Winning Takes Work
Yeah, I worked really hard to get better. I tried as hard as I could. But so did YOU.
Thanks for being patient with me when I lost all memory of what happened (sometimes I couldn’t even remember the previous day). Thank you for taking care of me when I was being difficult. Thank you for holding my imaginary hair back when I had to throw up 1.3 million times. Thanks for the encouragement and for believing in me.
I’m going to be thanking you a lot so get used to it! Please let me.
Suck & Blow (not the game)
Is he blasting off in a spaceship? No. Is he resorting to the cryo-preservation fad from the early 90’s? Aaahhh… nope. Is that what a male fertility collection bank looks like? Also, NO. But I do need to go back soon to find out if I’m still packin’ or if the chemo burned me out. Hope for the latter, because you’ll be safer on the road without my offspring behind the wheel. The apple does not fall far from the tree, right? Speaking of that: yesterday’s x-ray revealed that the pneumonia is almost gone and I’ll probably be able to drive again next week when I can stop taking this crazy drug!
I digress. Sorry.
S&B: If you’re claustrophobic you’re gonna want to go ahead and avoid having a bone marrow transplant because you’ll sit in this chamber a lot. I have to suck and blow into a tube for at least an hour each time. Last time the nurse did not understand my humor. I cannot even EXPLAIN how many times “that’s what she said” would have come out of my mouth… if my lips weren’t sealed around the shaft of the machine. [insert now] Soon, I hope my lungs start playing ball and give me the oxygen my blood needs to function without getting so tired.
Hi, Ho. Hi, Ho!
You know the rest. I’ve been back to work since last Thursday and it Feels. So. Good. I can taste “real life” coming back. It’s as sweet as french silk pie… only someone was nice enough to remove all the calories so I’ll keep on eating. Watch out, world. I’m back! I’ve been instructed to start slow; 4hrs/day for two weeks then slowly ramp up after that. What I can tell you, though, is that I still have an insatiable thirst for learning and lots of ambition but I now have something I didn’t have before: perspective. And I earned it.
While I won’t preach to you about too many things (hold me to it, please) I feel the need to tell you that I have a renewed faith in companies who look out for their employees. I absolutely could not have been better taken care of. Colleagues stepped in to help while I tried to work and manage chemo at the same time… without being asked. People pooled together and we got food deliveries at home. I got to treat some friends to the Lady Gaga concert. I could FEEL them caring. Most importantly, it wasn’t because they had to.
I was once told, “If you’re good to them, they’ll be good to you.” and I believe that. You might hear about stories from other companies that will cause you to shake your head—so I hope I can share a story, this story, that will make you smile. Note: This is the absolute truth; no ass-kissing innuendo. I don’t even think my boss reads this. Note 2: This is a test to see if he does.
Apparently a couple of you like reading the crazy stuff I write on here so I may just keep on doing it. It’s therapeutic actually, and I’d prefer to not pay for therapy sessions in addition to everything else. Did you know that more survivors than patients need counseling?! Neither did I. Makes sense though. When you survive it isn’t instantly over. I still have my goddamn port installed in my chest! They won’t let me take it out for a while because of the extremely high reoccurrence with cases like mine. The universe told me that I’m done though, so don’t worry about it. I listened.
What I can tell you though is that I feel ready to move on. I don’t mean to be insensitive… but cancer and all the associated fear has already taken up too much of my time on Earth. I’ll probably give a few milestone updates and be an advocate for prevention/treatment but it won’t solely be about the C-word. No idea what I’ll write about yet but I’ll be the candid, potty-mouth (and sincere) person I was over the last 18 months. That’s a promise.
I want to leave you with a special message from a friend of mine; a message that I’ve listened to, believed and lived for nearly 30 years. Pay close attention to the words and the message.
I wouldn’t have gotten through the most challenging time in my life if it weren’t for all of your support. Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring. Most of all, thanks for being YOU.
Talk to you soon.
