Coffee with Kev

Camden, I want to take a minute to introduce you to ‘Coffee with Kev.’

This will be a little segment where I can sit down with you and enjoy a High Octane Cup of Joe, or some of Juan Valdez’s Best, or whatever name you give your coffee.  All I ask is that you please not let it be decaf.  Please!!

What did you ask Camden?  You know you need to speak up.  It is hard for me to hear you.  You are three hours away.  Okay, you are two and a half hours away if I am driving.  Sometimes two hours and fifteen minutes.  That is even with a potty break in Emporia at the Braum’s ice cream store.

Hey if you are going to have to make a stop you might as well enjoy some ice cream.  I know, right.  I cannot say no to a double scoop of peanut butter cup ice cream in a cone.  Then back on the road with cone in hand.  Yes, one handed driving or at times two knees operating the steering wheel.  Do not try that Camden.

So, did I hear you asked me what was my favorite coffee?  I thought that was what you asked.  Folgers.  Yes, that is right.  I like me some plain old Folgers.  Okay maybe not quite right.  It is vanilla flavored Folgers.  Also, Gaga buys some sort of chocolate flavored coffee that is also mixed into the machine with the Folgers.  Truth in coffee drinking.

No coffee from a Starbucks store for me.  No mocha latte expresso cappuccino or Frappuccino for me.  Oh, and never put ice chips in my coffee.  Hell, that is not coffee.  That is just disgusting. (As you can tell I do not know what I am talking about)

Camden, I have tried to drink that Starbucks coffee.  If you remember you and I traveled all the way to the state of Washington in the search of a good cup of coffee.   It was your first Coffee with Kev.

Okay maybe we were there to explore Mount. St. Helens, and the city of Seattle. Which we did and we need to go back.  Yes someday.

But while walking around Seattle we did find the original Starbucks store.

I am going to tell you Camden what I should have told those people in Seattle, and that is: Folgers is good to the last drop.

I have just not found a coffee at Starbucks that I like more than Folgers.

Sometimes though Folgers could use a little help.

Camden if it is a weekend morning or say a day in the week when I am not working, I have been known to add a little Bailey’s Irish Cream to my coffee.  Or something similar.

We do come from Ireland you know.  Yes, I was born in Mexico.  More about that later.  I am a very confused person.

Camden, Bailey’s is also excellent in hot chocolate.  Just saying.

Anyway, this morning there will be no whiskey in my coffee or your apple juice.  Maybe another time.

This morning I must drive to the east side of town for physical therapy.  It has not been too bad so far.  She has not put me on the rack yet.  She said that she was not going to do that.  She calls it traction.  I call it the rack.

My therapist explained that she had two reasons for not using traction.  The first one being that I have had two back surgeries and she did not think that the metal implants and screws placed in my spine would like that very much.  I like the way this lady thinks.

The second reason is because of Brutus.  Often things circle back to Brutus.

She is concerned that my bones are not as strong as they once were due to Brutus.  Hence no traction.

Even without the metal plates she said that Brutus would negate the use of traction or decompression therapy.  Active cancer is a bummer.

I have been doing my exercises.  I have not yet had an epidural.  So, I still have discomfort from time to time.  I find that I cannot walk far or stand long before I feel the discomfort.  Damn right foot tingles and goes to sleep.

This situation has been a total pain in the ass Camden.  No really, I mean a real pain in the ass.  The pain starts in my lower back then moves to my right butt cheek, and then shoots down my right leg into my foot and toes.  Who knew you had so many nerves in your ass?

The old L3, L4, and L5 bulging disc conundrum.  It is weird though Camden, because sometimes my foot will start tingling and then the pain hits.  Weird I know.

So, I am trying to make this therapy work.   I do not want surgery.  I do see my neurosurgeon in June.  If he tells me I need surgery, then surgery it is.  I will not question this man.  He has operated on me before and took my pain away.  I trust him.

Right now, the pain has subsided with the use of medication and is not nearly as bad as the last time I had disc issues.  I will be making an appointment with the pain management doc about the epidural.  Trying to avoid it to see if therapy will work.  With the shot how am I going to know if the therapy is working or not?

Speaking of shots, I do not think a little bit of whiskey in my coffee this morning will hurt.  Okay Camden you are right, I will not do it.

But when I get back, I am going to make Juan Valdez’s Best even Better.

I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts and stories with you.  Because if I do not share my stories now, then who is going to tell them?

I am smiling while enjoying my coffee and writing this little piece.  I imagine that I will not have any problems finding future topics to talk to you about.  Maybe together we can solve world hunger or end nuclear proliferation.  Probably not, but we can talk about our fishing trips.

My goal is that one day you will sit down and read these pieces while enjoying your coffee.  A future moment having Coffee with Kev.  Maybe they will bring a smile to your face.  Just do not forget the Bailey’s.

Now I gotta get to my appointment.  We will do this again.

Love you.

Papa

I need a haircut

Minimizing Reality

Dear Camden,

Today is April 26th, 2020, and in a few days, I will meet with my urologist to go over my latest numbers. April is on my rotation of months when I have the joy of seeing my medical team and going over my most recent test results. We have a little discussion about what is going on and talk about where we are in the big picture of things. The process is repeated every three months. Joy…joy.

I normally do not look forward to those months. I had tried to mix in some fun activities that I would look forward to doing to try to make April less depressing. But since I had to cancel a fishing trip with Dave and Steve, and I was not able to drive up to KC to spend a week with you as was originally planned I have not had any activities to take my mind off of April. Damn Virus!

In the past I noticed that as I would get closer to my tri-monthly visits that my anxiety would increase. That does not happen so much anymore.

I feel that I have finally realized that I cannot control those damn numbers so why get so worked up about them. No matter what happens I know what the plan is. It is my plan. My medical team might come up with some new ideas and I will listen. Yes, I will listen.

My tests were done two weeks ago, and the results are available. All I need to do is call them or look it up on the patient portal. I have not done either. I do not plan at the present to learn the results. I will see the doctor soon, and I know what is going to happen. The PSA number will either be up, or it will be down. Now if it is up the important question becomes by how much.

Camden, Gaga has asked me about the test results. I think she is a little anxious. She is normally as cool as the other side of the pillow, as Stewart Scott would say.

I have tried when I can to reduce her anxiety as well as your momma’s, your Aunt Amy’s, and Uncle Justin’s.

I have tried, but sometimes it does not work out.   She tries to be at my appointments, so I am not able to distort things. I am not able to minimize reality.

Minimizing reality is done by many people for different reasons. I am often trying to soften reality. Now I can do that. I hate it when someone tries to do it to me. It is the worst when the doctors try to minimize reality or avoid it altogether. That pisses me off.  I have heard too many times something like “why don’t we see how things go and we can discuss that next time.” I want to discuss it now.

Let me take a moment to talk about my last visit with my urologist to show you what I mean.

On January 16th Erin posted my last essay talking about Brutus. I saw the doctor on January 17th. Of course, my PSA number was up, but not as great of an increase as in the past. I had some hope.

We talked about my new number and I told the doctor that since the growth rate had slowed down that must mean that things were getting better.

He told me it did not mean that at all. He said that once he put all the numbers in the computer that it would be worse than it looked. Damn! Shit! Fuck!

He then went all mathematician on me. Talking about linear progressions or some shit like that. I tuned him out. I did not want to hear what he was saying. I asked him not to put the numbers in the computer. I told him that I did not want to know what that machine was going to tell me. I was serious.

He did not listen. He must have thought that I was kidding. He must have figured that I am the one who always wants to know everything. I am the one who challenges him with my digging. I am the one that makes them say what they really would not like to talk about. I am the one who wants to deal with reality. Not today doc.

Prostate Specific Antigen Doubling Time (PSADT) is an important number for someone like me to know. Months ago, when the doctor said that my numbers were increasing so fast that we might need to do something soon. He never mentioned PSADT. No one ever talked to me about PSADT. I discovered its importance on my own a long time ago.

So, on my next visit when he brought up the rate of growth, I started to talk to him about the DT. I told him that the tests were showing that my doubling time was less than three months. I told him that I understood that was bad. We talked a little about DT.

He realized that I understood why he was concerned. He was not going to need to explain it to me. Why we had not talked about it before I did not understand.

