Ramblings: The Secret to the Survivor’s Smile

The first time I came across the secret was when I learned that my dear aunt Helen, who was like a second mom and always inebriated on joy, had a horrible past life. She lost five immediate family members (three sisters and parents) before she turned 18. Then she married a man who did not want kids, and she loved kids. Like in a sad TV show, years later she found out her husband had another wife, and a kid, in another city. Painful! When she left this man, he tried to kill her. I will never forget that night because I was under the bed when he came to our house looking for her with his gun. My dad, her brother, took his gun out and they had a standoff in our yard.

My Aunt Helen on the Arm of the Chair in White/Beige

I can’t remember seeing Helen without a smile . . . unless it was a laugh. She found joy in every moment of her long life. It was a paradox, an enigma.

In college I met a holocausts survivor. She was so much like my aunt, constantly laughing. I didn’t take history seriously at the time and didn’t understand what happened in the Nazi camps.

This type of smile differs greatly from the smile described in the song, Smile. In that song, (lyrics below) the smile is pretentious. Helen’s smile and laughter were authentic. But this kind of happiness, the joy of the survivor, has a secret. It’s a secret that I’m just figuring this out.

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
For you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear maybe ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile- what’s the use of crying

To make sure there is no misunderstanding, I am not a cancer survivor. Mine is considered incurable. I’ve had people who don’t understand the diagnosis, say such. My cancer is like an old drunk man, passed out in an easy chair in my marrow. One day will awake and try his best to murder me. Is he waking now?

Multiple Myeloma will have a cure someday, and I may or may not live long enough to realize it. It is even possible that the cure may be here now. A few new treatments have profound initial responses, but they just don’t know how long it last. It involves reprograming the patient’s immune system (T cells) to fight the cancer.

But when I look at where I’ve been, I am a survivor of suffering. My story is not unique, as most of you have survived something dreadful.

I didn’t think I would ever leave the intensive care of a hospital two years ago. Kissing the mud when my feet got to touch ground again. I still love the dirt, the grass, the trees, the water, the mountains, the sky . . . and all that is part of this incredible creation. I have always loved the out-of-doors, but now it is intimate, its personal. Having suffered beyond what I thought a human could bear, the lack of such is profoundly delightful. That’s the survivor’s secret, having tasted the loss and having another chance at it.

I can’t even talk about my family without exploding with joy.

I was thinking about this yesterday when I drank a glass of orange juice. It was straight from Florida, thick with pulp. Little ovoid pieces of pure citrus ecstasy, that stick to your teeth. I love orange juice and this was my first glass in two years. When I first got off dialysis, a year and a half ago my electrolytes were so high, I had to forgo all fruits (including tomatoes), meat, and was down to plain noodles and oatmeal. Now, I can have fruit, tomatoes, can eat a little chicken but no red meat. Now, to me, a slice of a tomato is like the thickest and juiciest steak you can imagine.

In summary, I have a type of joy with the ordinary that I’ve never experienced before. I know what it is like to be without. That’s the survivor’s secret. But don’t say it. No, I’m not better off now that I’ve experienced cancer . . . it still sucks like a Hoover.

Mike

Health Update: 2/22/21

A brief update regarding my health for my friends and family.

I mentioned that about seven weeks ago, some of my labs showed that my cancer was suddenly becoming more active. It took that long to get in to my myeloma specialist in Seattle, which happened today. So, with all things considered it was the best news I could hope for.

There are several labs that mark the boundary of Myeloma. While one suddenly tripled (light chain lambda proteins), others have not changed. The verdict today was to keep on my same chemo and to just watch my kidneys more closely. At the first sign of further damage, we now have a plan B of new chemotherapies to start to try and suppress the cancer better.

It was a joy having lunch in Seattle with two of our sons and one daughter-in-law (and one newfoundland granddog).

Having received my second dose of COVID vaccine last week, I’m starting to crawl out of my deep quarantine hole … while still donning a mask of course. If you want to have coffee (outside) let me know.

Thanks for your concern and prayers.

Mike

Ramblings: Why the Mars Perseverance Landing is Sacred

I’m going to say some things that will sound weird, leaving many scratching their heads. But if you think through this to its metaphysical roots, you see that I’m talking about something essential.

Tomorrow the NASA Mars lander, the Perseverance, will land on Mars and for me, it will be a sacred day. I will try to explain.

