Houston, We Have A Problem With A Man Named Sparkes

Prostate Cancer Blues March 10th 2018

Where am I at and how did I get here? For those of you just tuning in, the following is a  recap of my last year of prostate cancer discovery and journey. For those of you who have been following along up to now, consider this a quick summary of what I have been blogging on and on about for the last eight or nine months. Okay, let’s begin … I was first told I had elevated prostate specific antigen, (PSA) way back in November 2016. My PSA  score was mid 6, (any score above 5 starts to raise eyebrows).

I find your PSA levels both illogical and fascinating.

Sometime in December 2017, I met with an urologist (it’s “an” urologist and not “a” urologist – right? I mean urologist begins with a vowel so it must be “an”, but somehow neither one seems correct), who suggested, much to my appreciation, that initial elevated PSA does not justify rushing to conclusions. He felt I could afford to wait and see how things change, (for the better or for the worse) over the course of the next few months.

With my urologist close at hand, months go by and together we occasionally, repeatedly check and recheck my PSA levels. In my case, my last PSA check happened at the end of May last year, and my score then was 9.89. So after six months of watching and wondering, we decide the PSA numbers are high enough to justify a biopsy. I underwent the procedure just a few days before my great nephews wedding in July.

I’ve been told, and I believe it to be true, when your doctors office calls, you can count on knowing the news is always going to be good if it is the nurse who calls and talks to you about your results. On the flip side, it is never good news when the doctor calls. My doctor called to say I had a biopsy result with a Jackie Gleason score of 7. He tells me the pathology results show I really do have mid grade prostate cancer. Sometime later I finally understand this to mean I had level 1 cancer. At that time, that is, at the point when I was first notified, I didn’t know what to make of any of it. To help me better understand, my urologist made an appointment for myself, my wife and my son to meet with him and to go over my results, my numbers and my options for treating the cancer.

During our appointment he tells us there are many options for treatment, but I leave believing I’d be pretty foolish to do anything outside of having major surgery. Additionally, I’m told I’ll just have to learn to live with the numerous side effects. For the record, I often compare the standard treatment as being akin to gutting a fish. (I should know. I partially put myself through college spending my summers in Alaska working at a fish processing plant.) At least Dr. U encourages me to meet with other treatment experts, which I promptly did. It turns out all the doctors I met with, (second, third, and fourth opinions) are all in cahoots together. Even though they all approach cancer treatment differently, (surgery, radioactive pellets, radioactive bombardment, etc.) they all agreed that in my specific case, aggressive surgical treatments were needed to prevent my cancer level from climbing up to un-treatable level 4.

Two more nephew marriages later, and my world has repeatedly flipped flopped end over end with regards to how I’m going to treat my prostate cancer. A string of amazing coincidences have nudged me to explore and consider a wide range of treatments. By the end of August I have gone from resigning myself to having the recommended prostatectomy to then rejecting it completely after an acquaintance, through happen-chance, turns me onto an experimental procedure in New York City. On 9/11 not only am I in NYC, but I am excited to find that I have been officially and formally accepted as a participant for a cutting edge experimental laser treatment trial study, (TooKad) at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, (MSK) in New York City! (Was that sentence a mouthful or what?)


Using a combination of lasers and a light sensitive drug, (a form of chlorophyll), my MSK doctor was hoping to successfully treat my prostate cancer. The treatment looked very promising. It’s quick, (single session), with no serious or long term side effects. The drug itself has a temporary side effect with light, but even that was never anything more serious than what Dracula had to deal with. If successful, (TooKad is already approved in Europe and elsewhere), my positive results and recovery could potentially lead to FDA approval as well as a better, easier and a less debilitating way to treat men for prostate cancer.

For awhile there I allowed myself to be fairly excited and optimistic about this opportunity. My wife and I made three trips to NYC last year, but at the end of 2017 I finally got tired of traveling so far just to see a Broadway show that ends up coming to Seattle anyway! No, no, no. HamiltonI really love NYC, (maybe not the Metropolitan Art Museum so much, but yes to most of NYC). Anyway, I was told that following the TooKad treatment, I could expect to make at least three or even four more trips to NYC before 2018 expired. As my hindsight is so obviously very good, I have to say it is now quite evident I really am not psychic after all, (ah, but this never stops me from playing one on stage), as nothing I expected shook out the way I predicted – except of course, all the times they did!

FUN PSYCHIC TEST: Let’s take a moment to test my remote psychic abilities. Please read the following statements, (out loud or not – your call) very carefully. I hope to see if I can connect with you psychically and see if you will select the number I have in mind. Please play along and try to receive the number I am secretly, psychically suggesting. So here we go:

I want you to think of a number from one to five. Don’t think of the one that pops into your mind first. And don’t think too hard. I’m remotely sending you the number I have in mind. So, what I really want is for you to read my mind. Concentrate … Picture it in your mind. What you’re looking for is the number I’m thinking of … Got it?

Write the number down or remember it for later. I’ll provide my answer before too long and see if we have a psychic connection. Honestly, I have no idea if this little exercise will work or not. I’m always dancing between concepts of mind reading, mind suggestion and mind control. Maybe genuine psychic abilities is comprised a little bit of all three … or four. The number I wanted you to receive is four. How did we do?

Okay, back to the prostate cancer story summary. The TooKad trial study suddenly went dark after my pre-treatment biopsy and my last New York City trip in November. My MSK doctor lead me to believe I was to be treated early December. When December came around I reached out and was then told mid-January. (Hmm, now that I think of it maybe they meant 2019 or January 2020 – who knows? I certainly don’t. )

For reasons still unknown to me, the TooKad trial study went radio silent. My last correspondence included an offer from my MSK doctor’s office suggesting I consider one of their “other” nontraditional prostate cancer treatments. That was last January. I have not heard back from MSK since.

Don’t worry Mr. Sparkes, we have all kinds of alternative, cutting edge, prostate cancer treatments available. Now be a good fella and drop your pants.

About the same time the TooKad treatment evaporated, a high school friend, (from 40 years ago already now) reached out to me, (turns out Facebook is good for something after all). He too has prostate cancer. He too wanted to try a treatment, (other than the standard gutting) and in the process of researching, he found a procedure similar to TooKad being regularly performed for over five years in Houston and other cities. He not only turned me onto the Prostate Laser Center, (PLC) but he also had the procedure performed on himself and even his cat last February! (okay, so I’m kidding about his cat. Maybe it was his fish – in lieu of gutting no less!)

PLC has been very successful in treating prostate cancer; so much so that I reached out to them as well and scheduled my procedure. The only drawback is that the procedure is not covered by insurance. The FDA will not approve this laser treatment for prostate cancer until PLC can show 10 years of successful treatments. This means I’ll have to pay out of pocket and pretty much give up the idea of buying a new, nicely equipped mid-sized car for a few years more.

Anyway, I called my friend’s doctor, (who is now my doctor) and I’m happy to say Wanda and I are flying to Houston this March 18th for my turn at having my prostate cancer removed by laser! PLC is pretty slick. I thought the TooKad treatment was attractive because it was so quick and effective with negligible side effects, but the PLC treatment is even quicker and easier.

My confidence is additionally boosted by the fact the Prostate Laser Center has a fine track record for successfully treating prostate cancer patients, (over 85% success rate which, although significant, is not nearly enough to impress the insurance companies to cover the cost, but then again, we all know insurance companies are in league with the devil). Keep in mind cancer comes in all kinds of degrees. A man’s age and other varying factors play a crucial role in how well one can be treated and how well one recovers. But on that note, when I interviewed with Dr. K about my chances, he was very excited, (to some extent even more than I was). He was excited by both my biopsy and my MRI results. He repeatedly told me how I was an “ideal” candidate. I repeatedly told him to quit selling me as I was already resigned to having the procedure! In all seriousness, he assured me he rarely gets to treat someone with my kind of “ideal cancer conditions.” I said that since I was such an exciting anomaly how about he cut me a discount. He just laughed. Why is it people laugh so much whenever I am being serious?

So the very good news is that I am scheduled to be treated Tuesday, March 20th – 6:50 am Houston time (that’s like 4:50 am back home. I wonder if I’ll even go to sleep the night before). The procedure takes a couple of hours followed by a couple hours recovery. Once I show some semblance of awareness, like remembering my name, the date and the Alamo, (hey, it is Texas after all), they’ll let me return to my hotel.

The following morning we return for the removal of some tubing and if I can freely tinkle tinkle little star, they’ll kick me out with the hope of never seeing me again. We’re going to stay one more night in Houston – as a precaution, and not just because my wife wants to shop at the Houston Galleria.


Dr. K says I can go back to work the following Monday, but he insists that I take it very easy for the next six to eight weeks. (Six to eight weeks recovery eh? Hmm. Can you say ALOHA! How much do you want to bet I’ll heal much quicker and faster in Hawaii?)

And this is where I stand today. I’ll update again after Houston and I’ll be sure to let you know all the cool and gory details. Thank you for your support and obviously for all your prayers. I still need them, by the way. Boy, do I need them. Not because I’m worried about cancer or whether or not I’ll be successfully treated, but rather because I’m only now slowly coming to realize fully how we only get one shot at becoming a saint and I really, really don’t want to blow my chance. Please know I hold you all in my heart and in my prayers as well. To my Christian friends and family, may the peace of Christ be with you always. For my non-Christian friends, may the peace and love of the one true God be with you always. And finally, for my agnostic or atheist friends, may the Spirit of Love come down upon you and rest with you forever!


Conjectures & Speculations of a Man Named Sparkes: Prostate Cancer Blues Jan 31st 2018

When I was about seven or eight years old I heard the most shocking and sensational news of my lifetime. I was surprised and stunned to hear there were real people, on this planet Earth, who actually worshiped the devil! To my mind and thinking such news was way, way beyond comprehending.  Such an idea was insanity on steroids. I was taken aback, but at the same time I was anxious to do something about it.

At that time I was attending St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School. We began every morning with prayers. Personal intentions were always included in our morning discipline. Most of the prayers were innocuous and simple but this time I made it a point for my classmates and I to include prayers for the conversion of devil worshippers. I remember Sister Brenda’s reaction as one of curious surprise. I suspect she was a little caught-off-guard and perplexed by the sudden and deeply serious prayer request coming from my little lips. Other children asked me about it at recess. As I recall none of us could begin to even fathom any kind of association with Satan that was anything less or other than adversarial.

The following morning and the mornings afterward I repeatedly asked that we all pray for devil worshippers. Maybe it was the third or fourth morning, but at some point, other boys in the class beat me to the punch, and made the request before I could. By the following week it was a regularly scheduled intention.

About two weeks went by and on Monday morning Sister Brenda, full of excitement, said she had an important announcement to make before we said our prayers. Her look of astonished excitement radiated and was clearly overflowing. With joyful seriousness she told us about how over the weekend, Father McDermott had received a knock on the door by a total stranger. It was a gentleman he had never seen before. The man was turning to father because he desperately needed help. To everyone’s surprise, Sister Brenda told us this man needed Father’s help because he was a devil worshipper and he wanted salvation. He pleaded for Father to bring him back to God.

I write this now not because I had anything to do with his conversion. I write this because of the power of prayer and how we should never take it for granted. Of course I was blessed to be a part of the prayerful intention for this poor lost soul, but the point is really what is written in Matthew 18:20:  “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”  Could this lesson of our Lord be made any clearer or more evident? This very question brings to focus all the blessings I have received from all the prayers I’ve been anointed since I have shared my cancer condition. So many people have carried me in their intentions to our Father in heaven. I have been deeply blessed and I wish to thank you all for your spiritual assistance. It means everything to me …

If my little boy faith contributed to the conversion of a devil worshiping sinner, then how much more will I benefit from your mature prayers and intentions to the Lord to reach down and help me? Suffice to say, how can I be even the least bit worried, stressed or alarmed? Why would I be the least bit afraid? If God is with me, then who can be against me?

This is where I continue to stand. This is where I remain. I am so deeply blessed that I dare not doubt. I instead continue to thank God for all he is doing and for what he is going to do … to the extent that I can know, I am grateful, and for those things unknown or unrevealed to me, I pray for the grace to carry without expectation. Let God’s will be done.

Maybe I’ll be successfully treated for cancer with a minimally invasive procedure – but then again, maybe not! I do not know his way or his plan, but I do know it is perfect, it is true and this is a moment to do nothing more than to bask and relish in the light and love of God.

I wanted to start this blog with a thank you to all who have offered and carried me in your prayerful intentions. It prompts me to be a better man, to stand accountable for my words, thoughts and actions.  I’ll continually strive to pick up my cross daily and to follow the Lord’s lead without complaint … Keep in mind the spirit is willing and the body weak, so forgive me if I come across boastful. I often stumble, but with God’s patient grace I will get back up and continue. Your prayers nourish and sustain me. Please know you are all in my prayers too … every single day!

Just before Thanksgiving 2017 Wanda and I went out to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in New York City for my pre-treatment biopsy. This chapter of my story was outlined in the entries prior. The point being we left NYC with the hope we’d be back a couple of weeks later (early December) for the formal treatment.

I didn’t immediately hear back from MSK, so the week following turkey day I reached out to my doctor’s office and asked for an update. I was politely informed (via e-mail, always e-mail) that the doctor was planning a significant family Christmas get away and so the treatment would probably be postponed till mid-January at the earliest.  This was acceptable for a few reasons, one being that prices to New York around Christmas explode right after mid-December. I wasn’t too concerned as the odds are the cancer is non-aggressive (only one in 37 men have aggressive, deadly prostate cancer). Consequently, a few extra weeks, even a few months, is, (for all I know) fine. Also, let’s not forget the fact that I am pretty much at my doctor’s mercy when it comes to scheduling a treatment. In other words, what can I do about it?

Christmas 2017 comes and goes. New Years 2018 comes and goes but after the first week of January I am wondering why I have not heard a peep from MSK. So, I reach out to them and after a couple of polite prodding on my part this is what was finally shared with me:

TooKad Hold

Okay, so how does one react to this kind of message? Answer: Romans 8:31, “If God is with us, then who can be against us?”

As you know, I’ve been updating and putting my story out on this free blog website. Some people have read it, but most, even good friends, not so much and that is okay because I get it. One doesn’t have to be psychic to know what some of you are thinking, “Hey, it’s really long – okay! Crikey! Get to the point already!” I know all this, but the thing is I don’t write to be read so much as I write to express and otherwise get things off my chest. You see, this is for the record. It’s pretty much what I really think and feel. And even though I tell myself not to filter or to be too concerned about political correctness, I still filter and I still wear kid gloves. Yes, in other words, I pull my punches because I really do not wish to hurt anyone with my unfiltered thinking.

Regardless, I know I may still hurt and offend people no matter how soft I hit, but there’s not too much I can do about that. Perception is reality for many, (Advertising 101) and sometimes all the explaining in the world only makes things worse. The point is, even a restricted expression of my mind is still apt to offend somebody, somewhere at sometime. People misinterpret or simply have issues with opinions and beliefs (Just being a very proactive Catholic is offensive to a lot of people … sometimes even for Catholics!!). Anyway, that’s life and there’s not much I can do about it. My goal is to be honest and true (always keeping both the golden and silver rule in mind), but even so, I am keenly aware freedom and license are not equal (just because I can do something does not mean I should).

So what has this got to do with Prostate Cancer Blues?

Prostate Cancer Blues:

So the Memorial Sloan-Kettering (MSK) prostate cancer treatment trial study (TooKad) is on hold. What is happening or what is going to happen and why it is happening is anybody’s guess. MSK’s correspondence on the subject has created more questions than it has answered. Maybe it’s a funding issue, maybe they’re hoping the FDA will allow them to increase the parameters of the study, maybe the treatment schedule interferes with Dr. Coleman’s regularly scheduled golf game … Without concrete answers one tends to speculate, which isn’t productive and never revealing.

This may sound like an aside, but it really isn’t. I’ve been told Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ’ is based on the private revelations of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. For those who don’t know what I mean by “private revelations”, these are typically visions or messages people sometimes claim to receive from a divine source (FYI: It’s much more convincing if the person making the claim is saintly). If the messages and visions are found reputable, the Church, at best, will not condemn them. (Typically, they won’t exactly condone them either, which is not the same thing, nor is it a bad thing.) It needs to be made clear said messages, no matter how authentic, are in no way to be ever used as a replacement for the Gospel. The Church teaches the canon of Scripture (table of contents as it were) is closed for all time with the Book of Revelations. Nothing else can be added and nothing else can be subtracted. Nevertheless, the Church recognizes some people have been given messages from heaven and in some cases these messages can and often “color in some of the details” Scripture sometimes doesn’t fully cover. For example, the recipient may see the wounds Christ received while being scourged and can describe his personal suffering in great detail. As long as they do not conflict with Sacred Scripture, the details are tolerated. Again, not approved or condemned, but acknowledged that nothing found within the message conflicts with teachings, sacred scripture or dogma.

In the case of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, she “reportedly” had multiple visions of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Her visions highlights and fills in many of the details spelled out in the Gospel with regards to the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus. Her case for sainthood (the title “Blessed” being an advanced step toward recognized sainthood) is being considered, but not because of her visions and messages, but rather because of the saintly life she lived. https://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/emmerich.htm

The point being, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich wrote much of what she received and her most famous writing being, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which Mel Gibson based much of his movie upon.

How does this tie in with me? I’ve been slowly reading the Dolorous Passion and it greatly influences and impacts my attitude and approach to my cross of cancer significantly. Throughout the entire discourse of Jesus’ Passion, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich reports how humble, how loving, and how forgiving and accepting Jesus remained. She reports how he kissed his cross before being forced to carry it. She reports how he looked compassionately at his murderers, which only incited them to greater wrath, incense their hatred and fueled their mockery. His false accusers wanted to break him and they couldn’t. They mistreated him so poorly that any other man would have died long, long before the crucifixion. See, it is Jesus’ acceptance of God’s will despite all of the inhuman cruelties and satanic obstacles he faced, which continually challenges me to rise to the call to carry my own cross. Quite honestly, after reading the detail of my God’s suffering, how can I possibly begin to complain?

(Aside: I’ll tell you how – I’m just a man and a pretty weak one to boot. It’s so true, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”! Crikey, tell me about it!) Yet, I remain encouraged by the awareness that it is not so much how well you run the race, as it is that you never quit or give into despair. Let’s look at it another way, if I’m trying my best to be, say, the greatest baseball player I can be, do I not look to the giants of the game to help and inspire me? Even at my very best I may only attain a small fleck of their significant greatness, but even so, do not the stories, records and accomplishments of Babe Ruth, Mickie Mantle, Willie Mayes, and Alex Rodriguez encourage and point me toward being my best? Well, maybe A-Rod not so much, but others like Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Bench and even, “I’m sorry I bet on Baseball” Pete Rose inspires and can lead me toward helping me be a better player. We naturally look to our heroes for inspiration and encouragement. Their achievements can lift us up; rouse us, empower us to keep trying, to never quit, to get back up when we fall and to pursue our dreams and goals with vigor and enthusiasm.

