Some Random Thoughts….

It is sickening to watch tragic events being politicized- these are humanitarian issues and know no politics.

The mass shooters are no different from the food lickers- guns and food are not the problem. The problems started long ago. There is underlying callous disregard for others which, I my humble opinion, is a result of the breakdown of our moral fabric at a most fundamental level- in the home, in our schools and in the media.

Why?

Where did it start?

Some of it is the result of unintended consequences (every kid needs a cell phone for safety reasons, right?) some of it is the breakdown of our sense of community.

It starts at home and at school in the environments where we raise our children. The media and entertainment industries are major contributors. Our kids are slowly desensitized to the graphic and sensational violence which dominates the news and the entertainment industries. It’s OK to shoot a bunch of people or blow them up because all you have to do is hit reset and the world returns to normal.

We’ve changed our parenting styles and habits. Good intentions- disastrous results. Only now are we learning the dangers of “screen time” and the far-reaching impact of social media. We took bullying off the playground and gave it a 24/7 forum in our children’s lives. There is a reason the leaders in the technology industry limit their children’s screen time and access to electronics.

We’ve taken discipline out of our schools and created a culture of disrespect. Listen to the lyrics in popular music.

We’ve erased references to God from our public places- references which might stimulate a discussion with a young mind. We may not share a common vision of God, but most cultures recognize something greater than the individual.

Who wants to hurt someone they don’t know? I’m sure the psychologists can answer better than I but it seems to me that these individuals feel isolated and powerless- invisible to the world.

We are so focused on trying to not to offend anyone that we are endangering everyone.

Update 6.14.19

First, I want to acknowledge and say “Thank You” for all of the kind messages and thoughts- public and private- I simply can’t express how life affirming and sustaining they are.

I have to call a few of you out…

Laila, one of my NYC treatment buddies (actually the wife and supporter of my friend Sam), checks on me most every day. To paraphrase one of her last messages, she told me to get off my behind and start writing- even if it isn’t perfect (read “any good”).

Lisa, my therapist and an active runner, suggested I get off my behind and start moving, no matter how far or fast or how much- just get going and get out of my head.

Stuart, my close friend and a competitive Cross-Fit athlete, sent a copy of the well-known poem:

Invictus

-William Ernest Henley – 1849-1903

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The poem suggests too much credit for my efforts, but the message is consistent with the others- time to let go of my fears and apathy, get up and take control of what I am able.

I may not determine my fate, but I will captain my journey.

 

Where I’ve been…

For me to write, my emotions must be stirred to a high level. Love, laughter and feelings that evoke tears motivate me. Lately, I have been mired in apathy, anger and maybe depression. Not sure what depression looks like in me but not leaving the house, sleeping all the time and isolating myself from my friends certainly isn’t the healthiest approach.

My fear of this type of chemo (IV- taxane based therapy) and its side effects have come to fruition, perhaps of my own making, but the physical and mental toll is real. My memory, critical thinking ability and attention span are decimated for all but a few days of each 21-day cycle.

I’ve been whining and it’s time to stop.

I’ve lost friends to this disease and encountered many people fighting this disease and, to a person, they endure more than me by miles and miles. I admire our service men and women who have fought back from horrific injuries to reclaim control of their fate- I am grateful for their service, inspiration and example.

To underscore my point, I have a friend who has been fighting bravely for many years in surgery this morning who took time to message me encouragement from pre-op early this morning.

My dear, my prayers are with you! You have certainly been a role model for me.

 

Where I am….

I am currently undergoing an established taxane based (Docetaxel/Taxotere) intravenous chemotherapy designed to extend my life. Initially the plan was for 6 treatment cycles spaced 21 days apart. We have a tentative modified plan to extend it to 10 cycles.

As I have stated before, no two cancers are alike- so my treatment plan and results are unique to me.

My marker/progress indicator is my PSA (a simple blood test). The initial goal of this chemo was to knock it down by at least 50%. I exceeded the goal with my first two treatments. The third treatment yielded a very minor reduction and I am waiting on test results from yesterday (4th treatment).

 

Where I’m going…..

I have discussed and agreed with my Oncologist that if my PSA has plateaued, I will complete the 6 cycles as originally planned and decline to extend to 10 cycles. If my PSA is significantly lower, I will find the strength and courage to extend to 10 cycles. To extend with no apparent benefit has too much negative impact on my quality of life.

