Heavy Breathing

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Below the license plate and just above the black band. Not bad, but not desirable either

Yesterday morning I filed accident reports with Colorado State Patrol and Traveler’s. Their forms don’t anticipate a foreign national driving a rented RV. Made for an interesting session. Opened the Rav4’s back door. Works fine. The damage is superficial, but probably enough to make them replace the whole door and bumper.

Since we missed seeing Debra on Saturday due to the accident, we took her out for lunch. Ohanagrill. A Hawai’ian eatery on the shore of Sloan Lake. It was hot, a bit muggy. Felt like Maui just a little bit. I had kalua pork and cabbage. We shared four Portuguese donuts.

Debra’s headed to Uganda for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps. She’s sixty and wants an adventure. Sure she’ll get one there. Business development. Unless. She also picked up her ESL credentials and might try to get work in that way.

Coming back from Lakewood where Debra lives the battery on Kate’s portable O2 concentrator died. She was not worried as long as we were at the relatively low Denver altitude (still a mile high, though), but when we began to climb the mountains toward home her chest felt heavy and she started to get a headache.

I drove faster than the speed limit, which I rarely do, getting her back to our home concentrators. I ran in, turned one on, and got her the tubing as she came in the door. Much better. Not gonna let that happen again.

Pretty tired today. It was a busy, overly busy, week. Lots of driving here and there with Gabe’s glove crisis and Kate’s pulmonology appointment plus Tom’s visit. Good tired, though. Friends and family.

Bloomin’, Buzzin’

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Henry and William James

Stream of consciousness. William James, a blooming, buzzing confusion. That’s the world with us. What about the world within us? Perhaps a booming, seething well? My posts are often stream of consciousness. Yes, of course. What else can they be? Tighter, more logical, less streamy, more broadcast television? Sometimes. I can do it.

Ancientrails started as a replacement for my long time hand written practice. Keyboards and pens are different. They educe thought in part by the feedback of the screen or the page. Pen scratching across paper. Keys clicking, letters appearing against a white screen. Some folk say one is better than the other. Pen being mightier than the keyboard, too.

Don’t think so. Of course I’ve been typing since I was 16 and took typing in high school. Before computers I used a typewriter, first manual, then Selectric with the ball. I’ve been writing with a keyboard for over 56 years. That’s a long time. Think I’ve gotten used to it by now. It’s my chief manual skill.

Most days I start with a Natalie Goldberg mind, free writing. Start out and see where it goes. If this blog ever seems like associations evinced by the sentence before, well, it is. I’ve tried to be more systematic, more philosophical, more academic. Just isn’t me. I’m more a first person sort of guy, telling you what’s on my mind right now.

The downside of this style is obvious. It’s self-centered, myopic, less than fully considered. True. It’s also self-revelatory, honest, and fresh. At least I think so.

Glad you’re here. Thanks for reading.

New Moon

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

New moon tonight. Great night for astronomy.

Chang’e flees to the moon. Yositoshi, 1885

Moving out of the time of the first harvest though Lughnasa has three weeks to go. The combines will be in the fields soon, contractors working through the night with the aid of the Harvest Moon.

Dreamy and sleepy this morning. The dogs had to wake me up. Working on getting a friend out of prison. He got out, then reoffended right away. There was a road work project near the top of a high hill. Jesuit’s were the work crew. There’s some Jungian stuff going on here, I can tell.

Picked up another tradition of better days. After Thursday afternoon mussar at CBE, we drove into touristy Evergreen. At CJ’s, I bought two Vienna beef sandwiches, one with giardiniera, one without. CJ sold the place to his daughter last year, but he was behind the counter yesterday.

The parking lot across from CJ’s, which made it much easier to stop in ( parking is bad), has been out of commission since the flood. That was 2012. CJ got flooded out by water pouring down the rocky hillside. Not covered by FEMA. The parking lot, flooded out by the swollen Bear Creek, was. He’s convinced the reason the parking lot’s taking so long to fix is “…because the government’s involved.” Whatever the truth he makes great Vienna Beef. Best I’ve had outside of Chicago itself.

