Post # 27 05302020

For the past few months, I have been noticing new tumor growth on Spiritdog’s lower jaw and right rear leg, the exact same locations of the original tumors treated with radiation in May, 2019. Subsequent biopsies of both locations confirmed the recurrence (or continuance) of sarcomas. So, sorry to say, the result of treating him with both radiation and fenbendazole has been quite disappointing.

And it is what it is.

I decided to do palliative radiation at the Michigan State University Small Animal Clinic consisting of five treatments, each one a week apart, beginning with last Thursday. The goal is to provide him with more pain free time at a cost of ~ $3000. Is it worth it? Today he acts like a normal healthy middle aged dog, so, for me, the hope of keeping him that way longer makes it a yes.

After the radiation treatments, I will also look into some form of additional treatment even including chemotherapy if I can find a modality that offers minimal side effects with extended quality of life. Maybe metronomic chemotherapy using either cytoxan or Palladia, perhaps alternating it with fenben, perhaps not, or ….. something else?

How am I dealing with this turn of events? Like any human being, I bounce back and forth. I try to follow Spiritdog’s example, living in the present, saturated with appreciation, gratitude and the joy of being with him. In this present, he is acting like a perfectly healthy dog. And sometimes I manufacture stress by sliding into my fear of him dying, even mourning his death, creating stories about the future that obliterate being present, evaporating joy.

As a quick reminder about how our body responds to our stories, from Premier Health, (www.premierhealth.com. Feb 5, 2017): As your body perceives stress, your adrenal glands make and release the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream. Often called the “stress hormone,” cortisol causes an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure.

Fortunately, I can objectively watch myself generating stress because I take my blood pressure daily with my home monitor (usually twice, in the AM and PM). I plot the data on a graph so I can see both how my BP changes daily and over time.

So, how has my concerns about Spiritdog affected my blood pressure? Bounced it up to a higher average it seems.

I confounded my own data however because during this same time I also stopped taking one pill/day of Mukta Vati, a stress reducing herbal mixture. My “before” BP was averaging ~110/65 and when I stopped taking it (and began stressing about spirit fueled by the latest diagnosis), my BP has drifted up to ~125/80, some days lower, some days higher, with morning readings almost always lower than evening readings.

One’s blood pressure matters.

From the American Heart Association: The Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, known as SPRINT, studied more than 9,300 people older than age 50 who had high blood pressure and at least one other risk factor for heart disease. By using medicines to reduce systolic blood pressure to below 120, instead of below 140:

  • rates of heart attack, heart failure and stroke went down 30 percent; and
  • rates of death from those conditions dropped nearly 25 percent.

I could start taking MV again but am going to wait a couple more weeks to see if I can practice being more conscious of my stories and let go of those that do not serve my well being.

Everyone should have a home blood pressure monitor.

It is inexpensive, reliable and offers valuable data not only about the health of our body but also insight into the workings of our brain.

Post #26 05032020

To re-cap, I had finally reached a state of mind that results in a reduced stress level as measured by my blood pressure, now routinely 120/80 or less, without relying on cigarettes or any other drug.

How did I do that?

An insight comes to mind from the Est Training (now Landmark Forum) I attended so long ago (1980).  The punch line to that four day training was simple, startling: Life is empty and meaningless! The point being that it is up to each one of us to create meaning…… every day, in every moment.

And, a companion insight offered by Seth, as channeled by Jane Roberts, taken from The Nature of Personal Reality.

You are given the gifts of the gods,
you create your reality
according to your beliefs.
Yours is the creative energy
that makes your world.
There are no limitations to the self
except those you believe in.

Finally, there is the excerpt from my own book (11 Life Practices, practice #3, Life is Recreation):

The reality we experience is always personal and subjective.

About this we have no choice. It is the way our sensory system/brain is designed.

We could call this one of the rules governing this reality.

Rather than resist this feature of our reality, we do well to embrace it and use it to our advantage. Because we are creative beings, every moment is an opportunity to re-create new stories about ourselves, our lives and imagine new futures for ourselves.

