Last week, I used fightingdamien.com to share with readers a posting that I read every Friday from the New York Times that focuses on books. While the book update from NYT gives the latest on books, it also hosts a mini-interview with a known writer, and asks the following questions:

1) What books are on your nightstand?

2) Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?

3) If you could require the president to read one book what would it be?

4) You are hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers do you invite?

5) What is the last book you put down without finishing?

At the conclusion of the posting, I asked readers to share with me their responses to these questions. My friend, Marion, was very quick with her responses to these questions.  Here are Marion’s responses, which I really enjoyed.

1) What books are on your nightstand?

My IPad is now the “books on my nightstand” and currently I have “Nothing to Lose”  by Lee Child, “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Orange is the New Black” by Piper Kerman, and since I only read books I check out from the library, I would add “China Dolls” by Lisa See that I have on hold and arriving soon, I hope. 

2) Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today? 

Answer the same for both, Pat Conroy.

3) If you could require the president to read one book what would it be?

“Night” by Elie Wiesel.

 

4) You are hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers do you invite?

Pat Conroy (he is the BEST oral storyteller ever! when he portrays his Bible-thumping relatives, it is hysterical) William Goldman (had such a crush on him long before “Princess Bride”), John Irving.

5) What is the last book you put down without finishing?

“To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf. I tried, I really tried.

 

Marion and I go back to college days, 1968 to be precise, when we met and worked at Astroworld, a popular amusement park in Houston, Texas. We both worked the first summer of the first year it opened, and we both worked at the entrance to the park. I was a groundskeeper, which meant with a long-handled brush and trash container, I swept up every cigarette butt and piece of trash that hit the grounds of Astroworld, from the Astrodomain parking lot, which was nestled next to the Astrodome, across the walkway that rose over Loop 610 to the entrance to the park. Plus, I also covered “Main Street,” which is what Astroworld visitors first saw after they paid and made their entrance to the park. I had a blue and white-checked Sherlock Holmes hat and short-sleeved, button shirt, just like every other groundskeeper who worked throughout the park.

Astroworld when it opened in 1968

Astroworld when it opened in 1968

Marion was ‘the’ Map Lady. Just inside the park entrance, Marion had a very highly decorated cart. With her extroverted style and outgoing manner, she was perfect for this job. She sat at, or walked around, the cart throughout her shift and sold maps of the park layout to those visitors who wanted some information that would help them decide where to do what and where to go to get there.

We became friends that summer and stayed friends as we entered college after the summer was over. Marion went on to Texas Christian University and I went to Southwest Texas State University.

And, for years after we both moved on to other things, Astroworld grew and became more popular. In years after Marion and I left, Astroworld built an old-fashioned white wooden roller coaster, just like you might expect at Coney Island. And, it continued to grow in size.

In 1975, the original owner of Astroworld, Judge Roy Hofheinz, former mayor of Houston, sold the amusement park to Six Flags. Six Flags then ran it as one its popular and profitable theme parks. They were successful until October 2005, when they closed the park down. From late October through early 2006, the park was bulldozed and demolished.

Astroworld today

Astroworld today

Today, there is nothing but scrubland where the park used to be. The only thing that continues to exist that might remind people where the huge amusement park used to exist is the walkway that took visitors from the Astrodomain parking lot across Loop 610 to the entrance of the park.

Plus, the millions of memories people of all ages created when they visited the amusement/theme park during its heyday.

Marion, thank you for your answers to the questions, and for being part of the memories of a bygone era that I really enjoyed.

 As a reader, your action will be required below after the …

My Mom, Clephane Aldridge, died in mid-February at age 87. For someone who smoked about 65 of those 87 years, she had a full life. When my Dad was alive, he would tease her with the name “Cellophane,” after the kitchen wax paper.

Clephane Aldridge

Clephane Aldridge

She followed my Dad wherever he went for his job, an engineer for Sinclair Oil. Consequently, we lived in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas while my sister, Dana, and I grew up. She idolized and loved my Dad dearly, except if the following story ever came up. She didn’t like it.

