Creamed Pickled Herring

So, it is 2 months to the day since Mike found out that he has cancer. It seems a lot longer ago than that. That was the same day that he and Judy went to Kosher Kroger’s to make their purchases for Passover. While there he made an impulse buy of a 30 oz jar of creamed pickled herring. It was in the refrigerated area of the kosher food section, so I suppose it is a Jewish delicacy. And is it ever something! Every time he opens the jar there is an immediate convergence of cats. He never gives us any to eat. He says it will make us sick. Why is that a problem? He does let us lick the fork after he is finished with his snack (that he eats straight out of the jar. No other humans in the house seem to be interested in sharing.) I heard Mike telling Judy that his father used to eat creamed pickled herring, the same brand that he got at the store. It is made by a company out of Chicago. Moe Gordon seemed to like stinky fish. He also used to get canned sardines and eat them straight out of the can. Mike remembers that the cans came with a little key stuck to the bottom. You had to remove the key, engage it in a tab at one end of the top, and the twist the top off. I have never seen Mike eat sardines. But that herring! I bet it is on the buffet in heaven, right next to the mouse brains. Mike has been snacking diligently but it has taken a long time to eat that much herring. I think there is one piece remaining. You have heard the story of the loaves and the fishes. Well, I think the fishes may have been creamed pickled herring. What a way to attract a crowd! (We now know that a 30 ounce jar of creamed pickled herring will not spoil in a 2 month period of time, useful information if you ask me.)

Mike is currently rereading a book by Simon Sebag Montefiore entitled “Jerusalem, a Biography.” It is a history of the city from its known origins through the six day war in 1967. As such, it is a history of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He tells remarkable stories of luxury and wealth, tyranny and depravity, religious fanaticism, and  barbarism and terrible suffering. This is Mike’s current reading while he gets his infusions (next one tomorrow.) He finds it an interesting and disturbing look into human nature, and how close to the surface savage cruelty lies in many individuals. And it is not just the tyrants who are capable of atrocities. They seem to have never had a problem finding seemingly ordinary people to do their killing and butchering for them. As I said, very disturbing. But also, in reading such history, one encounters fascinating characters and circumstances. I think from time to time I might tell you about some of them.

Let’s start with Abu al-Misk Kafur, a former slave of Muhammad ibn Tughj, the founder of the Ikhshidid dynasty in Egypt. Kafur was black-skinned, originally from Ethiopia, and a eunuch. Impressed with his loyalty and intelligence, ibn Tughj freed him and appointed him royal tutor for his 2 sons. He also put him in charge of an army, and he was successful as a military leader. When ibj Tughj died in 946 CE, Kafur became the de facto head of the government which had control over Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. He ruled in this capacity for 20 years, and after both of the sons of ibn Tughj had died, he became the ruler in fact until his death in 967 or 968. Who knew that a black former slave, a eunuch, had been the ruler of an Islamic empire? And, historians give him a better than passing grade for his skill at managing the economy and government.

It is not recorded how he came to be a eunuch. Castration of young boys was common in ancient times. Being a slave put people at risk for all kinds of abuse and humiliation. God help you if you were a slave, an attractive boy, and came to the attention of the royal household. Castration was done to prevent the development of more adult masculine characteristics in adolescent boys for whom some kings and emperors had sexual appetites. It was also a common practice to place eunuchs in charge of the harems and concubines of the king on the theory that they wouldn’t misuse their opportunity for sexual congress with the ladies. This is very likely a flawed theory, in my opinion. Being a member of the royal court was always hazardous because of the absolute power of the despot to have anyone tortured, killed, etc. And the greater your visibility, the greater the risk that you would piss someone off, and that would be that. One of the most notorious of all tyrants, the Roman emperor Nero, is said to have become angry with his pregnant wife, Sabina, and killed her by repeatedly kicking her in the abdomen. He then decided that he missed her and searched for a replacement, someone who looked like her. Along came Sporus, a pretty boy, whom Nero had castrated. He married him in a great ceremony in which he renamed him Sabina, and dressed him as an empress. After Nero was murdered, Nymphidius, the commander of the guard, took a shine to him and used him sexually until he too was murdered. Sporus then fell into the hands of the new emperor, Otho, who lasted 3 months until he too was murdered (or possibly committed suicide.)  Next, the emperor Vitellius came along. He, however, had no interest in Sporus, other than to publicly humiliate him. At the age of 18, Sporus committed suicide. Some life! Among cats castration is common. (See “The Other Cats”,December 18, 2016). I talk about being tutored when I was at the shelter. I now know the correct term is neutered. If people would articulate their words better I wouldn’t be subject to these errors. For a cat, speaking as a eunuch, so to speak, its not a big deal, and it keeps me out of a lot of fights, not that I wouldn’t win most of them.

