Cottage, Health, and Book Update

Read the part that interest you, if any. I will start with the simple part, the cottage. I did hospital chemo today and had a bolus of steroids that always renders me a bit manic and wordy, so skimming is fine with me. The Cliff Notes version is, the cottage is moving along slowly, my cancer is still in remission, and my book is doing well. If you haven’t bought it yet, please do!

Cottage Update:

Anyone who has ever built anything, well almost anyone, will tell you about costs being higher than expected and workers slower. The only part I am subcontracting out is the foundation. The rest I will do myself. I have patiently waited for over two years to get permits. Then it took several months to find a subcontractor who would show up. My foundation guy, a good guy, is an excavator, who in turn, sub-sub contracted the concrete work.

The concrete guy does good work and is also a good guy but has had interruptions that have set us back almost two months. Because the first county inspection didn’t approve the site without a civil engineer doing soil testing, that set us back a week. But then the concrete guy went on a two-week honeymoon, then returned and finished up the footings. But then we had another week delay as I did the rough in plumbing, some of it twice. Then rainy weather moved in, delaying the concrete guy another two weeks. But then last week the concrete guy said he was moving on to a bigger job since I wasn’t in a hurry. What????

I hated to do this, but I had no choice but to play my cancer card. While he sees me as a laid-back retiree with twenty years to spend on building this cottage, I know the reality that my cancer could erupt any day (like it did last May) and render me useless for months. The cancer could also get completely out of control, and I’ve already tried all the basic treatments. I would then have to move into the exotic (if I wanted to stay on this earth) along the lines of a Car-T. Where my T cells are extracted, reprogrammed, and re-infused. That would render me helpless for many months if I survived.

My expiration date is written in pencil, so time on this earth is far dearer to me than maybe a “taking-it-easy” retiree with long range plans. But having to tell him about my cancer was enough for him not to bump me out of his lineup. If things go well, he will pour the slab on Friday and then I could start framing next week. I’m trying to be patient but am drooling to sling a hammer (actually a gas-fired nail gun).


I have monthly labs to evaluate my cancer. I’ve mentioned, to our pleasant surprise, I’ve had an outstanding response to a new chemo program I started last June. My cancer numbers dropped drastically–almost immediately. Then, in December, all my cancer markers disappeared. The two major lab markers for my type of cancer are “Lambda light chains” and “M Spike,” were both normal. In contrast, my million dollar, and brutal (thanks to complications) stem cell transplant three years ago had hardly moved the needle. So, I was elated. I’m talking dancing in the streets kind of thrill.

But then last month, those dirty little numbers inched back in abnormal territory, which could indicate the cancer was coming out of remission once again. Today I got my latest results. Like in December, I am very happy to say, I have no lab evidence of having cancer. I do have plenty of bad labs, renal failure that is here to stay and pretty severe collapse of my immune system, due to the chemo, not the cancer. I am certain that I will enter the hospital (for a day) for infusions this week to boost my immune system. My point is, my cancer is profoundly under control, thanks be to God and to the science God has given us, and the dedicated researchers who figured out how to use a monoclonal antibody to go after the cancer. Dancing in the streets kind of elation once again.

Immutably Human:

I will digress for a moment on one of my philosophical side bars that relates to these labs.

While I was waiting for a week on these new labs and thinking (which I have a bad habit of doing) about the whole scenario that we cancer and other serious diseased people must face, I wrote a little metaphor on Facebook. I’ve written satire and cartoons about the cancer experience in the past. Maybe that’s one of the ways I have for coping, but I am also a compulsive writer. I said in this latest cartoon, waiting for these labs is like sitting in a courtroom for days awaiting for the judge to deliver your sentence, either parole and normalcy, or extreme torture and death. I made NO reference to how I was handling the situation, good or bad. Actually, damnit, I think I handle this rather well. I’m use to it. I don’t sit in a corner and wring my hands and cry. I sleep well during these times and hardly think about it, but to check my labs every few hours.

While I do have a legitimate fear of suffering because in 2019 I suffered more than I thought any human could bear and no one could help me. And I don’t want to die. My late friend (and hero) Margaret said she was sad near the end, and I agree with that. I love this world and my family. Even if I knew in my heart at a 100% level that I would be playing twister or yard darts with Jesus in an hour on the other side, there is still angst in death, because I am human and am deserting my family … and the earth I love. BTW, the earth that God created and then said it was good. No one knows what is like on the other side, because we have not been told in the Bible or anywhere. If you disagree, it is because you believe in one of the religious myths that has nothing to do with the Bible. You know, angels praying harps on clouds or playing poker with George Burns. I had also talked to Margaret about this waiting for tests results, the kind that will tell you if you are living or dying, and it was almost funny that we had to laugh about the bizarre situation and how you get used to the life or death news. Routine. You have to or go mad.

