The World According to Cb...

The World According to Cb...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Entering into the Unknown

Fear: a feeling of distress, apprehension, or alarm caused by impending danger, pain, etc.

This time tomorrow, God willing and a steady surgeon’s hand, I’ll be in the recovery room here at a local hospital enjoying the after effects of some heavy sedation.  I told y’all about Operation #5 recently, and while the perspective I gained from that hasn’t changed, Kristi has noted that it seems I’m approaching this in a different tone.

I’m not concerned about the actual surgery.  As things go it’s basically yet another complete hernia operation, out with the old (mesh) and in with the new (mesh 2.0).  But it has been disconcerting that my doc has told me that of the five operations, the cancer surgery being the worst, this one will be the second worst (OK, he used “2nd biggest” but his message was clear – potato, potahto).  And then there’s the whole having a mini shop vac attached literally at the hip with a tube in me for 2-3 weeks.  Yes, I know it’s for my own good in the long run, but what the hell is that, and what’s it going to be like?

Because that’s what’s weirding me out – the unknown.  Will I be able to function in normal life during this time frame?  Attend class, go to work, go for long walks on the beach at sunset, or play the violin?  The answer is probably yes to all, save for the fact that there isn’t a beach in Austin nor do I know how to play said violin…  but I don’t know about the other stuff yet.

So while I am upbeat about the process and the rare opportunity to enjoy some classic hospital food, there’s that fear of the unknown that keeps popping up like a prairie dog, wanting to know what’s what and to get it the hell over with.  I’ll have plenty of answers around this time tomorrow, but until then, it’s still an interesting trip into the unknown zone.  Ciao for now, see you after the recovery room! – Cb…

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Let's Talk About It

I don’t have a lot of rules in life these days, just seems to get in the way of the general enjoyment of things.  But one thing that I do feel really strongly about seems to be more and more prevalent within our social structure: not talking about things that really matter.  This has really become personally highlighted as talking is such an important part of the relationship I’m in these days that it’s just glaring when I see it otherwise.

In this age of email, texts, and social media I think we’ve forgotten that so much of communication is non-verbal, and so often what is written leaves much to interpretation.  Now if you’re in flirt mode with your sig other, no worries.  At the worst your incredible level of passion may be downplayed a little, with little room for error or faux pas.  But when the discussion turns to things of a more serious nature that’s when I call in The Big Rule:

You have to have actual discussions
 – very preferably in person -
with a phone call as a last resort.

In recent times I’ve seen relationships break up, controversial subjects debated, and critical personal issues relayed over said emails, texts, blogs, and notes, and the result is almost guaranteed that it’s not going to be what is desired by either party.  Add in that many times the problem lies as much with the sender’s ability to effectively broadcast their message as much as how it’s received by the reader, and the recipe for disaster is set at 350F, bake for 20 minutes, and serve piping pissed off.  (Add in a late night and some booze for added pizzazz.)

Why do we do this?  I think two main things – convenience and avoidance.  No one wants to have these difficult discussions, so why not take the easy way out?  (Not that I’m a fan or anything, but THE best example I know of this is Sex and the City’s infamous “Break Up by Post It Note” scene)  And how much more convenient can it be than to just whip out the old blackberry and thumb something prosaic?  No need for sweaty palms and pits when 160 characters of text will “accurately" get that message across…

So here’s my simple solution: if it’s positive and fun, communicate any damn way you want to.  But if the subject is really important, take out as many barriers as you can, meet in a neutral place, and talk it out face-to-face.  Step away from the technology…  You may not like the answer or the situation, but in the long run you’ll be glad you did.  Ciao for now – Cb…

Monday, March 21, 2011

Round 5: Perspective

Not the best of news I was hoping for… After 4 abdominal ops, 1 for cancer back in the day and 3 for subsequent related hernias, another op is on the schedule in a a couple of weeks.  To reiterate: It is NOT cancer, but is a result of the old cancer treatment… and I’ve been told to expect it to be “bigger” than ones previous.  Great.

In a nutshell my body doesn’t really like the composite mesh used to reinforce the herniated muscle wall and an infection has set in.  Not life threatening, but definitely annoying and in need of treatment, that treatment being the entire removal of said mesh and a new biological one inserted.  So far I’m all good with it, walk in, limp out, same day- been there, wanna see the scars?