Well, I seem to have wandered a long way from creamed pickled herring. I may have lost you along the way. For those of you who are interested in Mike’s well-being, he seems fine to me. I will keep you posted. Until the next time, so long from Happy Meadows, and be well.


So, Mike had his second chemo treatment four days ago. It was uneventful, even more so than the first one. But they did give him more Benadryl, and he was as dopey as he could be even when he got home hours later. It’s a good thing he wasn’t driving. The mystery of the patch of dermatitis on his abdomen is solved. He now has a second patch where he got the second injection of one of his medications. So, obviously, that is the cause. He’ll make sure that the doctors know about this before they give him his next injection on Thursday. Fortunately, it doesn’t itch too much, and it’s not spreading. We will classify it as an annoyance at this time, just part of the adventure. Mike was energetic for two days after his treatment, and even cut down a small tree in the backyard. However, yesterday he was pretty worn out. Michelle came over for a nice visit that Mike slept through, on and off. He did manage to find enough energy make a run with the girls to Dairy Queen for his blizzard. By the way, his blood counts were pretty good on Thursday, always encouraging.

Mike has been following the daily Mussar “Count the Omer” postings on line. (See “The Adventure Unfolds”, May 4, 2019 for an explanation of the omer.) Mussar is a Jewish spirituality practice that emphasizes cultivation of positive character attributes. This year every  omer post has been on the attribute of Kavod, translated as cultivating and showing respectful honor to others, as well as conducting oneself in an honorable manner. In practicing kavod, one has the opportunity to practice other positive character attributes such as awareness, silence, humility, and patience. And don’t take this as a complete list. When  starting to practice a positive spiritual element on one’s path, others will automatically  be developed as well. You might want to try it sometime. Or maybe you already have an effective spiritual practice. I hope so. My sense is that we have entered an era in which kavod seems to be in short supply. Certain world leaders seem to enjoy hurling insults at their political adversaries. They believe that by demeaning those who disagree with them, or who challenge their motives, that they will strengthen their own position with the people who can keep them in power.  Some of the insults are simply childish, like “Little M….” They reflect poorly not only on the insulter, but on those who encourage such behavior. Ideally we should approach everyone with love and respect, even if we don’t believe in our hearts that they have earned it through their behavior. We should try to be understanding by listening to what might be true about what others say. Truth isn’t absolute anyway, at least, not according to Mike, who likes to cite Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty as though he understands it. What he does get is that truth is relative. What is true for you may not be true for me. Feel free to disagree about that, if you like.

And speaking of insults, the North Koreans just let go of a good one. I should caution you, however, that one thing that is absolutely true is that in translating from one language to another, some meaning can get distorted. So, take this statement in that spirit. John Bolton, who advises President Trump on foreign affairs, recently made the statement that North Korea had violated an agreement about missile testing. This may or not be true. The North Korean government took exception to his opinion, and attacked not only the opinion but the man. The quote is from Newsweek. I take no responsibility for the translation.”It is not strange that crooked sound will always come out of the mouth of a man who is structurally flawed, and it’s best that this defective human product goes away as soon as possible.” How about a little kavod, y’all? As Mike’s mother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

