Wednesday, November 4, 2009

thank you for your caring and support

As he said in his last entry, Bob had planned on posting a health update several weeks ago, but he got busy with living--recording oral histories with his children, visiting with friends, participating in the UU Forum, talking at AA meetings, and hosting get-togethers with UUers to talk about end of life issues.

About a week ago Bob's health started deteriorating very rapidly. The tumor was pressing on all his internal organs. Breathing became quite difficult, he felt nauseous constantly, and was in considerable pain. He needed oxygen to breath and morphine to manage the extreme discomfort. Then Friday night he fell several times getting out of bed. He became restless and agitated. Latte, Bob's middle son, came over from Spring Lake to help out Marian. The hospice nurse started making daily visits. After a difficult weekend, Bob finally fell into a restful sleep Monday morning. That night, his younger daughter Kim, who is a nurse, came in from California. Tuesday, Marian's son, Joe, and his wife, Michele arrived. Bob's youngest son, Turner, his fiancee, Moya, and their baby, Azaria, drove up to Lansing. At 3:30pm on November 3, Bob passed away quietly at home in his sleep with family by his side.

As a scientist, Bob's final contribution to understanding the human condition was donating his body to Michigan State University through the Willed Body Program. His tradition of breaking new ground in scientific research continues after his death.

Bob lived a rich and full life. Many thanks to those of you who have followed his blog. Your comments touched his heart and helped him find joy in the months since his decision not to undergo any additional aggressive treatment for his cancer. The service celebrating Bob's life will take place this Sunday, 2pm, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing.

~ Stephanie (Bob's older daughter, aka Professor Cyborg)
"Death ends a life, not a relationship."
from Tuesdays with Morrie

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It is more difficult to keyboard these days so I am sending part of a talk I gave to an open AA meeting. I am working on a health up date and hope to get it done in a couple of days. Happy reading.

The Successful AA Journey

Bob Zimmermann

July 29, 2009

I have come to believe that a successful AA journey takes us through three phases of thinking. The first phase is compliance. No one comes to AA because the day was so great and they were feeling on top of the world. One way or another, as it says in step one of the 12 and 12, we are driven to AA by one force or another: conscience, fear, the law, threats, curiosity.

If we comply by staying away from the first drink; if we go to a meeting rather than taking the first drink; if we take advice from a sponsor; if we follow the suggestions, we are in compliance. If we successfully comply with the principles of AA, we usually find that life is changing for the better. We do not have to lie anymore; a feeling of interpersonal honesty begins to come over us.

Our initial commitment (compliance) to attend AA meetings and engage in AA activities begins to take on a new meaning. We don’t go to meetings and do AA things because we are supposed to (compliance); we go to meetings because we enjoy the fellowship. We hear how others stay sober; we go for many different personal reasons. There is something about the AA meeting that appeals to us, changes us, comforts us. We feel good after a meeting. We are comfortable around AA talk and AA types. In other words we now identify with the AA program and AA way of life. We develop AA habits. Meetings are sought-out events as are social gatherings with AAs. Volunteer work and participation in the governance of AA takes on meaning--making coffee, cleaning up, going to outreach meetings. AA’s are my kind of people.

This middle stage Identification works as long as other AA’s and AA reminders are around. But what of those incidents when we are far from AA, when we may be the only AA in the midst of a typical alcohol culture: school reunion, out-of-town company party, a sporting event, first hunting trip since being sober (one won’t hurt, for old time’s sake). That is, identification alone will not protect us, our support group is not there.

How do we handle it alone, a long way (mentally and physically) from our AA support? We can handle it alone when we have internalized the AA way of life. It is where we have taken the principles and values of AA as part of our very soul. The maintenance steps (10, 11, 12) are part of our daily living. I like to think that we have moved into the life of the sober culture. You feel blessed to be free to say “no thank you” under any circumstances. There is no conflict; the mechanisms for maintaining sobriety are there. As years go by, you might drift from meetings and traditional AA activities, but the soul of sobriety stays with you. The values of sobriety are as natural as the principles of the good life: do unto others, charity, honesty, fairness, these ideas are a natural part of your very existence. You don’t have to think sober, you are sober.

How it worked

If someone were to ask me “What was the secret to your lasting and joyful sobriety? “I believe I would have to list the following;”

1. Commitment to a meaningful AA meeting schedule. Go to meetings that meet your needs and help you grow.

2. Stick with or model yourself after the winners. Get rid of your losers.

3. Share honestly with a trusted sponsor.

4. Be involved with your home (or multiple home) group.

5. Outreach--attend institutional, jail or other group meetings, help alateens, volunteer at the central office. Be prepared to make 12-step calls. Travel out of town to other AA meetings.

6. Attend meetings when you travel. We found a Friend of Bill meeting while we were on an Alaskan Cruise Ship.

7. Most important, find yourself a sober culture. There are many social organizations and groups that do not put getting drunk as a priority to having a good time. All boaters do not need to load up on alcohol in order to enjoy their boats. It is the same way with campers, hunters, dancers. You may not be threatened by the presence of booze but who wants to be around a bunch of drunks. Put it the other way, how many drunks want to have a sober person hanging around (unless he/she is the designated driver).

My final first step

My quest for a serene sober life is just about over. I celebrated my forty third anniversary on November 2008. I am at peace with the world of sobriety. What would a drink do for me? The serenity of my sober life is too precious. I want to leave this earth a sober person.

But my serenity of life has recently been shaken. I am now back at the first step, not about alcohol, but about life. I am in dire need of developing acceptance that I am powerless over life itself. I have been diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal cancer and the operation that could have removed the cancerous tumor cannot be performed because of the size and extent of the cancer in my stomach.

In other words I am dying of this cancer. I have joined a palliative Hospice program and will let mother nature take its course. I am tube fed at night so I don’t have to force food down an angry stomach. At present I am self sufficient enough to stay at home. However, I am dependent on the love of my life and my full-time caregiver (Marian) to feed me, change my bandages, and help me get dressed. Her love is a daily reward.

I am truly in the position that I must live one day at a time and cherish the experience of each day. To help me with this task I have reworded the first three steps so they apply to “Living in the light of dying.”

1. I admit that I am powerless over the course of life itself.

2. I believe I must look beyond my personal resources for help in order to restore manageability to my shortened life.

3. By turning my life over to the power of natural consequences I will find the serenity in dying that I have found in my sober life.

With these steps and the serenity prayer I hope to leave this world a sober, happy and serene man.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hi out there.

Some folks (my daughter in particular)have wondered about my progress so I have tried to summarise our situation to date.

My decline in stamina has been gradual, if you think of weeks as gradual. I do not wake up one morning incapable of doing things. The tumor is growing in size so I cannot bend over to put on my shoes and socks. In fact it has become so large that I am no longer symmetrical. My right side bulges out a couple of inches more than my left.

I find I am good for about a 90 minute activity (visit, meeting, etc.) before I begin to feel that chronic fatigue syndrome. On occasions I can push a bit and hang in if folks are here, but most recognise my limits. We go to the church forum, but I cannot last the next hour of church. I feel best in the morning, so I am typing now. Keyboarding is strenuous since I make so many mistakes.

I keep busy every day and do have moments of serenity. The problem is the little irritations and minor pains are not conducive to the relaxation that comes with the feelings of serenity.

I still get up each morning, wash, dress and get ready for the day. But it takes a little more time then it used to and I have to rest a while when I am finished.

We are doing better at managing the pain associated with the feeding tube. Our new nurse, Stacy, has come up with some ideas to alleviate the burning pain that has developed in the area where the tube enters the stomach. Stacy is turning out to be a first rate nurse and has made our dealings with hospice (supplies etc.) much more reliable.

