What is presented here and on subsequent pages is the chronology of a terminal illness taken from email messages exchanged between Tom and family and friends over the course of ten months. These messages convey the process, from initial shock, to fear, to hope, to acceptance of the inevitable. In the face of a difficult situation, at best, Tom was able to maintain a sense of humor.
From the outset, Tom felt a need to reach out to friends and family - to share his experience and feelings. These are selected email messages. Tom received hundreds of messages from dozens of family and friends throughout the ten month course of his illness. Not all of the messages concerned his illness. As you will note, he sparked debate and comment on several subjects. Perhaps the best consequence of his effort to reach out was that he re-connected with family members that he had lost touch with.
Tom made a conscious choice early in life that he did not want to have children. From the time of his diagnosis he expressed some dismay that his legacy, memory of his life, would be lost when his siblings passed on. He significantly underestimated his impact on his family and friends. What is not included here is any summary of the many telephone conversations that took place.
The reader should, perhaps, read the biographical articles written by Tom before proceeding to read this account. The articles can be found here.
Note: This will be a work in progress. I will post pages as I am able to assemble them and as time permits.
|Subject: Happy Hollidaze
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2005
I got your package and saw it was wrapped in a Christmasy type paper, so I set it aside. Then I got sick and was stuck at home for a few days. I got to thinking about it and realized it couldn't be a Christmas present because you know I don't do Christmas, so I opened it.
What great timing!! I watched both Dylan discs right away, the next day I watched the 60s disc. I had to return to work the next day and haven't had a chance to watch Alone in the Wilderness yet, but plan to this weekend. Thanks for the great non-Christmas gift!!! I've really enjoyed them.
It's been pretty cold here (for CA) and the fog is setting in, making for grey days. Not much rain yet but it'll be here soon enough.
I did my annual pilgrimage to the motorcycle swap meet in San Francisco last weekend and got some needed accessories for cheap.
Not much else to report for now. Just trying to survive the winter.
Hope your holidays are going well.
|Date: Sat, 7 Jan 2006 11:40:27 -0800
Subject: I've been sick
Family and Friends,
I've been out of touch for a few days. As it turns out, I've got pneumonia and went into the hospital on Monday night. I hate hospitals, and I'm not a particularly gracious patient. To make matters worse, I was forced to quit a couple of very nasty habits, which added to my irritability, so they were only too happy to grant my release wish on Friday. In between, I spent one night and day in the emergency ward, another of each on the pediatrics ward (imagine my joy at that), then the remaining time in a very remote, private room that included an extra room off the main hall that acted as a buffer to quiet my complaining voice.
I didn't make a lot of friends. By the last two days, they sent only big burly guys (mostly black or foreign) to help me, because they weren't so easily offended. I got along with them OK and one of them actually brought me a pen and paper so I could "write this shit down" for more effective complaining later.
They poked and prodded me, zapped me with x-rays, injected me with radioactive iodine and had big guys turn me on my head and beat on my side. In the process, they discovered that I have a mass that they are calling lung cancer, although it's not yet clear what type or what needs to be done about it. They inserted a long needle through my ribs and into my left lung and drew out quite a lot of fluid, both to test for malignant cells (they didn't find any), and to make it easier for me to breathe. Then I guess they ran out of ideas on how to torture me and sent me home for now. I've got follow-up appointments on Monday and Friday.
The bright side of this is that it has instilled the 'fear of god' into me and solidified my resolve to remain clear of my nasty habits. Upon returning home, I immediately gave away the carton of cigarettes I had and washed all the ashtrays in my house. I was already out of my other habitual substance as I had previously resolved to break free of it for the New Year. I feel good about all of that.
The down side, of course, is that I'm scared to death about what is to come. But because the initial results weren't so obviously bad, I'm keeping a hopeful, positive attitude.
One thing for sure, they'll want to do whatever is necessary to get me fixed up and the hell out of there ASAP.
I'll keep you all informed.
Happy New Year to all!
|To: Brother (Paul)
Date: Sun, 8 Jan 2006
How much can you tell me about what Dad had in the last few years?
It seems that some knowledge of family medical history can be an important factor in diagnosis and in considering treatment, and I'm afraid I can't recall many specifics.
It would be helpful to know as much as possible by next week.
I'm scared, brother, and I'm not even sure what I'm scared of.
Date: Jan 8, 2006
Tried to call you a few minutes ago.
We were in Shepherdstown doing the family Christmas thing. I stayed at a hotel and when I got to Eric's this morning he gave us the news. I just got home. Having trouble holding an internet connection - bad phone line - long story.
You're scared of the unknown, not being in control right now, and of your own mortality.
If you haven't already done it, the first thing to do is to find the very best oncologist in your area - although I guess I don't understand because you say the biopsy did not indicate malignancy. Anyway there's a ton of difference between facilities and docs when it comes to cancer treatment (if that's what it is). Don't screw around - locate the hospital with the best reputation for treatment (the best docs will be on staff there).
Mom had cervical cancer which wouldn't play into your genetics or so I've been told.
Dad had emphysema (sp?) and congestive heart disease. The emphysema was as much from breathing asbestos at work years ago as it was from smoking. Heart disease apparently was from smoking and family history (his mother died from heart disease).
