Until this month, I had never stayed a night in the hospital. Never accepted a stitch. Never even had any kind of outpatient anything. So spending a few nights at New Hanover and now 3 different days in the UNC Cancer Center is obviously not something I’m accustomed to. As friendly as these places have been, and with my Pop and JoAnn there with me, I have still felt a bit anxious and uncomfortable.
So walking into the 2nd floor of Lineberger today and seeing my longtime, beautiful and big hearted friend Wendy Lucas Riggsbee was comforting to say the least. She knows the situation and actually wrote a few days ago, and I know where she works, but it just didn’t even dawn on me that I would see her there today. Too much going on in my head. She greeted us with hugs, smiles, humor, mojo and some Ritz and Graham crackers. The 2nd floor could step up their snack game a bit, no doubt. Wendy agreed. Thank you Wendy for making today much more bearable. Mucho happy to know an old-schooler from Chapel Hill has my back there.
Here’s the latest on my treatment: Didn’t get the chest tube out. Didn’t do the new biopsy today. They simply were not ready to do all this today…I did do an x-ray, which showed very little fluid left in my chest, good news. Next week the surgeon is going to do a Bronchoscopy, to check for lesions in my chest, and then also go in through a small incision the front of my neck, then go down to where my lymph nodes are (to the left of my sternum), get some of that tissue, as well as some from my lung. It’s called a Mediastinoscopy. This will then go to a lab at UNC, where they will see if I am a match for the immunotherapy. Should take a week at the most. Also learned I was wrong about the PD1 treatment. Not a pill. It’s an infusion, like chemo. Once every 3 weeks, with a list of possible side affects 2 pages long. Sounded like the back end of a pharma TV ad where they list off about 27 things in 7 seconds. Joint pain, bloody nose, numbing in feet, bad taste in mouth…the list is funny to read.
Headed back over to UNC for a 1:40pm procedure to get all this done on Monday. 6pm or so before I’m out of there.
Here I am telling Wendy how much I want this tube out of my chest…and how hungry I am…
So in a nutshell, here is what is going on:
On December 1st, my buddy Christian Lloyd, a pulmonary specialist in Wilmington, went Gap Band style and dropped a bomb on me. I have Stage 4, non-small cell adenocarcinoma. Lung Cancer. The most common type. My first word was “Fuck.” Most likely a similar reaction you may have had when hearing that you, or someone in your world, had a serious diagnosis. After some scans, it was determined it was secluded to my left lung only. All considering, this was good news.
On December 8th, I underwent a biopsy at New Hanover Regional, so they could send my tissue off for some testing, and a procedure called a Pluerodisis. Basically glued up the area where all this fluid was building outside my lung wall, with a form of talc powder. This fluid is what tipped me off that something was wrong. Was coughing and not feeling well for months. They took two liters of fluid out of me prior to this surgery. Still not sure how my skinny frame had that much floating around in my chest. Wild. Got my first experience of staying in a hospital. Order the salmon and broccoli if there! The folks at NHRMC took good care of me. Many thanks to Dr. Cortina and the team of nurses that cared for me.
Fast forward – after getting some test results back, which determine what kind of treatment you can receive, and a few meetings at UNC and Duke, and I’ve decided to get treatment at UNC. Many reasons for this. To name a few…I really like the doctor there – here’s a video of Dr. Stinchcombe. It’s also in the center of my support universe. Dad and JoAnn live in Chapel Hill, I have family in ATL, Pinehurst, DC, and a large percentage of my MOJO WARRIORS (will explain this big picture concept in a separate post) are in NC. I’ve talked to many folks battling cancer, all have said that being near your support is very important.
Mojo is a great word. It caught on with me years ago. Not sure why or how. My Dad may have introduced it to me. It has always defined great vibe or mood or maybe you are just balling that day in whatever it is that you do. “Danny Green dropped 25 points on the Lakers last night. He had his mojo workin’.” Everyone may use it a bit differently, but the overall tones are the same…Positive. Success. Oomph. Spirit.
Warrior is a bit more straight forward. Again, it’s a word I like. Tough. Resilient. Persistent. A battler. My mom and Dad are both cancer survivors and I, and you, know plenty more. All warriors. I will probably be posting some profiles on people that fit the warrior mold.
Since getting the news, I have had an indescribable amount of love, friendship, warmth, affection, support, and super good mojo come my way. It has brought me to tears. These friends and family members are my team, my posse and what I am now calling my MOJO WARRIORS. You have magical powers based on the definition below! If you are reading this, you are most likely part of this sorcery squad, and I ask you to apply it to my situation, and anyone else you know that may need an injection of oomph or love or a high five or a hug. Make them smile, laugh, feel loved, missed..it makes a big impact.
In the long run this site will be less about me and more about support, laughter, love, friendship, ass-kicking and success for those that need it. Hoping it develops and take on a life of it’s own. We’ll see.
I’m working on creating a logo/character/face/symbol for a Mojo Warrior (as well as one for FckUCncr). It will have the same butt-whoopin’ spirit as The Ultimate Warrior, seen above, but will probably have a bit more zen, charm and general niceness incorporated, and less face paint.
mo-jo : a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful, etc.
war-rior : a person who fights in battles and is known for having courage and skill
Dave Grohl is my hero, or one of them as least. The new Foo Fighters documentary Sonic Highways is a masterpiece. Collaboration and interviews with the likes of Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy, Bad Brains, Cheap Trick, Pharrell, Gary Clark Jr. and Stevie Nicks to name a few. 8 songs recorded in 8 cities and inspired by the musicians that shaped their sounds from those locations. Rockin’. Unique. Inspirational. The dude can do no wrong in my book.
Thanks to Shawn and my brother for adding me to the tour in 2015. Lookin’ forward to the Chicago and Atlanta shows in the Fall. See ya in a few months, Dave.
This is Frank Sulloway. Another hero of mine. He and I go back 20+ years in Wilmington/WB. He’s a year into battling some nasty stuff. It’s in his bone marrow. And his eye lids. Just to name a few places. HIS EYE LIDS. I whine when I simply have an itch in my friggin eye. We talked a few days ago and he was informative and humble and just regular ol’ Frank. He gave me some straight-shot information on diet, chemo/radiation, and some sounds advice on hospitals as I learned today…things never go as planned.
In between a few trips to UNC, Frank is now home with his wife and kid. Couldn’t admire him more.
Franks support posse formed Franks Home Team. Take a look at his story, his rad t-shirts, send him a note or some support. If you spent any time on Wrightsville Beach in the 90’s, he probably served you a cocktail at some point. Tell him thanks and keep fighting.