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Posts from the ‘Life’ Category

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.-

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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

 

 

 

Potpourri – June 2019

Notice: If this post contained any real potpourri, you’d be sneezing by now.  Come to think of it, I don’t know why well-meaning people thrust potpourri on innocent people who walk into a bathroom, living room, bookstore, Wicca supply shop, or auto supply store and then start sneezing their asses off.

Moving to Juneau?

If so, there’s work. I’d take this job in a New York minute (whatever that is) if I lived there:

The Sun Singer

If you’re one of the wonderful people who downloaded a free Kindle copy of The Sun Singer during the recent giveaway, thank you! If you like it, you may also like its gritty sequel Sarabande:

 

The Strand Bookstore

Since I have worked in historic preservation, I’m a fan of the National Register because it draws attention to a historic site or object and imposes no restrictions on the owner’s use of the property. Not so, the government overreach in forcing landmark status on New York City’s famous Strand Bookstore. The bookstore fought against the designation because it comes with rules that impact how the slim-profit-margin store can use the building it owns. I signed the petition against this kind of nonsense.

Medical Update

I posted this medical update on Facebook and since I’m too lazy to write a fresh medical update, I’ll just paste it into the blog:

Darn it, rain

I was planning to mow the yard after supper until I noticed that it’s getting a bit dark outside (at 2 p.m.). The weather RADAR indicates that I might not be cutting grass even though we just got one of our riding mowers back from the shop and it’s ready to go.

 

Fried chicken for dinner tonight, but there’s not enough for you, so don’t stop by unless you stop at the KFC on hightay 27 before you get here.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

because people shouldn’t have to journey alone

Cancer Navigators is a northwest Georgia organization that provides a variety of support, direct help, and other resources to patients with cancer. Their tagline is “because people shouldn’t have to journey alone.” In addition to the American Cancer Society, CancerCare, and groups designated for specific kinds of cancers, perhaps your area has a state or regional organization that provides help. Our local group provides a weekly support group where people can share, learn, and get ideas.

In addition to support groups and retreats, there’s counselling, information about community resources, financial issues (including lack of insurance), and transportation problems. Many types of cancer include long periods of treatment, extended hospital time, and treatment costs that only a rich person could pay for. My prostate cancer is generally assumed to be usually survivable, but the daily radiation treatments over several months cost about $25,000 not including the hormone treatments. Fortunately, Medicare takes care of 80% of that.

There’s a strong likelihood, I’ll be cancer free by Thanksgiving. Many families and individuals see costs astronomically higher than that, often with little or no hope that the patient will ever be cancer free. Most of us have heard that certain things increase our likelihood of getting cancer. So, we have an option not to do those things. Things get muddled when the most dutiful people get cancer anyway and the most careless people do not.

I have a feeling a lot of people think that God, or perhaps fate in the form of a big wheel of fortune, determine who will be included in the next round of the National Cancer Center statistics that say, “The Burden of Cancer in the United States. In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease.”

In spite of the advances in medical technology, I suspect many people (perhaps most) are fatalistic about improvements coming from research. Too many people are dying and the treatments cost more money than the living have. Perhaps such feelings keep most people from donating money to research and support groups unless a close friend or family member is affected.

Personally, I’m not overly worried about the prognosis for my treatment. I’m more aggravated about the hassle after having one easy ride (except for the last three years) most of my life with little to no interactions with doctors and hospitals. Yes, the words, “you have cancer” tend to get one’s attention. S/he wants to ask, “How long do I have?” or “How much pain is involved?” or “What percentage of the rest of my life will be spent in a hospital bed?”

Such things cross my mind, of course. How could they not? I like the phrase “because people shouldn’t have to journey alone” because I think a lot of people do face cancer alone. Friends don’t stop by because they’re superstitious like they might get cancer by saying the word or being in the same room with a person who has cancer. Treatment and the effects of the treatment curtail many activities, so some of a person’s natural interaction with others comes to a halt. When my parents and then my wife’s parents were old and ill (not with cancer), people said they’d stop by and check on them, but mostly they didn’t.

I guess those people feel like there’s nothing they can really say or do that will change the circumstances of a terminal patient. Plus, what they see tends to scare them into thinking “what if I’m next?” Better to run and hide, right?

I play with magic, write books about magic, and am generally a very superstitious person. But the whole idea of God or fate deciding who gets cancer (or anything else) makes no sense to me whatsoever. I believe in destiny, though not a destiny decreed by the gods, but a destiny we (perhaps) chose before we were born and that we control (consciously and subconsciously) that speaks to what we want to accomplish in this lifetime. That said, I suspect this entire prostate cancer hassle is something that I chose one way or another and that I’m supposed to learn or otherwise get something out of it. But that view is just my view. It doesn’t change the care people need or the help others can provide personally or via support groups.

The main thing, I think, is finding a way to “be there” for others who might need your help. They won’t tell you they need it because, well, who wants to say such things? As for me, please don’t stop by the house with a casserole, especially one of those with beans and onion rings and mushroom soup.  Look to the people next door and at the company where you work and the PTA where your kids go to school. They’re not lepers and they won’t infect you if you stop by to say “hello.”

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does everyone in the U.S. need an anger management class?

