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!


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!



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,


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!



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!!


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!


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,


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!


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.


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,


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!


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!


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,


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!


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,


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!


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!


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!


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!