8

Summer and the crescent (1%) Radiation Moon

Counting down. #8 today. Twenty-seven fractions received. Listened to Buffalo Springfield. After “Something’s Happening Here”, I didn’t recognize any of the other songs. Huh.

In and out yesterday. Bladder at 280 ml. Watched the CyberKnife duck below the table and rise up high over me. Laid still while clicks of the lens modified the photonic field. Stared at the wooden ceiling. Then, thanks, see you tomorrow.

A salmon, macaroni and cheese, ratatouille, green salad, and banana bread meal from CBE yesterday. Thanks, Mindy. The Mitzvah committee knows how to generate meals. It helps since I’m weary when I get back from Lone Tree. We asked for meals through the week after treatment ends. I’ll be ready to get cooking as soon my energy returns. Still no hotflashes.

Defendable Homes

Summer and the waning (4%) Radiation Moon

Down to single digits. Nine more treatments. Life after radiation (a bit of a joke, ha) is coming next week. Only three bedbugs were ever found. There was a “bubble” of people who sat in that chair at the approximate time Anova suspects the bugs transferred. They’re having them do extra preparation before they can come into treatment. Not me. Nope. No bedbugs here on the mountain. Gratitude. Probably means I’ll finish on August 9th.

My friend Dave, personal trainer Dave, has calmed down the nausea from his brain cancer chemo. Deb told me yesterday that he rode 78 miles last week, 20 miles that day. He’s in phenomenal shape. You might remember my mentioning that he ran a 15 mile endurance race in British Columbia, the Fitzsimmon Mountains. Lots of elevation gain. This was a year ago. Part of the motivation for staying in shape during cancer treatment is to prove you’re still alive, still have agency over your body. Take that, brain cancer. Take that, prostate cancer.

Found all this out when I took in the check for a large lug of Western Slope peaches. There’s a small section of the Western Slope (of the Rockies, in Colorado) that’s perfect for growing fancy peaches. Tents pop up along roads selling Colorado Peaches. On the Move Fitness takes orders from clients and organizes a bulk purchase from Green Barn Produce. Pick’em up next week. Kate’s going to make a sizable batch of peaches frozen in orange juice.

Another Colorado moment yesterday. On the way to Kate’s hearing test (she’s good in both ears. yeah.) we drove past a long dump truck, a side dumper, full of boulders. When I see a large truck here with boulders, I think of the golf carts leaving Minnesota each year for southern courses. Or, the Christmas trees beginning to head out of state by truck in November. Moving rock is a big business here. Including moving those rocks that fall onto roadways.

Sent a note yesterday to Elk Creek Fire District. They have a staff person who does two hour assessments of fire mitigation needs on your property. It’s been three years since I thinned our lodgepoles and I stopped at that. Might be other things I’m missing.

There were 30 wildfires within the Elk Creek District last year. The recent newsletter points out that firefighters “…must focus on evacuations and effectively apply available resources to defendable homes. In these scenarios, it is crucial that homeowners have already implemented Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) best practices.”

In practical terms this defines the triage that firefighters do in case of a wildfire threatening homes. They leave those already in flames and those too difficult to get to, think way up high or very steep driveways or in an unmitigated stand of trees. Those with short driveways, near major roads, who have done mitigation in their HIZ, will be defended. Our house meets all those criteria and I want to make sure it continues to.

Life in the WUI (pronounced woo-eee), the Wildland/Urban Interface. Yes, it makes about as much sense to live here as in a flood plain or in a coastal city waiting for sea level rise or a bad hurricane. But, we love it here, as residents of those other areas must love their home turf. So…

Sincerity is bs?

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Thinner crescent this morning. More toward the east. These sickle moons. Beautiful and fleeting. Like life.

Sailor take warning

Because our house faces south, lodgepole pines and Black Mountain block early sunrise and the latter part of the sunset. When I get the paper before I come up to the loft, a red sky is sometimes visible (depends on time of year) at the horizon, peeking through stands of pine. The sun disappears behind Black Mountain like it drops below the curve of the earth on the ocean. No green flash though. At least I haven’t seen it.

