Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Can we beat cancer for $10? Yes, we can.

A coworker of mine recently apologized for donating to my ride in the Pan-Mass Challenge. We don't work closely together; in fact, she's in another department altogether, but we work on the same floor and follow each other on Twitter.

She'd seen one of my tweets about the ride and donated $10 that night. When I thanked her the next day, she apologized for not giving more.

But this isn't about everyone giving huge sums of money--this is about everyone pitching in and doing what they can. I, for example, can sit on my ass and spin my wheels all day long, and so that is what I am doing. Others can donate supplies, like my friends who handed off a bag of Clif bars in a mall in what seemed like a healthy parody of an illicit delivery.

And almost everyone can give some money--and that's what it really takes to beat cancer. Everyone has to do whatever they can to help, because those who are fighting cancer need to focus their energy and efforts on themselves, so the rest of us need to provide them with team support.

Part of that support means giving what you can--if it's $10 or $1000--and part of that means rallying the team. And, if you give $10, and then you tell four friends who each give $10, you've given $50. Think about it--if a friend were short on cash and asked you to spot them 10 bucks for lunch, you'd do it, without even thinking.

So why not ask some friends to spot a few kids who are fighting for their lives 10 bucks? Or 20? Or whatever they can give? ...after you've donated whatever you can give, that is.

You don't have to apologize, just donate today.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Looking way up with Jewel

On the same Thursday that we found another ear infection in Jewel, we found another tooth in her mouth--her second lower right tooth, for those of you keeping score at home. The next Sunday, we found an upper tooth--or so we thought. It's disappeared since then, but 3B's teeth would do that too.

The tooth would start to break through and then his gums would swell up over it for awhile. We were a bit confused until Grammy explained.

Although she's not quite walking yet, Jewel's been making strides in other areas. She's been randomly practicing her Queen of England wave--usually waving at passing cars while Mama walks her in her stroller--but now she's actually waving at appropriate times.

OK, so her hand is facing her and as soon as she starts opening and closing it she gets distracted--Look, a hand! My hand! I can raise it up! I have hair! Hair feels good! Ow, somebody just pulled my hair! Hey, look, a hand...--but still, she's waving now. And splashing when she's in the bath or the pool, where she loves to float on her back and look up at the trees and airplanes, having just discovered looking up--way up.

As I mentioned, she's also not walking yet, but she crawls just about faster than I can sprint across the room to a power cord or the door onto the balcony or the diaper pail, and she's cruising everywhere she can. Whenever she gets the notion, she also practices letting go and just standing on her own, which she can do for about 10 seconds at a time.

But she doesn't let go for too long when she's holding onto us. She loves to snuggle into our shoulders when we're holding her on our hip or on our laps reading her stories, or whenever she can. Yes, it's adorable. It's even cuter now that she's mostly stopped lifting up her head, opening her mouth and playing Cujo on our clavicles with her new choppers.

The most important developmental milestone, however, was reached while she had her ear infections. We're not sure if it was fatigue from the fever or if the Motrin reduced her teething pain along with her fever or if it was just a coincidence, but whatever it was, we're grateful for it because it's allowing us to sleep almost through the night.

Previously, she was up every two or three hours, but now she sleeps five or six hours at a time. Even though she probably doesn't need it because of all the solid food she eats now, Mama still nurses her once in the night, mostly for everyone's comfort.

And about that solid food...Jewel is more adventurous in some ways than 3B was. She loves the arancino and pizza at Pupatella, for example. Then again, 3B used to eat broccoli by the fistful and now...well, not so much with the broccoli.

So, we're hoping that after she's done getting ear infections from them that Jewel will use her teeth to continue chewing a wide array of foods. But first, despite their positive effect on her sleep habits, let's get through those infections first, sweetie.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'll be here all week, don't forget to tip your waitress

I just got this update from BabyCenter about kids who are 3B's age:

Research has shown that children who like a good laugh are more creative, have higher self-esteem, and get along better with peers. Nonsense songs, animal sounds, and lots of crazy gestures bring out a child's giggles — and that's good. Taking advantage of your child's sense of humor can help make hard days run more smoothly.
No kidding. Just this week, he's busted out these gems:
You can either plant your seeds or sew them up!

Snoopy doesn't go to the synagogue, he goes to the synadog, becuase he's a dog!
Unfortunately the comedy gene didn't fall far from the tree. The articulate gene didn't either, apparently, and it's reinforced by spending so much time with Mama, who, as we all know, is the brains of the outfit. Her influence is shown in a few other utterances:
Mommy, I want you to consider this: I want my banana lollipop. [Seriously, 3B? I want you to consider this? Is this a conversation or an expository essay?]

