Watercolor, August 2004, of Bing Gardens at Stanford Hospital I drew during one of my in-patient chemo treatments.
Soon I’ll be going in for surgery for a re-occurrence of my cancer. I have a 2 centimeter tumor where my left kidney used to be.
I’m a cancer survivor. The year before I joined Atlassian I battled cancer for a year. It started with surgery to remove my left kidney, when they discovered a nasty tumor attached to various important things. They removed part of it. My initial stunning prognosis was 3-5 years to live.
My cancer was eventually diagnosed as an unknown cancer: sarcomatoid carcinoma. Which means it looks and acts like sarcoma [very rare bone, tissue cancer] but it may be a rare carcinoma [organ based], which means, “we have no idea.” This was exhilarating news: no statistics meant I was a data set of one, and any prognosis was bullshit.
Chemo for 4 months followed. Which was a lot of laughs. Because they didn’t know what I had, they experimented with different regimens. I had the pleasure of having Cisplatin amongst other drugs. Cisplatin is as bad as chemo gets. Chemo assaults the faster growing cells attempting to kill them. Your hair and your stomach lining are fast growing, so they can be killed by some chemo.
Side affects vary, but nausea is popular. A common cycle for chemo is once every 3 weeks. The reason is you need 3 weeks to recover from the bombing your system takes. I would lose 10 pounds in the first 5 days when I tried to eat a scone for breakfast or have a bite of a sandwich at lunch. Dinner was impossible. Smelling food was disgusting. Then on about the 6th day I would stroll down to this local French bistro and wolf down a steak and have a martini. Your taste buds get assaulted, so good wine was a waste on me. Then I would return to the clinic with my 10 pounds back.
One of the regimens required 3 days in the hospital because I had to be hydrated so my remaining kidney survived. I would gain 10 pounds of water weight in eight hours; Boy, was I attractive. They gave me a PICC line which is a tube inserted into the back of your bicep and then threaded close to your heart where the blood flow is strong. The reason is grim: the chemo is so toxic, it will burn your veins unless there’s good blood flow. Having a toxic warning to the nurses on my door was also a lot of laughs. God forbid they spilled the chemo on themselves.
Eventually my MRIs showed only modest shrinkage in my tumor, so I was sent to the largest cancer hospital in the world, MD Anderson in Houston, where a specialized team removed the remaining tumor. That surgery went extremely well as the contingent plans for a graft on my aorta and some other things-down-there-you-need never were invoked.
I was cancer free. That was a very wonderful moment after all the crap I had been through.
I then underwent 3 more months of chemo to make sure there were no bad guys hiding out. At least now I could count the weeks. December 18, 2004 was a Wonderful Day: my last treatment. I could eat on Christmas day.
The day I got my (wrong) prognosis of a few years left to live, I faced the biggest challenge of my life: not cancer, but what to tell my children? I got a copy of Lance Armstrong’s book and I remember setting it down on the table in front of Brittany and Mac and telling them the one difference between Lance and me is that I didn’t have to win the Tour de France. I only had to beat cancer.
Cancer never broke my positive attitude. Sure, for a few hours or a day I would be an emotional wreck. But I had an uber focus. I worked out almost every day. Chemo made me feeble compared to my old self but I was relentless about exercise.
I discovered I was an excellent surgery patient. I could withstand a lot of pain. I would be walking all over the hospital after surgery. I ran 2 miles 11 days after an 8 hour surgery. Slowly. I asked my surgeon when I could start lifting weights and he thought I was out of my mind. During my 3-day in-patient chemos, I asked Stanford Hospital if they had a gym. They looked at me like I was nuts: “Mr. Walker, this is a hospital.” They did get me a treadmill so I could run in my room while the chemicals dripped into me. I was on a mission. Get the fuck out of my way, thank you very much.
Prior to my second surgery, they had to stop chemo for several weeks, so I had full strength. I used this opportunity to bike the famous “loop” near Stanford University and my home. I biked every single day focused on going to Texas, getting through the surgery, and getting out of there as fast as possible.
At MD Anderson in Houston I snuck out of the hospital on the 4th night and went to my hotel across the street because I hate hospital beds. The nurses on my ward were really pissed. But they let me get on a plane home 5 days after a 4-hour surgery.
So where does that leave me now?
In preparation for this upcoming surgery, I’ll be working out every single day. I’ll be leaving work at a reasonable hour. I need to point my Type-A personality at Atlassian at something more important right now.
