Sunday, October 31, 2010

Next verse the same as the first!

I am not special. Probably the most significant thing I have ever done was to beat out 6,000,000 other little spermies in that great first race! I might have cheated, fought and clawed my way to the top. The swim of a lifetime and I don't remember it!
I don't remember how I got cancer, it doesn't come like that, suddenly like a broken arm. One day I was shaving and found "the lump"! a small, pea sized bump in my neck. I did take note of it but chose to ignore it, not out of any fear, but just because I had other things to do and I have never run to my doctor over every little cut and bump. A couple months later it was still there, a little bigger and now there were three of them! I thought of "Aliens" and knew I had something in me! It was a couple months after that when I went to my doctor! I had cancer in 132 places and in my spleen and spine! Well crap!
I always try to put things in perspective. The dinosaurs lived on this Earth for millions of years and the Human Species for about 10,000, at least as we know us to be. My best friend died at 27 years old in a construction accident. We killed Christ when He was about 30 years old.
Some infants only live for one breath! I was sixty-three and already beaten the odds many times over! It is not the way I would have chosen but my thought at the time was "this will be interesting!" And it is interesting if you want to see the edge of Hell. I was like Superman embedded in Kryptonite, every day withering away, getting sicker, dieing really.
Cancer survivors often go through a "why me" experience. Sometimes, and certainly in my case, we don't wonder why we got it, we wonder why we survived it! This chemo process is done in a sort of elegant warehouse where you are never alone but sitting side by side with other cancer patients and a lot of them don't show up the next week, always new ones taking their place. It is a difficult process to say the least and I began it while very strong.
It is gone now! I would like to say, "just like that"! I am now healing not from the cancer but from this voodoo chemical cure. That too is a long process, but truely every day is better and it is a great road compared to the one I have been on. In a way I feel "born again", given another chance, raced to the top and beat those six million spermies again! I have found no revolation, nothing spectacular that I need to do and am quite happy to continue on as I was, playing in my studio, a little art, a little writing, and working in my garden always after that "perfect tomato".

Friday, October 29, 2010

Followers of Followers

I find this "followers" aspect of blogging intriguing. I think much of it is done out of politeness,
okay you followed me, I'll join, I'll follow you! In reality I don't follow that many bloggers and some that are listed on my site no longer blog. I am not clever enough to delete these. I am always curious when someone becomes a follower and always go "check them out", sometimes reading every single blog they have posted. It doesn't stop there. I check out who is following them and sometimes who is following the followers of the followers! I am hunting for kindred spirits, a tribe of like-minded individuals; I am hunting for a prodigious use of language; I am hunting for art I have never seen; I am hunting for nooks and crannies, the secret places we hide the human soul.
I am officially a "cancer surviver", but have taken to reading the obituaries in my morning paper. Yes, I am still that old-fashioned! Cancer kills a lot of us. I read once that the ancient Egyptions, as evidenced from the mummies, never died of cancer. In reading the entire article you discover that their average age at death was forty years old! There is always the "rest of the story", a huge part of our life that is never investigated, never told. I knew a lot of these people in the obituaries. We sat together for four hours every two weeks while getting these chemo-cocktails. I saw their visitors, family and friends as they grew older and lost weight each visit. I participated in their struggle. The obituaries always say, "died of cancer", three little words that bring terror to our hearts and don't even begin to tell a story.
So, in reading these blogs I am learning your stories, and reading your stories make it easier to understand my own.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

One Week to Live!

No, no, not me. At least I don't think it is me. We are almost never given this option anyway
and those that do get it are mostly beyond living anyway, too sick to create a "bucket list".
Actually I think this "bucket list" should be for the young, those eager and strong enough to accomplish their dreams. The dreams of youth should be huge! I am always saddened when they are limited to getting a job at McDonalds and buying a car! I am amazed that the Peace Corps
doesn't have lines eight blocks long to enroll in their programs offering a chance to see and live
another's life in a different culture on the other side of the Earth! Too many people live and die within 100 miles of where they were born. Horizons should be expanded, our experiences broadened, our curiosity awakened at an early age.
Youth is not determined by age, of course, and excitement and curiosity can be found in some
of us "older elders"! My mother flew in a hot air balloon over the Kilamari desert when she was
a mere 84! She gave up driving on her 90th birthday! When death took her I think she was ready and her bucket list was empty. She was simply waiting.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Human Connection

The best part of this cancer "gift" is not in discovering our strengths, I think we know those pretty well. It is in discovering our weakness, how frail and temporary, fragile and powerless
life really is. We do not cause everything, stuff happens. Traditionally you are supposed to go through a "Why me?" phase, although I skipped this step. I have been extremely healthy most of my life and hadn't seen a doctor but four times in my entire life! But I smoked for 47 years, drank a lot until twenty years ago (I have the coin to prove it!), been around all kinds of obnoxious fumes and even drank water out of plastic water bottles! The voodoo doctors don't think any of this caused my cancer, it's just a gift, they don't know what causes Hodgekin's Lymphoma.
Cancer opens a million doors. It is as if I will show you my weakness if you show me yours. except there are no conditions, we are hungry to tell our stories. This blogging world makes it so easy and I have heard stories from all over the world: "I also have cancer, have fears and tears
and struggles and dreams" We are all connected by this "Human Condition" and, stealing a quote from another blogger, "We can live dieing or we can die living" those are the options.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Blog is for Me

Blogging is like a modern day confessional. Maybe this whole computer thing allows an opening into the soul? When I Blog I am telling you what I am concerned about today, what is bothering me, what I am doing, the art I am producing, my hopes and dreams and the way I look at life.

We are told not to put too much on Facebook, be careful of what photos we post, and are reminded that the whole world is watching! We email people we hardly know and tell them things we wouldn't want others to know. The computer remembers everything! Every keystroke is permanently recorded! We can hit the "delete" button and empty the recycle bin and wish we hadn't said that, but it is still there! Hidden in some obscure cranny. The forbidden fruit once picked can't be put back on the tree. It is not necessary to get a computer expert to fish this out of our operating system, we know it is there. We have lost the art of communication

with people, afraid of being politically incorrect or hurtful, we become milktoast, would rather be bland than misunderstood. Except for this computer that doesn't talk back, has no reaction, can't be critical, can't cry and doesn't care to. We bare our soul to this machine, sometimes forgetting that someone might read it and always forgetting that it is not real. I am reminded of an elementary school teacher who shortstops a note from a boy to a girl and proceeds to read it to the whole class!

I think we have a need to be understood in our entirety, at least a need to understand ourselves that way. I am an artist, a welder, a gardener, a father, a friend, and so much more. It is a complex road system and some aspects of self-discovery lead to dead ends. No, that wasn't me:
hit delete!

There are no secrets. I was about 12 years old when Superman shot himself and my world changed forever. When David Carradine died (we all know how THAT happened!) I lost the KungFu guru I grew up with. Both of these bring a reality to my life and that is a wonderful thing about computers and the internet. I love Wikileaks and hate its destruction on how I view the world! Both. I think the internet will eventually bring a truth to the whole world. It still remains for us to separate truth from fantacy: in the World, in our relationships, with ourselves.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This Pill or Asperagus?

When a person "gets" (like it is a gift!) cancer people from all over the world will send you remedies. Take lots of vitamin D , mega doses of this or that or go on the asparagus diet!
Probably what I found most helpful was a daily dose of laughter. Several people sent me jokes
and just weird silly stuff that I looked forward to every day. Laughter is the best medicine.
Ralph gave me my daily Taoism, always kind-hearted with a gentle persuasion, an encouragement to do the right thing and others posted their beautiful and talented art. I learned we are all in a struggle of some kind and want to survive, express ouselves and be generous as our hearts allow. All things in moderation is probably best, but always leave room for dancing late at night and a great deal of laughter!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Economics of Dieing

It was just after my 63 birthday when I discovered I had cancer. Initially you have a lot of time to think. The doctors run a battery of tests and waiting for these results offers an opportunity for reflection. I have worked at hard physical labor all of my life. Oh, I owned the company but I wasn't an office type owner, I was always with my crew in the ditches or on the roof, always doing what I expected of them. The plus of all this is I began my battle with cancer from a very strong position. I weighed 225 pounds and could easily lift 200 pounds, almost my own weight!

My heart checked out excellent (I know I have a good heart!) as did all the blood tests, blood pressure, cell counts and whatever else the doctors tested for. Except for the cancer I was pretty healthy and ready to enter the ring! I had twelve chemo-cocktails, four different poisons.

