email sent May 19, 2015

Subject: A Hunk of Burning Love…

… or, Do You Want Mustard with That?

I completed the round of targeted radiation 2 weeks ago, what I affectionately referred to as burning love. All went very well. Dr. Spierer pitched perfect strikes to the tumor. Yesterday, I was CT-scanned for the fourth time since entering the immunotherapy clinical trial. It was too soon to expect to see results from the radiation. My breathing had become somewhat compromised, be it due to tumor growth, the appearance of new tumors, spring pollen, cat and dog hair, phase of the moon and/or this common side effect of radiation. But later it seemed to improve a bit. Who knows? The scan could possibly reveal something.

Consequently, we pretty much eagerly anticipated the scan results. Impending scans previously ignited a range of emotions, including dread and hope. But after 4 years of “it is what it is” they typically become so-so events that require an overnight stay in vulcanizing Goodyear, AZ. The awareness that future options exist diminishes the angst. Hanging in the balance were options to stay the course or, because of the emergence of new tumors, be forced to exit the study and embark on an entirely new clinical trial that likely would involve combining chemotherapy and immunotherapy. On a more mundane, but still important, level the outcome could have a huge impact on whether I can raft down the Colorado River in August. You might recall that this adventure is the topmost item on my so-called bucket list. I do look back in amazement that I reserved a spot on the trip at a time when my lung capacity was rapidly diminishing and continuing to do so until I was able to enroll in the current clinical trial 2 months later. Of course, I had no idea how dire the wait for the new treatment would become. Looking back, I like that I had that positive attitude (coupled with the presence of mind to sign up for trip insurance).

Anyway, cutting to the clinical update chase… there were no changes! Tumor size remained the same, still small. No new tumors. And even the irradiated one appeared to be a bit broken up, if not a tad smaller.

I’ve been raving about Cancer Treatment Centers of America. The following incident says it all. The radiation team was running a little late on a Friday afternoon. My 4 o’clock appointment was going to be delayed by 15-20 minutes. So, I was presented with a coupon for a free meal at the hospital restaurant, which serves great meals! Whoever heard of such a practice? Don’t they know physicians are supposed to be late and unapologetic? Is it any wonder that I recommend CTCA without reservation?! (And, it turns out that they were less than 15 minutes late.)

The last 3 months have been crazy for us. We recently faced yet another loss. Another dramatic encounter with life. And love. And faith. It’s comforting to learn how loss is so closely related to hope. With the recent scan results, the tragedies and bad news have perhaps abated at least for a while.

I’ve continued to run across evocative writings. Having recently recommended the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, I decided to revisit it. Based on the following quotations it’s no wonder it had such a huge impact on me in my youth. The author, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, survived Auschwitz and founded logo therapy based on those experiences.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“What is to give light must endure burning.”

“For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”

“Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.”

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

“Our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude.”

The following also caught my imagination…

“Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G. K. Chesterton

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard P. Feynman

“Yes! The older one gets, the closer we look.” K. Helmer (a friend commenting on one of my macro photographs)

With burning love and immense gratitude for all of your thoughts, prayers and encouragement,


p.s. Having previously compared myself to being vacuum-wrapped like a hot dog for the radiation treatments, Vicki asked if I had requested mustard. Ya just gotta love a woman like that.