Sunday, December 21, 2008

What was I thinking?


What was I thinking! Here along with everybody else, I've joyfully been singing, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas." It goes along with the season, right? But let's be honest: I may have been dreaming of one, but I certainly didn't want one. At least not so that it would affect our services at church. But alas, my dream has come true, and now I'm enjoying being surrounded with 8-10" of snow with a 1/4" crust of ice on the top. Who would have thought I'd have to drag Shadow out onto the ice to do his business! The picture you see here is my back yard. If you could look closely enough, you'd see a couple of mounds of snow on the pond. Those are duck decoys that now look like snow-covered shark fins. While I'm bugged by some of things the snow has created, it surely is beautiful. You can't help but enjoy the scenery when covered by this calming, white blanket.

With the weather the way it is, we (along with every other church around) were forced to cancel our services today. It just doesn't seem right to be canceling worship services on the Sunday before Christmas. Oh, well, I'm thinking this will make our celebration of Christmas Eve all the more joyful since we missed being together in church today. Maybe we'll have our Christmas Sunday next week. I'll just have to stop this ridiculous dreaming about snow!

As I have been speaking with my pastor friends over the last couple of weeks, it seems as though all of our churches have been hit with a double whammy (to use an old L'il Abner term). Not only has the dismal state of our economy wreaked financial havoc on the churches through the fall, but now the weather has piled on as well. That being the case, we have good news: God is still in control!

Instead of focusing on the bad news, I'd much rather concentrate on the good news. We have so very much to be grateful for during this Christmas season. Right in the middle of everything that is going on we get to celebrate God's gift of life in Jesus. How blessed we are that God gave us the means to have peace in the midst of the storms of life through him!

May you be blessed this new week. And whatever you do, think about dreaming for snow before you do it!


Bill

Monday, December 1, 2008

Have yourself an economically challenged Christmas...

All the talk about our troubled economy can cause some folks to be particularly stressed this Christmas. How in the world can they have a "merry Christmas" when things are in such a mess? Who wants to sing, "Have yourself an economically challenged Christmas..."?

This morning I received an email from an author-friend of mine named Jeannie St. John Taylor. Her most recent book is "Culture-proof kids...Building character in your children". In her Monday morning prayer note, she sent a wonderful prayer I find particularly fitting during this particular Christmas season. Whether you pray it for a friend, or for yourself (just change the pronoun), I think you'll find it most meaningful. By the way: each thought is anchored to a specific verse in the Bible.

"Gracious Father, bless my friend with peace today. Lead her to defeat worry and fear by trusting in you. Help her remain peaceful by taking every thought captive and choosing to fill her mind with good and honorable thoughts. Calm her emotions by reminding her to choose to pray for those who hurt or irritate her rather than stewing over problems. Open her eyes to see your blessings and her heart to accept your peace until gratitude and love flow from her. I ask these things in Jesus name, amen."

As the Lord answers this prayer in your life or your friend's, it's guaranteed to make a wonderful difference!

Happy December,

Bill

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One big step...

Yesterday was a fantastic day for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is that I got my 3-month PSA results and it was down almost 2 points, dropping like a rock! That is an incredible reality because it shows the cancer cells are in fact dead and/or dying, that things are progressing exactly like they are supposed to with proton therapy. Praise God, and thank you so much for your prayers!

It's been an interesting journey to speak with so many who have either battled cancer themselves,or are struggling with it right now. In the case of those who have been "fighting the fight," they understand the approach/avoidance feelings you have as you approach the various benchmarks of testing. You're hopeful to see very positive results of your therapy, yet anxious that something might not be going right. Just knowing others have experienced exactly the same thing somehow makes it easier.

Betty and I pray daily for all those we know who are dealing not only with cancer, but with all sorts of other physical challenges as well. Our prayer is that they will be completely healed, and will experience the comfort, strength, and assurance of the Lord in the process.

The good news we received Monday is going to make an especially great Thanksgiving around our house. On behalf of Betty and me, we pray that yours will be warm and wonderful!

Blessings,

Bill

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Take a deep breath...


There is something very settling and peaceful about walking through a fall garden. I took a picture this afternoon of a "Golden Raindrops" Crab Apple tree in our yard. The little "golden raindrops," like miniature apples, stay through the Fall into the winter, providing beautiful and nutritious food for any enterprising bird.

It's a good thing to find something peaceful in a world that is in such disarray. Given the turmoil on every front, our new president certainly has his work cut out for him, and can use all the prayer he can get!

As I was thinking about our country, and the lack of inner peace and unrest felt by so many, I was reminded of a very wonderful truth about the Bible:

What is the shortest chapter in the Bible? Psalm 117.

What is the longest chapter in the Bible? Psalm 119.

What is the center chapter in the Bible? Psalm 118.

There are 594 chapters before Psalm 118, and 594 chapters after it.

Add those two together and you get 1188.

What is the central verse in the Bible? Psalm 118.8:

"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man."

Coincidence? I think not! Regardless of how we might think or feel, God is still on the throne, and has everything in control. All we need do is rest in him!

Blessings,

Bill

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Everything is beautiful in its own way...




Some of you are old enough to remember Ray Stevens singing the song, "Everything is beautiful in its own way." In fact I can hear his voice singing those words in my head as I type!

It's true, you know. I especially think that when I see the absolutely beautiful fall color. I took the pictures you see here a couple of days ago in our yard. There were so many intense, saturated colors, it was difficult to stop taking shots. It seems as though every angle gave me an even better view.

Why is it that each season, for one reason or another, is "the best"? If you're like me, you find wonderful things about Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. They all have highlights. So is it with life. It doesn't make any difference if you're young or old, in the sunrise or sunset of your life, God has wonderful things for you if you will simply stop and enjoy them. Like we read in Ecclesiastes, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun."

Why do we miss the beauty of a season, or the good things God has for us where we are right now? Usually it's because we're consumed by the wrong thing. We allow ourselves to be held hostage by a past that is long gone, or become anxious about a future that is at best a fantasy, and in the process miss the moment we have with God right now. Could that be why God tells us in so many different ways, "Be still and know that I am God"?

There's something strong to be said about slowing down, centering down on what God is doing right now, and enjoying what he has for us. "This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

May the Lord give you eyes to see the beauty of the season, whether it be in your yard or your life.

Blessings,

Bill

Friday, October 10, 2008

A quiet place...

These are troubled times. It seems like we have reasons to be anxious on all sides, be it political, economic, or social. That is one of many reasons why now is the best time of all to draw deeply on the resources of the Christian faith.

As I have been saying, my journey these days has been taking me deeper into prayer and meditation, truly quiet places where you can experience peace and stability, even when the world is shaking. Recently I have been reading a wonderful book taken from talks given by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the 1930's. Ultimately Bonhoeffer led the confessing church in Germany which stood against Hitler and the killing of the Jews, losing his life fighting that fight. For Bonhoeffer, prayer and meditation were at the core of his life. May these words be helpful for you, too, taken from his book, "Meditating on the Word."

"Each morning is a new beginning of our life. Each day is a finished whole. The present day marks the boundary of our care and concerns. It is long enough to find God or to lose him, to keep faith or fall into disgrace. God created day and night for us so we need not wander without boundaries, but may be able to see every morning the goal of the evening ahead. Just as the ancient sun rises anew every day, so the eternal mercy of God is new every morning. Every morning God gives us the gift of comprehending anew his faithfulness of old; thus, in the midst of our life with God, we may daily begin a new life with him.

In Holy Scripture, morning is a time full of wonder. It is the time of God's help for his church, the time of joy after a night of weeping, the time of the proclamation of the diving Word, the daily distribution of the sacred manna. Before daybreak Jesus went away to pray, in the early hours the women go to the tomb, and the disciples find the risen Jesus on the shore of the Lake of Tiberius. The people of faith wake early because of their expectations of God's marvelous acts. Sleep no longer holds them. They rush to greet the early grace of God.

When we awake, we drive away the dark shapes and confused dreams of the night as we speak the morning blessing and commend ourselves for the this day to the triune God. The evil moods, uncontrollable emotions, and desires that we cannot get rid of during the day are often enough simply ghosts of the night that were not driven off in the morning and now want to spoil the day for us. The first moments of the new day are not the time for our own plans and worries, not even for our zeal to accomplish our own work, but for God's liberating grace, God's sanctifying presence. To anyone who is wakened early by care, Scripture says: 'It is vain that you rise so early and go to bed so late; vain, too, to eat the bread of toil.' (Ps. 127.3) it is not my anxiety about the coming day, not the burden of my work that I have before me, but it is the Lord who wakes me every morning; 'he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.' (Is. 50.4) Before the heart unlocks itself for the world, God wants to open it for himself; before the ear takes in the countless voices of the day, it should hear in the early hours the voice of the Creator and Redeemer. God prepared the stillness of the first morning for himself. It should remain his."

