Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Law of Unintended Consequences

I'm sorry that this post is not on my normal Friday schedule, but there were circumstances beyond my control.

My neighbor was having a sprinkler system installed in his yard, when the company doing the work cut my FIOS cable.
Verizon had been out to mark the cable locations, but only marked his and not mine which also runs through his yard.

The workers all agreed in Spanish that they would just tie my cable back together and rebury it.  When I noted that the cables were all fiber optics and probably wouldn't work simply tied together, we all agreed that Verizon needed to be called.
They'll be here tomorrow, maybe...  In the meantime, I have tapped into my neighbor's wireless network which is close enough that I can get pretty good reception.  So, better late than never!

This week I want to write about polar bears.  Cancer can wait...

When we lived in Heidelberg, young Matt (30 years old tomorrow!) insisted that, since I had earlier taken his older brother and sister to the circus, he deserved to go as well.  So, he and I went to Circus Krone.  One of the circus rings had a cage around it and was dedicated to the wild animals and their trainers.  They had lions, tigers, bears, leopards, a panther, and other assorted critters.  All were in the cage at once with a trainer or two, but then all were led out together.  

Why?  Because the single Circus Krone polar bear was going to enter the ring.  The announcer told us that the  other animals had to leave because the one polar bear would likely kill them all and begin eating them before we could react.  Wow!  When the one polar bear entered the cage, his trainer stayed outside.  The bear was at least twice the size of any other animal except the elephants and it was actively trying to break down the walls of the cage to come out and eat all of us.  The small children were terrified.  I have never seen such a vicious creature.

Fast forward to 17 May 2008, when, under pressure to make an immediate decision by a Federal judge, the Interior Department declared the polar bear to be "threatened," the first step enroute to becoming an "endangered species."  

It seems that most agree that the sea ice floating around in the Arctic Ocean is diminishing faster than usual and that polar bears need the sea ice to float out to where the seals are that make up breakfast, lunch and dinner.  

No argument that the ice is melting - but lots of argument as to why and to the degree that humans are the cause of this latest example of the dreaded "global warming."

Those who argue that human production of CO2 is the cause carefully ignore several pertinent facts:
1.  Although CO2 is a human produced greenhouse gas, by far the largest amount of CO2 comes from volcanic eruptions in and around the Pacific rim.

2.  Even more to the point, the single largest greenhouse gas contributor to global warming is water vapor, H2O, which accounts for more than 99% of the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.  Humans produce almost no water vapor; God has provided it in the form of clouds.  

If ALL, repeat ALL, human production of CO2 were to cease, that would produce a reduction of 0.117 % of greenhouse gasses.  That 1/8 of one percent reduction of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere would have NO MEASURABLE IMPACT on the temperature of the Earth or its atmosphere, but it would have AN ENORMOUS IMPACT on the economies of every nation on the planet.  Economic growth and the development of Third and Fourth world countries would essentially cease, while developed economies could not turn to clean nuclear energy immediately, or EVER if the Al Gore crowd and the eco-fascists have their way.

3.  Finally, it is "an inconvenient truth" for the greenie crowd to note that, while Arctic ice may be receding, Antarctic ice packs are actually growing!  To admit this might open the argument to the fact that the Earth periodically "wobbles" on its axis, placing one pole or the other closer to the Sun.  Since the Earth's orbit around the Sun is elliptical, not circular, it would also be "inconvenient" to note that sometimes the Earth is warmer than other times and that the Sun does not burn at a constant temperature.  Earth's orbital mechanics and Solar activity are widely agreed to have much more impact on our planet's temperature that all of the greenhouse gasses, to include the 1/8 of one percent of CO2 that we produce.

Back to the polar bears.  Despite the loss of some of their ice, they are not drowning.  Polar bears can swim for more than 50 miles at a time.  The very few polar bears found dead in Arctic waters have been hit by passing vessels, and big ones at that.  Smaller vessels would have been attacked by the bears who have no fear of humans.

The polar bear is the single largest predator on land.  Adult males weigh from 775 to more than 1500 pounds, and average between 8-10 feet in length.  They hunt by stealth, using their natural camouflage.  No human being not armed with a high powered rifle has ever survived an encounter with a polar bear.  Below is a picture of polar bears trying to figure out how to come aboard the USS Honolulu, a nuclear submarine, since they can smell the fact that some sort of food is perhaps inside...

Two years ago, an Eskimo hunting guide spotted an unusual bear while with his party.  The animal was killed and discovered to be grizzly-polar bear hybrid.  Very unusual, since polar bears usually kill and eat grizzlies whenever they meet.  But evidence that polar bears can come away from the Arctic ice when they perceive a need.  Lately, some Eskimo communities have reported unusual sightings of polar bears near their garbage collection areas and whaling factories.  They have asked for permission to increase the number of polar bears they can kill to protect their own population.

There are 19 known polar bear sub-populations totally over 25,000 estimated bears.  Of those populations, five are declining, five are stable, two are increasing and seven have insufficient data.  The polar bears in North America are among the stable and increasing populations.  With over 25,000 estimated bears, the polar bear has become the first critter ever to become "threatened" while being part of such a large number.

So, should we be concerned?  You bet!  But not for the polar bear... for HUMANS who may come into contact with polar bears who have decided to head south for the summer, winter or whatever season.  By declaring polar bears "threatened," the number who may be killed by legitimate hunters must decrease.  But, perhaps even worse, any business in the United States that wants to build a new factory, in any state, will be subject to  lawsuits by the envirocrazy crowd which will claim that human creation of additional CO2 will drive the polar bear from "threatened" to "endangered."  Doesn't matter where you live or work, polar bears - which are slowly moving south to devour you and yours - will become the ecological albatross around your neck to protect. That 1/8th of one percent of human produced CO2 has got be reduced!  Prince Charles and Al Gore insist!  No matter that 35,000 US scientists, many with PhDs and all with degrees in the sciences, not in politics, have signed a petition stating that the science of "global warming" is not "settled" as has been asserted.

Well, we reintroduced the wolves in Yellowstone and now the coyotes and cougars are heading east to escape.  We now have coyotes in Virginia for the first time since Daniel Boone crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains!  A cougar was shot last week in downtown Chicago.

The polar bears, yet another example of the law of Unintended Consequences, will soon be headed your way as well.  And they won't have bright holiday scarves around their necks and be drinking Coke...

Get to the high ground!  I'll see you there...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Each Day Is Precious - Live It Fully!

One of the things that having cancer does for you is to make you very aware of how fragile life is and how quickly things can change.  Experts call it "the Damocles Syndrome."  You'll have to Google the story of the sword of Damocles to fully appreciate that title.

Last year's Thanksgiving was great, but by the time Christmas rolled around, there was a serious question as to how long I had to live.  Although all the tests and scans thus far are positive, that existential question has yet to be resolved.  The same, but in a much more urgent sense, for Senator Ted Kennedy, diagnosed this week with a malignant brain tumor.  His life expectations range from months to a few years.  I was glad to see that he returned to Hyannis Port and went sailing with his family.  A weaker person would have withdrawn in depression, anger, and sorrow.

Or take, for example, the destitute people of Burma, hit by Cyclone Nargis in the past two weeks.  One day, they were barely subsisting under the cruel hand of a military thugocracy; the next, what little they had was wiped out by wind and flooding.  The junta reports 133,000 dead or missing at this point, but given their penchant for secrecy, the total is likely much higher.  They also report 2.5 million homeless.  And yet they refuse to allow the U.S. Navy ships off their coast to fly in food, medicine and temporary shelter.  Appalling is too weak a term for their behavior towards their own people.

Then there is China, set for a splendid August Olympics, only to become the victim of a massive earthquake in Sichuan Province.  The Chinese government behavior is miles ahead of the Burmese, but they too are having difficulty accepting help from other nations when the Party is supposed to be all that the Chinese People need.
Latest figures from China are 55,239 dead found so far, more than 29,000 missing, over 288,000 injured and at least 5 Million homeless.  There is no history of philanthropy in China, so donations from outside are seen as somewhat alien.

And finally, there is the family of our nephew and niece, Phil and Lori Zenger and their four children, who live in Windsor, Colorado.  Today, they were set to depart on their first real vacation, driving the three oldest children to Disneyland for their initial visit, while Grandma Linda watched 18 month old Matthew.  The only problem was that yesterday came before today.

Look back at the weather map at the top of this post.  The junction of those two fronts is Windsor.  As you may have heard, a category F3 tornado hit Windsor yesterday, shortly after noon.  Phil was working in the basement of their ranch-style home and the baby was on the main floor, taking a nap.  When Phil heard loud noise, he went upstairs to find winds of 150+ MPH and golfball-sized hail at his doorstep.  As he grabbed the baby and raced back into the basement, his home was being systematically crushed by the force of the tornado.  Phil and the baby sought shelter in an interior room, with Phil on his knees, praying that it not be his or the baby's time to die.  They survived without injury.  Other family members were safe in school or out of the neighborhood.

After the huge tornado passed, Phil went out into the street to find his house with no roof, his windows all blown out, his vehicles crushed by parts of the collapsed house and his neighborhood destroyed.  They have been evacuated from the area and will not be allowed back in until sometime Saturday, when they will begin the task of sorting through the wreckage to find what is salvageable and what has "gone with the wind" or been made unusable by crushing, hail and water.  Family, to include Zengers, Carlsons, Wilkinsons and Nelsons, along with Church members will help, once allowed into the area.  Below is a picture from the neighborhood.

