Saturday, December 18, 2010

Absence makes the heart grow fonder--we hope.

Not one for lengthy explanations, I find that this explanation concerning why it’s been two weeks or more since my last blog entry will in fact be lengthy, but I’ll start the long version with the short version.

Ten days ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

At this point, I’m told my condition is treatable. I’ll know more about that treatment regimen on Wednesday this week after a visit with a radiology oncologist.

It is a terrible cliché, but such important information has a way of focusing one’s mind. For the past ten days, while my emotions ran the roller coaster from anger to self-pity to depression to hope to positive thinking to rejecting the news to accepting the news to, to, to, my mind began to create what I call importance departments, where I began to separate what is important and should take up space in there and what is less important to get less space and what should be removed completely for lack of importance. Here’s what I came up with as it relates to wine.

The least important thing is to argue a wine point just to prove a point. While I’ve always railed against the massive egos that infiltrate wine conversations, I must admit that the fact that I engage in conversations at all proves evidence of a strong enough ego on my part as well. But here’s the interesting thing about my latest condition: prostate cancer is related to testosterone levels.

In two weeks, I will be given a shot to turn off my brain’s ability to produce testosterone. I’ve been imagining that after the shot I’ll become a conciliatory individual with big tits!

Seriously, if conciliation or better yet, avoidance becomes the norm for me in the future, I am certain it will be good for my blood pressure to avoid or laugh at the often low-level discussion that ego-based arguments create. In the future, I will not argue with anyone about wine. I will allow everyone to hold whatever opinion he or she has, I will make a stab at telling what I think I know, and then I will gracefully remove myself from the fallout.

As to the role wine and food will play in my future, I issue a great big Hmmmmmm.

Here’s what I was told to do about my diet: eat omega 3 foods like fish and oils; eat cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, etc.); in other words, pile on the anti-oxidants. It’s that free radical stuff we’ve read about for decades now.

This news pisses me off because the above describes what has been much of my diet for years—with the exception that I likely eat too much animal fat for my own good, and I have remedied that situation. Notwithstanding my relatively healthy diet, cancer cells managed to grow inside this otherwise healthy body. Genetics strikes.

Wine is allowed in my diet, but not in the volume that I have been used to: I must limit myself to ten or so ounces each day, certainly no more than twelve ounces. In fact, I’ve been limiting myself for about six weeks, when this process began and when I already assumed what the diagnosis was going to be (I knew the genetics issue). The limiting has made me lose six pounds—one pound per week!

When you receive information about your mortality, you have only two choices: heed or ignore. The former hands you a promise while the latter hands you almost devastating certainty. But neither choice hands you your life back, not as you’ve known it before. On the day that you are faced with your mortality, you learn (or should learn) to ease off, to find the moments that matter, to let go, and, most of all, to embrace—life.

You also learn who your loved ones really are, and that has been a lesson more overwhelming to my emotions than anything I’ve felt in the past ten days. Real friends have poured love my way; the others, well, I now know who they are, but that’s okay. It is not important. The importance is holding close to the ones that matter, and that most potently includes family.

It’s also important to hold close to the things that matter. Wine and food will always matter to me.

Of course, the cost of what we call in this country a health care insurance system but what seems to me to be a near criminal enterprise may demand that I cut my wine budget considerably. The irony of the situation will be that I’ll probably be forced to consume all those “Vinted by” and “Cellared by” wines that are made somewhere and labeled somewhere else and that I have railed against for years. If only I were the type to ask for free wine to review on a regular basis--hey, any producers reading, I’ll accept them now with joy…

When the news of prostate cancer came, I had a conversation with my wife of course, and also with a brother-in-law who is a writer. Each encouraged me to start and maintain a blog to track my journey; it’s not an unusual thing; people do it every day; the wine industry has been graced with the cancer journey blog of an East Coast importer for a couple of years now. But that sort of thing is too self-indulgent for me.

Still, as a writer, I cannot resist and so I am keeping a personal account of my journey. That’s because we writers believe that our every thought can in some way be transposed into an article or book for pay, as if what we have to say has value. What was that I said about self-indulgence?

My promise to the handful of readers of this blog is that I will try to come up with ideas to make blog entries about wine and/or food. But I’m unsure how well I can keep that promise and at what consistency level. It would help if a few readers were willing to think of subjects they’d like to know my take on and let me know what they are.  

For now, it is lunchtime here. I have an omega 3 sandwich waiting for me…

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
December 2010. All rights reserved.

Lifting a blog entry without the author's permission (and without recompense) is a copyright infringement--period.


  1. Thomas,
    I'll be waiting for you too. My heart and thoughts are with you as you begin this battle my dear friend and as always....I am only an email away.
    I adore you
    Am thinking of you
    Worried but knowing the few things I do about you, believe in your strength....

  2. Thank you, Sam.

    You probably know more of me than other bloggers, as you've read a few chapters!!!

    I want you to keep this in mind as you progress to what becomes "getting older." The things that attack our bodies are things we have to deal with, but it isn't a battle; to make it such is to resist too much. War is a losing proposition on both sides.

    This is a situation that must be accepted as part of what our bodies do on their way to wherever. We don't like to think about it, but we all die. On the other hand, we often are able to forestall the inevitable if we are so inclined.

    I am so inclined.

  3. Oh, my! ...Well...Sending prayers, positive vibes and whatever else I can think of your way, Thomas.

    I've had to step away from the blogs myself for the past few weeks (although for very different reasons). And here I check back in today after a bit of an absence for a series of shocks this dreary Saturday morning.

    As to suggestions on what to write about, I think you should stick with what and when you are inspired by. (Oh, dear. I know the latter was a grammatical mess, but you get the drift!)

    Whether or not you get back to Nick's journey in Finger Lakes wine is entirely up to you. We know you've got your own journey you've started on. We'll be on the sidelines as your support crew, cheering you on.

    I like your comments to Samantha about what 'our bodies do on their way to wherever.' It seems life is full of endless surprises and unfolds for us in bits and pieces as we continue on this adventure.


  4. Thank you, Marcia.

    Yes, indeed. Life throws things at us. One day we are in one frame; the next day, we are thrown out of that and into another.

    My view on the world for some time has been that we crash around in a random existence. It's in our best interest to embrace each moment for what it is--the moment. You build enough of the moments into an hour, a day, a week, a month, and you have a lifetime. But you have life itself only for each moment.

    It's a particularly Italian mentality that probably is why Italian gangsters lived so recklessly, but also self-indulgently, which is the downside to that philosophy. Some try to use each moment to do something good.

  5. Hey Thomas-

    Do whatever you have to do.

    Write whatever you have to write.

    Drink whatever you have to drink.

    Eat whatever you have to eat ( but take the cannoli's).

    Just don't stop. Not yet.

    Don't make me come up there and get all up in your grill.

    I'll be following you, as usual...Thanks for your friendship!

  6. Alfonso,

    Are you that stalker I've been trying to elude? Follows me everywhere!

    I'm not going to stop; maybe slow down; or maybe be more careful; but not going to stop. I will, however leave the cannoli's to you: Io sono un uomo di biscotti--if I have the Italian right.

  7. Tommaso,

    What Alfonso said. Eat, drink, write, be yourself. Repeat rinse.
    Hey, it's a crapshoot. Go for it full tilt, man. Anything less is a cheat. My best to you from the heart.

  8. Thanks, Marco.

    Yes, it is a crap shoot, and we do need to understand that all we have is the moment.

    Been reading up on prostate cancer--I already knew that it runs in families, but didn't know that African men have a high rate of the disease, which seems always to interpret into southern Mediterraneans like us, as there definitely is a bridge between Africa and Italy.

  9. There is no getting past the fact that this is a major hiccup in your life, but I have a feeling 2011 will be just dandy! Be well.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  10. Thanks, Vinogirl.

    Some good news today--the scans all showed negative for metastasis. Remains local to the prostate.

    Monday, I receive a testosterone shut down shot. I'm told it might induce hot flashes in me (and maybe a desire for blue pumps). Hoping to synchronize mine with my wife's hot flashes so that we can be warm together!!!

    Happy holiday week to everyone.

  11. Great news!
    Happy Christmas to you both (hot-flashing in unison.)
    I think with your colouring you'd look better in red heels however!