I think I have a few months before I have to move into Hospice housing and we will give you plenty of notice. We talked about that with the social worker last week so we are all up to snuff on those plans. Margaret, the hospice chaplain keeps me working on my celebration plans. Bob Christopher is finishing up a DVD with pictures and music, Stephanie is getting my professional stuff in order, publications, Vita etc. for display and I am making up a short music list that will be independent of the DVD. I plan on starting off with Sentimental Journey by Les Brown and Doris day, followed by Take the A train by Duke Ellington and I am working from there. Maybe Sinatra doing My Way. I am open to suggestions.

I try to live each day to the fullest of what is available. Some days are better then others.

All in all I am going well. We have an apple tutor coming in once a week to help us with our computer issues, a group of four folks from the church (UU) are meeting with us on Thursdays at 1:00-2:30, and I get to a Saturday morning AA meeting. I have been working on my AA story, it is going slow, but I have polished up the summary.

I am beginning to wear out, better send this now

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A history of my work life.--done while high

April 16, 2009 chemohi notes------Edited 9/18.09----but still high

Job history--a career in college teaching

1. First job at Cornell was sheer luck and the support of people like Pat Smith, Julian Hockberg. I still do not understand why they took me (a brand new Ph.D.) over the other candidates, most of whom had a year or more on the job, or in post-doc positions. Pat Smith told me once that I got a lot of votes because of the moxie I showed during the interview with the whole department and that I kept up that form in the social events. Of course I did promise them a primate lab and Harry’s letter affirming that I would probably establish a monkey lab undoubtedly helped. I was productive at Cornell in terms of building the lab, but I drank too much. Got tenure in 1964, still not sure why. Sobered up in November 1965 .

2. Montana was an ego trip--full professor at age 37--how could you turn that down. Montana expected a monkey lab--and they got one--and Dave Stroble turned out to be just the guy to inherit that lab. But from a reality point of view I went from a little fish in a pond of geniuses at Cornell--Sagan, Betha, Nobel prize winners in genetics. So Montana made me a big fish in a little pond and I got caught with the bait.

3. I have no idea why they hired me at Central Michigan. But they did bring in a full professor with loads of publications. They might have seen me as an addition to the credentials that they needed to get the doctorate programs going (which I opposed--better to produce first rate masters than less than doctorates. ) Never did fit in with CMU. Constant conflicts with the chairman, Bill Hawkins, a conservative, and always at war with the Freudians. Did get to like that off campus teaching. Got great evaluations from that group. Published a lot with grad students, and helped many get their master’s degrees. They did not renew my contract. If they had kept my another year they would have had to grant me tenure. And that would happen over some dead bodies.

4. Got the job at Delta in a developmental disabilities program by being brassy about the failure of the school systems and social workers to appreciate the significance of the handicap laws. I took a very strong parent position (learned something at Central--the power of parents with handicapped children as articulated in the rights of the disabled to be educated). So the job was to educate parents of handicapped kids on their rights. (I even took off my beard for this job.) I promoted it like hell and got a good number of parents active. The schools’ principals hated my guts. But man did the parents love me.

5. Got the second job at Delta in a Government-sponsored assessment program-because of my Ph.D. credentials and the job I had done on the parents program. The new program was designed to identify students with a specific weakness and get them in remedial programs. In other words, improve college success in at-risk students through assessment. Was fun at time and stressful at times. Learned a hell of a lot about assessment, particularly how to play the success game. (Give a person enough tests and they are sure to do well on at least one. Then you talk to their strengths.) I also came up with the idea of giving a two-day seminar on test taking before the tests were administered to a group. It lasted about four hours a day in two-hour blocks per day. This gave time for review and take home work. The participants ate it up. Also we offered courses to help them bring up their scores in tests they did not pass. We also got involved with the big layoffs of the 80’s. Unemployed workers were invited to free assessment programs at their old place of work. Got tons of folks into different community college programs and tripled the number of people enrolled the GED program. The best and most successful program I worked on was the one where we brought in 24 welfare mothers to the college four days a week for 6 months of “education”. We had courses in how to dress, simple math and grammar, personal development (getting rid of self defeating behaviors, human development, career research, budgeting (or practical economics). Twenty-two completed the course and at the end of two years not one of the 22 graduates was on welfare.