But then someone on FB, who hardly knows me, took this opening to put in a “spiritual plug” that obviously I don’t know Jesus. That hurt more than it should have. I should also be used to people telling me that I’m going to hell, don’t know Jesus, are not very spiritual, yada yada yada. It is like I have a religious target on my face that says, please punch me. Having cancer gives you no respite from hurtful words … maybe there’s more of them. Denise says no one has ever said these things to her. But she is more private than me. I should be more like her. But I write controversial things that give people this impetus to want to punch me in the face or heart with their religious fist of fury because I contradict their spiritual paradigm.

I honestly don’t like religion. The original root to that word is “to bind, as with a rope.” For some people, it means a bond between them and God. But I think the broader definition is like a tall ship with rigging (from the same root word), you know, hundreds of ropes going in all directions to constrain everything. To mask our humanity.

I was a deeply religious person for twenty years. During that time, no one ever questioned my faith. But my religion (and I don’t think I was alone) was simply a man-made system for instilling a sense of piety about myself, especially a piety that was higher than that of others. Every word out of my mouth was God-talk, “Oh brother, God has blessed me so much today. I spent an hour in his glorious word and felt his spirit move me, yada, yada, yada.” I did all the disciple exercises daily. I denied all my mannishness (being human). I pretended that I was never afraid or had hate, sexual interest, frustration, grief, or hunger or anything that would give someone else the notion that I was mortal. I pretended I had a perfect family (well my kids still might be perfect) and a perfect marriage. Why not? I was a near-perfect man. Spiritual robot. A discipled AI.

To demonstrate that I was no better than this stranger who determined that I didn’t know Christ because I was having a test for cancer, I will tell a brief story about the religious Mike.

I was preparing to go as a missionary to convert Muslims in the Middle East in 1988. I was going around the country preaching at churches. I was boasting about how we were moving to a war zone (Lebanese civil war) and was going to confront Muslim terrorists face to face and had no fear because “I was trusting Jesus,” (while in my secret places I was scared shitless). Then this man named Ron S. came up to me after the sermon. He was 38 years old and had just had a massive heart attack, leaving him in rehab for weeks and with a heart that functioned about 50% at best. He was at high risk for a subsequent heart attack and sudden death. He told me he was scared and couldn’t sleep at night (his heart attack happened during the night). I told him that his problem wasn’t physical (his heart) but spiritual as he didn’t seek Jesus first. I was a damn fool. Arrogant. God please forgive me! Ron’s fear meant he was human!

As I’ve said before, in 1990, I made a conscious decision to stop with the spiritual bullshit. The pretending. The self-praise. As if the scales fell off my eyes, I recognized that the disciple group I was with on the mission field were made up of phonies just like me. I was sick of it. I wanted to be human. I had always been human but had this warped sense of spirituality that being human was in contrast of what God wanted (which is really a Platonic idea).

Now, I try not do the God talk, because I know for me, it would only be for show. I realized there and then, in a salutary flat in Cairo’s east side, that if God really exist, I would find him within reality, not in some religious sham-show. I became an agnostic for several years. But when I returned to read the Bible, and a very simple faith, I started reading without my American evangelical subculture, but at face value. I noticed that within the historical Jesus’ spiritual economy, that if you talked about your spiritual accomplishments and experiences, that they were instantly neutered.  Valueless. Meaningless, except for trying to impress other religious people. Whitewashed walls. That real spirituality is private, between you and God. Not shameful, but personal. My private spiritual world is wonderful, more so since cancer . . . woops, did I just neuter it?

My Book:

The Stones of Yemen is still selling well. My goal is to get it into the minds of readers. So, I would rather sell one book that was passed around to 10,000 people, than to sell 10,000 books and only one person reads it.

I really think the book would be loved by the physician associate profession, but I’m finding challenges getting the word out to that group. It is a principle in publishing that if the author is a nobody, such as me, that paid advertising has only about a 10-cent return on each dollar spent. I can’t afford that. But time will tell. I am happy that so far, all the reviews are 5 stars. It is a good book and I cannot say that about the other eight I’ve written. If you haven’t read it, please do. Did I mention it is free on Kindle Unlimited? Our local book store, Watermark, has sold out twice, but they have it now. I am so grateful for those who have trusted me with their reading.



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2 responses to “Cottage, Health, and Book Update”

  1. I’ve done lots of thinking about ‘being religious’ and have decided that I am spiritual not religious. The Pharisees were religious and I don’t want to be like them.


    • I think that some people define religion for them in a positive way, meaning something very different than how I define it. But it appears that you are on the same page in this connotation. It’s about honestly.


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