One of the stories that my Dad loved to tell was one that occurred when Dana and I were very little. We lived in Bowlegs, Oklahoma. Dad did his work, Mom raised us and Dana and I found fun and excitement wherever we could. Bowlegs was pretty much a company town full of Sinclair employees and families and the nearest regular town with shops and stores was Maud. Dad used to joke with his engineer buddies and to family members, since we had lots of family in Oklahoma then, that “the only way to Maud is through Bowlegs.”

When I was very young I never understood his story, but as I got older, yes, I did understand and for a few years would share with my friends occasionally for a good, shared laugh.

My Mom, on the other hand, helped me to develop a real love of reading. As long as I can remember, my Mom was always reading. Magazines, which were very popular in the 50s, 60s and 70s, were OK for her, but she really liked books.

Her fun teaching me to read was a bit lopsided. When other kids were reading Superman, Batman, Archie and Veronica comic books and Boy’s Life scouting magazines, she was encouraging me to read Swiss Family Robinson and anything by H.G. Wells. She gave me a copy of Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl and, for years, all I wanted to do was catch a ride on a small raft across the south Pacific. Years later, as a college student, I spent three months in Europe. One of the things I was so thankful to see was the original Kon-Tiki in a Thor Heyerdahl museum in Oslo, Norway. I wrote her a letter from Norway describing that experience.

On the other hand, Mom rarely disclosed what she was reading. After many years, I finally figured it out.

She liked romance novels. Oh my gosh, if it had a picture or a drawing of Fabio on the cover, she had to have it. She was voracious. Many times, I thought she was the solitary reason that romance novel genre was still alive.

Even though she never gave up her love of romance novels, she stayed current on the hot authors, the really good stuff to read across all the writing genres. When I was still a teen, she encouraged me to read James Dickey and I would. For example, even as I was reading the very real brutality of Deliverance, I was also reading his poetry. And, I still don’t understand why Dickey wrote poetry. It seemed to me that if you are going to really write to make a living, write what sells. To me, novels sell and poetry impresses. I’m sure if I spent any time with a poet, I could change my mind.

And, to try to be more versatile, I would occasionally read James Baldwin, Eldridge Cleaver, Irving Wallace and others. I loved the Irving Wallace books and he really shaped my commitment toward novels. I also loved just about anything that was the Old West. Once, when I was a kid and we lived in eastern New Mexico, tumbleweeds, desert and constant winds, she took Dana and me to Lincoln County, New Mexico. There you can see vividly and in person the story of Billy the Kid’s escape from the Lincoln County Jail. There are national monuments all around the very small town. I loved it because the story was very real and included gunslingers and sheriffs, good guys and bad guys. She made sure we saw the whole thing. Years later, she and Dad took me to the small town north of Lincoln where Billy the Kid was buried.

I will always be thankful that Mom fostered my interest in reading. Just a few years ago, the movie Toy Story was a real hit. The Tim Allen character, Buzz Lightyear, would say throughout the movie, “To infinity and b-e-y-o-n-d.” Whenever I watched that movie, I would think about my mother because my love of reading, that she helped grow and prosper, has taken me to infinity and beyond. I am forever indebted to you. Thank you, Mom.

Now, here’s where you, dear reader, get involved. Every Friday, I get a NYTimes book update. This electronic update lets me know the books that are coming out, what they are about and whether they are worth our time or not.The part of the update that I enjoy the most is a somewhat brief interview with an author. It’s called (NAME: By the Book).Last week, it was Larry McMurtry. But the questions tend to be the same week to week.

I won’t ask you to fill out all the questions, but I am going to add four-five questions that are in the By the Book section for YOU TO FILL OUT AND SHARE. So, once you read this posting, take the questions, fill them out and return to me. I will share your results with other readers next Sunday.

Here are the questions, and I have included my answers for fun:

1) What books are on your nightstand?

