Monday, October 31, 2011

It is a Burn or a Cut or a Scrape

I am not sure.  It does not hurt.  I have no memory of when it happened, sometime yesterday.  I didn't notice it until I went to bed last night.
   So it is an excuse to talk about neuropathy today?  It is probably a little worse than I describe it.  My main method of dealing with neuropathy is to ignore it as much as possible.  I do take a vocodine first thing in the morning and the last thing at night but this just takes the edge off, reduces my focus on my hands and allows me to do stuff during the day.
   It has been a year and a half since my last "chemo" and this is my on going souvenir, the only reminder that I once had cancer.  It is mostly in my hands and it is very hard to describe.  Conflicting messages.  Like being asleep, like being electrocuted, like stirring a bucket full of cut glass, that is it mostly.  It travels up my forearm and while not as intense, it leaves them a bit numb.  No pain there just not what they used to be, not sensitive to the touch.
   I would describe the bottoms of my feet the same way, no pain, just a bit numb.  I could walk on coals.
My Voodoo Doctor tells me that a nerve cell can be four feet long and take along time to grow, to heal.  He says that in eight years I will be a lot better.  My regular Doctor tells me that in eight years I will be used to this.  Either way there is hope, huh?
 A wound in the shop
   I don't think about this very much.  It would be consuming and I could easily become the pain that I am left with.

My other Blog is Here

Saturday, October 29, 2011

To Die or Not to Die

   That is the question.  As far as I know I am still Cancer Free and because I have been thoroughly tested, prodded and poked and looked at from the inside out, I am more sure of this than most people.  Today, for sure, I will live without the cancer.
   But the whole experience was really interesting.  It has been almost two years now but the memory is with me like it happened yesterday.  I had the emotional experience, the intellectual and spiritual experience, that dreaded experience which comes from the news:  You have cancer.  That is an announcement that will ruin the very best of days.
   In my case there was a month of more testing between this news and the beginning of "the procedure".I knew something was wrong with me before I went to the doctor.  I was in no pain so I almost didn't go to the doctor at all.  I had these lumps on my neck that just wouldn't go away.  No pain, not even tender, just lumps about the size of a cherry when I first noticed them.  A small walnut when I finally went, maybe six months after discovering them.
   This month before treatment I was tested and poked and prodded, MRI'd and CAT scans and PET scans,
checking out my heart to see if it could take it.  The doctor's wanted to know how strong my body was and could it take the punishment they were about to inflict on it?  What type of cancer did I have and how far it progressed?
   I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma and it was pretty much everywhere!  Nasty stuff that had migrated from my entire lymph system to my spleen and spine.  I had it pretty much everywhere.

   THE CONFERENCE

When the doctor has acquired all the results, done his own research and collaborated with colleagues and has decided on a course of treatment he calls you in for "the conference".  This is worse than an Income Tax Audit.  It is sort of like a final exam.  I was one of the lucky ones with great insurance so everything was an option.  Whatever happened my total bill would come to $1,000 and the insurance company would pay the rest, well over $130,000.  I could tell you a hundred stories where cancer comes with financial ruin.
   Some Hodgkin's Lymphoma patients can get by with six "chemos".  The worst case can be a nightmare of dozens of repeated "chemos", radiation, surgery, bone marrow transplants and God knows what.
I was to get 12 "chemos" although he would have preferred, he said, 18 total but didn't think I could take it.
I started all this from a position of strength.  I have been in construction all of my life and began these treatments weighing 225 pounds and easily being able to lift well over 100 pounds.
   The beginning is really pretty simple and nothing much bad happens.  You have a lot of time to think, do any research you might want to do, discover fellow bloggers who might be going through the same thing, sort things out and think about your life.  What you did or didn't do, want to do, should have done.  Reflective stuff.  An attempt to discover what is important.
   I had a"port" installed in my chest, near my heart so these chemicals could be fed to me from there and not have to travel too far through my veins where they might cause too much damage.  I was knocked out for this and at the same time the doctors took some bone marrow from my hip.  None of this was painful because I was unconscious and under the operating table.  Didn't hurt the next day either.
   I am not sure if you should research this stuff or not.  The "Net" is explosive with gibberish, quackery, self help remedies, natural stuff, asparagus diets and alarming statistics.  There are a lot of cancer sites that are helpful too.  Cancer is no longer an automatic death sentence and if you have insurance the odds are pretty good.  Well, good odds for a gambler anyway.  I had "stage 3 and a half" Hodgkin's Lymphoma which means it has escaped my lymph system and discovered other places in my body where it was becoming comfortable.  My odds were slightly less than 50-50, much better than lottery tickets!
   I had a different Blog in those days and I will attempt to direct you there.
It is interesting in that it is a day to day accounting of this battle, pretty much everything I went through physically and emotionally on this train ride through Hell.  The experience was about one year, six months of "chemo" and six months to get my strength back, although I wouldn't say I am totally well even now, almost two years later.
   You will meet a lot of interesting people and most of them will die.  Being a "chemo" nurse has to be one of the hardest professions in the world, always upbeat, cheerful and smiling, knowing your patients are suffering and many will not survive this voodoo process, this chemical warfare.  The installation of Mustard Gas and chemicals so dangerous that the nurses wear hazmat suits while administrating them!
   I know there must be billions of cells in my body and most of them were perfectly good.  I saw cancer as the renegade cells, the few damaged ones surrounded by the good ones.  It was a fight I intended to win.
   If you are new to "chemo" your fingernails will curl, lift from your fingers and toes and most will fall out.  It is not painful.  Your hair will fall out, all of it, everywhere, no hair, no eyebrows, nothing.  That is interesting and of course, not painful at all.  You may have nausea, that is pretty common although I never did.
   In the first two months of this six month "chemo" process I gained eight pounds. Then I pretty much stopped eating.  I was never sick or nauseous I just couldn't swallow food.  Everything tasted like sawdust.
I pretty much survived on one Ensure and a little tapioca per day. Four months later I had lost over fifty pounds.  Not too much fun in that diet!
    I realized that I was getting pretty weak when I was unable to turn the key in the ignition of my truck.
I could do it with two hands, barely.  I couldn't walk around the block.  I slept a lot and was always cold.
I remember August and 90 degrees outside and I was cold.
   You have to discover other things.  I will continue this story.

My Other Blog is HERE

Friday, October 7, 2011

As good excuse as any...

I passed my test!  I was pretty sure that I would but it is not exactly the kind of test one can study for.
My blood is perfect and I have no lumps or bumps, no signs of cancer returning at all.  And the MRI and PET scans will be talked about at the end of January, my next scheduled appointment.  I gave him my arguments not to have them now and he respected my reasoning.  I have no symptoms and therefore no cause to get these tests.  I don't have the strength for another, much more invasive "cure" than the last one!And they are expensive, weather my money or the insurance company's, money best spent somewhere else.
And I am welding again, in the process of living and would prefer to focus on that.
   It is interesting how we can take an illness and make it a life's focus, controlling everything that we do.
I think back over my life and I have never done that.  Oh, I have hurt myself for sure but never gave it much time, just never saw myself that way.  I remember once, years and years ago when I was working at the local cannery.  I was severely burned when a batch of cream style corn exploded, getting 2nd and third degree burns all down my back.   That sent me to the hospital but I heal fast and only missed three days of work.
On another occasion I was in a traffic accident when some thief stole a car and rammed into me going 80 mph.  This destroyed the car and smashed a disc in my back causing me to wear a brace for about six months.  I missed a week of work for that one and returned working along with the others in my cumbersome back brace.
   I broke my hand once, smashing it with a three pound hammer and boy did that hurt!  I worked another two hours, finishing what I was doing.  I did go to the doctor for that one too but not until the next day!  He put my hand in a cast which I was to wear for six weeks.  I didn't miss a full day over that, just a few hours!
   There were lots of other times I could have made an issue of an illness or accident.  A few years ago I fell off a Church roof, steep as any church, fell 16 feet straight onto a concrete sidewalk landing on my bottom.
It looked like you beat me with a baseball bat!  I never even went to a doctor over that.
   The point to all of this is that I am not my cancer and have never been.  It wasn't a fun process and the chemo took its toll on me, that is for sure.  But at its worst when I couldn't lift 20 pounds I was still in my shop every day, doing what I do, even if with a weakened effort.
   It would be easy to focus on what is wrong with me, dwell on my neuropathy, worry about my lungs and that I can no longer run, haven't the strength I used to have.  It would be easy but oh so boring.

