Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Suggestion Box

I need to warn you. This is a hard post. You may not like it at all. You may be offended by it. But I have to say it. I hope you understand, and I hope I don't lose too many of you with this post. But this is how I feel.

First of all, I need to say that I'm not directing this post at anyone in particular. If you think I'm talking about you, I'm not. Except for one or two specific examples I give, I'm speaking generally.

When you have cancer, you get a lot of suggestions from well-meaning people. They tell you what treatments you should consider. They tell you how you should eat. They send you articles to read, and links to websites for cancer clinics in exotic locations. They tell you to keep fighting, and to never give up.

When I was first diagnosed, I was like a sponge, absorbing all of this information. But now, after 21 months in treatment, I feel like I've seen them all. I can't tell you how many people have sent me that "Truth About Cancer" video. Now, all of this advice has become rather tiresome. Especially since I'm not asking for any of it.

Even now, in the comments of almost every post, someone adds a comment about what they think I should or shouldn't do, regardless of what the topic of the post is. Most the time, those comments are on Facebook. But some comment on the blog post itself. In the comments of my last post, someone suggested a treatment I should look into. This comment had nothing whatsoever to do with the content of my post. But I have this blog set up so I have to approve comments. I didn't approve that one. I deleted it.

But it isn't just comments on my posts. People message me with links they want me to look into, and videos they want me to watch. Most of the time, I've seen what they sent me before. Many times, in some cases. I even received a message this week from someone saying I should travel to India for treatment! As if!

It seems that people think I have a suggestion box on my desk, and they're free to stuff that box full of all kinds of good ideas. But I'm here to say that I'm no longer open to suggestions. The suggestion box is closed.

I understand that those who do this are only trying to help. If we are friends, your suggestions come from a desire to keep me around as long as possible. I appreciate that. But I have to do this my own way.

Of course, there have been times when I've talked about a problem I had, and friends pointed me in the right direction. My friend Deanna, in particular, really saved me from some terrible emotional times by suggesting I try the supplement 5-HTP. It worked wonders for me when I really needed it. I think it was my friend Sandi who suggested taking Magnesium for my leg spasms. That worked for me too. I appreciate both of these helpful suggestions very much, and the friends who gave them.

The difference is, both of them were responding to a need I expressed, and tried to meet that need. It wasn't just, "Oh, you have cancer? You should try this! I saw it on the internet!"

At the risk of offending so many who want me to try to find some way, any way to stay alive, the only people whose advice I'm willing to entertain regarding my cancer treatment at this point are my oncologist, my nurse, and my nutritionist. The medical professionals who treat me. And even they don't have the final say. I do. They work for me.

I'm not interested in getting a second opinion. I'm not interested in traveling for treatment. I have confidence in my team, and it's necessary for me to stay within the confines of what my insurance covers. I can't pay for expensive new treatments that insurance doesn't cover yet. I can't pay for naturopathic treatment. I will not go into debt to try to stay alive a little longer. So when my oncologist runs out of options for me that I can go along with, and that my insurance covers, well, we won't go there quite yet. But I think we're pretty close to the end of that list now.

Please understand that my attitude about this is not a reflection on you. Especially if we have a real relationship, and aren't just Facebook friends. Not to say I don't have real friendships on Facebook. I most certainly do. I love you, but I'm done looking for a way out of this mess. Barring a miracle, there is only one way out.

And if the extent of our relationship is that we belong to the same support group on Facebook, or we're Facebook friends but don't really know each other, well, I want to say this as kindly as I can. Do you really think it's your place to tell someone you barely know how they should make life or death decisions?

I think one of the problems here is that most people are fighters when it come to an illness like this, and I'm not. They're willing to try anything and everything just to keep breathing as long as possible. If you're that type of person, it's hard for you to imagine why everyone wouldn't feel the same way. But I don't feel that way. There's a limit to how hard I'm willing to fight.

Part of this is because I'm a man of faith. I don't believe that survival is the greatest good, and death is the thing most to be avoided. I never have. I believe I have an eternal home waiting for me. In the light of eternity, does how much time we get here make all that much difference? Does anyone in Heaven think, "Boy, I sure wish I'd gotten a couple more years down there"? I doubt it. In all of the "near death experience" stories I've heard, I have yet to hear one where the person who crossed over wanted to go back. They're always told, "It's not your time. You have to go back."

News flash: We all die. Nobody gets out of here alive. It's just a matter of time for all of us.

It's not that I'm stopping all treatment. Of course not. But I may not be open to any new ones. I'll have to see what my oncologist has to offer. As far as I know, we'll continue with Lupron and Xtandi, along with Xgeva to strengthen my bones. Hopefully that will at least slow the growth of my cancer, and keep me from having a catastrophic bone break or spinal issue.

I understand that you want to keep me around if you love me. And I have to say again that I'm astonished and humbled by how many of you there are. And I love you too. But urging me to fight for every minute and spend my remaining time searching for a cure that doesn't exist is making it about you. It's not about what I want, it's about what you want. And worse, telling me to believe in miracles is questioning my faith in God. I have faith in God. So much that I'm willing to let him do whatever he wants with me.

I don't know what my oncologist will say if and when my PSA rises next month. I don't know what remaining treatments he'll have available that will both be effective for a while and not compromise my quality of life, such as it is. I will listen to him, and my nurse too. I'll talk it over with my wife. Together, we'll decide what to do and what not to do.

What I need, and what every other cancer patient needs, is support. Encouragement. Love. Prayers. If we say we're looking for information, please send it to us. If modern medicine has failed us, and we're looking for an alternative, we'll read every article you can throw at us. But as for me, I've reached a point in my journey where I feel like I have a pretty clear picture of what I'm supposed to do. And that's what I will do.

Thank you for your love and concern for me. Let me say one more time that I know you're only trying to help. I do need your supportive comments, your messages, texts and calls. I most definitely need your prayers and your love. But I don't need any more suggestions about treatments I should pursue. The suggestion box is closed. #waroncancer #bearingwitness

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Always On My Mind

Not the song by Willie Nelson, though it is a great song. It's something else that's always on my mind. I think you know what that is.

A friend asked me recently if there's ever a day that I don't think about cancer, and jokingly said that could be a blog post. Well, here's the post. But it's no joke. I don't think about cancer every day. I think about it every minute.

It's not the first time this particular friend has inspired a blog post. I don't expect it will be the last. There are a few of you who know by now that your words can and will be used in a blog post. But not against you. Never against you.

Not that cancer is at the forefront of my mind all the time, but it's the permanent backdrop of my life. It's always there. Especially now, after the news I got last week. That rising PSA number brought me crashing down to earth fast. I was supposed to be the bumblebee, doing the impossible for a guy with all of my factors. Maybe I still am. We'll find out in June. But it doesn't feel that way to me. It feels now like my wings really are too small, and gravity is pulling me back down. So it's on my mind even more than it was before.

I'm not worrying or stressing about it, but I do want to talk about it. A lot. Have you noticed? When I wear one of my cross pendants every day, I'm always hoping someone will ask me about them, so I can tell them about my cancer. People rarely do, though.

If we know each other, don't ever feel like I want to avoid the subject. It's not me who wants to avoid talking about it, it's you. I need to talk about it. Because it's always on my mind.

Rather than worry and stress, the main feeling I've had since my last PSA result, and the consultation I had with my oncologist, has been sadness. I feel sad all the time. I can still enjoy things that give me pleasure, like watching a good movie or TV show, or listening to music I love, or reading a good book, or being with loved ones. Especially that. But the sadness is always there, like a blanket covering everything.

It wasn't like that before that number started rising again. Back when I was the bumblebee. Sure, I felt like I was shrinking, getting smaller and weaker by the day, but I thought my cancer was shrinking too. Now, like The Incredible Shrinking Man, I keep getting smaller, while the spider has started to grow.

So my mood has changed. I try to think about other things, and I'm successful much of the time. But if I don't have something specific to focus on, the wave of sadness comes back. It's all gotten too real.

Well, this is a depressing post, isn't it? I'm sorry if it comes off that way, but I have to tell you the truth. I have to bear witness to what this is like, at least for me. I'm not afraid, I'm not worried or stressed, and thank God, I'm not in pain. Much. But I am sad. And I'm very tired.

Let's be honest. I've been preoccupied with the subject of my cancer since I was diagnosed. People would say I must be tired of talking about it, and I'd reply that it's all I want to talk about. That's why I write this blog, obviously. So I can talk about it with as many people as possible. But even that's not enough.

That's also why I'm in therapy. So I can talk about it some more. I talk about lots more than cancer with my therapist, but the subject is never far off. I doubt there's been a session where it didn't come up. Because it's always on my mind.

It doesn't take much to make a day go sideways for me now. After a frustrating morning in my recording studio Friday, where a technical glitch kept me from making any progress on my final CD project, I had to stop working by around 12:30 in the afternoon. I was too upset to work. Even after a good day's work yesterday, as soon as I finished for the day, the sadness came rushing back in.

My PSA was expected to rise at some point, so I'm not sure what I'm so sad about. Actually, I do, I'm just not ready to talk about it here yet. But I think a big part of it is just sadness about running out of time. I'm not angry about my cancer. I don't want to shake my fist at God about the unfairness of it. But I am sad about it, and I'm preoccupied with it.

Before you tell me not to think about it, before you say I should just live my life and not let cancer define me, tell me if you've been in my shoes. And even if you have or you are right now, everyone processes these things differently. There's no right or wrong way, and there's no instruction manual.

It's not like me to feel sad for so long. I keep expecting my usual upbeat nature to assert itself. Maybe that will happen if my PSA goes back down next month. Maybe finishing my recording work, selling my gear, and going on a road trip in June will do it. Maybe I need to go back on the 5-HTP supplement for a while. But even if the sadness fades, the preoccupation won't. That's been a constant from the start.

I'm sorry this post has been so down. I'm just being honest about where I'm at. I find myself sighing deeply at the oddest times. Sitting down to tie my shoes. Making breakfast in the morning. There's a heaviness to everything now.

I have a lot of work to do to get this CD project done in time, and that one little number knocked me off course for a week.  I just couldn't get back there mentally. This week was better. I might not make my original deadline, but I shouldn't miss it by much. It helps to have something to occupy my attention. It almost makes me forget for a little while. Almost.

Because no matter where I am or what I'm doing, cancer is there. It's eating me up inside while we talk over coffee, or interact on Facebook, or breathe. So yes, it's always on my mind. #waroncancer #bearingwitness

Monday, May 15, 2017


I was talking with a couple of friends this past week who were upset about the turn my cancer has taken, and both of them said that they thought it wasn't fair that I had cancer. Especially this deadly kind. I have to agree with them. It's not fair at all. It's not fair that I got sick at such a relatively young age, 60. It's not fair that it's so aggressive, and gives me so little time. It's not fair that my octogenarian parents will probably outlive their son. And on and on.

But what are we really saying when we say that? Are we saying that no one should get sick or die? Are we saying everyone should just die peacefully of old age? Or are we saying that calamities like terminal illness should only happen to "bad" people? And who decides who the bad people are?

One of my friends actually implied that in our conversation. She said she thought people like me - a direct quote - should be exempt from cancer. People like me? I told her that before I had cancer, I wasn't the guy she sees now. I wasn't anyone especially "good." I wanted people to think I was, but deep down, I wasn't.

But even if I was the Pope, Ghandi and Oprah all rolled into one, I don't think that exempts me from getting cancer. Or from what might be considered a premature demise. I almost said dying young, but no one would mistake me for young.

I've said before in this blog that I've never asked the question, "Why me?" Because if you do, you also have to ask, "Why not me?" What makes me so special that I can expect to avoid something like this? Not a thing.

I know many feel this sense of the unfairness of it all, not necessarily about me, but themselves or someone they love. Something terrible has happened, or did happen, or is happening to them or a loved one. The cancer community is replete with such people. But it isn't just about cancer. We all have terrible things happen to people we love, or to us, or both. Many times all at once. I have friends for which this is true right now.

I recently read When Bad Things Happen To Good People by Harold Kushner. It's a very well known book that I had never read until a couple of months ago. It's pretty much the definitive statement on this subject. If you struggle with this question of why life isn't fair, I highly recommend it. I won't try to answer that question in this post. I'll only agree that there's nothing fair about any of this, but that includes the bad and the good. And for me, there's been so much good, it's really unfair.

Let's start with the fact that I'm now in my 21st month without pain since my diagnosis. This is an incredible blessing that many of my brothers don't have. Especially those who are Stage 4 like me. I know that pain is coming, but the fact that I've had this much time without it when so many others suffer is really unfair.

My wife and I have had a tremendous amount of financial help, most of which I never talk about in this blog. I have friends with mountains of medical bills and no way to pay them. They get no help at all, while we don't have to worry about that. It's so unfair.

I have a loving, supportive wife and family. Many of my prostate cancer brothers have no one. No wife or significant other, and no family. Or their families are estranged, or marked by toxic relationships. In many cases, their spouse left them when they got cancer. So they face this disease alone. It's just not fair.

I have an incredible group of friends who support me and love on me constantly. It's in my nature to make friends easily, so I understand that I play a major role in the quality of my friendships. We all do. Good people attract good people. But why should someone suffer alone just because they don't make friends easily? It's not fair that it's so easy for me and so hard for them. They need love, companionship and support as much as I do.

I have a newfound purpose. I'm doing it right now. And I have other new passions that God has given me to replace my old ones. Many of my brothers mourn the loss of the man they used to be, and struggle to find a new purpose. I don't know why this gift was given to me and not to them, but it doesn't seem very fair to me.

