Radiation Vacation

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Boy. I needed the time away from the cyberknife. Yesterday was a good day. Got my new workout done. Slept, read. Kate and I went to Brook’s Tavern last night. Felt almost like old times. Old times being a year and a half to two years ago.

Getting my gut under control has helped. I feel hungry, am eating more, gaining back some of the weight I lost last week. Also, I feel less miserable. I’m hoping I can maintain this calmer g.i. tract over the next three to four weeks.

When I sent a note to Sherry, Lupron Sherry, about my gut stuff she replied that it sounded more like radiation side effects. Which is good news, actually. Why? Well, the radiation side effects are temporary-at least most of the time. That means they’ll subside once I stop irritating my pelvis area with photons.

It also means that I’m in week five, going on week six, with the Lupron on board and no apparent side effects. May that continue. I want to get the maximum benefit from both the radiation and the Lupron, but that’s dependent partially on my ability to tolerate the Lupron. Looking good right now.

Life pared down here. Radiation. Sleep. Read. Be with Kate. The dogs. This life with the accretions pruned away has some benefits. It’s less cluttered. More focused. The radiation has given me a sense of purpose each day. A direct way to fight back against these rogue cells. The Lupron, too. No doubt about what’s important right now.

22

Summer and the Radiation Moon

22 fractions absorbed. 13 to go. Bed bug means I won’t be ending on August 6th. August 7th. Two weeks plus three days and I’ll have the full 7000 cGy of photons.

This week’s been difficult. I’ve tried various strategies for managing my ouchy gut. Anti-nausea meds. Zofran. Miralax. Immodium. Results mixed. A general sense of gut not feeling right has pervaded my days and nights. Add to that fatigue from the radiation itself and the couple of hours in traffic. Result: low energy, unsettled, spotty eating. Glad I’m over halfway done.

Could have been worse. Could get worse. Seems like a fair price to pay for the possibility of a cure.

The fans up here are cooling the loft. A breeze is coming down from Black Mountain. The sun is up. The sky is blue. Another beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountain day.

2014

Kate went to mussar on Thursday while I was in Lone Tree. Yesterday she went to a memorial service for Vanessa, a long time member of the Thursday afternoon mussar group. I mentioned her a while ago. She had a degenerative disease that slowly shut down her organs.

Vanessa’s mind remained strong, supple but eating, chewing, swallowing was very difficult. Over the last week or so she had had trouble breathing. Her spirit remained good.

We had a neighbor in Minnesota, Greg, who developed MLS. He also deteriorated over time, but his spirit turned sour. Why him? Why this disease? Why didn’t people treat him better? He died last year.

We’re not promised a smooth ride. And, most of us don’t get one. Gratitude is one antidote. Vanessa remained grateful for life, for friends, for family, for her faith. She lived fully even as her body betrayed her. Greg was not grateful. He lived miserably, then died.

Kate and I have plenty of opportunity to express our gratitude. From distant friends who stay in touch to family, grandkids, CBE folk. Lots of help, encouragement and love. Thank you all, again. Still.

One small step

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Let’s see. Heat waves. Bad ones. The moon landing at 50. 50? And, of course, Send them back! Send them back! I really tried to stop it in the biggest way. Nobody could have tried to stop it harder. Nobody.

Consequential. Each of them. I still remember the first time I was in Phoenix. 107. Might have been August or September. Walking from the motel a few blocks to experience the heat I could feel the sidewalk through the soles of my shoes. The air was still.

Downtown Phoenix had several places that had misters, spraying a sheen of water out and over sidewalks, open air cafes. Fans aided the cooling effect. It was delicious. A revelation. But. It was still hot.

On a CME venture with Kate early in our marriage we went to Mexico City where Kate saw Rigoberta Menchu. Afterward we went to Oaxaca and Merida. We stayed at Casa de Balam, the House of the Leopard, in Merida. Our bodies have conditionings of which we are unaware until they are challenged.

