June 24, 2015

Miracle Stories: The Case of the Missing Tumor [ACNM]

Quick, I need the number to the Vatican SMU (Special Miracles Unit). Okay, maybe this one is not worthy of getting on the Pope's calendar. But it is certainly the most amazing miracle I have experienced.

It involves my eight-year-old daughter who is a happy, healthy cancer survivor. In fact, just a couple of years ago her oncologist said, "I consider her cured." That was indeed amazing news and something that has to be attributed to the grace of God. But the miracle itself occurred a few years earlier.

To get you to that miracle without making you read something comparable to the length of War and Peace I am going to have to fast forward you through some of the most difficult days of my life.

My first daughter was born in 2006. During those joyous and exhausting moments after childbirth, one of the nurses looked at our baby's little rear end and said something to the effect of, "What's this? We'll have the pediatrician check that out." My wife and I did not sense any alarm.

Now I'll really speed up the story. The next day a pediatric surgeon examined our child, suspected (and later confirmed) that she had a potentially life-threatening tumor on her tailbone and declared that she would need surgery almost immediately.

Following an emergency baptism by a priest (thank God we were in a Catholic hospital), our one-day-old baby was loaded into an ambulance and moved to the local trauma hospital where she underwent surgery to remove the tumor.

The tumor had "cancerous elements." So we gradually realized that the next several years of her life, if not longer, would consist of frequent pokes, prods and scans. We brought her home from the hospital on her twelfth day of life, but the situation was far from over. In fact, she needed blood drawn frequently to monitor her alfa-fetoprotein (AFP) levels which could indicate a recurrence of the cancer if they increase.

Now I'll skip the recovery phase and jump ahead to when she was 13 months old. The oncologist called to inform us that her last blood check showed a rise in her AFP. The next several tests showed a clear pattern that her levels were increasing rapidly. Translation: the tumor was coming back.

After consulting with the "tumor board in Boston," the oncologist laid out the treatment plan for us: Our little girl would need three rounds of in-patient chemotherapy followed by another surgery to "scrape out the rest of the tumor." For brevity (if it's not too late for that) I'll skip past the chemotherapy experience other than saying this: It's horrible to sit there and watch nurses pump poison into your child's veins that makes her throw up and lose her hair. But it's worth it if it knocks out the cancer.

My brave chemo patient

We hated the idea of having to subject her to another surgery. This one was going to be more invasive and result in a longer, harder recovery time than her first operation after birth. The surgeon said he might have to "go in from both the front and the back" because he "won't know exactly what I'm dealing with until I get in there."

In the midst of chemotherapy we half-jokingly tried to talk the oncologist out of requiring surgery. "Maybe the chemo will just take care of everything, and she won't need it," we said. It was a nice try, but the best pediatric oncologists in central Texas were adamant that surgery was necessary.

[Don't stop now. You can find out what the miracle was by reading the rest of the story right over here at Austin Catholic New Media.]


June 15, 2015

The (Unlikely) Hugging Bandit

A funny thing happened to me on the way into church last Sunday. To stay true to the introvert persona, I am not a very touchy-feely person. Not at all. So that makes this story even more unusual.

In May I attended a men's ACTS retreat coordinated by my parish. It was a very powerful experience. Once you return from an ACTS retreat, it's a common practice to greet your fellow ACTS brothers with a hug when you run into them at church or anywhere else.

It's usually what's known as a "man hug." You know what I'm talking about, right? It starts with a handshake but then the left arms reach around for a hug, frequently involving lots of back slapping because, apparently, guys still want to show that they're tough while hugging each other!

[Image credit: higherunlearning.com]

As my family and I were walking into Mass, the usher who held the door for us was from the ACTS retreat, so we did the standard man hug greeting. Nothing out of the ordinary there. But then things got strange when I encountered someone else.

As we passed by the baptismal font, another guy walked up to me and very enthusiastically said, "Hi, Adam. How are you?" and reached out for a handshake. Based on his enthusiasm, I instinctively assumed he was also from the ACTS retreat, so I immediately escalated the handshake into a hug.

I could tell from his body language that he was a little surprised by the hug. Then he said, "I didn't know you go to this church." It immediately became obvious that this man was not from ACTS. In fact, I have NO IDEA who he was.

We both quickly said farewell phrases like "so long" and "take care" and went our separate ways. Perhaps you're wondering why I didn't just ask him what his name was. That probably would have been okay at the beginning while we were just shaking hands. But I think it was a little too late for that. You can't initiate a hug and then say, "By the way, who the heck are you?"

I'm guessing the unknown hug recipient is probably a former coworker from several years ago. But I really have no clue.

So if you come up to me and say hello from now on, don't be surprised if I stare at you for a few extra seconds before making any sudden movements.


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June 12, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 118 (Sears slang, greasy tie, holy theft and more)


ONE: Sometimes things get lost in translation. With my (increasingly profitable) e-commerce side business, I regularly come into contact with major retailers. Recently I needed to ask Sears a question about an order, so I used the online chat function. Here's the answer the Sears guy gave me:

"But the email which you received is regarding the order information is correct but as you said that item is available on website right now I am totally agree with that actually the item is out of stock when you placed the order."

Thanks, that clears it up.

TWO: In other amusing e-commerce news, I received a funny email from Overstock reminding me that I have zero dollars in rewards to spend.

I'll try not spend my $0 all in one place!

THREE: There seems to be a bacon obsession in this country. A local toy store has an entire section of bacon accessories and apparel, including this bacon necktie:


FOUR: The same store had an amusing variation of the "Don't Mess With Texas" slogan. In this case, it was a baby onesie that said, "I messed in Texas." Get it?


FIVE: Not everything from the 70s and 80s is out of style. My mom back in Florida still has the same towels we used to take to the beach when my brother and I were kids. She sent this photo:


SIX: Six priests were ordained in the Diocese of Austin last weekend. I didn't get to attend the always amazing ordination Mass on Saturday. But I did go to the next best thing on Sunday, the Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by the one of the new priests.


SEVEN: After Mass there was a great reception, although there must have been some stiff competition for reserved seating. In this case, it looks like the Ladies Club stole a table from the priests:

EPILOGUE: For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum.


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