Back to the Inner Glow

Summer and the Recovery Moon

And, summer. A warm week ahead. Of course. Mountain weather. Great sleeping.

My first weekend respite from the radiation is over. It’s off to Lone Tree and Anova around 11:10 or so. Have to get gas. Burn through a lot of the fossil fuel with an hour commute. But, it is in a nice car. Back on the Beano, only drinking tap water. No seltzer. Bubbles.

The Gleaners, Jean-Francois Millet

Sunday is my rest day from working out. I read. An essay on charity and justice in the Torah parshah for Kate and mine’s bagel table on September 14th. These suckers are long. In this instance Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19. It contains the most laws of any parshah in the Torah. The charity and justice essay is a reflection on the laws concerning gleaning.

Then, some art criticism in a book Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light. Peter Schjeldahl. This guy is a genius. Wonderful, short essays on contemporary artists and their work.

Finally, a couple of articles on what conservatives are up to intellectually right now. It seems Trump has unveiled cracks in a conservative consensus begun around the time of William Buckley: a corporate oriented focus on the economy, a robust military with a kickass foreign policy, and conservative social values. Simpler times, man. Simpler times.

A CBE friend brought over a blueberry lemon pound cake and a large plastic container of serious vanilla ice cream. She’s in cancer treatment right now, too. We talked for an hour or so until Jon, Ruth, and Gabe came up to take another run at the serious clog in our bathroom sink.

He knows a lot about houses and their inner workings. I don’t. With Ruth and Gabe’s help the three of them spent a lot of time in our crawl space first with a snake, then with Drano, then with the snake again. It was a stubborn clog, mostly hair, I think. They persevered and got it. Yeah!

I made mashed potatoes with cut up steak from yesterday’s left overs. Broccoli florets. Ice cream, as you might imagine, for dessert.

Getting a plumber up here to come by for such a small task is difficult. Only a few good ones up here and they spend most of their time on remodels and new construction. They work in small jobs when they can. Good thing Jon could help.

Ruth decided to stay all night so she can help us today. I hope she and Kate can get back to sewing.

All is Well

Summer (at 33 degrees and a prediction of snow?) and the Recovery Moon

King Ramkamhaeng stele at Sukkothai

“There is fruit in the forest, there is rice in the field, there are fish in the river. All is well.” King Ramkamhaeng, of Thailand. Brother Mark sent this quote from a 13th century king of Thailand. When we discussed simplicity at the Mussar Vaad Practice group, we noticed that abundance does not contradict simplicity. And, that complexity doesn’t either. Chaos and ingratitude contradict simplicity.

In the book Simple Abundance, there is a line that Rabbi Jamie quoted: “First comes Gratitude which leads to Simplicity that gives us Order that brings us Harmony that shows us the Beauty which opens us up to Joy – and we live happily ever after.” I just ordered the book so I can’t say where she goes with this, but I like the thought.

It’s tough in ‘Murica to take in this thought. He who dies with the most toys wins. Winning, you’re gonna get tired of so much winning. Success is achievement is money is power is life. What else is there?

Only the important stuff. Like love, justice, compassion. The definition of leadership ginned up by the rebel Leadership Minneapolis class Paul Strickland, Sarah Strickland, and Lonnie Helgeson were a part of. The whole volunteer board got fired after trying to integrate this idea of leadership back into the organization. Back in the 1980’s.

A friend who’s just coming out of her cancer journey observed that being sick had forced her to pare away commitments because she couldn’t rely on herself to keep them. I made the same decision when I resigned from teaching at CBE in February though the decision related more to Kate’s illness than mine at the time. She went on to say that now that she had begun to recover she could choose how to complicate her life.

Illness, serious illness, can have the unintended, but salutary consequence of driving us toward simplicity. I’m taking in this lesson right now. Kate and I had one life before Sjogren’s, before the bleed, before cancer. We’re still in it, that paring away of commitments and even domestic responsibilities. It’s an opportunity. What kind of life do we want post-illness? (if we are fortunate enough to recover, and I believe we will.)

Joe and SeoAh

We’re both grateful for the way friends and family have shown up for us. SeoAh’s coming to stay. CBE dinners and constant offerings of help. Tom and Mark coming out in January. Then, joining Paul and Bill in our monthly meetings on Zoom. Jon and Joe have picked up tasks around the house. Jon was just out to try and unclog a stubborn sink drain.