[Oh, and by the way: I once met Pete Rose in Las Vegas. He’s banned from the Hall of Fame for betting on baseball. Maybe he’s desperate, but at the time and for $300 he was selling an autographed ball that read, “I’m sorry I bet on baseball”. He asked me if I wanted to buy one. I told him no because if I did I’d have to say, “I’m sorry I bought a baseball”.]

Las Vegas (154)

Okay, okay, where were we? MSK has me on hold and they are not forthcoming with why or how long. Normally I would find this to be quite troubling … oh, it is still disconcerting, but mostly because I feel I’ve been teased!

See, when my urologist informed me last summer that I had prostate cancer, he gave me a mess of treatment options. None of them sounded very good, but what are you going to do? In addition, and this is a good thing, he also insisted I talk with experts in these various treatment fields. At the end of the visits with three or more expert doctors, I resigned myself to agreeing to go with the standard treatment (prostatectomy: major surgery to remove the prostate and all the cancer inside).

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I find myself experiencing a surreal set of coincidences, (outlined in previous blogs in great detail), which in turn lead me to this amazing trial study at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). A few supportive prayers from readers and friends later, (thank you again!) I find that I not only qualify for the trial study, but the team at MSK is gearing up for me to be treated right away. My cancer journey had done a 180° turn. I went from resigned to having a prostatectomy to being accepted for a radical treatment that could not only possibly save me from a lot of painful side effects, but be a game changer for all future men struggling with prostate cancer.

Naturally it is only at this very point that I decide to push my luck! Of course I just had to ruin things by insisting they allow me to first take my Hawaii vacation! See, my level of prostate cancer is like having baby cancer. It’s not immediately life threatening and may not be for years. And now that I qualify for the TooKad study, I figure I have it good so why rush? Keep in mind, I always go to Hawaii in October and 2017 wasn’t going to be an exception! Clearly my priorities are straight. I’ve got everything figured out so what possible harm would there be in making MSK wait a couple extra weeks?

Little did Doug know as he watched the sun set in Hawaii, so did his chances of being treated in the MSK trial study … Oh, somebody please hand me a tissue … I’m having an issue!

On top of that, everyone, (doctors too) said going to Hawaii would be fine and not to worry about it. Well, it turns out my time in Hawaii may have been the last window of opportunity to be treated in the TooKad study at MSK. (What bothers me the most is now there is no way anyone is going to believe I’m psychic! I guess I’m okay with that though because if you really think about it, the fact we have weathermen and lotteries proves there’s no such thing as psychics in the first place. See, if there really were psychics, then the media would pay anything for one to work for them. Can you imagine a weathermen who was never, ever wrong? Genuine psychics would be the ruin of lotteries too because they would always win – every week! What chance would the rest of us have?)

At the end of the day, none of knows what the future holds. For me, and I’ve only begun to realize this, my life is exactly where God wants and needs me to be. The trick is to believe and hold on to trusting God with all your heart and all your might. Of course over the years I have repeatedly tried my best to thwart God’s plans for me, but in the end he’s always waiting and willing to lead me back toward him. (Pardon my appearance of disrespect, but seriously, who does that? I mean really!) So, the real trick, the real secret as it were, is to fully embrace the path He shows and has lined up for you. (regardless where you think it is leading you … think of Christ on his way to being crucified. Who other than the Son of God could lovingly embrace such a horrible and inexplicably cruel death?)

(Okay, one other thing, when it comes to paths, always keep your wits and wherewithal about you … I mean if the path you find yourself on is the “psycho-path” then you can bet God never led you there! The great news is God can still lead you to the correct path even if you’re far down the other. Sadly, the further we go down the wrong path the more we become entwined and the harder it is to turn around.)

Knowledge can be dangerous. When I was uneducated on prostate cancer treatment I naturally resigned myself to going with the advice of the expert doctors. I believed these scholarly geniuses always and only had my best interest at heart. The same thing can be said about my insurance provider too. I really wanted to believe Aetna was and is not completely in the business of making money regardless of my suffering or expense. I wanted to believe they’re in the business of making me well regardless of cost – right?

Today, early 2018, I find I am light years better educated on the subject than just a short year ago (again, knowledge can be dangerous). I know of successful alternatives to prostate cancer treatments that both doctors shy away from talking about and insurance companies do not cover. The Prostate Laser Centers have been treating prostate cancer with an 85% success rate for over five years (that’s both the good news and the bad).

This is good news because at my relatively young age, I am more than likely to be successfully treated with this method. This is bad news because even though hundreds of men have been treated, they only have a five or a six year record of successful treatments. Aetna, (and other insurance providers) will not reimburse or cover the treatment till they show at least 10 years’ worth of recorded success. It doesn’t matter how many hundreds have benefited. For some odd reason it is the number of treatment years. In other words, if one man were treated successfully 10 years ago and 10,000 men were successfully treated every year starting 9 years ago, Aetna and others would only consider covering the costs for the one from ten years ago.

This means for me to have a procedure very similar to the MSK trial study, I must pay from Hip National Bank. (I hope they take Visa because then I can at least get points!) The cost is 22k but if it fails I can repeat the procedure for only another 11 thousand dollars! Is America great or what?

The money is a concern, but let me put it another way; this is my health and my life. Honestly, what is the quality of my life really worth to me? I have to add God has blessed me with a very good job with an excellent company. I may be handcuffed to Costco but at least the handcuffs are golden. Also keep in mind, my 2016 automobile cost quite a bit more than the operation. I’m very blessed and grateful to the fact that the cost is not a burden for my wife and I (Besides she’s got another 10 years to work and earn it all back – yeah, baby, yeah!). My struggle is the awareness of how hard it must be on men and families who are not as well off. It sickens me and so it is with much humility that I praise and thank God for the plethora of blessings (way beyond what I deserve) he continually pours into my lap; overflowing and spilling onto the ground around me.

(Aside: I suspect, and this is strictly a sneaky suspicion, were insurances to cover the costs of the procedure, the price would skyrocket! I know someone who recently had an operation for a Cochlear implant and I heard the cost was over 100k. Between you and me, something’s not right with American health insurance – ah, but at least my dentist can afford attending the Superbowl each year – so at least somebody is benefiting from all of this nonsense!)

As I write this blog I am waiting to hear back from the Prostate Laser Center doctor in Houston. He is looking over my MRI and the results from my recent biopsy. On the surface, my numbers look good so I am optimistic about qualifying for this prostate cancer laser treatment. I could be treated as early as the end of February 2018 (and now with ALL my available psychic powers I now predict I will be!! Brou ha! Brou ha! Brou ha! ha! ha!)

And there is more excellent news. The Houston treatment is not much different than the MSK TooKad study. The TooKad uses lasers and a drug, (chlorophyll) to destroy the prostate cancer cells. If you recall from earlier blogs, the drug would be administered and I then had to be completely covered (enshrouded in darkness) as the chlorophyll reacts to any light. The laser is used to burn the cancer and the drug assists as it reacts to the light emitted by the laser. The procedure itself lasts almost three hours followed by about six hours of dark room recovery. During this time I have to drink a liter or more to flush out the chlorophyll. After this period I can return to my hotel but for added safety I must hide in a dark room and continue to drink gobs and gobs of water (No lights. No Smart-phone, no laptop, no reading light). After a day or two I can take the catheter out (all by myself, yip-pee), wait around another day (just to be safe) and then fly home. So procedure on Tuesday, recover Tuesday to Wednesday, catheter out Thursday and if all is well, fly home late Friday.

Because the Houston treatment does not use chlorophyll, the procedure is quicker (and in some ways easier). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhFJHkImXGs In the Houston treatment there is still a three hour laser procedure (say Tuesday), but no long period recovery (Doc says take an Aleve and see me in the morning). I’d then return the next day, say Wednesday, for them to remove my catheter (bonus!). Afterward, I’ll need to stay one more night as a precaution, and assuming all goes to plan I can fly home Thursday. No one treated thus far has needed prescribed pain killers following the procedure, so that’s good to know too. Additionally, side effects are non-existent or nominal if any. With both treatments I’ll probably be sterilized, but I think Wanda can live with this consequence.

So for now, MSK TooKad prostate cancer treatment study is on hold. Unless MSK reaches out to me in the next few days or week, I’m strongly inclined to pull out my Visa card and pay the doctor in Houston to treat me. It’s interesting to me to point out I only found out about the Prostate Laser Center in Houston because I was so forthcoming about my condition here and on Facebook.

It turns out a high school chum read my prostate announcement on Facebook. He reached out to me privately and informed me that he too has prostate cancer (similar Gleason score as me as well). After doing some initial research he discovered the Prostate Laser Center in Houston. My friend not only qualifies for the treatment, but he’s scheduled late February 2018. Additionally, and this is really good news, his insurance company will reimburse him for most, if not all of it.

Thank you very much, Mr. P. If you hadn’t reached out to me I don’t exactly know what state of mind or condition I would be in right now. Its one thing to fall back on surgery should the treatment be unsuccessful, but another thing entirely to have the alternatives to surgery dangled before you only to have them snatched away at the last moment. Removing a man’s hope is a most horrid punishment.

Please pray for Mr. P (God knows his name so it’s okay that you don’t) and ask the Good Lord to provide him both a successful treatment and recovery. And thank you very much again for your prayers and support. It amazes me how much of a lift I receive knowing  friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers are praying for me! (BTW: RIGHT BACK AT YA TOO!)

Finally, I wish to add a comment, a truth by my friend and falsely accused and imprisoned priest, Father Gordon McRae, “No matter who you are; no matter where you are, or what cross you carry, do good whenever and wherever you can. This is not for the survival of the recipients of your good. It is for your own survival. It is the key to enduring any hardship.”

Ramblings of a Man Named Sparkes: Prostate Cancer Treatment Prep 101

On Thursday, Nov 16th, 2017, we returned from our third NYC trip this year. I have often bragged that I once went to Hawaii six times over the course of 12 months. I’m about to NYC four times over the course of seven months. Midtown Manhattan might just set the record for most visits in a 12 month period to anywhere away from the general area I call home. Even if it doesn’t set a record, Midtown is certainly starting to feel very comfortable and familiar. Its probably a good thing I love NYC.

Okay, so here’s where I am at. Last September I went to Memorial Sloan-Kettering (MSK) Hospital in NYC so as to inquire about being accepted for the experimental Tookad prostate cancer treatment. (All of this is covered in my previous blogs.) I was ecstatic to hear Dr. Coleman tell me I qualified for the 50 man US study.

50 men will be accepted and formally treated for the US study at MSK. The study formally began in October this year. In my previous blog, I outlined the coincidences that led me to finding out about the Tookad treatment study. Last summer a work associate told me her husband has prostate cancer and although he “technically” didn’t meet the requirements to qualify for the Tookad study, he took the chance anyway of going out to MSK in NYC and meet with Dr. Coleman. It turns out his Seattle doctors misdiagnosed his condition. They only found cancer in one half of his prostate. The discovered cancer was considered low grade, (score of 6 and the study requires men with 7), but Dr. Coleman had him procure a MRI and with the new detailed information in hand, Dr. Coleman performed another biopsy. Dr. Coleman found cancer in the second half; it scored a 7 and voila’ he now qualifies after all! Dr. Coleman applied the Tookad treatment on him just a few weeks ago, (end of October). He was man number 3 of 50 and he is over the moon happy with the results.

Europe completed a 400 man Tookad treatment study a year ago, (Oct 2016) and had very positive findings and results. So positive in fact, that Dr. Coleman tells me the European equivalent of the US FDA has now formally approved the Tookad treatment for prostate cancer as of Tuesday, Nov. 14th 2017. This is very good news!

The FDA, on the other hand, will not formally approve it “yet” because the European study was only performed on men with lower grade prostate cancer. The FDA wants to know if this new treatment will work on men with mid-grade prostate cancer … men like me and my work associate’s husband. If so, the FDA will follow Europe’s lead and I am cautiously optimistic enough to say that I believe in a few years time, prostate removal surgery, (aka prostatectomies) and other standard treatments, (radiation pellets and radiation bombardment) might just become a lot less common as a first course treatment for prostate cancer.

Again, this is very good news. The current standard treatments all come with a large bag of side effects, (incontinence, erectile dysfunction, shrinkage, sterility, and the potential to cause other cancers to form as a direct result from radiation treatments).

Before they can administer the Tookad treatment, I had to first return to MSK this past week because the biopsy my local urologist performed last summer was not sufficient or detailed enough. As a general rule, prostate biopsies are random samples with the hope of discovering cancer. The prostate specific antigen test, (PSA), that men receive after the age of 50, helps urologists and doctors determine whether or not prostate cancer is likely or a concern.

When the PSA test score is higher than five, doctors typically recommend a biopsy. Using ultrasound, random samples of the prostate are removed and analyzed. The analysis is given a Gleason score, (named after the doctor who created it), from 1 to 10, where 1 is noteworthy and 10 is very, very bad indeed. (I scored a 7, which is classified as high-mid range.)

Note that I said “random” samples of the prostate are removed for analysis. Without the details of a MRI to guide them, doctors must rely solely on a live ultrasound. How helpful is the ultrasound by itself? I honestly do not know. I have a friend that had to have a biopsy performed three times before they finally found any cancer. In other words, it wasn’t until his doctors removed 36 samples that they were finally able to determine he had low grade prostate cancer.

Because I “technically” qualify for the Tookad study, my doctor needs to validate my first biopsy results with a second and very specific additional biopsy. The FDA requires he validates my cancer and ensure I qualify for the treatment study. Although I already had a biopsy last summer, this new one will be more exact. The samples need to be removed from areas that can best be highlighted from a MRI in conjunction with a live ultrasound.

It may be unfair to say it like this, but my take on the current health industry standard for prostate cancer treatment is doctors do their best to guess where cancer is hiding in the prostate. They use ultrasound not so much to locate the cancer, but to improve their odds of extracting from the prostate and not accidentally extract from the tissues surrounding the prostate. (Ultrasound helps them ensure they hit the target.) As a result, the extraction samples are random, which means the typical ultrasound assisted prostate biopsy is a crap shoot. Perhaps this is why doctors extract 12 samples … it improves their odds of finding some cancer.

I never asked my urologist about having a MRI performed prior to my first biopsy. One, I didn’t know to ask and two, he beat me to the punch and preemptively threw the whole idea out the window. He didn’t feel an MRI would be the least bit necessary or helpful.

In the US, the standard prostate cancer treatments are either prostate removal, radioactive pellets, or radiation bombardment. In my opinion, all three standard treatments are really blunt instruments. Prostate cancers are not tumors or isolated clusters in a specific place. Consequently, when men are treated for prostate cancer, the doctors simply destroy the entire prostate. This ensures they have successfully removed all of the cancer.

The surgical option is simply prostate removal. Due to my young age, (relatively speaking) the three doctors I interviewed prior to discovering the Tookad option all recommended surgery. Another option, that I do not qualify for, (again, I’m too young) is radiation pellets. In this treatment 100 or so radioactive titanium seed pellets are inserted across the entire prostate. In about three months the radiation completely destroys the prostate, but can eventually cause cancer to form in other surrounding tissues and organs. The third option is radiation bombardment, (I’m including photon beam in this category). This is area specific radiation so as to minimize the chance of radiating other areas near the prostate (bladder, colon, etc.). Radiation bombardment essentially melts the prostate but can still cause cancer in other surrounding tissues and organs. (Before we radiate you young man, please sign this waiver absolving us from any and all liability from now and until the end of time.)

Again, none of the standard treatments are aimed at the cancer cells within the prostate. It’s like you have a sliver in your finger and the doctor, not having tweezers, decides to treat it with an ax. If he chops off the finger he can guarantee the entire splinter will be removed.

Taking this analogy one step further, think of a MRI as being like a magnifying glass. It’s very helpful if the doctor is using tweezers, but there’s no point if all he has is an ax. Today’s prostate cancer treatment is only performed by doctors with axes. Consequently,  it really doesn’t matter much what information a MRI has to offer. The doctor doesn’t need a MRI to know you’re  trying to hide your hand behind your back. This is why he uses an ultrasound probe. If you try to hide your finger, he’ll just use an ultrasound to locate and cut it off.

With this analogy in mind, my urologist cannot justify or see a need for a detailed MRI. He told me having an MRI is like someone who has to drive to work, but insists on driving a Formula 1 race car or an Aston-Martin. He told me that just because one wants a $350,000 car doesn’t mean the insurance company should have to buy him one. In his words, he emphasized his point by saying patients need to be more realistic about health care costs. Since the MRI isn’t going to change the treatment, what is the point of having expensive extra work performed? You don’t need an Aston-Martin to commute to work. A low cost model is more than sufficient. If all you’re doing is going from point A to point B then a high performance vehicle is overkill.

What we want versus what we must live with!

Consequently, my first biopsy last summer was performed the old fashioned, tried and true method and for surgical purposes it more than did the trick. In fairness to my urologist, neither one of us knew anything about the Tookad study being set up at MSK. Even with 20/20 hindsight I don’t see how I would have done the first biopsy any differently. Still, when push came to shove, the first biopsy turned out to be a mixed blessing. It conclusively proved I do have high mid-grade cancer and the resultant Gleason score qualified me for the Tookad treatment study.

Let’s talk some more about this groovy state of the art Tookad study. In order to effectively treat my prostate cancer with the new drug, (Tookad is like tweezers), my MSK doctor needed me to have a MRI performed. I had this done late September (2017). That’s the good news.

The not really bad news, but not really good news either is that with this MRI information in hand, another biopsy had to be performed. The MRI, in conjunction with ultrasound, can better enable my doctor to extract samples from the areas shown to be most likely to have cancer. He will then analyze them to ensure I really do qualify for the Tookad. Assuming all goes well, the next step will be to schedule the actual Tookad treatment.

This is why I had to schedule a return to NYC for a biopsy. None of the west coast doctors/urologists are willing or interested in performing a biopsy to the exact specifications required by the FDA for the Tookad treatment study.

Now the fun begins … the second biopsy was originally scheduled for Monday, November 13th, but due to a MSK scheduling oversight it had to be rescheduled Wednesday of the same week. All the fun details are spelled out below in the lengthier blog. For summary purposes, I just received news, (Friday November 17th), the analysis results from the second biopsy have been completed. And yes, it has been confirmed that I formally and officially do qualify for the Tookad treatment! God is great and I am so grateful for everyone’s support and prayers. This journey has been nothing short of miraculous and I gladly, happily give God all the credit and glory!

I expect, either just before Thanksgiving or early the week following, to receive a call to formally schedule my appointment for the Tookad treatment. This too is great news as MSK wants me back early December when airfare prices is relatively cheap … compared with mid December forward when airfare to New York sky rockets for the Christmas season.

Assuming all goes to plan, I will spend one full week in NYC and then I’ll be done, save but for the follow up visits (one month later, three months later, six months and a year later). If the Tookad treatment is unsuccessful the first time around, then there may be an option of trying it again. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll still have the option of going with the ax and having my prostate carved out of me.

Okay, this really is the short version of where I am currently at. The remainder of my blog covers a lot more of the specific details of our latest adventures in NYC. It was a very good trip. In fact, they’re always pretty good, but as I explained to an old friend, our NYC trips are good because we’re working our butts off to make lemonade …

Blessings to you and yours and thank you for reading!


