Tracks In The Dust

A Father's Advice About Learning the Mission of Life

Archive for the category “The Cancer Letters”


Anticipation. We are all subject to that feeling of anticipation of what comes next in our lives, New family additions, weddings, vacations, promotions at work, a new course in our lives that will change so much of what we already knew.

It can be something special, or something you know is coming and only time will allow it to arrive. I remember in my youth those anxious moments of “going out” with only a night full of adventure ahead. where nothing would seem to get in your way. It would be great to kind of “box that up” and keep it to know that feeling again. I often recollect the phase about how ” youth is wasted on the young”. Not always true, but there were those times when the anticipation was golden.

Still that anxious heart lives in me and I embrace what I can to anticipate things in life even as they are ever-so-simple. It’s not a complicated thing, but it can be elusive when hopelessness and despair are so easily able to make their way into your life.

Even as I fight the fight of my life to beat cancer, I can reach back in my heart and find anticipation in what God will bring me and my family. My children are growing up and experiencing marriage, job promotions, starting new life directions, and getting the dark clouds pushed aware by the reality that they control their own future.

Anticipation of a new day. Anticipation of Eternity. Anticipation is what brings life one of its greatest joys.

I had to include this song. It was on my mind. Carly Simon.

Detachment or Indifference?

No doubt there are many reasons to be concerned about the world’s issues. Throughout history there has been focused attention on the separation of cultures, religious beliefs, power and money. There are many reasons I can say I care, but overall I can say that I have become less interested.

Charting The Course

A travesty you say? How can you be so unfeeling? How can you not  personally care about the hate,greed and malice of the world around us? People insist that you HAVE to care about the political landscape – you must have an opinion and you better well be landing on the one that whomever you are talking to is passionate about. There is this sense of urgency to be “correct”.

Sorry to disappoint, but I am likely to say that the battle of with cancer has led me to be more detached more than indifferent. .
Many things don’t  take the same priority as  they it once did.
Oliver Sacks from the New York Times recently said in an article on his diagnosis of terminal cancer at aged 81:”Seeing life from a great altitude. This detachment to things that belong to the future. The future will be left in great hands in some cases.”

Honestly I have gotten much closer to God (perhaps the greater altitude) and the meaning of my future, and that future to me means eternity. But the future here on Earth is going to go on without me. And I have to accept that day will come, as it will for each and every one of us.

So am I indifferent? No. I would like to see more people have peace in their lives, to save their temper for the fight against the deterioration of the human condition. Perhaps that would be worth some passion…

Keeping Your Head Above Water

Keeping your head above water. Swimming along with the life you have. It can be a challenge just to swim and keep it up when you are not so sure you how you will survive.

But we all should be doing that, shouldn’t we? Some days it may seem automatic. We have a life to live despite the struggles, and some complex things can keep you distracted. In some ways keep your mind off it.

Other days we risk getting caught in the undertow of the reality that we are struggling  and virtually everyone around us is struggling too. In their own way. They are messing up and getting things wrong, they are sad from loss or angry with their situation. They could swim for brighter days ahead- but it looks bleak to them.

This is my battle song. Fighting cancer, I realized that we have to SWIM. Swim for our lives. But it would be good to find the grace in what we are doing as we continue along. That purpose of our constant paddling along.

The spirit of God can give that to you. The purpose may mean less if you think that at the end it is over and you stop swimming because you no longer exist, but if you believe – eternity can matter. We all fall short of perfect, but this helps. It makes life’s swim easier – especially if you are paddling against the currents of adversity.

Make every day count for something . Swim for it.

Here is a song “SWIM” from Andrew McMahon from a group called “Jack’s Mannequin”.

Andrew is battling cancer (diagnosed in 2005) and this song is one of my favorites.

You’ve gotta swim

Swim for your life
Swim for the music
That saves you
When you’re not so sure you’ll survive
You gotta swim
And swim when it hurts
The whole world is watching
You haven’t come this far
To fall off the earth
The currents will pull you
Away from your love
Just keep your head above- I found a tidal wave
Begging to tear down the dawn
Memories like bullets
They fired at me from a gun
A crack in the armor
I swim to brighter days
Despite the absence of sun
Choking on salt water
I’m not giving in
I swim You gotta swim
Through nights that won’t end
Swim for your families
Your lovers your sisters
And brothers and friends
Yeah you’ve gotta swim
Through wars without cause
Swim for the lost politicians
Who don’t see their greed as a flaw The currents will pull us
Away from our love
Just keep your head aboveI found a tidal wave
Begging to tear down the dawn
Memories like bullets
They fired at me from a gun
Cracking me open now
I swim for brighter days
Despite the absence of sun
Choking on salt water
I’m not giving in
Well I’m not giving in
I swimYou gotta swim
Swim in the dark
There’s no shame in drifting
Feel the tide shifting and wait for the spark
Yeah you’ve gotta swim
Don’t let yourself sink
Just find the horizon
I promise you it’s not as far as you think
The currents will drag us away from our love
Just keep your head above
Just keep your head above
Just keep your head above
Swim, swim
Just keep your head above

