A Pretty-Good Day (except for crashing & burning twice)!

Folks, I had a pretty-good day today! My son and I did some Qi Gong in the backyard at 8:30 AM with John, my mentor. I had to be to the hospital by 9:45 to get two liters of IV (but I had to fight to get the 2nd liter, and got angry at how slowly they were feeding it, and how long it look to get them to speed things up).

The Hospital Room

Preparing to get IV Fluids in my hospital room this morning.

The bad news is that by the time I got downstairs at 6:30 AM, I was crashing. It took until after 8 AM for the panic attack to be over. By 3 PM, I was sunning myself on a beach chair in the back yard. But, I waited too long to refuel, and crashed again at 4:45, not recovering until after 6 PM. Am I ready to travel? Certainly not yet.

The good news is that my body is craving fuel. In fact, it seems to go on strike every 75 minutes if it’s not refueled by then! Yikes! I need to figure this out!

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity: There is a rich publisher on the island who owns this hexagonal glass house:

The Hexagonal House

The Infinite Pool

He sends his favorite clients there for a week or two at a time, as a perk for doing business with him.

It turns our that Rick is a buddy of his, and since no one has it booked next Tuesday-Saturday, it is ours to use! As soon as I’m fit to travel.



The Life of Brian, Episode IV: The Pre-Sailboat Years

Author’s note to readers: If you’re not writing Comments, or at least reading the comments posted by others, you are missing-out on part of the action. In particular, I’d like to call your attention to this comment from my wonderful friend Mariann, who was on my fantastic (if I do say so myself) sea kayaking trip to Maine and Nova Scotia last year:

With Mariann at Acadia

Mariann between me and my wife Jennifer on Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park

One of my favorite Tedx videos is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXDMoiEkyuQ … I want to share it with you…the imagery is beautiful; the message, inspirational…Maybe you can find time to view it.

It’s a 10-minute Ted Talk. View it when you have time to relax and enjoy it!

Click here to see Mariann’s Flickr album from that trip. Click here to see the photo presentation that Jen and I made to the Hoosier Canoe & Kayak Club last fall.

It time to tack: The only things I know about sailing are what I learned from my son, who is self-taught. In sailing terms, my niece chastised me today for getting way off course on the Natalie thing. Well, I’m a single-tasker, and she’s right. So, HOLD ON TIGHT: I’m spinning the wheel! DUCK! The boom just zipped over our heads, headed for the other side of the boat! Brian has cleated the line, and is trimming the sail! Now he’s adjusting the jib. We’ve “come about” and are heading for Brianville! Note: There’s plenty more to say about my Mom and Dad, but that’s going to have to wait.

About Brian: It’s no accident that the title of this post is from a Monty Python movie (a parody of the life of Christ)! Brian loved all that Monty Python stuff, and so did I!

Here’s the prime difference between Natalie and Brian:

Natalie played-along with with society’s expectations of what she should do (at least during the day): Go to college, get her degree, work a boring job that paid fairly-well and had good benefits. It took her 14 years to realize it was killing her before she took her job and shoved it.

Brian, on the other hand, knew himself better. He waited-out one semester, and then gave it a half-hearted try for one semester at Southern Illinois University (home of the mighty Salukis). That was plenty! He had (almost) no further interest in “higher education”.

My memory isn’t what it once was, and much of this story may be a bit jumbled. But believe me, the things I’m about to tell you about my son are true, and I have plenty of tangible evidence to back me up. Here’s what I remember of his first 15 years after high school:

We gave him our old Dodge minivan as a high-school graduation gift. He tricked it out as his “purple pimpmobile” or some such thing, and after leaving SIU, headed out west. He spent a few months in a wonderful area near Boulder, Colorado, before heading to California.

He got an idea into his head: Why not get a work permit to work in New Zealand for a year? Indeed, why not? So he did! 

When he got to the South Island, he got an idea: He could take photos of tourists taking day cruises, jump into a speedboat, and develop and print the pictures by the time the boat returned! He could make a killing (this was just before digital cameras became affordable.) But….he needed a way-good camera. He told me he needed a medium-format camera that used film much larger than 35mm. I found one on eBay, won the bid for it, and had it shipped off to Queensland! Woo-hoo!

He decided to see some of the world on his way back. In New Guinea, he ran across some native folks butchering a whale they’d just caught. Packaging-up the blubber and such. Via sign language, he figured out what they were trying to tell him: “Hey, dude, we’re headed back out in our nifty dugout canoe (with side-rigger and sail) to get us another whale! You want to come along? You never forget it”! Brian knew where to draw the line, and politely said thanks, but no thanks.

In Bali, he suffered a potentially life-threatening gastroenteritis attack. We got a phone call. They needed us to buy him a plane ticket to Bangkok, the nearest place he could get proper treatment. Of course we did. He was hospitalized for several days. I believe he still suffers occasional latent symptoms.

Did he fly home then? No way! He had to see Cambodia and Vietnam first. He took some great pictures!

After that, Brian drifted up to Port Townsend, Washington. His Uncle Larry had been a cook on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska, and had even outfitted a galley one time. Brian had heard that good money could be made fishing in Alaska, and he’s always loved fishing. So, what the hey? He asked around and got picked-up as a deck-hand. He spent several seasons in Alaska, mostly safe “seining” in hatcheries close to shore. He worked the squid season near San Francisco at least twice. While back in Port Townsend, he learned to sail. He was saving-up for a sailboat of his own!

Author’s Notes, 6 a.m. the following morning: I’ve decided to take a cue from George Lukas and call this Episode IV. Hopefully, I’ll get back to episodes I-III faster than he did.  I also realize that I’ve not revealed what I think about Brian’s adult life, so here it is: There was nothing in Brian’s childhood that foreshadowed the astounding and remarkable adult life he was to lead! Brian has worked exceptionally hard to earn the adventurous life he has led. He has already led a more full and complete life than most people can conceive of (myself included). He has had glorious triumphs, and bitter, humiliating defeats. He has lost all his worldly possessions – twice! He has persevered in manly fashion, rising from the ashes (hint: His second boat was rechristened as Phoenix). In short, I have nothing but love and admiration for Brian’s conduct of his adult life. It’s a slow-motion movie, playing in real-time!

P.S.: A quick thank-you to Jen and Tony R., our near neighbors from all 16-1/2 years we have lived here in the BNE (Best Neighborhood Ever). Jen dropped a wonderful note in our mailbox yesterday. Jen is also a writer; she is finding inspiration in my blog. I am growing closer to many special people!

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!