it at a later date. Let's say that I need to ask the Dr.'s something that has really been bothering me and my appointment is on Thursday, however, it's only Sunday, then why should I worry and be in turmoil about it for days! I just sing the little tune: "Don't happy" and wait for Thursday to come around (which seems to be faster and faster all the time).

I know what your thinking: "He didn't bring the cancer on himself! I don't bring my problems on myself! They just come like a giant black cloud, hovering over me, depressing me, exhausting me, and driving me crazy! I think he is full of it!" Wait a minute, I said we bring the worry on ourselves not the problems. The problems come from all directions and sometimes the dreaded two or three at a time: family wellness, financial concerns, getting homework done, stray dogs using your yard as their personal restroom, or whatever evil unpleasantness we find bestowed upon us!

However, please consider what I've said about "choosing not to worry".

If you are worrying about paying the bills, is there anything you can do about it right then? I think it's better to commit to "I'm not going to worry about this right now because there is nothing I can do about it, at this time, with what I have to work with. I'm going to take some time tomorrow (or pick a date and time) to list all the possible ways I can solve this problem and then do something about it, but I AM NOT going to worry and lose sleep over it because: right this minute, there is nothing I can do about it!"

If you find yourself with a problem or concern, do something about it right then, if you can, or schedule a day and time to deal with it, both of these are productive. Please try to avoid "worry" as it is NOT productive and is very detrimental to you happiness. Remember, "Don't Happy" works hand in hand. If you don't worry, you'll be happy, and if your happy, you don't worry.

Christians are really in luck when it comes to eliminating "worry". Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:25-34 all we need to know about "worry". It is an important enough subject for Jesus to take the time to try to help us with His teachings. Sometimes I pray not for the solution to my problem, I just ask God to help me to continue not worrying about it. Then, I feel wonderful!

 The words of a song, being performed by a little boy for his Dad, years ago, sure has helped me. Children can see things through their innocents that we older (and in my case I do mean OLDER) adults lose along the way. My Brother, Mark, told me a story of how a young son of his pointed out to him: "Dad, you have spent your whole life worried about being poor". Amazing, as Mark is very successful and appears to have never missed a meal! (sorry about that Bro, I couldn't help myself). However, he does admit he use to "worry" about it, even though, he worked hard to avoid it!

What did the "worry" get him? It's not a motivation tool. What motivates us is the end result we want to obtain and I think that many times we forget that important fact. We also forget how to enjoy the pursuit of what we are trying to gain. Just because it may be work to obtain it doesn't mean that we have to hate the journey. Find a way to enjoy the efforts your are putting into your project, the old "whistle why your work" idea.

A word of caution, you may want to refrain from being over zealous. Many years ago I was working on a project for General Tire Corp. in Charlotte, NC. We were staying at the Holiday Inn and one morning, in my typical morning happiness (something many people don't have but my Mom says that I have always been happy in the morning) I closed my room door and met up in the hall with Bill Greaves, who was working with me. On the way towards the elevator, which was down the hall and around a corner, I broke out into a loud and happy version of: " Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, IT"S OFF TO WORK WE GO", which Bill, nursing a little hang-over, didn't appear to be enjoying. Despite his discomfort, I continued the song with the whistling and singing, very loud. As we approached the end of the hall, we made the turn to the elevator, continuing to sing my heart out, when what awaited me at the elevator was a total, and embarrassing surprise. It was two dwarfs in business suits, also starting their day. My "Hi-Ho" trickled off quickly and I could have crawled in a corner but there was no where to hide. So we said "Good morning!" to our vertically challenged fellow road-warriors, and yes, they looked at me like "you have got to be kidding me!" True story. The lesson learned was; even though you may be really happy, not everybody may embrace your methods of expressing your happiness.

 Here are two of my favorite quotes on "Worry":

"Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it."  ~Mark Twain

"Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere. " ~Glenn Turner

I hope that someone will find this useful. Please write a comment and let me know. Or email me at  It's always great to hear from you. Thanks for reading,

Loving life and fighting cancer,

John L.