My Other Blog is HERE

Monday, October 3, 2011

Doctor Appointment

I think I have a doctor's appointment today. I only remember that it is soon and in the afternoon so I will call them this morning to discover the time.  This is a three month check up, one year and three months after my last chemo!  He will have the blood suckers extract some samples and with the power of modern medicine, within five minutes they will know most everything about me, down to the parts per billion.
   I will be weighed and measured and stripped, pushed and prodded and poked.  They are hunting.
I know he will suggest another MRI and PET scan, something I successfully avoided three months ago.  My last scans were half way into the chemos and the cancer was gone then yet I continued with six more chemos
"just to be sure".  Enough chemical poisons to give me neuropathy for a lifetime and maybe chase away the cancer for good.
   I don't know what my answer will be.  I am still thinking about it this late, just hours before my appointment.
I haven't made up my mind.
   The down side to me, the reason not to get the scans?  They are horribly time consuming and boring.   You get them and wait, schedule another appointment, get some kind of analysis, make another appointment and you lose three days of your life just doing that.
   They are very expensive.  Oh, they won't cost me much, I have great health insurance.  One of the lucky few.  But money is still spent and they are not definitive.  Always that odds game one plays with cancer.
   The other reason, the other down side to getting these tests is the answer, any test results, will have very little significance to me.  I am living my life without cancer now.  As if I didn't have it.  I do what I want.  I do what I am able to do.  I never think about it.  It is not my focus at all.
   I have no strength to fight this fight again.  My hands cannot get worse.  I can't allow that.  I have my strength back but in a new limited edition.  I am good for short distances and short bursts of energy.  My lungs have taken a beating from this cure and more "medicine" would do them in.
   After the blood letting and looking up stuff in the computer, after feeling me up in a not nice way at all, he,
my Voodoo Doctor will sit me down and ask me how I am doing?  That is not an easy question from a doctor.  I have to be careful with my answers.  Guarded answers.  The wrong answer will get you sent to another specialist, more testing.  Cutting if sent to a surgeon, zapping if sent to the radiologist and more cocktails if sent to another voodoo doctor.  I am very careful indeed with my answers.
   I have always dealt with the uncomfortable in life with distraction.  As soon as possible I will get the conversation to art and hopefully it will be a fifteen minute appointment with my doctor that is not about me at all.
   I have no symptoms at all.  No lumps, no bumps.  Nothing that made me go to him in the first place.
I think I am going to be all right.

My Art is HERE

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Behind the poverty numbers: real lives, real pain EarthLink - Top News

Behind the poverty numbers: real lives, real pain EarthLink - Top News

Corn Weather

Mid September already and we are experiencing an Indian Summer.  The days are warm and sunny with cool evenings, great for sleeping, and the best weather for corn!
   My garden was hit and miss this year with some things doing well and others not so well.  Sometimes I think of my garden as one entity and wonder why some plants do well and others don't?
   A year ago I couldn't grow a cucumber to save my soul.  They all succumbed to "damp-off" and withered as baby plants.  This year I have them all over, in abundance!
   It was a wet and colder than normal Spring and my garden began slowly, chilled by the air and wet from the rains.  Tomatoes especially hate that weather, hate being cold at night.  I planted 25 plants, seven varieties, all heirloom, and lost almost 20 to early blight, a condition encouraged by their cold beginning.
Five plants ended up doing very well despite this seasonal cold and from these alone I am getting a lot of tomatoes!  Enough to get out my food dryer and dehydrate them for future use and Christmas gifts.
These were the strongest plants, resistance to disease and prolific.  I will save their seeds for next year.
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Tomato seeds are the easiest of all to save.  Just squish them onto a paper towel and let them dry. Then next Spring tear off a little paper towel with the seed attached and plant them.

My other Blog is HERE

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Immune?

   I sometimes wonder whether a person can be immune to cancer?  Some people don't get it.  Even smokers don't always get it.  There seems to be a thousand ways to get cancer and yet, some people don't get it.
   I don't have it now.  I have been thouroughly probed and prodded, examined from the inside out.  I have none.  It is all gone!  All but the idea.
   I don't know whether my cancer was fast and I caught it in time or slow and methodical and I caught it in time.  I know I had it pretty much everywhere.  What began as a lump on my neck had spread to my spine and spleen and my entire lymph system.  50-50 odds is what I was told, or maybe a little less.
  Six months later, 12 Chemos later, $130,000 later, all my hair gone later, and fifty pound light, it is gone.
I may have starved it to death!  Certainly what had become a comfortable host became uncomfortable.
   The cancer was always like an alien being, something that did not belong.
   I feel fine now and sometimes that worries me.  My hair is back.  My weight is back.  My strength is back.
In a way it is like I never had cancer.  Just a dream.  A nightmare really.  I am just like I was before cancer!
Why it snuck up on me in the first place I will never know.  I always wonder whether it could do so again?
   Maybe I am immune now.  I think that too.  Like sometimes a severe case of poison oak will give you future immunity.  Or you only get "chicken pox" once.
There are certainly days when I never give it a thought and I wonder if lack of gratitude will turn back to bite me!  Although I don't think the cancer was caused by a deplenishing well of gratitude.
   I am living now and welding, creating my kind of art and having fun.  It is summer and even with a late start my garden is doing well.  I ate the first tomato yesterday!
   I think once a month will be enough to post here.  It will remind me of where I have been.  To the very edge, looking over and not liking it one bit.

you can always find me HERE

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Three More Months!

All's well that ends well.  I had a great visit with my Voodoo Doctor!  He just got back from a short vacation so we talked mostly about Italy and that was just fine with me.  I did the blood test.  It is red and all perimeters are where they are supposed to be!  My blood pressure is perfect.  It has always been on the low side of normal.  I don't get riled easily.  and I have a pulse!  That is a good thing!
   He couldn't find any lumps or bumps either but had the audacity to suggest that I could stop gaining weight!
   I will have to think about that one.  I started this process weighing 225 pounds and went down to 170 pounds.  For awhile I lived on one Ensure a day, if you could call that living.  Now I weigh in at 217 pounds, not exactly welter weight but I am ready to get back in the ring!  I enjoy a good meal and none of this weight gain is from potato chips!
   We did discuss the PET and CAT scans and I went through my rationalzations with him.  They are boring.
I would rather be doing something else.  Anything else.  They are dangerous.  They cause cancer.  They are expensive.  No matter who is paying the bill.  They are not 100% conclusive.  There are no guarantees.
There is too much evidence that my fight with chemo-therapy worked.  I have had these PET and CAT scans before.  Three times.  The first was at the beginning of this mess and those were pretty clear.  I had cancer everywhere!  In well over 100 lymph nodes.  In my spleen and in my spine.  The cancer was thriving, living well and expanding wherever it wanted.  The second series of scans show the battle midway when I was halfway done with th chemo-cocktails and clearly the cancer was running scared.  In retreat. and my last one was a year ago when I finished with this "therapy" (it wasn't like a massage at the hot springs!).  The cancer was gone!  I want so much to say, "just like that!" but it wasn't easy.
   So, all the evidence says the cancer is gone and the issue really is, will it return?  No one knows how it got there in the first place.  I lead a dangerous life but there is no connecting.  No found reason for cause and effect.  It just doesn't sound right when the tool of discovery causes cancer!
   We agreed on a course of delay.  My next appointment is October 6th, three months from now.  Three months of summer that I didn't get last year.  I won't fret and worry over this and told the Doctor that I am likely to forget the appointment unless I am called to remind me.  I have way too much to do!
   So we talked about Italy and pizza and bottled water and little cafes in central Rome.  It was the best doctor's visit, ever!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Today is The Day!

