Thursday, July 29, 2010


I have been asked how people can help out with the blood drive if they can not give blood. The next blood drive will be at Gabby's on Telephone Road, August 28. I was hoping to put together some goodie bags for the donors. If you or your company have coupons or other items please let me know. I am also accepting cash donations to pay for some catered food items. When the donor leaves from Gabby's that day I want them to know how much I appreciate them. Basically, I want to reward those donors that come out to give the gift of life. I can take Paypal with the link above or you can send to no gift is too small.

Thank you very much,

Roger Contreras
(832) 848-6705

Without these blood drives I would not be alive today. It is a cause that is very important to me. My sister and I were chosen to be in the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Bank's 2010 calendar. We are Mr. & Mrs. November. I was able to get a few extras that will be available on the day of the event.

Run like a girl

Inspiration can come in many forms and from many different sources. As I continue taking my medication to strengthen and develop my immune system they drag me down, making me lethargic, tired, and sleepy. Yesterday I read a post from D'Ann about her jogging before work. A cousin I have grown up with is in her own fight against cancer and just completed five rounds of chemotherapy. She took the diagnosis for what it was and decided to take it head on and fight. She had daily radiation treatments, something I never had to endure. She continues to drive to work, care for her daughter and prepared dinner last night.

Both are women but how they conduct their lives makes me want to do something. Like Forrest Gump, I was just running and running. I am determined to sleep no more than 8 hours and start daily calisthenics. Although I am under doctors orders with my treatment, I could easily use that as a crutch. I do not want crutches. It will be two months til I can work again and make an income. I have to choose whether I need a cell phone or do I need 12 more prescriptions. Obvious choice, I will resort to using smoke signals from the Weber grill out back.

I am heading to my sisters to watch my nieces and nephew while she works. She has been the shoulder that has felt my tears. I feel like I reached a point in my recovery where things will go positive. As long as I can find inspiration I am invincible. I like girls.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Insomnia consumes me

After this much time you would think I could control my own sleep patterns, but I find myself at their mercy. It is 2 am. and I am wide awake. Home alone which is rare, so I do not know what to do. Am thinking of cleaning the freezer or going out to the driveway and wash my truck. TV is boring unless there is a sport on. I have seen todays edition of Sportscenter so I find myself with idle hands and time. I think alot about what might have been, how my life would be changed. April 10, 2008 is a day I will never forget, it is the date I was admitted to Tomball Regional Hospital in Texas.

Being admitted stripped me of many things. Dignity was the biggest. I find myself asking why me. I try to volunteer to help others, I read to escape but I keep coming back to the same place where I want to feel sorry for myself. Like life owes me something. I saw cancer, fought it and am winning, I deserve something. A sticker, I got. Maybe a happy face drawn on my arm.

Do not take your health for granted, and hopefully you are sound asleep as I type this.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Clouds overhead, rain forecast, & still taking pills

I refuse to let cancer define me as a person. It will not be what is rememnered of me when I am gone. My experience with it has made me stronger, not physically, yet. But mentally and more determined. There is too much out there to be hindered and shackled by this illness. I received a transplant over a year ago that has allowed me to discontinue what were weekly and bi-weekly blood transfusions. My immune system was obliterated and I had to start from scratch. I am still on antibiotics, antifungals, antivirus and just about every other anti medicine that can be prescribed.

I want to wake up before dawn and prepare my lunch. Put on my Wranglers, boots and a Commit for Life T-shirt. Drive my truck to a muddy field that I will help convert to a hospital, school or other building. I need to transform these smooth palms to the blistered, calloused hands that grip pipe wrenches as if it were second nature. To feel the sweat drip down the back and hoping for a slight breeze to cool you down. The weight of my hard hat multiplying as the day progresses. This is what a man should be doing.

After receiving only my second round of vaccinations this has been placed on hold. All I can do is try and fight the lethargy that the prescriptions bring. Try to regulate my sleep so that I am not awake at midnight and taking naps like a child during the day. I am having to learn to control my anxiety.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Benefit for Lauren Henry

If you have any question you find more information on Facebook by searching Lauren Angels or I have MDS

Chemotherapy - was done but I return for a different reason

When I underwent chemotherapy I was admitted into a special room that was a reverse isolation room on a special floor. Any contact with me was made with the person wearing gloves, masks, and gowns, sometimes booties. The procedures usually took five days and I was constantly monitored. Nausea's was common but stomach and chest pains were worse. Intravenous medications were administered to ease the pain. The first time was almost two years ago.

I had a more extreme round of chemo prior to my stem cell transplant. This caused more pain and weakened me to the point of being bed ridden. It also took a full head of my hair. The recovery from the full effects trickle down to today. I still struggle with sleep and am lethargic through the day.

Cancer knows no boundaries and it definitely does not discriminate amongst income classes. It is a silent terror that can attack anyone, anytime. I am in the final stages of my treatment and trying to do more volunteer work and help educate those that are new to this world. Today I will be going to the hospital, but not for my own medical treatment. A member of my family has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. Today is the day for chemo, I will be going with her. She is a strong determined woman and may not need me there, but if she needs another blanket or a glass of water I will be there for her. Sometime just knowing you have someone at your side is enough to put you at ease in an already difficult situation. I just hope I can help.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"How do you cope with not working and bring in an income?"

That is a question I posted on a cancer forum. The responses I received were insightful, informative and uplifting. I will share them here.

Roger, I don't know the full extent of your transplant story but I can certainly empathize about the loss of income and watching everything you'd worked for over the years disintegrate; my unrelated allo transplant story's been different in that I was given every warning you got, the same rounds of immunizations, but encountered no post-transplant infections or GVH issues. I returned to work fulltime relatively soon, and with young behavior-disordered kids at an alternative school---not exactly what my oncologist would've recommended, they advise against working with kids who can be little germ factories in regular classrooms, but in my job moreso, since we have to do a lot of "hands-on" stuff. But this was my line of work, and I think my oncologist recognized that my mental health was helped a lot by my job, so she's cautiously okayed it---and I wash hands religiously, use hand sanitizer several times daily, and have had no sick days, as opposed to my fellow employees (who got swine flu, etc.)---but you never know, I just take one day at a time. The new immune system has turned out okay so far for me, knock wood.

When you've had serious infections, like it sounds like you have had, they are understandably very cautious. And I can really relate to your subject line about not bringing in an income....I went to work 6 months after BMT, but had 6 months off (after my AML relapsed) prior trying to get into remission, waiting for my donor to be ready, etc., so a full year off work in total. And my husband's a self-employed graphic designer, so I was the health insurance provider for both of us. The $$ I've paid for COBRA---don't get me started. And his business was down due to our lovely economy. I had short-term disability, when that ran out, I never applied for long-term as I was determined to go back to work (I'm hard-headed) but that is certainly an option for people in our situations. But we went through all our retirement savings, bank accounts---any assets we have, we have used. I thought my first round through AML treatment four years ago was financially devastating for us, however that was a drop in the bucket compared to transplant. Some poeple do web pages where you can contribute funds, or have friends and families organize fundraisers---all viable ideas, I just never did that, it was hard for me to ask others for money when everyone was cash-strapped in this recession. But I do know people who have been very grateful for fundraisers that have been successful in their communities.

I'm 2 years post now, Roger---still owe my transplant hospital money (and I had health coverage) and I work during the school year about 60-65 hours a week (I have a parttime job, too) because frankly, I need the money. I feel great, normal again---I always ruefully tell people the only way I you can tell I've had a transplant is to look in my bank account! I try to remember it's all been worth it---our retirement fund is gone, our savings next to nothing, but I'm still around to mourn the loss of all that stuff, so I'm appreciative of that!

I think your work for the Blood Bank, and educating others, sounds fulfilling. I do the same for the LLS, my husband and I are currently putting together an educational DVD for them, plus I do first connection. These things help us help others and give back a little, but they are also very cathartic for us, too. So I think it's great that you are doing that! Remind yourself how very important that work is, even if it isnt a paying job.