Mommy and Daddy, I'm freaking out.
OK, that last one may also come from the California side of the family. He said that after we had cleaned his room, moved Jewel's dresser out of his closet and into our room, put shelves for toys at the back of his closet and found there was enough room to store his craft table in his closet as well.

It's still not clear to us if he was freaking out because he'd never seen his room clean or because he was so happy to have more space and better organized toys. You know, 'cause three-year-olds are all about organization.

Whatever the reason, it's fun to watch him learn to be funny, and to see how his mind is working--which, most days, is faster than mine.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You killed my father, prepare to die

Every year Father's Day catches my by surprise because I'm so out of the habit of thinking of it, even after four years of fatherhood. After my father died, what started as willful ignorance of the day became a total blindness to it. For over 20 years, I didn't see the cards, sales, or ads on TV.

Even now, I reflexively delete Father's Day offer emails. Sure, in part because they're spam, but also because it's my habit to mutter under my breath, "That doesn't apply to me." Except that now it does because I am a father, but it still doesn't because I am still fatherless.

I could get maudlin about it. I'm good at that. But my true reaction when I think about it--what comes first into my heart after all these years--is anger. Anger that slices with a razor sharp edge and burns deep inside like a tempest-tossed sea of fire.

When I was younger, I would have put on my headphones or gotten into my car, turned the music up to 11--Dead Kennedys or Metallica, The Cure or Depeche Mode, Bauhaus or Sisters of Mercy--and lost myself in the frenzy. But now, for me, every source of anger is a source of energy. What makes me angry fuels my drive to eliminate it.

I use my anger to focus my thoughts and propel my actions, and so it is after all these years of anger at that which killed my father: cancer.

I still like the music, but I'm too old for that kind of rage. Mine is a long, slow, simmering anger that gives me the energy to get on my bike at 5 a.m. on a Saturday and ride 28 miles, or sit on my bike trainer in my living room after everyone has gone to sleep, spinning my wheels, getting hot, sweaty and tired, but getting nowhere.

Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but my vengeance against cancer is heated by my anger. And the best vengeance is success. I've already succeeded despite cancer, what's left is to succeed over cancer--to go on living after cancer itself has been defeated.

And that is why, this Father's Day, since you can't give me what I want--a father to send a card to--give me what I need. Feed me the fuel I need to succeed. Support my ride.

"I want my father back, you son of a bitch."

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

The 12 faces of 3B

3B got up this morning, watched Wow Wow Wubbzy, had his diaper changed, ate three donuts, drank some milk and then, as is inevitable, started taking off his shirt.

"I'm Moses without a shirt. Actually, I'm Iron Man. [singing] I am Iron Man, doo doo doo doo doo doo dum dum dum. [pointing at me] You're Paul Stanley. [pointing at Mama] You're Peter Criss. I'm Gene Simmons."

We could cancel DishTV and still have 516 channels to watch.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Friday, June 11, 2010

You make me cry...thanks for that

Years ago, I traded an injured friend of mine away for a bucket of milk, some eggs and a goat, but she just paid me back by making me cry in Starbucks (and pushing me closer to having to shave my beard).

When I was in college, this friend of mine, who was an excellent stage manager, injured her foot jumping off a stage or kicking an actor in the ass or something. This required her to crutch around for several weeks, much to our amusement.

What can I say? We were teenage boys.

One late night as we were killing time in our dorm lobby, she came crutching along to her room after rehearsal. We began musing about how her injury had affected her value, and what she was worth with it or without it. As she stood there, hanging between her extra aluminum legs, we imagined what we would barter for her in the open market, finally settling on some milk, eggs and a goat. I think we tossed the goat in at the end, against the possibility that she would recover and not die of gangrene.

What can I say? We were teenage boys.

Had there not been two steps between us, I'm fairly sure she would have come over and put her splinted foot up our asses for this, but instead she chose to bide her time. She's been clever about her payback--lulling me into a sense of security by donating hundreds of dollars to my rides to fight cancer.

And it was with her latest donation that she finally got me back, by sending this message, which really hit home for me, because of Dad's experience with a brain tumor, and made me weep in Starbucks as I read it.

It didn't help that as I read it, Eva Cassidy's cover of Kathy's Song was playing and so as I got to the end of her note, I was hearing these lines: "I know that I am like the rain / There but for the grace of you go I."

See what I mean:

I wanted to thank you for the ride you are doing to raise money for cancer research. It's a great thing you are doing. I am honored to count you as among my friends. The ride you are going on and the money you are raising hit home tonight in a personal way.