Blessings,

Bill

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Those who make peace

As I have written before, I'm doing lots of reading these days in things related to prayer and meditation. Those disciplines, not unrelated, are what God has given us all to enable us to experience the, "peace that passes all understanding."

We all know that we live in a society that mitigates against peace. Turn on the radio or television talk shows and you will be instantly in a combat zone. Indeed, even the afternoon shows designed especially for women have become more and more contentious. That kind of attitude and approach to people isn't lost on any of us. Insidiously, we find ourselves driven to act like what we see. Though we say we aren't descended from monkeys, we behave as if we are: monkey see, monkey do.

James makes a most profound statement when he says, "Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." (James 3.18) This is in line with what Paul says repeatedly in his epistles, like he says to the church at Colossae: "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful." (Col. 3.16)

The only way this will ever happen is when we truly have lives that issue forth from the Spirit as opposed to the flesh. The flesh will always be at war. Approaching others from the flesh, we will find ourselves overlaying on others our own fears, feelings, struggles and hang-ups, feeling quite self-righteous about attacking in others that which we despise in ourselves. How much better to do it God's way, to let his peace rule in our hearts AND our relationships, to produce the fruit of righteousness God's way, by making peace. Interesting that in his very first sermon Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
(Mt. 5.9)

The more we live in the pocket of God's peace, the less stress we experience in our lives. The less stress we experience, the healthier we will be. Amazing what happens when we live life God's way!

Blessings,

Bill

Friday, September 26, 2008

Back in the saddle

It's been way too long since I've put something on here. While I have been home for about 4 weeks now, it's taken a bit of time to settle into a groove that has a sense of normalcy to it. I hope to be able to write regularly now

A little over a week ago, one of the fellows at church gave me a copy of a new book that is out:
"Anticancer," by David Servan-Schreiber. I began to read it when I got home, and was absolutely blown away by the insights of the author. As a young PhD/MD (neuroscience/psychiatry), Servan-Schreiber found himself with a brain tumor which he had to have removed, and followed that with chemo. Six years later he had a recurrence, and followed the same protocol. That led him to ask himself why he got cancer in the first place, and what he could do to make certain it didn't return. His formidable research is the heart of this book. The end-notes themselves are worth the price of the book, but much more, the application is unbelievably helpful. If you read this book and don't find yourself changing some basic habits, I will be surprised.

As for me, I'm doing whatever I can to enable my treatment to be fully effective. At the same time, I want to do my best to help others ward off the same kind of issue. I don't want to sound like a broken record on eating right/exercising/destressing your life/and prayer, but that's pretty much the way life needs to happen. Personally, I am looking more deeply into the prayer piece at the moment. The quantifiable physical effects that result from meditation/prayer are amazing. It's no wonder Jesus spent so many nights in prayer!

Last night, Betty and I enjoyed dinner with some friends we got to know while at a Florida Proton. Steve and Nycke were on their way to Seattle for a little vacation, and decided to fly into Portland so we could get together. They are becoming quite involved in the development of the new proton center that will be opening next year in their town, Oklahoma City. They will be a tremendous blessing to the folks at that center, with Steve knowing how they work from the perspective of the patient.

God is good all the time, all the time God is good!

Be blessed, my friends,

Bill

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Settling back in

It's been a little over a week since our return. The last several days in Jacksonville were a flurry of activity. During that last week, we had to do a variety of medical things like getting records copied and sent, etc., as well as avoid Tropical Storm Fay. When we finally boarded the plane for home on Tuesday afternoon, we found the Atlanta airport was closed due to a huge FAA glitch. Finally all that worked itself out, but instead of getting home about 9:30, it was somewhat after midnight.

It was great to see everybody including Shadow! We simply could not believe how wonderfully everybody had worked to keep everything sp beautiful. To all those who came to our house and weeded, one more time, thank you!! And what can we say about the work Jeff and Lisa did. Amazing!

It was fantastic to be back in church at least for a few minutes on Wednesday night, then on Sunday morning. I am still dealing with a bit of fatigue and some minor side affects of the treatment, but those should go away over the next several weeks. Now what is important is settling in to getting healthy again!

I have decided to continue the blog for a bit because so many people have expressed interest in it. We'll just go with the flow and see where the Lord takes this. At least for a season, it will focus on health issues, because that is front and center. But you can rest assured we will be talking about the things God is teaching us on this journey as well.

One more time - it's great to be home!

Blessings,

Bill

Monday, August 25, 2008

One key word...

DONE!


With that in mind, here's the deal as to what this means. With proton therapy, cure is a process (as is true with all cancers). Although the proton therapy has greatly inflamed my prostate, my PSA is already falling. That is a good thing, and doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes right after treatment it even goes higher than it was before you started treatment. To be honest, I wish it had fallen like a rock, but I will rejoice in the change that has already begun to happen. I will continue to have blood draws every 3 months to monitor what is happening with my PSA. It may go up and down for a bit, and will take up to 24 months to know exactly the outcome. As I stay committed to doing the things that build my immune system, and as the sterilized cancer cells continue to die off, I will see the total healing.

I so appreciate your prayers over these last few months, and hope they continue. As I said before, I will say more about proton therapy on the blog because I am so committed to its efficacy. I simply cannot say enough good things about my treatment here

May you have a blessed day. I know we are going to!

Bill

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What a difference a day makes...

The photo on the left is yesterday afternoon in front of our house looking toward downtown JAX. The one on our right I just took this morning. Amazing! Given the Clark County Clay that we assume covers the world, I'm not sure we will ever get used to the idea that you could have soil that was "solid sand!" That's the way it is here in Jacksonville. When you dig into your lawn to plant plants, it's like digging into butter: sand, sand, and more sand. As a result, it's hard to keep plants watered. Ah, but look at the upside - whenever you have a bad storm, the water clears quickly and completely.

We read in this morning's paper that Tropical Storm Fay set a new record in Florida: the first Tropical Storm to go out to sea and come back for a return visit four times! Weren't we fortunate to be able to be a part of this record breaking event? LOL

I drove by the Proton Institute yesterday when the rain quieted down for a bit to see how things were. It appears as though it was in great shape, and that treatment will continue as scheduled on Monday. That is certainly our hope so we can finish and get home on Tuesday. Since we arrive late, we may be a bit the worse for wear, but so what - we're home!

We got another card from home today. I wish I could communicate how helpful and encouraging those have been. Your love and warm wishes have truly blessed and strengthened us. The longer I live, and the more I read God's Word, the more I see how relationship is at the very heart of the Body of Christ. I think that is one reason why the Lord stands so strong against the things that work to erode relationship, either with him or one another. That's why he wants us to do those things that build one another up, and choose to avoid the rest. I suspect that's a part of "not conforming to this world," but rather having renewed minds and hearts.

Maybe later today I will get a chance to blog about Proton Therapy because I have come to be so committed to its efficacy. It has to be one of the greatest advancements in medicine, especially cure for cancer and other pesky maladies (like macular degeneration). You would be stunned to hear the stories of people whose lives have been written off who have left here healed! Wow!

May you have a wonderful day. If you're in Washington, you get to experience sunshine. Soak it in, because we will have more rain here (though it is 85 degrees!).

Blessings,

Bill

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In all things...

Sometimes it's not so easy to agree with the Psalmist: "I will praise the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth," especially when your last treatment has to be postponed because they shut down the center due to weather! Rats! They gave me the option to have 2 treatments today, but earlier my doctor told me it's not a good idea because it ramps up the potential of problems. So, since we have are scheduled to leave on Tuesday afternoon anyway, I will go in at 7:10 Monday AM and praise the Lord the treatment is available. Let's just pray that the weather is okay by then.

Tomorrow will be a quiet and very wet day.

Blessings,

Bill

One more day...


Wednesday was a bitter-sweet day. At our fellowship lunch, some of us who are "graduating" this week had an opportunity to share with the whole group. These are some of the guys I shared this time and experience with over the past few months. While it is exciting to be finishing, it is really hard to leave guys who have become "family." The only thing I can compare it to is guys who have gone to war together (which we did!). We had our dog tags (the black lanyard you see me wearing), our uniforms (self explanatory), and fought in the trenches together sharing our lives day after day. You really form a special bond through that kind of experience. Already today I have been called by one "grad" who is now home in L.A., and another who is now at home in Topeka, Kansas, guys who left one and two weeks ago. They were just "checking in." It will be great to get home, but I will take a whole lot of folks with me!