I could go on, but it's starting to sound like bragging. In spite of last week's bad news, it seems like every time I turn around, another incalculable blessing falls into my lap. One of my biggest struggles is feeling like I don't deserve all of this blessing, and all of this love.

Fairness is a human construct. Nature knows nothing of fairness. A herd of gazelle, if it could think, would probably think it's unfair that the weakest and most vulnerable among them are the ones most likely to be eaten by a lion.

Like it or not, cancer is part of nature. It's just cells doing what cells do; trying to reproduce. In a way, cancer is very fair. It doesn't play favorites. It doesn't care if you're good or bad. To cancer we're all just food. It's horrible, but it is fair.

Jesus didn't promote the idea of fairness. Consider the reaction of the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32, blog) This young miscreant wastes his whole inheritance, then when he runs out of money, runs home with his tail between his legs, and Dad throws him a huge party. What's fair about that? But that's the Gospel. There's also the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. (Matthew 20:1-16, blog) The guys who show up with an hour left in the workday get paid the same as the guys who worked all day. Is that fair?

God isn't that interested in fairness. What God loves are justice and mercy. And us. More than anything, he loves us. God's love is not about fairness, it's about grace. It's about giving us what we don't deserve. It's totally unfair, in the best possible way.

We all experience things in life that seem unfair. Maybe it's a terminal illness for you or someone you love. Maybe it's a chronic condition that you're forced to live with for many years, like my dad has. Maybe it's a terrible family situation, like one of the friends I had this conversation with. Maybe it's one of a million other things. But if you look hard - or maybe you don't have to look that hard - you will see that the blessings in your life outnumber the bad things. Maybe you know someone who, when their life is compared to yours, you have it so good it seems unfair. I hope you can see the reality of that for you, the way I have in my life.

So I have to agree, this whole business is as unfair as unfair can be. Both in horrible ways and wonderful ways. But for me, the wonderful has far outweighed the horrible. That seems more than fair to me. #waroncancer #bearingwitness

Thursday, May 11, 2017

One More Month In The Waiting Room

I was apprehensive before my appointment with my oncologist today. My PSA number has risen a bit, from .06 to .35, and I wanted to know what he thought it meant, of course. It turned out that my guesses yesterday were correct. He wants to wait and see.

He called today's PSA score "one data point." He needs another to recommend a course of action. But at the same time, he knows it's up to me. If I didn't want to wait, we'd go ahead with more scans now. But I can wait.

As usual, I "checked in" on Facebook when I sat down in the waiting room. As usual, the amount of support I received made me feel very loved. And as usual, the staff at Cypress Hematology and Oncology here in Denver, Colorado got me in without much of a wait.

Someone recently asked on Facebook what the best cancer care place in the Denver area is, and while I couldn't answer which is considered "the best," I answered that there's no place else I'd rather go, and no other people I'd rather have treat me than these people. That feeling was reinforced in a big way with this visit.

Much as I thought, my doctor wants to see if my PSA will go back down of its own accord. I still have my prostate gland, and it's still producing PSA. So it's possible that's all it is. But neither he nor I feel that's likely. He thinks the number will probably go up again by this time next month. I do too.

He was very frustrated that I didn't get more time from Xtandi. But we're trying not to make that assumption yet. We'll just sit in the waiting room for another month to know for sure. I'll keep taking my pills every day in the meantime.

I told him about my sore shoulder. He poked at it, and asked what hurt. He asked when the pain started, and other questions. From my answers, he surmised that it's probably an injury or some rotator cuff issue that happened when I began working out - at their behest, by the way - a couple of months ago. I know that's when I noticed the pain for sure, when I started working out. Shoulder presses in particular hurt, and I was only lifting the bar with no weights. He gave me some simple steps to follow to try to rehab the shoulder as best I can for the next month.

At the same time, he assured me that he realizes that because of the history I have with this shoulder, and how my original diagnosis was thought to have found cancer there, that we need to pay attention to that possibility. So if, when I go back in June, my shoulder is no better, and my PSA rises further, he will order scans to see what can be found, both in my left shoulder area and everywhere.

He knows my priorities and criteria when it comes to treatment. He knows that there aren't many more conventional treatments that I will agree to, if any. So this is a significant milestone. If my next number is higher, as both of us expect it will be, we will be making some very difficult choices.

Before he ran off to his next patient - these doctors and medical staffs are stretched far too thin - I asked him to sit for a minute so I could tell him how much I appreciate him and his staff. It was another one of those "sit still while I tell you how much I love you" moments, which seem to happen for me fairly regularly. I didn't use the L word with him, but I made sure he realized how blessed I feel to have such people caring for me.

Then, my favorite nurse, the famous Melanie came in. I had two shots to get today. We went back to the four month version of the Lupron shot, thank goodness. So hopefully my appetite won't go haywire this time. But my hip is sore, and it will be for about a day until the medicine spreads throughout my system. I also got my monthly Xgeva shot for my bones. That one's easy. Just a shot in the arm. But I didn't feel either one, since Melanie is the best shot giver in the observable universe.

After the shots, I also wanted to have a serious conversation with Melanie. Both she and the doctor had attempted to minimize the size of my PSA increase, until I reminded them that in terms of the rate of increase, it's a lot. A factor of almost six. They both sadly acknowledged that was true. Their job is to try to encourage me, but they were both honest with me when I pressed them. That's just one reason I love my team so much.

Melanie is a chemo nurse. My oncologist knows that I have no intention of doing chemo. I could write a whole blog post as to why that is, and maybe I should. But the bottom line is, I don't believe it will give me much more time. I think it will only make the time I have left miserable. It will definitely not cure me.

I've grown attached to Melanie over the past several months, and I wanted her input on the subject. I knew that it would come up soon anyway. I specifically asked if she'd treated guys in my specific condition. She admitted that they don't get a lot of prostate cancer patients there. Most guys with prostate cancer see a urologist. I think that's a mistake, but that's for another post too. I wanted to know if she had treated any Stage 4, Gleason 9 prostate cancer patients with chemo, and if so, what were their results? She said she'll do some research and tell me the next time I see her.

But I'll tell you one thing. Nobody is saying that chemo will kill my cancer, or even give me more than a few months.

I was a little afraid that Melanie would pressure me to do chemo, but she didn't. She totally understands, and shares my views on the subject. She sees it every day, up close.

I find myself marveling at these people who care for cancer patients for a living. They develop attachments to their patients, and then, in many cases, lose them. They treat terminally ill people every day, and keep a smile on their face and a kind word on their lips. I don't know how they do it.

I won't reveal the rest of my conversation with Melanie. It was between her and me. But I'll tell you this. It made me very happy to realize that Melanie will be my nurse for the rest of my life. She will be there, right till the very end. It's a gift she has, to be a caregiver to the dying. I'm welling up right now with gratitude that God brought her into my life. And all because I was scared of a shot and demanded their best shot giver! That was about a year ago now. Today, she's one of the most precious people in my world.