I am profoundly curious about the world around me. I’ve watched every movie on Curiosity Steam (about 300). If I had the time and money, I would love to get a PhD in archeology, physics, math, art, marine biology, and the list goes on. My curiosity is intimately tied to my Christian faith, not in contrast to it.

descent stage

I really think the Christian church made a big mistake a long time ago when they chose the metaphysical position that divides all of creation between the seen and the unseen, and only the unseen has value. Within that mindset, you are not to be curious about the seen (including the universe) because it is unimportant, opposite to God at worse.

Most people would never admit that their belief in the existence of God is on a continuum. On one end of the spectrum is the certainty of God’s presence and on the other end, the certainty of God not existing. This is a dynamic spectrum where a person can move from one point to the next from one epoch of their life to another, and even from a moment in a day to the other. For me to say what I just did, makes some Christian people uncomfortable. Often Christianity considers 100% certainty in God’s existence at all times as a requirement. That “certainty” is usually on an emotional basis, “God is real because I can feel him.” The problem with “certainty” of God built emotionally is that it is built on straw and can easily collapse. That is why most kids raised in Christian homes … eventually leave that faith.

I’ve been most certain of God’s existence at the end of a long tour through a fine art museum, such as the Louvre, listening to a classical piece of music performed by a full orchestra, arriving at the end of a long equation that helps to explain more of the universe, watching a great act of selflessness to save another person. That’s where I hear God’s voice the loudest. The other places where I hear God are when I look at tremendous monuments of nature’s beautify, listening to poetry, reading a well-written novel . . . and sometimes a sermon. Our pastor has a lot of wonderful sermons.

The places I sense God the least is when I hear people lying, see endless wars, watch people trying to manipulate other people for personal gain as some pastors do, especially TV preachers. One hour of Jimmy Bakker would move me far along the spectrum away from God and Christianity being true, especially if he is selling buckets of food to survive the coming “Democrat apocalypse.”

It may seems strange that a machine landing on Mars brings me closer to God, but it does, for two reasons. The first reason, just the science of getting a 2200 pound piece of machinery 292.5 million miles, hitting a window of a few feet square. I’m in awe of the minds that God has given the scientists and engineers, and I’m in awe of the fabric of math upon which the universe has been written, which makes this possible. If the universe was chaotic, space travel would not be possible because of the unpredictable nature of chaos. That fabric of order screams to me of God. It’s at that junction that I become a mystic. I’m not a mystic based on the unseen . . . built on emotions. But I’m a mystic on the complex, yet profoundly breath-taking seen. If God made the seen, then who had the nerve to declare it insignificant?

There’s this weird concept in some religious circles that if you have awe about people or people’s minds, it is a sacrilege. That makes no sense to me because those same people, and those incredible minds, are made by God . . . if God is really there, and I believe he is.

I wish I could watch the landing live. I, like most of you, have waiting weeks for my COVID vaccine and mine is scheduled tomorrow exactly at the same time as the landing, 11:30 am. In a moment of insanity, I considered canceling my vaccine to watch the landing live. It is an incredible feat of engineering, placing that SUV-sized rover on the surface of Mars so far away. I’m so excited to see what we find. It is my hunch that one day we will find life. But to explore Mars, Pluto, stars, or the inside of our minds tells us more and more about this wonderful universe that God has made. Thus it tells us more about God in the same way that people study scriptures to know more about God.

For the rover mission check here.

Mike

Ramblings: The Mercy of Snow

A long time ago, ca. high school, I tried to write rhymed verses poetry. One such poem, began;


Earthward bound glides the gulls toward the cliffs below,
The bird, himself, like a piece of heaven, downward drifting slow.


The poem continued (and I can’t remember the words now) by depicting the seagull as it morphed into a snowflake, followed by millions more. The snow then became a metaphor for the profound grace that snow offers.

It snowed ten inches at our house this morning.


My father was vehement about snow, more than anything else … except possibly archeology. This was in Tennessee, where snowfall was more of the exception to a winter’s day than the rule. He reverted to childhood when the guy on TV predicted snow, or when it wasn’t forecasted, but he felt it in his bones. He swore he could see snow coming across the mountain, far more in advance than the weather satellites could.


On those nights of possible snow, dad would stand glued at our front door, lit Pall Mall cigarette between his fingers, switching on and off our porch light waiting to greet that first flake. It was customary for him to wake us children up at 2 a.m. if such a snowflake did indeed fall. If snow covered the ground by morn, then dad would become the little boy he once was, and as unpredictable. But joy would seep through the cold, plastic covered windows and fill our house like a Christmas’ dawn. But why does snow cast such a spell?


Dad’s passion wore off on me. I grew to love snow. In college, I found it in our own backyard, in our mountains above four thousand feet. There, you could measure snow in yards. I took up winter backpacking and spent many of the nights sleeping with my lover … the snow.


The zeal of snow drove me north, first to Kentucky, then lower Michigan, upper Michigan, and then Minnesota before moving west. Denise caught my awareness when I met her in Abu Dhabi, because she said she was from a snowy place, Duluth, Minnesota. We lived in Cairo in the middle of that northern migration . . . and it snowed there, once.


The magical thing about snow is the grace it carries. My now forgotten poem, described how all the “ills of man,” (this was in the time that “man” represented humankind) broken tools, and shattered souls would each be covered by a perfectly smooth, whiteness. It becomes Eden once more.

Denise’s Snow Angel, Greta Declares the Winner


Grace is the central message of Christianity, long buried by the bull shit culture that, like a parasitic plant, grows around it. Modern American white evangelicals pour profound grace on their own, within the walls of their fortified subculture, but render none, not one scintilla, to those outside their narrowly defined culture.

Mike’s Snow Angel


But true grace is exhaustive, that for which all people’s long.


Some of us yearn for it more than others. Many of you are like me, where you feel this underlying guilt, a pervasive remorse over done things, which can’t be undone.
I saw a poignant cartoon that made me chuckle. It was of a woman awake in her bed in the middle of the night. The caption said something like, “Just as I was falling asleep, my mind then reminded me of every mistake that I’ve made since I was two years old.”

Some of this guilt is real. We base it on poor choices that we’ve made. But often it is a false guilt over things which we had no control.


I am surprised how guilty illness makes you feel. I had heard it for decades from my migraine patients. They tried to teach me how they feel guilt. While they are lying in bed with excruciating pain and their kids free-ranging in the house; their sister-in-law has a high-paying executive position and an ideal home full of perfect children.


The guilt of illness comes in losing your job and then spending enormous amounts of money to sustain your life when you used to sustain that of others. Guilt comes when you can no longer keep up with people on bikes or trails. It comes when society stops inviting you to take part, partially because of your physical limitations and partially because of the social awkwardness you bring into a room. “Should we bring up his health?”


I will not continue to catalog all the things that can leave that tale taste of guilt in our mouths.


When I lived in Marquette, Michigan, when snows started in October and didn’t let up until May, it was a perfect world. I skied daily for six months of the year. Life seemed impeccable. But then in May, as the snow retreated from beneath a late spring’s sun, it was ugly. The snow became gray. From beneath those seasonal glaciers came the old lawnmower that had stopped working last September, the Fritos bag, the McDonald’s cup, the dead squirrel, the—now rusty—lost tools, and who knows what else. Soon, the spring flowers bloom, but that’s for another metaphor.


We become children when it snows because it lifts the burden of guilt. That haunting voice of accusation is quieted within that silent world. It is a spirt of childhood that I wish would endure. And it can.


I met a remarkable lady somewhere in a dark corner of the middle east, in some smoky teashop in an unknown place. She was an American who, decades before, had gone to the “mission field” as a family medical doctor. During that tour (and I won’t get into details here) she had a profound mental breakdown. She ended up in a psychiatric hospital in Philadelphia. On top of the failure she felt a profound shame, shame put on her by her colleagues, her sending churches, her mission board, and by herself. It was a long process of healing for her.


In response to her own mental breakdown, and her stint with serious psychiatric treatment, she entered a psychiatric residency program (training program for becoming a psychiatrist). After starting her practice in New York as a psychiatrist, she still felt a burden for those, like her previous life, who were living abroad and facing difficulties. Being single, she would spend her vacations traveling the world alone looking for people like me, who were struggling with their own mission boards, or those, like she did, dealing with culture shock. But the thing I remember the most about her was that her favorite recreational sport was swinging. No, not the Roger Stone type, but literally. She would seek a playground in Lebanon, Egypt, China, or wherever she was and swing on a swing for hours. I watched her, in her seventies by that time, swinging and laughing.