He told me that it looked like my DT could be a little under three months or a little over. He did not have the computer with him to run all the numbers. That was okay, because I have every single number branded in my brain, and every three months the number has more than doubled. I did not need a computer to tell me that my DT was less than three months.

At that moment in his office I really did not want the computer to tell me the DT. I wanted to walk out of there knowing that at least this time it had slowed down.

He put the numbers into his machine, and he announced that the DT was 3.7 months. I was sitting about two feet from him. He was looking at his computer on a small desk against the wall. My chair back was against the wall, so I was facing his opposite direction, but far enough back to look him in the face.

He then crossed his arms and continued to stare at the computer. He was not looking at me. After crossing his arms, he said, “That is a very fast doubling time.”

He sounded concerned. I could not have that Camden, Gaga was in the room. I did not want her hearing this. I did not want her upset. It was time to attempt to minimize reality. I had to jump into action. Okay, maybe not jump. I am sixty years old you know.

I then told the doctor that a 3.7 month doubling time was not that bad. I was thinking that the DT was worse than that because the doc forgot to put one of the test results into the computer. I knew that because all the numbers you remember are branded in my brain. I was not going to tell him. It was a bad number. So, for now we go with the 3.7.

Camden as soon as I got my minimizing statement out Gaga said, “Kevin, that number is terrible.”

This minimizing shit was not working. I could see that I was going to have to go big. I then said, “Well look at the bright side, at least I am not dead.”

That appeared not to be the right thing to say. Neither Gaga or the doc smiled or laughed. I realized that this was a very tough room. I should probably try my new material out somewhere else before dropping it on this audience. Oh well, I appear in this office every three months. Maybe next time I will have some better material.

I sensed that I needed to try another angle. I then turned to the doc and started talking about how the cancer must have slowed since the number had not doubled this time. “The doubling time will continue to increase, right Doc? The cancer is going to slow down, right?”

I was needing his help here. Gaga has cried before on our way home from a doctor’s visit. I really was trying to avoid that. The doctor was not much help.

The doctor did not say a word. I knew he heard me. I was freaking two feet away. He started typing on the computer showing no emotion. He did not comment on or answer my question. Damn! You would think that he was running for political office.

His silence answered my question. Allow me to interpret his silence:

He does not know. No one knows.

Camden the cancer world is full of uncertainty. Brutus could slow down. He might speed up. He could slow down and then speed up. No one knows. The doctor was not going to comment. He did not want to be put into a position where tomorrow he might have to explain why the things he said yesterday did not happen today. I get that.

I still needed to change the way this appointment was going. I was trying to figure out what to do next, because my strategery was not working. Then it came to me Camden. I needed to change the subject. That is what I did, and it worked.

I moved away from talking about my DT and Brutus. I have many other things to talk to the good doctor about. Hell, I have had three surgeries, radiation, all kinds of poisons pumped into my body and physical therapy to try to stop pissing in my pants. My body is a mess. Damn!

Taking my daily medication of chocolate ice cream

In the past we have talked about surgeries that might be able to fix what the past surgeries and treatments have broken. A kind of Humpty Dumpty approach. Hell, after physically therapy I still piss my pants. I have not wanted to have surgery to fix that, but I also never want to do another damn Kegel. So, at that moment in his office I sensed it was a good time to revisit the surgery topic.

My mission was accomplished. We moved completely away from talking about Brutus. There were no tears on the drive home.

We talked about fixing my body and he gave me some pamphlets. I am not sure where I put them. I have not yet read them, but they were good strategery at the time.

I probably ought to read those before I see him on Wednesday the 29th. But I think I will do that later because it is now 1:51 A.M. on the 27th. Time for bed.

I have physical therapy for my back in the morning. It turns out that my back problems I mentioned in my last essay are due to a couple of discs going bad in my lower back and not related to Brutus. That is good news.

Hopefully, we will have more good news in a few days. I hope to hear that my PSADT is increasing. Where we have been is dangerous. Bad things happen too men at my present DT speed.

These tri-monthly tests for now are a reality that I must live with. Probably forever. I am trying to adapt, and live with this reality, but it is hard. I try to pretend that they do not matter. But they do. They have a great impact on how I am going to live my life. They even provide insight into how long I am going to live. Et tu, Brute?

On Wednesday, the sun will be shining, and it will be a great day for more good news.

What if the news is not good? Well I have a couple of days to come up with a new strategy to minimize reality.

Remember I can do that. You cannot.

FaceTime you soon Camden. Love you.

Papa

See You When I See You

Dear Camden,

It is Saturday evening April 11th, and I am sitting here trying to put the finishing touches on this little note that I started over a week ago.  I write a little then put it away. Every time I return, I change something, and I add more thoughts. So, this is probably much longer than I had originally intended.  

I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed our facetime visit earlier today.  We have been doing a lot of facetime recently and everyday your mother sends me snap chat videos and pictures.  I am glad to get them.  

That damn virus has changed just about everything for everyone.   

It has been almost two months since I have been with you and Adalie.  I know for now we must keep our distance, but it is so hard. I just want to drive up to KC and give you and Adalie a big hug.  It will have to wait for now. At least we have facetime. I imagine that some do not.

I realize that you really have no idea of what is going on out in the so-called real world.  All you know is that you cannot go to preschool and be with your friends. Even before the governor issued the stay at home order your preschool was shut down and your family was in quarantine.  

One of your teachers was being tested for the virus.  Then a second teacher was tested. I do know that no one at your house got sick.  For that I am very thankful.

As for the silver lining you have gotten to spend more and more time with your mom and dad.  Has your mom at least washed that robe of hers? Has she taught you how to take the cork out of her wine bottle?  Does she still have wine? Oh well I will figure all that out later.  

What questions might you have for me?  Or might I ask what questions has your momma whispered in your ear that she wants you to ask?  I know she does that. She does it right in front of me when we talk. I may have selective hearing, but I am not blind.  I might also have selective eyesight, but I saw that.

As I said I am going to take a few moments to share some thoughts about what is going on in the world.  Might as well talk to you about it now. Not sure how old you will be when you understand. Someday you will.  

I have no idea where this is going to take us.  You know that once I get started it is hard for me to stop.  I think that I often have diarrhea of the fingers. I better learn to get over that, because there is not much toilet paper left in the house.  I cannot find any at the store. At least no panic buying of ice cream, yet. They can have the TP. Just stay away from my ice cream. It is a crazy world in which we live.  How is your ice cream supply?

Okay your turn to ask a question.  Now I know that we are not talking, so I am going to pretend that we are.  The questions we are going to go over are ones that you might ask. I know your mother would ask them. A few of these are the standard questions I get every few months.  I mean every few months if not more oftener. I just made that up. I think.

Cheering on the Cards between dippin’ dots at your first Cardinals baseball game.

What have you been doing Papa?

In March I started working in the garden.  I planted potatoes, lettuce, and spinach. I was busy and I sure could have used your help.

I remember last March, you were here, and you helped with the potatoes.  We had fun that day. But when I was in the garden this year you and your family were in quarantine.  

How are you feeling Papa?

Camden, I know your momma told you to ask this question.  It is always asked, and it is never the first question. Never.  The second or the third most often. She is trying to strategically place the question.  Like she is going to surprise me with it or something, and I will then bare my soul and tell her the most intricate details about how I feel.  Sorry. That is probably not going to happen. So, let me give you an answer.

Well I am feeling fine Camden.  Thank you for asking.

No Papa!  Mommy said that she did not want the standard bullshit you give everyone.  She wants to know how you are really feeling. She said that you need to keep it real.  Whatever that means Papa.

Camden, that is not a bullshit answer.  It is the socially acceptable answer that you give people, and unless they see me bleeding then my answer will always be that I am fine.  Unless I am hunched over in pain. Sometimes that is hard to hide. Recently I admit that I have been hunched over in pain more often than I like.

What are you talking about Papa?

Well Camden about two weeks ago my back problems started to once again become an issue.  I figured that it would get better over time with enough rest, alcohol, and ice cream. But that did not happen.  So, I figured that I should address the problem now before it got worse, so I went to the doctor.

What did your doctor say?

Well the first thing the doctor did was have an x-ray taken.  She showed me the x-ray and she pointed to the rib area on the right side of my body.  She said that I had a mass there that she was concerned might be cancer.  That area did look bigger than the last time I saw it. Anyway, her peoples were going to call my peoples to get that mass issue worked out and then we can all do lunch.  Right? Hopefully it ain’t no big deal.

The doctor told me that the degeneration of my discs was very noticeable on the x-ray.  None of the discs up and down my spine looked like they should. They are all in different stages of degeneration.  

I was told when dealing with prior back problems that what she was seeing would happen.   

This time things are a little different then the past Camden.  My previous back surgeries have been in my upper back and neck area.  The pain now is in my lower back.

Based on the x-rays she thinks it is most likely a disc problem.   But she cannot yet rule out Brutus. Whatever it is, it is hitting my sciatic nerve which causes great pleasure.  Not!! Where is the ice cream?  

Well they then gave me steroid shots.  They did not work. They gave me drugs.  They have not worked.

I had an MRI a few days ago.  Waiting on the results.

So, for the first time in my life I am hoping they find a herniated disc.  I do not want it related to the other problem.

So, when we get the results of the MRI, I am hoping that we can skip the physical therapy.  It has never worked in the past, but I guess I am willing to give it another try.  

What has worked in the past were the epidural shots.  So, if it is a disc, I want to move to the shots as soon as possible.  I would like to avoid surgery.  

Papa it sounds like you have recently hit a patch of rough years.  Did you have broken bones or surgeries when you were younger?

No Camden I did not.  I was a healthy guy. At least I thought I was a healthy guy.  Things can change as you get older. As they say getting old is not for sissies.  

Camden, I do remember a time about twenty-five years ago when I almost had a surgery.  Almost.

Go on!

Well it was after Amy was born and Gaga asked me my thoughts on having a vasectomy.  It did not happen. (One day someone can explain that to you. Ouch!)

Why not?  

I told Gaga that my next wife was going to be much younger than her and that she would want children.  I could not deprive her of that.

How did that go over Papa?

Ooooh, it went Camden, it went.  How do you think it went Camden?

She kicked your ass huh Papa?  

You might say that.  What I will say Camden is that Karma is a bitch.  Brutus came along and took care of that. Damn.

I ended up having to go through what I will call the Christy re-education program.  I now know how to say, ‘Yes dear’ and make it sound like I mean it. It did take me a while to stop flinching when I said it.  I learned.

All kidding aside the last almost 36 years have been wonderful.  

Enough questions for the moment.  Let’s move on.

Channeling our inner Hulk.

I wish we could share some ice cream, but for the time being we will have to eat our ice cream together over facetime.  Not sure when we will be able to get together again since we do not know how long the governor’s stay at home order will be in place.

Camden the governor has taken a lot of criticism since she issued the order.   I think that it was a wise move. As each day has gone by it appears that was the correct action to take.  The critics I do not understand. I ask myself if this is what happens when people do not believe in science.   

Now the virus was going to happen here in the U.S.  I do not think that it could have been stopped in our modern world.  Unfortunately, we have probably not responded in the best way. That does not mean we cannot start.  

One of the doctors on my medical team has said to me more than once: “Kevin, we can be early, or we can be late.”

He was talking about my treatments, and his belief that being able to predict the exact and most optimal time for treatments is very difficult or even impossible.  You are either early or late. Being late can turn out to be very costly.

I think that what he said is true in many different aspects of our lives.  I believe that as nation we are going through one of the most difficult times of our existence.  Maybe not the worst, but things will get worse before they get better. But they will get better.

If you have a problem, you must deal with that problem as soon as you can before it becomes a bigger problem. Like my back.

“Let’s see what happens…..” Well that is a response.  Probably not the best response.    

Unfortunately, some people will decide that the issue at hand is not a problem at all.  They will not listen to the advice of others. They might not like what they are hearing or do not want to believe them.   So, they think: Let’s just see what happens.

I know what you are thinking, “Well Papa when did you start listening to your doctors?”

Camden, that is a very valid question.  Contrary to what others think I have always listened to my doctors.  There have been times in the past when we have not been on the same page on what our/my treatment goals should be.  I feel the need to have a balance between the quality of life and just being alive. It has taken a while, but I think that we are on the same page now.

As a country dealing with this virus we have often not been on the same page.  Many states have done their own thing. Some really have not done much at all, but each day some attitudes change.  Each day someone decides that contrary to what they originally thought this is really a big thing, and we need to have a coordinated plan.  We can’t wait to see what is going to happen. We know what will happen. Is it too late?  

By not preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best, are we too late?  

The answer to that Camden is the following:  Yes, we are late. Too late? We are too late for some people.  We will be too late for others if we do not get our shit together.  We are late, but not doomed. 

The story about this virus is written each day.  We cannot change what was written yesterday. We can change what might be written tomorrow.  We have an opportunity to change the ending. 

Now is not the time to lay blame.  Now is the time to get everyone on that same page with a detailed plan on going forward.  If plan A is not working, then plan B. This we cannot lose.

Unfortunately, some have already lost.  Moving forward others will lose as well.  That is why it is so important to follow the rules/guidelines suggested by the medical people to try to slow the virus.  

Your parents were wise when they self-quarantined after learning about your preschool teachers.  Now everyone in the state has been asked to stay home unless they are an essential worker. I am not sure what an essential worker is, but I do know that Gaga and I are some of those people.

Gaga goes to the hospital every day.  Fortunately working as a laboratory scientist, she has limited patient contact.  She is with people who have direct patient contact. I worry about her.   

If they ever get the testing issues figured out it would be her lab that would analyze the test to see if a person had the virus and report those results.  

Gaga can talk to you about antigens and antibodies until you brain is goo.  Believe me I know. Maybe my brain was already goo.

She has always been the smart one in the family.  I do not correct her when she is wrong, which makes me the wise one in the family or maybe that is the re-education training.  Anyway, your momma calls me wanting me to share some of my “wise old man knowledge.”  Enough said.

Camden, I believe that everyone will be affected by this virus.  Not everyone is going to get sick, but life as we know it is going to change.  For many people it already has. The world most likely will come out of this with a true new normal.  

So, for now Camden we cannot be with one another.  We have facetime and of course snap chat. It is not the same but will have to do for now.  I guess I will see you when I see you. I hope it’s someday soon.

I do need to ask you a favor.  Lean a little closer so I do not have to type so loud.  Could you ask your momma to get off my back just a little?  (Maybe that is my problem) That would be greatly appreciated.  Let me explain.

Your mom keeps calling wanting to know if I am staying home.  “No” is the answer I must give her. I follow that up with “but” …. she is not interested in the but explanation.  

You see Camden bad things sometimes happen to people.  When that happens, someone needs to step in and help. We cannot stay at home.

I did have a meeting with my new supervisor.  She would prefer that I figure out a way to work more from home.  She would like for me to limit my people contact. Gaga and your mom will be happy to hear that.  I wonder if they called her.

At work they are trying to change things so that we might be able to do more from home.  They are trying to figure out a way that we can have home access to the information we need to do our job.  

I have worked a few days from home.  It is not the best situation for me work-wise, but case files get reviewed and reports are written.  I guess I can do that anywhere.

Now I am trying to limit my people contact when I can.  Recently I had a family of six coming to the office for interviews.  The father called me the morning of the interviews letting me know that one of his sons had a fever that started the day before.  I told him that we would need to reschedule the interviews. Camden, I think your mom will be happy. I am trying.

People worry about my contact with others because of Brutus and the virus.  Brutus is growing. My body is trying to do what it can to stop Brutus. My immune system is already on high alert.   It’s unknown how well I would deal with Brutus and the virus at the same time. So, it is preferred that I limit my contacts.  

That is why it did not upset me when the Big 12 tournament was canceled.  Yes, you are right Camden the Tigers are no longer in the Big 12. Your mom and dad are Jayhawk fans.  I wanted to be with them. I wanted to go down to the Power and Light District for some fun and then see the joy in their faces when their team won.  If they were still sober? I was looking forward to sharing that experience with them. Don’t worry I would have had my Tiger t-shirt on. A man has got to remember where he comes from.

This past week I was supposed to be in Arkansas fishing with friends.  We decided a couple of weeks ago to cancel. Maybe later in the year. I wonder if it will happen at all.

I do not think this is going to end soon.  Until a vaccine is developed, we most likely will have waves of new cases and deaths.  Once we have a decline in new cases from week to week many will demand that the restrictions be weakened.  Then new cases and deaths will grow again. Then more restrictions. This will continue until we have a working vaccine.  

Until that vaccine arrives, I wonder if we will ever be at a testing level where we can safely open the economy.  I wonder how people will react to the idea or necessity of being tracked through their cell phones. I wonder if our politicians will be truthful with us then make the tough decisions and not worry about their approval ratings or the next election.  I wonder if we will reach a point where the majority no longer cares.

In order to succeed we must together support a plan.  I wonder if an oligarch or several oligarchs will disagree with the plan and throw so much misinformation out there that we will never be united as a people.

I have heard and read many times over my years this Ben Franklin quote: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”  Let’s not make that mistake.

I wish I had the answers Camden.  I do not. 

You will grow up studying the history of these times.  You will look back and see what was done and what happened.  I hope we did good. Until then I will try to do my part and heed the recommendations.  

I do not think I will be doing much traveling if any this year.  Our trip to New York in October, and my trip to New Orleans in November will be re-evaluated along with other adventures.   Most likely they are not going to happen.   

Those are just a few of my thoughts today Camden.  Maybe we will wake up one day and the virus will be gone as quickly as it came.  Now I doubt that, but maybe. Remember, we will get through this.  

I hope that my ramblings have made some sense. (I took out over 800 words)

I want you to know that I love you and will always love you.

See you when I see you.  I hope it is someday soon.

Sounds a little like a song.  Music can lift your spirits so enjoy this little tune.   

Now go wash your hands.

Papa

Are You Sure About That?

Hello Neighbors!  Yes, I have seen the Mr. Rogers movie.  I liked it and if you have not seen it, I would recommend it.  I give it a five donut rating out of five. Cops rate things on a donut scale.  

I am certain about that rating.  Not sure that I am certain about anything else.  The cancer world is so uncertain. One day you think you have the answers and things figured out, but you soon learn that you do not. 

It has been around three months or so since the last post.  It is not that I don’t have anything to talk about. Many things have happened.  I have just not felt like addressing them. But recently I have been getting text messages asking how I am doing.  People are asking Christy at work. I even got a postcard in the mail from my friend Cindy. Getting a postcard tells me that it is time to talk.

I have been out and about on different adventures and often meet up with friends.  Sometimes it is just for lunch other times we go on adventures together.  

I enjoy my travels and visiting with friends.  I also enjoy making new friends. You know that sometimes when I travel I might stop at a Dairy Queen or two, or more.  Who knew they had so many Dairy Queens off of I-70 in western Kansas. I gained a few pounds on that trip.  

Often I travel alone and when I stop at a restaurant, a rest stop, or even on the highway itself, I will often strike up a conversation with someone.  

I have had a few conversations along the side of the highway with new friends.  It is funny that they all had the same name. Who knew that Trooper was such a popular name?   I have met Trooper Williams, Trooper Johnson, Trooper … you get the picture. I still have a license… for now.  

One of my new friends asked me how fast I was going.  I told him that I was not sure. He told me how fast I was going.  I asked him if he was sure about that. He was. I said something like, “You know sometimes you just gotta let them ponies run!”  Remind me to tell you how that ended when I see you. Long story, but Camden my advice is that you remember to take bond money on your adventures. 

What motivates me to go out and hit the road?  Well you know the answer to that. It is Brutus.  

Brutus thinks that he is going to kill me.  I am not so sure about that. But just in case, I have no desire to sit at home just waiting for it to happen.

I have many places I would like to see. Things I want to do.  Conversations I would like to have.

I have felt urgency since I was told that my cancer was not curable.  I feel that urgency even more now. 

I am hoping that 2020 will be a good travel year.  This weekend I will be in KC for Camden’s fourth birthday party.  I will be back in KC for Adalie’s first birthday party in February.

In April I will be headed back to the White River in Arkansas fishing with friends.  In October I am taking Christy to New York City for a week maybe longer. I have trip ideas for Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and of course Missouri during 2020.  We will see how things work out.  

When I am in your area, hopefully we can spend some time together.  I look forward to seeing you.

Man it just does not seem possible that Camden will be four and Adalie one.  Time goes by so fast. It goes by even faster when you want it to stand still.  

This summer it will be five years since my cancer diagnosis.  I remember many of those days like they were yesterday. Or at least like last week.  I had a medical appointment last week. I see my urologist in a couple of days. Oh boy, fun, fun.

Anyway I want to update you on what we have learned and what the future might bring.  In order to do that I would like to step back and explain a few things from the past. I might have mentioned some of these issues before, but I am going to touch on them again.  It will be a good review and helps me explain where we are at in this process.    

I would like to go over four things that I think are very important for someone dealing with prostate cancer or PC for short.  

  • The first being how the cancer was diagnosed
  • The second is the Gleason Score reported by the pathologist after the biopsy.
  • The third is how you respond to curative treatment.

The fourth concern, and really once you get this far is probably the most important factor in your survival, is the doubling time of the cancer.

Now just remember that I am not a doctor.  But I have spent a night or two at a Holiday Inn.  Or was that a Hilton. Oh well, I was drinking. Anyway I just want to say that these are my thoughts, but I do have a little experience.  Let’s look at each one shall we.

Screening or Symptoms?

During the early stages of PC a man will have no symptoms.  The only way to discover the early stages of the disease is through testing.  You will find arguments both pro and con from members of the medical community on whether or not men without a family history should be tested early or at all.  Educate yourself. I will flat out tell you that I think every man should be tested at least by age 50, and earlier if you have a family history. If the test is positive, you will have many options.  It may need to be treated, maybe not, but you need to know.

If by chance you go to your doctor displaying several of the symptoms pointing to PC, you are in a bad place.  I will not go over the symptoms; you can Google them. I pretty much had them all. When I approached my primary care doctor with my concerns, he told me I was too young to have PC.  I was in my mid 50’s. He added that I had no family history.   

Well when I learned that in fact I did have a family history, the tests were done.  I had cancer.  

If you have symptoms before being diagnosed you most likely have a disease that has metastasized. 

I have seen many doctors over the past four plus years.  When talking to the doctors I have noticed a change in demeanor from a couple of them when they learn that I had symptoms before diagnosis.  They realize that my situation is going to be tough, but they do not want to speak those words. I see it in their faces.

If found early PC is very curable, but when not found early it is not.

Be PC aware and get screened.

Gleason Score

Now I am not going to get all medical on you here, so if you want to learn how they calculate the score you can also look that up. I am trying to keep this essay under 10,000 words.  Really, I am trying.

I just want you to know that the highest number the Gleason Score can be is 10.  It is a number that tells you and your medical team how aggressive your cancer is and what treatment protocols should be considered. Gleason Scores of 8, 9, and 10 are the most aggressive cancers.  These are the cancers that kill.

My Gleason Score is 8.  Damn!

Curative Treatment 

Once you have a Gleason Score you and your medical team can talk about treatment options.  I chose surgery as my curative treatment. I had several reasons for choosing surgery. One was that the gland had gotten so large that it was causing a considerable amount of pain.  I wanted the bastard gone.

The goal of surgery was to remove the cancer and cure me.  Around two months after surgery I was tested to see if any evidence of cancer was present.  What they look for is the presence of a protein that is only produced by the prostate. It is called a prostate-specific antigen, or PSA.     So if your gland is gone you should not have a PSA number. The problem is that prostate cancer cells also produce PSA. They are concerned with any PSA number showing up after surgery, even a fractional number.  If you have a number you still have cancer.

I had a number after surgery.  It was rather high. So high that if I still had a prostate they would want me tested for cancer.  Damn!

My oncologist thought that number could not be accurate.  He had me tested again two weeks later. So I had two tests after surgery, both of which showed a very high PSA.  Damn!  

So we moved onto the second attempt at a cure which would be more than 40 radiation treatments along with hormone therapy.  It is also called androgen deprivation therapy or ADT. The drug used was Lupron.

I loved my radiation oncologist.  We sat down together many times and had long discussions about my disease.  I greatly appreciated the time she took to help me understand what was happening.

She told me that she normally did not radiate men with a PSA number after surgery as high as mine.  I said humor me doc and make those lymph nodes glow. She did.  

When it was all over and the tests were repeated, I again had a number.  The hormone treatments combined with the radiation did not quite work as well as hoped.  They beat Brutus up pretty good, but he got up off the mat. The curative treatments of surgery and radiation did not work.  My cancer was not curable. Damn!

Many men will have a PSA of 0 after curative treatments.  They are cured or have at least gone into remission. If their cancer does return, then how long they were in remission often is an indicator of how well they will do going forward.  

I did not go into remission. I have what they call persistent disease. The outlook for men with persistent disease can be tough. The doctor referred to my disease as being systemic. Whatever the hell that means. Come on doc speak English.  

Dr. O explained that Brutus was in my blood and in my lymph system.  He had spread throughout my body. 

So we decided to aggressively treat the disease using a combination treatment or what I like to   call a drug cocktail. Shaken not stirred please.  

I would stay on the poison Lupron, and I would also take the poison Zytiga along with Prednisone.  Clinical trials have shown men using this protocol had their disease slowed down substantially and I was hoping that I might even see a remission with this combo.  I hoped that the side effects would not be bad.  

I took those drugs as long as I could, but the combo was making me sick.  I no longer wanted to be sick. I told the doc that I was done. When the drugs worked their way out of my body I started feeling so much better.  Now I deal with discomfort from time to time, but that has mostly been manageable.

Doubling Time

The doubling time is how long it takes the PSA to double.  It is the growth rate of untreated disease. Of course you cannot know your doubling time when on treatments.

Since I was off treatments we could track the doubling time.

About six months ago my urologist mentioned that the numbers were rising too fast and we might need to think about going back on treatments.  

Three months ago my urologist told me that it was his advice that I go back on treatments immediately.  The growth of my cancer was too fast.

I agree with the fact that the rate of growth is fast. I see the numbers. I did not agree that I needed to be back on treatments. I told him no.

Once you have been through the curative treatments the doubling time of your PSA is the single best indicator of your prognosis. The PSA number itself is important, but what is even more important is the growth of that number.  

Of course you want your doubling time to be as long as possible.  Some men’s PSA might have a doubling time of years. Others are not so fortunate.

The doctors get very concerned when the doubling time is less than twelve months.  Of course the shorter the doubling time, the more aggressive the disease and the harder it becomes to treat.  My doubling time is three months. Damn!

My medical team is a little concerned.  I figure that sometime Brutus is going to get tired and slow down. At least that is what I hope.  

Now let’s talk about my last visit with my urologist last October.

We talked about the numbers.  We talked about the doubling time.  Then he hit me with it.

U3 told me that I would live longer by going back on treatments now.  I knew that he might be correct. I also knew that he was not telling me the entire story.  I was prepared.  

I knew what the research shows, that yes my survival might increase, but by only a few months.

I explained to the doctor that I understood what he was proposing might extend my life.  IT MIGHT GIVE ME A FEW MORE MONTHS! That was all that it would do.

The doctor replied, “That’s accurate.”

I told the doctor that if he could tell me that going back on treatments now would extend my life for five years, then I would do that. I told him that he could not tell me that. He said nothing.

I know that going back on the treatments will make me sick.  I want to enjoy what I have now for as long as I can. I see no need to be sick now and if things do not turn out well, also be sick at the end.  It is not worth it to me. I told him that I was not taking the drugs. He told me that he understood.  

We will continue to watch my numbers. When it reaches my target number I will go back on treatments.  That is what we agreed on months ago and that is the plan we are sticking with. My doubling time was not going to change my plan.  I told him that I would see him in three months. Which again is now only a couple of days away, but who is counting?

That visit with U3 was not so bad.  I was not looking forward to my visit with my oncologist, Dr. O.  Dr. O never wanted me off treatments. He stopped pushing when he realized that he was not going to change my mind.  I was afraid that he was going to make an “I told you so” kind of statement.

On the afternoon of December 11th, 2019 I sat in Dr. O’s office around 3:00 with a lot on my mind.  But one thing I didn’t bring with me that day was the anxiety that I often feel when in his office.

I started thinking about the wise old urologist, U2.  I was going over in my mind some things that U2 had told me about my cancer.  Most of what he told me has turned out to be very accurate. He never recommended the combination treatments like Dr. O.  He told me that I would never see a remission. He was right. I hope it turns out that he is wrong about some other things he told me.  

One thing I wished he would have done was communicate better with Dr. O.  Hell they did not communicate at all.  

That is one thing that Dr. O and U3 do well.  They share information they have learned from my tests and visits.  When I went to see Dr. O I was afraid that I was going to have to go over point by point with him what I had told U3.  It turns out that I did not have to do that.

I was moved into an exam room and the nurse took my blood pressure.  I do not know why they do that. Sometimes my BP has been so high that I was surprised that they did not walk me over to the ER across the parking lot.

My BP was normal.  It was actually better than normal.  It was the best BP I had seen in years.  Christy slapped me on the leg and commented about how good the reading was.

I did not say anything, but the thought going through my mind was that is what happens when you no longer give a fuck.  When you no longer give a fuck things do not bother you. At that moment I did not give a fuck about Brutus or this meeting.  I was going to listen to the doctor then say what was on my mind and leave. Easy peasy so I thought.

When Dr. O walked into the room the first thing he did was give me my results from his lab.  Like U3’s lab the results showed a very fast doubling time.

He knew what U3 and I had talked about.  He went over most everything point by point.  I did not have to say anything.

What he said next was unexpected and caught me by surprise.  Dr. O said the following:

“Going back on treatments now will not help you.  You will not gain any additional ‘Survivor Benefit’ at all, none what-so-ever.   The only thing that going back on treatments now is going to do is make you sick.”

As I listened to him he explained that my treatment goals should change.  Going forward the emphasis would be to reduce my discomfort and pain in an attempt to give me the best quality of life possible.  We were done with combination treatments. What that meant to me is no more drug cocktails.  

He talked about going back on hormone treatments when Brutus had reached my target number.  We cannot stop Brutus, but the hormone treatments can slow him down.

Dr. O was describing palliative care or comfort care.  He was no longer advocating what I would call aggressive treatments. 

Once Brutus develops a resistance to the hormone treatment, we will still have other options available.  We will once again revisit the chemo option. Maybe there will be a new immunotherapy option. Right now for men like me, an immunotherapy treatment is not yet available that is very helpful, but several clinical trials are ongoing that might help a person like me.  You never know what will happen in the cancer world tomorrow.

After leaving the doctor’s office my thoughts again took me back to that conversation I had with U2: The no remission conversation.  He told me that he has had patients like me. He said that a few of them survived ten years. I did not ask him how many he considered a few.  I let it be. I understood what he was trying to tell me.

Later I learned that one percent of men like me survive ten years.  When he said “a few” he was not kidding.

The reality of my situation is that I am not well, but I am not sick.  I am happy about that.  

Brutus will try to take away my physical abilities.  He might succeed, but it will not happen today or tomorrow.  In the meantime I have a lot of life I would like to live. What will be, will be.  

I had a conversation recently with my sleep doctor.  No he does not read me bedtimes stories. He did give me a machine that helps me breathe and I do sleep better.  Maybe another day I will go into more detail about that.  

I always enjoy my visits with him.   During our last appointment we talked about the holidays and our families. Then we talked about cancer.

He said that every time he saw me that I had so much energy and such a positive attitude.  He told me that cancer was not going to beat me. Did I mention that he was my favorite doctor?

He is correct.  Cancer will not beat me.  As I have said before, you beat cancer by the way you live. Right now the score is Brutus 0 and Kevin 1,625. 

I am winning.

I Am Sure About That…

Kevin

Survivor?…Don’t Give Up

I have been asked a time or two about how long it takes me to put together one of my essays. Most of the time it does not take very long, because often I have worked on the idea inside my head for quite some time before putting it on paper. It flows quickly.

Sometimes I am working through an idea and I just write. Throwing mud and seeing what sticks, so to speak.

I also do a lot of writing that you do not see, and probably will never see. I write about what I am thinking and it often just stays in a file on my computer. When I am gone my kids will have them to read. If Erin later wishes to put them on the blog that will be fine. They will be hers to do with what she wishes. This was going to be one of those pieces.

The idea for this essay came to me while preparing for the Zero Prostate Cancer Awareness 5k Run that my doctor’s medical group sponsors each year. The race is run in Wichita on Father’s Day weekend. I think the first time we participated was 2017. In 2018 I wrote some things down, but never finished. I was not sure I was ready to share. The essay stayed in the file to be kept for when I am gone.

I have come back to this essay a few times this year. The last time was in June. Looking over it and adding and subtracting. Each time that I wrote I could not get the piece completed to my satisfaction. I put it away.

Just a few weeks ago my girls and I ran the Zero 5k Prostate Cancer Awareness Run in Kansas City, Kansas. That again got me thinking about this essay. It was time to finish. I decided to take it out of the file.

This piece is a combination of several thoughts that I have edited and turned into one. It has taken awhile. Here we go.

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Today is Sunday, June 2, 2019, and it is National Cancer Survivors Day. I sometimes feel at odds with the mainstream thinking on the different verbiage used to describe a person with cancer and their “cancer journey.”

My thoughts are that often the words and metaphoric phrases used by non cancer people do not describe me or provide a very good explanation of what I am going through. Often these words or phrases try to minimize what people with cancer are dealing with.

“You got this!”

Well, no. Actually I do not. You can move along now.

I think I understand why these words and phrases have become so popular. They are easy. These are fallback words that people rely on when they do not know what to say. They want to turn a negative into a positive and cheer up their family member or friend. I really do appreciate the effort, but I feel they are often misguided. I think there is a better way.

I will in the future write an essay on talking to someone you care about with cancer. But that is not what this essay is about today. Well maybe it is just a little.

Before moving on to the main topic I will share with you one thing I think is very safe to say to a cancer patient. I would love to hear it myself actually.

“Kevin, your ass sure looks good in those jeans!!”

I have not heard that yet so you could be the first one to tell me. You could lie. I am okay with that. It would cheer me up, and of course make me laugh.

All kidding aside I would now like to talk about just one word that is used often in the cancer world. That word is: Survivor.

Each year that I go to the doctor’s office to pick up everyone’s race packets and gear I am asked if I am a survivor. Survivors are given different shirts so they can be picked out from the crowd. I am not real comfortable with that, but what the hell.

The first year I was picking up the packets that survivor question surprised me. I thought for a moment and I then told the lady that no, I was not a survivor, but that I hoped to be a survivor one day.

She then asked me some other questions and handed me a survivor’s shirt. She told me I was a survivor. She explained that everyone with cancer no matter where they were in their “journey” was considered a cancer survivor. I took the shirt.

I have thought about that conversation a few times. Hence the reason I have started and stopped working on this essay several times.

I realize that many people identify with being a survivor. I am not writing this in an attempt to change their self image. If that works for them, that is great. I will support whatever helps people get through the mental challenge of dealing with cancer. Many people have been cured. They are survivors. I am so, so, happy for them.

I do not feel like a survivor. I do not consider myself a survivor. If someone else wants to call me a survivor, I will not correct them. If I am asked privately I will let them know my thoughts.

To me, something happens and when it is over you have survived. If it does not end you have not yet survived.

I have survived many situations in my life. Sometimes when it is over I wonder how the hell I survived. But I did.

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One November night many years ago a business was being robbed just two blocks from where I was. When I arrived and I approached the business l learned that the robber had just fled and the manager of the business, who had just had a gun held to his head during the robbery, pointed in the direction the robber ran. I had an idea where he might be going. I had arrived so quickly that I thought I had a good chance of finding him.

I pulled down a street that ran in front of an apartment complex. I thought that might be where he was going. Sure enough he emerged from a dark field into the light. He wanted to get to the parking lot where his partner and getaway car waited. What he did not know, and which I later learned, was that when his partner saw me he drove off leaving the bad guy on his own.

I hopped out of my car to confront the bad guy. I forgot to put my car in park. So my car continued to roll down the street. So excuse me bad guy for a second while I hop back into my car and put it in park. Okay that is taken care of and now I can deal with you.

In the bad guy’s mind I was blocking his getaway. He had to go through me.

I was telling the bad guy what I wanted him to do, but he just ignored me. He was walking straight toward me. When he got close enough I reached out and grabbed him. The fight was then on.

Now this man was taller and heavier than me. But that is not unusual. Hell many people are born taller than I am.

When I grabbed him he punched me in my right eye. Thankfully that was before I wore glasses. You do see a big bright light when you get punched in the eye.

The fight I imagine did not last that long. To me it was a long time. We punched and kicked each other. I was having a hard time keeping control of him. What the hell am I saying? I never had control of him. I was just trying to stop him the best I could.

During this fight I knew that one of us was going to get hurt.

I do not know where it came from, but I heard a voice inside my head and this voice spoke to me.

“Kevin! You are going to get shot, but you will not die! Do not give up! Do not let this man get away!”

The fight continued. Then I heard the voice a second time.

“Kevin! You are going to get shot, but you will not die! Do not give up! Do not let this man get away!”

The bad guy started to pull away. I could no longer hold on. Then came the shots.

I do not know what was going through Christy’s mind when the supervisor showed up at our front door. He was there to take her to where I had been taken. He was/is a very good friend of mine. We are neighbors. He lives across the street. I think that made it easier for Christy to be with someone she knew. Thankfully we had family in town visiting who could stay with the kids.

I do not know what Mitch told her. I do not know what they talked about. After all these years we have never talked about that. Maybe one day we will.

In my line of work you live with the knowledge that bad things can happen at any time. It is not something that you constantly talk about with your spouse. We both knew the danger.

When Christy walked into the room she saw that I was okay. We hugged and kissed.

I survived that night. The bad guy died. I am not proud of that. I wish that it never happened. I wish that I could have controlled that situation better.

That confrontation had a beginning and an end. I survived.

I have had three cancer surgeries. I survived.

I have been through radiation. I survived.

I have had poisons injected into my body. I survived.

I have taken pills daily that make me sick. I survived.

But until I am told that my advanced/incurable/terminal cancer is cured then and only then will I consider myself to be a cancer survivor.

Until that happens I am just a man. A man who happens to have cancer, and like most men I am trying to get through each and every day the best I can.

Many mornings as I am putting on my suit or sport coat and tie that voice at times can be heard once again inside my head. This is what he says:

“Kevin you have cancer. But Brutus is not going to take you today. Do not give up.”

With that thought in my mind I straighten my tie and I smile at the man in the mirror. Winston tells me that I am looking sharp and then out the door I go ready to enjoy the day and live my life. Then I ask myself if Christy is happy. Because if she is not happy well you know how that goes.

Winston also told me that my ass looked good in my jeans so I guess you will not be the first to tell me after all. Thanks Winston.

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Recently I was again tested to see what Brutus was doing. If you remember last time I was tested that my doctor, U3, was concerned because Brutus was growing so fast.

I got the results on October 15th. They were not good. Brutus continues to grow at a high velocity. I was concerned what the doctor might say when I saw him the next day. I suspected he was going to tell me that it was time to go back on treatments. Damn!

I saw U3 on October 16th. We had a very informative visit. I informed him on what was going to happen.

I am not going to go into the details today on what happened during our visit. I will soon write an essay about what has been going on and what the next steps are.

The doctor did tell me that it was his advice that I go back on treatments. NOW!

I told the doctor NO. I told him that for now I was not going back on the poisons.   I gave him my reasons and he told me that he understood.

I did not lose that November night and I do not plan on losing to Brutus. As I have said before…how you live your life is how you beat cancer.

In a few days I will be on my way to Kentucky to see my Tigers pound the wildcats in a football game. I hope the Tigers left the team they took to Nashville in Nashville or else I am going to be pissed.

Win or lose it really is not the game itself that is taking me to Lexington. It is the chance to spend time with friends. I want to enjoy my life while I am still feeling good. My doctor gets that.

When I picked up our race packets before the October 6th 5k race in Kansas City I noticed that the forms they had there for me to fill out had a better description on how I see myself. The box I checked had patient/survivor. I think that is more accurate. I feel that there are many people that feel like I feel. They gave me a shirt to indicate that I was a patient/survivor.

After crossing the finish line at that race I was greeted by a woman who congratulated me on running the race. She then congratulated me on being a cancer survivor. It was the shirt. I said thank you.

As I continue down the road with Brutus I do not believe that calling me a cancer survivor is correct. But like I told the lady at my doctor’s office I hope to one day be one. What will be, will be.

No matter what happens I will just have to continue winning each day.

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I have been running basically the same course in my neighborhood for 28 years. I run in the grass because running on hard surfaces causes my Achilles tendinitis to flare up. I know where all the holes are. Occasionally I find a new one.

I run through a church lawn and one day I saw they had a sign in my path. I figured it probably said: Kevin, keep off the grass. It did not.

It said: Don’t Give Up.

Now when I run through the church lawn I reach down and I will touch that sign. I then say to the voice inside my head:

“I Will Not Give Up.”

Kevin

Cancer Patient

Home

Camden, your Nana (Gaga) and I are home now from our fourteen day adventure. We took a plane to Vancouver, Canada and spent a day running around there. Okay walking.

Have tiger backpack. Will travel.

Then we spent seven days on a boat. Now this boat was a little smaller than I have been on in the past, but Camden it was also a little bigger than Uncle Barry’s boat at the lake. Just a little bigger. One day I hope that you go on an adventure to Alaska and if decide on taking a cruise I recommend taking along some Dramamine. Just in case.

While on the boat we visited Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier, and Seward. They kicked us off the boat in Seward so we took a bus to Anchorage. The ride to Anchorage was beautiful so resist the temptation to nap.

Spent the night in Anchorage, and I recommend the Glacier Brewhouse on 5th Street. Good food and decent beer. I am telling you that so you can give your folks a heads up. It will probably be about five years or so until you taste a beer. Yes maybe you and I will open a vintage bottle of Bud Light to celebrate your eight birthday. Maybe?

No, I did not have a Bud Light at the Glacier Brewhouse. I did not see it on the menu. I had some sort of fruity beer, but not an IPA. I try to stay away from bitter beer face. When you get there tell them that Papa sent you. They will not give a shit, but tell them anyway.

The end of another great day.

Aunt Connie and Uncle Brad decided to end their trip in Anchorage and resume their lives in the lower 48. We decided to stay in Alaska a little while longer. They will be missed. Okay they were missed for about five seconds. I had visions of Denali National Park dancing in my head. Just kidding, I do wish that had made the trip to Denali. Brad and I could have been Denali National Park Spades Champions. Yes!!

We took a train early the next morning to get to the park. We were in Denali about four days.

Now for most of the trip I have worn sunglasses every day. The sun has been shinning, except at Hubbard Glacier.

But noooo, not in Denali, never even took my sunglasses out of the case. Good thing I had my emergency rain coat. It rained most of the time we were there. When it was not raining it was very cloudy.

Had a great time in the park, but unfortunately it was too cloudy to see the top of Mt. Denali while in the park. The mountain is so tall that it creates its own weather. They say that only about 30 percent of the visitors to Denali are able to see the top of the mountain, it is the highest peak in North America.

So while in Denali we took a bus tour through the park. The park road is about 95 miles long, but visitors are only allowed to drive the first 15 or 19 miles. I cannot remember which one. So we booked a 13 hour guided bus trip with Kantishna Wilderness Trail Tours.   They took us the entire 95 miles into the park and thankfully the 95 miles back.

During the trip we saw moose, caribou, sheep, a fox, ground squirrels, and of course…bears. Oh my.

So that means that on this trip I have seen humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, Dall porpoises, several different kinds of salmon, bald eagles, moose, caribou, mountain goats, a fox, ground squirrels, and bears. Of course I have also seen several different types of birds as well, but sorry little bird if you were not a bald eagle I did not pay attention. I think I did see a partridge in a pear tree. Maybe?

Oh I almost forgot to mention we saw dogs, a lot of dogs. In Skagway we went to a dog sled and mushers camp where they train dogs for the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race. We were pulled on a sled with wheels and of course we got to hold the puppies. They were so cute.

Camden we were not far from the North Pole. Did not see Santa, but we saw several of his reindeer. Rudolf might have been able to help us, but his nose was just not bright enough in the mist and fog. We could not see him.

The day after the wilderness tour we hooked up with Denali Raft Adventures and floated the Nenana River for 11 miles. I was not sure about the company at first. It appears they frown upon taking anything extra with you in the rafts. I was thinking just what kind of float trip was this going to be without a cooler.

Then I learned that this was a whitewater rafting trip and we would be going through eight rapids in which several were class III and IV. Okay, okay, no cooler. (I did not book this adventure: Christy did. I would have asked about a cooler.)

The Nenana is a glacier fed river and the water is about 34 degrees. It was a fun little ride even without a cooler. The river was up due to all the rain which made it even more interesting. They had me put on a wet suit, but even with a wet suit you will get wet and yes it is cold. If you are sitting at the front of the raft you are going to get really wet.

I recommend Denali Raft Adventures. Good job Christy. Remember no coolers. Bring an extra pair of dry wool socks for the trip back to your hotel. You could really use more than one pair. Experience talking here.

Camden I am looking forward to taking you on a float trip. We will have a cooler floating the Current River. I bring that up because our bus driver grew up in Salem, Missouri. Which made me think of past float trips on the Current.

Our driver has been in Alaska for five years. He is one of the few people who I have met who stay here year round. He told me that Denali has one stop light. (Sounds like Wellsville. Wellsville is not as pretty.) In late September when all of the tourist leave the area they turn off the stop light and the gas station closes.

Camden do you know what the locals call a traffic jam? That is when someone slows down for a stop sign. Wear your seatbelt.

Denali was fun, but we had to take that train back to Anchorage. Looking on the bright side the train ride meant that I was going to have a brownie covered with ice cream and hot chocolate syrup for desert for both lunch and dinner. I thought of you while enjoying my desert. I gained a few pounds on this trip.

I satisfied my sweet tooth in other ways as well. In Skagway you will find the Alaskan Fudge Company. You will also find them in other Alaskan cities I learned. In the Skagway store I met a young woman named Megan who sold me a few boxes of truffles. You know the chocolate peanut butter truffles, the cookies and cream truffles, and straight up no chaser chocolate truffle. They were amazing.

I paid with a credit card, but if you use cash you will get U.S. dollars and coins back. This is not Canada. Megan noticed who issued my card and asked where I lived. I told her Wichita, Kansas. She said that she was also from Wichita. Actually I learned that she was from Kingman just down the road from Wichita, but close enough. It is a small world, but I would still hate to paint it.

Now Camden you know that I have a problem with eating too much of anything chocolate. I also have another problem that I need to warn you about.

I want to take a minute to warn you about one thing you see quite often in the cities of Alaska. I might not be with you so you need to prepare yourself for this. I am talking: THE GIFT STORE! You cannot go anywhere without running into a GIFT STORE.

Camden I have a problem. I am a sucker for gift stores. Gaga and your mom try to keep me away from gift stores. But if I see one, they know better than to try to keep me out. I cannot be stopped. This trip was no different.

I bought refrigerator magnets, beer mugs, Christmas ornaments, hats, t-shirts, a calendar, books for you and Adalie, shirts for you and Adalie. Maybe Gaga picked out the books and shirts. I approved. Also purchased were wool socks that I wore on the float trip. The socks have cute mooses/messes/moose (take your pick) on them. I do not even know how many postcards I bought.

Do you think I went overboard? I didn’t think so either. I am going to need a bigger fridge.

My addiction at times can cause problems at airports when they weigh my bags. My carry on backpack was very heavy coming home.

Gift stores can be expensive. I know of my problem and planned for it. Financially I had it worked out. I am driving on many of my adventures and I always take cash that I call my bond money. You know that I have been known to drive a little fast. It does not help when you are in the backseat yelling “Faster Papa Faster!” When I am out and about in other states I carry extra cash in case I have to post bond. Not driving this trip so my bond money is being used to pay the gift store tax. Camden when traveling always take bond money. Or you could slow down. No, have the money.

The day after the float trip we take the train back to Anchorage and spend the night. I will talk about my last night in Alaska on the next and I think probably my last Alaskan Adventure Facebook post.

Camden many people who read my blog are subscribers and do not know about my Facebook page. I bring it up today because I have posted several pictures of my adventure there if they would like to take a look. Just use the password “Kevin is the greatest.” Just kidding, it is a public page. No password yet.

This was a great trip Camden that I enjoyed immensely. You will too. I recommend that you take an adventure there. Whether you take a plane, train, automobile, boat or combination of, just get there. You will not be sorry.

I am now planning my next adventure.

Camden, I find being home has its benefits. I have Bud Light in the    fridge. I imagine that when I get to your house on Tuesday I will also find Bud Light in your fridge. I might also find some chocolate ice cream. If not, do not worry. Road Trip.

Camden it is now time for me to go downstairs and pour a beer into my recently purchased frosty Alaskan Brewing Company glass which I bought at their Gift Store during my brewery tour.

I was just walking the streets of Juneau when I discovered the brewery tour opportunity. I went and would recommend the tour. It was fun and refreshing. Watch out for their gift store. Especially after sampling a few beers. You have been warned.

Papa

What Will Be Will Be

Que Sera, Sera…What Will Be Will Be…The Future’s Not Ours To See…Que Sera, Sera.

I wonder if my kids will ever figure out where that came from.

After returning home from our lake vacation it was once again time for me to visit with my medical team.

Every three months I am tested to see what Brutus is doing. From the test we can tell if Brutus is feeling well and growing. We can tell how fast Brutus is growing. With months and months of data you can see where things look like they are going and do something if needed.

There was a time when Brutus was doing very well. He was growing and the numbers were going up fast. When the smoke cleared after my medical team had mutilated, shot him with radiation, and poisoned him for months and months he said “fuck this!” and started shrinking. He cusses a lot. I do hear him.

The poisons were doing their job and Brutus felt like shit, and I felt like shit. That is how it works.

Then it was my turn to say “FUCK THIS!” The treatments were stopped.

So what does wholesome Doris Day have to do with an essay where the “F” word keeps getting used? Well, let me tell you.

At some point in time you have to let your worries and fears go.

Fear, another “F” word, and one I find more offensive than the one I used above.

You cannot let Brutus get to you. There are some things you can control and others you cannot. You control how you react, and how you live in spite of what happens. Then one day the words Doris sang were in my head: Que sera, sera.

You truly learn to accept What Will Be Will Be. Then you learn to live.

Being told that you have an incurable cancer I am sure can be a terrifying experience. With me it did not sink in at first. They were just words from a doctor. I was in denial. Then you go through the process, and you realize that these fuckers are serious. Then I was terrified.

It is that unknown, that future that we cannot see that can be very exciting or terrifying or even both to a cancer patient. Hell too many people I guess.

You feel great and you think things are going very well. Then you learn they are not.

Since going off the poisons I feel so much better. It has taken time to get to where I am now. The treatments create such a hormonal imbalance that it takes months to recover. My testosterone levels are not where they once were, but I am getting there. No more Fucking Hot Flashes!! My fight with menopause has been temporarily suspended. You poor ladies, I did feel your pain, or at least your heat. Christy and I no longer fight over the fan.

I have been able to go on longer walks. Hope to be running again soon. I have a race I want to run in a few months. We will see how that goes. I just hope I do not get passed by too many ladies pushing those fancy running baby strollers. Well maybe I will not mind. The view is not too bad. You know someone has to be last. I can always play the card.

I have been able to work out and I am getting stronger. I still get fatigued at times, but nothing like it was.

Hell I can even mow my own yard without having to stop. That was not happening last year. I am better.

Discomfort at times is still an issue. You deal with it and move on.

I am feeling better. I am getting better. What that also means is that Brutus is also feeling and getting better. Damn!

A short time off the treatments and he started growing again. He continues to grow. We are both feeling good.

I spoke with U3 on Tuesday the 16th. We had a very good conversation, but he had to go and spoil the bromance to give me what he thought was not so good news.

Of course we talked about me (one of my favorite subjects) and how I was feeling. We talked about my upcoming adventure to Alaska. He told me that was on his bucket list. He said someday. I told him not to wait.

We spoke about my fear of bears. I do not like bears. You know I do like Yogi, Boo-Boo, and of course Gentle Ben. I am not so sure I want to get too close to a bear in Alaska.

The question often asked is does a bear shit in the woods. I am going to say yes I think he does. I am also going to say that Kevin will also shit in the woods if he walks up on a bear. The good doctor told me not to get to close. Thanks Doc.

When we were finished laughing and our date was about over he decided to spring his most current thoughts on the Kevin cancer situation.

“I have concerns. Your cancer is growing too fast.”

Now this was not news to me. I see the numbers. I know what is going on, but I sure as hell was not going to bring it up. I like how things have been going. I figured that when it got important one of the doctors would say something. Well I guess he just did. Damn.

My goal this year was to be able to go to Alaska in July and my class reunion in September and not be on any poison. I did not want to be sick on these trips. I do not want people to see me sick.

The good doctor had my undivided attention. When your cancer doctor tells you that your fucking cancer is growing too fast well he just became Dr. EF Hutton and you listen. Okay you youngins will not get that reference, Google it.

“If it does not slow down soon, then we are going to have to do something.”

Wait a minute it sounds to me like he is not going to try to get me to agree to do something right now. That was a good thing, because it was not going to happen.

We had this conversation on July 16th. My Alaska trip was coming up very soon when we had this talk. I’ll be damned if I was going to go on anything or do anything to make me sick. I am getting on a plane on July 25th. Whatever he is planning on doing will have to wait.

July 25th, that is tomorrow! I need to pack! Damn.

I sat there looking at him. I did not say anything. I wanted him to continue. I wanted to hear his recommendation.

I had to fight the urge to quote “Brother Stork” and say to the good doctor, “Well what the hell are we supposed to do you moron?”

Maybe I would have left the moron part out. Maybe?

(Okay I will explain that Brother Stork is a character in the movie Animal House. Animal House by the way is one of my favorite movies. You guys need to be writing this shit down if you plan on having a chance of winning Dead Man Trivia.)

The doctor talked about radiation. This is a strategy I knew was a possible option. I do not stay up until 3 AM reading articles, research reports, and clinical trials for nothing.

As he talked I learned that this is an option that might allow me to stay off of the poisons a little longer.

He talked about having a specialized scan that would more precisely identify my lesion/tumor hot spots sooner that other scans. If they can be located early and there are not too many of them they could be radiated. The radiation would hopefully kill or shrink the tumors. This would help with pain management as well as give me more time. It would not cure me. Damn!

One problem we might run into with this strategy could be getting the insurance company on board. He explained that the needed scan is not covered by many insurance companies. He did not know if my insurance would cover the scan.

That is a very good question. We have run into this problem before. After my surgery they wanted to radiate me, but they wanted a special scan done to better find the cancer. At that time they were hoping the radiation might cure me. For that to happen they had to know where it was.

The insurance company declined to pay for the scan. The window of opportunity for the scan would soon close.

I went ahead and had the scan. We hoped to appeal the insurance company’s decision to deny the coverage of the scan. It is like asking for a second opinion. Who do you talk to for this second opinion? Well someone else in the insurance company. Hahaha. Really that shit is not funny. The system is rigged.

My radiation oncologist wrote a letter to the insurance company. She spoke over the phone a few times with the insurance company doctors who could reverse the decision not to cover the scan. She explained why the scan was needed and how it would help me. She got mad and hung up on them once. After all the talk the decision was not reversed.

I could write an entire essay on that situation. Maybe someday I will.

I imagine we might have the same problem again. The scan is expensive and this time the radiation does not offer the chance of a cure. If the scan is not approved I will not have it done. That will mean going back on the poisons. Damn.

In the past receiving this information might have worried me, but not today. You learn to go with the flow. Tomorrow might offer a different opportunity. Tomorrow might bring a different procedure or a new poison. Whether Brutus slows down or not is out of my control.

So tomorrow I start my Alaska Adventure. It will be a great time. Living now is my priority.

When I get back if that Little Bitch Brutus is still serving lemons then I will have one big ass glass of lemonade. As I sip on that beverage I will think of this trip and appreciate the life that I live.

Que Sera, Sera, What Will Be Will Be…..

Kevin