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Many cancer patients claimed to have experienced weight loss. Weight loss may even be the first notable symptom of the disease. Forty (40%) percent of cancer patients claim to have experienced unexplained weight loss. Clinicians will tell you weight loss from cancer is different from other types of weight loss. Doctors refer to it as “cachexia” (wasting of the body). Cachexia causes increased metabolism, muscle loss, fatigue, and decreased quality of life. 

For months I experienced fatigue. Then all of a sudden, nothing. Little or no back pain. No neck pain. Little or no knee pain. Little or no muscle cramps. However, somewhere between last week and this morning, I lost 12 pounds. This loss was not a matter of choice, as in I decided some fancy-schmancy diet. Neither did I embark on a 200-mile hike, bike 50 miles each day, or train for an Olympic marathon. Instead, I did what I always did, I came home, made dinner, and watched the Cubs. (Last night’s destruction came courtesy of the Cleveland Indians.) I suppose I could have looked for my 12 pounds. Then again, maybe I lost 1.7 pounds per day, and I failed to notice. Either way, they were gone. 

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Captains Log, Stardate 99105.44. “Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking warned humans must colonize another planet or face extinction. To save humanity, 500 members of humanity’s best boarded the Starship Kodesh (means ‘special’ or ‘set aside’). If you hear this message, it means the ship has completed its mission to Proxima Centauri [closest potential exoplanet to earth]. However, all proem of human life ceased. In the end, everyone died. Humanity killed us.”

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All The Changes

The first time I heard Harry Chapin’s song Changes, I wondered about his thoughts. Chapin was a compulsive writer and talker from what I’ve read, and listening to someone who seemed to pierce life’s subtleties easily, propelled me to dream of many careers. I often envisioned myself as a great orator or written style, one who would draw the masses. I also imagined being a fireman rescueman, a top Colombo-style detective, a Noble Laurent, a singer, a restaurant owner, and an inventor. But as the years rolled by, I changed.

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I’ve never fawned over celebrities, not even when living in Los Angeles. Traveling nearly every week, I often found myself departing either Sunday or Monday and returning Friday, and repeating the process the following week. I met many celebrities during my travels: Roma Downey, Della Reese, Hulk Hogan, Kelly Hu (whom I had one dinner date), Erik Estrada, Wolf Blitzer, Stephen Covey, John Tesh, and Connie Sellecca, to name a few. Even if I sat adjacent to a celebrity, I never bothered them. A few days ago, I made an exception. 

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I never fully understood why God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The story can be summarized as follows. God tests Abraham’s faith by commanding him to sacrifice his firstborn son Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Abraham has absolute trust (faith), so he follows the command. A knife is drawn and placed to Isaac’s throat. At that moment, God sees Abraham’s faith and obedience are complete and sends an angel to stop the sacrifice. I cannot imagine the conversation Abraham had with his wife.

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Dying is hard. The body refuses to give up. For others, the physical part of death is not the barrier. Instead, information processing is the hardest culprit. There are too many issues to address before the end. In other words, we run out of time. ‘Death’ grabs us when least expected and refuses to release us. Describing my process is like being in the grip of a boa constrictor.

Boa constrictors are not venomous. Instead, they squeeze the victim to death. The squeezing overwhelms the circulatory system, and the prey dies from ischemia. And therein I lay. I came to the acknowledgment this week that my body is slowly giving way. Life a slow-motion film, the amount of dizziness, the pain just below my rib cage, and the persistent fatigue slowly crept in each subsequent week. I sense it. No. Correction. It squeezes. I feel it. There are some days when I wish to fall asleep and call it a life.

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A few hours before my physician’s appointment, I read Dr. Rebecca Elon’s story on the Kaiser Health News. Living in the age of COVID, she lost her husband, experienced the death of a sister, and watched her mother battle dementia. The geriatrician and policy expert made a striking comment. “Reading about caregiving of this kind was one thing. Experiencing it was entirely different.” Elon’s statement struck so deep that I took the time to not her comment. Thinking Elon’s quote was a worthy citation in a future blog post, I never imagined referencing hours later, just after my doctor’s appointment.

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Katie Cassidy revealed that her father’s (singer David Cassidy) last words were ‘so much wasted time.’ Cassidy’s last words have been on my mind for weeks, and none more present while I have been cleaning out my home. In Sweden, this type of decluttering called döstädning— meaning ‘death’ and städning meaning ‘cleaning. In the final preparation of my departure, I don’t want others to be spending hours clearing out unnecessary items. Therefore, I am unloading all I can while alive. As I sorted, I kept thinking, “Why? Why did I waste so much time collecting this stuff?

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When I was 16, my parents loaded our Southwind Motorhome and headed west for vacation. My brother and I were allowed to ride along, but I considered of myself only as an ‘accessory.’ “Hey, get me a beer.” “We need wood for the fire.” “Empty the ‘holding tank.” (‘Holding tank’ was a euphemism for ‘s*** tank.’ Since someone has to empty it, might as well get the cheap labor to do it.) Along the route to Glacier National Park (Montana), my father shrewdly traded two cartons of Kool Menthol cigarettes with an Native American for a personal guided tour of the original ‘Camp Disappointment.’ Camp Disappointment was the northernmost point reached by the Lewis and Clark Expedition (July 23, 1806). Lewis referred to the campsite as ‘Camp Disappointment,’ for it meant the expedition was unable to reach 50 degrees north latitude, which would extend the Louisiana Territory. I viewed Camp Disappointment more pragmatically.

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Ice Cream and Anhedonia

Sorry I have been offline for several weeks. It’s not that I’ve been medically indisposed. And while the pain did follow me, I remained upright and above ground. Instead, I travel to Tucson to collect my father’s remains, spend time with my mother, and worked remotely as though I were in the Central Time zone. 

Working under Central Time while in Tucson presents challenges. No matter what you do, you must plan two hours ahead. For instance, for an 8:00 AM meeting, you must be prepared at 6:00 AM. For me, the alarm rang early – like really, really early. Some days, I found myself sliding out of bed at 4:00 AM, calling it a night by 8:00 – 8:30 PM. The schedule was extraordinary.

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