What Can Trump Do?

A friend asked me a difficult question.  A question I initially answered badly.  The question was, “What can Trump do to change your mind about him?”  I immediately answered “nothing!”  It was, I think, a bad way to answer the question.  Trump, as a person, can do nothing to change my mind about him.  I believe him to be an incorrigible narcissist with very serious mental stability issues bordering on psychosis.  That impression won’t change.  That being said, there are things Trump can do to mitigate my misgivings about his ability to govern.

It should be obvious that being president and governance doesn’t involve just “one thing.” Being the leader of our country and indeed, the leader of the entire free world requires that person to have a grasp of American and global social and economic issues, a firm understanding of America’s place in the world, a reasonable familiarity with foreign and global political issues and an ability to adapt to a rapidly changing global landscape.  In addition to all of that, our leader has to bring to the job with him or her viable solutions to the problems we face here at home and issues we must confront abroad.  Finally, as president, our leader must understand that he or she is the president of the entire country which includes those who did not vote for them.  In turn that means that their solutions, proposals and orders must be for the good of and benefit of their supporters, yes, but even his or her political adversaries.

So, what can Trump do to change my mind and ease my fears about his reckless behavior?  As a matter of fact, I do have a list.  Before I address this list, I must say that I am beyond skeptical of his ability or willingness to address even one of the several requirements I have.  That being said, however, I will have no trouble publically reversing my resistance to his presidency if by some miracle he should satisfy all of the requirements on my list.  I use the word “requirements” because they represent significant changes in behavior and policy and most (not all) are non-negotiable.

The List:

  • The president should Stop Lying! His latest lie was that his inauguration was attended by record setting crowds.  (“record setting” equaling “yuge” crowds) If he hadn’t brought up the subject only his most petty and bitter contrarian opponents would have even mentioned it.  Instead, he sends his press secretary to “set the record straight!”  Obama isn’t the “founder” of ISIS, Ted Cruz’s father didn’t conspire to kill Kennedy and the crowds at his inauguration weren’t “record setting!”  Stop Lying!
  • The president should understand that Twitter ISN’T a tool of statecraft. He should stop “tweeting” every time some congressperson or senator says or does something that displeases him.  Twitter is a social media device not a United Nations platform or political sounding board.  It is not possible to convey a message of ANY complexity in 140 characters.
  • The president must release his taxes. Until he does release his taxes, his political opponents, who include me, will always believe that he has something to hide.
  • The president MUST put ALL of his assets and business holdings into a true blind trust. This will also require the president to relinquish his position as executive producer of “The Apprentice.”  This just isn’t debatable.  Until the president does this, I and millions of others will be calling for his impeachment.
  • The president must withdraw or replace the nominations of the following cabinet members:

Rex Tillerson Secretary of State
Andrew Puzder Secretary of Labor
Scott Pruitt Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Ben Carson Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Steven Mnuchin Treasury Secretary
Tom Price Health and Human Services Secretary
Betsy DeVos Education Secretary
Jeff Sessions Attorney General
Michael Flynn National Security Adviser
Steve Bannon Senior Counselor to the President

The nomination of Goldman Sachs executives, Exxon executives, congressional leaders with questionable ethics, a variety of high dollar campaign contributors and public figures who have formerly lobbied and fought against the very offices they’re nominated to and the millionaires and billionaires so far nominated calls into question whether or not the president has any regard for the average American citizen.  These people don’t represent the American people; they are the very definition of “elitests.”

  • The president should end his war with main stream media. The free press is one of the reasons he became president in the first place.  In such a dispute and by trying to muzzle and isolate the press there can be no good outcome.
  • If the president has nothing to hide regarding his relationship with Russia and specifically Vladimir Putin, he must insist on a completely independent investigation. The stain of possible interference and influence by a foreign power only serves to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the person holding the highest office in our land.

So there it is.  If Trump stops lying, stops tweeting, releases his taxes, puts his business holdings in a blind trust, withdraws a few (10 actually) nominations, stops fighting with the press and allows an investigation into the Russian connection I will cease to be member of the resistance movement and I will publicly recant my criticisms of him on those seven issues.  Now, what do you suppose are the chances that will happen?

Have I forgotten that our president is surely a racist and misogynist? No.  I didn’t say I would support him.  That will never happen.  I just won’t be so publicly critical.  I’ll go on with my life and build something nice in my woodshop and when the next election cycles in I’ll do everything in my power to elect a real American public servant, not an American tyrant.