P.S. Twitter bought this blog platform and is shutting it down. The next thing you’ll see from me will be on ericgilseth.com!
wait. Try really, REALLY f*#king hard.
Justin and I got home from our quick celebratory trip to Florida and came through the front door. We walked three steps and sobbed.
I don’t think I actually realized how scared I was until it was over. Scared probably isn’t the right word. Terrified. Yeah, that’s more like it. Somehow I blocked the fear out in my brain—the same way I block it out when Justin wants me to do the dishes or braid his hair. I (and you) have waited so long to hear the words “cancer free” that I’m not sure if it has really set in until now. Only a few knew this, but there was a time when I learned that at the rate the cancer was advancing, if the experimental drug stopped working or if I stopped treatment, I might have only had two months left. We’ve come a long way from there.
We did this together. You and me. The prayers, hospital visits, food deliveries, rides, donations, hugs, cards, puzzles and emails is what made those two words possible. I will never, ever forget that. Thanks for believing.
Here’s the best news: pretty soon I’ll stop monopolizing your facebook news feed and will make room for other really important stuff like Justin Bieber.
Also, I’m trying to respond to emails and facebook messages as quickly as I can. Thanks for being patient with me!
WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR
If you follow me on facebook you probably saw that we jumped on a plane the same day we got the results and headed to… Disney World! Why not!? Actually, after hearing the awesome news we told Dr. Bachanova that we were going and she didn’t just give us a disapproving look; I think she was actually pissed. I did wear a mask almost the whole time, making me look like a first-class idiot, but it kept me healthy. I have so many awesome memories from this trip but a few stand out:
- We stood in front of the Magic Kingdom castle. It was the first thing we did. They put on a show with all the characters and did a mashup of Disney songs and they told us that if you believe, dreams really do come true. My eyes welled up and so did Justin’s. It was pretty cool. http://youtu.be/VyRHkAQ2wSM?t=4m2s
- Islands of Adventure was the second park we went to and we loved The Hulk. The guy behind the microphone running the ride overheard us talking and gave me a shout-out over the speaker… everyone cheered. I smiled.
I owe so many of you a huge thank you for helping us celebrate. Plane tickets, hotel, champagne when we arrived, park tickets and a spa day, plus Justin’s parents’ hospitality—incredible gifts. Thanks! I seriously don’t deserve you guys. But I promise I’ll do whatever I can to pay it forward.
DOLLA BILL YA’LL
Monthly medications through September will cost more than a decked-out 3-series BMW lease, but I hope to be going back to work ASAP and with the combo of working again and TeamEric fundraisers—we should be in good shape. What’s more, I got a few hundred back on my tax return because of medical deductions even though I was only able to work half of the year. Loving it. There is still a balance in the TeamEric account and I have an awesome idea of what to do with it. I think you’ll approve. Stay tuned.
NEXT UP: EASY STUFF
My hair is coming back! My driver’s license expired and I waited until I had a little dusting of something on my head. Still no armpit hair and none anywhere else which is fine, I suppose. It does make manscaping easier.
I still have pneumonia. Seriously. It’s getting old and I hoped I’d be over it at this point but that just wasn’t in the cards. The goal is to keep taking this medication and steer clear of the cold/flu for another few weeks to fully recover. On top of that, my lungs aren’t putting enough oxygen into my blood (I believe the last test showed my lungs are working at about 70% of normal) but that wasn’t unexpected after a bone marrow transplant so I’m not too worried. In the scheme of things, both of these seem like stubbing my toe or getting a sliver. It’s nothing.
I’ll stop writing on here soon… but NOT JUST YET. I’m almost finished. Hang on for one more thing. Right now, it’s top-secret.
So many thanks. Love you guys.
I sent this to people at work, but it’s absolutely been my anthem for many many months. I Won’t Give Up:
What do you do when you (finally) learn you’ve beaten cancer? You go to DISNEYWORLD!!! And you wear some really awesome temporary tattoos.
