email sent February 25, 2016

Subject: Cosmic Interconnectedness…

… or, What, No Laws of Physics, Not Even Guidelines?

My last CT scan and dosing occurred three and five months ago, respectively. I was scanned two days ago on Tuesday. The good news is that the remnants of tumors in my left lung, the ones that necessitated the immunotherapy, were unchanged. The less good news is that a very small new bugger (not my word – thanks, Marnee) appeared on my right lung very near the one that was radiation zapped last April. Its circular shape makes it a suspicious candidate to be a new tumor, though it could be a consolidation of fragments of the old one. It’s too small to biopsy and not large enough to meet the size threshold for concern (1 cm). It’s close to that size, so we’ll scan again in two months.

I gotta rave about my treatment team at CTCA. Dr. Weiss had taken time off for a very special reason and therefore was unavailable to look at my scans, so Dr. Spierer, my radiation oncologist, took it upon herself to examine the scans Tuesday night. She pulled up previous scans and even called Dr. Weiss to discuss the results, then emailed me close to 9:30 pm when she got home from work. She gave me her personal number to call to discuss their thoughts. The next day, Dr. Weiss, still on his own time, discussed my case with my favorite nurse, Lisa, who in turn called to pass the information on to me. She was considerate enough to suggest a scan in just two months instead of the customary three. So, hey, can medical care be any better than that? I’m way beyond being blessed.

Here is an eclectic assortment of quotations…

“Maybe life isn’t about avoiding the bruises. Maybe it’s about collecting the scars to prove we showed up for it.” Anon. (tweeted by Iman after her husband, David Bowie, passed)

“Close your eyes and imagine the very best version of you possible. That’s who you really are, let go of any part of you that doesn’t believe it.” C Assaad

“When you have gained a certain amount of experience, you find that a desire to help all people arises in you.” Mikhail Prokhorov

“What I experienced during that three-day trip home [after walking on the moon] was nothing short of an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness. It occurred to me that the molecules of my body and the molecules of the spacecraft itself were manufactured long ago in the furnace of one of the ancient stars that burned in the heavens about me.” Edgar Mitchell

On the topic of connectedness, many of you have expressed interest in my internal healing room. (Employing this technique is sort of the unambitious alternative to meditation. Meditation light, if you will.) Last Fall, I had a fascinating and extended conversation with my guardian angel/healing room helper in my healing room. She noted that everyone has spiritual skills, it’s just that not everyone knows how to access them. Sort of like having memories, but being unable to reach them. She suggested that I teach others about creating their own healing room, just as I had learned to do it. She added that I should maybe write a short story about it. Reading the story would enable anyone, healthy or not, to build such a room to help themselves and others.

By the end of the year I was writing the story in earnest. The scope has grown considerably. And as is the case with many writers, the story is writing itself. Plot development has arisen out of nowhere as I’ve typed, leading me into totally unfamiliar realms. In a major plot twist, the protagonist (Justin) additionally created what he called a connections room because interconnections play an enormous role in health and healing. Prayers, thoughts, recommendations, treatments, caregiving all fall within that general category. Figuring out how to create such a room has been a hoot. Just imagine what fun it is to be an engineer unconstrained by the laws of physics. It has a simple layout consisting of life strings, way posts and time markers. Plus, it features a very useful medicine cabinet. I’ve already given the room and the medicine cabinet a trial run. Upon connecting my life string to the cabinet, I was thoroughly overwhelmed by the appearance of a multitude of faces. I instantly recognized many of you. Many more people were present in the background, too. I’m eager to learn what happens next to Justin and me.

On a less ethereal plane, I probably won’t be sending another update email until the end of April when I’m due for another scan. In April, I will pass the 5-year mark since the initial diagnosis. That’s the longest follow-up that I’ve found actuarial data reported by the National Cancer Institute. At 5 years, the survival rate for my type and stage of cancer is 3%. I found other data to suggest that it’s 1%. Crazy odds. And I’m off treatment and feeling/doing great. If I believed that I’m deserving of miracles I’d characterize it that way. Instead, I call it almost miraculous.

What advice do I have for others going through this or something similar? I’ve shared a lot over the years. Perhaps most succinctly I’d recommend embracing, as soon as possible, the mantra “it is what it is” and facing the challenges head on, without delay. Your face might get bloated, it might become hollow, but at least you don’t have to see it that much. Unlike others. From the inside, you don’t look that bad at all. (With that in mind, I also recommend against photo documentation, especially selfies, as they distort enough as it is.) And if I had to condense my advice to a single word, that word would be immunotherapy.

So, what are my major takeaways from this journey (other than Vicki and Ned are wonderfully amazing and that I have an astounding support network)? I’ve concluded…

It’s a world full of talent, faith and goodness. It’s not so much a small world with a multitude of coincidences, as it is a connected world and a connected world is a healing world and a healing world is a world filled with gratitude and love.

With love and gratitude for the many connections,


p.s. Vicki shared these with me:

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Albert Einstein

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Pablo Picasso

p.p.s. Vicki also turned me on to this entertaining left brain-right brain test:

p.p.p.s. And, yes, I recognize the seeming coincidence of completing the connections room just prior to the recent scan results warranting its use.