Image result for old woman on a swing


This is the childhood attitude that I seek, that simple joy before life added the weight. Where grace permeates all else. Where regrets, sorrows, pain and qualms are laid to rest under a blanket of purity and peace. Let it snow!

Update: Feb 4, 2021

Summary:

My follow up labs are stable. I’m still waiting on my appointment with my cancer doctor for our next strategy.

Longer Version:

I know that some people are interested in what’s happening with my cancer. I shared on Jan 4th that some of my lab values were surging. I made an appointment with my cancer doctor and the next available was the last week in February, so that hasn’t happened yet.

Without getting to far into the boring nitty-gritty, there are a dozen or so labs that give us feedback on the state of my cancer, a handful of most importance. One of those measures the amount of lambda light chain proteins. That protein is used to create antibodies. My cancer is of the bone marrow that makes that protein. In a normal person, it should not be above 26 mgs per liter. When I was diagnosed, two years ago, mine was 3,000. Those proteins were so thick that they gummed up and killed 90% of my kidneys. Most of my suffering as been from renal failure (and the chemo).

While most of the labs that measure my cancer have been elevated but stable, my lambda light chains went from 40 to 60 and then surged in January to 131. That frightens me because I am barely off dialysis and no one knows how far above normal the proteins have to be before they cause trouble. To suddenly surge tells us that either the cancer is becoming more active, or the chemo is not working so well.

Whew! With all of that said, I had my latest labs this week. I always have to brace myself that the proteins could still be surging. If so, it would mean an emergent visit to the cancer center before what’s left of my kidneys is destroyed. These labs came back with the lambda light chains at 126, so roughly the same. Certainly not higher. While this rise is concerning, it is not a medical emergency.

The good news is that my renal function test shows that my beat up kidneys are continuing to improve. My GFR has risen to 25.4. Normal is above 60. But mine started at 4. Dialysis starts at roughly 15-16.

Thanks for your interest and prayers.

Mike

Ramblings: The Great Divorce Part II

Remarriage

Last time I described how the divorce from objective observation of reality in finding truth, or some call it reason, occurred. But reason and science were slowly reunited with the church through a convoluted course. I wish that I could say that the church came to its senses, repented, and remarried God’s gift of reason. But that would not be true to history.

At the end of the Dark Ages, there was a growing disillusionment with the anti-reason approach to life. Life expectancy was about 28 years old and was a trudge. There was not a lot of art, music, literature, or science as compared to the centuries before . . . or after.

The Medicis of Florence were the richest family on the planet, maybe ever. They were so rich, Jeff Bezos could have been there butler. Their patriarch, Giovanni de’ Medici, wanted to find a new philosophical basis for life in Italy. He basically cut out the philosophical middle man, the church, and adopted Plato directly as the basis of life. But in this new Plato-centric philosophy, the all-important unseen things were no longer the church, saints, spiritual matters, and the heavenlies, but the human experience. The short name for his is humanism. It made joy, love, hate, reason, beauty and other human experiences the center of life.

Givanni de’ Medici (in red) at his Academy of Plato, teaching Italians how to follow Plato

From this revolution, reason was important again, resulting in an explosion in scientific observations of the world.

In northern Europe, this idea was the seed to the next significant movement, The Enlightenment. At least the protestants embraced this age of reason, and many of the prominent scientists and thinkers of the early Enlightenment, such as Newton, were Christian.

Divorce # 2

In divorce in marriages, it can be insidious, or provoked by an event. Insidious is where the couple “grew apart” over the years. The latter is where Joe comes home ill from work only to find his wife Jane in bed with his best friend, Larry. Or it could be where Jane finds Joe has been downloading child porn on his computer. Or it could be where Joe drinks heavily and then punches Jane in the face, giving her a black eye. The divorce lawyer is suddenly on speed-dial.

A major event provoked the divorce of Christianity from reason. The event? It was when Charles Darwin published his On the Origin of the Species in 1859. This sent shock waves throughout western (Christian) culture.

On the Origin of Species - Wikipedia

Darwin wasn’t a raging atheist who wrote his book to disprove Christianity. He started his adult life as an Anglican. By the time he died, he had evolved (pun intended) to being an agonist. All he was doing was making observations about the actual world, like any excellent scientist.

The problem was, while the Bible said absolutely nothing about the age of the earth or even early human history, the church had developed a certainty about those issues. They believed the earth was 6000 years old and humanity was created abruptly from scratch and all animals remain as they have always have been. Like their catholic counterparts who rejected Galileo’s observations of the universe, the nineteenth century protestants, rather than listening to Darwin’s observations, rejected them as lies against God.

