Faith


Today, Patti and I had a meeting with my oncologist, Dr. T.

I had not seen Dr. T since my last appointment in October 2011. Then, he gave me a glowing report. The tumors were stable, no growth or expansion of the cancer to other organs.

Today, I got a similar report. To God be the glory.

I have to admit, since Dr. T has extended the time between office visits, I approach each meeting with a bit of trepidation. Certainly, since my last visit in October, we have had a tragic loss — a death in the family that required daily visits to the hospital from late November through early January.  That was a very stressful time for our family.

So, I was very relieved to see that, even with the stress, the tumors have continued to remain stable. I am so thankful, and continue to thank the Lord for my blessings.

So, work continues on the book, my love of writing has not subsided, and Patti and I are planning to take a quick trip soon to provide some additional stress relief.

I thank you all for your prayers and good wishes. I hope you know that I return your love, your goodwill, and pray for your health and well-being. Thank you.

 

This is not an easy one to write.

Tonight, Patti and I are spending our New Year’s Eve with her brother, Bill, in a Dallas hospital.

He is nearing the end of a 15-year struggle with melanoma. His fight has been valiant. When Bill first discovered he had melanoma, he followed professional counsel and earnestly began treatment. Along the way over the past 15 years, he has had surgeries to remove malignant tumors. He recovered well from these surgeries, certainly enough to resume steady work, steady play, and enjoy his other roles of committed husband, father, son, brother and friend. Bill understood that melanoma is hellishly aggressive and damnably uncompromising. So far, he has fought this onslaught with fierce determination, tenacious courage and an unwavering commitment to beat this beast.

In late summer, at a routine regular visit with MDAnderson, doctors noticed a nine centimeter tumor — one they should have seen during his previous checkup in October 2010, when it was five centimeters. Somehow this bugger escaped detection at that visit and grew. By the time the doctors saw it this past summer, it had grown and become affixed to his spine and a kidney. This time, because of metastasis, doctors could not operate.

The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog

While balancing his responsibilities, he began increasing his homeopathic regimen. This served him well during the years when the melanoma was somewhat inactive. He also sought out experts across the country to help.  At one point this past September, he told me he was seeing seven doctors to try to fight the disease. He had heard about an experimental stem cell treatment program in South Korea that was experiencing good results.

It was a two-month commitment. After undergoing a couple of radiation treatments here, Bill and wife, Lisa, flew to Seoul for the experimental treatment. Unfortunately, after the 22-hour flight to Korea, Bill caught a bug, which led to pneumonia. So, he began a grueling treatment for both pneumonia and the melanoma. All this, and the two of them were in a foreign country, hearing a foreign language, and nothing was familiar to them. Bill gained strength and began the stem cell treatments, which included a cyber knife radiation treatment and chemotherapy.

Bill and Lisa returned in late November and he was admitted to the hospital here in Dallas, fighting severe lung and chest infections, or sepsis. The doctors monitored the cancer, but the sepsis was of a very immediate concern. In the ICU, Bill was heavily sedated, on a ventilator, and underwent strong antibiotic treatment to quell the sepsis as quickly as possible. He was in ICU from November 23rd through December 26th. During this period family members gathered to support Bill and Lisa in any way possible. His friends from childhood, Steve and Paul, were in constant contact with Lisa while they were in Korea and since.

Currently, Bill is on morphine to minimize the pain. The cancer has spread to other organs.

I share this with you not to add Bill’s struggle to the countless others who have fought so tirelessly to beat cancer, but to paint a picture of pure raw courage.

Bill is the most courageous man I know.

As I sit here in the hospital room with Bill lying quietly in bed behind me, he reminds me of an 1818 painting by the German Romanticist, Caspar David Friedrich.  The painting is The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. For me, this painting represents the summation of 27 years of knowing and enjoying the friendship of this energetic figure.

A writer describing this masterpiece of German Romanticism said “it demonstrates mastery over a landscape and the insignificance of the individual within it. We see no face, so it’s impossible to know whether the prospect facing the young man is exhilarating, or terrifying, or both. Friedrich was a 19th-century painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world.”

The connection between Bill and Friedrich was nature. Bill loved hiking in Telluride, as well as the Andes. I camped with him once in the Adirondacks on a snowy Thanksgiving when the temps at the summit of the peak we climbed were calculated to be -21 degrees. Paul and Bill’s brother, Jim, can relate many, many more stories than I about Bill’s love of nature.

When I look at this painting, I always think of Bill. The defiant stance of the figure, standing solidly on the precipitous jagged rock balanced nimbly by a slim cane, looking outward as the sea and fog combine seamlessly to present an undefined horizon that appears to encroach upon the figure from all sides. There is something purely enigmatic that we don’t manage to see the face of the defiant figure. I imagine it is Bill’s face and he is smiling; smiling as if he is determined to find the perfect way to move from his perch toward the far mountain and not suffer the perils presented by the fog (no clear path) and the sea (swirling eddies that engulfed many a less-experienced adventurer).

Yep, that’s Bill.

Bro, shortly it will be a new year. If I could ask you, I’m sure you would tell me with that welcoming smile that the fog is clearing, the sea is calming, and that far mountain is not nearly the challenge I think it is.

Go with God, Bill, and smile to be in His company.

Liam

I am not a big fan of Facebook. Actually, I am rather neutral to Facebook. I don’t know enough about it to either be a fan or not.

But Patti shares information periodically that she sees on Facebook. I have laughed and cried at some of the items. Actually because I am human, I think I probably have experienced the entire range of emotions.

But if there is anything I do realize about Facebook is that it is personal. How much a person wants to share on Facebook is entirely up to them. Individuals can be as open or as guarded as they are comfortable. I have seen some postings that baffle me how someone could share that “kind of ” information.

And, sometime these personal postings can create more of a community than an individual may have thought possible.

Here’s an example. Our daughter, Casey, was a nanny for over a year. Daily, she took care of the needs of two magical boys in central Texas. I have written about these two guys in fighting damien before. Kaedon and Brady are two young boys that bring tears of joy whenever I see their pictures, or Patti shares with me their latest antics. A younger brother, Mason, has joined them. There is not one picture of Mason that I have seen where he is not smiling. Three of a kind and the parents, Jess and Mike, and you have a full house. That trumps!

Ryan

Recently, a friend of the family was blessed with twin sons. Liam and Ryan were born at 24 weeks, quite a bit early. Carrie and Craig are as attentive and devoted to these two little ones as any loving set of parents could be. Periodically, Patti shares with me Facebook pictures and postings of Liam and Ryan as they progress with their stay in the hospital. They are gaining strength and moving toward that day when Carrie and Craig can take them home.

Along with my own grandson, Carter, I pray for these little ones about daily. They are so full of life and hope and promise. I don’t know these kids very well, but with Patti’s and Casey’s help, I sure feel like I do.

The other day I met with an exercise trainer. He’s helping me to start a program that will help me escape a sedentary lifestyle. With the cancer, I need to be much more active than I am.

When I came home, I stood next to a wooden plaque that my friend, Joe, gave me when I was first diagnosed. I look at this plaque about every day. Here’s what it says:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It’s Jeremiah 29:11.

When I looked at this yesterday, instead of thinking about what the Lord may have in store for me, I thought of Jeremiah 29:11 as a promise for those precious little boys. I may have a sense of what this promise holds, but these little fellas are full of living right now. Two are working to leave the hospital. Three are fully boys, deep in childhood and enjoying life to the fullest.

For me, it is a source of comfort to know that God has promises for us all, and always has, whether we’re older and grappling with cancer, or other issues, or young children filled with today’s laughter.

It’s moments like these that make my days truly magical.

Last week, Patti and I were in Missoula, Montana, visiting her brother, Jim; our sister-in-law, Nina; and our niece, Ciara.