In other words, we can’t help being story tellers. The very act of sensing reality and processing that data in our brain creates a story. It is the way we experience “reality.” However because we have created it, we also have the capacity to recreate it, i.e., to create a different story about ourselves, our current life experience.

So, returning to my high blood pressure episode, my story at the time was: the moment I completed my book, my purpose for “getting up in the morning” was gone. Suddenly I was experiencing my life as being empty and meaningless.

But (my story continues) I am a goal driven being. What do I do when I no longer have a goal?

After suffering in this anxiety driven state of mind, “wringing my hands” for several weeks, I suddenly (and accidentally) discovered I had super high blood pressure. This turned out to be a gift, a startling wake up call.  Once I realized I had HBP after a lifetime of normal blood pressure, I dove into the research. How could this happen, I wanted to know.

What I discovered is stress is a leading cause of high blood pressure.

  1. Now I got it. The anxiety and emotional distress of losing my sense of purpose left me feeling life was, indeed, empty and meaningless. This story created stress, which generated my high blood pressure.

What is my way forward? What can I do about it?

Once again, Spiritdog was/is my savior, my teacher.

When I look into his eyes, touch his fur, in the blink of an eye I lurch out of the past/future, into  being now-here, where joy lives. He wakes me up! He does for me what meditation can do, or sometimes the sun breaking over the trees on the eastern horizon, or sunlight shimmering across the surface of the lake, can do. But Spiritdog is highly reliable and always available. He, himself, is always in this space of being in every moment, and he is always at my side.

Being now-here, being, itself, is enough reason for appreciation, gratitude and joy he says without speaking.

The way forward is being now –here, he says without speaking.

When we are being now-here, the need for stories disappears. So do the stories themselves.

So the safe place in any storm is being now – here, returning us to joy.

 

And I love being goal oriented, having a sense of purpose. I don’t need to give this up; I can simply put my doing where it belongs, in the context of being. I can recognize I am whole and complete, with or without goals, that life is whole and complete as it is without me adding any of my stuff to it. And I can also pay attention, notice opportunities that offer me the possibility of making a difference, of contributing to the whole, that excite my passion ….. and show up by pouring my energy into actualizing them (practice #6 in 11 Life Practices).

Earlier in life I did this by practicing engineering, solving technical problems, and toward being an activist, doing what I could to solve this problem or that one, and later it was toward supporting groups of people in becoming high performance teams. In this later phase of my life, my passion has been devoted to writing. I wrote books, Dianna’s Way, then 11 Life Practices and now it is to write this, right now, right here. More fundamentally, writing has been a thread throughout my life, a way for me to explore my own personal reality.

But, none of this replaces being now-here, drenched in appreciation, gratitude, and joy. It is simply the content of my life that is fun to do.

So, as I see it, the way to handle stress on a day to day basis without using drugs, whether cigarettes, weed, or Prozac, is twofold:

  1. Practice being now-here.
  2. Be patient, paying attention to opportunities for contributing to the whole. Then show up!

Summarizing, life is bound to be up and down, exciting and boring, challenging and sleep inducing, projects start and end, careers begin and end. But no matter how things are going in the plan b) category, our back up is always the capacity to avail ourselves of plan a). No matter what we are up to in life, if we always nurture the capacity to be now-here, and practice it (why it is practice #1 in Life Practices), we are going to be OK.

 

 

 

 

 

Post #25 03272020 Results of Campaign to Reduce High Blood Pressure

I have achieved my BP goal of 120/80 (currently ~110-120/60-70) and without wild swings.

I have learned some variation is normal. In fact, my research says to take at least 2, better 3 readings on my home monitor each time I take readings, then discard the first one, which will usually be significantly higher (I have found this to be true) and count the succeeding readings as valid, and average them.

Importantly, I have also eliminated both Losartan and Amlodipine and, after a two week period of time, eliminated the single morning capsule of Mukta Vati (MV) as well.

It has taken me 3-4 months but I am finally medication free with normal blood pressure, as I was last November before I quit smoking cigarettes.

By the way, the claim for MV is it can, with some months of use, actually cure HBP. Is this true? Have no idea.  But, since western meds promise lifetime dependence and since my goal is to get off ALL meds, I decided to continue with MV a while longer. Now, whether due to MV or something else, my blood pressure has returned to normal.

