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Posts from the ‘Life’ Category

Reading survivors’ stories

The clinic where I’ve been going for radiation treatments (42, so far) has a support group, which I haven’t attended, and throughout the building, large black and white photographs of previous patients who ended up cancer-free. Each photo is accompanied by a small plaque with several paragraphs of text that briefly tell each person’s story.

Inasmuch as my prostate cancer was caught early and wasn’t particularly aggressive, I didn’t feel the need for the support group; I think I might have felt out of place had each meeting been filled with people fighting cancers more like that of Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. However, I have felt a silent and on-going measure of support from the photographs and each individual’s successful fight (or multiple fights) against cancer.

Harbin Clinic, Rome, GA

Since I tend to arrive at the clinic a little early, I’ve read each story multiple times. Even with a somewhat low-grade cancer, I still find comfort in all those words and smiling faces.

In the local Wendys, there’s a lady (Shirley) about my age who gives me trouble about everything because I give her trouble about everything. Last week, she told me she hadn’t seen me for a while and thought I looked sick. When I said I was taking hormone and radiation treatments for cancer, she said her husband had gone through the drill a couple of times. We had the same doctor, as it turns out.

There’s a small bell in the clinic’s waiting room with a plaque instructing people to ring it when they’re cancer-free. So, I asked Shirley if her husband was still with us. She smiled and said he is. Said, “Did he ring that bell on his last day at the clinic?”

“Your darn right he did,” she said. We high-fived without damaging our hands or my junior bacon cheeseburger.

My radiation treatments end this Thursday. Since the recently developed MRI that can see cancer cells is probably still in testing, I’ll have to wait a while before standard tests will tell me what these daily visits have accomplished. But, if the staff should one day ask me to ring that bell, I will. Not because my journey has been scarey but because the sound might bring those in the waiting room a dosage of hope.

Malcolm

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Recent Spam (brought to you as a public service)

Gentle readers, you are spared most of the spammers’ attempts to plant insidious advertisements in the comments section of this blog by WordPress’ crack spam-busting software called Akismet. It collects spam in a toilet-styled file where I can look at it to make sure it’s really sh_t. It always is. Here are a few recent examples.

  • Dear Blogger: Writing a blog with fresh new material is a lonely job. Let our professional writers help you with factory fresh posts that will keep your readers excited and happy. (I got so tired of seeing this that I sent them a note saying I am a professional writer and don’t need any help.)
  • This is the best blog since sliced bread. I bookmarked it today and told all my friends about it. In return, we hope you’ll contact us whenever you’re ready to buy your own cemetery plot, burial urn, or headstone. We’re having a sale on pre-used epitaphs this week. (I emailed them and said I was using Dorothy Parker’s quote ““Time doth flit; oh shit” for my epitaph.)
  • You’re so honest about your troubles in the bedroom, we would like to introduce you to the Viagra Of The Month Club. Money back if you can’t meet the needs or your trophy wife. (I never mention the bedroom.)
  • There are many “Google-yourself-sites” out there that promise to tell you things about yourself that you were too drunk or too stoned to remember. For a mere $25 per week, we’ll keep your online profile sparkling clean so that you’ll never wake up one morning and see this headline: MALCOLM CAMPBELL CAUGHT IN BROTHEL STING. (I told them my wife doesn’t allow me to go to brothels.)
  • You’re obviously a down-and-out guy who needs financial help to make ends meet. Sign up for our Ponzi Scheme Newsletter for exciting money-making opportunities that won’t bite you in the ass like those reported on the evening news. (I gave them the names of Facebook friends who hadn’t commented on any of my posts in months.)
  • We think your protagonist Jock Stewart is really you. Send us five grand today and we won’t tell anybody. (I told them to tell everyone they want because that will help sales of “Special Investigative Reporter.”)
  • Our plastic surgery program will make you look young again. Dr. Smith, who’s helped thousands of criminals change their looks, will do the same for you. Completely confidential as long as you keep up with your payments. (I told them that looking old meant that I had lived life rather than turning into a spammer.) 
  • We know who you are and we saw what you did. (I asked them if they want to work as my publicist, but got no response.)