A layman’s understanding and explanation of prostate cancer for people with even less knowledge about it!

Prostate cancer doesn’t form like a cyst or a tumor. Its a different kind of cancer. In addition, there are sub-types within the cancer. Some prostate cancers are very aggressive. They’re like imprisoned terrorists. The sooner they can escape the prostate jail, the sooner they can kill you and that is all they think about. Other prostate cancers are much slower growing and not very aggressive at all. They might kill you someday, but there’s every chance you’ll die from something else long before they pose a serious threat. Finally, there are other cancers that are just there to scare you. They show up in tests as cancer, but that’s all they do – show up and make you worry about having cancer. These guys will always be present, but they’ll never grow or become life threatening.

The problem with these sub-cancers is that all cancers look alike. Science cannot tell them apart. When they find prostate cancer they have no idea if it’s a psychopathic terrorist, a punk with criminal intent, or a spooky trick or treater. Consequently, doctors err on the side of safety. It is better to treat all cancer as though it were aggressive terrorists then wish you had. Sadly, and as a result, of every 37 men treated for prostate cancer, only ONE has the aggressive, psychopathic strain. That means a lot of men will have to live the rest of their lives with the side effects from having the current standard prostate cancer treatment.

The treatment I qualify for, (Tookad), is completely different. From what I have gathered and concluded so far, the only side effect is sterility. Otherwise I should be pretty much be back to my normal self within a few days following the procedure.

Okay, so last September it was determined if my Seattle doctor’s findings were correct I would qualify for the Tookad study. But, to make it official, MSK said I was also going to need a MRI. They promised with a MRI in hand they could possibly schedule the Tookad study treatment as early as mid October. I had to remind MSK the Tookad study would just have to wait a few weeks as I had already booked my October family vacation in Hawaii! (As you can see, I really do have my priorities in order.)  🙂   20171014_170059To their credit, MSK totally understood and agreed Hawaii should come first. See, even if I do have the aggressive psycho cancer, there is time. We caught it early enough!

When I returned from Hawaii, MSK called again, but unfortunately, this time they were not calling to schedule the Tookad treatment. They were calling to schedule another biopsy.

It’s probably a good thing I really like NYC. It’s growing on me … maybe like a bad rash, but it is growing on me! The real hardship is not so much the cost, (over the years I have managed to save up miles, hotel points and some dollars for this kind of unplanned traveling). I don’t like dipping into these assets and funds, but I’m grateful it is there when I need it. The big complaint I have is simply the inconvenience. Besides missing work, it’s a six hour flight to the east coast. NYC is three hours ahead so this disrupts our sleep schedule. Wanda has to dip into her sick leave and that too is a burden. Neither of our work loads take time off or are picked up by others. In point of fact, I’m still wrestling with issues, messages and e-mails from last September’s trip. Sorry, I don’t really mean to complain. One must do what one must do and it is what it is. (PS: I’m writing this my first day back. I had the second biopsy performed on me yesterday. We pretty much didn’t get any sleep last night. We took the 6AM flight home this morning (3AM Pacific), which means I’ve bee up since midnight west coast, so I’m writing grumpier than normal and a little pooped out – literally! Okay, I know, too much detail, right?)  🙂

Okay, enough of that! So, MSK calls and I book my second biopsy for Monday, November 13th. Then, just one week before, I get another call from MSK telling me there is a scheduling mishap. They didn’t realize they were understaffed November 13th. They ask me to reschedule either the Monday before Thanksgiving or the Monday following!

I do my best to avoid flying and traveling near and around the holidays. I used to be a road warrior for Costco and the experience has taught me pretty much every do’s and don’ts about travel. For roughly five plus years as a road warrior, I had to pinball travel nearly every week of the year around all of North America; from Anchorage to Puerto Rico, from St. John’s Newfoundland to Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. I loved it at first because I was recently divorced and unattached. Suffice to say, there were many perks!

Its important to point out I did much of this work prior to 911. Before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center buildings, airlines use to treat frequent flyers like they were gold (some of you might argue they still do, but I can assure you it use to be much better). I was often top tier on three airlines annually, and back then, airline frequent flyers carried a lot of clout. USAirways once held up my flight from departing because they knew my connecting flight was delayed. I was almost always upgraded to first class. In addition, I also had premier status with two major hotel chains, and they too treated me as king. Hotel points were worth a lot more too. Back then, 60k Hilton Honors points got you a week at the Waikaloa Hilton. Today, 60k barely gets you a night. I had accumulated so many points that I would often casually give them away. Even my family vacations were seldom anything less than business class. When I took my kids on vacation they quickly became spoiled and accustomed to traveling first class. Sometimes my children would point to the people seated in coach and ask, “Are those bad people, Daddy? They don’t look the least bit happy do they? Why is the airline punishing them? Did they murder someone? Should we be afraid?”

Okay, not really, but the point is, I learned how to travel smart and one thing I learned quickly is to minimize travel during the holidays and never, ever fly the week before or after Thanksgiving. Consequently, when MSK asked me to rearrange my biopsy schedule I was not very agreeable to the idea whatsoever. I argued that since I already had made travel arrangements they should try to schedule the biopsy for later the same week. They said they would try and if they could they would get back to me and let me know. Well, that was on Monday and my flight out was the upcoming Saturday. I didn’t hear back Tuesday, so I called them Wednesday and they said they were still working out the details. I called them again Thursday and they promised to work it out to my benefit, but it still needed to be confirmed. I think it was near the end of the Thursday when they finally let me know I had been successfully re-booked for the following Wednesday (like the Tom Petty song, “The waiting is the hardest part.”). The good news is I kept my flight reservation going out on Saturday, but the bad news is that I had to change my return date and hotel stays. These are minor annoyances and I’m just very grateful that it all worked out.

Of course this is just one more lesson to remind me to not try and control everything about my life. If prostate cancer has taught me anything, its that I really have little control over things. I am again grateful that so many people are praying for me. In the end, I just needed to re-realize once more to let go and allow God to take care of me and that’s exactly what he did!

We arrived at JFK airport on Saturday. We spent the first two nights at the Sheraton in Times Square. It’s not a bad property. Westin owns the Sheraton chain and they’ve been promising to overhaul and upgrade the hotels. This one was pretty nice.

Sunday morning I once more attended Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Mass was crowded, but I really enjoyed it. I’m starting to really love going to Mass at St. Pat’s. I feel very close to God when I’m there.

Sunday afternoon we caught the matinee performance of M. Butterfly starring Clive Owen. The play itself was okay, but it was very cool being seated in the third row as we were we were very close to all the actors (let’s just say Clive Owen spits a lot!). After the show we got Clive’s autograph as well as the rest of the cast.

MButterflyHere’s the trick to getting everyone’s autograph. After the show, simply act like you’re somebody muy importante. If anyone challenges you, simply make a scene and challenge them right back. If you do it right they’ll almost beg for your forgiveness. It’s pretty cool watching them back down and kowtow to your swag. Regardless, the goal is to confidently make your way to the back of the stage. Next you simply pound, yes pound, on Clive Owen’s door and insist he answer immediately. Once he does, you must boldly demand he autograph your Playbill. If he hesitates or objects, then inform the Jason Statham wannabe that you have cancer! This alone will get everybody’s attention, and so for best results I insist you play the cancer sympathy card any and every time you can. Hey, cancer is nobody’s friend so one has to milk these opportunities whenever they present themselves, right?  Okay, okay, so I made all that up, but you have to admit for a moment you almost bought it, right? (FYI: although the story is fabricated, the autographs are real – honest!)

The next day we moved from the Sheraton to the W on Lexington Ave behind the Waldorf Astoria. The Waldorf is undergoing a major remodel. I stayed there once with my mother and oldest sister way back in 1973. I was just a kid at the time, so as nice as it was, I thought the place was too old, stuffy and very overrated. I did see Charles Nelson Reilly in the lobby and I rode up the elevator one time with Robert Goulet so that was pretty cool. I probably could have got their autographs too if I had been savvy enough to play the cancer card! Drat! Why did I have to get cancer now!

Since May of this year I have now stayed at four different Midtown NYC hotel properties. The next time we’re in New York will be for the Tookad prostate cancer treatment. I’m going to need to stay an entire week (to fully recover) and so by pre-trying out these hotels I have a better idea as to all the pros and cons each property has to offer. For what it is worth, we’re going to try and book our stay at the Le Parker Meriden near Carnegie Hall. They have that awesome “Burger Joint” in the lobby and there is the Chinese restaurant with the great tasting soup noodles a little over a block east.

Until now we haven’t been using the NYC subway system. I want to see and explore the city and that is best done by walking – above ground. By now we’re familiar with Midtown enough that to save both money and time we have finally opted to subway out to MSK and back. I’ve been told the NYC subway is both simple and easy, and it really is, but that still didn’t stop us from making all the typical newbie mistakes (like how people congest and wait for the middle cars, but if you hesitate boarding the doors close and the train leaves without you!).

After checking into the W we decided to walk to Sak’s Fifth Ave and Bloomingdales, but Google maps was displayed incorrectly and we ended up walking to the New York Library instead (Yay Ghostbusters!). From the library we could see we were getting close to the Empire State Building so we made our way there. The sun was just setting and there wasn’t much of a line so we took a ride to the top. Wanda said that was probably the highlight of the trip for her and for the most part I have to agree (and not only because she’s twisting my arm and making me say as much). NYC EmpireThe Empire was great but we had plenty of highlights this trip, like hitting Sak’s Fifth Avenue where I spent hundreds on gift cards. Maybe one of my readers will be a lucky recipient! Let me know if you’re interested! We passed through Lord & Taylor and Tiffany’s (mostly just to say we did). On Tuesday we finally made it Bloomingdales. One of the service clerks turned us on to a great New York Deli! Man, do they know how to pile up the roast beef! It was both good and surprisingly cheap too. On the way to Bloomingdale’s I made Wanda take a picture of me sitting on the very ledge Jerry Seinfeld leaped from when he formally decided to become a full time comedian (circa 1976). If you don’t believe me, check out “Jerry Before Seinfeld” on Netflix.Jerry Seinfeld Ledge

Besides the actual biopsy, I’d say the only low-point of the trip was going to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Granted, we did get to see Van Gough’s “Starry Nights”DES_0335-Edit (my favorite of his work) and a handful of Picasso, Matisse, Monet and others, but otherwise, what a bunch of pretentious crap! Adding insult, they had all kinds of posters and books about the works of Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and others, but when I inquired where their works were displayed, the customer service girl all but blew me off; and with a very snobbish and insulting glare she smartly spit out, “Those exhibits are long gone.” So we had to put up with this crap instead:

For clarification, photo 1 is not under wraps, but obviously it should be. Photo 2 is a non-working electric basketball hoop. (I even asked one of the staff if he took this stuff seriously … he did his best to say yes, but it was a very weak yes.) Apparently photo 3 is not just a random date. It’s Apr.24,1990 – whatever that means! (I’ll tell you what it means. It means some scammer is getting rich passing this junk off as art!)  Oh, and do not try to sit on the plastic lined couch. An armed guard will slap you silly if you even think of crossing the gray line. Finally, there is the remnants from last Halloween. Next to Starry Nights, this was probably my favorite.

Every time we go to NYC we find something new to see and do. If you have the means, NYC will never bore you. If you don’t have the means … well, NYC will still never bore you – You might be hungry, cold and scared but you won’t be bored. Sadly, we saw homeless people on just about every corner. Most of the beggars have signs; one even has a set nicely typed, laminated and taped to the ground. At the risk of turning this blog into a political agenda, it seems to me one true measure of how great a society is, is how well it treats it’s weakest members…

Wednesday was our last day in Manhattan and we spent much of it at MSK where I was lucky to undergo another biopsy. This final section of the blog is a very graphic explanation of my biopsy experience. I offer it because I read where they say cancer is the number two killer of men and within that group prostate is number two following lung cancer. (http://www.idph.state.il.us/menshealth/healththreats.htm)  I believe this to be true, but I also believe statistics are what you make from them …

So, on that note, I have graphically spelled out my prostate biopsy experience below because there is a good chance any men reading this blog may someday have to go through it and any women reading this blog will know men who may someday have to go through it. (Let’s pray not, but be prepared if we do!) Warning, the following does not shy away from being dark in places. My warped sense of humor is very active so I caution you before reading any further.

Dark Humor & Biopsy Details


As far as pain goes prostate biopsies are not the end of the world. The doctor numbs you up (lidocaine) before taking the samples, which is good, but note I said “samples” as in many. They took 12 random samples from my first biopsy last summer. I think they took about 20 during the second.

(Caution … TMI ahead) I was told that following the biopsy I should not worry too much about the side effects as they would all go away in a few weeks. In other words, I shouldn’t be overly concerned if I see blood in my urine, in my poop or in my ejaculate. (Oh, great, bloody ejaculate!) The stool blood, if any, should go away after one or two movements. The bloody pee might last a few weeks and the bloody semen, (yes, bloody semen – sounds like a British cuss word!!) could or would last a few weeks longer, but lessen in pronounced color (turning from bright red to a rusty color over time), but again, not to worry even if this symptom lasts 12 weeks or a wee bit longer! Crikey!

Was that too much information? No? Well, if you think that description wasn’t so bad, then how about this sick joke I just made up right now? “What do you call a group of British navel officers found stabbed to death in a whorehouse?” … “Bloody seamen!” 

More gross anatomy: Due to the method and nature of retrieving the biopsy samples, there is always the risk of getting an infection. The extraction needles are inserted from the outside, just above the anus and below the scrotum, through the skin, through the colon and then into the prostate. As you can imagine, (please don’t – just know that you can!) the colon is not the cleanest area of the body. I had to take exceptionally strong antibiotics (cipro) the night before, the day of and the evening following the biopsy. Additionally I also had to self-administer an enema an hour or so before the procedure. 

Lucky me, I was awake for the entire biopsy procedure. The good news is that thanks to the lidocaine, it was not very painful (pricks and baby stings). Perhaps the worse part is the ultrasound wand. Even though they heavily lubricate the stick, its where they “stick it” that gets to you! Right up the wazzoo! And if that isn’t bad enough they repeatedly fidget with it. Even with lubrication, one is keenly aware of every push, pull and twist … and there is a lot of pushing, pulling and twisting! When it was all done I think I had squeezed the operating pad hard enough to leave a permanent imprint. (Additionally, the wand and I are now engaged. Wedding announcements will soon be forthcoming!)

As far as the actual extraction goes, think baby bee stings, but the noise the extraction equipment makes and the pressure made me think they were using an electric stapler. The extraction makes a loud popping sound. I couldn’t help but wince and tense up.

Oh, and if a doctor is reading this, then please may I make a suggestion? Be careful with your word choices to the patient. After three or four extractions my doctor would say, “Okay, just one more”. And I’m thinking, “Great, we’re done after this next one. Whew! That wasn’t so bad”. But, no, what he really means is just one more extraction in this “round”. What he isn’t telling you is that there are three or more rounds with four extractions each left to go!

Luckily, the whole procedure only takes about 10 minutes. In some ways, it’s the 30 minutes following that I found to be the most disheveling. First, the ultrasound probe up my ass caused some minor bleeding. When the probe is removed the attending nurse performs a “cursory” wipe, but I could feel much more was needed. So they handed me a wipe and a diaper and then encouraged me to hurry up and get dressed. I just wanted to leave and go back to my hotel, but they said not until I  first take a healthy piss. They need to insure the urethra isn’t clogged or pinched by the prostate swelling. Let’s just say I was happy that I had the urge to go. In addition to peeing I was relieved I could also do a more thorough job of cleaning myself with water and soft towels from the sink (Soft towels? Yes, but at this point I would have used sandpaper!). Once I felt I was relatively clean I immediately started to feel much better, but I kept the diaper on as a precaution.

Looking back now, a few days following, I can say it really wasn’t all too horrible. It’s disheveling and stressful and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but sometimes you just do what you have to do. The biopsy was an annoyance but its probably the stress I placed on myself prior to the biopsy, above anything else, that wore me out the most. I didn’t sleep very well the night before. My blood pressure was high and the waiting for over an hour to begin didn’t help much either.

Before the biopsy I honestly thought I would be back to my normal self in short order. Boy was I wrong. 

Wanda asked if we might have some time this trip to see the Guggenheim Museum. I said of course as I figured since MSK is only a couple subway stops away we could go up there following the biopsy. After all, I just knew I would speedily recover, and we’d spend the rest of the day exploring. Ha! There are times in my life when I think someone has sneakily put me on crack! What was I thinking! Anyway, after the biopsy I only wanted to get back to our hotel room and rest. Fortunately we were able to make our way back quickly as the W hotel was a quick two subway stops away. I’m hoping we can see the Guggenheim in a couple weeks when we return for the formal cancer treatment (before the treatment of course and not after!).

Well, there you go! The biopsy was performed Wednesday Nov. 15th. I returned to Seattle Thursday and on Friday afternoon, (Nov 17th), MSK called and said the biopsy results were in. The biopsy formally and officially confirms my qualification for the Tookad cancer treatment study.

Last summer I was told by my Seattle urologist that I had a Gleason score of 3+4=7 and the MSK biopsy last Wednesday confirmed it. For me to qualify for the Tookad treatment study I needed to specifically have a 3+4=7 Gleason score. There is such a thing as a 4+3=7 but that would have disqualified me … don’t ask me why. It’s been explained to me before but all I heard was that I had cancer. Nothing else registered at the time.

In addition to the qualifying 3+4=7, the MSK biopsy also found a 3+3=6 in another section of the prostate. This score is considered low grade and it won’t be treated during the Tookad treatment. MSK suggests I simply monitor it. Should it ever advance to a 3+4=7 (a year from now, 10 years from now, never – who can say?) we can talk about treating it at that time.

There is the also the possibility that treating my Gleason 7 will have a side effect whereby the drug and my immune system will naturally attack and destroy the other area(s) with cancer (like the Gleason 6). We’ll know more for sure a few months following the Tookad treatment.

This trip has been filled with mysterious coincidences … Christ-instances really. For example, in my first biopsy last summer, the results showed that I had 3+4=7 mid-grade cancer. I don’t believe it showed the 3+3=6 low grade and that is my point. Like I said earlier, biopsies are best guess crap shoots so had my urologist missed the 3+4=7 and only caught the 3+3=6, I would have concluded that I do not qualify for the Tookad cancer treatment study. I would not have applied but I would have resigned myself to going with surgery instead. Coincidences like these cause me to stop and ponder. I doubt I’ll ever understand what it all means in this lifetime, but knowledge is not my end game … Faith is my end game and events like these draws me closer toward the Creator. I live forward in awe, amazement and gratitude!

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll update again once hard dates are scheduled and the Tookad treatment trip is planned. If you have any questions please let me know. I’ll do my best to answer them. I really do need and appreciate your prayers and loving support. Right back at you by the way. I hold you in my prayers and lift them up to God. May his grace come down and firmly rest upon you … in Jesus name, Amen!


Cautious Optimism From A Man Named Sparkes

Part 5 & 6: Prostate Cancer Bliss

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know my blogs are too long, but how else am I going to help you with your insomnia? I can assure you, this blog is the very least I can do to help you overcome sleep deprivation.