We intend to help in other ways as well.  For example, we are determined that Phil, Lori and family should be able to take that vacation to Disneyland sometime this year.  And rather than have to drive two days either way, we intend to fly them there and get them a rental car.  Those kids deserve to see the Mouse after all they will go though...  

So, dear readers, every single day of your life is precious and needs to be lived to the fullest.  I am reminded of a few selected verses from the poem  by the 18th Century English poet, William Cowper:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

 Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
 But trust Him for His grace;
 Behind a frowning providence
 He hides a smiling face.

  His purposes will ripen fast,
  Unfolding every hour;
  The bud may have a bitter taste,
  But sweet will be the flower.

   Blind unbelief is sure to err,
   And scan His work in vain;
   God is His own interpreter,
   And he will make it plain.

Please offer a prayer for all those whose need is great at this time.

I'll see you on the high ground!


Friday, May 16, 2008

Mostly Normal

I asked the Queen Vee what I should post this week, since there wasn't much happening.  That, she said, is what you should tell your readers - much of your life is beginning to return to normal.  It's true.

Without the PEG sticking out of my stomach, I can now dress normally and twist my torso from side to side without fear of damage.  I am taking in all nourishment now by mouth, but am still somewhat limited in what I can eat.  My throat is still quite sore, so soft foods and cold foods are best for me.  Spicy things and stuff that requires a lot of chewing are still off limits.

With no PICC Line from my left tricep into my heart, I can now bathe without having to wrap my arm in plastic bags, and we no longer have to clean the exposed end of the line twice a day.  I also no longer have to go to NNMC each Monday to have the dressing around the PICC line changed.

With the alien tubes no longer coming out of my body, I made the decision to return to our health club for the first time since before Christmas.  I have lost about 40 pounds over the course of cancer therapy, most of it muscle mass as well as from my rear end as described earlier.  It felt really good to begin to use the many machines at Fitness First, although I knew that I had to start with about half the weight that I used to use.  As Chairman Mao once said, "Every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  This week I took that step with visits to the club on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Thanks to the Queen, my weight is remaining pretty stable.  The docs would like to have me gain some weight before the 9 June neck surgery, so we're working on that.  They don't want me to go back on Coumadin until after that surgery, since it takes time to keep the blood thinner properties working.  Therefore, I still have to inject myself twice each day in the stomach with Lovenox, another blood thinner with less volatility than Coumadin.  I will be happy when I no longer have to self-inject and I have new found empathy and respect for all those diabetics who have been giving themselves insulin shots daily.

Without having to use the heavy-duty pain killers any longer, I am now able to drive myself around to run errands and go shopping.  That was particularly important when I had to buy some new trousers, to replace those whose four inch wider waistline were falling off of me.  Despite the weight loss, trust me when I tell you this is not the type of diet you want to try...

So, things here have begun to settle back into some sort of new normal.  And, as Martha would say, "That's a good thing."

Thanks to the all of you who have written to say how pleased you are with my progress and that your prayers remain with me and my family.  The odds are still 69-31% that throat and neck cancer will return within the five year waiting period, so I need all the help I can get.

But you know, the weather forecast around here often says 70% chance of showers.  I read that as 30% chance that the golf game is still on.  Someplace has to get the good odds, why not the golf course?  Why not the 39% good odds for me?

I'll see you on the high ground!

Friday, May 9, 2008

P to the Xth Power

Hi, everyone.  This has been an extraordinary week, filled with things starting with the letter "P".  The news is good, so I won't keep you in suspense, but here is what "P Week" has been to me.

On Monday, I went in for my weekly PICC line dressing change and decided to have the Gastroenterology Nurse look at my PEG which was sore, oozing and occasionally bleeding.  She looked and called a gastro doctor.  He told me that he wanted to schedule an endoscopy (tube down throat into stomach) to see the PEG from the inside.  But he also mentioned that the inflammation and soreness could have come from the PEG insertion which brought cancer to the PEG site.  Endoscopy scheduled for today.  Kernal Ken very PERPLEXED and koncerned...

Tuesday, the Queen Vee returned late, late in the evening.  Before we left for Walter Reed scans next AM early, she was concerned that I needed to gain back a few POUNDS that had been lost while I was feeding myself. 

The PET Scan at Walter Reed was the most PAINFUL experience of my cancer battle.  I had to keep my arms together over my head for 24 minutes, despite the residuals of two rotator cuff injuries from my military past.
I asked if there was any other way to do this, but there was not.  For 24 minutes I felt like John McCain in the Hanoi Hilton.  It was truly a Ranger gut check.

On Thursday, my PEG was getting progressively worse, when - out of the blue - the surgeon who inserted it called and said he had heard I had a problem.  I was astonished!  First, this Navy Lt. Cdr., Dr. PEARL,  was supposed to have deployed to Iraq two days after doing my surgery.  The Navy changed his orders at the last second!  He said he wanted to see the PEG, but would not be in the hospital on Friday.  So, at 3:30 PM, The Queen braved the absolute worst of the Washington area rush hour, and we raced to Bethesda at a snail's pace.  We arrived at about 5:15 to find that Doctor PEARL had waited after the clinic had closed at 4:00PM.  And his wife had a two week old baby, their first, waiting at home. What a Great American!

He looked at the PEG and noted that it had begun to work its way out of my stomach, hence all the irritation.  He removed the PEG and was preparing to put in another or keep the wound open, when the Queen and I convinced him to take it out and leave it out, since I hadn't used it in a week.  He dressed the wound and the stomach healed itself within two hours.  He was concerned that the ENT surgeon and radio-oncologist I was to meet on Friday would be upset.  We took on that burden. Dr. PEARL cancelled the endoscopy for today.

This morning, we met with Doctors Markwell and Dulge for more than an hour.  The PET and CT scans from Walter Reed were essentially clean, with a 6 millimeter area of suspicion near one of neck lymph nodes where
areas of concern would normally be measured in centimeters.  The site of the primary tumor had not shown on the PET scan and was clean and pink when Dr. Markwell put the Otoscope down  my nose to look at my throat.  I have pictures, but will spare you the pain of looking.  We talked over the state of the protocols and the options; then together decided to go ahead with the anticipated neck dissection - just to be sure something very small didn't start growing again.  I asked why I still needed a PICC line, and they could think of no reason.

So, with good news under our belt, we went to Medical Oncology and had the PICC line removed.  For the first time since January, I have no external PROTUBERENCES.  I came home feeling like a PERSON, not a PATIENT!

The POWER of PRAYER works, beyond any shadow of a doubt.  I am so thankful for all of you and your PRAYERS for me.  The neck surgery is scheduled for 9 June, a month from today.

My final thought after a "P Week" of emotional lows and highs is PRAISE THE LORD!

I'll see you on the high ground!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Gals Walking, Surviving Alone and Preserving History


   \Instead of my normal Friday post, I waited until today so I could include a picture of "The Boob Crew" as they prepared to depart at 0500 this morning for their marathon and a half, two day walk to fight cancer.

Samantha and Audrey, my daughters, on on the left, while Linnea - a breast cancer patient - is in the center, with two additional friends.  Except for Linnea, who will likely make portions of the trek but not all, these women have been preparing for months.

Any cure for breast cancer would be a huge breakthrough in the fight against all cancers, mine included.  Thanks to all of you who have supported this worthy cause.

Samantha called me as they crossed Memorial Bridge, reminding me that I too had walked across Memorial Bridge as part of JFK's funeral procession on 25 November 1963.  Large lump in my throat during that conversation had nothing to do with cancer.

This past week has been a busy one for me, since the Queen Vee took a well-deserved break from her job as head nurse and flew to Denver to get her first chance to hold our 8th grandchild, Tessa Grace Carlson as well as  to visit with Whitney and Olivia and help Matt and Mindy with "projects."

I learned to feed myself without using Mr. PEG as well as how to do the twice daily PICC Line cleaning with just two hands.  The only part of my care that required help from the family was wrapping my PICC Line arm in plastic bags before I bathed.  I told Travis, who helped me this AM, that the plastic bags were the most useful part of the Washington Post... The rest is ultra-liberal opinions thinly disguised as news stories.

It will be good to have the Queen return on Tuesday night, since 0830 Wednesday, 7 May is the PET/CT scan to determine whether the 35  days of radiation and the 12 days of chemo has left me cancer-free.  We should have an answer by Friday, 9 May.  An extra prayer on my behalf would be most welcome as I lie under the beams of the two scans.

Finally, I wanted to share with you a project that has dragged on for far too long but is now complete. I had all the patches and crests of every unit I served in from 1962 to 1992 mounted in . sequence from left to right, top to bottom.  This, along with the framed sets of my medals and my Father's medals, now make one piece of framed military memorabilia each for Chris, Samantha and Matt when I am gone.  Who gets what will be up to the three of them to work out.

Thanks again for all your prayers and support. I need and can feel all of them.  As my sister-in-law, Linda, said "The first hundred years are the hardest..." Amen!

I'll see you on the high ground!