Five hours from now.  I have my "One Year Check Up"!...and I still don't know what I am going to do!
I know my voodoo doctor will want to do more PET scans and CAT scans and I am still battling!
Should I? or should I not?  They are a bother; there are a million other things I would rather do.  I don't like doctors.  I don't like hospitals.  I don't like waiting rooms.  I don't...like waiting!
   And then there is the very big issue, what would I do if the cancer returned?  Taking "chemo" the first time is always a risk.  Maybe it will do this and maybe it will do that?  They don't really know, everybody is different.  Maybe it will cure you and maybe it won't?  It will make you sick though and that is for sure!
Some people have had "chemo" twice or even more and I just don't know how they did it?  Where did they get that kind of strength to enter the fire again?
   I start my day with Vicodine and end it with Vicodine when I go to sleep at night.  I have pretty bad neuropathy in my hands and a little in my feet.  I have enough pain.
   These tests cause cancer.  They are the same as getting 400 x-rays in a single day.  They are not fool-
proof, they don't see everything.  They wouldn't come with a guarantee.
   They are extremely expensive.  I have great insurance but that is only by luck.  It is still expensive whether
I pay for it or they do.
   I have no symptoms.  No lumps, no bumps, no chills, nothing.
   This time a year ago my garden was a mess.  I couldn't lift 20 pounds. I couldn't weld nor paint, couldn't make art of any kind.  Couldn't.  Couldn't do anything.  Nothing.
   Now I am strong again and my garden is weed free and perfect, all set up for "that perfect tomato"!  I can weld and work and make art.  I can eat again!
  I just don't know.  Four hours now and we shall see?
My art is HERE

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Year and a Day!

 One Year Ago, pretty much hairless!
Hard to believe, it has been about a year since my last "chemo", that voodoo batch of poisons they give you when you get cancer!
It is interesting how quick you forget all the misery that comes with "the cure".  I sometimes go back to my original blog HERE or I might forget the experience entirely. If you should check it out, scroll to the very bottom and read it backwards and you will discover the train ride I was on.
I lost almost 50 pounds, not a diet I would recommend. I lost all my hair including my moustache that I have had since I was 17 years old! My fingernails and toenails became claws and pretty much fell out.  These were all "good signs", proof the voodoo cure was working!  Chemo kills the cancer cells and a lot of good ones in the process!
 Photo taken today!
   I was lucky, I had a great insurance policy.  This "experience" cost about $130,000 and my share was a thousand bucks!  I am a big believer in National Health, some kind yet to be worked out.  Millions of Americans are losing their insurance every single day.  The worst stories I could tell you involve people with insurance who become too sick to work, losing their insurance and bearing this burden, selling everything they own in an attempt to stay alive.
   Today I took another photo of myself.  My moustache is back and so is my hair! and I have discovered the secret in getting rid of gray hair!
Although I wouldn't recommend that either!
July 1st will be my "official anniversary", that one year mark and  I have a doctor's appointment then with my main Voodoo Doctor!  He will suggest more Pet scans and Cat scans to "make sure" but I am thinking I might not do this?  I feel fine, I have no symptoms, no lumps and bumps which got me to the doctor in the first place.
   The year has come and gone.  I am welding again, doing my Art Stuff, working in my garden, always trying for the "perfect tomato" and enjoying the lazy days of summer!  I am left with neuropathy, a little in my feet and a lot in my hands, a constant reminder of where I have been.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

We Are What We Eat

...and we don't know where it comes from!  The recent ecoili outbreak in Europe was pretty frightening, sickening thousands of people and killing hundreds.  They might have thought they were being cautious.
This outbreak is thought to have come from vegetarian fare: sprouts, maybe the kind you grow yourself from a packet of seeds?  They still don't know for sure, the source. 
   France now is recalling hamburger thought to be made in Germany, but that is a pretty interesting story in itself.  I like a good hamburger, that is the truth, but I never know what I am eating, where it came from or what is really in the package.
   Just yesterday I was shopping and paused in the meat isle, looking at the pretty red meat packages of hamburger.  It never has brown tinted edges any more, no packaged meat has that "aged look" to it. It has the look of freshly cut beef packaged this morning.  Each plastic wrapped package is puffed up with Nitrogen Gas.  Sealed away from oxygen it will remain red and brights for weeks.  Until you open the package and then it will turn brown almost overnight.
   The hamburger in my store said, "product of Canada, USA, New Zealand, Honduras", and four other countries!  I have been told that in a one pound package of hamburger there may be the DNA of 400 to six hundred cows!  Mass slaughtering plants from all over the world gather up the bits and pieces and send this flesh to processing plants to become hamburger.
   It is not a scene of contented cows munching on  meadows and Alpine grasses.
   There is no safety in being a vegetarian, fruits and vegetables are a huge source of diseases.  Almost everything is genetically modified not only to produce more but to be resistant to the very poisons we spray around them.  Corn that is resistant to Roundup and other herbicides.  and then, we eat the corn!
   Fish are contaminated, poisoned, full of mercury or positively radioactive!  Ice Cream is full of growth hormones and we wonder why ten year old girls develop and mature so fast these days?  Must be what they eat?
   Clean water is almost impossible to find so we drink bottled water in containers known to cause cancer!
   The fire retardant chemicals they put in clothing, our curtains, our beds are in us.  We are surrounded in a sea of poisons and it is amazing that we swim at all.
My other blog is HERE

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Arizona Burning...

This is June and Summer isn't here yet.  The really Hot weather is in front of us.  Arizona is burning, forest fires, the largest they have ever seen are spreading into New Mexico.  Oregon appears safe for now.  It has been a cold, wet, Spring and there is still a lot of snow in the mountains. God help us if it ever gets hot in Canada, there are a lot of trees there!
    Australia has had floods the size of Texas.  Japan's tsunami that caused a nuclear meltdown is still spewing radiation all over the world.  Tornadoes have flattened the corn belt in America and you will see, soon the World will be starving.
   In Oregon we can't agree to ban plastic bags.  They take a thousand years to disintegrate and although we don't give it much thought we all know there is an island made of plastic bags the size of Texas between our coast and Hawaii.  It is a problem we wish to deal with...later.
   It is amazing what we will put up with for convenience.  We "fracture" the Earth, a last, desperate squeeze for that final drop of oil and destroy the water supply in the process.  We have our priorities and we can deal with other problems...later.
   Cell phones cause cancer.  We have no idea what ten million radio transmission towers might do and we don't really care.  A price of convenience that we are willing to pay.
   The World is getting smaller and we have no idea of how close we are.  We laugh at the lemmings and we are not that much different.
   It seems that the weather is getting angry and the World is rumbling and we keep stoking the fire, just wondering what is going on?  Maybe we "used it up", that is a concept that we can understand?
My other Blog is Here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When the World Gets Cancer

For those of you who do not believe in global warming I am not sure how much worse things need to get.
The "Snows of Kilimanjaro" are gone, melted into warming streams, the life blood of Lake Victoria and the water supply for much of Africa.  Three degrees makes a lot of difference.  There are dead Spruce Forests
in Alaska that stretch as far as the eye can see, killed by a beetle allowed to live because of the added warmth of a couple degrees.
   Joplin, Missouri, we all know where that is now, flattened by a tornado in a couple of minutes.  Worst tornadoes ever, the earth breathes hard.  Some of this destruction we have brought upon ourselves, like smokers who refuse to quit, knowing that is a source of their own illness.  We weigh the risks and continue dumping oil in the oceans, a little spillage in our endless greed.  We don't even know what dies or the suffering of sea creatures.
   The oceans continue to get warmer creating tsunamis, gasping, an attempt at self cleansing.
   Something is happening and we are not listening to the screams.  There is a "bad moon raising," and we enjoy our lattes, comfortable in ignorance.
   It is raining on my garden.  Yesterday we had a quarter inch of hail.  I thought last year was "the worst year ever" and this year will be worse yet.  My tomatoes are beaten promises and the corn will not bud.
The Mississippi roars and can't be contained, dumping millions of gallons into the Gulf of Mexico in a feeble attempt to dilute the oil we put there.
    I don't know what is happening but it is happening all over.  Strange weather.  Colder, warmer, wetter, dryer, some kind of struggle, some kind of stirring inside. The Earth crying, like there is meaning to an Earthquake.
   I sometimes wonder if we are just visiting and what will happen when it is discovered that we trashed the place?  Why was it necessary to add graffiti, dump our garbage, make a vile mark upon this paradise?
   We have created an island the size of Texas between Oregon and Hawaii all made of plastic. It will be there for a thousand years, our statement.
   How is your garden growing?
You can find me here too!

