Update: Mostly Out Of The Woods

Tuesday, 1:40pm
Reno, NV
“I’ve got all my life to live, I’ve got all my love to give, and I’ll survive…” Gloria Gaynor


First, as always (and for the gazillionth time), I want to deeply thank everyone who sent us good vibes, prayers, and well wishes.

Much appreciated. And very humbling.

Thank you. It really helped get us through this dark journey.

Second: As promised, I hope I am delivering here the last update necessary for friends, family and colleagues looking for news on Michele’s health.

We just got back from the surgeon’s office.

And he carefully worded some very good news.

The surgery went spectacularly well. He removed a tumor beneath her breastplate that had been classified as “of unknown behavior”… and pathology confirmed it as a thymoma. A very rare tumor, with no symptoms, which we caught totally by accident (during screening for something else entirely).

We snagged it early.

For those of you who have been down this (or a similar) path, you will know how happy we were to hear it was entirely encased, with clean margins, when removed.

Michele is healing with amazing speed — typical Type A Scorpio, right down to her cellular level. Impatiently forcing things to regenerate and get healthy as fast as possible, damn it.

The surgery was 90% of the worry, and it’s behind us. (She looks fabulous, by the way — no hint at all of the traumatic surgery and recovery she went through just a week ago.)

Now, we face a much simpler, and much rosier future with possibly some management, and certainly a lot of watchfulness.

We will see a few more docs, just to get opinions from all the right branches of modern medicine (including some alternative stuff).

But it really feels like we finally emerged from the scary darkness of a thick forest, into the bright welcoming light of a beautiful day.

As other survivors will attest, we will never again be incautious or careless with any health matter. We have tatooed “Ever Vigilant” into our memories, and while we’ll celebrate, we’ll also clearly hear what the second opinion docs have to say.

We have a new mission: Pursue health, gleefully.

This type of “Bad Boy” thymus cell isn’t like other cancers. In more common form of cancers, the nasty cells arrive looking like apes dressed in clown suits at a formal dinner — they stand out.

Thymoma cells, however, are like spies in our midst. They look like normal cells, and can only be identified by experienced detectives who know how to recognize the slight clues they give off in context with the surrounding regular cells. And you’re never quite positive.

In other words — there’s some gray area here.

However, the fact that the activity was completely contained inside the tumor — locked doors and windows, so no one got out — is the news we were yearning to hear.


There is still some healing left to get through, but we’re handling that easily.

We are carefully happy. Not gloating, not taunting Fate, not going back to carefree obliviousness.

And I hope I never have to give another update.

Thanks again for all the support, guys.

Live well. Hug your loved ones.

And stay frosty.


P.S. We really lucked out with the surgeon, Dr. Gomez. Head of trauma, just a gem of a guy to have discovered in our little city.

One of the nurses at the hospital revealed that he’d treated her without cost, with perfect care and follow-up. When she begged him for a way to repay him, he said: “Just follow your dreams.”

That’s a special guy.

Here’s to ya, doc. Thanks.

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  • My best wishes to Michelle and yourself.

    The physical news is great!

    Be prepared for some of the mental after effects. Notice them early and don’t wait getting help in that area. If you aren’t already getting help in that area, a good idea to start ASAP.

    Blunt, but after living with uncertainty for almost 10 years myself, I know even the toughest hombres need a little help every now and then.

    John Carlton replies:

    Thanks, Allison. Appreciate the heads-up.

  • Chris Haddad says:

    Hey John,

    Congadulations, man. And I mean that one from my heart. I’ve had way too many loved ones go through this kind of malarky in the past . . . and most of them have gotten more bad news than good. Hold that girl close. She sounds amazing.

    Really brings into sharp focus what’s worth worrying about in this world.

    Now I have to go tell my girlfriend how much I love her.


    John Carlton replies:

    Damn right you do, Chris.

  • Good news! Really good news 🙂

    John Carlton replies:

    Thanks, Jason.

  • Such a blessing man… Will continue to keep you guys in my prayers of course.. So glad that she’s continuing her high paced “A” game 🙂

    Wow, so glad.

  • Simon says:

    My very best wishes to you both. Very encouraging news.