Henny Penny’s Political Beginnings (working title)

Henny Penny was a Delaware Blue Hen, not one of those overstuffed Rhode Island Reds whose conservative politics were starting to get the whole barnyard riled up.  Henny’s great great aunt was the original model for Rhode Island’s state bird.  Of course, that was after a very perilous “Most Beautiful Chicken” competition in which Henny’s Great Aunt Fora Penny thought she had lost because the Master of Ceremonies screwed the pooch and announced the wrong name of the real runner up which was a English Dorking floozie from across the pond.   The MC was, after all a civilized man and quickly and very publically corrected his mistake.  The rest is history and for Henny history was one of her most favorite subjects.  Henny was into all of that ancestry stuff and had spent a considerable amount of her hard earned cash to dig up all of her relatives.  It turns out that Henny was related to many famous chickens and her relatives weren’t just your average everyday run of the mill Delaware Blue Hens.  No sir!

The race for the new barnyard mayor was really starting to heat up.  It was supposed to be between the Rhode Island Reds and the Delaware Blues, but like all political races the lines soon became blurred. Sultan the white cock was really starting to make headway with everyone.   The candidates were Henny the popular former secretary of the barnyard social club; Basil the St Bernard whose socialist tendencies were well known; The soft spoken black potbelly pig from the farm next door who never really worried about Muslim terrorists because….well, he was a pig after all.  There was Cramer the annoying black bird who no one knew where he came from.  It was rumored that he had stowed away on a cruise ship and escaped from Cuba.  There was, of course, farmer Jeb whose brother and father had both been mayor once and even though he owned the farm no one paid any particular attention to him.  And of course, there was Sultan the white cock.  Sultan liked to exaggerate almost everything.  He said he had a lot of money, but let’s face it, in the barnyard no one really cares.  He said that he’d make the barnyard great again, but no one could remember there being anything particularly wrong with the barnyard in the first place.  He also said that if he were mayor he’d build a giant wall around the entire barnyard to keep out the “undesirables” and make landscapers pay for it.  He was in favor of banning any new animals from coming into the barnyard until he got the whole “Barnyard Extremist” thing figured out.  Mostly though he was just saying anything he could to get to the top of the straw polls.

Henny’s Dilemma

So what if Henny Penny is actually right? What if the sky really IS falling?

What to do? What to do? After all, no one really knew how to measure the height of the sky.  Then there was that whole “metrics versus inches” debacle. It seemed that there was no clear answer, but Henny had noticed that the barn had become considerably warmer at night and decided that the sun (which is in the sky after all….duh!) had to be closer to the barn and that meant that the sky was slowly falling.  Henny had a keen head for deductive logic not to be confused for inductive logic which as any good politician can tell you means that you start with facts and insert any conclusion that serves your purpose.

Now that I think of it, Henny Penny must have been a Muslim carpet cleaner in a past life and would have made a great vice presidential candidate, but alas, Henny was never the actual ‘mayor’ of a barnyard.  On the other hand, Miss Sarah, noted wolf hunter and chicken manure expert was a great candidate so she quit her job as head egg collector half way through her term because she had a book signing tour coming up and she needed to review her copy of Dictionary for Dummies.

Back to the whole “sky is falling” issue. It could happen! Right? The problem is that no one knows what the sky looks like when it has officially “fallen,” so no one listened to Henny Penny. All of the barnyard animals convened a fine committee to study the issue, but couldn’t agree on the color of an actual fallen sky.  On the other hand, some people did listen to the “Boy who cried wolf” who was a close personal friend of Captain John McCorn who had patiently waited his turn to be king of the barnyard but everyone was afraid that instead of catching the big bad wolf, he would have blown up the barn and anyway he was too friendly with the hawk.

Thus, it turns out; Miss Sarah was the choice with more experience. (But only just) Besides, Henny had apparently, on more than one occasion, walked on the same planet with a fox and as a consequence, might be a closet barnyard terrorist. Which, as we all know, is bad juju in henhouse politics. Not to mention the fact that Miss Sarah was waaaaay taller than Henny Penny and, well, let’s face it, Henny Penny had never even been to a soccer game!

Then there was the issue of Henny’s birth certificate.  There was talk that she wasn’t actually born.  They say that she was hatched by a plot that involved a grassy knoll and a one armed man.  Who knew?  Not only that!  Henny had apparently been raised by geese on a horse ranch in far away New Jersey.

Captain John had whipped all the animals into a fine rage and petitioned the farmer to kill the wolf, but it turns out that the boy was lying. So now he’ll have to go home and just be the senator from Arizona which really upset poor Mother Goose because she was writing this really great story about a young girl with a red hooded jacket who also knew a thing or two about automatic weapons and had actually seen a picture of Moscow. (it turns out that the book was an unauthorized biography of Miss Sarah and was almost on the New York Times Bestseller list for almost a week).   Besides, the wolf who was as we all know a gray wolf, which is waaaaay worse than one of those white arctic wolves who’ll probably be on the endangered species list after Exxon finishes drilling holes all over the Great North……Oh, I don’t know. I am so confused. I don’t know if the sky is falling or if the wolf is in the henhouse or if Mother Goose ever ran for an elected office. This fairy tale is getting out of hand!
The moral of the story is:
Never count your chickens before they’re hatched
…..
Slow and steady wins the race
And
Your mother WAS right!  You really could put your eye out with that thing!

Ten Years After!

It’s been ten years. Ten, sometimes very long, years since I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I’ve outlived one oncologist’s most optimistic prediction. In fact, I’ve lived longer than just about any medical professional would have thought possible. The cancer that was once the center and sole focus of my life is no longer the center of my family’s universe or mine. Any trace of the disease is no longer detectable. I’ve thanked God often. Not daily, I must confess, but often. God doesn’t talk much, but I assume He’s heard me.

I don’t really know what I expected. I feel as though there should have been a parade or some wild celebration like a full page ad in the New York Times, “Dennis Has Survived Cancer! Join Him And Everyone He’s Ever Known For A Mega Party In Shea Stadium!” The reality is far from that. I can’t say that I’m disappointed (okay, maybe a little), because life just doesn’t work that way. Cancer has left me more than a little broken and destroyed any semblance of my family’s economic life. I should probably be bitter. After all, I’m a lot shorter than I once was. I can’t walk very far and I’m so broke (monetarily) that I can’t even afford to pay respect. Now that I think of it, I should definitely be bitter. I’m not bitter though. The fact is that life is what it has always been; a journey.

I’ve found myself on a quest to be relevant. I want to be useful again. I want my life to have meaning and purpose. I feel as though I’ve been lost at sea for 10 years and now that I’m rescued I want to pick up where I left off. The problem is that I can’t. I used to work 10 to 15 hours a day if I needed to. Now if I work 10 hours I need 24 hours of rest. I used to get up at 3 a.m., shower, dress and go. Now I get up at the crack of 7a.m. and sit for an hour or two until I know all my moving parts will actually move. This is definitely not how I imagined my recovery.

I’m not complaining even though it sounds that way. The truth is that I think a person has to take a good look at their own resources. You have to be honest about what you can and can’t do. Horse ranching, for example, is out. So is skydiving and panning for gold in Alaska. No big loss. They were never on my “bucket” list anyway
So what can I do? I’ve worked on staying active both mentally and as physically as my broken down 63 year old body will allow. I play golf as much as I can, because it’s the only physical activity where I can have any success and to be honest… I’m addicted. It is strange when you think about it. You hit a small white ball with a stick. Who knew?

While golf is fun, I’ve learned that I need more than that. I’ve been given my life back (mostly) and I really want to share what I’ve learned over the last ten years. I joined a Toastmasters group in my area and I’ve found my “voice!” It turns out that I’ve become a pretty good public speaker and coupled with whatever writing skills I have I would like to offer some small measure of hope and encouragement to Cancer survivors and their families. I can tell others that are surviving Cancer that there is a life after Cancer. I can tell them that there will come a time when whole weeks will pass without their having said the dreaded “C” word even once. I will say that one day they’ll wake up from a really bad dream and it will be time to get busy re-claiming their life. I will say that surviving Cancer is significant and life changing, but that it’s not the end, only the beginning. Finally, I will say that in my life I’ve found that the sweetest fruit always grows at the end of the branch and to get it, you have to go out on a limb!

The Hope Protocol

There are a few million things I want to know before I die. Really high on my list, “Is there life after death?” As you can plainly see, I’ve tried to confine my investigation to really useful information. There are, of course, more mundane questions. Lately, much of what I want to know is about “Life after Cancer!”

Recently, I was given the proverbial “Clean Bill of Health.” No cancer in my bone marrow. No cancer in my blood cells. No cancer! Damn! I was just getting used to the idea of living with an 800 pound gorilla in my living room and now nothing, dead air, silence. The life I had was pretty much obliterated by the disease and the life I’ve been living was centered around having and living with cancer. My doctor gave me the news a couple of weeks ago, “Complete Remission” and I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since. I now have two questions that have been buzzing around in my head like that last housefly of the summer. Annoying, but not annoying enough to go find the fly swatter.