Moved to picking up groceries instead of having them delivered. May still use delivery, but having them picked by staff, then loaded into the Rav4 works, too. Saves a lot of time. And, checks impulse buying. Bingo/bingo.

Read the short essay, On Bullshit, by Harry Frankfurt, philosophy professor emeritus from Princeton. Tom sent it to me. I’ll have to read it again to get clear, but in essence he says bullshit is any attempt to persuade without adherence to the truth, other than a lie. Which, he says, makes bullshit a greater enemy of truth than a lie which at least opposes itself to the truth and in so doing acknowledges that there is a truth.

In this regard he comes to an interesting conclusion. Since, as the Buddhists have said for centuries, the Self changes, mutates, and self-knowledge is therefore evanescent, sincerity is also a form of bullshit. That is, when we attempt to convince others that we are sincere, we do so without knowing our true Self by definition. Chew on that awhile. I’m considering the concept of authenticity in relationship to this.

Two more weeks of radiation. Ten more ten minute photonic zaps. Unless of course. Bedbugs. Looking forward to the end, so stay in bed bedbugs! Don’t come to the office. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

Don’t think I mentioned the DEXA scan I got on the 19th of July. Dexa scans measure, among other things, bone density. Searching for osteoporosis. I had it because Lupron tends to, in Sherry’s words, “soften the bones.” Making me more vulnerable to broken bones.

No results from the scan yet, but I did learn one fact that disturbed me. I’m now 5’6″ rather than 5’7″. Kate’s lost 4 inches plus over the last few years. We’re shrinking together. This finding disturbed me mostly because it’s a permanent change of something I had taken as a given since I became an adult.

Sci Fi

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Asimov’s Foundation series is being made into a television series by Apple. Hari Seldon on the little screen. Since I won’t be subscribing to Apple TV, I don’t know when I’ll see it. But. I hope sooner than later. Psychohistory is the key idea. No. Not another satire on 45’s clash with reality. Psychohistory is a way of predicting the probability of future events. Worth re-reading.

Another sci-fi classic has gotten a new movie treatment. Dune. The 1984 vehicle by David Lynch missed the mark, hamartia. The new one comes out in 2020. Will go for sure. Probably worth a re-read, too.

Science fiction was a staple in my reading until a decade ago. Now it’s only the occasional Kim Robinson, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, or some other one I happen onto. The Broken Earth triology by N.K. Jemisin is very good, for example. Fantasy, science fiction, religion–all utilize similar mental muscles. Poetry, myth and legend and fairytales, too. This is not at all a denigration of religion, btw. I’m placing it where it belongs in my spiritual life which depends on observation, imagination, cogitation.

I’m reading a Neal Stephenson work right now, Fall, or Dodge in Hell. Also, a couple more werewolf novels. Saw a blurb by Neil Gaiman yesterday: The second draft is about making it look like you knew what you were doing all along. Like that one. Gonna pull out Superior Wolf soon and get to work on the second draft.

Buddy Tom Crane sent me a small essay, On Bullshit, which I’m reading today. Sounds germane for the Boris and Donald show.

A lot of my reading is online, sometimes more than I want. Not often, but I can get trapped in reading interesting article after interesting article. e.g. An essay on the introduction of a new apple variety. 25 works that define contemporary art. Everday carry. Life may have evolved before earth finished forming. So much bait for a curious guy.

Another Phase

Summer and the Radiation Moon

The waning crescent of the radiation moon was high in the south southeast sky this morning. As it wanes, so do the number of treatments. Yesterday was twenty-five, five-sevenths of the 35. My new calendar from Anova has an endpoint of August 9th, so two more full weeks. Barring time-outs for fumigation and heat treatments.

This does mean that my recovery from the radiation gets delayed. The first week after finishing mimics a treatment week, fatigue and gut wise, Dr. Gilroy said. After that my body gradually returns to normal. Of course, it’s a new normal. One that finds the cancer dead and gone, we hope.

Then the primary treatment related issues will be Lupron related. Again, so far, no hot flashes or other physical side effects. Yeah. May it continue. Kate and I have noticed some lability. I’m a bit more maudlin, though I have a maudlin gene anyhow. Sentimental guy. When I get tired, I’ve gotten a bit down, but nothing that’s lasted.

Entering another phase. As the radiation winds down, I’m finding my thoughts returning to the actual cancer. Been focused on the mechanics and logistics of radiation, waiting for side effects of the CyberKnife and the Lupron. Both their newness and their strangeness have served to deflect my thoughts from the cancer itself.

Without weekday trips to Lone Tree I’ll have no physical signal of the treatments I’m receiving. The Lupron is every three months for up to 2 years. Just a shot in the butt and done. Ten seconds every three months rather than ten minutes every weekday.

Sword of Damocles

Over the last couple of months I have stopped in front of my workout mirror on occasion and looked at myself. Maybe a bit thinner, but the same otherwise. No visible evidence of a terminal illness trying to reestablish itself, to finish the job it began 4 plus years ago. Which is, so far, the weirdest part. Some cancer is aggressive, of course, but prostate cancer, by comparison, is indolent. A good thing. But, its intention is the same. Occupy and eliminate the host. Me.

Until my first PSA I’ll have no idea if either radiation or the Lupron has succeeded. And, since the Lupron is temporary and reversible in its effects, I’ll not know whether the primary treatment, the CyberKnife, eliminated the cancer until I’m off the Lupron for at least three months. Months or years from now.

My gut feeling is that the CyberKnife will have done its job and I will be cancer free. Cured. But, I won’t know that until five years have passed with less than .01 PSA’s. Even then, another recurrence is possible, though less likely.

Being Seen

Summer and the Radiation Moon

25th fraction today. Ten more to go. No longer sure when I finish since we lost two days more this week. Probably the 9th of August, barring other infestations.

Kate’s promoting a new superhero: Bedbugman/woman. It starts in a cancer treatment center where a mild-mannered physician, who looks like Dr. Gilroy, gets bitten by a bedbug irradiated by the CyberKnife. There’s more to figure out, like powers and villains and such, but this could be a rival to Marvel, doncha think?

Wednesday and Thursday were what we prostate cancer patients like to call Bedbug days. Hopefully the heat treatment got the little bastards. But. Will bedbug guy return with a new creepy crawly and start this cycle over again? Not counting on August 9th.

Kate and I went to mussar yesterday. Since my treatments are midday, except for Bedbug days, I’ve been unable to go since I started the radiation. We got there once or twice prior to my treatment, but doctor appointments and general fatigue kept at home most of the time.

The conversation was again about awe, Marilyn presiding. I’m going to do some more research here, but from a slightly different angle. As we talked, I became convinced that awe and mysticism have a distinct correlation. That’s one part of the research. I’m also intrigued with the connection between Rudolf Otto’s work, The Idea of the Holy, and awe. It may be that awe is an element I’ve been looking for in reimagining/reconstructing the idea of faith. Perhaps a crucial one. More later.

CBE and the Thursday mussar group in particular have been part of our lives since we discovered them in 2016. It was nurturing to be seen, to be able to recount some of my journey to friends. To be, again, part of a group I care about and that cares about me. And, Leslie brought us a meal in a blue plastic cooler. Mindy said she’d be bringing food by on Tuesday. Feeling loved. Gratitude.

Arthropoda vs. Cyberknife

Summer and the Radiation Moon

In this corner, wearing an exoskeleton…

My radiation treatment has gone from futuristic Skynet sinister to the arthropodic surreal. The mighty cyberknife has been temporarily felled by a bug. For a second time.

A moment of disorientation. My brain. Locked door, eh. Are we in the wrong place. Let’s check the signage. Nope. (I forgot the Anova lettering was much further up, nearer the top of the three story building.) A lobby chair was sitting outside on the landscaping gravel. Is that a clue? Are they throwing it away? I might take it, a nice looking chair. Maybe it had a bed bug, from last week? Maybe I’ll leave it.

Due to a malfunctioning phone (getting replaced today) I made the drive to Lonetree only to discover, for the second time in a week, that bed bugs had been found in the reception area. When I got there, I went to the door, pulled on it and it was locked.

