Posts Tagged With: cancer

Grenade… How quaint

You know, I just saw a quick cut of a movie called “The Faults in Our Stars” about a young girl with cancer and her life story. (I have avoided it like the plague as I don’t need any more emotional roller coaster rides from hell than I already have, thank-you-very-much)

She explains to someone that she is a “grenade”, and that, my friends is a pretty good descriptor. What she missed is, that she is a faulty grenade, as the pin is pulled the the timer?

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has a mind of its own

Anyone who has had the word “cancer” and their name used in the same sentence understands exactly what I mean. When someone does that to you, suddenly you become a grenade. A faulty one. You may go off, you may not. The pin may get reset, or you may stand there for years, staring at that fucking pin and that damn grenade and wonder, “Exactly when are you going to explode”?

Then the clock starts. You don’t know how much time you  have. Nor does anyone else. But a lot of them step away from you pretty quick or hide behind life avoiding the blast if they can. At least limit the damage they will experience. Tick tick tick.. fucking life’s clock just keeps on going. In the meantime? You stand there staring at the pin trying to figure out exactly why it got pulled and whether or not you can put it back in.

Then the circus begins.. A true three ringed circus, clowns and all. The doctors that are looking at another grenade, working to slow the timer. Nurses poking and jabbing, they too, doing what they know how to do to slow the tick tick tick of that fucking grenade. Then you begin to wonder, what can I do? what can my spouse do? what can anyone do? and in the background of life you hear that god damned timer still ticking.

You research, study, learn things about health and life that you really wish you hadn’t. and not sure exactly what to believe as half the shit on the internet is someone trying to make a dime, and statistics are made up 73% of the time on the spot. The deeper you dig the more confusing it gets. You hope for something, anything to help silence that ticking sound that is scratching at your brain like a splinter in your hand that you can’t get out. It is maddening. And still you hold that fucking grenade and pin…

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Slowly, if you are that lucky, you realize a couple of things. While you are driving yourself mad trying to stop  that fucking ticking sound, you can forget the single most important thing that you should be doing…

Living

Each tick is a moment wasted if you aren’t doing what you truly love. Each tick is something you cannot get back. Time is a commodity that you cannot trade or earn, you get what you get. So for those of you out there reading this? If you think cancer patients are the only folks holding a grenade in their hand waiting for that horrific moment that it decides to go off?

They aren’t the only ones.. You might want to look in your hands and see that each of us have pulled that pin, and time, for all of us is winding down. Cancer patients may have a shorter run of it, they may not. After you read this, you might want to re-examine where you are and what you are doing. If you aren’t doing what you love to do and who you love to do it with?

You might wanna change that before that fricking grenade in your hands goes off.

crater

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Resilience

I read a post on the New York Times today, about a lady, Lisa Boncheck, who recently died from metastatic breast cancer. In the world of cancer, this is not unusual. In fact, in almost every case, when you are diagnosed with metastatic cancer of any kind, the diagnosis is almost always fatal. In fact here is the quote that I read years ago.

“The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that the five-year survival rate after diagnosis for stage 4 breast cancer patients is 22 percent.”

Other quotes are considerably less, and, as the years progress, the survival rate drops over time. It truly depends on a multitude of variables, and for some, just dumb luck seems to be the case. Each person picks their mode of therapy when first diagnosed with cancer, of any kind, and personally I do not believe there is a right or a wrong, only what works for that person.

Sometimes the patient gets lucky and they find a therapy that kills cancer outright. Others are not so fortunate. Still, others find therapies that function for a while, then, like a bad penny, the cancer re-appears and the patient is given options from everyone. I know we certainly were. And while everyone, including the health care folks, mean well, it is a very, very personal fight. I know, I have watched my mom fight lung cancer, my first wife Connie fight pancreatic cancer, and finally my high school sweetheart and my wife of almost 10 years fight breast cancer as well.

And being the “support guy” I could not, cannot tell you how crazy that battle is. I have watched each of those ladies fight the most personal war of their lives. Each trying to find a way to come to grips that this mortal conflict was both private as hell and as public as it can be. Everyone wants to know how you are doing. Privately each of these ladies could bare their emotions to me. At least to some degree, each holding back what they feared would topple my sanity. On the other hand I was also the sounding board for the fear that held them in a lover’s embrace. Fear of life, fear of death.

On one hand no one wishes to die, to throw off these mortal coils and see what happens next. On the other hand, to live in constant misery of chemotherapy and radiation, each a miserable wreck on the body, in the far reaching hope that somehow this might be the answer to a cure. That by some miracle, walking through this physical hell you might obtain the brass ring in the merry go round of life and get to stay for just a bit longer. And in all honesty?

That is one fuck of a long shot.