I’ve left out the URLs for this spam to keep those who read this blog from trying out some of the offers and ending up another day older and deeper in debt.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the comedy/satire “Special Investigative Reporter,” available from Thomas-Jacob Publishing in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

 

Pay it Forward, Give Back

Nice concepts. But, there are so many worthy causes not even counting family and friends. Hard to choose. And then, if you’re so inclined, there are political campaigns now on top of all the charities, funds, non-profits, and other organizations asking for cash.

Some say every dollar helps. So they ask for $25. That’s not too bad–unless you tally up how many requests for $25 you get every month. Sometimes I get multiple requests from the same place and feel like sending back a note that says, I’m not Jo Rowling, Bill Gates, James Patterson, or an oil baron from Saudi Arabia. How much do you think I have after paying the rent?

Some requests bother me, and those are the ones from everyday people like me who get behind on their mortgage payments (or whatever) and put up a crowdfunding link on Facebook and we’re all rather shamed into kicking in to help somebody we don’t know make ends meet. Yet, I read how they got into debt–because I’ve been there–and wish I could contribute.

I tend to contribute to environmental causes–the National Parks, a “Friends of” group for a specific park, the National Parks and Conservation Association, etc. Like many, I try to keep up with which general charities use an exorbitant amount of the money donated for administrative costs (and goodness knows what).

There’s so much to be done, doing it seems overwhelming. Personally, I don’t care for the size of the defense budget and think a lot of that money could be better used in other programs. All of us probably have our own pet peeves about “bad” uses of government funds that we think could be put to better use somewhere else. So, as a lover of National Parks, it ticks me off that Congress won’t appropriate enough money to keep them running, and this causes those of us who really can’t afford to do it to contribute to programs the government ought to be funding.

Whatever your favorite causes are, there’s always a chain of events that created the problem, e.g., people with high medical bills going bankrupt and needing help. Yes, we can and should speak out for change, but until that change occurs, we have a lot of pieces to pick up that aren’t being covered by the government, churches, charities, and “Friends of” organizations.

I felt rather discouraged when some financial organization or other said, in response to “tax the rich” campaigns, that even if the government took all of the rich’s money, it would be a drop in the bucket insofar as the deficit and/or funding needs are concerned. That makes my $25 contribution to Glacier National Park seem rather inconsequential. All I can hope is that my $25 along with a $25-dollar check for several thousand other people actually will help make things better whether we’re paying it forward or giving back.

Does anyone else wrestle with the amount of money needed vs. the amount anyone of us can contribute?

Malcolm

My novels “The Sun Singer,” “Mountain Song,” and “Sarabande” are te in Glacier National Park, so I try to support the park’s projects when I can.

Rainy day memories

As the rains come down and keep coming down and darkness settles into the house, I find myself thinking about things that happened long ago. I wonder, as I get older, how many of those involved in these little snippets of memory are still with us. I suppose part of the nostalgia is not knowing and/or wondering if any of them are wondering if I’m still with us. (So far, so good.)

  • The ship we were restoring

    Speaking broken Dutch, while part of a volunteer group restoring an old ship to serve as a school for the children of shippers, one duty was selling lottery tickets at that summer’s sailboat races, I approached many people and hoped for the best. Each ticket cost one guilder, so we weren’t asking for a big commitment. I saw several college-age girls and thought they probably had extra cash. Their response to my questions (in Dutch) was, “Spreekt u Engels?” You can probably figure out what that means. I said, “Sure,” and when they said they were on vacation from Florida in the U.S., I said, “I hope y’all are having a good time” in my best Southern accent. That surprised them. I confessed that I, too, was from Florida and was in a volunteer group restoring and old ship. I don’t think they bought a lottery ticket, but the encounter was somewhat surprising.

