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The Napkin Notes Blog

10k Training This Morning

WGarth Callaghan

The beginning of the YMCA 10k training at Shady Grove this morning: 

"I look around this group and see a lot of different types of success. My name is Garth Callaghan and I am sometimes called 'The Napkin Notes Dad'. I have been diagnosed with cancer 4 times in the last 3 years. I have had two wins, a tie, and a stalemate. I am still battling cancer. My doctors have looked me in the eye and said to me, 'Mr. Callaghan, you are going to die from this.' 

Each and every single morning, I get up and I get to do three things. I thank God for another day, another day to be able to set goals and be successful. And then in order to reach those goals, I punch Fear in the face (thank you Jon Acuff !) and then knee Death in the groin! As I look around this group of 10k runners, I see you have done the same thing. It's 37 degrees, damp, rainy, and you have punched Fear in the face and chosen to be successful. You're more successful than 99% of the folks in Glen Allen this morning! 

Look around to you fellow runners. Look to them for inspiration and to motivate them. Help your coaches help you. Today you define your own success! Have a fantastic run! Can I get a 'HOORAH'!?!" 

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This is why I want I want my data to be leaked!

WGarth Callaghan

Let's file this under, "Well, isn't that special?!?" 

One of my oncologists has left his practice. He will no longer be affiliated with Bon Secours. I was aware of this but received a confirmation letter from Bon Secours today. 

Finding a new oncologist is like dating someone new, except without any of the fun. There's a lot of get-togethers, questions, tears, testing the waters, and deliberation. It will take a tremendous amount of my energy to accomplish this highly necessary task. 

Bon Secours was also gracious enough to inform me of the following: 

Under Virginia law, your medical records are the property of Bon Secours Cancer Institute Surgical Oncology where they will be securely maintained. You may obtain a copy of your medical record by completing the attached medical record authorization form and returning it to Bon Secours Cancer Institute Surgical Oncology. Please note that there is a ten dollar ($10) processing fee in addition to copy costs of no more than fifty cents/page. A request for copies of medical records must be made in writing, dated and signed by you or your legal guardian or representative. Bon Secours will accept a facsimile or other copy of the original authorization signed by you or the responsible legal guardian or representative. 

Let me get this straight! Under VA law, my medical records are the property of the hospital. Not only do I have to go through the pain of finding a new oncologist, but I'd have to pay a sizable fee to get a copy of my records. 

For the record, I don't have a large file there. However, all of my oncology records total 183 pages, so far. If they were housed at Bon Secours, I'd pay a whopping $101.50 to get a copy so that I could have the pleasure of schlepping it around from doctor to doctor as I search out a new team. 

When I spoke at the Forbes Medical Conference last month, I made a statement that rocked the audience, at least based on the number of tweets that followed. 

"I want my #data to be leaked. I want to share it & have it be everywhere." 

Thank you, Thomas H. Auer, for your kindness and consideration. Fighting cancer is really an easy job, and dealing with more crap like this is just wonderful. 

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Running Revisited

WGarth Callaghan

I had the honor of speaking to the Richmond 10k Coaches Team last weekend. I shared my hate/hate relationship with running. As I looked around the room, I couldn't help but admire them. Their job is to motivate and inspire their running groups to develop the discipline to practice well enough to finish the 10k. 

I haven't run in quite some time, and I'm not sure if I have it in me to do it under my current circumstances. Heck, there are times I have to rest while walking up a single flight of stairs.  

I was completely surprised when they gave me a coach's jacket and made me an honorary coach!  

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to put on my running shoes and head to Shady Grove YMCA for the 9 o'clock training session. It's the "Walkers" training group.  

You've got to start somewhere.

The most important thing is to actually start.  

Anyone want to join me?  

Garth runs the 10k in 2004

Garth runs the 10k in 2004

Emma's Life Lesson #46 - Stand up for people

WGarth Callaghan

Excerpt from "Napkin Notes: Make Lunch Meaningful, Life Will Follow":

"Appearing throughout this book are little life lessons. They are addressed to Emma. That’s because, instead of writing a chapter on my bucket list, or all the things I want to do before I die. I’ve been creating a Life List for Emma. A list of all the things I want to make sure she experiences in life. The stuff I want her to learn along the way. Some of them are big, some of them are small. But these are the things I want her to know."

Obviously I wish that I wasn’t sharing it in this way.


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Uncle Fun

WGarth Callaghan

Uncle Fun passed away a few months ago. Bryan was one of my dad's brothers and he was very close to my family.  As a young child, I used stand at the top of my grandmother's basement stairs and yell down "Hey you guys!" as a personal alarm for him and my Uncle Jimmy. (I was a huge fan of the Electric Company!)

Uncle Bryan always had time for his nieces and nephews. And it's not that he just had the time, he relished in spending time with us. I remember him "fixing" my little stuffed bunny, Goobie. Goobie's ear had come off while visiting my grandmother. It was bedtime and I needed him to be able to fall asleep. I distinctly recall Uncle Bryan pulling one of his mustache whiskers right out from his upper lip and using it to reattach Goobie's ear!  Looking back, I'm sure he was just moistening some thread before threading a needle. But boy was I in awe of his sewing ability back then. I didn't know anyone else that used his own whiskers to rescue stuffed animals!

I played Cup Links (I never had Legos!) with Uncle Bryan. I loved building all sorts of contraptions with him. As I grew older, he stayed with us for quite some time as he and my dad built an extensive addition onto the funeral home. Back then I had an over sized coloring book entitled "The Adventures of CB Rabbit" that we colored together. What a fun uncle!

I've aspired to be my generation's version of Uncle Fun. I have two nephews and a niece. I'm pretty sure the oldest nephew had a remarkably fun time at the Star Wars convention we attended together back in 2010. I think our best time was participating in an incredibly fast paced scavenger hunt. We didn't win, but our enthusiasm was infectious!

I am trying my best to live up to the title with my youngest niece and nephew, Ben and Morgan, who are now 8. It's tough. I live 500 miles from them. We see each other no more than twice a year. And if you take away their "early years" during which they don't have strong memories, I've been batting cancer for half of their lives. I haven't always had the ability to be fun.

I love to chat with Ben about Star Wars and how Jedi craft their Lightsabers. I gave him some special action figures. Morgan and I chat about anything and everything. I loved playing with her in the pool on vacation this summer. She seems to be very tuned in to my disease and shows great concern for my health. That, that breaks my heart.

Distance is my hurdle. I'm committed to somehow breaking through that barrier so they can learn about me as an uncle. Maybe they can even see me as their Uncle Fun someday.

As I was contemplating this writing, my thoughts wandered away from Uncle Fun and toward my other uncles. These men continue to serve as examples of not only great uncles, but also great, loving, and caring fathers. Dad passed away just before my first cancer diagnosis, and I now look to these men. I wonder if I can ever live up to their example.

Thank you.

Uncle Peter

Uncle Harold

Uncle Bob

Uncle Ron

Thank you for your guidance.


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A note from Brazil

WGarth Callaghan

I received this fantastic email from a new friend in Brazil this week: 

Dear Garth

I have just been his book, "826 notes of love for Emma" (name of the book in Portuguese), at the moment I have no words to express how much did me good. I can only thank him for sharing his love story with his family. I hope to write more soon.

*Sorry my bad English.

Um grande abraço do Brasil

Bruno Francischini

What a fantastic note to receive in my mail!! 


WGarth Callaghan

I was officially diagnosed with cancer three years ago today. I had undergone four scans and the results were solid. I had a 13cm tumor growing on my left kidney. I was scared. I was more scared than I ever had been. I didn't have any idea what to do and I felt as if my life was spiraling out of control. 

I really wanted to gain control over the situation. Even if the results were going to be lousy, they wouldn't be lousy because I sat back and did nothing. 

I started sharing. It was simple at first. I simply said, "I have cancer." 

I immediately started connecting on a different level. I was a cancer patient. I needed help. I needed information. I needed a cure. There was a sense of urgency. I had only three weeks until my first scheduled surgery. What would happen after that? Where would I go and what should I do? 

Along the course of my treatment and growth as a patient, I turned the tables. I didn't even realize it was happening. I started hearing more people say, "I have cancer. I don't know what to do." and I tried to help whenever I could. I needed less guidance and could provide assistance instead. 