Then there are friends that try to help, and like me, find that there is a serious lack of words and honesty. You can’t allow the elephant in the room to grow any larger, but day by day, bit by bit, that elephant fills the room. Until it is much to late to even acknowledge it, and suddenly that elephant is gone, as well as the person that was hiding it.

The lady that wrote her blog and had a lot of followers was brutally honest and descriptive of her experience with breast cancer. I have read only bits and pieces of it, as I find it much too easy to let my mind revisit days of lying with Connie as her cancer marched on with the sounds of gestapo boot heels in the corridors of my mind. It is all too familiar to allow myself to re-visit, so to me, it is something to avoid. Her words and her actions were much the same for my ladies, painful, loving, and honest. An honesty that escaped my Connie.

My mom was beyond forthright, she tackled death with as much energy as she tackled life. When she realized that time was rapidly fading (and long before the movie “Bucket List” came out)

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She determined that she would take care of her “final arrangements” and was calling all the funeral homes in Albuquerque. She finally called one who explained to her that it would cost about nine hundred dollars to cremate her, then there was the container which would vary in cost from three hundred to several thousand. She popped off “Why can’t I just come out in whatever box I am in”? and the response from the curator was “That would hardly be appropriate”.

She laughed and told him, “I am gonna be dead, I could care less what I come out in”. “In fact, hell, you could take me out in a coffee can”. then she summarily hung up the phone and turned to my younger sister and told her “That’s it!” “You can put me in a Folgers Coffee can”.. “Just make it Gourmet Blend” and off she went.. laughing the entire way. And, what remains of her ashes are in a Gourmet Folgers coffee can to this day.

Mom and Halibut

 

My Connie did not have such  a sense of humor. Her defense was denial. While she went through chemotherapy (what little she could tolerate) she simply would not speak of the finality of her disease. The cancer she had was pancreatic, and it was easier to say where the cancer was not, than it was to say where the cancer was. They had missed the diagnosis for probably five years or better. By the time they found the cancer, it was everywhere.

The oncologists were truthful, Dr Stewart informed here there was little they could do. Connie insisted on trying. and after repeating that comment several times to the doctor, I finally pulled the oncologist off to the side and explained to her that while I knew there was little she could do, “by god she would get on board and do something, if nothing else to give Connie peace of mind”. When she saw the anger in my eyes and my clenched fist, she got on board.

One hundred and sixty three days, and my girl was gone. We did all that western medicine could do for both Connie and my mom, but the hard fought battles were lost. In both cases, I closed off those last days in a very tightly sealed corner of my brain, only to revisit them in times of sorrowful loss and woeful memory. Something I do not allow myself to experience any more than I absolutely have to.

Connie

Then in 2006 Lynda’s mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. and shortly after that? Lynda was diagnosed with stage 3a breast cancer. My absolute worst fears had just returned. Understand this, there is little, if anything that I truly fear in this world. The last man I ever feared was my Marine Drill Instructor and during that training, I learned that there was no longer any reason for that trepidation ever again. Until I was faced with a demon I could not wrap my hands around.

Cancer is that devil. No person in this world can hold that emotive response over me. I either lose or I win in combat, but there is no need to dread it. But when there is a disease that threatens the one thing that you hold most dear and you discover that you cannot grapple with the bastard? That is the feeling of someone walking over your grave, and you are aware of it. To sit back and be able to do nothing is the hardest single thing in your life you will ever do as a caregiver.

Yes, I can research, I can study, I can chase down all the potential therapies day and night. I can discuss those until the cows come home, but other than that? There is nothing to kill that enemy, no way I can plunge a knife into it, wrap my hands around its throat and choke the life out of it. I can do nothing but be there. It is a sense of foreboding that I do not wish on anyone.

I also determined that if that is all I can do? Then perform that duty as best I can. Be the support, be that rock that my wife can depend on.. at all times. I think that for those that have played this role? you will understand more than most. It was an honor to escort my mom and my first wife to their next lives. and an absolute nightmare as the person being left behind at the door to that life.

Lynda chose a different modality. She felt that chemo and radiation were a bad idea. We went through a boatload of cash, a few friends, and drove some of our family nuts. She stuck with the concept that something was out of balance, and once discovered and corrected, that her body would heal itself. My skepticism was tempered by the fact that most who had chosen standard western medicine were dead. So to quote Albert Einstein, “Insanity: to do the same thing over and over and expect different results” echoed in my head. So I shut my trap and got on board. I researched we researched. We had trials and tribulations we had success and failure. But at the end of the day?

Lynda is healthy and still by my side.