  • Karen says:

    How cool is that! Fantastic.

  • Glad to hear it John!

    And glad you started 09 off on a “good” note 🙂

    — Caleb


    Great news and a well-deserved chance to keep on keeping on.

    Live well, love some more!

  • Lisa Manyon says:

    Thanks for the update. Good energy still coming your way.

    Really makes ya appreciate all we have, doesn’t it?


  • Geary Morales says:

    John & Michelle,

    Great news! I want to acknowledge Michelle and your courage in sharing the anxiety and uncertainty both Michelle and yourself have bore… with us all.

    My prayer is that you continue to acknowledge the LORD’s loving-kindness as He continues to reveal things to you that you do not yet know and shows Himself mightily in your behalf including Michelle’s well-being!

    (Jeremiah 33:3, 2 Chronicles 16:9, Hebrews 11:1-6)

    His faithfulness is indeed something to marvel and share with others that are lifting you up in prayer during this season of

    Continued blessing and brighter days ahead!

    And of course… CHEERS! 🙂

  • Margaret Gedde says:

    … into the light of a wide-open day, with renewed intention. Wow.

    Sounds like this has been a “zen slap” of sorts – something that doesn’t actually hurt you, but sure gets your attention.

    Thanks for sharing this very personal story. I’m inspired.

  • Thomas Moore RN says:

    John, It’s amazing the things you are going through, many prayers are being forwarded in your direction. I know something of what you’re experiencing, I have been a registered nurse for the last 20 or so years and I’ve had a lot of Oncology experience, nothing like a shot of mortality to change perspective and shine a light on the important things of life. I’m also quick to point out though I’ve been in the trenches for many years it’s very important that I don’t tell you that I know what you’re experiencing, only a pretty good idea. The reason I bring this up is people who have had cancer or their loved ones have, will frequently say “Oh yeah I know what your going through”, I find this very insulting and it takes away from what you and your wife are going through and that is the pain and struggle that is your own experience on a very deep personal level. If you ever need a professionals voice other than those close to you, email me and I’ll be glad to help.

  • Kim says:

    I don’t even know you personally, yet you and Michele have shared intimate revelations that have deeply touched your readers.

    You deserve many more mornings waking up to one another. I was so happy, really, to see this news.

  • Very pleased to hear these news John and best wishes to both you and Michele.

    This kind of experience certainly makes you re-assess your priorities in life and realise what IS important.

  • Linda Abbit says:

    [Huge exhale.] Thanks for sharing your very personal journey with us all, John & Michele.

    As a nearly 13 year cancer survivor, this post brought that wonderful relief feeling right back to the front of my brain. Like you, I was so very lucky — to have a wonderful surgeon (a woman) and that it was caught early. I only had to have surgery, no further treatment, other than constant health vigilance as you say.

    A support group through the hospital helped me before and after my surgery, and I found it was a great way for me to “give back” post-surgery and help other cancer patients and survivors on their journeys. I know it’s not for everyone, but it may prove helpful and worth checking out.

    Life is beautiful! I am so happy for you both, brave warriors.

  • Gratitude is always the place to be.

    Who knows?

    We’ve all had losses and scares, so hopefully,
    we have a bit of perspective.

    Be grateful and take advantage of everything today.

    And, I’m really happy for you both.

  • Great news and best wishes to you and Michele – Now the marathon is run I guess it’s warm down time.

    Listen to those running shoes – you know, the ones with the tick – and go somewhere you find beautiful, relaxing and inspiring.

  • Hey John,
    great news. I am soooo pleased for you both….!!!!!!!!

    All the best,


  • edward says:

    Hi John

    I’m SO pleased to hear the great news – that’s wonderful!

    You mentioned “alternative medicine” – did you ever get a chance to read The China Study?

    I’m not sure if you’re aware, but people have reported phenomenal recoveries from all sorts of illnesses – simply by switching their diet to one that is primarily raw, organic and plant-based 🙂

    Wishing you both all the best…


  • Sara says:

    Congratulations to both of you for working through this challenge and achieving a positive outcome.

    May the days, months and years to come strengthen you both and provide you joy.