Fortunately, I am not out of options for disease management or out of the game for some of the emerging immunotherapies which are showing promise for metastatic prostate cancers which have shown resistance to standard protocols.

I’m ready to be done with this treatment phase, see my friends again, and plan my next adventures.

Liz and the lessons you left us…

Yesterday I lost a personal role model and inspiration to a rare cancer diagnosed about 5 years ago. A young man lost his mother, a mother lost a daughter and a wide circle of people lost a dear friend. Despite the overwhelming sadness, it is important to know she set an ambitious goal to see her son graduate high school. Her prognosis was very poor, yet she surpassed her goal by leaps and bounds in terms of her disease. Not only did she attend graduation but lived to help him settle into freshman year at college.

How?

Thru goal setting and a fierce, sheer will to succeed.

To succeed, and she did succeed, she endured 18 different chemo therapies, a 12-hour surgery, an 8-hour surgery, a third surgery as well as numerous other medical procedures, all with prolonged recovery periods and a smile on her face for all to see- there isn’t a single picture without her big smile.

In my heart and mind, I continue to be awed by her attitude, strength and determination.

Despite the sadness, her closest friends understand how difficult and trying her efforts. Liz will be sorely missed but live on as an example for everyone who crossed her path including her surgeons, medical providers, caregivers and friends.

Her ordeal confirmed a few truisms; we never really walk alone; life isn’t fair, and you play the cards you are dealt the best you can. Most importantly, setting goals is imperative and hope and faith are paramount.

The world lost an exceptional woman and, as the grieving process continues, her precious gifts will inspire me and everyone whose life she touched.

Liz, it may not feel like it to all of us now, but you won- you earned your freedom from this earthly suffering with grace and dignity, rest in peace. Thank you for showing us the way to live in the face of adversity.

Medical Update 3.31.19

I returned from Italy on 3/10, flew to NYC on 3/11 for tests and meeting with my oncologist and a nuclear medicine doc to begin radium therapy.

Unfortunately, the scans showed aggressive growth and, after consulting with the oncology group, I accepted the recommendation to start standard chemo.

I had my first treatment on March 21st. Unfortunately, my white blood cell count plummeted and I am stuck in the hospital for a few days.

Thanks for the calls, texts and messages- I just don’t have the energy to answer everyone.

Hopefully I am out of here soon!

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

-Robert Frost

 

I discovered The Road Not Taken as a child, it resonated then as it does now, albeit differently. Young, cocky and bulletproof has yielded to reflection and gratitude for the opportunities afforded me. While I have regrets and doubts, I have never chosen to live a life of regret and doubt and I am not about to start. Regret and doubt are a waste of time and energy- time and energy which becomes more precious every day, time and energy I can ill afford to squander.

Did my choices lead me down a more challenging path?

Maybe.

The paths we choose are written in the lines on our faces. If my foibles help guide others in their decisions, I’m good with it.

Have I had it easier than some?

Definitely.

I can’t claim to have been disadvantaged in any way but I’m proud of what I have worked to accomplish. I’m not rich or famous but I have made tremendous positive impact on a lot of lives.

Do I wish my life had been different?

Nope.

Material things don’t interest me, experiences captivate me. Pleasant or unpleasant every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow as a person.

Can I make better choices moving forward?

Yep.

I pay close attention to the impact of my actions, on how I greet people and who I spend my time with. I have a passion to see people thrive- especially young people.

Can I win this fight?

I hope so.

I pray for a miracle every night and not just for me, for everyone who is part of my life- past, present and future. All of us have challenges that others know nothing about.

What happens if I lose?

I will be at peace knowing I gave my best effort and took advantage of every opportunity along the journey.

I am sitting in a beautiful villa perched high on a mountainside overlooking Lake Como this morning- the view is stunning, and I can’t help but smile and be thankful for this time with my son and close friends.

If you read my blog, you have seen the public comments. You have not seen the host of private messages I receive every day. People are amazing and their stories unique. If I can make a wish, it is that these amazing, wonderful, courageous people will speak and share more publicly- your words are inspiring and your point of view important. You can make us all better.

If you ask, you will be surprised what you receive- I am constantly surprised and awed and thankful.

 

Medical Update 1.25.19

My medications appear to have stopped working and there is some tumor growth in my bones and lymph nodes. The good news is the growth does not appear to be very aggressive.

My docs are trying to find a way to biopsy a tumor to check for mutations that might offer more treatment options, I will know more next week.

I am being offered a clinical trial that is a combination of therapies and I will consider it over the next month.

