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My 10-year anniversary... [Jan. 27th, 2008|07:38 pm]
Next Sunday, February 3rd, will mark 10 years since I finished chemotherapy and have been cancer-free.

In early 1997, while in Advanced Individual Training for the Army, I noticed a small lump in my left testicle. Being the stoic that I am, I ignored it, figuring it was something minor, but still fearing the worst. I also knew that if it was cancer, the Army would likely treat me and immediately discharge me. Having worked for 5 years to get back into the Army, I didn't want to be gone that quickly. After graduation from AIT, I went to Airborne School, where the problem became worse. It got to where it was painful to run, and that combined with the fact that I still hadn't seen my new born son, caused me to drop out of Jump School - a fact I regret to this day.

Eventually, I found myself stationed at Fort Campbell, with the famed 101st Airborne Division. Almost immediately, I found myself in Air Assault School. Then, one day, my left testicle swelled up to the size of a baseball. I went on sick call, and the PA declared it was epididymitis, which is an inflammation of the epididymis. He prescribed some anti-inflammatories and Motrin for the discomfort. The swelling went down a little, just enough for me to return to work. Having messed up at Air Assault School on an unrelated event, I found myself waiting to go back in order to finish the last event, a 12-mile road march with M-16, full battle-rattle, and 35 pound rucksack.

During my wait to return to Air Assault School, my unit went to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, for a week of training. While there, my testicle swole up to the size of a softball, and in order to walk, I had to grab the front of my pants and hold my testicle and penis away from my leg, to avoid them hitting it, as that caused a searing pain to course through me. I went to the small clinic there on the base, and a Reserve doctor (who looked to have been old enough to have served alongside Patton in WW2), looked me over. He gave me a "no running, no jumping, no marching for three days" profile, and told me to go back to the clinic as soon as I got back to Ft. Campbell. He also recommended that I get an ultrasound, and depending on those results, I should consult with a urologist.

Upon returning home, I went on sick call, and had the ultrasound done. The PA also renewed my profile for another three days, starting on Monday, meaning I could resume normal activity on Thursday. Thursday just happened to be the next day when an Air-Assault School road march and graduation was scheduled, and I was determined to be there.

The ultrasound showed a lump, but they weren't sure what it was, so I went back for another on Wednesday. After that ultrasound, an appointment was made for me to see the urologist, Dr. (CPT) Charles Payne, of Blanchfield Army Community Hospital on Friday morning.

On Thursday, I went to the Air Assault School and began my road march. In order to graduate, you have to complete the 12 miles in less than 3 hours. I ran most of the way, as most people do, trying to motivate a Michigan State ROTC cadet who was getting his behind kicked by the humidity. He and I crossed the finish line at 2 hours, 59 minutes, 50 seconds - just 10 seconds to spare. But, we did it! We passed Air Assault School! I was very proud to stand there that morning and have those silver wings pinned on my chest. The week prior, I literally couldn't walk because of a swollen testicle, but here I was, graduating a very physically demanding school.

On Friday, I went to see the urologist. He had me drop trou and took a look at my cajones for about 30 seconds before asking me "What do you have planned this afternoon?" I told him that my wife was at work, my son was at day-care, and I had the only car. "Why?" "Because I'm 98% certain that you have testicular cancer, and I want to operate to remove it and do a biopsy TODAY!"

Luckily, I had more or less resolved myself to this being the case, so it didn't floor me. I took it in stride. He and I discussed it, and he decided it could wait until Monday morning, so that I could make arrangements with my wife for her to get out of work and take care of our son. Then, I had to tell her and my parents.

Telling my then-wife wasn't difficult, as she had been there for the whole process. She was up-to-date, and she took it quite well. Or, if it did bother her, she didn't let it show. Calling my folks was much more difficult.

