Merry Christmas from LUG: An unexpected gift from the doc

Dear readers,
I just wanted to give you a personal update on how things are going here at

The hair will come back sooner than expected.

As most of you know, I was diagnosed with cancer last July (right around the end of the Tour de France, for those who use the grand tours as milestones on the calendar). My doctors took a very professional – and aggressive – approach to the problem and I was in surgery for the first of three operations within days of the diagnosis. Then came what was supposed to be a 20-week regimen of chemo therapy, using a toxic combination of three drugs.

If you ever had any doubts, let me assure you that chemo does, indeed, suck. The side-effects are too numerous – and too gross – to list, but two of them were such that even my oncologist got nervous in recent weeks. Last Friday, instead of spending half-a-day attached to a chemo pump, I spent five hours in the emergency room undergoing a full spectrum of tests on my heart, because the docs had found a dysrhythmia. My oncologist was concerned because potentially fatal dysrhythmias are a rare side-effect of the drug Taxol. She said it was quite rare – fewer than one percent of those treated showed signs of the problem. But what the hell, I’m already a rarity of sorts, given that less one percent of breast cancer cases occur in men. I was already a member of one “elite” club, I didn’t need to join another. I mean, I’m all about being unique, but this is #@%&ing ridiculous.

Well, after all that testing the diagnosis was actually good. The dysrhythmia disappeared once I got on the treadmill and cranked up my heart rate. Nonetheless, my oncologist was still worried enough about that, along with the neuropathies I am experiencing on my fingers and toes, to call off the last month of treatments.

Yup, all of that worrisome news has actually turned into one hell of a Christmas gift: Chemo is over, effective immediately.

At this point, the prognosis is good. Body scans show no more tumors and I can turn my attention to getting back on track with things for 2012. I can focus on building my law practice, getting back on the bike and even growing my hair back as the new year begins.

I just want to extend my deepest thanks to all of you who have expressed so much support and encouragement over the past few months. Weird as this might sound, when I look back at the entire experience I can actually say that it’s been remarkably positive. Nope. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to go through this again, but it has brought some needed perspective to life. Of course, the biggest lesson to come out of this is the most obvious: friends and family count. We are not alone.

Our kids - Philip and Annika - have been amazing through this whole thing.

My cancer is done for now. Medically, it was mostly just a pain-in-the-arse for me. I seem to have survived it. Not all do.

On what turned out to be my last day in chemo, I spent some time joking and laughing with a woman, perhaps a little older than me, but not by much. After about half-an-hour of idle chatter and back-and-forth banter, she mentioned that her only realistic goal was to make it to this coming Sunday, so she could celebrate Christmas with her family before she dies. Suffering from lung, liver and bone cancer, she’d been told three months ago that she had about two months left. She’d already beat the odds and was just hoping to do a little better than that.

Word is that she’s going to make it and will have Christmas this year. I can imagine this one will be a bittersweet occasion in that family. I sure will be thinking of her on Sunday.

My new friend knows that this Christmas will probably be her last. I suspect that knowledge won’t keep her from enjoying the days she has left.

I am not one of those who believes a “positive attitude” is a cure for cancer. I’ve lost too many dear – and positive – friends to imply that they died just because they weren’t positive enough. There is no shame in death, just as there is no particular nobility in surviving the ordeal. What my new friend taught me, though, is that no matter what the future holds, a positive outlook may help you keep things in perspective.

It was her attitude – the idle chatter and jokes – that taught me the most valuable lesson. Forget the complaints. Ignore the problems. Don’t focus on what you don’t have. Maybe instead, take a minute to look around and appreciate what you do have. Give your kids a hug. Kiss your spouse. Pet the dog. Take it all in and appreciate what you have. Life is way too short for all of us. For some, it’s shorter than that. That doesn’t mean that you can’t embrace each and every moment you have. I’m among the lucky ones who got to learn that while I’ve still got some time.

I have no reason - or right - to complain.

I look around and see just how much I have going for me. My beautiful wife, Diana, and I celebrated our 25th anniversary between my first and second surgeries. She has been supportive throughout and I am forever grateful to her for that and more. My 17-year-old son, Philip, and my 11-year-old daughter, Annika, have come through this whole thing exhibiting empathy and compassion beyond their years and, most importantly, with their senses of humor intact. And I can’t even begin to list the folks who came out of the woodwork since I spoke openly about this thing. I have been overwhelmed by what people have said and done over the last few months.

So, I best sign off with a hearty Merry Christmas to all of you and the assurance that I have ample reason to look forward to 2012. I’ll see many of you here next year for Live Coverage of our favorite sport.

Thanks again for all your support and encouragement. It means more to me than you can ever imagine.

39 thoughts on “Merry Christmas from LUG: An unexpected gift from the doc

  1. That is great news Charles, after all the uncertainty and treatment, this couldn't have come at a more appropriate time. Have a very merry Christmas, you and your' family deserve it.

