Christmastime Thanks for Spit and Other Things

It has been a year, hasn’t it?

For me I realize how thankful I am for so many things.

Mostly, I am thankful for even being around for another Christmas. As I reflect back, this was not assured in February when I was diagnosed with tongue cancer for the second time in less than 6 months. But I survived both cancers, and the loss of the starboard half of my tongue (replaced by skin from my port-side arm). This summer, a PetScan confirmed that I no longer have any cancer from my nose to my toes, but also flagged a brain tumor. It’s just a little guy on my pituitary gland. You may have one too. They are not all that uncommon, and are almost always non-cancerous. The doctor will follow it every 6 months for the rest of my life, but unless it starts growing or causing other symptoms (none so far), we will call that a win and be thankful for not having cancer anywhere. 

While recovering in the hospital in early March, the world shut down. Between the surgery and radiation that followed, I was in a condition where catching Covid would likely have been a death sentence. But so far so good, and I am stronger and would likely survive a Covid infection now. To avoid finding out, we have left the cramped elevators, congested hallways, and busy sidewalks of high rise living in downtown Portland for the laid back world of a small town at the Oregon coast, at least until we can get the vaccine.  I am thankful that we were able to do that. With all the people who are homeless and in poverty, I am thankful for having a home, food to eat, and the ability to eat it.

And medical care! I am thankful for my medical team, and all the resources that were devoted to getting me through this year.

And I am thankful for spit. Yes, saliva. Like so many things, you know its value when you don’t have it anymore. Radiation therapy obliterated my salivary glands, and caused so many things I loved to eat to quickly turn to wallpaper paste in my mouth. A New York Times article recently reported that people normally produce a quart of spit a day, so when you have a juicy steak it’s not the steak that is producing most of the juice. Just this past week, however, I have noticed that I can now produce a small amount of saliva. We celebrate these little victories!

I am also thankful for not being run over by my Jeep two weeks ago today. The circumstances are too embarrassing to relate here, but if you have ever read about someone being run over by their own vehicle I am here to tell you it can happen. But the good news is that I am HERE to tell you that. The fates rewarded me with a severely bruised and sprained ankle to help me remember NEVER TO LEAVE A RUNNING CAR EVEN IF YOU SHIFT TO PARK AND PULL THE HANDBRAKE. There, now you have been told too. My job here is done.

Two Wasted Minutes has always tried to remain non-political, though an amusing anecdote occasionally slips through. Is it political to be thankful that democracy in this country has survived?

Most of all, I am thankful for family and friends. I am in awe of the love and caring I experienced during this last year. My family without exception not only did what was needed, but also what would make life easier for Carol and me. My sister Shirley left her home in California to live with us and tend to my every whim. Hey Shirl – where were you when I was a bratty kid? Actually, she was there for me then, too. During the worst days following surgery, each of my kids took a turn staying with me through the night in the hospital, coaching me to breathe through that detestable tracheotomy and calming me to help get me through the worst nights of my life. Painful memories, but lessons of love that I can never forget.

And most of all, I am thankful for Carol, my wife of 46 years. Carol shows her love by letting me do things for myself but helping me when I need it, indulging my innumerable flights of fancy, providing the yin of calmness to my yang of restlessness. We are different people, and this was confirmed when we tested for personality types. Her type is shared by around 3% of the population, mine by about 1%. When reading about our respective types, we were not astonished to find that the single most compatible type to hers is mine, and mine, hers. She is still here. I am still here. There is a reason. I love you Carol. And happy anniversary!

Well, I am thankful for one more thing. You, my avid readers! Your likes and comments have goaded me to travel and write about it for almost 5 years now. Cancer and Covid brought that to a screeching halt of course, but the vaccine is at hand, and within months opportunities for travel will return. 

Stay safe everyone, and Christmas-time wishes of love and happiness to all of you!

12 thoughts on “Christmastime Thanks for Spit and Other Things

  1. We are so pleased to get your cheery and newsy update. You have had a tumultuous year, and gave come out if it with a great spirit ( that we knew was always there anyway!). We too are happy for your return to democracy although the road has been one that no one could have ever anticipated. Harv and I continue to hunker down at the lake where it is peaceful and isolated. We wish you warm greetings of the season to you both, and look forward to your next update. Hugs from Harvey and Jean 🎅🏻🤶🏻


  2. I love cancer-overcoming stories . . . so thankful God has granted you His healing. You are a gifted writing – it’s a joy to read your posts. Christmas Blessings! ~Dolly Friesen


  3. My dear brother!! How sad I was to read about your Jeep incident. I hope it will soon be history. You write so well. Thanks for your kind words! I love you so much!

    Sent from my iPad



  4. Thanks Ken for always a good read and a positive, yet humorous perspective on life. Glad you are on the Oregon coast for now . . . Roger and I have fond memories of a few spring days spent there. Wishing you and your family love and good health in 2021.


  5. Another fine mess (being run over by a Jeep!) you damn near got yourself in, Ken! So glad you are back to being yourself. Your writing continues to amaze, entertain, and warm the heart. I look forward to your next adventure your share with us. Hopefully it will be a lot more “boring” than those you shared this year. Peace man. Joe


  6. I’m very glad to read that you’re doing so well, Ken. Thanks for the update. Sounds like being on the Oregon coast is just what’s needed at this time. Don and I wish you and Carol a happy Christmas! (and anniversary).


  7. Ken – it truly has been quite the year for you (and the world). I love and admire your positive approach to the challenges that life presents. I always look forward to spending two minutes reading your blog. Merry Christmas and happy anniversary to you and Carol.


  8. You are one of a kind, Ken Fransen….love your style, which I work to emulate daily! Happiest and healthiest of New Years to wonderful you, and hugs to you and Carol!


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