Promote cancer awareness and early detection for yourself and those you love. It may save a life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Benifits of having cancer

After the surgeries, heavy duty chemo, then radiation and chemo together, I was, to say the least, a sorry sight. After 57 years of being so darn good looking, (well, at least Lisa says I am), with a great head of hair, something all 3 of my brothers hate me for, and possessing rock-solid good health....up to that point, then boom!

Now I was BALD, feeding tube hanging out of my 6 pack abs (OK my abs were a 6 pack of Burger King Whoppers), with a half dollar sized chemo port bulging from my chest, and a tracheotomy  tube protruding from my neck looking like an overflow pipe at Lake Ann. I looked like hell, Hank said I "looked like Uncle Fester from the Adams Family". He was right. All I need was the light bulb and with all the radioactive stuff in me, it might have lit up in my mouth!

Then I started to realize all of the benefits of having cancer. Did I say "BENEFITS"? You bet your bed pan! Let me list just a few for you:

Number 1: Early Retirement. You jump right to the point in life of our senior citizens. No work, all play! Yes, it was easier to "play" young and healthy, however, it's still nice to have some time off after 40+ years of 10 to 12 hour work days! And to learn the tricks of survival on a small Social Security check, just like our beloved seniors, is a brand new game. Boy, I wish I could just get 1/2 of what I paid in....they could keep the other 1/2!.

Number 2: Loosing An Extra Few Pounds. I hear most people talk about how they want to loose weight...and with cancer, it's no problem! The pounds just disappear. Heck before I could say "Richard Simmons", I was down to the same weight as my sophomore year of high school (those of you that knew me then remember that I could turn sideways and hide behind a telephone pole). And the old clothes that I had packed away for years, not only fit, they are back in style!

Number 3: Legitimate Handicapped Parking. It is so nice to not circle and circle the parking lots like a falcon desperate to swoop down on it's prey in search of a spot anywhere near the store. Not to mention, the seemingly uncontrolled rage of the race to the spot....only to come in second, and yes, start the circling AGAIN! Now, cane in hand, there exists a special treat for those of us who are having trouble physically getting around: preferred parking. How nice of everyone else to be so considerate whether they want to, or not.

Number 4: Never Miss A Game. Even the days that I can hardly get out of bed, I can still find some kind of game to watch on TV. Football, Baseball, Basketball, Tennis, Men's Golf, Women's Golf, Pro Bowling, Track, Swimming, Curling, Ping Pong.... you name it and we, as sports crazed Americans, have it on the tube. Sometimes I wonder "How can they put so many sports programs on?" Are there really that many people like me laying around watching this stuff? How much money does "Budweiser" have to sponsor hundreds of events on dozens of channels? Is Curling really a sport? It hurts my poor chemo-brain to ponder such a complex cultural institution.

Number 5: The Feeling of Royalty. Back in the health days, Lisa and I were able to make a couple of trips to Las Vegas, usually with Kelly and Bill, our daughter and son-in-law. It was nice to have such attentive Hotel Clerks, Restaurant Employees, Bar Tenders, Hookers (whoops, how did that get in there...chemo-brain?) Although I do believe that all four of us were approached by "Entertainment Specialists". Maybe they just sang and danced! Anyways, where in the world am I heading with that? ....I'm not. Back to being treated like royalty. Las Vegas is nothing compared to the treatment you get, not only from the wonderful Doctors, Nurses, Medical Technicians, and family. you even get it from the most casual acquaintances, when they know your medical condition. Showing love and compassion even without the expected tip like in Las Vegas. There is nothing better than knowing that people are treating you so nice because they truly care. The Queen of England can't top that!

Number 6: The last for now, but certainly not least, A Continued Loving Relationship with God. I'm not going to thump a Bible at you. An old sinner like me hardly has the answers to age long questions on faith, however, I do know what I have had for years. In good times, God was always with me, protecting me, letting me learn from my mistakes, and always loving me. Now, that I am sick, he holds me, and blesses me everyday, more and more. Renewing old friendships, adventures with Lisa, loving family and friends, you reading this right now.....what tremendous blessings!

With these six you can see why I say that there are "benefits" to having cancer. There's more that I will share later, as this could go on to only be "out paged" by Moby Dick. I hope that you never get the chance to experience them....I'm selfish. That's it for now, I will leave you with the wise words from Mark Twain; "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated". This applies to all of sure to LIVE today don't just wander through it. Yep, I'm still here and thanks for reading!

