When our beloved “uber-dork” left the Southwest for Alaska, we all thought he was symbolically heading off to the wilderness, as in a Native American tradition, to pass from this life. Much to our pleasure, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise, reconnecting with Nature and his son, Beau, improved Tony’s quality of life in ways he hadn’t imagined… and the quantity well beyond the average two year survival that was his prognosis when he moved in 2013. Currently his prostate cancer is growing slowly, restrained by medication, healthy eating and way more physical exercise than he imagined… and other than the news in the next paragraph doctors are impressed with Tony’s overall health.
Unfortunately, back in June Tony found a lump in his neck and had to have it removed and tested. The diagnosis was squamous head and neck cancer with a papillomavirus component. This is a new type for Tony, apparently not related to his previous prostate cancer and Hodgkins lymphoma. The treatment for this type of cancer is chemotherapy and irradiation in tandem to poison and burn out the malignant cells. To maximize the probability of complete eradication, radiation will be 5 days a week for 7 weeks, along with weekly chemotherapy infusions. The odds of a cure are good, which is why Tony has chosen to begin the treatments, but there will be a lot of collateral damage from burns to the mouth, throat, larynx, salivary and thyroid glands.
Radiation treatment started on August 17th. With the closest treatment center in Soldotna, Alaska, Tony will have to drive approximately 150 mile round trip from Homer for his treatments. We all know Tony has always lived a frugal lifestyle, and he is counting on Medicare and supplemental health insurance to cover most of the radiation and cancer treatment costs. But the annual copay cost for cancer medicine is $8,565 and all the ancillary costs not covered by insurance are stacking up fast.
Many friends have asked how they could help, and Tony has given permission to provide some suggestions so that you can see how funds raised for Tony will be used:
· Because the radiation will shut my salivary glands down (this has already happened after only a few sessions), accelerated tooth decay is inevitable. Dental work to prepare for treatment and post treatment will likely run in the thousands with many of these costs not covered by insurance.
· Both my hearing and eyesight have been compromised for years. These are very likely to become worse with this course of facial radiation. Changes in glasses and hearing aids will become important as my senses deteriorate.
· If you want to visit and help with driving or tending during the later phases of my treatment, you would be welcome. Helping with fuel expenses for the treatments and doctor visits is also needed.
· Both my integrative doctor and radiation oncologist have recommended intravenous vitamin C treatments, which are not covered by my insurance. I think they will cost about $250 each over the course of 5-6 months.
· My massage/physical therapy treatments every two weeks have helped me keep my back and other core muscles aligned and strengthened, and I think has mitigated damage I have from prostate cancer spreading in my bones. They cost $30.00 per visit, are not covered by insurance and I need to continue this until I can’t.
· I probably shall have consultations with other therapists in the course of treatment to learn about other options for healing. Doubtless they will have recommendations for supplements and therapies.
Tony has also shared his philosophy on how he is approaching this phase:
“Five years ago, Beau invited me to spend my last years with him. I came north for an opportunity to grow into something beyond a workaholic teacher living in a cheap apartment. The transition has not been easy for me, but Beau has been an excellent life coach – he even taught me tai chi. I resisted shedding a persona that was no longer useful, and in the process I learned a lot more about myself – some of it frustrating, some funny, some pathetic, and some satisfying. I know I’m healing, because I know myself better, and I’m still relishing life.
After several years of hard work, Beau has a portfolio of skills and equipment to clear and shape land, and to improve soil, profitably. Together with other partners, we have made a system with remarkable potential. Our location and soil create an environment likely to produce more food as climate warms. After a hiatus of 55 years, I share a place with livestock and gardens. Finally I feel like I have a home again. I get to plant trees, experiment with forages, and grow roses – and I can take a nap almost any time I want. I can still contribute in ways appropriate to my declining cognitive and physical abilities, whether washing eggs or eviscerating turkeys, among many options. Although I am dismayed by our national trend towards a militaristic, imperial plutocracy, and I’m discouraged by a widespread retreat from the environmental stewardship that I advocated, I believe what we are attempting in Homer is a worthy process of adaptation and resistance, which inspires me.
I am choosing, to the extent possible, how I want to decline and die. As Naomi Remen said, although one is dying, one can still heal during the process.”
A small gift from you will provide him with the support he needs to recover as much as he can, continue to learn and heal, and thrive in a community where man and Nature share responsibility for each other in a most profound way.
So let’s help Tony stay connected to the natural world he has taught us to love…and along the way, we are sure he will have more stories and inspiration to give back.