Thay’s Lecture

This evening, we went to Thich Nhat Hanh‘s lecture at the Berkeley Community Theater along with 3500 people attending the lecture.  It was fortunate that I planned to attend this lecture because not all of the news I got today was good.

Dr. Gullion had the results of the cystoscopy and the needle biopsy earlier in the day.  While Dr. Neuwirth saw no visible signs of cancer, the wash of my bladder revealed atypia cells and other carcinoma cells, which could indicate that there is some microscopic cancer in my bladder.  However, Dr. Halberg and Dr. Huang both assured me that these cells could be a result of the radiation.  As a result, I have to go in for a biopsy under anesthesia on October 3 to have my bladder checked out.

The results of the needle biopsy of my left thigh were inconclusive.  The preliminary indication is that I have a schwannoma, which has to be surgically removed in order to accurately identify it.  This means another set of doctors at UCSF, and perhaps a three night stay in the hospital there.  I have to be able to walk on my leg before they’ll let me out of the hospital.

I had an opportunity to talk all of this over with Leslie Davenport after seeing Dr. Gullilon.  She was very helpful, but I had already seen that although these procedures are complicated and time consuming, neither one of them are extremely dangerous.



Today was another day of healing. I spent the morning working, but then went to see Marty Rossman at 1:15 for acupuncture and Dr. Halberg at 3:00 for a follow-up visit. The emotional impact of the acupuncture treatment was unsuspected. I have had acupuncture before, but today I really felt the presence of someone who I know loves me as well. He worked on the kidney meridian with needles for just a short time and then he applied moxibustion to the same meridians. Moxibustion is “the burning on the skin of the herb moxa.” In these days, they have sticky ends that you place on the meridians. Marty gave me a week’s supply so that I could apply the moxibustion to myself in between visits.

We had to wait an hour to see Dr. Halberg, but it was not so bad except for the fact that I had to reschedule my eye exam. She was her kind, caring self, in spite of being an hour behind schedule. I felt that she really paid attention to my physical and emotional needs, as I try to understand the effect healing on my life. She didn’t think anything of the lump I discovered last Friday, and said that it should be watched. She outlined my program for continued treatment, which consists of a chest X-Ray, complete blood count and blood chemistry, and cystoscopy every three months for the first year, every four months for the second year and every six months for the third through sixth year. I feel comfortable with this schedule, and the first thing I have to do is get the X-Ray, probably Thursday.

In the evening, my wife and I attended our respective groups at the Center for Attitudinal Healing. I was very touched by the stories people told, and I guess that’s why I keep coming back. I spoke mostly about how much love was coming into my life and how much difficulty my wife is having with being my primary care taker. The latter idea was picked up by some of the other members of the group. I really felt a lot of compassion for care givers. Remember, I was in that role when my son was sick 21 years ago!


No Pot stickers for my Chop Sticks

Today I’m back to healing. I went to see Gail Teehan this morning and spent about an hour teaching her how to do a mind story. Then I thought I was scheduled in for a Feldenkrais Functional Integration lesson, but it turned out to be an hour and a half massage, and was it wonderful. It took me a little by surprise to have the massage, but she did such a good job, I didn’t mind! I remember crying several times, as she was working on my shoulders, and she said that she felt that all of the poisons are out of my system at last. We then had lunch together in the shopping center at a Chinese restaurant.

Next, I went to see Leslie Davenport. While I was waiting to see her, I managed to get a little work done. The session with her was so fine! I seem to come out of there with profound insights and a lot of wisdom. She really validated my use of mindfulness in my healing process. I am really fortunate to have three such remarkable healers in my life who I love very much. Of course I’m referring to Gail, Leslie, and Anna Halprin, who is getting a life-time achievement award for choreography at Duke University as I write. I’m grateful for my physicians, Drs. Neuwirth, Gullion, and Halberg, and I feel that they were wonderful technicians who implemented a protocol that I found in my own research. But I really feel that a lot of my physical healing and all of my mental and emotional healing  has come through the hands of Gail, Leslie, and Anna.


A Scare in the Night

In the middle of the night last night I woke up from a dream and I was lying on my left side. I noticed a somewhat painful feeling in my left thigh half way between my hip and my knee. When I felt around, I noticed a lump, and was panicked immediately. I felt for sure I had a metastasis in my leg. After feeling sorry for myself for a few minutes, I collected myself, returned to mindfulness and thought rationally about it. I hadn’t read that bladder cancer metastasizes to the soft tissue, but I was still worried. I called the hospital to leave a message for Dr. Halberg. I hardly slept the rest of the night.

In the morning, Dr. Halberg’s office called to say that she was off for the day, but they moved my follow-up appointment from July 2 up to June 24, so I’ll see her on Tuesday. In the meantime, my friend, Dr. Marty Rossman called about another matter and offered to look at the lump. I went to his office and he confirmed what I now suspected was a lipoma – a fatty tissue that is no threat to anything. I’ve had a rather large lipoma on my back for as long as I can remember, and I don’t have a clue where it came from.