And speaking of Korean English, Mike just read a book purporting to be a user’s manual to his new Samsung phone. It’s author is listed as John Wilson, a nom d’plume if you ask me. (The best name I can think of for the author of a manual on a Korean-made phone is Seung Yul Noh. Think about it. But in real life Seung Yul Noh is a young man from South Korea who plays golf on the PGA Tour in the USA and not the author of a smartphone user’s manual.) It looks like the manual covers less than 1% of the functions of the phone, and was of almost no help to Mike at all. Mike is kind of pathetic anyway when it comes to the operation of tech devices. It is a wonder that between Mike and I we get this blog out in a readable condition. And if he wants to work on developing a positive attribute of character, I would suggest patience. He is not able to read directions and follow them, period. Everything in our house that required assembly after purchase was assembled by Judy.

And speaking of cell phones (I kind of was) it seems that every development in technology, which is supposed to make life easier and of improved quality, instead has added to the stress of daily life. A headline in today’s paper (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) reads “Putting down phone may help you live longer.” (Of course, a corollary to that thought is that it may not help you live longer.) The article is by Caroline Price of the New York Times. According to Ms. Price, people who study these things are finding that “the time we spend on our smartphones is interfering with our sleep, self-esteem, relationships, memory, attention spans, creativity, productivity and problem-solving and decision making skills.” Sounds bad. She goes into the brain chemistry aspect of this, suggesting first that short-term pleasure bursts are caused by dopamine release. But because they are short term, more stimuli are needed to prevent the deflated feeling that follows. More worrisome, according to the article, is the effect on cortisol, the primary hormone in the body that is produced by stress. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can contribute to diabetes, hypertension, depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome, infertility, stroke, dementia, and addiction. You could probably throw in warts as well. What really caught my eye in this story is a statement attributed to Dr. Robert Lustig  that cortisol elevation impairs the functioning of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This area is necessary for decision making and rational thought. Dr. Lustig says that “the prefrontal cortex is the Jiminy Cricket of the brain. It keeps us from doing stupid things.” Let’s not interfere with the effective functioning of the prefrontal cortex, y’all. I personally have no need for a cell phone, smart or otherwise, but if I did have one I certainly wouldn’t sleep with it, and I suggest that you not do so either. A phone holiday for 24 hours once per week is a good idea. Call me and let me know what you think. Just kidding. Let all your calls be important ones. That rule alone would eliminate 98% of phone traffic.

Let us not forget to acknowledge that today is Memorial Day. Those of us in Happy Meadows, and elsewhere in the USA, can look around ourselves and find a world in which we are free to believe in what we want, say what we want (hate speech excepted), and pursue our dreams. God has truly blessed America, but it has come with a price that many have paid with their lives, fighting tyrants and regimes desiring to take what we have for themselves, and to subjugate or exterminate us. It is the way of the world. In my world it is eat or be eaten. Among humans the reasons for killing have less to do with nutrition, and more to do with the desire for power and wealth. There is no cat in the world that would kill a mouse to gratify its own ego. For people, it is another story. So, be everlastingly grateful to the men and women who put their lives at risk so that we can be free, and especially to those who have paid the ultimate price.

So, that’s it for now. Enjoy the rest of your day. Until next time from Happy Meadows, so long!

The Feather

So, Monday Mike was supposed to play in a golf outing. It was a fundraiser for a local treatment center. Mike has played in this particular event many times before but not for several years. The last time he actually played golf was in one of these events. At that time he hadn’t played for several years and he found much to his consternation that his golf shoes had dry rotted and were unwearable. He came to this conclusion around the time he got to the first green, so it didn’t take long for them to fall apart. He had to double back and go get his sneakers and wear them instead. Mike couldn’t remember if he had ever replaced the golf shoes or not so he undertook a search in the house. He looked in the obvious places such as his golf bag, the garage, the basement, and finally looked in his closet where he would have no reason at all to put them. He didn’t find them but he was surprised to discover another pair of shoes, brand-new, that he hadn’t remembered buying. I don’t want you to get the idea that Mike is absent-minded but it would be understandable if you did. Not long ago Mike decided to replace his black semi dress/semi-casual shoes because the rubber soles were wearing out. So he went to the store where he normally bought them but found that it was no longer at the location that he had visited last time. So he checked out a couple of other shoe stores in the vicinity and didn’t find anything. Looking for his golf shoes, on the top shelf in the closet he found a brand-new pair of the exact shoes that he had been looking to buy last month. They had never been worn. The date on the receipt was 2015. Draw your own conclusions about the state of order or lack thereof, of Mike’s mind…….and on whether he will find a new pair of golf shoes somewhere in his universe.

