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November 30, 2003

Advent 2003 - Week 1

I'm going to venture into an unusual area of comment me, the liturgical seasons, starting with Advent. This is the first week of Advent -- new year's day for Christians world-wide. Unfortunately for Advent, it is squeezed between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even worse, Advent is a victim of the commercial holiday madness, which makes the message of Advent harder to hear over the continual drone of Christmas music that seems to invade every musical source.

Nonetheless, there is an important message to all of us, if we can put the holiday lunacy on hold briefly.

I have been re-reading sermons that I've accumulated, some dealing with Advent, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The sermons that have had the most impact on me have been those that don't sugar-coat the reality of Advent and the holidays. Many of these sermons don't have any answers and are preached by those who openly admit, the more they study, the harder it is to understand and live the Great Mystery.

On this new year's day, the message of week 1 of Advent is that our destiny is ahead of us. This future forces us to confront the tyranny of the past -- to throw the past away, get over what was and get with the future.

This is easy to write but so hard to actually live. We find comfort in the past -- the known -- the future is far less comfortable -- we just don't know what will happen. "Say to all faint hearts, "Courage!" Do not be afraid. (Isaiah 35:4)

There is something uncomfortable about the future. None of us want to hear that we must endure or bear or suffer the unknown. In addition, we don't want to wait. We want to get on with our life with some certainty, which is hard to "rationalize" when it comes to the future. Peter Gomes rightly titles one of his Advent sermons, "The art of impatient living."

Enter the trinity of the Christian graces: faith, love and hope.

"Advent hope is not an invitation to easy, silly optimism, nor an invitation to mindless despair or hope held hostage to experience. The only hope worth having and the only harvest worth waiting for is the ultimate confidence which translates the energy of impatience into the art of expectant living in the here and now ..." preached Peter Gomes.

As I read this, there was an instant convergence of this Christian ideal and the basic Buddhist principle of living in the moment. We must all be mindful of the cliches of Advent: light over darkness; hope over despair; gentleness and meekness over might and power. We find these in hymns, in lessons told to us over the years.

Advent, the future not the past is the place to be. It is verbs of action and renewal -- where the unimagined becomes real -- where hope is the cornerstone, not the time gone by.

In the Christian tradition, the future is where God intends to meet us again. That is why we must look forward rather than back. Herein lies the difficulty -- here's where faith and hope become quintessential and so hard to actually live out each day. Hope allows us to see beyond what is and to imagine what might and what ought to be. This helps us to live each day with a sense of strength -- again intersecting with the Buddhist tradition of living fully in the moment.

James reminds us in 5:7, "Now be patient, brothers, until the Lord's coming. Think of the farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains. You too have be patient; do not lose heart." (TJB)

I'll be the first to admit this is hard to get comfortable with. The challenges of each day often make it hard to have the faith and hope to see beyond the confrontation and imagine what might turn out to be. Sure I know that I should have more faith and be able to do this -- but, truth be told, it just doesn't always work that way. Is this perhaps one of the secrets of the Christian life? This is hard stuff. It's uncomfortable and sometimes easier to just ignore. Isn't that really a truth of the Buddhist life, its just not so easy to live in the moment and live each day fully.

Yet, as people of faith -- those who believe that there is Something Beyond, that a Great Mystery exists -- are we not obligated to listen to the lessons of Advent, shed the past and look beyond the immediate to what might and should be? A time when this Mystery becomes clear at a time and place that we have zero control over -- the essence of faith.

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06:00 AM in Daily Life Thoughts | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 27, 2003

Thanksgiving 2003 Prayer

Thanksgiving is always a time of gratefulness. A time to appreciate, a time to acknowledge all the blessings we've received. It seems that this is also a time of renewal, a time when our soul is rehabilitated as well as our bodies from the sharing of a bounty of food and friendship.

We realize that the Something Beyond us acts within every moment and creates the world with each of our breaths. Amongst the cheer and joy of the day, let us be mindful that in the silence that is beyond all thoughts, is our deepest nature, our home, our common ground, our peace. This silence revives and heals us.

In in this silence, our gratefulness becomes so very clear -- we discover how blessed we are. Our awareness of that Something Beyond us is a syntax of silence and peace, in which our souls mingle with the divine beyond us. In that silence, the ineffable in us communes with the ineffable beyond us all.

Whatever our labors and aspirations in this noisy confusion of life, we must keep peace in our souls and hearts. Whatever our challenges, in this world that sometimes seem unfair and filled with too much sadness and pain, we all walk through the darkest valley. We cannot lose hope -- for when it gets darkest, the stars come out. In these midnight moments we may find it too solitary -- yet we find the solace of knowing ourselves completely, no part left out.