Upsata Lake when we first arrived

With some trepidation, I am declaring that we collectively had a “special magic moment” during our visit. The trepidation comes because I am usually reluctant to make too much of a simple event, or an experience, to imply there was much more to it than it actually was.

Not in this case.

Here’s what I mean. For most of us, if asked, we could easily rattle off a few, if not a number, of special moments. Some that easily come to mind include our weddings, births of our children, a special anniversary, a special birthday. See what I mean?

Others of us may include luminous and, perhaps, inspiring events, such as the landing of the astronauts on the moon, a speech by Martin Luther King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or the heroism of passengers on Flight 93 over Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.

What is special and magical depends on each of us, I believe.

One day last week, Jim suggested we go kayaking on Upsata Lake, about 40 miles east of Missoula in the mountains. As we went through the day, we ran some errands, had some lunch and did a number of odd jobs around the house. I kept wondering when we were going to find the time for kayaking, but certainly didn’t push it.

Mid-afternoon, we loaded five kayaks in the back of Jim’s truck and headed off to the lake. Once there, while Jim and Nina were unloading the kayaks and building a small fire, Patti and I took the camera nearby to an old wooden covered wagon that stood guard in a golden field glistening in the late afternoon sun. We took some pictures of Ciara for her senior year. She was a beautiful model and cooperative. Makes the photographer’s job a lot easier, I must tell you.

After the pictures, we had some smores before we took off in the kayaks.

The western setting sun over Upsata Lake. What you may not notice is that there are two people in kayaks in the photo

In the early evening, everything was still. There were no ripples on the lake, no wind or breeze in the air, not a cloud in the sky. With the sun setting over the mountains, we were in the channel of the lake, dodging lilypad fields on the left and right of our kayaks. All five of us celebrated this tranquility by gently using the paddles so they made the least amount of noise propelling the kayaks through the water quietly and slowly.

At this point, ducks began circling over the lake, looking for a safe water landing site for the evening. Patti and I had seen this pattern before when we lived on the lake in Ohio. Towards evening roosting time, ducks come in low over the lake and circle. They’re looking for a perfect place to hit the water. From our kayaks, we could hear the quacks and sounds of flapping wings as the ducks circled. Certainly, as the ducks came into the western sky, we could see the ducks silhouetted low over the water with the setting sun behind them. They were pretty easy to follow as they skidded into the water.

The two swans that came in from the East

Soon, we saw something we had not expected to see — two large white swans coming out of the east, looking for a place to land in the water. The two swans circled in the same pattern as the ducks and landed on the east-side of the lake. With an occasional honk, they made the only sound on the lake.

We continued to move quietly and effortlessly, very relaxed through the still water.

As I wandered aimlessly through the water, I noticed that pairs of dragonflies were keeping me company. Never was it one dragonfly, but always two. And, their wings made a distinctive fluttering sound that didn’t carry very far, probably no further than the end of my paddles. But I could tell when the dragonflies were close by, the unique sound of these small wings fluttering identified them as dragonflies.

By now, it was getting fairly dark and the magic was soon to happen.

You may think the scene I  just described above was magical enough, but it does not compare to what happened next.

At this point in the evening, it became impossible for us to see ducks or other fowl against the western setting sun. But evening bats began dodging and darting about us.  Bats feed in the evening and tonight was no different. Bats don’t fly in customary patterns; they dart up and down, back and forth, very erratically. Also, they are very quiet.

So, at this point in the evening, all we could hear were the sounds of fluttering wings all around us. One moment, the sounds of the bat wings were on the left, then immediately on the right, then in front, and, at the same time, right behind us. And, what was most profound was that we could not see them at all.

The quiet stillness, fluttering dragonflies and "invisible" bats made for a special magical moment

It was as if the bats were providing 360 degrees of protection for us. Quiet, soft but clear, the sounds of bat wings were impressive as they moved about us left and right, front and back, and we could not see in any way the origins of these sounds.