Loving Life and Fighting Cancer,

John L.

Be sure to visit the American Cancer Society at

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is cancer part of "Nature"

This past summer when we learned that the radiation didn't kill my cancer, we started looking into what we want to do, rather than dwelling on what we need to do. So much of our lives are directed (or dictated) by what we think we need to do. So we went to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis thinking that we needed to do something and we found that it gave us the opportunity to do things we had talked about but were just too busy to pursue. My previous post on the zoo being one.

We decided that the weather was right, and now that we were travelling past the Mark Twain National Forest on a weekly basis, we should get a tent and go camping on the way there, or back. We are not experienced campers. I loved the great outdoors as a kid and Lisa, with her Butterfly Photography, is a person who can spend hours in the fields and streams. But in a tent? Of course! We are mighty campers, close to nature, and now with fighting cancer, shouldn't I get closer to NATURE.

My last attempt at camping was years ago when we had a huge Winnebago. Gas range, hot water, microwave, television, shower, toilet.....did I call this Camping? I thought so at the time and the kids sure seemed to enjoy it! But now, it was time to get real: Sleep on the ground, build a fire for real use instead of just looks, and get back to the way of the great pioneers that built this wonderful country! What was I thinking? Has the Chemo-Brain kicked into overdrive?

Number 1: If you have not slept on the ground in over 50 years - DO NOT DO IT! It hurts.
Number 2: Trying to heat water for coffee in a ladle over an open flame works but it isn't easy!
Number 3: Didn't remember it being so darn dark.

The opportunity did come. We were on the quest in St. Louis and realized that we were about half way to Akron and should run on up to see the family. A short drive of 500 miles, but Lisa loves to drive, I think! The family was having a picnic that weekend and it would be a great opportunity to see many of them. And yes, we could camp on the way home.

The time in Akron was great. Mary Jo and Denny parked their RV in Kelly and Bill's driveway to give us a place to stay and get the "camping" state of mind. We looked like Cousin Eddy from Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation movie. Leaving Akron, we decided to take a southern route through Kentucky then over to Missouri. Lisa had not seen Kentucky and it is some very beautiful country. So off we went. Driving into Kentucky it started to get late in the day. The thought again crossed my mind: "we are not experienced campers!". Where do we go? What do we do? What does the tent look like when you get it out of the box? All the while a huge storm is circling the area.

"Next exit....a State Campground" I informed Lisa with all the confidence of someone that had any idea of what they we doing. Lisa said "great". I think she meant it. There it is Big Bone Lick State Park! Not sure of what "Big Bone Lick" could possibly be...maybe a Kentucky Bar-B-Que classic or something. We made it to the campground with a little wind and lightning around the area and yes, it was dark.

It had to be quite a sight for the very few veteran campers (that were already set for the night) to see a 57 year old man beat up by cancer and his pint sized wife, struggling to find which part of the tent was required to go in the air and how to accomplish such a feat. And yes, it was dark...but we had a little flashlight. How resourcefully and prepared! Later, after the tent was up, we realized that the headlights of car that got us there could have been very useful in the tent adventure.

We inflated the air mattress  and tossed it into the tent. Lisa grabbed the cooler and we enjoyed a dinner of tuna fish sandwiches and various snack food. Ah, the great outdoor. Was I tired? Do the bears cra....., well you get the idea. Speaking of bears, around 3:00 A.M., my beautiful bride whispers to me (I loved the whisper because none of the veteran campers were anyway near shouting distance of us rookies) she whispered " I think that's a bear outside in the woods". I liked the "outside" and "in the woods" part but the BEAR part still woke me up like a triple espresso, intravenously administered!

