More Than Just A Number

I was expecting to get my new PSA number sometime during the day yesterday, but it didn’t come in until after 10:00 PM last night. Don’t they know I’ve been asleep for two hours by then? So I had the privilege of seeing it to start my day today. It’s up, from .06 to .35.

This is still a very low number, not even into whole numbers yet. If you take the number by itself, it’s great. But it’s a big increase from where it was. Proportionally, it’s more than five times what it was before. That’s cause for concern.

My oncologist says that, at this point, it’s more about the trend than the actual number. One rise does not equal a trend. But two would. The last time this happened, when Lupron alone started failing me last August, my oncologist wanted to wait a month and test again, to see if it’s just random fluctuation, due to the fact that I still have my prostate gland continuing to produce the PSA protein. The hope was that the number would go back down, and we could stay the course for a while longer. But if you were following along at that time, you know what happened.

After a month, my PSA rose a second time, by a larger margin. That’s when a new bone scan and MRI were ordered, and when metastasis to my spine and ribs were found. That’s when I officially became Stage 4. At that point, we added Xtandi, which pushed my PSA down to the insanely low levels I’ve been enjoying since.

So I expect that my oncologist will want to do the same this time. Wait for a month, and test again. If the number goes back down, we’re still good. If not, we’ve got a big problem.

My oncologist said when we started that he didn’t know how much “mileage” (his word) I’d get out of Xtandi. But I certainly expected to get more than a few months. I’ve only been on it since the end of September. If this is more than random fluctuation, Xtandi was only effective in keeping my cancer under control for seven months. Less time than I got out of Lupron. This can be a pattern with very aggressive cancers. Each treatment gives you less time. My doctor calls it “burning through” treatments.

One thing I’ve heard from fellow patients, their caregivers, and from friends is the PSA is just a number. I shouldn’t be bound by it, or defined by it. I shouldn’t even think about it. Just live my life. Here’s the problem with that for me. I understand that there are cases where the PSA number seems to bear no relationship to the progression of a patient’s cancer, or in how they feel. But that’s never been true for me. For me, the PSA has always been a very reliable indicator of the state of my cancer. When my PSA has been rising, my cancer has been advancing. When it’s gone down, my cancer was shrinking. So I can’t disregard that number. It’s impossible.

I’m not one who stresses about each PSA test. I was fine yesterday. I’m just shaken up by the news today. But though I was wasn’t worried, I did have a feeling. I’ve learned to trust my feelings in this process. They’ve rarely been wrong. And when my feelings have been wrong, it’s been because they were overly optimistic.

I can think of one possible reason the number went up. When my PSA crashed to such low levels, I was on a full dose of the cannabis oil suppositories. For the past month or so, I’ve been on a lower, “maintenance” dose. I can’t help but wonder if my cancer started growing again the moment I went to a lower dose. I’ll ask about that tomorrow. It’s the only variation that’s taken place in my treatment that might explain it. So, assuming my doctor wants to wait a month and retest, if my PSA rises again, I think I’ll try to go back to a full dose and see what happens. It’s just a matter of paying for it. It’s not cheap, and insurance doesn’t cover it.

I’m trying not to blow this result out of proportion. Hopefully, it will go back down in a month and everything will be fine for a while. But I’m prepared for the opposite result, and for what it means. I won’t go there in this post, other than to say that it feels to me like confirmation that the shorter prognosis I received back in September, when I wrote Life Expectancy, was correct.

This is probably completely unrelated and coincidental, but my left shoulder has been bothering me lately. It hurts when I move it in certain ways. I can’t do upper body exercises when I work out. I can’t sleep on that side because it hurts too much. It hurts to drive. For those who don’t know my history, when I was first diagnosed, an MRI showed a suspicious spot on my left upper arm bone. It was later determined by several experts not to be cancer. It was thought to be some kind of benign tendonitis thing. But cancer couldn’t be completely ruled out.

