An Old Friend

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Orion has returned. He’s visible just above the south-eastern horizon around 5 am. A friend since my time as a security guard for a cookware factory. On the midnight shift I worked alone and during the fall and winter months we became acquainted. He signals the season of inner work.

As the growing season yields its bounty, the plant world gets ready for the fallow season that will start on October 31st, Samain. The nights grow longer and cooler. On September 29th Michaelmas, the springtime of the soul. Perennials send food down to their corms, tubers, bulbs. Their leaves turn brown and die back to the ground. Annual flowers finish their summer long journey by spreading seed for the next year.

This is the Great Wheel and it repeats each year, spiraling out along earth’s orbit. Lived too, in lifetimes of birth, youth, maturity, and senescence. It is the way of the earth. For living things, the most ancientrail of all.

This is the lens through which I see my life, the one I use for comfort in difficult times, celebration, understanding.

Saw a movie yesterday, Midsommar. Its opening scene shows winter, spring, summer, and fall in a tableau. You may be aware of the naked dancing the Swedes (and others, too) enjoy at their midsommar bonfires. Well, this isn’t about that. It shows the dark side of a pagan worldview, how it can devolve into traditions every bit as dogmatic and frightening as any inquisitor. I loved this movie. Kate hated it.

Fans of Wicker Man will see Midsommar as an instant classic in the same vein. Kate said, “It made me glad I’m not Swedish.” Spoiler alert: the character named Christian does not fare well.

First Week No Glow

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Nuclear blast shadow, Hiroshima

First week with no radiation treatments since June 17th. Still seems odd to me that I started radiation for this most male of diseases the day after Father’s Day. And, even odder, that I ended in the week of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s anniversaries. Peaceful or deadly, the use of technology and science matters. A lot.

goal: bell pepper all the time. reality: poblano, jalapeno at times

And in other cancer treatment news. Why did the room get so hot last night? More than once? Not exactly hot flashes, more like hot surges. Still so new to me that I don’t tumble to them immediately. I just wonder why someone turned the heat up in the room. So far they’re in the evening for the most part. None at night and only a couple during the day. I’m taking Black Cohosh and if they get bad I’ll find an acupuncturist.

Yesterday we got a great beef stew, peach and strawberry cobbler, smoothies for breakfast, and salad from Judy Sherman. This is the last week of meals from CBE. Counting on Gilroy’s one week and you’re beginning to feel a lot better.

And, four to go

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

The Concert, Gerard van Honthorst

Finishing the fractions to renaissance music. It conjures up visions of castles, balls, courtly life. A world far removed from photons and linear accelerators. No CyberKnifes in the late middle ages. Just a lot of great art, city states. Kim, therapist Kim, says it reminds her she wants to go to the Renaissance Festival. That, too.

Thirty-first fraction yesterday, 4 to go. Gut problems reduced. Much less gas. Nicky measured my bladder. Each day I get a small amount of gel rubbed on my tummy, an ultrasound probe goes on the gel. Yesterday. “100.” Nicky said. That’s ml of urine, btw. 100 is the magic number. Anything above it and the treatment can go ahead. Unless gas. The things we do for a cure.

Michelle and David brought fish, salad, rice, vegetables, and lemon cake on Sunday. CBE folks. When SeoAh was here, we ran into Michelle at Walmart. This was January. Her husband, David, had a month old diagnosis of prostate cancer, with metastases. I told her about my experience in 2015.

Later, when my new diagnosis came, I talked to her at mussar. David and I got together for coffee at the Muddy Buck in Evergreen. As it happened, that was the Friday I saw Dr. Gilroy to discuss treatments. David mentioned Lupron to me in the morning; I had it prescribed for me in the afternoon. David, too, had radiation, though 20 sessions rather than 35.

The Muddy Buck, Evergreen

He’s had side effects from the Lupron. Memory loss, hot flashes at night. Since he had mets, they couldn’t do a radical prostatectomy. Too much chance that would spread the cancer rather than eliminate it. In his case they’re trying to suppress all the testosterone, so he’s getting a second medication that takes care of testosterone produced in places you don’t suspect, like the adrenal gland.

It was good to talk with him again. A mini support group. I’ve got lots of support, but David is the only one who also has prostate cancer.

The last week of treatment, one drive down, four to go.

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.

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.

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.