Merida

It was hot. And, humid, unlike Phoenix. In the afternoon rain clouds gathered over Merida. Rain fell. And the heat and humidity got worse. It was like an open air steam bath. Rain washes away heat. After the rain comes a cool breeze, a sigh of relief. Nope. Not in Merida. Not that day. It shocked my body before I even realized what was odd.

Both of those times stick in my mind (plus that trek across Singapore’s Botanical Garden in 2016) as outliers, extreme situations occurring in places I visited infrequently. Now, Merida is coming to a city near you.

The moon landing. July 20, 1969. College was done. Judy and I had a small apartment in Muncie. It was hot. No AC. No misting water. Just sweat. I put aluminum foil on the rabbit ears of our tiny television, waved them through the air to find our best reception. The most complicated electric appliance in our apartment was my Selectric typewriter, the one with the ball.

We wore as little as possible. The moon was new that night, so the sky was starry. I remember the scratchy voice of Walter Cronkite saying something. The scene, like a set from a 1950’s sci fi movie, had a strange desolation, Buzz Aldrin would the call the moonscape, “Magnificent desolation.”

NASA

Cold beer. A joint. As night fell, we began to wonder if the astronauts would ever come out. The Eagle had landed at 3:17 pm and now it was nearing ten. Then, the hatch opened, a bulky white suit emerged and went slowly down the metal ladder. A human about to touch a surface other than earth’s. “One small step for a man, one giant step for mankind.” (btw: correct quote according to NASA and Armstrong.)

Our chests flew open, all of us, that night. We saw the unimaginable. We were alive when the first human walked on the moon. I was 22, drunk and stoned. But high, too. Up there. With Buzz and Neil.

No visa required. No passport control. No detention centers in the Sea of Tranquility.

the apple, the tree

Our current sadness. The smallness of the fearful white person. Fed by the orange would be Julius. On July 20, 1969, the federal government gave us a moment of wonder, of awe, a moment shared with the world. On the 50th anniversary of this remarkable human accomplishment this once great country now separates families at detention centers. Its President tells four U.S. citizens to go home. He encourages the cries of his base base, Send them back. Send them back.

And that heat. Study shows opening up Federal lands to oil and gas exploitation will increase climate change. Huh? Really? The administration has silenced scientific analysis, by government scientists, on the risks posed by climate change. Including the military, which sees climate change as a national security issue.

NASA

Oh to slide back into the wonder of the moon landing. To imagine a world where feats of human innovation still wow us. Where government fights racism instead of propogating it. That’s a backward look though. Let’s look forward instead. To a new, cooler time with awesome moments still ahead.

The Radiation Fumigation

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Not far from the Chicago Art Museum, angle across the park, head south and cross Lakeshore Drive to the triangle that contains the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History. I used to take Joseph there when he was younger.

At the time there was an exhibition room in the Field that featured the ENIAC*, an early computer. It was huge. Seeing the computer itself, I learned the origin of the term, bug. It meant, bug. As in, a bug crawled onto one of the vacuum tubes and died. Oh. You can see how that might cause trouble. Based on my experience, it’s a wonder there wasn’t a second category of computer problems, cat.

The ENIAC and its 17,468 vacuum tubes came to me today because my radiation treatment didn’t happen. Why? Yesterday afternoon, a patient sat in a chair in the reception area. He noticed a bug. Said he’d seen them before and knew what it was. A bed bug. A bed bug! Yep, as you know, they’re back. And, they’ve made it to the Rockies.

Fumigation of the radiation. That’s happening now. Things should be back to go tomorrow. Weird, eh?

*Housed within 40 9-foot-tall cabinets, the machine contained 17,468 vacuum tubes along with 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors, 1,500 relays, 6,000 manual switches, and 5 million soldered joints. Its dimensions covered 1,800 square feet (167 square meters) of floor space and weighed 30 tons, and running it consumed 160 kilowatts of electrical power. Two 20-horsepower blowers delivered cool air to keep the machine from overheating. thoughtco.com

Awe

Summer and the Radiation Moon

An orange disc slipped up between two cumulus clouds, darkening one and throwing rusty beams on the other, the Radiation Moon. We drove home from MVP. Up Brook Forest Drive.

