An exercise in presumption.
Six Months Later
Six months since I was diagnosed with cancer. In a sense we've gotten used to it: we've established new routines that take it into account, and the remaining symptoms are minor.
I'm on the parish list for First Friday visits by one of our priests or deacons, bringing the Sacrament. Last time it was our pastor, who heard my confession as well. The current sins were, I believe, venial; but I had to bring up one from the past (in ordinary confessions one includes in the list “any sins which I have forgotten,” so the sin in question had been forgiven; but upon remembering it, one is supposed to mention it the next time). This has happened several times in the past few years, twice this year; I’m developing a superstitious fear that when I run out of them God will say “Okay, Bob’s done, it’s a wrap.” Silly, of course, but the sort of idea that would come naturally to a writer.
My attack of The Plague (which, we think, was picked up at the book signing — the sacrifices one makes for one’s Art) has stopped my writing dead for the time being; hopefully it will restart soon. The Bride, God bless her, has been keeping up with NaNoWriMo through hers, even if falling behind.
We would be grateful for continued prayers, especially since both of our daughters and our long-term house guest (a friend of our elder daughter who moved here from California to finish her education) have come down with it as well. Deus vult.
ANOTHER Prayer Request
Once again we need your prayers. The Bride and I have both come down with THE PLAGUE. God willing, the girls will escape. Thank you.
State of the Ape VII
Not much new to report.
I underwent a couple of MRIs to see how the radiation treatments I received in late May / early June worked out. They did very well: the growth on my spine is no longer threatening the spinal cord.
I can take longer walks now. Last Friday (11/11) I accompanied the Bride on our biweekly grocery shop for the first time since May. I had to lie down and rest when we got home, but I did get through it.
Still trying to write every day. My routine before all this started, and which I had eventually gotten back to, was to work from 9 to 12 each day (more or less). My working hours have expanded into the afternoon; not so much because my health has improved as because I feel guilty when I’m not writing (since I don’t know how much time I have left).
The Bride and I had a joint book sale and signing at a local craft fair yesterday (11/13) and it went very well. She sold 5 copies of her latest novel, and I sold 8 (!) copies of Unexpected Tales: mostly to the Bride’s friends and contact who stopped by, but 2 to total strangers who fell for my sales pitch. I also picked up a couple of ideas about publicity that should be useful for the next event.
Mom is doing well. Thanks once more for all your prayers.
State of the Ape VI
Before I talk about myself: I would be very grateful for more prayers for my mother. We visited her last weekend in the nursing home where she was staying for rehab and she was doing very well. Two days later she fell and broke her other hip. She went through surgery fine and is back in the nursing home, but it is a bit of a setback.
Also prayers for my brother Michael, who was found to have an elevated PSA of 47.
Five months and for now I’m doing pretty well. I don’t get tired nearly as easily; the aches and pains are minimal; the hot flashes appear to be diminishing. I can go for walks and do dishes and laundry.
I was put on a course of prednisone for the vertigo and haven’t had any since 9/20. Hoping it stays away.
With the cancer in remission I asked my PCP if I could try going off the muscle relaxant. She agreed and I started tapering off from three a day. I got down to one and the hiccups came back. Pooh.
Writing is going well; I’m trying to write every day. I’m well into revising the mystery novel and I think it’s much improved. Also trying to work on Zoe: I have an idea for the fifth story and am trying to make it work.
Thanks once more for your prayers.
State of the Ape V
We went to my oncologist this morning.
To quote the Bride, "remission" is a beautiful word.
I also went for a CAT scan. From the results:
The previously seen innumerable small bilateral pulmonary nodules are no longer identified with improved pleural nodularity on the right. These findings are most consistent with a favorable response to treatment.
Widespread sclerotic lesions throughout the visualized bones, increased in density since prior study, which may reflect treated osseous metastases.
Thanks yet again for your prayers.
State of the Ape IV
Four months and a lifetime have gone by. No change, really, in my condition. The aches, etc., are still there, and the dizzy spells arrive at random.
However, I must thank everyone who’s been praying for me. I’ll know more after seeing my oncologist on the 27th, but I had more blood work done on the 23rd, and my PSA is down to (drumroll)0.5
I got a nice review on Amazon for Odyssey to Earth. I finished the fourth Zoe story (the first four titles are Zoe Gets Her Wings, Zoe on the Rocks, The Great Bobo-Zoe Race, and Zoe and the Aardvark Hunt). Since the I’ve switched over to working on getting a mystery novel, Murder at Minstrel Manor
(written several years ago, revised in early 2021) into publishable shape; after which I’ll have to do the same for the sequel There Will Be Murder Done;
then finish the third and write as many more as I can.
State of the Ape III
Three months (yesterday) since I went into the hospital.
I had my hormone shot June 28; the next one is scheduled for the end of September. We’ll find out then how they’re working. If the hot flashes are any indication (they come several times a day, too frequently to track; and very annoying they are, since they make me sweat like crazy), the shots should be quite effective.
The aches / pains / soreness / stiffness have come back a bit (together with ongoing sensations, which I can’t describe, that tell me something funny is going on inside), but not enough that I need painkillers. I find I’m getting tired even more easily: getting ready for Mass on Sundays I shave; have to rest; shower; have to rest; get partly dressed; have to rest; finish dressing; have to rest.
And it appears that my body, having begun to fall apart, has decided to do a thorough job. I had a spell of Ménière’s Syndrome (intermittent dizziness / loss of balance / lightheadedness / nausea) back in 1996/7; it came back last year from May to December, and now it’s back again (although not as bad, and so far I’ve escaped the nausea). On top of that, I went to an eye doctor last week (hadn’t had a new pair of glasses since 2016) and learned that I’m just starting cataracts.
So what can I do? Take it one day at a time; pray a lot (thank again, everyone for your prayers); and try to find the words to thank God for my afflictions.
The news isn’t all bad. On the writing front, I’m putting the finishing touches to the third story about Zoe the Flying Rhinoceros and beginning to plot the fourth. And my mother is still in physical rehab and doing fine.
A Comment and a Letter to Santa
Life these days isn't thrills, chills, and spills; it's ills, pills, and bills.
Not a library full of old quartos
Or a harem of Welches and Bardots;
No, for joy I would sing
If, dear Santa, you'd bring
Me a flying stone head like in Zardoz.
My science fiction novelette for children, Odyssey to Earth,
is now up on Amazon.
State of the Ape II
Things aren’t going too badly. I’m off both the steroids and the acetaminophen and so far the back/rib pain hasn’t come back (only a twinge now and then). I still get tired very easily; I’ve had to give up yard work (no regrets there), so we’re looking to hand it over to a professional landscaper (we’ve had someone to cut the grass, but the weeds have gotten out of control).
We had a minor scare a couple of weeks ago: early one morning I had an uncontrollable shivering fit that lasted an hour, followed by a slight fever and a persistent cough. We have a home COVID test kit: the test came out negative. The shivering hasn’t come back and after a few days the cough went away; no idea whether the problems were symptoms of the cancer, side effects of the meds, or really bad allergies.
A few days afterwards I started a rash which quickly spread over my arms and legs (thank God it didn’t itch) but which is now fading. Again: symptom, side effect, allergy — who knows?
On the bright side, my novelette is back from the copyeditor and the cover designer has recovered (groans all around), so with any luck it will be up on Amazon soon. More importantly, I’m writing regularly again.
I’m working on a spinoff from Unexpected Tales: a series of stories about Zoe the Flying Rhinoceros (not exactly a spinoff, since the idea for the series came first and I deliberately set it up in the last Tale). I had written the first story and started the second but stopped when I went into the hospital; I was afraid the stoppage was permanent. But now the first draft is finished.
We’ve made a new will (setting up a trust for the girls), purchased a cemetery plot, and pre-planned my funeral (and paid for it; I don’t know why people bother to die — it’s so
expensive). Not that there’s any urgency: all of this was on our agenda before the cancer diagnosis.
Finally: My mother is out of the hospital and in a nursing home for physical therapy. Thanks for your prayers; please keep them up.
I would be very grateful for prayers for my mother, who is 92 and hospitalized after breaking her thigh.
The Bride's new book, The Harbor Cove Brunch Club,
is now out and available on Amazon. For those who live in the in and around Northampton County, PA, she will be holding a book signing at the Barnes and Noble at 4445 Southmont Way in Easton
, from 1 to 3 on Sunday July 10.
State of the Ape
Before anything else, thanks for your prayers.
The radiation therapy is finished. In a few weeks they’ll take a look and see how well it worked. (Alas, I was zapped with X-rays, not gamma rays, so I won’t develop any superpowers or turn into the Incredible Hulk.) The back/rib pain is still there but controllable with steroids and acetaminophen.
The hormone therapy appears to be working. I had blood work done yesterday and my PSA number has dropped to 25. Still too high, but 6x is better than 1050x.
The only other problem is that I get tired easily, but I don’t know whether that’s due to the cancer or the meds or both.
I’ve managed to make some progress with my writing. I had started work on a children’s SF serial that I hoped to sell to a magazine, but discovered when the first draft was done that I hadn’t read the fine print closely enough; so I turned it into a novelette. The health problems caught me in the middle of final revisions; they’re now complete and the story is in the hands of a copyeditor. The cover designer, unfortunately, has come down with COVID, so that’s on hold (prayers for him would also be appreciated; his name is Noel).
The Bride’s new novel
(first in a new series) is now available for pre-order on Amazon.
I don’t usually post a lot of personal things on this blog, partly because of natural reticence and partly because our family life has always been remarkably uneventful (a great blessing). During the past two weeks, however, life has changed.
Things actually started a couple of months earlier, when I began having more or less constant back pain; nothing too serious and bearable with ibuprofen, but enough to interfere with my sleep. There were a few times when there was also severer pain in one or the other thigh at the groin.
I also began to experience shortness of breath after any activity involving stooping and standing. This I thought might be the effect of tachycardia, a long-standing condition that may have been getting worse.
It was necessary to see my doctor anyway to renew my antidepressant, so my wife and I went on Thursday May 19. He was puzzled by both the back pain and the tachycardia; he gave me an in-office EKG for the latter but found nothing abnormal. So he put me on a medication to slow the heart and ordered X-rays and blood work. These we had done the next morning.
The testing was done through St. Luke’s Hospital, which has facilities throughout our area, and with which I have had an account since my COVID vaccination. The results were posted later that same day. Nothing was of note except for something called the PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) number: the standard range is 0.0 – 4.0 ng/mL; my number was 4,244.9. This, as you might expect, sparked some angst at the prospect of at least more tests.
Then came Sunday May 22. During the night I had developed an ache in my right flank. By morning it had become a severe pain that finally caused me to vomit and collapse. My wife (having first caught and eased me to the floor) called 911 and I was taken to the emergency room. The initial thought was that I might have a kidney stone, so I was given a CAT scan. This revealed that the problem was not a kidney stone; it was a fractured rib, the rib having been weakened by a metastasized lesion.
In short (subsequent tests confirmed) I have stage 4 prostate cancer that has spread to my bones and lungs.
It was God’s blessing that we had gotten the PSA number before the diagnosis, so that we weren’t completely blindsided.
I was in the hospital for 5 nights, finally going home on Friday May 27, during which time I underwent blood tests, more CAT scans, X-rays, MRIs, and a biopsy and we (I use “we” advisedly since my wife is the brains and organization of our marriage) spoke with an array of different doctors: oncology, urology, palliative care, etc. Steroids and painkillers took care of the pain from the broken rib and also the chronic back pain I had been experiencing. By the end of my stay I was actually feeling much better.
The plan is to concentrate on hormone treatment rather than chemotherapy. Radiation is not useful, except for one small growth on my upper spine that is threatening the spinal cord. I was given the first hormone shots before leaving
A complication arose over the weekend after I got home. I had begun to have occasional episodes of hiccups on the Wednesday. These grew more frequent and more violent until they began to spasm and for a few seconds block me from breathing. By Sunday afternoon they were so bad that my wife took me back to the hospital. There they gave me a dose of Thorazine, which helped a great deal (Thorazine is a one-time anti-psychotic drug [when we learned this I told my wife that she was going to see a whole new side of me] which for some reason also alleviates hiccups). They did another CAT scan, kept me overnight, and sent me home with a prescription for a muscle relaxant.
I’ve been home since Monday May 30 and in good shape: little or no pain, no hiccup spasms. I’ve had 4 shots of radiation and 6 to go, and I’ve been given pills for a second set of hormones.
So much for the medical side so far. I expect to be posting updates as things happen.
[UPDATE 06/06/2022: I should have made it clear that everyone at St. Luke's - doctors, nurses, technicians, aides, etc., has done a wonderful job working with me and that I am deeply thankful for them. St. Luke's deserves its reputation as one of the best hospitals in the country.]
I don’t plan on posting deep reflections on the matter; my mind doesn’t work that way. I’m 66; many years ago I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to live forever. I’m a practicing Catholic, so I have my faith to sustain me (and I trust that God will be there shoring up my faith when it’s weak); I received the Anointing of the Sick while in the hospital. Still, I would be most grateful if anyone who reads this and whose mind is inclined that way would pray for me and my family, that God may give us guidance and the strength to bear this cross.
FYI: Authorial Websites
The Bride and I both have websites as authors: Hers
Literary Announcements (including one of no little significance)
The Bride’s fourth (and concluding) novel in the Caldwell series, A Place to Belong,
is now available on Amazon in paperback
She will be publishing the first book in a new series some time in 2022.
And now the big one:
My book of children’s stories, Unexpected Tales from A to Z,
is also available on Amazon. (Just in time for Christmas! Suitable for young readers; also suitable for reading aloud.)
Some things you just can’t expect.
Among them you will find:
Bartholomew and the Banana Blizzard. The denizens of Burensburg are threatened by the activity of a thoughtless gold-mining operation, until Bartholomew finds a solution.
Esmé and the Eloquent Eggplant. Esmé likes to talk to plants. One of them starts to talk back — but there's more here than meets the ear.
Hendrik and the Horrible Hollyhocks. First there was one hollyhock on Hendrik's farm. Then there were two. Now they're out of control and nothing seems to stop them.
Miranda and the Mesmeric Maestro. The War of 1812 is raging and President Madison is quacking like a duck. Miranda finds that a knowledge of Homer is useful.
Pepy and the Princely Prestidigitation. Pepy's father and the Prince of Egypt have been captured by the Amorites. Pepy is no sorcerer's apprentice, but he knows a bit of stage magic. Is it enough?
Ursula and the Urgent Ululation. A pair of train robbers are holding Ursula and her aunt prisoner in a cottage deep in the Black Forest — but they don't know about Ursula’s friend.
The heroes and heroines of these stories are ordinary boys and girls confronted with problems, from an Argumentative Alligator to a Zany Zoo, that call forth cleverness, ingenuity, and courage.
If Daphne du Maurier Had Been Lazy
Said the new Mrs. Maxim de Winter,
"Just what have I got myself into?
My husband: obsessed;
Mrs. Danvers: a pest;
And Rebecca's ghost smirks through the window."
Another Literary Announcement
I've sold another short story, "Something the Cat Dragged In," to the anthology Crunchy with Ketchup.
The Bride's third novel in the Caldwell series, A Family to Cherish,
is now available on Amazon in paperback
A Tribute to Them
Having commemorated, among others, Godzilla and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,
it's time to do as much for the giant ants of Them:
ANTS—They’re supersized and vicious;
ANTS—They think that we’re delicious;
ANTS—Our one and only wish is
That they’d go away.
ANTS—We hope they never find us;
ANTS—Oh no, there’s one behind us;
ANTS—You don’t need to remind us
That it’s time to pray.
ANTS—We really hate to meet them;
ANTS—Somehow we must defeat them;
ANTS—Oh God, how can we beat them?
Please show us the way.
ANTS—Hooray, the tide is turning!
ANTS—In smoke of battle churning
ANTS—With bullets, gas, and burning
We blow them away.
ANTS—There’s no more stridulation;
ANTS—We’ve killed the infestation;
ANTS—It’s time for relaxation.
Let’s call it a day.
For Dora Spenlow Copperfield, one of the most annoying characters in fiction:
The Muse gave to Dickens the idea of Dora—
The scribbler hadn’t the wit to ignore her.
Some readers with sentimentality cried;
The rest gave a cheer when the little twit died.
of the webzine Bewildering Stories includes my story, "The Way the Cat Pounces."
Another literary announcement: The Bride has published two novels so far, A Promise to Keep
and A Heart to Heal
and is working on her third. The Neptune volume of The Planetary Anthologies
has just come out; it includes my short story, "An Eye for Art." (This is my first published story.)
Thirty years ago today, God gave me a wonderful gift (and a far better one than I deserve): the Bride and I were wed. May our marriage be as happy in the future as it has been in the past.
My oldest brother Paul passed away yesterday at the age of 68. Please pray for the repose of his soul.
I traveled once to Abilene,
When I was young and fairly green.
The people there were all obscene —
I grew up fast in Abilene.
If you should go to Santa Fe,
You'll think your wits have gone astray —
There is no sense in what they say,
Or think, or do, in Santa Fe.
I came one day to Montreal,
Lured there by a siren call.
And now I'm helpless in the thrall
Of sweet, seductive Montreal.
Said a werewolf who lived in Rangoon,
"I am longing to howl at the moon,
But I fear I'll be clob-
Bered to death by a mob,
For my howling is quite out of tune."
Here they are.
First: My wife, drawing on many years' experience as a teacher of theater in a homeschool co-op, has written a how-to book: Sets on a Shoestring: How to Build Sets and Props on a Limited Budget.
It is available for preorder now and will be published July 1.
Second: I have contributed to an anthology, Planetary: Jupiter
, published by Superversive Press
, now available (also in a Kindle edition
(06/20 update: I suppose I should have included that my contribution to the anthology comprised my old skit "Kronos & Kids" and two new pieces, "The Wretched Fate of Frankenstein" and "I Only Have Eyes for Io".)
Watch This Space
In the near future there will be a couple of announcements of some moment.
A foolish young fellow from Reading
Enjoyed indiscriminate bedding,
Manifesting this trait
On the very first date,
And eschewing the bother of wedding.
Said a wizened old man from Bhutan,
"My physician has issued a ban
On wine, women, and song,
That my life may be long -
But I dodge it whenever I can."