I was a basket case for the rest of the day! I couldn’t work, and I could barely function. I had to take care of one of my daughters, and we met a few friends for lunch at Kitty’s Place. This was the nicest part of my day.


The Last Day of Treatment!

Today, I complete the Shipley bladder sparing protocol. Once again, I choose to spend the day resting in the examination room. It was uneventful, except for the lovely visit of A. M. Now it’s time to get in bed again until my final radiation treatment at 5:00 P.M. Then it’s time to celebrate, but I won’t do so until I recover from the chemotherapy and radiation. When I completed that last radiation treatment, I received a diploma for a job well done signed by all of the staff, but not the doctors.

I gave Dr. Gullion and Dr. Halberg copies of Yellow Stream and asked for their comments about the protocol and my response to it. If their writings are not too delayed and contain some valuable information, I’d like to include them as an appendix to Yellow Stream.


Finally Feeling Better

I woke up twice this morning. The first time was the to sprinkler system in the back yard beginning to water the plants. The second time was when the phone rang. Now I am up and feeling better than I have for days.

During the night, I got some answers to the questions I raised yesterday about the foreground thoughts and feelings. I started thinking about what exactly was going on and I remembered two schools of thought about it.

The first school of thought comes from the teachings of the enneagram. In this school of thought, the we function from three centers of intelligence: the physical or body center, the emotional center, and the intellectual center. These are also referred to as the belly, heart, and head center, respectively. Because we function from these three centers, we have bodily based experience impinging on our consciousness whenever we feel a slight pain or discomfort. We have an emotional experience whenever our feelings are triggered. Finally, and probably most of the time, we are bombarded through our mental center with thoughts, memories, plans, images, dreams (really another type of image), and so forth. In addition, we must note that energy follows attention. That is, wherever we place our attention, our energy will follow. If we are focused on a goal we want to accomplish, we may be able to place all of our attention on that goal.

We can actually create pretty much at will each of these experiences. For example, don’t think of an elephant! What happened? You probably thought about an elephant and had an image of one in your mind. So basically, this is the contents of the mind, according to the enneagram.

The Buddhist philosophy about these matters is surprisingly similar, although it doesn’t deal with three centers of intelligence. In The Art of Happiness, Myrko Fryba talks about the four levels of experience on page 88:

  1. Immediate experiencing of real events, processes, and states (and the feelings and sensations associated with them) bodily taking place in the present moment.
  2. The bodily experienced meaning of represented (remembered) events, relations, constellations, situations, and scenes (and the feelings and sensations associated with them) that have led to current states of feeling and alterations of consciousness.
  3. Conceptual thinking related to the flow of immediate experiencing or to the felt meaning of entire situations, which are presently happening. From this thinking are derived matrices and programs for apprehension and action (to the extent that they are consciously accessible and thus also “thinkable”).
  4. Conceptual thinking whose content has no relationship to the current state of the thinker and thus which has no conscious relationship to experiential reality. This could be a kind of non-reality-related babbling that is unconsciously motivated and directed, or mechanical data processing (for example, calculation), or it could also be wise reflection on rules and programs with the help of the meta-language of Abhidhammic algebra-in other words, planning and coordinating of liberational strategies. The key point here is that this level of experience has no present bodily anchoring in reality.

Later, when describing Satipatthana-Vipassana exercises, he refers to these as the four foundations of mindfulness:

  1. Contemplation of the body (kayanupassana)
  2. Contemplation of the feelings (vedananupassana)
  3. Contemplation of consciousness (cittanupassana)
  4. Contemplation of mental contents (dhammanupassana)

When practicing mindfulness meditation, one becomes aware of the different categories of experience and systematically assigns what I have called “foreground” material to one of the categories and returns to concentration on the object of mindfulness. If the experience is related to light, color, sound, noise, warmth, movement, trembling, itching, stinging, pressure, lightness, etc., it is assigned to the body. If the experience is pleasant, enjoyable, pleased, amused, bored, sadness, pain, indifference, etc., it is assigned to the feelings. If the experience is concentrated, scattered, tense, greedy, hate-filled, freed, etc., it is assigned to consciousness. Finally, if the experience is thinking, wishing, planning, intending, trust, doubt, knowledge, etc., it is assigned to mental contents. One tries to make the assignments as quickly as possible and return to the object of mindfulness.

My wife and I went to the Center for Attitudinal Healing together tonight. I went primarily because she wanted to go and I am not sleeping well, so I thought I’d go. I was deeply moved by the experiences shared by the members of the group! I felt compassion and understanding come to the foreground of my consciousness, and I realized that my side effects from chemotherapy and radiation are pretty slight compared to what some of the people are facing. I did a short sharing of my treatment plan, Dr. Halberg’s surprise statement, and a few other things, but I got more out of listening deeply to other people.