Today I am here to share something that is very important to me. I have a potential treatment in front of me that is the only statistically proven treatment to cure kidney cancer. The challenge is that it works less than 10% of the time, much less. I asked my Dr what makes a successful patient? What are the qualities that would allow us to reasonably deduce I might have an 80% chance of success. (On a side note, this treatment is incredibly toxic and death is a common side effect. I really want to know it has a good chance of success before I get on to that table!) 

With a sense of defeat, he replied, "We don't know." 

What?!? This treatment has been around for over 30 years! We don't know what criteria makes a successful patient? That's utterly insane. 

We need to share more medical data. There is no excuse for me having to guess or play pin-the-tail on the donkey with medical choices. 

I am a member of PatientsLikeMe ( and I am committed to leaving a medical legacy for the next patient. I want to help the next person diagnosed with kidney cancer. 

PatientsLikeMe is kicking off "24 Days of Giving" on December 2, Giving Tuesday. We're encouraging you to donate your time, talent, or treasure to your favorite charity. If you are a patient with a chronic condition, you should also donate your medical data. 

If patients and doctors had donated data over the last 30 years, I might be able to make a better medical choice. 

I use PatientsLikeMe to share my data in the hope that others living with cancer can learn from my experience and help fight their own battles better. When I donate my data to an organization that can aggregate it and see a pattern or meaning, I’m not just helping myself, I’m helping all of the other people who are living with cancer, and their doctors.

Save the next patient. 

My PatientsLikeMe Video. 

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WGarth Callaghan

I think it's safe to say I loathe running. I've been running on and off for thirty years. I don't recall ever feeling a "runner's high." It's more like a "runner's nausea" or "Oh my Lord, I can't believe I haven't vomited, yet!" kind of feeling.

I started running long distances when I was in High School. My school (South Lewis Jr-Sr High) was small enough that boys only had two choices for fall sports: Football or Cross Country running. I never felt comfortable playing football. I felt I was too small and frankly, I didn't want to get hit and knocked down to the ground. I wanted to remain active and stay in shape for my sport of choice in the winter: Ski Team. So, I chose Cross Country and suffered for the entire season.

I ran. I was part of a team. I loved my team. I ran with the greatest bunch of people and I am glad to have had this experience with them. My team often carried me both mentally and spiritually. We motivated each other as much as a bunch of teenagers could. But, I loathed running. No matter how great my team was, they couldn't compensate for my hatred of running. Big Sprints, Hills, and distance training. I hated them all. As I think back, I struggle with coming up with what I hated most. I think I hated them all equally.

I showed up. I never skipped practice. I ran in every single meet. I tried. I ran. I never excelled. I was never going to be a world-class runner. I was in the last of the pack in every single race. Yet, I never felt like a loser. My team, my coach, even my school wouldn't let me think that about myself. No one was ever picked on for coming in last. Not once.

I even continued to run as an adult. I have participated in the Richmond 10k. I have a very competitive spirit but I'll never, ever run fast or finish in the top 50%. I must be broken in the head. Why did I keep doing this to myself?

Admittedly, it's a great way to exercise. I get it. My body generally responds well to this type of exercise. My mind, however, rebels against it. I'd love to be "a runner" but I will never, ever, achieve that status. I'll just be a guy who occasionally runs and hates every single step.

Why did I do this?

My High School Cross Country coach, Mr. Cliff Cranker, once wrote a recommendation letter on my behalf. I wish that I had kept a copy of it. It was kind and very motivational. I'll paraphrase and hope to encompass the spirit of his words.

"Garth will never be a fantastic runner. He shows up. He tries his very best. He doesn't hold back. He motivates his teammates. He never gives less than 100% even though he knows his results won't reflect his efforts."

Running saved my life. If I hadn't been running after my dog, Noel, three years ago, I am certain I would have never experienced my first symptom. I was sick but had no idea that I was in danger. I would have never visited the doctor afterwards. I would have discovered my cancer much later, if at all, and it may have been too late for me.

How many of us have a futile battle ahead? How many of us have seemingly insurmountable obstacles? How many of us would rather choose to throw in the towel? It's easier to not try, especially when the odds are stacked against us.

I'm here to say sometimes the results don't matter. Sometimes it's the struggle and how you approach that struggle that matters most. Don't give up before you take that first step. Don't let your mind talk you out of starting, even though you are staring at the impossible.

Sometimes you don't have to win to be successful.