"Family" is what the church is all about. I received several calls from brothers and sisters in the church today checking on our weather, cheering on the last few days here, and generally just sharing and laughing with me. What a blessing. God made us for relationship, and that is what makes the tough things in life "do-able." The more you move into relationship, the more God uses and encourages you.

Because of Tropical Storm Fay around here, the weather is nasty. It is sheeting rain in pretty stiff winds. It's a bit weird for us because it looks like you should have a fire on when you're inside, but when you step outside, it's over 80! Something is very wrong with this picture! We're hoping and praying that Fay doesn't decide to visit this evening so we can get our treatment tomorrow morning (7:45am). I still can't quite believe it - just one more!

Thank you so much for all your prayers and encouragement. They mean more than you could ever know.

Bill

Monday, August 18, 2008

A peaceful place...

Sorry it's been so long since the last blog, but we have been somewhat
tied up in other things. On Thursday our friends Mike and Julie Scheel came to visit us from Vancouver. What a treat! We ate and laughed our way through a couple of great days before they had to leave for home very early Sunday morning.

They actually got to see what I have been doing 5 days a week for the last 7 weeks in treatment. The staff at the Proton Institute allowed them to come into the Yellow Gantry with me and watch the first part of the treatments (when I got onto the table to be laser straightened, swung out into the gantry, x-rays "magically" coming out of the walls, etc. We won't talk about the "etc"). Then they had to leave because of the x-rays before the actual treatment. But it was great for them to be there so they could see how amazing and essentially indescribable this treatment is. They thought "Star Wars" pretty much summed it up.

After an early treatment, we had breakfast, then left for St. Augustine. It was a fun day all around, touring the city in a Trolley, and eating at a place famous for Fried Shrimp (folks come from other states just to get them). On Saturday we went to Jekyll Island in Georgia, about 45 minutes from here. The Live Oak tree in the picture is one of hundreds on the island. This place is about as peaceful as you could ever find anywhere. We all loved our time there, walking the grounds of the historic area once "home away from home" to the world's wealthiest people (DuPont, Morgan, Rockefeller, etc.) The Federal Reserve was started there with about 6 wealthy guys hanging out, etc. What a place. Actually now it is simply a very quiet, peaceful place. When you visit there, standing in the midst of trees like this, you can't help but think of Jesus' words: "These things I have spoken to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but cheer up: I have overcome the world!" Emotionally he wants us always standing in the midst of his peace, like standing in the midst of these trees. Isn't that wonderful?

After M and J left for home, we went to church and "hung out" enjoying the Olympics with everybody else. Can you believe Michael Phelps? Wow!

Today I had treatment #37 at 7:10. Just 4 more to go. The challenge now is to get through this week with no power outages. With Hurricane Fay bearing down on Florida, this is going to take much fervent prayer. I just heard on the news that we can expect 3-10" of rain on Wednesday alone, and there could be spotty power outages. My hope is that the storm diminishes, and it turns out to be much ado about nothing. I also am getting a bit challenged by my "proton tan." That is what they call the 3" circles where the beam enters your body on both sides. Over time, it simply burns. It looks like a bad sunburn, getting worse by the day. Some folks actually blister. So I'm trying to do whatever I can to preclude that.

Well, my friends, may you be blessed in this new day!

Bill

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

When it rains...

Wow! One more time, I am blown away (no pun intended) by the storms they get here in the summer. Today it rained like crazy much of the day. After our fellowship lunch at the Center, Betty and I went out to pick up some stuff at OfficeMax north of here. On our way back home, we stopped at Publix (a grocery store chain) to get a few things. Just as we began finding the stuff on our list, all the power went off and the lights went out. Of course their generator brought emergency lighting up quickly, but everybody acted as if nothing was even happening, just kept on shopping. Obviously they are very used to this stuff.

When we finished shopping, as we were driving on the freeway back downtown to our place, we were passed by 12 Fire and Emergency vehicles racing by on the other side of the freeway. It turns out several things had happened all at once including 2-990,000# cranes being toppled by the 58 mph winds. Curiously enough, something that would be on our news for days was hardly noticed here.

Yesterday when I was waiting for my time in the gantry at about 6:50am, all the power shut off at the Center due to thunder and lightning, although it was only in that neighborhood. Their emergency generators immediately came on so most lighting came on immediately. But the cyclatron takes so much juice that they had to suspend treatments until everything was back up, the software rebooted, and they could begin again. Believe it or not, we were only behind about 10 minutes! But that's why they tell you to add a few days on to your scheduled time. You simply cannot predict what will happen as a result of the weather.

Isn't it great to realize that when you know the Lord, you have something secure to hang onto regardless of how hard the wind is blowing in your life? Isn't it even more amazing that he holds on to you? What a great God we serve!

We're excited to welcome Mike and Julie Scheel to our place tomorrow afternoon. They're taking a few days to fly here to be with us. What a blessing! If it works out, I'm going to take Mike with me into my Friday morning treatment so he can see it with his own eyes. I'd love to have this treatment seen through somebody else's eyes. It is so out of the ordinary my descriptions cannot do not do it justice.

At our lunch today, the head of the radiation therapists spoke. We learned things we hadn't known before. For example, for each new patient who comes in, on the Tuesday of the week his treatment starts, early in the morning his treating physician presents his profile to all the other physicians, physicists, and head of radiation therapy. They all ask him very pointed questions about his choices and decision to make certain the patient has the very best treatment possible. When they are confident that is the case, they sign off on that treatment protocol as it has then truly been peer reviewed. Pretty amazing, if you ask me. No assembly line operation here.

Well, 34 down and 7 to go. Hard for me to comprehend.

May you be blessed,

Bill

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Happy trails to you...

Recognize the lady in blue? She was on the Segway in front of me as we wound our way through the Kingsley Plantation on Amelia Island. What a blast! We first had
to take a bit of a lesson on how to pilot these little critters. It's both easier and more difficult than it looks. Some of the things you do almost instinctively are wrong, whereas other things you don't think to do are right. But it only takes a few minutes to get the hang of it. We spent a couple of hours winding our way through a very lush, old plantation, ducking under Gold Spider webs, avoiding Gopher Turtles, and learning how to climb slight inclines on our off-road Segways. I would do something like this again in a heartbeat. If it weren't so wet at home, I think I'd consider commuting to work on one!

In many ways I look forward to the weekends because I get a bit of relief from getting hammered by proton beams. Monday will come quickly, and we'll be back at it again for just 10 more treatments. These two weeks are going to fly by, among other things because I know of things that have to be accomplished during them. I remember how fast two weeks went by right before we got here, and we're just reversing the direction of the journey. Isn't it great to know that just as God led us here, so will he bring us home?

Those of you at Crossroads are going to enjoy HB London tomorrow. He's a great guy, with lots of hard-earned expertise. I know he will bring an encouraging message.

May the Lord bless you through this day!

Bill

Friday, August 8, 2008

After my treatment this morning (which was just plain weird, but
that's another story), Betty and I drove up to Savannah, Georgia, which is just 2 hrs from our house. It was a beautiful day, and we arrived in the historic area of Savannah just after noon. While looking for a parking place, we drove past Paula Deen's restaurant "The Lady and Sons," but saw a huge sign posted by the kiosk outside where they register customers that said, "Sold out for lunch." Bummer! There were also a number of customers milling around the entrance, whom we assumed were there awaiting their time to get in. So we drove on around the block and happened upon an on-street free parking space! Scoreboard! So we parked and decided to find out how hard it would be to get into the restaurant later for dinner. Nobody was at the kiosk except the attendants when we got there, and we asked them what we needed to do for reservations (meaning dinner). They asked how many were in our party, and when they found out just two, they gave us a little ticket and said, "Go right in. You can be seated immediately." So we did, and in fact had our meals more quickly than if we'd been at a neighborhood Red Robin!

We can now say we have truly "done" the South: collard greens, grits, fried everything soaked in butter...I think you're seeing the picture. But it was very good. Actually, I did the buffet, and the mac and cheese (yup!) was about the best I've ever tasted. And the collard greens were also fantastic. Can you believe that? The grits? I think that must be an acquired taste. In fact, I'm pretty sure it is!