For those who cannot wait, the great news is that I was accepted for the Prostate Trial Cancer Study at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Hospital in New York City. This is the Tookad therapy method I mentioned in an earlier post. You can read a summary here:  http://sperlingprostatecenter.com/photodynamic-therapy-tookad-prostate-cancer/ 

For me, what’s very interesting about my previous blogs is how many facts I got wrong or at least misinterpreted or outright misunderstood. In my eagerness to understand my condition following my diagnosis, I have read and listened to just about everyone and everything. I’ve consulted with at least five leading experts in the field … in fact, each consecutive doctor I have talked with appears to be one or two steps better than the last. (Of course the best doctor is always the one that tells me what I want to hear!) The doctors have all been straight shooters – great men, very concerned and helpful. If I had just stuck to what they’ve been telling me all along and not presumed or jumped to conclusions from what others and the internet was telling me, then maybe my previous blogs would be far more gospel than the humorous misunderstandings presented as fact! … Mea Culpa!

The funny truth is I just had to figure things out for my own piece of mind and in my zeal to learn and understand quickly I searched the Internet and talked to everyone with an opinion. In other words, and to paraphrase President Donald Trump, I have been duped by “fake news”.  Oh, and regardless what side of the political fence you rest upon there really is plenty of evidence for fake news.  One good example, who can argue with the fact your local weatherman has one of the few occupations where he can be wrong 60% of the time and still keep his job? (I like picking on weather people because its safe. If I pick on anyone else I’m apt to be labeled a hater and be castigated for all time for being intolerant and politically incorrect.)

I had hoped to consistently post updates for this blog each week, but last Saturday (9.09.17) we flew out to New York. On Monday, I had a consultation with one more Urologist regarding the Tookad trial / study he is about to begin at MSK, which, by the way, I am told is the #1 cancer hospital in the US (and I hope that much is not fake news). I did not bring a PC with me so my blog, as a result, is a little late and maybe a bit longer and maybe a bit rushed. Again, the great news is that I qualify and if all checks out I will be included with the trial study.

My MSK doctor tells me he is good friends with his British equivalent. If my facts are straight, cross your fingers, then Dr Mark from Europe conducted the Tookad study that released their findings last October. Tookad was 80% effective for the 400 men tested. Dr. Mark approached the EMA (Europe’s FDA) with the results and they in turn told him they were and continue to remain in agreement with the opinion of the FDA. That is, the EMA is not willing to approve Tookad as an effective treatment for prostate cancer until it can be shown to be effective on treating men with mid grade prostate cancer. Consequently, both the FDA and EMA want men with mid grade prostate cancer to be treated with the Tookad drug. If the results are found to be as effective as the tests performed on men with low-grade prostate cancer, then there is a very good chance the FDA will approve Tookad as a viable prostate cancer treatment!

Mid Grade Vs Low Grade

When cancer is found in the prostate biopsy a score from three to 10 is given to rate the seriousness. Dr. Gleason created the scoring system where two found prostate cancer values are added up together. The lowest possible score is three and the highest is 10. Low grade cancer is six (3+3) and under. Mid grade is 7 (4+3 or 3+4 and yes there is a difference) and anything above is considered high-grade cancer. I’m told you cannot have a score under three, but since four and five scores are possible, then that means 3+2, 3+0, 3+1 are all possible but 2+0, or 2+2 is not (don’t ask me why). The European study was performed on men with scores no greater than six.

The FDA is intrigued by the findings from last October, but the next step is to prove the Tookad drug is effective on mid grade cancers. My MSK Urologist is looking for men like me with a Gleason score of 3+4=7 and a PSA under 10 (my last one on May 31st was 9.73).

Tookad is a drug? I thought you said it was deep-sea bacteria?

Maybe it’s both. This is what I was told last Monday (9/11). The doctor who came up with Tookad was trying to find a way to treat his wife’s breast cancer. He realized that chlorophyll naturally attacks plant cancers. He wondered if there was a way to encourage chlorophyll to do the same thing in a human being with cancer.

It turns out that yes, chlorophyll may be the answer. Said doctor then went on to develop a new drug developed from chlorophyll and it is called Tookad. The trick, and the reason for the trials and studies, is that doctors are still trying to find how much chlorophyll is needed and how much light must be used to activate.

NOT SCIENCE FICTION – SCIENCE FACT! (Caution: A little graphic in places)

Chlorophyll naturally reacts to sunlight. Like I wrote in earlier blogs, it don’t like daylight. It gets angry and goes wild. Think Tasmanian Devil. Doctors have to keep the Tookad drug in the dark because even cell phone light can set this stuff off (my take and not necessarily fact).

My doctor and his RN at MSK explained some of the details for what I can expect to happen. The treatment is only performed on Tuesday (I suppose doc has a standing golf game Wednesday and Thursday and Friday is the start of his three-day weekend). I’ll be given the drug and covered from head to toe lest the rays of light disintegrate me like a vampire. So, for a few hours Tuesday I really will be a creature of the night (awesome!) Ooh, what if I have this procedure done on Tuesday, October 31st? Pretty cool Halloween I’ll say!

Lucky for me, they’ll knock me out for the actual procedure, but as I understand they’ll take very thin, (well, I hope they’re thin) strands of fiber optics and insert them into my prostate. Lasers are then fired, (is this cool or what?) which in turn angers the chlorophyll in the Tookad drug flowing next to and in and around the prostate cancer. Since the only light source is in my cancerous prostate, only the chlorophyll present therein will go Tasmanian and hopefully destroy my cancer.

I think I read or heard the actual procedure is about 90 minutes. From there they take me to recovery for six grueling hours! I say grueling because I have to remain covered from top to bottom so that the remaining Tookad flowing through me is not agitated by any light! I can’t play on a cell or blog on a laptop, (too much light), but if I wear sunglasses I can watch a small TV in the far off corner of the room.

Maybe I can somehow reuse my eclipse viewer box during my recovery?

Once my vampirism wears off I can return to my New York City lodgings. Because the chlorophyll has violently attacked my prostate, it in turn is going to swell up and cut off my urinary tract unless they first insert a catheter (Yippee! and I do mean pee!). Following the procedure, I’ll need to take it easy for a few days. By the end of the week I should be all back to normal. The following Monday I’ll return for a follow-up consultation and then I can go home. Three months later I’ll return for a blood test and possibly another biopsy. I return again for a follow up after six months and then a year and then every year after, but maybe by then my local urologist will be enough.

The only serious side effect they are aware of is that the procedure will permanently sterilize me. (Make up a joke and insert it here). And assuming all goes well, the cancer will be destroyed or reduced to a level where it no longer poses an immediate or short-term threat. More good news, even if the trial is completely unsuccessful they can do the procedure again. Only if it doesn’t work a second time will I have to seriously consider robotic surgery. (This might be fake news but I believe of the 400 treated in the European study last year, only 6% had to eventually have conventional treatments – i.e. surgery or radiation therapy.)

I really have nothing to lose going with the trial study. My hope is that this proves to be a viable FDA approved procedure to treat men with prostate cancer in the future. Even if it doesn’t work for me whatsoever, the doctors will still have a better understanding on how much drug or light needs to be administered. They will be better dialed in on how best to use this method for treating prostate cancer (and maybe other cancers too!).

Participating in the study makes me feel I am doing something good with my life. It may not be much really, but it is still something and I feel very good about it.

My next step is to have a prostate MRI scheduled and performed, (locally in the next week or two). Once completed I’ll be set and I’ll only need schedule my Tookad procedure. I was informed today (9.13.17) the trials begin when I am in Hawaii! Ha! My doctor told me not to worry about it. Once I’m on the list they won’t remove me from the list. So, it’s just a matter of getting the MRI results to MSK and scheduling a Tuesday that works best. I’m predicting November, but it could be as early as Halloween … and like I said, what better day to be transformed into a creature of the night!

Ramble Alert! Insomniacs need only proceed from this point forward.

What an amazing month I have had. I have gone from resigning myself to having a robotic prostatectomy to cautiously hoping I could qualify for a state of the art cancer treatment. Aiding and adding to my optimism are all these really incredible coincidences … excuse me, Christ-instances. On top of that even, I have been swathed in prayers; deeply cared for by so many I cannot even begin to count, let alone thank (and thank you I do – each and every one of you!). Of course not everyone I know will read this blog, but those who do please know your prayers work. Prayer can and often does make all the difference in the world. My so-called “Prostate Cancer Blues” now renamed, “Prostate Cancer Joy” rests as evidence (see Back to Faith as the bottom of this blog).

Many of you know, last October (2016) Wanda’s Mom said going to NYC is one of the places she would like to visit someday. The first and only time I really visited Manhattan was back in 1973 (I was 13). I’ve been to New York State numerous times over the last 20 years but only passed through Manhattan twice. Like you, I knew all the famous landmarks, (Empire State Building, Waldorf Astoria, Central Park, Carnegie Hall, Times Square, Daily Bugle, Ghostbusters Headquarters, Friends Apartment, Soup Nazi Kitchen), but I didn’t know their proximity to each other. Going to New York City last May made my return trip last week feel so much more at ease. I now refer to mid-town Gotham as my not-so-old stomping grounds. Okay, and on top of that, even though I don’t want to live or move to New York City, I now get it. I understand why people like it so much. I get it and yes, I have to admit, I love NY (maybe not the Yankees so much, but the vibe of the city? YES!).

Sick Humor Aside Note: Did you know NYC has its own sound track? It really does. We arrived in NYC via Penn Station. As we came up out of the station depths we were immediately greeted by the sound of sirens (the song of NYC!). I love the sounds of sirens in New York City. It cries out reality and warns that sometimes those who have come to make it there might just not make it anywhere – anymore! Sorry, sorry. I know, I know, way too much cynicism and way too much dark humor. Hey, see the italics? It means I was joking and I don’t really mean it. Here, I’ll prove it. The truth is, whenever I hear a siren (here, there or anywhere), I treat it like a prayer call. I pray for the people operating or inside the ambulance or the people on the fire engine. I pray they are aided and protected by God in their rush to help and rescue people in need. I pray for the police and the other civil servants in action. I ask God to protect all parties involved and that He guide them all to health and safety.

See, here’s the thing, I honestly believe there would be a lot less road rage if we only knew each other better. If the road is packed and I’m in a miserable hurry I sometimes feel a mean streak when someone cuts me off or tries to make a last second lane change. But what if the other driver was a good friend or a relative? Well, depending on which relative of course, I think I would behave much differently if the person cutting me off was someone I knew. I may still be a jerk and block them from squeezing in, but we would be laughing at each other versus flipping each other.

An Aside Side Note: Don’t flip people off … Nah, that’s too easy and way too common and pretty much meaningless anymore. See, I prefer to mess with them big time another way. I like to blow them kisses. Why should you get all worked up tense and stroke out because someone has bad road manners. You can’t change them, but you can mess with them. So, I like to add to their tension by being overly nice to them! 

The point being, our previous trip to New York last May has paid out with many big dividends. Wanda and I are quite comfortable getting around mid-town Manhattan now, which is a good thing as I do believe I will be making four more trips over the next 12 months.

NYC Visit Summarized:

We arrived early Saturday evening and spent most of it getting settled in. One thing we quickly realized this visit is NYC is full of surprises and one should never take the city streets for granted. There are lightly hidden gems waiting patiently for someone to discover if they but go down these otherwise mediocre appearing mid-town streets (On the flip side, some streets have hidden things looking for your gems so please use some discretion!). Last May when we went out to eat we thought we were being pretty thorough with our good restaurant hunting, but most of our epicurean searches left us feeling something was never quite right. We thought we were looking pretty hard for good places to eat and we found lots of  places to eat, but we left New York wondering what the hoopla over the great NYC food was all about. This time, this visit, was different. We learned not to judge a New York City street by its appearance. This time, and only a half block away from where we stayed last time, we found some of the best Chinese food we have had in a long time.

Joe’s Shanghai Soup Dumplings are big and delicious.

We missed it last time, because the road looked kind of dark and creepy. Plus we had Mom with us and we didn’t want to make her walk too far unnecessarily. This time it was only Wanda and myself so we were quite happy just walking, talking and exploring.

(Word to the wise single people out there: take your time finding someone to marry. I suggest you marry your best friend. If you can travel or vacation with someone for more than a week without wanting to go home to get away from them, then I would argue you have a pretty good shot at making it in marriage!)

We used points during our last visit to stay cheaply at the Hilton on W. 57th. This time we again used points, but we stayed next door at Le Parker Meridien on W. 57th & 56th. In the lobby of Le Parker Meridien there is a hole in the wall burger joint appropriately called, “The Burger Joint.” People arrive early, prior to opening, and almost fill up the lobby waiting in line to eat here. Naturally, we had to try it. It’s expensive, but not overly so, (try ordering a burger in the Caribbean island of St. Bart’s cuz that’s expensive!), but the burgers and shakes are pretty good.

On Irma Hurricane Sunday I went to Mass first thing. St. Patrick’s is only a 10 minute walk. And because St. Patrick’s Cathedral is right across the street from 50 Rock (Jimmy Fallon, Sat Night Live, NBC), Wanda and I walked down by the NBC studios following Mass, where Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and others were live broadcasting the coverage of hurricane Irma in Southern Florida. If you were watching Sunday morning around 7:30 am Pacific, then know I am sorry I didn’t wave to you.

We spent the rest of Sunday re-exploring and rediscovering our not-so-old stomping grounds. Highlights included the Swiss chocolate shops ($112 lb for chocolate and where the samples are restricted to smelling), window shopping (Tiffany’s, Sak’s 5th Ave) and hanging around the fine Asian art and collectibles at Christie’s Auction House.

It’s not a question of price. I’m sure it’s worth $10,000, but will it make me look fat? 


Okay, okay, this is where I throw one of my nieces under the bus … last May Kristin was able to go to NYC with us. She graduated from Seattle U last year and has lots of free time because she has no life, no responsibilities and still lives at home. Its cool though because she’s small; doesn’t take up much room and for the most part smells okay. Anyway, we all decided if we were going to go to New York City then it was mandatory that we also catch a play on Broadway.  I really enjoy a good play as nothing really tops a live performance so where better for catching a show than in an authentic New York Broadway Theater! 

We all loved the idea so I scoured the listings and boy were there a lot to choose from, but what ultimately caught my attention were the handful of shows featuring movie star celebrities. I mean the one and only Sally Field was performing in a Tennessee Williams play! Kevin Kline was in a play. Bette Midler was performing in “Hello Dolly” (probably her last stage performance). Everyone was talking about how great “Hamilton” was, and telling us to buy tickets no matter the cost. These were all very tempting to me, but the one play I had my heart set on to see was Arthur Miller’s “The Price.” It starred Mark (The Incredible Hulk) Ruffalo, Danny DeVito and Tony Shalhoub, (the actor who played “Monk” on the USA Network).  How cool is that? 

Ideally I really wanted to see all the above, but we didn’t have much time and we certainly didn’t have nearly enough money. At the end of the day they were all great choices and so I shared the list with my wife, my mother-in-law and of course, my niece, Kristin. 

Neither Mom and Wanda really cared what show we caught. They thought they all sounded good and told me and Kristin to decide. Now, I know, Kristin doesn’t really care for super hero movies or super hero actors. She’s not going to care if she see’s the Incredible Hulk live on stage or not, but that’s okay because there are two other celebrities on stage with him! How is she going to pass up on that I ask you?

Okay, here’s how – She’s a twenty something college graduate and we all know what that means … she doesn’t have a clue about almost anything! She thinks she does, and it’s important we humor her (ya know, let her think she’s got it together), but at the end of the day, she’s just an inexperienced twenty something college grad and completely clueless. So I realize even with three stars on stage, she might still not be interested. And you know what, that’s okay. I’m cool with it because I would be thrilled to see Sally Field and I know Kristin really liked Sally in “Mrs. Doubtfire” … (Say it with me – Shoe-in!)

A Sally Field Aside: In my last post I wasted a lot of writing … I mean I wrote considerably about movies. Well, I should have mentioned a little forgotten and overlooked jewel that essentially relaunched Sally’s career. If you ever get the chance, check out and watch, “Stay Hungry” starring Jeff Bridge, Sally Field, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the creepy but very good character actor, R. G. Armstrong. Besides being a great Sally Field movie, it is by far the best Schwarzenegger film of all time … with the possible exception of “Hercules In New York” (preferably dubbed).

Okay, so this deal is slammed dunked, sewed shut, locked and covered. We’re either going to see three stars on stage or one great female actresses. I am content with either play choice. I’ll hope for three stars but settle for one.

I informed Kristin of the choices and the first thing she made clear is that since we had just seen “Aladdin” at Disneyland already there really wasn’t much reason to see it again on Broadway. Consequently, she happily agreed for us to all go and see, “The Lion King.”

“Martha Pus-bucket!” Fortunately I only mumbled the words. Kristin didn’t fully hear it.

“What did you say, Uncle Doug?”

“Uh, nothing really. I said … uh, Martha … Martha Plimpton … yes, Martha Plimpton! I think I read or heard she’s starring in “The Lion King?”

“Martha Plimpton? Who’s that?”

“Right … Okay, never mind. So, uh, yeah, the “Lion King” that’s certainly one option … but hey, what about Sally Field? Wasn’t she just great in Mrs. Doubtfire?”

Oh, who am I kidding. Of course we bought tickets for “Lion King” and it was horrible. Too many problems to spell them all out but supposedly Chase is a proud sponsor and as a Disney Chase card holder I was lead to believe if I buy tickets I would be given upgraded seats at no extra charge, a souvenir drinking cup, a pin and a massage from a fat man dressed up like a hyena. Suffice to say we didn’t get any of it (okay, one of the zebra girls gave me a stink eye). The seats were terrible. They crammed us off to the far side by an exit door and both my wife and mother-in-law refused to return to their seats after intermission!

Okay to be fair, I’ll concede that the performance, the singing and the kid actors were exceptional but that’s it! That’s my only concession! Yes, I am bitter about missing Ruffalo and Sally Field! See, here’s the thing. I actually had a back-up, back-up plan and it included seeing the syrupy “Lion King”. I mean why couldn’t we catch two shows during the trip? So yes, sure, we’ll go see the “Lion King” … We can always catch another play (ya know, a good play) the next night or the night before. There’s bound to be plenty of show times … and there was except for the small fact we booked “The Lion King” our last night in New York (Tuesday) and all the shows are dark and closed on Mondays. Sunday wasn’t an option because they’re only matinees and we already booked tours for Sunday! Consequently, no Ruffalo. No DeVito or Sally Field, or Midler, or Kline or little Tony Shalhoub!

Adding insult to injury, Kristin caught me crying about it and she had the nerve to look me in the eye and say, “Hakuna Matata”!

So why do I bring up and rehash all this misery? It’s because only a few months later Wanda and I return to New York City and this time we don’t have Kristin anchoring us to something lame like, “Frozen”! I’m really excited about returning because there’s nothing stopping me from finally seeing genuine stars on Broadway! I’m almost more excited about this than qualifying for the Tookad test! So, get ready Mark, Danny, Tony, Kevin, Bette and Sally! One or more of you gets to entertain me live!

I tell you I couldn’t be much happier … 

Did you know not all shows run forever on Broadway? I guess I just assumed they did or at least ran longer than August. I mean Cats, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Lion King, Aladdin, Chicago and Miss Saigon never end. Apparently celebrity shows do end, but come on! What is up with that? There’s at least a half-dozen never-ending shows in New York right now, but the three I really want to see have already closed. Mark, Danny and Tony paid Arthur Miller’s price and have since moved on. Kevin has de-Klined any more performances. Sally is outstanding in some other field. Hamilton is on the $10 but it’s another 10 months before tickets are available again. – It’s okay though because I still have a trump card in my hand – Bette Midler in “Hello Dolly”!!!

Yes, the tickets are overpriced, but Ms. Midler is leaving the show after November so if we’re going to catch a celebrity on stage this has to be the one! And now that I think about it, I’m good with it. Seeing the classic “Hello Dolly” starring Bette Midler sounds pretty cool to me. If this is her last stage performance of her career then what a great opportunity to see her “swan song” as it were. So that’s the play we’re going to catch – regardless of cost. I figure you only live once so it’ll all be worth it.

Once we booked our airline and hotel there was no going back. We were all set, so the only thing to do next was to book our “Hello Dolly” tickets. I jumped on-line to buy them and yes, there were still some great seats available for Sunday’s matinee (up in the third balcony and only 100′ higher than the attic!) As expected, the tickets were anything but cheap but that’s okay. (We’ll only be in arrears with our mortgage for three, maybe four months at best, but even so I still have a plan. See, Christmas is coming so I figure the bank will be in a forgiving mood!) At this stage I’m pretty happy with my plan. It is working out pretty darn well if I say so myself. And just as I am all set to second mortgage the house for nose bleed seats, I just happen to see, at the very last moment, some very tiny, very fine print: “Ms. Midler will not be performing the week you’re in town Mr. Sparkes. She returns the week following. Sorry, but no celebrity performance for you! We suggest you consider attending a different show. “Frozen,” if you haven’t already heard, is really quite wonderful and very popular with the 20 something female college grads“.

Martha Plimpton!

Well, needless to say I didn’t see any movie celebrities on stage, but we did catch a play. Neither Wanda or I have ever seen “Miss Saigon” (one of the forever running plays on Broadway). We figured it was about the Vietnam War but even that was nothing more than a dumb, obvious assumption. We had other choices too. As mentioned, “Phantom of the Opera” and “Cats” were also playing, but I’ve seen both and even though both are quite good (I own the soundtracks), we figured if Miss Saigon has been playing this long (like Phantom and Cats), then there must be something to it.

I told Wanda, “What the heck, let’s give it a shot.” I bought the best seats we were willing to pay, which is kind of funny because we ended up in center seats third row back from stage. Third row center is about $100 less than the seats behind us (which maybe explains why they’re so empty in the picture below!)

Ah, what can I say about “Miss Saigon”? It is the best play I have ever seen but I still hated it!

I hated Miss Saigon … not the play, but the effect it had on me. Crikey! I even saw it coming. There were no surprises whatsoever. I knew and saw every plot twist before it happened. I knew the eventual outcome. I mean, it’s not as though this story has not already been told before. All the great writers have used this story structure in one form or an other. Yet, in spite of my preparedness, in spite of my reserve to not let it get to me … it really got to me! Crikey!

What a great testimony to the actors, the writers and the heart of the play’s message. It’s no wonder why it continues to sell out. It really is the best play I have ever seen and at the risk of taking Hamlet out of context I have to say, “The plays the thing“.

“Miss Saigon” was followed by a trip to “The Burger-Joint” and after dinner we spent the rest of Sunday evening exploring mid-town Gotham. Apparently I am not the first person to be attracted by the window displays at Tiffany’s.

On Monday, 9/11, we woke up relatively early and turned on the morning news. Although the 9/11 Memorial is on the other end of Manhattan there is still something very poignant and special about being present.

Offically just under 3,000 people died in the 2001 tragedy. Still, the silver lining, the underlying beauty is seeing, hearing and experiencing the resolve of New Yorkers determination to rise above it all. The names of everyone who died were read by surviving family. We heard testimonies from the children who grew up never knowing their parents. We heard from nephews, nieces, mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles and every relation in between. It was somber. It was powerful and a very important moment. Living in Washington state I am sometimes too distanced by my own world to compassionately feel and understand what is going on elsewhere in the world. It is easy to dismiss the past or the destructive events in other parts of the planet. Sometimes there is just too much happening and I feel a sense of helplessness. 

As I wrote above, maybe if all of us simply took the time to slow down and really get to know each other better, then maybe we would be less indifferent about our fellow-man. The next time someone annoys you on the road or in the store try to be more patient and maybe throw out a prayer on their behalf. Maybe that’s why God has you there in the first place; to pray for those who really need it but have no one to pray for them.

I never curse anyone to hell, because quite frankly, if I’m that annoyed with them, then chances are they are in a kind of hell already. I’ve written about this before, but for me, the greatest revenge is to pray for my enemies. I would love to see a day when my enemies come to me asking not only for forgiveness, but thanking me for my prayers – in heaven – for all eternity! Said another way, if someone really gets to you, if someone you know is just about all evil as all evil can get, then which would be better, their death or their conversion? Wouldn’t it be better if they had a complete change of heart and spent the rest of their life trying to make it up to you? 

There are people from my past who have hurt me deeply (and sadly, there are people I have hurt deeply). I pray for those who have hurt me. Again, I never wish them to hell. I try to pray and ask for their release from hell. And to those I have hurt in some form, big or small, I do heartily ask for your forgiveness. Life is too short to hold onto grudges. If I hate someone and continually send them wicked thoughts what does that do to them? I know first hand what is does to me, but what does it really do to them?

We’ve all had our hearts broken to one degree or another. I can remember a particularly bad break up I had a lifetime ago. I thought I really hated this person. I was spiteful, angry and more often than not, quite petty whenever I was around her following our break-up. Then, one day, I don’t recall the where or the how, but it just sort of dawned on me. I wasn’t angry with her. I didn’t really hate her. No, what was really bothering me, I discovered, is that I still loved her and I hated myself because I could not stop loving her! Hell, that was 30 years ago and I still love her to this day. In fact, I always will. And just to be clear, I am not saying that I am still in love with her. I am not saying I am nurturing those kinds of feelings whatsoever. The euphoria and desire for her died in the 80’s, but my love for her is eternal. People, I believe, are just wired this way, but we often don’t know this or understand it fully. The feelings for hatred I tried to aim at her for breaking my heart turned out to be a self-hatred deflected toward her. I hated myself for not being able to really hate her. I wanted to be indifferent. I didn’t want to care anymore about her. I thought I hated her, and I justified my anger because she had, after all, really hurt me, but what was ultimately making me miserable is that I could not turn off the fact that love really is forever. I didn’t want to accept the fact I would always care regardless what she did to me. (This truth, this awareness, gives me great pause because I have to wonder how our actions toward God must affect He-who-loves-us-eternally in spite of the fact we continually sin and reject Him … )

Okay, so moving right along, after watching the 911 Memorial from our hotel, we spent the rest of the day either hoofing our way to MSK via Central Park or waiting around the doctor’s office. My appointment was at 11:30 and we were seen just before 1:00. We finished just before 4:00 and had to hustle back to the hotel because our late check out (4:00) was clearly going to be missed. Obviously you know by now I was accepted for the prostate cancer treatment study, which I am extremely blessed and grateful about. Thank you again for all of your prayers. I continually thank God for you and all who prayed for me and especially anyone who went out of their way not to pray for me! (HA!)

For dinner Monday, we walked down to Carmine’s off Broadway where they only serve authentic southern Italian family style dishes. The food was great, but the Caesar salad alone would have easily fed four people. After dinner we “Lyfted” back to Newark Airport and spent the night at the Doubletree (yay points!). We caught the 7:00 am flight back home, which got us back by 9:00 am (an hour early), but we were, to say the least, quite worn out for the rest of the day.


I’ve attached Father Dwight D Longnecker’s article on suffering. Father D is a convert to Catholicisim and now a Catholic Priest (and on that note, one of  my favorites to boot – and not just because we’re clones). I found his September 15th 2017 post rather apropos:



Wake Up Call From A Man Named Sparkes

Before I jump in and go off the beaten path with numerous free associations, know that this first must be noted: Renee Padgett is a Washington State Patrol Officer and my next door neighbor. She is losing the battle to cancer.


Cancer numbers still rising…
Renee Padgett can’t seem to catch a break as her multiple myeloma numbers continue to rise from 7610 to 7970. The chemotherapy treatment she is on now is too toxic for her body that they were considering lowering the dose but with these new results in it’s a mute point. It seems to be killing all her other cells and not the cancer cells. What now? The doctors will meet to formulate another plan. Padgett will continue to be supported with blood and platelet transfusions in the meantime. 


I ask that you keep Renee in your prayers and if you can contribute to her GoFundMe account, then may God double bless you as well. Regardless, please pray for Renee. She’s lost at least 2″ in height, but never gives up. She is a fighter, but this cancer is extra tough.

And on that note, my secondary title for this post may appear to be a little out of line: 

Prostate Cancer Joy

I subtitled my previous blogs, “Prostate Cancer Blues”, but only because I didn’t feel family, friends and readers would understand, “Prostate Cancer Joy”. The most succinct answer to convey my feelings is to again recall my co-workers response when I asked him, “If you won the lottery today would you quit your job?” And he replied, “No, but I wouldn’t be as nice”.

Cancer for me is like winning the lottery. I no longer need to be so nice. I can be honest and open because what’s someone going to do about it – kill me? As my sister-in-law recently said my cancer is a blessing in disguise.

So, yes, it is true, I do not have to be as nice, but then again, I never really did. Before my prognosis I just always shied away from being totally forthright, blunt and honest. And for the sake of clarity, I’m not saying I won’t still be nice. I’m just saying I am now free from the fear of being nice for the sake of politeness and political correctness (sigh).

Also, it should be pointed out, kindness is an entirely different word and meaning. I do not consider nice and kindness as equal or even synonymous. They are sometimes closely associated, but for me they are not the same. Remember, nice guys finish last. 

(I just now tried to find and look up the word “nice” in the Bible and I must be doing something wrong because I could not find the word even once!)


The point being, even though I consider my cancer as an opportunity to be free, I do not grant myself license. Respect, kindness (and of course charity – always charity), must continue to rule over my actions and decisions. 

People often mistake freedom with license. Sometimes people will argue along the lines that they’re not really free unless they can do anything and everything as they please – but of course this is all a lie. No sane person would consent to living in a world where license is the rule of the day … I’ll try to say it another way. In a truly free society there are no laws … because in a truly free society no laws are needed. If we were free, genuinely free, we wouldn’t need laws to tell us not to steal because a genuinely free person would never steal. They would never kill. They would never intentionally harm a living soul.

In a genuinely free society, the citizens would never go hungry or be thirsty or naked or wonder where they were going to sleep at night because they would know with all certainty the citizens within a genuinely free society can be counted on to always rise up to meet their needs. 

On the other hand, a society ruled by license is ultimately ruled by indifference. James Bond has a license to kill – indiscriminately (whether or not he exercises the right is not the point). He is indifferent to the consequences of taking another man’s life. Indifference, of course, is the opposite of love. 

Therefore, when I speak of being free, and of cancer giving me a winning lottery ticket, I am not, nor am I am ever intending to even insinuate I have been granted license. I am free, but my freedom is ruled under the surveying scrutiny of love, kindness and respect. Consequently, and in a real sense, I must be more on guard and use even more discretion than before. (Crikey! Why is there’s always a catch?)

It’s tempting to speak my mind and say whatever snarky thing pops into it. For example, I was at dinner with family and I made an impulsive comment, “But I have cancer!” I don’t remember the context but I do recall thinking I was being funny and in the end it all worked out that way, but there was this brief moment, this sudden yet noticeable pause, when everyone just stopped and soaked in what I had just said. For a second I felt as if I had dropped an “F” bomb. Fortunately I immediately realized I needed to show more discretion and respect. In other words, just because I’m okay with my condition doesn’t mean everyone else is or even needs to be (Sorry family. I love you guys! Just remember what Wanda tells me all the time, “If you don’t laugh at yourself, you can bet someone else sure will!” Okay, okay, Wanda never says that. I say it, but she can if she wants!).

An Aside Note: I’m reminded of Spiderman when Peter Parker’s Uncle says to him, “With great power comes great responsibility“. Not all can see the blessing of having cancer and as I have said repeatedly, part of the blessing is akin to winning the lottery. Consequently, for me at least, living with and having cancer is a great power and I need to learn how to use it wisely.  “Hmm, so what’s your superpower?”

“I can mock having cancer!”

Paraphrasing, mixing and otherwise taking all kinds of liberties with the words of William Shakespeare, let me go on by saying, “Friends, Americans, countrymen, I am not here to praise cancer. I am here to make fun of it!”  

Time out! Before I continue, I need to share something … I am deeply blessed to have so much love and support from my family (my sister in California being the one big glaring exception. I mean, come on Kathi, everyone else is saying, “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you … anything!” So, why are you holding out? I have an entire list of things you can do for me … For example, looking around my room I see I have plenty of laundry needing attending to, then there’s my car payment. I like nice restaurants … Come on sis, get with the program!).

I have a big, big meeting with a doctor next Monday in New York City. I’m traveling there next weekend to see if I can qualify for a trial study he is performing with a new procedure, (a new drug really) for treating prostate cancer. Even if I am accepted (that’s a big if), there is no guarantee it will work, but in the words of Vicki, played by the amazing Jennifer Tilly from the underappreciated but awesomely great movie, “Let It Ride” (1989), “You know what they say, ‘Nothing ventured … nothing ventured'”. 

A Big Big Aside Note: Changing gears (as I am so easily distracted) and speaking of movies: There are way too many forgotten, underappreciated movies. “Let It Ride” is simply one of the best feel good movies I have ever seen. I have a small handful list of semi-popular or unpopular films that have really touched me deeply for one reason or another. At times the connection is spiritual. (I list them below, but caution is required … I mean, unless you watch the movie with me and allow me to explain the connection, you’re more apt to conclude I’m quite a bit odder than you could ever have imagined!)

If you haven’t seen any of the following, then I suggest you do so, but only, only if you keep in mind I know my list is sometimes understandably strange and at times very eclectic. Regardless, I encourage you to watch and enjoy anything and everything directed by John Houston (start with “Treasure of the Sierra Madre“). Other movies include Akira Kurosawa’s “Sanjuro” (1963) and “The Big Country” (1958). All three of these films spell out the rules for being a real man.

Maybe because I really liked the Pee-Wee Herman TV show, I have a deep love for satire and comedy – from the innocent, (1970’s “The Boatnik’s“) to the spot-on brilliant satire, Serial” (1980). Another one of my all time favorite satires is a Socorsese film, “After Hours” (1985). In addition, Wes Anderson only made one film that I actually like (maybe because it is animated), “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009).  

Still Another Aside Note: Oh, and speaking of Pee-Wee, his Broadway show from 2011 is exceptional. His Christmas special is a tradition at my home every Christmas season and about a year ago Netflix produced, “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday“, which I think is better than both “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and “Big Top Pee-Wee” combined. Of course, it probably doesn’t have to be said, but “Big Top Pee-Wee” is not worth even renting as it’s only a lazy re-imagining of Twilight Zone’s, “Kick the Can” and an overblown attempt to shout out Pee-Wee is totally straight and not the least bit gay. However, I will say this for it – the talking pig is a nice surprise.

In the realm of forgotten obscura, Bliss” (1985 starring Barry Otto), is a long, winding story about a love letter that took a man seven years to write and deliver.  

1980’s “Excalibur” is bloody and violent, but from it I learned to say, “A-Nal Nath Rac, Ewuff Fas Beth-ud Doth Yel D-Envy”. (And I double Doug dare you to get nerdier than that!) I suspect, Peter Jackson (Director Lord of the Rings), was deeply influenced by “Excalibur”.

Finally, my list can never be complete without referencing the greatest Sean Connery movie of all time … That’s right, you guessed it, Disney’s 1959 classic, “Darby O’Gil and the Little People” (FYI: Try to watch the original with the voice of Albert Sharpe as Darby. Due to his strong Irish brogue most versions are re-dubbed with another actor’s voice.)

Other films to make my top list often do not match other people’s lists (Hmm, I wonder why). For me, the greatest films of all time, (in loose order) include, “Lord of the Rings” (the 12 hour trilogy – extremely spiritual), “The Wizard of Oz” (beautifully innocent), “It’s a Wonderful Life” (soul kissing), “The Dark Knight” (moral pondering), “Young Frankenstein” (nothing spiritual, just pure escape), “Animal House” (License maybe wrong, but not so much when its found in a comedy), 1973’s “The Three Musketeers” (youthful foolish passion versus the harsh coldness of the world), the first “Avengers” movie (Yay Hulk!), and Joe vs the Volcano (1990) (Joe is an exceptionally quirky film but quite deep if you pay attention. BTW: Joe is the only Tom Hanks movie I really like with the possible exception of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, but only because he wasn’t born and couldn’t be in it!). There are many, many more but since I mentioned Joe I will also need to add Dune (1984). Keep in mind I fully realize there may only be six other people on the planet that like this film! (Actor Kyle Machalan, director David Lynch and their parents.) I completely understand if you pass on ever watching it. But, if you ever do watch it, then know there is one line at the end that repeatedly sends shivers up and down my spine no matter how many times I watch the movie (and sheepishly I can admit I’ve seen it 20, 30, maybe 50 times – but not since my 36th birthday … more about that someday.) For what it is worth, I know only one other person who had the same experience with Dune. He was my Catholic Priest at the Newman Center in Eugene way back in college daze. Without any prodding or hinting by me, he once told the group of us how strongly the same line impacts him in the same way it hits me and that the only other time he ever feels that way is when he is consecrating the Holy Eucharist at Mass. 

See, for me, a great movie is one you can watch over and over again, (“It’s a Wonderful Life“, “The Wizard of Oz“, “Raiders of the Lost Ark“, and the vast majority of Bond films). And even though I believe “Bridge Over the River Kwai” is awesome, I would never place it ahead of something as bad as “Star Wars” because even though I think “Star Wars” is at it’s best, blase’ (most of it being stolen from Edgar Rice Burroughs and Frank Herbert), I can, (if nothing else is on), watch it repeatedly and not be too bothered by it’s goofy and unimaginative story line. Whereas once you’ve seen movies like “Citizen Kane” and “The Deer Hunter” you really don’t need to ever watch them ever again. 

(Statistics show I lost more readers to my Star Wars criticism than any other comment made. All I can say, is be grateful I at least didn’t get started on the Harry Potter stories and films.)

Okay, back to the “Joys of Having Prostate Cancer!” I call this disease a blessing because the mortality bell has chimed. As the notes of the bell reverberate in and across my mind and soul, I dimly begin to see a list of questions set out before me – “What have you done with your life?” “Who do you serve?” (Yes, I know this question is from Excalibur) “What have you done for others?” “Where is your treasure?”