First question: What do I do now? After all, I was perfectly happy with my monthly doctor visits. They were reassuring. “No change. Things look good. See you next month!” Hell, I even voted! Geez, you think you know a guy and the next thing you know he’s telling you to come back when you can’t stay quite so long; like maybe next year. “We’ll do lunch!” So you report back to your wife and kids that you no longer have cancer and all the kids want to know is” what’s for dinner?” Maybe we’ll get Chinese.

I figured that there would be a celebration. A parade maybe. Fireworks at least. But no! There’s just the quietly lurking, not-quite-sunk-in, happily uneasy notion that I don’t have cancer anymore. Naturally, I don’t trust it! “Are you sure? Do you have the right chart there Doc? Can’t be!” Just a minute ago I was in big trouble. Now nothing? It’s a crazy mixed up feeling and I can’t seem to escape the notion of how ironic and bizarre it is. After all, when I got cancer my response was “Are you sure? Do you have the right chart there Doc? Can’t be!” Now that I don’t have cancer I have the same response? I think I’m getting dizzy. Frankly, I’m a little confused about it and on alternate days I’m both thankfully happy and grumpy. On grumpy days I think to myself, “My back is broken in a bunch of places and my bones are filled with so much glue that sometimes I get the strangest urge to whinny. (Its an old glue factory joke) I have broken disks, bulging disks and my right hip gets finicky once in a while and just stops working. I’m five inches shorter than I used to be, I have no job and no money, but I’m CURED!” On my “thankfully happy” days I think about question #2.

How did I get here? I wasn’t supposed to survive. I had a less than 15% chance of making it at all. Now I’m cured? How?
I know I prayed constantly. There’s no way to make light of this. I asked God to save me and He did! I don’t preach nor do I go to church, but if you ask me, that’s the answer you’ll get. God saved me. I was very specific. I imagined the cancer to be a flame or a spark and I asked God to extinguish it. In my mind, I could see Him doing it.

Naturally, I had a great doctor who had a relationship with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. He and those at SCCA do God’s work. They found a way.

Finally, I had hope. It doesn’t seem like much really. I had hope. A small thing is hope, but I believed I would get better. I hoped I would get better. I did get better. I never gave up believing or hoping. I hoped for the best and came to expect it. I had hope.

I know now that hope is that small space between a dream and reality. It’s like the last breath of night just before dawn. It’s neither dark nor light. It is the Hope of a new day. That’s where we live, we cancer survivors. We live in the dim light just before dawn. We teeter on the edge of a dream that really could come true.

So, on good days I realize how fortunate I am. I thank God. I keep believing and I keep hoping. Better days are still to come and lately there are more of those than there are of the grumpy ones. Jim Valvano said “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up!” He was so right. Besides, let’s just face facts, Survivors Rock!

A Letter From Beyond The Grave

I’ll bet that you read the title and right away you were thinking, “Ghost story, cool!” In a way, this is about a ghost that never was, but the truth is not as exciting; I’m no ghost. That’s because…well…I’m not dead.

Like a lot of cancer patients, I was supposed to die. I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t die several times. At least one aunt had a very good wake dinner planned and now she’ll just have to put away her good dishes. A few other relatives may be disappointed, but then, we all have our crosses to bear. I think I’ve been that way most of my life. I like it that way. I never did do what I was “supposed” to do. This time though, I had help. A lot of help.

I think that it’s only logical to try to sort this out. After all, why me? It’s only recently that I received the good news from my doctor. No evidence of myeloma anywhere. No cancer, none, zilch, zero, nada…you’re cured. The odds against that happening (especially to me and especially as far along as the cancer had developed) are, well, really really long. I’ve asked God for the lottery. I mean as long as I’m on a hot streak. Know what I mean?

I believe in God. I believe He saved me. I believe He has something else in mind for me. Naturally, I don’t have a clue as to what that “something” is. God is funny that way. He gives you blessing after blessing, a miracle or two (or three), makes you really turn your view of yourself inside out and then…nothing. No sign, no angel in the mist, no epiphany, no sudden revelation, no phone, no email…nothing. I’m pretty sure He’s “sending,” but I’m equally sure I’m not “receiving.” Man, do I hate being stupid. By now, God (I’m sure) feels like Chris Rock in Rush Hour…”Do You Hear The Words That Are Coming Out Of My Mouth?” My answer is, “Eh, what?” Like I said, stupid. All I know is, God saved me.

