Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1219

Sometimes, when my mind grows restive, a discussion touches a life-thread and thrums in rhythm with my thoughts, reverberating through my memories, awakening lost dreams. When I woke today, I did not expect to journey where mirrors gleam and shadows dance away -- among the foundation pillars of my life. What follows are mostly my arguments and opinions...the only ones I truly own. Not all were shared online. Your mileage may vary...

Life Debt

Owing a great debt to one who saves (or spares) your life is a common enough literary theme. From Robinson Crusoe to Pacific Rim and from Star Wars to Harry Potter, fictitious characters pledge their own lives to repay a perceived obligation incurred when another ensures their survival. Such commitment to an ideal and willing acceptance of such responsibility adds stature and dignity to each imaginary individual in the story. But, is there translation to real life?

I posted to a discussion this morning, in which one person was saying that, if the world owes him nothing, he owes nothing to the world. At this point, we had not resolved what “world” meant. Was it the Earth beneath our feet, or the totality of humanity, or a bit of both? Oddly, the target of each dart seemed aimed somewhere in between the extremes of each definition. The article under discussion was from a judge who lectured youth about their responsibility to a world that did not owe them a life or a living. Of course, being who I am, I tried to argue the case for responsibility -- for both definitions of our world.

Terra Firma and All the Rest of It…

Take a breath of air. Take a drink of water. Open your eyes and see the daylight coming through your window. All the basics of life spring from the Earth -- from the world as we physically define it. Many do not readily perceive  the value in these things, but as someone who has faced dying, I value every breath, every drink of water, every break of dawn. The fundamental fabric supporting my physical existence is a gift and I am responsible for preserving it for my own use and for the use of others. Perhaps, I owe the world a life debt?

At this point, the old "Humanity is an infection on Gaia" argument put in an appearance; i.e., “The world would be better off without us!” (humanity). I found this a great segue to:

The Culture Club

The world as referenced in the newspaper article under discussion was (or included) the totality of humanity. Without us, there would be no world. There would be a beautiful, blue planet spinning in space -- with no one to see it, touch it, change it, damage it, care for it, and/or love it. Earth would be a gorgeous, but eerily silent and spiritually sterile terrarium in perpetual flight about its sun.

Imagine visually stunning vistas that no human eye would perceive and no mind would love. Imagine the same vistas, but underscored by soaring music and preserved in the flight of poetic prose. Now, imagine the same vistas damaged by human hands. We change our world, for better or for worse.

Geologically, our minds tell us the Earth has been here approximately 4.5 billion years, always changing, always in motion, always in danger of some sort, yet always here. Our recorded culture extends back little more than 4,000 years and tells us the world started about 2,000 years before that. Belief systems and faith often paint a very different world than the one our current tools can detect.

Multiple interpretations of our world coexist, often uncomfortably, in an ever-changing evolving relationship. Yet, despite our different views of the same world; it remains the only game in town. It is our responsibility to preserve the world on which we live, regardless of how we view it, and to coexist, despite our differing world views. We are both nature and nurture and perhaps owe a life debt to our cultures as well as our planet.

It was an interesting discussion; one that touched some basic chords within my personal symphony. I love living and experiencing my world, and co-existence with my friends and family means most everything to me. Our world is the perfect home for humanity.

Maybe that's why God put us here.

Good day and God bless,


Friday, June 20, 2014

Mick McKellar Update — Day +1215

Settling for a B+

On Wednesday last, I visited with my local oncologist, Dr. Geddes, for a checkup and review of my blood tests taken that morning. My glucose level was 97 (under 100...yay!) and sodium, potassium, and calcium levels were all in the normal range, which means my diet and medications are not undermining my health. My white blood count, red blood count, hemoglobin, and platelets were all on the low side...perfectly normal for me. This was all good news. I passed. Not with honors, but I passed.

Surprising Admonition

During the course of my examination, I explained about my personal walk-fit program. Daily walks (weather allowing) with Dante, up to 2.5 miles, are the core of my health maintenance schedule. I detest exercise machines, though I understand their function. Walking early and wearing lots of sun-block and big hats help protect me from over exposure to cancer-inducing UV-B rays. 

I sat back and waited for praise and at-a-boys.

Though sanguine about my work ethic and maintenance of my weight (easy when you are NOT hungry), he surprised me with his next comment. He warned me not to get too ambitious with my physical training. Pushing myself too hard, and creating anoxia (hypoxia, or extreme low levels of oxygen for my organs), can cause damage to internal organs, especially the brain.

I explained that having lived most of my life as an asthmatic, I can sense my oxygen levels with fair accuracy, and I am careful not to push past the point of slow return. Besides, I told him, Dante has a large tank, and stops to empty some at nearly every light pole and tree. It takes me over an hour to walk 2.5 miles, so I am not overextending my oxygen supply and suffering anoxia. Still, it was an eerie sensation to hear my doctor warn me not to overexert. 

Usually, they tell me to get off my abundant posterior and move something.

Good day, and God bless,


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1206

Chicken Fat?
I was busy washing dishes from supper -- yes, I DO DISHES -- and I heard, “Go, you chicken fat, go!” coming from the television in the living room. I hurried from the kitchen to catch the last few strains of what sounded like Robert Preston’s voice singing music and lyrics by Meredith Willson (of Music Man fame). The flashback was instantaneous.

