04 April 2013

Donald's Pie Dough Recipe

I know you all want it, so I am going to share it. of course, until you learn to feel the dough, it's not going to work anyway; but this will certainly get you started:
Pie Dough

300 g (2 c) flour
170 g (1-1/2 sticks) salted butter
+/- 1/4 c iced water - really a little more makes a more workable
 dough, but don't want it too "wet".
Donald ALWAYS took a sip of that ice water. EVERY SINGLE TIME he made a pie. And Donald's words after this pie dough was made: As promised, I made a pie tonight, but it is really strange. The last time I tried to do this, I had the same problem with a dough that was tough to work with because I'm too focused on measurements, and not enough on feel. But it looks good to me!
and finally, how to eat a Raleighdon Pie

10 November 2012

Race Day on the Burke Gilman Trail (written in 2006)


I was out on the Burke Gilman Trail a week or so ago, riding as hard as I could, just trying to get the last few miles in so I could make my goal for the week, pulling along with a nice little late afternoon tail wind, when out of nowhere, this little kid on a mini-Schwinn with streamers and training wheels pulls in behind me. Red hair, freckles, and sneakers with no socks. No helmet, no mom or dad anywhere to be seen. I look behind me and he's giving it all he's got to stay on my wheel. I sped up a bit, he sped up a bit; I slowed down, he slowed down. I didn't know what to do, so I shrugged it off and just continued to ride my ride. About a block and a half from my finish line, the kid sprints out in front of me. Now I'm peeved. I don't mind pulling somebody along, but now they want to embarrass me? I kick it up a gear and ride hard to catch his 16" wheel, but he looks around at me, sticks his tongue out and gives me a raspberry, while turning on the afterburners.

Slowly, I manage to pull along side of him and we're neck and neck for a minute, but by now my quads are burning up. I've been on the bike for over a half hour and he knows I'm about to bonk. BAM! He kicks it up a notch. I kick up another gear and stand, but now I'm starting to cramp. No matter, I'm not gonna let this wheel sucker ace me out of my glory. He follows suit and is out of the saddle, pedaling his single speed K-Mart special with white knobby tires for all it's worth.

Just about that time, outta some shrubs to the left, here comes a dog. And he's coming fast. I hesitate for just a moment as this distraction causes me to lose cadence and as the kid crosses the finish line a wheel length in front of me, he whistles, yells "c'mon boy", and slowly turns down the sidewalk and into his driveway. I lower my head and slink off to my truck, carefully remove the front wheel from my light weight imported race bike, ease my bike onto the Yakima rack on top of the car, and slowly, ever so slowly drive off. As I turn the corner out of the park and sneak a peek while driving by the kid's house, there he is in the window, a smile on his face, petting his loyal friend on the head and eating a peanut butter sandwich.

Someday, I'm gonna beat the pants of that 5 year old.

Donald Boothby

06 September 2012

Photo Book

Click here to view this photo book larger

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07 August 2012

The Art of Sculpting with Stone

The Art of Sculpting With Stone by Donald Boothby August 17, 2008
It is a very simple thing. Pick a stone and place it atop another stone. Keep doing this until you are finished. This is the entire basis for this living landscape sculpture art. Stones may be obtained anywhere, but I have found the best sources to be along the rivers, streams and ocean shores in my travels. Each stone, though, has meaning. It has its own sense of being, its own purpose. In sculpting with stones, I try to achieve a natural balance that can only be found, not forced. Force always causes collapse, whereas a well balanced sculpture can often withstand gale force winds. Included in this package is a starter kit for your garden. In it, you will find the following:
A base stone. This stone is actually a tile, found on the beach in the Golfo de Taranto on the Italian coast.
A second base stone. This stone was found on the Tireannean Sea, also in Calabria.
Six smaller roundish sort of flat stones. These are the fun pieces that can give a bit of humor to a sculpture. They can also be used to guide the garden visitor’s eye away from the sculpture and to another feature you wish them to observe.
Photographs. These are mere samples of one way in which these stones were used as a sculpture in my personal landscape. These special stones have been used in over 20 permutations and in combination of various sculptures in my own garden in a variety of other arrangements.
Stone sculptures are not considered a permanent fixture in the garden. I choose a living landscape of stone works which has a life of its own. It is like a dance with ever changing steps. It changes from day to day, with visitors to our home encouraged to participate in the dance. I am never offended when one of my “favorite” sculptures is altered. This is the whole focus of having a living landscape. So often, we have gardens where all of the materials are fixed. Every day, we look at the garden and we see the same plants in the same place, with the only change being that of the seasons. In sculpting with stone, we have a garden that changes on a regular basis and one never knows what they will see the next visit. Will it be the same? Not likely. In this way of gardening, we impact very little. We need neither poisons nor vast amounts of precious natural resources in order to maintain a beautiful landscape and our sculptures can be used to augment many other garden features. Maintenance is relatively simple. Chemicals and pesticides are totally unnecessary and we need only water to enhance the beauty of the sculpture, yet today’s sculpture is but a temporary and fleeting thing. It is my sincere desire that you find joy and peace in your garden, and that these small tokens of my affection give you as much pleasure and inspiration as they have me in the years they have graced my own landscape. Donald

(this was given with a gift of stones for his brother)

04 August 2012

Donald was very talented - Poetry


Like moonbeams in the fog
          there is no moon
          there is no fog

A radiant explosion without sound
the late autumn air crisp; clean; fragrant; pure.

First a mystic glow like the full moon 
behind thin clouds;
Transforming to a starburst of pale green
becoming shimmering white rays turning pink as 
their tendrils approach the horizon;
and between them,
fields of faint dark red appear
as if to warm the glaciers over which they play.

A star-studded white tornado dances amongst the
mountain ridges
as a night bird screeches its applause 
somewhere across the still water.
Massive bands of green waves reflect their emeraldlike beauty
in Auke Lake
with a slight mist rising
as if to respond with their own aurora.

In the distance, snowcapped peaks with
brilliant blazes of ice-blue light above.

Midnight approaches like a false dawn.
No sun; no moon; only stars and nightsky.
frozen and silent;
earthplanet as spectator to the cosmos.

Ears chilled,
    hands numbed,
       eyes overwhelmed,
           soul calmed,
I rest with a peace and realization of yet another
of life’s dreams fulfilled.

Goodnight, Juneau.

      Donald Boothby
      October 30, 2003

Ode to Rhubarb

Sometimes had it hot
sometimes had it cold
always sweet
always bold
sometimes over icecream
sometimes in jam
spread thick on my toast
no matter how we got it
we loved our rhubarb most



mac and cheese 
if you please.
It'll do in a squeeze.
It don't make me wheeze
It won't give me fleas.
Its made in a breeze
just please don't freeze
my mac and cheese.

Donald Boothby
February 9, 2009


I button my shirt from the bottom
I always do bottom to top
my mommy says it should be perfect
much different, she says, than ol' Pop.

Now Pop, he does it all backwards
he always goes top straight on down.
Then walks around dressed up in flannel
buttoned crooked all day around town.

Then home he comes for his supper
and what does mom do, one wonders.
She cooks up a nice soup with barley
quite careful to ignore his blunders.

But me, does she give such leeway?
Oh NO! Here lies the trap.
If I get just one button crooked
there's sure to come a head slap.

Donald Boothby
February 9, 2009


I the great noble Marine
Standing alone against the world.
I the scared little boy
In a grown man’s body.
Don’t worry about me, I can handle it;
Strength and endurance will carry me through.

