Cancer is Just a Word and the Bus is Coming

Cancer is just a word, but the Bus is coming.

I want to leave that statement lingering for a bit, if for no other reason than it screams, “Explain this!”

I have no idea how many people have heard, read, and talked to me about my cancer. Here’s the summary: I was diagnosed in January 2020 with colorectal cancer. It was discovered fairly early, and the prognosis was pretty good. I started chemotherapy that February using intravenous doses every 2 weeks. After 8 treatments, I moved on to radiation – a hell I want no other person to ever have to endure. These treatments managed to shrink my tumor, but nothing more.

In October, I had surgery to remove a portion of my colon, my rectum and my anus. Yep, I now resemble a Ken doll when I wear ass-less chaps (which I don’t actually do). The surgery revealed that the cancer had progressed further than originally thought, but the doctors believed they had removed it all.

I spent the fall and early winter recovering, returning to a more regularly life while learning to live with a colostomy. Then, in January of this year, my doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to my lungs and was engaging lymph nodes in my abdomen.

In short, I have stage 4 metastasized cancer.

Enter the Bus. I have always believe that we are all perhaps moments from the end of our life. The proverbial “bus” could hit us any time, even those of us who don’t live in cities where crossing busy streets indeed heightens the risk of getting hit by an actual bus. There are so many things that could end a life that worrying about them and contrastly thinking we will all see our 90th birthday are equally unreasonable. I believe we should dream about the future, and plan to be in this world for a good long while. At the same time we should realize that what we do today should both impact people positively and satisfy our own desires to experience the world around us.

This Still Amazes Me

In otherwise, dream of the things you want to do, enjoy the life right in front of you, and try like hell to be good to other people. If you have the skill, knowledge, or talent to impact other’s lives, do it. If you have the opportunity to witness something amazing, don’t hesitate. And don’t underestimate what can amaze.

My friend and fellow summer camp volunteer, the Rev. Erick Olsen recently shared a great sentiment. Someone once told him “cancer is just a word.” That is absolutely true. Hearing that you have cancer is scary; it really can change your life. Hearing that your efforts to fight cancer have largely failed is disappointing to say the least. But cancer is just a word.

“We are all on the path to death,” said Erick. Yes. That is exactly what I have believed for as long as I can remember. The bus is coming. Just because I can see it heading my way doesn’t change the outcome. It just means I’m more aware of the path between me and the bus.

I have no idea how long I have left in this world, no more foreknowledge of my mortality than anyone reading this. I do know that the chances of me seeing my 90th birthday are extraordinarily small. There are treatments that could prolong my life, potentially, though the science behind those treatments is not convincing, nor is it guaranteed to have any effect at all. That path is filled with doctors, chemicals, procedures, and a level of suffering that I have already endured once. I’m not choosing to take that path.

No. I love my life. I love my wife Debby who has always let me be who and what I am, only trying to correct my flaws by showing me how to be better and letting me learn on my own. I love my talented, brilliant, creative children Duncan and Dani. I have incredible friends who I love, and with whom I would share a part of every day I have left if I could.

Of course, there are things I want to do and see. Some I will get to; others I will not. How is that different than anyone else?

And I don’t fear death. The regrets I have only relate to things I have done, the things that hurt others, not the things I will never do. I believe in a continuation of self, a shift to another phase of being. I believe that I will know what my family does in the future, that I will see my children grow, try things, fail, learn and succeed. And because I believe in the continuation of self, I believe there are others whom I will be with again.

If I’m wrong, if death is the absolute end of all self, then I guess I won’t be conscious of that anyway. Fearing death is just as unreasonable to me as believing I am the exception to the laws of nature.

Cancer may kill me sometime in the near future. Or not. All it has done for certain is teach me to look more closely at the path, so that I walk a little slower and enjoy what’s here, and ask the people I love to walk with me more often.

[To those compelled to respond: I welcome your thoughts, your prayers, and even some shared time together. But I do not welcome suggestions for treatment. If you know me, you know that I obsess over everything. I have read what treatments are available; I do not need anymore doctors. Come share my life with me; don’t share how you think I should live it.]

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Donald Trump’s Concession Speech

OPEN on a podium outside a plain white house (but not The White House)

MR. TRUMP

Good afternoon, folks. I’ve decided that I need to say something public now, here in front of this beautiful white house…Rudy did such a great job finding this place for my speech. What a clever idea, doing this in front of a white house. I think his friends at the Four Seasons recommended it…

REPORTER

Mr. President, Mr. President?

MR. TRUMP

Guys, guys. This is a speech. No questions until after I leave and Kayleigh comes in with her Big Book of Lies.

REPORTER

But, Mr. President, why concede the election now? What has changed?