This re-occurrence is nowhere near as brutal as what I went through three years ago. Will I have to go through this again in 3 years? Perhaps. The way I look at it: I will certainly live 5 more years, based on currently available data. Will I live 15 more? I didn’t know the answer to that question one year ago, so nothing has really changed. In fact the behavior of the cancer is better known now: it seems to stay local.
I read fellow Atlassian Chris’ incredible blog the day before my MRI that detected this current tumor. These problems make you face your mortality. Everything gets put into play, up for grabs. Jump ball.
I have the same attitude from three years. I am Cancer Dude and I am going to kick it’s ass. Here’s my secret cancer-fighting outfit… 🙂
We’re with you, Jeffrey.
Oh, man … I used to think I can write well, and now I find myself looking for the right words…
In the past two years my Mom had kidney-tumor surgery and my Dad had emergency heart surgery, and I think these events changed the way I look at life and priorities.. so perhaps I’m a step closer to understanding what you’re going through… but not really. Nobody can understand, feel it but yourself.
So let me just say, Cancer Dude, you’re amazing for facing issues the way you face them, for your optimism and energy through all this. So far you were just a “good guy” in my book, now you’re a hero.
You WILL come out of this one, too, stronger than before. Hope to see you back soon!
Kick ass indeed, Jeffrey! You know the critical path.
Jeffrey – I never new .. that you we’re such a tough bastard – I have unfathomable respect for anyone with such an attitude.
Good luck and live strong.
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your optimism is contagious! thanks for sharing.
I go cycling along the peninsula just about every weekend, and will likely be swapping basketball for *more* cycling during the week when I go on paternity leave any day now. if you’re interested in hooking up for a ride, shoot me an email…
Wow, what a great attitude. You are a great inspiration, my friend. We are rootin’ for you!
I’m rarely at a loss for words but in this case I most certainly am struggling. While I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting you once, in that short time and in our dealings on the EI board I have come to know you as a many of many strengths.
Little did I realize you had an intestinal fortitude that, in and of itself, far outreached the other traits I’ve come to respect of you.
To say “good luck” or “best of luck” just seems so ill put under the circumstances. I too believe in the power of positive thinking, and just want to say that I look forward to regaling in your tales of how you kicked cancer’s ass for many, many years to come.
The very best now and in the future,
Jeffrey, always keep on fighting like you do. Our thoughts will be with you for sure.
Know that as you go through this there are people literally all over the world pulling for you and your family.
Your story puts so many things in perspective. Our prayers are with you. Keep up the great spirts too!
Meanwhile, I’d like to make a personal donation to the MD Anderson Center or another organization of your choice. So many of our lives are touched by cancer, and the progress — while admirable — is still too slow.
Let me know.
hard to find the right words after so eloquent a post.
My thoughts are with you and I envy you your strength and fortitude in a situation many others would cave under.
My very best wishes are with you. You are an inspiration. I had no idea about this when I met you at the BarCamp.
All I can say is… my thoughts and prayers are with you. Words are falling short… I admire how you are dealing with this.
Am so sorry, let me know if there is anything I can do. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. And remember you still get to set that statistic:)
Julia and Bella
My experience in the cancer community — mostly via my wife, a cancer survivor, support group leader, and walking cancer patient resource — is that your approach is right-on. An indomitable spirit such as yours is greatly aided by both purpose and physical strength — attitude alone isn’t enough. One other thing that helps is the best wishes, support, and prayer of others: so let me add my voice to everyone else’s in wishing you a light path through the next few months and a quick return to your daily routine (and full head of hair, appetite, physical strength, and whatever else gets you up in the morning.)
I really admire your attitude. Never give up!
Thank you for being such an inspiration. You are awesome.
your strength is an awesome inspiration for all of us, it will get you a long way – and given your goal is all the way I am convinced you’ll get there by the pure positive life enhancing willpower! That is the strongest there is.
We’re all on the sideline rooting for you – tonight I got a new hero!
Thanks for the perspective reminder Jeffrey. We’re with you.
Dude, you rock! If you want someone to roll around the loop with, don’t hesitate, send me a note.
Mate – you know we’re with you. You’ll kick its ass.
What Mike said.
Good luck mate, we’re thinking of you.
(Who now wants a steak and a martini)
The boys and girls in Sydney are thinking of you!
Take care and see you soon!
Big hugs to yourself, Jess and the kids.
Jeffrey, your awesome sense of humor and moxie comes through brilliantly in your writing. I look forward to reading your blog a week from now, 10 years from now, 30 years from now. Thanks for having the courage to share this.
Mate, as the other guys have alrady said, but it will be said again! Fight, and kick it ass! Our thoughts are with you.