The telltale image from that MRI of my left shoulder

Now it hurts all the time. So I’m gonna say to my oncologist when I see him tomorrow, “You know this shoulder that you thought might have cancer, and decided it didn’t? Well, it really hurts now.” I wonder if the combination of pain in the shoulder that was the cause of so much concern a year ago happening right at the same time as a rise in my PSA will be enough for him to order a new MRI of that area to see what’s going on. Or maybe, when I describe the symptoms, he’ll think it confirms his tendonitis conclusion, and refer me to the right doctor for that. We’ll see.

I was going to tell you about my last visit, when I got my blood draw and saw both a dental hygenist and my nutritionist, but it doesn’t seem to fit in this post. I had a really good joke to add to that part too. But I don’t feel much like joking today.

So much for my first birthday wish. It wasn’t for a low PSA number, if you remember. The number is still low. My wish was that it would go down or stay the same. Instead, it went up by a factor of more than five.

I’m glad I get to see my therapist this afternoon. That will help a lot. I’m glad I have friends who I can talk to. And I’m so blessed to know that you’re reading this right now. Your love and support makes this journey much easier.

It’s easy for a prostate cancer patient to feel captive to that PSA number. No matter what the state of our cancer is, whether we’ve had surgery and our cancer is considered “undetectable” or we’re Stage 4 like me, we’re still subject to that test at regular intervals for the rest of our lives. And every time, we fear that number will rise. Don’t tell me it’s just a number. It’s been too reliable in showing whether my cancer is advancing or retreating. I just hope this time is an exception. #waroncancer

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What I Want For My Birthday

Today, I turn 62. When you get to be my age, you’re hard to buy gifts for. I pretty much have everything I need. I don’t even want cake. I’m not much of a cake fan. So this isn’t a gift wish list. But it is a wish list. There isn’t a thing on this list that money can buy.

I’m already getting the best gift I could receive; Retirement. At the end of this month. I’m counting the days. Not really, but I’m pretty excited. So that doesn’t even make the list. It’s already in the works.

I’m going to limit my list to the “possible.” Meaning things that don’t require a miracle. So I’m not asking God, or medicine, or the Birthday Bunny for a cure for my cancer. I’m not asking any other time, so why would my birthday be different?

I’ll start with something more modest. I get my next PSA test tomorrow. I want my number to stay the same or go down. It can’t go down much further than .06, where it was four months ago. If it stays the same, I’ll be happy with that. That would make an excellent birthday present. If it’s up, even a little, it could be big trouble. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I want another year without pain. This is entirely out of my hands, but it’s definitely possible. No miracle required. When my wife and I were with our friends in Santa Fe, it became clear to me what a blessing it is at Stage 4 to have no pain. I’ll take as much of that as I can get, and I’m thankful for every day I have without pain.

I want to keep my medical team. This may prove the most difficult of all my requests, but it’s of vital importance to me. I’m not one to seek treatment in different places. I’m not gonna travel to Mexico or the Mayo Clinic, or even the Cancer Center Of America for treatment. I like my doctor, my nurse, my nutritionist, my therapist, and every other member of my team. I trust them. I’m comfortable with them. That’s an incredible blessing that many of my brothers don’t have. On my 63rd birthday, I want to still be seeing this team.

I want the readership of this blog to continue to grow. The more people we have here, the better. There is strength in numbers. And there are many thousands who are affected by this disease who I believe could benefit from my testimony.

This is one area where you can help by sharing posts on your Facebook timeline and Twitter feed. A dream I have is for a post to go viral. Not to make me feel good, but to encourage as many as possible. To bring awareness of what this disease is like to as many as possible. To share the story of how God is using cancer to transform one patient’s life with as many as possible.

I told a friend and cancer brother this week that I’d write whether I had ten readers or ten thousand. That’s absolutely true, but it has so much more meaning when I know it’s helping my brothers and their loved ones. So I want it to grow. I want to see a quantum leap in readership this year. Totally achievable, and I believe, inevitable.

Of course, I make no money from this blog whatsoever. I don’t put advertising banners on it or use Google AdSense. That’s not what this is about. It never has been.

I want more time with my loved ones this year. With each day that goes by, the fleeting nature of time becomes more plain to me. Every moment that passes is gone forever. So I don’t want to miss a moment with those who are closest to me. If we are friends, and you want to know what I want for my birthday, the answer is time with you. There is nothing more precious than time. I’ve said for many years that time is more expensive than money. We can always get more money, but we can never get more time. That’s especially true for me now. Remember, I don’t know how much time I have, but neither do you. Let’s not let too much time pass without contact. I need it desperately.

Tomorrow afternoon, we have our weekly Monday get-together with our close friend Nikki. This time, we’ll be joined by our friends Deanna, (My Comedy Partner In Another Life and the one who introduced me to the supplement 5-HTP) and Margo, a friend and musical colleague for many years. Deanna calls it Mondays With Mark. I love that. This is the very definition of precious time. It also has the added benefit for me of being surrounded by four beautiful women for a few hours. Happy birthday to me.

I want to continue to feel good enough and strong enough to do the things I’m passionate about; Invest in the kids in the rock band school, turn this blog into a book, and contribute as much as I can to our new ice cream business. And while I’m at it, I want to continue to feel good enough and strong enough to enjoy my first year of retirement.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) Since my diagnosis, I’ve learned how to take delight in the Lord. Actually, there wasn’t much of a learning curve. When God starts showering you with his presence like he has been for me, delight is putting it mildly. But even as I take delight in the presence of Almighty God, I don’t think that verse means God has to grant my birthday wish list.

That verse is true because when we really take delight in him on a daily, moment by moment basis, our desires have a way of changing to match his. Mine have. So even if he chooses not to grant any of my birthday wishes; even if, this time next year, I’m in much worse shape than I am now, I’m okay with that. After experiencing him the way I have been for the last year and a half, I’m hungry for more. I know it’s just a taste of what’s to come. Because what I really want for my birthday is more of him.

So other than all of that, I don’t want much for my birthday. Just a low PSA number, a continuation of feeling good, time with my loved ones, and more of God’s presence in my life. And a Denver Broncos Super Bowl win. Oh wait, I’m only asking for things that don’t require a miracle. Never mind. #waroncancer

What Makes A Difference

I was taking my supplements this morning, and a thought occurred to me. I take quite a few supplements, mostly for my bones, since I have osteoporsis from hormone treatment. I take Glucosamine, Magnesium, Calcium, and vitamins C, D, and K2 every morning. I also take local bee pollen for my allergies (highly recommended – it’ll change your life if you have pollen allergies) and wash it all down with orange juice spiked with a fiber supplement.

Once you add in the four Xtandi horse pills I take every morning, that’s a lot of pills. So as I was taking all of those pills this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder if they make any difference. The only ones I know for sure are making a difference are Xtandi, bee pollen, and the fiber supplement. I’ve been taking the last two for years. I can testify as to their effectiveness. My last two PSA tests have shown Xtandi to be very effective. But the rest of them? Who can tell?

My oncologist wants me to take calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D in certain amounts for my bones, so I’m following doctor’s orders on those. But I’m still not convinced they’re doing anything. Someone on Facebook said I should take K2 to help my bones absorb the calcium and magnesium, so I’m taking that, but again, how do I know if it’s making a difference? I don’t. There’s no way to know.

Of course, the phrase making a difference takes on a specific meaning when you have cancer. It means, is it helping my body fight the cancer? Is it strengthening my bones? Is it doing more than making me feel like I’m fighting? Would my results be any different if I were taking a placebo? I have no idea. But I keep taking those supplements.

I haven’t done chemo, nor do I intend to, but a good friend has. He completed a full treatment. But his doctors can’t tell him if chemo has done him any good. It has made a difference; it’s torn his body down and made him feel worse, but nobody can tell him if it’s helped with his cancer. It doesn’t seem like it has.

I suppose there will be a bone density scan in my future to see if the Xgeva shots I’m getting every month are making a difference with my osteoporosis, but as of yet, I don’t know if that’s making any difference either.