 I the great survivor.

Don’t look at my insides, they’re too real;
No peeks behind the masks allowed.
Weakness and shame cannot show;
This is the fear worse than death itself.
When all else fails read the directions?
No! When all else fails mask it with

 drugs:  The ultimate foxhole; the bunker which keeps even the 
   feelings away.

Slowly, slowly the walls begin to crumble.
Fear turns to panic turns to rage.
Find a new bunker – a new drug.

 Mask the pain stuff the fear show the rage.

Anger is allowed
 it's manly
  it's deserved.

From nowhere a question begins to haunt the soul:


In self there is no answer
In self there is no hope.
The disease has eaten away from the inside leaving a mere shell.
In one brief moment the question is answered.

Someone says, “we can”
Someone says, “we care”;
a new child is born
a child with no uniform – no masks.
Then, taking that first step, reaching out to take a hand
 Lest I should fall….

Mistakes are allowed;
 They are human
  They are expected.
From deep within the answer is given:
 “I surrender”

      Donald Boothby
      January, 1998
      Seattle, WA 

29 July 2012

Donald is gone

Donald Edward Boothby

Donald "Raleighdon" Boothby of Seattle, born December 3, 1950, died July 18, 2012 of esophageal cancer. He often described himself as the richest man he knew, because he was surrounded by love, lived life with joy, and left the planet with no regrets. He was boisterous, irrepressible, romantic and generous, with an infectious smile and attitude. He had a quick wit and an irreverent sense of humor.

He was passionate about cycling, playing the fiddle, and baking pies. The intensity of his joy in these hobbies inspired many to take them up. He cared deeply about his family and friends, and was a spiritual mentor to many. He is survived by his wife Mimi, sons Josiah, Tom and wife Megan, his daughters Elena Gianello, Elena Verdolini and Renin Oliver; his mother Evelyn, siblings Christine Faubion, David, Michael, and Robin Pierce, a large extended family and innumerable friends.

A potluck celebration of his life will be held at 1:17pm Saturday, August 11, at the Garden House, 2336 15th Ave S, Seattle Gifts can be made to Donald's fund to get exercise bicycles for Swedish Hospital https://community.swedish.org/donaldboothby

This post done by Mimi Boothby - it is his obituary that was published in the Seattle times on July 22, 2012 FYI, he only actually had two sons, but he "adopted" the two Elenas and Renin with his typical generosity. I am sure if he had lived longer, he would have adopted more.

15 April 2012

My Ass Finds No Fault with New Asphalt

Monday, I had the opportunity to catch a 20 mile ride with my son Tom who is in town for a computer mathmetical geek get together for 4 days at the UofW campus. I picked him up on campus and we started our ride from near U Village. I'm still keeping my riding to the flats, as I continue my recovery from long and difficult surgery and the complications from it. The road back is pretty slow, but at least I'm able to get out when the weather warms up to 50 degrees and it isn't pouring down rain or snow. Those days have seemed to be few and far between this winter.

At any rate, we took off north, in serach of a burger, fries and a milkshake. There just happens to be a great place about 10 miles away (PERFECT!!!) in Kenmore. I've wanted to ride over the new section of the Burke Gilman Trail, having read that it is finally open. As Dave Niehaus would say, "MY OF MY". I can't tell you to break out the rye bread and mustard, but it felt somehow very smug and satisfied as I rode through Lake Forest Park, reflecting back on how goddam difficult it was to get past the dumbass politicians in that most stupid of all cities. The pavement is a couple feet wider than the old trail. The renovations have stripped old vegetation and there are a lot of new plantings and little water ditches to maintain the wetlands effect. Riding along through that new 2-1/2 mile stretch, we heard a couple of bald eagles calling to each other. We never saw them, but it was nice to know that they are enjoying our new trail also. Especially right in the center of the Lake Forest Park "downtown" it was fantastic. All of the roots have been removed, nice smooth, wide pavement now in place and the intersections have new, wider curb cuts making it much easier to navigate around pedestrians without either of us feeling like we were at risk.

At the 10 mile mark, we needed some lunch, so we pulled across to the other side of Bothell Way and made our pilgrimage to Kidd Valley, where we reminisced about how this was one of our primary stops back when we were training for STP. Hard sometimes to conceive of things so far back. I was working at the top of the hill at St. Thomas Center (now the home of Bastyr University) and one day, had Tom and Josiah ride from home out to meet me there for lunch. Tom was 11 and Josiah was 13 and it was the first time they ever did a 50 mile bike ride all by themselves. And now, here we were, nearly 2 decades later, much older, somewhat wiser and not a whole lot more grown up than we were then, munching down our cyclists power food.

Believe it or not, Tom was smiling, even if only on the inside. He gave me a gift certificate for Christmas promising to do a bike ride with me every month from January through June. In January, he drove down from Coquitlam, BC on the last weekend of the month and we did 10 miles together. It was supposed to be 12.5 but I pooped out. He went home, got the truck and came back and picked Mimi (who refused to leave me sitting by myself by the side of the road) and me up. In February, I put my bike on the train, rode Amtrak to Vancouver, BC (what a fantastic way to travel to Vancouver!!!) and we did just a 4.4 mile ride around their neighborhood, but at least we got it in. So when I picked him up at the UW campus on Monday morning, with the sun shining and the thermometer in the truck saying 50 degrees, both he and I were smiling pretty good.

After our burgers, it was time to head back. Hmmmmm. No wonder it had been so pleasant riding to Kenmore. That headwind started blowing into our faces and I remembered why I usually try to ride INTO the wind on the first half of a ride. As we rode through LFP heading south, I noticed that at one of the two intersections, the pedestrian signal post is placed sort of awkwardly, splitting the lane in a very uncomfortable place. I think the accesses are wide enough that it is not a huge issue, but just sort of gave me a little bit of mental pause, and made me file it away for future reference so I make sure I slow down a little extra as I approach it. It is the first intersection as you're riding southbound (Ballinger Way).

After riding all that smooth asphalt, It was tough heading back onto the old section of trail. Hopefully, there are some plans underway to do some more upgrades between the University District and there, as several sections still have a lot of roots growing up through the pavement and are just starting to get into a pretty serious state of disrepair (the half-assed patch done where the slide happened 2 winters ago is a good example).

I do love the Burke Gilman Trail and look forward to a time when I can enjoy a nice smooth paved ride from downtown Issaquah to Golden Gardens Park. Now THAT will be a day worth celebrating. In the meantime, I'll just keep my sometimes very satisfied bum planted firmly in the saddle, enjoying the extreme pleasure of new asphalt every time it comes. Ahhhhhhhh. New asphalt AND a tailwind. If there is a heaven, I'm sure that is what it will be like.

24 March 2012

A Nice Day In Seattle - Let's Take a Little Ride

Whooee! I'm way behind. I haven't posted any bike riding photos here for some time and here it is already nearly the end of March. Well, I suppose not doing much riding will tend to do that for a feller, but today, Mimi and I got to go out and do a 15.6 mile ride along the Duwamish Trail and out to Alki Beach and back. Here's a few of the photos I took along the way and afterwards.

Yep, we drove to the start line in MBR, my lovely F-150:

After a quick potty stop, we were off along the Duwamish Trail, cutting across Harbor Island and onto the trail to Alki. We had to stop a few times to kiss and hug and enjoy the scenery.

This one of our favorite (and one of the most photographed) vistas of the Seattle Skyline.

North of Alki Beach, the trail was pretty wide open. This is one of the nicest MUPs in the area, but on a 72 degree sunny day in July, there ain't much room one can call his own.

The Olympic Mountain Range as seen across Puget Sound. It's always nice when our mountains come out to visit us - and those days have been few and far between this past few months. The beach wasn't very busy today.

I just had to ride at least as far south as my favorite house along Beach Drive. It's been for sale for a couple years now. Last year they had a sign that said, "Price Reduced" - I think it was down to $4.5MM. Any takers?

Heading back north into the headwind, we had to stop at our favorite snack spot and have a cup of cocoa. Well, Mimi drank cocoa and I drank my Starbucks Frappucchino I'd been nursing til I could get it to room temperature.

New asphalt has been laid through almost the entirety of T-107 Park on the Duwamish Trail. SCHWEET RIDING!!!

There is a picnic table that we often stop and rest at, mostly just to enjoy the solitude and the views of the skyline of Seattle as seen through the industrial areas.

After the ride, we needed to stop off at Swedish Hospital to pick up a prescription and I found a Camelia Bush in full bloom - just had to steal ONE LITTLE FLOWER for my sweetie.....

...or should I say my "SheBeest".....

Then long before we were done having fun, we got home and I thought it might be nice to take a little snooze amongst the daffy-dills.

Ride Safe
Have Fun
Get To The Finish Line With a SMILE!!!

23 March 2012

I'm Waiting

Living with cancer has proven to be an interesting exercise. With the hundreds of visits to the doctor(s), poking, prodding, testing, reviewing and shooting me up with all kinds of wonder drugs that are supposed to kill this stuff off, it seems like I spend more time at Swedish Cancer Institute than anywhere else. And everybody wants to give me an injection of some kind. I feel more like a pin cushion sometimes than a human body.

Now, for every appointment, there is this ritual. Boot up the computer (well, OF COURSE!!! What would life be like if we looked at the patient instead of a computer screen - I'll write (or rant) more about that another time, perhaps - to review the patient history? This ritual consists of a drug review. "Have you changed any of your medications since you were in last?" "You mean since this morning in the other doctor's office? No." That answer isn't good enough. Now we have to spend 15 minutes reviewing each of the medications one by one as they stumble through everything I've taken since August 29th when I first started treatment. Thank goodness, my hair hasn't fallen out because I have to tell you, this is enough to make me pull it out, and if it fallen out, then what would I do in my frustration? "Have you developed any new allergies?" "You mean since 8:00 this morning? None that I know of." I try to remain in good humor, but it isn't easy some days.

Finally, it is time. They're going to give me something. Either a bag of dripping fluids, a shot of heperin in the gut, and most recently an injection of Neulasta. What is Neulasta®? "Neulasta® is a prescription medicine called a white cell booster that helps reduce the risk of infection (initially marked by fever) in patients with some tumors receiving strong chemotherapy that decreases the number of infection-fighting white blood cells. A sufficient white blood cell count may enable your doctors to administer chemotherapy according to their treatment schedule."

This according to their website.

Now every time somebody wants to give me a shot of something, they have to explain the side effects to me. It reminds me sometimes of all those television ads that talk sweetly and serenely about all the good benefits of the drug, whatever it is. Then in a panicky, gotta get it all into the ad in less than 5 seconds, they rattle off the side effects which may include vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, heart failure, and in some cases even death. Of course, you should ask your doctor if (insert whatever drug you want to here) is right for you.

So the other day, I got out of the hospital and the oncologist told me my white cells were a little low and he wanted me to come back the next day for an injection of Neulasta. SO I came home, brought up their website and looked for the possible side effects. These include:

What are possible serious side effects of Neulasta®? Spleen Rupture. Your spleen may become enlarged and can rupture while taking Neulasta®. A ruptured spleen can cause death. The spleen is located in the upper left section of your stomach area. Call your doctor right away if you have pain in the left upper stomach area or left shoulder tip area. This pain could mean your spleen is enlarged or ruptured. A serious lung problem called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Call your doctor or seek emergency care right away if you have shortness of breath, trouble breathing, or a fast rate of breathing. Serious Allergic Reactions. Neulasta® can cause serious allergic reactions. These reactions can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, dizziness, swelling around the mouth or eyes, fast pulse, sweating, and hives. If you start to have any of these symptoms, call your doctor or seek emergency care right away. If you have an allergic reaction during the injection of Neulasta®, stop the injection. Call your doctor right away. Sickle Cell Crises. You may have a serious sickle cell crisis if you have a sickle cell disorder and take Neulasta®. Serious and sometimes fatal sickle cell crises can occur in patients with sickle cell disorders receiving Filgrastim, a medicine similar to Neulasta®. Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of sickle cell crisis such as pain or difficulty breathing. What are the most common side effects of Neulasta®? The most common side effect you may experience is aching in the bones and muscles. If this happens, it can usually be relieved with a nonaspirin pain reliever, such as acetaminophen.

More information than you wanted I'm sure, and I can assure you, a whole hell of a lot more information that I wanted.

So the next day, I report for my dose. The nurse rattles off the "most common side effects" but not all the others, thank goodness. Then she asked me where I wanted it. Well, not really knowing where she was planning it, I asked her, "Well, as long as I don't have to drop my trousers, I don't really care, but since you are asking, where is the most common place to give it?" "Well," she said, "typically in the arm or the belly." Now, I went through daily heperin injections for a few weeks, every one in the belly and each one causing its own bruise. I decided that maybe I'd have it in the arm. She then informed me that a lot of her patients said that it didn't hurt as much if injected into the belly instead of the arm. "Well, okay, then. Let's go with the belly."

As she stuck me there was a slight stick and sting. Not so bad, really. Not nearly as bad as all those heperin shots. I lay there, staring at the celing and got to thinking once again about those side effects, and that got me to wondering about medical researchers and the development of drugs.

If the wonderful world of medicine is great, why can't they come up with an injection that the nurse can say, "Now this is going to sting at first and probably hurt like the dickens while I'm giving it to you. But don't worry, the only side effect of this drug is that it is going to make you feel like you are laying on a warm sunny beach in Maui for the next two days."

I'm waiting.

12 March 2012

Boothby is Cooking Again

So I got up and went to treatment this morning and celebrating the fact I only had a single appointment today, came back home. I am feling pretty alright this morning, so was going to bake a pie with the Rome Beauty apples I'd bought Saturday. Having tasted one, though, they were a little on the dry side, so figured I'd make some applesauce. Then I got to looking at the Lover's Marmalade I made on Saturday and thought I might as well use up the rest of the bag of those, too. After quartering the apples and peeling the oranges, I got to thinking that maybe I could make something a little more long-lasting, and something I could share with a couple of friends. At first, I thought I'd do some Mandarin Apple Butter, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I really liked those little mandarin peels in what I did Sauturday, so I modified it just a little bit and this is what I came up with.

(Donald Boothby – March, 2012)

3 pounds Rome Beauty apples (about 5 med sized)
6-8 small mandarin oranges (add a few extra if eliminating the grapefruit)
1 grapefruit
Juice from 1 or 2 small lemons (1/4 cup)
1 cup water 4 cups sugar 1 stick cinnamon (more if desired)
Core the apples, leaving the peels on. Cut into large chunks and place in medium sized sauce pan with 1 cup water and juice from the lemons. Bring to a quick boil and turn down to low/medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Once the apples have cooked down, remove from heat and immediately run through food mill, discarding the peels. This should yield about 4 cups. Add a little water if needed to get up to needed volume. Peel the mandarins, leaving the peels in as big of chunks as possible. Cut peels into very thin julienne strips and cut to the desired length. Set the peeling aside. Peel the grapefruit, removing the white fibrous membrane on the outside and removing any seeds from both the grapefruit and the mandarins.

Place the prepared citrus (if doing again, I think I’d add more orange and eliminate the grapefruit) into a blender and pulverize well. Should net 2 cups of finished pulp. Add more oranges if necessary to get up to the needed volume. Mix the oranges and peel into the bowl with the seived apples. You really don't have to do this, it's just pretty.

Place apples, sugar, citrus, stick of cinnamon and peel into deep, heavy bottom kettle and bring to a rapid, hard boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Reduce heat to low/medium and cook approximately 40 minutes, stirring frequently (use large wooden spoon if you can) until it reaches the jelly stage (begins to sheet of the spoon). Time will vary by the amount of pectin in the apples you are using. Place finished marmalade into sterilized ½ pint jelly jars and seal with new lids and rings.

YIELD: 3 pints.

If you like to keep the marmalade nice pretty reddish-orange, use stick cinnamon. If you want it to be more “apple butter” colored, add 1 – 2 tsp. ground cinnamon instead of the stick cinnamon. You don’t have to use Rome Beauty, either. I chose them mostly for their color, but if you use Granny Smith, Fuji, Pacific Rose or other variety, you will get a lighter and more yellow-orange color instead of the deep reddish orange I got.

NOTE: I don’t water bath my jams and jellies. I know all the cookbooks will tell you to, but I’ve been making this kind of stuff for over 30 years and have never had a sealed jar go bad on me. If you are the scientific type who believes in doing everything by the strictest food regulation rules, then water bath the finished jam for 20 minutes.

03 March 2012

The Hunter - A Dream of Healing

In my dream last night, I was traveling on the train to Canada. I had been assigned to go up and inspect a piece of mining equipment that failed and found myself sitting with a family of First Nations people consisting of a young woman, three children and a very old man. His skin was deeply tanned and wrinkled, his eyes were bright and sparkled when he spoke.

We were exchanging pleasantries and the family told me the following story.

The old man had once been a part of a community in a remote section of Canada in which his community made its living and sustenance hunting and trapping. For centuries they had lived this way and until very recently had been a very prosperous people. When young boys became of age, they were taken out into the wilderness and left overnight. In the morning, when they awoke, there would either be an arrow or a rolled fur laying next to where they slept. If an arrow, the young boy was taken into training by the elder hunters and trained in the skills of hunting. If the young boy was visited with a rolled fur, then he would be taken in by the trappers who would teach their skills to him. In this way, the community was able to always have enough meat to feed themselves and enough furs to trade and purchase the other things they needed to live.

When the old man was young he, like all the other boys in the village was taken out to the appointed spot in the woods and left with a small bundle and told to pray and fast and return to the village the next day. The next morning, however, he had been visited by neither an arrow nor a fur bundle. Instead, when he awoke, he discovered a small fox had curled up next to him and fallen fast asleep. He was very sad because this meant that he could never be either a hunter or trapper for his people. As he returned to the village, though, the fox followed him. At the edge of the village, the fox ran off back into the woods and the young boy was left to tell the elders his sad tale.

In actuality, he became both a hunter and a trapper, but was given a special gift. When his family needed meat, he went out to hunt and always came home with an animal. He never needed a weapon, as an animal would seek him out and after they met, would voluntarily give its life to the young hunter. When the family needed furs to trade in the market, the young boy was dispatched to bring back furs and in the same way, the animals would voluntarily give of themselves.

Over the years, the young man’s prowess became known throughout the region. The meat he brought back was always the most tender and freshest and of the best quality because the animal was at peace when it gave its life. His furs became famous because they never had trap markings or holes in them from where an arrow had pierced the flesh.

Eventually, the young man left the village and sought to go out into the greater world to discover what was beyond the village’s known world. I never found out why exactly he left or where he had been all these many years but he had recently been called back to the village by the current elders as the village had fallen on bad times.

Over the years, the village had fallen into a state of disrepair. The hunters and trappers had difficulty finding enough meat and furs to both sustain their families and trade with other villages. Many of the men had given up in despair and turned to alcohol which became a serious problem for not just the men, but for the young people. The women were experiencing an increase in difficulty with childbirth and had trouble maintaining the family in the old ways and there seemed to be nothing to replace the old ways with except hopelessness. The village dogs had gone wild and formed packs that would attack small children and all in the village were afraid of them.

I decided to accompany the old man and his young family back to the village, thinking I would come back to my professional work soon enough. When we left the train, we had to travel a great distance overland in southwest British Columbia until we came to a place where we had to catch a small, open-deck ferry across the water to another piece of land. From there we had to walk a good distance before we finally saw the village in the distance.

Suddenly there was a great noise as a pack of wild dogs rushed at us. The mother shielded her children, but the old man simply sat down in the middle of the road. As the dogs came nearer, they calmed and one slowly and with great caution approached us until he was nearly nose to nose with the old man. Sniffing, he sat down. The old man reached out and touched his head. As the two touched, a hummingbird landed on the dog’s head. It was 4:10 pm.

At the same time this happened, I received a text message on my phone from Mimi wishing I was home because the most incredible thing had just happened. She had captured a lovely picture of it. On our front porch, a large, boxer-type dog was sitting calmly with a hummingbird on its head.

There were sightings from all over North America at precisely the same time with dogs sitting peacefully as hummingbirds lit on their heads.

The man rose and calmly led the dogs and his family back into the village where there was a great healing amongst the people.

When I awoke, I lay for a long time re-playing this dream in my head, and a great calm washed over me as I finally drifted back to sleep.

NOTE: Paintings are by Mimi Boothby

25 December 2011

Merry Christmas to All

OK, so I'm not a Christian and neither are a lot of my friends, but I'm going to say it anyway and if it offends you because of the name, sobeit. I can't be responsible for your reactions to the word Christmas. What I can do, though is to wish for you that it is a day filled with joy, happieness and peace. But then, I sorta wish EVERY DAY is like that for you.

We have usually tended to celebrate Christmas in a pretty traditional American way with a gathering of family, exchange of gifts, big meal and lots of laughter. Thank goodness I have a family that doesn't do bar room brawls every time it gets together for a holiday! I can't imagine it.

This holiday season has been a bit strange for us, not quite knowing whether I would be here, and if so, what condition I would be in. With Tom and Megan off to the east coast to celebrate the season with Megan's family, we won't be doing our annual family gathering until the 30th, leaving Mimi and me a quiet house and no big family plans. I was asked what I wanted to do and it was pretty hard to really think of actually doing anything, being tied down to this 24-hour a day feed tube, pumping the calories into me and trying to gain weight. I told her I wanted to go out for Chinese Food. I was thinking of "A Christmas Story" where the Bumpis' dogs got the turkey and so they all had to go out to eat. I also thought of my friends Chris and Deena and something Deena told me about getting together with some Jewish friends for chinese food, and it just sounded right coming off the tongue.

But having been hospitalized for so long, I found myself watching a lot of daytime and late night tee-vee and seeing the ads for all the new movies coming out. I thought maybe it would be fun to go to a movie and see what it is like to be out in public for the day. Josiah agreed to go with Mimi and me so we're off to see The Adventures of Tin Tin - in 3-D - and then later will join Chris and Deena for a nice Chines dinner at Hong's Garden in Renton. Still on a liquid diet I'm not sure what all I'll be able to enjoy, but ought to be able to eat some soup and sip tea and enjoy my small family and my friends.

Whatever your day brings, whether it be Christmas or just another day on the calender, I hope you find time to give thanks for the many blessings you have received and hope you receive the warmth of family and friends surrounding you with love.

04 November 2011

The Laying On Of Hands

I am not a religious man. I am, however, open to learning and developing a manner of living along certain spiritual lines. 27 years ago on November 4, 1984 I walked into a small hospital in Seattle, and after a few days in their mental health unit, transferred into the alcohol and drug treatment center. It generated the most profound change that had ever taken place in my life. It saved my marriage. It saved me from the hell in which I had been living and forcing my family to live in. We were a family of hostages.
I had a lot of choices to make in life, and one of those choices was where I would go to find my recovery. I could go to AA or NA or I could try to find something else. At one of my first "outside" NA meetings, I heard a message from a young woman with long blond hair. "Let us love you until you can learn to love yourself." Being somewhat of the free love generation and not of the John Barleycorn generation, maybe I heard this differently. It doesn't really matter. The message was about love and hope. For all this time, I have surrounded myself in recovery with individuals who espouse this ideal, and they have taught me a lot about love. They taught me that love is not a noun. It is a verb. If you truly love someone or something, you will act out of that love. And it is not always a big thing. A hug, a handshake, a pat on the shoulder, an offer to do some small task like visiting a sick friend in the hospital. Doesn't seem like much, but it is.
After being diagnosed with EC on the 11th of August 2011, I found myself headed down a very rapid road to recovery. I have what I consider to be the finest oncologist, radiation oncologist and surgeon that I could have. But I have something much more. I have friends. I have family. I have a world of caring professionals. I have once again been taught some lessons about love and the impact of laying on of hands. We happened by my neighbor Sam Rainwater's house one warm late summer evening and I disclosed my cancer to this couple we've known for almost 30 years and whose children went to school with ours. We do not share the same religion, but we share some very strong common bonds. We have never been close, but we have always been good neighbors to each other. That evening, Sam did something nobody else had done.
I had been told by many with whom I discussed my cancer that they would keep me in their thoughts and prayers. Sam, however, ASKED me if I would mind him praying for me. What a unique request and one I found most touching. He then (of course I gave him permission) said he would like to pray with me right then. There we were on the street corner where I feel as much at home as in my house a half block away, with Sam, Geraldine, Sam's good friend, Mimi and me, with them laying their hands on me and praying for my healing. It was one of the most significant spiritual turning points in my life. No proseletizing, no plea for me to open my heart to Jesus or anything, just a simple prayer for the removal of cancer from my body, with faith that through prayer, it would happen. I think Sam knows better than to try to convert me, but just provided a simple act of love and grace, from his own experience and faith.
Fast forward to October 26th. We arrived at Swedish before it was even light out, with a 6:30 check-in time and 8:00 am surgery scheduled. I was in pretty good spirits, considering that I was about to undergo one of the most difficult and complex surgeries that is done on the human body and knew that the next couple of weeks were going to be quite painful, and the recovery time would be pushing me to probably not being able to return to work until close to the first of the year. I knew the risks, knew the statistics for full survival and recovery from EC and was prepared to be as aggressive as possible to beat this thing growing inside me. Mimi was there and held my hand until they rolled me away. I had planned to drift off to sleep with the vision of Ruby Beach and Mimi and I playing there together. It worked, I guess, because as I was waking up some 9 hours later, I remember walking through the woods on a trail back to the car. But what I remember most waking up is a hand on my arm and a soft voice saying, "Ah, you're back" or some such. The words weren't important; what was important was that hand. It felt so warm and I could feel its life energy move across my body, something that would be repeated a lot of times over what ended up being a 52-day hospital stay.
There were a couple of nurses, especially, who particularly stood out above the “duties” of their job. Shannon was my first nurse when I checked in for chemotherapy, not sure about what to expect, trying to keep myself strong and brave. This was very early on in the game and I didn’t have a clue yet about what was coming, but when she came into my room, she touched my right forearm in a reassuring way that let me know I was going to be okay. Throughout the week, she continued to check in on me, and in my long surgical hospitalization, came to visit me, held my hand and kept me thinking I was going to come through it all just fine.
Then there was Min. I think life change happens sometimes when we are at our lowest point and when I met this particularly gifted nurse sometime in November, I had been through a seemingly endless run of surgeries, I’d spent several days in ICU and when they brought me back to 10E, she was assigned to me. Now, the nurses were all very good, kind, patient, caring individuals, but Min stood out for how she attended so gently to my needs, staying with me nearly without interruption for 2 full days as Mimi remained at my bedside. For those 2 days, I received the most loving and gentle care any human could ever hope for. She later gave both Mimi and I birthday gifts, for Mimi a jade bangle and for me some jade prayer beads that have become a part of my daily meditation routine. She taught me things about love I didn’t think possible to teach and old man and my heart will forever keep a place open for her.
What impressed me most, though, was just how many people laid their hands on me with loving, healing touch. Each time a nurse came into the, they touched my hand or my arm or my legs, and it became so very clear to me that it is not the touch of one man or spirit, it is the touch of loving healing that is given by the multitudes of people who cross our path that give us what we have.
I began to pay more attention as the days turned to weeks and it seemed like every time I began to become discouraged, someone would pat me on the arm, shake my hand, kiss me on the forehead (Renin did this every single time she visited me!) or gave me some other small gesture of love and healing that renewed me. Some of the hands did things a little differently. My neice Megan and her husband Tommy came to visit for a weekend. On one of the days, she sat at my bedside, crocheting a cap that I thought was for Mimi. Nope, turned out while we visited she was putting her love into making ME one of her handmade caps. Beautiful but simple black and red (well of course it was!) with white accents to match Katrina. I noticed that every time they walked into our out of the room, Tommy reached out (except the time I had my toes exposed) and touched my foot somehow; most of the time it was just a little squeeze or pat to let me know he was there for me.

Mimi, of course, was there every day with loving touches, massaging lotion into my feet and hands, arms, back and gazed lovingly into my eyes while she did this. Her love and care proved to me just how strong the bonds of marriage are after 32 years.
Tom came down from Canada and spent an entire week when I was beginning to lose hope. He not only touched me every time he came, but brought me a talisman that provided healing of its own kind.
Josiah spent several nights with me, one in particular that will be forever etched into my brain as he just attended to putting either hot or cold washcloths on me. I was so tired, weak and in so much pain and so distressed from the drugs that with each rag he layed on my forehead, I could feel that same healing energy I had felt in post-op, and by the time he left at 6:20 the next morning, I was feeling stronger, more positive and was "clean" shaven for when Mimi arrived at 6:30.
Chris and Deena came, and when they did, Deena brought me little things she had either made or found and just thought of me. Chris shook my hand and I felt that strong old bond of the randonneur course through my veins, giving me hope to get back on the bike soon and ride with them.
My NA sponsor, a sponsee and a few friends made sure to bring a meeting in to me a few times so I would remember how important my recovery is and how I got the spiritual strength to get through these hard times. Always with gentle hugs, a little hand holding and reciting of the Serenity Prayer and and usually with a pat on the arm as they were leaving. I always felt stronger when they left.
Sam came back to visit me in the hospital and this time, we got to visit for a while. I think he was actually there twice but I was pretty lost and confused for a few days and forget a lot. When we did sit and visit, though, I told him about the article I was writing and his inspiration and gift to me. I hope he can understand and appreciate what it means to a possibly dying man to have a man of faith pray with him. Somehow, I think he understands and appreciates it far more than I do.
To all of you who have touched me, either with the actual physical laying on of a healing hand or the cards, prayers, letters, notes on either facebook or bike journal, a hearty thank you. I did a lot of work over the past several years that built me up physically and I honestly believe that my physical condition going in one of the largest contributing factors in my ability to make it through 52 days in the hospital, five surgeries and come out the other side still prepared to accept any outcome that the future holds. While that physical conditioning was important, however, it is you, your support, your faith in me and your own spiritual condition that have been responsible for getting me this close to the finish line.
Now it is time to recover. Some folks have told me it is time to recover and get my old life back. One of the lessons I guess I needed to learn, though, is that it is not my old life. It is just my life right now, this very moment that is important. I look forward to living it to the fullest.

23 October 2011

Nutmeg and Raleighdon

When Mimi and I first met, I tried to get her to spend the night with me and she wouldn't, saying she had to go home and feed her cats. I said, "Well, I'll go with you then." for some reasson, I'm still not sure why, she let me. Heck, I'm not evern sure why I wanted to. She had a gazillion cats, she wouldn't let me smoke in her car and didn't even like to drink my wine. This relationship obviously had no future.

She was awfully cute, though.

3 months later we were married.

I was NOT a cat lover. I tend to favor dogs over cats since they just have a way of always keeping life entertaining. Our dog Mooch was a great example of this. When our friend Jim was teaching Josiah about roping calves, Mooch had a calf of his own in mind.

mostly, though, I'm just not really into being caretaker to critters. Too much work, can't leave when I want, all the usual excuses. Over the years, we've had many of Mimi's beloved pets (and my goldfish) pass on to the great on beyond, and it is always sad.

Like Lumpy. Mimi took the boys off to Florida, leaving me behind to take care of the cats. While she was gone, the pregnant mama decided it would be a good time to give birth. Could she wait a day or two until somebody got home who actually knew something? Hell no!! She had to do it with me, the one who doesn't like cat puke, cat screeching and all the attendant difficulties to tend to her every need. the result? This litter of furballs that crept all over the house making a general nuisance of themselves. The boys fell in love with one (well of COURSE they did!) and named him LUMPY. Lumpy was the biggest of the litter, and his name fit like a nurse's rubber glove. Unfortunately, he was about the same color as the bedroom carpet. I, of course, wear glasses and don't usually put them on to go to the bathroom. As I walked across the room, I stepped on Lumpy. Poor Lumpy. Poor ME!!! I've never heard the end of that one, to be sure.

We recently lost our 16 year old Barbie Q, who was a lovely little kitten until some of my nieces kids terrorized her and she was never the same after that. We miss her terribly, though, as she was always the one who welcomed new kitties into the house.

During the past 33 years, I went from resistant acceptance ("Love me love my cats" was the operative phrase at our engagement) to peaceful co-existence and even to limited friendships with a few of these furry beasts who always like to puke up hairballs on my side of the bed as a "gift" to me when I get ready to crawl into bed at night. Lovely! And then, too, they also like to bring "offerings" into the house. Enza, the mighty hunter, loves nothing more than to bring her kill in to share. I'm not sure, but I think she wants me to make rat soup.

About a year and a half ago, we were on our way to the Co-op. The lot was full, so I parked across the street in front of the pet store. BIG MISTAKE. She got out of the passenger's side and said, "Ohhhh, they have kittens. Can we go in and visit them?" "Sure. Why not?" I said, somewhat begrudgingly.

We entered the store and there was a huge stack of metal crates. In the upper one, was a little tabby kitten, nothing spectacular or particularly unusual. I looked at her and said, without any aforethought and totally unprepared for what was coming out of my mouth, "We'll be taking that one home." Mimi and the clerk (who knows us) sorta laughed it off, and Mimi said, "He's just kidding."

But I insisted, for some reason that we were going to adopt that kitten. I didn't understand what was coming out of my mouth. It was very confusing. Why would I do such a thing? She was just a plain, ordinary, kitten, like every other furry little beast I'd been forced to go in and look at over the years.

But, for whatever reason, adopt her we did. The tops of her ears were a brown much the color of ground nutmeg, hence her name.

I'd told Mimi for many years that if I ever had a cat, I'd want one I could train to jump up on my shoulder and ride there like a pirate and his parrot. I also told Mimi shortly after bringing Nutmeg home that I wanted to try to get her used to riding free in the car, so we could take her with us easily. We traveled to Portland car shopping once and took her along. We took turns driving as we headed down the highway. Nutmeg decided the safest place was to climb up on whichever of us was not driving and wrap herself around our neck.

She rode that way for a long, long way. A few months later, out of the blue, she "pounced" Mimi, jumping up on her shoulder. She doesn't particularly like being picked up, and the only way we can carry her is over the shoulder. She will, however, jump up onto our shoulders (especially if she thinks we'll give her a piece of dehydrated chicken breast ($17/3 oz pkg). Hell, I'd probably jump on your shoulder if you'd give me a steak for a treat!

Expensive tastes, this cat. She really MUST be "my" cat. Next thing, she'll be wanting a custom bicycle......

But here's the real story I wanted to tell.

I came home the hospital after my second round of chemo and the next morning, Sunday, I woke up not feeling very well. I was planning to ride my bike to Sunday Starters in Fremont (breakfast NA meeting). Not feeling very strong, and barely awake, I thought I had better take a shower and see if I could get woke up. Chemo tends to leave me feeling pretty crappy for a few days afterwards, and I go on some pretty intense emotional roller coasters from time to time. As I stepped out of the shower, I saw my image in the full length mirror and suddenly my legs looked like strands of spaghetti. I suddenly felt very weak and puny. I've worked so hard over the past few years to build strength, and here I was losing ground. Mimi tried to console me over "first breakfast", but to no avail. I found myself in tears at one point, and my way of dealing with the world when I want it to kindly stop so I can get off is to curl up in a ball and put a blanket over my head. It only ever lasts for a moment, and that is about as much feeling sorry for myself as I ever allow.

Then I start my surrender/acceptance/gratitude routine and the world comes back into focus. I was having THAT kind of a moment. I left the breakfast table, went to the sofa, and crawled under a blanket. I was snorting and sniffling and having a very productive pity party when Nutmeg came over, sat down in front of the sofa and began to cry. I lifted up the edge of the blanket and she climbed in under it with me, stretched out the full length of my chest and began to purr. I could feel her healing energy through the ribs and right into my esophagus, the cause of all of this crap that was draining me of my strength and energy. As I lay there with her radiating her warmth, my world was made better in that instant.

I suppose the moral of the story for me is that even in our darkest moments, we can find some peace, solace and comfort if we are open to it. Sometimes, we don't even need to reach out and take the hand that is trying to comfort us; we just need to let that hand of love embrace us and not run away from it.

Since that morning, I have thought a lot about this weird little kitty and wondered what she knew that morning when we walked into the pet store. Did she sense something? Did I sense something? I've thought about Steve Jobs and what he said about connecting the dots. I've been doing that for a long time, knowing that every one of life's experiences brings me to the exact momennt in time I am living. I think a lot about the interconnectedness of everything around me and am filled with wonder.

Life is very interesting. Especially if we can somehow spend just a moment or two reflecting on what makes it special for us right now. Today. This minute. Just this one brief moment in time. What surrounds you that makes you feel special? What or who is there, reaching out their hand or their paw in friendship to give you the boost you need? How can you give that back? What little thing can you do that will let that person, that pet, that teacher, that nurse, that whomever, that you know and appreciate them?

Mimi really was cute, and I know how very special a person she is, and am grateful today for the gift she gave me as, over the years, I have come from resistance to surrender, from surrender to acceptance and finally from this acceptance into gratitude, allowing me to love back. Over the years, she has been the constant companion in my life adventure. She has shared her self with me, and shared her love of her faithful companions, never wavering, yet never forcing. As a result, today I have another loving companion in this silly little cat who knows me and knows when she needs to nurture me.
Every day, when I look at the love of my life, this is still the girl I see:

Excuse me, I need to go give Nutmeg some chicken.

22 October 2011

Round Two

Well, where did we leave off with this little tale? Oh yeah. Donald (aka Raleighdon the Bold) had just jumped up off the stool and answered the bell, ready to score some punches to this cancer crap that wants to knock him down and out.

So, Josiah and I “smuggled in” the bicycle.
Nobody gave us any resistance, in fact the nurses on Swedish Hospital's 12-E Oncology Unit actually encouraged me. None would hop on and give it a try, but they were all impressed at the set-up. We had the music playing. We had unpacked everything and after a nice hearty lunch,
finally the nurses came in and got me going with the pre-hydration, then the steriods and then the chemo drugs. It wasn't long before I was chasing Josiah out of the room and settling myself in.

In Round One, the fatigue of the drugs really hit home for me on Wednesday afternoon and for about 18 hours, it was all I could do to get out of bed. This time around, for whatever reason, I did much better with maintaining a high energy and high spirits. I had lost very little weight, didn't puff up like a balloon with water retention after the steroids and discovered the wonderful world of ATAVAN! One of the things about cancer treatment is that it opens one's world to pretty much anything that will fight off the pain, fight off the nausea and fight off the demons. I found Atavan to work very well on these last two, simultaneously. Every night, when it came time to sleep, I took an Atavan which kept the nausea down and allowed me to get quite a few calories in late in the evening and drift off to sleep and wake up refreshed the next morning. What could be better?

On Wednesday, the hospital's cabbies came and took me away for my second PET/CT scan. I'd been down this road before and found it to be the most uncomfortable of all procedures, having to lay in a dark room after drinking a nasty tasting barium drink that made me feel bloated, then after a 45 minute “nap” having to lie again in a room all by myself while this machine whirred, buzzed and moved around me, keeping my arms overhead and not moving so much as an eyelid. This is tough for a guy like me who can't sit still for a minute without itching, twitching or bitching.

This time was somewhat better, though, since they had some handholds for me, which allowed me to relax better. I found I was able to almost go into a meditative state and take my mind off of the little issues that were coming up. All of the things I have learned in the past were now starting to come back to me and I was beginning to draw on some of my deep inner resources I hadn't thought about for a long time.

I heard not long ago in a recovery meeting that this individual's recovery moves at the speed of pain. I like that analogy, and think it is a bit true in my life, as well. It seems like I've gained a vast amount of some skills over the years that I tend to take for granted, and it is only when I am visited by a great pain that I have to dig down, truly discover them and focus on how to apply them to the situations at hand. Something about lying around in a hospital bed for a few days gives me a lot of time to focus on that kind of thing.

Thursday morning, Mimi came in early as we were anticipating Dr Kapsule coming in and giving us the results of the PET/CT scan. Just before 7:00, in came this wonderful, silver haired doc, wearing a smile as big as a Dutchman's pair of britches, and he told us the news was really, really good. The more he talked, the more the news sounded good, but not quite as good as we wanted to hear. He was talking about this as being a Stage IV cancer, not Stage II as we thought, but with the shrinking of the lymph node in my neck, they had to assume that somehow, that node was cancerous and the chemo was killing it off. He said Louie Louie would be coming in to visit us on Friday to go over the surgery schedule.

I was left with a mixture of elation and depression. Elation because the tumor had shrunk by almost half and the lymph node in my neck showed as normal now, but depressed because I was really a “Stage IV” patient, and I've read all the statistics; I know the odds; I don't want to face that reality. I knew I needed to.

I started to think about the gift again (see my last article), and how this was an opportunity to learn new and wonderful things about myself, an opportunity to grow both emotionally and spiritually, even as my physical body was doing something other than what I wanted it to. I had to reframe my thinking, and spent most of the day Thursday and Friday working through it all in my mind and heart, remembering my agreement with myself that I would not feel sorry for myself, I would not whine and I would keep my sense of humor. Both of those rules needed to be enforced, and I am the only one who could enforce them. I started to look that nasty foe Cancer in the eye, looked deep within myself and found that it is a weak, pathetic, piece of shit disease that can only gain in strength as it saps me from mine. I got on the bike. I rode. I gazed out the window at my office and Puget Sound. I took naps and dreamed of pleasant things. When I woke up, I reflected on the good times I've had and laid on my back envisioning myself next year doing a lot of them again. I started (again) making plans. Cancer got weaker with each moment.

Louie Louie came in late Friday afternoon to talk to Mimi and me. He wanted to do a mediastinoscopy to rule out any involvement of the lymph nodes in the chest. OK, fine. Just another day of surgery. Seems the debate twixt him and Kapsule about continuing treatment included the need to rule out any spread that could not be seen on the PET scan, otherwise they may be doing a surgery that would leave me weaker and not kill the cancer. Not the best approach. OK, doc. I'll take your word for it. I really don't have a choice here, since both of them have been down this road many times and I never have.

Saturday came and it was time to go home. After getting settled in, I decided I needed to ride to the store. Loaded up 35 pounds of groceries at Red Apple and Mimi and I rode back to the house, giving me my first outdoor ride in October, about 9 miles, half of it with my bike fully loaded.

Then came the first knockdown of the round. I thought I had cancer on the ropes and was working to the body really well, figuring I'd start coming on with a few uppercuts in the next few days, but out of nowhere, I took a right hook to the jaw that lay me out on the sofa and that was where I stayed from noon Sunday until sometime Wednesday. Talk about taking the 8-count.

By Thursday, I felt good enough to try to ride my bike again – this was the first time since December, 2008 that I had taken more than 2 days off the bike in a row and it felt very odd, not even wanting to ride, yet wanting to be on my bike in the worst of ways. This was another of life’s little lessons coming at me. Sometimes it is more important to listen to the body than it is to listen to the heart. I decided to ride to work with Mimi, then ride to the Renton Highlands for my therapy appointment.

Right after receiving this diagnosis, I had gone back on anti-depressants in anticipation of a severely decreased level of physical activity and when I do that, it is equally important to be working with a professional to maintain my mental and emotional balance. Dale (aka Happy Trails) has proven to be an excellent match for me, seeing through all of my little defenses and listening very well to my cues so that she can help coach me through some very tough times. Her office is in a quite inconvenient location – for anyone other than an endurance cyclist who loves nothing more than pulling a 1-mile 12% grade first thing in the morning, that is.

Unfortunately, on this morning, just as I was crossing over Sunset at North 3rd, a guy yelled at me from his car, “GET OFF THE FUCKING ROAD, ASSHOLE!” This as I was trying to move across traffic to navigate into the left turn lane so I could do exactly that. Very bright guy, indeed, and obviously well versed in the law as respects bicycles and their rights and duties. As I was fantasizing about making an about face, chase him down, pull him out of his POS car (and it really was a POS!) and beat the living crap out of him, my chain broke, leaving me in the middle of a busy road and nearly falling off before I could dismount and walk through the light. Every other vehicle, of course, treated me with extreme patience and confirmed my belief that for every 100 or so very good people there is one asshole. Sometimes we meet up and life gets “interesting” for a moment in time.

I walked up the hill. I heard Pansy Palmetto cackling and telling me “This is God’s way of telling you that you’re trying to do too much.” Thanks, Pansy, much appreciated. NOW you tell me!

After my therapy appointment, I had the opportunity to try out my tow service, Better World Club, for the first time. Like AAA, our new service will come and tow your car, help you get in if you space out and lock your keys inside, jump start your truck if you are smart enough to leave the key on, the door open, the heater fan running and music playing for 4 hours (not that I’d ever do THAT!), but they will also come and “tow” you and your bike if you have a breakdown. They were great!

Fast response time, courteous service and drove me and my bike right to my garage. Within 45 minutes I was home, taking a nice hot bath. And had a nice 15 mile bike ride to show for it, as well as a grand adventure. People kept telling me they hoped the rest of my day went better. Thinking about it all, though, I thought the first half had gone exceptionally well. I’d ridden and felt better for it. I’d had a nice chat with Pansy. I’d had a great therapy appointment and an adventure. What could be better?

Well, what was NOT better was the nausea. Talk about a pity party. If ever I was going to get through this I had to stop feeling like I was going to throw up every time I tried to eat anything, drink anything or even brush my teeth. After Round One, I’d had very little nausea, but this time was different; it just seemed to go on and on. It was just this constant feeling that cancer had hit me a really good body shot to the kidneys, followed by a punch straight into the solar plexus. Nothing seemed to be helping. I knew I needed to gain some weight, but was finding it difficult to do with wanting to throw up every time I even thought about food.

Then I made Jell-o.

I don’t know what it is about this magical food from my childhood, but it worked like a charm. Cherry jello with cut up peaches. I made it and waited impatiently for it to set, then ate a big bowl. It was like manna from heaven. I went to bed feeling quite comfortable for the first time in a while. An hour later, I was up, eating more jell-o. I did this throughout the night, and by morning was feeling much better. Thanks, Mom, for teaching me about this wonderful, cheap and tasty treat so many years ago.

And there was the fatigue. I wasn’t sure if it was the cancer or the chemo or the radiation. Mimi told me it was all three. REALLY? Wow! I guess that made sense, but it seemed like the radiation and chemo should have been done working their magic by now. Cancer seemed to be having its way with me in the middle days of this round, and I was just trying to take some strategy from my hero Muhammad Ali and play some rope-a-dope with it. Lean back into the ropes and take the punches, allowing some cushioning and letting my body rest while it got hammered on. He did, after all, say some of the most important things that continue to influence my life: things like, “It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” I believe I can beat cancer. With every punch I absorb, I think to myself that it really isn’t so bad. I’m stronger. I’m tougher. I can win.

After a week of feeling the blows as cancer and treatment continued to pummel me, we went out and rode a 100Km ride, giving Mimi her 1,000Km milestone for the year with RUSA and our 10th consecutive month of these 100Km rides together. Dr. Codfish hosted the Pie Run
and a little dinner afterwards. We did it and finished it. At the end, I felt like I often feel after a ride three times that long, and Mimi had to drive us home. It was a beautiful day, riding with friends to the edge of the rain,

turning around and coming back, finishing in bright warm autumn sun. For a few moments in the day, I was able to completely forget about cancer and just enjoy the moment. These seem to be fewer and farther between right now and I was feeling pretty punchy by the time we got home.

The next week, I slept at least 9 hours and sometimes 10 hours every night, and on Monday had my first general anesthesia surgery of this treatment course, the mediastinoscopy to remove and biopsy some of the lymph nodes in my chest. By the time we got the results back on Thursday, we’d met with the surgeon, met with a neck surgeon (who told me the way I ride is just crazy) and met with my oncologist who sprinkled holy water on my esophagectomy, calling it the “mother of all surgeries” and totally rejecting my idea of doing hernia repair surgery at the same time. I’m telling you, these guys go to 12 years of medical school, spend their whole lives dealing with cancer patients and all of a sudden they think they know everything! Sheesh!

With the news that all my lymph node biopsies came back “normal” AND the report that I have a lot of “extra” lymph nodes and they are all “healthy urban lymph nodes”, we were pretty ecstatic and ready to start punching back a little bit. And then I got one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever received. Cousin Margy had made me a quilt. I came home from a bike ride to find a package waiting for me. It was soft and squishy. “Whee,” I thought at first, “another tee-shirt or sweatshirt.” I’ve received four really awesome tees from friends and family that have become my principal wardrobe, letting me wrap myself in their love every time I put one on. What a surprise to open the gift and find this gorgeous hand-stitched quilt, with my cousin’s love in every single stitch of the needle. “Donald’s Wild Ride” is the name of this beautiful piece of art. I wrapped myself in it. I went to the sofa and sat there and wept tears of joy and gratitude. I’ve got the best handlers a guy could ever hope for.

I was now starting to get rid of the nausea, starting to pick up a little more energy (and gaining a half-pound a day) and riding almost every day again, even just 10 or so miles.
Little jabs, some good body work and not trying to punch myself out to the point of exhaustion. That was the strategy all my handlers were giving me, and it was starting to work. I knew, though that I needed to take a little bit of a mid-round break. I’d been knocked down pretty good earlier in the round, and needed to be careful not to work so hard in this round that I can’t make it to Round Three, which is going to be really tough.

So I hatched a scheme.

Mimi and I have this wonderful beach we love.

I’ve spent a lot of time up and down the California, Oregon and Washington coasts, and visited beaches in lots of other places, but Ruby Beach is one that I love more than most. I think since I discovered Seal Rock on the Oregon Coast, this is the place I have found that brings the greatest pleasure. It has all of the things I love about the ocean. It has some old grown forests to wander through; it has sea stacks (some of the Quillayute Needles); it has a nice quiet stream; it has wide, long expanses of beach to walk; it has beautiful driftwood and lots of smooth stones. It is “our beach” – I have no memories there except with the light of my life. We took two days, essentially checked out of contact with everyone and went to Kalaloch Lodge

for the night, then the next day, spent time at Ruby Beach. The entire time, we spent our time just holding hands, sitting together and reading/painting, playing on the beaches, watching eagles, and taking turns driving and playing disk jockey with the music we had on board. A truly wonderful honeymoon and exactly what any sensible doctor would order. Even if he would not agree to let me get my hernia repaired at the same time they’re removing my esophagus, gall bladder and all the lymph nodes on one side of my neck.

Coming home, I stepped on the scale Friday morning only to discover that I am now within four pounds of where I was at the start of this little boxing match. Every doc I meet tells me I look really good. I am rested and thinking that I can score a knockout here in Round Three. Like Muhammad Ali, I can not only beat my opponent, I can pick the round. I am the (second) greatest!

I think I just heard the bell ending Round Two. Everything is done and it is time to sit on the stool, take a sip or two of water, let my handlers do their magic and get me ready for Round Three. I feel really strong. I feel really positive. I’m ready for whatever takes place in the next three weeks.

As I sit here, reflecting on my hero, this is another thing he said that has shaped how I view life: “Life is a gamble. You can get hurt, but people die in plane crashes, lose their arms and legs in car accidents; people die every day. Same with fighters: some die, some get hurt, some go on. You just don't let yourself believe it will happen to you. “

Some days, you just gotta believe!