Sunday, April 30, 2023

Night is the Darkest Time

 I’ve written before that the mental battle is one of the toughest parts of fighting cancer. I’m sure that everyone’s experience with cancer is different, but I’ve heard from enough people to know that this is a common part of the struggle.

In my case, the physical effects of the cancer were not bad since it was detected before I had any noticeable symptoms. That left me primarily with the mental battle. In other cases, where the cancer is more advanced, there is a larger physical component but the emotional effects still take a toll.

lunar eclipse
Photo by Ryan Olson on Unsplash

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In psychology, there are five defined stages of grief that people experience when confronted with bad news. These include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are all common but can be different for different people. For example, I definitely experienced denial and depression before moving on to acceptance, but I never really felt the anger or bargaining phases. In reality, I probably moved through denial, depression, and acceptance more than once.

When I was first diagnosed, I was in shock. I felt completely numb. I would find myself thinking “I can’t believe this is happening” about 50 times every day. And that’s probably a conservative estimate.

For a guy who is normally in control and has a plan in mind, cancer was a shock. I was completely out of control. I could do nothing except show up for appointments and try to schedule things as quickly as possible. What happened to me was totally up to the doctors and the microscopic cancer cells within my body. It left me feeling totally helpless.

I was in this fog for several weeks, although I may not have always shown it. That didn’t really change until shortly before the surgery.

I didn’t make my diagnosis public at first. I wanted to tell certain family and friends before I made the news public and I planned to keep working as long as possible. Even though I confirmed with the medical experts at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association that I was legal to fly until my surgery, I thought it better to keep my condition on the down low other than telling my bosses and coworkers.

I want to say here that my flying is one thing that wasn’t affected by my anxiety. I carefully monitored my performance in the cockpit and concentrated on the task at hand. When I was flying, I was able to forget about cancer for a while. The escape and distraction that work provided were valuable.

Eventually, about three weeks after I got the bad news, my wife and I made Facebook posts and asked for prayers from our extended family and internet acquaintances. Although we had been praying and having people pray for us already, it was after this point that I finally started finding some peace.

I had started keeping a prayer journal early in the process. Looking back through it, I see that I made the Facebook post on February 10. On February 11, I noted that I got the call from the doctor scheduling my surgery for February 21.

In that entry, I wrote, “It also seems miraculous that my fears have ebbed. I was having a good day before getting the call. Even since hearing that news, I’ve felt better about things.”

A few days later, as I was waiting to go into surgery, I wrote, “I’m afraid but not terrified and as much at peace as possible. My heart rate is about 30 points lower than for the PET scan.” As you may recall, my Fitbit thought I was doing cardio as I sat in the waiting room for the PET scan a few weeks earlier.

I went into the surgery optimistically, but I went into another downward spiral when I saw the pathology report after surgery that showed the cancer had spread into one of my lymph nodes. This is the point where the depression really took hold for me as I described in my post-op post.

I couldn’t see how things would work out. I thought that I had done the surgery for nothing. I thought that I would have to have radiation and hormone treatments. I thought I’d be away from flying for years and possibly lose my job and insurance. I thought that both my life and financial well-being were threatened.

If you’ve read the previous post, you know that ultimately I got good news. The surgeon said that the cancer was likely to not return for a long time and that no further treatment was required at the moment, but from within my bubble before I heard from the doctor, I couldn’t see that. Part of it was that I lacked the relevant medical knowledge, but part of it was a tendency to expect the worst in the middle of a crisis. It’s easy to let your imagination run toward worst-case scenarios when dealing with a life-threatening situation that is filled with unknowns.

I’ll say this again as well: Guard your emotions and expectations and be prepared for news that is worse than expected. Don’t allow yourself to be blindsided. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

For me at least, cancer was a slow-moving crisis. Prostate cancer typically moves pretty slowly so there isn’t a real sense of urgency. I had to wait several weeks for the PET scan and another few weeks for the surgery. So how do you rein in your emotions and fears in the meantime?

I eventually realized that I couldn’t focus on the whole, seemingly insurmountable mountain of problems and concerns that I was faced with. I sometimes ask my kids, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is “one bite at a time.”

I needed to take my battle with cancer one bite at a time. Sometimes that meant one day at a time and sometimes it meant one hour or one minute at a time. The key was to just get through the short-term hurdles and not focus on the long-range problems.

For some, support groups may help. It didn’t work for me though. I didn’t have an in-person group, but I joined a Facebook prostate cancer group. This group had the opposite effect from reassuring and comforting me. The posts about returning cancer and problems with recovery were not what I needed to see at the time.

