Wild. Wildness. Wilderness.

Summer and the Recovery Moon

Wild Man on a coat of arms, Albrecht Durer, 1499

Jimmy Johnson. Woolly, artist, designer, wayfinder, South Dakotan. He emphasizes an old men’s movement idea, the wild man. Find your inner wildness. Keep it alive. Present. That way our vitality remains.

OK. But. Cancer. Is wild. Exhibits a form of wildness that has no care for its environment. Only about replication at the expense of whatever can feed it. Sorta like capitalism. Especially fossil fuel companies.

A certain form of inner wildness has found me and I don’t like it. It’s the opposite of the wild man’s inner wildness. Instead of bringing vitality it feeds on life until it is no more. Again, like capitalism, especially fossil fuel companies.

In another sense though cancer’s wildness is no different from any wildness. It’s red in tooth and claw, survival of the fittest it’s prime directive. This vast forest, the Arapaho National Forest, in which we live is like that. Wherever there are deer and elk, there are mountain lions. A Rocky Mountain truism.

The mountain lion feeds from its environment, is ruthless and opportunistic. As an apex predator, the mountain lion may have no enemies here, but after the mountain lion dies, the forest will absorb their essence, put it back into the plant world. Which feeds the deer and the elk. The circle of life.

Cancer is part of this. It’s an element of the natural world just like decomposition, photosynthesis, a mountain lion attacking a mule deer. This wildness within me lives by the laws of natural selection. It doesn’t care who I am anymore than the mountain lion cares which mule deer they can catch. Cancer is predator and I’m its prey.

Luckily I have a means of fighting back. Even so, cancer is wily, persistent. It’s an open question whether this prey can take out so formidable an adversary. TBD

Kudos to Mary

Summer and the Recovery Moon

Kate at Biker Jim’s on Father’s Day

Kate’s recovery continues to go well. She drove the half hour to PetSmart and picked up Kep yesterday. I took him in on my way to the Cyber Knife. She’ll also drive Mary to the Federal Center RTD stop. Mary tried to find a shuttle or taxi and experienced the mountain way. Either not possible or folks didn’t answer the phone. Wish I could take her, but the Cyber Knife beckons.

Mary’s working on school libraries in Singapore. They’re surprised when I tell them I have Masters Degree in Library Science. Libraries are under a lot of pressure these days and are rethinking how they fit into colleges, universities, communities. Mary has helped the nation with her knowledge of how students actually use libraries. She’s so successful that she’s working well past the usual retirement age. Unusual. Kudos to Mary and her internationally acclaimed work.

Brother Mark likes to comment on the Vietnamese currency, the dong. He says it’s drooping right now. What kind of stimulus might make it rise, he wonders. LOL. He’s on vacation, plenty of time to consider the world around him.

With nine treatments my inner glow has increased. I may be a beacon on Shadow Mountain for aircraft trying to orient themselves. Listened to the Cream yesterday. Nicky was not familiar with them, but she knew Eric Clapton. The Cream was one of the first super groups: Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker. I saw them in a weed smoke filled theatre in Chicago’s old stockyard district, maybe 1968. Got stoned just sitting there.

No side effects so far. But. Every ache, like the hip ouching me as I fed the dogs, or some shortness of breath, or general weariness makes me wonder. Is this it? Are the side effects commencing? No. No. No.

Well, at least I think no on that last one. It’s hard to separate the fatigue from driving back and forth, the treatments, pushing myself to get all my exercise in, and any that might be the result of either the radiation or the Lupron.

goes over the faded Baby’s On Board

A strange place to be. Waiting. Not wanting to invite trouble. The runup to both treatments had a lot of focus on the side effects. Cancer care is like that. Here, take this. It’ll help kill your cancer. And, oh, by the way, your hair and teeth will fall out. But that’s only temporary. Oh. Good.

Most important of all: remember why radiation, why lupron. Kill cancer. Go for a cure.

Been focusing on simplicity of the heart as I drive back and forth, reminding myself to stay in the moment, to not let other drivers, current circumstances drag me out of my inner calm. Tough for me, but really good practice. I failed yesterday when a peloton rode up narrow, no shoulder Shadow Mountain Drive. “Ride single file!” I yelled out the window.

Simplicity is about navigating the churn, the “blooming, buzzing confusion” that is our mind, as William James put it. I’ve taken to using advice for people experiencing panic attacks. Find five things you can see. Five things you can hear. Five things you can feel. I like this because it echoes techniques I learned long ago from the existential psychologists like Carl Rogers. Grounding. It helps.

Family Week on Shadow Mountain

Summer and the Recovery Moon

It’s family week on Shadow Mountain. Mary is here, arriving Tuesday night from Minneapolis, heading out tomorrow for Minneapolis to see her friend Debbie in Eau Claire. After a brief stop in Indiana, she heads back to London, on to Cornwall, Devon, for a memorial service. Greece for a conference. Back to England, Cambridge, for a conference with Japanese colleagues from her time in Kobe last year.