Mortality is Not A Choice

decisionThe Cancer Letters #2

I grew up in a northern town in the Midwest US.  It was near Lake Michigan ( the largest fresh water lake in the US). During my childhood the US was growing up from the post-World War age. Moving into the modern age. But not quite there. The city had its share of blue-collar foundry’s and factories. There were churches in every neighborhood, small grocery stores,old-fashioned movie theaters,  and pre-war buildings that had already begun to show their wear.

We had large sandy beaches on the lake that we would go to every Sunday after church, and sit in the sun and listen to the transistor radios as they bellowed out the new rock-and-roll pop songs. There were pockets of ethnic ares in town, with their restaurants and tight-knit neighborhoods. There was the Lions Clubs and the YMCA. Town square and 4th of July parades. It was the time of the transition to the “space age” and also to the stark reality of a Vietnam War and all its injustice.

But those years were genuine, they were times to remember. Like so many others, growing up had many tremendous feelings of the taste of being young, but also yearning to get older. Older so that we could have a “life of our own” and be able to do what adults get to do- with all the freedom. My self and many of my friends always seemed to be in a hurry. And OH what we thought we knew. We saw ourselves as wise beyond our years.  Is that a feeling you have experienced?


As life has it, you can only look back to see what you thought you knew, but really didn’t. Perhaps the confidence of the young, perhaps just the blissful ignorance of youth. Either way. Facing mortality head on is a difficult thing. Even that reality is somewhat distorted, because after all we do it every day in our lives. Just stepping off the curb can be the last thing you do on Earth.

So now, in my life facing the reality of a cancer diagnosis and the clock that begins to tick toward an ultimate end, those days gone by seem so much more precious. And the time ahead does also. So many days in the past where I could have cherished them in such better ways, so many days where I could have looked at the positive things that God had provided me.  But you cannot relive the past, or should not spend each day ahead full of regret.  So  there is a choice to make. It is the same choice you have if you didn’t have a cancer diagnosis but it is a choice.

Choose Grace. Choose compassion. Choose to make a small difference every day in someone elses life.

Introducing The Cancer Letters

Prostate Cancer

Sharing my story with my kids (and anyone who will read it)  I will be writing:
The Cancer Letters
Cancer Letter #1

When  I was much younger I remember that feeling of being so invincible. I mean I had my share of childhood illnesses, some afflictions that made its way through grade school years. But overall the thought of succumbing to more treacherous illness or terminal  disease was reserved for older people, adults that had “complications” because of their age or the way they lived put them in harm’s way.

Then in middle school I was friends with a girl named “Patty” who our teacher announced one day had Leukemia  She was out of school for a while and then actually came back to class. She even went on the class trip to Washington DC. I got to know her and spent hours on the bus ride on our school trip talking with her about many things and about nothing at all. She was a very insightful person. Weeks after we got back from our trip she stopped coming to class. It wasn’t too many weeks later after that she died.

I spent months not clear on what it was that God would do to take someone like her so young and leave the rest of us to feel empty about her not being in our lives anymore.  I think I played Bob Dylan  and Joni Mitchell music for hours on end and created angry artwork (I guess it might have seemed very Bohemian at the time).

So as I grew older and got married, my wife and I had children. And of course as parents we have spent our time worrying about them as they head out the door every day for school. Now  as they are out of school and growing into adulthood, we still worry about them. Admittedly we still watch for those things that could indicate more serious issues, we still take a moment when we see them to tell them that we love them.

It was over 20 years ago when my parents passed from this earth to a better place (more about that later). Both of them were in their 70’s and had me when they were much older. But they still would care immensely about my health and safety. In fact when I got older and married, I used to cringe some when I would see them and my mom would dote over me. After all I was a parent myself. I miss that now.

Years went by- living with all of the ups and downs, and then came the day when the Doctor decided that “further tests” were needed. That was the beginning of a life changing event that shook my world, my wife’s world and my family’s world.

To share my story with my kids (and anyone who will read it, I will be writing more of  The  Cancer Letters.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: