Friday, December 15, 2017

4-Years Cancer Free Update (Belated)

Ever get so busy with life you forget to update your blog? :-) I posted this video on YouTube back in October of this year, but didn't post it on my blog at the same time. My apologies!

Here is the YouTube Post:

"On October 3, 2017, Robert Haase celebrated four years of being cancer free. In this encouragement update, Robert speaks about what he's learned as he's researching for his new book, Run Through the Fire."

To my readers, thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement. And, to those who happen upon this blog in search of answers about hemiglossectomy, tongue cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, or learning to speak with your "new" tongue after surgery and treatment, please feel free to drop me an email. I would love to encourage you and your loved ones through this difficult time.

Blessings, my friends,

Very Truly Yours,
Robert B. Haase 
A Blessed Man 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Have you faced adversity?

Hello again!

As I sat down to write this morning, I realized it has been months since my last post. Some have wondered if that was an "ominous sign" and were worried the cancer was back, but I'm happy to report I am well and have been keeping myself more than busy.

The biggest news is, as of October 3, 2017, I have been officially cancer-free for 4-years! Statistically, I shouldn't still be here, but I have much to do in my mission to bless and encourage others as they face or recover from their own life-challenging situations.

Over these past few months, I've been teaching my seminars, traveling extensively in the US and Europe as well as working on my upcoming book about facing adversity, Run Through the Fire. The research phase for my book has been beyond inspiring as I have been speaking with others who have gone through their own hardships, emerging better people on the other side.

As I write, I don't want to just tell you about my story and what tools I used to remain positive during my experiences, but I want to learn from you as well. If you have gone through adversity of some type, I would mean a lot to me have you lend me your insights. To help me in this process, please download my adversity questionnaire here.

In celebration of my 48-month milestone, I made a short video to share just a little of what I have been learning. In case you're wondering why there is a black strap over my left shoulder, I am recovering from a major shoulder and biceps repair surgery. It seems my pre-cancer-super-human-strength hasn't just yet. I attempted to catch a 125lb window-mount air conditioner with my right arm as it fell due to a faulty "heavy-duty" mount bracket failure. Let's just say typing isn't as easy with an arm sling in place. ;-)


Very Truly Yours,
Robert B. Haase
A Blessed Man

Monday, February 6, 2017

40-Months Since My Hemiglossectomy! (PS: I got married too!)

I can't believe so much time has passed since my last post! It has now been 3-years and 4-months since having the left half of my tongue removed (a hemiglossectomy). Life has been good and I continue to feel blessed by even the simplest of things.  2016 brought blessings including new friends, a new home, and most amazingly, a an amazing wife! For details, please watch my latest video blog post from today. 

Very Truly Yours,
Robert B. Haase
A Blessed Man

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Monday, April 25, 2016

30-Months Cancer Free After My Hemiglossectomy

I am now 2-1/2 years cancer-free! Having had cancer return ever 6-months or so from 2008 through 2013, remaining cancer-free feels more than amazing! 

If you have been given the news that you are facing a hemiglossectomy, I hope my latest video message encourages you...

April 25, 2016

Very Truly Yours,
Robert B. Haase
A Blessed Man

Monday, December 14, 2015

You Are Not Alone

Cancer is cancer. 

In my opinion, it does not matter what type of cancer a person gets because the reality is, all cancer all is bad.

It has always seemed odd to me to financially support research for a particular type of cancer because all cancer is fundamentally an out-of-control mutation of the body's cells.  

What I have learned from the 14 surgical procedures on my tongue is that the physical devastation of most cancer types can be hidden from the public. I mean no disrespect to those who have suffered from breast cancer, liver cancer, or others, but most cancer survivors can cover their scars and camouflage most of the  damage that cancer leaves in its wake. Tongue cancer survivors are not as "fortunate", however. We cannot hide that we talk different or that we cannot swallow the same. We do not have a functioning tongue to easily sweep away the food that cakes into our teeth as we eat in public. If we had radiation treatments, we likely have limited salivary gland function and cannot easily eat or talk much without a beverage in hand. We look at artisan bread as a tasteless sponge in our mouths. At the very least, it forces us to put our egos aside and be humbled since the swath of destruction is out there for everyone to see when we endure the ravages of tongue cancer.