After lunch, we took a trolly tour of the historic area, poked around a bit, and when it started to gush buckets from the sky, we decided to call it a day and head home. We ended up getting some Georgia peaches at a roadside stand, had dinner at St. Mary's (across from Cumberland Island, another historic area closer to JAX), then got home. What a bunch to squeeze into a day. At the moment I have my eyes propped open with toothpicks, but had to get this blog done just to show Lisa Hagelganz we really were at her "fav" place. In fact we called her from there! Here's the outside, Lisa:

As to the treatments, today was strange because they did a treatment, which took longer than usual, then I found out that the beam never really did come on because they forget to do a second set of x-rays (which only happens every 5th day, and must be signed off on by your doctor before that treatment), and their "fail-safe" procedures wouldn't allow the beam to be on, so we had to do all that all over again - after a 2nd set of x-rays! If you had any idea what all this entailed, you would understand the "challenges." Oh, well, it's a good thing God is in control!

We decided since we only have a couple of weeks left, we need to enjoy as much of the area as we can, though I have determined to say "uncle" when I need toothpicks to keep the lids open! Tomorrow we are seeing Ft. George on Amelia Island on Segways. That should be something! Stay tuned.

Blessings, my friends,

Bill

Thursday, August 7, 2008

When it's blue, it's blue...

This was what Jacksonville Beach looked like on Tuesday when we went there for a lunch with
a gang from the Proton Center. Like all the rest,
it was a very warm day. But the breeze at the
sea made it at least a bit more tolerable. The lunch was at one of the oldest hotels in Florida, which happens to be at JAX beach, the Casa
Marina. Actually JAX Beach was Hollywood before Hollywood existed, and the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Mary Pickford, Katherine Hepburne, etc. all stayed at this quaint hotel. In more recent days, folks like Bill Cosby have enjoyed it. It's actually quite a "normal" place, but with such a fabulous place on the beach and great history, it's a fun place to visit.

Tomorrow after my treatment at 8am, Betty and I plan to drive up to Savannah, Georgia for the day. Everybody tells us it is a treat to see another old city. That's where Paula Dean holds forth in her restaurant, but I doubt we'd be able to get in there. You usually have to stand in line for 2 hrs waiting, and often don't make it then. We'll see. Then Saturday we plan to do a Segway tour of a beautiful area on Amelia Island (yes, that's right, Betty and I driving those unusual stand-up scooters!). That should be a blast.

The treatments continue to chug along. 30 down, and 11 to go. After tomorrow, it will be just 10 more treatments, two short weeks. Amazing! I know when I leave here the cancer won't be completely eradicated. But it will be sterilized such that it will slowly die, no longer being able to replicate.

There are a number of things we have learned about approaching life after cancer, central to which is good nutrition. We may not be able to control our genetics or environment, but we can control what we put in our mouths. And as we all boost our immune systems, we raise the ability of our bodies to withstand the attacks of any of these critters designed to destroy our lives. It just reminds me one more time of how the thief delights in destruction, the exact opposite of Jesus, who has come to give us life, and that more abundantly. Having been placed in an amazingly supportive, constructive, and encouraging environment for the last couple of months, it's something I want to see extended in every area of my life and the lives of those in our church as well. We need to be sold out to those things that bring forth life.

It's tough to see some of our new friends already leaving to go home. We will miss them. Last night we had dinner with our friends Ernest and Gloria from SoCal, fellow Calvary Chapelites. We have spent a bunch of time with them and enjoy them very much. They left for home this morning, as did another couple we have been getting to know. Then again, that's what you want: people getting healed and able to get back into life, albeit with a whole different perspective.

Like our friend Rose said to us, after cancer, life simply looks different. Things change. You realize that the "biggies" in life aren't so very big at all. And many of the little things you took for granted become much more important.

Today it's 97, with a heat index of 110. Hot enough for you? It was 98 yesterday. We're told this is classic Florida summer. Fabulous!

May you have a warm and wonderful day in the Lord!

Bill

Monday, August 4, 2008

It was a great day!

At least for the believer, Sunday is always a great day. We had a wonderful time of fellowship with the folks here at CC Jax yesterday. I filled in for the pastor so he could have a week off with his family. Two of the couples from the Proton program were with us as well. That was a great encouragement, and a good time with a special group of God's people.

I have heard nothing but rave reviews from Paul Young's visit to Crossroads. Praise the Lord! Now if people will only take to heart everything he communicated. Isn't it remarkable how difficult it seems to be to understand that God really does love us, that his main goal as God is not to pounce on us for our failures? Isn't it refreshing to know that God delights in bringing us all to health and wholeness?

For those who didn't get a chance to hear Paul, make sure you visit our website and listen to both of the messages, because they were different from one another: www.crossroadschurch.net. When you go to the archived messages, both of them are up for yesterday. And make certain to listen to both because they are different from one another. One really enhances the other.

Because I've known HB London for many years, I know that the Crossroads folks are in for another treat next Sunday. Because he has been a pastor for many years as well as headed up the pastor's area for Focus on the Family for an equally long time, he is in a unique position to speak to the church. I can't wait to catch up on what he has to say!

Betty has the opportunity to hear Anne Graham Lotts tomorrow night. She is speaking at First Baptist JAX (about 6 blocks from us) as the kick off of a "Just give me Jesus" crusade she will be doing here in February. I think Fernando Ortega is going to be with her as well. What a team!

Well, 27 down and 14 to go! I had my 27th appointment early this morning as I entered into the last-three-week countdown. It went smoothly, for which I'm thankful. Since having the "boost" last week, I'm experiencing a few of the pesky side-effects again, but I know I will get adjusted to those one way or another, and they will go away after treatment ends. We just continue to be thrilled that God made this form of treatment possible, and are thankful for it each and every day.

Remember: this is the day the Lord has made, so rejoice and be glad in it!

Blessings,

Bill

Friday, August 1, 2008

One day at a time...

Well, it's 26 down and 15 to go. That means just 3 weeks!!! Wow! In some ways I supposed that can seem like a long time. But knowing what all goes on, it will shoot by like a flash. We don't know for certain we can actually finish on Aug 22nd, and in fact aren't scheduled to come home until the next week (because you have to allow for potential cancellations due to electrical storms, etc.). But we're hoping things just perk along, and we will then be able to change our flight time (depending on availability and cost).

At the same time we can't wait to get home, we don't want to "wish the time away." If there is anything we know to be true, it is that we are to "redeem the time," to take seriously every moment we have to make it count for eternity. That's easier said than done, especially when you're so caught up in what lies ahead that you neglect what's staring you in the face. We have learned so very much while we've been here, and we don't want to miss any of the great things yet to be learned. So we will take it one day at a time. Somehow I think that's how we're supposed to approach life all the time, don't you think?

I'm jealous for those of you at home because you get to hear Paul Young this coming Sunday. Aside from the fact that his book The Shack has been #1 on the NY Times fiction best-seller list, he is an incredibly cool guy. I am privileged to call him my friend, and as soon as you hear him, you will feel as though he's your friend as well. I know many of you are bringing friends, so make certain to get there early - lots of visitors are coming. As for us, actually our little church here is going to be having a guest speaker as well - me! Since I've heard me before, it won't be nearly as exciting as hearing your guest. But we are praying that the Lord will use the time powerfully. I've invited one of the radiology techs to come join us, and I'm hopeful she will.

Tonight we ate at a fantastic restaurant: Bonefish Grill. Betty and I both had Grouper with a mango salsa. It was a most delicious meal, actually made possible by a gift from a ladies bible study at Crossroads. God bless them! Man was the food fantastic. Actually it was the best meal we've had the entire time we've been here (aside from B's great cooking, that is!).

May you find God's richest blessing as you move into this weekend!

Bill

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pass the salad, please...

My first souvenirs! I said yesterday that I was getting a "boost" today. That means they changed the target to a smaller area, now only doing the prostate itself rather than the surrounding area as well. What I am holding are the two "compensators" that tell the proton beam how deep to go before delivering the burst of energy. I now have new compensators that have a smaller target area, so they gave me the ones they will no longer use. They can't give us the brass apertures because they still contain a bit of radiation. They go to a special room for a season, and ultimately are melted down.

After our fellowship lunch today I spoke with one of the doctors here about the different treatments schedules (some do 28 or 29 days, others do 39 or 41). The guys doing the short treatments are essentially pioneers, taking higher doses of radiation for less sessions. They are seeing this as the way of the future. They offered it to me during my consultation, but when they explained the whole protocol, I (and a number of other guys) opted to go with the "tried and true." The doctor I spoke with at noon told me those who are considered "low risk" receive 79 gray of radiation over 39 days. These are guys with Gleason 6's or less (it's a number having to do with how undifferentiated the cancer cells are). Then there are the intermediate risk guys, for whom they do 82 gray of radiation (2/day/41 days). That would be moi and a bunch of others, all of whom have Gleason 7's. Finally there are the high risk guys with Gleason 8-10. Each of them has a specific protocol that may or may not include chemo therapy as well as traditional IGRT. So now I know why I'm doing 41 days, and why I am getting the boost. The "low risk" guys never have that because after much research, the docs don't feel it's necessary. The rest of us mere mortals, however, get the concentrated zap.