But, Mike had decided not to play in the event because it was the week following his first chemo treatment and he had no idea how he was going to feel. They had a beautiful day and I’m sure had a successful event. If things go well with Mike he might get back to playing golf again some. He had always planned to take golf up again when he had more time to play. Let’s hope he gets to enjoy his golf game again. Not that he was never very good at it, but he wasn’t horrible either. So, it looks like Mike is not going to work this week. He had decided to take two weeks off to see how he was going to feel after starting chemo. So far he doesn’t really feel much different if at all, and he has managed to stay busy enough. He got his hearing aids adjusted yesterday morning. His audiologist offered him some of her bone marrow if he needed it. If Mike gets a bone marrow transplant it will be with his own bone marrow. But that was a very sweet and remarkable offer. Thank you Dr. Amy.

A couple of days ago Mike and Judy went for a walk. It must’ve been Sunday. When they got home lying in the front yard was a large feather, delivered by the universe. Mike has gone online to try to identify it. He’s not sure if it’s a feather from a red tailed hawk or a great horned owl. Maybe he’ll run across someone who can identify it for him. In the meantime, he’s glad to have it and takes it as a positive sign.



Mike had a chance to go to his men’s meeting Monday night. Normally he doesn’t go because of work. It was great seeing some of the guys again. The topic of self-pity came up as part of the discussion. I heard Mike telling Judy about this after he got home. Mike had a chance to talk to some of the guys after the meeting and told them about his health situation. It occurred to Mike that he has not once felt sorry for himself or asked why this is happening to him. I’m sure this is because he has been practicing a daily spiritual program for the most part for a long time. Long before I ever knew Mike he was mired in a terrible home situation and talks about how intensely sorry he used to feel for himself. Mike says that he remembers thinking that he was the world’s unhappiest person. This is astonishing, when you consider that at that time there were probably about 4 1/2 billion people in the world, and Mike was supposed to be the unhappiest of the whole lot. It just goes to show you how your perspective can be so distorted when you get  caught up in your own stuff.

I heard Mike talking about that guy from Morehouse who is going to pay the debt for the entire graduating class. This is remarkably generous. So many young people get in debt to finish their education, and it becomes quite a burden on them. The daughter of one of Mike’s friends is about to borrow about $130,000 to go to anesthesia school. It’s like buying a house. It is possible that this particular investment will pay off, but many students get into debt that realistically they can never pay off because their earning capacity will be limited. I’ve heard Mike talk about the cost of his own education. Tuition and fees at the University of Illinois where he did his undergraduate work was $110 per semester. Medical school was $150 per quarter for tuition and fees. Not only that, but Mike’s father had gotten a scholarship for him for medical school to help defray part of his tuition. At that time in Illinois, and maybe still today, the members of the General Assembly each year had a scholarship that they could give to a deserving student. Each member of the assembly had their own method of determining who was a deserving student. This particular scholarship was given by a fellow that Mike’s dad use to see in a neighborhood tavern after work. Mike’s dad would get home from work about 4:30 in the afternoon and take Mike on a shopping tour with him. They would stop by Al’s deli and get whatever was on the list that Mike’s mother had generated. They also typically would go to the Jewish bakery, the Shore bakery on 75th St. (right across the street from Al’s). Mike would then wait in the car while his dad went into a bar for a shot and a beer or two. So sitting in the car munching on the goodies that they had just bought at the bakery and deli, Mike earned a partial scholarship to medical school. What a great country we live in!

