Let Me Introduce You My Family….YIKES!!!

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Jan and Albert

In order of age, 1st there are Jan and her husband Albert.  They have 2 boys, Will and Chaz, and the boys each have 2 wonderful partners.  I answered the door when Albert showed up for their 1st date almost 40 years ago.  Since that time, we have lived together numerous times and been through so much together – life is good.  They are the most giving, special couple, loved by all who meet them.  Albert is the all American good guy.  In times of indecision, I stop and ask myself; “What would Albert do?” or seek his advice.  The answer from Albert always comes with thought and spoken from the heart with love.  One of Kat and mine’s favorite things to do is to have Jan and Albert over for dinner with us. Albert plays the violin and can tell you the exact day and time of any significant event in our lives and most of the insignificant ones!  Jan and I have been hooked at the hip since high school.  We have gotten into more trouble and forgotten more times than most people can remember. We have been a through thick and thin.  I even got to be in the birthing room for Will’s birth.  I could not imagine life without Jan and her family by my side.  And bonus! she really loves my wife with all her heart.



I also have a brother Joe.  Joe and his wife Nancy live in Louisville, with their incredible

Joe and Nancy

blended family of 5 children, 4 spouses, and 7 grandchildren. Joe and I have always been able to talk but it has difficult with Jan and I here in Jacksonville and him at home.  A couple of years ago, Joe and I hashed out the differences and it has been so wonderful to have him in my life again.  He selflessly sees to our Mother, and Jan and I rest easy knowing that Joe is there taking care of things. Joe and Nancy are special people, I love them and I am blessed to have them in my life.

Family is a tough thing.  In my opinion, having a close family is a daily task. It takes a lot of care, patience, thought, restraint of tongue and love.  We love each other dearly, and finally we have figured out how to co-exist peacefully in each other’s lives.  I couldn’t really tell you how we got here but it took God’s help. It has been a journey of hurt feelings, times of silence and spousal situations.  The good news is that we all got tired of the bullshit and have kinda figured out how to talk to each other about our feelings.  Joe does an exceptional job, it reminds me to play honest.  I’m glad for the journey and blessed that we have gotten here, but I do wish it had happened sooner.

Okay back to the excitement.  I have to get you caught up before Monday.  The biopsy was September 13th and we had a week until “The Big Day” at MD Anderson. We had radiation oncology, mask fitting and chemo discussion from 8:00am until noon. The radiation oncologist discussed treatment and the possible long-term effects, we got into loss of thyroid, loss of salivary glands, needing to use fluoride trays for the rest of my life, my throat would get extremely sore, difficulty in eating, loss of speech – but it would come back with therapy, swallowing difficulty again with therapy, I’d lose part of my beard, and the best was a feeding tube if I lost 18% of body weight. AND we start in 2 weeks. Pardon me but, Holy Shit!  But I remember that I am blessed to be here and buck up even though I was scared shitless.  Next was chemo and scheduled a port insertion, but side effects were just a metallic taste, temporary, and ringing in my ears.  Haha I finally had a win….I have had tinnitus for forever….score one for the patient!  So, then

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The mask

they took me to a scanning room to have my radiation mask made.  Strip from the waste up in a cold ass room and lay on the cold table, but they did give me a heated blanket.  Bravo for the person that suggested heated blankets. Next, they line me up dead center and give me a heated mouthpiece that I bite into and hold until it hardens.  Then, they heat this huge piece of plastic on a frame in warm water and put it over my face, lock the frame to the table and start forming it to my face and shoulders and connecting it to the mouthpiece that is in my mouth.  Then they lined the mask up with laser dots and lines that they had drawn on me. They then transferred the alignment to the mask ensuring the same position for each radiation treatment.

While Jan and I were doing this, Kat had to go get her necessary office items from the flooded Wells Fargo building, because there was no idea when they would reopen and she needed her things to continue working from home.  They let 3 floors a day, no air, elevators not cleared for human transport There a guard escorted you up 8 flights of stairs, gave you a cart for your things, and thankfully would send the cart down while you walked back down.  Again, thankful she wasn’t on the 26th floor and that the elevators worked enough for her stuff.

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WELLS FARGO – Westside


Then we were off to a one o’clock appointment at another cancer practice see what they had to say about our previous visit.  This practice was recommended by a friend just to give their opinion.  They are not head and neck cancer guys, but they are very accomplished prostate and breast oncologists.  After some frank and sometimes humorous discussion, it was recommended that we seek a second opinion at the more experienced UF Shands.  They are one of the top head and neck cancer schools in the country and guess what? They are just across the river.  So, we went to the parking lot and started making phone calls, to see if we could get in to UF fast, and to put MD Anderson on hold.  I won’t make you wait, we this was September 20 and we got into UF Shands on October 3rd.  Just enough time to calm down and kinda forget about it.


LESSON OF THE DAY – A family, related or not, requires action on my part….and I need to fake it until I make it if I want to be an active partner.  BUT it takes 2!

Author: Don

Hi my name is Don Penny I am a professional woodturner in Jacksonville, FL. I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic squamous cell carcinoma in 3 lymph nodes and the base of the tongue and this is my story of day to day life while fighting cancer.

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