Doctor Dohn's Blog

The Doorway

         “I think I’ll stop the war” Ray said, as he contemplated his diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized to his liver and brain. “I’m making friends with the cancer to see what I can learn from this whole experience.” 

         Ray spoke this as we walked through his Bellflower neighborhood. It is 7:00 AM and the sun is just beginning to bring a colorful sunrise. Ray’s 5’ 10” sturdy frame that formerly was 6’ is now being held up via a standing walker on wheels that supports him as he walks. We can hear the wheels turn as well as our boots making contact. A night blooming jasmine is somewhere near. The temperature is in the 40’s so we have coats and gloves on. His gray beard, sunglasses, sun protecting hat and vibrantly glowing eyes have a become a neighborhood staple for the last 4 weeks. 

         I met Ray 46 years ago. I was living in my car after running away from yet another failed attempt at life. Ray is the first man I’d ever met who did not drink alcohol. I learned he was an out of control drunken auto mechanic until he was in his 30’s when he stopped drinking and began looking for some spiritual guidance for his life. In his spiritual quest he taught himself to read and write and spent the second 30 years of his life as a Service Manager for Chrysler. He helped me replace the engine in my van when it blew up and mentored me continuously during that process. He offered me jobs at the dealerships, I always declined. I was a terrible employee and had left over 37 jobs in my life before I was 40 years old. I was not about to take another job with someone I respected and knew I would hurt.

          His spirituality included rigorous honesty, sometimes ridiculous honesty. I met him in a Parent Effectiveness Training Class. He said some things about what young men do that I had never spoken to anyone. He said this openly, in mixed company, with a lot of humor. I knew I could trust him.

         I had not trusted anyone for a great many years, if ever. I was really a “lost soul” at the time. Ray taught me what being “shame based” was. This is too embarrassed and fearful to admit I needed help, had failed at something or was sad. Ray allowed me to be me, more fully than I had ever been.

         Ray struggled with his drinking, his family and his two sons. These struggles led him to sobriety, reading, writing and spirituality. Some of the activities we have shared over the years:

         Replacing a Chevy 350 engine in my van in our driveway(he also loaned me a truck to drive while mine was being repaired), 

         Parent Effectiveness Training, 

         est training, 

         Replacing the roof on his childhood church in Paramount California, 

         Living Love with Ken Keyes, 

         Robert Bly Men’s work, 

         Living Love Vision Center,

         The Wide Sky Men’s Council, 

         Vision Center Home Groups,

         The Sacred Path Men’s Group with Stephen Johnson, 

         Religious Science as taught by Ernest Holmes, 

         Centers for Spiritual Living with Jennifer Spear, 

         Casual men’s luncheons from several groups, 

         Many camp outs in and around Running Springs California and       Now, we are walking almost daily throughout his Bellflower neighborhood. The walks are to keep his strength up as he undergoes radiation and chemo-therapy. He has lived in this neighborhood his entire life. Only two homes in his 84 years. I have lived in over 52 homes in my 77 years. He has been happily married to Marty for over 60 year. Prior to Ray, I was never so stable. Since I got sober at age 40 I have enjoyed the same job for 37 years and have not left Long Beach.        Thank you Ray, his friends including Frances, my ex-wife that I met at the same time as Ray in 1977 (that’s another story) for my examples of stability.

         As we walk he notices the light glistening off the many leaves of his favorite trees. 
         Ray says, “The sky is so blue and the trees so green and multi-colored this time of year. I love the vibrancy and shades of life.  One of the gifts of cancer, my friend, is that I do not complain about anything. Who am I to know how things should be?” 

         This is the wisdom I get from walking with Ray. We are stopping the war. No more fighting with cancer. Cancer is our friend.

         Ray also says, “Those ladies at Kaiser where they do the Chemo-therapy are real angels. What a positive joy of an experience to go there to receive the healing.”    

         “Cancer has become my friend.”

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