Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Two more members of the Cancer Club

I get tired writing about myself every day. And if I feel that way sometimes, jeez, I can only imagine what it must be like for you.

I'm not the only guy in the world living with tongue cancer. Let's shift to a less Paul-centric mode and catch up with a few other people who are in the same boat as I am.

Peter Tork
Office Map

Early this month, former Monkee Peter Tork was hospitalized in New York for surgery related to Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, a rare form of head and next cancer.

As of this morning, I can legitimately claim Peter as a friend. He confirmed my friendship request on Facebook.

Here's an update on Peter's condition from the former Monkee himself, posted on his website last weekend:

"My post-op recovery is coming along about as well as could be hoped for. I could wish for one of those metabolisms I see on the sci-fi movies, where wounds heal up as we watch. Short of that, however, I am doing very well. I have an appointment with my surgeon next week, and I expect to hear the bad news about the course of radiation necessary. I am harboring some faint hope that it will be milder than what they were telling me about radiation plan I'd have faced if it was the primary treatment for the cancer. I'll be faced with the reality soon enough.

"Meantime, I couldn't be more heartened by your response. So many of the people I have met are rallying to my side, and I'm really, really, amazed and almost overwhelmed with gratitude."

If you're on Facebook, add Peter as a friend and send him good wishes when you do. Or write to Peter at:

Peter Tork
524 San Anselmo Ave, No. 102
San Anselmo, CA 94960


Grant Achatz
Office Map

No fewer than three Thinking Positive readers told me about Chef Grant Achatz, who was featured last week on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Chef Achatz has achieved fame and respect in the culinary world, including the Best Restaurant title from Gourmet magazine in 2007. Here's an excerpt of his story, from

"One day, [Achatz] noticed a very small, white spot on the left side of his tongue. Grant ignored the spot for months before asking his dentist about it. He says she thought it was probably related to stress and was nothing to worry about. Grant went to get a second opinion from a general practitioner, who told him the same thing. Eventually, the pain became so intense that eating became difficult, and Grant says he lost 20 pounds.

"When Grant finally went to see an oral surgeon, they took a biopsy of the spot. The results came back, and the prognosis was grim—Stage 4 cancer.

"The first doctor recommended the removal of the middle of Grant's tongue, a radical neck dissection and removal of part of his jaw. Grant says this treatment was too harsh to accept. . . . Grant began searching for other options, but the first four specialists he met all recommended the same thing: immediate surgery on his tongue, neck and jaw to remove the cancer. . . .

"Only after seeking a fifth opinion did Grant find a doctor willing to change the standard medical protocol—to hold off on surgery until after first trying to beat the cancer with chemotherapy and radiation. A year and a half after starting treatment, Grant is cancer-free and still has his tongue."


I know that I promised you a reprieve from my own experiences today, but will you take a rain check? I can't help but tiptoe back into the first person.

Peter Tork, Grant Achatz and I are all at different stations in our journeys with cancer, but in reading about them, I have a better shot at saving my own skin.

On Tuesday night, I stumbled on A Man of Taste, a New Yorker profile of Chef Achatz written by D.T. Max. In the piece, I read that Achatz at one time was drinking 10 cans of Diet Coke a day.

The writer uses that detail to support his claim that Chef Achatz' "lifestyle wasn't exactly healthy." I had been wondering if my Diet Coke consumption –at least a six-pack per day, over a much longer period of time than Achatz drank it– might be a factor in my disease. Now I'm thinking my hunch may be right.

Last May, I probably just flipped past the 8,200-word New Yorker profile of Achatz after I saw the photo of a guy in a chef uniform setting cinnamon on fire. Now I wonder how I might have reacted if I had read the piece. I might have gotten myself checked out for cancer seven months ahead of when I got my diagnosis.

Cancer is a wicked adversary. I don't understand it fully and never will. But every day I manage to learn something new.

Beneath my desk at work, there's a 12-pack of Diet Coke that I haven't been able to drink since I got my G-tube. I should get a Haz-Mat mask, a long pair of tongs and find a place to responsibly bury the stuff.

When I finally beat this disease, it won't be entirely from luck.


Thank you to and for content excerpted in today's blog.


  1. When you said "Let's shift to a less Paul", I pictured you jamming on a Gibson.

  2. No, no, no. You'd find a les Paul on an Olivia cruise or in Palm Springs during Dinah Shore Week.