“How dare you don’t agree with me, you ignorant bastard.”

I’ve seen responses like that so often on Facebook that I seldom get involved in political “discussions.” Looking at this, and many of the protests, some commentators are asking why “everyone” is so angry.

Maybe we’re just flat tired of the ultra-polarized world we’ve suddenly found ourselves in. There seem to be few shares of grey: you either support a candidate or belief system 100% or you’re scum. There’s seldom an alternative. If you’re a moderate, in years gone by, you might have been a peacemaker, one who’s trying to bring together extreme views into a consensus. Now, moderates get beat up online by the extremists on both sides of the political aisle.

We’re told that our silence is consent in so far as nasty issues are concerned. Yet when we speak out, we’re lambasted by a lot of angry people when we don’t buy into one extreme or the other hook, line, and sinker. I see more shades of grey than either/or, but there’s little I can say online to combat those who are 100% for XYZ and those who are 0% against XYZ because all of those people sound like they’re getting their talking points from the same kinds of places. That is, they aren’t speaking for themselves but for a point of view, that’s (apparently) beamed into their minds by a BORG mothership or a PAC or a political party.

It appears to me that a lot of people feel very uncomfortable when the views they’ve had for a lifetime are questioned by others. Quite often, those views were considered mainstream, the kinds of things that “everybody” in the country believed in. Now, people are finding out that the kind of views that might have seemed reasonable in the 1950s aren’t reasonable today. So, they don’t know how to respond other than with anger and profanity.

Some people wonder if all this anger will send the country into another civil war. I don’t think so, though I can see why many people might think that our differences cannot be healed peacefully. In general, I have a live and let live viewpoint. If another person or group is not a real and present danger to you and others, why get upset about it? Yet a fair number of people apparently think that their religion and their value system and their yardstick of right and wrong should be applied to everybody else. I don’t get it.

I have always believed that the tenets of one’s religion apply only to those who subscribe to that religion rather than the public at large. A lot of the anger seems to come from the belief that “whatever my god tells me to do applies to those with other religious beliefs.” I think that’s an arrogant stance. Why do any of us need to control another person based on our own religious beliefs? Why do people fight like hell to impose their religious beliefs on others via state and federal law? Anger often seems to be a result of this kind of thinking.

We seem to have gone past the point where civilized debate is possible. Personally, I think that if a protester or a politician or an activist cannot listen to the opposition, their cause is suspect. That is, they are not sure of their enough of their stance to be civil. Or even human.

If you look at the political speeches of the day, the commentaries about those speeches, and the fallout on social media, you’ll see–I think–that more people want to be aggrieved than want to find unity.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, Cancer, my old associate

Okay, here’s an update, and then I’ll get off the personal stuff and look again at books (including my own, of course), writing, and a bit of magic.

The news and our neighborhoods are constantly filled the talk of cancer as though it’s a shadow that follows all of us or, at the very least, hovers nearby as friends, neighbors, and widely known people either die from it or become survivors.

I’m already a survivor–from kidney cancer and successful surgery–two years ago. It was caught by coincidence when I suddenly came down with appendicitis and the CT scan and MRI found the tumor. Fortunately, it was on the outside of the kidney and could be removed before it invaded the kidney. I ended up with a six-inch scar that took a long time to fade away, but I feel hesitant to mention that I’m a survivor because I didn’t undergo the long and painful journeys that many survivors face.

You notice that in the title of this post, I didn’t say, “my old friend.” Yes, I suffer from depression, but not the fatalistic kind that would put cancer on my Christmas card or Facebook friends list. Suffice it to say, we’ve met before. I read somewhere that 80% of the men who reach 80* have cancer cells in their prostates. Sometimes it’s treated, sometimes it’s simply monitored. However, the older a man gets, the more his doctors insist upon a PSA (Prostate-specific antigen) blood tes several times a year. The higher the number, the worse the result is. So, you want to see nothing higher than, say, a “3” in the results. As you get older, that acceptable number gets a bit higher. My number has bounced up and down, partly because I had BHP (Benign prostatic hyperplasia) which can impact the results.

So, when the number shot up to 22, it was “what the hell is this?” The doctor put me under sedation and did a biopsy. A relatively small number of cancer cells were found. Fortunately, the follow-up CT scans showed that the cancer had not spread, the worst case being into one’s bones. When my wife an I talked the urologist yesterday about the results and prognosis, we were actually relieved because we already knew it was cancer and were more concerned about how bad it might be.

The treatment will probably be radiation since the cancer cells are scattered–rather than comprising a tumor–along with hormone therapy. We won’t know how this will be set up until June 10th when I have an appointment with the oncology department. The prognosis at this point is that the treatment will make me cancer free again by this fall. The radiation treatments [External beam radiation therapy (EBRT)] are a five-days-a-week protocol, and that’s way more doctor’s visits than I want. The treatments are painless and the side effects impact a very low percentage of those being treated.

So there it is, more cancer details than either you or I want to read in a post or anywhere else.

As for today, Lesa and I are celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary. We’re having homemade mousaka for dinner along with some wine or Coke and maybe something amusing on TV.

Malcolm

* P.S. No, I am not in my 80s.