Most biographies start with birth and then roll through the years as they drift by but that would bore me to death, and I lived through it. The interesting part of my life began on September 23rd, 1995 as we were driving back to Omaha after watching the Notre Dame – Texas game in South Bend with relatives. The #21 Irish beat the #13 ranked Longhorns 55-27; and in a real oddity, scored points in just about every way conceivable in the game of football. They scored touchdowns on passes and runs, kicked a field goal, intercepted a pass for a TD, returned a punt for a touchdown and even added two points for blocking a Texas extra point. As we were driving along westbound I-80 somewhere in Illinois in our Jeep Cherokee, I absent-mindedly rubbed the left side of my neck under my chin. My very astute wife asked, “What’s wrong with your neck?” Now I had been an Air Force medic for twelve years; and as evident in my descriptions of outlaws’ agonizing deaths in my stories, have a good working knowledge of anatomy and physiology. But that knowledge is offset by being a guy and thinking that we all live forever. My neck lymph nodes had been enlarged for around three months when my wife asked that question. I obfuscated as if I was a lawyer and replied, “Um, a few weeks or so.” (Note: Twelve or thirteen weeks does qualify as a ‘few’ weeks if one chooses to be generous.) “And what did the doctor say?” “I’ll ask him when we get back.” “Yes, you will.” I do not want to make my wife out to be a harpy or a nag, because she is neither. She’s an incredibly patient woman who could only put up with so much stupidity by yours truly. Three days later, after the doctor copped a quick feel of my lymph nodes, he said, “I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like it,” which was an honest, albeit an imprecise diagnosis. So, we trotted over to a local ENT specialist. She didn’t like them either and took me into surgery a few days later where she yanked one out, so the lab could dice it and slice it, then look at it under a microscope. The pathologist who looked at the cells through his microscope reported his findings as ‘lymphoepithelioma’. That meant that it was a secondary tumor and there was a primary tumor somewhere else in my nasopharynx that was the original problem. Back I went into the operating room where the ENT doctor did an extensive examination and found nothing. She was so sure of her reconnaissance of the back of my throat that she told me that the pathologist was wrong, and it was just a lymphoma. Now, being a computer geek, even way back in the dark ages of the internet in ’95, I did some searching and found that if the primary tumor wasn’t found, then the survival rate plummeted to about a fifth of the already lousy survival rate for the advanced Stage IV cancer. My wife and I decided that a second opinion might be a good idea. Off we went in her Jeep to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota as the lousy weather descended across the Midwest. It’s been known to happen, you know. They had a problem getting the doctor here to release the specimen she’d yanked out of my neck, which I thought was odd because I don’t remember selling it and figured I still owned it. Anyway, they eventually got the lymph node, did their own peek and confirmed the pathologist’s diagnosis. It wasn’t until Halloween in 1995 that they finally found the original little bugger. It was just a tiny bump in the back of my throat that must have been there for a long time before it sent its friends marching into my lymph nodes. They wanted to treat the cancer there, but I opted to have it done in Omaha and was sent to the care of Doctor Patrick J. McKenna (a name you may recognize from Max). Doctor Mac was the perfect man for the job as he was very personable, optimistic, had a good sense of humor and wouldn’t put up with my constant whining. It helped that he knew his job, too. Before we started radiation treatment (no surgery or chemo), he told me that I had to eat a lot and put on as much weight as I could before we began the nine-week regimen. Now that was good news! So, I ate like the proverbial pig and soon ballooned to an amazing two hundred and forty pounds. I was just short of six foot two when I was in the Air Force and usually had to work to keep my weight below the maximum allowed two hundred and eighteen pounds. I am the first to confess that it wasn’t all lean muscle, either. But two hundred and forty? That was a place I’d never been before. Before that first session, I believed that it was more than enough to get me through the treatment, but I was mistaken. Each of the actual radiation sessions didn’t last very long; less than a minute of actual blasting time, yet I came to dread that minute. My head would be in its mask to keep me in place and I’d hear the high-pitched buzz and have the metallic taste fill my mouth. It wasn’t painful, but I hated it. Doctor Mac had told me that I wouldn’t experience any problems for the first ten days of treatment, but my systems have always been quick to react, so I began to have issues just four days along the regimen. I wasn’t nauseous, but the swelling in my nasopharynx must have triggered my gag reflex because I couldn’t keep much down and that two-hundred-and-forty-pound mark didn’t last long. For some reason, I gravitated to canned peaches and diet cream soda. I have no idea why, either. If I didn’t know better (and I’m still not convinced), I’d swear that I was probed by aliens while I was in the radiation room and they brainwashed me into loving diet cream soda and peaches. I lost the love for both soon after treatment ended for some reason. By the time I finished treatment in January of 1996, my weight was under a hundred and seventy pounds and I was exhausted. The effects of the massive amounts of radiation that had passed through my body from the bottom of my nose to the clavicles began before I even finished treatment when my salivary glands stopped working. Rats! I wasn’t much of a spitter anyway, but still, it is a talent much admired in the male world and I no longer had the ability. Then the swallowing problems began when I found that lettuce was getting stuck back there. I wasn’t overly concerned because it was a leafy vegetable and I wasn’t a fan; but when meat started giving me a problem, that was something worthy of a worry or two. When hot dogs were removed from my personal menu, I wept. (Not really, but I wasn’t happy about it. Of all the food out there, a good hot dog with mustard and onions is the only one that can still make me crazy). The number of foods that I could swallow kept dropping until they finally figured out that I wasn’t going to return to any semblance of a normal diet (at least normal for me), and in October of 2013, they stuck in a tummy tube, which is how I eat now. About the same time that the saliva disappeared from my mouth, the spasms began on my neck as the muscles began to shift from normal to fibrotic clusters. Over the years, they progressed to where my neck is like a nice ham or maybe a leg of mutton. I make a lot of food references for some reason. Anyway, that’s where I am now, physically, and that downward spiraling health situation was the reason I started writing. In 2011, I was put on disability and I really was limited in what I could do but worked around the house and read a lot. I read just about anything; science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, histories, and yes, a lot of westerns. As my health deteriorated, including my speech getting weaker, I read more each day and as I gravitated toward westerns, I found that I was getting annoyed with a few aspects of most of them and in December of 2016, I sat at my computer and figured I might as well try and write one. I didn't care if anyone read them, they were just meant to keep my mind busy. My daughter was the one who 'suggested' that I publish them on Amazon. I did it just to appease her and the last thing I ever expected was to write more than seventy books and actually have people like them. It was, and still is a source of amazement to me and my Elf. I'll continue to write until I run out of ideas or time. I don't have a web site or Facebook page, but a friend as started a Facebook page if you want to comment. https://www.facebook.com/groups/399595841174116/?ref=shareRead more Read less
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