I completed my cannabis oil suppository treatment program at the end of February, and now I’m on a low “maintenance” dose. Did it make a difference? Again, there’s no way to tell. My PSA has been incredibly low for a Stage 4 prostate cancer patient who still has his prostate, but that could be Lupron and Xtandi alone. However, that may be put to the test in a little over a week, when I get my next PSA test. If my PSA has crept up a little, I may go back to a full dose of the suppositories for a few weeks and test again, to see if the number goes back down. That would be a good way to see if it’s making a real difference with my cancer, rather than just helping me sleep.

I’ll tell you what makes a difference for me. The love of family and friends. Being with those closest to me. And the random acts of kindness and support I continue to receive. Those things make a huge difference. Maybe not in what my next test result will be, but in making this journey easier and better. In reminding me that I’m not alone.

I woke up sad this morning, just missing absent friends. Because being with them makes such a difference. But then I went to a rehearsal that I’d been looking forward to, and that made a difference. I didn’t do much, but just being there with them feeds my soul.

On my way there, I stopped and checked the Post Office Box that I use for business. In it was a key to a larger box. We hadn’t ordered any checks, so I couldn’t imagine what might be in there. I pulled the box out, and it was heavy. What could it be? I couldn’t wait, and opened it in the car. When I saw what was inside, I laughed with delight.

It was from a friend who I’ve worked with at ministry training events like the one where I sang and spoke a few weeks ago. I posted the video on YouTube and shared it on Facebook and Twitter a while back, but if you missed it, you can see it here. Her name is Brenda. We discovered, somehow, years ago, that we both like black licorice. And we were the only ones who worked these events who did. So when we worked together, one of us would invariably bring black licorice. The fact that nobody liked it but us meant we got all of it!

I’m not sure if Brenda still works those events, but I haven’t for a few years. There’s no way I’d have the energy to work one now. You’re on your feet pretty much all day. So Brenda and I will probably never be able to share a bag of black licorice again, since she lives in Texas, and I live in Colorado. We haven’t seen each other for years, but she’s kept in touch on Facebook since my diagnosis. When I opened the box I got in the mail today, it was full of black licorice, with a note that said:

And you thought I forgot! 

Enjoy, my friend! 

Brenda

I didn’t remember her promising to send me licorice, or even having a conversation about it, but when I messaged Brenda to thank her, she said she thought it would make me feel better. Guess what? It did. It made a difference in my day. Check this out:

Two kinds of black licorice, black jelly beans, and two kinds of black licorice candy. And not the cheap stuff! I’ve already gotten into a couple of them, and I will make good use of the rest of them over the next couple of weeks. Thank you so much, Brenda! You really made a difference.

No comments from the food police, please. This is a gift from a friend, and I really don’t believe it will make one bit of difference in my outcome. But it does make a difference in how I feel.

And if you don’t like black licorice, go put yourself in time out. More for Brenda and me.

Then, as I sat down to write this post, someone from our former church called to check in on me. A dear lady who is in her eighties, and who I’ve always regarded as a saint. Several years ago, our worship pastor asked us to find someone in the church and ask them to support us in prayer. This was the person I asked to pray for me. Her name in Lois Golden. She prays for me still, every day. She calls me every once in a while, and makes sure her Sunday School class and Bible study group know what’s going on so they know how to pray for me.

We only talked for a few minutes, but before we said goodbye, she asked to pray with me. I was more than happy to have her do that. I think she quoted three or four scripture references in her prayer, complete with book, chapter and verse. She is a woman of God, which is why I asked her to pray for me in the first place. I’ve said before in this blog that I love being prayed for, but being prayed with is much better. Especially when a saint like Lois is praying with you. That made a huge difference.

Here’s the point. Many of us in prostate cancer treatment, and maybe all cancer treatment, wonder if all the hoops we jump through to try to fight this disease make any difference. But we can all testify that the support and love we receive from others makes a huge difference. You make a difference. Thanks to everyone who makes a difference in my life. #waroncancer

Almost There

Retirement. For most of my adult life, it seemed an impossibility. When you’re a self-employed musician like I’ve been, there’s really no such thing. We tend not the be the best at saving for retirement. And there’s no pension, unless you belong to the Musicians Union, which in the Denver, Colorado area, is a joke. No, for most of us who cobble together a living with a combination of gigs, teaching, and recording work, retirement’s a fantasy.