We had a series of management changes after the original manager, Larry Gabbert, took the job of director of assessment in the state of West Virginia, and it was a disaster. After a year and a half of lousy management and much infighting the dean (Cabbello)decided to shut down the assessment center, and not renew our contracts at the end of the next semester. In other words I got about 9 months’ notice. So did everybody else in the program But unbeknown to me, that move opened the door for a full-time teaching in psychology.

6. Got the assistant professorship at Delta in 1998 partly because of my good record of part-time teaching, particularly the black students, and probably guilt on the part of the faculty since I had been turned down for that position at least four times. I really enjoyed those last years of teaching from 1998 to retirement. I was a full-time assistant professor and loved every minute of it. Even with the fights I used to have with Pat Caldwell at the Ricker centre. I ended my teaching career on a very high note.

36 years in the academic field and loved every minute of it.

so endith the chemo high story for the nights..

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Days go well. No Christians around

Hello out there: on this 09/09/09 day

Life continues at a pretty good pace. Our new full-time nurse, Stacy, appears to be just what we have been waiting for since we joined hospice: warm, friendly, competent and reliable. She brought some new ointments to apply around my feeding tube and they seem to be working. The soreness has been reduced considerably in just two days. She also stocked us up with tape and gauze sponges. With my feeding tube portal leaking as much as it does, Marian often has to change the bandage 4 or 5 times a day. It is important to keep the area as dry as possible to reduce the irritation from the highly acidic stomach fluids.

We still have some kinks to workout with the delivery of supplies. It is not the nurse’s fault, but rather the fault of the “system”. They failed to deliver the feeding bags for my tube feeding yesterday, so today we are falling back on bags that we washed out “in case of emergencies”. We should have new bags by tomorrow. Marian is gradually increasing the percent of high fiber diet in to my feeding. There is some indication of improvement in my system but it will take time.

On Friday, Judy McQueen, a member of Marian’s “Swimmin’ Women” group conducted an oral history with me using an interview format from a book written by William Zimmerman (no relation, but that was my father’s name). She dropped CD copies off yesterday and it turned out well. Judy is an excellent interviewer. I now have another “keep sake” to pass on to posterity.

I went to the Saturday morning AA meeting again and this time I talked about applying the principles of AA to my current status. I hope I did not frighten off too many people. Most folks don’t like to hear about death and dying. In future meetings I think I will focus on my early AA experiences. While I did not relapse, those first years, they were tough for me. I describe my situation as maintaining “white knuckle sobriety” and in place of the serenity that is supposed to take over once you have truly accepted the fact that you are an alcoholic my state of mind was more like “frantic tranquility”. But sobriety did prevail over the years, but it took a lot of years for me to achieve the goals of the Serenity prayer.

Aaron and Marion Galonsky came over again on Saturday afternoon and we shared a lot of our personal histories as academics. Aaron is writing an autobiography of their marriage. He still has a remarkable memory. He was born and raised in Brooklyn and loved Manhattan. So we had much to talk about. He is going to do some of the early inquiries for us concerning the memorial service.

We had a good session with the Forum group on Sunday, we are still discussing the issue of Food Inc. and related articles.

Monday was not one of my best days, but it picked up after Ann Andrews, an assistant pastor from the UU church, came for a visit. She is a hospice worker at the Lansing Hospice where I plan to spend my final days (assuming I cannot spend them at home). Ann is a delightful woman with much empathy, so it is easy to share joys and sorrows with her. She is still trying to get a small “end of life issues” discussion group going at the church. She was in an automobile accident about a month ago and is just getting reorganised.

