Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cancer survivor

I am a cancer survivor.

Twice.

But I feel like a cheater.

In November 2013, at age 56, my wife found a black spot on the back of my ear. I had it surgically removed. It was a malignant melanoma. Fortunately, they got it all. I will be going back for checkups, every six months for five years, to make sure it doesn't show up somewhere else.

In May 2017, at age 59, I went to the emergency room with the worst stomachache in the history of the universe. I was diagnosed with pancreatitis, given a miracle painkiller called Dilaudid, and admitted to the hospital for four days.

The doctors stuffed me in an MRI tube to take a closer look at my pancreas. They never did find the cause of the pancreatitis, but while I was in there, they found something on my kidney that didn't belong there. Suddenly they were a lot more concerned about my kidney than my pancreas. They did a CT scan and confirmed that I had a tumor on my right kidney.

So about six weeks later, after my pancreas was back to mostly normal, I went into surgery to have the tumor removed. A biopsy on the tumor showed, according to the doctor, that it was a "classic renal cell carcinoma" and that it had "negative margin." He could have just said, "It was cancerous, but we got it all." I will go back for a CT scan 12 months from now, and if it shows no more cancer, then I'm free.

I was lucky—or blessed—both times. The first cancer, the melanoma, was caught by my alert and perceptive wife. The second cancer was only a Stage 1 carcinoma, only 2 centimeters long, and it was what the books call "incidental detection"—something you find while you're looking for something else. The first one was removed in the doctor's office, and all I had to do was wear a huge bandage behind my ear that made me look like Dumbo for three weeks. The second one was removed using video-game surgery, so they didn't have to slice my side wide open and stomp around inside.

That's why I feel like a cheater.

I didn't have to deal with chemo. Or radiation therapy. A suppressed immune system and the resulting opportunistic infections. Massive hair loss. Nausea. Sores that wouldn't heal in my mouth, my ears, or anywhere else. A feeding tube. Catheters and PICC lines. A portable oxygen system. Unending, unrelenting pain. Doctors who didn't comprehend the pain and wouldn't prescribe drugs simply to relieve the pain.

(Side note: I will always be grateful for that Dilaudid, and for the medical professionals who gave it to me. On a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being pain so bad that you would rather die than continue to suffer, the pain from pancreatitis is a 20 or a 30. My doctors and nurses understood that.)

I didn't have to sell everything I own, including my house, to pay thousands of dollars a week for drugs that might or might not keep me alive. My family didn't have to go through weeks and months of endless torment, watching me get alternately better, then worse, but always worse, wondering if and when the beast would finally kill me.

I got to live. Twice.

From the melanoma, I have a skin graft on the back of my ear. From the carcinoma, I have six small scars on my right side. Only nine days after the surgery I'm up and around. I'll be riding my bike in a couple of weeks.

I'm neither bragging nor complaining. I know how blessed I am. Four medical professionals—doctors and surgeons—independently acknowledged the hand of God in this latest episode, remarking on the fact that it hadn't been for my pancreatitis, ...

But I feel guilty. I feel like a cheater. I got out of the cancer class twice, without having to take the full exam.

Still, when all is said and done, there is this:

I am a cancer survivor. Twice.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Four Character Traits that are Vital to Success

In my opinion, all of the success literature either ignores, or takes for granted, four character traits that are vital to succeeding in any endeavor in life. If you're missing any of these traits, you have two choices:
1. Give up.
2. Acquire and develop the missing character traits in your life.

Here are the four traits, and a short explanation of each.

