Tag Archives: blessings


3 weeks later ….. and I have changed my mind!!


 Friday, February 7, 2014Same Year …. New Model

I can’t quite believe it! It has only been three and a half weeks since Mike’s diagnosis of colon cancer; exactly three weeks today since his surgery and now, today, we have just returned from the first day of our running program! Here is my ‘Ode’ to the marvels of modern medicine, the mystery of the human body and the resilience of the human spirit. We are full of gratitude for how it has all turned out.

Mike stayed home from school for only a week and a day. By then, it was all systems go – from that day on, we started walking from 3 to 6 km. in Arad, every day after school. As we all know, walking promotes, among other things, talking….and so, we got to talking every

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day, about how much better Mike was feeling. Every day for him, has brought about small shifts in returning to normal …. food tasting better…..addiction to gum and salt crystal snacking lessening….energy increasing…..but BEST OF ALL….. a return to our previous zest for life…..feeling young again! From there, our talk turned to running and how it just might once again be possible, for both of us. Because, I too, became older and accepted my decrease of energy, putting it down to age……at the young age of 61!! How can that happen you ask? It happens so gradually that you don’t notice it and it affects every aspect of your life, from your relationship with each other and with friends, to the daily routines of life. Life becomes just a bit boring but, because it’s so gradual, you don’t notice. So now, today, I feel like it is the first day of the rest of our lives!!

For the first time, in a long time, I woke up this morning feeling positive and happy! It was 630 am, the sun was shining and the sky was brilliantly clear. It’s been cold and cloudy – unusual for Bahrain. I seem to have unconsciously…. mentally, brushed aside all the exasperations and frustrations of our retirement effort, the shock of Mike’s diagnosis, the added shock of his son Chris’s diagnosis of bone cancer and now it feels like a new beginning. And what is going through my mind is what my father tried to teach me but what I first really learned from Todd, the most outstanding model of this….that life is what you make it…..a lesson I keep learning over and over again!

So …. we headed out the door at around 730 am, new running shoes sparkling, sunglasses and baseball caps in place. We’d been planning all week long, on our daily walks, discussing our training focus, ‘slow and steady’. We decided to do 5 minute intervals; 1 minute of running followed by 4 minutes of fast walking and to do this for the next 2 weeks before increasing it to 2 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking. Today we did the first 6 intervals – 6 minutes of total running, 24 minutes of total walking plus a good long warmup and cool down, beginning and end. Rewarded ourselves with breakfast at our favorite restaurant, Le Bateau.

Anyways, that’s my update. We continue to live each day as it comes and try to make decisions only when we have to, trying not to think too far into the future.


Healthy as a Horse… “Dear God…”

5  February 2014

Only 3 weeks ago my tumor was discovered and my journey as a colon cancer patient began.

Today I am as though I had never been ill. I still have a bandage covering the still slightly tender incisions required for surgery.  But, other than that I feel so much better… it is at times difficult for me to remember that I was sick, much less that I was life-threatening sick.

As I reflect on the last three weeks, I am filled with an intense gratitude … for the doctors… for the nurses… for the staff of the hospital…. for the “universe”.

I laugh to myself as I think of an atheist’s prayer … “Dear God, I don’t really believe in you BUT thanks anyway.”

My cancer was a Stage II Grade 2 Adenocarcinoma… technical jargon a T3 N0 M0 …. All that stuff means is that it was a slow growing cancer that had not spread beyond the colon… had no lymph nodes involved and no spread to other parts of the body … IN SHORT … the surgery appears to have successfully removed all of the tumor. There are no HIGH RISK factors for recurrence. But that does not mean I can relax … still have tests every 3 months and a yearly colonoscopy… small price to pay to prevent another emergency surgery.

So, what am I? A cancer survivor? Cured? A statistic? Or am I just one very lucky victim who escaped the onslaught of a monstrous giant seeking to devour all who come within its shadow?

No I am just a guy in whose body some cells had their software go haywire and grow crazily. Luckily it was discovered in time and the mal-programmed cells were removed before they could spread their bad programming  elsewhere.

Til and I are now walking between 3 & 6km every day. We shopped for running shoes. I now hope to do some long distance running again. My first goal… 10k…. then maybe a half-marathon. Never thought I would run ANY distance again.

So I am on the mend… PHYSICALLY

Flashback to 28 January…

I just finished a call with Chris ( my son)… my world has been rocked with a 9.5 emotional earthquake. Chris has been fighting an infection in his jaw…. now after a biopsy the preliminary diagnosis is CANCER. The doctors are planning a second biopsy to confirm the result but his primary doctor is not holding out much hope. How I pray it will turn out negative.

“Dear God… I know what I said about believing in in you BUT can you do a repeat for Chris? Thanks in advance.” and I try to chuckle again…

how do I deal with this? It was easy when I was sick… but this is my son! My eyes keep watering up… i really feel… NO it is too early …have to wait for the 2nd biopsy results… there is always a chance… i am almost afraid to say “a mistake” because I might jinx it.  And my mind fills with images and memories… Chris at 3 wearing his bear claw slippers kicking a football around the living room… his best imitation of Rich Karlis… Bronco barefoot kicker (Chris heard BEARfoot) I smile and then the eyes water again…

Flash forward to yesterday… 4 February

This may be the worst day of my life so far… Chris called early. the 2nd biopsy confirms… Cancer. Surgical removal of part of his jaw will be required. Then, reconstruction of his jaw with bone taken from his leg bone(s)… then chemo and radiation therapy.