Tuesday was a busy one. Did my mile walk at the MAC with my trainer, Ed. Had to go to the eye doctor for my one month post op (cataract surgery) evaluation and to get measured for new glasses. It will be wonderful to see clearly again. As it is I can read 14 point type without glasses, but my distant vision is a little fuzzy. With the new glasses I should be able to read the scores on the TV and the writing when it is on mute. The day was topped by a visit from Mary Voelker and Paul Slocum (UUs). Both of them had lost spouses so they were well tuned to the issues that Marian I like to share with people who feel comfortable with the topic. They may join Ann’s discussion group.

The day ended with a good visit with our nurse, Stacy. My wound is making good progress.

Today I have an appointment with the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. No sense of going to heaven with cavities, or worse yet, developing a tooth ache in these final months.

We are looking forward to a busy weekend. Latte is dropping Ethan and Quinn off on Friday evening. They will be with us on Saturday while Latte plays in a golf tournament and will probably stay until Sunday. Stephanie and Ted arrive on Saturday evening for a four-day visit. Fortunately we have plenty of bedroom space to accommodate all.

I think I am adjusting to my new level of gastric and abdominal discomfort. It is not painful, just a chronic reminder that all is not well and not really getting any better. But we go on with optimism that we can manage whatever comes along. Because of the inflammation around the feeding tube entrance in the skin I cannot bend over to put on my socks and shoes, so Marian has a new task added to her already long list of things to do for Bob. She is fantastic.


I am adding another note from Living in the Light of Dying

Gifts Given, Gifts Received

Many people dying from terminal illnesses choose to search for gifts in their conditions. This goes beyond making lemonade instead of bitterness. It involves searching for any and all positive outcomes that flow from facing death with dignity. We look back on our lives, or the life of the one dying, and find treasures that have meaning for the person’s life. It helps us cope with the loss to come.

Do you or someone you know look for the gifts? Does it help? How? Would you like to know how a person could make that choice? As a caregiver or one being cared for, have you been the beneficiary of such a gift? Have you been the gift giver and, if so, how did you present your gift.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Busy week

Hi there everybody

Wow it is almost a week since I have been on, but it has been a busy week. On Sunday we got Joe and Michele off to the Virgin Islands, then went to the 9 AM Forum and stayed for the church service which was dedicated to Odetta. Great service. That afternoon Latte came over with Quinn and Ethan. We had picked up some steaks which Latte grilled while Marian prepared buttered noodles and broccoli.

Monday was a down day for me physically and mentally. I seem to go into a funk when people leave after a visit. Same thing happened after the reunion. By the end of the day I realized that I had to get back on my gratitude mode. Particularly after blowing my stack at the substitute nurse for not bringing my new fiber formula as promised. Felt bad about that and made a quick Tenth Step move. I had expected my new permanent nurse Stacy, but she took the day off, so it was back to a substitute. Had I known all the facts I probably would not have blown my stack. But the action had a payoff for me and Marian. I think we have both learned that people are variable even when they try to be consistent, and we have to accept the fact that they may not always meet the expectations we have developed. Things seem settled now. I have a new high fiber formula that we are gradually introducing into my daily feeding. Right now it is one high fiber to three regular and in a few days we will make it two and two, then three to one fiber and finally all fiber. We are also pleased with Stacy as a nurse.

Still have feeding tube leaks of all types, but we are coping. I think I have to learn to adjust to new levels of equipment failure. Marian has been clever in finding ways to get us through.

Tuesday was MAC day and I walked a mile with Ed. We had a great discussion on the ins and outs of living with cancer and the joy of having the herb to help us through. That afternoon I collected pictures requested by Bob Christopher and got them off via UPS.