So, that’s all for now from Happy Meadows. Mike’s next chemo treatment is tomorrow. I will let you know how it goes. In the meantime, be well, be safe, and enjoy being you.

So Far, So Good

20190518_080541So, When I came home from my prowlings last night I saw that the house across the street from us had been t.p’d. It is an end of the school year stunt designed to acknowledge  a rising high school student or some other kid  that they are welcomed into the fellowship of bored and stupid kids that think this other kid might be as acceptably boring and stupid as they are. Mike slept through the whole thing, despite some medication (dexamethasone) he got yesterday that the nurse said would keep him up for 2 nights. He got up at 5, thinking it was 6 (Shayna Maidel had advanced the time on his clock again), went downstairs, made his toast and coffee, and then went out to look for the paper. That was when he saw the mess across the street. I enclose graphic evidence of the foolishness above. I must say, I am impressed with the quality of the image taken on his new phone.

So, I suppose you might be interested in how Mike’s chemo went yesterday. He was supposed to have it on Thursday but after meeting with the doctor she said they didn’t have a chair for him at the infusion center. So they came back the following day. Michelle has offered to drive them to chemo all summer long if necessary. Mike and Judy appreciate this immensely. They were gone about nine hours altogether. Michelle said the traffic was as light as she had ever seen both ways, and yesterday was a Friday. Mike had been led to expect that he would have significant symptoms from the first infusion so the protocol called for slow induction. He did have minor symptoms but nothing like what he was expecting. Everybody at the infusion center was very pleasant, professional, and collaborative. Any nurse that was available would take care of something and not make Mike wait until his nurse was available. Mike brought way too much stuff including a change of clothes in case he got sick on himself and a blanket. He used the blanket but they have blankets there so he’ll be leaving these items home next time. And if the medication didn’t make him sick last time it’s not likely to next time. He doesn’t feel sick today either although he’s gone through spells of hiccups. He said he feels better today than he has in quite a few weeks, strangely enough. He and Judy think it’s from the dexamethasone. He slept like a rock last night. He felt well enough to go out in the yard and work for an hour, went to the store, took his shirts to the laundry, checked emails, and now he he’s helping me with this blog. Not that I need that much help but he’s sitting here at the computer with me anyway. Let’s hope that nothing more onerous develops. I’ll keep you posted.

So, Mike is getting excited about the Cubs. They’re in first place in their division. I saw Mike drinking his coffee from his Wrigley field mug today. I’ve heard him talk about the wind at Wrigley Field. When the wind blows in you can’t hit a homerun to save your life, but when it blows out the pitcher better keep the ball down. In the Atlanta paper this morning there was a note that 40 years ago yesterday the Cubs played the Phillies at Wrigley Field. The game went 10 innings in the Phillies won 23 to 22. Needless to say, the wind was blowing out. The game included 11 home runs and 50 hits, Dave Kingman hit three home runs that day. He was a big first baseman for the Cubs and known for his towering home runs. He’s the only player them I can ever remember that hit a towering fly ball to left field that actually went over the wall against a strong wind. Mike thinks they won that game 1-0 but he doesn’t remember for sure. Go Cubbies!

Mike has finally finished reading a book on the history of Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore. He says that he had never realized how many times the ruling powers of Jerusalem changed hands. He also had no idea of the savagery and bloodshed that Jerusalem has seen. In the prologue to the book the author writes about the destruction of the second Temple by the Roman Empire. Three Jewish groups were fighting with each other as the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem. People were starving. The Roman general was crucifying 50 Jews every day outside of Jerusalem and they just about ran out of trees this went on so long. The psychological warfare was intense. So much gold was looted from the temple that the price on the open market was depressed for months afterwards. Mike wants me to describe some of the characters and tell some of the stories he has read about and so I probably will from time to time. Now that he has started chemo he’s taking some time off from work to see how he feels. He hopes to not be gone too long. For now he will  have more time to read so he’ll keep me busy.