When I found out that I was going to have 1/2 of my tongue cut out, I panicked at first. Then I did what most do when we want information on something we do not understand... we "Google it"... The trouble was, when I searched, nearly all of the information referred to the "facts" about hemiglossectomy rather than the reality of what I should expect. With the exception of one video I found, every site wanted to educate me on what a "hemiglossectomy" was I wanted to know what to expect.

As you probably know by now, my intent in starting this blog was to not just to chronicle my story but to encourage others and help people who were also facing an impending hemiglossectomy. People who were about to face the unimaginable. 

Regardless of what you are facing, how you get through it comes down to choice. A choice that involves a series of individual steps in the direction that you affix your gaze. 

I know from experience that the reassuring voice from one of my iPhone GPS apps giving me a heads-up, warning me about upcoming turns, traffic and hazards, making the journey easier. 

The point is, knowing what to expect can be hugely impactful. Knowing that something bad is in our future can be unsettling, but when we lack information about what lies ahead, it can be downright scary.

With this in mind I have decided to begin building a platform for others to tell their stories, allowing their experiences to be a blessing to the world. I hope to help those who are facing a hemiglossectomy by giving them the information they need to mentally prepare.

In October of this year I took a trip out to New York City and met with an amazing woman, Erica Casucci, who had a hemiglossectomy just two-months prior to when we met. Erica was researching the procedure prior to having it done and found this blog which helped prepare her for what lay ahead. I asked her if she would be willing to be my first interview to help others and she agreed, even though she still is struggling with her speech. This following video was filmed on October 17, 2015:

If you have any questions, please feel free to send them along and I will try to address them in an upcoming blog or video post.

Thank you all for your love and support!

Very Truly Yours,
Robert B. Haase
A Blessed Man
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Friday, October 2, 2015

24-Months Since I lost 1/2 of My Tongue - Video Update

I cannot believe it has been 24-months since my hemiglossectomy and if there is one thing I have learned, it is this:

Life doesn't stop for cancer.

Making the choice to push on when confronted with adversity doesn't make us special. It is all about taking inventory of what is important to us, finding a reason to not give up and pushing through.

To those who get those devastating words, "You have cancer", I encourage you to not let cancer define you. Let it just be another chapter in the adventure of life. Do not waste your energy worrying about dying but instead be grateful for the blessing of another day of living. 

The following is my video message celebrating 24-months of recovery after having 1/2 of my tongue, the left half, cut out...

To those of you who have contacted me and shared the story of your own hemiglossectomy, thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to pray for you hopefully encourage you. Please know that you are not in this journey alone.  

Very Truly Yours,
Robert B. Haase
A Blessed Man

Friday, September 18, 2015

"Don't look where you are. Look where you want to be."

Two months ago today, on July 18, 2015, my friend and long-time teaching assistant was killed in a tragic accident. After teaching the first day of my seminar in Des Moines, Iowa, I received a text from a friend in Olympia asking me to call. She told me that she heard a rumor that Charity died in a freak sporting accident earlier that day.  I was 1,800 miles away but confirmed it with Charity's sister, Coral. She didn't make it.

Charity had always come with me to Iowa, but this time she stayed home and competed in the Wilkeson Handcar Races in Pierce County.

The Olympian Newspaper covered the story and then KOMO News called and wanted to talk to me about Charity.  While the cameraman was setting up, I spoke with the reporter off-camera about his previous interviews that day. I won't share here, and really don't want to share with anyone about what told me with me about the details of Charity's death, but it was horrible. I cannot fathom what her husband experienced as he tried to hold Charity together in her last moments of life after she was run over by that 1/2-ton handcar. Charity was a strong, energized and amazing woman who was the definition of health. The fact that she's dead makes no sense to me.

If a year ago I told you that one of us, Charity or myself, would be dead, everyone would assume it would be me. Right? But why wasn't it me? Why do I get to live and she is gone? It's hard to write with the tears running down my cheeks and I'm filled with emotions as I write this. Anger, hurt, disbelief and sadness.

Why not me?