Friday, May 27, 2011

One More Time...

Having Cancer, surviving that battle, actually getting over it, healing from the horrible Voodoo Chemical
Cocktails the Voodoo Doctors give you, and well on the road to recovery gives one a new perspective on life.  What if this job, whatever I am working on, is my last job?  Eventually that happens to us all, that routine thing we do today could always be the last thing we do!  I am an artist, and, yes, I get lost and caught up in the picayune of daily chores just like others but I also make art, projects from my soul, the stuff I dream about.
   When I was in the thick of this battle, couldn't eat and slept all day, building "stuff" was mostly what I thought about.  Thinking about it was all I could do, couldn't lift 20 pounds.  I was about as close to being dead as one can get.
   Like waking up from a nightmere that won't go away I find relief that it all seems like just a dream now.
My garden is in, now waiting for better weather and it is the best it has ever been.  More stuff, better planted,
nicely worked soil, interesting paths.  I am welding, working again!
 Nice Job, just completed
   It seems that things come when you are ready for them.  I am busy now, with interesting jobs, wonderful clients and I am given "license to create".  Each job whispers to me, could be the last one?  I pay more attention now, marking details for the total effect.  I enjoy the whole process, even in the rain, and never watch the clock, never at all.
 Flowers in my garden
   In over 30 years of construction I was always after speed.  "Faster" was my mantra, the schedule was the most critical and I would always have enough employees to get the job done as quickly as possible. Finish and move on to the next job was all I cared about. This is a photo of a job I just completed, just me and one helper.  It would be okay if this were the last one.  It turned out pretty good.

Despite the weather my garden is pretty good.  The flowers are growing, eagarly waiting for that sunny day.  So far my tomatoes are just sitting.  They hate these rainy days and too cold nights, but they too will improve and thrive when the sun appears.

   I am alive now and my list just keeps growing.  I have dozens of last jobs to do, one at a time and I intend to enjoy every single one of them!

You can find me HERE too!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Where to go from here?

I am not sure what to do with this blog, if anything.  My cancer is gone, that story, for now is over.  I want to keep this blog and my original blog which can be found HERE because it reminds me of my day to day battle
and the freight train that almost ran me over.  I find myself much like the Earth Doomsayers, pretty amazed to wake up each morning to discover that I am still alive, the world is still here and I am strong again!  I truly feel "born twice" and very lucky!  I don't feel as though I deserved to get cancer and I don't feel virtuous enough to deserve to be cured.  It is all pretty much a gambling game, a game of chance and I won!

 a Rose from my garden
My other blog is about "art" and what I do, my garden and political thoughts of the moment, so do I just abandon this one?

Maybe I will show you a "flower a day" from my garden?  That would be an easy job and I would never run out of flowers!  I must have a thousand of them.  They are everywhere, all over my garden, in thirty or so pots, built into trellis's and some seven feet in the air.
Maybe that is what I will do, turn this all over to my garden, and when it speaks to me I will let you listen in?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Permissible Risks

There is always a sense with cancer that you have done something wrong.  Somehow this is a self-inflicted disease and a punishment you deserve.  We secretly wonder what did they eat?  Were chemicals the culprit?
Smokers probably or drinking too much?  Part of the problem is we are living a lot longer than we used to and if you live long enough eventually you will die from something.  Younger people get cancer too and even then we wonder what was in the household, what is doing this to us?
    We have probably eighteen pounds of chemicals in us, poisons that are not supposed to be there.  We are all full of fire retardants and you can't hardly eat food that hasn't been genetically altered or spiced up with pesticides and herbicides. With the Nuclear escapement in Japan, they solved the problem in part by increasing the daily allowed allotment of radiation permissible!
   Cancer is just statistics.  We are allowed so many deaths per hundreds or thousands so the rugs we walk on won't burn.  We know there is death from plastic water bottles, but only so many per thousand and it is so convenient!  Permissible risk.  More people die from auto accidents than our wars going on now.  Permissible risks.  Cancer is very expensive to treat and yet it amounts to less than 5% of our National Health Budget. Permissible risks.  Even smoking, a known cause of cancer, raises billions of dollars in revenue.  Permissible risk.
    Cancer victims have become "parts per million", a permissible risk in our modern world of statistics and industrial development.  Statistics are verifiable and predictable and maybe you could charge a deposit?
If altered corn or chemically laced carpets, plastic water bottles, gasoline in our automobiles and cigarettes, and anything else is a "known cause of cancer", why not charge a health deposit?  A fee or tax to find the cure to cancer or give us the sensibility not to include these dangerous chemicals in our recipes?
   That would raise the price for everyone and that might not be an acceptable, permissible risk?  As it is it is sort of like gambling, isn't it?  Thinking all the time, no, not me, I won't be one of the "parts per million"!
You can always visit me HERE

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

     I admit my hands are killing me but I would never tell you that.  You would never know from what I do.
 The Main Garden Entry
I think I am done with concrete for this year.  I have created a new entry to my studio, a concrete curb to contain my blueberries and replace the railroad tie skirting at the front of my garden with a little concrete stem wall.  I even gathered up some scraps and samples of metal work and made a fence for this section.  My entire garden is now fenced in and gated with three entry gates.  I am tired now.
   I had a complete physical from my regular doctor this week.  He is the one who originally discovered that I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma in January a year ago.  I passed with flying colors, mid-normal in hundreds of categories and not near
high in any of them!
   My hands will take years to get better he says, it is more of a process of getting used to it!  Not what I want to hear but at least I can still do things. This time last year I was in the middle of my chemo series, the
twelve sessions that almost killed me.  It is like a forgotten nightmare now.  If I hadn't blogged so much about it I might think this happened to someone else, or didn't happen at all.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Greenhouse

    I have lived on this little third acre for over forty years, the same place but it is always in flux, changing as I grow older.  For a city lot it is interesting, not your flat mowed lawn kind of look at all.  Nothing "plastic" and there is a lot to do here.  It doesn't invite an audience but encourages participation.  You can dig holes on my property, and build things and make a mess, build anything you like.  It has an interesting diagonal division, a drainage ditch that runs through town and exactly divides my property in half.  One triangle is the house side
with its tiny front and back lawns and a rabbit shed and the house itself.  The other side is mine.

Front door to greenhouse.
    One of the first things I built, forty years ago, was my greenhouse.  This is a proper greenhouse not a walk in cold frame bought from a kit.  I can heat it with a 60 watt little heater in the coldest months.   The trick to this is providing enough mass to capture and retain the heat the sun offers for free during the day.
 The South wall of my greenhouse, mostly glass with slate.
It has a one foot thick concrete floor and concrete stem walls about three feet up on all its sides.  Inside the bench is one piece on three sides and is made from concrete with inexpensive ceramic tiles for a counter top.  The North wall is wood framed and insulated and the rest is mostly glass.  It is designed to be wet and on a sunny day has the humidity of a tropical jungle.
    The Southern wall and East and West are mostly glass, set in wood framing with slate veneer between the glass panels.  The slate looks great and I don't have to paint it and it too holds the heat of the day.
 Tomatoes in the greenhouse

The greenhouse is not very big, about 7' x 12' with the concrete benches on either side and a three feet walkway.  I have had 150 tomato plants in there, all heirloom and all started from seed, about eight varieties.
I can grow lettuce all year around.  And I start about a zillion flowers!

For a complete walk about of my garden, visit me HERE.http://www.artwanted.com/slate

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Garden

 The forms are in for a little stem wall.
   My garden was abandonded last year, left to the weeds and unusually cool and wet season.  It was a bad year for tomatoes.  The cancer and its voodoo cure left me without strength and ambition.  All in all it was a good year for this tramatic experience.
   This year will be different and I have already begun to tackle projects I was afraid I could never do again.  I am getting stronger day by day.  Oh, it is not as fast as it used to be, but I do it in steps, a little at a time and it gets done.
    My entire garden is one giant raised bed, about 16" or so inches higher than the surrounding area.  When first constructed about twenty years ago this was surrounded in railroad ties and over the years I have gradually replaced these with a concrete stem wall.  Now it is the time to do the front.
 Trumpet Vine Entry to Garden
    I have a real "Garden Entry", gated and arched with a Trumpet Vine calling your attention and invited closer scuntiny.

It will be a good year this year, slow and steady and directional.
I am thinking I will turn this blog over to my garden and gradually give you the whole tour!

In the meantime, there are more Garden Photos HERE.http://www.artwanted.com/slate

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bigger Tasks, Done a little slower!

     Last year was the worst weather for my tomatoes in my memory.  Spring came late, wet and cold. Fall came early with winter rains making it the shortest season ever.  If I had to pick a time to get cancer I couldn't have chosen a better one.  I was officially retired and collecting Social Security, haha, just like old people!  But between the cancer and the cure I was just about wiped out.  I had no energy and pretty much left my garden to the weeds.
   It has been over a year now, nine months since my last chemo voodoo cocktail and I am regaining my strength.  That too is a very long process, day by day.  I am left with neuropathy in my hands and feet and a continuing shortness of breath, not so bad that I need a resperator but enough to keep me out of racing, no more marathons for me!
   I am discovering that I can do anything that I used to be able to do, just a little slower.  It is an altering of time and not chastizing myself for being slow to get there.  Except for the clean up and spit polishing I have completed the new entry to my studio and am happy with it.  Now I am on a roll.
 Job in process, new entry to my garden.
   My garden area is about 25' X 50' and the entire area is a raised bed, about 16" higher than the surrounding walkways.  At one time it was framed in used railroad ties, popular in the '70's and discovered poisonous in the '80's.  I have replaced them except for the very front section with concrete curbing. Now I am replacing that.
    These railroad ties are 9' long and might weigh over a hundred pounds each.  With the help of a steel bar, one by one they come out, like removing this cancerous crap from my garden!  I got them out in about four hours and then I rested.
For two days!  I am better today and will clean up this mess and set forms for the new concrete curbing. Then I will probably rest for two more days!  Then I will pour the concrete!  That's how I do it, little sections at a time and before I know it the job will be done!  It is not a fast job but it is a continous process.  When it is done I will post a photo of it.
Lots of garden photos are HERE.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Nakedness of Cancer

   The process of discovering you have cancer and the resulting treatments to come can lead you feeling naked and examined to death, vulnerable and exposed.  Not much modesty going on here, you are a body to be examined.  A lot of this is done behind closed doors, under a microscope at the cellular level.  The x-rays and Cat Scans and Pet Scans offer a detailed, didgitalized image from head to toe.  Constant blood analysis
furthers this image and becomes a part of your chart.  Item by item you become this information and from it the doctors can prepare their line of attack.
    "Jerry, you have Stage 3 and a half Hodgekin's Lymphoma and a 40% chance of survival."
Forty percent is all I understood of this, a good 80 proof whiskey, 94% payback on the slot machines, more likely to be struck by lightening than winning a lottery ticket, a 3000psi concrete mixture.  I understood the math.  Stage 3 and 1/2 meant it had spread.
    It was just a little lump I saw while shaving six months earlier.  I noted it and looked at it and for awhile actually tried to will it away, but it took six months before I went to the doctor!  It wasn't bothering me, I felt fine.
   "It has spread into your spine and spleen and throughout your entire lymph system," the doctor was giving me the basics here.  "Here, let me show you!" he was happy with his didgital display and it looked as if my body had been seeded much like the gold mining days with a shotgun.  I had cancer pretty much everywhere.
    There is a lot that they can't put into that computer.  Me, for instance.
A friend of mine now has cancer and that is the reason I recount this story a bit.  My Blog on ArtWanted I no longer use but I keep it as a reminder to where I have been, on a train wreck to the very edge of hell.  If you ever look at it it reads best if you scroll to the very bottom and read it backwards.  It is a day to day from discovery to leaving the station and every step in between.  I read it from time to time myself, like life in a rearview mirror.  This is the site, you have to click "BLOG" at the top of it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Psychology of Being Poor

I have decided that there is a psychology to poverty and the same idea apply to living with cancer or recovering from the horrendous voodoo cure.  This concept will be rambling because it is not fit for publication yet, but bear with me.
     Our first "brand new car" didn't last very long.  We were in a car wreck and I've told that story.  We replaced it with a Toyota Station Wagon, a new 1978 Model for $6,235.  It was a great car and never gave us any problems.  With some reluctance, in 2008, yes, almost thirty years! we were ready to replace it.  It was a great car and served us well, hauling the kids to their school stuff and soccor games, hauling hay even, and a series of animals, dogs, cats, chickens.  30 years old but with just under 200,000 miles and she still ran like a champ!
   I decided on a whim to give it to our neighbors, nice people, lots of kids, no job, no money, the proverbial
no pot to piss in.  They were thrilled and spent the day taking turns just driving this car up and down the street.  Now here is the part I never thought of.  Owning a car comes with responsibilities, like putting gas in it and having insurance.  Well, that never happened and the car, my trusted stead, got loaned out to someone and then abandoned in Eastern Oregon, about 200 miles from home!
   Now, here is one more related thought and then I'll try to tie these together.  I sell my "Art Stuff" and a lot of it sells right out of my backyard. I have an apprentise for about six months a year, a good chap who has been with me for a long time.  He has learned a lot from me over the years and I thought he was ready for a huge advancement.  So I tried to explain to him that the more attractive my backyard is and the cleaner and more organized the shop is, the easier it is to work and impress the customers.  It really isn't that bad, two guys for one week and it would be perfect!  My offer to him was in return for his investment of one week's time I would give him 50% of the business.  Now this isn't an offer I would make to anyone, he has been with me for 15 years.  I told him that I am getting ready to slow down a bit and am thinking of other interests.
So, 50% to him this year, 60% next, 70% the third year and after than I wanted 20% for the use of my studio and gardens for his business.  Now, I would have jumped at that.  He can't think beyond a week and thinks I am ripping him off.
    The upshot of all this is I am doing this Spring Spruce Up by myself and am enjoying the process. He is doing I have no idea what.  I am delaying further projects until I have completed these tasks, so basically he is out of work and he is happy with that.  I know there is a psychology to this I just don't understand it.
   How this relates to cancer I am not sure but I have never thought if I wasn't going to get paid that I wouldn't do something, have never thought that if something causes me pain or discomfort that I wouldn't do it.  I have always thought beyond tomorrow, beyond next week, that whatever inconveniences I am in at the moment would pass and better days will be here.  Cancer?  No, it didn't stand a chance with me!
My Other Blog is HERE

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lost the Recipe!