From my perspective, all the essentials of Christianity can fit in a thimble. However, the human retooling and expanding of Christianity into a culture has made it so complex that you couldn’t put all their tenets or “essentials” in the Colosseum.

From my perspective, all the essentials of Christianity can fit in a thimble. However, the human retooling and expanding of Christianity into a culture has made it so complex that you couldn’t put all their tenets or “essentials” in the Colosseum.

Stock Illustration - Hand holding tiny man in thimble

I remember joining a protestant church years ago, and the pastor gave me a five-page paper of all the tenets of that denomination. I had to sign the paper, saying that I believed all of them, before I could be a member. I had been a Sunday school teacher for years and I couldn’t continue unless I signed that document. It was like those 100 items were the litmus test to prove I was a Christian. It included things about the age of the earth being six thousand years, that Israel was to be a nation, etc. I told that pastor that I did not believe many of those. He winked and said, “I don’t either, but signing the paper is a formality that our denomination requires.” I signed it, but I wish I hadn’t.

By the late nineteenth century, the protestant church in America and the UK (other indigenous churches weren’t part of this problem) collapsed into a defensive position, perceiving this new science of Darwin as their enemy. I don’t know of any science that took on the mission to disprove Christianity or the existence of God, but that’s how these Christians perceived it and it was based on this erroneous position that one essential of the evangelical church was that the earth was six thousand years old.

Meanwhile, the fields of archaeology, paleontology, geology and astrophysics were exploding. Most scientists simply want to find the truth by observing the actual world. The evidence of an old world was overwhelming. Because many of these things contradicted the six thousand year old earth as mandated by the protestant culture (nothing to do with the Bible), the protestants generated false narratives for their defense (example).

One false narrative is that the scientists have a moral problem. As one pastor confined with me, “The evolutionist believe that because they want a reason not to believe in God so that they can take drugs and have sex with their girlfriends without guilt.” Other false narratives included the scientist were making up their findings. I know this firsthand as I spent a few years with one of the creationist organizations. It was when I realized that their narrative was completely false, that I left them. Today, if you mention carbon dating or radiometric dating around an evangelical, they will probably smirk and say, “You know that’s bogus.”

The walls thickened around the protestants in North America as they took an even more defensive position in the face of growing threats from a progressive world. We have reached the point that the evangelicals don’t trust any information that does not come from within their culture or contradicts the tenets of their culture. They now have their own radio stations, own TV stations, own news programs, and their own political party (Republican), mis-trusting all things other. They do, readily, believe false narratives that support their complex Christian culture. For example, to stake out the extreme, those with an evangelical background are more likely to believe the totally false conspiracy theory of QAnon. They have now divorced themselves from the process of observations about the actual world and the rational deductions from those observations. The modern evangelicals (might even narrow it to white-evangelicals) are now in a position of being anti-science, anti-reason.

From my perspective, if God is there, and I think he is, then he created reality. The more we observe reality, the more we observe and learn about God. The scientist is God’s prophet, the handlers of that which exist.

Mike

Ramblings: Having Cancer is Like

Having cancer is like playing a recurring game of Russian roulette. They whirl the blood, or magnets, to look for disease … but you are really revolving the cylinders. You pray constantly that the hammer finds the chamber empty. If it doesn’t, you will be set adrift in a single kayak slithering down through a gorge of unbearable anguish and death. That’s what’s at stake.

While this morbid game is playing out behind the curtains, on the main stage you are, by faith seeking peace, by perseverance, normalcy, by sentiment, contentment, by mental discipline, living as if the present moment has no boundaries, and by hope, the fears that hide in the dark crevasses of tomorrow … are left unfound.

Ramblings: The Great Divorce Part I (of two parts)

C. S. Lewis wrote an imaginative novel called The Great Divorce, publishing it in 1945. In that novel, he describes a fascinating bus trip from hell to heaven. But I’ve been thinking about a different divorce, the separation of the Christian church from objective information, including science. I saw a report that evangelicals in America are some of the most susceptible people to anti-science, conspiracy theories, and false information. Why is that? I always go to history to look for answers to such questions.