At the curve before Upper Maxwell Creek the moon rise showed itself in the cleft of Shadow Mountain. These vignettes, available and free for those who choose to see, give us a glimpse into the wonder, the beauty, the power, the mystery of our universe. Those who knew it as caterpillar may not recognize the butterfly.

The middot of that night’s meeting was awe. Yirah. Often translated, especially in Christian translations of the “old testament” (doesn’t feel old when it’s ever present in the life of CBE) as fear. Fear of the Lord is a common phrase, usually meaning faith.

Marc Chagall

“We are to love God. Can we love that which we fear? Stockholm Syndrome. Can we love that which is distant? What is love? Are we in some way held in relationship by fear? What does that say about our relationship with God?” Susan offered several provocative ideas for discussion. We left-my stomach made me do it-before the conversation got to this set of questions.

Sent this note to Susan about them: “Awe is the main driver of my (small r) religious life. I experience awe looking up at Black Mountain, down at the Columbine, when I eat, the true transubstantiation, when I see others, knowing their inner life is as rich as mine, but hidden. Awe begets gratitude. Gratitude begets simplicity. Enough for me.”

And so it is.

This Realm, This Darkness, This Cancer

Summer and the Radiation Moon

New workout with Deb. A lighter pace on cardio, less reps. Still challenging. Dave, Deb’s husband and partner at OMTF, had a recurrence of his brain cancer not long after my psa began to rise. He’s had brain surgery already to remove the tumor. Chemo for a year.

But, and here’s the world I inhabit now, they chose against radiation. Why? First, it’s radiation to the head. The brain. Yikes. Second, Dave’s neurosurgeon told them cognitive decline was a possible side effect. Can you imagine having to choose between a future recurrence after a recent return of the cancer, and less mental acuity? Dave’s probably late 50’s.

Poster designed by JUMP

These are real life conundrums, made when disease creeps across the nuisance threshold into the realm of life or death. Underlined one of the weird good fortunes I have. The prostate is next to the bladder and the lower bowels, but the cyberknife accounts for that because there’s so much space.

In radiation for breast cancer the heart and the lungs are in potential danger. In brain cancer, well… My cancer has a physical location that doesn’t present those sorts of obstacles for radiation.

Richard Westall‘s Sword of Damocles, 1812

Cancer and other potentially fatal diseases focus the mind. This is the top priority for now. I chose to bracket summer this year in favor of repeated trips to Lone Tree, about an hour away. I chose to further bracket the next 6 to 12 months by saying yes to Lupron therapy. The daily radiation regimen will fall away on August 6th when I will have assembled all the fractions into one, delivered in 35 bits. But Lupron will continue.

Listened to Carol King yesterday. Too thin. Back to the more substantial gruel of Renaissance Music.

My Ancient Spiritual Trail

Summer and the Radiation Moon

My friend Rich sees mussar as a metaphysical, not a psychological discipline. It’s soul work, deeper and more consequential than therapy.

Over the last year and a half my skeptical view of soul has begun to break up, fade away. First, from the Cosmos and Psyche (thanks, Tom) insight: Skepticism is a tool, not a lifestyle. Second, from a spiritual realization that despite its implication in the arguments over, say, original sin, soul nonetheless points to a felt reality for me, a phenomenological knowing. Not a dogmatic or doctrinal one.

Big deal, right? You always knew this? Or, no way, dude. Either way, so what?

And, of course, you’re right if you follow this often used, little understood idea back to its sources in Judaeo-Christian thought. Its use either assumed-you always knew this, or, so mean and inhuman, eternal hell for a few years on earth-no way, dude.

The Judaeo-Christian understanding incorporated the Greek notion of psyche, “…the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking” with a notion of immortality connected to behavior in this life.

I want to push back, back beyond this narrow conception of soul. There was an assumption among the ancient Greeks that soul had to have a logical faculty, and, that it was the most divine attribute of a human soul. ( The current scientific consensus across all fields is that there is no evidence for the existence of any kind of soul in the traditional sense. Wiki.)

