Appreciating Simple Joys in Life

New readers, please notice the dates on all entries. Part I of My Bladder Cancer Story took place in 2018. I use the actual dateline framework so the story will unfold for the reader as it happened to me.

September 10 – 12, 2018: We went to Fort Davis State Park and the McDonald Observatory in the West Texas mountains to celebrate Carol’s birthday. After driving west through the plains most of the day, we began winding upward into the mountains by mid-afternoon. Indian Lodge, the place we’re staying in the park, is nicely designed. The setting is peaceful, surrounded by mountain terrain and vistas. No meals are served at the lodge because this is the park’s off-season, but we brought lots of fresh veggies and fruit. We’re prepared for picnic-style meals!

Indian Lodge at Fort Davis State Park

Indian Lodge at Fort Davis State Park

The next morning Carol fixed a good smoothie that we enjoyed with fresh fruit for breakfast. Then we visited the Chihuahuan Desert Botanical Gardens near Fort Davis. This is the largest desert in North America, spread over northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. We learned that it’s the most ecologically diverse desert in the world. The gardens were interesting.

After a good picnic lunch of salad-like veggies and fruit, we headed for the McDonald Observatory. It was named for the Texas banker who left a million dollars to the University of Texas in 1926 to establish a world-class astronomy center. Our guide was excellent. He summarized the history of the facility before showing us how the two biggest telescopes worked in their dome structures. The altitude and minimal light pollution around these West Texas peaks make them ideal for observing celestial phenomena.

McDonald Observatory Dome for Large Telescope

McDonald Observatory Dome for Large Telescope

We returned after dark for the Star Party. Divided into small groups, we could see a variety of features through a dozen small telescopes set up for this purpose in the Telescope Park. It was fascinating and instructive. (For anyone interested in visiting, advance reservations are required for observatory tours and Star Party activities.)

On our last morning at the Lodge, I was able to hike to the top of the nearest mountain ridge before breakfast. The early morning vista was beautiful. We returned to San Antonio with a great appreciation for the West Texas mountain country.

September 17, 2018: I played tennis this morning for the first time in several months. It was great to be back on the courts and to see all my friends in the Senior League. I was a step slower than before, but my tennis buddies were tolerant, and I kept the ball in play most of the time. We got in some good exercise while having a good time together.

September 24, 2018: I had a good walk this morning, followed by a few hours of yard and garden work. I harvested black-eyed peas and planted beet seeds in a box garden in our back yard today. I enjoy puttering around the yard, and it was especially nice to pause and simply absorb the atmosphere on this beautiful fall day. Later I shelled the peas and we had them for supper – always delicious and nutritious. We’re also starting to harvest okra pods now.

This was a fairly typical day. I usually have a two- or three-mile walk after an early breakfast. Our neighborhood in Mountain Lodge is great for walking, with good sidewalks and a variety of mildly challenging routes. I enjoy seeing neighbors’ yards as I walk, and then it’s fun to putter around in our own yard for a few hours. I’m enjoying life in the “now” while waiting for the next stage of my cancer journey.

Chris Wark

Chris Wark

October 4, 2018: Today I finished reading Chris Wark’s book, Chris Beats Cancer. It’s an amazing story of how a young man named Chris fought back when he was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 26. His surgeons planned to remove the cancer, but at surgery they found that it had already spread beyond the colon. Chris was told that he must start rigorous chemotherapy for a 50 percent chance of 5-year survival.

Chris did not like such a dismal prospect, and he decided to fight the cancer with the healthiest food and lifestyle program he could find. All his family and friends said he was crazy not to follow his doctor’s advice. That was in 2003. Chris not only whipped his cancer, but he has become an inspiration to thousands of people since he went public with his story. Obviously, his story is very encouraging for me.

October 7, 2018: An article in a publication by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine caught my eye today. It profiled the work of Dr. Lawrence Kushi, a research scientist with the famous Kaiser health system. He is co-leading a team exploring the topic of eating cruciferous vegetables to reduce bladder cancer recurrence. Even though they haven’t reached a conclusion yet, this is encouraging. The fact that a large health system like Kaiser is spending significant research dollars on the impact of cruciferous vegetables on bladder cancer is noteworthy.

October 10, 2018: My son, Randall, called this morning to tell me I’m a great-grandfather again! I’m now blessed with two great-granddaughters. I don’t feel like a great-grandfather but am glad to welcome them to the family. I have a wonderful family. It’s always good when any of us can get together, and I was able to visit many during the last two weeks of October.

November 6, 2018: The Urology San Antonio surgery center called me to make sure I can keep my appointment and am prepared for surgery tomorrow. I’m ready. Tomorrow we’ll learn what’s happening with my bladder cancer.

[Blog to be continued next week.]