So I'm in the waiting room for another month. But it will go fast. I have lots to do between now and then, including wrap up my last recording project and take a road trip to Arizona for a dear friend and cancer brother's benefit.

Both my doctor and my nurse hated my results and their implication. I know you do too, especially when things seemed so hopeful not so long ago. But I always knew this day was coming. The day when the combination of Lupron and Xtandi would no longer control my cancer. The day when I would look at the remaining conventional treatments available to me and say, "No thanks" to all of them. I just didn't think it would be this soon.

There is still the cannabis oil treatment I've been on. I'd like to move back to a full dose, rather than the "maintenance" level I'm taking now, just to see if it will help. But I'm not willing to jump through a lot of hoops to try to stay alive. No major changes to an already healthy diet. No magic supplements. No cleanses. No essential oils. No alkaline water. I just don't believe in that stuff. I'm sorry. I'll talk about all of this much more in future posts, as I already have in past ones.

I feel that my job is to trust God, and bear witness. That's another blog post right there, and maybe the title of my book. Bearing Witness. Fighting for a few more months is not my style. Telling my story is. I have a lot more to say. I just have one more month in the waiting room before I can say all of it. #waroncancer

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

More Than Just A Number

I was expecting to get my new PSA number sometime during the day yesterday, but it didn't come in until after 10:00 PM last night. Don't they know I've been asleep for two hours by then? So I had the privilege of seeing it to start my day today. It's up, from .06 to .35.

This is still a very low number, not even into whole numbers yet. If you take the number by itself, it's great. But it's a big increase from where it was. Proportionally, it's more than five times what it was before. That's cause for concern.

My oncologist says that, at this point, it's more about the trend than the actual number. One rise does not equal a trend. But two would. The last time this happened, when Lupron alone started failing me last August, my oncologist wanted to wait a month and test again, to see if it's just random fluctuation, due to the fact that I still have my prostate gland continuing to produce the PSA protein. The hope was that the number would go back down, and we could stay the course for a while longer. But if you were following along at that time, you know what happened.

After a month, my PSA rose a second time, by a larger margin. That's when a new bone scan and MRI were ordered, and when metastasis to my spine and ribs were found. That's when I officially became Stage 4. At that point, we added Xtandi, which pushed my PSA down to the insanely low levels I've been enjoying since.

So I expect that my oncologist will want to do the same this time. Wait for a month, and test again. If the number goes back down, we're still good. If not, we've got a big problem.

My oncologist said when we started that he didn't know how much "mileage" (his word) I'd get out of Xtandi. But I certainly expected to get more than a few months. I've only been on it since the end of September. If this is more than random fluctuation, Xtandi was only effective in keeping my cancer under control for seven months. Less time than I got out of Lupron. This can be a pattern with very aggressive cancers. Each treatment gives you less time. My doctor calls it "burning through" treatments.

One thing I've heard from fellow patients, their caregivers, and from friends is the PSA is just a number. I shouldn't be bound by it, or defined by it. I shouldn't even think about it. Just live my life. Here's the problem with that for me. I understand that there are cases where the PSA number seems to bear no relationship to the progression of a patient's cancer, or in how they feel. But that's never been true for me. For me, the PSA has always been a very reliable indicator of the state of my cancer. When my PSA has been rising, my cancer has been advancing. When it's gone down, my cancer was shrinking. So I can't disregard that number. It's impossible.

I'm not one who stresses about each PSA test. I was fine yesterday. I'm just shaken up by the news today. But though I was wasn't worried, I did have a feeling. I've learned to trust my feelings in this process. They've rarely been wrong. And when my feelings have been wrong, it's been because they were overly optimistic.

I can think of one possible reason the number went up. When my PSA crashed to such low levels, I was on a full dose of the cannabis oil suppositories. For the past month or so, I've been on a lower, "maintenance" dose. I can't help but wonder if my cancer started growing again the moment I went to a lower dose. I'll ask about that tomorrow. It's the only variation that's taken place in my treatment that might explain it. So, assuming my doctor wants to wait a month and retest, if my PSA rises again, I think I'll try to go back to a full dose and see what happens. It's just a matter of paying for it. It's not cheap, and insurance doesn't cover it.

I'm trying not to blow this result out of proportion. Hopefully, it will go back down in a month and everything will be fine for a while. But I'm prepared for the opposite result, and for what it means. I won't go there in this post, other than to say that it feels to me like confirmation that the shorter prognosis I received back in September, when I wrote Life Expectancy, was correct.

This is probably completely unrelated and coincidental, but my left shoulder has been bothering me lately. It hurts when I move it in certain ways. I can't do upper body exercises when I work out. I can't sleep on that side because it hurts too much. It hurts to drive. For those who don't know my history, when I was first diagnosed, an MRI showed a suspicious spot on my left upper arm bone. It was later determined by several experts not to be cancer. It was thought to be some kind of benign tendonitis thing. But cancer couldn't be completely ruled out.

The telltale image from that MRI of my left shoulder

Now it hurts all the time. So I'm gonna say to my oncologist when I see him tomorrow, "You know this shoulder that you thought might have cancer, and decided it didn't? Well, it really hurts now." I wonder if the combination of pain in the shoulder that was the cause of so much concern a year ago happening right at the same time as a rise in my PSA will be enough for him to order a new MRI of that area to see what's going on. Or maybe, when I describe the symptoms, he'll think it confirms his tendonitis conclusion, and refer me to the right doctor for that. We'll see.

I was going to tell you about my last visit, when I got my blood draw and saw both a dental hygenist and my nutritionist, but it doesn't seem to fit in this post. I had a really good joke to add to that part too. But I don't feel much like joking today.

So much for my first birthday wish. It wasn't for a low PSA number, if you remember. The number is still low. My wish was that it would go down or stay the same. Instead, it went up by a factor of more than five.

I'm glad I get to see my therapist this afternoon. That will help a lot. I'm glad I have friends who I can talk to. And I'm so blessed to know that you're reading this right now. Your love and support makes this journey much easier.

It's easy for a prostate cancer patient to feel captive to that PSA number. No matter what the state of our cancer is, whether we've had surgery and our cancer is considered "undetectable" or we're Stage 4 like me, we're still subject to that test at regular intervals for the rest of our lives. And every time, we fear that number will rise. Don't tell me it's just a number. It's been too reliable in showing whether my cancer is advancing or retreating. I just hope this time is an exception. #waroncancer

Sunday, May 7, 2017

What I Want For My Birthday

Today, I turn 62. When you get to be my age, you're hard to buy gifts for. I pretty much have everything I need. I don't even want cake. I'm not much of a cake fan. So this isn't a gift wish list. But it is a wish list. There isn't a thing on this list that money can buy.

I'm already getting the best gift I could receive; Retirement. At the end of this month. I'm counting the days. Not really, but I'm pretty excited. So that doesn't even make the list. It's already in the works.