And in this corner, the reigning champ, CyberKnife!

Oh. That door’s ajar. I went over to the door, usually locked, that opens directly into the treatment area where the cyberknife lives and pulled on it. I’m a curious guy and I was definitely puzzled.

Hey, you guys know your front door’s locked? Stupid question, but I thought, well I’m not sure what I thought. Still a bit disoriented by being unable to gain access to my cancer treatment. That’s cancer. And, my treatment is trying to save my life. So, you’ll forgive me, I hope, if I felt discombobulated by the situation.

Patty and Dr. Gilroy were there. Dressed in his usual tattersall shirt and slacks, Gilroy was at the computer station where, before each session, I have to say Charles Buckman-Ellis, 2/14/47 and give Nicky or Kim my music preference for the day.

Oh, yes, they knew it was locked. Another bed bug was found.

Then followed some learning about bed bugs. They wait until you get to sleep Dr. Gilroy said. Your co2 exhalations tell them it’s safe to come out. They crawl out from the seams in the sheets and mattress, climb up on your body, and drink your blood. Like a mosquito, he said. Yeah, I thought, more like a vampire. Then, Dr. Gilroy went on, they poop blood. That shows up as black on your sheets. Oh.

Being done on the reception area at Anova, axon extermination

Patty, usually dressed in light flowing blouses, had on an athletic t-shirt from some local college and white pants. We don’t know who’s bringing them in or whether the fumigators last week didn’t do a good job. So, we’ll be closed today, probably tomorrow and Friday. I hope we’ll open up on the weekend.

No, Dr. Gilroy said. They need the rest. Seven days in a row is too much.

Patty said, “Well, we’ll open on Monday then.”

The Arthropoda, means joint-footed according to Ms. Anderson

In response to my unasked question Dr. Gilroy said, “Having some space between treatments is not a problem. The important thing is getting all 35 treatments. This will just push the finish date back a bit.”

We talked a little more, shaking our heads at the absurdity of the situation. Cutting edge robotic and nuclear medicine technology felled by the common bed bug. This shows, I said on leaving, the power of arthropoda.

Yes, Dr. Gilroy said, they’re taking over the world.

Going Nuclear

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Debra came by yesterday with chicken, couscous, cucumber, and a swiss chard topping. We ate the meal with her. I’ve not seen Debra in some time, wanted to catch up. The mitzvah committee at CBE has gotten traction with the meals. Gratitude.

In other news. Trump still occupies the Whitehouse. I think occupies is a good word here, since it feels like an unfriendly invasion. With Boris Johnson becoming Britain’s Prime Minister, Trump will have competition for xenophobic, racist, generally clueless utterances. Must be that special relationship?

On the downward slope with the radiation. Twenty-four fractions given, eleven more to go. Since the bed bug incident moved my finish date to August seventh, I will now complete my treatment between the anniversaries of the atomic bombs: Hiroshima on August sixth and Nagasaki on August 9th.

Left-Hiroshima, Right-Nagasaki, photo credit

Consider atomic bombs, nuclear tipped missiles, the “club” of nations with nuclear weapons, nuclear power plants generating electricity, axumin and other radio isotope scans, radiation treatments for cancer. Nuclear engineering has had a big impact on the world though its negatives often (usually?) overshadow its positives.

Malignant uses multiplied after WWII. Most nations tacitly agreed nuclear weapons should never be used again after the horrors of Japan, yet nuclear weapons themselves became the apex of military power. There are uneasy, even dangerous situations right now that involve nuclear weapons: North Korea, Iran, India/Pakistan. Those old enough to remember the Cold War know, too, that whenever relations with Russia sour, the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals have humanity ending power.

The first light bulbs ever lit by electricity generated by nuclear power at EBR-1 at Argonne National Laboratory-West, December 20, 1951. wiki

The peaceful uses of nuclear power seemed to hold a lot of promise. Nuclear power plants generate electricity without the burden of adding carbon emissions to the sky. Yet Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima proved that potential problems with nuclear power can become awful reality.

