The Four Horsemen – undated adventures en la Planeta Cuba

Somewhere in Cuba…

Rhabdomyosarcoma – Cancer in Kids – My Friend’s Son Has It (frown)

Much to my dismay, I just found out that the son of a friend and fellow cyclist is suffering from the childhood cancer Rhabdomyosarcoma. My dad died of liver cancer, and my mom survived her own bout with the “C”, so I know the devastation that this disease can cause. To protect his privacy, I won’t publish my friend’s name or that of his son, but if you’d still be willing to send some positive energy to “The Son of the Friend of Joe’s who has Cancer,” it would be greatly appreciated.There’s nothing like Childhood Cancer to make one’s own personal problems seem small by comparison, eh?

[Ed. Pause while readers send positive energy.]

OK! Having sent your positive energy, and with a new perspective on life (thankful for what you have, right?) you now want to know what is Rhabdomyosarcoma? Well, according to the Internet:

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a fast-growing, highly malignant tumor which accounts for over half of the soft tissue sarcomas in children. Less frequently, other soft tissue sarcomas are found in children: fibrosarcoma, mesenchymoma, synovial sarcoma, and liposarcoma.

Rhabdomyosarcoma often causes a noticeable lump on a child’s body. If the tumor is located internally, the symptoms depend on its location. For example, tumors in the nasal passage may put pressure on the eustachian tubes; a bladder tumor can cause trouble urinating; an orbital tumor may cause the eye to protrude.

About Rhabdomyosarcoma

Rhabdomyosarcoma tumors arise from a cell called a “rhabdomyoblast”, which is a primitive muscle cell. Instead of differentiating into striated muscle cells, the rhabdomyoblasts grow out of control. Since this type of muscle is located throughout the body, the tumors can appear at numerous locations. The four major sites in which rhabdomyosarcoma is found are:

* head and neck; around the eyes — 35-40%
* genitourinary tract — 20%
* extremities — 15-20%
* trunk (chest and lungs) — 10-15%

Depending on the “histology” of the cells (how they look under a microscope), the tumors are classified as one of the following:

Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. Most common type, usually found in children under 15 and in the head and neck region and genitourinary tract.

Botryoid type. A variant of the embryonal type; the tumor arises as a grape-like lesion in mucosal-lined hollow organs such as the vagina and urinary bladder.

Alveolar type. A more aggressive tumor which usually involves the muscles of the extremities or trunk.

Pleomorphic type. Usually seen in adults and arises in muscles of the extremities.

Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma is considered the most treatable form of the disease. The prognosis is also affected by the location of the primary tumor. Orbital and genitourinary track rhabdomyosarcomas have a better prognosis than do tumors which originate in the head and neck, extremity, pelvic, and trunk locations.

Prognosis also depends on the stage of the tumor. The Intergroup Rhabdomyosarcoma Study Group has defined a set of guidelines, which assign the tumor to groups 1-4 depending on the extent of the disease. For more information, see the PDQ on the staging of rhabdomyosarcoma.


Rhabdomyosarcoma is treated by a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Surgery. Resection (removal) of the primary tumor. If necessary after chemotherapy or radiation has shrunk the tumor.

Chemotherapy. The following chemotherapy agents are commonly used: vincristine, cyclophosphamide, dactinomycin, adriamycin, ifosfamide, VP-16.

Radiation. External beam radiation is used in some cases of rhabdomyosarcoma.


  • Accounts for 5-8% of childhood cancers.
  • 70% of all rhabdomyosarcoma cases diagnosed in the first ten years of life.
  • Usually affects children the ages of 2 to 6 and 15 to 19.
  • The peak incidence in 1-5 age group.
  • Overall, 50% of the children diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma survive 5 years.

Los Quatro Caballeros

Respectfully Responding to Requests to Reconnect

In the past two years I’ve reconnected with several people who were very important to me years ago, but with whom I’d lost touch over the years. Some of these reunions happened organically, some I initiated, and some came from the concentrated efforts others.

There was one person (not pictured above), lost to me, who I would occasionally try to reach out to via old and seemingly out-of-date contact information, but to no avail. Finally, however, after two years’ of irregular attempts at reaching this person but never receiving a response (or even an indication that they were aware of my efforts to contact them) they wrote me through a third party today, saying:

“The reason I haven’t responded to any of your requests is that I don’t want to be in contact with you.”

Um, OK… I’m not disappointed by this, and in fact am glad to finally know that this person considers our friendship dead because now I can scratch it off the list of things from my past that I thought might still have value now. But what is it with the notion of not balling-up and responding to the initial inquiry two years ago with something concise like, “Sorry, I’m not interested in being part of your life or having you as part of mine. You did have the correct email address for me, now please lose it.”

You mean to tell me it took this person – with whom I was incredibly intimate in many ways for many, many years – two years to finally find the courage and respect to express their disinterest in reconnecting with me? Why not just have squelched it from the beginning?

There is a crucial point of note here: I was all over the world, from the jungles of Panama to the mountains of Taiwan to the deserts of the Middle East – and this person was as much a vagabond in many respects. I didn’t even know if my occasional attempts to contact them were arriving anywhere. If it was a question of their living in the same neighborhood as me, I would have walked up to their front door, rang the bell, probably had the door slammed in my face (based on what I read today) & then moved on. But I wasn’t even aware that my messages were getting through to any station.

So, if you’re an adult, and someone from your past is trying to reconnect with you and they don’t think they have your current contact information, but in fact do, and you’re ignoring their requests because you’re not interested, any annoyance that you feel past the point of the first attempted reconnect is your own fault. Because you could simply be honest with the person and say that you weren’t interested in rebuilding a friendship. Why string it along and then act like you’ve been imposed upon, when you had the power the entire time to manage the length or frequency of interaction?

This goes for anyone who knew me from “before” (be that last month or during the last century): if you don’t like me or you don’t want to be in contact with me, but I’ve tried to contact you – just say that you don’t want to know me! It’s simple! But if you did know me and do want to reestablish contact, then you can find me through Facebook. The worst that could happen is I would say, “Sorry, I’m not interested in being part of your life or having you as part of mine. You did have the correct email address for me, now please lose it.”


“A true friend is a priceless gift. When we reveal our hopes, our dreams, and our deepest secrets to others, and they still like and respect us, such people are to be cherished.

All too often, the only reason others wish to spend time with us-to be our friends-is because of what they perceive we can do for them, not the other way around. A real friendship is reciprocal, one in which each friend benefits equally. You can earn the friendship of others by being the kind of person who deserves respect from friends. When others look up to you, it should make you even more conscious of the responsibility you have to treat them with the same respect you would like them to afford you.”

This positive message is brought to you by the Napoleon Hill Foundation. Visit them at

Procrastination Isn’t Always Bad

A long-lost friend was apparently procrastinating today (and seemingly still is), reading my blog as a distraction from whatever work it is that she’s trying to avoid doing. Long story short, she procrastinated enough that she wrote me an email, I was happy to hear from her, now we’re back in touch and life is good – at least until I venture out in the snow to get dinner.

Oh wait! I have an Audi Quattro. Doesn’t that convey an unfair advantage?

Shady Grove

PJ, Joe, Joe, Amber, Jerid, Beth, Bill