Category Archives: Bill Penzer

This and that

This is not really much more than an update about how I’m progressing, my developing social life and my job searches.

First of all then, my progress. I think this is going quite well. I’m currently sporting a fairly unique post-chemo hairstyle the like of which has possibly only ever been seen previously on either a fashion week cat walk or at a punk concert. It’s a kind of post-punk trying to meet hippy sort of thing lol It’s definitely coming back darker than it was before it went. My stamina is also increasing though I still need more sleep and rest than I used to do, but at least, now, I can usually manage without an afternoon nap.

My social life also seems to be on the up, I’m glad to say. Last weekend saw my wife and myself attend a thank you party given by Bill Penzer for those involved in his most recent book “How to Cope Better When You Have Cancer“. It was a very pleasant party and the people there were interesting for many reasons. Bill was kind enough to give those of us who are mentioned in the book our own copy. I haven’t started on the book yet as I’ve been finishing off the one I was reading, but, tonight seems like it will see me open the covers and go for it. In actual fact I did have a bit of a dip into the book as Bill had marked the pages on which I got a mention. I’d already seen those parts as he’d submitted them to me for approval, but it was still something of a shock to read them again and discover just where I had been only those short months ago – an emotional experience. One thing which did strike me at the party was being referred to, along with several others, as a “survivor”. As I said to Bill, I hadn’t really thought of myself in that way. To me a survivor is someone who comes through something such as a train wreck. Bill was quick to point out that he sees cancer pretty much as a train wreck, but my point was that I expected to be cured, that I, personally, wasn’t suffering from a life threatening disease as some of you are, that I was told I would be cured and I have been. On that basis although my life has been significantly impacted by the cancer, and I really wouldn’t wish to downplay that impact, for me it was never life-threatening and so I don’t really see how I am entitled to call myself as “a survivor”. There’s emotional stuff in there somewhere I think and, yes, it is quite possible that I’m unknowingly choosing to create a perspective which allows me to avoid that emotional impact.

My wife I are still going along to Davie Police’s Civilian Police Academy and thoroughly enjoying it. This week we were taken through a homicide investigation by the investigating officer Detective John Stokes. The investigation was fascinating and made all the more so by the, shall we say, especially unique, style of the presentation. Looking ahead to Sunday I get to join one of Davie’s finest for his shift from 2 p.m. until midnight. Some people on the course have already had their shift in the car and were tremendously enthusiastic about the experience and what they had learned from it. Hopefully I will have a similarly interesting experience without anyone deciding to take a shot at us!

As a measure of my increasing stamina my wife and myself have been able to commit to going to a bonfire party this weekend, with friends Melvyn and Lisa, to mark the failure of The Gunpowder Plot and which is often called Guy Fawke’s Night as effigies of Guy are traditionally burned on the bonfire. I always associate Bonfire Night with frost, cold winds and a smoke bedraggled landscape on the next morning; with wrapping up in woolly hat, scarf, gloves, two pairs of socks and a duffle coat (doubt there will be many dressed like that despite being in autumnal Florida!) while eating roast potatoes made by Jackie’s mum, Mrs. Taylor, wrapped up in serviettes so that they wouldn’t burn our fingers while melted butter would dribble down each chin. By today’s standards I suppose the fireworks were relatively weedy affairs but I still remember the excitement as either my dad or Jackie’s dad would fasten a spinning wheel to the outside of the toilet door – I ought to point out that back then no-one in our street had an indoor toilet – and we all waited with almost bated breath to see whether it had benn affixed too tightly in which case it wouldn’t spin, too loosely in which case it would fly off and gyrate around the area, or whether it had been fastened just right and would spin away happily. Sadly out of the two families who got together for the fires only two of us are now alive and if I’d had my cancer a few years earlier there might only have been one.

My job hunting continues apace and I have to admit that I find it quite tiring. I’m applying for a wide range of jobs so each application needs to have it’s own resume and to produce a good customised one takes quite a considerable time. Then there’s the time taken to fill in the online applications. Usually this goes well but then there are instances such as today with the Comcast site where having completed each field on the form I pressed submit and got a message telling me that I couldn’t submit the application until I had filled in two additional fields. The only problem is that those two fields aren’t on that form. Yes, I’m absolutely certain they aren’t. I looked. I looked again, and again. I did a search with CTRL + F and the only time the relevant words came up were in the error messages. Is there a help function. You betcha, of course there is. Does it work? You betcha, of course it doesn’t there’s a Java error. Is there a contact us either on the job ad or on the job form. Of course not. So it occurs to me that maybe the problem is because I’m using Chrome and I decide to try the same thing with Internet Explorer. The problem (well you knew there was going to be a problem didn’t you?) was that going into the site again I needed to log in. Now, I don’t know about you but my log ins are pretty much variations on a theme so, even though I couldn’t remember what they were for this particular site, actually I couldn’t even remember them for this particular site, I was happy to give it a go and guess what they probably were. My guesses were futile but I wasn’t going to be outdone. “I’ll do it again for a different email account”, I thought to myself, so I did but I wasn’t required to log in, or create a password before starting the application so I was no better off than before. This is a major company and there is no direct way of contacting them about this. Other than that I applied, amongst others to citi a while ago and today had my telephone interview. I may, or may not, hear from their “local recruiter” in the next seven to ten days to take my application to the next level. So far since starting my job hunt I’ve usually applied for two or three jobs most days and I’m hoping that some of them are now sufficiently far advanced to be looked at by a real person.


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Filed under Bill Penzer, Bonfire Night, Cancer, Cancerville, chemo, chemotherapy, Davie Police, Guy Fawkes Night, Hodgkins Lymphoma

Job Search

It’s now three and a bit months since I finished chemo, my hair is growing back pretty well and my stamina has been on the increase so it seemed like it was time to start looking for employment – my first employment since moving to the US.

Despite the woe-sayers on t.v. there are lots of jobs out there, many of them are part-time, many are temporary and many are poorly paid. After some seven years of sustaining a long-distance relationship do I really want to take a contract to work on the other side of America when the contract is for only six months? I don’t think that idea would go down very well with my wife even if I were to consider it. Anyway I have been applying for jobs but I’m finding it to be a very tiring process. After all over the past 10 months I’ve rarely concentrated on anything for more than, say, 15 to 20 minutes and here I am now wading through, literally, hundreds of job adverts each day, checking some out and discounting the overwhelming majority. I even apply for some: in the past week I think I have put in about ten applications, but it is tiring. I also find it frustrating at times. For instance yesterday I completed an application to work at a bank. I started filling out the on-line form which informed me that I would be expected to upload my resume as part of the application, so, naturally, I overhauled my somewhat complicated resume to angle it towards this particular post and I guess that probably took something over an hour. Having done the overhaul and uploaded the resume I continued with the on-line application only to discover that they wanted all the information which I’d already included in my resume! Anyway, I overcame my frustrations and continued with the application to discover at the end of the application that there was an on-line test I would need to take which would probably take between 45 and 60 minutes. Lovely! I reckon that this one job application probably took something over 3 hours to complete in total and it’s not even for a well-paid job. Despite spreading out the process I was left very drained simply from having to concentrate and I do wonder how I will perform in a job situation. On the plus side the more of these applications I do the more I develop my levels of concentration so the better I should be when push comes to shove and even if I do get called for an interview for one of the jobs it’s unlikely to happen for at least another couple of weeks and by then I should be further down the road to recovery shouldn’t I?

There’s clearly a lot more to getting over cancer and chemo than simply stopping the chemo and regenerating hair!

This weekend Bill Penzer is hosting a party for those of us referred to in his book which I mentioned a while ago and which I understand is now available in shops and via Amazon. I’m really looking forward to meeting Bill having spoken to him several times by phone. I wonder whether he’s as excited at the prospect of meeting me!

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Filed under Bill Penzer, Cancer, chemo, chemotherapy, Job Search

I’m not really feeling myself!

OK let’s be clear about this, this is not a salacious posting ;o)

One of the things which has been becoming more and more apparent to me as the chemo continues to grind away at my body to make sure the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has really gone and that I will continue to be cancer free, is that my body is changing. Yes, the first big change was my hair coming out all over my face in the shower. When that happened it really was a moment or two of panic as I really didn’t realise what was between my face and my hands, what was trying to get into my eyes nose and mouth. It may sound stupid but it never occurred to me that when my hair came out it would do so like that. I’d kind of imagined it lying on my pillow when I awoke, or maybe coming out as I combed my hair, or maybe, in a more exotic visualisation altogether, wafting gently on the breeze as I strolled down the street. I’d already shaved off my beard rather than have it fall out in patches so I was already having to get used to a new face, but, on the day my hair came out in the shower, and I mean about 90% of my hair, I went in feeling somewhat normal and came out to see a head shaped very differently to anything I’d imagined, not even the same sort of shape as is evident on my baby photos. : very much egg-shaped. I kind of felt as though I was being used as a model for the Muppet Show. Since then the facial changes have continued as my eyebrows and eyelashes have thinned or disappeared. On the plus side my hair is now starting to grow back on my skull and I’ve taken to shaving once a week to keep the bum-fluff on my cheeks from looking as ridiculous as it must have done when I was about 13 or 14 years old and bum-fluff was considered an outward sign that we boys were turning into men!

I’ve also lost a lot of body hair. My wife reckons I am, or was, a bit hairier than average so when my body hair first started to disappear it was barely noticeable, and then came the day when I put my hand on my stomach and it just felt wrong. It took me a while to realise that the touch felt wrong because I was actually feeling the skin of my stomach – something I haven’t done in probably 40 years or thereabouts as during that time there was always hair between the skin over my stomach and my hand – and it felt very odd. As time wore on it was possible to see the changes on my hands as the hair on the back of my hands and fingers first thinned and then retreated, and, in some cases, just disappeared altogether. It occurred to me that it would, prehaps, have made for interesting time-lapse photography but I was too tired to give it more than a passing thought, let alone work out how to get the same shot day after day. My arms now look as though they are fringed with hair rather than being covered in it: this is because the hair is so thin that it is barely visible against the skin but stands out against surrounding objects. The loss of hair from my legs has, perhaps been the strangest as bald patches began to appear on the sides of my calves where they make contact with the bed when I am sleeping.

I’ve also lost a lot of weight, or at least I think I have, though one of my neighbours tells me that she can’t see the difference. 16lbs loss and she can’t see the difference!?!? I guess it just indicates how much more I need to lose to get back to a reasonable weight, which, in fairness, is something I’ve been aware of for a good while now. Anyway what that weight loss means is that my body is changing shape, sometimes on a daily basis it seems, and this means that, when I do something simple such as rub my hands across my stomach in the shower, the body they feel doesn’t really match with the memory imprint, well I suppose it might if the memory imprint was to be searched back ten or fifteen years. I mean, there’s no hair, I now have ribs, and, there’s even beginning to be a suggestion of abs! Not all the weight loss is down to fat loss, no, some of it is down to lost muscle mass. Now I’ve never been hugely muscled but I’ve led a fairly active life with walking, kayaking, mountain-biking and hurling my grandkids around in ways which make them squeal with delight, so I’ve had a good muscle mass, but now it’s very much reduced. I rub a hand along my shoulders and there feels to be nothing there but skin and bone. I look at my forearms and can see that they just aren’t as thick as they used to be. My thighs are changing shape as well.

So maybe now you understand why I can say “I’m not really feeling myself”.

One thing I have been meaning to mention on here for a while now is Cancerville. Cancerville is really William (Bill)  Penzer Ph. D. a psychologist whose daughter has had cancer. Bill first came to my attention a few months ago when my wife returned from a find-out-more-about-cancer event saying she’d met someone who would like to talk with my about my experiences as someone with cancer for a book he is writing, and that he’d given her a copy of his previous book “How to Cope Better When Someone You Love Has Cancer”. Bill explains about the book and how he came to write it on the Cancerville website, or you can read reviews on Amazon. Now this isn’t a sales pitch, and I have to say that “How to Cope Better When Someone You Love Has Cancer” is not the kind of thing I would have read when my first wife was diagnosed with cancer, but it will be very helpful to a lot of people and if some of your family are struggling then it may be worth pointing them towards a copy either in a local book shop or at the library. I mention this because, after several conversations and emails, I’ve come to the conclusion that Bill is a very genuine guy who will respond to your emails to him. More importantly Bill, as he admits in his book, was surprised at some of the places he found himself when coping with the news of his daughter’s cancer, so he does speak with humble authority and his thoughts on cess pits and dams are worth looking at.

You may be interested in reading these articles

CT scans on children ‘could triple brain cancer risk’

Cancer: Understanding the incurable

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Filed under Bill Penzer, Cancer, Cancerville, chemo, chemotherapy, Hodgkins Lymphoma