Under the Protection of Vulcan


The statue of Vulcan in Birmingham is well-known in Alabama. In ancient Roman theology, the god Vulcan was worshiped to avert the destructive powers of his fire. This power was however also considered useful if directed against enemies. I’d call cancer an enemy, so I’m glad to be under his symbolic watch.

Medical Update

The transfer from Chicago to Birmingham is complete. I’m officially participating in the ICT-107 clinical trial at the Kirklin Center at UAB as of January 23, 2012. This visit concludes Cycle 2 of the Extended Maintenance Phase. I had an MRI. The images showed no tumor growth. Things look pretty good. I will continue with chemo. My weight is down to 160 pounds. Dosage for Cycle 3 is 400mg of Temodar.

Personal Update

In the past I hardly knew anyone affected by cancer.
Now everyone I know is.

I feel very good. I wasn’t surprised by the MRI results, mainly because I intuitively “feel” like it hasn’t come back. I am relieved of course. I feel like I can start doing things now, like planning a get-away for Tina and I; planning visits with friends en route to Birmingham.


Between Atlanta and Birmingham is Gadsden, where I spent my youth. Tina and I stopped there to visit briefly with family and to have some of my sisters famous huevos rancheros (which were fantastic). My sister sent me this email the next day:

Knowing how excited fresh eggs would make you and Tina, I asked my friend to ask her neighbor for three eggs. I know they own chickens and occasionally share when they are well stocked. The neighbor informed my friend that the hen is molting and hasn’t laid any eggs since November. Molting uses protein to produce new feathers which slows or stops egg production. The next day, the neighbor called my friend, shocked that he found three eggs the next morning. He claimed he hadn’t seen that before so he gave them to our family because he felt it was meant to be. I’d never met those people before. Very kind act!

Old Friends

I have several friends in Alabama from back in the day.

Can someone really be called a friend if you haven’t had any contact with them in 20+ years?

I found the answer to be a resounding Yes. The bond you make with someone from kindergarten to twelfth grade can be pretty dang strong.

Quite conveniently, old school days friend, intimidating center forward, amateur herpetologist and dexterous speed skater, Matthew White*, lives right next to UAB and he was willing to put up with Tina and I for the night.  Thanks, Matt, for the generosity. It was great catching up. I’m going to push your hospitality to it’s limits over the next year.

* Those are descriptors for the Matt I knew when we were kids.

In fact, there’s so many people I want to catch up with, we might just have to throw a party so I get to see everyone.

New Friends

I have a new group of friends too. Things we have in common include:

  • Frankenstein head scars and titanium implants
  • wacky hairdos
  • taking dangerous drugs
  • and a strong desire to beat the 14 month death statistic

Those friends whose struggles are more difficult than mine inspire me to treasure and appreciate the good things I have going for me. They also keep me motivated to not slack off because of some good MRI results.

I hope I can serve as inspiration to them to not give up hope. Find joy however you can. Revisit positivity between bouts of anger, depression and frustration.


Thank you to everyone who is sending out positive, healing energy on my behalf. That energy comes in many forms: prayers, tonglen, beer-drinking and Hell-raising, Facebook posts, blog comments, silent thoughts and inappropriate jokes. I appreciate them all!


9 responses to “Under the Protection of Vulcan”

  1. David C says :

    Get that bike ready for buckin and spittin as you grin on a long and well deserved ride

    • Ken says :

      That’s right David. I forgot to mention that it’s only 17 days before I get driving privileges back! Hope the good weather holds out so I can take the Harley for a long ride.

  2. Juanita says :

    Good morning beautiful people!!! I found a book by a Dr who is a 16 yr survivor of GBM! Surviving Terminal Cancer: Clinical Trials, Drug Cocktails, and Other Treatments Your Oncologist Won’t Tell You About by Ben Williams PhD. I thought I would share it. You look fantastic, congrats, GOD IS GOOD!
    Love and continued prayers!
    Juanita Krisher

  3. Dave Dennis says :

    Ken, stay strong and keep on rocking. Great blog.

  4. Anonymous says :

    Ken I am so happy your images came back showing no tumor growth. You seem to be in very good spirits, which is something I look up to. I think about you all the time and I’m so glad you have this blog so I can keep up with your medical updates and personal updates. I hope I get to see you soon! Miss you!

  5. Hlee says :

    We are so glad to hear there has been no tumor growth! I don’t remember if I told you already but I got gestational diabetes when pregnant with Solie. It was not cancer but it was life altering in a way too because I considered myself healthy and active. What I didn’t factor in was genetics and being Asian. Anyway, my pregnancy became high risk and I changed everything – strict monitoring of diet (culinary school may have saved me here understanding food, nutrition and cooking on a deeper level), exercising every day for an hour and a spiritual cleansing. We gave birth to a healthy, beautiful daughter and my doc said it was the best control of gestational diabetes through diet and exercise she had ever seen in her history of practice (20 years). That experience taught me that I am not invincible and when there is someone or something to live for far more important than ourselves, your thinking and actions narrow and every cell and thought in your being fights to be healthy because you love him/her/it so much, there was going to be no option but to be around to protect what you love. It’s a beautiful component of survival as a human being. All this is to really say I get a little bit of what you went through and I am so proud of you and Tina and that you both have a lot of friends who love you.

  6. Andrew Loveman says :

    Ken –
    Great news about “NO GROWTH.” I know you have a long way yet, but everybody is praying for you!

    And, yes, you still have friends in AL and definitely Bham. Call with questions about where to eat, where to visit, and certainly if you need a place to lay your head. Mi casa su casa (that was in honor of your fav, Mrs. Hill).

  7. Andie Mewbourn says :

    If you ever get down to the Gulf Coast, you have a place to stay! Your news made my day.

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