2014, Andover

Mowed. Put roundup down on the five foot perimeter. Had to fix my sprayer, which hadn’t been used in over five years. Since the move at least. Lot of crud in the nozzle. Walking with it, wending the wand here and there, took me back to the Andover garden. Rarely used roundup there, mostly for products from the organic folks Bill Schmidt introduced me, too.

The Last Week

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

One more week. 5 fractions. 50 minutes. Photons off. Make it so.

Stomach unhappy as I head into the final round of CyberKnife sessions. Not unexpected, but I thought I had it managed. Nope. Head down, forward.

Some fatigue, more after the treatments and the drive home. More now than the first four weeks. Low energy, low motivation. I’ve given exercise and the radiation first place each day. Today, my third resistance session for the week, I plan to up my workout to three sets for each exercise from the initial two. No Lone Tree trip for today and tomorrow.

Dinners from the Mitzvah committee folks will keep coming for two more weeks. After that I should be running around like a guy with his cancer cut off. Cooking, writing, generally raisin’ hell.

May it be so.


Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Lucky number 7. 28 fractions as of yesterday. 29 today. Weary and distracted, but I can feel a positive energy eager to emerge when the radiation finishes. Will not miss the daily trips to Lone Tree. Nothing from the Lupron except some mood changes. Hoping I’ll stay that way.

Kate’s having some tough times right now. Gupta, the pulmonologist, who seems knowledgeable but disorganized, has not give her a diagnosis, prognosis, or a plan. She started seeing him in January. The lung disease is the last piece of the long march and his foot dragging has caused her anxiety.

Kate’s mom had a lung disease, died from it. She says, “I’m becoming my mom.” No, I said. You may share some physical issues, but you are definitely not becoming your mom.

Her body has been giving her trouble for over two years. That’s a long time to deal with a cranky gut, weight loss, Sjogren’s, debilitating bleeds. Stress has built up and has so many triggers for her that it’s hard for her to achieve inner peace. Illness spreads out to the mind, to the family, to the community. Few are ill alone.

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.

The Water Flow Way

Summer and the Recovery Moon

Week two began with the Grateful Dead. Sugar Magnolia, then Fire on the Mountain. Today, the Doors. Gonna ask Nicky today what’s most requested. My bet is country.

Finding my rhythm with the bladder. Came in around 280 ml yesterday. Goal is 100, but anything above 100 is ok. Cool, clear water. A western thing, now a radiation thing. Tumbler of water in the cup holder, I drink it on the drive. The Water Flow Way, I suppose.

Haven’t yet figured out the trick with audio books and my phone. Gonna go to the library on Wednesday after breakfast with Alan. I’m sure they can tell me.

Ruth stayed up Sunday night. She’s still here and now Gabe is, too. Gabe wants to hunt for antlers and I’m going to salt the backyard with an antler I bought in South Dakota years ago. I think he’ll enjoy finding one.

Jon picks them up around 4:30. Mary, sister Mary, flies into Denver around 7: 20 pm. Pick her up at the RTD stop at the Federal Center in Lakewood around 10. She’s on a visit back, hitting Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Indiana. My peripatetic sibs. Mark’s in Bangkok. Me? You can see my glow at night if you fly over the Front Range from DIA.

Mary and Guru at the Fort, August, 2017

Kate cooked the meal last night. ! Her stamina is so much improved. We did drive all the way into Swedish Hospital for yet another imaging study yesterday. Not approved by Medicare. Drive back. Not sure what’s going on here. Kate sees Gupta tomorrow while I’m under the photon beam. He ordered the test.

Move to Colorado. Visit many different hospitals, medical clinics, specialists, imaging locations. It’ll be fun!

Cyber Knifed: Treatment #1

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

They offered me this youtube video and I said, sure, I’ll post it on my blog. Time-lapse of one whole treatment. 1/35th. A fraction.