I'm trying to decide what to do with my compensators. (I'll be getting two more when I "graduate"). They could be candy dishes (then again, sugar and cancer are a lethal mix). They would make wonderful jello molds for salads when we have in friends ("Would you like mayonnaise on your prostate salad?") Certainly they would be good book ends, but then again they could roll off the shelf ("Martha, I think I just got beaned by a runaway prostate mold!"). But whatever the case, they will be reminders. They will serve to remind me of God's goodness and care for Betty and me when we faced a huge challenge. God is so very good and gracious, and we will always be so thankful to him. Each time I see those compensators, I'll get a fresh opportunity to remember God's goodness. Isn't that terrific?

Do you have memorials? Remember when God's people were coming out of Egypt the vast number of memorials they were led to create just as reminders? Is there anything in your life that serves to remind you of God's love and care for you? If you don't, pick something out, something you'll see "now and again" that will remind you how much God loves you and ministers his care in your life.

Hey, be blessed!

Bill

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Greetings from the "Sunshine State!"

I just took the picture to the right from our front porch. That "stuff" on the ground, covering the road and cars, is "Florida sunshine." LOL Since we get some variation of this virtually every afternoon, I'm thinking that whoever came up with "The Sunshine State" owes Arizona an apology. But I must hasten to add, at least it cools things down a bit. Rather than being 93-95, the rain usually brings us down into the high 80's!

Kind of like life, isn't it? Don't they say that into every life a little rain must fall? We all have our sunny seasons, and we all have our rainy seasons. Praise God the sunshine always follows the rain! Let's help one another never forget that.

Apparently tomorrow I get a "boost" in my treatment. I found that out almost inadvertently. What it means is that they are changing the "target" of the proton beam a bit for the last phase of my treatment. Whereas until now they have been treating a fuller area that includes the prostate and the area around it (seminal vessicles, etc.), now they are zeroing in the entire force of the radiation on the prostate itself. That means that the same amount of protons are now concentrated in a smaller area, hence a "boost." They completely change the aperture and the compensator (Lucite "lens" that enables the proton beam to compensate for the exact depth of the prostate to be treated). As I have come to understand how much they customize this treatment for each and every patient, I am awestruck. I don't know what else to say.

It reminds me of the way God works with each of us. He meets each one of us right where we are and customizes a "treatment" (plan of spiritual growth) that is specifically tailored just for us. We aren't one more number for him, a face in the crowd. No, he is particularly fond of each of us with all of our uniqueness, and doesn't want, expect, or desire that we be somebody else. He doesn't evaluate us based on the way others operate, nor does he expect them to be like us. Instead he loves and grows us all right from the point where he meets us. Isn't that fantastic?

May this be a powerful week of growth in your life!

Blessings,

Bill

Monday, July 28, 2008

One of "those" days...


Sometimes I feel just like this when starting another week of treatment. On the one paw, it's 22 down, just 19 to go. On the other paw, it's 22 down, and 19 more of these pesky treatments to endure. Obviously time to take a deep breath! LOL

I suspect some of you at home are feeling like our friend to the left because of your weather. Compared to the weather here in the summer, yours sounds mahvelous ! Your tomatoes must be ripening up, as well as the rest of those wonderful garden delights. Man, do we miss those raspberries! But I've got to tell you: they have the world's best peaches in this area. I don't believe I knew that a peach could be so "peachy." It reminds me of the bananas in Indonesia or the pineapples in Haiti. When a fruit is grown in its element, it's like a tomato ripened on the vine; it's just plain better!

It may be hot where you are. Your "situation" may be lasting longer than you'd like. Just don't forget: "This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!

Bless you, my friends,

Bill

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sheep and cheap

Betty and I have had the opportunity to enjoy all sorts of fish across the years. For example, we got addicted to the Mahi sandwiches at the Ku Aina restaurants in Oahu. We've had some Wahoo here in JAX that was pretty terrific, along with several types of fish the names of which escape me. But today was a first. After church, we drove with our friends to Mayport, and ate at Singleton's Fish Shack on the intercoastal. This place truly is a shack, and it specializes in fish. All kinds of fish. We decided to go with the lunch special: Sheep's head! I will admit that is a weird name for a fish, but it is a white fish and is quite tasty. We will definitely go to that place again!

Then imagine our joy on the way home to find a gas station (BP) selling regular at $3.69. That's right, read 'em and weep. I can't even believe I am saying that's a good deal, but after paying over $4.00/gallon for regular (though not as high as WA), it was a breath of fresh air. The station was packed with cars, and since a TV crew arrived just as we were leaving, I'm assuming this is currently the lowest priced station in the area. We did see it at $3.75 at other places, however. Guess it really is coming down. That will be a blessing!

Next Sunday I'm going to be teaching at the CC here in JAX. It should be a fun time, and will allow the pastor to have a wonderful week off with his extended family, most of whom will be here from parts unknown. We'll just have to pray that the folks will get used to my PNW accent!

I was refreshed by a call from Ralph Cassel yesterday on his return from Puerta Villarta. He must have sensed that I was feeling a bit "down" with the length of my treatment, and reminded me I'm in a marathon, not a sprint, so expect to hit a "wall" now and then. I needed that reminder, and was thankful for the boost. From time to time we all need that, don't we? In fact, who could use encouragement from you today? Who do you know at work, in your neighborhood, or in church who could use a little lift from a friend who cares and prays for them?

As you prepare for a new week, look forward to what God has for you. He loves you madly, and has great things in store if you will just take hold!

Blessings,

Bill

Friday, July 25, 2008

But who's counting?

Today I finished my twenty-first treatment. That means I only have twenty to go, now over half way. While I might not be able to smell the barn, at least I know I'm getting a whole lot closer!

I have heard such wonderful reports about the fellows who have been teaching at Crossroads. You would almost think God had a hand in choosing them. Isn't he great?

Betty and I have joined thousands of others in praying for the family of Greg and Cathe Laurie in the death of their son, Christopher ("Topher"). He died in a traffic accident on his way to work at Harvest Fellowship yesterday, leaving a wife, a little girl, and another on the way. For those of you who don't know his dad, Greg is the pastor of Harvest Fellowship in Riverside, CA, a very popular evangelist and fellow Calvary Chapel pastor. I've known Greg for many years. He is one of the most creative and energetic guys you will ever meet. What a tragic loss! I know you will join me in praying for everybody concerned.

I don't usually do two blogs in one day. Then again, I don't usually finish over half my treatments! PTL!!

Bill

PS - I didn't have a picture of myself leaping into the air, arms raised high. But the feeling's there, nonetheless

Never minimize fellowship...

We do lots of "fellowshipping" around here. Whether it's the Tuesday no-host lunches, the Wednesday lunches put on by the Proton Institue, the no-host dinners on Thursdays (like the one pictured here), or various "come on over to my place" invitations, we spend time together with others who are going through the same thing we are. We laugh a whole lot. We talk about families and futures. It's really a supportive environment.

Did you know that when people are going through cancer (and other challenging issues in their lives), their chances for healing is from 300-500% greater when they have a community of friends to support them? Wow! My chances must be about 5,000%! We not only have the support of new friends here, but the vast network of support of our church and friends beyond. Daily we get emails, letters, cards, phone calls from folks "just checking in." You have no idea what a blessing those are. To all of you, one more time, thank you!!

God designed us for relationship. Isolation, either from him or one another, was never his plan. We need each other desperately. That's why we need to realize that everybody else is just like we are, with all the same kinds of issues, hurts, hopes, hang-ups. Instead of assuming they are "better," we can realize we're all in this "life" thing together, and God has designed us to lift one another up, not to put one another down. The world is good at put-downs. But God is better at lift-ups. If you're not a part of a supportive community, slide into/force yourself into/wedge into one as soon as possible. As you do, God will make you healthy!

By the way: in the picture above, the cute blonde at the bottom left of the picture (Crystal) is one of my radiation therapists. The young man beside her with the curly hair, Laurin, is another. They are all terrific people, and definitely are a huge part of getting us healthy. Praise God for the health-care workers!

Have a blessed day!

Bill

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

So close and yet so far...