It’s worth noting there is a key difference between these eastern and western drug options.

Our body produces a surge of hormones when we are feeling stressed or anxious. These hormones temporarily increase our blood pressure by causing our heart to beat faster and our blood vessels to narrow. If we are in a continual state of stress, this condition then persists, resulting in hypertension as a health condition (HBP).

Mukta Vati (reportedly) acts to reduce our feelings of stress, thus preventing the hormone surge that constricts our blood vessels from occurring in the first place; the result, no HBP. Western HBP drugs, on the other hand, simply open/relax the blood vessels being constricted in various ways through chemical means. They do nothing to reduce the feelings of stress, itself.

So the former is treating the “cause” of blood vessel restriction while the latter is treating the “symptom.”  Both work but in different ways.

But I say “cause” because the hormonally generated stress going on in my body is not the root cause of my HBP. Whatever is creating my feelings of stress is the root cause. Based on my own insight into what my mind is up to, I have concluded the root cause of my stress is the story about my life circumstances that I, myself, created, and then interpreted/experienced as being stressful.

This suggests that it is our mind that generates our physical condition. While, I am going to say this is true this time, is this always true? Maybe. But I’m not going to claim that here.

Even if it is true that my mind is the source of my stress and its effects, I still need to find a healthier, interim way to manage stress than smoking cigarettes until I can sort out what I am creating and why. Maybe this is the backup role MV will play in my life going forward because there are bound to be periods of high stress in any life, even in a life well lived. For sure we all need stress management tools to get us through rough patches in life to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke or other serious physical damage.

Some people resort to alcohol or illegal drugs, or stay within the law with anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and/or other legal drugs. Others use marijuana or CBD oil. And, of course, western HBP medications chemically open the blood vessels to reduce BP. But, with no judgment intended, my ultimate goal is to learn how to use my own mind/body/soul to naturally reduce stress while using MV as an interim aid (weeks, months at most). Without using any other drugs at all.

In other words, I can use MV to deal with the weather of my life (periodic upsets) but I want to manage the climate of my life by creating new, healthier, life sustaining, joyful stories about myself, my life, stories consistent with experiencing meaning, fulfillment, and satisfaction (so naturally reducing stress).

Meanwhile, since I have the home monitor, might as well make use of it by maintaining a daily log of my BP measurements, taking it several times a day. I want to see how it changes, what BP range I am living with, what activities affect it, up or down. It has become an invaluable tool for tracking my experiments in managing stress.

I learned something else too. Another reason for using a home BP monitor on a regular basis is HBP is a silent killer usually without any symptoms at all. So the monitor has become an elegant way to check on my level of stress that costs almost nothing. (The Omron unit I own cost $50).

Now that I have eliminated my drug dependence, first cigarettes, then HBP medications, and finally MV, while living with a normal BP, I will examine the story I have created about myself and my life in my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post #24 02282020

To recap, I quit smoking cigarettes in early December. After 80+ years of life with a normal 120/80 blood pressure or lower, in less than three months (November 2019 to January 2020) it inexplicably skyrocketed to 170-180/100-140 accompanied by almost daily headaches, lousy sleep and brain fog – not to mention gaining 20 pounds (I was within 10 pounds of my target weight too).

Why?

My doctors (family doctor, pulmonary specialist, and cardiologist) had no idea.

But I think I know why.

Increased stress is one common cause of HBP, and the only one that makes any sense for me, given my circumstances.

Like anyone else, I have my own basket of worries/stressors: Spiritdog having cancer, spending too much money, worry about running out of it before I die, the car broke down again, my DVD player won’t work, blah blah blah.

But my biggest psychological shift came in November when I went from working on my book to completing the book. My focus, purpose, means to contribute to others, evaporated. Suddenly, I was without purpose. It was as if I retired from work I loved only to come face to face with a deep sense of emptiness. What to do with my life?

But it gets worse. In the past, regardless of whatever stresses I happened to be dealing with, cigarettes have always provided me with a reliable everyday go to tool for handling it (though I did not realize tobacco was fulfilling this role in my life). Suddenly I had no tools at all.