I've said those words before in this blog, "Why not me." In that post I was referring to people always saying, "why me?" when they face adversity. A certain percentage of people will deal with a given malady, for example, and when we say "Why me" when something happens, we are really saying that someone else should have to have the sickness or turmoil that you are facing instead of you. Charity dying seems senseless. Why not me?

I've been quiet for a while on this blog, but much has been happening.

Probably the biggest part of my unreported journey is the pain I've been dealing with. The first wave has been going on for the past year and a half in my face, jaw, neck, shoulders. It never stops, but it does get worse occasionally. An MRI recently showed a bone spur growing in my neck in response to the cervical radiation. Nothing really helps bone spurs and in the neck, surgery isn't an option.

The aspect of the pain has been from the waist down. Apparently the combination of cervical radiation with the specific chemotherapy I was given, Cisplatin, causes a neurological condition called "Lhermitte's Syndrome, which is an electric shock-like sensation in the spine and extremities exacerbated by neck flexion."

I didn't realize that what I experienced was from my treatment until a woman in the Seattle area heard my followup story on KOMO TV4 recently and told me of her similar experiences. She mentioned the "buzzing" down her legs and we started conversing about it.

From the first time I started eating by mouth again after my chemotherapy and radiation in December of 2013, I have been getting a sharp, shooting pain in my jaw from the instant food hits my mouth which lasts about 60-seconds. The pain has been slowly increasing and has come to a crescendo in the past few weeks. It is overwhelming at times. For you anatomy buffs, it is located about 1.5" anterior of the ramus on the left side of my mandible. There has been a swelling at the site as well.

I had my ENT examine it as well as my dentist. X-rays and a CT scan excluded cancer, but they found a complication from my major surgery in October of 2013. They confirmed that the arm tissue that was sewn into my remaining tongue tissue is anchored a bit too well. It seems to be pulling my gum away from my back left molar, revealing the root of my tooth. The dentist had a nifty camera that showed me what was happening and even emailed me the photo. I won't post it here.

Trying to rebuild and run my business while conducting seminars nationally is time-consuming enough, but trying to squeeze in what will likely be two oral surgeries complete with tissue and bone grafts while continuing to speak publicly seems like a bit of a challenge. Good thing I have family and friends praying for me.

In all of this I have had the amazing opportunity to meet others with my condition because of this blog. I am not alone. I feel blessed to have been able to encourage two young women who have had the surgery in the past couple of months. What they are enduring post-surgery is nearly identical to what I experienced. As a matter of fact, if you are reading this and you are facing a hemiglossectomy or have had one, please friend me on Facebook. I would love to be in contact with you be an encouragement however I can. Specifically, I am really looking forward to meeting a young elementary school teacher and her supportive husband when I am in New York City this next month.

This journey has been hard. I try to stay strong for my daughters because I don't want them to worry about me. They have so much living to do and worrying about "what if's" when it comes to my health isn't healthy for them. In the movie, Insurgent in the Divergent series, the protagonist, Tris, has a virtual conversation with her mother about her bravery. Her mother says, "You are brave... braver than anyone." Tris replies, "I'm not brave mom. I pretend that I am, and I want people to think that I am, but I'm not. I'm really, really scared."

Those words hit home to me when I heard them. I actually broke into tears because they are exactly what I've been holding deep inside. Then I realized that bravery isn't in hiding our fears. Bravery is what we do when faced with our fears. You can still be brave with tears running down your cheeks. One of the bravest men I've read about was Winston Churchill. He is often quoted as saying, "Never, never, never give up", or some variation of that. According to the Churchill Centre, what he actually said in a speech was made October 29, 1941 to the boys at Harrow School was:

"Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.''

To Charity's husband and daughter, I leave you with Churchill's words. The loss you feel which far exceeds my own will come in waves as it has with me. Periods of strength followed by raw weakness and utter sadness. 

Churchill's advice is incredibly spot-on regardless of what enemy you are facing. Whether that enemy be fear, depression, pain, loss or broken dreams. Never give in to it. 

It's like my driving instructor told me, "Don't look where you are. Look where you want to be."
Very Truly Yours,
Robert B. Haase
A Blessed Man
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