Then my doc told me that in order to speed healing / get the best result I would have to spend the night in the hospital (not a fan) and that for 2-3 weeks would use a “Wound Vac” - what’s that, you say?  So did I.  As I understand it, it’s a fanny pack sized device that keeps draining fluids from the area 24/7.  More importantly it can speed up the healing process by as much as 50%.  So if you need your floor mats cleaned or drapes dusted, I’m your guy.  And I don’t know why this is all bothering me so much, but it is.

And then I got an email from my great friend Sally:

I have a dear friend whose mother has just been diagnosed this week with breast cancer and they are at a loss as to the best rec’s for docs.

So after visiting my doc and getting my news this morning, I spent some time compiling a list of trusted resources for them.  And then it hit me: I’m going to be fine, guaranteed, by April 22 or so.  Yes, I’m going to be sore and inconvenienced, but that’s about it.  These people are in the fight of their lives and don’t even know who to turn to, let alone their outcome.  What the hell am I complaining about?

It was some perspective I needed and will recall whenever I start feeling a little sorry for myself.  And maybe I’ll finally get that tummy tuck as a bonus – 5th time’s a charm, right?  Ciao for now – Cb…

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In Celebration of All Things Irish

Being of English descent (Essex, Class of ’62) one might think celebrating St. Patrick’s Day would not necessarily be in my nature.  One would be wrong… but it’s not just the idea of finding a reason to wear a ridiculously large green hat while quaffing a cerveza or three that appeals to me.  Like anything else in life, it was having a real experience with the Irish a couple of years ago that has me all in.

In 2009 LIVESTRONG hosted its first ever Global Cancer Summit in Dublin.  That even in itself was a huge success, bringing together over 500 people from 65 different countries.  But for me I also got the amazing opportunity to first cover the Tour of Ireland pro bike race, literally going from Dublin to the southernmost areas of Ireland, and getting to experience true Irish hospitality along the way.

As it is with any country, the scenery can be amazing but it’s the people that make the difference.  I was blessed to have great friends like Pat and Darach McQuaid along the way, who despite their very busy schedules making the race happen made sure my colleague Allison and I got to experience all that the countryside had to offer.  A real life highlight was also getting to ride with, and later get to know, Irish cycling legend Stephen Roche, one of only two men to ever win the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and the World Championship in the same year! (1987 – the other being of course the man, the myth, the living legend, Eddy Merckx in 1974).  Stephen has also faced his own family’s battle with cancer as one of his son’s had leukemia and he now does great work for the cause in his home country.

Following the race wrap we headed back to Dublin for our main event.  It’s hard not to fall in love with Dublin, it’s such a walkable city and everywhere we went the people asked the same question, “Are you having a good time here?”  This was a combination question, actually.  Part was in general interest for our well being, but the other is definitely an effort by the population to get the tourist industry back on track following a huge bubble burst of the Irish economy, along with many other countries as well, of course.

Everywhere we went we were welcome with open arms and usually a really good pint of beer.  One amazing memory for me was being able to fulfill a deathbed promise to my brother Robin… Guinness beer was definitely his favorite, and he had one day hoped to have one in the factory in Dublin.  As fate would have it, one of our big dinners was in fact there, and after all the usual festivities a large group of us got together, hoisted a well poured Guinness to his honor, and closed out a truly memorable evening.

As we were wrapping things up from the event, Darach came over to me, winked, and said, “Do you want to know the impact of the Irish?  Consider this: in America you have over 300 million people, and while you’re 4th of July holiday is a good one, it’s not really celebrated much outside of the USA.  But in Ireland we have a little over 4 million people, and our national holiday is celebrated all over the world!”

I’ll be celebrating with them as well, big green hat and all.  Ciao for now – Cb…

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

You Play, You Pay

The 2011 South by Southwest festival – “SXSW” in its better branded mode – is in full swing here in Austin.  The Interactive portion just wrapped up with around 20,000 geeks, nerds, techies, and social media icons (real and imagined) having descended on our fair city.  The film portion continues on, and the main event, the music festival, goes full on starting right…. about…. now!

It’s been an interesting thing to watch how locals – myself included – have started to really embrace SXSW.  Admittedly there was more than a little animosity at the thought of thousands of out of towners rolling into and taking over our downtown area for the better part of two weeks.  Yeah, we get the economic impact, especially in recent hard times.  But we also get the traffic grief, lines and more lines for everything, and just the general feeling that it’s not “our”town as opposed to when ACL Festival rolls in later in the year.