The Closers by Michael Connelly, Empire Falls by Richard Russo, These Days by Jack Cheng, Apron Strings by Mary Morony.

2) Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?

My favorite novelist of all time is Irving Wallace because I loved all the topics he would turn into novels, like sex, Christianity, black presidents. My favorite novelist writing today is Pat Conroy, no ifs, ands or buts.

3) If you could require the president to read one book what would it be?

The key is in the word “require.” I suppose you mean he would, indeed, read it. I’d suggest he read The Liberty Amendment: Restoring the American Republic by Mark Levin.

4) You are hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers do you invite?

I’d invite Gore Vidal and Normal Mailer and watch the fireworks. I’d also make sure Philip Roth is there as referee.

5) What is the last book you put down without finishing?

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose.  I know it is nonfiction, but I felt like I really wanted to read it. Then, as I read it, I suspected that there was a Candid Camera hooked up somewhere to watch me read this bugger, and every page of the book said, seemingly, the same thing; “Well, we got up, made camp, went a few miles up the river, made camp and went to sleep. After some mountains, we made it to the ocean.” I thought Allen Funt was somewhere ready to come in and surprise me as I threw the book against the wall.

1) What books are on your nightstand?

2) Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?

3) If you could require the president to read one book what would it be?

4) You are hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers do you invite?

5) What is the last book you put down without finishing?

So, now, dear reader, it is your turn. Take these five questions, complete them and send them to me at derek.aldridge@icloud.com. I will post your answers next Sunday. THANK YOU.

 

 

 

Now for something a little different

Kevin found a men’s room in the terminal and changed into some relaxing clothes for the flight ahead. After clearing security and getting to his gate, he started breathing a little easier the closer he trudged down the walkway to the fuselage of the plane. It had been a long stressful week, working with his largest client in San Francisco, early mornings through late evenings for four days, and now it was very early Friday, time to decompress on the flight back home to Cleveland.

On routine, shorter flights through the Midwest, Kevin preferred aisle seats, but for the cross-country, five-hour flights across the Rockies, he opted for a window seat and a mildly cloudless day. He threw his roller bag into the overhead compartment and took ownership of 16a. Briefcase under the seat in front of him, he stretched into his seat while others became accustomed to theirs before departing the city on the bay.

Upon takeoff, no one was occupying the middle seat of his row. Ah, a little breathing room. He tapped the woman in the aisle seat on the shoulder to introduce himself. In a very business-like suit for the long flight, Angela was cordial and cool, not chatty. Unlike Kevin, who was going home, Angela lived in California and was going to Cleveland for a talk at Case Western Reserve University on diversity studies.

The food and beverage cart and flight attendants made it up and down the aisle a couple of times, so after snacks and drinks, people were either checking out the changing landscape of the ground below, looking at their smartphones or computers or settling in for a nap for the remainder of the flight. The sound of the plane had become drone-like, dull and routine — napping sounds. Many passengers in the window seats had slid down the shade that blocked the light coming in the window. Easier to sleep that way.

Not Kevin. He loved the cross-country flights because he rarely got to travel by car from home out West. While he enjoyed the snow-capped mountains, he also enjoyed the dusty deserts, the irrigated plains, the mirror-like rivers and the city and town landscapes that seemed to cradle all the geographic highlights.

Once, he flew directly over Pike’s Peak and marveled at how the trees had climbed up the side of the mountain to a point where they no longer grew any higher and the rest of the peak was just so much soil and scrub brush. He even saw the visitor’s center at the top. That had been his best view from a plane.

By now, Angela was nodding off and sliding her head from side to side in her seat. As he watched her, he smiled and thought of his wife, Christi, whom he would soon see and was waiting for him at home in Shaker Heights. He also thought about how much he missed his two daughters, Parker, 10, and Emma, 8. Parker was a pure, long-haired ginger, whose red locks were curly and bounced around her slightly freckled face when she ran. Emma loved Crocs and even had a pair for Cleveland winters. They were both growing so quickly. Christi never complained when Kevin traveled. She knew it was part of the job. And, as Kevin sat there, and the plains moved by below, he realized that his travels out west were, indeed, rare. Most of his travel was around the Midwest, but there were the twice-yearly visits to San Francisco and each time almost a week’s work of schmoozing and working to move his project forward.