How God saved me is another issue altogether. My doctor is as mystified as I am. I’m sure he’d like to know what he did right. I’m sure he’d like to know if what he did is all it takes. I’m sure he’s hoping that it wasn’t just another damnable miracle. Doctors, it turns out, have a “love/hate” relationship with miracles. Miracles are unexplainable. Miracles are very unscientific. Miracles are messy. Miracles, for scientists and doctors are a stiff pain in the tuccus (Yiddish, I think, for ‘back side’, ’butt’… you get the picture). On the other hand, miracles are great stuff. The doctor’s patient is cured. The doctor gets to witness the recovery of someone he’s grown to know. Someone he has a vested interest in. Someone he cares about. The question is though, who’s responsible for the cure? God or the doctor? Let’s face it, why is the doctor doing all that work if God is just going to step in at the last minute and save the patient? Maybe the doctor should just put an ad out on Craigslist and say, “Miracle needed, please dial….” After all, everybody reads Craigslist.

I think the truth is that God works through His children. My doctor and the doctors and nurses at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance have their own angels. They work against incredible odds and every now and then, they win one. That’s what keeps them going. I know for a fact, that’s what kept me going. I was depending on them to pull a rabbit out of their collective hats and they did! I think God guides their hands and their minds and their hearts. I also think that we patients can help the process.

First:
Advocate. If you don’t have one, get an advocate. Your wife, your husband, your son or daughter or your best friend. Whoever it is, get someone to be at your side and fight with you tooth and nail. The power of advocacy happens in many ways. The best way is by always making sure everyone is aware that You are the “decider.” The President’s silliness aside, you decide what comes next, what does and doesn’t happen to you and primarily how you want to be treated. The people at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (as I’m sure it is almost everywhere else) become overwhelmed with the devastation and deterioration that they see everyday. They become a little numb. Not jaded, just numb. It’s your job to help them get the feeling back in their fingers. How do you do that? First and foremost, never allow decisions to be made without your informed consent. Be aware of everything that’s about to happen to you. A simple way is, for example, when a technician or nurse draws blood from you, tell them your rating them on a scale of 1 to 10 (I never gave out tens even though, to be honest, there were a few). Make a lighthearted joke. “I’ll be rating you. I’m an expert on pain after all!” Simple little moments might make your care provider pay just a little more attention. It’s just a quick and innocuous reminder to whoever is listening that You’re there. Be your own advocate when you’re able and rely on those closest to you to be your advocate when you can’t help yourself.

Second:
Prayer. Your relationship with God is truly your lifeline. He can and will save you. I used to imagine that my cancer was an ember from a dying fire. I would ask God to step on that ember and crush it under his heel. Naturally, I imagined that God had sandals on…wouldn’t do to burn God’s feet. I prayed often and I prayed sincerely. I didn’t make promises that He and I both knew I probably wouldn’t live up to which is good because I don’t think I’d do too well in a monastery. I just asked for His help. I’m pretty sure I got it. I’m alive, after all.

Even for those who don’t believe in God you can think of prayer as a powerful tool of enlightened introspection. Pray to a power greater than yourself. Whatever and however that may suit your own view of the universe. I believe that visualizing your disease as a real thing that can be destroyed is also a powerful tool of self-help. (By the way, for you non-believers, I’d tell you that you’re going to Hell, but what’s the point? I know this for a fact, though…one of us is really going to be surprised!)

Third:
Survive. Modern medicine is a miracle happening right before our eyes. Everyday it seems some new treatment or new drug is being tested and used to cure cancers that once were incurable. Fight for every minute, every hour, every day. Never give up. You can do it, I know you can.

The bottom line is. My doctor (William Hammond, Md) saved my life. God helped him. I believe it. You want proof? Geez, I don’t think Macy’s will let me stand in their window without any clothes on. Besides, it’d be really ugly.

I Have Cancer Thanks, And You?

2004 was a hell of a year. The President was re-elected primarily because John Kerry was just too boring. We (American soldiers) found Saddam Hussein hiding in a rabbit hole. The rabbits were really pissed. Same sex marriages became legal in Massachusetts, which resulted in several former KKK members losing their minds. Evidence that Mars at one time had large bodies of water covering its surface was discovered when rovers took pictures of several office water coolers left abandoned and scattered across the landscape. There were, however, no signs of intelligent life. Mel Gibson produced the subtitled “Passion of Christ.” Apparently, Mr. Gibson wants a window seat when he’s called home. Janet Jackson exposed her breast during the half-time show of Super Bowl XXXVIII. For those of you who are Roman Numerically challenged, that’s 38. Kobe Bryant was charged with sexual assault, which evidently had nothing to do with his jump shot. Al Sharpton Jr. ran for president or Last Comic Standing, it was at times unclear. And I…oh yeah, I got cancer.

