Introduction

The "Hotel Melanoma" moniker is a metaphor for living with my particular brand of cancer. Except for those lucky few of us deemed "cured", all we cancer survivors are guests of one of the many, many branded hotels in the "Hotel Carcinoma" chain. We can check out any time we like, but we can never leave. Meanwhile, let's be livin' it up; and please support cancer education, prevention, and treatment research.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Going Black in Houston


This past weekend I was blessed to attend the AIM for the Cure Melanoma Walk in Houston, where the only thing warmer than the Texas hospitality is the air. It was quite nice to breathe all of that oxygen down there at sea level, but y’all really do need to do something about that humidity—this Colorado ‘boy’ and his black tutu were quite wilted after walking only 5 kilometers. If event organizer Judy Sager (reluctantly posing above with the Men in Black) hadn’t had us walking after dark, I think I might’ve died.

Putting my climactic whining aside for a moment, I want to thank Judy, AIM at Melanoma, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and all of the volunteers for staging this wonderful event. It was truly a pleasure to meet up with a bunch of inspirational melahomies, and I hope to do it again in the not-too-distant future. For all of you, here’s the Hotel Melanoma rendition of Dean Martin’s “Houston”…



Wasn’t lonesome in this old town
And a buddy drove me ‘round
‘Twas a race put on by AIM
But walking is a pain
Goin' black in Houston, Houston, Houston

I got holes in both of my shoes
Well I'm a walking case of sun blues
Raised some dollars Saturday
But mole friends blew me away
Goin' black in Houston, Houston, Houston

I have been eating for about a week
I'm so chunky in black tutu chic
Mole buddies call me friend
It’s sad the shape I'm in
Goin' black in Houston, Houston, Houston

Goin' black in Houston, Houston, Houston
I got a cure waiting there for me
Well at least they said there’ll be
I found a home and some great warm friends
And an armadillo that was dead
Goin' black in Houston, Houston, Houston

Wasn’t lonesome in this old town
And a buddy drove me ‘round
‘Twas a race put on by AIM
But walking is a pain
Goin' black in Houston, Houston, Houston

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One Fine Day



If only my sunscreen and SPF 50 golf duds could sing, they just might do this one-- to the tune of Carole King’s “One Fine Day”…



One fine day, you'll look at me
And you will know our love was, meant to be
One fine day, you're gonna want me for your cure

The arms I long for will open wide
And you'll be proud to have me
Blockin' right by your hide
One fine day
You're gonna want me for your cure

Though I know you're the kind of boy
Who only wants to sun a round
I'll keep waiting, and, someday darling
You'll come to me when you want to battle brown
Oh

One fine day, we'll meet once more
And then you'll want the ‘glove’ you threw away before
One fine day, you're gonna want me for your cure
One fine day, oh
Oooh, one fine day, you're gonna want me for your cure

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Rocky Mountain Rays


There are several good reasons not to hike near-naked at high altitude, and the intensity of ultraviolet radiation from the sun is just one of them. Did you know that ultraviolet radiation increases by 5% for every 1000 feet of elevation gain? That means the UV rays are 50% stronger at 10,000 feet than at sea level. So sunscreen is good, but perhaps not good enough, and SPF 50 clothing is better. Don’t take my word for it, please check out Colorado Melanoma Foundation’s prevention pamphlet here.

Another good reason to cover up, or at least stash some extra clothing in your pack, is the strong potential for rapid and radical changes in weather conditions along the trail. A warm and sunny day at the trailhead parking lot can turn wet, windy and cold a couple of miles and a thousand feet higher up the trail.

There’s a surefire way to spot an inexperienced mountain hiker from one of the sea level “sand states” like Florida on an alpine trail in the Colorado High Country. He’s the guy with no day pack; bottled water in hand; wearing only a short sleeve tee shirt, shorts, and sport sandals with no socks; and apparently assuming there’ll be cellphone service “up there” if he gets in trouble and wants to call for a rescue. I’ve seen this guy all too many times, even on rugged Fourteener peak trails, and all I can do is hope that getting a bad sunburn is the worst thing that’ll happen to him that day.