Despite how this sounds, I was encouraged based on how I have felt lately. I’m ready for the chemo fog to lift and my energy levels to rise.

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!

Life, Cancer and God

I expect to pass through this world but once.

Any good therefore that I do, or any kindness that I can show

to any fellow creature, let me do it now.

Let me not defer or neglect it,

for I shall not pass this way again.

-Stephen Grellet

 

When I left New York to cross the Atlantic by ship on January 3rd, I was both excited and ill at ease.

I’ve been absent for a bit, my peace disturbed, and I have struggled to understand why. I’m working on finding my center and I will finish what I started but I needed time to sort things out.

Sitting on a ship in the middle of the North Atlantic is peaceful and inspiring, yet you can’t help but feel a sense of how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of this world. The forces of nature are beautiful, terrifying and more powerful than anything man has created.

I was struggling on two fronts; questioning my faith in people and my faith in God. Not long ago two significant and seemingly unrelated events occurred. The first involved allowing a toxic person back in my life and the second involved a simple act of kindness; a gift. Both events were show-stoppers, awakenings of significance.

In the first case with respect to my faith in people, I am reminded that despite my best efforts and intentions, I can fail spectacularly.

For a long time, my ego wouldn’t allow me to acknowledge it. Realizing I can fail despite my best efforts and commitment is a humbling lesson. Loving someone cannot make them love you nor can it change their behavior. More importantly, I realize continuing to love someone who is incapable of returning the affection, is not a continuing failure on my part, it is my choice. For the time being, I’ve made my peace with it and accept the consequences of my choices.

All of which brings me to the more significant event which occurred one evening not long ago.

After a nice dinner with friends, in the restaurant parking lot, a friend casually reached into his car and handed me a copy of When God Meets Cancer by Lynn Eib. I was immediately intrigued by the title since God and Cancer are rarely mentioned together in a positive discussion. Usually it involves an old tired argument concerning the existence of God which, in oversimplified terms, postulates that cancer in children (or the innocents) is proof that God doesn’t exist (or worse, God is not a kind and loving God but rather a vengeful God). Having spent many hours in a cancer hospital observing children from the ages of 2 to 20, I have a very different belief and experience. I’ve watched a two-year-old sit peacefully in his father’s lap for over two hours, never squirming or tugging at the tubes dangling from his tiny body. I witnessed a sixteen-year-old girl who had lost her hair and was all skin and bones make the rounds in the waiting room encouraging other children and adults with kind words and offers of assistance. There is a peace and sense of trust in every child I encounter- God is most certainly present in their lives.

Lynn Eib’s book sat untouched on my coffee table for weeks. My head trash told me I was going to read some good old-fashioned admonishments about committing my life to Christ in order to be “saved”. Since I am not overtly religious in any traditional since, I was put off by the title- maybe even scared that I would discover a fundamental flaw in my belief system and in my plans and intentions for how I want to live the rest of my life. As usual, I was wrong; dead wrong.

Lynn Eib is a recognized Christian author, married to a pastor, and has a commanding knowledge of the bible. She is also a cancer survivor and works in an oncology practice and is charged with spiritual counseling of the patients in the practice. She also runs a prayer group in her spare time. Lynn can quote scripture verbatim while I struggle to remember a single verse in its entirety. In the end, I discovered that we are of like mind and despite my ignorance of bible verses, we a share a common belief that, with the proper attitude and perseverance, cancer can never defeat you.

Whether you live or die, is not the measure of success- how you choose to live is.

A win could be as simple as reconciling with an estranged family member or telling your child that you love them and having them understand or learning that your friends are going to welcome a new life into the world.

I found myself nodding in agreement as Lynn summarized what she believes is necessary to battle cancer and win. There are three critical elements: the heart, the mind and the soul. The heart needs the proper attitude which she calls acceptance; defined as dealing with life with reasonable expectations. The mind requires peace- the negative loops need to be broken and trashed, not recycled. The soul needs hope- hope in the face of whatever circumstance you find yourself. Having hope does not mean you have unrealistic expectations, it means you have faith in something greater than yourself. Hope sustains the soul above all else and offers light in the darkest of times.

Lynn’s book is inspiring. She cites multiple examples of people who beat the odds and survived well beyond expectations or found joy or peace at the end of a troubling life. She does not “preach”, nor does she hide her faith and beliefs- one of which is that everyone facing cancer (or any serious illness) needs to be part of a “congregation” or prayer group. She is an absolute believer in the power of prayer.

