Life of Brian & Angela: April 19, 2017

Wednesday was Demolition Day for his new home at 531 3rd St. in Ronald, Washington!

Brian in Lab Coat

Brian suited-up for Action!

What was under the old linoleum floors and the crappy carpeting? SOLID PINE FLOORS!

What was under the ’60s-style cheapo paneling? DRYWALL. What was under the Drywall? SOLID KNOTTY-PINE (PROBABLY TONGUE-IN-GROOVE)!

What was under the aluminum siding and Tyvek sheeting? Thin, cement-type siding shingles. What was under those? Solid pine siding, most of it in good condition!

It turns out the the house next door was an identical twin to theirs, and it’s still in original condition. So, they can see exactly what needs to be done!

They met the neighbors, and everyone seems very nice. They downed a few beers while watching the hockey game at the local bar, meeting most of the town!

Here are two views from their “commute” to Seattle through Snoqualmie Pass:

In short: They are ecstatic!

Health Update: My surgery yesterday to insert a J-Tube into my small intestine was successful! We are still awaiting “Orders” regarding when and how to start feeding me with what! We may not be able to start utilizing it until Monday. After that, I should start putting on weight (I’m  still down 20 pounds).

Monday: CT Scans at Jewish Hospital
Tuesday: PET Scan at Jewish Hospital
Wednesday: Meet with UC Health surgeons in West Chester
May 1st: Meet with surgeons at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN
May 3rd: Choose between UC Health or Mayo Clinic, and get the surgery scheduled!

Update on my Petition to Ivanka Trump: Today is Earth Day 2017, and as planned, I have declared a victory of sorts that 299 courageous people signed my Petition to Ivanka Trump!

A large Iceberg off Newfoundland

Newfoundland: Would you like some extra ice in your coastline?


It’s 4 a.m.; I just played the only card I’m holding on The Cancer Card!

My Petition to Ivanka: My readers will recall that early on, I made frequent reference to my petition to Ivanka Trump, asking her to persuade her father to change his position on Climate Change:

During treatments, I’ve taken my eye off the ball, and the petition has flat-lined. Today, I’m kicking-it up again, with the goal of having it go viral, getting as many signatures as possible by Earth Day 2017, which is Saturday, April 22nd. I will close the petition that day, and will deliver our signatures to her then. Take a look at my latest post.

With Jaime

With Jaime, my terrific social worker, just before leaving the hospital.

Getting back to Friday: I felt fine until I started the 20-minute drive home (I was driving alone). Suddenly, my esophagus flared-up like it was on fire. My head started to explode. I used Qi Gong to maintain my focus until I got home. I was a basket case. I downed a big slug of my prescription Magic Mouthwash, and before long felt like a human being again.

The rest of Friday and Saturday I ping-ponged between near-normalcy and the “darkness at the edge of town”. Under-nourished; dehydrated; loopy at times. Trying like crazy to get any kind of food or drink to go down.

I did finally get some sleep last night, but that was over by 3:30. I had some things to do on and this blog! It’s 4:30 now.

Getting back to Dangerous Dan McGrew: This is a wonderful poem. I made mention of something special about it in a comment last week, but most of you probably missed it. So, here I go again; it concerns this passage:

Then on a sudden the music changed, so soft that you scarce could hear;
But you felt that your life had been looted clean of all that it once held dear;
That someone had stolen the woman you loved; that her love was a devil’s lie;
That your guts were gone, and the best for you was to crawl away and die.
‘Twas the crowning cry of a heart’s despair, and it thrilled you through and through – 
“I guess I’ll make it a spread misère, said Dangerous Dan McGrew.

Dan was a card player, but this wasn’t about playing cards. In cards, a spread misère is a hand so bad that you believe you cannot possibly take a trick. But: It can still be a winning hand if you bid a spread misère: If you lose every trick, you win the pot!

Dangerous Dan knew from the moment he laid eyes on the miner that he would shortly be a dead man. His way of going-out in a blaze of glory was to bid that spread misère regarding the real-life hand he had just been dealt!! He was shot dead moments later, winning his final bet, but of course unable to collect! C’est la vie; c’est la mort!

Meanwhile, the Lady that’s Known as Lou gets the final line:
   The woman that kissed him and, pinched his poke, was the lady that’s known as Lou.

She’s kissing her old lover (the miner) tenderly as she relieves him of his “poke” (sack of gold dust), which she presumes he has no further need of! C’est la vie in Alaska!

One more synergistic thing: I received a book in the mail from my brother Bill yesterday (see photo below). The cover insert begins with this quote from the author:

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.

Book from Bill

I need your prayers and/or best intentions for me now!

I have been terribly sick the last few days, with today being the worst. I have lost nine pounds in nine days because I am unable to get much food or drink into my stomach. I have constant headaches; I am a wreck!

Just now I had a breakthrough: I was able to get some egg and milk to go down without making me sick. I believe in Qi energy, that our bio-electric energy fields are entangled with each other, and that you can help me through this from afar.

Tomorrow is my last radiation treatment (#28). The effects will linger for some time. Please help me to get healthy enough to make that trip to St. Thomas to see Natalie!

Past the Low Point?

Health Update: After breezing-through my 5th chemo treatment on Thursday and my 23rd radiation treatment on Friday, I finally hit the wall on Saturday: Couldn’t get hardly any solid food or liquids to squeeze past the tumor, leading to severe, long-lasting headaches and general weakness. My windpipe is so shredded that it is getting painful just to breathe. That was following by a sleepless night. I had to give-up the tennis for the remainder of the winter season.