One of the last thing the radiology techs do before they ring the bell, walk out of the gantry, and send in the proton beam, is to put on the aperatures and the lens for the beam to go through. The aperatures are the brass rings you see to the right. Actually each of these is only half an aperature, because if the full thing was one piece, many of the techs wouldn't be able to lift them throughout the day. Each half weighs 13#. Once these are put in place, they add the lens, the lucite "ring that tells the beam exactly how far to go (deeper for the middle, more shallow to the outside). They snap all three in place and leave. Once these exceedingly critical pieces are put in place, you are ready to receive the beam. Obviously they need to be created exactly right.

The samples you see in this picture are all rejects. They look terrific. The only problem is, in each case something is wrong. Perhaps it's cut a bit too much at the bottom, or the mold in the lucite didn't turn out exactly right, or some other problem. Whatever the cause, though the appear wonderful, they are actually useless. They are so close and yet so far from being the valuable items they were meant to be.

Think there might be a spiritual application here? How many people who call themselves "Christian" do you know who, even though they look the part, don't have lives that accurately portray the spirit and dynamic of Jesus' life at all? Jesus said that people who truly belong to him stand out because of their love for one another. It is so obvious, so winsome, so engaging that others want to know what makes them tick. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. They are the real deal and have lives that show it.

Why would somebody choose to look like the real thing yet in fact be of no value to the Kingdom, especially when they could be used of the Lord to do great and mighty things?

I'm glad they have "real" aperatures and lenses here because those are the things that will bring forth true healing. And I'm glad for those who love the Lord and live like they do. No matter what they face in life, surely they will be richly blessed!

May you find his blessing in this day,

Bill

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's a happy day...

In spite of the fact that my buddy Ken Mogseth tried to add to my age in church, I will still enjoy a great birthday! I received a wonderful "edible bouquet" from the Tuttles this morning. That will be history in no time. Then there is the "birthday in a box" that Rusti and Maggie sent along. I especially will enjoy the Cheeto's. Then there were the slew of cards. Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement.

One of the couples going through treatment caught wind of my birthday and are hosting a party at their place tonight. It's a beautiful condo on the 22nd floor of a building overlooking the St. John's river. A bit different from "the hood!" LOL They are extremely generous folks, and I appreciate very much their kindness. I think they've invited the whole entourage to the party! (that is not a small number!)

Though my legs may look white, that's just an optical illusion. They are actually a very deep brown tan. I just photoshopped it to white to satisfsy my dermatologist back home. Oh, and all those dots on my legs that look like bug bites? I just threw those in to make it look more like I was in the South! And that isn't really hydrocortizone cream all over them. You're just seeing things!

Hey, have a great day. May you be richly blessed!

Bill

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My favorite day is Sunday

Today we worshiped at Calvary Chapel Jacksonville, the church we’ve been attending since arriving here in late June. It is an excited, welcoming, Word-centered, worship-loving group of believers founded in 1999 by the current pastor Keith Pintar. What a wonderful opportunity for us to experience being newcomers in a church. Whether the fellowship is large or small, it’s intimidating to walk in the door and not know where to find the sanctuary and the bathrooms.

Here at “CC Jax” we’ve found like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ who have reached out to us with their hands and their hearts. And our attempts to reach back have been well received. It’s been confirmed again that service and small group involvement are the guaranteed ways to become folded into a fellowship. We’ve also learned first-hand how precious is a gesture of welcome to those who are experiencing the confusion of an unfamiliar facility and new faces, where everyone seems to have a sense belonging—everyone but US! When we return home, I hope to keep these impressions in the forefront of my mind and be just a bit more intentional about extending myself to newcomers.

Betty

Saturday, July 19, 2008

We spent the day with friends...

This wasn't actually one of the "friends" we spent the day with. Had we been able to stay and chat, this would have been a new friend. As it was, Dave and Denise Robinson went with Betty and me to the Okefenokee Swamp. It was incredible! We saw more gators than we could count, as well as all sorts of birds and vegetation. I'm pretty sure the herons we saw had flown down from my pond at home just to bug me! Then again, there were enough bugs without them. It was a fun experience, and we are all glad we were able to take it in.

We onsidered seeing if we might switch our current rental for the one shown here occupied by the original "Swampers," but then felt like it might be a bit challenging with no electricity, indoor plumbing, or ac! Oh, and that is sand you are looking at around it, not snow. They put it there and kept it raked because the snakes don't like to crawl across that much smooth, hot sand. And if one managed to do so, they could see its tracks.

Having friends from home with us for a few days has been a breath of fresh air (which is a godsend in this humidity!). There's something about good friends that cheers you up. What a blessing to have good friends. You've got to wonder how many people who will come into church tomorrow don't have one? How many would love to have one, would be encouraged just to have somebody notice them, speak to them, take an interest in them? Wonder what they'd think if somebody went so far as to invite them out to lunch after church? Think that's how the Body of Christ is designed to work? It's always a joy to see good friends at church. But it's even a greater joy to make a new one and extend our circle of friends. May God put one in your path tomorrow, and may you use that opportunity to extend his love!

Those of you at home have a real treat in store tomorrow when Gayle Irwin teaches at church. He has been a friend of mine for many years. It seems like every time he has been with us, people wish he could stay longer. This time he will because we have him for 2 Sundays and a Wednesday. Wow!

Be blessed on this glorious weekend,

Bill

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's all about relationship...

If I were to select one phrase that characterizes what God has been
teaching our church over the last nine months or so, it is this: it's
all about relationship. Our lives are designed to center first on a relationship with God, Father-Son-Holy Spirit, the kind of relationship that is intimate, growing, trusting, and exciting. We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future, and that is truly enough. It's like the paraphrased statement from Ps. 23 says: "Because the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need." As we develop that relationship with God of intimacy, honesty, and trust, we then carry that over into relationships with one another. We want them to be authentic, caring, and nurturing, the kinds of relationships that truly build one another up. We all know how awful it feels to be hurt by others. How wonderful it feels to enjoy the reverse, the God-style life.

This picture was taken this evening at our usual Thursday night no-host fellowship dinner. You are seeing some of the folks in the program, people we've come to share our lives with over the last few weeks. When you have cancer and its treatment in common, I can tell you this: you get open, honest, and intimate very quickly. You don't sweat the small things, nor do you dwell on the petty things. Instead, you treasure life and the means you have been given to get healthy. I can't tell you how healing the relationships are that we are cultivating in this environment. It's a great picture in more ways than one.

This evening we sat across from a wonderful couple from Louisiana. The fellow's level of prostate cancer is essentially as bad as it gets, at least on the surface. But because of what he is getting here, as well as his attitude and support, great things are happening. He is definitely a "cup half full" kind of guy, an approach shared by his vivacious wife. As we got in our car to return home, we just praised the Lord for the opportunity to hang out with such a "healthy" group of people!

May your new day find new blessings from a God who loves you madly!

Bill

The "dailyness" of it all...

Even though Bill has referred to our experience here in Jacksonville as a “radiation vacation,” our days have a kind of routine and sameness that seem more like being home than being on a true vacation. There are still meals to cook, groceries to buy, clothes to wash and iron, dirty floors to vacuum and mop.

One activity that is new to me that I am enjoying immensely is pilates. Not to be confused with the “Pontius” variety, pilates is a system of exercise founded on strengthening the core muscles and exercising the rest of the body, both for strength and flexibility. Speaking from my lengthy 5-day experience, I may be describing this incorrectly, but suffice it to say, I am hooked. I hope to learn the basics well enough to be able to follow an instructor on a DVD when we return home. For now, we do pilates 3 days a week at the Jax Y. The other couple of days we go to a class led by “Killer Betty,” not to be confused with yours truly. KB is an 84 year-old lady who’s in better shape than most 30 year-olds I know. And finally there is a class by Traci. I don’t know what Bill and I are doing there—he’s the only male, and I’m the only one with gray hair. But they put up with us and don’t even laugh as we hobble out the door clutching our thighs. So forget the old dogs and new tricks saying. Definitely not true at all!

Thanking God for what He is providing in this place,
Betty (not THE Betty; just B-)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's an uplifting environment...

No doubt most of you will recognize the lovely
lady standing in the middle of the room pictured here: it's Betty, speaking with the wife of another proton patient. She is standing in a part of the lobby we gather in while we wait to be called for our time in the Gantry. As you can tell, it's a beautiful area, nothing like what most would imagine having to do with cancer treatment. The environment itself adds to the positive pace set by the entire Florida Proton Therapy Institute.

It causes me to wonder what kind of "environment" we create in our relationships with others. Is it inspiring, uplifting, encouraging and helpful? Or would our "environment" be much more bleak, filled with criticism, judgment, and Monday-morning quarterbacking? This is one of those pictures I want to have etched in my mind and on my heart so that I can be one who truly helps, not hinders. That certainly is the "Jesus style," after all. Why did "the common people hear him gladly?" Because he was such a neat guy! You just felt better being in his presence. Hmmmm. I think there's a lesson in there somewhere!