Add to that the fact that most of us don’t really want to retire. We want to keep making music till we drop dead. It’s what drives us.

For years, I’ve told young musicians who think they want to do music for a living that if they can do anything else and be happy, anything at all, they should do that and be a musician as a hobby. It’s those who can only be happy doing music who should try to do it for a living. And we are the ones who will find a way to make it happen. I did, and so did several of my friends.

If you’re interested in a retrospective of my music career, I wrote about it in an early post; Counting My Blessings #3: My Career. I also wrote about the decline of that career in the follow-up to that post, The Rest Of The Story. I’ve been very blessed to have such a career, but it’s been winding down of its own accord for years now.

Once I was diagnosed with cancer, and began treatment, the things that drive me changed. I was no longer driven to perform, write and record music, or lead worship. I’ve felt a distinct sense of God saying to me, “Well done. You rest now. I have something else for you to do.” He began leading me down this path that I expect to be traveling for the rest of my days.

But it’s been a slow transition. I couldn’t just stop when I wanted to more than a year ago. I had obligations to clients, and I was too young to start drawing my Social Security benefits. But that changes in two weeks. On May 7th, I turn 62 years old, which is the youngest age you can start collecting in the U.S., unless you’re on Social Security Disability. I applied for that early in this process, and was denied. I won’t go down that road again.

My family tends to live into their early 90’s. Until cancer took over my life, I had expected to keep working until I could draw my full benefit at 66, which would be a few hundred dollars more than I can make starting at 62. But when I was diagnosed Stage 4, waiting was no longer an option. When you have a terminal illness, they tell you to start drawing your Social Security as early as you can. So I went down to the Social Security office yesterday, and applied to start receiving my benefits.

I’ve been retired from leading worship for two years now. With rare exceptions, the same has been true for performing. But I’ve continued to do recording work. Not for long, though.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I’m starting work on my last CD project, Righteous Pop Music Volume 20. I expect to finish that by the end of May. But I haven’t talked about my weekly song parody service for radio stations much in this blog. It’s called Bradford’s Boogies, and I’ve been doing it since 1999. I write and produce a topical song parody every week for stations who subscribe.

When I began, I had ten or twelve subscribers, along with a chain of stations who subscribed at a reduced rate. This gave Bradford’s Boogies a total of nineteen or twenty subscribers at its peak. Which, along with everything else I was doing, made for a pretty nice living at the time. Without going into what went wrong – see The Rest Of The Story for that – my list of clients shrank over the years rather than growing.

For the last few years, I’ve had only two radio stations who still paid to have my weekly song parody service on their morning show; KGLK in Houston, Texas (107.5 The Eagle as it’s known by locals) and WMGK in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dean and Rog are the show who plays my songs in Houston, and John DeBella is my guy in Philly. I’ve been with Dean and Rog since the early 90’s, and with DeBella since 2003. I consider all of these guys friends. They stuck with me when so many bailed. When I told them of my diagnosis, they still stuck with me and have been patient with me when I was struggling to think of something funny to write about. I’ll never be able to repay the way they’ve supported me over the years. But it’s time for me to move on now.

I had expected to keep doing Bradford’s Boogies until I couldn’t do it anymore. It’s still a nice amount of money for relatively little work. But it never lets up. It’s 52 song parodies per year, without exception. No vacations. If I travel somewhere, I have to work ahead, or catch up when I return home. This does not amount to retirement. It’s become a burden that I’d rather lay down at this point in my life.

There are places I’d like to go and things I’d like to do while I still feel good enough to do them. The weekly obligation of Bradford’s Boogies makes that impossible. But as it happens, my Social Security income will more than make up for what I make from Bradford’s Boogies. So I’ve decided to stop producing this weekly service at the end of May, as well as finishing my last CD project in the same time frame. This will enable me to sell my recording gear starting in June, and truly retire.