And when you get home, your front door looks something like this:
There will be no bucket-kicking. I posted on facebook a few weeks back asking you to hold me to my word, because giving up hope is not an option. I was at home watching Star Trek (judge me, or hit me up for computer help—your call) when something came over me. A feeling that I hadn’t felt before. I believed I was going to win and this time it wasn’t my own will. Here’s a dirty little secret: This whole time I’ve just been telling myself—and you—that I’ll get better. Convincing myself that I’ll make it. Trying to stay focused on all the fun things I’ll be able to do if I keep pushing forward. This feeling wasn’t like that. I just knew. Does that make sense? While I know that the fight may not be over, I desperately want it to be.
Radiation is finished and I couldn’t be happier. I guess I assumed that it would be no big deal since I’ve already put myself through so much that I wasn’t expecting to have a tough time the last few weeks. The blog cover photo is the only one I’m willing to share because it’s not bad at all compared to the worst days. A week after this was taken my skin was almost blistering and peeling—definitely not something I want you to have to look at. I have been so itchy that I think I’ll go insane and trust me… I’ve been close. You know the feeling. It’s like when you have the worst chapped lips EVER and you reach for your chapstick, only to find that it went through the wash and there’s nothing left. You’d rather scratch your eyeballs out than have the dull, yet constant agony.
Not able to easily splatter some lotion on the mid-part of my back, I tried to reach over my shoulders and again from the bottom to slap a little bit on, but I look like a first-class idiot and it’s wildly ineffective. On the bright side, my esophagus has healed a lot so I’m able to eat more than just smoothies and apple sauce (although I had no problem with constipation while on this diet. Ha!). Gotta look at the bright side, right??
A HEAVY WEEK AHEAD
I wasn’t sure at first if I should post anything about the next week because it’s pretty serious and I worried that if I don’t get good news it would be yet another let-down. But I need your help… hopefully one last time. Here’s the schedule:
FRIDAY // Drillin’ time. I get my hips drilled for a third time to check for bone marrow. They use a hand drill on each hip to pull out an inch or so of bone in order to get to the marrow, which they’ll suck out with a huge needle to test for cancer. This has come back negative twice before and I expect to get the same results this time around. They can only give me morphine (versus putting me under) so I feel pretty much everything and during the recovery period I need help getting up the two steps from the main level to the elevated bedroom/bathroom at home. It’s annoying.
MONDAY // Photo Shoot. This is the first PET/CT I’ve had in months and this is the one I’m very nervous for. Mostly for the results, but also because in the full-body scan, you can totally see my manhood and there were some hot doctors who saw me during the last scan. I looked at the tech and wanted to say “mmhmm. that’s right.” but instead I just winked. Pretty sure she knew what I meant.
WEDNESDAY // Results. It all comes down to this meeting. This is the Big One. I meet with Bachanova mid-day and hope that I finally hear the words that I’ve been denied thus far… that I’m finally free. I need your help with prayers and good energy. However, if it’s not over and there is still work to be done, it’ll be crushing but I’ll keep fighting. Let’s just hope that isn’t the case.
I recently talked to one of the awesome people I met during chemo treatment last year and he articulated an idea about the last stretch in getting better that makes perfect sense:
As an athlete, you convince yourself that you can push yourself harder, that you can finish, that you can do it. But at the end of a marathon, the cheering of your friends, your fans, the crowd is really what gives you that last burst of energy you need to triumph. I need you. I think this is it. We’re almost there.
Nervous but hopeful,
P.S. Still having fun! Thanks to everyone who made the Lady GaGa concert possible.
We’ve been remiss in keeping you up to date on the Team Eric website, relying quite heavily on Facebook for more “in the moment” updates. We want to take time now to recap the last two months and what’s coming next.
Eric spent several weeks in the hospital, receiving chemo and then the bone marrow transplant. Eric was able to make an autologus donation, meaning his own stem cells were collected and then reimplanted to help his body produce brand new bone marrow.
Following the bone marrow treatment, Eric was sent home and, excepting a short return to the hospital due to pneumonia, he spent the next month under house arrest, complete with 24-7 jailers. Yes, Eric required 24 hour supervision in the month after the transplant, to make sure that he didn’t have an adverse reaction. Eric shared some thoughts about that in one his blog posts - definitely worth a read and a laugh!
In the last few weeks Eric has been enjoying the freedom associated with NOT being monitored at all times. He has also enjoyed being able to go out in public without wearing a surgical mask (although we’re pretty sure there were times he kind of enjoyed the “Michael Jackson-ness” of it all). His post transplant treatment plan includes radiation, which he does almost daily (and continues to be thankful to everyone who provides rides for him to and from the hospital).
Eric is currently dealing with a second bout of pneumonia. While he doesn’t exhibit outward signs (fever, difficulty breathing, coughing), it is very serious and the doctors have told him to be very careful. He’s on a powerful medication to fight it - at $18,840, it better be powerful!
For all of the ups and downs of the last few months, the best news is that Eric’s resolve is stronger than ever and his optimism is renewed. For those that are connected to him on Facebook, you saw a post this evening that reaffirmed that. For those that don’t, we’ll close with Eric’s own words:
"I know you’re sick of me posting about cancer but I HAD to write this so you can hold me to it. Today I feel like I hit a turning point. It’s just intuition and I know I JUST got pneumonia, but I think I’m going to win. For real this time. Something changed."
Hear, hear. #Time2Win
I think we’re close. I can feel it. I had a CT scan last week and just met with Dr. Bachanova about the results and even though the CT showed “minimal improvement” (their words, not mine) both she and I feel like we’re about to turn a corner.
It’s not blind optimism, either. It’s the most important feeling you can have—hope, faith and intuition. You think I’m crazy, don’t you?? You probably should. But you should also trust me.
10 Things That Will Make You Laugh, Cry or Create a New iTunes Playlist.
10. I Think I’m Alone Now
I don’t require 24/7 supervision anymore! Ha. Actually, I probably need it, but not for medical reasons. The extra bed is gone from the office and the place is starting to look like it did pre-transplant. #WIN
9. He Got A Fast Car
I still have pneumonia. In both lungs. M.F. It’s being stubborn so we might increase the dosage of the crazy pills I’m on. Blurry vision and dizzyness equals NO driving. Huge bummer but fewer speeding tickets. I haven’t driven since July! I’ll bet you feel safer, though, right?
8. Here Comes The Sun
My health forecast: bright and sunny. I’ve been fighting a) pneumonia, b) a possible infection, c) cancer and d) having my body radiated since Jan 2, so it’s to be expected that I only stay awake for 8 hours/day.
7. I like ‘em big.
[That’s what she said]. Is this the biggest damn pillbox you’ve seen in your life or what? I’ve graduated from a two-a-day to this and its still not big enough. [Again, thats what she said]. I don’t remember much of October, November and December but that’s probably okay. The only reminder I have that the days are going by is the click of my pillbox cap every few hours and the fact that during the holidays Wendy Williams stopped smoking beef jerky and started snorting candy cane powder… to get in the holiday spirit, I’m assuming.
6. It’s A Small World
I’ve read the Internet. All of it. So if you’d like help finding shopping deals or would just like to know about anything in history, give me a buzz. I’m thinking about changing my legal name to Wikipedia Gilseth.
5. The Edge of Glory
I’m going to see Lady Gaga. Thanks to some very awesome people, I’ve got excellent seats for next Wednesday’s show. No, I’m not technically breaking doctor’s rules. Okay, I am. But I’m taking every precaution possible. I need to have some fun! Plus, I’m on the Edge of Glory so it’s fitting I think. Probably an omen.