I had a very funny experience today. Actually the situation happened yesterday, but the explanation was today. Yesterday, some fellow travelers at FP were having trouble getting their printer to print from their computer. They are renting a house just like ours, from the same people, just a couple of blocks away. Since they have exactly the same kind of printer, I offered to help them get hooked up. I did the things that worked for us, and yet it failed. No matter what I tried, it failed. Finally I called Mr. Computer-Jock of the Universe, Jason Rousette, and asked him to help me get their printer going. Jason patiently worked us through a variety of "fixes," all of which seemed to work, yet none of which actually did. Finally he suggested that they simply buy a USB cable and print directly, forgetting all about doing it wirelessly. So that's what I told them, and Betty and I returned home.

Today as we were at the fellowship luncheon, Grace (the wife) said to Betty, "Remember when Bill couldn't get the printer going even though it seemed to be saying it was working fine? Well today our new neighbor (a "newbie" Proton patient, also renting from the same people, also with the same printer) came over with a sheaf of papers and asked me if I was the person mentioned on them. When I said I was, he said that suddenly yesterday his printer started printing off all sorts of things, about 16 pages worth, and it was doing it all on its own! hahaha Apparently my friends somehow have been using the network of the next door neighbor and didn't even know it! Isn't technology grand?

Be blessed as you enjoy the Son!

Bill

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Some things have to be seen to be believed...

When Betty and I first caught a glimpse of this "Live Oak" at the Cummer Museum in the Riverside area of Jacksonville today, it just about
took our breath away. Not only was it both tall and wide, but some of the branches had gracefully swept onto the ground essentially creating new trees. This was one of those "you had to see it to believe it" kinds of moments. Of course we had to look at it from every angle. Even then, it was so amazing, it was hard to believe.

"Wait a minute," you're thinking, "now they're at a museum? Didn't they just go to the beach?" If it sounds like we're on vacation, we are! It may be a "radiation vacation," but to be honest it is the little side trips like to the Museum or the beach that take your mind off the reason you're here. No doubt my experience is like that of others: I still haven't fully dealt with the idea that I have cancer. Of course I "know" that intellectually. But emotionally? Cancer is for somebody else. Be honest: wouldn't you feel the same way? I certainly know that I have cancer every day when I get into my little gown, climb into my pod, swing out into the abyss and get zapped with the proton beams. You have to stay as still as possible, like when you are doing an MRI, and it may be for over 10 minutes when it's all said and done. Today one of my legs wanted to twitch, and I was willing it not to! LOL Funny, it really wanted to do its own thing.

Don't get me wrong. The Proton Institute is incredible. You have no sense that you are in a medical facility. While you're waiting for your appointment, you sit in a huge lobby area, not unlike something you'd find in a nice hotel. Lots of chairs, vast amounts of open space, all sorts of coffees, teas, and the beloved water. (You don't get some high-power "sommelier" to pour you your Gucci water; just a cooler to draw it from yourself!). But everybody knows why he's there, and we're usually talking about stuff related to prostate cancer while we wait our time in the Gantry. "You having any side effects? What are you doing about 'X'? Your 'proton tan' getting darker?" The questions may seem nonsensical to somebody outside our environment, but here it is at the heart of what life looks like every day.

Ah, but when you leave, you want to leave. You want to forget all about "cancer," and go about life. God is doing the healing, after all, and that's where you want to focus your mind and heart. Every guy here is totally positive about a complete cure. No doubts about it. That makes for a wonderful environment to be in. I suppose you'd have to see it to believe it, but when you saw it, you would believe it.

That's kind of like a life in Christ, isn't it. It really needs to be seen to be believed. Talk is cheap, but life speaks loudly. What lessons I'm having driven home here on my "radiation vacation."

Be blessed,

Bill

Monday, July 14, 2008

Something for everybody...

When I saw the basketball-looking fruit at the Farmer's Market this afternoon, I immediately thought about my wonderful friend Ralph. I knew he would be delighted to find out that this "Jack Fruit" is a relative of the Durian - same incredibly putrid smell and let us say "unique" taste, kind of a combo of sweet cream and onions. Need I say more? Ralph and I have been known to indulge in a bit of Durian while in Indonesia before they began to ban it from hotels due to the smell (true story). Brings back all sorts of memories.

The Farmer's Market is delightful, and we get wonderful, fresh produce to enjoy at home.
Unlike many of these markets, this one is open seven days a week. You never know what's going to be there from day to day. I must say, the peaches from South Carolina are absolutely delicious. Makes my mouth water even to think about them. Betty is threatening to make one of her killer cobblers. Stay tuned.

You have no idea how much we appreciate the many words of encouragement and joy we are receiving from home. It sounds like summer is very "on" in the PNW, and that everybody is taking full advantage of it. And what we hear about the church delights us to no end. That's what a real church looks like - people stepping up and finding where they fit in, encouraging and being encouraged, looking for avenues to serve. The guys who have come in to speak have been nothing short of spectacular, and there is a whole group lined up to follow that will knock your socks off. Wow! I am so blessed to have such great friends in ministry!

One of the lessons I am working on here is simply resting in the Lord, rejoicing in what he is doing, and not sweating the small things. Actually that's harder said than done around here because you pretty much sweat all the time! Or is that glisten? Whatever, it would be easy to get all torqued because something like my appointments in the Gantry shift so much from day to day, not giving much room for planning. But in the grand sweep of things, what's the point of going there? The simple truth is God has given me the time and the place for healing. The actual appointment time is truly irrelevant. I'm working on rejoicing in what is and not getting caught up in what I think should be. (don't remind me of that when I'm fuming tomorrow! lol) My appt went off flawlessly today at 11:15. Tomorrow it's at 3:45, though they said it may change to the morning. We'll see. Isn't therapy fun?

May your new day bring you endless delight!

Bill

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What in the world can we do today?

We set out for church this morning excited to get together with our new friends here at CC JAX. It's a wonderful fellowship, with a bunch of great people. After the
service, we decided we would check out the beach
at Ponte Vedra, where some of our proton friends live (who also happen to attend the same church).
We followed them to their house for lunch, then we all headed for the beach, the closest access just a mile or so down the road. Their condo is located in an area a bit different from the area we live in, i.e the hood. From their great room, they overlook one of the fairways on the Players Golf Course, the course on which the Players Tournament is played. Not bad! Being the sun dog that I am, we only spent an hour or so on the beach, but thoroughly enjoyed it. Then back to their place for more food and fellowship!

At church today, something happened that really got me thinking. As the service was almost ready to start, a group of late teen/early twenties folks came in, "kids" who looked as though they might live on the street. It turned out they were a variation on that theme - at the moment, they were "camping" on the beach. When they came in my attention was drawn to one thing. Clearly they felt out of place, their body language almost saying they felt ashamed, guilty, or somehow were the wrong people in the right place. Though folks around them were very cordial and inviting, something was going on underneath the surface.

After the service I spoke with one of them, a young girl whose face and body has been leathered by too much time in the sun. When I opened the conversation by saying "hi, how you doing," she immediately told me that even though her brother had been busted last night for alcohol, she and her friends were still believers in process. They just weren't perfect yet. We chatted for a few more minutes, then she left to get some snacks and sit with her friend. But that encounter really started me thinking. As believers, how welcoming are we? How does someone who might not otherwise "fit in" feel when he strolls into our fellowship? Does he feel guilty, as if he has to confess something? Does he feel encouraged, even though his life might not be where he'd like it to be? What kind of fragrance do we give off?

I'm still thinking about that. I probably will for awhile. It was great to go to church, great to go to the beach, and great to meet somebody else who loves the Lord and is "in process." Aren't we all?

Treatment #12 at 11:15 am tomorrow! PTL!

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Bill

Saturday, July 12, 2008

You thought YOUR 3-year old was special!


This is the house directly across the street from ours. As you can see, they were having quite a birthday party for their little one. Covered the entire house with a tent. How's that for going the extra mile for little precious?

Actually it's not a party at all, unless you're a termite mortician. Around here, if a house has much age to it, it is bound to get termites along with various and sundry other critters. So at least once in the time you own the house, you will get the joy of having it covered with a huge tent like this one, then pumped full of some sort of odious, poisonous gas designed to destroy all those little white things that enjoy nibbling on your house for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Seems to me like carpenter ants are a whole lot easier to deal with, but maybe that's just me.