I'm going to go grab my running shoes. I'll see you on the trails.



WGarth Callaghan

God never gives you more than you can handle.

Really? Really?!?

I have been diagnosed with cancer four times. I have had two surgeries. I have nine scars across my abdomen. I take medicine that is absolutely destroying my body. Either He thinks I have the strength and tenacity of a superhero or that saying is absolutely wrong. (I'll give you a hint - there are no capes in my wardrobe.)

I have joked about God and Noah. "And God said to Noah, 'Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.'" and then described the dimensions and construction layout for the arc. He was also kind enough to share the fundamental purpose of the arc with Noah. Noah "did all that God commanded him." Did Noah sit around and wonder about this? Did he over analyze it? No. He got to work and built the darned arc with a sense of purpose. We don't know if he had ever even picked up a hammer before this project. He just got to work. Quickly.

Did God give him more than he could handle, or did he push him up to his limits and beyond?

God never gives you more than you can handle.

That's utter BS.

But I never had a good answer, until the other day.

A dear friend of mine, Steve, shared with me something he had learned, and I can't thank him enough. I desperately needed to hear what he had to say.

At a recent Sunday night youth group worship, our youth pastor was talking about Christian cliches, specifically "God won't give you more than you can handle."  And he point-blank, nearly shouted, "That's a lie!! He will ABSOLUTELY give you more than you can handle. The bible is FILLED with stories where people were given more than they could handle!"  

Then more softly he concluded, "but He will never give you more than HE can handle."

Or as Father Dan said, "He has shoulders big enough to handle that."

Thanks, Steve. I really needed to hear that message.

Faith on YouTube

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You Gotta Have Faith

WGarth Callaghan

It's time.

I have shied away from talking fully about my faith and how it has transformed through my cancer journey. I have always believed that faith is a very personal thing. I am reluctant to bring it up in a discussion first. I need to get over myself because it's such an important part of my journey. I have felt God calling to me three times this year and he is clearly using me. 

Faith Video: 

When I was first diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2011, I was angry and bitter with God. I was mad, not for myself, but for the thought that I might be ripped away from my family. I was mad at the thought Emma might have to grow up with out her dad. How could I even begin to think this situation was remotely acceptable? 

I stayed away from Mass. I stayed away from my friends from church. I avoided any mention of God. I certainly was not a faith leader to my family. I didn't have the spiritual strength to do that and deal with my feelings surrounding my cancer diagnosis. 

I sat down with Father Dan after my 2nd cancer diagnosis. I wanted some insight to prostate cancer and I knew that he had some experience with that disease. During the conversation, he looked at me and frankly asked, "Are you angry with God?" Holy crap! How could I even remotely answer that?!? I was sitting in the priest's office. I couldn't lie and say "no" and I didn't want to say "yes" and commit blasphemy. I started to tear up, and a few seconds later the tears came down freely. He knew. "It's ok. He can handle it. He has strong shoulders." 

I slowly started to turn back to God. I joined the Knights of Columbus. Well, they invited me. God was clearly working through Terry when has asked me to attend a meeting. This group of men exists to help the church and other charitable causes in the community. It gave me an outlet to exercise charity. I was able to focus a little less on myself and a little bit more on others. 


In January, I went back to Mass. I listened. I really listened for a message. The gospel that day was from Matthew and told of Christ's walk along the sea of Galilee. He was calling to his future disciples. "Throw down your nets. Come! Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." What was God saying to me? What did he want. I thought. I prayed. I contemplated. I felt God was confirming my path. I was supposed to continue writing Napkin Notes and inspiring parents to join in. I was going to be an example for anyone that would pay attention.


Earlier this summer, I was in Mass. I was having a difficult time with life. My side effects were out of control and I felt awful. I was busy editing the book. I didn't feel like I was fulfilling my mission of inspiring parents to write Napkin Notes. Some of that was because it was summer and I wasn't writing many notes to Emma. As I sat in Mass, I clearly heard one message. God doesn't start something unless he plans on finishing. I took that message to heart and it fueled me. I was beginning to like this listening thing. 


I was having a rough day. I had too much on my plate. Emma had a volleyball match at 5:30 at a neighboring high school. I needed to join a conference call at 5:30. I planned on leaving work right at 5 so I could drive to the school, take the call in the parking lot and rush into the match. I would hopefully get to see the last game. I was feeling pressured and I hate not being present for Emma's events. 