When I first heard about your quest a few weeks ago, I thought what a nice thing and donated some money. I thought to myself, "It's nice that I can afford to help a cause."

Tonight I'm going to log in and donate more money [she donated hundreds more -PB] not because I can afford it this time but because what you are doing is incredible, important and meaningful.

Today the father of a friend of my oldest daughter had brain surgery for brain cancer. I know the family because our girls are in school together and have gone to each other's birthday parties. We aren't close friends. We don't go out to dinner or hang out on weekends but we chat and say hello at school.

I got to know the wife a little more this year because my daughter joined her Girl Scout Troop. She has always been pleasant, nice and friendly. Today she showed a courage and grace I don't know if I could have. Today, throughout the day, while her husband was having surgery she texted us updates on her husband's condition.

She, during what has to be the most stressful time of her life, thought of others and let us know what was going on. Just a half hour ago the text came that the surgery was successful. Her husband was awake, groggy but talking and making sense. This after 10 hours of a surgeon operating on his brain.

What you are doing Franklin is incredible and important. The surgery he had tonight he couldn't have had five years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer. He was lucky and his tumor was stable until just a few months ago. Today he had surgery that is saving his life, because of research done in the past five years. Research funded by people like you and what you do. Research done by people like my husband and his colleagues in scientific research.

Thanks to that he will get to see his daughter turn 11 and his son turn 8. He will get to watch them grow up. He will get to experience all the joys and frustrations we all share in parenthood.

Thank you, Papa.

I'm urging anyone else that has friends--friends who are sick or not sick, friends that you talk to every day or just wave at in the carpool lane--donate again to Papa.

Then email your friend and ask them to donate. Because maybe in five years, another family will have another incredible day.
Really, the thanks goes from me to her, and to all who have donated to support my ride. I'm just going to sit on my butt across Massachusetts--you all are doing the heavy lifting, getting the money to the doctors, nurses, researchers, counselors, support staff and patients who need it.

And also this message goes out to her: however touching and generous this is, don't think we're even, and I won't try to get you back for this.

What can I say? I'm still a teenage boy.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Let's get this party started

I took Jewel to the doctor yesterday to check on her infected ears, which are now just full of fluid, which could last for three months. That will make her feel as though she's listening to everything from under 20 feet of water, so they're concerned about her speech development, because...you know...as a parent, you always want one more thing to worry about.

On the upside, she mimics many sounds that we make and lights up any time anyone mimics what she's saying. So, we know she can hear, and is trying her damndest to speak. If she's anything like her brother, we should only have to wait about 5 minutes before she's reciting passages from the Bible, the story of Passover, and complete lyrics to songs weeks after hearing them once.

Speaking of whom, as we were leaving and paying our copay, the receptionist, who always threatens to chew on Jewel's ham-hock thighs, asked if she wanted a sticker.

I said, "No, but we'll take one for her brother."

She held out the tray of stickers and asked which we wanted, since my hands were full of 29 inches of 23 pound girl.

"Anything pink, with princesses. Or that pink Minnie Mouse sticker."

She handed over the Minnie Mouse sticker, then asked, "Which one does her brother want?"


"That is for her brother."


"Oh. I remember your son. Oh yeah. I remember him now."

Yeah, that's not the first time I've heard that about my long-haired, shirtless, pink loving son who, if he's not wanting to rock and roll all night and party every day is imploring everyone to come on feel the noise, and the girls to rock their boys.

We can't forget him either, since every day is pretty much like this--we don't even wait for Saturday night...

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

5 of my 15 minutes of fame comes tonight

Tonight you'll have a chance to see me on TV.

This time, thanks to the innernets magic of Skype, you'll actually be able to see my smiling face*, unlike last time. I should be quite a sight, since I will have just gotten done riding my bike trainer.

If you want to ask me questions for the host to ambush me with, tweet them to the host.

He'll also be showing video of my bike commute. If you liked Blair Witch Project, you'll love this video; and if you didn't like BWP, have your blindfold or Dramamine handy.

This is one of your last chances until August to see me with my beard, because I'm sure that you will force me to shave my beard for the first time in 25 years.

Tune in tonight at 9 pm pacific time, 12 midnight eastern time, and...whatever that is if you're in between.

*It might be that only folks who can tune in to the show on cable in Portland, OR, can see me. I won't know until the show airs, so just in case, tune in however you can.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

Subscribe to the Bradstein feed--Vorsprung durch Technik!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

This is not my beautiful house

I can't get ahead of myself. I'm a literal guy.

For example, before our kids were born, I was excited, but I couldn't imagine what it would feel like when they arrived. After 3B arrived, I could describe what it felt like, but I still couldn't imagine what it would feel like when Jewel arrived.