I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. I had a couple of days of indecision about this, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Why can’t I have some retirement time that I can enjoy while I still feel good enough to enjoy it? Why should I have to keep working until cancer forces me to stop? Especially when I have other things that are more important to me now than getting a topical song parody out.

Here’s one problem with continuing to do a job that amounts to commenting on current events. I don’t pay attention to the news anymore. I used to be a news junkie, but now I find it brings too much negativity to my life. I don’t need that right now, so I choose to live in blissful ignorance. It’s the only way I can keep my emotional equilibrium and avoid “black cloud” days. That makes it a little difficult to be a social satirist.

I spoke to John DeBella in Philadelphia a little while ago, and he couldn’t have been more gracious or understanding. I expect the same when I talk to Dean and Rog tomorrow. It will be a difficult conversation, since I’ve been friends with these guys since 1991 or thereabouts, when they were here in Denver on KBPI. But they’ll understand. I’ve worked with them longer than any other radio show in my career.

But as you know if you’ve been following along, retirement does not mean inactivity for me. Different things drive me now, and I have a few irons in the fire, so to speak. Chosen Family chocolate ice cream is on its way to production. When the Kickstarter campaign for startup capital begins, I will shamelessly promote it here. I’ll still work with the kids in the rock band school I’ve talked so much about. And of course, I will continue to document my journey, and begin the process of turning this blog into a book starting this fall.

But retirement means I can also do other things, like take a week to drive out to my friend Christopher’s benefit concert in June. I couldn’t do that if I was still required to crank out a song parody every week.

Once I’ve sold my gear, we’ll start turning this room that we’ve called The Studio into a third bedroom and office. My goal is to have it ready for guests who travel here for our 40th anniversary party at the end of July. That room is yours if you want it, Christopher and Lori.

My wife and I are unsure, at this point, how we’ll be able to make this work financially, long term. But God has provided so far, and I have no doubt that he’ll continue to do so.

Truthfully, I’ve wanted to retire for a long time. Years. I never thought it would be possible. Yet here it is, just over a month away. I couldn’t be more excited. Not only is there light at the end of the tunnel, the light streaming in now overwhelms the darkness of the tunnel. I’m almost there. #waroncancer

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The Incredible Shrinking Man

I’ve loved this classic movie since I was a kid, and it still works for me. Based on an even better novel by Richard Matheson, it tells the story of Scott Carey, who because of exposure to chemicals, among other things like a mysterious, glowing mist, starts shrinking. By the end of the movie, he’s small enough to fit through a window screen. For a ten year old boy – and there is still a ten year old boy alive and kicking inside my head – it doesn’t get much better than the scene when Scott fights and kills a giant spider when he’s less than an inch tall. He uses a hat pin as a sword, as I recall.

At the checkup with my new family doctor in April of 2015, when the PSA test that started this whole mess was taken, the first thing the assistant did when she called me in was measure my height. She wrote me down as five feet nine inches tall. I said, “I am not! I’ve been five ten and three quarters my whole adult life!” So she measured me again. Guess what? I’m five nine. I’ve shrunk. That’s what happens when you get old.

As you all know, that was just the beginning of the bad news, and by far the least of it. Once I was diagnosed with cancer in August of 2015, they put me on hormone treatment. It immediately started shrinking my cancer. But it also started shrinking me. Not literally, just in terms of how I feel.

When my PSA began to rise after ten months or so of one hormone treatment alone, (Lupron) another hormone treatment was added to it. Xtandi. The four horse pills I take every morning. That combination has had my cancer shrinking at an astonishing rate. But it’s shrinking me at the same time, seemingly even faster than Lupron alone did. Shrinking my strength, my stamina, my endurance. My desire to do the things I used to love to do.

And there’s no end in sight. I have to stay on this stuff for the forseeable future. It’s giving me great numbers for now, but at the same time, I’m starting to feel like Scott Carey wearing boys clothes, and then moving into a doll house before being chased out of it by the cat. How small will I get? I feel pretty small now.

My latest description of my treatment is that it’s doing a great job of keeping my cancer under control, but it’s also doing a great job of turning me into a wet noodle. The two go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. I almost titled this post The Adventures Of The Wet Noodle, but that sounds like a children’s book. And I couldn’t have put that cool vintage movie poster at the top.

There is one way that hormone treatment is shrinking me physically, and I’ve been talking about it in this blog. It curbs my appetite and makes me lose weight if I’m not careful to eat enough calories, carbs and fat. But my weight is back up where it should be now, thanks in large part to the ice-cream-before-bed-every-night diet. Oh, the sacrifices we make…

My wife and I just got back from a road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to meet our friends Christopher and Lori. Christopher is also a Stage 4 prostate cancer patient. Our journeys are very similar, though he is farther down this road than I am. Our first evening together was nothing but fun, but this subject did come up. We both feel like our strength is shrinking because of treatment. Then, the next day, we proved it.

It was a beautiful day in Santa Fe, (sounds like a song lyric!) and the four of us went to the central plaza to shop and have some lunch. We walked around for a while and took some pictures. But every few minutes, Christopher needed to sit down. I was happy to join him. Each time we sat down, the conversation turned to cancer, and how treatment is taking its toll on both of us.

By the time we sat down in the beautiful courtyard restaurant our wives had found for lunch, Christopher had about had enough. I could see the pain on his face, and in spite of how little time we’d spent together, I could tell he was not doing well. Christopher always puts on a happy face, no matter how he feels. But not yesterday at lunchtime. When our food arrived, we held hands to pray for the meal, and I was overcome with emotion. Instead of praying for the food, I mostly prayed for my friend.

Later, I told Christopher and Lori that I hated seeing Christopher suffer like that, but I also internalized it. To me, it looked like previews of coming attractions. This is what I have to look forward to. Yes, when we got back to the condo we’d rented, I needed a nap, but that was the extent of my “shrinkage.” Christopher is the strongest man I know, but yesterday, fighting the spider would have been too much for him.

The way I feel some days, including today, there’s no way I could take on that giant spider, like Scott Carey does in the movie. I’d be spider lunch pretty fast.

And we all know what the spider represents in the movie of my life, and Christopher’s. Cancer. I’m doing my best to fight the spider, but the smaller I get, the harder it is to even lift the hat pin. But my spider isn’t getting bigger, or even staying the same size while I get smaller, like the one Scott faced. It’s shrinking too. That’s the good news. The bad news? No matter how hard I try, no matter how many Orkin men I bring in to try to kill it, (little known fact: I used to be an Orkin man – ask me about my Daddy Long Legs story sometime) we’ll never be able to kill the spider. One day the spider will start growing again, and I’ll be too small and weak to fight it. Then the spider will eat me.

That’s the biggest difference between me and the guys with varieties of my cancer that are curable. The ones who can be cured through treatment are able to slay the spider, like Scott does in the movie. The rest of us put it off for as long as we can, but we’ll never make it past the spider to that window screen on our own.

When Scott Carey defeats the spider, he walks to the window and discovers that he is now small enough to escape through the screen. He’s been so small that his wife has been unable to find him since the cat chased him out of the doll house and he fell into the basement. He had been completely alone for a long time, and would be for the rest of his life. He wonders, as the movie ends, how small will he become? The size of a molecule? A sub-atomic particle? He wanders into the forest that was once his back yard, contemplating the nature of the universe.

As I keep shrinking, I find myself doing a lot of contemplating as well. I do it right here in this blog. But I’m sure of some things. I’m sure I will never be lost and alone, like Scott Carey is in the story, no matter how small I get. I don’t need to wonder what will happen when I’m no longer able to beat back the spider. I know I’ll have the love of family and friends to surround me, and I know Who will be there with me to face the spider, and usher me through the window screen into a world of wonders when the battle is over.

Because even when the spider eats me, it won’t win, and I won’t lose. I may be getting weaker and smaller, but I have resources Scott Carey didn’t have. I have an army of people praying for me. I have an incredible inner circle of family and friends who support me and love on me. If I may risk paraphrasing Obi Wan Kenobi, when the spider strikes me down, I shall become more powerful than it can imagine. If a spider can imagine anything. Because I am The Incredible Shrinking Man. #waroncancer