My dad had lost his mother to a stroke not long before, so it was rough on him. Plus, if someone had told him, when he was 26 that he had cancer, it would have been equal to a death sentence. But, my parents turned towards their faith, and found the courage to be strong for me. My dad and I did share a few tough phone calls over the next few months, but I always tried to reassure him that I was tough, that modern medicine was far better than it was in his day, and that surely there was a reason for this, and I'd be fine.

During the surgery on Monday morning, my left testicle was removed, and was sent to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology for a biopsy. Other tests were conducted, as well, and it was discovered that there were tumors in my abdominal lymph nodes. The doctors needed me to recover from the first surgery before they could operate again, so they scheduled me for the next operation six weeks later.

During the second surgery, I had three doctors working on me, Dr. Payne and another urologist from BACH, and Dr. Smith, the Chief of Urology at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Dr. Smith drove up to Ft. Campbell in order to assist in the six-hour operation to remove my cancerous lymph nodes. The operation consisted of cutting me open from 3" below my navel to 3" below my sternum, and placing my guts on top of my chest for SIX HOURS! When the doctors were done, I had more staples in me than an office supply store. I then spent a week in the hospital, recovering. My abdomen was black, blue, yellow, and purple. It looked like Mike Tyson used me for a punching bag, and that's about how I felt, too!

When the doctors finally released me, I was told to stay off my feet, and the heaviest thing I was allowed to pick up was the TV remote - doctor's orders. He did say I could pick up my 6-month old son, but not for long periods of time, and I couldn't do anything strenuous.

After the surgery, the doctors discovered that the cancer had already begun to spread. This time, they found evidence of tumor nodules in my liver. This meant four rounds of chemo. Since Ft. Campbell doesn't have an oncologist, this meant going elsewhere for treatment. In my case, it meant Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Dayton, Ohio.

I didn't know just how bad the chemo was going to affect me, and didn't want my wife to witness it, so she and our son went home to stay with her mom for the next few months.

My chemo was set up in four three-week cycles. On every Monday, I recieved a dose of Bleomycin. Bleomycin is so toxic, that if it gets on your skin, it'll eat a hole right through it. The oncology nurses had to wear masks, gloves, and heavy plastic smocks whenever they handled it. Yet, they were injecting it into my veins! In addition to my Monday morning Bleomycin, I recieved doses of cisplatin and etopiside every day of the first week of each cycle. Basically, I recieved the same drug therapy that Lance Armstrong underwent a year earlier.

When I began chemo, I went ahead and shaved my head as short as possible, so I didn't have to deal with hairs all over the place. I still had it fall out, in little patches all over my head. I looked like an alien from the old '80's TV show Alien Nation. I only got sick four days in the entire 81, and always at the same time in the cycles. After the third week of each cycle, I'd get sick that Tuesday, and be fine on Wednesday. I surprised everyone, epecially my oncologist and the nurses, because I actually put on 15 pounds during chemo. I was eating like a horse. If you put food in front of me, it disappeared quick, fast, and in a hurry.

While I was at WPAFB, I got to stay in the nicest place, staffed by the most caring people in the world, and provided by a true American hero. I had the privilege of staying at the Fisher House, a home built by the Fisher House Foundation to provide a place for sick and injured servicemembers and their families to stay while undergoing medical treatment. If you aren't familiar with the Fisher House, please, visit their website: http://www.fisherhouse.org/. The Fisher House was started by Zach Fisher, a self-made multi-millionaire who knew who made it possible for him to be so successful. He had tried to join the Army as a young man, but was physically disqualified. His wife, Elizabeth, worked as a Red Cross nurse (IIRC), treating wounded servicemembers during WW2, and the images stuck in their minds of those young men, far from home, going through their most trying moments without the support of family nearby. When Zach Fisher became successful, he vowed to make the situation better, and he did it. He will always remain one of my biggest heroes, and the Fisher House Foundation will always remain one of my favorite charitable causes.