These were given me every two weeks through a tube implanted in my chest. I was strong and I was lucky, the first six of these did nothing adverse to me: no bad symptoms at all. I continued to work, welding and building and creating and no one could ever tell that "I had cancer".

Then it hit me like a frieght train in the middle of the night with its light out! My hair started to fall out, but that was the easy part. I have never been so tired in my life. It is not describable how tired I was and sleep became my friend. I slept 16 hours a day! There was no pain throughout all of this, at least until the end when neuropathy got my hands. I never threw up but totally lost my appetite. I tried to eat and my wife would make all sorts of dishes to tempt me. My daughter came to visit and tried her best to get me to eat. I sometimes would put food in my mouth and my brain would litterly say "spit it out or die". It is difficult to describe this period and I write it down so I won't forget it. I lost 50 pounds! In two months! In two months I became an old man, with that old man gait, the clothes that don't fit, the stoop, every effort to walk was all but impossible. Oh how I hated that. The chemo was doing its job I told myself constantly. I lost most of my finger nails and toe nails, and of course, all of my hair and 50 pounds! I always told myself that the cancer was going too! And I was right, it did! I am left with this neuropathy, a constant pain in my right hand, like stirring a bucket of cut glass! Collateral damage!

Throughout all this process, for 24 weeks, every two weeks I went to the "chemo-room" at the hospital to get these cocktails along with many others. Now, here is the sad part of this story.

A lot of them didn't make it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


To have had cancer and survived gives you both a sense of vulnerability and a sense of being indestructable! I don't think you can get much closer to the edge without falling off and I am left with a feeling of "that didn't get me!" There have been other times in my life that my number should have been called but wasn't and this all makes me realize how incredibly lucky I am.
I once stumbled and fell into an electrical panel putting my arm out to protect my fall. This was an open 220 volts on a 200 amp line and that really should have done it, at least it should have taken my arm off to my shoulder. It did throw me 20 feet across the room but otherwise left me unscathed! About ten years ago I was helping a friend put a roof on a Church steeple and my footing slipped and down I went, about a 20 foot fall onto the concrete sidewalk! I looked like a side of beef beaten with a baseball bat, but thirty minutes later went to lunch! I never should have walked away from that one! There were others and probably some I am not aware of,
two seconds earlier or later can make all the difference. These were all "instant" close encounters and cancer gives you plenty of time to think about it, knowing every day you are approaching that edge! It really makes you think that you have been extremely lucky and maybe I shouldn't be pressing my luck?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Test or Not?

That is the question? I am to see my main Voodoo Doctor today and we will discuss whether or not to get more testing done to see if the cancer is really gone or went into hiding, metamorphing
into some other alien creature. On the plus side I would know but I am not sure this means much. I am feeling better every day and have no lumps or bumps, no bad symptoms. The tests themselves cause cancer. They are the equivilent of getting 420 X-rays and then there is the question of what would I do if the cancer was still lurking? Could I and would I go through all this again, twelve more chemos? My hands couldn't take it. I know of people who have gone through chemo twice in a row, and then had surgery and top it off with radiation treatments, all
to extend their a little bit, sick, in their bed, dieing. That is the difference I think. If you could extend your life three months living, (say in Paris, for instance!) that could certainly be a good choice. But to extend the process of dieing, to drag that out to see grief and fear and tears!
I am happy now and chose to think this battle is over and I won. Now I am painting and welding and creating again; I am living.

Monday, October 18, 2010

100 foot tether

I visited a friend yesterday, driving to Central Oregon, through the mountians, following the path of the McKenzie River. The scenery is beautiful with just enough Birch Trees to add that touch of Autumn color. Until you hit the summit most of what you see are magnificant Douglas Firs. When small these are the traditional Christmas trees but they become the "giants of the forest" and are well over 100 feet tall. When you hit the summit you are in snow country and the scenery abrupty changes as do the trees. Pine grows here, everywhere, in huge open country, as far as you can see.

My friend lives in Sisters, Oregon, an old-west town with ordinances stating that any new construction must have this "old-west" facade. Ten years ago I helpd him build his house on the edge of the town. It is an old-west style and looked 100 years old the day we finished it. I was retired at the time but came out of retirement to help a friend. Two older guys building a house!
This is the last house I built and working with Jerry (his name too!) was a lot of fun. He is a few years older than I am but in excellent physical shape. He ran Marathon races in several States
and climbed all the mountains of Oregon and Washington. He had a Harley Davidson Motorcycle
and fancied himself a cowboy!

