This blog is made up of thoughts for my children as I battle cancer. It is not meant to be all knowing or holier than thou. It is simply a place for those that have asked, to read about the lessons that I would like to share with my children, whether I am able to stay with them, or not.



As I contemplate what I have left in this life, my thoughts often turn to “What have I done with this gift so far?” The answer to that question is exactly as deep and complex as the question. I can choose to look at it from a very high level and say that I have made mistakes, but overall, feel pretty good about my efforts. That is fine for maintenance purposes, but as I begin this Introduction from a hospital bed afflicted with Stage IV Prostate Cancer at 40 years old, it is not sufficient. The prognosis for my disease lies somewhere between 6 months and 2 years.

The odd thing about life is its ever changing definitions and standards. When I was younger, I would characterize life as freedom to make my own decisions and choices, beholden to no one. When I married, my life felt like it was intangible, yet to be defined, like a ghost. It was something that I was working towards, a goal. My wife and I were building a life together. It was like watching our first home being built. I saw the foundation, then the structure come into focus. Eventually, we began to see the frame taking shape to resemble our dreams and expectations. After we had children, my life completely became our life. Our life developed into defined roles. Some, my wife assumed, while others became mine. Instead of a mist that was formed by the particles of a concept, life became tangible and required research, planning, and action. I didn’t think of me anymore. Me became us. Not all the time. I’m not so full of myself to disregard times of selfishness, but my family of four, was ONE. I felt that one of my main roles and responsibilities was to provide for my family. To provide is a concept that isn’t only financial, but also to make sure that essential necessities of life were available to my family. Sometimes it was paid for, sometimes it was a shoulder, and sometimes, it was just time.

Not too long ago, our life changed. At 39, what was thought to be Prostatitis was diagnosed as Advanced and Metastatic Prostate Cancer. The cancer had left the prostate and spread to the lymph nodes, bladder, hips, pelvis, ribs, sternum, shoulder blades, and spine. My vision of life turned into a fight to live. My children, ages 9 and 11 became the focus of that fight.

As I pondered that high level question of whether I have done enough with my life, it inevitably became a much deeper question with much deeper answers. The more I thought about the question, the more I realized that the answer was much more involved than, “basically, I did fine.” The fact that I have 2 young children that I may not see progress into adulthood told me all that I needed to know. No matter what I had ever done, unless I left a road map for them, it could never be enough.

So what did I want for them? Easy enough. Everything. The best. All they could dream and all that they desired. As I prepared to make sure that they had all of these things, I realized that wanting these things at a high level, but not defining or measuring what that meant or telling them how to achieve it was the equivalent of calling them to my death bed, shaking their hands, and telling them, “Good Luck!” If that is all I give them, I have not done nearly enough.

These writings then, are exactly that. I don’t know how long I will have before I am called from this place, but I want my wife and children to know what I mean when I say, “I want the best for you.” I want them to feel my spirit with them, even if my body cannot. Mostly, I want my immeasurable love for them to be felt eternally as they progress through this life. I love them with every particle of my being and it overwhelms me. I want them to always know that without question. I want to define what “The Best” means to me and the values that make the type of person who lives that kind of life. This is for them, in the hopes that it will give them a map to use, whether I am there to guide them in this life, or the next.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Acceptance and Humility

My belief and perception has always been that of an optimist. If I am faced with a problem or obstacle, I have always believed that a solution is there. It may not be the perfect solution, but a way to minimize the damage and move on. I have always believed this and still do. But with my current predicament, I was starting to wonder if that was true. Many treatments have failed and the cancer continues to progress, to this point. I know that I need to work hard, eat right, and do all of the things that healthy people would likely never consider. There was an element within my control to pave the way for a miracle, but in the end, if my body chose not to respond, there was nothing I could do. The pain in my right hip and leg was a constant reminder that this concept was true. Little by little, I gain acceptance of this fact, and that is a good thing. It is not a hopeless thought. Or one that gives up trying. It is knowledge that, on these occasions, our troubles are bigger than ourselves. We must look outside of ourselves for answers and whatever solution can be offered. I am reminded of the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I don’t say many memorized prayers anymore, but that is one that I use more than daily. It tells me that I need to know what is beyond my ability to control or change and ask for help outside of myself, by someone with power beyond mine. Humility comes from this acceptance. Humility is a cultivated trait. It is something that you develop. You can be humble about things, but humility is something that you find in yourself. It becomes something that you are, not what you do on occasion. It means to do something for someone and tell no one. It means to put your family before you in all things. It means to live a Christ-like life. To be in service of your fellow man in your heart, thought, and action. Seems like a lot. That is where the first part comes in. Do the leg work and put forth the effort. Change what you can to be the best person that you can be minute by minute, day by day. Be humble and know that God is by your side giving you strength. Accept your limitations and that He will make up the differences. It is no different from your father teaching you to ride a bike. You have to get up there and pedal. He is right behind you, steadying the bike. It doesn’t mean you won’t get scrapes and bruises now and then, but with his help you will gain independence. What this all means for me is that I am learning to accept my disease. I know that now is the time to turn my life and my will over to the care of God. I continue to work hard and accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can, and pray to know the difference. Physically I can do these things. But just as important, spiritually and emotionally, I turn over to the strength of God. It requires more than I can give. I trust in the Lord and believe he can heal me. I will try to be humble enough to remember this, but this too I know, Thy Will Be Done.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fathers Day