While studying the terrain below, he reviewed in his mind the week. San Francisco had gone by quickly, but it was intense. Kevin knew he had to be ready with answers for any questions his clients had to continue to foster the confidence in him as the get-things-done guy and to keep relationships solid. He felt he had accomplished that goal.

While still looking at the plains and waterways, Kevin thought about golf, too. He had missed last week’s men’s weekly outing to go to California, but with today being Friday, he should be ready to go for tomorrow’s outing without the impact of too much jet lag. He looked forward to that.

He relaxed in his seat, and after a few moments he was gently snoring. Not loud enough to bother Angela, but certainly a bit above a whisper. Some time later, he startled himself awake when he heard the pilot come over the loudspeaker.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching Cleveland Hopkins Airport. We are about 60 miles out. Flight attendants will make a final run up the aisle to gather any trash. Please bring your tray tables into their upright and locked position. We are about to land in Cleveland.”

Kevin rubbed his mouth, ran his hands through his hair and looked at Angela, who, too, was emerging from her nap. They smiled at each other. Kevin checked his briefcase while Angela adjusted her suit, so nothing seemed to be in disarray.

For the few remaining miles, flight attendants collected the trash and stored items that needed to be tied down for the landing. Many of the passengers were yawning and readying themselves for a landing soon.

Kevin looked out his window. A landing in Cleveland was always a mystery to him. He wondered which of the normal two landing patterns would the pilot follow. Traditional approach saw planes line up northeast of Cleveland over Lake Erie and fly southwest over downtown Cleveland toward the airport. This allowed the passengers to see Browns stadium, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the few skyscrapers of downtown, then over western neighborhoods as the plane approached the airport from the northeast. Then, there was the other approach. Some flights, usually coming north and east from their southern and western original destinations approached the runway from the southwest runway. No view of Lake Erie or downtown.

Since Kevin did not see any sign of Lake Erie, except off to the far north of Rocky River, he assumed the flight would be coming from the southwest.

He rested his chin on his wrist as the plane moved lower and lower. He noticed that the thick woods just west of the airport had begun to thin to just a few trees surrounded by pasture. They were getting close to the runway.

As the plane was roughly 50 feet off the ground, Kevin looked down and was shocked and overwhelmed at what he saw. There was a man in black pants with a white business shirt kneeling on the ground with his hands behind him, as if they somehow were tied together.

In front of Kneeler, there were two men, both in jackets, one in a baseball cap and one bareheaded — and neither of them paying any attention to the plane passing over them. Baseball cap stood directly in front of Kneeler, pulled out a handgun with a silencer and promptly shot the man in the forehead, the blood spewing mist-like from the wound in the back of his head, as if it were red spray from a cleaning container commonly seen in restaurants. The man fell to his side and the white business shirt was now blotchy red and white. The body did not move. The two men ran to a nearby car, but Kevin could not tell the make or model.

This happened as if in slow motion … but in a flurry of mini-seconds. Kevin watched all this from his seat. He started breathing heavy, his face pressed against the window. Angela began looking at him in a peculiar way. His mind was racing. What was that? Who were those guys? Why were they doing this, and just as the plane passed overhead? What had the Kneeler done to deserve this? Who was the shooter? Have others seen what I just saw?

He unbuckled his seat belt and stood up to see if anyone else saw the same shocking event he had just witnessed. No one else on his side of the plane appeared to be stunned.

He tried to form words to draw the attention of the flight attendants, but he was in shock. Plus, since they were landing, the attendants were belted into their seats up front.

He brusquely moved past Angela, and even though the plane was landing, he headed to the flight attendants. They saw him coming and they were prepared to act. As he tried confusedly to explain what he saw, they were having none of that. He was loud, anxious and scared. This was a passenger that needed to be belted in, and nothing would stop them from getting him buckled.