On February 3rd, 1998, I finished my final round of chemo, and boarded a plane back to Ft. Campbell. I was greeted at the airport by my Sergeant and our new Lieutenant, whom I hadn't met before, LT Casey Randall. The next day, I had to fill out travel vouchers, take care of convelescant leave paperwork, and go to the close-of-business formation that afternoon. As I was heading to formation, in uniform, I heard my former platoon sergeant yell out "Soldier, who the f$&k cut your hair?" I turned around, and as soon as he saw it was me, his jaw dropped to the ground and he began apologizing like their was no tomorrow. (If you had seen me that day, you'd think I was a wlking corpse; I was pale, my face was sunken, and my hair had fallen out in patches all over my head.) I told him not to apologize, my barber was really bad, but that I didn't have to pay for it. Everyone started laughing, and he felt like a jerk (he often was a jerk, so the moment was kind of sweet). As we were waiting for the First Sergeant to arrive, my section sergeant was chewing out the rest of the guys for some minor infraction, and dropped the section for push-ups. Well, being part of the section, I dropped too. He told me I didn't have to drop, but if my section is doing push-ups, I do them too. (I think that's why he only made them do 10, instead of more.)

When the First Sergeant arrived, the Battery was called to Attention, and the Battery Commander took over the formation. The Executive Officer called me forward, and the Battery Commander promoted me, from Private First Class, to Specialist. Then, he allowed me to make a speech, as was his tradition. I kept it short and sweet, unlike this post. lol

The next day, the First Sergeant drove me to the Housing Office on post, spoke to a friend of his, explained the situation, and got my name moved up to the front of the housing list. Instead of waiting several more months, I had a place to live that afternoon. My wife and son flew back a few days later, and I spent the next 2 months getting reacquainted with them before returning to work.

I know this has been a tad long-winded, but I wanted you to know full well why this Sunday will be so special to me. And, guys, don't take your health for granted. Do a testicular self-exam while you're in the shower, they aren't difficult. You knwo your body better than anyone else, you'll know if something isn't right. If their is something wrong, don't try to be tough - get it looked at before it worsens. Had I gone to the doctors right away, I probably wouldn't have this nice zipper down my abdomen, nor would I have had to go through 81 days of chemo. Please, do it for yourselves, and for those who care about you. Had I waited much longer, I could have died. The next step after my liver would have been my lungs and then my brain.
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My FFL arrived. [Oct. 28th, 2006|02:25 am]
[mood |jubilantjubilant]

After several months of waiting, and numerous patience-trying meetings with a fairly new BATFE investigator, I now have my FFL. It arrived Wednesday. I mailed BATFE a $500 check for the SOT this afternoon. So, hopefully, it'll be less than two weeks before I'm fully ready to start going.

I'm already building a rifle for warpedpuppy. It's going to be a 9mm AR-15 with a 5" barrel, making it an NFA-registered Short-Barrelled Rifle (SBR), along with an Elite Tactical Systems (ETS) 9mm suppressor. It is going to be one bad mamba-jamba when it's complete.

I also have a few other customers waiting in the wings for some suppressors and other toys. I've already got the paperwork to do several transfers for another client. He's an active-duty Air Force officer, and is transferring in an M-16 and 5 suppressors. You've got to love it when the money starts rolling in.

I'll be tipping back a few beers this weekend, as a way of celebrating. Before that, I'll be putting a bunch of rounds down range, out of the Uzi, one of the M-16's, one of my AOW's, and a bunch of other cool toys. I'll be at the range with Oleg Volk, so I'm sure there'll be plenty of pics to follow.

In case you couldn't figure it out already, I'm a VERY happy man! Yay me!
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Middle Tennessee State University Veteran's Memorial Project [Sep. 27th, 2006|12:05 pm]
Middle Tennessee State University, where I attend classes, is in the process of building a memorial to remember the 56 alumni who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our Nation, and to commemmorate the service of all of us veterans.

One of the 56 men who's names will be on the wall will be CPT Pierre Piche,a personal friend of mine. I met Pierre in the summer of '97, when I was newly assigned to 3/320 FA, 101st ABN DIV. He and I were both Artillery Forward Observers; he an E-5, and me an E-2. We were in the same platoon, supporting 1/187 INF - Leader Rakkasans.

When his enlistment was over, Pierre went "Green to Gold" and earned his commission through MTSU's ROTC program. Upon commissioning, he was reassigned to the 101st. In fact, he took over the same platoon for which he had once been the FO. (How many of us have wanted to be in charge of the unit where we had once been Privates?)

When I deployed to Afghanistan, Pierre remained stateside, serving as the BDE Rear Detachment OIC. In fact, he was the person who issued me my atropine auto-injectors, and was one of the last people I saw at FTCKY the night I deployed. Knowing Pierre, I'm confident he'd have rather been in the fight with his soldiers.

Pierre was killed on 13 NOV 03, when the UH-60 he was riding in, and another Blackhawk had a midair collision over Baghdad. (I'm sure many of you are familiar with the incident.)

The University has earmarked a small amount of money for the project, more has been donated thus far, and several thousand more has been raised through a benefit run. I have volunteered to assist in raising more of the needed funds. I am here with hat in hand, asking you for your help. I would really like to see Pierre honored in this way. The school intends to build an ampitheater, where they can hold ROTC commissioning services, as well as other veteran-related functions.

If you are able to donate, the donations are tax-deductible. Simply follow the link at the bottom of the post, and click on "Contribute To The MTSU Veterans Memorial Fund. Be sure to state that your donation is to be used for the MTSU Veteran's Memorial Fund. The school is also going to have available bricks, where donators can have their names inscribed, or they may have any veteran, living or dead, memorialized. These bricks will form part of the memorial ampitheater.

Thank you for any help you can give in making this a reality.

God Bless,


(If there isn't a link, sorry, I don't quite know how to put one here in a LJ posting. Just Copy and Paste in a browser.)
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Next lesson learned, this time at the gunshow. [Aug. 28th, 2006|11:43 pm]
This business venture thing is really becoming a learning experience, some good, some bad.

Over the weekend, I set up a table at a local gunshow. My primary goal was to get the company and my products out in the public's eye. To that end, I brought a few suppressors, business cards, and my laptop, to show a couple suppressor videos. Having the laptop and videos was a great idea! Being able to actually show the benefits of using a suppressor really helped me convince quite a few people that they are a good idea. Having the cards, even with the typo, was invaluable.

I gave out about 200 cards. I would be happy if 10 of those people bought suppressors. I'll keep working on convincing the others. I had one gentleman ask me to update him when my FFL and SOT were back, and I resume production. He said he is ready to buy three suppressors, a 9mm, a .45, and another for his .243, as well as having the barrel for his .243 threaded. The pistol caliber suppressors are intended for two of his machineguns, which means he's got experience with NFA 34, and not averse to paying transfer taxes. All told, that order alone represents about $1600-1700 in sales. That'll be nice.

I also brought some Surefire flashlights and accessories to sell. I managed to sell a couple small things, but not as much as I would have liked to sell. That doesn't mean I left the show with everything I brought that I didn't sell. The next lesson learned: DON'T TURN YOUR BACK ON ANYONE! Some dirty, rotten, low-life, waste of oxygen and carbon stole a $65 flashlight accessory from me. Dirty Rat-Bastage. Luckily, all they took was the flashlight part. If they had stolen one of the suppressors, it would have meant reporting it to BATFE, and trying to deal with that hassle. So, it looks like I'm going to have to stop trusting folks and get some glass display cases to keep things secure. I hate the idea of being one of "those" vendors, the type who doesn't let people handle stuff without watching them like a hawk. I suppose most reasonable people would be understanding when NFA weapons like suppressors are involved. But, it still doesn't make me feel better about having to do it.