I wish I could have the power to rewrite history and describe how this sad divorce is a recent phenomenon, but it’s not. But it has not been a continuous state within the Christian church’s history either. It is like one of those couples that marry, divorce, marry and divorce again, over and over, such as Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson. Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, twice married, twice divorced

A better term than “divorced from science” is to broaden it to divorce from objective truth. Objective truth is that which is observed in the material world. However, this rejection of objectivity is not comprehensive. Christian people, just like all people, use objective reasoning all the time in their daily lives. For example, “Bob’s back in town. I saw him at the hardware store.” That statement involves observation of the universe (seeing Bob) and the deduction that means Bob is back in town.

Don Johnson Is Still Close to Ex-Wife Melanie Griffith
Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, twice married, twice divorced

The Marriage

With that said, the original church grew up in a thoughtful society. It was a Greco Roman in nature. Much of the philosophy and knowledge was from the ancient Greeks and the political arrangement of the first 500 years, Roman. The early Christians considered the Apostle Paul a learned man in the Greek tradition, and when he converted to Christianity, they accused him of letting his great learning drive him into madness. In that age, the early church did not reject science or reasoning. In that first century, I suspect that if a philosopher had an observation about the material world, the stars, or nature the christian would not have felt threaten, but would have fully embraced it after examining it, making sure that it did not contradict Christianity.

If a philosophical theory contradicted the basic Christian teaching, the early Christians would have rejected it. For example, the Hedonistic philosophy, that states the highest purpose of life is to fulfill your own desires, was rejected by the early Christians because it was the opposite of the message of Christ, putting the needs of others first. In some ways, modern Christianity is friendly to this philosophy, but that’s another story.

The Divorce # 1

One philosophical Greek concept that large segments of the early church did adopt, and shouldn’t have, is the Platonic view of metaphysics, the idea of dualism. While the mainstream church realized it as a false teaching, colloquial Christianity embraced it. It was so widely adopted that Augustine of Hippo declared Plato a de facto Christian in the early fifth century. This dualistic view divides reality into two realms, the seen and the unseen. In that model, the seen is inferior to the unseen. Some early gnostic sects even believed that Satan created this material world and that the only things of God were unseen. Platonic dualism was in sharp contrast to the teachings of the Jewish scriptures, telling us that God created the material . . . and it was good.

As a sidebar, I will say here that the church has always been corruptible simply because it is a human institution and humans are corruptible. There is a spectrum across history of atrocious churches and those that are rather benign. There are good things to gleam from church life, but I see only the very simple teachings of Christ as infallible. I state this because some people see the church as infallible as is its history.

The early church fathers fought aggressively against Platonic Dualism and was the point of the major church creeds. However, Platonic was popular among the masses and in many of the Christian sects that arose during those years, such as Manichaeism. However, soon those within the institutional church saw how this false teaching could empower them and they started to condone and then magnify those beliefs. If the church holds the keys to the unseen, it makes them more powerful to declare that the seen has no value and you can not gather information or truth from observing the seen, only what the church declares to be true, which only it can gather from the unseen.

For example, the church had adopted the Greek-Aristotelian view (established ca. 320 BC) that the earth was the center of the universe at the time Christianity was open to the observation of the seen to find truth. That was in its first centuries. But the Church was able to mesh it with their theological views that man was the center of the universe, thus you could conclude the place men and women live is the center. The Bible has no view or comment on the metaphysics of the solar system.

By the time Gallio, using a telescope and mathematics, wrote his book in 1610 supporting a heliocentric view of the solar system, the church had fully adopted the Platonic view that all truth is from the unseen (spiritual) thus owned by the church and specifically the Aristotelian view that the earth was the center of the universe so no contradicting views could be entertained . . . without the threat of torture and death.

The School of Athens, painted in the Vatican, depicting Plato (in red) pointing up, meaning only the unseen has value, and Aristotle pointing down, that observations of the material or seen has value.

The School of Athens - by Raphael
The School of Athens, painted in the Vatican, depicting Plato (in red) pointing up, meaning only the unseen has value, and Aristotle pointing down, that observations of the material or seen has value.

With that attitude, the church left the open-mindedness on finding truth by observing the seen, of its early days, and became a rigid dictator of “truth.” Anyone can observe the seen. Only the church could observe the unseen. This led to the Dark Ages, starting in the mid-fifth century. They are called dark because, as compared the thousands of years before and after this period, art and science became grossly muted. But that only makes sense if you no longer believe the seen has value or that you can gleam truth from making observations about it. But all of that dramatically changed.