From this darkness, we awake to discover we have twenty-four brand new hours before us. Grateful, we must vow to live fully in each moment and to look upon our life with the eyes of compassion, thankful for the privilege of the day.

On this day of Thanksgiving -- this day of gratitude, let us remember those who are no longer with us, knowing that forever their grace will anoint and bless our lives. Let us give thanks to not only the full table of food before us, but to the full life we each have already lived. As many of us struggle and search for meaning, that which is Beyond us all, continues to grace our lives with goodness and mercy in this and every moment.

Be at peace. Be grateful. Be thankful!

-- CAM

Inspired by:
Psalm 23, Psalm 93, Abraham Heschel, Thich Nhat Hahn, Gunilla Norris and Izumi Shikibu.

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06:24 PM in Daily Life Thoughts | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 17, 2003

Cycle 31 - Day 4

The weekend was fairly good, except for some fatigue which started to set-in yesterday, Sunday. I was able to get a good nap in the afternoon. Today is a "recovery" day for me -- taking it easy and trying to get back some of the energy that feels like it's slipping away each day.

I have chemo on Thursday -- same protocol and plan -- but what I'm most interested in is the basic numbers. How did they hold up with these two drugs? What is the Hgb?

08:11 AM in Chemo Chronicles | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 13, 2003

Cycle 31 - Day 1

Today we began Cycle 31. A new protocol after the results of the biopsy, which didn't concluded very specific news, except that the current tumor is not a embryonal type, it is officially, an "undefined" carciounoa.

So, we began again with something new. Actually, I've had the protocol once in January of 2002, which we stopped for some reason that none of us can remember. Anyway, the protocol is once a week, for three weeks with a week of recovery. The drugs are Gemzar and Taxol (an old favorite of mine).

The biggest issues are the effect on the platelets, which doesn't come in the first cycle, but in the second and third. This is clearly an issue, since the last chemo of Topotecan really knocked the hell out of the counts.

From my reading, this combination should have a big effect on my appetite, which is good. I've gained about 4 pounds in the two weeks since I was last here and on the island -- that's a good thing at this point.

We will needed to watch for the usual items:
1. Low white count.
2. Additional peripheral neuropathy -- tingling in the fingers and toes.
3. Joint and muscle ache -- this has been a real problem for me with Taxol in the past, especially in the feet and ankles.

Beyond this, that is pretty much it. We are continuing the Procit -- although I think Dr. P. is starting to share my feeling that it just doesn't seem to work for me anymore. We are going to continue to do three-injections a week of 20,000 units for two more weeks and see how it does.

Today, my counts where:
• WBC - 14.1
• PLT - 226
• HgB - 10.4

The overall infusion time was about 2 1/2 hours, which wasn't too bad. As of the first night I'm feeling pretty good -- a bit tired -- but the extra Decadron seems to be keeping me going. We'll see how tomorrow is after the Decadron is out of the system.

10:08 PM in Chemo Chronicles | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 12, 2003

A Week in November ...

We have been flirting with Island Life (the idea of living part of the time on an island) for sometime, really since Krissy's Mom moved to Friday Harbor, Washington which is located in the northern Puget Sound.

Last summer, the flirting turned to commitment with Krissy buying a place on the island, which lead to a week on the island during late July, which is clearly one of the most beautiful of time to be on the island.

When we returned to southern California and all its hectic ways, we started making plans to try and spend more time on island. This of course meant that we'd need more than a couple of white plastic benches to sit on and perhaps a better table than a small round garden table. These worked well for a week in the summer as we tried to figure out exactly what we'd gotten ourselves into, but, for an extended period of time, they would not work.

So began the search for furniture to make view-to-the-woods more comfortable and accommodating for us and anyone else who venture on the island to visit.

We already had the impression the island life had a unique set of issues and challenges, specifically when you start thinking about shipping items. Sure Fed Ex delivers daily, but they can only take certain size packages in their Cessna Caravan airplane. So, it becomes an issues of freight forwarding, ferry crossings and the like.

We also knew that not everything is available on the island. There are no Target stores, Wal-Marts or Costco. If you want this, you take the ferry to the mainland and make it a day trip. So, we had to starting thinking in new ways. I don't want to it seem that there isn't anything on the island, there is plenty, two wonderful grocery stores, two hardware stores and a whole compliment of retail establishments, just not the massive retailers that us "mainlanders" take for granted and seem to frequent with amazing regularity.

So the search for some furniture needed to be done "off-island" and then delivered. By some fortune or luck, Krissy happened into Room & Board located in Costa Mesa. She was instantly impressed with the quality, design and the price. It was easy to start seeing this or that piece in location on the island.

