What I Learned
30-May: 2015




I learned I had cancer this way: My urologist performed a rectal examination and as soon as she felt my prostate she seemed to know, though all she said to me was, "You need a biopsy, my friend."

Threes weeks later f
our gold pellets had been inserted in my prostate gland and I was ready to receive radiation. I had my first treatment on a Monday. The radiation was delivered by a robot, a machine called Cyberknife. I asked the technician Jodi if I could take the machine's photograph and Jodi said, "Sure, it likes to have it's picture taken."

I laid on a table for nearly an hour while the robot head of the machine circled around my prostate, bombarding it with radiation. The machine made a grinding racket which nearly drowned out the classical Indian music I asked Jodi to play on the Pandora station.

After I finished my radiation treatments I had a hard time staying up at night and getting up in the morning. I was mentally and physically exhausted by 7:00 pm and groggy for hours after I woke. A few weeks later I began hormone therapy which continued for six months. It was predicted that the suppression of my testosterone would make me moody and possibly depressed. Both happened.

Besides visiting Cyberknife, becoming tired for a couple of months and the moody depressions, my cancer came and passed (my urologist claims it has passed) with little inconvenience, no pain and without chemotherapy and its side-effects (chemotherapy is not used in prostate cancer).

What does it mean for a man to have passed through prostate cancer? The effects of cancer upon me were seemingly so minimal that at times I wondered if I was even conscious of my journey.

Now, a year after my radiation treatments I feel... almost reborn. Before the cancer I had no symptoms (and none of the painful or disturbing effects of prostatitis). After the radiation, strangely, I have less need to urinate at night than before. Everthing else still works, too. At least autoerotically. I have not had a partner in fifteen months.

In truth, the radiation - or was it the hormone therapy? (or was it depression?) - wiped out my sex-drive for many months. Now it is April, my birthday was three weeks ago and I feel sexually aligned with the narcissus and other budding spring phenomena. I am ready... but for what? I don't know what I'm ready for. Is this the result of the cancer? In some ways I feel like I've never known sex. I want to move slowly. I feel I am approaching relationship differently now. Everthing has a pattern. What will mine be? Maybe not the same pattern or even one a known one.



Lord Mukpo often taught about the "joyful mind, free from doubt" and the "genuine mind of sadness." For me, these are the two sides of the coin of love. And then he taught a third princile, "suddenly free from fixed mind" - and so the letting is also so real. I wonder what a three-sided coin looks like?

Love, a Chroncile

My mother was my first love. She was on this planet 91 years and I was born when she was 37;43 years later she turned 80 and I sent her eighty birthday card beginning almost thee months before her birthday. Even at 80 I still could barely stand the idea of losing her; fortunatly she lived eleven more years. I was her primary care giver during the last four months of her life and held her in my arms when she took her last breath. When she was dying I wrote pages and pages of "commentary" - this is a paragraph from that journal:

As she has for most of these now eight days (without food, save chocolate birthday cake) my mom has lied on her back since mid-morning, but today, she has been awake much or most of the time, rather than sleeping. Strangely awake, as if she is taking it in a final time, or taking a final look - though her look contains worlds and dreams in front and behind of this one. She hears me, responds to me, and when I began to silently cry, the feeling welling up, she turned her head in my direction as if our thought streams were clearly meeting. Never once during these eight days has she complained. She often apologizes, though playfully, for causing so much trouble. Sometimes she says, after I turn her, "I'm like turning a horse" - and I reply, "Yeah, a stiff horse." The small smile she can still form is the most beautiful one of all. On her back she is symmetrical, her grey hear brushed across the pillow, her hands rest on her collar bone and rise and fall with her breathing.

My father was my second love, though we struggled for decades having antithesis as the kind of gravel our relationship traveled on. As my psychic friend once said, "He is your grindstone." In old age the gravel became sand and then powder - Alzheimer's softened everything and my father's eyes teared when I arrived and when I left the facility he lived in. At age 62 I sometimes feel as vulnerable as he did, then. This is what I once wrote about him after he died.

Final events, Bill Scheffel (I have the same name as my father): moved from his apartment to "independent living" (Villas Atrium), then to "assisted living" (Shawnee Gardens), finally a "memory care facility" (The Balfour). He began to cancel his own rent checks. He stopped taking all his medications (claimed he hadn't taken them for years). I disconnected the battery cables in his automobile. His knees weakened but his handshake became stronger. His name was taped to his eyeglasses. He remembered no ones name. Was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Sometimes thought I was his brother. Had no idea when he last saw me. Was considered "a gentlemen" wherever he lived (Villas, Shawnee, Balfour). Had friends in a way he never had before. Had no idea he had these friends. Didn't necessarily know where he was at any given time or that Obama was president. Flirted. Ate everything on his plate. Fell often. Always excited to see me. Always sad when I left. Misplaced his wristwatch. Lost his wallet. Could barely stand up. Shook hands hard. Knees gave out, back mangled, poked at his food, moments of panic. Died alone in his room after dinner.

Dogen said we each have all the provisions we need for this lifetime. My father was afraid of being alone yet endured tremendous aloneness - and was nearly deaf - for the last years of his life. Until he could no longer make his bed - or even know it was his bed - he made it well, with the same military precision he brought to writing a check, to everything. He loved his car and bathed it in Armor All. In those final two-plus years he came into the lives of countless people - including my own - as an agent of dignity with a devastating handshake. Many brain cells left him yet the accuracy of his sarcasm remained as intact as Nolan Ryan's fastball. His affection for the world may have finally resided in his sardonic, self-effacing complaints, his uncannily durable insistence that the glass was half-empty. That his pessimism and my optimism are in complete agreement is a small miracle.

Strangely, Although seemingl I loved my mother "more" or more easily than my father - she and I got along effortlessly and in adult life were best of friends - since they've died I've missed my father more than my mother, They both still often appear vividly in my dreams.








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