Wednesday was truly a busy one. Ed came over at 9 AM and we baked 200 plus Waldorf bites. He is really a great help now that he has the routine down. He stayed until Stacy, my new full-time nurse, arrived around 11:45. Just as Stacy was leaving (after cleaning the tube entrance and checking my vitals) Melanie Mack arrived with some goodies to share with visitors. Around 1:30 Diane Nichols from church came over and took us to see and walk around one of MSU gardens. It was a fun time. The gardens were truly impressive. We are going to go to other gardens next week, weather permitting. At 6:00 PM Marian met with the Pink Ribbon crew at Schulers for an evening of “crew talk”.

Here it is Thursday and we are still at it. I did my morning mile walk at the MAC with Ed while Marian worked out. Margaret, the chaplain from hospice made her weekly visit. We discussed my temper tantrum and then went on to discuss more serious things like planning my memorial service. We have to contact the responsible people at the UU church to find out how we can get the place for the service. Margaret thinks we should work on some pretty detailed plans. She cited the Kennedy funeral as the ultimate in a well planned funeral. I gather that Teddy and his wife planned the whole thing. I will get working on it. While we are checking up on how to get the church Margaret suggested I work on the selection of music. Since Bob Christopher wants a music list also I will try to kill two birds with one stone. I have to admit that it is pretty weird to feel as good as I was feeling today and to sit there talking about things that are going to be going on after I have left this world.

Marian had lunch today with her old friend Ann Wing. Ann has a daughter who is in stage 4 of breast cancer and is undergoing all types of chemo therapy.

So you can see that my days have been filled with activities. Some days are good, some are not so good. There are days that I would just as soon not be alive, then there are days that I am almost jubilant to be alive (like today).

Below is one of the discussion items from Living in the Light of Dying. In particular I like the “experiences of living fully while dying”. That is what I am trying to do. So far so good. The last sentence in this item is also a good one.


Insights, Inspiration & Wisdom

What insights have you found from your own dying process or that of another? For some of us, the biggest inspiration was to see how the

dying process did NOT change or changed in ways that made them seem even more alive and engaged. It is said that dying doesn’t really change anyone; it makes them more who they are.

Are there words, stories or memories that give you hope or comfort? What experiences with living fully while dying have you had that you wish to share with others? Do you have any “bits of wisdom” you have picked up during your life that are helpful to you as you die or care for someone who is dying? Such tidbits may seem insignificant, and may be exactly what someone else needs to year. More often than not, what we need are not the profound insights of a lifetime, rather we need the little inspired bit of insight that helps us through the next five minutes.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Some great days


Writing this on Friday afternoon August 28.

It has been another one of those days. Cribbage with Chris from 10:00 AM to noon, lunch at the International Restaurant and Tuba Museum in Okemos with Marian, Michele and Joe. Got back around 2:30 and we are now waiting for the arrival of the dietician and my newly assigned nurse, Stacy. My days go by fast with all of these activities.

Here is a bright sign, I ran a peanut budder experiment this morning, about 9 o’clock, to see if my stomach would take a few teaspoons of that stuff with minimum negative effects (every thing that goes in produces some untoward effect so it is a matter of degree.) I had several teaspoons full over a period of an hour or so. As of 3:20 I have had no gastric effects to speak of. But I can tell you the budder works. I am using creamy so I do not have to worry about the nuts in the crunchy. Made the stuff myself yesterday.

Have had almost 48 hours of discomfort free experience, and I wonder what is going on. No gas pains in days. I use the new found freedom to go places with Joe, Michele and Marian and working on baking and other herbal products. Even got some stuff in the mail to Marty and science magazines to Steve.

Still having drainage problems with my feeding tube, but nurse Marian makes quick bandage changes.

In spite of the setbacks earlier in the week, the last half of the week has been great. Hope it holds out over the weekend and beyond.

The nurse and nutritionist were here. I am in good shape, still leak a bit, but nothing to worry about. I will be getting a new high fiber diet for my feeding tube next week to see if that will improve my quality of life. Great folks these hospice people, what they want is what is most comfortable for you.

Got to go. Bye for now