Were were the tests done and who are you seeing for follow up?
I'll talk to you later.
From: Cindy (cousin)
Well cousin, after not contact for decades, what a note for the new year. You should be a writer as you phrase things very well. I am very sorry to hear of your illness (both physically and otherwise if you get the picture). Also, I love your frankness. What a personality you must have! I didn't realize I have a "character" for a cousin. More power to you! You and Dan, my husband, would get along great. He is a down to earth country boy who would rather be on a cycle, in the outdoors, doing "nothing" but thinking and enjoying a repast of food and spirits. He is waiting for the DAY when we can get to the mountains and be "free" of city life. With elderly parents on both sides, we do not feel we can go at this point. That is the dutiful part of being the eldest. But it is coming and WE can not wait.
Well enough about me. Where exactly do you live in CA? Tell me something about you life in the past years. I lost contact when you went west and would like to hear about your life and travels.
Glad you broke those nasty habit. You will be in my thoughts and prayers (yes, I said prayers).
|To: Eric (nephew)
Re: Response to Eric
----- Original Message -----
Subject: RE: I've been sick
Hey Tom -
I don't know about a best seller as I've led a fairly unremarkable life, peppered with some pretty funny stories I suppose, most stemming from my being somewhat oblivious to impending danger and made humorous by my unbelievably good luck. (I like to think of it as good karma) I've told many of them to your Dad over the years and some have filtered down to you in one form or another. Still, this brush with mortality has set loose a flood of memories, in no particular sequence, that I am trying to organize in my mind.
There's nothing like having a brush with your own mortality to provide you with a graphic illustration of what an idiot you are. The instant the word 'cancer' left my doctors lips, fear took the wheel and my brain dropped into hyperdrive. However, being armed with dangerously little in the way of hard data to steer my thoughts, they have instead been less like an F1 car and more like a stick tossed into a stretch of white water rapids, devoid of control, drifting and bobbing from standing wave to eddy, being sucked into the hole behind each obstacle, churned around and spit back into the mainstream in random directions. It makes it hard to construct a meaningful story.
In recent years I've come to see the meaningless of a life quickly forgotten. I believe that's what powers the drive experienced by most people to have children, to build or achieve great things or even to write great songs or novels. It's the desire to keep one's memory alive for as long as possible, because when nobody remembers your name, when nobody remembers the person you were, only then are you truly dead.
I have chosen to not have children and I've been separated from my blood family for nearly half of my life, although I've always been very proud of you and you've always been in my heart. Although I have been blessed with an incredible number of the best friends one could wish for, most are in my age group and therefore provide little in the way of an extension for my life, but any little bit is good.
To that end, I will try to recount the best, and maybe the worst of my life in an effort to let all of my friends and family know who I am. It's not that I have excessive pride in what I've accomplished or that I feel I have any great wisdom to share, in fact some will undoubtedly find things that displease them in my stories. They will not be G-rated, but rather, truthful accounts. It's just my bid for an extension to my mortal life, and somehow it makes me feel better.
I will send most of these stories to all who are dear to me. If anyone wishes to not receive them, please let me know so I can remove you from the list. If anyone wishes to share stories with me, or with the group, please feel free. If you prefer your comments be kept private, again, please tell me and I will not reply publicly. My life is tied in various ways with all of you and it's only when taken all together that the true meaning can be seen.
Date: Wed, 11 Jan 2006
(This was a response to a question inquiring when he first got sick)
I was off work 3 days before Christmas, then went back for a few days. Then 2 days before New Years and haven't been back yet.
CA has some odd rules, but I'm on state disability for now until Mar 6th.
I feel weird but keep telling myself that I'm not freeloading, I'm collecting on an insurance policy that I've paid a lot into.
No more news until Friday.
From: Mike (co-worker)
Well Hell Tom!
I've started a dozen replies to your mail and am absolutely without words. I do know that if there is anyone in this world that is due a miracle, you are very near to the top of the list. You have often been a pain the ass, but I have never met a more true soul than yours and as I get older and wiser it is that single trait that I find harder and harder to find in people around me.
Please, please keep me posted and let me know how things progress. Also keep me included in any of your ramblings, rants, insights or anything else that bubbles out while you are busy kicking this thing in the ass.
|Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2006 00:27:37 -0800
Subject:: God, I have great friends!!
This whole mortality thing was even getting to me. Considering it is a good thing to do but dwelling on it is bad.
Fortunately, a friend realized this before me and sent the following bits of wisdom, credited to George Carlin, that help put it all into perspective.
George Carlin's Views on Aging
Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions.
"How old are you?" "I'm four and a half!" You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key.
You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead.
"How old are you?" "I'm gonna be 16!" You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16!
And then the greatest day of your life . . . you become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony . . . YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!
But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're just a sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?
You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away.
Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone.
But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would!
So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.
You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!
You get into your 80s and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; "I Was JUST 92."
Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a
little kid again. "I'm 100 and a half!"
2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.
3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain idle. "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." And the devil's name is Alzheimer's.
4. Enjoy the simple things.
5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.