  • Once while I was in a sailor bar in the Philippines, one of my shipmates came over and asked if a particular bar girl could sit at my table for a few minutes of animated conversation while he left the bar. Her boyfriend was there and they couldn’t be seen leaving together.  I have no idea what she and I talked about while sipping San Miguel beer. Well, she probably had tea. After a while, she left. Several days later I saw my friend in the so-called “VD line” on the aircraft carrier. Everyone in the line caught something in town. He shook his head and said, “Things happen.”
  • While growing up, I was part of a Boy Scout troop sponsored by my church. Many meaningful experiences came out of this, not the least of which were camping trips in the Florida Panhandle that would later serve as raw material for the novels I would write. At some point, long after I left town for college and the navy, the church gave up its sponsorship. I didn’t find out until many years later. When I e-mailed the church, nobody seemed to know that it had ever sponsored the troop and, if it had, why the relationship ended. This always bothered me. I kept wanting to find the culprit and ask what the hell they were thinking.
  • Two Swedish girls and two U.S. male students were part of that international group restoring the boat in the Netherlands. As lame as it sounds, the other guy from the U. S. and I ended up dating the Swedish girls. When the girl I was dating invited me to Sweden to live with her in her parents’ house to keep me from being drafted into the Vietnam war, I came very close to accepting her offer. If I had, I might never have seen my parents or brothers again. Nonetheless, I almost did it. For years, I thought that not going to Sweden with her was the biggest mistake I ever made. Such thoughts, though, make me pause when I think that if I had gone with her, my daughter and granddaughters wouldn’t exist. It’s a sobering thought. Even so, I wonder where Anna is today.
  • When I attended the University of Colorado one summer, I spent most of my time with the university’s mountain recreation department climbing mountains every week. My father had done it before me. We summited some of the state’s 14,000 peaks and my skills improved more every weekend outside the classroom than inside the classroom. I met a lot of great people and wonder what became of them after the summer session ended. We hiked and climbed a lot of miles together, but they’re all gone with the wind.

Like most of you, I have hundreds of memories like this, memories that are gathering dust in the recesses of my mind. I capture some of them in my fiction, but the others fade away. It’s part of growing older, I suppose and knowing that when each of us in my generation is gone, a lot of memories will be done, too.

Malcolm

Thank you for not giving up

I feel somewhat guilty writing too often about my prostate cancer because, compared with the heartbreaking stories we hear about from some of our friends or via online articles, my cancer is–as of now–rather low key. We lost one of our best friends to cancer a few months ago. Her cancer was thought to have been cured, but it came back and there was nothing for it–other than hospice care. She stayed strong as long as she could.

When I mentioned on Facebook a week ago that my 40 days of radiation therapy had begun, one of my long-time online friends wrote, “Thank you for not giving up.” She’s a feisty New Yorker and deals with issues and events that are quite foreign to me–as I’m sure my Georgia farm life is to her–so we don’t communicate often. But this comment was almost too much for me to take in and to process.

It never occurred to me to give up even though my age is getting up there and I keep reading about people who are younger than I am passing away after having “long and happy lives.” If I were in a worst-case scenario in a hospital bed, I might say this kind of life just doesn’t cut it. But I’m not, thank the good Lord. Sure, the daily radiation treatments are a bit tedious and, like almost all medications and protocols, they include a hideous list of potential side effects.

One of the doctors at the radiation oncology center said I might start feeling a lot of fatigue in several weeks. I mentioned that when I was checking diets, etc. online, I read that while alcohol was okay, I might be too sleepy and tired to care about it. When I told the doctor this, her response was “one’s never too tired for a glass of wine.” I’m glad we saw eye to eye about that.

I wonder how many cancer patients do give up. How many of them think that no matter what they do, cancer will ultimately win. Maybe not today or tomorrow but–like our recently departed friend–sooner than one expects. According to the statistics, all men will eventually get prostate cancer if they live long enough. That sounds like bad software to me. So, I suppose I should feel honored to have lived long enough to get it. I don’t. I’m pissed off because it’s a lot of trouble and it costs a lot of money to treat. Also, radiation is a one-time thing. If the cancer were to come back, we couldn’t use radiation again.

I don’t see the logic of putting my family $100000000000000 in dept for treatments that would prolong my life at a low ebb for another six months. But that’s not where I am with this. Nonetheless, when Lynne wrote, “Thank you for not giving up,” I felt that living out my life mattered to somebody–in addition to my family–and that gave me a strong dose of positive vibrations, the kind we should feel for all who are in need since they are stronger than most cures.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the recently released “Special Investigative Report” that’s available in hardback, paperback and e-book editions.-

My new home away from home

Okay, I didn’t pick this place out on the House Hunters TV show, so you won’t see me in an upcoming episode looking at ensuite bathrooms, kitchen appliances, or backyard pools. Actually, this is Rome, Georgia’s radiation oncology center:

Since I’ll be going there daily for radiation treatments starting August 15th, I feel like it would be easier if I had a penthouse apartment upstairs. Two days of CT scans have been completed, so now they (the doctors) have a template for where they’re going to beam the radiation for 40 business days. I suggested that walking into a nuclear power plant would be faster, but apparently, that has unpleasant side effects.

The waiting room has large black & white photographs of people who went there and were cured. Each has a positive blurb next to it. There’s also a bell you can ring on the day you’re cancer-free. Since the prognosis is good so, I might right that bell, even though nobody’s promising to but a poster-sized photo of me in the waiting room with links to where people can buy my books.

The whole thing is expensive, but Medicare pays most of it. I’m not especially stressed out about this, just kind of ticked off that I’ll be driving over there every day (except weekends). On Facebook, a lot of people who’ve gone through this before, have spoken of their experiences and the fact that they’re doing fine now. That’s nice to hear!

In other news, we haven’t released Special Investigative Reporter yet because we’re waiting for a proof copy of the hardcover edition. I’m still working on another Florida novel but set it aside temporarily because this prostate cancer stuff was making it difficult to return to the world of Eulalie and Lena.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Malcolm

 

Still an Addict After All These Years

I’m still addicted to cigarettes even though I haven’t smoked one in over twenty years. Maybe longer. I know the addiction is still there because I often want one.

Years ago, there was a joke in which a guy asked a woman if she smoked after sex. Her answer was, “I never looked.”

The trouble with addictions is this: they get linked to all kinds of things. A lot of people lit a cigarette after sex, when they picked up the telephone, when they sat down to write, when they went out onto the church steps after a funeral, went in a bar, when they got in the car, so all those things (and more) became associated with smoking. And, like post-hypnotic suggestions, all those cues are just as strong now as they were when I quit (finally).

I started smoking in graduate school and started smoking more when I was in the Navy where cigarettes we cheap after the ship got outside U.S. waters (no taxes). We were told, years ago, that quitting smoking was harder than getting off hard drugs. That seemed like BS at the time, so I didn’t believe them. The thing was if we ever ran out of cigarettes, the angst was just as strong as a person on hard drugs who was looking for a fix. That should have told us something.

Having cigarettes on hand at all times was more important than anything else. When I lived in northern Illinois and couldn’t get my car out of the snowy driveway, I walked five blocks for a pack of cigarettes. That should have told me something.

I smoked when I had pneumonia and when I had horrible colds. That should have been a learning experience as well.

Quitting took a long time. Most attempts failed. What worked was smoking lighter-weight cigarettes over a period of time until I was buying brands that were pretty much like inhaling air. Then I got a bad cold, and when the cold went away, I was done with smoking. Basically, I wish smoking wasn’t a bad thing and that second-hand smoke didn’t annoy everyone else or get in my clothes and my hair so that I smell like a campfire. See, smoking is a constant temptation.