I hadn't visited him in years. We get busy and so into our own world, don't we? As I pulled into his driveway I immediately saw the sign in his window: "No Smoking, Oxygen in Use" My heart sank. Jerry has never had a cigarette in his life. Not one! He was not a coal miner and didn't have a dangerous job. He was an accountant! It was a wonderful visit. He has this one last mountain to climb. It is not curable. He is on a one hundred foot oxygen hose, tethered to the house we built.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

War with Cancer

Cancer is still looked upon as a battle of Good and Evil and I suppose many other diseases are viewed that way too. It would have been nice if they hadn't picked my body for this war, but I don't really see it this way at all. Oh, it was a war for sure, don't misunderstand me, but I think a war of mechanics gone wrong, not God and the Devil nor any other spiritual conflict. Cancer is one cell not quite reproducing itself acurately, making a flawed copy of itself. This goes on and more flawed copies are made and the body doesn't recognize them. That is really all it is. The approach to chemo-therapy is one of not being able to identify the cancerous cells, so they kill them all, at least all of a certain type. It is using landmines and hand grenades. It is not delicate in any way. It is brutal, but millions survive this experience and compared to a real war with real bullets, in all honesty, it is not so bad. I complain about the collateral damage, the neuropathy in my hands, but I still have my hands!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blogs and comments This link is to my blog on the ArtWanted site. In it you will find the day to day battle with cancer and the voodoo doctors that I went through. I go back and forth from this blog to that one. I have more "followers" on that one but switched to this one because you can't leave comments on the other one! So, on one blog you can't leave comments and this one you don't leave comments! What's a guy to do?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

coming of age

I am a Man

I am a man today

Today I am 17.

I am to slay a lion, as

did my father at 17

and his father

before him.

My father's father had his

hands and, perhaps a stone.

My father had a large hunt-

ing knife


I have a gun.

( j.a.carlin, age 17)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What We Carry with Us

Today I can be anything I want to be. That is pretty much how I wake up in the morning, thinking, "what do you want to do today" and "who do you want to be today". I have discovered that "doing" things requires gathering tools and "being" requires shedding of attitudes. Creating a "new me" is to let go of the "old me". It is so much easier to work hard and do things than it is to let go and just "be". My voodoo cancer doctor says that in four years my neuropathy in my hands will be 50% better. My regular Doctor says that in four years I will be 50% use to it. Think about that for a moment. When I awake in the morning my first thought is of my hands.
They always feel as though they were stirring a bucket of cut glass all night long. If I chose to dwell on this it becomes oppressive and rules my day. So I throw that idea out and surround myself with gratitude: I am alive! that is pretty amazing! I can eat and that is incredible! (try going for three months on jell-o and tapiocca and you will appreciate eating too!). Gratitude is an amazingly powerful force and it gives me untold strength, helps me shed the sadness and pain of life and allows me to be anything I want!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Near Death Experience

When I was diagnosed with stage 3+ Hodgekins Lymphoma last January I was given a 50% chance of survival. I thought at the time that this was a lot better than the lottery and I beat it.
The process wasn't pleasant and the cure is a little like pouring boiling oil into wounds, but I am still here and sometimes that amazes me! I don't feel as if I were "near death", I never had that
spiritual or existential feeling. There was no "light at the end of the tunnel" and I felt very much alive during this whole process, not to say that it was enjoyable. For seven months I knew with the chemo-therapy that every morning would be a little worse than the previous. How hard would I be dragged through the mud today? Now I am healing and every day is better! That is a wonderful experience that most people don't get in life. I KNOW that today will be a great day! and I know that today will be better than yesterday. That is pretty cool.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