I am in a state of shock, astonished, gob-smacked, stunned, … my first thought turn skyward… “WHY?… WHY Chris? …. “ I want to rage, rail and scream…

Then the eyes water up again… I see the little boy running ….with his football, not a care… tossing a baseball to me and catching the return throw… I want to grab him up & run like hell to safety. ONLY the little boy is a grown man now AND  there is nothing I can do… I can’t even take on his burden and pain as every parent wishes they could for their suffering children.

My God, how the emotions flow… alternating between profound sadness and rage… I want to cry one minute and scream the next…

Two things occur to me simultaneously… One: none of my emotional drama has any effect on Chris or his condition… Two: this emotional drama is not conducive to my own health and well being … SO NOW that I am back to NORMAL (as normal as I can be),  it is time to focus all my thought and concern on Chris. And keep sending my positive vibes to him.

“Dear God …


Tilly & I have lived a blessed life for the last 8 years. Living and working overseas, traveling to and spending long forays in exotic lands. Every year we took at least two what for most would be trips of a lifetime. We trekked the Himalayas…. bicycled the Rhine in Germany and the tulip fields of Holland in April… wandered Paris, Barcelona and the south of France … spent a Christmas in a Medieval castle int the Pyrenees… went  scuba diving on the coast of Oman while living aboard a dhow for a week… and much more.

In each other we found the perfect partner in our respective romantic, spiritual, creative and wandering instincts. However, in the back of both our minds was the desire to really pursue our creative talents. We found that while working for a living, we were too exhausted, overwhelmed  and stressed to really put the efforts we wanted into our talents and our preliminary efforts while promising petered out under the pressures of work. Out of that desire was born the decision to retire from our teaching careers.

It is one thing to have a desire and intent. It is quite another to actualize the intent. We had meticulously saved and invested for the “future” but, that future  “ retirement” seemed so far away as to be fantasy.  The events of the Arab Spring were to change that.

Having been advised by our respective embassies to leave Bahrain in March of 2011 and at the invitation from good friends S&B we flew to southern California for what turned out to be a three week stay. We liked the desert environment and as a lark we decide to “look” at houses that were for sale; not dreaming that we could afford to buy.  Life has a way of throwing things in our path that changes our entire plan(s); within a week we had found a house and made a purchase offer. Not only could we afford it but could do so mortgage free. Within the month we owned our own home back home in North America. Within two months the realization hit that we could work just one more year and then retire.

We spent the summer of 2011 setting up our new home, in between visits to family and friends with the gracious help of our good friends C&C. We finished setting up during the Christmas holiday of 2011 again with C&C at our sides. The stage was set and we began the process figuring out all the details of ending our expat life and returning “home”. We planned and schemed but, knew there were some things that we could not take care of until we were “home”.  We left Bahrain and the Middle East for good in June.

So it has been 2 months, 4 weeks and 1 day since we returned to North America to begin our “retirement”. BUT we have only been 7 days in our own home . We knew that just as every other summer we would need to spend at least 2 months visiting our far flung family and friends.

When you spend 10 months of every year 1/2 a world away once a year personal visits are really important. Keeping contact is difficult because  the 10-11 hour time difference makes phone calls hard to coordinate. You don’t want to call your friends and family in the middle of their night! And sure as heck you don’t want them doing the same to you. No better method to dissolve a relationship than to interrupt a good nights sleep.

My daughter’s wedding (which we would not have missed for the world) required a  three week time frame and the requisite visits to other family and friends took a full 2 months to complete.  We do not regret the time spent but, we had no time for ourselves to deal with the remaining questions of retirement.

Some how we thought that we could merrily slip into the retirement mode…having the freedom and time to follow our dreams where ever they lead. Who knew that  when we decided to stop the “working for a living” life style things were going to get a whole lot more complicated and stressful!

When we were working for a living, things were fairly simple. Got up early … made it to work on time… put in required time… took home that which we could not complete at the “school” …. finally falling into bed a few scant hours before we started the cycle over again… praying all the time for “FRIDAY” so we could break that cycle for two days. In return we got a steady income and a few benefits (medical insurance, vacation time and with luck a few other perks). We were able to live a fairly consistent and routine life … we knew what to expect… decisions were made by our school/work calendar.  Other than what to do on vacation or holidays our daily life was fairly well mapped out.

We keep busy morning to night with our art, writing, physical activities, and other interests; often wondering how we ever had the time to work. Our stress is in the choosing of another framework for our life not in having nothing to do. We have discovered more choices to make, decisions to reach and from those, more choices and decisions. Our plans are changing with each new choice.

It was all figured out or so we believed… We would “retire” from teaching to live in Southern California, find another mode to make enough money to see us the 5 to 7 years until old age benefits began and live our life while still able to enjoy it. We would get catastrophic health coverage just in case, while we sought part-time employment that offered medical benefits (yes there are companies that do offer their part-timers benefits). In the mean time we would pursue and perfect our respective arts, photography and writing in the goal of selling them.

It sure seemed like a great plan… but, life always has a way of throwing things in our path that can change the entire plan… luckily for us it is not a serious or life threatening illness.

When a person works for a company in the US that offers health insurance benefits … all is good. But if you need to find health coverage as an individual things go to hell in a hurry.

Of course we could have opted for Jesus Life & Casualty – where you pray you do not get sick or injured and if you do it is not more serious than a flu bug or a splinter and if it is serious you pray to pass on quickly enough not to drain your families resources. That might be a decent temporary solution for healthy young folks that have not much to lose and time to make up the loss. But for us older folks; we have everything we worked hard to gain to lose and NO time to ever make up for it.

Thus begins our saga … finding health insurance…  and we ask ourselves, “WHAT NOW?”

To be continued…