They forcibly put him into a nearby seat, retook their seats and watched him until the plane approached the gate.

 

 

 

 

 

Please bear with me for this one.

Pop and I talk at Casey's wedding as Stacy watches the interaction

Pop and I talk at Casey’s wedding as good friend, Stacy, watches the interaction

This past March 7th, Patti’s birthday, her father, Andy, died after a three plus-year battle with esophageal cancer. He was 88. We were both diagnosed with our respective cancers on the same day in September 2010. He went through painful radiation and chemotherapy.

At his funeral ceremony in Florida, I mentioned that I had known my father for 30 years. He died of a heart attack at 56, when I was 30. I remember just after my father’s funeral, I was tucking my oldest daughter, Carrie, who was 3, into bed that night. I tried to explain that my Dad had died and he would not be with us, except in our memories. The concept of death was lost on her. She said, “Daddy, don’t worry. Grandpa is just driving around town in his Datsun.” Well, my Dad didn’t have a Datsun, but I smiled at Carrie’s statement and never forgot it.

Patti and I have been married 29 years, so I knew Andy about the same amount of time that I knew my own father. At the ceremony, I mentioned that my dad taught me the things that I needed to know to prepare for a successful life … and that, for the last 30 years, Andy was there to gently help me execute those principles, or provide an opinion of some sort. I became his third son, after Bill and Jim, when I married his daughter in 1985.

I was not what he and Virginia expected. They were strong Seventh-Day Adventists and believed hopefully that their daughter would stay within the flock. At the time, I was not much of a churchgoer. But Patti’s brother, Jim, introduced us and, for me, it was love at first sight. Patti, on the other hand, needed convincing. It became my mission in life and Pop watched patiently as our romance blossomed.

After we married, Pop and Virginia (Mom) were very accepting and always there for the small and large events we experienced, birthdays, anniversaries, births, etc., regardless of where we lived at the time. We played a lot of golf together and that was pure joy. I would ask him what he shot for each hole. In turn, he would ask me what I had scored on the hole and often replied that he had the same score.  One time I told him that I had shot a nine on a hole and that ended that practice.

I don’t ever remember losing my temper with him. His presence commanded respect no matter what. And, I also never remember Pop ever telling me “I had to do this or that.”

I loved him dearly and was so thankful to have him in my life to celebrate those things that a man wants to share with another man, and I would not have been able to enjoy with my dad’s early passing. He always answered any questions I asked with tenderness and respect.

Paul Newman as the stage manager in Our Town

Paul Newman as the stage manager in Our Town

For the last several years I carried a copy of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town wherever we moved. Since my mother had introduced me to this book many years before I ever met Patti, it had become a favorite of mine. The simple story of everyday small-town life with simple characters experiencing uniform joys and immediate dilemmas that affect us all resonated with me every time I picked up the book. And over the years, I had regarded Pop easily and regularly as the stage manager, a main character in the book. Within the family Pop had that simple talent of bringing things together, many times without you realizing it. He was the quintessential stage manager. His observations were keen and his pronouncements were true.

I had kept the book for many years because I thought that when he passed, I would be able to provide a quote from the book that summed up the tremendous impact he had on my life. And, it didn’t hurt that my favorite actor, Paul Newman, played the stage manager in one of the last productions of Our Town on Broadway.

But when the time came, I passed on Our Town and focused on the impact of his loss on his family and friends.

But for me, Pop will always be the stage manager every time I pick up Our Town. One of the messages the stage manager says to the audience I can very easily hear Pop sharing with anyone who would listen:

“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars … everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”

What Pop knew was that a life in the Lord is eternal. Pop, we will meet again and there will be no tears, only love, joy and eternal happiness, and then we can read Our Town together as we drive around in a Datsun!