I came to a stoplight and just let loose. I was so frustrated with my life. I couldn't handle everything. I started to pound on my steering wheel and prayed. "God, I need some direction and clarity. I have too much going on. I believe that Your mission for me is to foster Napkin Notes. If it's not, that's ok. But I need some direction and clarity, and I need it today." I had never prayed so directly. Not ever. 

Three hours later my agent called with the news - In a preemptive deal, New Line Cinema was optioning the film rights for our book, Napkin Notes. How could I not hear this from Him? Even someone as dense as me could hear this. 

I have been called. I get it. I am really ok with it. I know that my purpose has been chosen and I wholeheartedly embrace it. Pack. Write. Connect. 

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16 Months

WGarth Callaghan

I like numbers. I feel comfortable with math. I just wrote a post entitled By The Numbers even! We're going to talk about some numbers in a very frank way this evening. I pray I can get through this and actually have the courage to post. This will take me a bit to get through the story. I hope you can make it to the end. It's important. 

I met with a new doctor last week. Nothing has changed with my health, but I feel I owe it to my family to make sure our "Plan B" (and C, D, E, F, G...) is solid, ready-to-go and agreed upon should we have to scrap Plan A. My Plan A is taking Votrient daily. It seems to be working well, although we haven't seen any improvement since June. (We also haven't seen growth or spread, so that's good!)

The new doctor spoke frankly with us, and I appreciated his candor.  We didn't dance around my health or the fact that I have metastatic kidney cancer. (That's bad, by the way!) 

He didn't want to talk about 5-year survival rates. He wanted to talk about the median lifespan. He felt that speaking about average life-span skews the numbers because there are some that will live for quite some time with no recurrence. The median is the middle. 50% of the numbers come before the middle and 50% come after the middle. 

The median life span for someone with metastatic kidney cancer to the liver is 12 months. 

(pause, breathe) 

Yeah, the blood drained from my face when I heard those words. For those of you counting, my metastasis were found in February 2014. I can do that math in my head. And I took about 0.3 seconds to realize what was being said. With the current "Plan A" we can add 3-4 months.

16 Months. 

I need a "Plan B" that's strong. We're working on it. At some point in time my current plan will lose its efficacy. The cancer, if it's still there, will grow and spread. If "Plan A" works and it's not there then we can start to talk about a longer future. Even with a successful "Plan B" I have a 50% chance of recurrence. 50%. 

Why am I sharing this seemingly bad news? I have never held back. I am open, honest, raw. This is my life. This experience with cancer is what drives me to write, to connect, to inspire. I want you to create action. Do something that matters. Write a note. Reconnect with a long lost college roommate. Mow your neighbor's lawn. Call your grandmother. Recognize someone in need and help them. Step out of your normal life for 5 minutes and make a change. 

Do not wait until your doctor looks you in the eye and delivers critical news. 

(I am NOT asking for your personal intervention for me. We're covered for now, but there are plenty of people in your community that could use a hand.) 

About The Napkin Notes Book "The point of Napkin Notes wasn't me, or even that I was dying. It was that everyone could be a Napkin Note dad. Everyone could take five minutes every day to do something special for the people they love." —NAPKIN NOTES 

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Napkin Notes - The Book

WGarth Callaghan

Well, it finally happened! It hasn't even been one week and the excitement is still building! I can't begin to describe the feelings I experienced as October 28 came around. It was just like any day in the past few months, with one exception. 

I woke up early, and immediately ascertained what I thought my energy output might be for the day. I thought it might be slightly above average. That was a good thing considering what was ahead. 

It was the day I had waited for since February. I met with the team at HarperCollins right after we recorded the Rachael Ray Show segment. I shared with them my recent cancer diagnosis. Lisa Sharkey put the meeting on pause and made a quick call to someone at Memorial Sloan Kettering. She wanted to make sure I saw some doctors there before, well, you know. We also agreed that it was better to get my book out this year. Sooner is always better than later when you have metastatic kidney cancer! 

We set out to finish a first draft in about 80 days. It was tough. Draining. I had to resurface memories and emotions I had worked hard to move past. How many times did I have to relive telling Emma and Lissa I had cancer? I needed to share my experiences with you. 

