My Family: Each of us at a Turning Point

My friends, you cannot believe how wonderfully freeing this blog has become, and how many caring people I have re-engaged with so far. My life of outdoor adventure is turning into a life of inner adventure!

I need to step away from my musings on the past to bring you up to date on recent developments. But before reading on, please view this 2-minute video that my daughter sent me last week: The Secret of Life. If you like that one, Alan Watts has a series of ’em that elaborate on the theme. Please comment on how that video resonated with you!

Wow! Serious food for thought. My daughter questions why I never listen to music anymore. My reason has been that it keeps dragging my thoughts into the past. Combined with worries about the future, I felt myself not living much in the “present”, the “eternal now”, the only “time” we actually live in, moment-to-moment.

I’m the type of person who has repressed my emotions for most of my adult life. I’ve started listening to the Moody Blues a lot since I received that video. Emotions from my formative years are flooding-back. I’m becoming a more complete human being.

Health Update: I am still doing amazingly well. I’ve had 22 radiation treatments and five chemo treatments. The only time I feel weak and light-headed is when I overdo it in tennis. I am still playing twice a week, but not serving anymore (so I don’t get into extended rallies point-after-point-after point). It cuts the effort required in half. I am still playing the best tennis of my life. I got my fifth rolfing treatment Monday.

Prognosis: It’s not as rosy as I first thought. In fact it’s pretty grim.If I had waited much longer before getting diagnosed, the recommended treatment protocol would have been “palliative care”, which is basically Hasta la Vista, Baby, here’s your morphine.

The Surgery: My protocol calls for surgery 5-10 weeks following completion of the radiation and chemo treatments. There are two basic approaches: Open-up my chest so they can see what they’re doing, or do it orthoscopically using tiny cameras to try to see what they are doing. Here’s the plan of action:
1. Cut-out the lower 2/3’s of my esophagus, and the top part of my stomach
2. Staple-off 1/3 of my stomach, and throw away the other 2/3’s.
3. Reshape my stomach into an esophagus and punch a hole in the bottom of it.
4. Sew my new esophagus onto the old one skillfully enough that it doesn’t leak.
5. Oh, and install three tubes: One for feeding, and two other for God knows what.
6. And don’t forget: Complications are likely; some can be life-threatening. Some could drag on for years. Don’t plan on buying non-refundable vacation trips or plane tickets.

I’ll be fed through the feeding tube while healing takes place. Basic recovery will take six months to a year.For the rest of my life, all food and drink will fall directly into my small intestine (my stomach is gone). And lying-down flat will be a thing of the past, since whatever is in my small intestine would flow back into my throat!

I’ll be on the operating table 10-12 hours. 5% of the time, the patient dies on the table. On average, less than half live five years; most of those die in year one or two. They of course put what they took out under a microscope to see how much cancer they took out. About 25% of the time, they don’t find any! Zero! Zilch! Nada! What?! Are you kidding me? I really didn’t need this operation? Their answer: Well, of course you did: Your cancer isn’t going to come back where it was, because it’s not there anymore! It’s not clear how much the surgery would extend my life; it’s far more likely to extend my death!

Here’s MY plan: I’ll be getting more CT scans and a PET scan. If they don’t detect any cancer, they’re not operating on me. I plan to do “watchful waiting”: Check periodically whether any cancer is detectable or not. If/when they detect something, reassess. Until we find something, live my life to the fullest: Carpe Diem!

My daughter Natalie: Natalie was named after Natalie Wood, a film-star favorite of ours that died in a boating “accident” a few weeks before Natalie was born. We were living in South Bend, Indiana at the time (her latest moniker: Indiana Jose). I had just gone hi-tech with my music: A dual-cassette deck. Woo-hoo! I taped dozens of kids’ record albums, and we played them before and after she was born: Big Bird, Bert & Ernie (“Rubber Ducky”), and of course the Star Wars Christmas album! Our favorite: “What do you get a Wookie for Christmas, when he already owns a comb?“.