Meanwhile Mark sends missives about Bangkok. He’s been in Chinatown, Yaowarat Road, the old main street of Bangkok. I stayed there when I was in Bangkok in 2004. A fascinating place with traditional Chinese apothecaries, lots of street food on weekend nights, small, crowded lanes packed with shops selling diverse wares.

Guru, Mary’s s.o., is back in K.L., Malaysia, defending a couple of drug traffickers facing the death penalty. They’re tough on drug dealers.

Kep

The Kep, shredder extraordinaire, goes into PetSmart today for furmination. If, that is, I can find his rabies certificate. No, I know where it is. He still doesn’t like to be left. He is joyous when we return. You remembered me!

Yesterday I listened to Creedence while the Cancer Predator bobbed and weaved around my body-as Mark observed. Keith, who’s taking the radiation cure for just diagnosed prostate cancer, said, Half done! I’ll get to half some day, but not soon. Another guy, older than me, gave me a bemused smile, all radiated! We’re all on death row, hoping to commute the sentence with clean living and radioactive photons.

2014

Kate saw Gupta. He’s going to see her again in a month. No diagnosis. She’s doing so well that getting a lung biopsy done, the only way to make a definitive diagnosis, might interfere with her recovery. It’s a surgical procedure, requiring anesthesia. If she continues to improve, and I think she will, then any lung disease is not bad enough to justify the trauma of the biopsy.

Wisest of Owls

Summer and the Recovery Moon

The weather here has veered back toward seasonal norms and will continue warm to hot. Hard to say when the next snowfall might be.

Gabe found the antler. A very excited 11 year old. He went for a walk with Ruth and found another bone. A knife blade, too. He’s a bone collector. Jon says he wants a metal detector. Oh, boy.

Ruth varnished the owl house. It will get up in a tree soon. It has book jackets on it. She made it in wood arts class and gave it to me for my birthday. I told her the book jackets would assure I’d get the wisest owls. “I didn’t think of that metaphor!”

Drove down the hill last night at 9 pm to the Federal Center RTD stop. Picked up Mary at 10. The lights of Denver twinkle coming down 285, the air was warm, the sky clear. Perfect summer night. Good for a drive.

She’s going from here to Wisconsin, thence to Indianapolis, and, after that, back to London. She came through London to Indy.

Kate had a not so good day yesterday. Some random not feel good stuff. Another grocery delivery. What a mind saver.

Pattie told me my bladder was perfect yesterday. So nice to hear. Took the last of my radiation to Riders in the Storm. I did ask Nicky what was the most popular musical choice. Hmm. Let me give you the top four: classic rock, blues (pretty appropriate), classical, and new country. Interesting.

Got to thinking about why classic rock. Listening to the Doors I replayed college. Hmmm. At 72 I choose to transport myself back to when I was young and foolish. Made me wonder what musical choices are made in hospices these days? Anybody leaving this world to “I’m So Glad” by the Cream?

At rest, waiting for me

Prostate cancer tends to produce patients of a certain age. Like me. When we pass each other, we smile. A bit grimly. Yeah. You, too? The guy with the Titelist ball cap on Monday looked serious today waiting his turn on the gurney.

I’ve wondered, once or twice, what the attitude is like in breast cancer treatment centers. I imagine it as a bit more warm and fuzzy.

The Mountains Called Me

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

After I wrote about the one-antlered elk, another buck jumped our fence. He had two antlers, both velveted, as you can see. These two large animals are the Rocky Mountain subspecies of Cervus elaphus, one of six in the U.S., and the subspecies with the largest racks. In the 700 pound range. They’re big.

These guys stayed all night, lying down from time to time, then getting up to continue snacking on grass, dandelions, our backyard aspen, a Colorado Blue Spruce. When I woke up yesterday morning, they were dining right outside our bedroom window.

The dogs have to go out in the morning and when they did, they chased the elk to the corner of our property. One-antlered guy jumped the fence while I watched. He walked over to it and jumped. Right over. Our fence is five feet high. Dr. Gilroy, who’s from Wyoming, said to keep elk out there, they have to put ten foot fences. I believe it after seeing this one clear ours with grace and ease.

The two-antlered buck stayed a while, but he eventually left, too.

Another instance of synchronicity. I mentioned the three mule deer bucks I saw on Samhain when I came for the closing on our property in 2014. In the intervening four and a half years we’ve had neither mule deer nor elk in the back, fenced in portion of our property. In the front, yes, but not in the back.

We say this to prostate cancer

These two spirits of the mountain came the day I started my radiation treatment. And they stayed the night. No wonder our ancient ancestors painted these creatures in soot and ochre on cave walls. No wonder cultures around the world find spirit animals to guide them. When big animals show up in your life voluntarily, your life shifts. You have to consider their presence.