4. My Brain On Drugs
Ambien, my only option for all these sleepless nights, has changed my life… it really messes you up. I had a vivid dream about a friend who started a rock band and named a song “Drindr”. During the dream, I was so pissed that he messed up the name (it’s supposed to be Grindr) that I was sweating and clenching my teeth. When I woke up I actually got on my computer and searched for the song “Drindr” on iTunes because I didn’t know if I imagined it or not. Fucking Ambien. Jezus.
There is a fundraiser coming up for Alanna (the friend who was instrumental in organizing the Rosa Mexicano night for me) - her brother Walid is hosting an event to bring his brother to the U.S. so he can fight cancer. There are two ways you can help: donate online or attend the event. It would mean a lot to me if you checked it out. www.teamWalid.com
2. Burnin’ Up
Tomorrow is my last day of radiation!!! I lost 5-7lbs (depending on the scale) in the last week because it hurts so bad to eat. I have some Nyquil-tasting stuff that I throw down to numb my throat before eating and it seems to help. My skin is leathery and red but I don’t care. I really don’t care—as long as it works. Tomorrow could be my last day of cancer treatment. Ever.
1. What Kids Say
Kids are the most amazing people. Selfless, compassionate and most of all, they have ability to put their hearts into anything. I got a package in the mail not too long ago from a friend of mine who told her son about me and his entire class made me get well cards. Hallmark has NOTHING on this guys.
Last night, while counting down the last minutes of 28, I prayed like any normal kid that I could stay young forever but started thinking about all the things I’ve learned over the years. I found out that swearing in front of your parents will cause you to have soap (sometimes enthusiastically) inserted in your mouth, putting bleach in a super-soaker to squirt your friends isn’t the smartest idea if you don’t want to get caught AND your size 4 shoes will, in fact, get stuck in freshly poured cement. I have done ALL those things. I’m sure it’s not a surprise that I am no angel. In my later years, I’ve learned some additional lessons: three bottles of wine in one night is too much, having unprotected sex can have consequences, and if you hate your job it’s probably smart to get out as soon as you can.
Hint: They’re basically the same lessons just at a later age: watch your mouth, don’t pull the trigger if you’re not prepared to live with the consequences forever, and if you’re stuck… pull out faster. (Rearrange the lesson as you see fit.)
I woke up this morning to a perfect song, made my favorite tea and sat in “my” spot on the couch as I started writing this. I may have learned a thing or two in my many years, and am starting to believe that old age won’t be so bad after all. Yeah, the year of 28 showed me that life isn’t entirely made up of sunshine and rainbows and laughter. It takes some work. But I think the experience is worth it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have discovered my favorite song so I knew which one to wake up to, tasted a lot of shitty tea so I could find the perfect one, and found the spot on the couch where I could dim the lights, grab my drink, change the channel, peek out the window and have a straight shot to the bathroom—the perfect place to rest my cheeks.
If you read my last blog post I realize I wasn’t the epitome of “the happy kid”, but… let me vent a little. C’mon, I can’t catch a freakin break! Please remember that this whole show isn’t an episode of Barney and Friends and we can’t all run around in purple suits, smiling and telling each other how amazing everything is …that’s not real life. If you think it is, you should probably take it easy on the valium and Prozac.
Getting a year older is bittersweet (even in my shoes)—believe me. I ALWAYS thought 28 was going to be the best year of my life. Honestly, though… I think it was. Way back when, I dreamed that by 28, I’d have the perfect job, an awesome place to live, been on a million trips, have the coolest friends and find myself happy and in love. I can check off every box on that list. What’s more, I know how incredibly kind people are, realized how much work I have ahead of me to pay it forward, began learning patience (although I don’t know if it’ll stick), and so many other things. It’s all worth it.
Thanks for being in my life and making it seriously awesome.
From a happier, older Eric.
The quarantine is over! The photo of garfield plastered to a window just about sums it up. It sounds like a stupid thing to complain about but staying inside one place for this long takes a toll. It was almost three weeks in the hospital and another 30+ days at home that my immune system could handle the indoor filtered air and only a few visitors. I love mom and dad but holy shit… it’s like we returned to the age 15 mentality and I was looked after like a kid again. They even brought the PlaySchool baby monitor from when we were little to keep tabs on me when I slept. However, without their help and the help of Justin, Beth, Mark, Jenna, Michael and many other friends/family staying over to watch me, grab groceries and make runs to target I would have been in a tough spot. Thank you.
Christmas was good, and I rarely play “the cancer card” but it came in handy during the typical holiday drama. Conveniently, it was easy to weasel my way out of the action when I needed to. It went something like “Cough, cough. I have cancer… PEACE OUT!” And away to the basement I flew like a flash… Tore open the vodka and grabbed my flask.
One of the best gifts I got this year was from Justin. I may have told a few of you that after this bone marrow transplant I have to wear a medical bracelet that will tell anyone (should I be unconscious—like getting hit by a bus or something) that I need irradiated blood and I’m O+. Everything I’ve seen was hideous. Probably made by the same company as Life Alert. Instead, I was looking for a marc jacobs or tiffany bracelet and Justin did one better: I now own a silver Allsaints bracelet (the added bonus is that it was on sale and you know I like to be thrifty!).
TO MY HATER
You are an asshole. I heard just a few days ago that someone was at the bar talking to a group of people about me. Apparently this person thinks that I get too much attention from my blog and facebook posts. Are you sick of me writing about cancer updates? Guess what..? ME TOO! I’d love to only blog about The Biebs smoking pot and the new gossip on TMZ but I think that would be awfully rude to everyone who has supported me.
It’s not convenient or fun to be this sick. Evidently you disagree. Not only have I gone through enough with all of the side effects of chemo and the transplant but I have to deal with this shit now, too. Don’t you think I feel a little embarrassed to have people I know (and don’t know) donate money? Not only does my body hurt but my pride is taking a hit, too.
I started radiation treatment last week. I laid down and was strapped to a machine that is so large, it fills an entire room. I thought of the short-term side effects: my skin will soon be red like a suntan-gone-bad on both my chest and back, have difficulty breathing because my lungs will literally be burned and my esophagus will get swollen making it harder to swallow. Don’t feel bad, though. The long term side effects are even worse: a chance of both thyroid cancer and lung cancer 15-20 years out, heart disease and permanent fatigue. They tell me I’ll never be able to run long-distance. Yeah, I love this attention I’m getting. It’s totally worth it.
Tears streaming down my face—PRAYING that this finally works—I thought of you. I did.
I don’t know who you are but when this is all over and I have an awesome party to celebrate, you probably shouldn’t come. I doubt you’d be pleased to see the number of people who want to celebrate with me.
On a much lighter note, I had what I would consider a minor surgery yesterday to take a look at a new mass they found in my left lung. It could be an infection of some kind or be a new cancer, meaning it has spread beyond my lymph system. I think that would mean they would officially re-stage me to stage 4 and complicate things even more. BUT it’s not. It’s just an infection that can be treated with medication. It has to be. It just has to be.
You’ll love this: I was high as a kite before and during the surgery and the doc said I had to use my vocal cords to make sound at one point during the procedure. For some ridiculous reason, the ONLY thing that came to mind was this: Youtube. The entire operating room erupted in laughter. This is one of those cases where I’m not sure they were laughing with me, but rather at me. I’m pretty sure they’ll remember me for a while.
I came across this the other day and wanted to share it with you. People sometimes tell me how brave I am and I sort of say “umm… thanks?” because I have no idea why—even though I constantly hate what is happening—I know I could handle just a little bit more.
You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
Happy New Year!
Your friend, Eric
P.S. I’m sure you’re dying to get an update, and… yes, my Little Swimmers are doing JUST fine at the cryo clinic where they’re frozen and napping. Or, more appropriately, hibernating for the season.