Lexicon:

Material – all that is able to be measured in the physical world.

Seen – same as material.

Unseen – all that cannot be measured, from human emotions to spiritual matters.

Metaphysics – the grand description of all that exist from Meta (grand or over all) and physics (material or measurable).

Update 1/14/21

I have not done health update in some time, basically because there was nothing to update. I did mention a month ago (I think) that one of my labs hinted at a possible resurgence of my cancer, but others that did not.

This morning I received the results of my most recent lab tests, and now there is no question my cancer is surging again.

The good news in this is that there are still several treatments available. There could even be a cure here now, but there has not been enough time to prove that. But if not here now, within years. But can I last long enough to benefit? My immediate response is to schedule an appointment with the Cancer Care Alliance for establishing our next step.

The bad news, there’s a lot of bad news, but the most pertinent is that I have done so well on my present chemo, from a side effect perspective. It is an oral capsule and the side effects have been minimal. The next step will be weekly IV therapies.

I always feel guilty when I talk about feeling sad, etc. The comment that I give myself via self-talk, and others have said, “Oh, others have it much worse.” But those words have never consoled my soul. I even felt guilty about that. Then I heard a Ted Talk by a psychiatrist (I think it was about depression during COVID) who made the comment that the worst thing you can say to someone who is suffering is, “It could be worse,” or “Look at the people suffering in war of famine, you’re lucky in comparison.” The psychiatrist showed that such empty words are virtually saying, “Your sadness doesn’t matter.”

Before I got these lab results, I have been feeling depressed. Too convoluted to explain here. As the example of what not to say above, yes, I know that I’m not alone and some, even here, suffer from depression much worse.

There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12). In my case, and others may relate to, is that I’ve worked so hard to stay well and to get better. I cannot describe all the hard work I’ve done in study, diet, supplements, exercise, taking horrible drugs, and the list goes on and on. It feels like the reward . . . is becoming sicker. But I know that life is not fair. I wish that wasn’t true.

I wish that those who do horrible crimes go to prison and those falsely accused go free. I wish that those who were peace-loving poor people would not be swept up in horrible wars, incited by the rich and powerful. I wish that no one would have to suffer the ills of cancer . . . or any disease.

The emotion of sadness that comes with cancer, for me, is the loss of the future. Just six months ago, the word future was clear in my mind, expressed in years or perhaps decades. Like in the scene from Back to the Future, where Marty’s family is becoming translucent in a photo, times like this, the word future is fading and that breaks my heart.

Yes, I know about those less fortunate. I’ve seen the two-year-olds at SCCA who are in this same fight. Is that fair? I’ve worked with war refugees, where entire families were living in simple tents on soupy cold mud. Dinner, a plate full of vitamin enriched porridge twice a day and no medical care except what I could supply during a brief visit. I pity them as I should.

I ask for prayer that our next step would be clear and that my cancer would respond again. Pray for Denise and my kids. Thanks, Mike

Ramblings: Headache Medicine, Finis

I know that I have at least a dozen people who come here that were former patients in our headache clinic. It is with great sadness that I must announce that our last glimmers of hope to resurrect such a clinic now seems highly unlikely.

I had a 38 year career in headache medicine. In the height of that career, I was a headache consultant at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Dr. James Moren, headache specialist, had joined me about seven years ago with our shared dream of bringing compassionate, intelligent care to a very large and often neglected population of chronic headache sufferers in the Pacific Northwest.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and associated renal failure in Jan, 2019. I had to reduce my hours to 1/2 time as I prepared to undergo a bone marrow transplant. Dr. Moren increased his work-load to make up for my absence. It was my ambition and plan to fight hard to recover from the transplant and to return to work after six months. Just before my return, the hospital had a change in its administration. Because of my illness, they saw me as no longer valuable to the hospital. The hospital therefore eliminated my position and the clinic. Closing the headache clinic was also not Dr. Moren’s ambition. We both wanted to work well into our seventies, as there are no other places for these patients to go.

We attempted to create a new clinic in Bellingham. On the threshold of starting that clinic, COVID hit. I had to go back into quarantine and Dr. Moren continued trying to create this new entity. However, because of the complexities of medical business, the hope of creating this clinic was thwarted (prohibitively expensive).

I hope the best for all of our patients and that you can find good care in our unfortunate absence.

Mike

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