Jim and I were within a few feet of each other, just floating on the water. I  asked him if he heard the bats. He whispered that he had.

At this point, it was completely dark. We all started moving toward shore. Jim and I were last and the flapping of the bat wings continued to surround us as we got closer to the shoreline.

While the bats were fluttering around us, as I soaked up the subtle but powerful emotional impact these animals were having on me, all I could hear in the back of my mind was the following:

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night. 

Psalm 91 has been an important Biblical passage that I read often, particularly since my diagnosis. In those moments, I connect the simple, uneventful behavior of natural things to the promise that God has for us all. For me, His presence is subtle and simple.

Thank you, Lord, for your presence. Who would have thought bats were a gift?

Patti and I just returned from Homosassa, Florida, where my in-laws, Andy and Virginia, live. As some of you may know, my father-in-law was diagnosed with esophageal cancer the same day I got my diagnosis. He is 85. I call him Pop.

Pop

I have known Pop almost as long as I knew my father. My father, JD, died of a heart attack when I was 30 — so most of the time I got to spend with my dad was as a child. Consequently, since I was barely an adult at 30, I feel that I have had two fathers — a father for my childhood and a father for my adult days.

When I was a child my mother used to drag my sister and me to Methodist church every Sunday. I can still hear her say, “You go to church on Sunday and you’ll feel good the rest of the week.”  As a child, I used to believe that if I played baseball anytime during the week and I won, I’d feel good the rest of the week. That was my world.

On a rare occasion, my dad would join us in church. Rare occasion. My lasting memory of my dad in a church was when I was around 9-10ish, standing in a pew right next to my dad and the congregation was singing “Bringing in the Sheaves.” The expression on my dad’s face was one of sheer pain, as if someone was under the pew in front of us ramming a bamboo shoot under his big toe with every syllable of the song he sang. He stared straight ahead and ground his teeth together every time he had to sing, “we will come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.” But he could throw a mean curve ball and he had great stories of Rogers Hornsby.

On the other hand, Pop is from Massachusetts, of tensile-strong New England principles, raised a Seventh-Day Adventist. You honor the seventh day by resting from sundown Friday through sundown the Sabbath (Saturday). Go to church on Sabbath (Saturday). I first learned about Adventists through Patti’s brother, Jim, who was a good friend and roommate of mine in South Texas.  We worked together on the construction of a nuclear power plant there. Jim is a civil engineer, and I was doing public relations for the owners and the builders.

Then, when I met Patti, and we began to date, I got to know Pop better. During World War II, he was a medic, working in Panama. After the war, he had the opportunity to join GE, but chose to begin teaching and settled in Maryland. He and Virginia had three kids. Life was good.

Sounds like I may be simplifying a life story, but that is not the case. Most of the content and texture of our lives lies between the major events.

Pop likes the New York Yankees (I will forgive him for that), loves to play golf (you should ask him to keep score because you’ll shoot a 69), has a twinkle in both eyes that reminds me of the old Coca Cola illustrations of Santa. His love of history and breadth of stories is truly remarkable. On occasion, he would take Patti and me and the kids through Gettysburg. The way he would recount the battle had us all believing we were about to come under a shelling any moment. He has a love of the sea that came from his grandfather who was a sailing captain, traveling around the world several times.

His gift of gab is perhaps what most folks who know Pop would say is his greatest strength. At his church, he tells the stories for the children’s portion of the service. And every Sabbath, he usually has a pocketful of sweets (jelly beans or some other candy) that he gives out to the kids who know him as a soft touch. Whenever Patti and I are visiting with Mom and Pop, conversations very quickly begin to revolve around relatives and friends, most of whom I can barely recall, if at all.