I went to college from 1968 to 1973. While I was at Southwest Texas State University (LBJ’s alma mater), I met a very interesting fellow. His name is Bill. Bill was a Vietnam veteran, using the GI Bill to finalize his education. He was getting his degree in journalism, just as I was. As a Viet vet, he was very conservative and, at the time, I was a little progressive. Yeah, I know. Things change. We had lively discussions. Bill was tall, lanky, lacking in hair (which at the time I did not expect that curse to befall me, too), energetic and outspoken. On many days, Bill would wear to class some portion of the uniform he had in Vietnam.

Every spring break, Bill and I would take a trip. On one trip we drove from San Marcos, Texas to Cheyenne, Wyoming and back. Great fun.

But not near as much fun as one spring break, when Bill and I decided to hitchhike. We had 10 days for the break and we would hitchhike for five days and then return. We decided to head west out of San Marcos to see how far we could get in five days, and what fun we could have along the way.

We got some very interesting lifts. One guy had a truck with wooden paneling in the truck bed. That’s where we rode. He didn’t want anyone in the cab. He dropped us off in Fort Stockton, Texas. Nothing against the people or the location of Fort Stockton, but after getting some sleep behind a store, Bill and I grabbed our sleeping bags and knapsacks to leave. Fort Stockton was a bleak-looking place. A few red lights, wide highways and loads of West Texas sand and tumbleweeds blowing across the landscape. Back then, no Walmarts, just local shops and businesses.

It took an entire day for us to get out of Fort Stockton. We tried every road out of town, INCLUDING the one we had used to enter town. We were getting desperate Bill wore part of his Viet uniform, thinking we would get some sympathy from a West Texas driver. I wore his cap that had some U.S. Army markings on it. ANYTHING to get out of town.

Having fun ... really

Having fun … really

Finally, we caught a ride. When we got into the car, we mentioned that it had been hard finding a ride in Fort Stockton. The guy told us that the movie The Hitchhiker was at the local drive-in and that may have worked against us. “Duh, ya think.” As I recall, that movie had loads of bad incidents where people are killed or maimed as part of the plot. And we were trying to get out of town … by hitchhiking!

On the way out, we took baths in a stream underneath a bridge on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation near Cloudcroft, New Mexico. We pitched our sleeping bags in the hay loft of a lumberyard in Ruidoso, New Mexico; and, we had drinks with a prison parolee in a cinderblock bar skirting the road just outside of a very small New Mexico town. He had been released that morning and his first stop, before going home to family, was the bar. He drank a lot and had loads of stories about his life in prison.  We also climbed up and rolled down the sand dunes of White Sands National Monument.

We made it all the way to Tucson. We attended a frat party in Tucson the night before we began our return.

On the way back to San Marcos, we were hitching along a desolate road that cradled the Texas-New Mexico border. It was turning nightfall, we had had only a scarcity of rides (so a lot of walking that day), and we were approaching a very small town that looked like it was just a smidgen of Archer City, Texas as that town was shown by Peter Bogdanovich in The Last Picture Show. It was not too windy, only a few tumbleweeds scooted across the road, but our skin was getting a bit pelted by blowing sand.

We decided that we had better get some rest undisturbed just outside town BEFORE heading in the next morning.

So, we stepped off the road, crossed over a fence and began walking into a field of someone’s farm or ranch. Because we were away from what lights there were in town, the stars were amazing. They looked so bright that it appeared they were only about 25 feet into the sky. Just plain beautiful.

When we felt we had taken enough steps onto the farm or ranch from the road to be safe, we plopped down our sleeping bags and fell asleep very quickly.

In the middle of the night, the earth began to shake — violently, and there was a mysterious roaring. In our sleeping bags, the shaking bounced us up and down roughly. It became very difficult to shed the bags to find out what was going on. An earthquake? A meteor land nearby? What the hell could this possibly be? And, that noise?