From my vantage point on the table the Cyber Knife has a mildly menacing quality.

Skynet Level Weird

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Yesterday amazed me. In many different ways.

Because of my midday treatment schedule, I had to get my workout in early. Often, if I felt a need to do that, I’d shrug when it came time. Do it tomorrow, I’d think. Sometimes I’d do it then. More often, I’d let it go.

Did it. I’ll keep it up; I’m sure. That’s three days a week, the resistance workout with a bit of cardio. The other three days are cardio. I’ve started back on the high intensity, interval workouts I used to do. Gradually. Gonna keep my muscle mass, my fitness level as best I can. Does wonders, too, for the psyche.

Had to leave early for Lone Tree due to Kate’s 11:30 annual physical. Drinking water the whole way there. Part of the protocol. Also, soup Sunday night for supper. Lighter proportions on the meals. Protocol. Reducing gas. That’s the goal.

Dropped Kate off at Lisa’s office, County Line Road to Broadway and Broadway back to 470. Still pretty early for my 12:20 appointment, so I drove around, trying to get familiar with the navigation screen on our new car. Slow progress there. RTFM, I know. But I’m a do this and see what it does sorta guy at heart.

Time to stop driving around listening to the computer voice. Over to Anova. While I sat in the waiting room, men of a certain age in sweat pants came and went. One guy, tall, gray headed like all but one of us, had on blue sweats with pink stripes. Keith had on jeans. I didn’t want’em to cut on me. You know. No, I didn’t, but I nodded anyhow. He’d made his decision.

Ultra sound of the bladder. That’s always first. Lie down on an exam table. Patty put a little gel on my tummy. Wand. Hmm. 200 ml. We want you at 100. Take this cup. Fill it to here. Then, to here. Not so easy, but I managed.

Take a seat out here. OK.

Come on back. OK. A room with computer monitors, narrow, more like a hall way. Desk chairs. New woman, about Patty’s age, maybe a bit younger. Early thirties. Attractive, like Patty. Attractive younger women to manage old men. Makes sense.

New woman, I didn’t get her name. I will today. We’re right here the whole time. If you need us, just yell and we’ll be right there. I couldn’t imagine what I’d need them for, but it was nice to know.

What music would you like? We have Pandora. The Band. Do you know them? She pulled up The Band’s Pandora page. No, I don’t think so. Wait. Yes. My grandpa told me about them. Oh. I see.

Patty and new woman both liked my radiation hazard t-shirt. No reason to be glum, eh?

Anova’s cyber knife is a bit different. I’ll get a picture.

Down to it. A metal table. My spot. Cyber Knife to my right. Two oblong, speaker like things hung on the ceiling on either side of the table. Above me a circle, big, filled with nice wood, lights all around the rim.

Patty and the new woman began positioning me on the table. A pillow under my knees. A red laser line up my midsection. We’ll be back. If we come into to reposition you, we don’t want help. Just let us do it. OK.

A few tugs and pulls later. The table began to shift up, down, sideways. Huh. The table’s an important instrument in this case. This whole 3-D guided radiation treatment requires precision at an exquisite level. Don’t want to burn the bladder or the rectum. Do what you must, Patty.

The music starts up. Patty says something through the loud speakers, but with The Band playing “The Weight” and my poor hearing I just say, ok.

Cyber Knife comes to life. In motion it reminds me most of the industrial robots I’ve seen at work in automobile manufacturing. It’s movements have that slightly jerky but intentional way about them. The one the kids use for robot dance moves. Metallic sounds. Gears grinding. Not loud, but audible.

The pointy end, the lens that aims the radiation moves around me. Stopping. Moving again. Up high. To the side. Below the table aiming up. All the while the large head of the Cyber Knife looms over me. Defenseless. What if it goes all Skynet on me? Gotta say, it was creepy.

All this to a favorite song, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” The weirdness level was very high. My sixties past brought into my 2019 present, a robot aiming death-dealing rays into my body. To protect me. Very, very weird.