You know, cancer isn’t all that damned funny. I wouldn’t have believed it. It demands that you get serious. I wouldn’t have thought that was possible for me. Oh well, first time for everything. You’ll have to be tolerant with me. It’s my first Cancer.

I started to have back pain (a lot of back pain) in January of 2004. I was due to start a new job so I went to a chiropractor to see if he could help. Chiropractors are really the reincarnation of Old World executioners. They have that little table that has pressure sensitive sections that suddenly give way from underneath you and causes (the doctor claims) your spine to realign. As a patient, you get to play the role of tackling dummy and the doctor gets to pretend he’s Dick Butkus. For this we pay them. However, I decided that there was something inherently wrong with the idea of going to a doctor and feeling worse when I left than I did when I arrived. So I went to a physiotherapy group to get a few of those deep tissue massages and work out the pain in my lower back. Oddly, with the same result. I would hobble out and take an extra few minutes to get into the car and sit there wondering why I felt worse, not better. I’m a slow learner. Six sessions (a little over two weeks) and I came to the conclusion that something else was causing me to have pain. I decided to go to my general practitioner…. again. Nice guy, but he’s really a licensed drug pusher. His first name is Fred. Normally no one named “Fred” could be considered a drug pusher and have a connection to a Colombian drug cartel. Fred doesn’t either. He’s tied into the big drug manufacturing companies. Same difference. Actually, I think he’s a “Stepford” doctor. I keep looking for the lubrication ports but I haven’t seen them yet. The giveaway is the Birkenstock sandals. Definitely not right! No self-respecting drug pusher wears sandals.

Fred ordered an MRI. At this point I should educate you and tell you what M-R-I stands for. Does anyone really care? I didn’t think so. The MRI report said that the problem in my back was “highly suggestive of metastatic activity.” Fred never actually said the word “Cancer” but I knew and my wife (who accompanies me to doctor’s visits because I need a memory) knew. It was cancer. Tumors in my back. Dead giveaway.

Its odd. None of us ever think we’ll hear those words being said to us. You’re not talking to me. Not to ME! You have the right file there, don’t you Doc? I can’t have Cancer, I just got a new job. There could be a mistake, right? No? They’re always right? Damned MRI’s! What kind of cancer do I have, Doc? You don’t know? More tests.

I really didn’t know how to feel about it at first. Sometimes, I was scared. Steffie would give me a hug and there are tears and sometimes even she would cry. I don’t blame anything or anyone. I do admit to being morbidly jealous. Sometimes I think, “Look at that guy, fat, drinking and smoking. He doesn’t have cancer. What’s up with that?” For now, I have my wife and my kids. My wife is and continues to be the rock of my life. I thank God for her. My children are doing everything they can for me and must also be scared, but to their credit, they don’t show it. Tough kids. I’m very proud of them. So I’m ok. No not frigging fantastic. Just ok.

I have heard that many cancer patients say that after you get over the shock of, “Oh my God! I’ve got Cancer!” you settle down and go about trying to get well and the disease isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve got some news for those folks. Wrong answer!

How do you fight back? What the hell do you do? Some bug or abnormality in your blood is busy trying to break every bone in your back. I might mention, that really sucks. But hey, I’m still alive. I’m not going to let it get me down. I just don’t want anyone to have any illusions about Cancer. It scares hell out of me. So I’m trying to put all of the suckful things about Cancer into one big suckful bag and just shelve it until later. I’ll either have it in remission or I’ll be in a quite a bit of trouble.

It seemed appropriate that in the middle of all of the craziness that was happening in my life about the time I was diagnosed, our dog, an eight year old Carolina Dog (look it up, you’ll be surprised) had puppies. Her first ever litter. There were seven, but three were still born. That leaves four healthy, yowling little guinea pig rejects searching for the milk spigot and hollering like hell because they can’t find it with their eyes closed. Well, duh! They were cute as hell. We found them good homes. I couldn’t have dealt with a puppy then. One of us would have had to die and I already had a head start. One of the puppies, a gray and white, yowled and wined and barked and was generally as noisy as hell. She was always the last one to a spigot and she complained loudly. She reminded me of my first wife. We got rid of her first.

I may not have completely come to grips with this Cancer deal yet. I can’t believe anyone really does. I am not ready to meet my Maker. I’m not so sure I like Him these days. I pray every day. I ask for His blessing. Sometimes I know I get it. But if there is supposed to be some purpose for this, I don’t get it. Of course, throughout my life, I’ve never gotten it. I really need God to be more direct with His messages. Naturally, if this current dilemma is a message, I’m not reading it loud and clear. I do get the threat, but I don’t get the meaning. It would be a real bitch if there just wasn’t one. That would probably just piss me off. I mean, what’s Cancer good for if you survive it and you don’t like save the friggin’ free world or even help one person with Cancer or something noble. It can’t be that you just pick up the pieces of your life and move on. Hell, I didn’t need Cancer for that. I was trying to do that after nearly a year of unemployment. I got pieces. I got issues. I need answers, not dead air.

