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 “I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:6

Dear Family and Friends,

Okay, it’s been a while, but COVID.  Anyway, I’ve had a couple of  rounds of good news, so I figured it’s about time for an update.  

Since starting the new drug for reducing swelling around the already-dead brain tumors, I’ve had two brain scans in a row that have shown meaningful reductions in the amount of swelling around the tissue, and last week the second of those scans also showed a little continued reduction in the size of one dead tumor itself.  This is consistent with continued shriveling up and dying of that tumor tissue.

Furthermore, I’ve had two chest scans that have shown continued reduction or stability in the size of main chest tumors they’re tracking.  So cancer-wise, things are in a great place.  I’m feeling completely regular, as usual.  As you might recall, I normally get hit with embarrassingly trivial side effects and get told it’s baby-itis by doctors.  

I’m sorry, sir.  It’s a serious case of baby-itis.
The good news is that you can cure it by just being more of a big boy.

Side effects of this latest drug, which is infused every two weeks started out as morning foot and ankle pain for a week after an infusion, and now seems to have morphed into an arm rash that’s like what babies get (see earlier reference to baby-itis) and my mom calls “heat rash.”

I should also mention that I’ve gone into work every day of the COVID-19 situation.  Being in healthcare, my company is essential.  I’m actually not immunocompromised, and our sanitation procedures make me feel very safe.  Part of the reason for the long gap between my last post and this one is that work has been pretty demanding.  Long hours, long days, long weeks and months.  It’s fulfilling to be helping people, though.  

My company had a rocky month as the COVID lockdowns started happening.  We eventually added some new service lines, including various types of COVID testing, and it’s been really busy since then.  Our inbound daily call volume increased so much that we had to launch a call center.  My colleagues did me the amazing favor of launching it for me when I was on our 2 ER-visit vacation (Kendra covered those here and here), so at least I paid for it.  Other than the two ER visits, we did have a nice vacation.

On a hike in the Columbia River Gorge area, Oregon

After coming back from the vacation, I spent about 6 weeks doing a lot of on-site management of the call center, which made for some late nights.  More on that later.

I’m still taking the other pills I was taking before the anti-swelling drug.  I still have the irritability side effect, which you could also call a “gives me more opportunities to apologize” side effect.  Viewed still another way, I’m giving others a great opportunity to do what Jesus says – forgive 70 times 7 times.  I’m at only like 50 or 60 times with any one person, so it hasn’t even gotten close to biblical yet.  Anyway, I actually feel myself mellowing out more with the irritability.

Dealing with a drug-induced personality side effect has gotten me thinking about how I never had to apologize for anything before.  Gotcha.  No, of course I did.  I actually was trying to listen in prayer (recommend it) and also have been thinking about something I picked up from a healthcare business mentor: “Policies and procedures work for us.  We don’t work for policies and procedures.”  He had been making the point that often healthcare organizations can get trapped in binders and manuals and forget about patients.  Kendra and I have noticed this on the patient side of healthcare, where labor and delivery nursing association recommendations change wildly from childbirth to childbirth.  Often the nurses and baby photographers remember us from the last baby, but have to do things differently each time.  Plus we’ve got a nearly statistically significant data set.  Okay, where am I?  Oh right, irritability, prayer and professional advice.

So it hit me as I’m praying about how to get better on the irritability thing that I’m running to prayer, apologies, Confession, etc. in a reactive way.  I’m working for the tools rather than letting the tools work for me.  Now don’t get me wrong – the tools are good ones and I believe that even using them reactively can be a source of grace.  But what if I made simpler daily resolutions like making that person smile one time or making them laugh?  This focuses me more on what I can do to make things better for others in a proactive way.  If I intend that the effort to make someone laugh into a prayer, I believe it’s a prayer.  If I use Confession as a way to build virtue rather than just repent for vice, I think I’ll be more out ahead of some of these traps I set for myself.  I find it hard to know if it’s working sometimes, but I think the key is just not giving up.  Nunc coepi.  

By the way, it turns out I’m working on a lot of stuff.  Over a year ago, I wrote a post that, in part, dealt with detachment.  At the time, I was coming at it from another angle.  Now I’m seeing it come up in the context of the COVID-19 situation.  I decided to do an episode of The Dad Project about it, so I’ll let you look it up there to hear my take during this current season.

Humility.  Okay, it’s no revolutionary discovery that I need to work on humility.  I’m sure you, dear reader, are perfectly humble.  But I find that the things I mess up with people, in family relationships, plus just letting things annoy me at work – they’re all ultimately rooted in or connected to pride in some way or another.  I’ve even found that I can be proud in being humble.  Case in point: working at our call center, which is located pretty near the beach by LAX, and staying till 9pm or later many nights, I got to see some pretty great sunsets from the 9th floor of this high-rise building we’re located in.


Wow, right? That’s the view out across the ocean between Santa Monica
and Malibu, with the sun about to drop behind the Santa Monica Mountains.

I sent this picture to my dad, who said, “Wow, that’s a big shot view.”  I believe he meant that I must have a big shot’s office to get a view like this.  I reactively said, “Dad, if I was THAT much of a big shot, I wouldn’t be watching the sunset from an office.”  I thought that sounded pretty good and privately congratulated myself on how humble my response was.

  1. Extend arm
  2. Bend arm behind head
  3. Pat self on back

There’s a priest I know who once have a great sermon on humility.  He said that when you pray for humility, you should be prepared to be humiliated.  I would add that when you get self satisfied about how humble you are, you should also be prepared to be humiliated.  Sorry, I should be speaking from the “I” here.  We’ve already established that this is a “me” problem and not a “you” problem.  My…humble…apologies.

  1. Extend ar…

Wait, no!  Don’t want to be humiliated like I was after the “big shots don’t look at sunsets from offices” comment.  Oh, were you hoping to hear about how I got humiliated after the big shot office comment?  Well tough!  I’m still working on becoming humble enough to talk about that.

With fortitude and prayers for you,