So, as I see it, I have created a story about my life (no purpose, et. al.) that makes me feel anxious, stressed. Medically this stress acts to constrict my blood vessels, producing high blood pressure. And I am bereft of my lifelong tool (tobacco) for handling it.

Let’s assume this is all true. What do I do now?

  1. My most immediate action must be to reduce life threatening HBP ASAP. (HBP increases risk of heart attack and stroke significantly). The quickest way I see of doing this is HBP drugs to replace the drug I used to use, tobacco.

 

My doctor prescribed Lovastan (L), a Western HBP medication and I learned, through a friend, about an Eastern HBP medication called Mukta Vati (MV). It is an ancient herbal mixture routinely used in the east for HBP.

 

With my doctor’s knowledge and concurrence, I began taking both to see if I can get my BP down to my goal of 120/80. By 2/28/20, my BP has gradually dropped from ~ 150/90 to ~ 120/70, which is good. But, inexplicably, the daily BP variation can be as high as 30 points in my systolic pressure and 15 points in my diastolic pressure, considerably greater than it should be – a mystery.

 

When I reported these swings to the cardiologist I was sent to for follow up testing, he added a prescription for 5 mg of Amlodipine (A) to supplement the 50 mg of Losartan (L) and the 4 capsules/day of Mukta Vati (MV) I was already taking.

 

(By the way, after running an EKG on me, he declared I must have had a heart attack in the past as he could see heart damage. I told him I could not recall any episode of heart pain unless it would be when my wife died, breaking my heart. He looked at my quizzically and we moved on. I subsequently cancelled all the tests he had scheduled – stress test, echocardiogram, chest X-ray, pulmonary function test, blood work. Why do all this stuff in a hospital when at least half the people are already sick, it is still flu season, here comes the corona virus, and me with COPD? I will do it all when the flu season blows over.)

 

I decided to follow my own drug protocol, given I now had a home BP machine to track my BP daily, even hourly. I did not want to add A, another drug, further confusing my body and the data too. How can I know which drug it doing what while taking three of them at the same time?

 

So, instead of adding A, I substituted it for L on 3/1 instead. I also dropped MV from 4 to 3 capsules/day. I did this because my average BP readings had been dropping into the 110-140/60-80 range during the 3/2 to 3/13 period. When my BP stayed in the 120/70 range, I stopped taking A all together and reduced MV from 3 to 2 capsules/day on 3/13. Now I was down to only MV.

 

I could do all this drug manipulation and modification because I have a home BP monitor, taking readings 2-3 times/day and, like any good engineer, recording the data on a running graph so it is easy to see how things are treading.

 

As of 3/16/20, my BP has been running in the 110-120/60-70 range. I have cut my MV back to one capsule/day. If this trend continues, will discontinue it completely and will have achieved my goal of being off all BP drugs.

 

I still have two concerns: a) my daily systolic pressure can still swing 10-15 points and my diastolic ~10 points. No answer for this as yet, and b) need to make sure my home machine is giving me good numbers. So will bring it in to compare to my doctor’s equipment soon.

 

So, why has my BP dropped back to my historical normal?

 

Will explore this question in my next post.

Post #23 02092020

Since I quit smoking on 12/2/2019 I have had a miserable two months of lousy sleep, periodic headaches, a sense of despair (even though my physical life is, quite frankly, one of relative ease and abundance compared to so many others suffering all over the world). Then I (accidentally) discovered I have inordinately high blood pressure! My frequent headaches are a symptom of HBP but I did not know that. Besides, BP is supposed to go down when one quits smoking!

On the positive side, my lungs do appear happy with the change, almost no phlegm, no coughing. Saving money with no trips to the tobacco shop, no shivering out in the garage while smoking in the winter (in past 25 years, have never smoked a cigarette inside my house) and no time wasted on rolling cigarettes or smoking them either. (Although hand rolling cigarettes can sometimes be experienced as a form of meditation.)

However, peeking into an unknown future, I would rather die the slow death of COPD (but still able to choose if and when to end it myself) than the possible sudden incapacitation of a heart attack or, much worse, a stroke that might suddenly steal my capacity/agency to make choices. I do NOT want to spend my life or money on a nursing home, nor on expensive end of life medical expenses. I have already purchased my long term care plan for $700, a well made .38 revolver and a box of metal jacketed bullets. (They don’t sell them individually.)