Art of Happiness: Teachings of Buddhist Psychology

Kunta Kinte Meets the Show Princess

I began my consolidation phase of chemotherapy and radiation this morning. There were so many patients in oncology that it took until 10:00 for me to get hooked up. D. B. drove me to the oncology center and T. R. came later for a visit. T. mentioned again that his former girl friend was marrying a six foot four South African. He said that the was a meeting of Kunta Kinte with the “Snow Princess!” For the most part, I was rather tired during the chemo, but I made it through without too much discomfort.

After my early afternoon radiation treatment, I met with Dr. Halberg. She is really nice, and spent the most unhurried time with me that I had experienced with any physician on my team since Dr. Torigoe spent almost two hours with us. She was caring and patient, even though she was interrupted several times to look at X-Rays, and other short tasks. I was rather surprised by her statement that she didn’t expect me to have a complete response! She remarked that my initial invasive tumor was so aggressive and so extensive that she was surprised and happy by the pathology report! She also discussed the surface tumor with us, and said that she would not be surprised if I developed further surface tumors, and that anything we could do to prevent them was a step in the right direction. I had already told my wife that when this round of chemo and radiation was completed, I wanted to do a lot of new research on how to prevent bladder tumors from growing in the first place. Francine also mention that she was familiar with the anti-biotic trials at Pan Pacific Urology, but that I probably would not be eligible.

The second pass of radiation went without incident. I continued to do my visualization of the radiation as light entering my body and encouraging immature cells and potential cancer cells to shrivel up and be eliminated through my normal elimination channels. I also visualize my body as transparent to the radiation in such a way that the X-Rays affect the immature cells and potential cancer cells and then pass through my body, as in the X-Ray transmission studies in physics. I want to chat with the radiation physicist to understand the X-Ray transmission studies in more detail, as it has been almost thirty years since I left the field of physics for computers.


“Humor Comes a Year Later”

March 4, 1997 – “Humor Comes a Year Later”

The above quote was Dr. Halberg’s comment as we left the radiation therapy simulation session. “You will laugh about everything that happened today in about a year!” she said. Everything that could have gone wrong did! In the first place I had to walk to Dr. Neuwirth’s office to have a catheter put in, since Dr. Halberg had difficulties on two attempts. I’m sure that my bladder was sensitive due to having the catheter in six days earlier, and she didn’t want to injure me. But, Harry had no problem! It must be his great experience at putting in catheters! However, he was willing to hurt me, but just a little. Secondly, the catheter tube did not match the syringe, so they had to send someone out to find a compatible syringe.

The rest of the procedure went fairly smoothly including the Barium enema, setting up the x-ray device according to the Shipley protocol, tagging my body for future radiation sessions, taking the necessary x-rays, and finally removing the tubing.

I was exhausted from this hour and one half procedure that lasted almost four hours! I have nothing else to say at this time!

Oh, by the way, the treatment begins on Monday, March 10 with a dry run on the radiation equipment. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy begins on March 11.

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Treatment Delayed!

February 18, 1997 – Treatment Delayed!

Mala and I went to visit Dr. Halberg again today for a simulation run through of the radiation therapy that was supposed to have begun on February 25. However, Dr. Halberg had spoken with Dr. Shipley and was told that the chemotherapy and radiation treatments shouldn’t begin until three weeks after the TURBT. So, I’m off the hook for three more weeks! I wasn’t terribly surprised, because the protocol, itself says that registration begins three to four weeks post TURBT.

Dr. Halberg also reported that I had a urinary tract infection, and I was put on Cipro for the next two weeks.

Next, we went to Marin General Hospital to register for the TURBT tomorrow. While this was time consuming, it was not particularly unpleasant.

I spent most of the rest of the day preparing my legal documents, including a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, which is a good document to have for your own protection.

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Happy Anniversary!

February 14, 1997 – Happy Anniversary!

Today, Mala and I celebrated our sixteenth anniversary. We did this by heading up to the famous “wine county” in Napa County, California. We are so fortunate to live only 45 minutes from this most beautiful part of the country. Mala had made reservations at the Silverado Inn, which we were lucky to get at the last minute. With lunch at Don Giovanni’s and dinner at Tra Vigne, we had two wonderful meals at our favorite places.

Before heading north, however, we met with Dr. Francine Halberg at the Marin Oncology Center attached to Marin General Hospital. Through Sara Huang’s guidance and support, we decided to use Dr. Halberg for the radiation therapy, which is scheduled to begin on February 25, along with the chemotherapy. The consultation with Dr. Halberg went very well as far as it could go, but she couldn’t tell me that this was going to be an easy protocol (RTOG 95-06). She mentioned that Shipley had great success with this protocol and that it was evaluated thoroughly in France and found to be very successful. She explained that I would have to be seen again on Tuesday, February 18 to do a test run to map out the area to be irradiated, which was part of the RTOG 95-06 protocol.

Before we left for the “wine country,” we stopped in the Circle Library at the Marin Oncology Center and checked out a few tapes, including one by Dr. Carl Simonton, whose work was just beginning to be noticed when my son had cancer twenty-one years ago. Another tape was by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen.

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