As it turns out, we could have gone to the swamp today after all. Like some folks have told us, around here you can't trust either the weather or the weather person(s). They can predict all they want to, but you never know exactly what you're going to have until you have it. We followed our secondary plan, going through the Museum Of Science and History (MOSH, for short), then had lunch and meandered around one of the neighborhood areas here in JAX called "San Marco." It reminds us of the Belmont area of Portland, with more and nicer shops and restaurants. Yes, the food was terrific!

When we started for home about 3:00, the sky opened up. Another gully washer. At times we were hydroplaning through probably six inches of water across the road. Like I said earlier, when it rains here, it really rains. No doubt about it.

For those of you in the great PNW, enjoy that lovely weather I keep hearing all about. Just control yourself and refuse to rub it in!

Blessings,

Bill and Betty

Rain,rain, go away...

Pretty funny. Here we are in Florida bugged by rain. There oughta be a law! Actually it is wonderfully warm - about 80 or so as I write this at 8:50 am - but humidity is supposed to be 90%, and there are going to be thunderstorms off and on all day. So much for Okefanokee. Perhaps we'll enjoy that next weekend with Dave and Denise Robinson. We are so close to Georgia here, about 30 minutes from the border. So the Okefanokee area is less than an hour away. There's a 90 min tour you can take down the Suwanee Canal, getting to view alligators and the very rare Heron. Haha. They probably conspired to bug me down here. One will probably will show up with one of my trout in his pointy beak and I'll notice it as we are leisurely floating by in our boat, scratching our mosquito bites. Then again, maybe Avon's "Bug off," or whatever it is called, will work its magic. "Bug off." That's a great name. I always wanted to develop a deodorant called "Pit Stop," but that's another story for another time.

We decided to shift gears for today, get together with friends, and go to the Cummer Museum for starters. Mayo Clinic has a show there - all sorts of illustrated drawings of the interior of the human body and related subjects. It should be great. There are apparently some gorgeous gardens connected with this Museum. They probably include herons as well! After going through the museum, we'll decide what to do from there, depending on how stormy it is. A wonderful friend who has "connections" gave us some passes for a local theater, so perhaps we'll catch a flick. That hasn't been part of my life for years, but it would be fun to see some of the stuff out there. Wall-E is high on our list, and perhaps "Get Smart." I think there is still a shoe phone hidden in the attic of my childhood home!

Yesterday's treatment went well. I have "graduated" so now don't have to have post-treatment x-rays. Without going into detail, that's a very big deal. It's all about whether the target moves during treatment. After they check it every day for 10 treatments, assuming things stay within a 2mm margin, they stop the post-treatment x-ray, which speeds up the process a bit. If it moves, on the other hand, Nurse Ratchet pretty much makes life miserable for you from then on out. Monday my appt is at 11:15am, so it's going in the right direction. I'm hoping ultimately to get it closer to 6:30 in the morning so we'll have the rest of the day free. I met a couple from Seattle yesterday who just started treatment. Actually it seems like a number of guys are just finishing, so a whole new group is consistently drifting in. It seems weird to be an "old hand" already (or is that "old prostate"? whatever!)

Our prayer is that you will have a wonderful day today, and a great Lord's day tomorrow!

Bill

Friday, July 11, 2008

another day, another ray

Whatever else one might say about Jacksonville in the summer, all would agree it's hot. It rarely goes below 72 any time of night or day, and is usually into the 90s day after day. This is accompained, of course, by the humidity. The only variable is whether the clouds will come and we will have thunder, lightning, and a torrential downpour. Coming from the great PNW, we are certainly used to rain. But this is something else - fat rain, chubby rain, giant drops pelting you as you try to make it from your car to the house. They are now saying a huge storm is coming down from Georgia, so we may have to change our Okefanokee plans for tomorrow. We'll see.

My appointment for tonight at 7:30 has already been moved up to 4:25. Hopefully as the day progresses, another earlier slot will open up. Whatever. I'm just glad to be getting the treatments, whatever time of day or night. One reason for wanting them earlier is the fact that the storms usually come late afternoon and have been known to knock the power out. Given the demand of the cyclatron, that is not a good thing, and you may have to skip your appt for that day and do a make up, adding a day to your program. So...we push for earlier.

We went to "Fit Stretch" at the YMCA this morning after a brisk walk through the neighborhood. We were already sweating when we got to class. Then "Betty," the 78 yr old instructor, started leading our class. Ha! She's a 25 yr old posing as a 78 yr old...I just know it. She bends where a person is not supposed to be able to bend, and pushes everybody in the class to places they would never go on their own. She's actually a delightful lady, and I'm sure we'll be taking more of her classes.

On to the rest of the day...

May yours be blessed!

Bill

Thursday, July 10, 2008

It's about time...

It's Thursday, July 10, and I'm writing this from my rental home in Jacksonville, Florida. I'm currently almost 1/4 of the way through Proton Therapy for prostate cancer which was diagnosed on April 14. Before I left home to come to JAX, a number of people encouraged me to do a blog. I know blogs can take time that people don't have to give, and I don't want to be the source of stealing time. But when I found myself trying to respond to numerous emails and similar kindly queries daily, I decided it would be easier to communicate "common information" by means of a blog than anything else. So, welcome to my world.

Today I finished my 10th of 41 treatments. It is truly a "Star Wars" experience. I don't know how else to characterize laying in a form-fitted pod on a robotic bed that daily rotates me 180 degrees and moves me into a 14' cylinder where I find myself suspended 7' off the ground. As I then lay their clutching a little rubberized ring to my chest trying to remain motionless, C3Po-like x-ray machines move out beside me and underneath or on top of me to determine the exact position of my prostate as they triangulate the gold markers implanted weeks ago. All this in order to make certain the prostate is exactly in the cross-hairs of the proton beam. Once everything is exact (they have only a 2mm tolerance for deviation), the bell is rung, the therapists leave the room, all the fail-safe procedures are followed, the doctor gives the order, and ultimately the people in charge of sending in the beam do their work. All you hear is the machine winding up to the exact level it needs to be for you personally, different for every patient. You don't see, hear, or usually feel anything. Interestingly enough, though most of the guys say they never feel anything, several times I am certain I have felt something like a magnetic vibration, but it's very faint, and no big deal. Then, when the beam finally comes into the gantry and does its work (may take several minutes before it arrives, but only about 90 seconds to do its work), you're good to go. That is, after you remain motionless while your x-ray friends re-emerge out of the wall of the gantry and do more x-rays to make certain nothing moved. The bed is swung around again, you step off onto the stairs to get down, and you're ready to change your clothes and go about your day. The only thing you have to show for this is a "proton tan," which doesn't start to emerge for a number of treatments. It's like an extremely faint sunburn at first at the exact place on each side (top of the pelvic area) where the beam enters. Slowly it becomes more and more noticeable. I'll have to tell you later what all that means because it's far from that for me yet.

Since I'm still a relative "newbie," I don't have a set schedule. I would suspect after next week, I'll be able to get a specific time of day, and I want that to be early (they start at 6:30am). As it is, I have a different time every day, so it makes it difficult to plan much. Lately my appointments have been anywhere from 2-4pm. Today's was to be at 3:20, but they called me early because they got ahead so could work in an extra patient, so I got in at 10 (missed Pilates at the YMCA which Betty enjoyed alone!). Tomorrow I'm scheduled at 7:30 pm (they go until 9:30), but they told me they'd try to get me in early again. Tonight there is a no-host fellowship dinner at a local Italian restaurant which we plan to go to. They do a lunch at some local place each Tuesday, a freebie meeting/lunch each Wednesday at the center, and the dinner on Thursdays. They have a wives and/or caregivers meeting on Wednesdays (Betty chose to do Pilates instead - LOL), and generally speaking, stuff to keep you occupied. At yesterday's meeting, one of the staff filled us in more on details about Florida Proton. Currently they are taking in more and more people with pancreatic cancer, assuming it hasn't yet metastisized. They want to be doing breast tumors, but that presents a challenge because they would have to hit a moving target (the chest obviously moves up and down as the patient breathes). In order to do this, they are working on a gaiting device that will turn on the beam when the tumor is in the crosshairs, and turn it off when it move out, back on when on target, back off when out. That will be truly miraculous. When they open the gantry designed only for eyes (in a few months), they will be able to stop and/or reverse Macular degeneration with one treatment. Isn't that amazing?

Hopefully this gets you up to speed on where we are and what we're doing. We're fine, making the most of our "radiation vacation." We hope to tour the Okefanokee Swamp on Saturday, boating down the Suwanee Canal, and perhaps spend a bit of time on Cumberland Island, both in Georgia. That's only about 45 minutes from here.

May the Lord bless you mightily!

Bill