Merry Christmas and a Personal Note to My Readers

by Charles S. Oaxpatu

Today is Christmas Eve 2021. Merry Christmas to all of you! As you gather with your vaccinated family and friends, I hope your time together will be peaceful, loving, and happy. You may have already read it, but the article below, which I found on-line this morning, was interesting and perhaps applicable to the curmudgeons who sometimes ruin our holiday get togethers. It deals with family members and how no person really and truly knows another family member—–not really. In a sense, even within the most loving family, each of us is to some degree misunderstood and alone in life. Jesus, Joseph, and Mary may have been three of those people for about 12 years. You may read the article by clicking on the following safe link:

How Parenthood Has Changed the Way I Read Ancient Stories of Joseph and Mary’s Relationship with Jesus

Now, I have a more personal message for you:

In the late summer of this year (2021), I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was not one of those “wait around for eight years and see what happens” prostate cancers. It was one of the moderately aggressive kinds that can quickly metastasize to other parts of the body. The tumor was caught early and had not metastasized. My urologist determined that X-ray radiation therapy and all of its other medical trappings would be the best course of treatment for my prostate cancer. I spent most of the autumn months taking medical castration shots and having the location right above my weenie area shot with low daily doses of radiation. In addition, a hospital nutritionist put me on a high-protein diet that encourages my body to heal faster from the tissue damage caused by the radiation. In the process, I gained 20-25 pounds of weight I did not want—–not quite Santa Claus weight—–but going toward there.

The only really bad side effect I have had from the radiation, other than disruption of my retirement’s daily nonschedule, turned out to be a typical but personally unanticipated urinary issue. My urethra  (look it up in the dictionary) came down with a really bad sore throat. How bad? Well, please recall the most painful “it hurts to pee” urinary tract infection you have ever had for just three days. Now, imagine that going on every day of your life for three straight months. I am a real Tennessee Volunteer now because the phenazopyridine urinary anesthetic has turned my white undies partially orange. Orange and white. Go Big Orange!!! Even my pubic hair is orange because the phenazopyridine is very hard to wash off in the shower.

Let us not talk about effects on pee aiming and pee stream strength. Well…………let us do because it is funny. I can pull out my weenie, aim straight into the toilet bowl, and hit the sheet-rock wall right next to the commode—–or hit the floor. Our house has three bathrooms, and one of them is carpeted. Can you imagine the mess? In addition, I have to pee frequently, approximately every 40 minutes throughout each 24-hour day, and it is often difficult to push out the pee. It is kind of like an old straight shift car. I have to stand over the toilet for much longer than was once usual and shift my weenie through various “gears” to coax out varying levels of pee stream—–with orange drip, drip, drip back-dribble. Needless to say, a good, full night’s sleep is nearly impossible because of the high pee frequency. This has gone on for about 2.5 months, and I am now an expert at disruptive nonpissing.

A nurse at my local cancer treatment center monitored my vital signs in a brief check-up every Monday. Along the way, she noticed something really odd. My blood oxygen level was slowly going down. It was about 99 when the radiation treatments began, and near the end of my treatments, it had depressed to 89. My local general practitioner referred me to a pulmonologist to determine whether my lungs were diseased. The lung X-rays and breathing tests were negative, but a treadmill test showed that exercise and associated fast breathing result in a further depression in blood oxygen level. They did some heart tests too, and my heart appears to be in great shape. My pulmonologist is still tracking down the source of my lowering blood oxygen level. The next step is a sleep apnea test at my local sleep center. In the meantime, my pulmonologist has recommended night-time home oxygen treatments using an oxygen concentrator. The machine is here, but I have not had enough courage to use it so far. It just sits in my bedroom, glaring at me. My dad, a long-time Camel smoker, had emphysema in his latter years and had to have home oxygen. I guess some part of me fears becoming like him—–and to this very day—–I still cannot figure out how my dad’s cigarette manufacturer rolled all of those huge desert beasts into those little paper tubes.

But seriously folks. It has been a difficult and not particularly amusing journey. My radiation treatments ended this past Monday, and I am now in the healing phase. I hope the tumor is gone—–should be the radiation folks tell me—–but I still must go through some final tests to determine that for certain. The oxygen issue is still present and under investigation. It still hurts to pee, and I am still a major source of orange dye………if you need some.

God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Baby Bird (something personal) have been with me throughout this long and difficult cancer/low oxygen journey. I feel all of their love and comfort sent my way throughout each day. Because of their presence, my cancer journey has been far less scary and more tolerable than it would have otherwise been. Most of my medical caregivers have been kind and loving, especially the folks at my local cancer treatment center. They are fun people who treat each patient with great love and respect, so you never feel like an impersonal piece of meat in a radiation tenderizing facility.

Who is the Baby Bird?  She is the lingering memory of my first-born female child. Well, her childhood nickname was “Miss Bird.” She was the most amazing child!!!  So is her younger brother. But you know how it is. Little girls tend to be “daddy’s girls” as they grow up down south, and little boys tend to be “momma’s boys.” Various memories of my little girl and the many odd things she said and did in her youth bring great comfort to me in difficult times. She is still a young person (twenties) because we had both of our natural-born children very late in life. I would like you to meet the adult Miss Bird. Here is a recent photograph of her and her husband while touring around campus at the University of Georgia for a football-related event:

Miss Bird and Husband at the University of Georgia

I do not know about you, but for me, the year 2021 was about as bad as 2020 when the health issues were added to it. Therefore, right now, I am looking forward to a happy Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and overall Christmas/New Year season.

This is the night of Old Scrooge, Marley’s ghost, and the other three ghosts. A Christmas Carol is still one of my favorite stories and has been for most of my life. My favorite phrase from that long story by Charles Dickens is:

Wicked old screw!!!

My favorite scenes from that story are the ones shown below. I send them out with great personal pleasure this Christmas Eve to all of the other “wicked old screws” on the American stage today: Trumpites, far-right Republicans, Tea Party members, Capitol Hill insurrectionists, Christian Fundamentalists, Conservative Evangelicals, and the fundie preachers who have left Jesus to pursue money, politics, and rubbing elbows with the wealthy and mighty for personal gain. They know who they are. You know who they are. God knows who they are.  Charles Dickens knew them in his time and place too. People like them have existed in every historical age and geographic place throughout human history on this Earth. Here is a classic Christmas message to all of them from A Christmas Carol. Click, watch, and listen closely:

Finally, I would just like to say that my cancer journey was one of the primary reasons I have not written much for this blog over the past year. It took a lot out of me, including the willingness to think and write regularly. If you had been in my skin and wearing my shoes, I feel certain you would have understood how difficult writing can be under such circumstances.

God bless all of you and have a Merry Christmas!!!  

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2 Responses to Merry Christmas and a Personal Note to My Readers

  1. BJW says:

    Merry Christmas Charles! Your daughter is lovely.

    Don’t be afraid to use the oxygen at night. My mom nearly died at 71 from smoking and lung-related issues. (She said when she saw the paramedics coming she lost all her desire to smoke!) She used night oxygen for a decade and it kept her going. If your O2 levels are that low night oxygen will make you feel better during the day.

    Hope 2022 is a better health year for you.


    • Thanks BJW. I will give the oxygen a fair chance—-but only because you say it is okay. I will probably begin the day after Christmas Day.

      I have actually been thinking about you lately. I was wondering and hoping that you might have a classic “white Christmas,” but the weather map of northwest Ohio indicated clouds and rain. The weather is supposed to be clear and sunny in East Tennessee, but our temperatures will be near 70 degrees. The local weather forecasters think we may break long-time high temperature records tomorrow. No matter what others think, the professional scientist within me says that this warm weather is just another tap on the shoulder to tell us that we have already passed some important line in the sand on man-induced global warming. When I was growing up in Middle Tennessee in the 1950s and 1960s, it started getting a little chilly in late August, and Decembers could be very cold and icy. A lot of that appears to have changed profoundly.

      Much love and respect to you. I enjoy reading your comments over at Bruce’s blog. I hope Santa Claus is good to you tonight.



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