– keep those legs spinning!
Mate, Ernie put it best. I love your grab-it-by-the-balls-and-shake-it attitude to life. Inspiring stuff.
Best wishes to you and the family
You’re exactly the guy everyone wants at their back in both the good and tough times. Your attitude in this as with everything speaks to a rare depth of character. I’m sending this to a friend just diagnosed. Thanks for sharing this personal experience.
What a great example. Kick ass. Get well. We’re all rooting for you.
I’m with everyone else who’s found a new hero today – this is an inspiring post and I wish you the best. Keep up your positive attitude and kick it’s ass!
I am extremely honored to have a copy of the above watercolor hanging proudly and prominently in my living room, a gift from Jeffrey shortly after my infant son Michael lost his battle with an extraordinarily rare form of leukemia. The image gives me great strength as I think of what Jeffrey has battled and overcome, even though Michael was not so fortunate.
Jeffrey, my friend (though we have yet to meet in person)… you were there for me and my family in our time of need (though we had never met) and instilled a sense of hope and courage in what was our darkest hour– you are truly an inspiration to so many. I admire your attitude and courage.
I wish I could summons the ability to say something inspirational, but I doubt I could say something you haven’t heard before. Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers– and, clearly, in the thoughts and prayers of so many.
– Geof, Jenn, and Alyssa Corb
I love you so much! Your optimism is what gets me through my day everyday, and I know it will help you kick this awful disease. I promise to cook you a huge meal when this is all over…
With your positive attitude & Brittany’s love you’ll beat cancer again.
As Jim Valvano said at the first ESPY’s, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”
I’m pulling for you.
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Kim and I are here for you.
Your story is inspirational.
We are with you all the way, Jeffrey.. our thoughts are always with you.
Many thanks for sharing such difficult things with such ease (and humor). You are indeed a brave man.
Best of Luck!
I’m wearing my Occasionals tee-shirt as I read this. I look forward to hearing them play.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery.
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Thanks for sharing your story; without doubt, it will benefit others. I’ve written about this over at ZDNet:
Hi Jeffrey, Hang Ten. You are a winner!
Jeff – may the force be with you, always… Much love, em 🙂
“Darth Vader: Do you know who I am?
Other guy: That’s Jeff Vader that is!
Darth Vader: I am not Jeff Vader, I am Darth Vader.
Other guy: What? Jeff Vader runs the Death Star?
Darth Vader: No, Jeff … no, I run the Death Star.
Other guy: You Jeff Vader?
Darth Vader: No, I’m Darth Vader.
Other guy: Are you his brother? Could you get his autograph?”
Emma: that’s a Hall of Fame comment. I’ll be thinking of Eddie. Thanks!
You know what Jeffrey? I used to wonder why Brittany was always such an eternal optimist…and now I know why. I love you and miss you and we’re sending good vibes from the East coast. You are an amazing inspiration.
Had colon cancer in 2001; coming up for 7 years ago. Didn’t fight it; I just managed to stay around while the professionals – God bless them – got on with doing that.
It seems to me that people like Jeff who are not ordinary every-day cancer getters and collapsers like me might be able to focus outwards every now and then and do something to help the not so self-sufficient.
Me, I was scared beyond rational thought. Still am if the truth be told.
But good lcuk to you Jeff and hip hip hooray for heroic medicine – and the doctors.
PS Don’t come to England; they’re not like that over here. If you get cncer it’s your duty to die, quietly, to save the NHS unecessary expense and all that stuff.
Best of luck, Jeff. Words sort of fail here as with your many other friends. We’re with you. Give ’em what for!
My heart goes out to you. I admire your courage and spirit.
I just know you through work, but I wanted you to know I’m very impressed. Sending my very best wishes.
To paraphrase some encouragement a friend gave me after I had a run-in with a truck…
Beating cancer not once but twice is exactly the sort of thing a man needs to lend legend to his life!
Your attitude is so incredible. You are an amazing man. You WILL kick the hell out of 2.0, Cancer Dude!
I’ve been thinking about you a lot and will see you this weekend.
Your take-no-prisoner’s upbeat attitude combined with your let’s-be-honest approach to this saga is beyond imaginable.
Strength to you tomorrow, and also to your loved ones (Jessy, Mac, Brittney, Peggy, Elvis, Jenney, me, etc.) who are by your side and wish we could take a couple of punches for you. We’re in your corner.
See you in the hospital tomorrow, bro!
Cheers, mate … looking forward to hearing your survivor tales! And I’m with Thomas – the Occasionals t-shirt will be worn with pride.