6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person, who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.
7. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.
8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.
9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county; to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.
10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.
AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:
And if you don't send this to at least 8 people - who cares? But do share this with someone. We all need to live life to its fullest each day!!
From: Jan (cousin)
My mom and dad told me you have been sick, and they forwarded a couple of your emails to me. I have to admit that I don’t know much about what you are doing right now except something about Toyota repair manuals. I know almost nothing about your personal life after one marriage and divorce. I spent a few months in New Castle in the fall of 2003, and I thought about you many times. It was difficult to see your old house being changed. When my parents were also in New Castle, we had lunch with Jane. But anyway, I am sorry to hear about your health.
I am presuming that my parents have given you some information about me [but perhaps not]. Anyway, John and I have four kids and one granddaughter. We are teaching in Cebu, Philippines. We are connected with . . . [a group that works] to help the Filipinos help themselves. It is alternately frustrating and rewarding. I am also working on a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language, so I stay pretty busy.
I would love to read more of
For whatever reason, I didn't receive your original "I've been sick" email. (Actually I don't know what I don't receive through the Macom Family Group--I think minimal, mainly because of all the security we have set up here. [firewalls at work])
Never the less, what's your situation? I talked to George on Tuesday, but he didn't have many details.
I would much love to talk to you in person, if that's OK with you. Please email your phone number, as I'm not sure the one I have is current.
It's now 12:45 p.m. on Saturday and I'll be leaving work in a few minutes, but I will check back tomorrow (after breakfast with weird Bob).
In the meantime...we all make choices, sometimes not such good ones, but I too, have chosen to cut myself off from the rest of the world, including my family, knowing full well that I would regret it. Please know that you may been out of my thoughts for extended periods of time, but you have never been out of my heart. And maybe I will be able to offer you some big sister wisdom as you go through your "BATTLE". Will you promise me that you will FIGHT this enemy?
Love you much,
|Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2006
Subject:: sore throat
I had the bronchoscopy(sp?) today and it wasn't as bad as I feared, but my
throat is sore. (Well, I guess . . . . !)
Anyhow, I saw the pictures and got a short explanation from the doctor.
In the left lung, there is a bronchial tube that is covered by a mass of
tissue, which explains why the left lung is considerably smaller than the
right. I am personally surprised that it isn't more ugly or diseased
looking. It simple looks like a pink tissue with blood vessels and all.
None of the other pictures of the surrounding area show anything bad, just
the one mass. They got a sample of the mass, which was sent to the lab for
examination. The results will be back on Thursday. The question of what they were seeing in the CT scans can now be
positively identified as 'cancer'. The question now is if it is of the
"small cell" or "non-small cell" type, and I will receive that information
on Thursday. Small cell tumors are treated with radiation, non-small cell
tumors are generally removed surgically. In either case, it cannot be
ignored, it must go. Yes, I'm scared but I've begun chanting to myself that I am a good
healer, I always have been, and fully I expect to recover from this. I will keep you all informed. Tom
Anyhow, I saw the pictures and got a short explanation from the doctor. In the left lung, there is a bronchial tube that is covered by a mass of tissue, which explains why the left lung is considerably smaller than the right. I am personally surprised that it isn't more ugly or diseased looking. It simple looks like a pink tissue with blood vessels and all. None of the other pictures of the surrounding area show anything bad, just the one mass. They got a sample of the mass, which was sent to the lab for examination. The results will be back on Thursday.
The question of what they were seeing in the CT scans can now be positively identified as 'cancer'. The question now is if it is of the "small cell" or "non-small cell" type, and I will receive that information on Thursday. Small cell tumors are treated with radiation, non-small cell tumors are generally removed surgically. In either case, it cannot be ignored, it must go.
Yes, I'm scared but I've begun chanting to myself that I am a good healer, I always have been, and fully I expect to recover from this.
I will keep you all informed.
From Gene (uncle)
Tom keep up the courage I am thinking of you a lot. Thinking positive helped me with both the cancer and heart by pass, it made me keep going.
I don’t know about speedy healing, but you have this going for you: the Wright clan is a group of determined—okay, stubborn—people, and as I remember you from 35 years ago (ouch!), you qualify. Please let me know when you will have the radiation or surgery and we will pray for you. (Is that okay?)
We have an American neighbor here, about 65, who just went through lung cancer with radiation and chemotherapy this past year, and he is doing well. He had the disadvantage of health care here [Phillipines] which is primarily served by doctors and nurses who have not passed any board exams. Those who pass the exams, leave the country to earn U.S. or Hong Kong dollars. You will likely meet some Filipino nurses—some of whom may have been doctors here—during your coming health care adventure.
My dad’s cancer is/was small cell. As I mentioned before, he had a part of the lung removed and chemotherapy. It’s good that you’re a good healer and try to think, chant good positive thoughts. The body knows your emotions.
Cathy, Cory and I continue to have you in our thoughts. Take things easy and try a Smith Brother’s, if they still make them.
I guess the next order of business is to introduce myself. I am married to your cousin Kate, daughter of Jim and Sally. My name is Kaustuv. We live in Richmond, Virginia.
I have been reading your emails to Uncle Gene and to my in-laws and who, in turn, have been forwarding them to us. I really enjoyed reading about your bike trip crossing the continental divide and liked reading all the mails in general, your reflection on life - your ailment notwithstanding. We all are really hoping you will recover from it soon and fully. I do not exactly know how else to offer our support in this difficult time of yours but, please let us know if we could do anything and keep in touch with us if possible.
Hopefully we will get to know each other more and please take care of yourself,
|Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2006
I used to think that if I just lived to be 80, reading and learning, even at my meeger rate, that in the end, I would be pretty damn smart.
Now I'm beginning to see that if I lived to be 200, ravenously absorbing information during every waking moment, I wouldn't have drawn a bucket of knowledge from the ocean of what there is to know.
|Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2006
This cancer stuff is pretty complex. It's not black and white like, "yes, your arm is broken and we're going to set it", it's much more complicated than that. I suppose I should have known that from hearing others talk about their experiences, but I never absorbed any of that because . . . . . . . well, because it wasn't me. There are so many things that I wish I had listened more closely to in my life. It would have saved me so much time and trouble if I could have learned more from the experience of others instead of having to do every damn thing myself.
Anyway, today I learned that what I have is small-cell cancer and what that means is that I will be treated with chemotherapy. If I had a choice, which of course I don't, I would have preferred to have them slice off a nice big hunk of lung and send me back into the game. But, that's not how this type of cancer works. The only bright spot that I can see with going the chemo route, is that I should be able to sign up for medical-grade marijuana (this is California after all) which, I hear, is pretty good stuff. *grin*
Aside from that minor perk, this is the method of treatment I fear the most, as I've seen what it does to people. However, I've also seen that it works in a fairly high percentage of cases. My hair is already pretty thin, I could stand to lose a few pounds, so what the hell, chemo it is.
The other unsettling news I got is that it has not been absolutely determined that no metastasis (spreading) has taken place. In retrospect, I should have known that instinctively because it can never be proven that something doesn't exist, it can only be said that it has not been found.
I will have my first appointment with my Oncologist (cancer doctor) next Friday. My primary care physician tells me that Dr. Wang came to Kaiser from UC Davis (this is good!) about 2 years ago, and that he is on the cutting-edge of what there is to know about cancer treatment today. Also, that he is a very nice guy, which is good I suppose, but adds nothing to my comfort level at this point in the game.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for the overwhelming support I have received through all of this. The reward I have reaped from my need to communicate my feelings with all of you is staggering. I apologize that I have not been able to answer each email of advise and support individually, but be assured I have read and appreciated every one of them enormously. I feel I must be among the luckiest people alive to have such family and friends!
Re: Fw: Hi from a relative ...
You're kinda strange, bro! *grin*
I talked to Sheila about this last night (my feelings not being strange).
I think it has to do with getting old. It's hard to explain but my memories of growing up on Scotland Lane with all the cousins, etc are exceptionally good. Obviously one can't go back in time. I hate it that we're all aging and so many (parents, aunts, uncles, etc) are gone. If I stay in my world and avoid anything that reminds me of those days, I avoid the pain.
That being said - you've established contact with a lot of people. You also have some time on your hands right now. Why don't you establish an extended family web site on Yahoo.
Thanks for the link. I've read your awesome (!!) story [Sacramento to Sturgis] and I'm printing it now to share with the boys.
I'm sorry to learn the results of your test (but, be amazed at the speed of your assessment--in New Castle, you might wait until March) and have prayed for your strength to cope with whatever the outcome.
Just a couple of mental notes for you as you proceed through your treatment. Chemotherapy, no doubt is HORRIBLE, but with your otherwise healthy condition and a positive attitude, at the other end, you'll look back and say, "so what was so bad about that"? ...or something to that affect. I could only imagine that great strides of improvement have been made to the choices of anti-nausea drugs in the last 13 years. (...and of course, you mentioned the "m" word...I can't even spell it, let alone say it!!...)
Also, it may seem minor as you read this, but your diet before and after each treatment is very important to your all over "how you feel" feeling. I'm sure that you will be given some guidance.
And lastly; keep a daily journal.
OK, so that's all the advise I'll offer today and no more, unless you ask.
From: Cindy (cousin)
Once again, I say you should have been a writer. Or maybe you are a writer and now is the time you begin to write as you can reflect on your life and lessons leaned and wisdom gained. I want to respond to your email with more thought than just a simple note, but, unlike some writers, I need some time to digest what was written. I am a psychologist and so I may look at what you have written a little different than others. As someone who knows the family and other cousins that you do not know or have lost contact with, I am trying to find a thread to all the behaviors that we have encountered in our lives. It is funny that your email came today, a day when I have been thinking a lot about my life and what I have done with it. With the kids gone, Dan and I have become empty nesters, which we are enjoying. However, I wonder if I did the right thing when raising the kids. So the questions began and was multiplied when I needed to located paperwork from years past for Erick. The pictures, love notes from a preschooler, pressed flowers and again, the pictures make one wonder where did the time go and has my life really meant something to anyone. I guess it is the why am I here syndrome. However, we do what we can do and pray we made the correct decisions.
As always, I relish your emails. I know you are going through so much and even though we are miles apart and have not been in touch in decades, I am praying for you. For your health, peace of mind, and healing. Keep writing. And I will respond as I ponder your thoughts.
Thanks, once again, for your thoughts, Cindy.
I would love to 'be a writer', in the sense that I have plenty of opinions (*grin*) and I like telling stories, and it would be nice if I could make a living doing so. I've never pursued it because I have to feel very passionate about a subject, I would not be able to write about any subject on demand. Of course, subject matter doesn't seem to be an issue right now as my mind is whirling in 20 directions constantly, but it's all pretty personal stuff. I still find it very hard to believe that anyone would take much interest in, or attach much significance to, anything I have to say. But the responses I'm getting, some from people I don't even know, are making me reconsider that belief. I've got an email thread going with (nephew) Eric right now where I've asked him to help me understand how I might be able to make a living doing this stuff (website, blog, etc). I have to do it for myself anyway, but I'm not opposed to making a buck doing so, I just don't know how.
I will definitely continue writing, because I have to, and will always welcome your feedback, and your prayers.
From: Jim (Uncle)
Tom: My response to your writing is you do very good telling your life experience. The writings are very interesting. You should consider writing a book or diary for others to read.
I assume you are talking about my father and his alcohol problems. Being a small man it did not take much to put him in a drunken state, at least as he got older. I could tell you some stories, as I am sure Uncle Gene could, of chasing all over town to see which bar he was at and try to get him home so he would be able to go to work the next day and or not spend his pay on payday but have some left over for food etc. I joined the Moose Club when I came home from the service so I could get in the door to bring him home. After I was 21 and a civilian they did not allow me in there. Why? Just a rule that nonmembers were not allowed I guess. Many an evening was spent at the gas station [where Granddad did the bookkeeping] waiting for him to close so I could take him home. We always had to stop for him to have one beer but I would fuss at him if he ordered the second as it would be very hard to get him to go home. I am sure your mother seen him at his worse at times which was not nice and women of today would of left him because of his actions. But even despite this my Mother loved him as I still do even today.
We have love for you even though we do not understand what you have done with smoking drugs etc. You are family and Sally and I love all our family. We have you in our prayers each day. Your father was a true brother to me as much as my blood brothers and I loved him. I still miss your mother and father!!
As to smoking tobacco I never had a big habit but enjoyed a pipe full on occasion. Especially when I was on the ship!
Love to you from Uncle Jim and Aunt Sally
|To: Jim (Uncle)
Uncle Jim and Aunt Sally,
Thank you so much for your response. I know that there are elements of my stories that you will not understand and will not like, however I did not want to feel the need to edit my life experiences for those who mean the most to me. It is the sum of all those experiences that have made me who I am, and it is that which I am trying to convey. Thank you so much for seeing through the parts of which you don't approve, taking interest in them, and continuing to love me anyway.
You know, I loved Grandpa too, I thought he was a very great man. Mom told me horror stories of drunkeness, but she also told me about his public-speaking abilities, that he was a great thinker, a phrenologist and many other good things about him. She hated alcohol but loved her father deeply.
My favorite memory of Grandpa is from when he was living in the trailer between Uncle Harry's house and ours, following Grandma's death. I was playing catch against the garage wall and missed a grounder, which rolled over next to the trailer window. I saw Grandpa sitting inside and asked him what he was doing. He showed me a volume of an encyclopedia that he was reading . . . cover to cover! Then he said something that I've never forgotten, "I remember when the Wright brothers flew their airplane. Now they have sent a man into space. That's a very long time to live".
Although the thought was sad in a way, what fascinated me, and cemented him in my mind as a very great man, was that he was still reading the encyclopedia and trying to learn more, even as he was preparing to die. It made him one of my heroes for the rest of my life.
PS: I was very surprised to receive an email that said "Hi from a relative". It was from Kaustuv, introducing himself, expressing his appreciation of my writing and his concern for my condition. To receive such an email from someone that I don't even know just floored me. I'm very happy for Kate to have such a thoughtful partner.
Re: Web site
The whole idea is pretty new to me, so I guess I'm not sure what I want. Maybe trying to answer this will clarify it for both of us.
I have kept pretty much every email I've written about the Harley since I bought it, as sort of a journal, and I've considered making a website based around that for some time.
Now I'm writing about a lot of different stuff, mostly personal, as you know, because I have to. It's important to me that I write it, all of it, but it may not be so important to everyone to read all of it. In fact, I'm sure there are some in my group who would prefer not to read about certain aspects of my life. I try to write an accurate subject line so that those people can skip over certain subjects. So I've been thinking that if I had a web presence, interested parties could come to the site and read what they want, and I wouldn't have to stuff their inboxes so much.
Another aspect is monetary. Like I said, I'm writing to my friends and my family because I have to. It's hard for me to imagine that any of this would hold any interest for anyone who doesn't know me. But I keep getting feedback indicating that this is not necessarily the case. I've gotten email from several people that I don't know, who have had my email forwarded to them from group members, telling me how much they enjoy my writing. That is indicating to me that there may be elements of what I have to say that other people would find interesting or useful (for some reason). I am not writing any of this for monetary gain, but if I could find a way to make money from it, so much the better. It would help me realize my dream of being able to live on my Hawaiian property.