But times they are a’changin’ and I see many locals out and about, enjoying the panels, trade shows, movies and now of course the music.  The explosion of free events outside of the official ones has definitely given the locals and attendees things to do outside of the official gigs that often involve standing in line for hours, hoping you’ll get in to the venue (Note: I do NOT do this. Ever. I’d rather go somewhere else and not stand in line…)

And that brings me to the point of this little ditty: you play, you pay.  Some fortunate folks take vacation during SXSW, while most locals just decide to suck it up and make it happen, night and day.  One of the few times Austin isn’t jamming this week is between 730-10am, the downtown area only missing a few tumbleweeds before the ghosts of the night before start lurking for their Starbuck’s fix.

But I think that’s fair, and won’t accept anyone’s excuse that they tore it up the night before and then couldn’t perform the following morning (or afternoon, as it may be).  Simply put, you play, you pay.  Im looking forward to playing for sure as SXSW rolls on.  Ciao for now – Xb…

Monday, March 14, 2011

Still Kicking...

Well, surgery #4 in my semi rock hard abs area is done (was actually last Fri), I’m thinking the rock hardiness these days is more from scar tissue than time in the gym…  this has been an interesting experience in that this definitely cancer related process has had nothing to do with where the actual cancer was.  (Basically, over time, some old suture line areas failed in my stomach muscle)

But what it showed me once again was just how much support I have from my friends, both physically and virtually, and for that I am truly thankful.  Kristi got the up front and personal experience (and my thanks!) and was truly awesome, getting to deal with everything from delivery, to my general ambivalence to yet another surgery, all the way through me “accidentally” escaping afterwards, not wanting to be wheeled out according to SOP…

Add in the great messages of support / concern over facebook, twitter, and email and I truly felt blessed more than sore by the time I was out of recovery.  I have had to promise to be a good patient and can only walk for exercise for a couple of weeks, but I’ll take that over the chance of having to do op #5.  I’ve had enough cutting and pasting in this area for a lifetime, and I’m glad to say it’s over and even happier to say I’m still here – and blessed.  So thanks for all the support, ciao for now, and we’ll talk soon – Cb…

PS - I spoke the following day at SXSWi on behalf of LIVESTRONG with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of  America, check them out at - they're doing some solid work!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

When Is a Wall Not Just a Wall?

There’s a lot of inspiration here at LIVESTRONG HQ but one that gets the attention of the staff here daily is our new tribute wall.  We’d been asked before how people could have a permanent presence here at the HQ, and we’d considered things like a “buy a brick” program, but it didn’t really resonate with us.  But with a little creative thought and inspiration, the main wall of our server room is now a place of real honor…

The idea is based on the LIVESTRONG rider / runner cards that people wear on their shirts while participating in any number of our athletic events.  You get the chance to show others who you’re there for, either In Memory of or In Honor of, or if you’re a cancer survivor to show your pride in that manner.  Then when people come up on you – or you pass them! – it’s a great reminder of the larger reason we’re participating.

But as I said before, for the staff it’s something we walk by time and time again, and to see those heartfelt messages drives home the real reason we’re here: to either fight for those who have lost their battles like my brother Robin or great friend Jim Owens, or to help those who have very real, practical life issues that accompany and far outlive the treatment side of the cancer experience.

Why is this cancer survivorship mission so important?  My boss Phil showed me a chart yesterday that showed some good news: cancer mortality is on a solid decline and conversely 5+ year survivorship is on a great increase.  The “bad” news? All those practical issues like employment, life insurance, emotional / mental health, debt, and on and on are now top of mind in a significantly growing population.  And that’s where we step in through our various Navigation Services.

Sometimes a wall is just a wall, and other times it serves a much higher purpose.  We have a great one within the LIVESTRONG HQ, and if you’d like more info we have it HERE, or just come by sometime and check it out.  You won’t leave the same, that I assure you.  Ciao for now – Cb…

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Fat Tuesday, NOLA on my Mind

Today being Fat Tuesday it’s got me thinking about my great friends in New Orleans, and wishing I was there...  To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy my first experience there.  We went and did the classic Bourbon Street tourist thing (read: drink, eat, repeat, all within a couple block radius) – I’m sure the locals were as glad we left as we were exiting stage right.

But that all changed back in 2002 when my good friend Karl and his lovely NOLA wife Laura invited us to do Mardi Gras “local style.”  I had no idea what that exactly meant, but trusted his judgment, and who better to be a tour guide than a native family with the last name Toups?  And I’m so glad I went.

I recall the day was ran with military precision.  The mission was to attend parades – several – and things like location, logistics, and preparation were all well ingrained in the family tradition.  Everyone was given a task, from acquiring food and beverages to toting blankets and chairs and small ladders.  Drinking quite a bit of alcohol was a given, but more from a slow burn perspective than a drunken French Quarter oblivion.  After all, we were starting around 730am and would not stop until well after midnight, and failure to finish was not an option.

We went from venue to venue in a total family oriented capacity.  Kids everywhere, one and all scrambling for the best beads possible and just enjoying the whole day in a true Cajun, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!” fashion.  The day ended with a major parade and our squad rallying at a pre-parked RV, the perfect vehicle for toting a large crowd of now rowdy friends back to the house for more red beans and rice and some much needed sleep.

Since then our LIVESTRONG family has brought me even closer to NOLA via the great Tour de Lis event (this year April 9 FYI – can’t wait!) that benefits us as well as local cancer organizations.  And a couple of years ago we also took the entire staff to New Orleans and worked for a few days on Habitat for Humanity houses, a true team building opportunity.

Throughout it all I’ve developed a true kinship with the people, in fact one of my life highlights was a recent social trip there where my friend, dentist, and amazing trumpet player Ryan Thibodaux took me behind the scenes into the locals nightlife scene.  The energy and pride of being a NOLA resident was so evident, so much that I am very happy to say that my first trip was totally wrong in perspective and I now look forward to any opportunity I can get to visit this amazing city.  Ciao for now – Cb…

Monday, March 07, 2011

Being Open to All Possibilities

This past weekend was one of the best I’ve had in a long time, full of laughter, great friends, late nights, and early mornings(!)… but the preface to it was based on a conversation I had with my friend Jerald many months prior.

I was in the midst of the beginning of the end of a relationship and not in a good place, head and heart wise.  In the course of conversation he noted two things that really resonated with me:

-          When we’re in grief we live in the past, remembering the good times, and hoping for more of that in the future.  But we basically ignore the reality of the present, and that’s where we actually live.

-          And if you’re going to live in the present you have to be open to all possibilities; the moment you start to hope and plan for an expected outcome, you’re already in the future.

Those two nuggets really helped me through some dark times, as did several other great friends and counsel.  But as I’ve transitioned to a much better place after, the second point has really stayed with me.  Being open to all possibilities has allowed me to accept not just when a bad situation has to be dealt with, but even more importantly to be able to enjoy the far more frequent positive aspects of life.

So the thing I think about today is what will come our way and how are we going to react to it?  Yes, being open to all the possibilities can certainly better prepare you to handle the hard times, but it also gives you the freedom to live in the present while still hoping for a great future, and making memories you’ll be proud to remember.  Ciao for now – Cb…

Friday, March 04, 2011

When I Grow Up...

This is one of my favorite conversations to have: if money and obligations were not a factor, what job / career would you want to do?  And of course the obvious follow up, why aren’t you doing that, or working towards it?

I know I’m blessed to get paid to do a couple of my passions – fighting cancer / promoting cycling, but I would say that good fortune was as much a player in that as intent (assuming one can view getting cancer in 1996 as “good fortune”).  But to be very honest, had I not gotten sick back in the day it’s very doubtful I would have chosen these areas for work. 

My dream job would definitely be to be a pilot, but a really crappy set of eyes and old man time have denied that one.  C’est la vie, I got to ride in the back of plenty of high speed aircraft none-the-less.  And as I was exiting the USAF I literally created a dream job overseeing the Special Ops combat training team I ran as an enlisted guy – think getting paid to be the “bad guys” in training exercises! – but I didn’t see the better politically prepared opponent who gave me the old end around in the jungle that is the Civil Service…

What I used to do...

Now as my last kiddo is approaching 18 and an eventual exit from Chez Brewer I see another opportunity ahead.  For the first time in my life since I was 21, no kids and hence no obligation to anyone but moi’.  Yes, I know I could be in a relationship and who knows what that will bring, but right now it’s got me thinking back to my basic initial question: what do I really want to do?  Odds are I’ll continue to work and grow here at LIVESTRONG as I really do love what I do.  But for the sake of the mind game, I not only have the room to think about it, I also have the opportunity to act on it if I so choose.

It’s an interesting question for sure: so what would you do?  and what are you doing about it?  Good luck and good fortune regardless – make it happen.  Ciao for now – Cb…

About Me

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Austin, TX, United States
A proud single dad, strong cancer survivor, and a guy who loves his bike, red wine, family and friends - the order is dependent on my mood...