And to Brittany and the rest of your family … stay positive!
i know you’ll get through this. you’ve done it before. hang in there. God bless you and your family.
Shit mate. Let us know what we can do to help. We’re thinking of you. If you we could muster half your courage and attitude we’d all be in a better place.
I dodged a similar bullet. I worked out at the YMCA 32 days out of 34 radiation treatments. (The other two days I was traveling to help out some friends at a mainframe conference.)
I am glad to find a similar story – And all I have to say – TAKE NO PRISONERS – fight the good fight and enjoy every damned little thing – even the normality of running/exercising while others would curl up and rest.
PRESS ON REGARDLESS!
Wait maybe it should be – “Never give up – never surrender!”
Best wishes to you & your family.
Best of luck to you and your family.
A life where you discover the hero within, is worth much more than one in which you just exist and then fade away unknown….
Best of Luck and kick some Butt !!! 🙂
This is just a quick visit by the Big C to say hello. He knows when he’s whipped but like all bullies he is a masochist at heart. He loves getting beaten by you. Kick his nuts in quickly and get back here will ya.
I have a warm fender twin set on 11 with your name on it.
Your name is “reverb” isn’t it?
Jeffrey…You sure are going to a lot of trouble to get out the trip to Italy with me, but it won’t work. I’ll give you a couple of months, and then the trip is back on, baby!! All the Selmons are thinking of you tomorrow. We love you ,love you!! Lezli
There’s snook and tarpon in the river,
cold beer in the jungle.
See you there this spring.
I will be thinking of you every second tomorrow.
Go get ’em, killer.
For those of you checking in for an update on Jeffrey’s status, I just got word that the surgeons were unable to find any cancer at all! It seems that the scan was a false positive and mistook another mass to be a recurrence of the cancer! Jeffrey is still (as of 1:00 pm) under anesthetics, but the word (God, I pray I have this right) is that all’s well, and that this was a false alarm.
Heeeeehaw! (Or “W00t!” as my younger colleagues would say)
My father works in your Sydney office and forwarded your article to me.
He’s a man of great positive spirit too.
Those of us blessed to be touched by people like yourselves don’t count enough, how lucky we are…
I don’t suppose our paths will ever cross, but from here in my office in Sydney, know I’m a stranger touched by your story and your stregth and rootin’ for you (and your family too!) all the way! Stay strong Cancer Dude! Let’s hope this good news, though discovered in unfortunately rough and unnecessary circumstances, stays that way for years and years and years to come!!!
Kim Wade (daughter of Tony Dagger).
Your an inspiration to the world and a leader in every sense of the word.
The essence of existence is the persistence against resistance. —seen above a urinal in 1979
Can I take some liberty and call you “Resistant Cancer Dude”?
Stay strong, we have a lot of wine future’s to collect on!
—love Rob & Bon
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Go Cancer Dude! Super Man couldn’t touch you.
Your winning attitude and focus are an inspiration to us all.!
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I’m pulling for you, and I know you’ll beat this. Your attitude is an inspiration to us all.
Inspirational stuff. Best of luck to you in your fight – although with your attitude, I dont think you will need it.
It was very nice meeting your superb team and you.
I have kept in touch with Tony in Sydney.
You guys are one hell of a team from where I can see, and I will make every effort possible to keep in touch. Congrats on all your success and achievements.
it took a long time for me to find out about this blog. i know all about your glass spilling over and about your luck. lucky to have caring friends, but especially family who have given you unwavering and unconditional love and support.
Accidentally stumbled across your post today, which seems strange after we met 2 weeks ago. Glad I found your post, very moving. Cancer seems to touch so many of our lives.
You seemed so very awake when we meet in Boston and I now understand why. Good to meet and thanks for the advice.
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We all have to stand up, zip up, and brace for the next round. I’m ready.
You are the inspiration.
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Our family’s thoughts and prayers are with you during this time. I know you will kick its ass.
It is shock for us at the Amsterdam office to read through your blog and learn that ”it ”is back.
We and the entire Atlassian family know you will CONQUER CANCER!!!!!
Know that as you go through this there are people literally all over the world pulling for you and your family.
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My friend Jeffrey. I will miss your genius and positive spirit. Your persona will live on through your beautiful and supportive family. The family of Jeffrey. Words like; Altruistic. Passionate. Cool come to mind. Skattin’ on guitar solo’s. Jazz man. Clearly, you accomplished a great deal on this 3rd stone. I will toast to you. A Gibson Martini’s it is. Play on brother!
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