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Hoping For A Better World Before I Stop Breathing

June 8, 2020 Featured, Politics/Policy, Popular Culture, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Hoping For A Better World Before I Stop Breathing
Black Lives Matter sign along Gravois

I can still breath, but far too many can’t anymore — due to police brutality.  Here’s how Cambridge Dictionary defines brutality:

/bru??tæl.?.ti/ behavior that is very cruel or violent and showing no feelings for others.

Cruel or violent. No feelings for others.

The Police aren’t cruel & violent toward everyone, their clear target is black women & men. Breonna Taylor & George Floyd were the most recent victims.

I was just over a year old when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. The killing of unarmed black men had been going on for decades at that point, though it didn’t make the news then. Now it seems we’re still grappling with one senseless killing when another occurs.

Since I was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer last fall I’ve cried a lot. But I’ve come to accept I have 1-10 years left to live. What’s harder to accept is my final years will likely be marked by a deadly virus and the continued killing of young unarmed black women & men.

I know as a white male I’ve been fortunate. My mom didn’t have to worry if I’d be killed just for being myself. Actually that’s not quite true, as a very out gay man my mom worried about AIDS or me being beaten to death.

Still I’ve lived my 53+ years unafraid of the police. I’ve been pulled over before and given the officers a hard time about not wearing their seat belts — a black person could never do such a thing. I grew up in Oklahoma City but never heard a word about the 1921 Tulsa race massacre when white mobs entered and destroyed a thriving segregated Black Wall Street. Not. A. Word.

Aerial over Washington DC shows BLACK LIVES MATTER in huge letters leading to the White House

Peaceful protests are the foundation of our democracy. Seeing the many protests all over our region is very encouraging. I have friends out protesting, I’d join them if it was physically possible.

Those who started riots & looting are not protestors, they’re agitators. They come out when the opportunity arises. The protestors are not rioters. Protestors are not looters.

The 7-11 at 17th & Pine was burned a week ago.

White folks are often uncomfortable during times like this when there are mass protests. Good! Black folks are uncomfortable every day so it’s about damn time white folks feel uncomfortable.

When I’ve cried the last few weeks it’s not because I’m going to die in the coming decade, but because young black  women & men have died so violently at the hands (knees) of police, citizen vigilantes, etc. Recently I also cry every time I see the video of the old white man shoved to the pavement by police in Buffalo NY. They just kept walking past him. Cruel & violent indeed.

Homemade billboard along SB I-55 in Illinois demonstrates the slave owner mentality still exists. Location is just south of Farmersville IL in Montgomery County.

The defense is often just following orders, following the lead of higher rank police. The culture of the institution is the problem, in every city from coast to coast. It’s pervasive. Old institutions take forever to change, but my time is limited.

I thought after Rodney King things would change. I thought so again after Michael Brown. Small incremental changes around the edges isn’t enough. We must rethink what policing means in 21st century America, including discussions around dismantling & defunding.

We must stop treating our black citizens like escaped slaves.

My bucket list includes travel and such, but I’d forget it all just to not have any more unarmed blacks killed. I’d like to go out knowing the world will get better, not worse, after I’ve stopped breathing.

Black Lives Matter!

— Steve Patterson

 

Outpatient Surgery Since Last Cancer Update

May 7, 2020 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Outpatient Surgery Since Last Cancer Update

At the end of March I wasn’t feeling well, temporarily stepping away from blogging on a regular schedule.

I wrote, in part:

March 2020 has been difficult. My last treatment was March 2nd. Since then my appetite has dropped off a cliff. Eating less, I haven’t my usual energy.  I’m not walking around our apartment as much, I’m sitting more and napping more.

Despite standing up when my Apple Watch tells me every hour I’ve developed couch sores on my rear end. This encourages me to spend more time in bed.

My day naps got longer and longer, throwing off my sleep schedule at night. Not being active has brought back the muscle spasms in my left limbs — a result of my 2008 stroke. 

At my late March oncology appointment my doctor diagnosed my problem: adrenal insufficiency. Basically my kidney cancer was screwing up my adrenal glands. The prescription quickly changed my energy levels & appetite — I feel like 30 again! I’m easing off the drug now, will meet with a endocrinologist next month to look into my adrenal glad issue.

In April I had outpatient surgery. Though not elective, it was welcomed. I inherited my mom’s tricky veins so I had a “port” implanted in my chest to make blood draws and infusion treatments easier.

A sign on the Washington University Medical/BJC campus

So while I’m feeling well again I’ve enjoyed not having to stick to a rigid self-imposed 4 day per week schedule. As I’ve been doing the past few weeks new blog posts will come as I have time and a subject that interests me. I’ll have at least one blog post per week.

In a future post I’ll share what it was like to have surgery and get cancer treatments during this epidemic. Stay safe everyone.

— Steve Patterson

 

Temporarily Going From Four Posts Per Week To Infrequent Posts

March 29, 2020 Featured, Site Info, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Temporarily Going From Four Posts Per Week To Infrequent Posts
A 2012 photo of me on a MetroBus

When I first announced last Halloween that I had stage 4 kidney cancer I said I hoped to continue blogging — keeping up my four posts per week schedule  November though February was manageable.

… Continue Reading

 

A Difficult Three Weeks, But We Have Toilet Paper

March 23, 2020 Featured, Popular Culture, Steve Patterson Comments Off on A Difficult Three Weeks, But We Have Toilet Paper

My most recent immunotherapy treatment was three weeks ago. Since then I’ve been especially tired and have had almost no appetite. Normally I’d be baking bread, making dinners from scratch, etc. I’d been eating so well I gained 5lbs my last visit. I’ll lose wait again my next treatment day, a week from today.

The last three weeks have been anything but normal, for anyone. Very surreal.  Seeing photos of stores being out of toilet paper made me regret not buying more on our trip to Costco last month.

My last time outside of our apartment was Saturday March 7th, we went to ALDI for our regular monthly trip. They had toilet paper, but we didn’t buy any — though I later wished we had.

My husband is a home health aide, so he’s out most days helping his clients in their residences. This includes doing their grocery shopping for them. After he finished one day last week he stopped at a nearby Costco to pick up items on the list I’d given him. Normally we’d go together, but I was too tired and I didn’t want to be exposed to other people.

My husband took a few pics, like crates at the entrance to demonstrate social distancing.
A sign on a crate lists items that are out of stock — like toilet paper.

As we’re putting away what he’d purchased I hit the jackpot. On the very top of our tall pantry shelves…six rolls of toilet paper!

This package of 6 rolls is part of a larger bundle of 30 rolls.

Yeah, there go my fears of running out.  Of course, we don’t know how long all this will last.

— Steve Patterson

 

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Cancer Update: Treatment Is Working!

March 2, 2020 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Cancer Update: Treatment Is Working!

I first disclosed my cancer diagnosis last Halloween, on this blog’s 15th anniversary. Updates followed at the end of November and December.

To catch you up, I have stage 4 kidney cancer — which means it originated in a kidney but has spread elsewhere. I will never be cancer-free, treatments are about preventing the growth of tumors and further spreading.

My treatment isn’t chemotherapy or radiation, it’s immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a type of cancer treatment that boosts the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. It uses substances made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function. Immunotherapy may work by:

  • Stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells
  • Stopping cancer from spreading to other parts of the body
  • Helping the immune system work better at destroying cancer cells (cancer.net)

My treatments are two different drugs administered intravenously, one after another, now every four weeks. As part of a clinical trial I also take a 3rd drug orally every day — though it might be a placebo.

In early February tests revealed my first three treatments managed to stop the growth of my tumors. Today I’ll be back at Siteman Cancer Center, receiving my 5th treatment.

Side effects have varied, but minimally invasive. The worst has been increased fatigue. I’m fortunate to be on disability, not have to work. Initially I was too cautious, thinking I couldn’t do what I’d been doing. I’ve realized now that other than needing an extra nap, my life continues as before. My life just now includes one day with IV treatments every 4 weeks.

Reduced appetite is another, losing weight which is not something my doctor wants. I now eat throughout the day, every day. The dietician encourages me to consume as many calories as I can. This is the opposite of how I’ve been living in the 12+ years since my stroke. Last July, after a year of going to the gym, I managed to get below 200lbs. I went from being obese to overweight. Now I’m on the verge of going from overweight to normal weight.

I’m grateful for Food Outreach, where we get prepared food every two weeks. I still grocery shop and cook, but having frozen foods in small portions enables me to eat 5-6 times per day. I have salmon nearly every day now, a little too often.

When I’m at Siteman Cancer Center I’ve noticed just how busy it is. It’s clear that cancer impacts every part of society. Fellow patients represent all races, ages, economic classes, and geography — some drive many miles to be there, I take transit. We’re all treated equally, those with lots of money wait with a buzzer like the rest of us to be called back to a treatment pod.

Selfie on Saturday driving back home from a Target trip, the day after my 53rd birthday. I only drive about once a week.

Last month we did our annual trip to Chicago for the Chicago Auto Show, my first overnight travel since diagnosis & treatment. It went well enough I’m planning my first bucket list trip next month. In April I’m going to do a two week solo trip to Chicago with a side trip to Milwaukee, WI. This extended time will allow me immerse myself in Chicago and visit the state of Wisconsin for the very first time.

In Milwaukee I plan to see where a freeway was replaced by a boulevard, the Bronze Fonz, try their frozen custard, and ride their modern streetcar & a couple of bus routes. A future bucket list trip will include returning to Wisconsin to tour Frank Lloyd Wright architecture throughout the state.

My current treatment plan will continue as long as it is working. Once it stops, my oncologist will try another. In the meantime, I’m trying to enjoy the passage of time.

— Steve Patterson

 

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