Colorado Mesas

Coming back around to the start of this post. Some choice news editors had unfriendly or misplaced words for the lady who has just passed. Those posts seem to have been taken down due to the lack of civility or perhaps crass nature, I am unsure. But to those that criticize the writers of this new epidemic, and yes, cancer truly is an epidemic, I say this. Before you lash out with uncivil comments or some incredible argument against those that are fighting and are leaving their thoughts and hearts for posterity.

Try having someone use your name and the word “cancer” in the same sentence. It will change your life forever.

For you critics out there, that feel the need to hassle this gal at the last day of her life?

 

I leave this:

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Namaste…

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Sleepless in Anchorage

Last night Lynda and I decided to have a snuggle night and with my tv (she won’t claim to own one) we decided on “Sleepless in Seattle”. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.. Innocent enough, and Lynda mentioned she had never seen it.

For those of you that have not seen it, the story is about loss and renewal. The story is of a husband who loses his soul mate to some undefined disease. The opening scene is from a graveside service with the boy and the dad standing at the grave site and his dad is trying to explain to his son that there didn’t seem to be any specific reason for his wife dying, that it was simply life being random in its selection of those it takes. and even more so: “If we start asking why, we’ll go crazy”.. I quit asking why her very, very quickly. Anger is an emotion that can spin out of control.

While Lynda and I lie on the couch, the year 2001 came roaring back in vivid color. My emotions, while under some sense of control, was given the reminder of what it means to lose a soul-mate. Something, even as I write can cause my eyes to leak. The movie went on that since his loss, “Sam” the person that Tom Hanks plays, cannot sleep. I remember that well. At the very best,  I could catch 1/2 hour cat naps once or twice during the day. And for those that know my penchant for sleeping at the drop of a hat, that is a big statement.

At that point in time, as far as I was concerned, my married days were over.  Sure, I would date, but the idea of finding another soul mate in this life time was zero. I had my time in the sunshine, Connie was my girl and she was gone, much like Sam’s in the movie. Eventually I became functional, but the words that Tom Hanks uttered hit home harder than I expected.. he was quoting me… “Wake up, take a breath, remember to breathe out, take another step”.. repeat. and remember to breathe in.. and take another step.

It was if “Sam” and I had walked in the same shoes down the same dark trail. Scary indeed. Lynda checked in with me a couple of times, but I was determined to watch the movie through. I can remember doing much like the character, lying on a couch talking to Connie as if she were standing right there. that was my new normal.

At some point in the movie there was a part where Sam was about to get mixed up with the wrong person, and his son fixed it for him. I can remember coming dangerously close to the same thing. Someone I was dating was looking for much more than I was willing to give. But in the end that ended well.

As the movie progressed it told of “fate”. of “knowing” when you have met someone that you have no doubt you will love for the rest of your life. That you have “found home” even knowing you had never seen it before, that this was where you were meant to be.

To quote Sam: “I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home… only to no home I’d ever known… I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like… magic”

When Lynda and I reconnected, I was nervous.. scared. Worried that again, I was making a mistake in reaching out to someone, but the funny part? I knew it deep in my bones that Lynda was the only one on the planet that had a chance of pulling me out of the world I had grown into.

When we met at the airport, that world began to melt away, the darkness, the loss, the hurt suddenly began to dissipate, evaporate. The passion was there, but there was something else. Like with Connie, when I heard her laugh at that restaraunt, I knew something was about to happen, and when I laid eyes on her, I knew.. I knew in my heart, that she was going to be my wife.

Lynda and I left airport terminal and went out to my truck. We hopped in and I started the engine. I reached over and took Lynda’s hand and the world stopped. I mean it stopped cold. That touch, that hand hold, took both our breaths away. At that point, I realized two things.

One.

I had judged every hand I had ever held based on that very same hand that I held from my high school days. With no doubt, every girl I dated, every female I had ever held hands with, that hand, Lynda’s hand, was what I judged every woman on, for better or worse. It was one of the most wonderful epiphanies I have ever had

Two

I had just become the luckiest guy in the universe. I had found what I deemed impossible, a second soul mate. I mean that. When you meet someone, that one person, you know it. There is, and was, no doubt, that Lynda and I would spend the rest of our days together, however long those days would be.  I describe it as the world suddenly “clicking” into place and the hands of fate had come full circle.

The movie helped me to remember that sometimes, when you lose something special, that in that moment, the universe is by far the most cruel thing there is. And in the next moment, when you find yourself staring at a magical place in time, that you use that memory to reach out instead of hide.. take that leap of faith and see what may be.

There is magic in this world, just remember to keep your eyes open to it. Sometimes it is something as easy as an email to someone you haven’t seen in 22 years.

May your new year be just that, a new year, full of excitement, adventure, fun, and love. Keep those that you care about close to you, never let them doubt how you feel, and live with a sense of urgency… Live the life that you dream of, and keep your eyes open.. The universe is stranger than fiction.

 

 

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The Christmas that shouldn’t be

I look at that title of this post. and I re-read it again. It has been four years since Lynda and I were hit with the cold hard fact that her cancer had spread. and without Lynda in the room, I asked Dr. Sinclair the question that would bounce around in my head in more ways than I could ever imagine it would.

How long?

How do you spit that question out? How do you wrap your head around that kind of a question? My tongue was numb, hell, I was numb. I was in probably the deepest state of shock I had ever been in, but also I had known from the first PET scan that Lynda, my second wife was in trouble. Just like I knew Connie , my first wife, was in trouble when the words “pancreatic cancer” rolled out of that surgeons mouth in 2001. I knew that the likelihood of Connie making it for any period of time was nil.

Now, there I sat, with my second wife and now this ugly beast had reared its head in the dark and turned our way. Staring into the eyes of a dragon is a life changing event.

Dr. Sinclair, who I considered to be an excellent oncologist prefaced his statement with “We don’t know”. It could be… and at that point I tuned everything out. As I watched his lips move, I was rocketed back to the days with Connie. Spending days in the hospital bed, cuddled up next to her realizing that time was getting shorter with every passing day. And I was so wrapped up in losing her that I couldn’t figure out how to live… for those last few weeks, it was as if I was sitting around an empty coffin, just a matter of time before I found it filled.

I came back to the conversation finding Dr. Sinclair looking down at the floor, we both realized that this diagnosis was as dire as any that I had ever heard. Lynda and I left the office that day, and went for a walk, trying to talk about what we thought was coming. The options, any ideas? What in the hell do we do now? It was crushing. We talked, we cried, and we sucked it up and determined that we would do everything we could to beat this dragon.

As it progressed I think a light bulb went off in our heads. We are all going to die at some point, the end is never the destination, the journey is. Life is the journey, and it is what you make it. I remember a line from the “Shawshank Redemption”

Get busy living or get busy dying

Damn straight.

Lynda and I have always lived full tilt boogie, ask any of our friends. We don’t take life lightly. We decided to up that a notch, and go for the gusto. The road trip, Belize, getting in touch with old friends, making sure our family knew how we felt about them, then re-confirming all that once again.

Lake Harmony

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erick and Lynda bristlecones

Over two years later, and that dragon that had turned to us in that rough night is now sleeping. It rustles every so often, but does no damage other than remind us that life is uncertain, an ending is forever possible, and at some point, inevitable. But we think we found the secret to life. Live it. Run it as hard as you can, you won’t get a second chance, unless you get lucky like we did. We are in our second chance now. And it is good.

Us in Guatemala

Me and my wife

Me and my wife

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What has cancer done for us? Our sister in law has often asked “How can serve you” (can cer v u). and it has in more ways that I can count. This disease has made me appreciate every day I have with my wife and friends. It has made me a better man. And together, it has made us a much closer couple. Lynda is healthier now than she has ever been. As am I. Mentally we are tough enough to deal with anything that life has to offer, and perhaps a bit more.

Then there is the Christmas time of the year. This was Connie’s favorite time of the year as it is Lynda’s. For me it has always been tough as I get nostalgic remembering the Christmases of my past. The Charlie Brown Christmas tree with Connie. Connie and I decided to cut our own Christmas tree in Alaska, and found what we thought was the area to cut a tree, found one in Chugach National Forest and proceeded to cut it down, waist deep in snow.

We loaded it up in my little Dodge D50 pickup truck and off we went back to our happy little trailer in Anchorage. We  put it in a tree holder and filled the tree stand with water. A couple of days went by and it began to turn brown. I kept wondering what was going on? I looked at the water level and it hadn’t changed. added a bit more water and watched. Slowly over the next couple of weeks, the needles fell out and we were left with a bare tree with all its decorations about it. A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Then I realized that the stump was bout a quarter inch or so above the water line. We laughed about that for years.

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There fun we had as kids with my mom, never realizing just how little money we had, yet Christmas was such fun. The Pinatas, friends coming over, the smell of turkey in the air. I can remember the squeal of delight from my younger sisters as the threw themselves at the wrapped toys under the tree. I took great delight in that. Knowing that my brother Danny and I had spent a lot of the evening, wrapping those same presents. My mom in her chair at the dining table looking down with a worn but happy smile. those were magic times.

I realize now that the conversation with Dr Sinclair hung in the back of my mind for all this time. Lynda should not be here. Based on patient history of  those whose cancer that has spread, she should be gone, and I should be a widower yet again. and had this scenario played out, I am at a loss as to where I would be. and that thought chills my bones to the core. However, I am humbled by this Christmas that shouldn’t be.

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It is by far one of the greatest gifts that the universe could have ever bestowed on me. And my promise? I won’t squander it, and instead of being “Grinchy” I opt more for the “It’s a wonderful life” attitude. This is indeed the Christmas that shouldn’t be.  And may there be many more, not only for us, but for all of you who read this post as well.

Merry Christmas to all  and a quote from “It’s a wonderful life”

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he”?

Here is to the lack of holes in your world.

Merry Christmas to all

Note*** And especially to Regina, who just lost her husband, I truly know the loss, and if ever we can be of help, reach out, we are here.

 

Erick and Lynda Carpenter

 

 

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Ccccchanges… think that is a song…

Well, the fun part about this road trip for a lifetime is that we are fluid. Like the blades of glass in the wind, we know when to bend with the wind, and let go that of being as a tree that can often be broken in the gale force of a storm.

Lynda has taken on a masters degree in complimentary and alternative medicine. She and I have spent the last, what, 8 years researching alternative methods for treating cancer, as the standard therapies just didn’t sound all that good. And truth be told we will never truly know what was the better of two choices, alternative or standard, except that against all odds, she is still alive and very very healthy.

I am quoting statistics here, and for those fighting this disease, please PLEASE skip this paragraph, you do NOT need the following information rattling around in your noodle. Based on standard medicine’s therapies, once a cancer metastasizes to another place, it is referred to as stage IV. and that is considered to be terminal. Just a matter of time. The best they can do is just that, maybe, is buy you time.

There are, however, many people that have gone on to survive and for whatever reason, live on quite well, with no signs of cancer. Everyone that has survived has a different story. Some claim it was God, while others claim science, and still others claim a mixture of all of it. Lynda and I feel that what works for one person, may or may not work for another. We remain of the same opinion that while cancer is a devastating word to hear in the same sentence with your own name, it is seldom a health emergency.

Your doctor, depending on who that person is, may feel differently, and that for their own reasons. Our opinion is this, try the alternative therapies first. Those that promote healing, a healthy environment that cancer has a hard time growing in, and boosting your immune system as well as you can. Become your own advocate, research, listen, ask questions on EVERYTHING… and at the end of the day if these less invasive procedures don’t work?

Go give the western medicine a roll of dice and see what you get. If nothing else you may be in better shape to deal with chemo and radiation. It may fix you if the other did not… but remember, it is toxic, it is physically devastating, and may or may not work, that is something that you, unfortunately (or fortunately) have to find out on your own. But long and the short of it, you are on a path that is scary, full of trials and tribulations and will rock your world forever, regardless of outcome.

Yet, in that, for the first time in years, Lynda and I are truly planning on a future. I mean that. This road trip? It was the result of having a conversation with my younger sister, Daonne, while I was dealing with Lynda’s cancer having resurfaced. Lynda had some blockage, her intestine swelled shut. No reason why, just did. They finally agreed on surgery after a few days in the hospital. Turns out she had a single cell of cancer called a “strand” in the lining of her intestine.  Not on the outside, not on the inside but actually inside the wall of the intestine, just a single cell, but enough to piss off her intestine to the point of closing.

The surgeon that did the work said he had never seen anything like that before. And Lynda has heard that statement more times than we care to admit. So while I was home pretty much freaking out about all this as I had true flashbacks of watching my first wife, Connie die from cancer, my younger sister asked me what I was going to do if I lost Lynda.

Stopped me in my tracks. Cold. Never once, even during my freaking out did I truly think that was possible. I never let my mind go down that path. Ever. But, there I was, finally having to face my absolute worst fear. I spit out something to the effect of “Disappear” “Vanish” go on a permanent walkabout, travel the US, go skiing, go backpacking, but leave people alone for awhile…

I knew that if that happened, my world would be gone.. Just as it had done when Connie died. That was the day my world ended. and it started back up again when Lynda walked back into my life. and to be honest, if that happened, that would be it.. There is no other “Lynda” in my life..

Little sister processed that… not sure how or when, but later on, Lynda approached me and asked me if that is what I said. I told her “Yes, without you, I have no world to be in”. She said, “Well, if you would do that without me, why not do it WITH me”? and so our road trip for a lifetime began. Short spurts, buying the rig, living in it while we figured out what we could do or not do, and it came together. At the same time, we went for another PET scan to see what more damage had been done. The last time we ran one, we found four spots total. the original on her shoulder, two spots on her spine and one in her hips.

We were prepared for the worst. Lynda and I had finally tried out last shot, Lynda did a regimen of baking soda and black strap molasses for 3 weeks or so. She started off with one tsp of baking soda mixed with 1tsp of black strap molasses once a day, then three times a day, then 2tsp three times a day until she was up to something like 8 tsp of each a day… she started getting a bit loopy, so she came back down to 1tsp a day and started taking milk thistle as well as the baking soda made her liver feel “weird”…

We went into the PET scan with the expectations of “holy shit batman” it is worse. Dr. Sinclair gave us the results. two spots were dead. two were seriously fading and no signs anywhere else… Whatever you are doing? Keep doing it. Lynda took him up on that and began adding other items in. Raw Veganism, supplements that fight cancer without being toxic, boosting the immune system and removing every possible toxin she can from her system and from what she is exposed to.

So, for the first time in over two years? We are truly planning a future beyond next month. She is pursuing her degree. We are trying to buy a house in Grand Junction. I am interviewing for a position with Mesa county. We are looking at a timeline beyond next month. The road trip? I think for both of us, maybe subconsciously, was to avoid thinking too hard about next month or next year. Instead, focus on the now, the present, the journey, and that is still our focus, but for the first time in a while?

It looks like the journey might just be a bit longer than we imagined. Will see.

Thank you all for sharing our trip with us, as it will continue. We may settle in Grand Junction, we may not. It truly depends on a myriad of “things” coming together. We may not be able to get a loan for the home, and in that case, we will keep doing what we do.. The name of the game? Stay fluid, and enjoy the ride.

Hippiness

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Exploration and New Experiences

“Dr. Sinclair has a really cool energy” my wife stated after our meeting with him. I agreed. There was a sense of peace, a sense of calmness, in the face of absolute chaos. Let me explain that a bit. We have to go back a few years. My first wife, Connie and I were at her Oncologists office. Her regular doctor was out of town, but the other doctor would be happy to see her. While we were sitting at his desk and I somehow brought up the success rate for cancer with him, he asked me to go over to his office door and look out at his office and tell him what I saw.

I gave him an “OK what is this about stare” and got up, went over to the door, opened it, looked around, and came back and sat down. Connie was not present, I think she was in the infusion room. He asked “What did you see”? I replied that “I saw a LOT of people in your office”. He smiled and nodded his head. Then gave me probably the most honest and grim answer I had ever heard from an oncologist. “I am going to lose 80 to 85% of those people out there”, he calmly stated. “And the 15-20% that survive I cannot tell you if it is my therapies that help, or just their tenacity for survival”.

I was stunned. I had no idea just how rough it was to be an oncologist. Then I really sat and thought about that statement. I became angry, “How could you possible put people through these often brutal therapies with those statistics and sleep at night”? And I followed that up with a single thought. “If I could just help one….” and that was the answer. Help who you can, grieve for those you cannot. I spent many years grieving over losing my Connie to pancreatic cancer. The survival rate for that cancer is just about zero.

When we met Dr. Sinclair we made it pretty obvious that we were not the average patient, and that Lynda was looking more for someone who could help us with tools to track the disease rather than treat it. Dr. Sinclair accepted the offer. We were both very pleasantly surprised, and he engaged Lynda, did not challenge rather gave her suggestions for a better outcome. He never pressed, and was always quite pleasant when we visited. I would like to say that since then he has become more than a physician but a fast friend.

During our visits, I discovered the reason behind Dr. Sinclairs’ energy, as we found that he is a practicing Buddhist. (I hope that he does not mind me sharing this on my web page). But his energy, his guidance has been of great peace when we came in, often frantic over a blood test or devastated over a PET scan. Somehow, he managed to calm us down and send us out for round 3 or 4. Eventually I became interested in what Buddhism is or is not.

I am at a point in my life where the path to life is open, but getting shorter by the day. I have unlimited options to speak of, and have determined that my spiritual world has been lacking. I have found peace and tranquility in nature, and do not get out as often as I like, but feel as though something is waiting for me to discover. So I spoke to Dr Sinclair a bit about his experience with his spiritual quest, and have begun one of my own. I like what I have read about Buddhism, as the Dali Lama puts it, “My religion is compassion”. That pretty much states what it is.. Buddhism does not believe in a god, just that souls are essentially recycled, over and over, and not just here, other planets, other stars, other dimensions. We are just souls looking for physical planes to learn from. And that the highest form of spirituality is compassion for one another. I like that thought.

So plans are churning, Lynda is tied into her Masters for two years, but I am free to do what I will. In that, finding work that suits me spiritually as well as monetarily sounds good. I hope to save up for two trips. One that will probably be just me going to Tibet, the other taking Lynda to Africa for a photo safari… Will see how those two work out.

For now? Reading and listening to various books, my sister recommended one called Radical Forgiveness. Changed her life, think it may shift mine a notch or two, very worthwhile read. Other books include Meditation for Beginners, Tibetan Dream Yoga, How to Sit, and others.. all of these leading to a new fun path in life.. The part I like is that there is no telling where the journey goes, and enjoying the journey is what it is all about.

Namaste

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, RV Travel, Scuba | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Warrior.. A person defined

I have seen that word used a million different ways. I spent six years of my life being one of those crazy bastards otherwise known as the US Marines. Always thought that would be the toughest training of my life. I find it amazing in how something can simply be a stepping stone to challenges that are above and beyond what you thought was hard.

My wife and I trained for a marathon. 26.2 miles of running… Up until the day of the marathon, we had only run 18 miles max. But we figured if we could get that far we could do 26.2. So on the marathon course, about mile 21 Lynda was getting ready to pull it over and call it good. Then her brother “stepped out” of the crowd to help her along.

Elvis in the bldg

David is in a wheelchair, he has no movement below his shoulders. He is a quadriplegic due to a three wheeler accident. That lifted Lynda up and inspired her to finish the entire marathon, having him wheel beside us for a mile or so. Inspired me as well. When we finished, Lynda was proud, but told me she would NEVER run that far again, she had never in her life ever put herself through that much pain. A stepping stone that we were unaware of.

Teaching at San Diego State

Teaching at San Diego State

I had watched my first wife, Connie, die from pancreatic cancer, in one hundred and sixty three days from diagnosis to death, I watched the woman I love go from a vibrant woman to a whisper. If you have ever had to live through that particular nightmare, it is the cruelest, meanest thing that life can hand you, but also the time in your life when you realize that you had better put all you have into your time left. Make it worth the show.

In 2008 a spot showed up on Lynda’s shoulder. and we freaked. We went to Arizona to try a naturopath there that had some pretty good results with cancer that had spread. Lynda’s brother just happened to have bought a small condo there in the same area. He fixed it up beautifully and she stayed there while I worked in California for 4 days then drove back and forth to Arizona. Somewhere in the process Lynda was infused with a bag of sterile water. The medicine didn’t make it into the bag, and so she got a bag of sterile water. Guess what that does?

It causes acute hemolytic anemia. She couldn’t take 3 steps without almost falling down. They infused here with 6 pints of blood to get her back. I damn near lost her that day. At the time, none of the physicians had any idea what had happened. They suspected that the cancer had somehow gone wild and got into her bones. They did a bone marrow check and nope, she was fine. It wasn’t until years later when we were discussing what had happened with my doctor that he went “Hey! yeah, sterile water, the doctor didn’t infuse the bag with meds”.

Remember that stepping stone? If Lynda had not been in such phenomenal shape, chances are she wouldn’t have made it. In the meantime, I get to be the watchful guardian, and I missed that. I realize that is nothing I normally would have seen, but now? Paranoia runs supreme in my household… I check everything, but fortunately I haven’t had to since then.

Dealing with cancer, regardless of how you treat it, naturopathically or standard western medicine, you need to understand from the moment that they use the word “cancer” and your name in the same sentence, your life as you know it is over. Every tweak, every twinge, every little “wtf”, is scary. It is a lot like going through combat. I have a friend, Michael Palfrey, who did some time in Iraq going from house to house… He commented that he hated TV with a passion, movies too. Cause right before someone gets killed you hear the music change or go up in volume then “BANG” someone dies. He said in reality? The guy’s head just explodes and he drops. No music, no nothing, he is just gone.

With cancer? you never know what is around the next corner, you are always on alert, always in some form of “combat mode”, blood tests, markers, urine tests, PET scans, MRI’s always probing for the enemy… and that changes who you are and how you present yourself to the world. It is a lifetime of tap dancing through landmines, just waiting for one to go off. I have watched Lynda over the years. She has gone from a confident woman to a confident warrior in the truest meaning of the word. She changed her lifestyle, her diet, and has researched everything from nutrition to supplements to medicine. She has fought hard for every day she has with me. And while I may be a squad leader, the real fighter is Lynda. I am just support.

For all you nurses, doctors, friends and family that have supported us? Especially Dr. James Sinclair of Pacific Oncology, you and your staff just ROCK.

Thank you, the fight has been a good one and continues on.. This gal here: “Warriors” was another inspiration, in fact, this gal inspired this post via a Facebook post that made me remember just what a warrior my own wife is.

Me and my wife

Me and my wife

Honey, I got yer back for the next 40 years.

 

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Spiritual, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

And the count is 2…

Two days… today, then tomorrow, and we take off to fulfill a bucket list trip..

Belize

I know I know, lots of people have been there, and many chose to live there. but for us? this is almost a year in planning, and it is about to come to fruition. So let me rant about that for a moment. Lynda and I have had some spooky life changing crap slap us about the head and shoulders over the years, in particular, serious cancer scares. The roller coaster was one that I would choose out of every time had I been given that choice. And the thing that has driven us to our current situation was a conversation with my younger sister some time back. Lynda’s diagnosis had been bad enough, but my younger sister had decided it was time for a serious conversation.

“What are you going to do if she doesn’t make it”? was the question. Never once, in the entire time we had been dealing with cancer, had that thought ever crossed my mind. It damn near brought me to my knees. I stumbled… I stuttered. I was at a complete loss. The idea that my wife could die came roaring at me like a freight train from hell. and I was stuck on the track like a deer in the headlights. It was Connie, my first wife who died of pancreatic cancer,  again. It was Mom, who died from lung cancer. It was death walking behind me, about to make another call.

I stammered a response, “I don’t know”… go skiing, go hiking, buy a motor-home and leave life; leave society, and vanish. I knew that if I lost her, my world would go up in smoke, and like the ashes, that is all that would be left to me. So left with that thought, I did something my heart would never let me do… I went outside and I lost it. No one knew, and it was no one’s business. This is where I did something I do very seldom… I went outside and asked a favor. Some call it prayer, but this? No, this was a favor. I have always been under the impression that there were 4 spirits of those gone by that were keeping watch over me.

My first wife, Connie, my mom, my grandmother, and the 4th I could never quite pin down.. and it dawned on me, Lynda’s mom. I asked for a favor, simple enough, give us more time, and in return I will give you a story to watch and to enjoy. Just give us more time…. I don’t ask for anything, I always have believed that you get what you give… which brings me to another story…

Lynda was diagnosed with a “spot” on her shoulder in 2008 and the doc said it looked like a metastasis. We freaked. We looked to alternative treatments and found a doctor in Phoenix Arizona who had a pretty good record of treating cancer. So off we went, spending our life savings and everything we could scrape together for the treatment. While we were in Arizon tight for money, scared to death, and all I could focus on was Lynda and how she was dealing with treatments, I pulled into a 7-11 for gas. (A store like 7-11)  I started pumping gas and flitting from one thought to another, but mostly just hoping for a miracle. Out of nowhere, a really BIG black guy appeared in front of me. I never did see where he came from, just kind of popped up and began to speak. Now, I am not being racist or bigoted, but he had to be one of the darkest skinned man I had ever seen and although he wasn’t tall, he was incredibly stocky, the kind of guy that looked like he could bend iron with his bare hands.

He spoke eloquently, kindly, and told me his story of how he got to where he was in life. The story was like one of many I had heard, bad economy, lost a good job, and down on his luck… but as I looked at this man, I really looked at him. I saw beyond the rough but clean clothing, and saw something I could not believe.

There was a palpable aura, a glow coming from this guy, it was of angels… I kid you not. and at this point, I had the incredible feeling that here and now, at that moment, I was at a crux of our lives. A turning point, Karma in full focus. Our lives would entirely depend on how I treated this man. I could easily brush him off like I did most panhandlers, and live with the results. Or help, and live with whatever Karma dealt out.

It was if my world was holding its breath to see what I would do. I listened as he spoke, and I watched his eyes. I have heard that the stories that eyes are the window to the soul. And the soul I saw before me was grand. Beautiful comes to mind, an energy that never again I think I will ever see. The light and the energy that emanated from him was calming and energizing in the same moment.

I asked him to wait a moment, went into the store and came out with some money.. about 60 dollars, and that 60 dollars was a lot more than we could afford.. And I handed it to him. His eyes shone, I mean not like a person who just scored some money, but more like the universe clicking into place. What I witnessed was like nothing I have ever seen, it was as if god himself had smiled on us. I think there is a bible verse (and I am not a Christian), but it says something like

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me”
He was profuse in his thanks, and said something that I usually blow off, but this time? This time I think someone else spoke…

“Thank you” and “Bless you”… Not “God bless you”, but “Bless You”. and he walked away.

Now, he very well could have been just another hard luck story, or just another panhandler looking for an easy mark. But I choose to believe otherwise… It is said that angels walk among us, that at times, they present themselves to us, and how we treat them, how we act toward them can be a turning point for our destiny. I look back at that moment, and the impression that was left on me. With that entire incident in mind I think our destiny together, our lives, Lynda and I, was turned from what would have been a loss into something more…

So project years forward, 4 to be exact, and here we are. Lynda is healthy, I am as well, our lives have become what many dream of, what we dreamt of, and are still creating. It has been beyond any expectation I have ever had, and a comfortable feeling of much to come. Belize is a dream born of reaching out and of giving, of a life worth living… So ladies?

My promise, partially fulfilled. A story worth watching… and I promise that as long as you keep an eye out for us..

I will give you a story worth watching. Stay tuned…

Erick and Lynda

IMG_4910

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Camping, Downhill Skiing, Family, Hiking, Hot Tubbing!, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, RV Travel, Scuba, Ski, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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