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TGB Takes a Vacation

It's a busy week around here. Three (count them, 3) days at the medical center, CT scan, chemotherapy, a variety of doctor and nurse visits and – the great good news – Autumn is arriving to visit for a few days.

You remember Autumn, don't you. When I was still hung over from the Whipple surgery in June 2017, she reported developments so you wouldn't think I had died on the table. Those reports are here, here, here and here.

With all that, I think this is a good time for a little break from blogging. But TGB won't be entirely dark. There will be a shortened version of Interesting Stuff on Saturday and don't skip Sunday. Thanks to Peter Tibbles, we're having an online party that day.

I'm off on Monday and Tuesday (well, Tuesday is a Reader Story) and I'll be back on Wednesday the 10th of April. Meanwhile, the usual email and Facebook postings will appear on days when there is something new.

Come to think of it, you too probably need a break from my daily chatter.

See you in a week.

A TGB READER STORY: All the Lawn’s a Stage

By Diane Darrow who blogs at Another Year in Recipes

We think of birds as creatures of the air but they also spend time on the ground, and it’s interesting to see the different ways they behave there. A bench in my neighborhood’s public garden makes an entertaining theater for observing how birds move about.

House sparrows usually get around by hopping. With their short legs, a single step can cover only a few inches, but a two-legged hop takes them much farther and when they get up some momentum, they can bounce across the ground like wind-up mechanical toys.

Most of our other local birds walk though blue jays flying in for a landing sometimes take a few hops when they first touch down, like a taxiing airplane.

Robins on the hunt are businesslike. They take brief runs across the grass, then stop short and cock their heads, listening for worms and other underground insects. Then off again to another spot.

Mourning doves, by contrast, wander aimlessly, seeming confused – as if they’d lost something somewhere but can’t quite remember what.

Rock pigeons strut around like self-important dignitaries but the constant nodding of their heads back and forth with each step somewhat spoils the effect.

Starlings march across the grass with determination, like an old-time cop on the beat. Crows stride casually but aggressively, conveying a clear don’t-mess-with-me message.

Each in its own way, birds act out their roles on Nature’s stage.

* * *

EDITORIAL NOTE: We have worked our way through the initial batch of reader stories and beginning next week, I will start publishing second stories from some of the same writers.

So – you may now start sending new stories whether you have published previously or not. Instructions are here. Only one story. Please.

When Cancer Becomes the Norm

On Saturday, I woke as usual at about 6AM, worked my way through my customary personal hygiene routine, dressed for the day and went directly back to bed.

You can be forgiven for thinking that's hardly noteworthy but you might change your mind when I tell you that in my 78 years, I have never – not once - done that.

That's because there is no telling nowadays when I will get tired; I've learned to indulge myself when I need to.

I've had more time than I realized to slip into that frame of mind. It was a surprise when, a few days ago, I noticed that it has been nearly two years since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Twenty-two months to be exact.

Few people in my predicament live that long. Pancreatic cancer is one of the rarest and most deadly cancers - only 10-15 percent of patients are eligible for the Whipple surgery I underwent as soon as the disease was discovered. Even with that, only 25 percent of people who have the Whipple are alive five years later.

But here I am, grateful for the additional time granted me but wondering if I am using it wisely. (Dear god, as I lie dying on my last day, I do not want to be shouting, “Wait, wait, there's something I forgot to do...”)

If I believed in other-worldly things, this feeling that I may be neglecting an important task or obligation, even if only for myself, would exist in a different context.

But either way, death is one of the two biggest events in life. I can't recall the first and I don't want to make a hash of this last one.

While I've been working through all this, the care and maintenance of cancer has become my norm, taking up more time than I would have guessed before this happened to me.

I've become accustomed to being bald – I hardly notice my naked pate in the mirror anymore but it's a whole different thing to enjoy wearing hats versus needing one so you don't scare people..

Counting out 16 pills a day into their tiny, little boxes gets more boring and therefore irritating each week. Worse is remembering to take them at the right times.

Keeping daily records of weight, blood pressure and any pain takes time I resent and too often I forget to do.

A daily mental inventory of how my body is functioning helps me manage daily life and still get everything done.

For example, for a few days after chemotherapy, my breathing problem is at its most difficult so I now organize trash take-out, vacuuming and bed changing to better days when I don't need to stop and rest two or three times in the middle of each task.

Tracking my body's requirements – when to rest, when to eat, what to eat, when to contemplate my predicament, etc. - helps keep me as healthy as possible.

Lately, I've been thinking more frequently about when it will be time to let go of all this and say goodbye. I feel good enough most of the time not to need to decide that right now but I ask myself if I will know when the time comes. I used to believe I would know; now I'm not so sure. I'm working on it.

Until the past two years I never did any of this. Now it (and more) is burned into my routine as much as brushing my teeth. I'm not happy about it but it's the trade-off for wanting more quality time.

I know many people besides me live with cancer or a different chronic disease or condition, and having now been there myself for awhile, I have gained enormous respect and admiration for them.

This isn't easy but we are stuck with it, and we are all old enough to know that sharing these things helps a lot.

As for the popular admonition not to talk about our troubles – phooey. When you had babies, you talked about about babies. If you got divorced you talked about that. When your kid got married, we couldn't shut you up. All to the good.

Excuse me now while I have a nap.