Homecoming

Game Day

Hey Camden, Papa here.  Just wanted to take a minute to visit with you this chilly Sunday morning October 18th, 2020.  Yes, it is still 2020.  I Will be glad when this year is over.  

Now I am supposed to be outside winterizing the yard and taking care of some of Gaga’s flowers.  I was given specific instructions.  The problem is that I had an idea pop into my mind, so I had to decide whether to write this little piece or work in the yard.  So here I sit typing away drinking my coffee.  Those flowers can wait.  I have a few hours before Gaga gets home.  She is at the hospital this morning helping to save lives.

What was that you asked Camden?  My idea.  Oh yes thanks for keeping me on track.  Sometimes I forget what I am doing.

Well yesterday was supposed to be Homecoming at the only school that matters.  I know that we were supposed to be there together, but not this year.  They were not even able to play the game.  It was cancelled and moved to another day.  It was a COVID thing.

Next year Camden I hope that you can make that Homecoming trip with me.  I look forward to taking you there and meeting my friends.  Both of them.

Since I live in another state, I have tried to make it to as many Homecoming games as possible.  Now I have not been to as many games as my friend Kevin Monahan.  How many in a row was it Kevin, 40 plus?  Kevin has been my ticket connection for many a Homecoming.

Camden did you know that Homecoming was a tradition that was started at Mizzou?  Now you do.  

We were the first and for you nonbelievers out there Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy both agree that Mizzou started Homecoming.  Suck it Baylor.

Alex I will take Homecoming for $5,000,000 please.  I know the answer.

Camden I was thinking about past Homecomings.  That is what old people do.  They often think of the past.

Beautiful day in Tiger land.  Fans at Game Day.

I remember so many games where your mom and Aunt Amy were wearing their Mizzou cheerleading outfits.  I do have pictures, but I will not embarrass them today.

My KU girls.  I am sure they are Tiger fans.  They just don’t want to admit it.

I have a specific Homecoming game that jumps into my mind.  That Homecoming game was played on October 23rd, 2010.  The day our Tigers played at the time the number one team in the country.  The Sooners.

ESPN was there on the quad with their show in front of the columns.  Had to keep them off most of the beautiful quad grass.  The rest of the quad belonged to the fans.  It was an exciting day.

I do not think we were picked to win that game.  But win we did.

Tigers 36…Sooners 27. Sorry it is out of focus.  The stadium was rocking.

The field was stormed by the fans.  I believe that your Uncle Justin was one of them.  I do not remember if they were able to get a goalpost down or not.  I do not think so.  The campus police do not take too kindly to having the goal taken down. (Camden I just heard from Megan. The goal post did come down. Excellent!!)

Justin is down there somewhere

One of the goals was taken down after a game my senior year of college.  

On November 14th, 1981 we also beat a highly ranked Oklahoma team that day.  The goalpost was taken down and carried to Harpos.  I think.  I may not have the story completely correct.  I am sure someone can help me here.

The goal post was cut up and I believe my friends Ron Hall and Steve Rasche have a piece or two of that post.  Not Homecoming, but another good memory.

Many Homecoming memories. The 2010 game has many special memories.  Camden your mamma was with us that day.  I believe that was the last Mizzou Homecoming game she has seen.  She was a senior at KU at the time.  We talked her into joining us.  Her cousins and Uncle Brad and Aunt Connie were with us, so I know she had a good time.  At least that is how I remember it.  Maybe next year I can talk her into joining us.  I would like that.

Erin at  the parade wearing her black.  Told you she was a Tiger.

Well Camden there you have it.  A few memories that just wanted to bust out of my brain.

I need to get outside now and take care of the flowers before Gaga gets home.  Or you might have to show up here to save my life.

Later Camden,
Papa

P.S. For you Tiger fans out there if you have a picture or two or a memory you would like to share put it here.  Camden and I would love to see your pictures and hear your stories.

Boys Are Born…Men Are Made

When I first started writing this essay my idea was to make it a Coffee with Kev segment.  Coffee with Kev are essays that I have not shared on Facebook.  They go straight to the blog.  I have only written a few, but I expect in the future to have many more.

Halfway through the rough draft I decide “No” this would not be a Coffee with Kev segment.  I want you to know more about the “little man.”  So here we go.

Camden today is September 20th, 2020, and I went on a run today.  Okay, it was more of a walk/run.  Okay, okay, it was more of a walk, walk, walk, short-run, walk, etc.  Hey, it is a start.  I cannot remember the last time I was able to get outside in my running shoes.  Sometime last fall.  

It has been two months since my back surgery.  A month since my last surgery.  I was told that I could start exercising, but not to overdo it.  My physical therapist told me that I should consider choosing another excise and give up running.  My surgeons P.A. told me that I could run again, but maybe I should wait a little while.  So, I waited a few more days before putting on the running shoes.  I always follow the medical professionals’ advice.

I wanted to run for a couple of reasons.  For one I have always run, but I have not always enjoyed running.  I have been in many races or just out running when I have wondered, “Kevin, WTF are you doing here?”

When it is over, I always take pride in that I was able to complete what I started.

In high school one year our cross-country coach gave me a silver bucket at the awards banquet.  He gave me that bucket because I gave each race my all including my lunch.

Over the last 29 years, when able, I have run the same course around my neighborhood.  I run in the grass, so I have learned where all the holes are.  I did find two new ones today.  Damn!  

I run without a phone or music or anything else that might distract me.  This is a time to think.  I have written many things in my head while running.  I thought of this essay today.

I will borrow a phrase my friend and great runner Tracey Repp likes to say, and I will paraphrase:  We no longer race to compete.  We race to complete.

I will admit that one big reason I wanted to get out there in my running shoes was because I am still competing against one foe.  That foe is cancer.

I need to prove to myself that cancer will not defeat me.  It is a way I show and tell myself that cancer does not define me.  That will only happen if I let it.  So, when the medical people tell me that maybe I should think of something else to do for exercise besides running they just do not understand.

Camden, you come from a long line of fighters.  In another essay I told you about your great grandmother.  How when she was seven, she walked into the kitchen and collapsed onto the floor.  Polio had attacked her body.  She has never walked since.

She did not give up.   She fought polio, and polio has never defeated her.  She has overcome so many obstacles.  She persevered.

Camden, you might be asking yourself where did Papa learn such big words?  Well Camden I do know a few.  I am just not sure I always use them properly.  That is the conundrum.  Read books, Camden.  Read everything.  You will learn so much.  Maybe even a few words.

Camden I am taking this time to tell you what motivates me.  I am telling you a little about your great grandmother’s story.  I am bringing these thoughts up because of your story.  

What most people do not know who are reading this is that you were recently diagnosed with autism.  We had suspected for some time that might be the case.  

We were told that you are high functioning, and that was good.  I do not yet understand how your future will look, but I know this.  This diagnosis will not defeat you.  You will not be defined by autism.  Unless you let it.

I know that with the Heger/Brown clan in your corner that will not happen.  What you need you will have.  The resources out there that can help you will be used.

Your parents are great advocates for you.  I worry at times that your mom worries too much and feels overwhelmed.  That is when the Heger/Brown clan can be used to take the baton and run as far as needed.  We are a supplement.

Everyone has their own mountains to climb in lfe.  Your path might be different than others.  That does not make it wrong.  Simply different.

I will immerse myself in the vernacular of autism.  (More big words) I will learn everything I can.  We will all do that to help you grow and become a man.  But for now, you just work on being the best little boy, big brother, and grandson I know.  No need to rush things.

Remember Camden that autism will not defeat you nor will it define you.  I plan on being around to see and help you reach your goals.  But in case I am not, just remember:

Boys Are Born…Men Are Made.

Don’t let that statement make you think that one day you will automatically become a man and at that point you are done growing.  Maybe physically.  But not mentally and emotionally.

Being the best you can be is a never-ending process of correction and growth.  People are not finished products.  We are constantly evolving.  So, I guess what is more accurate to say is this:

Boys Are Born…Men Are Made and Constantly Being Re-Made.  That I think is good.

The mountain of autism will be climbed and conquered.  During your journey, we will all become better.  We will all learn.  We will all grow.  I will become a better person, and you, my little man, will be my teacher.  

Love,
Papa

The Calendar

I am sitting in the kitchen this Friday morning, June 26th, drinking my morning coffee.  Got back yesterday from spending a few days in KC with the kids and grandkids.  I am still in vacation mode.  I only know what day it is because of the kitchen calendar.  Yes, the calendar.

I find myself looking, no staring often at the calendar.  It was purchased last year while in Alaska.  It has many beautiful pictures.  For the month of June, you see a wonderful picture of a Humpback whale jumping out of the water.  That picture makes me smile.  It takes me back to our adventure and seeing with our own eyes many beautiful places and things.  Including whales jumping out of the water.  The beauty of this world.

When I look at the calendar, I also see quite a bit of writing.  Like most people our lives are somewhat controlled by what is written on the calendar.  Some things are written in pencil, and others in ink.  What is on my calendar tells me where I will be going and doing.  What is on my refrigerator tells me where I have been and what I’ve done.

As I sit here drinking my coffee looking at that whale on the calendar, I can also see the writing on the calendar.  Now I cannot read it from where I sit.  Damn bifocals.  But I know what is on the calendar.

Most of what is on my calendar these days are medical appointments.  A few are for Christy.  Most are mine.   My months are full of medical appointments, and June has been a busy month.  July and August will be repeats of June.  Probably busier.  A few of those appointments are already on the calendar.  

I have two surgeries on the calendar in July and most likely a third surgery in August.  One is a back surgery the others are cancer related.   A couple of those Humpty Dumpty surgeries.  I am going to be home a while.  I guess if I cannot travel, they might as well do some cutting.  I hear that parts are parts, but I wish they could use original manufacturer parts.  I do not want to do anything to ruin the warranty on this great body of mine.  Back in the day.  Many calendars ago.

A guy called and told me that his records showed that the warranty on my car was expired.  I told him it was not my car I was worried about, but I could sure use a warranty on my body.  I explained that I was a classic 1959 model.  Had all the extras you know.  I just needed a little tune up to get that varoom back.  He hung up on me.  That is okay, because right now I have no room on my calendar for any other appointments.

The calendar does more than organize my days, weeks, and months.  Birthdays, anniversaries and other important dates are found on the calendar.  It reminds me to ask Christy if she sent my mother a birthday card.  I do not know what I would do if I were not married.  Probably miss a few birthdays. Also starve.  

What is not marked on the calendar is that I am now starting year six with Brutus.  It is this time of year where I try to reassess my situation.  Where I am at.  A review of my disease.  Right now, things are not going my way.  Improvement will be coming.  I think.  Here is a refresher along with some new information.

You know the story.  When I was first diagnosed my medical team thought that things would be fine.  We later learned that things were not as good as originally thought.  About a year and a half after my diagnosis I had surgery.  A few months later I was told that I could not be fixed.  That my disease had spread and that I was not curable.

After my advanced disease diagnosis, I wanted to know my prognosis.  My medical team did not like talking about my prognosis.  I often heard that my life expectancy would depend on how well I responded to treatment.

I did not like that answer.  That was the play it safe answer.  They had a good idea of my timeline.  I wanted no bullshit.  How was I going to plan for things if I did not know?

This is what I learned.

My prognosis has two numbers.  The numbers were low and just a little higher.  Damn!    

Six to nine years.  My second urologist said that he had a few patients like me who had survived ten years.  He said nothing about any of his patients like me surviving longer.  Damn!

At that time, the prognosis did not mean that much to me.  Nine years, well that is a long time.  That would give them plenty of time to find something that would fix me.  Well that has not happened.  So, I am now thinking that nine years is not long enough. 

My timeline has not changed.  I was hoping that everything we have done would expand my timeline out beyond those nine years.  That does not appear to be what has happened.  Hopefully, the treatments, surgeries, and poisons have pushed me closer to the nine.  I do realize that if we had not done anything that I would most likely not be here today.  My medical team has given me time.  I have seen more days, weeks, months, and years.  I have used a few calendars.

Now I just said that my timeline has not changed, but in a way it has.  My timeline is now one to four years.  I think I would rather say that my prognosis is twelve to forty-eight.  Now that sounds better to me.  

Things are getting serious.  Well I guess they always were, but I could put my disease in the background.  Brutus now has more of my attention. 

As I explained in a past essay that at this stage of my disease it is the doubling time that is the best indicator of life expectancy.  My doubling time has not improved and remains just under four months.  If the doubling time does not improve, well that tells me that I will most likely not maximize my timeline.  

The life expectancy of a man with my doubling time is around six years.  I hope that my 1959 body can find the varoom to prove them wrong.  But I would be lying if I told you that I was not concerned. 

I think of a comment made by my current urologist when we first met.  He could tell that I was feeling good.  He let me know that my disease could blow up at any time so I should enjoy these good times while I could.  He told me that they would not last. 

What I have just shared with you not many people besides Christy and the kids know.   I have tried to stay away from this conversation.  Thankfully not many people have asked.  Usually when someone has asked, I have told them, “Who knows?”  

I have debated with myself if I would ever share this information while living.  Or if it would show up in one of the A.D. essays.  

I feel that sometimes I pull back and do not share my feelings the way I had first intended when I started this blog. I worry about upsetting people.  I do not want to make you feel bad.

Just remember what I say here stays here.  We will not talk about it in person.  It is much easier to say these things to the internet.  Not knowing who reads these essays makes it easier.

I hope that my ramblings will make some sense.  Putting my thoughts and feelings on paper always helps.  

I have always realized that Brutus would have his day.  It is tough knowing that day is getting closer.

What the calendar is reminding me is that we are getting deeper and deeper into my timeline.  I can no longer tell myself that I have plenty of time.  

The battle of living I am winning and will continue to win.  The battle of life.  Well, that is a different story.   Brutus continues to grow at a fast rate.  My medical team is concerned.  I am worried.  I am scared.  I must believe that things will get better.

I look at it this way and as I have said before I will beat Brutus by living to the fullest.   Enjoying each moment that I have.  I know that one day this will all be over.  But Brutus will not have won.  He will not have won because I am not playing his game.  In my mind living and life are two separate things.  I must think that way or my theory does not work.  I ask what good is life if you cannot live?

As a side note a few people like to point out that I might get hit by a bus before Brutus has his day.  Why so many people use the bus analogy I am not sure.  I do not think that many people die from getting hit by buses.  I have seen men taken out by jealous husbands and boyfriends.  I think that happens more often than getting hit by a bus.  I think that it will be a jealous husband who gets me long before a bus.   Just kidding…maybe.  

Christy is not worried.  She asks me what woman would want a 60-year-old man with cancer.  She has a point there.  She is a smart lady.  She married me.  Well I guess everyone is allowed one fuck up in their life. 

Hope you laughed.  I needed a break.  Now back to the not so funny.

I think at times I get a little depressed.  Christy says that I am more than a little depressed.  I try to hide it.

I am not sure if I am now more depressed because of my timeline.  I find that to be just a little depressing.  

Am I more depressed because the coronavirus has cancelled many of my travel plans and I realize that I do not have extra years to do the things I wanted?  That too is a little depressing.  But I would give up my travel plans if the virus would stop killing people.  Damn virus!  Damn Brutus!

I hope to be able to again travel with Camden.  He loves trains.  We build tracks and play trains all the time.  He loves watching trains.

I talked to him about one day getting on the train in KC and going to St. Louis.  Making a few stops in between.  In St. Louis we would of course see a Cards game.  I have talked to him about that trip.  He got extremely excited and gave me a big hug.

I want to make that train trip.  I want to make that trip more than going to New York, New Orleans, Spring Training, fishing off the coast of Alabama, or going anywhere else.  I want to be with the little man.  I want that trip on the calendar. 

When I feel comfortable traveling again, I will hit the road.  The dates will be written on the calendar.

I have finished my third cup of coffee this morning.  So now I feel that I need to go write down some of these ideas before they disappear.

Before getting up from the table I want to take a few more moments to again look at that whale on my calendar.  I see a strong beautiful animal having fun enjoying living.  Not worried about the obstacles of life but enjoying the moment.  We should all do the same.

In a few days I will flip the page of the calendar to July.  I will have the surgeries and make all the doctor appointments.  The calendar is incredibly good in helping me keep track of where I need to be and when.  The calendar does more than that.  It motivates me.  It gives me an urgency that I might not otherwise have.

I do not know what the future holds.  I do not know what the next twelve, thirty, or forty-eight months will bring.  Good things, I hope.  I am prepared to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.  Hopefully, we can share a glass.  I would like to put that on my calendar.

After reading this do me a favor.  Look at your calendar.  What do you see?  Cross some of that shit out and add some play dates.  Live with some urgency.  Be that whale.  Jump out of the water and shine.

Oh, and if you are in the kitchen looking at the calendar treat yourself to a bowl of chocolate ice cream.  Enjoy!

Kevin 

Coffee With Kev — Call Your Mom

Camden, today on “Coffee with Kev” I would like to talk to you about calling your mom.  I will wait a minute for you to pour yourself a cup.  Ready?   Here we go.

I know that you are a little young to comprehend what I am trying to say here today.  One day you will get it.  So, let me explain.

Just like you I have a mom.  Yes, I do.  You know her as Grandma Oneta.  She is your great grandmother.  She is my mom.

I spoke to Grandma Oneta recently over the phone.  We talk every few weeks.  Not often enough according to her.  She is probably right.

We talk about all kinds of things.  We talk about my garden.  We talk about you and your family.  We always talk about the Cardinals.  We also talk about our health.  Yes, as you get older it appears that you spend time talking about your aches and pains.  

Grandma Oneta will be 80 years old soon.  People think that she must be older because I am getting close to 61.  She was a young mother.  She was almost 19 when I was born.  Remember Camden that the first child can be born at any time.  The second one takes nine months.  Wink…wink.

When my parents were married was kept a secret for many years.  They did not want me to figure out that I was sort of present at the wedding. 

Your Great Uncle Keith figured it out.  He told me.  I was too busy playing ball and getting into mischief.  He did the math.

I was a little bit of a surprise because my mom had been told by her doctors when she was younger that she would be unable to have children due to her polio.  

Polio.  Thank God that polio is not a word that you here very often these days.  Unfortunately, I understand that it is still common in other countries.

Today we are going through the Covid-19 virus pandemic.  When my mom was growing up, they did not have this coronavirus, but they had polio.

Polio is a contagious virus that is also transmitted from person to person.  I hope that soon we have this new virus under control like science was able to develop a vaccine for polio.  The polio vaccine came many years too late for my mom.

The poliovirus attacks the nervous system causing paralysis.  It attacked mom’s spinal cord which left her unable to use her legs.  That is why she is in that wheelchair.  

When I was growing up, she did not have a wheelchair.  She wore braces on both of her legs and used crutches to get around.  She got her driver’s license after she was married.  She never let not being able to walk stop her.

Of course, I was always a little faster than mom, and I often used that to my advantage.  Sometimes I would say things or do things that I should not have done or said.  I know that is hard for you to believe, but it did happen. 

Why not?  She could not catch me.  I did learn that I should have done more social distancing around mom when I would say or do things.  She might not be able to catch me, but boy she could swing a mean crutch.  Ouch!  She was a switch hitter or amphibious as I often say, incorrectly.  I do have a scar on my right wrist as I tried to block one of those swings.  One of the screws on the crutch left a lasting mark.  Where was child protective services when I needed them. HAHAHA.  I still bring that up to her.

You have only seen her in that motorized wheelchair.  She went to the chair after several rotator cuff surgeries.  Years of using crutches had taken their toll.

She gets around well in that thing.  She goes forward, backwards, up and down.  I bet it even slices and dices.  I think that chair is the Linda Blair model going around and around.  Do not worry if you do not get that Camden, most people will not.  I laughed.

I think that chair might also be possessed.  Because on a phone call a few weeks ago she told me how that chair broke her leg.  Yup, the chair broke her leg.  

This is what happened.  She drove her chair into the bathroom and when she was transferring from the chair to the toilet her clothes got stuck on the chair control stick thingamajig.  She did not have that bad boy in park so when it got a little juice it drove forward and pushed her leg right into the edge of the vanity snapping her leg.  Double Ouch!!

Broken so bad that if she had normal use of her legs she would have needed surgery.  But in her case, they wrapped an air cast around her leg.  She is still in it.

I wanted to have this little talk with you Camden to tell you a little about my mom, and how remarkable she is.  I am going to share somethings with you now that your mother, Uncle Justin, nor Aunt Amy know.  They will know now.  That is what this is about.  To give you a little history of your family.  Stories that if I do not write them down, well they might never be told.  At least not from my perspective.  Wink…wink.

When my mom was seven years old, I am sure she was just like most seven-year-old kids.  Running and playing on the farm trying to keep up with her two older brothers.  Her younger brother was not yet born.

When she was seven, she started falling often.  No explanation except that she had fallen out of a swing at school and it was suspected that she might have hurt her back.  She saw a chiropractor many, many times.  That did not work.

One morning before going to school she walked into the kitchen and fell to the floor.  She could not get up.  She never walked again.

She was running a high fever and the doctors thought that she had the flu and she was sent home.

Much later at St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis the doctors told the family that mom had polio and that she would never walk again.

Mom does not remember much of her life before polio.  She remembers the surgeries she went through before having her braces and crutches.  Before getting her leg braces she had to be carried everywhere or she scooted on the floor.  

She attended a one-room schoolhouse out in the country near Vandalia for grades 1-6.  She remembers being treated like all the other kids.  Since she could not walk her friends at school would put her in a little red wagon and pull her around.  She did not get her braces until she was 11 years old.  She persisted.

These are things I want you to know.  

Now when mom and I talk on the phone we often talk about the past.  I ask questions about things that have happened.  She tries to remember.  

Yesterday we talked about an uncle who was a midget clown in the Barnum and Bailey Circus.  You wonder where I get my height.  Uncle Alvee.  Not sure of the spelling.  Anyway, that is a story for another time.

We talk about current topics and what is new in her life.  Sometimes I get upset and frustrated.  You see as you get older the child in some respect becomes the parent.  That role for me is hard being hundreds of miles away.  I am so thankful that she has many good friends who look out for her. 

We also talked yesterday about one of her friends that recently died.  The fear of death is a worry we both acknowledge.  She worries about losing me.  I worry about losing her.

The phone calls have increased over the past years.  On my trips back to the Homeland I always make sure I stop by her house.  That did not always happen.  Yes, I may have driven to St. Louis for a ballgame and not stopped.  That does not happen anymore.  A few times I have showed up she had no idea that I was in the area.  I am a little shit.  

During one of our phone calls she told me about your last visit to her house.  You sat in her lap and she gave you wheelchair rides.  Up and down her porch into the driveway.  Over and over you rode.   She enjoyed your visit.  I hope they continue.

Have you finished your coffee yet?  I have been doing all the talking.  I need to microwave mine.  One last thing I want to leave you with today.

I realize that it does not matter how old you and I will get.  We both have mothers and we will always be their little boys.  

One day you will grow up and have your own family.  With that comes new responsibilities and worries.  It can be easy to lose touch.  No matter how complicated life gets promise me that you will do this:

Call your Mom!

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