Thursday, December 19, 2013

Today is TSO

To explain the significance and importance of Trans Siberian Orchestra in my life, in this our story is pretty near impossible.  But I gotta try.  

It was the winter.  That winter.  A couple of fine folks in Colorado got me tickets to see them since I was there while Murphy was receiving care at CSU.  And it was my birthday.  

Being the music lover I am, I was sure I heard of them.  But even if I did, nothing could've prepared me for it...

An Angel Came Down was the first piece they performed and I was blown away. To put it into context, I've seen Pavarotti live, the three tenors, and Yo Yo Ma and even Kitaro... There was a hot, hot girl in a red sequined dress playing the electric violin that I still think about from time to time... 

Anyway, I was in rapture.  Pop culture has ruined the word 'awesome' but it was.  I was a kid witnessing the spirit of Christmas for the first time.  

And yet I hated it.  Because somewhere in a distant parking lot, alone and cold was Murphy.  He never left my side and the TSO concert was as far as I went from him.  We didn't stay for the second set because I couldn't. Even though thoroughly bundled up in the SUV.

And then after Murphy died, I was up in Bowling Green KY (heh, that's my TX roots showing - everything is 'up'), for two reasons.  To meet Indy for the first time and attend a fundraiser for their animal shelter.  It was the coolest of its kind - it was in a cave that Jesse James and his gang hung out in if my memory serves me well. 

Even amidst all the beauty, glamour, and glitz that I was graciously invited to be a part of, I didn't stay long, 30 minutes maybe, because I couldn't.  I left there and drove to a church parking lot and put my TSO CD in, listening to it for hours.  It must've been hours because someone called the police.  

The officer politely asked me why I was there.  I didn't know if he meant why I was in The City of White Squirrels, the parking lot of a church in the middle of the night, or asking a more theological question.  But I only had one answer.  

"I miss my son."  

He nodded and said goodnight.  I never asked his name.  

This is my Christmas story

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Leaving Loudoun County

I failed Art History which, if ya know me, it's kinda ironic.  But I didn't get an 'F' for lack of trying.  Quite the opposite actually.  I loved it but the course design was graded on writing not exams.  And I never turned a paper in.  I couldn't.  

Caravaggio was one of the topics and I became fascinated with him and I spent weeks researching his life and works.  And a five page essay became ten then twenty and then it was too late. 

Walking on the rails trails from Pittsburgh to DC was one of the most special times during the walk and I spent a few days in the Blue Ridge Mountains and along the Potomac this weekend.  Its beauty indescribable just like that famous painting of Byblis

There's so much I haven't written about and I have hundreds of drafts on my blog and dozens of notebooks and journals still unpublished because, truthfully, I don't like most of what I write.  And so I throw things out there in pieces and parts most of which ends of confusing the hell outta people, even the ones that know me. 

But my weekend taught me one thing.  We're all busy, inundated, I hope, pursuing our passions and dreams and just trying to keep a sense of self throughout it all.  And my blog has sort of been one long continuous thread of stream of consciousness.  

I tried to separate and maintain several blogs but that became untenable and unbearable, especially since the adventure continues, so I've pared it down to just two now here and Chef Big Dog.

I have a lot to do and say but I realize now, I only have mere moments of your time to share this story with you and I'll try my damnest to respect them more. 

This weekend is already a long time ago.  Sail.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Day 35: 2nd Path Lab Results

Like I talked about on Day 16, I've been awaiting on the results of the additional prognostic and proliferation tests and today I finally got the path report.  

I took a pic of it with the ole trusty I-Phone and if you can't read the image, basically it's damn good news 

My decision is no chemo as I feel the potential downside exceeds any preventative or prophylactic benefit.  

Delivered on the eve of my planned departure, I can leave tomorrow to head back up to New England in good conscience and positive spirits.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Zero At the Bone

A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him,--did you not,
His notice sudden is.

The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.

He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,

Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun,--
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.

Several of nature's people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality;

But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.

Truthfully, I've never been a fan of Emily Dickinson. 

I came down to Memphis to say goodbye to Murphy something I haven't been able to do.  But it's time.  

Murphy was Menschkeit.  Maybe he was the thing that made Malcolm so much of me.  And maybe that's why I miss him so.  

I've been reading Victor Frankl's 'Man's Search for Meaning' and in it he writes, 

“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.” 

I wonder if that's what Emily meant.  There is no more absolute than zero. 

The Nature of the Beast

"I really try to put myself in uncomfortable situations. Complacency is my enemy." - Trent Reznor.  Nine Inch Nails

My time in the tent this past week wasn't spent sliding down spirit caves with power animals or searching for blue orchids, I worked.  Or to put a more fine point on it, I studied in solitary quietude.  

One of my lifelong friends, now gone, was a philosophy professor and he always said, 'Luke (That's how I was known back then before becoming Yer Big Dog I mean).  Life isn't about answers, it's about the questions you ask.'   

And now that I'm 3 for 3 for dogs with cancer, I have a lot of goddamn questions.   We all do.  

But being back in the tent again I couldn't help but wonder if I had missed something the first time.  And the second time.  So I need to start again.  With the first question.


What is cancer?

According to Withrow & MacEwen's 'Small Animal Clinical Oncology', there are two generations or iterations of our understanding of cancer.  The first, Gen 1 let's call it, was from a 30 year compilation of research published in 2000 by Drs. Hanahan and Weinberg called the 'Six Hallmarks of Cancer'.  

They were attempting to distill the down and outright differentiation, the lowest common denominator, the absolute zero, between a normal cell and a cancer cell and they accomplished something close to it - an approximation that became an early and important precedent.  

Before I begin with my folksy analysis of it, I encourage you to purchase this inestimable tome.  Most nearly all of the thought leaders and minds both past and future in comparative oncology contributed to it and I'm humbled even at an attempt to understand it.  

Heck the flow charts look like a John Madden schematic to me. But here we go.  


The Six Hallmarks of Cancer

1. Self Sufficiency of Growth Signals.  

This is the 'To Be or Not to Be', the Hamlet, shall we say, of the hallmarks.  Cancer is a genetic disease but not all predisposed or mutated cells become malignant.  Proto-oncogenesis doesn't presuppose oncogenesis.  

But once it 'Be', like Hamlet's ill-fated love for Ophelia, a cascade of events occur very few of which can stop the inevitable.  

2. Insensitivity to Antigrowth Signals.  

If only cancer was a cell on a homicidal steroidal rampage, unchecked and running amok, like Arnold Swarz... shit, the Terminator, well, we'd deal with it kind of the same way. We gave him the run of 80's action films, made him the Governator but, whoa, president and potentially the ruler of the universe?  

That's what Tumor Suppressor Genes, or the Kindergarten Cops, do and this is important.  

Back in the 1970s, before Arnold was clad in a loin cloth in Conan, scientists were trying to understand retinoblastoma* and in researching its heritable traits they discovered the existence of a tumor suppressing gene which in subsequent research yielded the discovery of p53 (more on p53 later).  

But the 'Terminator' will always be back.  Like what Michael Chrichton wrote in Jurassic Park.  'Nature finds a way'.  So does cancer and it found a way to suppress and/or inactivate the biochemical mechanisms and fool-proof machinery incorporated into your DNA to prevent tumor suppressor genes and p53.  

This is the point at which pink elephants come into the equation.

My friend, Pete, loved pink toys.  It made him happy. In nature, happy, is referred to as homeostasis.  It's the balance, the bad v good ballad that's part of the Dance of life.  

If only cancer was an aberration, a beefy Austrian bad actor named Arnold that defied all odds.  But it isn't.  And it only gets worse.     

3. Evasion of Cell Death. 

The Cell Cycle ain't complicated in a cradle to grave sense.  Cells procreate to sustain the life of tissue, organ systems, and ultimately self.  Left unchecked, hell, it'd become part of the Kardashian franchise but pre-programmed in a cell's genetic structure is a stop function called apoptosis.  

However, to quote the textbook, 'Cancer cells, through a variety of strategies, can acquire resistance to cell death and apoptosis.' I call this the Br'er Rabbit Effect.  

I'll stop here and continue with 4-6 tomorrow.  I'll start again.  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sniffy and Donut

Back on the Summer of Murphy Tour last year we stayed at the home of Rob and Rhondda, the wonderful folks leading the Puppy Up! charge in Las Vegas and their young son, Owen or Cap'n Jack Sparrow as I knew him at the time, knighted Hudson and Indiana as Sirs 'Sniffy and Donut' respectively.  

It wasn't the same in the tent this week without 'Itchy Scratchy' and '12 short of a baker's dozen' (I can only guess that's what Owen meant), and I missed them during my fast but I'm back and we're back together and it's time for us to get back on the road.  

Tuesday we'll start making our way up to New England with stops in VA, MD, PA, NY for events and meetings. Stay posted...

YBD's Notes:  Got your card guys and thanks... indeed it is an adventure.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Stag

Tonight I bleat, I bay; my hooves I beat
  Under the rutting moon.

Autumn awakened my ancient beast 
  Unto the rutting moon. 

I clash and thrash; my rack defeats
  And reddens the rutting moon.

Fair fillies all shall fear; tonight I feast
  Beneath the rutting moon.

My savage silenced, I return to peace
  And await the rutting moon.

YBDs notes 1: Ed thinks that while my appearance is reminiscent of Walt Whitman, my poem isn't.  I was deeply inspired by the incredible encounter last night and spent a few minutes putting it to verse.  And perhaps it's why I chose this time to fast. 

YBDs notes 2: Or I may just be gettin ready for an audition on duck dynasty...