Courage
  • Not just courage to do the right thing, but courage to do the scary thing.
  • ... or the uncomfortable thing.
  • ... and, especially, the thing you don't want to do.
Ambition
  • This is the drive to do something important or meaningful in your life.
  • It's not necessarily about fame, or wealth, or power. 
  • It's the will to do something besides watch TV, surf the web, play games, or read magazines.
  • It's the will to do something with the time you've been given, besides waste it in meaningless pursuits.
Initiative
  • This is the ability to get up and do something - to start something.
  • Ambition by itself may not be enough to motivate you to action.
  • To repeat and rephrase: initiative is the power to get up off the couch and get started.
Tenacity
  • This is the ability to stick with something until it's completed.
  • My friend John W started dozens of home-improvement projects around his house. He never finished a single one. His house always looked half-demolished, as if a truck had crashed into it. He had an abundance of ambition, but a complete absence of tenacity.
  • Tenacity is related to perseverance, and also to stubbornness. It's the wolverine on the bear's nose in Vardis Fisher's Mountain Man.
  • It's the unwillingness, maybe the inability, to give up.
Notes: I wrote these down on a piece of notepaper and stuck it in my wallet, many years ago. I've been carrying it around since then. It needs to be published - and now it is.

 And here's the original, for those of you who want to see it.



© 2017 R. Ray Depew. You can use these points to give an inspirational speech or write something, as long as you remember to give me credit for them. Always list your sources!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What do you call a Mormon bishop when he's no longer a bishop?



This question came up with some of my Young Single Adults last week: "What do you call a Mormon bishop when he's no longer a bishop?"

Consider my 7th-grade math students, who went from calling me "Mr. Depew" as their teacher, to "Brother Depew" as a member of the stake high council, to "Bishop Depew" as their bishop. What will they revert to?

Some of my YSAs have said that they'll never stop calling me "Bishop." My heart gets all warm and squishy and full when I hear that.

Some of them are already calling me "Papa Pew." We have little Temperance Mae Call to thank for that. Tempe gets my heart all warm and squishy, too.

A small handful have always called me "Ray" and will never stop. They make my heart happy.

Here's the official word. I found this in the results of a Google search for "what do you call a Mormon bishop". It matches what I was taught as a young man. I haven't heard of any recent, official changes to this custom.



This is a little old, but in the April 1993 ENSIGN:
"The titles Bishop and President (designating members of temple, mission,
 stake, and district presidencies and branch presidencies) are appropriate 
even after the leader has been released." 

For what it's worth, I may not be their bishop any more, but they will always be my kids.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Beware of PhotoKeeper

Beware of the PhotoKeeper app!

You may get an email from a friend — or perhaps from an address you don't even recognize — that says:
"Hi Ray, you just got photos!
You were granted access to photos by @jjb4929 because you're in their network.
Click to see 24 photos on PhotoKeeper. "

So you click on the link.

If you're on a PC, you go to a page that says:  
"We’re still working on a web viewer — sorry for the inconvenience. Meanwhile, you can view photos in the FREE app :)
Send a link to my phone →"

That's bait and switch, kids. Don't fall for it.

But if you're on a phone, clicking on the link takes you directly to Google Play or the App Store, so you can download the App.

STOP! Don't do it! Read the reviews!

Once you install the app, it immediately harvests your contacts list and sends to them the same message that it sent to you, offering to share YOUR photos with all of your contacts - if THEY will install the app.

That's classic virus spam behavior. It's bad. You will be sorry.

PhotoKeeper advertises itself as a good way to keep track of all the photos you have tucked into various electronic places. Maybe it does that. It may even be good at it. But a photo-management app shouldn't need access to your Contacts, and it DEFINITELY shouldn't be sending unsolicited emails to your Contacts without your knowledge or permission.

IF YOU READ THE REVIEWS:

Until a few minutes ago, among the 100-plus reviews were 19 five-star reviews dated September 30, 2016 and October 10, 2016. These were all one-line reviews that said things like "Good game!" and "Fun to play!" One even said "Good strategy game!" It's not a game, and the reviews were spam: totally bogus reviews put up there by PhotoKeeper's makers to inflate their rating on Google Play. The two reviews posted on October 11 also look bogus.

Some of the later reviews praise the app's "editing tools." These reviews are also bogus. How do I know? BECAUSE THE APP DOESN'T HAVE ANY EDITING CAPABILITY.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Think twice before you download PhotoKeeper. Maybe even think three times. There are other ways to manage your photos which don't involve surrendering control of your phone to a shady app backed by fake reviews.

p.s. I'm open-minded. I'm willing to be proven wrong about PhotoKeeper. I haven't installed it myself. After the research I conducted in order to write this blog entry, I chose not to.