I’ll try to keep these notes coming every week so y’all can keep up with how Mike and Judy are doing; and Michelle too, of course. I will be fine, and the other cats here are clueless. Please keep the prayers and love coming. Mike is certain that it is all your love and prayers that are protecting him and helping him get through this experience. So far he has been true to his goal of embracing the adventure.

Well, not much else to report from Happy Meadows. Have a safe and blessed week, y’all.


Chemo Day Minus 1

So, Mike and Judy were back at the Emory Winship Cancer Center yesterday. They met his myeloma oncologist, a very nice fellow with a sterling reputation. He reviewed Mike’s lab and imaging reports, talked to Mike and Judy, and did a brief examination of Mike. He then called Mike’s lymphoma oncologist and they conferred. Mike’s situation is unique with a capital U. He has two primary cancers, both derived from the B cell line of lymphocytes, but apparently unrelated to each other. Mike did a search of the medical literature and could find no similar cases reported. This was confirmed by Emory. So there is no research to go by to direct the course of treatment. Nevertheless, they have come up with what looks to Mike and Judy like a reasonable treatment plan which would address both cancers and likely bring about a positive response. Mike sees his lymphoma oncologist tomorrow and starts chemo tomorrow. He is ready. He plans on telling his doctor that they need to write his case up and that he needs a good outcome because everybody likes a story with a happy ending. Mike is going on medical leave starting tomorrow for an indefinite period of time, depending on how the chemo affects him both from the side effect standpoint and the effectiveness standpoint. One of the bizarre things about this is that despite all the cancer in his body he still doesn’t feel all that bad, certainly nothing that would cause him to make an appointment to see a doctor. Had he not discovered this almost by accident almost 2 months ago his condition would have been much more advanced by the time it was addressed. Maybe God wanted to get Mike’s attention and remind him who is still in charge. Duly noted, thank you very much. Sometimes, God is well in the background and not especially noticed from day to day. And then life happens, and oh, right, God, we still need you. So, thanks for always being there for us cats, people, and all your creation. It has also been pleasant to be reminded once again how good and loving most people are.

So, no jokes today, just the news. Please keep all of us from Happy Meadows  in your prayers. You are always in ours. Peace.


It Gets Curiouser and Curiouser

So, in the nothing is as simple as you would like it to be department, Mike got a call from his oncologist three days ago. She told him that he did have cancer in his bone marrow and it was a different kind of cancer from what he had in his lymph nodes. So the treatment plan remains a moving target. Mike is out of the study now. He meets with a new cancer specialist at Emory on Tuesday and with his current oncologist next week on Thursday. Presumably, a treatment plan will be decided upon next week. Mike had a port put in on Wednesday to facilitate getting chemotherapy infusions. His chest where they put the port in is a little sore and the skin itches. I have to be careful not to step on it when I am crawling around on him. He pretty much keeps it covered up with a pillow when he is lying down. Things are looking more and more to Mike as though he is going to be out of work for a while. His office staff is working diligently to make sure that all of his patients are taken care of by other doctors. Mike plans on working this coming week but then expects to be off for an unspecified period of time. I don’t suppose he has any way of knowing ahead of time. He imagines, and I suppose he’s right, that when he starts treatment he will feel a lot worse than he does right now. Surprisingly, for all that seems to be wrong with him, he really feels quite normal. Admittedly, he’s looking a little pale and he is tiring more easily. He continues to get a lot of love for which we are all grateful.

So, happy Mother’s Day y’all. I think it’s a nice thing that mothers have a special day. They are very special indeed. Cats make particularly good mothers. The great challenge in being a mother is to consistently put the child ahead of yourself. This does not come naturally to cats, so I especially admire our feline mothers. Mike on the other hand refers to Mother’s Day as a Hallmark holiday. Nevertheless, he goes out of his way to honor Judy as he greatly values her accepting and executing her role as a mother with great dedication and love.