    I don't remember the dates but the Early Greeks of Plato's era had concrete and used it in their buildings and bridges that are still standing today.  Then some idiot lost the recipe!  For over 1,000 years no concrete was poured, anywhere!  It is a mixture of one part cement, two parts sand and three parts gravel, but where do you find the cement?   I don't know either and rely on Home Depot but it is a particular type of lime that has been burnt and then ground into a powder.   Anyway, I like it and seem to have a lot of it around here.
 New Concrete Entry to my Studio.
I can drive my little truck all the way to the back of my property where my studio is and that is a road about 150 feet long, and then there is a turn around.  The greenhouse floor is concrete and so are its stem wall up about three feet. And then there is the little plunge pool I made with my daughters, that took about six yards of concrete!  And my studio floor, about 20' by 40 feet is all concrete, and there are concrete curbing or little walls around each garden area.  I have poured a lot of concrete in my day and all with a little mixer that does about one wheel barrel at a time!

I wanted to do this last year but I got distracted with the cancer!  Actually I did pour a lot of concrete when I had cancer I just didn't know I had cancer.  The cancer didn't slow me down too much.  It was the voodoo cure of unspeakable chemo cocktails they give you that put my concrete pouring days on hold.  Well, they don't really give them to you.  It costs $130,000!!!
   For awhile I could barely walk and even the idea of pouring concrete would make me tired.  But I am here to tell you there is hope!  I am back at it again!  Yes, I got the souvenir of neuropathy in my hands and feet and my right hand especially is pretty bad!  I use to do everything without gloves!  Welding and concrete work.  I didn't own a pair of gloves!  Now I wear them all the time.  They soften the sensations and make my life a little easier.
At night I wear my fur lined gloves and even wear them to bed!  I think this might just be the way it is going to be. They hurt all the time whether I am working or not.  They hurt a little worse if I sit and feel sorry for myself and then I get nothing done at all.  I lie a little bit and tell myself this is a new type of orgasm. It is longer lasting than the old kind but just as extreme!
The next job is to clean the mess and get the power washer out!
If you haven't seen my studio, garden and all this concrete work, then you can visit me HERE!

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Project

 My Studio Entry Project
BC (before cancer), this would have been a two day job.  Dig it out, form it up and pour the concrete all in one go.  I just don't have the strength for that.  Rather than thinking that I can't do this at all, I divided it up into much smaller tasks.  On the first day I dug the footings for this little garden retainer wall that is critical to the new entry for my studio.  It is only about 15 feet long.  I dug the footings, placed the forms and got the gravel cement mixture there, ready for day two!
  Before Cancer, Day Two would have seen the completion of this job.  If I poured all the concrete at once, the footings, the little wall and a walkway about 5' x 15' it would be about two yards of concrete, something I have done many times in the past.  That would just be impossible now.
    As I was doing this I thought about all of the concrete that I have poured, not everywhere, just in my backyard.  It is a lot.
 Blueberries behind the little retaining wall.
I like concrete.  I put a lot of reinforcing steel in it and like the permanency of it. It is the defining edges of my garden and in a way, it's strength represents the defining edges of me.

On the second day I formed and poured the little retaining wall,
a boundary separating the path to my shop and a patch of blueberries. My hands are killing me!  Each effort a struggle of wills.  I admit that there is a part of me that would just like to sit on the curb and cry.  But there is another part of me that wants to see this done, wants to participate in the process, wants to create things and make a new entry to my studio.  That is the dog I feed.
   I can rest today and allow the concrete to cure, but I won't rest too much. I will get another truck load (think small truck!)
of gravel in preparation for the next phase. I have some more digging and forming to do for the walkway and then that to pour.  I have decided that it is okay to break this task into segments and do a little at a time.  I am in no hurry and it will get done.  As I progress I will tell you about it and post the occasional photo and when it is finished we can pick blueberries together and I think you will like the new entry to my studio.

My entire garden can be found here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Difficult Tasks

   My cancer is gone but my list of complaints is still pretty big.  The neuropathy in my hands could easily bring me to a screeching halt.  My lungs suffered more damage than I am willing to admit and I am thankful that long distance running was never on my list of things to accomplish.  It would be pretty easy to sit in a chair and feel sorry for myself.  Well easy except that this would bore me to tears.
   I was in the construction industry for over 35 years and a welder now for the past 15 years.  I learned habits during this time that I carry with me even now.  At the end of the day I always plan tomorrow. What projects need to be done, the tools I will need and the process in which to do them.  There are always things in construction that aren't any fun but there is an order to things, foundations before floors.
   I no longer have a crew but I keep these attitudes.  I want to rebuild a little six foot by twelve foot entry way to my shop and what was once so simple is proving to be a large task.  I am not in a hurry. I divided it up into segments and little by little I will get it done.  Digging first, then a footing for a stem wall, then the little garden wall and a new walkway.  The digging is mostly done and yesterday I got the load of gravel and now it is waiting for me. I can't use my truck until I unload it.
 Brand new wheel barrel with two wheels!
   I did that on purpose.  I didn't want the pain of today to provide an excuse not to continue this project.

My Other Blog is HERE

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Future?

One of the worst things about having cancer is you no longer look far into the future.  If you can get past next week or even through today that becomes pretty good.  I hated this part just because I am a goal setter by nature and some of what I want to do it way in the future.  I have always been that way, setting short term goals, midterm and down the way a bit, things I would like to do.
For this past year I have let my shop inventories dwindle down to the bare basics, not much extra steel and only one blank canvas encouraging me to paint.  I didn't think I would need them.
    The cancer is gone and I am back to my habits now, ordering a few extra pieces of this or that when I have a job to do. Two canvases calling for my attention!  My garden is screaming for the attention that I didn't give it last year.  Yesterday I spend the day in the greenhouse and that is a cause for celebration.  It is a continuation of life, without me these plants will die, left unattended to wither on the vine. I planted six seeds each of twelve varieties of tomatoes, some I have had for years, saving seeds from one year to the next.  I started four varieties of peppers, two of eggplants, some cucumbers and about 100 Zinnias.  I like flowers scattered throughout my garden.
    It was nice getting dirty again, my hands in the soil of the earth.  I removed the gloves I wear to protect them from this on-going neuropathy that I have.  They were almost comfortable in the familiar surrounding.
Today I will reconnect my well that I drove into the ground forty years ago, giving me faithful, consistent water.  It is nice to make plans for tomorrow, next week and next year.
 My Greenhouse, built almost 40 years ago!
My other Blog is HERE.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Alive and Well!!!

   Oh, I saw my nurses yesterday!  I just had to visit them.  I am back to 200 pounds, need a haircut and I can walk without faultering!  Oh, I gave them the biggest bearhug and they squeezed me back!  It must be nice, in that profession, to see the success stories, to have patients come visiting who don't need anything, just to say hello and, yes, thankyou!  It is a bit dangerous what they do.  They wear hazmat suits as they administer the voodoo chemicals and inspite of everything, they are so cheerful.  You would never know their pains or bad days or what troubles are after them.  They are always so cheerful, a mask of the job. A job where half your customers die off can't be pleasant!
   There was no fear this time in seeing the main voodoo doctor.  I knew I was fine. You get to know your body pretty well when you go through what I did.  We are friends now and the alien beings who invaded are gone.  I am cancerfree.  Next check up, sometime in July and maybe another six months after that.
   This blog will probably slow down a bit as I have lost the evil that it encompassed.  I read other cancer blogs and may respond here to something that sparks my interest, maybe to say how I did it or to offer some kind of encouragement in an otherwise dark and scarry place.  A blog I no longer use but keep for my own memories of this trainwreck can be found on my ArtWanted site, where it says "Blog".  It is a day to day account, an attempt to find laughter in the wreckage.  For the best reading of this scroll to the very bottom and read it backwards. It is HERE.http://www.artwanted.com/slate I read it myself from time to time. I never want to forget where I have been.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cheating Death