I didn’t dwell on the “Why Me?” question too much. There doesn’t seem to be much of a future in it. It’s like the origin of the universe. There always seems to be another damned question. Okay, there was a really big explosion. Who set it off? Why would they do such a thing? Were they mad? Weird science gone wrong? Questions! Thousands of questions. They never stop. They can kill you. One after the other. No answers, just an endless stream of questions. No wonder Einstein’s hair looked like that!

I’ve realized that it’s best to stay away from the subject. There are no answers, so why compound my misery? Hopefully, I’ve dealt with the “Why Me?” issue pretty successfully. After all, why me? There is no why. Very neat and tidy. No loose ends. But of course that’s really not the end of it. After all, when the “Why Me?” question is finally exhausted you’re left with…. Randomness. “Who’s turn is it to get cancer?” Mine apparently. Hey wait, are you sure it’s my turn? Why is it my turn? I didn’t take a number. I was just working. I don’t have time for this. Can’t it be someone else’s turn? Randomness. You’re just there. The cancer is just there. You get it. Shit! How can this be? Is God random? Oh man. Is that possible? What would that mean? Oh hell, more questions.

So the good news is that I’m not dead! But you know, I still can’t shake the idea that there should be some purpose to the trauma and drama that cancer injects into your life. Why put yourself and your family through this for no reason. This cancer stuff has left me thinking. If this is some sort of message or God’s will that I find a new way to ‘be’; I’m trying really hard to figure out what the message or life style or goal or whatever is supposed to be. I am only me. I can change, but change into what? I won’t suddenly become an evangelist or preacher (despite some of the things I write) but, if I am to refocus my life, what or how should I refocus and refocus on what? I don’t have a clue as to how I am supposed to emerge from this ordeal. Should I be changed. I can tell you that I will be. If only physically, but that has tempered my thinking already. I will never again be the man I once was. That ain’t easy. In fact, I still haven’t gotten over it. Hell, I may even be shorter now. Shit!

I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that I’ll just have to wait and see. I won’t know if there was a purpose for this illness. Maybe there won’t be a purpose. Maybe it’s all just dumb luck. Maybe God wants me to just do my best and stay connected. I have. I hope that will be enough.

The Road To Perdition

Having a life threatening disease like cancer can really put pressure on your faith.  Someone I’ve come to consider a friend got very angry with me when I suggested that he seek a second opinion on his terminal pancreatic cancer.  He had decided that quality of life was worth more than going through the terrible sickness that chemo-therapy produces.  His decision came after a great deal of soul searching and the almost certain knowledge that, at best, his chances of survival were very slim.  I get that.  What I didn’t get was his anger.  Let me rephrase that; I didn’t get why his anger was aimed at me.  It seems, in retrospect, that he felt I was the devil come to sweet talk him into more misery through false hope.  I get that too!  Naturally, I’m pretty sure I’m not on speaking terms with the devil.  I’ve checked…no emails, tweets or facebook posts.  To be sure I don’t have any of those from God either.  (I’ve heard he doesn’t “tweet”) But I have had what I consider pretty strong indirect messages.  First is, well, I’m alive.  I should be dead, but as of this writing I can confirm that any rumors to the contrary are not factual.  In fact, throughout my life I’ve had some “coincidences” that considering the odds against were pretty questionable as mere “coincidences.”  There’s really no point in retelling the stories about them, either you believe you’re the recipient of a blessing or not.  We each have to make up our own minds and go from there.   That all being said, the fact that the cancer I contracted in 2004 didn’t kill me is pretty miraculous.  According to my own doctor, I had a less than 15% chance of survival.  Think snowball in hell and you get the picture.  That my recovery was a miracle in its own right doesn’t belittle the efforts by my doctor, nurses and hospital staff who did everything in their power to pull my fat out of the fire.  They did, He did and I’m here.  That works for me.  Now for round two.

I have long ago decided that my fate was completely and utterly in God’s hands.  Whatever He had planned for me was what was going to happen and I’m Okay with that.  In fact, I’m better than just Okay.  I’m happy with that knowledge.  I’m perfectly comfortable letting God drive the bus.  As long as it’s not my wife driving I’m good.  Still, the idea of just giving up and not doing anything proactive about this illness is not how I’m made up.  There may come a time when all other options have been explored or tried and it becomes obvious that my “number” is about to be called.  I only hope I have the courage of my own convictions and willingly take that last most important “leap of faith.”

I’ve come to believe that there is a veil that separates this life from the next and the only way to pierce that veil is if God is holding my hand as we pass through.  My hope is that I’ll stay calm, take His hand and go.  Between then and now, however, there’s going to be a lot of fighting, struggling, pain and maybe some vodka.

Finally, unlike my friend, if you ever come to me with what you believe is a good idea.  If your intent is only in the interest of offering help and support I’ll never get mad at you.  I won’t think you’re the devil.  I may look at you funny (Einstein said, “The road to perdition has ever been accompanied by lip service to an ideal.” which if I interpret that correctly sounds a lot like the road to hell being paved with good intentions), but I won’t get angry.  I’ll say thank you.

What If Buddha Was Right?

I have been very close to dying several times.  I can tell you from experience that it’s not for the faint of heart.  For that reason, I’ve never understood people that believe they’re obviously going to heaven.  I just don’t understand them.  Take suicide bombers for example.  They’re told there’ll be 72 virgins waiting for them in heaven.  I have news for those guys.  Even if there are 72 virgins it’s not going to be anything like what they’ve been told.  First of all, after the first night the guy is going to have 72 women crying their eyes out because they lost their virginity to a dirt bag that strapped a bomb to his chest and killed a bunch of other women, children and old people.  Besides, just how many virgins are there in heaven?  There can’t be 72 virgins in the state of California.  Where is Heaven going to find 72 virgins? Craigslist?  Maybe Utah, but I’m thinking…Not!

Then there’s the whole martyrdom issue.  All martyrs go to heaven?  Maybe, but I’m just not confident that it’s that simple.  What if heaven isn’t what we all think it is?  What if heaven is just a giant waiting room and we’re all scheduled for another life so that we can perfect our less than perfect souls.  Geez! What if the Buddhists are right?  That would mean the suicide bombers are going to come back and have to figure out how to get their point across without blowing stuff up!  And if I have to do this whole cancer thing again I’m really going to be pissed.  What if all we do is wait for some mentally challenged teller to call our number.  “Now serving #529!”  What’s my number?  Oh wait this can’t be right I’m #2,673,421!  I don’t think my cell phone will stay charged that long.  What if we have to take a test?  I hate tests.

Who decides what life you get?  I know if I have a choice, I’m coming back as Bill Gates!  I’m tired of the “poor as a church mouse” routine.  I think I’d be a pretty swell rich guy.

Officially NOT Cancer Free!

Saw the doctor.  It’s official.  I have a mutated form of multiple myeloma.

There’s a bone marrow transplant in my future.  That’s assuming, of course that the Medicare and gap insurance will pay for it.  There’s the treatment regimen; shots to the stomach and high doses of steroids and other “cancer” medicine.  Again, assuming I can somehow manage to pay the $2000 per month co-pay.  I guess when you get right down to it; I just can’t afford to stay alive.

I’m not scared anymore the way I was when I got the disease the first time.  I thought for sure I was going to die.  It was the first time I had confronted the whole “mortality” issue.  Dying is just not on my bucket list.  The fact is that I’m mostly filled with dread.  After all, here we go again.

I really don’t quite know how I really feel about the fact that the Multiple Myeloma that I thought I had gotten out of my system has returned.  Once again, like the last time, when it returned it had to start breaking stuff.  This time, my shoulder.  On occasion the pain is “get down on your knees and beg for your mommy to make it stop.”  Mostly, it’s a persistent dull ache that just won’t go away.  The pain medication does help, but only enough to keep me from turning into a crazed serial killer and prevent me from burning down the neighbor’s house.  No, not my house.  Serial killers are crazy, not stupid.

The pain and the broken shoulder are just the physical manifestations of the disease that, once again, is trying to kill me.  The mental part is that it is really pissing me off.  My wife and I were just starting to have a “normal” life.  We’ve moved into a nearly new townhouse and she is happier than she’s been in a long time.  I feel like Al Pacino in the God Father when he said, “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.”  I would really like to punch something.

It’s lonesome out here on the edge of the cliff and it’s long way to the bottom.

So now you know what I know.  My dance card is filled every Friday from now until the end of time as we know it.  The steroids are going to turn me into the Goodyear blimp and I’m about to owe so much money to the health care system that my credit score is going to be a four figure negative number. In fact, if a potential creditor ever looks me up there won’t be a score; there’ll just be a note that says “Call the Police!”

The bottom line is be tolerant with me I may be a little grumpy for a while.