I'm going to limit my list to the "possible." Meaning things that don't require a miracle. So I'm not asking God, or medicine, or the Birthday Bunny for a cure for my cancer. I'm not asking any other time, so why would my birthday be different?

I'll start with something more modest. I get my next PSA test tomorrow. I want my number to stay the same or go down. It can't go down much further than .06, where it was four months ago. If it stays the same, I'll be happy with that. That would make an excellent birthday present. If it's up, even a little, it could be big trouble. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I want another year without pain. This is entirely out of my hands, but it's definitely possible. No miracle required. When my wife and I were with our friends in Santa Fe, it became clear to me what a blessing it is at Stage 4 to have no pain. I'll take as much of that as I can get, and I'm thankful for every day I have without pain.

I want to keep my medical team. This may prove the most difficult of all my requests, but it's of vital importance to me. I'm not one to seek treatment in different places. I'm not gonna travel to Mexico or the Mayo Clinic, or even the Cancer Center Of America for treatment. I like my doctor, my nurse, my nutritionist, my therapist, and every other member of my team. I trust them. I'm comfortable with them. That's an incredible blessing that many of my brothers don't have. On my 63rd birthday, I want to still be seeing this team.

I want the readership of this blog to continue to grow. The more people we have here, the better. There is strength in numbers. And there are many thousands who are affected by this disease who I believe could benefit from my testimony.

This is one area where you can help by sharing posts on your Facebook timeline and Twitter feed. A dream I have is for a post to go viral. Not to make me feel good, but to encourage as many as possible. To bring awareness of what this disease is like to as many as possible. To share the story of how God is using cancer to transform one patient's life with as many as possible.

I told a friend and cancer brother this week that I'd write whether I had ten readers or ten thousand. That's absolutely true, but it has so much more meaning when I know it's helping my brothers and their loved ones. So I want it to grow. I want to see a quantum leap in readership this year. Totally achievable, and I believe, inevitable.

Of course, I make no money from this blog whatsoever. I don't put advertising banners on it or use Google AdSense. That's not what this is about. It never has been.

I want more time with my loved ones this year. With each day that goes by, the fleeting nature of time becomes more plain to me. Every moment that passes is gone forever. So I don't want to miss a moment with those who are closest to me. If we are friends, and you want to know what I want for my birthday, the answer is time with you. There is nothing more precious than time. I've said for many years that time is more expensive than money. We can always get more money, but we can never get more time. That's especially true for me now. Remember, I don't know how much time I have, but neither do you. Let's not let too much time pass without contact. I need it desperately.

Tomorrow afternoon, we have our weekly Monday get-together with our close friend Nikki. This time, we'll be joined by our friends Deanna, (My Comedy Partner In Another Life and the one who introduced me to the supplement 5-HTP) and Margo, a friend and musical colleague for many years. Deanna calls it Mondays With Mark. I love that. This is the very definition of precious time. It also has the added benefit for me of being surrounded by four beautiful women for a few hours. Happy birthday to me.

I want to continue to feel good enough and strong enough to do the things I'm passionate about; Invest in the kids in the rock band school, turn this blog into a book, and contribute as much as I can to our new ice cream business. And while I'm at it, I want to continue to feel good enough and strong enough to enjoy my first year of retirement.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) Since my diagnosis, I've learned how to take delight in the Lord. Actually, there wasn't much of a learning curve. When God starts showering you with his presence like he has been for me, delight is putting it mildly. But even as I take delight in the presence of Almighty God, I don't think that verse means God has to grant my birthday wish list.

That verse is true because when we really take delight in him on a daily, moment by moment basis, our desires have a way of changing to match his. Mine have. So even if he chooses not to grant any of my birthday wishes; even if, this time next year, I'm in much worse shape than I am now, I'm okay with that. After experiencing him the way I have been for the last year and a half, I'm hungry for more. I know it's just a taste of what's to come. Because what I really want for my birthday is more of him.

So other than all of that, I don't want much for my birthday. Just a low PSA number, a continuation of feeling good, time with my loved ones, and more of God's presence in my life. And a Denver Broncos Super Bowl win. Oh wait, I'm only asking for things that don't require a miracle. Never mind. #waroncancer

Saturday, April 29, 2017

What Makes A Difference

I was taking my supplements this morning, and a thought occurred to me. I take quite a few supplements, mostly for my bones, since I have osteoporsis from hormone treatment. I take Glucosamine, Magnesium, Calcium, and vitamins C, D, and K2 every morning. I also take local bee pollen for my allergies (highly recommended - it'll change your life if you have pollen allergies) and wash it all down with orange juice spiked with a fiber supplement.

Once you add in the four Xtandi horse pills I take every morning, that's a lot of pills. So as I was taking all of those pills this morning, I couldn't help but wonder if they make any difference. The only ones I know for sure are making a difference are Xtandi, bee pollen, and the fiber supplement. I've been taking the last two for years. I can testify as to their effectiveness. My last two PSA tests have shown Xtandi to be very effective. But the rest of them? Who can tell?

My oncologist wants me to take calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D in certain amounts for my bones, so I'm following doctor's orders on those. But I'm still not convinced they're doing anything. Someone on Facebook said I should take K2 to help my bones absorb the calcium and magnesium, so I'm taking that, but again, how do I know if it's making a difference? I don't. There's no way to know.

Of course, the phrase making a difference takes on a specific meaning when you have cancer. It means, is it helping my body fight the cancer? Is it strengthening my bones? Is it doing more than making me feel like I'm fighting? Would my results be any different if I were taking a placebo? I have no idea. But I keep taking those supplements.

I haven't done chemo, nor do I intend to, but my friend Christopher Charles Caminiti has. He completed a full treatment. But his doctors can't tell him if chemo has done him any good. It has made a difference; it's torn his body down and made him feel worse, but nobody can tell him if it's helped with his cancer. It doesn't seem like it has.

I suppose there will be a bone density scan in my future to see if the Xgeva shots I'm getting every month are making a difference with my osteoporosis, but as of yet, I don't know if that's making any difference either.

I completed my cannabis oil suppository treatment program at the end of February, and now I'm on a low "maintenance" dose. Did it make a difference? Again, there's no way to tell. My PSA has been incredibly low for a Stage 4 prostate cancer patient who still has his prostate, but that could be Lupron and Xtandi alone. However, that may be put to the test in a little over a week, when I get my next PSA test. If my PSA has crept up a little, I may go back to a full dose of the suppositories for a few weeks and test again, to see if the number goes back down. That would be a good way to see if it's making a real difference with my cancer, rather than just helping me sleep.

I'll tell you what makes a difference for me. The love of family and friends. Being with those closest to me. And the random acts of kindness and support I continue to receive. Those things make a huge difference. Maybe not in what my next test result will be, but in making this journey easier and better. In reminding me that I'm not alone.

I woke up sad this morning, just missing absent friends. Because being with them makes such a difference. But then I went to a rehearsal that I'd been looking forward to, and that made a difference. I didn't do much, but just being there with them feeds my soul.