It was worth it! I am extremely proud of the book, and I couldn't be happier with the design HarperCollins created. It's beautiful. 

The HarperCollins team visited us recently to film some promo videos. They were supposed to bring a dummy book, but somehow they tricked me! This video shows the first time I hold my actual book. 

I hope you can take time out of your day to read this. It's a call to action. Life is short. Do what you're meant to do. Be what you're meant to be. 

Pack. Write. Connect. 

little big things

WGarth Callaghan

It's 2:30 am and an incredibly busy week is winding down. I find myself "celebrating" on the sofa with 7-UP and oyster crackers, hoping to stem violent outbursts from both sides of my body. 

I keep telling myself it's all part of the treatment. It's just temporary. I can muscle through it. If I can't handle this, then how can I handle the tougher things to follow? 

Then I think back. I've been through  some unbelievable tough situations: a medical emergency in a foreign country, basic training, S.E.R.E. (US military survival school), and my first cancer surgery. 

This, by far, is the most difficult physical challenge I've ever experienced. 

If you know someone in cancer treatment, I implore you to take action today. Rake their yard. Make a dinner. Offer to go to the grocery store and pick up something. Get some books or videos from their library. Walk their dog. Vacuum their house. Take down their Halloween decorations. 

It doesn't have to be anything big. It can be a little thing. 

It's not about big things. It's about little big things. 

By the Numbers

WGarth Callaghan

I am a geek. I love Star Wars, lightsabers, math, science, reading, learning, and outer space. When I first introduce myself, I feel comfortable going back to my roots. Numbers. 

I think I am a fairly average guy. I am 45 years old. I am 5'10" and weigh 170. I have been married for almost 18 years. I have a 15 year old daughter. I have probably written and packed around 1500 Napkin Notes. 

In November 2011 I was diagnosed with Clear Cell Renal Carcinoma, the most common form of kidney cancer. It was a 13cm tumor that mostly enveloped my left kidney. (I have pictures although I have never actually looked at them.) The kidney and tumor were removed. The cancer was Stage I, Fuhrman Grade 3.

There were approximately 1.6 million new cancer cases in 2011. I was one. 

There were approximately 63,000 new kidney cancer cases in 2011. The average age of diagnosis is 64. I was 42. I was one. 

In August 2012 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  My Gleason score was 6. I had multiple biopsies with a total of 32 samples taken. 1 sample showed cancerous cells.

There were approximately 230,000 new prostate cancer cases in 2012. The average age of diagnosis is 66. I was 43. I was one. 

In October 2013 I was diagnosed with kidney cancer on my left adrenal gland. It was about 2.5cm and had clearly metastasized from my original tumor. Stage IV. It was removed via surgery. Statistically speaking, Stage IV kidney cancer patients have an 8% 5-year survival rate. (How's that number grab ya?) 

In February of 2014 I was diagnosed with kidney cancer that had spread to the liver and my right adrenal gland. The spread was too wide to correct via surgery. I currently am in an program that is "like" chemo taken at home in a pill form. 

As of October 2014, we've seen a fantastic reduction with many of the lesions, but there are 2 stubborn ones sticking around. They must love me! 

Even with all of these numbers and statistics, there are two that need to be talked about. They are, in fact, the two most important in my life. 

826 and 1. 

826 - In December of 2013, I began secretly writing enough Napkin Notes to get my daughter, Emma, through high school graduation in the event I couldn't be here to complete the job in person. I am happy to say that I am still writing daily notes and plan on doing so for quite some time. 

1 - I am a statistic of one. No matter what I read, no matter what the statistics say, I will beat this. 

Thank you for walking the path with me. Thank you for supporting my family in this journey. We couldn't do this alone. 

Pack. Write. Connect. 


At least I cleaned up ...

WGarth Callaghan

I do my best to find silver linings with my current health situation. I really do. I recently had a friend tell me, "You've certainly figured out the secret to making lemonade from lemons and I'm very very happy for you. You are proof of what a positive outlook can do in life." I took that as a high compliment. I make the best lemonade I can imagine. (Note to self - I should launch a lemonade brand and donate the proceeds to cancer-based charities. I'll add that to my future projects list!)

