My 64th Birthday

Marion and me on the North Shore in Horumersiel, Germany

Six years ago today I woke up in a hospital room hoping to get home that day to celebrate my birthday and hoping that the resection I had had a few days prior would be the critical step in curing my cancer. Thanks in part to a nurse who took my temperature incessantly till she got a reading low enough to permit my discharge, I was at home in time for birthday dinner with my family that evening. Batting .500 would make you a star in the major leagues.

Five years ago today I woke up, months after my second resection, knowing that curing my cancer was no longer in the set of options available to me. The path forward was managing my cancer as best possible, enjoying myself, and trying to still be useful to the people around me.

And here I am today, waking up on my 64th birthday, with my wife, on vacation in Horumersiel, Germany. I am alive today thanks first and foremost to her. The support of friends and family has also been essential and is deeply appreciated. The excellent treatment by everyone at the Simon Cancer Center – doctors, nurses, technicians, and support staff – have kept me in amazingly good shape now for almost 6 ½ years. In that time I have wrapped up full time professional work at IU, published one of the best scientific papers of my career, done a good deal of information sharing about cancer (, and have done a good deal of meaningful volunteer work (mostly through St. Marks United Methodist Church).

Marion and I are celebrating my birthday in a place we both treasure. Horumersiel is a small harbor town on the north shore of Germany where Marion spent her summers as a kid. My first visit here was in 1986, with my wife and her parents. We visited with Herr and Frau Inkens, dear friends of Marion and her family. Frau Inkens embraced everyone immediately. Herr Inkens embraced all but viewed me with a skeptical eye, justifiable on the basis of Marion’s earlier relationships with an American. We visited Horumersiel many times over the years. Frau Inkens always made us Ostfriesentee. This is a very wonderful type of flavored black tea developed in Ostfriesland, a piece of land within northwestern Germany and on the border with Denmark. In the earlier years when we came here and visited the Inkens I faced a quiz every visit from Herr Inkens, checking on how my German was coming along and whether or not I was treating Marion well enough. This would have been easier for me had he spoken Hochdeutsch. He spoke Plattdeutsch. Frau Inkens was Polish, and because she learned German as a second language she spoke Hochdeutsch. Herr and Frau Inkens met at the end of the war, in Poland, where he was injured and she was a nurse. After the war they walked from near the east end of Poland to near the west end of Germany. They are both gone now many years but their spirit remains here and Horumersiel is one of the places on earth I feel most at home.

I am enjoying myself and my time with my wife, family, friends, and the many communities of which I am a part (particularly spiritual communities). I am still seemingly managing to be useful to those around me. I am thankful to God and God’s hands – especially my wife and the Simon Cancer Center – for this time.

And life goes on. Marion and I have taken up a new hobby. For an early 64th birthday present Marion gave me a Stand Up Paddleboard (reciprocating my anniversary gift to her). Below is a picture of us paddling on Lake Griffy – another place I feel deeply at home. And when we get home to Bloomington I’ll be working on regaining my Ham Radio license and getting ready for another German literature class at IU this fall.

For what more can a person ask at 64?

Marion and me on Lake Griffy, Bloomington, IN