Not sure exactly what’s going on here. They mention Shugendo. It’s a fourteen hundred year old tradition that has esoteric Buddhism, Taoism, and Shinto roots. They refer to themselves as Yamabushi, those who prostrate themselves on the mountain.
It seems like they’re dedicated to reducing the distance between humans and mother earth. Or, perhaps better, creating awareness of that already existing intimacy, now obfuscated by so much.
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.
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.
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%.
Tomorrow is the Summer Solstice. The day of the sun’s maximum presence for the year. On the solstices the day/night balance shifts. On the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year (though if you check the time tables the difference between June 21st and July 21st is only 13 minutes), the night begins to encroach, slowly.
Whatever guides my soul prefers the dark days, the fallow time. I celebrate on this holiday not the victory of the light, but the coming dominance of the night. I do like the bright blue days here in Colorado, not saying I don’t. Just that my soul gains more richness, more depth as darkness grows. Probably one of the reasons I felt so much at home in Minnesota, at the 45th latitude, half-way to the Northpole.
As a gardener, of course, I relished the light for the vegetables and fruits, for the flowers that fed our bees. The summer solstice signals the growing warmth and long days that nourish all plant life. It was also the time, though, that bugs grew more troublesome, when the humid weather encouraged fungus and mold, viral infections in the plants.
In Sweden, Scotland, and other Gaelic and Scandinavian countries the auld religion still calls to its people. Bonfires. Nudity. Parties through the night. Feasts. I like the idea of them. If there were one close by, I might go.
My relationship with neo-paganism is as fraught as my relationship with Christianity. Judaism, too, at the doctrinal level. There’s so much intellectualizing, writing of ideas, logic. I’ve come to believe that elaborating our feelings toward the natural world in a Wiccan or Asatru way, a neo-pagan syncretic way, is as damaging to the soul as the dogmas and laws of other religions.
In the language of Taoism, the one lens which seems to consciously push away dogma, I would say it this way: The religion that is written and elaborated is not religion. Barriers between our soul and its path.
Emerson has influenced me here and he was, in turn, influenced by Taoism. If you’ve read me for any length of time, you’ll have read these words more than once:
“Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also.” Emerson’s Introduction to his essay, Nature.
It is this sensibility that I celebrate as each of the Great Wheel holidays roll round. The sensibility that helps us become native to the various places where we live. The sensibility that finds the soul’s interaction with the seasons enough. The sensibility that drags down, pulls away the words to look directly at this universe into which we are born. The sensibility that does not fight the turning of the wheel, but sees the seasons of our lives as one with the changing seasons. This is my understand of wu wei, conforming our life to what is, not what might be.
What I encourage is the sun on your face. Your hands in the soil. Your feet on a hiking path. Your ears alive to the buzzing of bees, the bugle of the elk, the bark of the dog, the words of your friends. What I encourage is living your life as it comes, knowing that it leads to death, yes, but that until death you are alive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.