Suddenly, I was a whole lot shorter and doing calisthenics indoors at school, because it was raining outside. A record was blaring from one of those utilitarian record players in a heavy gray box, and for about ten minutes or so, we would try to do whatever Robert Preston told us to do. Our grade school teacher (Mr. Neinas) was playing a record called Go, You Chicken Fat, Go! It was funny for the first few minutes on the first day. After that, we prayed for good weather and access to the playground. 

I don’t remember President Eisenhower advocating for physical fitness, but I understand he started the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports when I was five years old. I always thought it was President Kennedy who prompted the whole exercise thing. Apparently, they were worried that television was going to create a nation of couch potatoes. To me, it was simply gym class in grade school...on the cheap.

I’ll bet there are folks all over the country tonight, wondering what the television images have to do with chicken fat, or the tortoise, or the hare. When exercising as a kid, I remember thinking that I was neither “chicken” nor “fat,” and  I remember waiting for the final word: “Dismissed!” If you don’t remember, it might help to listen to the full routine at: http://mp3bear.com/robert-preston-chicken-fat.

An asthmatic kid with a penchant for reading instead of running, I was out of breath and wheezing like a steam engine by the end of the record. However, like most kids of that era, I spent more time outside than inside -- except during late summer, when my allergies flared and had to stay inside, praying for the first frost and the rapid death of my arch enemy: goldenrod.

I didn’t play with the other kids often or for long. I watched them, trying to understand what they were doing and why they were doing it. Playing silly games seemed a waste of time, when I could read exciting adventure stories or inspiring biographies of great people. It was then, at age eleven or twelve, that I began writing poems for my mom to read, based on the biographies I read and stories I made up from observing people. However, I never saw the point of Go, You Chicken Fat, Go!

I guess that’s why I remember it so well.

Good night, and God bless,


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1205

My Protector

As often happens these days, my day started a little late. As a consequence, Dante and I started on our 2.5 mile stroll around 11:00 a.m.. I have been slowly training him to the leash and teaching him to “stay with me,” i.e., walk next to or behind me and to one side. American Eskimo dogs are highly intelligent, extremely loyal, and more than a bit high-strung. He is also hyper-protective of his pack (that’s us -- or me).

I did not know that children would be coming home from school around noon. Dante is not well socialized and is especially skittish around groups of active and noisy kids.

Normally, I simply avoid the near occasion of contact with children and give wide berth to groups of youngsters. Today, however, buses were dropping small groups everywhere (like paratroopers behind enemy lines) and those exiting the buses for the last time this school year were in high gear and several were screaming in glee.

Dante was getting nervous and started pulling on the leash (a definite no-no in our walking relationship), which required me to stop, demonstrate we were not going anywhere until he stopped pulling, and to (finally) praise him for falling into line. Suddenly, a block ahead, a group of three or four young girls literally jumped off their bus and began shrieking, screaming, and jumping about -- obviously happy school was out -- this had my partner on his hind legs, straining against the leash and yapping in extreme excitement.

Five minutes later, cooled down and calm once again, we set out for the next corner.

Kamikaze on Blades

About ten minutes later, we were strolling past Tony’s Country Kitchen, smelling the pasties and thinking about lunch. My hearing is not so good, partially because of my tinnitus and because each footstep when I walk sounds like a bass drum in my ears, so I had no warning when a young lady on roller blades blasted past us from behind, brushing my shoulder and startling me. My protector went ballistic, leaping after The Flash on Skates and nearly pulling me off my feet. Like most dogs, Dante can read my mood and sense when I get nervous or angry. I was amazed at how quickly he read me and launched into protect mode.

I don’t wish to give up my route, mainly because there are three doggy doodoo receptacles along the path, which means I don’t have to carry bags of poo very far before I can deposit them. Soooo...as with last summer, I will have to get up much earlier and have our walks before such distractions are abroad.

And all this time, I expected not to complain anymore when the kids are out of school for the summer…

Good night, and God bless,


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mick McKellar Update -- Day +1200

1,200 Days

What on earth is so special about 1,200 days? Well, in and of itself, nothing really. Still, when I woke up this morning, something about the sound of "Day twelve hundred" was special to me. One thousand two hundred days ago, we took a chance that I could live longer than the few weeks or months granted by four rounds of chemotherapy. Thanks to the skills of many medical professionals, the gift of stem cells from my brother, and the prayers of family and friends I didn't know I had, I received the building blocks of the blood currently coursing through my veins. I started on a journey, full of twists and turns, now fully twelve hundred days young and rollicking on towards a future I never expected to see.

Celebrate, Celebrate...

Celebrating...Mick style...
If I "Dance to the music," it best be a slow waltz. Almost a year and a half ago, during my last hospitalization, I was struggling to walk two laps of the corridor outside the door of my hospital room. Yesterday, Dante and I walked two and a half miles and thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the shade in Daniell Park. I think I've learned to appreciate and celebrate such small achievements, to mark them as they pass, and to share each small dram of joy as it graces my glass.

My trip from moribund to merry has not always been marked by sunshine and fair winds, and many of you have followed me down some dark and dreary paths into shadow and cryptic chill and challenge. I appreciate the company in the dark times and love to share the sunny days. I’m not a naturally jolly person -- my mother said I was “grim” as a child -- but I love life and lovely days -- all 1,200 of them!

Good day, and God bless!