I’ll end today’s rant with The Hotel Melanoma rendition of a song I don’t really like, but it fits: “Rocky Mountain Way” from Joe Walsh…



Mountains vast here, Rocky Mountain rays
Couldn't get much higher
Mel’s a bastard, think it's safe to say
Time to don attire

And we don't need the tourists fryin'
'Cause the story's sad
'Cause the Rocky Mountain rays
Are ‘better’ than the rays you’ve had

Well, C's dwellin' on skin and C's spellin’ combat
Changes with ev'ry ray, tan, it doesn't flatter
Bases are loaded and Ray C’s at bat
Playin' it ray by ray, time to change the batter

And we don't need the tourists fryin'
'Cause the story's sad, aha
Rocky Mountain rays
Are ‘better’ than the rays you’ve had
Hey, hey, hey

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pembro-what?

The wonderful melanoma treatment news this week is that Merck’s PD-1 drug, Pembrolizumab, is likely within weeks of receiving FDA approval. (By the way, does the pharmaceutical industry believe that the less pronounceable a new cancer drug’s name is, the more they can charge for it per dose?) Read all about it here.

I know there are so many folks here at The Hotel Melanoma who’ve run out of other options and been rather anxiously, to put it mildly, awaiting the availability of PD-1 treatment. With hopes and prayers this is the lifesaver for them, here’s The Hotel Melanoma rendition of ZZ Top’s “Tush”…



I been up, I been down.
Take my word, my days weigh down.
I ain't askin' for much.
I said, Lord, make C pipe down,
I'm just lookin' for some drugs.

I been sad, I’ve withstood,
Malice nexus, it ain’t good.
I ain't askin' for much.
I said, Lord, it’s a countdown,
I'm just lookin' for some drugs.

Take me back way back home,
Not by myself, not alone.
I ain't askin' for much.
I said, Lord, make C bow down,
I'm just lookin' for some drugs.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Persistence

Being a lucky fellow who’s shown no evidence of disease for almost eleven years after a Stage IIIc diagnosis and biochemotherapy treatments, I’m one of the slackers living at The Hotel Melanoma. Consequently, I move about the cyber-halls of this place in a constant state of awe about the quiet courage and persistence of my Stage IV melahomies who’ve undergone multiple surgeries and drug treatment regimens. And all while continuing to go on about the business of living their lives as long and as fully and richly as they are able. I’m quite often ashamed of how very little I do to lend emotional support to those who are fighting for their lives, withdrawing to my own safe little NED room because I just can’t take the pain of always being there for others and I’d rather write fluffy blog posts and get more pageviews.

Who knows what my medical future may bring, but one thing is certain. Should I ever find myself in Stage IV territory I’ll surely have a lot of fine role models. Many have succumbed to their disease but none have “lost” their battle.

For all of you badass Stage IV warriors, both the living and the passed, here’s The Hotel Melanoma rendition of Don Henley’s “Heart of the Matter”…



I got the call today that I didn't wanna hear
But I knew that it would come
An old, true friend of ours was talking on the phone
She said you're on end run

And I thought of all the bad luck
And the struggles you went through
And how I lost C and you lost you

What are these voices outside closed Hotel door
Make us throw off our ‘contentment’
And beg for one year more?

I'm learning to live without you now
But I miss you sometimes
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew
I'm learning again

I've been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about persistence, persistence
Even if, even when you don't want to anymore

Ah, these times are so uncertain
There's a yearning undefined
And people filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can one survive in such a cureless age?

Ah, the trust and self-assurance
That lead to happiness
They're the very things C kills, I guess
Ah, pride and competition
Cannot fill these empty arms
And the wall I put between us
You know, it doesn't keep me warm

I'm learning to live without you now
But I miss you, baby
And the more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I'd figured out
I have to learn again

I've been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But everything changes
And my friends seem to scatter
But I think it's about persistence, persistence
Even if, even when you don't want to anymore

There are people in your life
Who've come and gone
They let you down
You know they hurt your pride
You better put it all behind you, baby
'Cause' life goes on
If you keep carrying that anger
It'll eat you up inside, baby

I've been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it's about persistence, persistance
Even if, even when you don't want to

I've been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
Because the flesh will get weak
And the ashes will scatter
So I'm thinking about persistence, forgiveness
Even if, even when you don't want to

Persistence
(Yeah)
Forgiveness
(Baby)
Persistence
(Oh, oh)
Forgiveness
(Ah, yeah)
Persistence
(Oh)
Forgiveness
Even when you don't want to anymore

Persistence
(Oh)
Forgiveness
(Oh)
Persistence
Forgiveness