So, Ive got this raw body of work, on many different subjects, and more pouring out of me every day, it seems. I guess my question is, how can I make the best use of it?
I don't know much about html coding (I've hand coded one small html file to see how it works), and I know what FTP stands for and (I think I know) that Firefox (and I think IE) have plug-in clients for that purpose, or seperate programs can be downloaded. However, I happen to have some spare time and some motivation to learn more about both at this point, so what I know about those subjects right now isn't an issue.
What do you think?
|Date: Mon, 23 Jan 2006 08:42:44 -0800
Subject: Emailing: Lung.Small.Cell.Cancer.htm
At the risk of being labeled a radical anti-smoking evangelist (or someting similar *grin*) this page gives the most concise explanation of the relationship of lung cancer to smoking, and the most compelling reasons to quit, regardless of how long you've already smoked, that I've found. Please share this with any smokers that you know.
SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER
General Information about the Lungs:
To: Mailing List
I've long been perplexed by the existence, and what appears to be an increasing frequency, of homosexuality. It's not that I hate or fear people who claim to be born with those tendencies, but I have an instinctive disbelief of that concept based on simple observation. Whether you believe in God, Darwinian evolution of intelligent design, the existence in all creatures of a fundamental drive to reproduce one's self, which on a larger scale corresponds to a drive to insure the survivability of your species, is undeniable. Considering only mammals for the moment, that drive can only be realized through male/female couplings. From that perspective, in-born homosexuality makes no sense to me since following such a 'natural' instinct would undermine that reproductive drive. Yet, the ever-increasing, but impossible to substantiate, claims that many historically significant people were gay not withstanding, the number of people claiming to be naturally pre-disposed to homosexuality seems to be increasing rapidly since the final decades of the last century.
Roman Catholics believe that the final realization of reproduction, at least of the human species, is in the hands of God, and therefore the use of contraceptives are forbidden as they interfere with His plan.
COULD IT BE that homosexuality is God's way, either by direct manipulation or intelligently designed evolutionary guidelines, of curbing the effects of human over-population which threaten to render the planet unable to support life? If so, should we, or specifically should the Roman Catholic church, encourage it?
From: Duke (long time friend)
Homosexuals, reproduction, perpetuation of the species via the instinctual drives embedded in us all! Too much for me to fathom with my rational mind which has significant limitations and prejudices. I try to dimenisonalize this perpetual complexity via segmentation. How many varieties of a species exist within the species? Many, many, many. Therefore it is not unreasonable for me to think that there could be, genetically created homosexuals.
I think that there are more of them today simply because of the explosion of the population. In all probability the ratios of heterosexuals to homosexuals is the same as it ever was. Just with the increase in population and society ambivalence and recognition of instead of condemnation of that variety of the species makes it seem more prevalent. Interesting thesis for someone to prove.
What perplexes me though are bi-sexuals. I guess if you stick to my theory of how and why homosexuals exist then the same should be rational for bi-sexuals. Anyway, the psychological nature of their behavior still perplexes me on both fronts. Are they driven genetically to respond to those drives to the opposite sex, same sex? Or are they simply twisted mentally or behaviorally which is a function of some genetic mutation? Oh, Oh, I just said the unthinkable. Mutation. Obviously, not the tolerant thing to say.
None the less, Tolerance to accept, and even appreciate this species or subspecies (pretty prejudicial) is part of the human experience and our responsibility if we want to not destroy the world from wars or decisions to play God and attempt to purify the species through genocide.
Look at what Hitler accomplished in a few short years!!! That certainly controlled the population of the world and made us extremely scientific and efficient in destroying one another.
So much for my ideas. A little prejudicial, but I am what I am and I know I don't know much. In fact, I confuse myself more easily each day with thinking about such things.
On Gravity and its effects. I will save that for another day.
I will leave you with one thought though. What is time? Is it something we created to dimensionalize our existence? Is it a reality or a perpetuality?
[Part of this message has been edited out]
By the way: Who is Eric Macom? What is the Macom website? Are these people I should know? I feel so out of touch..
And I have wondered how some of your notes are affecting some of the older family members. I know Dad loves getting your letters and is concerned about your health. They really do care. As for me, your mom was a very important person in my life. Not that we agreed all the time, but she was helpful in giving me perspective on issues that were new to me after we were married. After all, we named our daughter after her. So after years of being out of touch it is so nice to reconnect. I just wish it was under better circumstances. But isn't that how it usually is - it takes an event to give us perspective and to realize what is really important.
Love and prayers,
Thanks for the reply. I was hoping you would get an honest response for all. People need to be real and express feelings and not hide. You know from your psychology that most things happen due to something that triggers feelings. By expressing these feelings and fears we can deal with how we feel. I was just wondering about the others as I know there are some real conservatives in our family. I am glad to hear, even if disowned for a while, we come around accept our family.