I have heard these questions repeatedly over the course of my lifetime (okay, admittedly, the “Excalibur” question not as long). This reminds me of another adage I’ve heard or been told, “Knowledge is everywhere, but understanding is limited.” So, okay, what does that mean exactly?

In the simplest terms, knowledge is like the unwise man who knows smoking is bad for him, but continues to smokes anyway. Understanding is another word for wisdom and therefore, in this example, understanding is like the wise man who never smokes in the first place.  (Time Out: I have heard it said nicotine addiction is harder to break than heroin and maybe so, but that’s not the point. I am not trying to say all smokers are unwise or fools. I’m only attempting to give a rudimentary clarification between knowledge and understanding.) 

Knowledge is everywhere. (Wik it up if you don’t believe me. Snope it out if you think I’m lying. Oh, and just so you know, I coined that phrase so it’s copyrighted and you must pay me a nickel anytime you use it!) Understanding … that appears to be a gift from God and at times the result from an experience. “Ow!” cried the little boy as he pulled his scorched palm away from the hot stove. The throbbing pain was a constant reminder that Momma had not been lying after all.

Seek knowledge but pray for understanding.

I know I’ve said this earlier, but my prayers point me to believe cancer is a wake up call. Once more God is saying, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). The message translated is asking me, “When the dust finally settles, where will you be standing?” Again, I wonder, “Am I passing through the world, or am I in the world?” 

I am not a theologian so my apologies if I get this all wrong, but man was created and separated from the beasts on the sixth day. Is it any wonder then, the beast, the anti-Christ is comprised of a number of sixes? In some ways I believe when God is calling to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:9 and when He says, “Where are you?” it isn’t because He has lost sight of Adam and Eve and is searching for them (granted they are trying to hide), but it seems to me this is more a question of, “Are you still separated from creation and with me, or are you back with the beasts of the world?” Or as I continue to wonder, what about me? Am I in or of the world?

Sometimes this idea, this notion especially comes to mind when I see people permanently disfigure themselves to look and appear more like animals. The images reforms the question in my heart. The cancer then, like an alarm clock, jolts me into awareness. I am reminded of Ephesians 5:14, “…Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” (Or was it the movie Dune? “The sleeper must awaken.” Hey, all I’m saying is no matter how bad the movie Dune is, it still has some strong spiritual moments!) Regardless, and as much as we may want, our life should not be wasted staying asleep. (If you ever drive around the Puget Sound you’ll quickly see what I mean. See, I actually believe zombies really do exist, but I do not believe they are like the ravenous brain hunters commonly depicted by Hollywood. No, that part is anything but true. Real zombies do exist. I’ve seen them daily! They drive all around the Puget Sound, continually distracted by their cell phones, zoning out, day dreaming or fixing their faces in one form or another. You can spot them several cars away as they often drift in and out of their lanes, seldom do they signal and even when they do they don’t turn off their signal once they’ve made a lane change. Many times they will selfishly stop traffic so they can switch lanes or make turns they’ve missed because obviously they are the only ones on the road! … I’m going to make a movie titled, “Mindless Zombies of the Puget Sound!It’ll be super cheap to make as all I have to do is mount a camera on my dashboard. In a week’s time I’ll have enough footage for a two hour film. And for what it is worth, “Joe Versus the Volcano” is all about snapping out from zombie mode and waking up!)

Maybe this is the entire point of this week’s blog … wake up! There is an exciting world awaiting all around you and it continually calls out your name. Do not let familiarity breed contempt in such a way that it deprives you from living the rest of your days to it’s fullest. Why do you think the books of the Bible continually tell us to not be afraid? 

For those of you desiring to know how I am doing … I am doing rather well, thank you! I pray as much for you. My life dramatically improved with the news of my having cancer. It is not a cliche’ to say I would not wish cancer on my worse enemy but I am truly blessed and grateful for it. In other words, please don’t wait for extreme events to wake you up. Wake up before extreme things happen.

Still, for some of us, (me perhaps), Newton’s laws come into play well in that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. My extremely bad news of having cancer has the opposite effect on how I now live and see the world. I have countered extremely bad news with a good reaction. I suppose it is an equal and total opposite reaction and I’m very grateful to God for granting me the grace to receive it.

Please pray for my interview, consultation in New York next Monday with Dr. Coleman (Yes, I’ll be in New York City on historic 9/11). It’s in God’s hand and I praise and thank Him in advance regardless of outcome.

I’ll update this blog next week following my return from New York City.

Continual Ramblings From A Man Named Sparkes

Prostate Cancer Blues Pt 3

Parts 1 & 2 stacked below … it’s just how a “free” blog post works.

Monday August 21st 2017

I haven’t heard back from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. I have a reminder to call but Mondays at work are usually quite busy and today is no exception. Consequently, by the time I get a moment’s worth of free time, their east coast office is closed for the day.

Tuesday, August 22nd 2017

Today, Memorial Sloan-Kettering calls me to set up a consultation visit. They ask if I can be there Monday, August 28th. Well, yes I can if I absolutely have to, but would it be okay to postpone it another week or two – maybe the first available Monday in September?

My appointment is set for 11:30 am in New York City on … 9/11

At lunch we meet up with a retired co-worker from Costco for lunch. It’s a great visit despite the fact he constantly refers to me as Sven. It turns out he too had prostate cancer and was treated for it when he was my age (coincidentally about the same time Moses was found floating down the Nile … just kidding! See rules of engagement in PCB part 2). 

At the time of his diagnosis, and like most men with prostate cancer, our friend, (let’s just call him Mikey), quickly educated himself with everything prostate. For his treatment, Mikey picked and was able to go with the “breaky” method of treatment, (i.e. radioactive titanium pellets injected into the prostate). The bad news is even though he was radioactive for about three month following, I’m sad to say Mikey does not have any super powers worth mentioning. I suppose the silver lining is he has made a full and complete recovery and is still 100% cancer free to this day! Great news! Yay, Mikey!

Mikey also shared with me a small binder of information he collected regarding prostate cancer and treatments. Like I said, men tend to study up pretty hard when certain “important” areas of their anatomy are in danger. It was a great lunch and visit. (Mikey even paid for lunch and I didn’t even have to trick him into it by playing the cancer card!) Thank you very much, Mikey! Your friendship and warmth means the world to us, but you still shouldn’t expect Wanda to call or write. Tigers don’t change their stripes.

Thursday August 24th 2017

After a little back and forth, Wanda and I book our trip to NYC. We’re using points to fly and points for our hotel stay. So other than ground transportation and meals, this trip will be pretty darn cheap.

For a variety of reasons, I still have enough points to stay for free at Westin and Hilton properties. Currently I have more Westin than Hilton points and so when I booked my NYC hotel stay I tried to find the property closest to Memorial Sloan-Kettering. I mention this because the closest reward point hotel turns out to be Le Parker Meridien on W. 57th. This makes me smile because the Hilton property next door to Le Parker Meridien is where the four of us just stayed last May. It turns out I’m going back to my not-so-old stomping grounds!

American Cancer Society: Key Statistics for Prostate Cancer

Time out … American Cancer has a society? – that can’t be good!

How common is prostate cancer?

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for prostate cancer in the United States for 2017 are:

  • About 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer
  • About 26,730 deaths from prostate cancer

Risk of prostate cancer

About 1 man in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.

Prostate cancer develops mainly in older men. About 6 cases in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.

Deaths from prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer and colorectal cancer. About 1 man in 39 will die of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer can be a serious disease, but most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. In fact, more than 2.9 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today.

Survival Rates for Prostate Cancer

Survival rates tell you what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time (usually 5 years) after they were diagnosed. They can’t tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding of how likely it is that your treatment will be successful. Some men want to know the survival rates for their cancer, and some don’t. If you don’t want to know, you don’t have to.

What is a 5-year survival rate?

Statistics on the outlook for a certain type and stage of cancer are often given as 5-year survival rates, but many people live longer – often much longer – than 5 years. The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed with cancer. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 90% means that an estimated 90 out of 100 people who have that cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. Keep in mind, however, that many of these people live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis.

Relative survival rates are a more accurate way to estimate the effect of cancer on survival. These rates compare men with prostate cancer to men in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific stage of prostate cancer is 90%, it means that men who have that cancer are, on average, about 90% as likely as men who don’t have that cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.

But remember, all survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to you.

Cancer survival rates don’t tell the whole story

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of men who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular man’s case. There are a number of limitations to remember:

  • The numbers below are among the most current available. But to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at men who were treated at least 5 years ago. As treatments are improving over time, men who are now being diagnosed with prostate cancer may have a better outlook than these statistics show.
  • These statistics are based on the stage of the cancer when it was first diagnosed. They don’t apply to cancers that later come back or spread.
  • The outlook for men with prostate cancer varies by the stage (extent) of the cancer – in general, the survival rates are higher for men with earlier stage cancers. But many other factors can affect a man’s outlook, such as age and overall health, and how well the cancer responds to treatment. The outlook for each man is specific to his circumstances.

Your doctor can tell you how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your particular situation.

Survival rates for prostate cancer

According to the most recent data, when including all stages of prostate cancer:

  • The 5-year relative survival rate is 99%
  • The 10-year relative survival rate is 98%
  • The 15-year relative survival rate is 96%

Keep in mind that just as 5-year survival rates are based on men diagnosed and first treated more than 5 years ago, 10-year survival rates are based on men diagnosed more than 10 years ago (and 15-year survival rates are based on men diagnosed at least 15 years ago).

Survival rates by stage

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) maintains a large national database on survival statistics for different types of cancer, known as the SEER database. The SEER database does not group cancers by AJCC stage, but instead groups cancers into local, regional, and distant stages.

  • Local stage means that there is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the prostate. This corresponds to AJCC stages I and II. About 4 out of 5 prostate cancers are found in this early stage. The relative 5-year survival rate for local stage prostate cancer is nearly 100%.
  • Regional stage means the cancer has spread from the prostate to nearby areas. This includes stage III cancers and the stage IV cancers that haven’t spread to distant parts of the body, such as T4 tumors and cancers that have spread to nearby lymph nodes (N1). The relative 5-year survival rate for regional stage prostate cancer is nearly 100%.
  • Distant stage includes the rest of the stage IV cancers – cancers that have spread to distant lymph nodes, bones, or other organs (M1). The relative 5-year survival rate for distant stage prostate cancer is about 29%.

Remember, these survival rates are only estimates – they can’t predict what will happen to any one man. We understand that these statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk with your doctor to better understand your situation.

LIGHT BULB FINALLY TURNS ON: Upon closer scrutiny of my records and reports from doctors, I have stage 1 cancer (AJCC T1c). Whew! That’s a relief. I sort of thought so, but prostate cancer is just different enough I had concluded it was not described in stages like other cancers.

Well, this news is both calming and alarming (kind of a contradiction- eh?).

An Aside Note: I am learning to love and notice a lot of contradictions in my life lately. I get the world is seldom black and white (like the human race there are numerous colors; there is black and white and everything in between). Things of this world are seldom black and white but people want and push for black and white choices. They will ask, “Are you for or against?” “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?” Oh, and let’s not forget my personal favorite, “Are you pro-biotic or anti-biotic?”

Since the world is seldom black and white I have a hard time with labels. Oh, I still label everyone and everything – I’m not a saint (yet). But I know labels are treacherous and deceitful. Getting back to point, the news is calming … I only have stage 1 cancer. That’s like having baby cancer.Baby Knife 2

But it is still alarming because what right have I to complain? Yes, its a concern, but its a treatable concern and yes, the treatment is extreme, but I’ll live to cry about it whereas too many others may not.

I have a friend, a co-worker, who mysteriously lost his hearing over the weekend. It’s a genetic time bomb that went off unexpectedly. He’s going to be out of work indefinitely. He’s rightfully worried and concerned about the long term consequences of his condition. (I care about him so I told him I was praying for him and his response was awesome. He wrote, “Pray harder, damn it!” and added a smiley gif). In the scheme of things, and if you had to choose (black and white) between reproduction and hearing, which one do you give up? Reproduction is certainly the lesser, but the best answer is neither … but sometimes we’re forced into situations we cannot control. All we can control is how we act and react. At the end of the day, where will we stand?

If you’re reading this, please pray for my friend … In fact, pray harder, damn it!

Knowing that I only have stage 1 prostate cancer is calming. (Oh, whew, I can take a breath, there’s no need to panic. I have time to competently deal with it.) Knowing I have cancer is still alarming, (I don’t dare let down my guard). How I act and react is crucial in determining where I will be standing at the end of the day (whether that means facing God or showing others a resolve to use this illness to be a better man or to allow it to defeat me because life isn’t pretty, rosy, or how I envisioned it). Honestly, I’m excited because a lot of things I held onto up to now are far less important.

A passage in the bible, a warning by Christ really, has been haunting me. I feel God is asking me, “Are you in the world or of the world?” Until my cancer prognosis I must admit I have been of the world through and through. It is hard for me to admit hedonism was my flag of choice, but I believe there is abundant evidence to make a very strong case for it. One just only need look at my lifestyle. What kind of story does it depict? Surely my life choices ultimately parades all the things I hold most dear to my heart. Is it power? Is it wealth? Is it pride and pleasure? Sadly, the honest answer has been yes to all the above. I suppose power is the weakest temptation, not because I don’t desire it, but more because I don’t want to have to work for it. If you handed me power, (the people have unanimously announced Doug is their new king), I doubt I would have the strength to pass it up. I would convince myself it was God’s will and I would quickly turn into a tyrant (Remember Captain Kirk’s warning, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely).

The cancer then, is a wake up call, prompting me to put my house in order and I am blessed because of it. The treatable cancer reminds me life is short and do not waste it living in and for a world that is passing, temporary and finite.

In changing my focus from being of the world to only being in the world for a small amount of measurable time, I find blessings I would have otherwise ignored, passed over or been too afraid to accept. What do I mean? Well, for starters, I recently told my boss I might just retire in March of 2019. I’ll be 59 1/2 March 16th, 2019 and I do believe I can then tap into my 401k without penalty.

Granted, if I wait to 2024 or later, my retirement benefits vastly improve, but we have enough to retire in 2019 if we really needed. More time with my wife and family without the pressure of the daily grind is far more appealing than a later retirement with more money. Money is nice, but all the wealth in the world will not cure me of cancer or give me one more second of life with wife, family and friends.

I suppose if the income differences were so vast between retiring at 59 1/2 versus 65 I might be more inclined to wait, but the differences, although notable, are not so vast. Maybe we won’t travel as much as I’d like, but that’s okay too. I’ve started to appreciate the awareness that less is sometimes much, much more. 

I’m not saying I am set on retiring at 59 1/2. For now it’s just an idea I’m mulling over. I probably will change my mind several times between now and age 66. At some point I will pull the trigger (maybe sooner, maybe later, who can say?) My point is simply to say having cancer prompts me to reconsider all my retirement plans and goals.

A couple years ago, Wanda and I vacationed four times in Hawaii over a 12 month period. Friends then asked why we don’t just buy a place and live there. That’s a fair question, but part of our reasons for not doing so is that we really miss Hawaii.

Sounds like a contradiction, right? We don’t want to live, or retire to Hawaii because we really miss Hawaii? How do you make sense of that? There’s an old adage I’ve taken to heart, “Familiarity breeds contempt”. Partly why we love Hawaii so much is because we miss it so much. Because we’re not there 24/7 and because we seldom stay more than 12 days at a time, we really can’t afford to take our visits for granted. We milk the island visit for all its worth … even if that means just spending hours of our time beach relaxing. We breathe in and enjoy the time we have. I am many things, but something I’m not, is a morning person. But while in Hawaii, and whenever I can, I try to get up shortly after sunrise and try to at least be outside enjoying each hour we’re there. I soak up the experience and savor it like a fine wine sipped slowly over dinner. (Of course it doesn’t hurt that 6 am Hawaii time is 9 am in Seattle!)

At the end of our trip it almost physically hurts to have to return back home. My soul cries and yearns to stay another week or year, but that’s when it really is the best time to leave. Hawaii feels like home to me and it remains so because I never take it for granted. I never get used to it. (At the risk of being non-PC, if Bruce Jenner is really a woman because he feels like one deep inside, then I’m really a Hawaiian for the same reasons.)

Familiarity breeds contempt … many times people get frustrated with their spouses or family because we often lie to ourselves into believing we know each other too well. A common excuse I’ve heard couples make about each other goes something like this, “Why don’t you just tell him how you feel?”

“I’ve tried, but he won’t listen to me.”

Familiarity breeding contempt covers many aspects of our lives and is not limited to relationships. From a Catholic perspective I’ve heard people say over the course of my lifetime, “The Mass is so boring”. Or, “I left the Church because I wasn’t being fed.” This is classic familiarity breeding contempt. All I can do is to pray and ask God to wake them up.

CAUTION: Catholic Rant! Catholic Rant!

I sympathize with this position because I was a fallen away Catholic from about the end of college to just before my 36th birthday. Since returning to the faith my awareness, my awe has grown. I still struggle with the Mass, but I realize while on earth we’re like the squirming children at church. The Mass is so over our heads that we cannot ever fully fathom the significance. Dr. Hahn once said the Mass would be lined up for miles if the Priest, instead of offering the Body of Christ, were handing out 10 million dollars. To the awakened man, what is consumed at the Eucharistic meal makes 10 million dollars worthless.

So, familiarity breeds contempt and we must do our best to guard and work against it. Familiarity is like the 2nd law of thermodynamics (summarized best as !@#$ happens) in that just like how entropy is constantly at work breaking things down, we must not relax and yield to it. We mow and water our lawns, paint our homes, repair our cars, or replace them. Everything is breaking down, which is why the cynic’s definition of good health is so apt (we’re all moving toward death and good health is the slowest rate). We can’t stop entropy or the tendency familiarity has in breeding contempt, but like salmon spawning up stream, to make any progress at all, we must continually swim up and fight against the tide.

Yes, it is hard work, but like all things worth doing, fighting against contempt is worthwhile in the long run.  This point, in turn, calls me to flesh out another: If something is worth doing then it should be done well. But it also true and not a contradiction to add, if something is worth doing it should be done, even badly, because it is worth doing. 

Time Out! Why is all of this pouring out of me all of sudden? Why am I so compelled to write and go on about such things? Over the years I have been encouraged by friends, family and others to write. I always appreciated the encouragement, but I never had or found the motivation to seriously pursue it before. I honestly never felt I had anything to write about. 

Now suddenly, after being diagnosed with cancer, I feel compelled. I feel this pressure, this desire to express so much. It is like a dam breaking and torrents of thoughts and feelings are rushing, shoving, roaring to get out as quickly as they can. I have to slow it down, lest it all come out like one big pointless ramblings … like this blog! HA!

I honestly do not fully know or understand what to make of it. I can say none of what I write about is new. These thoughts, these words, these expressions have been bottled up for years, but so what? I mean, I’m sure we all have opinions about life and the world we live in … I’m sure mine are nothing new and relatively speaking not any better or different than anyone else’s. And just so we’re clear … they’re really not. These are simply ideas, feelings, concerns, beliefs I have nurtured, developed or learned from people far wiser than I can hope to ever be. These thoughts, these words and ideas, learned from the greats have helped me, have saved me really, and now appear to be giving me the ability to somewhat bravely accept the fortunes and misfortunes of life. Perhaps I share them now within a prayerful hope the blessings I’ve received can be passed on and shared with others.