In any case, my goal is to get my BP down to a safe level.

After some research, I learn the principle causes of HBP are:

Smoking. (This is contraindicated for my situation given my BP was normal a month before I quit and sky high afterwards.)

Being overweight or obese. (I am a bit overweight but the same weight I was when my BP reading was normal only 3 months ago)

Lack of physical activity. (Walk my dog twice/day + do aerobics on an elliptical at home alternating with weight training- not in shape to do a marathon but not a slug either – same as I was 3 months ago)

Too much salt in the diet. (My diet is unchanged from three months ago and don’t eat processed food, the source of most dietary salt.)

Too much alcohol consumption (meaning more than 1 to 2 drinks per day) (I drink very little)

Stress. (Interesting possibility!)

Older age. (I am only 3 months older than I was when my blood pressure was normal!)

Genetics (have the same genes now I had three months ago!)

The possibility of stress being the source of my HBP got me to reflecting on my life.

I finished my book in November, quit smoking in December.

For the past five years, my principle daily motivation was writing the book. I would get up in the morning; eagerly go to my journal, my Morning Pages (this title taken from the excellent book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) and write 2, 3, 4, sometimes even 5 pages in my 8 1/2X 11 notebooks. I so looked forward to this, perhaps my favorite part of the day. I loved to write there in the garage at my work bench, in silence (Spiritdog still snoozing), armed with a hot cup of coffee and a cigarette or two or three. For me, it was Heaven on earth. Pure joy.

It is not a stretch to say that my latest book, 11 Life Practices/An Old Man’s Stories of Light, Love, Joy, was first imagined, and put down on paper (using my beloved Pentel Artist’s pen, 0.4 mm thickness) in my journal. Then, after meditating, walking Spiritdog, doing my daily exercise, the next few hours were devoted to converting those insights and revelations into readable copy on my computer.

When I get up in the morning now, I am lucky if I can fill a single page of my journal. No cigarettes, but no ideas or excitement either. Some days, I literally have nothing to say at all. There is nothing exciting to fill up my morning, or day, either. Tasks here and there of course, errands now and then but …………

 

So, here is my story:

My daily life has been tipped over, spilling away the meaning in my life. Now I understand why I have gone into an emotional tailspin.

Suddenly, my life feels empty and meaningless. I feel anxious, even despondent, at a loss with what to do with myself. The fun, satisfaction, thrill of creating something new has disappeared from my experience. What am I to do with me, my energy, my time? No surprise that my stress level has skyrocketed.

At the same time, my lifelong way of relieving stress is gone. My cigarettes!

When my wife, Dianna died, I was in a similar situation. I went from being married to an amazing woman, and having the honor of being her caregiver 24 hours/day to, in a single moment, having no one, suddenly without a purpose for being. Yet, throughout the subsequent years of grieving and sorting out my life, my blood pressure remained absolutely normal. I was smoking in those days.

In contrast, during this stressful period, my BP has gone from lifelong readings of 120/80 or less, to 160-190/100-160 when untreated with medication. So, today, I am taking 50 mg/day of Losartan and my average BP is still 140-170/80-90; better but still not good. Of course, the dose can be increased. BUT, I am not willing to accept lifelong HBP medications to achieve something I had naturally without drugs only three months ago.

So, where do I go from here to find my way back to normal BP without medication?

Post #22 02022020

Since quitting smoking on 12/2/2019, my approach is to take it one day at a time, recognizing that each day I can find a different way to respond to life events (a phone call, capping off dinner, having a beer, etc…) that used to trigger a cigarette I am re-wiring my brain for living life without tobacco.

Summarizing some sage advice from others who have traveled this road already:

Every smoke-free day I complete I am teaching myself how to live my life without cigarettes. Bit by bit, I’m re-wiring my brain, reprogramming my responses to daily events that trigger the urge to smoke by choosing something other than smoking when the urge surfaces.