MR. TRUMP

Oh, that. Well, I just learned that marijuana is legal in D.C. (Takes out a smoking bowl and takes a long drag) So I’ve been hitting this bowl all morning. Now, things look very different, you know. I know, I’ve always known. No one knows how different things seem like me. I seem more different than anyone ever seemed before. People call me regularly and tell me I seem more different than anyone they’ve ever met. Just today I talked to several doctors who told me…

IVANKA TRUMP storms in.

IVANKA

Daddy, what are you doing?

MR. TRUMP

Not now Pumpkin. Daddy’s talking to the fake press.

IVANKA

You can’t concede. The election was rigged. The liberals are stealing the Presidency right out from under us.

MR. TRUMP

Pumpkin, don’t interrupt me while I’m lying to the press. I’ll get confused and have to call Sean Hannity to ask what I was talking about.

IVANKA

But what about me? What am I going to do if you concede? I mean, everyone hates my husband now, and they’re going to be mean to me.

MR. TRUMP

Here (offers the bowl) try a hit of this. It will soften that silver spoon you’ve got up your ass.

IVANKA

Ugg! (runs out)

MR. TRUMP

(Yelling to IVANKA) Oh Pumpkin, China called; They’re taking back all the patents you got while I was President.

A SCREAM from off stage.

MR. TRUMP

Okay, now. Let me tell you all what is going to happen next. I admit now that Sleepy Joe won, but it won’t last. He’s going to forget where the Oval Office is and then everyone will be told what to do by Mamala Harris, which is probably the best thing for everyone at this point because she’s like the only adult in Washington, or at least the only one not smoking weed.

Enter DON TRUMP JR.

DON TRUMP JR.

Dad, Dad. Stop. You can’t concede. The election isn’t over.

MR. TRUMP

Oh boy, here we go. I told the secret service not to let any crazies in here.

DON TRUMP JR.

Look at this, Dad. (Show his phone). I found this website that has evidence that Joe Biden paid his son a whole bunch of money when he was younger for some kind of service in their yard. There’s probably an email on their home computer. We can have Bill Barr go raid their house…

MR. TRUMP

Don, enough. Sleepy Joe gave Hunter an allowance when he was 12. It’s no big deal.

DON TRUMP JR.

You never gave me an allowance.

MR. TRUMP

What do you call the hookers I got for you that time you burned everything your mother left behind?

DON TRUMP JR. looks sheepishly at the audience.

MR. TRUMP

(Reaching out with the bowl) A bit of reefer for the road, son?

DON TRUMP JR. leaves the stage shaking his head.

REPORTER

Mr. President, what’s next for you? What will you do now that you lost the election?

MR. TRUMP

You mean after I finish this bowl? Oh well, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, since I don’t actually work and I’ve stopped watching Fox News because they treat me so unfairly. So…

I’m going to move to South Dakota.

REPORTER

Why South Dakota?

MR. TRUMP

Because I like that Governor, what’s her name? Kiss Me No Name, or Kristi Moonme, or Kiss’em When They Say No? Anyway. She didn’t abandon me like everyone else. Oh, and pot is legal there.

Enter ERIC TRUMP

ERIC TRUMP

Dad, daaaaad. The mean people in your office told me I was going to not be a president’s son anymore.

MR. TRUMP

Go away, Eric. Go drive Baron to New York and tell him to move his crap off your bed. You boys will have to share a room again when we move.

ERIC TRUMP

Again? (walking away) He pours water on my bed in my sleep, and gives me wedgies, and hides my toothbrush…

MR. TRUMP

Anyway, as I was saying. I’m going to open a new golf course there in South Dakota. It’s in this place I discovered. No one’s ever been there before. It’s totally secret. I found it on a map I was drawing on with my Sharpie. It’s called Badlands. I think it will be perfect for a golf course. Cuz whenever I hit the ball, it lands badly, and I have to kick it back onto the fairway. That’s not a stroke, though, because I’m the President and the rules don’t apply when you’re a President.

REPORTER

Mr. President, Badlands is a National Park. It’s protected by federal law.

MR. TRUMP

Not anymore. I signed an explicative order, I mean, an exercise odor, huh, one of those paper thingies Mike Meadows brings to me with my mid-day milk and cookies. It says I have the right to build anything I want anywhere in the country and no one can stop me because I’m President.

REPORTER

But, sir, you’re not going to be President anymore. Joe Biden won the election.

MR. TRUMP

What? Fake news! The media hates me. Suburban women hate me. Joe Biden hates me.

Enter MELANIA TRUMP. She walks up and hands Trump a scroll that says ‘Divorce Summons’, and walks out.

MR. TRUMP

My wife hates me.

They’re all against me. The Chinese, the Iranians, the North Koreans, the Mexicans, those young people on TikTok…

SECRET SERVICE agents enter and start pulling MR. TRUMP away from the podium.

MR. TRUMP


…even my secret service guys hate me….

REPORTERS shout questions as MR. TRUMP is pulled away.

FADE TO a sign that reads:

BIDEN/HARRIS
JANUARY 20,2021

Written by Drew Page, November 11, 2020.

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Fighting Cancer – the Last Step

I have not written since I finished my radiation. At that point I was hoping to hear that the radiation and chemo had eliminated my tumor. That was not the case.

So, I had surgery. On October 1, at approximately 12:30 pm, I went through Laparoscopic Abdominoperineal Resection to remove the tumor and any potentially disease tissue or organs around it.

This means the surgeons removed the last quarter of my colon (the sigmoid colon), my rectum, my anus, and all the surrounding lymph nodes, blood vessels and relevant nerves. It left me with 6 holes in my abdomen, a large incision in my backside, and a stoma where my descending colon exits my abdomen for waste to leave my body into a bag.

For the squeamish, this is a lot to read. But the reality is, I went to sleep and woke up about 7 hours later looking like someone who lost a knife fight. The surgery was only about 4 hours. The rest is my body’s natural tendency to want to keep sleeping when finished with anesthesia – something else we discovered during my colonoscopy last January.

[Very Weird Side Note: I recall only one thing about coming to after the surgery. As the nurses were calling to me to wake up, I was in a dreamlike state in which everything that happened was happening in SharePoint: yes, that’s right, the Office 365 cloud storage system. The nurses calling to me were all new tabs on a browser and each one was a SharePoint site. I can’t remember the titles of each site, but I do recall they were weird things related to what I was trying to do: wake up, respond to nurse, go back to sleep, ask where Debby was. I was clicking back and forth among the tabs trying to get them to stay open, but each time I clicked one, the others would hide behind the one I clicked (which is how browsers work, right?). And I remember this was pissing me off. Finally, the weird, work-related, nightmare state dissolved into a dim room with several nurses talking to me. The first thing I did was ask where Debby was, and they responded by putting ice chips in my mouth.]

I woke up around 7pm, and Debby was there shortly after. I was pretty groggy, and she tells me I repeated myself a few times. I don’t remember much more. I asked for some pain relief. Debby went home. And at 10:30, a PCA named Oliver came in and said, “You have to go for a walk.”

Really? I had just lost a knife fight against several excellent abdominal surgeons and an evil browser full of Office 365 tabs. And this guy wanted me to go for a walk?

Oliver helped me out of bed and led me down the hall. I held an IV cart with both hands and walked slowly. I made it about 30 feet before realizing I had to walk back too. This is all I clearly remember of that night.

Friday. October 2. I was up early because the nurses had been waking me up with drugs and vital sign checks all night. I don’t actually remember much. I remember one nurse coming in, handing me a urinal – a plastic jug with a bent neck. She told me I could pee into the urinal whenever I needed to. I ask how, and she looked at me weirdly. I think I let it go until the next nurse came in and asked her if I had a catheter. She took a peak and said yes. So much for urinals. Later in the morning, a guy walked in announcing breakfast. It was a tray full of eggs, fruit cup, milk, juice and coffee. I was confused. I was under the impression I was supposed to start eating slowly, so I only ate a few bites of egg and some of the fruit.

That first day, I walked all the way around the recovery wing three times. By the evening, all I wanted to do was go home. My surgeon told me there were some things that had to happen in order for me to go home. They told me 4-5 days; It took me 3.

So here I am. Home at last. Surgery over. With a colostomy bag attached to my abdomen where my colon exits. The bag doesn’t really bother me. I don’t like the type I’ve been given, but that can change. I’ll find one that fits me and my life better. I’m already quite good at handling “my appliance,” as the online discussions call it.

I’m sore, but pain is manageable and temporary. Right now, I want to know if they got all of it. I want to know if I am finally cancer free. This – my new lifestyle – will never be over, but I can “live” with that.

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Our Most Fundamental Freedom Needs Protection Now

Our very first Amendment, the first real change to the U.S. Constitution that was drafted to protect the liberties outlined in our nation’s founding document, is currently under attack. The president of the United States, along with many legislators, leaders, and media personalities regularly engage in a characterization of protesters that goes against the established law that protects and preserves this fundamental right that defines freedom.

Let’s start with the First Amendment. It’s very simple. It reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The second part of this – the right to assemble and petition the government – is one of the most fundamental rights in a free society. It ensures that we have the right to question what our government is doing, the right to join with others to combine our voices with calls to change policies and laws, even the Constitution itself. It gives us the right to address our elected officials and say “this must change.”

This freedom has been tested throughout our history. In the 1830s, Congress was frequently petitioned for the abolition of slavery, to the point where the House in 1840 declared that it would no longer receive any petitions regarding abolition. It took 5 years for this House measure to be repealed. During World War 1, petitions against recruitment, sedition laws, and espionage practices lead to imprisonment. Yet, all of the tests have failed to upend this fundamental aspect of freedom.

Now, our own government is calling those who assemble “terrorists.” And this is something the Supreme Court says they cannot do. In DeJonge v. Oregon (299 U.S. 353, 364, 365 (1937)) the Court determined that “The holding of meetings for peaceable political action cannot be proscribed. Those who assist in the conduct of such meetings cannot be branded as criminals on that score.” Yet here in 2020, our government officials regularly refer to assemblies as acts of looting and rioting, calling the participants terrorists and anarchists. Federal agents are detaining protesters without due process in an effort to intimidate those with grievances and create a general fear of assembling in public.

Now I must stop address the crowd yelling “those protests are not peaceful!” That is the media those folks are mimicking. News and media outlets rely on attracting readers. They will look for the sensational, the extraordinary, the rare, and tell the story in the way that attracts the most attention to their publication. However, for every looter, rioter, and perpetrator of a violent act in all the protests and marches throughout our nation, there are hundreds, if not thousands of peaceful citizens gathered for the purpose of voicing their opinion. Characterizing every protester as a looter or rioter is as inaccurate calling all policemen murderers, as characterizing every Republican politician as an Evangelical fanatic or every Democrat as a Godless liberal. Even just grouping the words “protestors”, “rioters”, and “looters”, in a sentence or headline creates the illusion that the people who engage in these acts are of equal number when in fact those who are not acting peacefully are the minority in these gatherings. Furthermore, some instigators have been recently discovered to be opposing parties who are intentionally sabotaging peaceful assemblies by acting as if they belong to the petitioning group and starting chaos in order to change public opinion about these peaceful groups.

I do, however, agree that the government has the duty to help control the riots, the looting, and the violence. But that duty is guided by law and must be done in a way that does not deny anyone the right to assembly and petition. The Court is once again clear on this. In Hague v. CIO (307 U.S. 496 (1939)), the court recognized the government’s duty to “regulate” public assemblies, but it determined that the act of regulating “must be exercised in subordination to the general comfort and convenience, and in consonance with peace and good order; but [The Right to Assembly] must not, in the guise of regulation, be abridged or denied.”

There are many social divides in our nation right now. We can argue 365 days of the year and not cover everything worth a disagreement. We can disagree on gun control, abortion, minority rights, immigration, wealth distribution, health care…the list seems endless.

But protecting our First Amendment, our right to address our government with those issues we want changed or protected is quite literally the most important right we have. Without it, none of those other issues can even be debated.

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Last Treatment – Accomplishment?

Yesterday was my last radiation treatment. It marks the end of cancer treatments going back to the January 29th procedure to have the port placed in my chest. Five and a half months of chemotherapy or radiation.

My conditions is okay right now overall, but the local pain and irritation from the x-rays is quite bad. I’m fatigued beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. I can’t do much at this time other than stay home, rest, and tend to whatever I can to stop the pain and help the healing begin.

Someone asked me the other day if I was going to celebrate. I said I didn’t feel like there was anything to celebrate. After all, I have no idea if this last 5 months has eradicated the cancer or not. I won’t know for another month or so. But this friend pointed out that I should feel accomplished because I didn’t quit.

Quitting never entered my mind. I have cancer. The doctors prescribed a series of treatments. I endured them. That was the plan.

I knew from the beginning that this wasn’t going to be easy. Some of it was harder than I expected, but the doctors and nurses were pretty accurate when preparing me for side effects, no easy feat considering how differently each patient reacts.

But it still doesn’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything… yet. I’ve endured pain, sickness, and some very weird neurological effects of the past 5 months, but I didn’t do anything remarkable. There is a basket full of drugs in the bathroom showing just how much help I’ve had through this process.

No. I don’t feel accomplished. In fact, much of the time I’ve felt fortunate. I see other cancer patients at the hospital who are wheeled into the rooms in chairs and even on gurneys. I see patients who have lost their hair, or can barely walk, those who are so gaunt, they look like a breeze might knock them into a fall that’s certain to break something. I have none of these problems. Sure, my cancer is in an unfortunate and very uncomfortable location which has lead to changes in my bathroom routines. But there are patients far worse off than me.

I don’t even think I will feel accomplished if I learn a month from now that the cancer is gone. I’ll be happy. Ecstatic in fact. But the accomplishment will belong to the doctors who developed a plan to eradicate the cancer.

There is one possible outcome that may leave me feeling accomplished. There is statistically a 75% chance that I will need surgery to finally remove the tumor. That surgery will leave me without the lower part of my colon and rectum. It will leave me to rely on a colostomy bag for the rest of my life.

When I come to terms with that life, when I overcome the challenges that will allow me to return to the active things I love doing, like fencing, hunting, biking, and hiking, perhaps then I will feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Failing that accomplishment is my only real fear right now.

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