Before we got too far into "liking our selection" we needed to understand the whole delivery issue -- could Room & Board <http://www.roomandboard.com> deliver direct to the island and move the items in-place. The excellent team of Meredith and Ricki took several days and worked thru the issues and the final answer was "yes'' we can do it. In addition, I'd placed a very limited time frame of delivery, in between chemo cycles when I could be on island to receive the shipment.

Our delivery of furniture was as near perfect as one could have hoped. This was no small task. The furniture was routed from Chicago to Seattle. Seattle to Oak Harbor Freight and finally, on to the ferry to Friday Harbor Freight who delivered and setup the furniture. Only two pieces had damage, one is being replaced, the other was a small foot under the ottoman, which we can easily handle the repair. We cannot say enough about Room & Board, their team in Costa Mesa (Meredith and Ricki), outstanding. The shipping coordinator, Tracy in Chicago, kept us informed and on track.

As the time for going to the island approached, my health was in less than perfect condition for traveling. Moving around the house was a major task and even the thought of getting on a plane was less than desirable. My Dad had offered to be on the island either with me, if I could make the trip, or as a replacement -- a gracious offer that made us both feel better -- although I had been planning this trip for months, working on coordinate not only furniture, but a washer and dryer -- this whole process of planning had become a major source of daily motivation to get and do something.

After a doctor's appointment, just three days before leaving, we discovered that my counts had dropped to the point of needed two units of blood. What a difference that made! I was able to get back some of the lost energy and was cleared to make the trip.

Dad and I met in SEATAC and then took a flight from Boeing Field into Friday Harbor on Sunday, November 2nd. The day was long, but I felt good.

Fortunately, the furniture was delivered on Monday morning, which allowed Dad and me to have the comfort of the new stuff over the white plastic benches.

It is amazing how furniture changes the view of a place. Check out the photo album at <http://viewtothewoods.typepad.com/photos/november_island_trip/ > to see how it looks today.

There are several aspects of Island Life that have struck me:

1. I sleep better on the island. Don't know if it’s the quiet of the night or what, but, it is very restful sleep and I'm able to sleep much longer than I do in Claremont.
2. It's easy to take a nap in the afternoon -- it must be a relaxation thing.
3. The air is just so much cleaner than Claremont -- my color seems to improve as well.
4. The pace of life is so much slower -- you notice it instantly when you arrive and you notice it even quicker the moment you get "off-island."
For my health, it was a much-needed week. I was eating better, get the rest I needed, but also, doing things that worked the body and helped the system.

For my emotional health, it too improved over the previous four weeks. I was able to walk around without needed to immediately sit-down. The cough that I'd had disappeared and my general "well-being" was returning to more normal levels.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the week was being able to spend time with Dad. It was a great father and son time. We talked, read, played dominoes and just enjoyed our time together. We assembled some furniture -- no banged thumbs or blood. We waited for various delivery people or the electrical guys. We made lunch together, as well as cooked dinner a few nights. We toured the island on morning and had a great breakfast out a Roche Harbor. In general, it was a great time, the only thing miss was perhaps the ball and glove to play catch.

As we grow older -- time just seems to always be moving a bit faster. Visits with family seem to shrink to fit into a week here and there and usually with some activities attached. This was a week of just "being-on-island" and enjoying the simple pleasure of not having to do much at all. It was a week to be cherished -- a priceless time together amidst a hustling world. It was almost like we made time standstill for a short time and took a break from the "real-life" that we lead.

Dad departed on Saturday the 8th. He meet-up with Krissy at Boeing Field for a few minutes and Krissy arrived shortly after noon on Saturday.

We spent the next few days enjoying everything, pondering whether this needed to be moved here or there, as well as a few, "what about adding this or that." As it stands -- its pretty dare perfect right now.

For me, the only missing piece was Michellie. This was longest she and I had been apart -- it was hard. Every day, I'd see her toy basket, filled with her toys from our summer visit, but no Michellie. What will she think now, so many place to sleep on -- we'll she when we come north again for the holidays?

As we flew home on Tuesday night, the 11th. there was a bit of sadness -- one because a chemo day was coming on the 13th., but also to be leaving the island. Even the van ride from Boeing to SEATAC, you start to feel the hustle-and-bustle of mainland life. The traffic, the noise and a shrinking sense of self amongst all the activity.

It's always nice to be home -- which it was to arrive back in Claremont. It was even better on Wednesday to pick-up Michellie and start to things back to normal. That doesn't mean that I'm not thinking about the next trip to the island. Each night I seem to fall asleep thinking about this or that to do when on the island the next time. The good news is -- it just 5 weeks away!

Location: View to the Woods - Friday Harbor, Washington

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