  2. I'm glad they are done poisoning you. I think growing hair is an admirable goal for the coming year. I was, in fact, petting my dog while reading your news. Thank you for the update, and a happy Christmas to all!

  3. Chapeau, Charles, chapeau! Thanks for your poignant reminder of what's important in life. Congratulations on kicking cancer! All the best to you and yours- Missy in Landiego

  4. Best Christmas letter I've read. Wonderful news and wonderful perspectives. Maybe you can snip some locks from Phillip and double-side tape them to your head. Merry Christmas.

  5. Merry Christmas, Charles! You've been an inspiration in more ways than one! Thanks for the reminder of what's important this Christmas!

  6. It's all too easy to become detached from reality when going through cancer. I know all too well, lost my mother 3 years ago and watched every minute of her courageous and inspired fight. My mother was much like the woman you met in the hospital. Trust me that people like you, Charles, are an inspiration and a source of courage for patients like that. Merry Christmas, and keep kicking ass!

  7. Congratulations, Charles. Ever the hard man, even though not Belgian. After recovering from my second cancer surgery, I kept telling myself, "There are no bad days – just good days and better days." Sometimes that's a hard mantra to uphold, but it's a good working philosophy. Remember, it's not about the bike, it's about the hematocrit!

  8. Great stuff Charles, keep the faith.
    Hope to catch you on a bike some time, eh?

  9. A joyous Christmas to you and your family! Glad to hear the wonderful news about being in the clear. Looking forward to spending the 2012 Grand Tours with you.

  10. Good news at Christmas for your family ! 2012 will no doubt see some of your best work with Red Kite .

    Your friend surviving to Christmas puts me in mind of Karen Monroe who beat Lung Cancer for many years but succumbed in september . her foundation is " Ridehardto breatheeasy ( google )" and the work continues with her husband and friends .

    Last january she met Lance at the Tour Down Under and rode home from Adelaide to Melbourne creating publicity for those that continue to be treated for the effects of secondary smoking . As mentioned in my blogs she was a non smoker and was like other lung cancer sufferers regarded as suffering from " self inflicted " symptoms !

    Laughter and a positive attitude contributes to lengthening a patients resistance and i hope to hear that your friend survives well into 2012 .

    Best wishes for the festivities to your family and readers

  11. Charles, you are an inspiration, thanks for sharing your journey. I lost both of my parents to cancer, my sister in law had stage 3 breast cancer but is beating it and I have had early stage melanoma removed from back, cancer sucks for sure, but you have handled it with such dignity and grace. I'm so happy for you and your family. Have a wonderful Christmas and a joyous new year!

    Rick Bald

  12. great, glad for you mr pelkey!
    great perspective
    all the best to you and yours this christmas

  13. Good news Charles! I have had lymphoma and was cured, and my boyfriend is post -surgery for his cancer. We get it, what you have gone through. So true, APPRECIATE what we have. We are not all so lucky to have a treatment or cure and all of us know somebody who didn't beat their cancer. Best to you and your family on this most blessed of holidays.

  14. You take care, Charles. Here is hoping that 2012 brings you full rehabilitation, lots of good bike rides and time with family, and a fine law practice.

  15. Great news Charles. Have a wonderful Christmas with the family. Does this mean you can start drinking wine again? Best wishes from the Field/Klages family!

  16. Damn right, Ricki. I am now embarking on what I like to call a full schedule of "Vino-therapy."

  17. Charles…thanks for the update and the inspiration…..intend to raise a glass of Pauillac in your honor….Prost !

  18. Get that law practice built up and grow your hair back. I'll do my damnedest to get back to God's Country just so I can hire you for some mundane legal tasks. Happiest of trails to the entire Pelkey family.

  19. Thanks for the eloquent reminder of what is important in this fragile life, Charles. Merry Christmas to you and the fam.

  20. Wow – some story. I had tough week at work, mixed in with pre-holiday running around, getting a little cranky about it all. Your post kicks me in the ass and reminds me I have nothing to really complain about. I plan to really enjoy this Christmas weekend with my family.

    Thanks for the reminder. Continued good luck with your recovery.

  21. Charles, Wonderful update. Thanks for all the perspective. It serves as such a key reminder to myself and so many others. Being grateful – it's a simple act we take for granted. So thank you. Suzette

  22. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Great news on your progress. Thanks for the update and the perspective.

  23. Great news, Charles!
    All the best to you and your family!
    Thank you for sharing your journey with us and so eloquently.

  24. Wonderful good news on your recovery. I sure miss your sanity of reason on I don't have any need to go their now as I am terribly allergic to grammar used by Boulder bubble fan boyz. LOL. You've got a nice perspective. Wonderful family is important. If it makes you feel better, I permanently lost my hair to alopecia totalis a few years back. People continue to ask me how many years will I be taking chemotherapy. Good luck this year 2012!

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