Last week Abbot Steve's pain level increased significantly, and hospice care was unable to relieve the pain, so he went to the hospital. Now he is at home with a pump to automatically deliver medication at regular intervals, but the situation is still quite delicate and challenging to manage. He is in good spirits, but the cancer continues to progress very rapidly.
Thank you, as always, for sending your good thoughts and wishes.
First, it is an inspiring thought to dedicate this particular day for giving thanks and put “gratitude” on the national calendar as a shared cultural value. Though any great thought may be tarnished and undermined by our usual self-serving narrowness, here is a window of opportunity that can warm the cockles of my heart and yours. It’s an invitation to each of us as citizens, as one member of the millions of us to be generous with each other and recall the many gifts we receive simply by being alive here in this place and time. ...continue reading →
Abbot Steve completed another lay entrustment ceremony yesterday, for Tom Millard of the Dharma Eye Zen Center.
Mary explained to me today that the last report about Abbot Steve's condition was possible because fortunately the hospice physicians have been able to find a better mix of medications overall for him. She also informed me that, despite the apparent improvements, he continues to become exhausted quite easily and must manage his energy carefully.
We feel fortunate that he has been able to perform these ceremonies for his students.
Abbot Steve's pain level fluctuates a great deal, and periodic supplemental doses of medication are needed around the clock to keep it manageable. Also, fatigue and weakness make simple ventures from the bed seem like major efforts.
Somehow, even through his weakness and discomfort, Abbot Steve shines through like this at various moments.
Abbot Steve had chemotherapy yesterday and was in the hospital from 9 until 2. He's at home resting now. Steve continues to lose weight, and recently he has not been able to absorb fluids into his system, so now he needs to go in to receive regular fluid infusions in addition to the chemo.
He tends to bring energy to what is happening, and visitors buoy him up. Afterwards, though, he is really tired and because he's unable to sleep deeply any longer, he catnaps.
He has started the process of Dharma transmission for Christine Palmer, and he is grateful that it has begun.
Abbot Steve has enjoyed hearing your cards and messages read to him by Lane and Mary. Mary continues to field any requests.
A conversation with Mary yesterday reminded me that every day seems to bring greater fragility and discomfort to Abbot Steve as the cancer is moving through his body. That, combined with meds that are escalating daily to control pain and nausea, is putting a tremendous strain on his system.
On a good day recently, what he managed to ingest was little more than half a cup of soup. And restful sleep is elusive. He is still able to get up and move around the house with a cane. A walker and a wheelchair are also available. Mary says the need for these tools has been pacing ahead of the mind's ability to take it in.
Chemotherapy was scheduled to resume today, on a schedule of once a week for three weeks, and I have not yet heard a report on that. It is questionable whether he is strong enough for the treatment to be beneficial. The focus for Steve, Lane, and Mary is becoming more and more a day-by-day one. Mary plans to provide an update tomorrow about what happened at the clinic.
Mary offered this update as a reflection of Abbot Steve's sincere concern that we be well informed about the steady progress of his illness.
Abbot Steve is at home and stable, medically speaking. He is continuing with medication for his heart and blot clots and plans to resume chemotherapy after completing the current round of antibiotics for last week's infection.
Though happy to be home, he's surprised at how weak he is. His doctor visit yesterday was quite exhausting for him. He rented a hospital bed for his home, which he finds helpful. He has walked around a little but is still mostly in bed.
We will be watching to see how he does with the next round of chemotherapy and report here. However, whenever he is mostly stable, there will naturally be fewer reports. In the meantime, he feels very committed to the Zen Center community and plans to be in contact as much as he can, which for now remains rather limited.
Thanks to all for your various expressions of concern and admiration for Abbot Steve.
Abbot Steve returned home today, which for the last couple of days is what the medical team and Abbot Steve have been working toward. The intravenous fluids were stopped yesterday, and medications that had been delivered by injection have been changed to liquid or pill form. The cellulitis that caused this stay at the hospital is clearing up well. Abbot Steve is eating more through the day and feeling generally more at ease.
Through the afternoon he visited with family from the electrically adjustable hospital bed that has been moved into the house. At dusk he spent some time walking in the back yard, literally smelling the roses.
In the next couple of days he hopes to talk with his oncologist about proceeding with the chemotherapy treatments.
Summarizing a brief communication I had from Mary Stares this evening after her day in the hospital with Abbot Steve:
As mentioned in the last post, the infection in Steve's legs was clearing up, and Steve had a relatively good day Friday.
This morning, however, he had some heart arrhythmia. Beta blockers have been increased to resolve that, and now his heart rhythm again seems stable.
Also, although at one point this week his pain level dropped significantly, that level did not last, and pain management continues to be a major issue. He will remain in the hospital for at least a couple more days. It remains unclear when chemotherapy may resume at this point.
Thanks to all who are chanting often for Steve's well-being.