First I want to speak for the trees. Let’s call it the Loraxian understanding of the soul. The lodgepoles in our yard, crawling up Black Mountain, growing along Brook Forest Drive as it winds down the mountain. They have souls. They are both alive and animate, creatures with a telos, or end goal. They interact with their environment and grow strong or weak, tall or short, but they remain lodgpole pines, trees with a particular role in a montane ecosystem, a role which they give all they have to fulfill.

The same is true for the mule deer, the mountain lion, the marsh marigold, the elk, the bear, the fox, the squirrel, the dandelion, the cheatgrass, the Indian paintbrush, the mountain trout, the raven and the magpie. Are their souls more or less than ours? Wrong question. Are their souls more like ours or more unlike? Don’t know. I just know that living things on the planet share the wonder of life, an independent spark. That spark gives us organic matter that moves and does so with intention.

Holy Well, Wales, St Dynfog

I’ve felt this way about the world for a long, long time. Taoism, Emerson, the Romantics, gardening, the Celtic Great Wheel. The mystical moment on the quad at Ball State. Oneness. With it all. I’m even willing to entertain faeries, elves, duendes, daiads, Gods and Goddesses. OK, I know I lost a lot of you with that one, but I’m going with my gut, my revelation to me rather than the dry dusty bones of theirs.

But. I want to push one step further. I believe in the spirits of the mountains. They have visited me here on Shadow Mountain, the mule deer on Samain, 2014, and the elk on my first day of radiation. The mule deer and the elk were angels, that is, messengers of the mountain gods, dispatched by the careful, slow, deliberate entities that are the Rocky Mountains.

I believe in the vitality of rushing water in Maxwell Creek, Cub Creek, Blue Creek, Bear Creek, the North Fork of the South Platte. I believe in the entity that is Lake Superior, that is the great deposit of ores on the Minnesota Iron Range, the ebb and flow of the Oglalla Aquifer.

I believe in Mother Earth, the great Gaia, a living system of ecosystems, biomes watered by rains and the snows, irrigated by streams and rivers, planted by Boreas and Zephryus, and given power to change by the true god, Sol.

Neither animals nor plants can grow without the sun’s energy or the food locked in minerals and vitamin: “Our soils support 95 percent of all food production, and by 2060, our soils will be asked to give us as much food as we have consumed in the last 500 years. They filter our water. They are one of our most cost-effective reservoirs for sequestering carbon. They are our foundation for biodiversity. And they are vibrantly alive, teeming with 10,000 pounds of biological life in every acre. Yet in the last 150 years, we’ve lost half of the basic building block that makes soil productive.” Living Soil film

As it appears, I am an animist, a pagan, a person who has found his spot in the great scheme. I’m a moving instance of matter formed in the great fusion furnaces of stars. I’m a temporary instance, holding together a few atoms for a human lifetime. I’m a significant instance of meaning created by the universe observing itself, throughout my short path, as the dynamic, interlocked, soulful reality that it is.

I need no human word to guide me. I need no idea, no rule. I am and I am within all this. The Arapaho National Forest. The Rocky Mountains. Our nuclear family. Our extended family. The community of folks at CBE. The United States. The Mind of God.

My soul and that of Kepler, Rigel, and Gertie dance with each other. In Andover Kate and I danced with bees, fruit trees, perennial flowers, vegetables, raspberry canes. Here we dance with the mountain spirits.

Long ago I set out on a spiritual journey that went down and in rather than up and out. That is, I would not find validation somewhere outside of myself whether Torah, Gospel, Constitution, or political ideology. I would not privilege the idea of transcendence, or a three-story universe. No god is in heaven, and yet all’s right with the world. My ancient spiritual trail has been to turn within for the source of my revelation. And, I have not turned back.

Not Its Purpose

Summer and the Radiation Moon

“We’re a pair.” A phrase often on our lips. Kate loads up her feeding tube with Jevity, tapes it to the bed, and gets most of her calories overnight while sleeping. I go to bed two or three times a day trying to quiet my stomach, hoping it will be up for food later. My muscles ache as I go up the stairs to the loft. We’re trying to sort out now whether between the two of us we have one functional adult. A bit of a stretch right now, I think.