On another topic I would like to make the observation that too many people in the world are losing their minds. People are getting angrier and angrier. Mentally unbalanced people are grabbing guns and shooting people they don’t even know because of their religious beliefs or for no intelligible reason at all. Times like this call for leadership from the people in charge of our political, religious, and social institutions. We seem to be operating in a leadership vacuum at this time. It’s of historical interest in this (leadership) context that the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is the first temperance movement that did not destroy itself after its initial success. Tension predictably developed between people who wanted things changed and people who insisted that things continue as they were. Bill Wilson, one of the cofounders of Alcoholics Anonymous made the following statement in 1945: “Sound policy can only be made by rubbing the conservatives and the promoters together. Their discussions, if free from personal ambitions and resentment, can be depended upon to produce the right answers. For us, there is no other way.” Positive things happen if we respect each other, listen to other points of view, strongly advocate for our own point of view, and get our own egos out of the way. Bill’s role in the founding of AA is widely recognized, but his role in ensuring its survival is less well appreciated. Let’s all get along, y’all.

Mike was doodling the other day and discovered the following six and seven letter words that can be made from the phrase “real Donald Trump.”: Pander, pardon, plunder, lament, dollar, amoral, ordeal, outdeal, amount, donate, doldrum, dormant, muddle, toddler, and parole. I just thought you might be interested.

Mike was talking with his Sunday morning boychicks this morning when the subject of the cost of his treatment came up. In Mike’s practice of addiction medicine, insurance companies routinely have a step-wise approach to approving care. For starters they approve the “el cheapo” medication or counseling plan, and won’t agree to a plan that Mike recommends unless the patient fails the bargain basement treatment plan first. Of course, treatment failure can result in prolonged suffering or death. In either case, the insurance company is off the hook. Once relapsed, the patient won’t be seeking medical or psychiatric services. If and when they seek help again it is more than likely that their insurance has changed or has disappeared altogether. So there is a low risk of the company incurring further expense. If the patient dies, oh well, what a shame. I heard Mike say this morning that when they hang up his medication for his chemo infusion he doesn’t want it to say “Kirkland” on the IV bag.

So, lots to be discovered this coming week. Pray for us, as we always pray for you. That is how it works. I will have much to report in another few days. Be well, and so long from Happy Meadows.

The Adventure Unfolds

So, a plan is taking shape. Mike and Judy met with the oncologist at Emory five days ago. She was extremely knowledgeable, frank, and personable. She confirmed the diagnosis and the fact that this was not curable but hopefully controllable. She offered Mike the opportunity to enter into a study they are doing at Emory. It’s a three drug study in which Mike would be certain to get all three drugs. There is no control group. Mike thought this was preferable to the other study he had been presented with by the first oncologist he met with. In that study he had a 50% chance of getting 3 drugs. All three of the drugs in both studies have already been approved for lymphoma treatment. Both studies are looking at new combinations of already approved drugs, trying to find better approaches to treating this particular type of cancer. Mike had a bone marrow biopsy two days ago, and they met with the oncologist again. Michelle was able to join them for that meeting. It looks like we are talking about bringing out the big guns against his cancer. The induction, she said, will likely cause a situation called a tumor lysis syndrome. The drugs kill a great deal of cancer cells all at once which places a burden on the body to clear all that material  from the system. And it doesn’t feel good either. In fact, I think Mike’s best chance of dying in the next five years is going to be a couple of weeks from now. But I just don’t think that’s going to happen. Mike has been letting more people know about his situation and is getting a tremendous amount of support. He is starting to tell his patients that he has cancer and they are responding with much love and prayers. And we have had more hawk sightings. As Mike was leaving the Berman Center Wednesday after letting the staff know what’s going on with him he looked out the window and saw a hawk fly by. He saw another one circling overhead as he was driving home. I think the universe is definitely with Mike for a good recovery. The hawk on the other hand can stay far far away from me, thank you very much. Next week Mike has more tests and will have a port inserted for better intravenous access. It’s all part of the adventure. Treatment could start as early as the week after next. We won’t find out till the end of next week. Stay tuned.