On that note and in the words of St. Paul (paraphrased by a Catholic), “Test everything and hold onto the good“.

Sometimes reading the Bible and stories of the saints I would read of references made to this “Christian joy” promised and given to the followers of Christ. Many of the great saints speak of it. Many who actually witnessed the saints being martyred have left astonished by the genuine joy these holy men and women continually expressed even under the most horrific persecution. I have often wondered what is this peace they talk about? What is this joy the saints boast?

In my first blog post I lamented that maybe I needed to recapture the faith I had as a little boy who trustingly takes his father’s hand and allows his father to lead. This has been my prayer since my prognosis. I have prayed, asking God to help me to trustingly take his hand and lead me to wherever he sees best. I have worked to resign myself, my outcome, my entire future to the will of my heavenly Father. At the risk of talking too soon and drawing the wrong conclusion, I suspect and now believe in doing so, I have uncovered the secret. Time out! I don’t like the word secret. This is anything but a secret. Still, like a secret there does seem to be a trick involved … Uh that’s not quite right either. Perhaps it is more like a closed door. Hmm, I like that image better. Okay, it is a door and although it isn’t locked, it can only be open when one humbly and completely surrenders themselves over to the will of God. 


Passing through the threshold, taking my Father’s hand is like being given new eyes. Everything remains the same, but everything is completely different. Again, the contradiction and the paradox does not escape me. I suspect my God is the God of contradictions and paradoxes ….

… and irony. Never forget irony. One of my favorite examples of God’s genius use of irony is when Pontius Pilate asks the Jews who they want released from death row. The Jews reject Jesus, the Son of God, and demand Barabbas be released instead. Barabbas’ name, literally translated (Bar-Abba), means son of the father. The Jews, in perfect ironic unison, are demanding Pilate free the son of the father, and kill the Son of the Father.  

Okay, so where am I going with all this? (I don’t know. What do you people want from me!)

Really, the point of it all is nothing new. Rod Stewart sings it well (Okay, so Raspy Rod singing anything well is a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean! Just kidding Mr. Stewart!) in his famous hit, “Every Picture Tells A Story”:

I firmly believe that I didn’t need anyone but me
I sincerely thought I was so complete
Look how wrong you can be

The women I’ve known I wouldn’t let tie my shoe
They wouldn’t give you the time of day
But the slit eyed lady knocked me off my feet
God I was glad I found her
And if they had the words I could tell to you
to help you on the way down the road
I couldn’t quote you no Dickens, Shelley or Keats
’cause it’s all been said before
Make the best out of the bad just laugh it off
You didn’t have to come here anyway


Years ago, when I finally, for the first time, listened to the actual words of this song, a chord was struck (pun intended) deep within and has resonated with me ever since.

Bottom line: Prayers still needed and deeply appreciated

As previously mentioned I now have an appointment with a doctor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Friends tell me this is the number one cancer center in the USA (Hmm, who would have guessed? I had no idea). Dr. Coleman is conducting a trial study on treating men with prostate cancer with a relatively new method. Please keep in mind, my appointment does not mean I am a shoe in for the trial. Even if I’m accepted the procedure does not mean I will be successfully treated for prostate cancer. Since first hearing and reporting on this “cutting edge” new approach, I’ve come to learn the hopeful statistics I read about are just that – hopeful. (It turns out statistics are easily manipulated and don’t always mean what they appear to mean –  What? Who’d a guessed, right?There’s still an excellent chance I will wind up having robotic surgery (DaVinci Method) for treating my prostate cancer … and I am okay with that.

I always tell Wanda, (and everyone else I meet), if you don’t ask the answer is no. Asking, of course, doesn’t guarantee a yes or even a maybe. The answer may still be no. But not asking does come with a guarantee. Not asking guarantees the answer is no. Another way to say this is, “noting ventured, nothing gained”, or “never say die”, and “never quit”.

I’m hopeful on being accepted for the trial and I’m hopeful the trial will be successful, but many times in life, things work out far differently than what we come to expect. I believe somewhere in the Bible it says God’s way is far different than man’s … something along the lines as the earth is from the heavens and stars so is God’s way distanced from mans. Consequently, it’s sort of dangerous and maybe even foolish to predict or second guess the will of God. It occurs to me the wiser choice would be to resign myself over to Him and simply let Him lead.  

I know and believe God has a purpose and His purpose carries me.

A final note for any atheists or agnostics reading this …

(Woody Allen, I forget what film, once said he had to break up with his girlfriend because she was an Atheist and he was agnostic. They had irreconcilable differences on what church not to raise the kids in.)

I have a variety of friends. Most know that I am proactively Catholic and I know and appreciate the fact many friends have questions on God’s very existence. One of the “tells” as it were, is the fact, these discerning friends never ever say they are praying for me. They always say something along the lines of, “My thoughts are with you”, or “Sending good thoughts your way”.

The sarcastic jerk in me really wants to have a hay-day with this, but I honestly do not want to slight, insult or otherwise dismiss the charity behind the message. In spite of the fact these friends do not believe in God the way I do, does not dampen or lessen their good will toward me. Therefore, I do not wish to cause trouble where no harm is intended.

However, in just the same way an avowed atheist might be dismissive or insulted by references to faith, prayer and turning to God, I am also inclined to be of the same mind toward “happy thoughts sent my way”. But on that note, perhaps there is a middle ground we can agree to meet.

I propose, regardless of your feelings toward the existence and definition of an all powerful, omnipresent, omnipotent being, we come to a mutually agreed understanding and belief in the power of love. Can we at least all agree love is real? Love, however defined, is something genuine and universal.

If that much is acceptable to you (that is, God may not exist, but Love certainly does …), then maybe here we can find common ground.

If this is agreeable then I simply ask instead of sending me good thoughts and good vibrations (as sincere as that is, and I do accept the sincerity) can you instead agree to “desire and hope all the best love has to offer comes to me in my time and hour of need”?

I know I can and do desire at least this much for you, regardless of your personal beliefs. 

To all my friends and family who can accept this message, “May the peace and joy of Jesus Christ come down firmly and give rest to your spirit”. And to all the others who wince or cringe at such messages, let me just say, I genuinely desire and hope all the best love has to offer comes to you and yours in your time of need. I won’t be sending you good thoughts, but I will be calling on the power of love to always to come to your aid.


The Continuing Saga of a Man Named Sparkes

Please note this is part 2. WordPress stacks latest on top of earlier posts.

AKA Prostate Cancer Blues

Sometimes my urologist can be a real pain in the ass.

Clarifying the Rules of Engagement

My mother-in-law lovingly, (geez, I hope it’s lovingly) calls me 50/50 because she can’t always tell when I’m joking or when I am telling the truth. Perhaps, sadly, she’s not the only one. Personally, I think it’s all rather obvious – I’m always joking and messing around. Its a defense mechanism. Its a shield and a protection to lessen the blows life hurdles at me, but maybe I sometimes take it too far.

My wife, Wanda, knows me best, but even she sometimes isn’t so sure when I’m joking or not. To resolve the confusion once and for all, she and I have an agreement. If she ever has any doubts about anything I say or do, if she isn’t completely certain if I’m telling the truth or not or simply exaggerating (Me exaggerate? Silly, right?) she only needs to ask me to say, “honest”.

I have promised her I will always come perfectly clean whenever she plays the “honest” card. And, I can “honestly” say my track record for being completely forthright and forthcoming has been commendable. Whenever Wanda says, “honest?” I drop any and all deceit. Maybe its unfortunate we have to go to such extremes, but in the end, honesty is our best policy.

Consequently, Wanda is no longer allowed to attend any of my magic shows. There was this one time when I made my assistant disappear .. Let me tell you now, it was nothing short of amazing! The audience was completely stunned and otherwise frozen by their inability to fully comprehend the genuine magic that had transpired before their very eyes! And as a magician, I can tell you it doesn’t get any better than that. Truly, this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment all magicians train and pray for and I was relishing, soaking up every moment like soft bread in gravy.  I’m sure I was grinning from ear to ear, but just then, at the peak of my bliss, I hear Wanda from way in the back shout out, “Honest?”  

Martha Pus-bucket! I could not believe my ears. 

They told me later the change in my expression was palatable and sort of priceless. Like a small dejected child standing in front of the whole entire school assembly, I started to pout and look down. I kicked and scuffed my shoes against the floor and mumbled, “Okay, I guess I didn’t really make her disappear …” Then pulling the curtain back, I showed the audience it was just a clever trick. My assistant was there in all three dimensions. I had not made her disappear after all!

I mention all this because I’m getting feedback from my first blog from some people saying they cannot always tell when I’m joking and when I am serious (Mr. 50/50 again). Okay, in order to clarify and otherwise help my readers translate and better understand where I am coming from, I want to use this opportunity to clarify and otherwise establish some simple ground rules going forward.

Firstly, if the print is black and white like this, then you can pretty much trust I am being straightforward and telling the truth.

Secondly, I will try to keep my humor bracketed in parenthesis. Any quick sarcasm, joke or tongue in cheek attitude will be expressed in parenthesis or if it’s more than a sentence long it might be separated into its own paragraph and listed as “An Aside Note“. But note not all “An Aside Notes” are sarcastic or intended for laughs.

Thirdly, and to this point, I will try to italicize my deliberate sarcasm, dark humor and joking around. So, if its normal text, like this, it is safe to assume I am being honest. If it’s italicized like, “sometimes it feels like this cancer is out to kill me …” then rest assured its my dark, corny and sometimes really bad sense of humor.

Finally, if I have a tall tale I just have to tell, I will change the font color to red. So, yes, the story of Wanda ruining my magic act is a complete and total fabrication … but here’s the thing, I take “honest” so seriously that if she were ever mad at me enough to ruin my act, I would come clean in front of everyone. She’s more important … our relationship is more important, than all the temporary adulation I could ever receive from amazing people with magic. The point is, my marriage really is the toughest job I have ever loved (with the possible exception of raising my kids, but that’s a different channel altogether).

Okay, so now that ground rules have been set, please allow me to continue. I had an amazing last week, but before I get into it I would like to better underscore what a powerful summer I have had thus far …

The Bitter & the Sweet

There have been too many departures this summer. Charles Burnett was the EVP for Pharmacy at Costco and Wanda’s former boss. I met him back in the 80’s and indirectly worked for him in the early 1990’s. He was a great man and full of charisma. Although he was well into his 80’s when he passed his departure was so sudden, so unexpected, it took many of us by surprise. In addition to Charlie, Costco also lost Jeff Brotman. Next to Jim Sinegal, Jeff is Costco. He and Jim made Costco what it is today.

And sadly, our family also attended Wanda’s grandmother’s funeral this summer. After a long struggle, Grandma Lee slowly succumbed to death’s incessant beckoning and is now at peace and at home. I bring this up because of the beauty I saw surrounding Grandma Lee the week or two leading up to her departure.

Grandma Lee was continually surrounded by love. Probably all of her family (kids, grand kids, great grand kids) were able to visit her during her last couple of weeks. How cognizant was she during the visits? Who can say? It honestly does not matter, but when I saw her last she seemed to have strong moments of awareness.

Besides the love surrounding Grandma Lee, I also recall the peace surrounding her. Oh, the bitter-sweetness of farewells. Grandma Lee wanted a small service so the funeral was limited to immediate family, grands and great grands … and even with limited attendance there were still about 80 people!

Looking over the funeral gathering I couldn’t help but smile. It was a somber moment to be sure, but there was so much family! How can you be sad when you’re surrounded by love? I don’t recall exactly what I said at the time, but it was something along the lines like, “All the right people at the wrong time.” Or maybe it was, “Funerals are always comprised of everyone I want to see, but for all the wrong reasons.”

Fast forward a few weeks later to my great nephew’s wedding. I only told a few people I was going in for my biopsy the day before. Their love and marital celebration really underscores the sanctity of life. Then the week following Zachary and Kaitlyn’s nuptials, I received the bad news. We kept much of it under wraps because Heather and Bradley were to be married the upcoming Sunday (yes, Sunday – these are the days when anything goes!)

Wow! Talk about great celebrations of family, love and life! Now here’s a time with all the right people for all the right reasons!


In truth, this is what nourishes and keeps me going fearlessly. I am surrounded by the love of friends, family and Almighty God. The three are so interwoven. They all bleed and blend together in such a way I sometimes cannot tell the difference. I see God in my wife, my family and my friends. I see my family in my friends and I have so many friends within my family.

This is my wish and desire for you, dear reader. This is what the good life is really all about.

Aristotle said it is the nonsensical things that matter the most. This is why attending Heather and Bradley’s wedding is far more important than making a killing in the stock market.

This is also why I don’t write very much … Crikey! Any more syrup and we’re all going to contract diabetes type II!

As I wrote above I have had the most amazing week. The quickest summary is expressed as follows: I’m going to be a “Cancer Survivor”! This isn’t positive thinking or a joke. It’s a fact. At the end of this trial, I will be cured of cancer – not literally per se’, as there isn’t a cure for prostate cancer, but there is a treatment to remove it completely from my body.  As a result, I will not die the next 15+ years from cancer. My doctors all but guarantee it. That’s the good news.

And just so that we’re clear, cancer really does belong to the devil. If it doesn’t kill you, it will at least leave a nasty scar to remind you what to expect next time around. Unless I do nothing, there is absolutely no reason why I won’t survive this cancer and I will have the mark to prove it … And for a couple weeks at least I will also have a handicap parking pass! Let us not forget the all important parking pass! We often invite and take Wanda’s mom on a lot of vacation trips and people will sometimes say, “Oh, you’re so nice to bring your mother-in-law.!”

Heh, heh, heh! They don’t know me too well. I only bring her along because she has a handicap parking pass! If she ever forgets to bring it … Well, let’s just say I won’t be the one helping her carry her luggage any more!

What Happens Monday, August 14th 2017 Doesn’t Stay On August 14th

A lot of people don’t know this, but I am convinced time travel is not only possible, it’s been in use since the creation of time (I also think time is a man-made creation, but I’ll save that explanation for never). The honest truth is a lot of people don’t realize we are all time travelers and we all start to time travel from the moment of conception and continue to time travel all the way to our very last gasp before the grave. The problem, and why most of us don’t understand, is that genuine time travel is not least bit ornate like sci-fi time travel would have us believe. No, genuine, authentic time travel is always at a preset chronological pulse … second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day after day, month after month and year after year. See, we all time travel, but at a fixed rate of speed and in one direction … forward! There’s no going back! Okay, I’ll take it one step further … there’s no going faster into the future let alone into the past because there is and only always is right now … this very moment we’re in right now is really all the time we have. Everything else is either a memory or an imagining.

An Aside Note: If this sort of thought intrigues you, and you live in Washington, then perhaps to enhance the experience further you might want to consider one of our state’s fine cannabis emporiums. If you call the “Canni-bus” they’ll even come out and pick you up.

I mention this time travel talk because I sometimes have a fantasy that my future self will one day somehow time travel back to today and tell me everything will not only be alright, but ultimately fantastic. He’ll say, “Don’t worry, Dougie. Hang in there. The best is yet to come”.

An Aside Note: I once had an idea for a super hero with time travel capabilities. I never really came up with a good name for him, but I did manage to create some idioms and phrases. I even started to write a theme song,

“I’m off to the future today, so when it comes I’ll be there already. So when it comes I’ll be there already! I’m off to the future today!”

I had a signature line too, “I’m off to the future, but I’ll be back presently!”

At this point you’re probably looking at your watch or you’ve left the blog already! Okay, the point of all this time travel rambling is that on Monday, August 14th 2017 I had breakfast with my future self!!!  (Insert amazing musical sound effect here!) Time Traveling Dougie really does exist and he paid me a visit!!! (Insert a follow up and amazing musical sound effect here!)

It’s true. I am now convinced what happened this morning at breakfast can only be explained by the fact I will someday travel back in time to this exact time in my history and tell my past self no to worry and that everything will be alright.

An Aside Note: History? Every married man knows its really Her-story that matters. Remember, it is a woman’s prerogative to change his mind.

At first I did not recognize myself, but as I thought about it, how could I and why would I expect to? Oh, and future Dougie was clever too. He tried to trick me so I wouldn’t catch on, but no, no, I saw through it. He was me alright.

When a friend at work learned I had prostate cancer he immediately reached out and insisted I meet his “so-called” father-in-law. Apparently, Mr. Physh, as I like to call him, (mostly because it’s cool and not because he said his first name was Gill) had the same surgery I am now strongly considering. He’s a handful of years older than me (Time Traveler Clue #1) and said he had the surgery at 58 too (just like I will! Clue #2). He’s also married and like me, he married his best friend! (Clues #3 & #4)

Still think this is a coincidence? Well, get a load of this … his Gleason score from his biopsy was 7 (3+4) … Again, just like me! (Clue #5) But the real convincer is the fact he still has ALL of his hair!!! (Clue #6 !) So he has to be me! He has to have time traveled to tell me not to worry and to assure me all will be well.

Aside from that: A little rule to live by. If you know me, then you know I do not believe in coincidence. Most, if not all the time, I cannot even begin to explain coincidence, but sometimes the coincidence is just so thick that there has to be something more to it than simply happen-chance. Consequently, I have a little rule I use to help me judge events and occurrences in life. If something happens once, say my brother slaps me but quickly says he’s sorry, that’s a fluke. If he slaps me again and apologizes, well that’s coincidence, but if he hits me a third time … apology or not, that’s a pattern! So just remember, the first time is a fluke, the second is coincidence, but the third time is a pattern.

My wife is reading over my shoulder right now and she keeps poking me with her finger.


“You do know you’re crazy, right?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you do know you’re bald, right?”

“Yes, Duh! I know. What pray tell is your point?”

“Well, if Mr. Physh has a full head of hair and you’re bald, then how can he be you from the future?”

Ah, I do love Wanda. I really do, but sometimes this woman can be so dense! So I stop typing, take a deep breath, turn to her and say, “Of course my future self will have a full head of hair. If he didn’t then the man I met could not be my future self.” I even throw out my hands in unison as if to say, “Isn’t it obvious now?”

Wanda just stares at me. “Huh?”

Okay, so now I’m annoyed. I mean how can I make it any simpler? So, I think for a moment and then I ask, “Which do you think is harder – breaking the laws of physics and changing the past by traveling through time or hair restoration? … Which is harder? Time travel or hair restoration?” I wait a moment so she can take it in and then continue, “Time travel – woman! The answer is time travel! So, in the future, when they discover time travel, they are bound to be far enough advanced to be able to already have a cure for baldness! If time travel exists then logic dictates hair restoration must come before it. I mean who doesn’t want to look their absolute best when meeting themselves in the past?”

Wanda is still staring at me in what appears to be complete and utter disbelief.

“Okay, look … Time traveling to the past is like going to your high school reunion. You have to impress everyone and make them jealous or what is the point of even going? Consequently, no one will time travel to their past unless their future is fantastic and their head is full of hair and their body is in great shape!