At first glance, I came up short on having a congregation and a prayer group. I am woefully ignorant of scripture, I do not attend church and I am not a member of any “congregation”, much less an organized prayer group. I do believe in a powerful and loving God and I try to follow the basic principles espoused in the bible and I am firm believer in the power of prayer.

I am sure there are enough billable hours in this single issue for Lisa to acquire a new beach house, but when I finished Lynn’s book, I realized I have been living my life in the manner she advocates despite my ignorance of scripture and inability to apply it directly in my challenges. The reality is I am constantly reminded I do have a congregation of people who pray for me. I had to open my eyes and my heart to see that we do, in fact, reap what we sow, and I am very grateful for all of the support I have been given.

As you may have noted, I tend to deflect. I struggle to accept anything from anyone. I find more satisfaction in giving than in receiving. I will suffer before I allow anyone or anything to suffer. It is in my DNA. What I have come to understand, with the help of Lisa, is no matter how selfless this may appear, it is actually selfish. There is a time and a place for allowing people to care about you and for you- the decision isn’t mine to make and never was. Just like the little boy sitting in his father’s lap, I am surrounded by family and friends who love me- this is where my peace is. The most disturbing part of this circle is that I allowed one person to disrupt the most important and supportive relationships in my life.

I came to the end of my voyage with a better appreciation for the way God works in our lives and more confidence in the daily choices I make in how I live my life and spend my time and efforts. I made a mistake and it cost me my peace for a while but I’m ready to get back on the horse and ride.

Thad

I need to pause this morning and honor my friend, Thad, who is approaching the end of his fight with the disease we share. Thad has some of the best doctors in the world working on his behalf and has made every effort in medical and personal terms to fight his disease. The doctors understand the toll cancer takes on our bodies in clinical terms. Unfortunately, unless they are cancer survivors, they cannot possibly understand the toll cancer takes on our hearts, souls and thoughts. This is the battle we must win in order to find our peace. This is the fight Thad has won.

Thad and I “met” about 2 years ago thru a mutual business associate and friend. We have never visited face to face, we share no social connection, we share a common enemy which forged our friendship. Our conversations are deep and the topics intimate. Cancer has a way of stripping away the bullshit and allowing our essential essence and naked truths to surface. I always admire his candor and attitude when we share our hopes, fears and experiences.

Last evening on FB, I shared a youtube video created by Thad’s church to share his message for all of us. Aside from advocating for his church, there are several powerful messages in the video. He speaks of faith, hope and love, and how they define God for him. Thad plainly tells us how he found the peace, strength and courage to sustain his hope and belief in something more powerful than himself. Not only does he speak it, he shows it. Cancer treatment is mentally exhausting and physically demanding. When you watch an ostensibly healthy-looking man, whose words tell a different story, sharing his message of strength, faith, love and hope, sit up and take notice- you are witnessing an act of selflessness and a show of courage and strength summoned from a much higher power.

When Thad speaks about how he found his peace, I am reminded of the lyrics from a Foreigner song:

I Want to Know What Love Is

I gotta take a little time, a little time to think things over
I better read between the lines, in case I need it when I’m older

Now this mountain I must climb, feels like the world upon my shoulders
Through the clouds I see love shine, it keeps me warm as life grows colder

In my life there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far, to change this lonely life

I want to know what love is, I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is, I know you can show me

I’m gonna take a little time, a little time to look around me
I’ve got nowhere left to hide, it looks like love has finally found me…

Godspeed my friend.

Whence I Came

We are all products of our environment. Our parents have everything to do with who we are or aren’t. One day you realize parents are just regular people who procreated- they don’t have any special training. In the parent lottery, some of us are luckier than others and I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

I was born to a renaissance man who married a pragmatist. At various times my father was a tree farmer, bee keeper, sculptor, painter, artist, gardener, builder and linguist (at least he thought so). My mother was far more practical and for her, family was everything. Her motivations and actions were focused on family. My parents had their hands full with four boys and our posses.

The place I called home was a big house. Zillow describes it as 12,250 sq. ft. on two floors with ten fireplaces and a pool. They don’t include the third floor or the basement which at various times served as playrooms, darkrooms and ad hoc studios for band practice. In the big hair days of super loud rock and roll, I am certain the neighbors appreciated the bad covers of the Billboard Top Forty. I can state for a fact that you can fit a thousand kids in the house for an impromptu party when the parents are out of town.