"A bear?" I asked Lisa and then I heard the cracking of something large walking just behind our tent, breaking fallen must be a BIG bear. Then Lisa continued her whisper "....and I have to go pee.". The Restroom / Shower house (very clean and somewhat bear proof) was about 100 yards from our tent. Lisa could run that far very quickly with her little Mighty Mouse run, after all she has been known to catch run-a-way wheelchairs, and I could lag behind and use my cane to fight off the bear, and yes, be her hero! So we quietly and slowly unzipped the tent door and out we went knowing the the restroom had to be a bear proof haven. With cane in hand I was prepared to defend my wife with life and limb. As I glanced back a the woods, I saw the creature, it was staring at me! It must have been some type of Kentucky Bear that I am not familiar with as it was sort of brown, but it had antlers. It must have seen the cane as it ran back into the wood like a scalded dog! I'm so brave! I didn't tell Lisa about the antlers right away, only that I scared the "Bear" (deer) of into the woods, oh, her hero I was.

The next day we truly enjoyed the park.  It was fascinating and a wonderful, educational experience. They have a great website  if you want to discover what the "Big Bones" are. Later we did hear the screech of a monkey in the trees but decided it must have been a Kentucky bird of some sort....did I mention we are not experienced campers!

Thanks for reading. Support cancer awareness. Pass this blog along to those you think might enjoy it. If you haven't signed up as a follower, please do, and sent me a note or comment when you have time. I love hearing from everyone.

Loving Life and Fighting Cancer,

John L.

 Please support and read up on cancer awareness at the American Cancer Web site

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Just because I couldn't talk doesn't mean I couldn't hear!

Before I get on a roll here, let me tell you how wonderful all of the Doctors, Nurses, and Staff at St. John's Hospital in Joplin have been for me. They have been very kind and supportive over the past year, and even with the nature of the beast that we are fighting, we have had a lot of fun with most of them, sharing stories and showing them just how attitude equals quality of life whether your sick or not. However, there is one universal aspect that just cracks Lisa and I up.

We first noticed it when I was recovering from the first surgery when the Doctors went in for a "routine" biopsy and I woke up a few days later in ICU with tubes in every body orifice and an unanticipated tracheotomy. Things didn't go quite as well as they hoped, as one of the tumors exploded and they had to do a lot of work to keep me from bleeding out on the table. So now, for the first time in my life, I couldn't talk. Now, with a metal tube protruding from my throat and all the new hardware in my body like feeding tubes in my stomach and a brand new chemo port in my chest, I was a sorry sight.

Now the funny part. When people came in the room, even trained medical personnel, they would speak to me in a volume that was very weird! "GOOD MORNING JOHN. HOW ARE YOU TODAY? Oh, and hello Mrs. Longaberger , how are you?" Loud enough at me to scare the hell out of me, yet, ever so quiet, almost a whisper, to Lisa! The tube was in the throat not my ears. The first time it happened, Lisa and I just looked at each other and smiled. Then we found that this was happening with just about everyone. We couldn't help but laugh harder each day, which I am sure, they had to wonder what the heck was wrong with us that we would find anything in this situation so amusing.

In a few days, or it might have been weeks, I learned how to speak by putting my finger over the end of the tube so that air would come out of my mouth, and yes, a voice again, ending my silence that some my have been enjoying.

After 20 days or so in the hospital, I got to go home for three or four days before starting my seven day in hospital chemo treatments. All the Nurses and Doctors stopped by to visit and give me their best wishes and it was still at a volume that would put Jimi Hendrix or the Led Zeplin back in the 70's to shame. So I had to, out of pure orneriness, return fire with all the decibels that my sore throat could muster. Lisa gave me the dirty eye, so I had to tell everyone what, and why, I was speaking so loud. We all had a good laugh about it. Everyone said that they didn't even realize that they were doing the sliding volume thing.

Now Lisa and my Mom would be the first to tell you that I do suffer from "Selective Hearing" in that sometimes I just don't hear everything that they are saying to me. I believe this to be an affliction that many men may have, however, for the most part, my ears do a pretty good job.

The trach tube was removed last winter just before the 36 radiation treatments. And now the only time someone yells at me is when I have earned it. When you see someone with an obvious medical mess, understand that they probably would like it if you just speak to them in the same way, and manner, as everyone else.

Thanks for reading. Next post will be about our camping experience (something I felt like we needed to do this past summer). Until then, support cancer awareness, and especially early detection. If you, or someone you know, has a bump, lump, or other strange item, don't ignore it. Have it checked out.

Loving Life and Fighting Cancer,

John L.

Visit the American Cancer Society at