We’ve had to consider which household tasks are necessary and which can be set aside for a time. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, doing the bills, buying groceries, key maintenance tasks, yes. All the rest can wait.

By September, lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, Kate may be over a hundred pounds and back to sewing. Probable. I’ll finish radiation on August 6th and Dr. Gilroy said it usually takes about a month to get back to feeling normal. September might be the time for us to reemerge, out of this illness chrysalis.

The Lupron is a wild card. I get my second injection of September 24th. Not sure what I’ll be like, but I’m hopeful I’ll feel well enough to get back to those aspects of life Kate and I choose to emphasize. September 28th, four days after my second Lupron injection, will be the anniversary of Kate’s bleed. 9 months ago this week.

But, even now, to paraphrase the King, “There’s meat in the freezer, vegetables in the fridge, and bread in the bread box. All is well.”

And on the 5th day

Summer Solstice and the Recovery Moon

Day 5 in the rearview. Started radiation the day after Father’s Day, completed 1/7th of it on the Summer Solstice. Will end on August 6th, the anniversary of Hiroshima and Raeone’s birthday. The elk showed up to get me started on the path. Wonder what will happen over the next six weeks.

Listened to Izzy today. Dreaming of Old Hawai’i as the Cancer Predator wove its radioactive cloth around this reemergence. Slowly, slowly, slowly. One fraction at a time.

It remains creepy, a bit disturbing to have this mechanical behemoth dart and shift around my body clicking, clicking, clicking. Then, silence. Said good-bye to Nicky and Kim. See you Monday.

Green

Summer Solstice and the Recovery Moon

This morning

Black Mountain has a wispy cloud draping over its peak, moving slowly toward the northwest. The greens this summer, with so much water, are intense, Hawaiian. The lodgepoles are a deep dark green, the aspen groves a yellow green spotlighted by the sun. The grasses are lush, the dandelions abundant, cheery dots of yellow.

The white cloud dances with the blue sky, revealing it now, obscuring it. It’s another cool morning, 43. Perfect for sleep. The mountain streams continue to flow fast, white where they hit the rocks, still not full with the snow melt proceeding slowly. On the way to CBE yesterday Kate saw a cardboard sign, hand lettered, Slow: Fawns.

And, snow is in the forecast for this weekend. Yes, on the day of the summer solstice, weather5280 predicts snow that might hit us. Snow. The fire hazard signs are still on low, have been since March. Never this far into the summer. I’m grateful for the wet, for the dampening of wildfire probabilities. One less thing.

Patsy Cline

Day 5, fraction 5, of the 7000 cGy prescription. After today’s isotopic rain, only 30 to go. The weekends are off. Time for the body to rest, they say, though I imagine not running a seven day a week practice has something to do with it, too. Pandora so far: The Band, Baroque, Coltrane, Patsy Cline. Haven’t decided about today. Maybe Izzy.

No side effects so far. Early days for both the radiation and the Lupron. Feels like I have a job. Get in the car at a certain time each day, navigate four lane highways to Lone Tree. Same exit, same turns. Same office. But in this case I don’t have a job, I am the job.

The Beano seems to work, suppressing the gas which screws up the Cyber Knife’s navigation of the volume created by Dr. Gilroy. The Miralax helps as well. The calcium/d3 pills are horse pills, almost as long as a finger joint.

Mussar Vaad Practice group, MVP, last night. Rich Levine led a wonderful session on simplicity. Kate and I went for the second time in a row. Still wears us out. Finished at 9:30 pm, way past both our bed times. Here’s an interesting statistic, of the 10 of us in the MVP group, two of us have active cancer right now and one is in remission from breast cancer. 30%.

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.

Look Who Came to our House

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

When I first came to Shadow Mountain, on Samhain of 2014, I went out back to look around. In the backyard were 3 mule deer bucks. We looked at each other for a long time, seeing each other. We didn’t get too close, but we didn’t move away either.

It felt at the time, and feels now, that the mountains had sent spirit animals to greet me, to say it was ok if I chose to live among them. 3, that mystical number.

On this, the first day of my radiation therapy, the mountains sent another messenger, a large elk buck with one large antler covered in velvet and the other side empty. He is damaged, like me. Yet he’s eating dandelions, proceeding with his life. Not handicapped, just different.

The mountain has assured me that, like this buck, I will be different, too. No prostate. Radiated and testosterone suppressed. Just different. I belong here, the mountain says, and I agree.

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.