Do look into the long-term disability. I never did, so I'm clueless as to how to help there, but others here have done it and will gladly give you more info. With your extra health precautions due to the infections you've had, etc. I'm sure your doctors would agree you'd qualify. The hospital social workers are usually very helpful with that sort of thing, too.

I wish you well, Roger, and hope that the infections are a thing of the past for you! Please let us know how you are doing.



I'm sorry to hear that your immune system is taking so long. We all have melt downs at different points. In some ways, they can be theraputic. It sounds like you were able to get control again which is great. I just encourage you to be vigilant about your meds and care. I believe it's worth the fight.

I will just echo what others have said about applying for SSDI and looking into working from home. Some of those work-at-home deals are fishy but I would talk to a job counselor to see what they may be able to offer. I know of some community colleges around here that offer help with job searches and you typically only need to be a resident of that county to use them. You may want to look into that in your community.

Take care,
I don't think you're concerned about bringing in an income from the financial end, at least not as much as you're concerned about not doing what you're supposed to be doing. Am I right? I mean, I've been there, too. The money's a bitch but not being able to do what we were brought up to do is a bitch.

I hear what you're saying about feeling, can I say "useless" or not being the man you're supposed to be? That crap still weighs me down sometimes and just kicks me in the ass. If I'm misreading you, I apologize and won't turn this into my own vent.

However, in the event I'm on the right path, let me address a couple of things. You mentioned your life is on pause. It depends on how you look at it. I come from the angle that life's what it is whether I like it or not. My life hasn't been on pause a minute. My life has been redefined and refocused for a period of time. I am living life even in this very strange and somewhat disappointing world I've found myself in. Whatever lies ahead is my life. Time to get an lead pipe and bludgeon my way through it.

My choice of CDs would've been David Lee Murphy instead of George. But we all need the medicine we need, ya know?

I'm most sorry that you seem to be finding all of this out now. It would seem more appropriate if they'd've gotten you ready for this going in. You need your vaccines, you need to get your immune system up, especially if you're a plumber. But, who knows, you might be on a new career path with the work you're doing. Many people in health care got there in response to disease. I once thought I might, but then thought better of it. Just not my calling.

Now, if I'm reading right, I need to clear something up for you. GVH is not an infection, in fact it's kind of the opposite of an infection. In a way it's about too much immune system. You might want to get your doc to go over that with you again.

But kudos to your doc. As WBF said, the emotional/mental side of this isn't usually addressed as directly as it should be. I think that your doc got you with a grief counselor was a great move. I hope the counseling helps.

I'm not aware of when you had your transplant but if you're just now getting your vaccinations, I figure it has been over a year? So I'm having a tough time figuring the timeline here. Sorry, I have chemo brain...another way life changes for some of us.

I hope you're feeling better today and will continue to get better each day.

I think Tex brings up some really good points. I can only answer as a spouse, but I will tell you there wasn't a minute of my husband's treatment when I thought he was a burden. I was so busy being thankful that he was alive and fighting, that money didn't cross my mind. We have always been able to pay our bills, we have cut down on a lot, but we are fine with that! Dan has been off of work for six months and I am a stay-at-home mom. We are thankful that Dan's job has a really good "sick leave" program and we had bought an income protector policy a few years ago. Of course nothing kicked in right away, but it all worked out. We have gone through a bit more of our savings than we had planned but sometimes that's what happens in life. He's scheduled to return to work in 1 1/2 weeks. We'll still be close to a month longer without a "real" paycheck.

Money aside, our family has made it our mission to pay things forward. We fundraise. We raise awareness. We give back. For us, it's a need. We are determined to turn this whole experience into a positive one. My husband (a pipefitter/sheet metal worker) has often thought that maybe one day he'll change careers. For now, we are just moving today is a "new normal." We'll never have Dan's pre-leukemia days back. Our family will never be the same. We are OK with that now. We have today, and today will rock! We are prayerfully confident that each day will grow into a new day where Dan is healthier and stronger and our family is that much closer. We are thankful every day for that!!

