Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cancer and Eating Whataburgers in the Car

Yesterday I sat in my car in Target's parking lot, eating a hamburger and thinking wistfully about my dad.

Dad died April 1, 2004 of esophageal cancer. I was down in Texas taking care of him back then. In the months preceding his death, a tumor in his esophagus left him unable to swallow anything that could not fit through a straw. This made eating quite a challenge. If that wasn’t bad enough, Dad also suffered from dementia (possibly from cancer in his brain) so he really didn’t understand or remember that he had to be very careful about what he ate.

Consequently, anytime we were eating together we'd eat only liquids or something super soft that could fit down his obstructed esophagus. His favorite, his “comfort food”, was Milk Toast, which if you’re not an "old timer" from Texas you may think that is just a term used to describe a wimp. Milk Toast is hot milk poured over buttery toast, and really not too bad, but it's not getting featured on the Food Channel anytime soon, either. Most of the time the Jell-O, soup etc. was fine and a good reminder to me of what Dad was going through, how much he'd lost to not be able to even eat normally.

Occasionally though, I'd get really hungry for some "chewable" food and sneak off to get a "Whataburger". The first time I did it, I sat in the restaurant and ate. When I walked into the house an hour later Dad asked me where the hamburgers. He could smell them from my clothes.

After that, whenever I would get the burger buzz, I'd used the drive-thru, then I'd park a block or so away from home and eat in the car. After I finished, I'd bury the trash outside under what was already in the can and leave the car windows open to make sure there was no burger aroma to give me away.

It was one of those sad/funny/guilt inducing things that you do when someone you love has cancer and you're the primary caregiver. As I sat in the car back then, I'd feel silly and guilty, with my heart aching because of what Dad was going through.

The worst was probably dealing with the dementia. Dad couldn't remember why he couldn't eat or what the problem was. It was a constant struggle, but we were blessed with a strong and loving relationship of trust in each other and God got us through that oh, so difficult time. As hard as it was, it was also one of the greatest blessing of my life to be able to give back to my father just a fraction of the loving care he'd always given to me.

Today my dad is in heaven, healed, and eating heavenly hamburgers every day I suspect.

I'd like to ask you a favor. If your dad is still here, please give him a big hug or send him a loving e-mail for me today.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Review of RUSH by Jonathan Friesen


By Jonathan Friesen

RUSH is the latest young adult novel of my friend Jonathan Friesen. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy to read. His first novel “Jerk, California”, a road trip/coming of age story of a teen who just happens to have Tourette Syndrome won the American Library Association Schneider Family Award.

“He could burn. She could die.
Anything for the rush.”

These words from the cover of Rush are a fairly accurate ten word description of the RUSH.

18-year-old Jake King is the kind of teen who gives parents sleepless nights and frantic days. Never one to sit still for a minute, Jake’s idea of a perfect afternoon begins with blowing off school to play “Spiderman” by rock climbing up a sheer walled canyon in a thunderstorm. Along the way, Jake rescues an 8 year-old stuck half-way up the canyon wall. Then instead of a bedtime story, Jake scales the local water tower for a late night dangle.

AD/HD, E/BD are just a few of the initials used to describe adrenalin junkie Jake’s constant quest for thrills.

But there is more to Jake than just action. His best friend Salome Lee knows a side of Jake that no one else is permitted to see. Ever since they were 8 years old and he climbed the rope ladder at school to rescue her locket, his tender friendship and loyalty have been calling to Salome’s heart, causing her to overlook most of Jake’s crazy stunts. Their relationship is complicated further by Jake’s fear that if he lets Salome get too close he’ll only break her heart.

Just when it seems Jake has worn out his welcome at school and his father’s patience at home an opportunity comes up that seems perfect for Jake’s unique skill set. The local crew of hotshot forest firefighters has an opening. These are the guys who rappel into wildfires, smoke jumpers who parachute into the belly of the beast to pull out its fiery teeth. Jake can just see himself in one of those leather jackets with “The Immortals” stitched on the back. Never mind that these guys have a habit of dying young.

But there is more to “The Immortals” than Jake knows. “According to legend, each year at least one member of the underground firefighters’ brotherhood must die.” But dead firemen never speak and the living “Immortals” are just as tight-lipped. All of which appeals to Jake even more.

RUSH is a fast paced story with a full serving of action and a side dish of mystery seasoned sweetly with romance. Jonathan’s writing will have you feeling the heat from the firefighting scenes and heart-pounding excitement as you follow Jake’s “live large or die” philosophy of life. This plot and these characters are well-written and interesting, getting into your head and keeping you turning pages long past bedtime.

So if you’re a reader who likes your action with a little lovin’ or your romance with a touch of danger, RUSH to Amazon and put in your pre-order because RUSH doesn’t release until June 10, 2010.

Check out the book trailer at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2LkZzI7VJ8 or below!

The “Skinny” on RUSH (what I really loved)

  • The nice/tough guy character of Jake. He’s a high-risk, adrenaline-loving troubled kid trying to do the right thing.
  • Jake’s descriptions of how AD/HD affects his mind.
  • Sweet & sassy Salome, an strong, independent young woman who’s not sitting around waiting for a “knight in shining armor.”
  • The story setting in the California wildfire region, exploring the exploits of men who risk their lives fighting out of control fires.
  • Mystery of “The Immortals,” firefighters’ secret club.
  • It's a fast-paced page-turner.
  • Really FEELING the rush as Jake risks everything, jumping bikes, fighting fires and scaling rock walls all for the thrill of it.