However, Sunday was better. I was able to get a good amount of food and drink down, and had a good nap. I slept fairly-well Sunday night, and am feeling much better today. I’m eating and drinking much better now. They said Week 4 would be the toughest, so hopefully I’m over the hump! Four days to go: I’ll be ringing the bell Friday (watch for it here)!

What’s Next: Come Sail Away, Come Sail Away, Come Sail Away with Me!

March 31st: Last Treatment!
April 1st-6th: Regain strength; pack.
April 7th-14th: On vacation in the Virgin Islands with my daughter Natalie & Captain Rick!
April 15th-23rd: Complete initial recovery from the treatments.
April 24th: Repeat CT Scans
April 25th: Repeat PET Scan
April 26th: Meet the Surgeons at UC Health!
May: Surgery the third week of May (or NOT)!

Today’s poem by Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues:

“The Word”

This garden universe vibrates complete.
Some we get a sound so sweet.
Vibrations reach on up to become light,
And then thru gamma, out of sight.
Between the eyes and ears there lay,
The sounds of colour and the light of a sigh.
And to hear the sun, what a thing to believe.
But it’s all around if we could but perceive.
To know ultra-violet, infra-red and X-rays,
Beauty to find in so many ways.
Two notes of the chord, that’s our fluoroscope.
But to reach the chord is our life’s hope!
And to name the chord is important to some.
So they give a word, and the word is OM.

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!


Thanks to my Dad

A lot has happened in the past few days. I may not get to cover all of it the way I’d like to right away. Check back to to see what I might have added.

Today’s Thanks are to my Dad, for:

Teaching me strong ethical values
Teaching me to play baseball and tennis
Bringing me back a 3″ clay Indian figure every time he made a trip to Chicago. The collection is still my my attic. I will get my collection out soon, display it on my mantle, and take a picture of it. Brought brought different special gifts to my brothers.
Becoming an Assistant Scoutmaster in Boys Scouts during the years I was Scouts. I made Eagle Scout, as did both of my brothers.
Being the only one that ever gave me a nickname: Pal. He really did try to be my pal.
Teaching me by his example (and cryptic sayings, like “experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”) I eventually figured out what that meant.

Dad also carried a lot of baggage from his childhood experiences during the depression. He was the son of an alcoholic, and the oldest of four brothers. Here are some vignettes from his life:
In the mornings before going to school, he would somehow take one egg and turn it into four egg sandwiches, one for each boy.
Growing up, he learned to enjoy “sops” for breakfast. He would have it occasionally has an adult. Sops was essentially boiled bread with a tiny amount of sugar on it. As an adult he was able to have more sugar than he could as a kid.
His house was adjacent to the railyard and rail line. Like many of the folks at that time they used to walk the rails picking up coal that had fallen off the coal-cars. That was illegal! The train companies owned the land; that was their coal. They got one caught one time. The police asked him if his dad had put him up to it and of course he said yes. I think his dad spent the night in the hoosegow over that one.
Dad always did everything by the book. The only exception I ever heard was when they were shipping out of Shemya after the war. His buddy Gordon was very sick and unable to travel. But Dad and his buddy Wally snuck him out of the infirmary and onto the ship for the trip home with them.
More later……

Happy 43rd Wedding Anniversary to Us!

In the fall of 1973, I started a Masters Degree program in Systems Engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. I shared a room in Clark Tower, a graduate-student co-ed dorm, with Jim, a Music Major. I liked Jim (“The King”) a lot, but felt I needed a room to myself. I requested one and got it set up for second semester.

I arrived after the Christmas break, in early 1974. I took the elevator to the second floor and stepped off the elevator. I turned left toward my room and stopped in my tracks! There in the corner of the lobby TV room was very pretty girl with long curly blonde hair, slouched in her chair, watching the Cleveland Browns embarrass themselves. I was sure she’d have those blue eyes, too!

It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, but I felt certain that I was going to like living on the second floor a whole lot more than on six! So….

Thank-you Jen for these things, and all the other things you’ve been for me:

Being a loving and caring lifetime companion
Being the social glue bonding us with others
Being willing to resolve differences through discussion and compromise
Being a wonderful Mother to our children
Being a great cook and baker (even bread!)
Making houses into homes
Knitting very cool sweaters
Sewing clothes, costumes, etc.
Painting and plastering as required
Cutting my hair these last 20 years
Being a skilled whitewater kayaker, with multiple “combat rolls” to your credit, including two wild rides around “Snaggletooth Rock” on the Lower Yough River in Pennsylvania
Becoming a skilled adventure sea kayaker, cannoeist, and backpacker
Insisting we buy our Casita travel trailer, our home away from home
Being a talented and energetic tennis player; we play often with each other during the summer, and with others year-round.

Note that we bought our first (lake) kayaks in 2006, when I was 55. We bought whitewater boats in 2007; backpacking kicked-in around 2008, expedition canoeing about 2010, and expedition sea kayaking in 2013. Jen always was a tomboy! We’ve hauled a camper out West three times, and to Florida three times. We’ve done almost all of this as a couple, but sometimes one had to stay back to care for Winnie as she got older. Note: Winnie contracted Lime Disease, on her only backpacking trip. She was diagnosed a few months later, but was never quite the same again.

Health Update: I’m feeling fine, but am having increasing problems getting food to go down. I’d don’t have the time or energy tonight to talk about our meeting yesterday with the surgeon, nor do I have time to post some photos. Check back later for those.