I just thought I might mention that today is Moses Gordon’s birthday. He was born on this day in 1909. Moses was Mike’s father. He passed away in 1986 of Parkinson’s disease, but at the very end of his life was diagnosed with lymphoma. Mike’s aunt Florence also had lymphoma that was treated successfully a number of years ago. She eventually died of another kind of cancer. Mike’s brother died of lymphoma in 2011. I may have mentioned this before, but he took notoriously poor care of himself, especially for a person who was constantly going to the doctor. One wonders why he bothered going to the doctor when he routinely disbelieved what doctors told him, and followed his own counsel rather than that of the doctor. So it looks like lymphoma is a family tradition that Mike has engaged in. On his mother’s side of the family they are known for stubbornness and longevity. Hopefully the Cowl genes will prevail over the Gordon genes. Time will tell, but I’m optimistic.

It is of interest to me and could be of interest to you that we are in a period of the Jewish calendar referred to as the counting of the Omer. In the Torah, the Jewish people are commanded to count the days starting with the second day of Passover and ending the day before Shavuot, a total of 49 days. (An omer is a measure of barley.) Passover as most people know is the holiday which celebrates the release of the Jewish people from enslavement in Egypt. Shavuot is the holiday that commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Up until the giving of the Torah the Jewish people had an identity and a relationship of sorts with God. However, the revelation of God at Mount Sinai, and the giving of the Torah marks the establishment of the Jewish religion. With the establishment of the religion there was a new awareness of God’s nature. In fact, one way of thinking about the Torah is that it’s the story of the relationship between God and the Jewish people.

At its most basic level, the commandment of counting 49 days would simply let the Jewish people know exactly which day they should begin the celebration of Shavuot. However, many Jewish people take it as an opportunity to embark upon a spiritual journey. There are various systems that can be utilized to formalize the process. For example, the Kabbalah, a mystical form of Jewish philosophy, has a meditation and practice for each of the 49 days. A more modern system of Jewish practice, Mussar, publishes a meditation for each of the 49 days. You can find all of this online if you’re interested. So every year, the Jew travels from his spiritual enslavement in his own self-imposed Egypt to knowledge of God’s will with the giving of the Torah. Or at least, he or she can if he or she wants to. Spiritual opportunities always abound, but people have to be motivated. For cats this is not an issue. We have our own daily meditation practices with which anyone who spends any time around cats are well acquainted. Many people through their experiences and training in life conclude that their life is a spiritual journey. Some people seem to do a better job of navigating than others. And life deals reminders, like cancer, from time to time to remind us of the importance of the spiritual path.

So, on a very tangentially related topic, did you know that Josef Stalin at one point in his life admired and respected Jews? Early in his command of the Soviet Union he banned antisemitism, and sought to establish Jewish homelands within the country. The largest and most successful of these was Birobidzhan in the far East, a spot on the trans-siberian railroad on the Manchurian border. In other words, in the middle of nowhere. I think it was supposed to be the new Zion of the East. Started in 1928, it was officially designated as a Jewish Autonomous Region in 1934. It attracted refugees from eastern Europe and elsewhere in Russia, although due to its isolation and harsh winters, most did not stay there for very long. But there were Jewish institutions established, and Yiddish was the official language. Stalin eventually caught the antisemitism bug himself and the community declined in the 1940s. Another sharp decline occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. However, if you were to go to Birobidzhan today, you would find 2 synagogues (the larger being Chabad), Jewish schools, a kosher restaurant, a mikvah (ritual bath), a Yiddish section in the local newspaper, a large menorah at the railway station, other Jewish-themed statuary around town, and many signs are in both Russian and Yiddish. Jews officially make up 1.5% of the population, and there may be nowhere in the world where Jews, Muslims, and Christians enjoy better relationships with each other. Who knew?

So, that’s it for now from Happy Meadows. Let’s hope for good things. I can assure you that your prayers and meditations are creating a large mass of healing spiritual energy.  We love, appreciate, and pray for you all. Thanks so much, and be well. Sholom!