We have gone through little spurts of sadness. I guess we kind of mourned for the way things were. I'm sure everyone does at some point. More times than not, we just celebrate all of the GREAT things we have been blessed with. We celebrate the good days...we celebrate that the bad days aren't worse!

Maybe my answer is a crappy one. Dan said from the begining that cancer would not define him and anyone that wanted to play along HAD to be positive and enjoy life! I chose life. Leukemia, for us, is just a bump in the road of life.

PS-change the CD!! George Strait on a happy day would make me wanna drive off a cliff Get you some drivin' rock, jammin' music...I'm more of a Red Hot Chili Peppers gal myself!**************************************************************************

Thank you all for your time and your comments

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Doctors visit

I just returned from MD Anderson. My appointment did not go the way I had planned, it was a sucker punch to the kidneys. My immune system has yet to fully develop leaving me vulnerable to infection. A common cold can put me back in the hospital for weeks. I received my second round of vaccinations, six shots in both arms. The doctor explained it in basic terms. My body is like that of a baby just receiving their shots. My body can not yet defend itself. I have more prescriptions to help develop my immune system while also protecting me from infections. The punch to the kidneys came when he told me it would be at least three months before progress is shown. That's ninety days and there is no guarantee that it will be ready than. He sent in a grief counselor who talked to me and tried to prepare me for the fact that in real time I may be looking at 2 years from date of transplant before my body can protect itself and I am able to function properly on a regular basis.

Sitting in my truck in the parking lot my arms went numb from the shots. Than tears rolled down my eyes, I could not stop. I was screaming and punching the dashboard like a madman. My life has been put on pause. How much longer can this go on? I am the house guest you invited over for the weekend that's yet to leave. I am a grown man with intelligence and skills, I am not supposed to be a burden. I asked what would happen if I stop listening to his orders and quit the meds and resume my life. He said that he would not be able to see me. I asked why he said that the last infection I had in October put me in the hospital for 3 weeks. The next infection (Graft Versus Host Disease) would most likely take my life. Dying from the inside out. By the time I felt any pain or showed signs of sickness the infection would have taken control of my body by than there would be little that could be done to reverse it. That's when he brought in the counselor to explain the severity of the situation.

I am still trying to put all this in perspective. The tears stopped (a George Strait CD can be the best medicine sometimes) and now I need to come up with a game plan. I will continue my volunteer work with the Blood Bank, I am scheduled to work the blood drive in Willowbrook tomorrow. I opened my email to find that I have been asked to be the keynote speaker at a meeting for Andarko Petroleum to explain the importance of blood donors. That made me feel pretty good. I might not get paid but I will work at educating and sharing the effects of my disease with others.!/group.php?gid=126178420738609 This is the link to a group page I started on Facebook. Please take a moment to look and maybe become a member. I was sharing information and will begin offering different books and literature on different forms of cancer as well as promoting blood drives. Read some of the entries and if you can, help me share it. There is a discussion section that I welcome people to use. I have amassed a wealth of knowledge over the last few years and obtained excellent information from the University of Texas Medical Library. There is no cost for any reading materials just let me know what you would like and I will mail it to you. If you have reading material that you are no longer using I will gladly take it off your hands. I can share it online as well as find a good home for it by donating it to the MDA library.

This keyboard and you have helped keep my sanity. Not long ago I would be somewhere with a big bottle of Jack Daniels and a cup of ice feeling sorry for myself. Drowning your sorrows doesn't work, I've tried. Those "sorrows" can swim, they will not drown, they keep floating back up, no matter how much Jack you feed them. And Jeiger Bombs just make you stupid. So I sit here and thank God that I am here. This has been a journey not one I would have chosen had I been given the opportunity but it is mine and I must make something productive of it.

Thank you for reading, I needed this.