Over the course of my first smoke-free year, I’ll encounter – and have a chance to clear – most of the events and situations (triggers) in my daily life that I have associated with smoking.

Practice is a necessary part of recovery from nicotine addiction. There is no getting around it, so try to relax and let time help me. I built my smoking habit through years of practice, and now I must build the nonsmoking me in the same way. The more practice I put between myself and that last cigarette I smoked, the stronger I’ll become.

Nobody said it would be easy.

On the other hand, when I look around the world and see what others are enduring, it puts my petty whining in perspective.

Time for me to Buck Up (practice #10 in my book), Lighten Up (practice #11)

Then, on 1/17/2020, a shocking turn of events.

While in a CVS pharmacy to get a shingles vaccine, I checked out my blood pressure on their store BP monitor. My blood pressure has always been normal and the last check up at my doctor’s office on 10/29/2019 was 117/74. I expected about the same this time so I could not believe my eyes when all three times I checked it, that CVS machine gave readings in the 190+/160+ range!!!!!

A couple of days later, I had my BP checked at my doctor’s office: 168/100!!! Still ridiculously high. The next day, for the first time in my life, I started taking a high blood pressure medication (losartan, 50 mg/day).

I also immediately purchased a home BP monitor on Amazon (Omron, recommended by my doctor, cost $50, and so far, am very happy with how it works, ease of use, though have yet to compare the results to the doctor’s machine, and durability is unknown.)

Unfortunately, during the two weeks since taking the medication, my blood pressure has stayed in an unacceptably high range – 145-180/90-100 – and the readings are erratic (the machine or reality – have no way of knowing yet anyway) so will be seeing the doctor again in a couple of days.

Besides, one’s blood pressure should go down when one quits smoking (smoking constricts blood vessels), not up.

So, what is going on?

Post #21 01152020

In my last post, I brought up the emotional turmoil I was feeling since I quit smoking on 12/2/2019.

How to describe it?

Periodic, almost daily, headaches (before this, I have had probably 5 headaches in my entire life), a discouraging absence of passion to do anything. No motivation, no focus, no enthusiasm. The opposite of how I usually feel about life, how I greet each day.  Worst of all, the quality of my sleep, which has almost always been excellent, has fallen off a cliff. Drifting in and out, most of the night, waking up still tired.

This all came as a complete surprise to me. I had no plan whatsoever for dealing with it.

On top of the emotional disorientation, which persisted through December, I hosted a family gathering for the holidays. About 2-3 days later, I began experiencing chills, lack of energy, headaches. The flu coming on? I immediately fell into taking long naps (2-3 hours), mega doses of vitamin C (3000 mg at a time, 2-3 times per day) and Echinacea 6-8 capsules/day). After 3-4 days, I began feeling better. So I have apparently dodged that bullet, whatever it was.

While physically OK again, I am still dealing with the same emotional funk.

I found the following comments while doing research into the characteristics of nicotine withdrawal:

People who have successfully quit the habit often talk about the “icky threes” of quitting. These include:

  • 3 days. The worst period of physical withdrawal. (not really that bad for me – I had spent months re-wiring my brain to not smoking prior to my quit day.)
  • 3 weeks. The time when physical withdrawal is waning and the psychological withdrawal takes over. (Oh yeah!)
  • 3 months. Sometimes referred to as “the blahs,” at 3 months post-quit-date some of the newness of quitting wears off, and some people wonder, “Is that all there is?” This is a common time for relapse to occur. (hmmmmm)

I am definitely in the last phase, an emotional state aptly named, “the blahs.”

My approach for now:

  1. So be it. This is how I feel. Be fully present to it (practice #1/ A Beginner’s Mind). In other words, do not put a happy face on it, or grin and bear it. Rather, acknowledge how I really feel, be willing to fully experience it and see if whether Werner Erhard nailed it when he said, “Whatever we are willing to fully experience disappears.” Has been true for me in the past. Will see how it goes now.
  2. Choose a more useful attitude about it all. (Practice #7, Choosing Our Attitude, in my book). Yes, the feelings I am having suck. However, each day is another day I have not responded to the million cues a smoker gets to have a cigarette by having a cigarette. Each day I am re- wiring my brain to behave as a non smoker. Each day without smoking is another success. Each day, my body, especially my lungs, are gaining time to heal, another day it is no longer under siege. Another day gifted to my body.

It is a beginning.

Post #20 01022020

Post #20 is my first post for 2020; nice symmetry.

This post also marks a shift from a 100% focus on just my dog, Spirit, to exploring other facets of my life.

 

On 12/2/2019, I smoked my last cigarette.

I smoked my first one when I was 13 years old on a cold, clear winter night in 1951. It was a Lucky Strike, snitched from the poker table where my dad and his friends were taking a break from their annual New Year holiday marathon poker session in Dearborn, Michigan.

I slipped out of the house with my single cigarette and a book of matches in my coat pocket. I can still feel that snow squeaking under my feet; see the cyclone wire fence paralleling the sidewalk, my breath puffing out into the black night air. I stopped under a street lamp to light up, then took my first ever drag.

Oooooh. Suddenly I tumbled into a wonder world. Bliss. Safer, more secure somehow, a space without sharp edges. This felt familiar to me in some diffuse, blurred way. Did I smoke in other incarnations? Did I know then what I was feeling now? That I had a new friend I could always count on to deliver, calm, peace, joy, relief, comfort, even a keener insight into life?

I never looked back.

Some 400,000 cigarettes later, I smoked my last one a month ago in a cold garage, snuggled up in my winter coat. I liked that one too. I remember liking them all save those few I smoked while suffering from one illness or another.

Why quit now, at age 81?

I have been pleasing my brain for my entire life but at the cost of abusing my body, especially my lungs. I could see the possibility of one day having to choose between breathing and smoking. I already have COPD. Not going to live my life dragging around an oxygen tank, which is why I bought a .38 last summer, paying $700 for my long term health care plan. A bargain I would say.

Still, why not do an experiment? Give my lungs a chance to some healing. See what life is like without smoking. If I don’t like it, I can always go back to it.

My process for quitting was/is elegant and simple: Pick out a date a few months away, occasionally remind myself I am quitting, and when exactly, and why exactly. I was giving myself plenty of time to practice re-wiring my brain so on “that day” I would already see myself as a non smoker. There were times during these months I was anxious for the day to come. I was already feeling like a non smoker.

When “that day” arrived, I quit cold turkey. It was easy. Since then, I hardly think about smoking – to be generous, maybe it has surfaced as a momentary desire a half dozen times during the past month.

I did buy some licorice candy and licorice root (to chew on) because I had heard it helps with cravings. Maybe it does. I like the root best, no sugar plus it provides oral satisfaction while chewing on the root. Nice.

What has not been easy at all, however, is the emotional turmoil I have been experiencing ever since. Ouch!

No energy, no motivation, no focus, no desire. Lousy sleep during the night so wind up taking long naps during the day too. And in the past couple of days, coming down with …. something. Chills, coughing, feeling delicate, vulnerable. I am devouring thousands of milligrams of Vitamin C, Echinacea.

So this is where I am at today.

There is always tomorrow.

Well, usually.

Post #19 12092019

About two weeks ago, discovered another lump on Spirit’s left rear leg (he had a lump/soft tissue sarcoma on his right rear leg that was treated with surgery and radiation and so far, has not noticeably recurred). A needle biopsy showed this small lump to be non-cancerous, and consisting of inflamed tissue.

My suspicion/gut feeling is this is may be another location where cancer is attempting to get started.

Also, the lump in his jaw bone persists. Not getting bigger but not getting smaller either. This could be  a) residual dead tissue remaining from the radiation treatments he had to this location in May or b) persistent cancer in the bone of the jaw.

The veterinary oncologist recommended a wait and see approach about all of it and I basically agree – with the added provision I believe in hoping for the best but planning for the worst; which is to say, continue to treat him as if he has cancer.

So I have upped the dose of fenbendazole from 145 mg/day to 222 mg/day (the amount a 150 human would take for cancer treatment) and will do another liver health check in early January, 2020 to make sure he is handling the higher dose. If the liver is showing any signs of stress, I will drop back to the lower dose. There is no “correct dose” of course – all the uses reported in both humans and animals are anecdotal. No one knows. Given that the side effects seem to be so minimal (none noticeable in Spirit to date after three months of use), a higher dose seems worth the try.