I believe the greatest teaching any of us can have is by rubbing shoulders with others whom we respect and admire, not necessarily sitting in a classroom. I have walked with Pop through the woods, sat with him on a patio, stared at the sunrise and sunset at beaches with him, attended ball games with him, helped him find lost golf balls (his and mine), shared a love of dogs with him, strolled through book stores with him, spent time afloat with him and attended church with him. Along with Patti, he has helped to loosen a deeply buried faith that I thought I had lost.

And, somewhere along the line, it appears that I may have had an opportunity to rub off on him. Occasionally, I will hear him say something like this, “I remember when your mother and I went to see soandso …” I am sure I look confused to him when he says such things because I immediately know that he and my mother never did anything together. But that’s the way Pop is; in his eyes he has six children, not three.

Over the years, when I meet people, I occasionally compare them to major characters of books that I have read and loved. I know a Daisy Buchanan; I’m all too familiar with a few Jay Gatsbys; had some wonderful encounters with some Huck Finns; and had perhaps more than my share of beers with a Jakes Barnes or two. Pop is my stage manager from Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. He may not be the protagonist of every action, but he is the connecting fibre of every character in Our Town. Just like the play, people are drawn to him and he comforts them in bad times and shares joy with them in good times. The stage manager is a favorite and lingering character I think of often. And he is Pop.

These days, Pop is working to regain his strength. Starting in January, he has undergone 6-8 weeks of radiation and chemotherapy to treat his esophageal cancer. At last report, his tumor had shrunk 60 percent. Last week, while visiting with him in Florida, we got to watch some golf, talk about some books, share some opinions about the latest news, soak up the Florida sun and go for a ride or two in the car.

I pray the hardest part is behind him and he can begin to gain his strength back. He is truly the very best man I know.

My cousin, Daryl, lives in a small town south of Oklahoma City. His daughter, Daryta, age 43, has struggled over the past year or so with melanoma. It has been a very exhausting journey for her, her husband, Glenn, and children.

On Thursday, we got word that Daryta had died. The funeral celebration was to take place yesterday in a Tulsa suburb. My sister, Dana, made plans to fly to Dallas and she, Patti and I drove to Tulsa for the ceremony.

We made the four-hour trek through Oklahoma, which in many cases reminded my sister and me of a foreign country. Oklahoma is a state of dramatic contrast. Most stereotypical information about Oklahoma focuses on the history of the various Indian tribes that have occupied land in the past or present across the state. There are over 59 Indian nations represented in the state. And, as we make the drive north, it appears that each nation has a casino ready to get financial revenge for past misdeeds of western settlers. Some of the nations that have occupied Oklahoma territory include the Apache, Arapaho, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Commanche, Muskogee, Nez Perce and Osage, among numerous others. As of 2009, eight percent of the state’s population was native American, while only one percent of the U.S. total population in 2009 was native American.

And, the oil. The petroleum industry as we know it today got its start with the Drake well in Pennsylvania in 1859. Well, when that occurred, oil production had already started from hand-dug wells in Mayes County. To this day, pumps siphoning oil out of the ground are as plentiful in Oklahoma as wind pumps are across the Texas plains.

We saw some interesting lakes, land contour and shared some stories of times that sis and I remember living in Oklahoma, when we were very little. I was born in Cushing, Oklahoma and my grandmother lived in Shamrock. Before we moved to New Mexico when I was 8, we had lived in Drumright, St. Louis, Seminole and Bowlegs. Dad worked for Sinclair Oil then. Years later, when I was a teenager, Dad told me that when we lived in Bowlegs, a nearby town was Maud, Oklahoma and the story goes that the “only way to get to Maud was through Bowlegs.”

When we arrived at the funeral home, we greeted the other attendees and we all settled into the pews. There was no minister, no reverential service. Glenn started the service by saying that Daryta did not want tears, but wanted people to share stories about how she had affected their lives. Still, there were tears; there was humor. It was very informal. It was obvious that Daryta was tenderly loved by her family and friends … as it should be. Glenn spoke lovingly of his time with his wife and how much they enjoyed the beaches of Galveston and went there often. Other members of the family told humorous stories of Daryta. Sometimes, these informal sessions can reveal more about us and who we are than stiff, formal ceremonies where ministers speak in obtuse terms about the deceased person that they did not know.