Fathers Day is here and, as it seems lately, I reflect on things differently than I used to. My appreciation for the little things makes me grateful and overwhelmed by aspects that I never fully understood or concerned myself with. I always looked at Fathers Day as an opportunity to appreciate and thank my Dad for his tremendous influence in my life, who I turned out to be, and who I aspired to be. When I had children, I had fun being the Dad who was honored with the gift of the Norelco Electric Shaver. What I never looked at deeply enough was the honor of being their Dad. The honor of being my Father’s Son. The honor of being picked by my wife, not only to be her husband, but to be the father of her children. It may be a “Hallmark Holiday”, but it occurs to me how lucky I am to have been chosen by my Father in Heaven for this assignment. To be loved by a Dad who never turned his back. To love, and be loved unconditionally, by two children in a way that they may not know until they are blessed with children of their own. To share a life with a mate, so special, that I know she was hand picked by God, for me. Fathers Day is for me to recognize and ponder that we are made in God’s image. We are his family. He loves us in ways we can’t imagine. My life is full because of all of my family and my heart is full at my love and admiration for them. I pray that I can give them the best Fathers Day that they have ever had. Whatever gift I may receive from them will be most appreciated, but will unfortunately never be able to match the gift they have already given.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Life Isn't Fair! Or Unfair...

I usually like to write at night. It is peaceful and serene. My mind is able to wander and pick the places it needs to go. It is meditation to me. Things that active thought gets in the way of. Tonight is like that. I have many things on my mind, but when I try to pick one out, I can’t complete a thought. I think that is exactly where I need to go. I am trying to understand why I have cancer. What lesson am I to learn? What am I to teach? Is it only necessary to be the best example I can be? And since I’m on this soul-searching expedition, is this fair? Why is life decidedly unfair sometimes? I know that better people than I have dealt with far more, but my kids are innocent bystanders in this thing. I know that I believe that life is just life. The good and bad that happen here are not reward or punishment. They are only tests and trials. The judgment is based on how we handle life’s unfairness, not a question of whether we are victim to it or not. All of us will live through tough times. As we battle them, will we choose to look at our feet as we trudge through them? Or will we stride purposely, looking ahead to better times and resolution? I wish I could say I always choose the latter, but unfortunately, we are all more similar than we like to think, and I sometimes trudge through the former. One of the simplest thoughts pertaining to this is, “This, too, shall pass”. This applies to good times and bad. Life rolls on whether we are enjoying it at that moment or not. We are given a finite time here, and we don’t know how long we will get. So, while this too shall pass, remember that it does pass, quickly. If you choose to dwell on unfairness and tough times, you minimize the time spent enjoying what God has given you. When troubles hit, sit down and analyze what you need to learn from the situation. As the lesson becomes clearer, so will the solution. As you see what you need to learn, you can begin to understand why you needed to be in that situation. It becomes part of what makes you who you are, not fair or unfair. It does not mean that it will not hurt. Sometimes you will stride purposely towards a resolution, but not toward better times, with tears streaming down your face. Sometimes what is truly unfair in this life won’t be better times until the next. Cancer is like that. For some, the joy is felt here and we get to celebrate miracles. For others, they have to wait for that joy until the miracle and understanding is found in the next life. What we see here is so limited. It was explained to me once that the big picture is like a giant warehouse, filled with everything. In this life, the lights are off and we have a small flashlight. We can only see what that little spot of light will show us. When you go to heaven, it is like someone turns on the lights and you can see everything. Life is not fair or unfair. It is meant to be a journey filled with ups and downs. Be the person who understands that tough times build you. Feel joy, feel sorrow. Feel anger. But know that what you were meant to feel, is love. Always return to that and you will keep your head up as you stride through life with purpose. Fair or unfair.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why I Try

Through this treatment of cancer, it is always interesting to talk to and correspond with others going through similar trials. For every patient, the treatment varies slightly. Even though conventional treatments for cancer follow a well defined and researched path, patients always put varying degrees of emphasis on spirituality, diet, nutrition, supplements, attitude, outside support, etc. What also seems to vary is the desire to fight and the reasons for it. Some that have lived a long, full life may have an acceptance of their disease that others, stricken at an earlier point in their life, refuse to acknowledge. With 2 young children and a dear wife trying to juggle these seismic changes, I put myself in the latter category. Some diagnosis, regardless of age, are so dire that it leaves few options but to “put your affairs in order”, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Again, while I am not having much fun with my diagnosis, I do have the luxury of options and time. Time to reflect. Time to research. Time to repair. Time to Fight. It is too simplistic to say that I fight for self preservation or fear of the unknown when this life is done. Of course, those things are true. My faith allows me to worry a lot less about life after this one, but it also teaches me that this life is precious. Something to be defended and protected. I think the biggest reason of “Why I Try” is the love that I have for others and the love that they have for me. If the last example I can leave for my children is that I would not give up, not doing as I say, but do as I do. Sometimes the victory isn’t always only in the outcome, but the dignity, grace, and valor of the battle. I want my children, my wife, my family, and my friends to know that I love them enough to fight with every ounce of energy to win this war and remain with them until God calls me home, not just until it gets too difficult. The love and support given to me give me strength to try new treatments, as alternative as some of them are, because if there is a chance, I owe it to myself and all of you to endure to the end and make this life all it is supposed to be. When my time is up, I will know. It’s not my time. That is why I try.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What we think of ourselves.

It seems like life is scored or judged by others’ perception of us. We no longer evaluate ourselves by a look in the mirror, but someone else’s view. The judge gets the anonymity and latitude to voice any opinion, while we are left to pick through the pieces and select what has purpose and meaning. Many of the pieces don’t have purpose and need to be discarded. I think we start down the wrong path by giving value to an opinion that comes from someone that is not qualified to offer it on that specific situation. I believe in getting input from others on important decisions, but their perspective, goals, and values should be similar to our own or we should not be surprised when their opinion doesn’t feel right to us. What it really boils down to is, taking responsibility and ownership of our own portrait. A self-portrait, the only one that carries weight in this scenario, is, by definition, done by ourselves. It is not to trust or hire someone to do a better job. It simply can’t be done. When we set out to paint the portrait, the palette must be selected by the artist. I might choose “Honesty” as the most important “color”, while someone else may choose “Kindness”. Neither is wrong, but each chooses for themselves. When we begin to paint, we must recognize that this self-portrait starts when we are children and we will continue to evaluate and improve or degrade this portrait by the standards we value and the choices we make throughout our lives. It is truly a work in progress. After we are gone, this portrait is what we leave behind for others to interpret and discuss. Something this important has to be done for ourselves, by ourselves. As with any artist, many influences and methods lend texture, but the image is our own. The reason that I use this metaphor, and believe me, I am no artist, is that I want to explain the importance of enjoying the delight of building a beautiful life and to be the person that, through personal revelation, you know you can be. Others will offer opinions and thoughts about important milestones as you travel through your life. Some will even care. But the consequences of these decisions and the responsibility for your actions will always be yours to bear. You can point the finger for choices gone awry, but you will still clean up your own messes. The more you understand this very simple rule, the better decisions you will make for you and your family. Especially as you travel through your teenage years and into adulthood, pressures will be great to make decisions based on what others want you to do. They will likely not have any more information than you do, but want company in decisions that they make for themselves. This is a trap. All the time. Not that you won’t make the decision with them. It may very well be a very good choice. But, the decision that you make must always come from you, by your own reflection, by your own personal revelation. It then becomes an addition to your self-portrait, not detraction. The choice may not end up being the best one, but make the best one you can at the time, with the information that you have at the time, and with the intent to build yourself up, not break yourself down. As you make right decisions, even if they are not always correct, people will gravitate towards you for the right reasons. Those that would “judge” you will seek your counsel. It is not always about the “correct” decision, but it is always about the “right” decision. What others think will get you what they want, or maybe what you want, at that moment, but may not even consider what you want out of your life. Don’t sacrifice what you want most, for what you want now. The feeling that you get in your heart for a truly unconditional and altruistic gesture is not available through any drug, machine, or possession. It is a small taste of God’s love for us. It is a reward for choosing “correct” and “right”. Those feelings should guide your actions. We are given all of the clues for a happy, righteous life. They are always rewarded by the unquestionable feeling that we have done right for the right reason. This comes from our Heavenly Father and no person can give you this gift. By doing what others think you should do, against your own feelings, will not give you what you need to beautify your portrait. It will lead to damage to repair, apologies to offer, and amends to make. As you get closer to the end of your time here, you will start to see that what you thought of yourself always made you stand a little taller and more proud. What others thought of you, if unjustified, is irrelevant and usually difficult to even recall. Don’t be afraid to look in the mirror to evaluate yourself. Be the person that you want to see in that reflection. Always continue to fairly evaluate where you are and where you want to be. Always know that something as beautiful as what you are meant to be, takes time. Be fair to yourself and allow yourself that time. Don’t hold your expectations so high that you are unhappy with your progress and continually try to start over. Use all of your experiences as a wide variety of brushes and colors to improve your portrait. Work towards your self-portrait, designed by what you know you were meant to be. God made you out of an infinite love for you. Never question if you are ever enough. You always are. If someone tells you that you aren’t, hand them a mirror. Obviously, they can’t paint your self-portrait, so they better get busy on their own.