On my way there, I stopped and checked the Post Office Box that I use for business. In it was a key to a larger box. We hadn't ordered any checks, so I couldn't imagine what might be in there. I pulled the box out, and it was heavy. What could it be? I couldn't wait, and opened it in the car. When I saw what was inside, I laughed with delight.

It was from a friend who I've worked with at ministry training events like the one where I sang and spoke a few weeks ago. I posted the video on YouTube and shared it on Facebook and Twitter a while back, but if you missed it, you can see it here. Her name is Brenda Marshall. We discovered, somehow, years ago, that we both like black licorice. And we were the only ones who worked these events who did. So when we worked together, one of us would invariably bring black licorice. The fact that nobody liked it but us meant we got all of it!

I'm not sure if Brenda still works those events, but I haven't for a few years. There's no way I'd have the energy to work one now. You're on your feet pretty much all day. So Brenda and I will probably never be able to share a bag of black licorice again, since she lives in Texas, and I live in Colorado. We haven't seen each other for years, but she's kept in touch on Facebook since my diagnosis. When I opened the box I got in the mail today, it was full of black licorice, with a note that said:

And you thought I forgot! 
Enjoy, my friend! 

I didn't remember her promising to send me licorice, or even having a conversation about it, but when I messaged Brenda to thank her, she said she thought it would make me feel better. Guess what? It did. It made a difference in my day. Check this out:

Two kinds of black licorice, black jelly beans, and two kinds of black licorice candy. And not the cheap stuff! I've already gotten into a couple of them, and I will make good use of the rest of them over the next couple of weeks. Thank you so much, Brenda! You really made a difference.

No comments from the food police, please. This is a gift from a friend, and I really don't believe it will make one bit of difference in my outcome. But it does make a difference in how I feel.

And if you don't like black licorice, go put yourself in time out. More for Brenda and me.

Then, as I sat down to write this post, someone from our former church called to check in on me. A dear lady who is in her eighties, and who I've always regarded as a saint. Several years ago, our worship pastor asked us to find someone in the church and ask them to support us in prayer. This was the person I asked to pray for me. Her name in Lois Golden. She prays for me still, every day. She calls me every once in a while, and makes sure her Sunday School class and Bible study group know what's going on so they know how to pray for me.

We only talked for a few minutes, but before we said goodbye, she asked to pray with me. I was more than happy to have her do that. I think she quoted three or four scripture references in her prayer, complete with book, chapter and verse. She is a woman of God, which is why I asked her to pray for me in the first place. I've said before in this blog that I love being prayed for, but being prayed with is much better. Especially when a saint like Lois is praying with you. That made a huge difference.

Here's the point. Many of us in prostate cancer treatment, and maybe all cancer treatment, wonder if all the hoops we jump through to try to fight this disease make any difference. But we can all testify that the support and love we receive from others makes a huge difference. You make a difference. Thanks to everyone who makes a difference in my life. #waroncancer

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Almost There

Retirement. For most of my adult life, it seemed an impossibility. When you're a self-employed musician like I've been, there's really no such thing. We tend not the be the best at saving for retirement. And there's no pension, unless you belong to the Musicians Union, which in the Denver, Colorado area, is a joke. No, for most of us who cobble together a living with a combination of gigs, teaching, and recording work, retirement's a fantasy.

Add to that the fact that most of us don't really want to retire. We want to keep making music till we drop dead. It's what drives us.

For years, I've told young musicians who think they want to do music for a living that if they can do anything else and be happy, anything at all, they should do that and be a musician as a hobby. It's those who can only be happy doing music who should try to do it for a living. And we are the ones who will find a way to make it happen. I did, and so did several of my friends.

If you're interested in a retrospective of my music career, I wrote about it in an early post; Counting My Blessings #3: My Career. I also wrote about the decline of that career in the follow-up to that post, The Rest Of The Story. I've been very blessed to have such a career, but it's been winding down of its own accord for years now.

Once I was diagnosed with cancer, and began treatment, the things that drive me changed. I was no longer driven to perform, write and record music, or lead worship. I've felt a distinct sense of God saying to me, "Well done. You rest now. I have something else for you to do." He began leading me down this path that I expect to be traveling for the rest of my days.

But it's been a slow transition. I couldn't just stop when I wanted to more than a year ago. I had obligations to clients, and I was too young to start drawing my Social Security benefits. But that changes in two weeks. On May 7th, I turn 62 years old, which is the youngest age you can start collecting in the U.S., unless you're on Social Security Disability. I applied for that early in this process, and was denied. I won't go down that road again.

My family tends to live into their early 90's. Until cancer took over my life, I had expected to keep working until I could draw my full benefit at 66, which would be a few hundred dollars more than I can make starting at 62. But when I was diagnosed Stage 4, waiting was no longer an option. When you have a terminal illness, they tell you to start drawing your Social Security as early as you can. So I went down to the Social Security office yesterday, and applied to start receiving my benefits.

I've been retired from leading worship for two years now. With rare exceptions, the same has been true for performing. But I've continued to do recording work. Not for long, though.

If you've been reading this blog, you know that I'm starting work on my last CD project, Righteous Pop Music Volume 20. I expect to finish that by the end of May. But I haven't talked about my weekly song parody service for radio stations much in this blog. It's called Bradford's Boogies, and I've been doing it since 1999. I write and produce a topical song parody every week for stations who subscribe.

When I began, I had ten or twelve subscribers, along with a chain of stations who subscribed at a reduced rate. This gave Bradford's Boogies a total of nineteen or twenty subscribers at its peak. Which, along with everything else I was doing, made for a pretty nice living at the time. Without going into what went wrong - see The Rest Of The Story for that - my list of clients shrank over the years rather than growing.

For the last few years, I've had only two radio stations who still paid to have my weekly song parody service on their morning show; KGLK in Houston, Texas (107.5 The Eagle as it's known by locals) and WMGK in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dean and Rog are the show who plays my songs in Houston, and John DeBella is my guy in Philly. I've been with Dean and Rog since the early 90's, and with DeBella since 2003. I consider all of these guys friends. They stuck with me when so many bailed. When I told them of my diagnosis, they still stuck with me and have been patient with me when I was struggling to think of something funny to write about. I'll never be able to repay the way they've supported me over the years. But it's time for me to move on now.

I had expected to keep doing Bradford's Boogies until I couldn't do it anymore. It's still a nice amount of money for relatively little work. But it never lets up. It's 52 song parodies per year, without exception. No vacations. If I travel somewhere, I have to work ahead, or catch up when I return home. This does not amount to retirement. It's become a burden that I'd rather lay down at this point in my life.

There are places I'd like to go and things I'd like to do while I still feel good enough to do them. The weekly obligation of Bradford's Boogies makes that impossible. But as it happens, my Social Security income will more than make up for what I make from Bradford's Boogies. So I've decided to stop producing this weekly service at the end of May, as well as finishing my last CD project in the same time frame. This will enable me to sell my recording gear starting in June, and truly retire.