And more ETS, Inc. news:

Classes started at MTSU for the fall semester, and I am going to be getting credit for doing an internship as the President of the company. I spoke with the Internship supervising professor this afternoon. He told me that he didn't feel that he could approve the internship with me evaluating my own performance, mostly due to the appearance it might present to academic reviewers. I could understand his logic. So, the former President of the company, Darryl, will be evaluating my performance. So, I get college credit for building my company. One of my friends, Jacob, will likely be doing an internship with ETS next semester. When Jacob found out I was buying the company, he started joking about being the intern, and getting credit for it. It might turn into reality afterall.
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lesson learned @ the printers' [Aug. 24th, 2006|12:45 am]
Well, I finally recieved my new business cards. Unfortunately, I had to learn a lesson in getting them.

Allow me to share the lesson with you: double check the printer's artwork, in depth, in detail, looking at even the most mundane facet.

When I reviewed the artwork, I checked important things, like web site, e-mail address, phone number, my tough to spell last name, company name, and the short message written under the name. What didn't I check? The spelling of my title. Who would expect a printer to misspell "President"? You'd think it's something they type frequently. However, according to 1,000 business cards, I am the Presidnet of ETS. Yes, Presid-NE-t.

Oh well, lesson learned. At least I have cards.
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(no subject) [Aug. 21st, 2006|05:57 pm]
So, I'm thinking the weather in Houston, TX might be nicer than here in middle TN. Or, it could be the hospitality of a certain resident of the city.

After doing some research into Houston, I found out that it is the 4th largest city in the United States. I didn't know that. Oh, and Texas has some very good laws in regards to firearms, which is important, since that's some of what I do for a living. It also has a good culinary spectrum, which is the other thing I do for work.

I graduate from college with a BBA in Entrepreneurship within the next two years. (Most likely December 2007.) I keep thinking about the fact that I have no ties to TN, other than friends and my business. Friends can be kept in touch with via phones, internet, and snail mail. Businesses can be moved. (Granted, with my line of work, it takes a TREMENDOUS amount of effort, along with approval of the local law enforcement and BATFE.) On the other hand, this area holds a great number of bad memories for me, mostly involving my ex-wife.

I've been tossing around the idea of moving after graduation. I really started thinking about it back in April, pushing aside the thoughts so that I could finish school and develop my business.

Now, I'm thinking hard about where I want to be in a couple years. I have to be honest, there is a young lady in Houston who has made enough of an impact on my mind and heart, that I would seriously consider uprooting from here and relocating. My childhood was spent as a military brat, and my adult life hasn't been much different. In 35 years, I've lived in 11 States, Canada, and Germany. From Kindergarten through my Senior year of high school, I attended 11 different schools, some for as little as 4 months. Heck, the only years I ever completed two consecutive years at the same school were K/1st, and Jr./Sr. years. I've always been nomadic.

Of course, it's still early, and December '07 is a long time from now. A lot can happen in 16 months. I'll just have to see where things are this time next year, before I do any serious planning. (Although, I do need to start thinking about Grad School before too much longer.)
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ETS is slowly coming into it's own. [Aug. 16th, 2006|05:06 pm]
Well, I'm getting closer and closer to having a profitable company. (Of course, a true profit, and more importantly, a salary for me, is still a ways off.

I set up a table at the gunshow this past weekend. Saturday went well, sold most everything I had out. Sunday didn't go so well. I restocked overnight, but only managed to sell three items, totalling $27 in sales. However, I was able to talk to quite a few potential customers, getting the word out about the company, and the goods and services I sell.

After the gunshow, I used some of the money I earned Saturday to treat some business associate's, including Oleg Volk, to sushi. Hey, I get to write it off on my taxes as a business dinner, so, why not? It was good to hang out with some like-minded friends and talk.

I also did two more things with the proceeds from the weekend. First of all, I visited GoDaddy.com and registered a domain name for the company. It's not up and running yet, but will be soon. Oleg has generously offered to help with the web design and hosting, and I refuse to rush him; as he is equally as busy as I am. Once it's up and running, the new website will be: www.elite-tactical.com.

The second thing I did was order some business cards. All weekend, people were asking for business cards, and I had to write on the back of a friend's. I was waiting until I had a domain name/website/company e-mail address, before I ordered cards. Well, that's done, so no more excuses.

The near future also holds some great things for ETS. This coming weekend, Oleg will be doing some ad photos for me. Lori (perfection1144) will be in some of them, as will another young lady Oleg knows, myself, and whoever else we can convince to stand still for a few minutes. Hopefully, I'll have a couple of posters developed soon, and will be able to hang them up in the gunshops of a few friends. Some of the pictures will also find their way onto the website.

The following weekend, there's another gun show, and I'll be setting up a table there, as well. Hopefully, it'll be better than the previous show. I should have a number of Surefire flashlights to sell, as well as some other stuff.

So, things are going well on the business front. Now, if only I could get my personal life together. (Anyone know a single woman who is interested in a 35 y/o man with too many things going on at once?) Also, school starts back in 12 days. I'm only taking 12 hours, on M/W/F mornings, from 8-12:30, so it won't be too bad. Only 3-4 more semesters until my Bachelor's. Yay! Then only another 6 months until student loans will be due......ugh!

So, y'all raise a class and have a drink with me to the success of Elite Tactical System's, Inc. Cheers!
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relationships [Aug. 6th, 2006|12:55 pm]
Ok, I know this is going to sound sort of sappy, especially coming from a guy. (Particularly a guy who's been divorced twice. I guess I'm a stubborn old mule who just doesn't give up.)

Anyways, a friend recently said something that sums up what I'd like to find in a relationship: "I'd like to find someone to wake up with, not just someone to go to bed with."

Sure, casual, meaningless sex can be fun and all, but it's just not as fulfilling as it used to be. If it was ever truly fulfilling beyond a sense of immediate, physical gratification.

One of these days.........
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I finally started a LJ account. [Aug. 3rd, 2006|07:39 pm]
[mood |accomplished]

Well, after posting several replies in Lori's (perfection1144) journal, and her suggesting I should get my own account, I did it. (Hey, a beautiful woman tells me to do something, who the heck am I to argue?)

I don't know how much time I'll find to post here, but I'll try to add something at least weekly.

For those who don't know me yet, I guess I should introduce myself.

I'm a 35 year-old guy. I currently live in Murfreesboro, TN, although I'm originally not from here. I was born in Massachusetts, but I've lived in 11 states, Canada, and Germany.

I spent 8 years in the U.S. Army, with most of that time spent with the famed 101st ABN DIV (AASLT) at Ft. Campbell, KY. I served a peacekeeping tour in Kosovo and a combat tour in Afghanistan, before getting out on a medical discharge in 2002.

I've been married, and divorced, twice. I am the father of the greatest kid in the world, Justyn; who is 9.

I am a testicular cancer survivor, although my meds didn't give me superhuman strength like they seemed to have done for Lance Armstrong.

After I got out of the Army, I attended Culinary Arts school, graduating in May 2005. I currently work full-time as a chef. I also decided to go ahead and work on my bachelor's degree, so I attend MTSU full time, where I am working on a BBA in Entrepreneurship with a minor in Business Administration. I should graduate in either December 2007, or May 2008. After that, I'm considering an MBA (gotta delay those student loan repayments as long as possible).

In addition to being a chef, I also have several other jobs. From time to time, I do some modeling for Oleg Volk. I am an NRA certified pistol instructor, and a TN state certified handgun carry permit instructor. I'm also considering becoming a TN hunter's safety instructor.

Tiring of working for other's, I recently purchased my own business, Elite Tactical Systems, Inc.. ETS manufactures firearm silencers (yes, they are legal - highly regulated, but legal). I also sell tactical gear and accessories, many designed for the rugged needs of military / law enforcement users.

So, that's me in a nutshell. As you may be realizing by now, I'm a very complex individual, who doesn't readily fit into many molds. Hopefully, you'll find some of my rantings, ravings, and stories to be interesting. If there's ever anything you care to know, feel free to ask.

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