We were spared that.

As I sat in the pew, I was relieved to see the success of such an informal ceremony. As people took the podium to share their stories with humor and love, all I could do was focus on a Longfellow poem that whispered in my ears.

Daryta, I believe you are in a beautiful place now, and free of the pain. For your benefit, dear, here is the Longfellow poem that I thought of during your ceremony.

The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveler hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveler to the shore.
And the tide rises, the tide falls. 

God bless, Daryta.

When I was a child, my sister and I were raised as Methodists. Part of every service the pastor read the Doxology and the congregation repeated it aloud. Below is the Doxology, as I remember it:

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Today, I had a meeting with my oncologist to go over some blood tests I had run on Monday in advance of the meeting today.

As I walked out of his office after the meeting, and after his nurses flushed the port I had installed in my upper right chest in November, all I could hear in my head was the Doxology.

The blood tests showed that my tumors are stable and even shrinking. The one tumor marker C-19 showed that the main tumor of concern had dropped from 212 to 184. I’m not entirely sure how these measurements are determined, but even the oncologist said that he was impressed to see the  numbers shrinking.

The last meeting with him was in early January and we had been meeting with him every two weeks. At the January meeting, he said things were going well and he didn’t need to see me for a month. We were so happy with that good news.

Today, he said we don’t need to confer again for six weeks.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

 


Today, I had my 3-month checkup at MD Anderson.

If you recall from an earlier post, I met with the docs on October 14th and they recommended I begin chemotherapy within a week to 10 days. They wanted to mix a cocktail of gemcitabin and oxalyplatin, two rather common chemo drugs. They mentioned that this would not be a cure, but palliative care designed to give me an extra month or maybe two.

At the time, I had begun holistic therapies that revolved around building up my immune system through nutrients, supplements and various light therapies, including frequency, laser detox and evox light therapies. I’ve been maintaining a rigorous attention to these treatments since then.

My oncologist here in Dallas has been a great partner. He takes the blood tests and the CT scans and has a rather fresh outlook that I heartily endorse. “You look well. You say you are not in any pain. You are showing no symptoms, so let’s put off making you sick with chemo until absolutely necessary.” So, no chemo as of this date.

I checked in with the nurse at MDA and gave her my blood test results and CT scans from my tests on January 3rd.

A few minutes later the doctor came in and asked how the chemo has been going. “I dunno. I haven’t started.”

She just looked at me and her jaw dropped. “Well, I looked at the markers and the scans. It looks like your tumors in the pancreas and liver are stable or shrinking. What are you doing?”

I explained about the holistic treatments and she smiled. “Why are you here? This is great news.”

I mentioned what she already knew: that MDA is a center of excellence and to fight that bastard damien I needed the best team with the best weapons with the best attitudes.

She said she didn’t need to see me unless I had a problem that warranted her attention. “You just keep doing what you’re doing.” With that, Patti and I left MD Anderson.

Do I believe this is all over? No, far from it. This is a momentary skirmish and damien has lost only the first round. Will he win some battles? Perhaps, but with God‘s help, no, he won’t win a one.

So, for a few glorious moments, as other cancer patients briskly walked by to appointments, surrounded by their own worries, thoughts, fears, successes and apprehensions, I did a brief two-step in the lobby of MD Anderson, humming under my breath to George Strait singing “Amarillo by Morning.” I didn’t care who was watching; the music was playing in my head only. I smiled, said a prayer of thanksgiving and walked out for a breath of fresh air in the bright sunshine. It felt just wonderful! God granted me a blessing.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11

I say all or a portion of this verse in my daily prayers. For today, I cling tightly and steadfastly to hope and hold great thoughts for the future. Back to the daily fight. Thank you, Lord.

Over the years, I have been a steadfast devotee of NPR … and I’m not in any way a liberal. Go figure!

My favorite shows have always been Fresh Air, the show that usually focuses on interesting authors and their books. I am a book show junkie. You put Pat Conroy on a book show, audio or video or both, and I am so there!

But I am equally devoted to the show This I Believe. These testimonies are truly inspiring and spectacular. Some are from the famous, some from the routine folks like most of us. But the stories these folks have to share are anything but sublime. They truly explain clearly and succinctly what makes a person tick, or what event has profoundly shaped that individual’s actions or thinking.

Whenever I can get them on a podcast, I listen intently because more often than not, they have character lessons in them. One that I particularly remember was from James Michener talking about how his beliefs are influenced by the strength and resilience of man.

Others are equally inspiring, coming from homemakers, teachers, bus drivers. You name it. They have a story to tell. My college Journalism professor, Dr. Frank Buckley, used to tell all his students to walk out to the university quad, the gathering place for students every day, and for every person you see or touch, there is a story. He was right and when I was working in D.C., and riding the Metro from the business district to Union Station to catch the train home, I would remember his words and note that everyone standing around me had a story. Everyone. I always marveled at that.

A few years ago, I left a consulting firm in Cleveland to work for a company in Austin to be closer to family. When I left, I sent my goodbyes in an email to the staff there. In the message, I made several suggestions. Today, I was rummaging through some paperwork and came across a copy of that message. I smiled because I found that I still believed the items that I had mentioned in that message more than six years ago.

An item I did not mention in that message six years ago was having faith in God. Wouldn’t have been politically correct to do so, so you know. Now, I am not a preacher and certainly have no skills at what preachers do, but the past couple of days I have been thinking about what I truly believe.

I believe that God is in us and around us at all times. I do not believe He is boisterous or loud; but rather quiet, working on us, his children, in an unassuming manner. I believe God shows himself in every breath we take. I believe He is most successful when His touch is subtle and delicate.

 

Long's Peak near Boulder, Colorado

Years ago, I was hiking in Rocky Mountain State Park, trying to climb Long’s Peak, one of the tallest peaks in Colorado. I was well above treeline and moving slowly. I was not as acclimated as I should have been to take on such a climb. But there I was, slowly walking up the trail. I could see clearly below to the treeline but all around me were large fragments of rock, slag and shale everywhere I looked. All was either black, dark gray, gray or dark brown.

 

Except for one spot. Up ahead, just about 10 yards off the trail, I could see a spot of color. I walked over and saw that between these two huge boulders a small flower had wedged its way to the sunshine from beneath these stones. These rocks were the size that I could not move them in any way, even if I wasn’t tired.

I stood there and looked around for other flowers or anything else distinctive. Nothing.

At that point, I was convinced that God was there, showing His strength in the fact this flower had pushed its way between two huge boulders, and His soft, gentle manner by showing me that this delicate flower was there to bloom and flourish, even in rather adverse conditions.

He shows Himself in quiet breezes that cause fallen autumn leaves to dance along an asphalt road. He shows us His presence and magnitude in snowfall where no two flakes look alike.

I celebrate a graceful God. This I believe.

 

 

I thank you all for your prayers. Seems like they are working.

Yesterday, I had a CT scan and a blood test to determine my cancer markers. Today, Patti and I met with the oncologist and got the results. Seems the liver is functioning at 100%, perfect. Also, there is a marker c19, which is a pancreas marker to determine whether the tumors are growing or not.

As the doc told us, most of his pancreatic patients have c19 markers that measure “in the thousands,” and mine are at 212, even though normal is roughly 50. He mentioned that the 212 number is something to watch and be vigilant about, but it is not an immediate cause for concern.

The best news I had all day was when the doc said, “I’ll see you in a month. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’. It’s working.”

As my Canadian friend, canoe-boy John, says, “It was probably the maple cookies and the maple leaf PJs.”

Thank you, Lord, for your generous touch.

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