Some have said that Colorado has not been kind to us. I get it, too. Prostate cancer diagnosed four months after we got here. A new knee. Jon’s divorce. Kate’s shoulder, Sjogren’s, bleed, lung disease. All since we got here.

It’s not Colorado though. AA has a saying, wherever you go, there you are. This comes from the notion of the geographic escape. If I just leave this town where all my trouble started, I’ll start over fresh. Nope. Wherever you go, there you, the alcoholic, are.

We brought aging with us. My PSA was 4.0 the last physical I had in Minnesota. I’m 72, Kate’s 75 this August. Stuff begins to catch up with us at these ages. Genetics plays a large role as do dietary choices, exercise. Even with those all good, it’s still: eat right, exercise, die anyway. Not blaming Colorado. The contrary.

I have what I consider solid evidence that we not only belong here, but that we are welcome. Congregation Beth Evergreen. The frequent visits with Jon and the grandkids. The everchanging, but always wonderful beauty of the mountains.

And, for me, the grace note of these animals. Yes, Charlie, we know this is a difficult time. We know too that you are, like us, an animal. You can worry and fret or you can stop, eat the dandelions, the grass. Lie down among the lodgepole pines and the aspen. Jump the fence into another world. You did just that when you and Kate moved to Shadow Mountain and we’re glad you came. Amen. Blessed be.

Day 2

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Left early for Lone Tree, around 8 am. Had to find my Lupron. Met Shelley, the four-month transplant from Georgia. She’s a nurse practitioner who came here from a 45-doctor group. I’ll be your prostate cancer guru.

We talked. Nobody likes these side effects, Shelley said. She especially underlined hot flashes. Black Cohosh was her top recommendation. A plant based product you pick up in the herbal supplement segment of a drugstore or grocery store. Some have mild hot flashes, some not so mild, some extreme. We have a medicine we can give you if they get really bad. Didn’t find that reassuring.

She also told me to get a calcium-vitamin d3 combo. Lupron makes your bones soft, Shelley said in her distinct Southern drawl. If you fall, it’s easier to cause a break. She also gave me a copy of the Man Plan. Geez. It’s an exercise program for those getting dosed by Lupron.

I have to go back to see Shelley in September. Apparently Lupron alone can suppress the PSA all the way down to zero. That’s why you put up with the side effects. It doesn’t cure cancer, but it can slow it down. I don’t understand why blocking the cancer’s main energy source doesn’t cure it. A question I’ll have to ask.

So. Put a negative sign in front of each of these.

She gave me two pamphlets, a folder with helpful hints, and, a shot of Lupron in the left hip. Didn’t hurt much though it can. They asked me about it later at Anova. Had a couple of hours until my radiation, so I hit breakfast spots near me on my phone. Found the Three Griddles a couple of miles away.

It was, synchronistically, a Southern breakfast joint. Shelley would like it. I had corned pork on cheese grits with two eggs over easy. No coffee though. Two glasses of water. While enjoying this taste of Savannah, I read about Lupron.

Later at Anova my second session got delayed by an emergency for some guy who looked gray, sick, unhappy. Then it got further delayed by gas. I’ve been following the recommendations. I want to be a good patient, help them align the Cancer Predator, so I felt a little ashamed.

Baroque music this time. A poor choice, it turned out. The piece that played longest was downright funereal. Not the mood I was looking for while a red laser beam bisected my torso and the Cyber Knife did its robot dance around me.

Not this

Afterward I got a note from Dr. Gilroy to get Beano and Miralax. I drove through Deer Creek Canyon. Stopped at King Sooper. Bought the Black Cohosh, the calcium plus vitamin d3, Beano, and a big bottle of Miralax. Fun times.

Here’s the takeaway on this, the third day of treatment. The Lupron is racing around right now suppressing the manly hormone. The radiation has begun its job of killing cancer cells. I don’t know what the side effects of either of these are going to be.

Is the loggy feeling I have this morning normal or the Lupron? Will the hot flashes start? What about that achy knee? A strange sensation, waiting, not for Godot, but for the first sign of a foreign agent’s impact on my body.

Told Kate last night that I’m used to taking pyschoactive drugs. There’s a period between when you take them and when they begin to alter your mind. But, I said, in that instance I’m expecting something pleasurable, significant, interesting. In this one the primary purpose, killing cancer cells and suppressing testosterone, is silent, while the knock on effects of the treatment is neither pleasant or significant or interesting.

Inner Glow

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Oh, gosh. Today.

Driving Kate to Lisa’s office for her annual physical, then heading on to Lone Tree, another 20 minutes. Dressed in blue sweats and my radiation hazard t-shirt from Los Alamos. This first day I’m going to choose The Band for my Pandora station. Tomorrow baroque.