Nowadays, relatively few characters in movies and TV shows smoke. So, I find it almost shocking to watch an old movie in which everyone smokes. Those were the days when the guy put two cigarettes in his mouth, lit both of them, and handed one to his best girl. Hell, I remember doing that. I wish I didn’t.

Willie, a character in my Florida Folk Magic Series smokes Kools.  I never liked those–or any other menthol cigarette–but I still feel like lighting up a Marlboro when I write those scenes. My wife, however, is highly allergic to cigarette smoke. That’s all the reason NOT to buy a pack of cigarettes and light one “on special occasions.” I still want to, and that bothers me.

When we were young and thought we would live forever, too much booze and too many cigarettes were an extravagance we thought we could indulge in for a few years and then go back to a “normal life.” We were wrong.

There are still some places where employees go outside the front doors of their offices for smoke breaks. That means customers must walk through a cloud of smoke to go inside. I think smokers should have to stand farther away from the front door. Nonetheless, I still want to ask if I can bum a smoke.

What would I do if I could go back and “do it all over again”? The same thing, I think. Some of us just seem to have addictive personalities. Raleigh brand cigarettes used to have a coupon program, causing many of us to say we were saving up our coupons for an iron lung. Yes, we called cigarettes “cancer sticks.” We knew we were potentially doomed and we didn’t care. Is that crazy, or what?

Malcolm

 

Sunday’s this, that, and another thing

The hormone therapy that precedes that forty days of radiation treatments for my little cancer problem is expensive (thank goodness for medicare) and as I look at the side effects of each medication they give me, it’s like spinning the wheel of fortune and/or fate trying to guess which annoying effect will affect me. When the nurse asked me Friday, if I was depressed about the cancer, I said, “No, just aggravated.”

Some books, such as those by James Patterson, I read to get away from it all, including nurses who ask if I’m depressed. Others–usually fantasy or magical realism–I read because they really are my cup of tea. One way or another, they not only hold my interest but are inspiring. The latest was Gwendolyn Womack’s The Fortune Teller. I’ve had it around for a while, so I finally decided to re-read it and found it just as interesting the second time through.

About the time I’d recovered from my 6-8 wasp stings and my wife had recovered from her 23 bumblebee stings, the rains came. So, the yard was already out of control and now it’s been too wet to mow for the last week. At least the thunderstorms created a break from the heatwave; I noticed on the weather channel that the temperatures in Maryland where my daughter and her family live were higher than ours here in Georgia.

Coming Soon

My publisher Thomas-Jacob uploaded the trailer to my upcoming novel Special Investigative Reporter to YouTube today. So, that tells you the release date is fast approaching. You can see the trailer here. Since I recently re-acquired my rights to the book from its original publisher (under another title some years ago), this seemed like a good time to come out with a brand new edition with cool cover art. Completely different from the magical realism of my Florida Folk Magic Series, this novel is a mystery/thriller/satire.

I liked the AudioFile review of Holly Palance’s narration of the audiobook edition of Lena. Strange to see, the audio edition has more reviews on Audible than the paperback/e-book have on Amazon. The ratings are pretty good, too.

I’m sure many of those running for President in 2020 read this blog, so I’ll send them a group message here: daily e-mails that say “Malcolm, we really need you to chip in before midnight to support our campaign” are really starting to tick me off. Each e-mail reduces the likelihood you’ll get my vote. You’ve been warned.

My novel Mountain Song will be free on Kindle from July 22 through July 26. Set in Montana and Florida, the novel is somewhat based on my experiences in Glacier National Park. The sequel, At Sea, is also available on Kindle and is somewhat based on Vietnam War experiences aboard an aircraft carrier stationed in the Gulf of Tonkin.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’re aware of my family’s Scots ancestry. My brother and his wife are planning a trip to Scotland in August and invited us along. We thought about that for a long time, but finally said we didn’t think we’d be able to handle the scheduling. I hate missing the trip, but I’m glad the force was with us when we said: “we better not do it.” Had we said yes, the cancer radiation treatments that begin August 1 would have made it impossible to go. Quite likely, some expensive plane tickets would have been cancelled. Ifrinn fhuilteach as we say in Gàidhlig (Scots Gaelic).