  • Greg says:

    Our med system might be a little broken but I lift my glass to the caring doctors of the world and especially the man or woman who uncovered yet another wicked cell.

    A healthy 2009 to everyone.


  • Michelle Matson says:

    Wow! The human body and the human spirit are an amazing piece of work. Every day counts. Best wishes and good vibes for a healthy and happy 2009!

  • Wes Hopper says:

    Great news, John. We’ll continue to hold you both in our thoughts and prayers. That stuff is really scary, and feeling helpless is the worst.

    Your comments about a wake up call hit home. Three months ago I ended up in the ER with a small stroke – due to high blood pressure that I had ignored. Can you say “really stupid?” We all like to think we’re immortal. I was very fortunate – the only lingering problem is that my right hand forgot how to play guitar. It’s coming back, but it’s there to remind me of my poor judgment.

  • Lara says:

    So happy to hear the good news John! You and Michelle will continue to be in my thoughts and in my heart. Here’s to a very healthy and gleeful 2009 for both of you. 🙂

  • John,

    Best wishes to you and Michelle. Happy New Year.

  • John, we are so very happy to read this news!

    Joan and I send you and Michelle our best wishes for fast recovery and thanks for keeping us posted!


  • Corinne says:

    Great news John! I am glad the outcome is the best it could be – what a life hearing it must have given you both.

    I know you both still face some challenges and so I continue to send prayers and positive energy your way.

    It is amazing how strong and fragile we are at the same time…

  • Sunita Pandit says:

    Dear John,
    God Bless you with many more years together to grow old together and prosper.
    Thomas Moore is right… no one ‘knows what you have been through’. Many can compare notes. Many can listen and give advice and hold your hands. Take them readily.
    Personally, my brother had a desmoid tumor (benign) removed in June and by Thanksgiving developed blood clots around his lungs that he did not get investigated right away. My husband is a cardiologist with classical Internal Medicine training from India where they had no or very little access to diagnostic testing. So I call him an excellent diagnostician. Well… my bro (know it all HE MAN) finally ended up in the ER where they had to admit him and aggressively treat the blood clots.
    Why am I sharing this? No complaint is minor after a surgeon’s knife touches a human body!@!@!@ So do not ignore or brush off any discomfort…. question everything till you get satisfactory answers and please add me to your list of people you can call on to get your questions answered – even for a third opinion! I manage my husband’s practice. And my profound experience with the medical world is the sad factual truth befuddles me to know end that they just don’t know what they don’t know!
    I am following your course on copy writing so that I can get people’s attention to understand what I have been through with my son who was born with severe Cerebral Palsy and Mental Retardation. I was not given any answers just ‘give him Vallium to make the pain become dull’… and I found the answers in food from a high tech little known company from Chesterfield MO called Reliv International. God bless Robert Montgomery for deciding to create the company 20 years ago! My son is alive today because of it.
    Take care you are in my prayers as I need to you be around a long time to share more of your style of humor and teaching! You are one of my guiding stars – thank you!
    Sunita Pandit

  • Jim Klein says:

    That’s great news John.

  • John,

    My thoughts and prayers have been with you and your family.

    I am truly glad to hear the good news. Let this be the makings of a great year for you and your family.

    David Harrison

  • Sylvia Wikler Finger says:

    Hi John,

    Great news! We’ll keep thinking about both of you. Thanks for sharing your wit and wisdom all these years. You’ve been a huge influence on my writing as well as an inspiration to keep plucking away on my banjo.

  • Aaron says:


    Your post moved me to the heart.

    I’m so thankful to hear of Michele’s recovery.

    If I could write like you I would pen something wonderful here.

    Instead, just know how much we all care.

    You are blessed,


  • ken ca|houn says:

    Congrats, John – glad to hear things are going well so far. Personally I’m a big fan of vegetable juicing for health and recovery (wheat grass/dandelion/onion/garlic/kale/beets etc); best wishes in dealing with everything.


  • Joe D. says:


    Glad to hear the good news. I hope Michelle has a speedy recovery and I will continue to keep you in my prayers.

    Joe D.

  • Damn dude, glad to hear everything is getting better. I’ll make certain to send positive vibes to you guys.


  • chinaeu says:

    hope both of you fine.

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