Took around ten minutes. See you tomorrow. Thanks.

I’ll write about the rest of the day in the next post.

Our Father…

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Father’s Day. A Hallmark holiday. Yes. A secondary holiday to Mother’s Day. For most, yes. Yet still powerful. Powerful enough to generate happy moments. Guilty moments. Moments of regret.

Not an easy day for me relative to my Dad. With Jon and Joseph, it’s wonderful. And when I extend the idea to grandfather, it becomes sublime. Why? They will live on, into the hot and dusty future, carrying the life of our family, its values. In a straight line? No. But that’s as it should be.

Not sure how often I’ve written about my father here. Let me say this. He was a man loved by many. In our small town of Alexandria most knew him and liked him. He walked its streets long after retirement, holding onto a small role for the Times-Tribune as its circulation manager. Oddly, a role I held for one year or two during high school.

I am his son. I write. I have strong opinions. I’m not afraid to express them and will not back down from a public fight. I’m curious about life’s strangeness, its uniqueness. After retiring, Dad would drive the roads of Indiana with his second wife Rosemary, looking for the river that suddenly disappeared into the earth or a small town with an unusual claim to fame. Like the giant paint ball in Alexandria.

I am not his son. I vowed to never let anything come between my children and me. Anything. Not choosing the military as a profession. Not repeated self-injury and a sometimes violent temper. Nothing will break my bond with them. Ever.

Yesterday we went to Biker Jim’s Gourmet Hot Dogs. I had the day wrong in my last post. Underwhelmed by the coca-cola drenched onions. My German veal hot dog was, meh. The fries, too. The chocolate shake, yumm.

I’m not giving up. There were many other choices and I chose the original, just to see what it was like. Jon said he’d bought hot dogs from Biker Jim’s food cart before he transitioned to the restaurant. I’m not giving up because from now on hot dogs, bacon, salami, pastrami and the like are now off my grocery list permanently. Carne vale. Farewell to meat. Processed meat, that is.

Ruth introduced me to, wait for it, fried macaroni. Oh boy. This is state fair worthy. Shoulda been on a stick. She had a Jack-a-lope hot dog, cherries and jalapenos. Very good, she said. Jon got the classic hot dog. Not sure about Gabe. Kate’s stomach was in its delicate mode, as it often is, so she had a chocolate milkshake.

Gabe gave Jon a coffee cup that holds a half-gallon. It says, I’ll just have one cup. That Gabe. Ruth got him a thermos with super powers. Jon’s done well with them. Their relationships, all of them, are much healthier now than a year ago. Their affection for each other is obvious and touching.

Jon and Gabe made me cards. I’ll take a photograph of them, but they’re downstairs right now.

What I wore to Biker Jim’s

This is my last weekend before radiation and Lupron change me. Strange to consider, but true. Though life affirming in their essence, both will alter me substantially. Radiation has the potential for long-term bladder and bowel damage. Lupron has the potential for, well, lots of stuff, but it is meant to be temporary. It’s easy to get focused on the side effects and forgot the non-side effect: kill the cancer cells.

Lupron cuts off prostate cancer’s prime energy source: testosterone. Radiation damages cancer cell DNA. Lupron is systemic so it affects every part of the body. Radiation is localized and the more localized the better. However. If too localized, it chances missing cancer cells that, if they survive, will begin replicating again and cause a reemergence.

Wearing this one Monday

There is a fascinating book by Faiz Khan, The Physics of Radiation Therapy, which describes in great detail how radiation therapy works. Khan is a professor emeritus of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. His book is the practical manual for radiation oncologists, medical physicists, and dosists.

After having scanned some of the chapters, I have an appreciation for the difficulties and nuances involved in planning and executing my therapy. Without getting technical let me say, it’s really f…ng hard. Glad to have folks experienced in the 3-D version. They need (and have) both a high degree of knowledge and the leavening of that knowledge with experience.

This father, after this father’s day, will be irradiated. Weird. And, in a peculiar way, wonderful.