"The good old days" for me would certainly have to before I had cancer! I am having an on-going discussion with a fellow blogger about the State of the Union, how things are and how they were. It occurred to me while having a bubble bath in my huge cast iron tub that we don't remember things exactly as they were and we don't think of the consequences of bringing the past into the future. A short 10 years ago with a diagnosis of Hodgekin's Lymphoma that was a death sentence! It wasn't that long ago that woman could only be nurses or teachers or librarians! I am glad that my daughters, in theory at least, could be on the Supreme Court! or President!or pretty much whatever they want! Not that long ago that minorities could not get loans or be allowed success at most levels, and in my lifetime, had to ride in the back of the bus!
I think we miss the dream and fantacy of the old days.
Today we demand and expect so much more. I miss the days when a house cost $14,000
(I paid $8,375. for mine!) and was in reach of anyone willing to work for it. No one would buy that house today. We expect huge houses with several bathrooms, a great room and a kitchen with granite countertops! and these expectations come with a price and a loss of whatever might have been good about "the good old days"! Who knew that this road we are on would get us to here? and like every road taken throughout history, we have our pluses and minuses, our potholes, barricades and open freeway. No one really knows where they are going, only where they have been and we have a tendency to only remember the good things along that path.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thank You!

This is an early painting done on kitchen foil. It is not designed to last forever and even now only exists in my computer. I show it today because I think it is beautiful and temporary, much like we are. My seven month battle with cancer is over and now I am healing from the collateral damage caused by chemo! I had a lot of help along the way, thoughts and prayers, original art, Cherokee Talismans, prayers and thoughts, magical gifts and love sent to me from all over the world! And a lot of jokes! laughter is truely great medicine! So this is simply to thank all of you!

Monday, October 4, 2010


I added a tomato from my garden for color and a burst of flavor!

All right, I will start this recipe sharing experiment but I expect others to join in and share their own recipes from all over the place on their blogs. Something to hunt for, this will be fun! I will preface this by saying that for three months I had no appetite at all. The chemo-therapy I was taking totally destroyed my will to eat. I lived on one Ensure, some tapioca pudding and jell-o each day and lost forty pounds! As the ability to eat returned I wanted food with a lot of flavor but it also had to be easy to make because my wife works swing shift and I would have to cook it myself. This first recipe is so simple and takes less than fifteen minutes.

Ingredients: one pound of hamburger (minced meat)

about 4 or 5 or 6 ounces of sour cream

one medium onion

couple tablespoons of mustard and ketchup

hamburger buns, or rolls or bread

you can guess what to do: fry up he hamburger, chop up the onion and fry it with the hamburger

when these are done, add the sour cream, mustard and ketchup and stir this mixture until it is all hot. Put it on the hamburger buns or rolls or bread and that's it! Dinner served!

Bridge to my shop

I am going to take you on a tour of my environment so you can get an idea of who I am and what I do every day. I live in the middle of a small town (about 60,000) on one third acre which has a ditch running diagonally through it. I love this ditch, it divides my home side from the shop/garden/studio side. The racoons and possoms love the ditch also. I built this bridge years ago and it is the strongest thing I have ever built. It is an arched steel structure and concrete then a veneer of slate. I cross it every moring, coffee in hand, to "go to work"! Tomorrow I will show you what I see on the other side.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


This is the same image, taken inside my shop with a flash. hard to believe!

"Vertu and Fortuna"

This is the very same image as yesterday's post!
The only difference is this is taken outside in direct sunlight with no flash. How can that be?
How can light play such tricks and expose or hide all the details? I like the colors and feather effect here but this is not as imaginative as the one taken inside my shop. Had this been the only capture it would not have inspired me to continue playing with this medium. So, it was all "luck" that I caught it just right in the shop.
The Romans knew of this kind of luck and measured the mettle of a man by how he responded to it. "Vertu" and "fortuna", virtue and fortune. Fortune was the good luck and bad luck, those things that happen to us by accident, what we find in life and what is thrown upon us.
And Virtue is how we respond to these happenstance. Ralph (I will learn to link soon!) could have taken his inhaler to bed with him and lived out his life as an invalid but instead decided to throw it away and climb mountains! Sherry could crumble and fall apart but chooses dignity
and growth from her experience. Me? I am really lucky and just talking about capturing a piece of stainless steel in the right light, something that ultimately led me into painting and the world of art.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Young Lad

I wonder if there is a reason, besides physics I mean, that we cannot see into the future? Clearly as we make choices,going down this road instead of that road, we become who we are.
As we get older and look back, would we have done it differently? If we start subtracting experiences we take away from what we are. I don't think I could have done it any different and wouldn't choose any less, no subtractions for me.
[- me at 17!