I can't tell you how happy this makes me. I had a couple of days of indecision about this, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Why can't I have some retirement time that I can enjoy while I still feel good enough to enjoy it? Why should I have to keep working until cancer forces me to stop? Especially when I have other things that are more important to me now than getting a topical song parody out.

Here's one problem with continuing to do a job that amounts to commenting on current events. I don't pay attention to the news anymore. I used to be a news junkie, but now I find it brings too much negativity to my life. I don't need that right now, so I choose to live in blissful ignorance. It's the only way I can keep my emotional equilibrium and avoid "black cloud" days. That makes it a little difficult to be a social satirist.

I spoke to John DeBella in Philadelphia a little while ago, and he couldn't have been more gracious or understanding. I expect the same when I talk to Dean and Rog tomorrow. It will be a difficult conversation, since I've been friends with these guys since 1991 or thereabouts, when they were here in Denver on KBPI. But they'll understand. I've worked with them longer than any other radio show in my career.

But as you know if you've been following along, retirement does not mean inactivity for me. Different things drive me now, and I have a few irons in the fire, so to speak. Chosen Family chocolate ice cream is on its way to production. When the Kickstarter campaign for startup capital begins, I will shamelessly promote it here. I'll still work with the kids in the rock band school I've talked so much about. And of course, I will continue to document my journey, and begin the process of turning this blog into a book starting this fall.

But retirement means I can also do other things, like take a week to drive out to my friend Christopher Charles Caminiti's benefit concert in June. I couldn't do that if I was still required to crank out a song parody every week.

Once I've sold my gear, we'll start turning this room that we've called The Studio into a third bedroom and office. My goal is to have it ready for guests who travel here for our 40th anniversary party at the end of July. That room is yours if you want it, Christopher and Lori.

My wife and I are unsure, at this point, how we'll be able to make this work financially, long term. But God has provided so far, and I have no doubt that he'll continue to do so.

Truthfully, I've wanted to retire for a long time. Years. I never thought it would be possible. Yet here it is, just over a month away. I couldn't be more excited. Not only is there light at the end of the tunnel, the light streaming in now overwhelms the darkness of the tunnel. I'm almost there. #waroncancer

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Incredible Shrinking Man

I've loved this classic movie since I was a kid, and it still works for me. Based on an even better novel by Richard Matheson, it tells the story of Scott Carey, who because of exposure to chemicals, among other things like a mysterious, glowing mist, starts shrinking. By the end of the movie, he's small enough to fit through a window screen. For a ten year old boy - and there is still a ten year old boy alive and kicking inside my head - it doesn't get much better than the scene when Scott fights and kills a giant spider when he's less than an inch tall. He uses a hat pin as a sword, as I recall.

At the checkup with my new family doctor in April of 2015, when the PSA test that started this whole mess was taken, the first thing the assistant did when she called me in was measure my height. She wrote me down as five feet nine inches tall. I said, "I am not! I've been five ten and three quarters my whole adult life!" So she measured me again. Guess what? I'm five nine. I've shrunk. That's what happens when you get old.

As you all know, that was just the beginning of the bad news, and by far the least of it. Once I was diagnosed with cancer in August of 2015, they put me on hormone treatment. It immediately started shrinking my cancer. But it also started shrinking me. Not literally, just in terms of how I feel.

When my PSA began to rise after ten months or so of one hormone treatment alone, (Lupron) another hormone treatment was added to it. Xtandi. The four horse pills I take every morning. That combination has had my cancer shrinking at an astonishing rate. But it's shrinking me at the same time, seemingly even faster than Lupron alone did. Shrinking my strength, my stamina, my endurance. My desire to do the things I used to love to do.

And there's no end in sight. I have to stay on this stuff for the forseeable future. It's giving me great numbers for now, but at the same time, I'm starting to feel like Scott Carey wearing boys clothes, and then moving into a doll house before being chased out of it by the cat. How small will I get? I feel pretty small now. 

My latest description of my treatment is that it's doing a great job of keeping my cancer under control, but it's also doing a great job of turning me into a wet noodle. The two go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other. I almost titled this post The Adventures Of The Wet Noodle, but that sounds like a children's book. And I couldn't have put that cool vintage movie poster at the top. 

There is one way that hormone treatment is shrinking me physically, and I've been talking about it in this blog. It curbs my appetite and makes me lose weight if I'm not careful to eat enough calories, carbs and fat. But my weight is back up where it should be now, thanks in large part to the ice-cream-before-bed-every-night diet. Oh, the sacrifices we make... 

My wife and I just got back from a road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to meet our friends Christopher and Lori Caminiti. Christopher is also a Stage 4 prostate cancer patient. Our journeys are very similar, though he is farther down this road than I am. Our first evening together was nothing but fun, but this subject did come up. We both feel like our strength is shrinking because of treatment. Then, the next day, we proved it.

It was a beautiful day in Santa Fe, (sounds like a song lyric!) and the four of us went to the central plaza to shop and have some lunch. We walked around for a while and took some pictures. But every few minutes, Christopher needed to sit down. I was happy to join him. Each time we sat down, the conversation turned to cancer, and how treatment is taking its toll on both of us. 

By the time we sat down in the beautiful courtyard restaurant our wives had found for lunch, Christopher had about had enough. I could see the pain on his face, and in spite of how little time we'd spent together, I could tell he was not doing well. Christopher always puts on a happy face, no matter how he feels. But not yesterday at lunchtime. When our food arrived, we held hands to pray for the meal, and I was overcome with emotion. Instead of praying for the food, I mostly prayed for my friend.

Later, I told Christopher and Lori that I hated seeing Christopher suffer like that, but I also internalized it. To me, it looked like previews of coming attractions. This is what I have to look forward to. Yes, when we got back to the condo we'd rented, I needed a nap, but that was the extent of my "shrinkage." Christopher is the strongest man I know, but yesterday, fighting the spider would have been too much for him.

The way I feel some days, including today, there's no way I could take on that giant spider, like Scott Carey does in the movie. I'd be spider lunch pretty fast.

And we all know what the spider represents in the movie of my life, and Christopher's. Cancer. I'm doing my best to fight the spider, but the smaller I get, the harder it is to even lift the hat pin. And while I don't have proof yet, I fear that the spider is growing again, after shaving shrunk along with me for months. No matter how hard I try, no matter how many Orkin men I bring in to try to kill it, (little known fact: I used to be an Orkin man - ask me about my Daddy Long Legs story sometime) we'll never be able to kill the spider. One day the spider will bigger than I am, and I'll be too small and weak to fight it. Then the spider will eat me.

That's the biggest difference between me and the guys with varieties of my cancer that are curable. The ones who can be cured through treatment are able to slay the spider, like Scott does in the movie. The rest of us put it off for as long as we can, but we'll never make it past the spider to that window screen on our own.