It became clear quickly. Once we were awake, we could see the boxcars of a train. Apparently, it was a long train and as it chugged across the farm, we unknowingly were so close to the tracks that we were affected much like being at the epicenter of an earthquake. Because it had been dark when we pulled out our sleeping bags, and because we were so tired, we didn’t check out the surroundings. The tracks were nearby and we didn’t even see them. For the rest of the trip, we hummed Carole King’s  I Felt The Earth Move Under My Feet.

We made it back to San Marcos uneventfully, but, to this day, many years later, I don’t think I have ever been as afraid as I was that night the earth began to move. But, I will cherish the memories of trips such as these forever.

 

 

As most of you know, I haven’t posted much lately. When Patti and I first started writing fightingdamien.com a couple years ago, our purpose was to provide updates on my health condition after my September 2010 diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer — and to share with anyone curious the interesting things we were learning about cancer and its treatment.  We absorbed, and we shared.

Along the way, we’ve had some great discoveries, experiences and outcomes. The last few times I reported on my condition, the status has been the same. The tumors in the pancreas and liver, plus the nodules in the lungs are the same size or shrinking. When I was first diagnosed, my c19, which is the blood marker that reflects the movement or growth or shrinkage of tumors, was 149. My doctor at the time mentioned that the average c19 number for normal circumstances is 55. And, he also told me that the number can get very large, too, as tumors grow and spread to other parts of the body. The last two times, past couple months, my doctor here in Austin has taken blood and my c19 number has dropped to 65, higher than normal, but just a touch above normal.

After two years of holistic treatments, nine months of chemo and watching my diet and exercise, here we are.

My doctor says that I am “a walking miracle.” I feel I have been blessed. When my diagnosis first occurred in September 2010, Patti and I were amazed at the outpouring of prayers and support. We reported these in fightingdamien. There were prayers said at a temple in Jerusalem, at the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City and various other churches and denominations across the country.  Since then, our friends and family have continued those prayers, for which I am eternally grateful.

I believe every morning is beautiful and a gift, whether sunny or rainy. I find God’s whispers invigorating and beautiful. Smiles come very easy and last long. I am thankful that Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads converged in a wood …,” and am thankful I have had the opportunities to explore both.

Thank you all for your love, support, prayers and best wishes.

 

Going forward, I will continue to provide you with health updates as they occur. And, I continue to love to write. It is so fulfilling. We are contemplating making a few changes to fightingdamien.com. Stay tuned, those changes will show up in the next posting.

 

 

Cancer Boy, Patti and Gillis enjoy the spring bluebonnet blooms near Buda, Texas a few weeks ago.

Cancer Boy, Patti and Gillis enjoy the spring bluebonnet blooms near Buda, Texas a few weeks ago.

I am truly blessed by the grace of God.

Went to my oncologist’s office today. When I saw him in March, my cancer markers were very good, and he suggested I put off chemo.

A day later, he called to tell me that my c-19 marker, which determines movement of the tumors plus whether the tumors are growing or stable, had fallen dramatically. This was good news since, over time, they tend to rise with the advance of the pancreatic cancer. So, I was defying logic. I believe he said, “You are living a miracle.”

He is right. Patti and I met with him again today.

Again, the numbers are not advancing. They are stable. The good news keeps on coming.

I feel fine, no pain anywhere and I am truly grateful to God for the grace He has given me. As my doctor told me pragmatically in March, “Do everything you want to do. The cancer will show up again at some point, but while you are feeling good and your numbers are showing such positive response, I would hold off on any chemo and just go live.” I am so thankful to have a doctor who looks out for what is best for me, as his patient, rather than building up his bottom line. I trust him unabashedly. And, I played my first round of golf in more than two years a couple weeks ago. It was pure joy, plus I got to play with my two sons. Is there anything better?

We left the doctor’s office and said prayers of thankfulness to the Lord above. The Bible is just loaded with wonderful messages for all people, but the one that keeps resonating in my mind is Psalm 91:4: “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 the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness; nor the plague that destroys at midday.”

I find it remarkable that all God needs is feathers to protect his flock from evil and the results of evil.

God bless you all for your prayers. Thank you!