I had a light supper last night, as suggested. Egg drop soup and a cookie. I’m on my second glass of water this morning. Hydration is important. I want Patty to tell me again that my bladder’s a perfect size.

Woke up at 3:30, not ruminating, but uneasy. Went back to sleep for an hour. Up at my usual 5:00. Fed the dogs, got the paper. Came up here to the loft.

The next seven weeks are about healing, staying with the protocols, adjusting to the unknown. Not daunting, but not easy either. Tomorrow is the Lupron injection.

Black Mountain this morning

Leaving the mountain top, going down the hill. From cool (44 right now) to hot. 75 at noon in Lone Tree. Well, that’s hot to us. Will get hotter as the weeks roll by.

Tom and the Woollies are going boating on Lake Minnetonka today. A floating meeting. Tom will motor over from Shorewood to a Wayzata dock to pick up the guys. A better parking lot, a bit easier access from the Cities. Had my druthers, I’d be there instead of staring at the Cyber Knife listening to When They Drove Old Dixie Down.

Resilience

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Late April

Kate’s stamina has improved so much. Thursday. Mussar in the afternoon and a board meeting in the evening. Last night we went to the Gospel Shabbat. The Beth Evergreen singers, supplemented by members of the Evergreen Chorale, were led by Val, a committed choir director with a lot of energy, plus a fine pianist added to the CBE band.

It was high, good energy and Kate stayed the whole time, including for a bit of the oneg. (oneg is snacks and goodies provided after a service.) Her hip bothered her a bit, but she walked and stood, clapped and sang. A real simcha.

Rabbi Jamie came by yesterday around lunch time to see how I was doing. We fed him chicken pot pie (mine) and watermelon, then he and I retired to my loft. He’s a good guy. A dog person. His first dog was a wolf hybrid, 105 pounds, that lived an astonishing 18 years.

He lost a dog recently to a porcupine. Awful way to die. But natural. We agreed it was a good death, both animals doing what evolution had taught them.

Tomorrow, for father’s day, Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Kate and I are going, at my request, to Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs. No less a foody than Anthony Bourdain recommended Biker Jim’s. Apparently he soaks his onions in Coca-Cola. After Biker Jim’s hot dogs will become a special occasion treat for me, no longer in my diet. Other processed meats, too. Gonna miss’em.

Some modest change

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Each day now I’m privileging exercise over other activities. I usually get in at least two, aiming for three resistance sessions a week. Three now for sure. On the other days I do cardio, planning to start back on my interval training tomorrow. I want to get out and hike, but somehow haven’t. Just the press of things, I think.

Also, beginning Monday we’re going to focus on more healthy eating. Our diet’s not bad, but it could be better. Less red meat, more chicken, fish, pork. More vegetables and fruit. Importantly for the radiation, too, avoiding foods that cause gas. Why? Because of bubbles in the rectum. Geez, how silly that sounds. But it screws up the location of things in my gut. Bad for aiming the beam.

Atomic Love

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Next week Monday is my first radiation treatment. On Tuesday the first Lupron injection. The radiation continues every weekday until August 6th, which is both the Hiroshima anniversary and Raeone’s birthday. (Raeone is my ex) Not sure what to make of that. Also, Sunday is Father’s Day. I told Kate I wanted a Geiger counter. Hope she knows that was a joke.

Gonna try to have a little fun with this. Don’t want things grim, mordant. I found a gift shop in Los Alamos and bought a couple of t-shirts. Only found an image I could reproduce for one. I intend to wear both of them, off and on, for my treatments. As soon as they get here.

Been reading a book about Androgen Deprivation Therapy. Helpful. It may not be as bad as it sounds, at least for me. The longest I’ll be on Lupron is two years, probably less. The intense side effects seem to emerge over longer periods of time. Hope so.

October 9th, 2018

In a twist not unlike prostate cancer treatment the day after Father’s Day and ending on the Hiroshima anniversary Kate continues to improve markedly as my journey heads into a difficult period. Her affect is almost bubbly. Sort of. Not sure Norwegians do bubbly, but she’s feeling good.

Her weight is at 99.4! Wow. 76 was the nadir back in February, I think. The j-tube feedings, with some minor exceptions, go well and she’s able to eat more, too. We had shrimp scampi, rice, and Brussels sprouts last night and she ate a full plate.

Showing off her new crowns on May 13, 2019

Our relationship has had the sort of strains that you might infer from a long, long bout of medically related bad news. Eight and a half months now since her bleed and she was not well before then. But open communication kept us out of any deep potholes.

Our partnership, this marriage that got started in the seats of the Ordway Theatre, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concerts, is stronger than ever. I wrote much earlier that adversity unveils gratitude. So many people show so much caring. Well, I would add to that today that adversity deepens love.