email sent April 25, 2016

Subject: Be Wary of Smiling Rats…

… or, Don’t Let on That God Is Talking to You

Because of the suspicious appearance and size of three spots on my lungs in the February scan, the otherwise three-month interval between scans was reduced to two months. (Thank you, Lisa!). The results from today are in. Well, dammit, a relatively new spot on my right lung grew enough to exceed the threshold of requiring attention. I do have a number of options. Radiofrequency ablation is one. Another is the very focused radiation treatment that was previously administered to me, but I doubt that I can qualify… I believe I’ve already surpassed my cumulative glow allotment. A third option is the combination of an immunotherapy drug plus chemotherapy (ick!). While we’ll look into all of these, at this juncture, the most appealing option is to return to the immunotherapy treatment that I received until last September. (Like before, I’d be treated every two weeks for up to a year). Pursuing any of the other options would preclude me from ever receiving this drug again. We’ll see. It may be an interesting next couple of weeks of Vicki and I processing information. I do know this, however, it’s sure been a very nice seven months without treatment!

I should add that consistent with CTCA efficiency and effectiveness, I already signed the new consent form and had the blood drawn and EKG performed to verify that I still qualify to resume the immunotherapy treatment.

As for my state of mind, hey, I’ve been remarkably fortunate so far, there’s no reason to expect otherwise now. With the team I have in my corner, starting with Vicki and Ned, then Drs. Weiss and Spierer plus Lisa, and including all of you, I have no concerns or fears. As long as I have treatment options and loving support, it’s just another bump in the road. It still is what it is.

So much for the clinical update. Oh wait, there’s more… I’m not gonna be famous after all. The guy who suggested it left the drug company. Oh well.

            I read Mitch Albom’s, Tuesdays with Morrie, since my last email. From various conversations, it seems that many, if not most, of you have also read it. For those who haven’t, it’s a non-fiction account of the author’s final visits with his most significant collegiate mentor, Morrie Schwartz, as Morrie is succumbing to the ravages of ALS. It’s a compelling, quick read. It contains a large number of thought-provoking insights such as, “… Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” Also, “As I see it, [the important questions] have to do with love, responsibility, spirituality, awareness.” The author confessed, “I buried myself in accomplishments, because with accomplishments, I believed I could control things, I could squeeze in every last piece of happiness before I got sick and died…” I found a simple parable shared by Morrie to be most enlightening…

“The story is about a little wave, bobbing along in the ocean, having a grand old time. He’s enjoying the wind and the fresh air – until he notices other waves in front of him, crashing against the shore.

“‘My God, this is terrible,’ the wave says. ‘Look what’s going to happen to me!’

“Then along comes another wave. It sees the first wave, looking grim, and it says to him, ‘Why do you look so sad?’

“The first wave says, ‘You don’t understand! We are all going to crash! All of us waves are going to be nothing! Isn’t it terrible?’

“The second wave says, ‘No, you don’t understand. You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.’”

I’ve long believed in the duality of our connected oneness and our individuality. Sort of like the duality of light, which behaves as both particles and waves. I’d never really tried to resolve the seeming conflict, but awoke the morning after reading Morrie’s story wondering about it. I had no idea how to explain it. Without hesitation, I knew that my guardian angel could clarify this for me. The moment I saw her in my healing room she explained it by way of analogy. She pointed out that I am a single body, that I am one. And I’m also comprised of multitudes of cells… my individual cells are also me. All of my cells combine to create my oneness. How simple! The ramifications of this analogy are fascinating to consider.

A good friend alerted me to the following 2½ minute inspiring video from Jay Shetty whose message provided a perfect preparation for our upcoming road trip:

http://rise.huffingtonpost.com/watch/seeing-beauty-everywhere

Last week, Vicki and I returned from a 10-day trip to see Ned in Monterey. Just spending time enjoying Ned made for an outstanding journey. But, as a special bonus, what an amazing country we live in! We left mountains, crossed enormous deserts and arrived at an ocean. Wildflowers dotted the roadways. Ocotillo blooms commanded the most attention. We avoided interstate highways as much as possible, visiting quaint little towns along the way. Tiny Boron, CA, for example, boasts both a giant rabbit sculpture made out of a tissue paper-like material and a retired fighter jet. Tehachapi, CA, lies nestled in a valley, surrounded by rolling hills lined with countless wind turbines. We saw snow-capped peaks as we zoomed through scorching salt flats. We passed a giant solar panel farm and a place where carnival rides go to rest. We soaked in images of beaches that extended for miles, redwoods that met up with the shore, enormous boulders hammered by pounding surf with such relentlessness and force that it bored holes through the rock. Sea otters, harbor seals and sea lions paid us no heed. Equally fascinating and accommodating were the hosts, inhabitants and visitors from around the globe. In two days we journeyed from the glory of the Pacific coastline, to Death Valley and ultimately to Las Vegas where we watched The Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil show to honor our 32nd wedding anniversary. There were too many highlights from which to choose a favorite. (I do have a special place in my heart for the roadside sign featuring a cute, smiling rat saying, “Come See Our Baby Rattlers.”)

I’ll wrap this up with some quotations…

“I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.” Arthur Rubenstein

“As you get older, you gather layers of life. You wear them proudly, or they take you down. I choose to wear mine.” Rita Coolidge

“Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying, but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic?” Lily Tomlin

With continuing love, gratitude and prayers,

Jim

p.s. On the topic of beauty, we lost the company of yet another beautiful soul last week. If you think you’ve seen magical guitar playing, I implore you to check out Prince’s mastery of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, performed with an all-star band at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. His solo starts at 3:25. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SFNW5F8K9Y

 

 

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