Malcolm

 

 

 

I drive grocers nuts

Since I’ve been around for a while and got dragged along on shopping expeditions when I was a kid, I’m constantly frustrated about the fact the stuff we could buy 50 years ago isn’t on the shelves today.

Most of today’s apples were apparently created in a lab, but nobody carries Winesaps any more. I ask about them, and the produce people haven’t heard of them.

Kumquats – Wikipedia photo

Here in Georgia, we’re next to the country’s number one citrus state (sorry, California, your production is a pittance compared to Florida), but for some reason, we can’t get kumquats. We’re just a few miles up the road, yet our produce departments don’t even know what kumquats are. That’s just bad.

It’s really hard to find endive and watercress these days.

I asked the meat department at Publix this morning for salmon steaks. They don’t have them because nobody buys them. Every one wants filets. I sure as hell don’t.

At least Publix sells radicchio.  Humorously, many of those running the checkout cash registers think I’m buying red cabbage. They usually ask me how to spell radicchio. They’re costing the store a bundle when they charge me for red cabbage.

One day when I was in a bad mood and couldn’t find any real feta cheese, I went to the Publix website and asked why they were labelling cheese as “feta” when it was made with cow’s milk rather than sheep’s milk. They just said that’s the way things are done in the U. S. I said that’s like making a cherry pie with blueberries but selling it as a cherry pie. I think they should call their fake feta cheese “feta-style” cheese, but since I’m not Bobby Flay or Gordon Ramsay, they don’t care what I think.

Frankly, I think grocery stores have dummed down their products, reduced their inventory, and are denying us many of the items that used to be available in every IGA and A&P in the country.

I’ll confess that–in addition to remembering products that used to be common on grocery store shelves–I do watch shows like “Chopped” and “Master Chef” where I see a lot of products my grocery stores have apparently never heard of. Some of those products are disgusting and I really don’t want to see them on the shelves. Some are things we used to see every time we went shopping, yet if you ask for them these days, store managers look at you like you’re crazy.

I may be crazy, but I still like kumquats.

Malcolm 

 

 

What can 10,000 wasps do?

Nope, I’m not talking about White Anglo Saxon Protestants, but the so-called Social Wasps that build paper nests on your front porch and then sting the hell out of you when you come home from a long day at the office and want to kick back with a TV dinner and watch “Jeopardy.”

Wikipedia photo

In my case, I was opening the storm door to the older house on the property when these buggers took offense and stung the hell out of my left arm making it swell up to twice its normal size while itching like the three-day measles. My first line of defense was a string of profanity, followed up by a couple of megatons of HOT SHOT on their hidden nest.

Their nest is now history.

That approach didn’t help my arm. When I mentioned this on Facebook, some people said, “Gosh, Malcolm, if that had happened to me, I’d be dead by now.” What happened to just saying “there there” rather than trying to comfort me with a Nurse Ratched pronouncement?

Okay, as far as I know, I’m not dead. My arm still itches today, but after Caladryl, a baking soda poultice, ice, and a few glasses of wine, my warm is returning to its normal size and color. I still can’t put my wedding ring back on my swollen left hand, but soon, hopefully.

The best piece of news, while I was fuming about the wasp incident, was that AudioFile Magazine had posted a nice review of Holly Palance’s narration of the audio edition of Lena. (Yes, she’s Jack Palance’s daughter.) I’ve been lucky in that the magazine has liked all three audiobooks in the Florida Folk Magic Series. You can see the review here.

Meanwhile, I’m getting an out-of-print book ready for publication with a brand new title and a brand new cover. I think I’ll dedicate it to “the wasps on the front porch.”

Malcolm