I have also added Metatrol and Immpower, both products produced by American Biosciences to Spirit’s daily meal. I give him one capsule of each per day with his food.  (By the way, Metatrol and Metatrol Pro have identical ingredients – just a packaging/labeling difference). There is some science and quite a few scientific studies that support the supposition that the former helps fight cancer by strengthening the immune system detect and destroy cancer cells and the latter helps strengthen the immune system in general. Neither product claims to cure cancer.

American Biosciences also makes an Immpower for dogs called NK-9; it is the same product only provided in 250 mg capsules whereas Immunpower is packaged in 500 mg capsules. Since Spirit weighs 90 pounds, he would get 2 capsules of NK-9 anyway, which is the Immpower dosage – and is somewhat less expensive to buy this way.

As to Spirit, he is still doing extremely well in terms of appetite, energy and attitude – acts like a 2 year old when we are out walking.

The name of this game is to buck up, stick to the program and watch for ways to improve our game.

Post #18 11042019

Today marks a full two months Spiritdog has been on the fenben (fenbendazole) chemotherapy treatment. I have been charting the daily dose given (always between 600-650 mg of Panacur C, which contains 22% fenben, so delivers ~ 140-150 mg of fenben). I am also paying close attention to his behavior/response to treatment.

What I record on a monthly chart each day is his energy level, appetite, stool consistency as well as note anything else that is unusual.

So far, so good. His energy level is excellent, his appetite great and stools have been mostly firm. The only hiccup in this regard is I began adding turmeric (mixed in a coconut oil with a bit of black pepper, which is supposed to help with turmeric adsorption in the body) and began with too much – probably a full heaping tablespoon in his dog food and his stools became soft, ill formed. His body could not process the change that rapidly.

So, I stopped giving him turmeric all together to give him a breather. That was about a week ago and his stools are gradually becoming better formed. In another week, if all is well, I will give it another try but with maybe a ¼ teaspoon and slowly build up to perhaps a tablespoon each day. Will see how it goes.

Stepping back from all this, what I am engaged in here is what could be called “bucking up,” meaning staying in the game for the long haul, doing what needs to be done day in day out, doing the work that it takes to meet a challenge and see it through to its ultimate conclusion. Bucking up is one of the practices in my new book, 11 Life Practices/An Old Man’s Stories of Light, Love, Joy, headed for publication sometime around the end of this year.

This effort to support Spirit in healing his cancer is my current opportunity to practice “bucking up.”

Another, not so obvious optional quality of bucking up is cheerfulness. It is one thing to trudge along in a long term effort weighted down by a sense of obligation, or perhaps even resentment if one is feeling forced to do what needs to be done. It is quite another to buck up with a smile in our hearts and a capacity to have fun with it, even having a sense of humor about it all (which alludes to another life Practice I have called Lightening Up).

When we can adopt an attitude (another of the Life Practices I have termed, Choosing our Attitude, choosing one that best suits whatever situation we are facing) that includes cheerfulness, our staying power is magnified enormously. Instead of a feeling that we are trudging through Jell-O, we are, instead, engaged in doing what Love does (another one of the Life Practices). We feel joy in our hearts as we go about the work, which now feels like an opportunity rather than a burden.

This is how I feel about supporting Spirit through his journey with cancer, not unlike the journey I took while supporting Dianna in her 17 year struggle with cancer (what my first book, Dianna’s Way was about).

So, why am I getting to do this journey again?

My sense is to practice doing what Love does by supporting one I love as they go through a rough patch helping them create and experience the best life they can live. Unsurprisingly, this allows me to create and experience the best life I can live too. What could be better, more satisfying then helping those you love live their best life?

Joy.

What I can see now is the practice of bucking up provides us with the opportunity to practice all 11 practices I have identified in my book.

Stepping back even further, choosing to be in this reality (physical form) could be looked at as our ultimate opportunity to buck up!

What better way to live our lives than being immersed in a challenge that captures our attention and energy, one that brings us all that life has to offer? Life’s blessing.