Saturday, June 27, 2009

My first blog

This is my first attempt to write a blog.  As you may have read on the main page, I have esophageal cancer that could not be helped with surgery.   I underwent a six weeks session of chemo therapy and radiation in March in preparation for an esophagealectomy.  But during surgery they discovered that the cancer was in the stomach and could not complete the planned surgery.  So I was closed up and sent home to die.

I am on tube feeding each night so I am well nourished.  I cannot take in sufficient food by mouth to sustain myself.

I have searched the net for information  and inspiration from agnostics, but I have yet to find a site that is not heavy on the religious side with multiple references to the after life.  If there are any atheists or agnostics that would like to share with me I would be delighted to hear from you.

My grand children are here and I must go spend some time with them.

Bob Zimmermann


  1. Thank you for your blog and your strength.

    Your blog serves to remind all of us of the temporal nature of our own existence.

    I don't know that I can reasonably give you any solice or wisdom right now, but if I were to try, I would say:

    Live in the moment right now. Drink in every moment you have.

    Don't project the future or engage in excessive internal self talk... Simply be

    As far as I can see (superficially), you have children, grandchildren and have lived a good life...

    You have done well! Delight yourself in this!

    Be grateful to the universe...

    Embrace the circle of life...

    I wish you well

    Your atheist brother,


  2. As an agnostic myself I find death a very difficult subject to face. Your bravety and self-honesty is definitely a good start.

  3. Telling your story helps other agnostics and atheists grapple with the issues associated with death and dying. I appreciate your willingness to try this out, to do something new (blogging), and reflect on your own experiences. I agree with the others who have commented that it takes honesty, bravery, and courage to write about your thoughts and feelings at this stage in your life.

  4. Hi Bob,

    I did not get your phone number or your address at our meeting last night, as you had to leave early. Several of us at the meeting would like to come visit with you sometime.

    Take care,
    Jim Hong

  5. Needless to say I am very sorry to hear about your health condition. I would choose exactly what you have and will, if that time comes for me: palliative care path of hospice.

    Have you been able to find a hospice you like? I surely hope so, as they are there these days, which I know from my experience in 2003 with my 49 yr old brother, Cliff. He lived here for seven months and it was astounding for him and our family:

    I am so glad you are addressing this issue of the lack of "non religious" caregivers and etc. Luckily, we never had to address that issue with Hospice of Lansing. My brother simply made his choices clear and he was left alone in that way.

    For myself, life is all, not "after" this life. I actually resent it a lot when I here the phrase "they've gone to a better place." How insulting to this beautiful creation we get to live in and on, for however long we're here! Why must there be anything "better?" This is "heaven", in my view, but because of so many centuries of concepts, that is hard to see, hard to embrace. I include myself in that as well; it IS hard at times to accept that this life is "it" but I do believe that and at times, am able to feel the reality and beauty of it.

    I would be honored to communicate with you in any way you might choose. Whatever our interaction, I wish you the very best and as I always told my brother, we are still here so neither one of us is "luckier" than the other simply because of a diagnosis. I would tease him, and of course it's true, that I could easily go before him in a zillion ways and that as long as we were both breathing, the playing field was even; we both had the same opportunities to enjoy, admire, appreciate and even hope.

  6. I truly am inspired by your openness and your ability to let others know what you are going through, have went through and are facing. That in itself is a very brave step.

    From what I see, you're doing the right things. Hanging out with your children and grandchildren. Living your life as much as you can. Enjoy each moment - there's really no need to dwell too much on "what could be" or "whats going to happen".

    I have an uncle who has lung cancer and was told by doctors he had until December - this was a couple years ago. He's still smoking 2 packs a day, drinking like a fish and living forward. I believe it's because he just lives and doesn't dwell too much on things. He knows everyone has a time and he's going to enjoy doing what he's doing until it's his time - I'd suggest the same for you.

  7. Jennifer here..
    I am waiting for results of medical tests, but the bottom line is that I am sure I have pancreatic cancer (unplanned weight loss of over 80 pounds- inability to eat - a mass in the mid upper abdomen)
    I have come to Atheism quite recently, a sudden realization that the belief in God- or any deity- is unhealthy and unrealistic.
    I thought that my ideas about death would change, and they have. Even if I luck out and this is not cancer, I suddenly "know" that I am mortal.. and this is it! This is the only time I have to make a splash, to enjoy myself, or to enrich the lives of others. I have to make this time count. No-one has any idea how long they have, and I am looking at this as my wake-up call.
    Life is too short and too precious to waste doing something you don't like... putting up with people who hurt you.. or dreaming instead of doing.
    Thank you so much for posting this. Thank you for giving us a place to talk about dying that isn't riddled with promises of "something better in the next life"
    There is one life, and this is it!

  8. Hey There Bob ~

    I will tell you that I recently lost my Mom to Breast/Bone Cancer, she was diagnosis with the dreaded and very painful existence at the young age of 59, the Physician’s or maybe I should say my Mom wouldn’t put a time line on it, maybe the best thing that happened. She lived for the NOW, and actually survived an additional 6 yrs. I watched her out live some of her peers in the same condition, she talked about that and said that she thinks it was because they gave up, they stopped enjoying the simple things like laughing at a silly joke, watching the birds come to her bird houses year after year, mowing the lawn, and just plain enjoying family. Not to say life wasn’t difficult, but at the end of the day she lived for the NOW, and not what could be later, or if this only didn’t happen to her, it is what it is. I was so proud of her on her last days when we were in the Hospital when the Clergymen came in and want to give her, her last rights or what ever it is that they think they are doing, each time she would politely, yet firmly ask them to leave the minute they came in the door. I asked her if she was doing that for me when we were alone, and told her that I just want you to be at peace, and what ever it takes I would support her, that I am not so selfish that she should have to shoo someone of religion at my expense. She smiled gently and then laughed and told me, “Julee I am at peace, these people have their own agenda, I don’t need them, I want them to go away”. Again right up to her last day’s she lived in the NOW. If I were to offer any advice it is simply that live in the NOW.

    Bob, I’m not sure this is helpful to you and your family, but just so you know you made me smile again just thinking about her. What ever you do, do it for yourself, if you can enjoy a silly moment, enjoy it, let your family enjoy it, encourage everyone around you to, tell them to live in the moment, they too will thank you after death as I have many times with my Mom, and maybe just then and only this is where the after death comes in, it’s really for the survivors, and the NOW is for the living.

    Julee O'Neill

  9. Bob,
    I admire and greatly thank-you for your cutting, discriminating political sense and your commitment to human justice and good government. Of all the people I've met here only you uncovered and exposed (for example)the deaths of 30 or more women, thrown from a helicopter by Honduran military personel, with our CIA compiling the lists and complicit in the crimes. In order to create our metaspatial Jerusalem, a peaceful and just human world, we need you and those you have inspired to carry on the vision of a compassionate world ruled by the laws of the people through their democratically elected governments. I think of your religion as the new secular order. But that order requires the vigilance and courage of its people. I thank you for your courage.

  10. Welcome to the blogosphere and thanks for deciding to blog on such a difficult topic. I'm looking forward to reading your insights about what you're dealing with.


  11. Hi Bob,

    I am also agnostic. I don't have any great wisdom about life and death to share with you at the moment, but I can direct you to the words of a much loved Canadian atheist.

    This is June Callwood (founder of Casey House, an AIDS hospice in Toronto) being interviewed days before her death. Her son, Casey, was killed by a drunk driver when he was only 20.

    She didn't believe in God, she believed in kindness. And she was no hypocrite, she lived by that belief.

    Thanks for sharing your experience on your blog.


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