Yeah, we’re beyond waiting for the side effects. The Lupron’s expressing itself in multiple ways: nausea, gut pain, diarrhea, fatigue. Lassitude. None of this is too awful. So far. On the other hand it’s not great either. The walls of the tunnel have narrowed even further for me, though Kate’s tunnel has gotten wider.

2014

Gratitude here for her recovery. She takes off for the grocery store, the liquor store just like old times. Sorta. By that I mean those trips usually are the peak activity of the day. Way more than she could have done even two months ago, however.

In sickness and in health is a dominant theme of our marriage. I’ll be happy for that to recede, but we’ve both been able to be there for each other. Wonderful.

We’re at a point where we need some help with meals. At least until the radiation is done and a week or so after that. I usually don’t have the energy to cook and Kate’s stamina gets a challenge from standing for a long time. This is temporary.

I’m still ok to drive since the “good” part of my day comes around midday when I travel out to Lone Tree.

Instead of Travels with Charlie this blog has become the Travails of Charlie. I know that. But, it’s my reality right now. A Woolly friend wrote to me and said three of his friends have prostate cancer. As we get older, that number will go up. Maybe somebody can get some solace or ideas from reading these post. I hope so.

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Yesterday. Sleepy, stomach upset, et alia. Stayed in bed, got up, had some cereal while Kate and Ruth were at the grocery store. Back to bed.

At the Rockies

Afternoon. Ruth and I spent a good time in the loft talking about haiku, wondering when we’d each get back to oil painting, her upcoming trip to NY with Jon and Gabe. Week After next.

She and Gabe are at Hemophilia family camp this week. Something they’ve done together for several years. Then, on August 8th, back to school. Ruth is an 8th grader. She volunteered to help with orientation for entering 6th graders like Gabe. So, soon.

Ruth mowed the fuel yesterday; Gabe reorganized Rigel’s destruction of my improvised guard wall. Brick pavers in 5 gallon Home Depot buckets placed where she likes to burrow under our back deck.

Ruth and Kate, then Gabe and Kate, made trips to the grocery store. That Kate. She’s going. When she asked me later if I could cook. I said, no. Just too weary. Was hard to say to her. Ruth helped. Cedar Plank salmon, buttered egg noodles, and peas. Most excellent.

Well, hungry and tired. Not late, though. Or, Angry. Gonna go take care of both of those.

Half Way

Summer and the Radiation Moon

You can see the orienting lasers on my right hand

18 fractions absorbed. 180 minutes, exactly three hours under the watchful iris of the Cyber Knife. Roughly 3500 cGys of the total 7000 cGy* prescription. This is over half-way. 18/35ths.

Hard to separate out causality. Does my occasional fatigue come from the radiation? The Lupron? Indolence? What’s causing my crampy stomach, over eager bowels? Are those prickly hot feelings transient hot flashes trying to break through? Or, are all of these some crummy bug that came along at a time when there were multiple possible causes? Not sure.

This weekend respite is very, very welcome. I need some time to relax. Decompress. Gather myself again. Three weeks plus a couple of days before all 7000 cGys are in place. A marathon, not a sprint.

Ruth and Gabe are here. Ruth mowed the fuel yesterday. Gabe picked up the detritus of Rigel’s bunny lust fueled attack on our back deck. They picked flowers for us among them Columbines and Daisies. Kate cut two of our blooming iris. Maroon bearded. Have not bloomed the last couple of years.

Another Great Wheel consolation. The iris will bloom. The daisy’s, too. Lodgepole pines will release their pollen in June. The mountain streams will race as soon as the snowpack melts. The elk rut will send the strangled bugling of the bull’s out into the fall air. Snow will fall in December. Rain will come on July afternoons. The altitude on Shadow Mountain will keep a cool gap open between temperatures down the hill and those up here. Long after we’re all dead. Oh, yes, over a long time even these things will change in some way, but the cycle of the natural world to which death belongs will continue.

* ( a unit of absorbed radiation dose equal to one hundredth (10−2) of a gray, or 1 rad FreeDictionary)