See, time travel doesn’t happen not because it isn’t possible, but because most people are too embarrassed. Clearly, my future is far better than now and that’s why I donned the character of Mr. Physh so I could meet myself and say everything would work out.”

Wanda just blinks and doesn’t say a thing.

I shake my loving hands at her, “Sweetie, can’t you see the Physh in me?”

She crosses her arms. “You’re fot-nou!”

What my wife means to say is that I’m crazy. Fot-nou is my rendering of her Chinese for crazy. She thinks I think she’s giving me a compliment, but I know better. In my best Japanese accent I turn to her and say, “Dasennay!”

“No, honey, its daseannay.” Wanda doesn’t speak a lot of Chinese but what she does she does well. Oh, and I have to admit half of my struggle with Chinese is dealing with the subtle changes of pronunciation and tonal inflection. I doubt I’ll ever get it. It’s easier to speak Chinese with a Japanese accent. I think it sounds cooler too. “Dhas-an-Nay!” I yell, again with my best Toshiro Mifune impersonation … Oh, and for those of you who must know, “daseannay!” simply means, “I will kill you.”

(Wanda’s aunt recently admitted she says “daseannay” to her kids a lot. In fact, its the only Chinese they really know.)

In the end, Wanda just doesn’t understand, but I’m sure, you, dear reader, certainly will. If Dougie from the future were to appear to me with less hair than I have right now, I would have to run him over with a bus. No way, would future Dougie appear to me with less hair than I have right now. And since I know this about myself, you can bet future Dougie does too and he wouldn’t even think of traveling back in time with male pattern baldness. But this is all common sense and rhetorical. The truth is future Dougie did come back in time to see me; he has lots of hair and so I know I can trust him. It really is that simple.

Wanda says she wants me to stop calling Mr. Physh future me. She is ordering me to “show some respect”.  Okay, okay, from now on I’ll pretend he’s not Dougie 2030, but you and I know the truth (wink, wink).

Although Mr. Physh claims we never met before, he was more than happy to drive out to my work and meet me for breakfast. To be sure, I was honored to meet him, to buy him breakfast and to hear his story. When I realized the visit would get me out of work for at least an hour – well, you know, I sealed the deal!

What an awesome man! Seriously, I am deeply blessed to have this kind man make the time and to go out of his way to help a stranger! So of course I bought him breakfast. (Hey, it was at the Costco Deli so both of our meals together was less than $5 – SCORE!!) Besides the great hair, Mr. Physh looked good too. He had white hair, like Santa and a warm smile to match.  I immediately felt comfortable and at ease around him. It felt more like a visit with an old friend than a stranger (Clue #7 – just saying!). As we ate our breakfast, (Costco Deli on Monday’s don’t have much to write home about. Sorry Mr. Physh! See side note below.) he told me his story and I’m happy to report after under going the prostatectomy, they did not find any additional cancer in his system. He’s been 100% cancer free ever since.

Aside from that: Sometimes when you press people for an opinion, something along the lines of how did you like your meal? Or how did you like the restaurant? People will say “It was okay, but nothing to write home about.” I swear, one of these times, I’m going to be at a nice restaurant with family and friends and when they ask how I like it I’m going to pull out pen and paper and write home about it.

I was very happy for him. I was additionally pleased to hear about how well he was treated by Seattle area doctors. He said he felt very good about the surgery because the greater Seattle area has many fine surgeons. Still, he encouraged me to find and to go with a surgeon (should I choose that option) with the greatest number of successful surgeries under his belt.

For example, my surgical doctor (from Doogie Howser Med) bragged he had well over 200 surgeries. I’m a magician so I am trained in deception and when someone says something like that I immediately think, “He’s not lying if he’s only done 201 surgeries. He’s misleading, but he’s not lying.”  Mr. Physh said his doctor had already performed well over 800 surgeries (and he’s not lying either. Even if he’s only done 801 because 801 spanks 201 – and this leaves Dr S choking in his dust). Needless to say, I may not be hiring Dr. Howser to perform my surgery after all.

At the end of the breakfast, Mr. Physh had answered all my questions that he felt he could honestly answer. In many ways, it really was as if a future version of myself had gone back in time to help me and help me he did. Thank you Gill! You are the best!

Earlier I wrote, “Cancer really does belong to the devil and if it doesn’t kill you, it will at least leave a permanent scar to remind you.” This is so very true and I mention it because of the mixed feelings I have about the whole shebang.


A rather distasteful image of cancer. He wants us all dead, but if pressed, he’ll settle on gnawing, biting, hurting, scaring and scarring us for life.

Cancer is something no one should have and I do not take it lightly. On the other hand, it could be so much worse and I am grateful to God that it is not. In fact, allow me to publicly thank God, for this “mild” case of cancer (mild being a relative term).

My prostate cancer is like a fire raging through the neighborhood. After the fire department arrives, controls and puts out the flames, I return to my house relieved to find I’ve only lost the garage. I feel lucky the rest of the house is intact and my car was with me at the time.

Unfortunately, this was a neighborhood fire and my next door neighbor wasn’t as lucky. Her home was utterly destroyed. Fortunately, she is still alive and can rebuild but at the moment her life is in tatters.

Coming back to reality, I’m very happy we’ve caught this cancer early and as a result, the odds of my not dying from cancer for the next 15 years is all but 100%. I met with a radiation oncologist last Tuesday (the day after meeting with Mr. Physh for breakfast) and he assured me this is the case. He strongly recommended I go with the surgery. If the cancer had escaped my prostate then he was positive it could all be mopped up with follow up radiation.

This is great news. I will be a card carrying member of the cancer survivor club. (Do yourself a favor and do not even apply for a membership!) A part of me then feels like I have made a big issue out of something that in the end amounts to something controllable … like a garage fire. It’s something, but it’s not like stage 4 pancreatic or brain cancer! I will have cancer wounds but I will live to talk about it … How dare I call attention to myself when so many others are dying from far more serious cases of cancer and other diseases!

Again, I will say this then, thank God because I am now so much more aware and sensitive to the sufferings of others today then I was yesterday. I am blessed to have this cancer because a mortality bell has chimed and I dare not take for granted my dance with time and my eventual appointment with the bony man and his scythe. I want the obligation of living my life differently and for the better. We are born into the world but not made to be in the world. Yes, thank God for the wake up call!

(According to the cynic’s dictionary, we’re all dying so good health is really just the slowest achievable rate of death.)

Taking the neighborhood fire one step further … My next door neighbor – now she’s someone suffering with cancer! It is a bleak struggle, ongoing for years, ripe with setbacks and yet every time I see Rene she is all smiles and very optimistic about her outlook. I’ve included a most recent update:

With the hard work and dedication of the team at SCCA, Padgett was able to start a new chemotherapy on Saturday. It was a long and grueling 10 hour day which consisted of two chemotherapy treatments, an immunoglobulin transfusion to help her lungs, iv hydration and a platelet transfusion!
Today she had her second dose of the chemo. Her kidney function is taking a huge hit, so that will be closely monitored as well as other labs. This chemotherapy will likely have her needing blood support and may cause her to be neutropenic. The smoke in the air from the wild fires is causing her to have to walk inside on the treadmill, which is not here favorite!
Thank you all again for the continued support! I will update more frequently going forward.
Xoxo Team Padgett
Rene Padgett is a Washington State Patrol Police Officer struggling with a very nasty, unforgiving cancer. If anyone reading this can send something, anything her way (even a note of prayer or encouragement) I know Rene and team Padgett will appreciate it very much.


 Tuesday, August 15th 2017 Meeting with Dr Radiation

I only refer to him as Dr. R because because he is a radiation oncologist at Overlake Hospital. I have a morning meeting (Yay, skipping work again!) but I can’t help but notice the atmosphere in his reception area and offices is considerably different than my other two doctor visits.
I am meeting with Dr. R because I still have an option of skirting surgery and going with a high bombardment of radiation. Although I will probably go with surgery, I’m still looking at everything and turning over a lot of other stones as it were. It helps me better understand all my choices and options. Learning and studying is not always easy, but I can assure you ignorance is many things but it certainly is not bliss.
As I said, the radiation oncology offices have a different spirit. I just had a great visit with Mr. Physh the day before and I feel deeply comforted and sustained by the grace of God. People are praying and my spirit rejoices. I am ready to accept wherever God leads. Looking back at Dr. R’s visit, I see now I am really the only patient there that is having a good day.
Dr. R is well staffed. His MA is friendly, kind and assures us Dr. R is not only a great doctor but also a great human being. She tells us she loves working for him and again she goes out of her way to otherwise comfort and assure us.

When Dr. R arrives, I see that he is roughly my age (he later confirms we’re the same age). He gives me the run down on my PSA and Gleason score, what it means and he explains in general what kind of treatment he offers for my cancer treatment.

In quick summary, I would come in for a very specialized MRI. From this MRI a lower body cast would be made so as to precisely help aim the radiation at my prostate and no where else.

Said treatment would be daily, (M-F) and at the same time each day for about eight consecutive weeks. I would come in, spend about 15 to 20 minutes putting on the lower body cast and next be treated and blasted with high radiation for about 5 minutes. It takes about ten minutes to get out of the body cast and leave. The cycle would continue daily until treatments are completed. In addition my activities and diet would be monitored because everything must be regular and regulated for the entire length of the eight week treatment. The closer I am to being in the same condition as the original MRI the better the treatment and the less likelihood of radiating things better left un-radiated (if you catch my meaning).

I can only give a quick summary because this is all Dr. R offered. His point being, in that looking everything over, he strongly recommends I go with robotic surgery. Even though I jokingly have issues with Dr. S being too young, Dr. R has repeatedly seen his patients following surgery, and he assures Wanda and I, the man is a high level robotic surgeon. He was also first in class in residency (apparently all those hours playing video games all night paid off nicely after all).

Dr R patiently answered all my questions. With Wanda by my side, we collectively had an excellent conversation together. Then, after all my questions were answered but before Dr. R excused us, he next introduced to another member of his staff, Ms. A.

Ms A is a therapist and a counselor and her empathy for me was just this side of too much. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe she plays a vital and integral part in people coping and coming to terms with cancer. I was quite impressed, but her approach and style is clearly about helping people just trying to cope with having cancer.

I’m not trying to be smart, but her empathy was so strong I almost felt like I was missing something. I wanted to ask if I was missing something! I wanted to say, “I’m not dying am I?” With hindsight, I believe she sees so much heartache and despair that she’s just comes to expect to see it in everyone. My lighthearted cockiness was probably a curve ball and was seen as either a defensive mechanism or a wall of denial … Let me just add, Ms A is a very warm human being with a very tough job. I am very impressed with Dr R and how he manages his office, his bedside manner and his staff.

I may or may have been a curve ball for Ms. A, but she was certainly a curve ball for us. Still, I really loved her empathy and compassion. We left the meeting feeling very good with the information in hand. Up to now I had met with three different doctors. In addition, I had met with a good man who had gone through the same prognosis and had successfully gone through the surgery and looked no worse for it. All my doctors assured me this prostate cancer was not only treatable but that I would live to talk about it for many, many years. It was a turning into a great week and I was at peace until I met up with a work related friend the following day …

Wednesday August 16th 2017 & Why I Don’t Believe in Coincidence

I sometimes have a hard time defining in clear terms what I currently do for Costco. I either make my job sound bigger than it really is or I don’t make it sound big enough. Technically, my title is Manager: Energy Projects, and that is certainly true, but much of what I do is to help third party programmers create customized internet tools for warehouse (store) managers; to enable them to control their lights and air conditioning (AC) units from their work PC or their home PC, laptop or tablet. (Clear as mud, right?) From there I need to be readily available to help these same managers and their staff successfully use these tools. In addition, my team also manage LED lighting warranty and now solar projects for all of North America. It’s a lot of hats and most of the time it requires me to be pretty darn close to my desk at any given moment, as things quickly snowball if I do not address issues in a timely manner.

And on that note, when one of our AC suppliers invited my department and team to lunch Wednesday, I all but turned it down. The AC supplier’s parent company had put together a road show luncheon. They wanted us to come down see their latest toys and product line. In all likelihood I didn’t see it happening. I had already missed too much time, (Mr. Physh and Dr. R), so I told the supplier “maybe”. (In business, “maybe’ really means no or at the very least, don’t count on it, but I’m too chicken to come out and say it.)

The invitation was sent to all the key players in my department and one of my co-workers mentioned he thought it was important we all go. Long story, but he argued there were people in promised attendance we should meet with and this was a great opportunity to see everyone at the same time. Just then, two others from related work fields, who just happened to be listening, chimed in. They both felt the meeting would supplement their work and asked if they could tag along.

Suffice to say, I changed my mind and decided to attend after all. Then, the day came, and all my co-workers backed out! “Oh, I can’t go. I’ve got too much on my plate.” And, “Oh, we forgot, and scheduled meetings at the same time. There’s no way we can go.”

??? Okay, fine, I get it but I don’t really want to go. I’m busy too, but I had already confirmed with all the interested parties they could expect me to show up around noon. It was too late and too rude to back out now. So I went and as I was leaving I quickly grabbed a couple of the hourly support assistants in my department and drafted them into going along with me. It would get them out of the office (nice little change) and they would finally see some of the actual hardware we only discussed and talked about but never physically touched or viewed.

Well, what can I say … my attendance might just be a prostate cancer game changer. (I’m cautious to talk about this as I must admit I still feel like Charlie Brown getting ready to kick the football. I just know at the last second, Lucy is going to pull it away from me and I’m going fall flat on my back!)

While at the luncheon I ran into the supplier’s engineer. We’ve known each other for years, but she mostly works behind the scenes. My interaction with her is relatively rare but when we visit it is always good.

Normal pleasantries ensue and I ask how things are going and she tells me she’s getting ready to leave for New York City. Of course I just assume its for pleasure and I tell her how Wanda, I and her mother (with the handicap pass) and our niece were just there last May.

She nods in acknowledgement but says she and her husband will be too busy to sight-see or even catch a show. They’re not going to New York City for vacation or a quick getaway, but rather to see a doctor about treating her husband’s cancer.

Now I knew her husband had cancer and he’s had it for awhile, but I didn’t know what kind and so I asked if she would mind telling me and she turns to me and says, “Prostate.”

I don’t think I stopped in my tracks, but I could have … I quickly share the fact that I too am now a card carrying member and I ask why they have to go to New York City for treatment.

In quick summary, her husband does not want to undergo the surgery. He believes there has to be a better way. He’s been scouring the internet for a viable option and guess what? He believes he has found one.

It turns out, doctors in other countries have been using a combination of lasers and uber-deep sea bacteria to successfully treat prostate cancer with few, if any, side effects. Now, a doctor in New York City wants to begin testing the process here in America. There are trials scheduled for late September but only for the right candidates.

My friend and her husband were leaving for a quick trip to NYC to meet with the doctor and to have a biopsy performed to see if he qualifies for the trial.

I’ll link the article, but here is the gist of what they’ve been doing (this is all true but know some of my descriptions might be wrong due to my yet uneducated layman’s understanding):  Doctors have been testing deep sea bacteria on prostate cancer. This weird bacteria has never seen daylight or any other light for that matter. The doctors first complete a very careful MRI of the prostate. They work very hard at identifying the exact location of the cancer. Next, they inject the bacteria (still in the dark) into the prostate cancer. Following this step, they use lasers to expose the bacteria to light for the first time.

When exposed to light the bacteria becomes really agitated and angry. Imagine having to suddenly wake up at 4 am and there’s no coffee! So the bacteria is really mad and it starts eating everything around it. (If I’m miserable, then you’re going to be miserable too!) It attacks the cancer (and probably the prostate). Now the body’s immune system is notified. It comes in shortly after and like a swat assault raid, it rushes in shooting first. The body stops the bacteria attack but only after most, if not all, the cancer is destroyed. The good news is now the immune system is on high alert and if it finds any lingering prostate cancer missed by the bacteria, it attacks and hopefully finishes the job.

The point is, in a study last year of about 400 men, about 50% were cancer free after being effectively treated with bacteria and lasers. Additionally none of them had any measurable side effects. Only 6% of the men eventually had to have their prostates removed.

That evening, after I returned home from work, I started to search for this new method prostate cancer treatment and I found it!  http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38304076

Thursday, August 17th 2017: The Trials of the Trials

A doctor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City is preparing to do a study on treating men with prostate cancer using lasers and the deep sea bacteria. The trials, (and I could be wrong on a lot of this, so please don’t hold me to anything I write as being gospel – Just because I write with authority doesn’t mean I am an authority) are scheduled for maybe the end of September (I bet with my luck it will be postponed till my prepaid trip to Hawaii in October – just watch!).

I called the doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. The man who answered was responsible for scheduling appointments with the doctor conducting the research trials. Let’s just say he was not too optimistic. He said the trials were postponed till the end of September (or maybe longer – hard to tell). He said I would need to undergo another biopsy as the doctor would want to perform one for himself before deciding if I even qualified.

This meant I would have to fly out to New York City (hmm … it’s kind of coincidental that I was just there last May and spent a bit of time learning the lay out of Manhattan). In addition, he needed to know if my awesome Costco insurance would cover it.

Lucky me it does!

That was Thursday and I have not yet scheduled the biopsy visit. I do not even know if I can qualify, but again, coincidentally, they only want men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer and with Gleason scores of 3+4 = 7 …. just like me!

 Okay Lucy, please, please, please let me kick the football just this once!

Today is Sunday, Aug 20th 2017. I gave the doctor’s office all day Friday to call to schedule an appointment for biopsy but they did not. I will call them tomorrow, Monday morning, first thing.

If you’ve read this then you now understand why I am asking for prayers. Again, just so we’re clear, I am not attached to the outcome. Let God’s will be done. Please Lord, allow me the grace to accept whatever you have in mind.

Here’s the thing, even if I am accepted and it absolutely does not work, and I end up doing the robotic surgery, then this is still a great, great blessing. Why? Because when you go to an undiscovered country and you cut a path for those behind you to follow, you should expect some set backs. After all, nobody’s been there before. No one knows the layout of the land. There is no map or manual. Someone has to be the first to reach the promised land. Consequently, it is to be expected to sometimes come up to a dead end. This doesn’t mean you should give up. No, it simply means, you now know the path you’re on isn’t going where you need it to go. You must find another way. Going forward, you simply make a note to tell others not to bother going down that road. Its unfortunate, but it saves a lot of time for the people following later on.

In other words, my success or my treatment failure might just be crucial in helping doctors create a valid, consistent and viable treatment for the men following me who sadly find themselves confronting prostate cancer. (Kind of a superhero after all and without the radiation – I like it!)

Regardless of the outcome for me personally, I would love, love, love to be a part of the study that leads to treating prostate cancer successfully and with minimal side effects.

I don’t have to pray for me, because others are surrounding me with loving and supporting prayer. I am so blessed. This love, this support, God’s grace, your prayers in turn, frees me from having unhealthy anxiety or worry. I can now freely offer my prayers for you and for people like my next door neighbor, Rene!

Please know you are in my heart and as far as I am concerned we are family.  It occurs to me so much of our worldly troubles would all but go away if we would just take to heart Jesus words, “Love one another.” (And remember, that’s a command and not a suggestion!)