I have been battling nausea for the past two weeks. It has been incredibly difficult at times and I have found food very distasteful. It's a little funny because if I have food in my stomach, I am usually less nauseated, but I don't have any desire to eat.

I was chatting casually with a co-worker about a week ago and jokingly said to him, "I need to go get a drink before I throw up." I needed to get something into my stomach as a wave of nausea was setting in. I walked the 100 steps to the break room and before I even had a chance to get my drink out of the refrigerator, I did.

I. Threw. Up.

A lot. 

At work! 

In the break room! 


How embarrassing! 

I broke out into that cold sweat you get while vomiting. My dress shirt was sticking to me and I just stood there, leaning over the trash can. 

Here's my silver lining. 

1) I learned where the trash dumpster is. Of course, I cleaned up and took out the trash. I had no idea where the building trash dumpster was located. I asked someone and was able to walk directly to it. We have a fire drill planned next week and our meeting place is the trash dumpster. Now I know where to go!! 

2) I have had a slightly misaligned rib and it's bothered me for a couple of months. I have been visiting a chiropractor, doing exercises and managing the pain as best I can. It was close to being fixed, but the violent act of vomiting popped it right back into place and I haven't had a bit of pain since!

That's how you make lemonade!

Pack. Write. Connect.  



9 Weeks, 6 Days

WGarth Callaghan

Most days I don't have any idea how my body is responding to cancer treatment. Sure, I know all too well the side effects that are brought on from the meds, but I truly haven't the faintest idea if the meds are working or not. 

I have a competitive spirit. I love to win. I don't play for the fun of it. I expect to see results in this fight. My oncologist has tried to temper my expectations. "This is an ultra-marathon, not a sprint." 

Each day I take 4 pills. 

Most days I wait for a sign that won't come. 

But every 9 weeks and six days, I get a report. This report is full of medical jargon. I read it word for word. I don't think I could write the report, but I can interpret it and I know what the words mean. I am looking for something like, "There has been significant improvement" or "no longer evident". 

My summer MRI showed a "slight decrease" in the two lesions. It was definitely not the report that I wanted nor expected. (Previous Post) After such marked improvement in the first phase of the treatment, I was devastated. 

My last MRI was a few days ago. I sat with one of my doctors a couple of days later. However, I already had a copy of the report. I had already cried. I stood in the other room and didn't know how I could take a few steps to my wife, Lissa, and tell her these results. 

"...has not significantly changed since the previous examination." 

I needed a few moments to absorb this information. Once I finished drying my face, I thanked God. The cancer hadn't grown. It hadn't spread. This was good news, just not the news I needed or wanted. 

So, the fight continues. Thursday was not unlike most of my Thursdays since February. I ate dinner, waited two hours, and took my meds. An hour later I ate a snack and promptly fell asleep. I was tired. 

I am tired. I know that fatigue has set in as a side effect, but the length of this fight has also worn me down. I'm going to bed most days shortly after dinner. I struggle to get up in time to make Emma's lunch. 

My medical team has suggested a short break from the meds every three weeks. I'll take the meds for 18 days then take a 3 day break. Guess what! This is my break week. Man, I need it. I need a little respite from the side effects. 

Tomorrow is a new day, a day that I'll be ready for battle. 

Next Update: 9 weeks, 6 days. 

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. ~Eleanor Roosevelt


Peaks and Valleys

WGarth Callaghan

I’ve seen peaks and valleys this past week. I’m remembering events from a year ago. It was an anniversary week of sorts.  During this week last year, the Richmond Times Dispatch ran an article about Napkin Notes. It was the first time our story had been shared in a broad way. It was really exciting. Readers around central Virginia learned about my passion for Napkin Notes and my parenting style. Emma had a couple of softball games that afternoon. It was a great day.

Five days later I received a phone call from Dr. Bradford. Unfortunately, the scan I had a few days earlier showed a growth on my adrenal gland. We didn’t bother 

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Rocket 4 the Cure - UPDATE

WGarth Callaghan

Rocket 4 The Cure Update

You rock!!!!

I just received an email from the team! They received over $1000 in sponsorships yesterday. It was their best day ever!!

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You helped these two boys make a difference and realize that actions can make a difference. Doing something is important.

If you're seeing this post and wondering what I'm talking about, please click here to see where it started: