It’s been nine months since my last cancer treatment and in another couple of weeks I’ll be “celebrating” my cancer-versary, or three years since my initial diagnosis. According to recent bloodwork which I get done every three months, my cancer remains undetectable, too. For now the boogeyman is bound, gagged, and ( mostly ) silenced – well, at least until my next bloodwork and inevitable scanxiety.
Last weekend my friends, family, and I walked in the 2022 Prostate ZERO Walk in San Diego. This was our first time joining a physical event after COVID forced us to come up with our own last year. I felt a little guilty urging everyone to wake up early on a precious Saturday morning to attend, but they did. Later, I laughed as the DJ had everyone warm up with what I can only describe as Zumba-meets-line-dancing prior to setting foot on the course. We were the second biggest team and rose $2,382, putting us behind only Poseida Therapeutics. For everyone who participated, thank you!
For those of you men who are undergoing treatment I can assure you, that if you take care of yourselves you will be okay. Even though it may not seem like it, there is life at the end of the tunnel and, although it’s going to be different than the one you left, it can be a good one, and maybe even a little better, at least in some ways. The big things won’t seem so big anymore, the small things won’t bother you as much, and you’ll start to realize how important the things are that you always just took for granted.
Apparently, at some point in my distant past I was a camper, because I surprised myself and my much more outdoorsy neighbor, Missy, the organizer of the expedition, by the sheer amount of camping equipment I had stuffed into the deepest, darkest corners of garage. It was almost as if I never wanted myself to find it again. Planning ahead I had bought a brand new tent in celebration of Amazon’s Prime Day, only to find two more hidden in my garage during my excavation.
“This new tent will work out better“, I insisted, “It’s bigger and we’ll all be able to sleep together!”
On the first night I realized that our massive 6-person tent was a tighter squeeze than I expected. Worse, I shared an air mattress with Kaylee. Being heavier, I created a depression that she couldn’t help but roll into and subsequently, on top of me. I escaped to the van and spent a sleepless night reclined in the driver’s seat, sleeping for maybe an hour or two in 15-minute spurts. I wasn’t the only one, either. Jodie ended up reading through the night. As for my other daughter, Ashley? She rolled off the air mattress she shared with Jodie and slept, face-planted on the bare vinyl floor of the tent. To each her own.
The toilet and showers gave out early the next day. Suspiciously, the outage coincided with our fearless leader, Missy, contracting a very nasty stomach bug. Being the trooper she was, she insisted on toughing it out, to the extent of trying to follow along on a 3-mile hike in 90+ degree weather. Mercifully, she retreated back to camp only to be voted “off the island” and chaffuered home with a crate of Gatorade and saltine crackers.
A trip to Miner’s Diner in Julian and heaping scoops of ice cream cheered everyone up. Heck, I would have paid good money just to sit in the air conditioned splendor. As luck would have it the diner had an entire basement full of candy which each of the kids took turns exploring.
“Hey, Kay! “Check these out!”, I called to my youngest, Kaylee.
“What are those?”, she asked.
“Sugar candy cigarettes!”, I announced.
“I haven’t seen these in years. Pretty inappropriate for this day and age.”, I reminisced.
She nodded in agreement.
Later that night, back at the campsite, we dined on packaged ramen, canned beans, and store-bought tortillas in an effort to hedge against any more food poisoning stemming from the BBQ’d burgers we had eaten the night before. After getting the campfire started my friend, Mike, strummed guitar while the kids all lined up on a squat fence bordering the campsite.
“Uh, what are they doing?”, Jodie asked.
“Smoking cigarettes.”, I said.
I averted her eyes.
“Don’t worry, they’re sugar. I couldn’t resist.”, I smiled. “It’s nostalgic”.
The second night was quieter. Unsurprisingly, many campers decided to hoof it rather than risk stumbling through the brush in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. My bedroom, the van, was commandeered at least once to make the journey to the remaining operable bathroom a half mile down the road. Sleep was elusive, even more so when Kaylee popped her head in.
“I can’t sleep in the tent”, she moaned, “Can I sleep in here with you?”
“You can try”, I laughed. “I haven’t had any luck.”
She was out cold within minutes in the passenger seat next to me, snoring.
I would say I was up early the next morning, but as I never really went down it’s kind of a misnomer. We managed a pretty good spread of pancakes and scrambled eggs before everyone decided to cut their losses, beat the heat, and head home early.
“Next time? Cabins.”, Jodie suggested.
“Right?”, I agreed absent-mindedly. My exhausted mind theorizing where in the garage I could re-entomb my collection of tents and camping gear so that they would never, ever, be discovered again.
It has now been six months since my oncologist paused my treatments for prostate cancer and it remains undetectable. My doctor calls it a treatment “holiday”, and it’s one holiday I never want to return from.
I had forgotten what it’s like to have energy. I started running again, something I thought I’d never be able to do after recovering from surgery, radiation, and having zero testosterone for two years. I’ve also started playing paddle ball and pickleball a couple times a week, too. On some days I probably push myself a little too hard, but for me, applying a ice pack and swallowing an Ibuprofen is more symbolic of me being fixed than being broken. Life is good.
One day in particular that I am looking forward to is Saturday, September 17th. On that day my family, friends, and I will be walking in the 2022 ZERO Prostate Cancer Walk at De Anza Cove Park in Mission Bay. Last year, we, as “Team Vandervort”, raised $4,134, making us the second highest fundraising team in San Diego. We were also the second largest team with 44 people participating in the walk. This year I am hoping that we can do even better and I have set our fundraising goal for $5,000 and would love to have a team of at least 50 people. If you’d like to join us please go here and register.
My family and I were recently introduced to Paddleball by Jayme, my sister-in-law. Jayme and my wife, Jodie, were avid racquetball players before the onslaught of our children. A few months ago Jayme started playing a similar sport, called Paddleball, with a group at the local High School on Saturdays. She invited me to join her, and, naturally, I said “maybe”. My history with racquet sports isn’t a pretty one. I was the kid in high school that spent more time fishing tennis balls out of the bushes than hitting them. I was also the dude who screamed like a girl every time I played indoor racquetball with Jayme or Jodie. Simply put : They’re good. I’m not good. But, it’s more than a machoistic thing…
“I’m really not a fan of claustrophobia, 80mph balls, and swinging racquets in close quarters”, I told Jayme.
“It’s not a racquet, it’s a paddle”, Jayme encouraged me.
“And, it’s outdoors”, she continued.
“And, the ball is softer and doesn’t travel as fast.”, she finished.
“Maybe.”, I replied.
I eventually did join her, not to play, but because my youngest daughter, Kaylee, who had been going with Jayme, wanted me to meet “Grogu”, the “cutest puppy in the whole world” that frequented the courts. And, Kaylee was right, of course. Grogu absolutely was the cutest puppy in the whole world. But, I ended up playing a couple rounds of Paddleball, too, and, as expected, hit several balls over the wall in the process. But, everyone encouraged me to keep playing and had tips on how to improve my game. I remember coming home, sore and tired, but excited to tell Jodie all about it.
Fast forward a couple of months and Jodie and I now have our own paddles, made by Gearbox, a set of balls, portable chairs, and lots of new friends. We play Saturdays with the San Diego Elite Paddleball Group.
I drew these pictures for Kevin and my ongoing endeavor, a children’s book, titled “Jalapena”. If the name sounds familiar, that’s good, because my last post was over eight months ago. If not, well, it’s a story about a young troll, Jalapena, and her human friend, Raven, as they journey to save their world by means of saving a unicorn. Kevin based it upon stories he told his daughter when she was younger.
As per my last post I’ve been putting a lot more effort into drawing “au natural”, with pencils, pens, and paper. The first two drawings were done entirely on my Surface Pro using Clip Studio and Gimp. The later three were done using a blue pencil, an HB pencil, Micron Pens, and a sheet of printer paper. It takes a little more work, but is a lot more rewarding for me. At some point, if there’s enough interest, I’ll do a quick post on my process.
The Prostate Cancer Run/Walk didn’t quite go as planned. Due to COVID, the organizer, ZERO, deemed that it would be too risky for a large group of people, including those undergoing treatment for cancer, to meet. As such the event was made virtual. Instead of a walk around De Anza Cove, ZERO welcomed participants to walk on their own at whatever venue they wanted and to log their mileage online.
Disappointed, but still very much wanting to walk, I emailed all of my friends and family that had signed up and invited them to join Jodie, Ashley, Kaylee and I at Blue Sky Preserve in Poway. In the email I wrote :
I am almost two years into this cancer thing and I’m doing good. Good enough to walk the walk even if there’s no fanfare, music, or finish line. Because all the pomp and circumstance doesn’t really matter. All that does matter is kicking cancer’s ass, preferably in the company of the friends and family who have supported me along the way. Please let me know if you’d still like to join us.
44 people showed up.
It was awesome.
In all honesty I didn’t walk the entire 5k. I led from the rear with my mom and aunt. We decided to turn back as the others on our team reached the halfway point and met us on their return trip. Although we could have gone the distance it didn’t seem as important as it had been just an hour earlier. The walk was a success. We raised $4134 making us the second biggest fundraiser in San Diego. We were also the second biggest team. Even better, we brought attention to a nasty disease, and honesty, selfishly, gave me the best day I’ve had in a long time.
( Later that night )
“Did you like my rousing speech today?”, I asked Jodie.
We had just finished dinner and she was washing dishes in the sink. I stood next to her drying them with a dish rag.
“What speech?!?”, she exclaimed, diverting her attention from the soapy water to me.
“The speech!”, I insisted. “…right before we started walking. The motivational one!”
“All you did was blubber and cry behind your sunglasses!”, she laughed, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah!”, I smiled, “That one.”
Thank you for your support. I hope to see you all next year! -Scott
Here are some character sketches for the book that my friend, Kevin, and I have been working on. Some characters turned out to be very different than Kevin had initially written in his earlier drafts. Tholoman, for example, was supposed to be a grizzled old human male. Now he’s a “young” elf. We thought by making him younger we could have fun with the chemistry between him and the young girl protagonists.
We’ve also been involving our daughters’, too. Kevin runs all his revisions by his daughter, Clara. As for me, when I was sketching the Bokziks, a group of sometimes-half-animal antagonists, I didn’t realize my oldest daughter, Ashley, was peering over my shoulder.
“Dad, you should make her a half-squirrel.”, she said matter-of-factly. “It’d be cool.”
“Yeah?”, I looked up, startled.
So, I erased the crude “were-dog” that I had been working on and in its its place quickly scribbled out a bushy tail, squat hips, and tiny legs and feet.
“Like that?”, I asked, unsure.
“Yeah!”, she smiled back.
So, yeah, collaboration is fun. Sometimes it might even take you somewhere you never expected to be.
Today my family and I held a bake sale to benefit Prostate Cancer Research and Awareness. My wife, Jodie, and daughters Ashley and Kaylee baked and decorated sugar cookies and cupcakes. They were a hit and brought in over $360 in donations! During the bake sale we even recruited a few new members for our team, “Team Vandervort”, which will be participating in the Prostate ZERO Run/Walk in San Diego on September 18th.
For more information on the Prostate ZERO Walk/Run and how to support “Team Vandervort” click here.
I’ve always liked maps. They tell you where you’ve been – or better yet, where you might go.
Before there was MapQuest or Google Maps there was the Thomas Guide, a hefty, seemingly indecipherable, yet indispensable tome of colorful road maps. Mine was gifted to me by my parents on my 16th birthday along with my first car, a 1972 Volkswagen Bug. Weighing in at three pounds and measuring over an inch thick mine only covered San Diego County, but in an era before cell phones it saved my rear more times than I like to admit. My Thomas Guide rode under the driver’s seat of that Bug and several others before it met its ultimate demise. I kept it far longer than it was useful. MapQuest’s printable turn-by-turn instructions knocked the books’ usefulness to its knees, Google Maps and the Apple iPhone severed its head altogether.
Although the Thomas Guide was practical I always preferred those with, well, a little more imagination. As a kid that meant the park maps handed out at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, or Wild Rivers. I enjoyed plotting my adventures along the colorful pathways and trying to figure out what attractions changed since my last “adventure”.
During our last meeting, Kevin, the author I have been collaborating with, and I decided that our book needed a map. After sketching out a ( very ) rough draft with him I returned home and pondered what such a map should look like. I decided it needed to be practical, like a Thomas Brother’s Guide, but also fun like the park maps handed to me at amusement parks. This is what I came up with. If it makes you smile, I succeeded. If not, well, at least I tried!
Oh! Any my daughter, Ashley, helped me with the design and color for this one. I’ll make an artist out of her yet!