My wife had a similar experience with a support group for families of prostate cancer patients. Many of the wives complained about the lack of intimacy and emotional distance from their recovering husbands. That led to some emotional distress on her part as she worried that our marriage would grow cold.

Guys, let me say this: Don’t ignore your wife as you go through a crisis. Even if sexual intimacy isn’t an option at the moment, keep talking to her and giving her kisses and affectionate touches. It’s about mutual support and encouragement.

For me, coping also involved a lot of prayer and devotional reading. I started with Bible study plans on the Youversion Bible app that dealt with anxiety and crisis. In my prayer journal, I record a lot of instances in which God encouraged me through Bible verses or other little signs that I’d see in my daily life.

After surgery, my mom gave me a devotional book by Sarah Young that helped a lot. Whenever I started to feel panicked or depressed, I would pick up this book, “Jesus Today,” and read a devotional or two. I can’t count how many times Sarah seemed to address exactly what I was feeling at the time.

But the worst time was at night. I’d normally go to sleep easily, but wake up in the middle of the night with dark thoughts running through my head. In the middle of the night, the demons - whether figurative or literal - stalk you and plant the seeds of despair and fear. That’s why I titled this piece, “Night is the Darkest Time.” If you’ve been through something similar, you probably know what I mean.

It was at this point that I learned the true meaning of the Bible’s admonition to “take your thoughts captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When I’d wake up to the thoughts that cancer was moving throughout my body and killing me and that I couldn’t fly and I’d lose my job and insurance and go broke, I started repeating Psalm 143:8 as a mantra:

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning,
    for I am trusting you.
Show me where to walk,
    for I give myself to you.

Another simple prayer that was passed along by some of my cousins is “Lord, help me while I wait for you to help me.”

We aren’t promised that everything will be okay. In fact, we are promised the opposite (John 16:33), but we are assured that Jesus and God will be with us in whatever we face (Hebrews 13:5). Sometimes we just need some extra assurance to get us to the point where our prayers are answered.

As I said earlier, cancer makes you realize just how little control we have over our lives. We can feel like we are as healthy as we’ve ever been one day and then find out that we have a malignant tumor the next. But even healthy people have the potential to suddenly meet their maker in a car crash or a spree shooting or a thousand other ways. Life can turn - or end - on a dime and there’s nothing we can do about a lot of those possibilities.

For me, what kept me from lapsing into a deep depression was the decision to put my faith in God, the being who does have control over my life and the universe. Like the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, cancer patients are powerless over the disease and need to depend upon “a Power greater than ourselves.”

Throughout the process, I told a lot of people that cancer was a roller coaster ride. To quote Jimmy Buffett, there were “good days and bad days [and] going half-mad days.” But the roller coaster’s dips eventually shallowed out. The low points weren’t as deep and the bad days weren’t as awful. Eventually, you just get tired of being afraid.

It was almost a month after my surgery that I realized that I was starting to think positively about the future again. It was beginning to dawn on me that I was actually going to have a future.

If you are suffering through cancer or some other crisis, just know that you aren’t the only one who has felt this way or who has suffered through similar problems. Take it one step at a time and don’t be afraid to reach out, both to your earthly friends as well as to God.

I can’t promise that everything will end well. For all of us, something is going to be fatal one day. The best we can do is to seek God’s comfort and assurance as we go on our individual journey through our life. One day at a time.

Thank you for reading My Prostate Cancer Journey. This post is public so feel free to share it.


I intend to make this blog free, but as I write this in April 2023, I am out of work and on disability as I recover from my cancer. I’m not broke, but I am on a reduced income. If you feel led to buy a subscription or make a donation, it will be greatly appreciated. To make your donation go further, you can also donate directly to on Paypal or @captainkudzu71 on Venmo.

If you don’t want to send money, I also appreciate prayers, comments, and shares. If you know someone who has or may have prostate cancer or someone who loves someone with prostate cancer, feel free to share this blog with them.

Please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional and this blog does not provide individualized medical advice. If you think you are sick, you should seek treatment from a real doctor.

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From My Prostate Cancer Journey

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Election 2024: Second verse, same as the first

 With President Joe Biden’s recent announcement of his intention to seek re-election and Donald Trump’s domination of Republican primary polling, the stage is set for a rematch of the 2020 election. This is true even though polling shows that it is most emphatically not what voters outside the two parties want.

Let’s face it. As the sitting president, Biden was always likely to run for re-election and a sitting president is almost totally assured of winning his party’s primary. Although our current primary system is relatively new, no incumbent president has ever lost a primary. We have to go back to Andrew Johnson in 1868 to find a president who sought nomination for re-election and did not get it.

File:Joe Biden and Donald Trump.jpg
Credits: Gage Skidmore and Shealah on Wikimedia

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A similar argument applies to Donald Trump. Although Trump lost his re-election bid in 2020, many (if not most) Republicans still don’t understand that Biden won a free and fair election. Trump’s stolen election claims, although thoroughly debunked, have prevented the party from moving on.

Republicans are optimistic about Biden’s low approval ratings, currently at an average of 42 percent, and the fact that 70 percent of Americans believe that Biden should not run again per a new NBC News poll. What these Republicans miss is that Trump’s favorability is about 34 percent, per the same poll, and 60 percent say that Trump should not run again.

Personally, I think that Biden and Trump will face each other again. I’ve said for a long time that this is the most likely outcome. A large share of the Republican Party is still stuck on Trump despite the elites’ attempts to sell Ron DeSantis to the masses. The Florida governor just isn’t catching on and I don’t think he will.

I won’t say that Trump can’t win in 2024. After 2016, I”m not going to make any categorical statements about The Former Guy being unelectable.

I do think a Trump victory would be very unlikely, however. Trump has alienated so much of the country and his own party that it would be extremely difficult for him to repeat the fluke that sent him to the White House in 2016. America knows Trump and, outside the Republican Party, it doesn’t like him.

I can think of scenarios where it could happen though. An economic collapse might persuade independent voters to try Trump again. Biden might suffer a health crisis that leaves him unable to campaign, similar to Hillary in 2016. Or repeating Hillary’s problems, new scandals might emerge. There might be a mass psychosis that causes Americans to get on the Trump Train en masse.

But what I see as far more likely is that Biden will repeat his 2020 strategy of campaigning from the basement under the premise that it’s better to have Trump putting his foot in his mouth on the campaign trail than Biden putting his foot in his mouth on the campaign trail. Donald Trump is physically incapable of not saying anything offensive or stupid for long periods. Biden’s best campaign strategy will be to keep the spotlight on Trump and ask voters, “Do you really want another four years of this?”

The job will be much harder for Trump. Not only does he have to win over independents and some Democrats, he has to win over a significant faction of his own party. A new NPR/Marist poll found that 27 percent of Republicans do not want Trump to be president again. How do you win without the support of a quarter of your own party?

I’ve told the story before about my parents and other Trump voters from 2020 who swore that they would never vote for Trump again. It remains to be seen how many of these Republicans will stick to their guns in a Biden-Trump rematch, but I know quite a few who say they will. With razor-thin margins in battleground states, Trump can’t afford to lose these voters.

My outlook for the 2024 is that Trump gets thumped. I don’t think it will be close this time. After all, as I’ve stressed before, people know Trump and they loathe him. He will be a weaker candidate than down-ballot Republicans and Joe Biden will go back to the White House with more of a mandate than in 2020.

Although Republicans could definitely do better than Trump (or DeSantis), I’m not sure that Democrats could do better than Biden. Back in February, I considered Democratic alternatives to Biden and didn’t find anyone who was likely to keep the progressive, moderate, and minority factions together as well as the president. The party would probably be wise to stick with a proven candidate who has actually governed fairly conservatively.

Biden vs. Trump Part II “Electric Boogaloo” (my contract stipulates that anytime I say “part II” I must reference the title of the best sequel name ever) may not be the matchup that we wanted, but it is increasingly likely that it will be matchup that we get. I hesitate to say that it’s the matchup that we deserve. I hope we haven’t been that bad as a nation.

My most fervent hope is that America will deal yet another electoral loss to Trumpism and that Republicans will move past the MAGA populism that has dealt a string of electoral defeats. For now, however, they seem stuck on stupid.

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IRAN HACKED ELECTION SITES IN 2020: The government revealed that Iranian hackers broke into a US city’s election website in 2020. The hackers had access to parts of the site that displayed election results but not vote tallies themselves before US military cyber forces regained control. Look for more of this in 2024.

HARRY AND LOUISE REDUX: Erick Erickson has a good idea for anti-Trump ads that aren’t in-your-face.

DISNEY SUES DESANTIS: Disney is taking Ron DeSantis to federal court over his board’s attempt to undo deals that Disney’s pet boardmembers made on the way out.

From the Racket News