For all the boys and our friends, it was just home- nothing special. Only as adults raising our own families, have we come to appreciate how special our childhood home was. We bitched about mowing the lawn, raking leaves and vacuuming the pool, never stopping to think we had a regulation football field for a front lawn, a tennis/basketball court in the back and a pool to cool off in or parents who gave a shit about where we were, what we were doing and where our lives would take us. My Dad encouraged us to pursue our interests, to travel, to color outside the lines and my Mom was there to make sure we didn’t stray off the page.

On any given summer weekend day, you would find a gaggle of kids in and around the pool while my Mom worked her ass off to make sure everyone was fed. Regularly, my parent’s friends joined in the fray and, as children and young adults, we learned to navigate the social sea we would one day be set adrift in. My mother demanded proper etiquette and good manners. Both of my parents demanded tolerance and inclusion. Their friends were our role models and mentors, we were fortunate indeed.

On any given summer night, you would find a gaggle of naked kids in the pool. It was a right of passage to skinny dip in the Poindexter’s pool. My parent’s bedroom was at the opposite end of the house and they generally stayed put as long as the noise level was acceptable. To my knowledge, none of us were ever busted but I have to believe my parents practiced “see no evil” because they would announce their presence well before cutting on the flood lights. Of course, there were mishaps like the time one of the girls re-dressed wet in her new green dress and left a perfect bright green ass-print on my mother’s new white custom sofa. Being the creative and punishment averse children we were, we flipped the sofa cushion and it was months before the ass-print revealed itself.

My Dad’s interests aside, he made his living as an orthodontist. He began his career as a dentist but returned to school ten years later to become an orthodontist. I now understand that his career choice dovetailed with his artistic interests and passion to help others because he could change a young person’s appearance and influence their self-esteem and confidence. He treated a number of indigent patients pro bono because he knew he could change lives. My Dad was definitely more right brained than left, but he was intellectually capable of excelling in all things academic. Practical daily life could be problematic and his problem solving was entertaining to say the least. If anything could be repaired with the tools of his trade (cement and orthodontic wire), it was. If not, duct tape and some type of adhesive would suffice. My Dad believed in education because his Dad believed in education. My Grandfather was the only one of seven children to leave the farm and go to college. He educated his own children and all of his sibling’s children. It was clear to me early on that I was expected to get an education and to excel while doing so.

My Mom is a different story and one that I have taken care and time to reflect on to do her memory justice. We were not close like some of my brothers were. I was the oldest child and my Mom put great demands on me. Our disconnect was that my Mom was not direct, she was a manipulator. If she wanted or expected something, she never asked directly, she would find an indirect, and often guilt laden, way to deliver the message. My Mom was determined that I would follow in my Dad’s academic footsteps which was daunting since he was National Honor Society in high school and graduated pre-med from Duke University and University of Pennsylvania Dental school Magna Cum Laude. I remember playing with his Phi Beta Kappa key as a child. All in all, I managed the National Honor Society but graduated Davidson College as “Didn’t Flunk Outta”. School, in general, did not interest me but fortunately it came easy enough for me to earn a college degree.

My earliest memory of my disconnect with my Mom came on the first day of school heading into the fourth grade. I should have sensed something was afoot when she told me she was driving me to school (we walked ten miles each way uphill in the snow for our entire elementary school career). On the way, she told me that I had been selected for the “Accelerated Class”. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I sensed I was being carved out of the herd. Turns out, she had decided for me that I would be a nerd for the rest of my elementary school career. Everyone else rotated classmates each year but not us, we were together for all three years. My classmates were and are great people, but kids want to be accepted not ostracized and we were definitely the nerd class to our peers. I was incensed that my Mom had made the decision without discussing it and sprung it on me at the last minute. I expressed my displeasure after walking home from school and was informed that my parents had tested my IQ. I asked what it was and the answer was “we know what you are capable of”. I still have no idea what my IQ is, but it must be over 70. The pattern would repeat itself throughout my life. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my Mom and I now have a perspective on how her childhood made her who she was.

Medical Update 11.2.18

For everyone who has asked how I’m doing, I just want to say my girl friend’s (not girlfriend) dog thinks I’m awesome! The kitten isn’t sure yet…

The doc says my tumors are stable and no new ones looming on the horizon and he was smiling this time!

The plan is to keep doing what I’m doing.

Thanks for the positive thoughts and prayers- you guys are awesome!