In my own opinion nuclear power should still be a part of the transition to renewable sources of energy. Nuclear power plants built with adequate safeguards can help move us beyond fossil fuels. Yes, there’s the question of nuclear waste, but it’s a solvable problem, at least in the short term. Nuclear power and renewables can be a bridge to a world where nuclear fusion is our dominant energy source.

The medical and industrial uses of nuclear engineering have proven themselves over the decades since WWII. I’m glowing proof of that.

A Sacrifice

Summer and the Radiation Moon

The Altar

Kate went along yesterday on my Lone Tree trek. She saw me get on the table. Kim and Nicky bound my feet and knees, put a pillow under my knees, and handed me the donut. Kate left and it was the cyber knife, John Prine, and me.

One guy, talking to Kim, said, “I drank a quart of water before I left home.” We exchanged glances, amused at what we have to do to get ready. We want to do well, get that bladder at 100 ml or above. It’s magical thinking to some degree. If we help as much as we can, the therapists will make sure we get the best from them. And, here’s the magical part, we’ll kill all the cancer cells together.

I’m struck by how much like a sacrifice these radiation treatments are. I get ushered into the holy of holies where resides the god of radiation. To get his favor I lie down on clean sheets, the priestesses make sure I’m in the correct ritual position. They leave the room, the encounter between god and sacrifice being a sacred act dangerous to others. I lie still and let the photon’s stream into me, hoping the god will grant me a miracle.

With 12 more fractions to go I’m at the two-thirds point. Blessedly, I have found a combination of meds that keep my stomach more or less calm and my bowels steadier. I feel better and that makes the whole experience less fraught.

Got our first meal delivered last night. Lasagna from Marilyn. Yummy. A real relief to get help. We both are grateful.

This ancientrail of disease, treatment, and healing continues.

A little hep

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Relaxed. A no pressure weekend away from the cyber knife.

SeoAh and Joe, December, 2018

Decided to have the mitzvah committee bring us meals. Over the months of Kate’s ordeal we had a brief time with them, early. Very helpful. SeoAh came twice. The rest of the time I made meals or we ate leftovers.

Cooking requires more motivation and energy than I have at the end of a radiation day. Kate’s stamina is better, but she’s not up to standing for as long as it takes to cook meals. The mitzvah committee will organize a rotation.

a middot (character trait) that Kate and I will present in August

Even though I know this is the right thing for us, and even though I know this is something many in the congregation have wanted to do, there’s still a I should be able to handle this feeling that niggles at the back of mind. Like we’re imposing on the good will of others.

When I said it felt like we needed help, Susan said, “We’ve asked multiple times.” And they have. Alan, Rich, Marilyn, Sherry, Michele, Rabbi Jamie, Ron, Tara have each asked multiple times, too. It’s part of what it means to be CBE, to be Jewish.

It reminds me of the way farmers help each other, or members of small, rural communities. It’s a sense, no, a knowing, that we’re all in this together, that life throws challenges at us that sometimes exceed our resources.

Of course in Judaism there is also belonging to the tribe. This is real by blood, by history, by persecution, and for many, by religious conviction. The tribe takes care of its own. In this sense I’m as much a part of the tribe as Kate is. This community has my commitment to it and I have its to me. A covenant by love rather than blood and history.

This has moved me so much that when Rich told me he was helping Jamie with the new cemetery, I said, really without thinking, “Good. I hope it works. I’d like to spend eternity with the members of CBE.” Whoa. This current is running deeper than I had imagined.

Adversity unveils gratitude. To have the mitzvah committee available to us when we need it. To have friends who will think of us, who want to help, who are eager to help. Like Paul, Tom, Bill, and Ode who said if I needed driving to radiation and couldn’t find anybody to help, one of them would be out here. To have family and friends in faraway places like Bangkok, Singapore, California, Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee reach out.

Awe begets gratitude. Awe = Grand Canyon, Ring Nebula, lava flowing into the sea, birth, death, yes, all these. Awe also = active caring, love, loyalty, family bonds, friendship. Without these last we would remain isolated, stuck in our fleshly prisons, bound to a lonely journey. With them we are humans in community, as Ram Dass said, “Just walking each other home.” Thanks for being my partner on this walk home.