    This time last year I was pretty sick from the chemo and voodoo chemicals I happily took in an effort to chase away the cancer.  My life then was centered around doctor's appointments, testing for everything, filling out forms and hospital visits.  There is nothing about this experience that I would wish upon anyone.
It was a train wreck in motion, on the very edge of Hell and just a horrible process that each day grew worse.  Last year it was my entire life, that and sleeping the only comfort I found.  Everything medical becomes important.  You never miss a pill.  You never miss an appointment.
   This year is different and it will be a great year.  I have lists of things to do, all fun and inspiring.  Doctor's appointments are not even in my thoughts.  I mention this because last week I had one and just plain forgot about it!  Oh, it was marked on the calendar all right but I never look at the calendar any more.  All days have equal significance, meaning and no meaning at all.
    It was to be and still is because I rescheduled it, a "three month check up".  Three months since I was declared "cancerfree", the name of this blog!  Funny that, I named the baby before it was born!  I knew what the outcome would be.  I am tough as nails and given a 50% survival rate, I knew I could do it.  No fun though!  and it does leave you with a feeling of cheating death!  A different time or a different place, a second twisted and it could have been me.
    My appointment is now for tomorrow and I wonder what that will mean?  At 2:10 pm. I wonder if there is any significance there?  An hour earlier than "The Train to Yuma."  Sometimes I think that "luck" has nothing to do with this and other times I think "luck" is everything.  It is a numbers game and my time wasn't up...
not yet anyway.  No bells for me, but I probably wouldn't listen anyway.
   It was a good appointment to miss.  It means that I am no longer thinking about cancer.  It has lost its control over me and I have better things to do.  Tomorrow will be an interruption, that is all, but it all makes me think about it again.
My other blog is here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fear

You have two choices when you get cancer:  you can get very fearful or lose fear entirely.  I have to admit I wasn't too please when told that I had "Hodgeskin's Lymphoma", stage three and a half, which means everywhere.  My entire lymph system and then into my spleen and spine.  It was growing, well, like cancer!
I had this alien being eating me from within!  I always thought that a cement truck might get me or that I might fall off a roof, something sudden, bloody, a tearing of the flesh and broken bones, a crushed skull and over.
Well, that may yet be, but first I had to deal with cancer.
     I did discover that no one dies of cancer.  I remember "cancer insurance" being sold in the 1960's, not insurance if you get cancer but insurance if you should die from it. What a cool scam that was!  You die from organ failure or pneumonia, that "old man's friend".  Or, as I discovered, you can die from "the cure".
     The "cure" is mean and that is all there is to that!  It is a voodoo concoction made from World War One Mustard Gas!  Yes, it really is.  It is designed to kill and it does so indiscriminately.  Surgery with a hand grenade.  It kills the cancer cells and a lot of good ones in the process.  I had 12 sessions of ABVD, horrible drugs that are mostly mentioned by initials only.  Every two weeks for six months!  It is all kind of crazy, you mark the dates on a calendar and get to look forward to the experience!  No, I can't go to lunch with you, I've got my chemo to do!
    I never got sick so you could put a name to it anyway.  I was never nauseous, never threw up, but I sure couldn't eat!  I began the process as a welder-construction worker, strong and able at 225 pounds and weighed 172 pounds when I got my final chemo shots!  It is not a diet I would recommend to anyone.
I never really thought much about the day after death but there were times when I didn't think I was going to make it.  You get pretty weak; I couldn't lift 20 pounds!  You get time to stand back and pretend it is all happening to someone else, like it is all a movie, or an unfinished book and you are not really sure how it will end.
    You sleep a lot.  You are always tired and I have never really found a good way to describe that, so someone not affected could really understand what you go through.  It is a tiredness where death would be welcomed.  My mind was always active even when my body couldn't cope.  I could still think!  I did lose a sense of "future", couldn't even think ahead to the next gardening season.
    What I chose to do or maybe did without choice is to relive my life.  I have done it all twice!  My earliest memories, all my school days, my first guitar, the poetry I used to write, old girl friends, my travels, adventures and disappointments and where I succeeded, all have been lived twice.  It is fascinating how in the deep recesses of your mind, you remember everything!  And I thought a lot about food.  I liked the idea of it even though I couldn't eat it.
    Death and taxes, right?  None of us are going to get out of this alive.  So you learn to cherish life, appreciate the now of it all, each breath, each flower and smell, each touch and every kind word.
I am left with pretty bad neuropathy in my hands but the cancer is gone!  I am not sure what "in recession" means?  That has the sound of still having it but it is getting smaller?  My doctor says he can't find any cancer in me and spent a few thousand dollars trying to do so.  It is gone.
     Some days my hands are so bad that I would just like to sit and hold them.  I don't allow this for two reasons.  The first is that in reliving my life I had no memory of pain.  Pain is not something we easily carry with us.  Too heavy, maybe, or just not important.  I remember getting the Pet and Cat scans and lots of x-rays and the doctor asking me when I broke my shoulder?  It was evidenced in the tests but not in my memory, certainly nothing I ever went to a doctor about. 
    The second reason I ignore my neuropathy is that there are things I want to do.  The will to do them is stronger than the fear of pain.  I do have a fear of atrophy.  I exercise my hands everyday, all the time, constantly.  My cancer doctor says nerves are slow to grow and it might take eight years for my hands to get better.  My regular doctor says that in eight years I will be used to it.  It is like stirring a five gallon bucket full of cut glass.  It is not pleasant but I can do it.
My Other Blog is HERE

Saturday, March 12, 2011

On Time...

   always means to me, early.  Yesterday I set two big gate posts in concrete and because I am still a bit weak from the voodoo chemo that cured me, I found someone else to dig the holes for me.  We had agreed to meet at a nearby restaurant where I had offered to buy him breakfast. I didn't know this guy and wasn't buying him breakfast to be nice.  It was my idea of a bribe, an offer to get him to the job on time.
   Thirty five years in construction and the worst thing you can do to me is to interrupt my schedule, be late for work or not show up at all.  Everything has an order, in this case I had concrete arriving later and there would be nothing to do without the holes in place.  Had he not shown up I had a list of three others who might dig the holes for me.  I always have a plan "B".
    In the "old days" on time always meant early.  If a job started at 8 AM then you got there early, got the tools out and everything lined up and you actually began working at 8 AM!  This is no longer true.  People show up late as if that were normal, with their coffee in hand and then they want to go to the bathroom before even wondering what the day might offer.  I can't even imagine that!  I want my day to go easily and for that I have to know what is going on, what problems might occur, what unexpected might happen and what tools I might need.
    I originally met the owner to give a bid, discuss the job and see where the gates might go.  I called for a Utility Locate to make sure there were no underground utilities that might be in the way, then I went back to the job to see the markings on the road and determine the perfect location with the homeowner.  I wanted all these issues settled before I had any crew there.  There is a time to discuss and a time to work.
   I developed this notion of time because I once had several employees and any and all time lost always came out of my chech.  The employees always got their eight hours worth, the government for sure got theirs, no waiting there!  The insurance companies and other expences always got their, and what was left over was mine.  All wasted time was paid for by me.  As an employer you quickly learn a plan "B" or you can not stay in business.  It seems now that who ever is buying our services is paying for eight hours and getting only six!
I just couldn't do that and my crew soon learned to be on time, or they found other work.
    I was so happy!  I arrived to our 8:30 AM breakfast at eight o'clock and my new found hole digger was already there!  Wow, that is a good way to impress me and I will tell all my friends and others in this gate building business that I am in.  Word of mouth, the best advertizing ever.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

What is it all about?

     Do you know someone on unemployment who may not be deserving of it?  Maybe they are using it as a paid vacation and not even hunting for work?  They might even be doing side jobs and not declaring their income!  I think we all know people like that and it is sure irritating!  It seems as if they are our working in their garden while we work hard at our jobs to support them!  It seems as though we have designed a system to encourage us to be lazy.
    There is no unemployment fund.  It is long gone.  We spent that money years ago and today every dollar
paid to the unemployed is borrowed money.  It was never really designed to do what it is doing now, supporting millions of people.  When I was an employer and had fifteen people working for me this tax was negligible, probably the smallest tax I paid and certainly a lot less than to the local public transit.  Unemployment was designed to help people in transition, between jobs while hunting for work, for short periods of time.  Now it is a lifestyle.  One can collect unemployment payments for two years!  The money is borrowed, the employee never paid into this fund and as an employer I don't think I paid more than $15 a week into this insurance!  It was only designed to be used for one in 25 employees and for a very short time.
    It is not a good thing to put on your resume.  What have you been doing for the last two years?  "Collecting unemployment and working in my garden," would not impress any company.  Two years out of the workforce is forever, so much changes.
    I wonder what "unemployment" is really all about?  There are more Americans unemployed now than during The Great Depression.  I think it is somewhere near 25,000,000 people.  The official rate is almost 10% and these are the ones collecting unemployment!  This has all become a "part of the system" now, necessary to prop up a failed State.  It is not done out of kindness and certainly as no one has really paid into it, it has nothing to do with "deserving".  Remember, it is all borrowed money.  So there has to be another reason for it, huh?
    It is all part of the Monopoly Game to this whole thing, like "passing GO and collecting $200".  It is used to continue this game.  If you stop these payments the game is over.  What this country requires is a quick infusion of cash and unemployed people spend their money the fastest.  It doesn't sit around in a bank.
Unemployment and some kind of food assistance, maybe housing help, have become the workforce of America!  Think about it.  It would be disastrous to stop it.  It is how the rent is paid and groceries are bought, gasoline purchased.  It is a huge driving force in this economy.  In my heart I know it is abused but in my mind I know it has become so very necessary.  It is not done out of any kindness, the "system" requires it.
    It is difficult to stop this process.  The problem with Government "make work" projects is that historically when the government controls manufacturing and industry and employment that leads to fascism.  Giving it away with borrowed money leads to laziness and debt. 
   Encouraging American Industry is not so much a legislative thing as it is an educational matter.  If you removed all of your clothes that were not made in America (or the country where you are reading this),
would you be naked?  If you removed the items from your house that weren't made in America (or home country), would your house be empty?  My point is we have met the enemy and it is us!  We want good jobs that pay well and buy foreign import crap made from slave labor and we wonder what the problem is?
    I have offered this challenge before and I will offer it again.  Can you go one week without buying anything imported?  Consider this a game and it is not as easy as you might imagine.  You have to read the labels.
What would happen if your very favorite store, whatever it might be, removed all imported products from their shelves?  We have the power to do this.  It might be the only power we have left.
    So, are you frustrated or do you like it the way it is?
This is what I do.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Political Opinions

In Lybia they can't express their political opinions and here we don't!  That is so strange.  More people vote for American Idol than in our elections.  What the heck is going on?  Life was easier when we had 10% at the bottom of the heap and 10% wealthy, something in our dreams we could aspire to.  In those day (1950's and early 1960's) the very rich paid a lot of taxes, the more they made, the more they paid, and it was only the very poor, that bottom 10% that received some kind of assistance from the government.  The Middle, that huge workhorse of our population, had jobs, worked hard and carried the "American Dream".
     How did all this get derailed?  Mostly what we like to do and find it easiest to do is to be critical of what we can closely see.  Now we are after the Unions and their pension funds.  The same arguments were applied to Women's Liberation.  If women were allowed into the workplace it would reduce money paid to the men.  They would work for less and destroy it for the men!  and the same argument for immigration, they will work for less and destroy it for everyone.  There is some merit to this argument and everything we do is not done necessarily for the reasons we claim to do them.  For instance, at the end of World War II there was a huge problem of what to do with all the returning servicemen.  What would happen with millions of people entering the workforce and competing in the job market?  What will we do with the thousands of servicemen in our current wars when they return?  That is why the GI Bill was created.  Keep them out of the workforce and send them to school.  At the same time we extended mandatory public education from 16 years old until 18 years old.  Manipulation of the work force!  There are lots of good things that came from this, it is just that we did not necessarily do them for good reasons.
     What is happening now is the bottom of the heap is getting huge and as hard as we might be working we are finding ourselves there.  The "bottom" is closer to forty percent!  These are people that need assistance, the "working poor" and those without work at all.  We see no way out but to lower the standards of those just above us, only one rung up this ladder, the union workers.  We quickly forget the benefits that have trickled down to us, the forty hour weeks, the paid breaks, the vacations, any health benefits and other's.
It seems that in losing our ability to climb we want to destroy those that have.
    This is only the beginning of a process, pulling down the rungs of a ladder of those just ahead of us. We will attempt other methods, easy things in response to what we see around us.  Their will be attempts to reduce minimum wage.  Instead of thinking maybe we should earn more we will think that "Hamburger flippers" deserve less!  And we will go after small businesses with a furry.  They are all around us, in every neighborhood and we never seen the 70 hour weeks and hard work they do and the risks they are willing to take.  They too are just "one rung up" from us and there will be attempts to bring them down.
    Personally I don't think any of this is necessary.  All the cuts that are being made by various governments amount to pennies and every one of them is from this lower end of the ladder.  The first thing local governments always do is close the parks!
    The math is all different now because there is no "top 10%".  The highest rungs of the ladder now belong to the top 2% and they control over 40% of everything.  The bottom 40% control nothing and the rest of us are scrambling, eating each other, destroying what is around us to keep our foothold.
    We are, for the first time in history, fighting two major wars without any increase in taxes!  The theory behind this is pretty simple math.  If we had to really pay for these wars we might rethink them, find a different way or just get out.  So our wars, costing Trillions of dollars.and taking care of those wounded costing even more Trillions of dollars, is all borrowed money.  You think our National Debt is serious?  Each of us owes over $45,000, man, women and child, each of us!
     Truly this is all pretty simple math and has nothing to do with what a person believes.  You may have any political persuasion that you want and the math remains the same.  You can chop at the bottom rungs of this ladder as much as you want and it may make you feel better but you are still going to owe $45,000.  It won't make a dent.  It is like making the minimum payment on a visa bill.
     If there were serious effort at getting our house in order, serious effort to reduce our National Debt, we would get out of these wars and then return to a fair taxing strategy.  In the meantime it seems we are piranha in a fish bowl eating each other. We have become this cancer!
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Simple Solution

It is pretty incredible.  We are becoming cannibals in a fish bowl.  Little fish eating each other with no thought to the big fish about to eat us all.  We do this because we can only strike out at what we know.  We can only see a little distance, those just ahead of us on this ladder we are on.  It all becomes irrational.  We strike out at unions because they have benefits that we do not.  Unions which gave us the forty hour week.  Unions which gave us lunch breaks and paid rest periods.  Unions which encouraged benefits for those injured on the job, offered us sick pay and health benefits.  Unions which created our middle class and raised the bar for everyone.  We want to pull them down now, attempting to find some comfort in reducing them to our level.
The big fish will be happy, more food for them!  Here is a joke!
    Three guys are sitting at a table with a plate of cookies before them.  The rich guy leans forward and grabs almost all of them for himself, all but one in fact.  "Be careful," he says to the other guy, "that Union guy next to you will take most of this last cookie!"  That is what is happening.
   Greed itself has become a cancer! (You thought I couldn't get back on subject, huh?).  It is only because we allow it.  We reward it.  We admire it.  We would rather destroy our middle class than infringe on the rights of the wealthy!  I am talking the "ubber rich", wealth beyond counting, people you don't even know.
Their numbers are dwindling too.  The "rich" used to be the top 10% and now they are the top 2%, but they control even more money, almost 40% of the money available.
   This might be a fun game if we could all play it. That is not what is happening. Based on a percentage of income, these super wealthy pay far less taxes than the average fish in this bowl, and their wealth is taken out of circulation, invested, sent overseas.  It does not trickle down any more but floats away leaving us to feed on each other.
     It is not necessary to "balance the budget" through subtraction and to remove this money also from circulation makes for horrible math.  It would be so very simple.  Everyone pays the same taxes on everything.  Period.  Just that and we would have a surplus.  Why this is such a radical idea is beyond me.
My Other Blog is Here.