I've always been this way, so when I was a little boy, watching my parents, I assumed that when I was 30--no idea if my parents were 30, but that's how old they seemed to me--I would be like them. I'd wear a suit and go to work in an office somewhere. I'd be married to someone--it was a bit vague to me if she'd work outside the home. I figured that my wife would want to, and therefore would, but Mom didn't. We'd have kids.

How little I knew.

It turns out that for awhile I'd wear a uniform to work that Mom said made me "look like a Boy Scout." And on some days at that job, I'd dress up as a bear in blue jeans and a big hat. I am married to someone--but not just anyone. I am married to the most beautiful person, the most compassionate person, the love of my life. We met in Palm Springs, started dating in Madrid, traveled together through Morocco, lived in the Rockies and now Washington, D.C. We have two beautiful kids. My wife not only works, but makes more money than I do--makes sense, she does more important work and does it better than I ever could.

If you told me when I was a boy that any of that would come to pass, I'd laugh until I peed in my pants.

Speaking of which, another thing I didn't picture was this exchange with my beautiful wife:

Mama: I'm putting Jewel to bed.
Papa: What do I need to do?
Mama: Read 3B his stories, brush his teeth, get him a lovie, put him to bed.
Papa: Where is he?
Mama: Taking a crap in his closet.
To clarify, he's still in diapers, so it's not quite as bad as it sounds at first blush. Sort of.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Why bother? (calling all you angels)

One of my best friends, who himself recently lost his mom to cancer, donated to my ride, observing, however, that he has become much more reluctant to donate to medical charities.

He wrote, "We have all been doing it for years and I see so little improvement."

As a man who, when he was a boy, lost his Dad to a brain tumor, trust me when I say that I understand that sentiment. Brain tumors are notoriously difficult to address. They're harder to remove, radiate or get chemotherapy drugs to than most other cancers. I won't repeat what I've already said about my journey in which I lost and regained hope.

For most of that journey, I felt the same way about medical charities, and even about cancer research in general. "Great," I would think after reading a study. "You extended the average life of a cancer patient by two weeks." Thinking of Dad's last days, during which he was bedridden and uncommunicative, I would wonder what the benefit of 14 more days of that would be.

You could say that I became a bit cynical.

It didn't help when big walkathon and bikeathon fundraisers started becoming more common and many of them, including one I participated in, ended up spending much, if not most, of the money raised on administrative costs.

So, I also understand about charities. One of the main attractions of the Pan-Mass Challenge is that 100 percent of the money goes to the Dana Farber Institute and Jimmy Fund, which have impressive records of achievement, like the recent prostate cancer vaccine and the potential new treatment for melanoma.

That said, I feel similar to my friend about charities: I don't want to do just anything, I want to do something--something that will make a difference. In my dad's case, medical research did make a difference; it did extend his life. Not by much, but I realize now that every day counts.

However, nobody can bring back my dad. I consider a large part of the money I raise as an investment that will hopefully pay dividends for my children in products like the prostate cancer vaccine--and now the possible breast cancer vaccine--and a longer life expectancy should they ever be unlucky enough to develop cancer.

I'm driven to this by the memory of the love I've lost and by the hope for those I love more than myself.

My friend losing his mom was one of the many straws that broke the camel's back and got me back into this cancer fighting mode.

...another straw was my best friend's wife losing her mom to a brain tumor, especially since I had officiated at their wedding, which deepened our bond and created in me an unexpected ongoing sense of responsibility for their relationship.

...another straw was a friend from high school, now a school teacher and mother of two, who was diagnosed with, suffered through treatment for and continues to recover from breast cancer.

...another straw was my former colleague who had to have her thyroid removed due to cancer, which means she's on synthetic thyroid for the rest of her life, which isn't (surprise, surprise) such a great replacement for the real thing.
Those all made me angry...and, for a change, I'm trying to put my anger to good use--for a cause that has already worked miracles and presses relentlessly forward, working for more miracles every day.

Because while there are those of us who can't see the improvements made by Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund on a daily basis, and so it seems to us like no progress is being made in fighting cancer, there are those to whom those improvements are daily miracles that extend over lifetimes.

And so, if it's from an angry optimism like mine or your own personal history with cancer like my friend's or from some other source, I'm calling on all you angels to support the advances made by Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund.

And if you won't do it for the good friends we have and the good friends we have lost, do it to force me to shave for the first time in 25 years.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

Thank goodness for large blessings too

Earlier this spring, we were blessed with a visit from almost all of my sister's family. While we missed seeing Uncle H, we got to hang out with Cousin D during her first college spring break. Then my sister, California Girl, and her son, Cousin P came during his spring break, which overlapped for a few days with Cousin D's break, so we had them all here for a bit.

Also in there, my brilliant cousin stopped by on her way back from Spain to meet Jewel. Any more family and someone would have had to sleep in the toy chest.

But, we all fit in nicely and had a great time together. It was delightful for us Bradsteins to reconnect with family. Mama and I really got to know our niece and nephew better, and 3B and Jewel loved playing with their cousins.

It was fun to hear how Cousin D was having fun in college and looking forward to her summer job in a national park. Mama and I both worked in a national park--in fact, that's how we met, even though we didn't work there at the same time...but that's a story for another time--and were excited to live vicariously through Cousin D's experience, even if we'd have to wait until the end of the summer to do so, since she'd be beyond the grid and therefore offline for most of the summer.

Unfortunately, all of those expectations and plans were shattered last week when we got news that Cousin D had taken a fall and hurt her back--broken a vertebra, actually.

Fortunately, she wasn't at risk of paralysis, but the injury is still severe and required surgery on her spine to do what all the king's horses and king's men couldn't do for Humpty Dumpty. If that didn't make you hold your breath and clutch your heart for a second, you might not be a parent who can imagine how that must have felt for my sister and her husband.

It does that to me every time I think about it. I'm taking deep breaths right now, just reminding myself to breathe.

The further good news is that the surgery was successful--you can exhale now--and that Cousin D has not only taken several walks in her hospital room and down the hall, but also might be released from the hospital this week. She's still got a long recovery row to hoe, but she's well on her way through the most perilous and painful part.

Thanks to all of you who have answered my sister and niece's calls for prayers--they've been answered. For those of you who want to, you can send some prayers and love directly to them on my sister's blog.

And for those of you who are my nieces and nephews, and who seem to find it amusing to go to the hospital with mysterious aliments that might be an infection, a spider bite or might leave you counting in base-9 for the rest of your life, a message from your Uncle Papa: it's not amusing; please stop. I can't hold my breath for months on end like this.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

I'm betting my face that you'll fail...

Update: To clarify--I need to raise $2,000 within the month of June to shave my beard. As of June 1, I'd raised $2,945, so if you want to force me to shave my beard, you have to raise that total to $4,945 by the end of June 30.

Since I was 16, I've had a beard, which makes it 25 years now, thanks for asking. That could change at the end of this month...it's up to you.

It used to be that when I was meeting someone for the first time I could tell them that I'd be the guy with the red beard. There aren't too many of us around, so I was almost certain to be the only one there.

Now, however, that lovely shade of rust that 3B inherited as his hair color has, in a perverse reversal of metal weathering, become almost entirely steel colored. I won't say that this came about as a result of having children, but I will say that it was only after having 3B and having people ask where his hair color came from that I realized the connection wasn't obvious anymore.

Having to say, I'll be the guy with the gray beard has been enough to get me thinking about shaving it off, but I know that I never will--unless you make me.

See, I'm not one of those guys who loves the idea of having a beard and who spends all kinds of time trimming it into ridiculous, if fashionable, shapes. I have a beard because shaving is a damn waste of my valuable time. It also happens to be fairly unpleasant, even if I do excel at razor wielding, and mornings are hard enough--there's no need to seek out additional unnecessary unpleasantness. So, there's no vanity in my decision to have a beard.

However, until now there's been tremendous consistency. But you can end that all by the end of this month.

I'm betting my beard that I won't raise $2,000 to fight cancer by the end of June 30--if I'm wrong, I'll shave my beard off...and yes, I'll ensure that you see the deed being done.

Further, if I raise $4,000 to fight cancer by the end of June 30, I'll shave my beard and my head.

Last month was all about having you donate directly so you or your loved ones could come along on my ride via photos on my jersey. This month is all about all of us getting the money to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute any way that we can, so tell your friends to send money--hell, tell your enemies for all I care. Use any means necessary:
  • blog about it
  • tweet about it
  • post Facebook updates
  • write it on bathroom walls
  • hire skywriters to scrawl it above sunny beaches packed with summer crowds
I don't care who the money comes from--steal it from your grandparents' bingo fund if you want to. Wherever it comes from, before the end of June 30, submit your donation.

Or I get to have a perfectly pleasant, razor-free morning on July 1.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Only two per customer

I just got spam from Target with the subject line "Baby Sale: Hurry -- the deals end soon."

Really? It's that easy? I'll have to tell Mama that those 9 months--and those hours of labor--were totally unnecessary.

But, if she wants another one, we'd better hurry up...the deals end soon. And this time I'd like to get the model that comes without the reflux.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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