Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Losing my dad

    Dad is dying. I am sitting in a hallway at OHSU awaiting the removal of the esophageal stent we had hoped would allow him to eat. It  was a failure. The stent slipped below the tumor and rested against the wall of his stomach. He cannot eat. It has been 10 weeks since his diagnosis. He has had no treatment other than an incomplete round of chemotherapy. Insurance has not allowed him to come to OHSU until now. The doctors at the local hospital seem content to let him die. They speak of pain relief and hospice. They speak of quality of life and how the cancer cannot be cured. Duh!! We know that. We know he cannot defeat the beast. The tumor is aggressive and angry. We are treated like we are stupid. Dad will die but not today and not without a fight.
   Chemotherapy and radiarion can give him weeks. It may even give him months but nothing has been done. I am reminded of the time Kaiser Permanente told me that giving me Provenge was a waste of resources. Is that what we have come to as a society? My perception is that the medical community has lost its faith and its compassion. Death panels have become a reality. Insurance companies make decisions who to treat and what medications to treat them with.
   My dad is 73 years old and just a few months ago he was on the Columbia river in his boat salmon fishing with my mom. Looking at dad now I can see why the doctors are reluctant to try but they are wrong. If they were only ingesting 500 calories a day they would look just as fragile as my dad does. They would be too weak for chemo as well. Dad needs nourishment, hydration , and treatment.
   The Doctors at OHSU seem to feel he is stong enough for treatment. They have not lost hope but unfortunately he has to go home and his fate will be in the hands of doctors who are forced to answer to some bean counter working for united healthcare.
   Dad is dying. Just like everybody else. What is it that makes his life less valuable. I am angry. My frustration is all consuming and I have taken it out on those who I love the most. There are two local doctors who have come close to a punch in the nose.
   His stent was removed successfully.  The surgeon believes that the initial Chemo shrunk the tumor and caused the stent to slip. I hope we can get the local doctors to jump on board. The surgeon believes he can now eat. If he can eat he can get stronger. If he is strong he can fight. My dad is a fighter. I learned from him.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Greater Good

    A greater good.
   In 2007 President Barack Obama won a landslide election. Running on slogans promoting hope and change, he misled the American people into believing that a politician could make a difference. Change rarely occurs in Washington. True change only occurs when the men and women of our great nation stand as "One".
  Today within our community the men and women of local 153 stand as One. Together they risk everything in hope of change that we truly can believe in. This change is not borne in our Nations Capital but rather in the Heart of our Nation. The first sentence of the Constitution does not begin with "We The Corporation", it begins with "We the People"!
  Each Generation leaves behind a legacy. My parents and grandparents generation fought for a 40 hour work week, child labor laws, benefits, overtime pay, and the right to organize and bargain for the better of all Americans. They created the Middle class and gave rise to the American Dream. Upon the backs of labor our great nation was built. 
  Today the American dream is under attack. Today, poverty is on the rise. Today the richest one percent of Americans control 99% of the wealth of our nation and yet it is still not enough. Corporate greed will never be sated. 
  Today as a community we must make a choice. Will we stand as One and say enough. Will we support the Striking Kapstone employees or will the Legacy of this generation be the death of the middle class. Think about that when you choose to board that bus for a job that someone else earned. Think about that as you cross the picket line and turn your back on the men and women who are fighting for us all. In closing I leave you with the words of John F Kennedy: 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sharing my heart

This post is for me. It is not about Prostate cancer. It is not about treatments. Cancer can wait. My heart is sick. I have never known such pain. I am writing this entry because I don't know what else to do. My dad is going to die. Each day it becomes more apparent.
  My dad is the man of steel. He is my hero. Everything I ever learned I learned from him. There was nothing he couldn't do once he set his mind to do it. He use to carry me to bed on his shoulders. I thought he was the strongest man in the world. He tought me to hunt and fish. He taught me to ride a bike. He and mom always knew what to get a 12 year old boy for christmas and birthdays. He bought me my first guitar. He introduced me to Waylon Jennings, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard. He gave me my first b.b. gun, bow, and hunting knife. He taught me to respect my mom. He took off his belt and tanned my hide when I needed it. He showed me it was okay for a man to cry. He taught me to fight for what you believe in. He was strong enough to watch me fall when I messed up my life. He was there to to help me up when the prodigal son came home. He taught me to water-ski. He taught me to build. He taught me how to work on cars, do plumbing, and electrical. He taught me how to say I am sorry and to swallow my pride when I was wrong. He taught me that a man may not like going to work every day but a man supported his family. He worked at a place he hated for 39 years and 11 months. I asked him the day he retired at age 58 why he didnt stay 40 years to get bis gold watch. He said they could keep their frigging watch. Fibre was in the rear view and he didn't  need  a watch on his wrist to remind him of it. Now it appears he has one lesson left to teach me and I am not ready to learn it.
   Dad is 73. He and my mom have been married for 53 years. It wasn't always a bed of roses but their love is eternal. They knew that marriage was a hard road but quitting was never an option. For better or worse meant something. I heard my dad say the F-word one time. It sounded out of place. Dad is too young for this. He is a young vibrant 73 and seeing him like this is breaking my heart. If there was one consolation to having advanced prostate cancer it was knowing I would never lose my parents. I am glad that they won't have to lose a son to cancer or watch me die. I am learning just how hard it is to lose someone you love. We lost gramma and grampa but they were really old and it was hard but not lime this.
  I am holding on by a thread. I have to. My mom needs me. She is as tough as a barnyard rooster but the cracks in her armour are starting to show. Her heart is breaking. I feel helpless and weak.
   I still have hope that treatment will help but they have not started any treatment yet. He spent last night in the hospital with severe pain. He appears broken and small. He looks defeated. It is a difficult thing to witness. If you read my blog and believe in God and our lord Jesus, please pray for my mom and dad. Thank you for reading. Todd

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A time of peace

  I awoke this morning intent on writing. It took 15 minutes to choose a title. I threw my phone on the couch in discust. I wanted to write but had nothing. It was easy to write when life was a whirlwind. There was always something happening or Cancer news to report. My life has become incredibly normal. That thought opened my heart. I have been on this road for a very long time. The road has seen many battles. There are many to come. For now, there is peace.
   Wednesday last, Mandy, our daughter, her boyfriend, and I were drifting an Riffe lake about a half mile upstream of the dam. As the boat moved gently with the breeze and Otis Redding sang "Dock of the Bay" the peace was shattered by a pair EA18G Growlers doing a practice bombing run on the dam. They were a mere 300 feet directly above us. It was awesome. The roar of the turbines shattered the silence and echoed across the mountains. Moments later they pulled up in a near verticle climb and were gone. Once again peace returned.
   My most recent PSA is still undetectable. Each morning and evening I take my pills. I am not due for infusions or Lupron for 2 months. For now the beast is quiet. I am adrift upon a still sea and being pushed along gently by the winds of life. I rarely think about cancer. It is there. In the dark recesses of my mind. I know that at any time the peace can be shattered by the roar of the beast. 
  The next day we took our cameras out on the lake and waited for the jets to return. I wanted to record a video of me skiing with the planes flying over. It was a two hour waste of time. The planes did not return that day. We drank a few Coronas so it was not a total waste of time. In this story lies the epiphany.
  In regards to stage 4 Pca, recurrence is inevitable. The beast will return. Remission is temporary. Life goes on. In the mean time how we choose to live is paramount to our overall survival. 
   My dad has been diagnosed recently with stage 4 cancer of the esophagus. It is a devastating diagnosis. Still, he may have several years and yet he seems to have lost the will to survive. There is no fire. There is no fight. He appears small and defeated. It is unsettling. My dad is the man of steel. He is my hero. I have never seen him like this. I hate cancer.
   I have a disease. It most likely will cause my flesh to die one day. It cannot harm my spirit unless I allow it to do so. It is powerless. I will not allow it to define how I live my life. I will not waste this gift waiting for peace to be shattered by the roar of death. That aspect is for those who do not yet realize they are terminal. One day they will come face to face with the reality that life on earth for them is over. They will look back on their lives and regret the wasted year. 
  We, we lucky few, have been given the gift of mortality. How we spend our months and years between now and the grave define our character. Time is truly a precious gift. Choose wisely how you use it.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Good morning

  Once again it has been a long time since I have written. I think the clock is spinning faster and faster every day. It's not that I am unable to write. When I sit down the words flow. I just haven't sat down. Maybe that is a good thing. I find that I am less and less focussed on the aspects of cancers affect on my life. There have been a few hiccups. My testosterone starved brain continues to be foggy. Monday last I could not remember if I took my medication 5 minutes after taking it and took it again. I felt funky the entire day after that one. Mandy said I need to get one of those plastic pill organizers so I won't forget. I hope it hasn't come to that yet. I am far too young to be turning into my grandfather. I am 2 weeks late for my Lupron shot.and still haven't found the motivation to go to the doctor. 
My oncologist ordered a bone density scan and when they called to schedule it I blew off returning the call. I am suppose to have an infusion of Zometa and I have not scheduled that either. Today is Thursday July, 9th. I am on vacation. Cancer can wait.
   We spent the past 6 days at our favorite lake with family and friends. It was so much fun. I attached my Go-Pro to the front of my ski. 
It was a unique perspective to say the least. I was skiing like a madman. I was as fearless as a 16 year old kid. The long hot summer has warmed the mountain lakes to a comfortable 74 degrees. Being in the water feels so good that wiping out is not an issue. Mandy thought I was going to wreck myself and she was correct. I hurt so good.
  We discovered a new game we call pirate tubing. I have never laughed so hard in my life. It is a game much like king of the hill only on the water and traveling at 20 mph.
We are all bruised and exhausted but it was so much fun that nobody really cared about the minor aches the next day.
My granddaughters came home from Florida and spent the weekend with us. Madison just turned 5 and insisted on holding the orange flag. She did a great job.
   It was an awesome 4th of July vacation. We are home now. Mandy returned to work yesterday. I am still in my pj's and robe. I still have 4 days left. I think I need it to recover. I just walked out to the garage and looked at the boat. It is suppose to be 90+ degrees today. We might have to go back up to the lake. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Looking to the future

 The future!. If you have been told there isn't one then it is not something you spend a lot of time thinking about. I remember when I was told I only had a year left. Saving for retirement didn't seem to make too much sense. I stopped contributing to my 401k and in fact, I withdrew everything that was in there to buy a home for Mandy and I.  
   After 9 years dealing with this disease it appears that I have a future. Lately I have begun to wonder what that future is going to look like. I am on the cutting edge in terms of how this disease is treated. Many of the drugs I am taking have not been around long enough to have statistics regarding their long term use. I worry that one day my liver will die or my bones will begin to shatter. 
  I have no choice but to ride it out and hope for the best.  

Friday, May 8, 2015

I am still learning

   Bicycling last night along a country road Mandy and I were approaching a guy walking the same direction as we were and on the same shoulder of the road. As we got closer we crossed to the opposite shoulder. The guy looked a little rough around the edges if you know what I mean. Upon arriving at home Mandy discovered she had lost her cell phone. I thought someone had stolen it when we walked into the general store. It turns out that it had fallen out of the pocket of her saddle bag along the road somewhere between the store and home. She took our daughter and drove the route we biked but was unable to find it. A few minutes later our home telephone rang. The gentleman on the other end said he had found a phone on the road. I drove to his location and the guy gave me the phone. It was the guy we had passed on the road. The guy I didn't want to ride close to. The guy I had judged as a tweeker or what have you. The guy I avoided was the guy that took the trouble to look in the directory for an emergency contact number to return the phone to its owner.

   I am a terrible person!!! I thought that I had grown as a human being in my fight against this disease. As it turns out I have a lot of growing left to do. 
  I had decided in advance that I was going to give the caller 20 bucks for being a Good Samaritan. When the guy gave me the phone and I handed him the twenty he was really grateful. When I realized it was the guy walking down the highway I felt like it should have been more. Way more!
  We live in a world where the majority of people judge character by appearances.
The guy on the highway was dirty. He was walking. His clothes looked like they hadn't been washed in days and he was smoking. I judged him based on his appearance as someone to steer clear of. 
   We put athletes and celebrities on pedestals. We admire the wealthy and affluent. Far too often they are not worthy of the adoration we bestow upon them. How many professional athletes do we hear about using drugs, abusing their families, raping women, and even committing murder?  Are celebrities any better? 
   I have learned a lot about myself in the last 9 years. In the last 24 hours I learned that I still have a lot more to learn. A donkey in a 3 piece suit is still a donkey. Likewise, a good man wearing dirty tattered clothing is still a good man. People are people. Some are good some are not. The wrapping paper is not what is important. The Hawaiians say " Mai Iloko Mai" loosely translated it says " that which is within matter"
   One thing about having a terminal illness is that everything you think or do has a sense of urgency. Maybe it's real and maybe it's imagined but the truth is that I may not have as much time to get it right. 
   Change is never easy. It is usually a slow process. I hope the next time I start to judge a person on appearance I will stop and think about yesterday. I hope I will take a second look and remember that I could have been that guy walking down the road. The truth of the matter is that not long ago I was.Todd