By the way, this is cool. I can not tell you how much getting to know you means to me. We did have some good times as kids. Remember we too rolled down the hill behind your parents house when we were little and did all sorts of exploring. Fun stuff. My am I old.
|Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006
Subject: a letter from a friend
This letter speaks for itself.
My name is Sandy Cooper, my husband is Dave. We have been together since 1972. We love and respect each other beyond words, although Dave loves to irritate me more than anything, and anyone else he can. This letter is to tell you a little about ourselves because, when allowed, we will be Tom's care givers. He is a stubborn cus.
Dave's favorite thing in the world is to go to Tom's on Saturday or Sunday morning, when he could be sleeping in. Dave always chooses to take our dog, Clover, a red-headed, blue-eyed Devil Dog. She loves Tom. The routine is Dave goes in and makes coffee - Clover jumps in bed with Tom and licks him awake.
Tom, Dave and I have been through lots of life together, lots of laughs, ups and downs. We have been friends since Dave and Tom worked together in 1980.
I have several pet names for Tom. Two Beers Tom because when we met, that was all he could handle. Dave is a beer drinker, I don't, but I did have a great time watching him back then. The next was Tomas From South of the Border. If you haven't read the Mexico story, ask him about it.
The next is Stomper Champ of the Universe. Around 1982 we had Stomper Races, little cars that Tom took very serious, as did Dave. They spent many hours modifying and working on their cars. Tom won most of the time in the six or seven years we had them. It was so funny the year he lost to a little kid. He was so frustrated he even gave the kid dirty looks.
The next name is Tommy, the name I use when I'm feeling like his older sister, and sometimes Dumb Shit when I want to slap the shit out of him.
I just wanted to let you all know a little about our relationship. Dave and I both love him dearly. Tom's way more than a friend, he is a part of our extended family. Dave and I both take Tom's care very much to heart. Dave will be driving him to appointments and I hope I will be taking care of him after. Just to let you know, Dave's a very good driver and I'm very qualified. We have three sons, eleven grandchildren and I have a very ornery husband. I have inquired about the care and feeding of chemo patients. I will do the best job I can. Instead of using the c word, I choose to call it lump, bump, mass or damn thing. We will be hooking up a computer, but until that happens, if you need to reach us please call _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.
We will lick this.
PS: Isn't Tom the best writer? It is in his soul.
|Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006
Subject: Re: a letter from a friend
Thank you Sandy. You've been there for Tom before. I can't tell you how much it means to me that he has friends like you and Dave.
|To: Dave & Sandy
For Dave and Sandy,
From Tom's (I really always call him Tommy) biological big sister, (the one that hasn't always been there physically for him), thank you from my whole heart. It's more than comforting to know that you all will be with him. And you will come to find, that it may not always be an easy task; there will be more "ups and downs" to come.
And for my link to the communication chain, I can be reached at __________________.
Just for the record, Tommy has already promised me that he will put up a good fight....don't let him forget that.
From: Pauline (aunt)
Hi Tom, I thought it time to respond to your mail. I have enjoyed your writings very much. You write very well. It is apparent that once we moved away from New Castle (1957) we lost a lot of the family, day to day information. I didn't know or forgot, that you went to college, where? How long? The last time we saw each other was when you stopped in St. Petersburg on your way to California. You had a young lady with you and a large dog.
Now, about your situation. I am very sorry you have this cancer to deal with. I am glad there is a treatment for the disease. I hope you have a good support system with lots of friends to help you through the chemo and it's side effects. Some people are able to get through it without too much trouble. Hope you're one of them. When does all this start?
I see our daughters are receiving your mail. You are probably getting mail from each of them and I would imagine their views are very different on how your life has been. My personal thoughts are life happens and everyone makes many choices over the years. Some come right back at you and kick you in the butt! (lungs) Your story doesn't shock me. In my work as a supervisor . . . I was subjected to all sorts of problems to deal with. The [most unique] situation was the female that was becoming male and our male bosses didn't want he/her using the same restrooms so she/ he had to go down two flights of stairs, which meant she/he was away from work far longer than we normally allowed. Just thought I'd mention that for some comic relief.
It's good to be in touch. Love, Aunt Pauline
I want you to know how much it means to me that you are able to look past some things that you may not understand or approve of, and to accept me and try to see the meaning in my writing. It did weigh heavily on my mind at first, but it was very important to me feel the acceptance of those who are dearest to me, my family and my closest friends, so I decided that I would not edit the address list according to content, but present my story as is to everyone. I'm not sure I would have made the same decision if my mother or father were in this mailing group. But I feel much like you, that we all make choices in life and some are better than others, but combined, they create the whole. (This reminds me of a t-shirt I saw recently that said, " I'm not useless, I can be used as a bad example!" *grin*) As I had hoped, one by one, everyone has responded with love and acceptance. Even Uncle Jim responded and said that he couldn't understand some of the things I did, "smoking drugs, etc.", but that he loved me anyway. I could not have expected more.
I have been receiving regular (and supportive) emails from both Cindy and Jan. Cindy and I are actually developing more of a relationship than we've ever had before. She seems to enjoy reading my stories very much and frequently sends her comments and suggestions, and I'm enjoying getting to know her. Jan says she's not sure how to respond to some of the stories, but that she very much enjoys reading them anyway.
This is why I've always felt privileged to have my background and our family. It's not like that in all families!
As far as I know, I was not named after anyone in particular. Mom said she just liked the name Thomas.
I went to Slippery Rock State College for 3 semesters.
Actually, I saw you in California (Merced?) several years ago. The time you mentioned was when I was traveling around the country in my van with my wife (Gale) and dog (Che) after quitting college. We made it as far as Scottsdale, Arizona and rented a house to try to make a start there. A few days later, Che bit the landlord and we were asked to leave. We went home, broke, and got divorced about a year later. I never got married again, but I did get another dog, a Golden Retriever we named Dylan. He was my best friend 14.5 years, as well as being the sweetest creature I have ever known, of any species. He died (of cancer and age) almost 5 years ago now, but I've never gotten over him, and don't believe I ever will. I would like to get another dog but have been hesitant to do so because of my desire to move to Hawaii. If you take a dog there, they must be held in quarantine in a cage for 6 weeks to ensure against rabies. Hawaii has no rabies, so I can understand the concern, but I cannot put my dog in a cage, even overnight, let alone 6 weeks. And I would not be able to leave a dog once I've bonded, so I've avoided getting another one. I hope I don't come to regret that.
Thanks for responding and thanks again for your understanding and support Aunt Pauline, it means a lot to me.
|To: Tom's mailing list
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 2006
A few days ago in one of Tom’s pieces he wrote that when he was an
adolescent, I was his hero. I don’t know that I understand that but what
Tom may not know is that for the past 30 years or so he has been my hero.
Tom is the adventurer, the risk taker, that I could never be. I could
never pry myself away from the perceived security of main stream life,
which, at times has felt more like a ball and chain than security. I
envied his ability to take a chance, to go on an uncertain adventure, but
I didn’t realize what the real object of my envy was until sometime just
before he left for California. I came to understand that my envy was of
the courage and the confidence he possessed that enabled him to do some of
the things he’s done. I have neither that courage nor that confidence.
|To: Tom's Mailing List
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 2006
Re: Previous message
Still sounds a lot more like recklessness and stupidity than courage and confidence to me. *grin*
But thanks for the words, Bro!
|Date: Fri, 27 Jan 2006
I have just returned from my first meeting with my oncologist and I'm feeling very hopeful and a bit relieved about the future. I came away with a high degree of confidence and respect for my doctor. I feel that he knows what he's doing, and his concern and bed-side manner is excellent.
On the technical side, the type of small cell cancer I have is called 'oat cell', which is the type of lung cancer which they know the most about and which responds the best to treatment. He also explained that although it is a very fast growing type, the tests all indicate that I am in the limited stage, meaning that there is high probability that the cancer has only manifested itself at this single location. However it is also a 'circulatory' type of cancer, meaning that some portion of it is circulating throughout my system, so I will have more tests and scans and several factors will be monitored as I go along. The fact that it is a 'circulatory' type is the reason that chemotherapy is used, to treat the entire body as opposed to removing or attacking just the site of the tumor. I will receive some radiation treatments in addition to the chemo during the first few weeks which will target the tumor directly.
I asked the doctor about his confidence in the correctness and completeness of this diagnosis and his response was very positive. He said that oat cell, unlike some other types of cancer cells, is very identifiable and it's mode of operation is well known. The prognosis is excellent for remission and 5 year survivability but beyond that the numbers are simply not known. He said that he fully expects it to work like this: After the first series of treatment, which will take 3 months, the tumor will simple dissolve and go away. After one year, approx. 30% of the patients will be cured for a long term. (this is not a high number, but I'm a pretty good healer, and as I've illustrated before, tend to be quite lucky) The remaining 70% will see the cancer return, possibly in another location. If that occurs, a second series of treatments will be performed. This treatment-remission-return cycle will be continued until the cancer does not return. In the big picture (5 years or so) the survivability numbers are above 80%.
He explained that the actual chemotherapy, while not pleasant, does not cause a great deal of discomfort for many people, providing I follow instructions exactly. I will lose most of my hair (no great loss any more) but it will grow back. Nausea is frequently relatively mild and will generally limited to the three days of treatment and perhaps three days following. Treatment sessions will occur every three weeks, therefore two out of every three weeks will be "not so bad".
The best thing I heard all day though was that he will give me the paper work necessary to allow me to remain off of work through the whole procedure and for an additional 6 months recovery time, a total of 9 months if all goes well. I always said that I do not need to work to keep me busy, I've got lots of hobbies and interests. I do not need to work for my sense of identity or to feel useful as I've generally always maintained a separation between my "work life" and my "real life". I only work due to my need to support myself. After much thought, I've come to the conclusion that I am now collecting on an 'insurance policy' that I have paid into for many years. The time off will allow me to refocus my attention and energies toward finding a way to support myself in a more rewarding and fulfilling way, from a more favorable location, like Hawaii.
Treatment is to begin on Wednesday of next week.
|Date: Fri, 27 Jan 2006
Dave took me to the appointment today and came into the room with me to
help me remember what was said (since I neglected to buy a recorder in