When Scott Carey defeats the spider, he walks to the window and discovers that he is now small enough to escape through the screen. He's been so small that his wife has been unable to find him since the cat chased him out of the doll house and he fell into the basement. He had been completely alone for a long time, and would be for the rest of his life. He wonders, as the movie ends, how small will he become? The size of a molecule? A sub-atomic particle? He wanders into the forest that was once his back yard, contemplating the nature of the universe.

As I keep shrinking, I find myself doing a lot of contemplating as well. I do it right here in this blog. But I'm sure of some things. I'm sure I will never be lost and alone, like Scott Carey is in the story, no matter how small I get. I don't need to wonder what will happen when I'm no longer able to beat back the spider. I know I'll have the love of family and friends to surround me, and I know Who will be there with me to face the spider, and usher me through the window screen into a world of wonders when the battle is over.

Because even when the spider eats me, it won't win, and I won't lose. I may be getting weaker and smaller, but I have resources Scott Carey didn't have. I have an army of people praying for me. I have an incredible inner circle of family and friends who support me and love on me. If I may risk paraphrasing Obi Wan Kenobi, when the spider strikes me down, I shall become more powerful than it can imagine. If a spider can imagine anything. Because I am The Incredible Shrinking Man. #waroncancer

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My Legacy

When you reach my age and stage of life, you think a lot about your legacy. Having a terminal illness only brings those thoughts into sharper focus. But really, we should all be thinking about our legacy, no matter how old we are or where we are in life, because none of us knows how much time we have on this planet. What will we leave behind that will have an lasting impact?

Most people consider their children and grandchildren, if they have them, to be their legacy. But my wife and I don't have children. We have to look harder to find those lasting legacy items that will continue to make a difference after we've left the field of play.

Early April of 2017 consists of several reminders of what I feel my legacy will be. Last Saturday, April 1st, was the most fun reminder.

On Saturday, we had some dear friends over for lunch, including Candice, who is our partner in our ice cream venture. I thought I had finally perfected my recipe for my gourmet chocolate ice cream, in both dark and milk chocolate flavors. I was anxious to see if Candice and her family agreed that these were the recipes that we should go ahead with.

Candice has two daughters, Maxine and Gloria, ages nine and seven, respectively. Their opinion was of prime importance. Not least because they are children, and who better to judge ice cream than kids? I also wanted their opinion because Gloria, last Thanksgiving, chose the name for the ice cream. Chosen Family Chocolate. I tell that story in my post The Things You Think Of. Here is a video of their unbiased review. You may have already seen it on Facebook.

To my great satisfaction, all agreed that I'd found the final recipes. Now we're on to the next phase; finalizing our business plan, consulting an attorney, crowdfunding startup capital, deciding on branding and packaging, and making presentations to investors. It's very exciting. I never thought this would be possible, but Candice's vision has made it possible.

Another of the things that has to be decided is which cancer-related organization we'd like to donate a portion of our proceeds to. It's important to me that we do that. That makes it even more of a legacy item than it would otherwise be. It's about more than just getting my ice cream out so more people can enjoy it, and so it can hopefully become a source of income for us in retirement. It will also be about fighting this disease, and/or helping those who suffer from it. Legacy. Something that leaves a lasting impact.

I'm in the early stages of producing my last CD project. I'll begin work in earnest on the first phase of that process, writing the lyrics, next week. It's volume 20 of a series I've written and produced since the 1990's. That series has been used in children's ministry around the world for decades. It's one of the reasons I began my cancer journey with such a large base of support, and it's my main musical legacy. It's called Righteous Pop Music, or RPM for short. I'm very grateful and blessed to have such a legacy that will continue to be a ministry to others long after I've gone home.

I began work today on a speaking and singing engagement I have this Saturday morning for a ministry training event hosted by the same company for whom I produce the RPM series. I'll sing a few songs and talk about hope, which is their theme. I'll end my three song set with an original song called, "My Hope Is In The Lord." That's the song I talk about in my post, "My Song." During a time when I could not seem to get back into a music-writing head space, almost exactly one year ago, the fog lifted for one day, and I was able to write that song for a musical this same client was putting together. It seems a good place to begin my testimony/devotional, which will run about 20 minutes.

I think the talk will begin by telling that story. Then I'll transition into talking about hope, and tie it into Palm Sunday, which is this Sunday. I'm thinking that what I say will be largely based on three posts in this blog; My Song, What Gives Me Hope, and my Palm Sunday post from last year, My Crowd On The Road. If you live in the Denver area, you're invited. Just tell them at the door that you're there to see me. I'll be putting the details out for it on Facebook soon, but it's Saturday morning, April 8th at 9:00 AM (I think) at Tower Community Fellowship in Aurora, Colorado.

Telling my story, bearing witness to what God's been doing in my life since my diagnosis is a huge legacy item for me, as you know. I look for opportunities to speak now, rather than for opportunities to sing. This time, I get to do both. But I'm only allowing ten out of my allotted thirty minutes for singing. The rest is dedicated to talking about the transformation that's taken place in my life since I found out I have cancer, and the hope I've found that I didn't have before.

I'm being told that the whole thing will be captured on video, and I'll be able to post it soon thereafter. So like my "sermon," The End Of Myself, this message will live on for any who want to watch it. I don't know how long I have to live, but I'm pretty sure YouTube will outlive me.

As we speak, my friend Todd is beginning to plan the summer show for the rock band school for kids I've talked so much about. Here is where my hopes for a legacy may exceed the impact I actually have. I'm a late joiner in this endeavor, and sometimes I wonder how much of what I say and do there has lasting value to them. But it's been huge for me. I was brought in as a vocal coach, but I work with all of the kids, because of my background as a band leader. Some of the kids are just there for fun. Others are serious about a career in music. I just hope I can impart some wisdom to the ones who want to pursue music as a career. Things I wish someone had told me when I was their age, and that will stay with them throughout their musical careers. I hope I can leave a legacy with them.

And of course, my other main legacy is this blog. I'll begin the process of turning it into a book this fall, after RPM 20 is finished, and after our 40th anniversary celebration. The impact that this blog has had is already apparent, and I'm not anywhere near done, nor has its readership peaked. It continues to grow. This blog will be here as long as Google is. Google will outlive all of us. And it's my sincere hope that the book will have as wide a reach as the blog has, if not a much wider reach.

Because now, I'm thinking about my legacy, and treating everything I do like it's part of that legacy. I should have been doing this all along, with volumes 1-19 of the RPM series, and with everything else I did. But at least I finally understand how important my legacy is, now that I'm awake.

The friendships I've been blessed with are a major part of my legacy too. So many would never have happened were it not for cancer. The love we share is as much a legacy as anyone could want. If love is my legacy, who could claim a better one?

It's not about me. That's what I've learned. It's not about any of the things I used to think were so important, like money, career, and self promotion. It's about legacy. It's about leaving a lasting impact. That's what the rest of my life will be about. #waroncancer