Natalie was singing and dancing and making-up plays by the time she was two. After we moved to Sewickley, PA she’d entertain her neighbors and friends on the back patio. She joined a choir in Sewickley, and the Young Naperville Singers after we moved to Illinois. She was in the play “Bye-Bye Birdie” in Junior High (but did not get the starring role). She did a little acting and singing in high school. She did some singing while attending Ohio University (a “top-10 party school”). She formed a Patsy Cline cover band (The Weepin’ Willows) after she moved to Chicago.

She worked a boring day job for an insurance company for eight years. She almost got hooked on the pay, benefits, security, etc. At night she learned “improv”, but hated it when someone stole the show from her. She switched to stand-up comedy, burning the candle at both ends for a couple years. Four years ago she made the leap: She quit her day job to pursue her passion for stand-up!

Note: I intended to add more here, but did not get back to it in time. I’ve corrected some typos and added some photos and links, so give it a second look!



9 thoughts on “My Family: Each of us at a Turning Point

  1. 8 years of my life to an insurance company, thank you very much! bye bye birdie was quite an experience and i have a memory with immense guilt attached to from opening night! mom can maybe tell you more, dad. it has to with a bouquet of roses and a card from my friend, tulin. what an awful and awkward night for poor mom! but in 7th grade, our JJHS production of “Annie” was an even bigger disaster, lol! when i lost the role i was born to play, miss hannigan! ryan hubbard got the part, amy gabler got the part ryann wanted (annie duh) and i was stuck playing Lily, Rooster’s girlfriend. and what a new jersey accent i gave myself! rick is from jersey and says :koi fee like michael meyers in coffeetalk with linda richman, SNL).

  2. Yeah, well, you learned early that show business is a contact sport!
    As Frank Sinatra sang to his son:
    Will you remember the famous men who have to fall and then rise again,
    So take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

  3. The video: I hear the message of the joy in simply being, not in trying. It explains the unfounded joy I encountered in my active cancer treatment time, when every sensation or experience was a celebrated moment. I used to feel gratitude for the very crunch of trail and leaves under each and every step I took. I find myself forgetting that way of thinking. Now that I seem likely ( you never know though), that I might have a future, the burden of future tends to crush and smother that lovely joy. Been struggling with that. I love that you are experiencing some peace and deep journey time.

  4. We know we have done a pretty good job as a parent when our children become our teachers. We can learn life changing behaviors and begin to have thought provoking internal dialogues that release those Spiritual “secrets”. Natalie is reminding you of the importance to be engaged in the “here and now.” Who can doubt that significant advice. Whereas she uses Alan Watts as on her mentor, I remember Timothy Leary’s Mantra on the 60’s to “tune in”…Although psychedelics were his vehicle, his journey brought enlightenment and gratitude to many of his followers…I was a late-comer disciple.

    One of my favorite Tedx videos is … I want to share it with you…the imagery is beautiful; the message, inspirational…Maybe you can find time to view it.

    You are in my thoughts…Keep on sharing….Maybe even a paddle soon.


  5. Sembra la critica di qualcuno che non ha mai letto Il signore degli anelli e quindi non sa di cosa parli realmente. Ricordiamoci il periodo in cui è stato scritto, ovvero quando andava “di moda” un certo ideale di super-uomo invincibile (Huruk-hai) in contrasto con altre razze più deboli (Hobbit). Qui si parla di uguaglianza (La compagnia dell’anello), della distruzione dell’ecosistema da parte dell’uomo con conseguente ribellione di Madre Natura (Ent) e questo era solo per farla breve.

  6. Translation from the Italian (complements of Google):
    It seems the criticism of someone who has never read The Lord of the Rings and then not know what you mean really. Let us remember the time when it was written, that when he went “fashion” a certain ideal of super-invincible man (Huruk-hai) in contrast to other weaker races (Hobbits). This is about equality (The Fellowship), the destruction of the ecosystem by humans resulting rebellion of Mother Nature (Ent) and this was just to make it short.

    Me: OK, I get it (I think)! That whole series was about how we’re destroying the planet! Who knew? By now, it should be evident to everyone except the President of the USA and his cadre of Climate-Deniers! Please sign my petition to Ivanka (and pray for her intercession)!

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