Wind-blown Kiskadee

Earlier yesterday, before the rain came, I was sitting on the windy terrace hoping a brave bird might come out. A couple of doves flew by, but this Great Kiskadee was the only one brave enough to land in my Guarumo Tree (Cecropia) with a pretty strong wind bringing that rain cloud we got later. Notice how the feathers are affected by the wind. Not a normal pose, but an interesting commentary on the windy day we had yesterday before the afternoon rain.

Read more about the Great Kiskadee on eBird. He is one of the most common birds here and his song or call sounds like his name, “Kiss – ka – deeeeeeee.” He is found almost everywhere in Central and South America, with only a few strays making it into the Southwestern U.S.

Biopsy Report in Tomorrow’s Post

It is intentional that I have been very honest and factual about my new adventure with cancer while living retired in Costa Rica. And I will continue to be. This afternoon at a 2 PM appointment with my surgeon in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica I will receive the biopsy report and his “plan of attack” including possible radiation treatments.

He doesn’t know that some of you have been praying for it to be benign or not a cancer and we might receive that surprise blessing this afternoon, but if it is like all the others he has removed similar to mine, then we will do whatever is necessary and still give God the praise anyway! 🙂 He’s going to see me through this!

I’m wearing an eye patch all the time now because it hurts to have an eye open that can’t blink or close. We will be discussing possible solutions to that also this afternoon and the left side of my mouth. But they are secondary to dealing with cancer.

And because several blog-followers are considering retirement in Costa Rica like I did, I am going to share the costs of this major surgery and what my other options could have been and discuss 3 or more options for radiation, whether needed or not.

¡Hasta mañana!

¡Pura Vida!

Report on Surgery

It is Wednesday afternoon and I got home about noon today from Hospital La Católica in downtown San Jose, our big, busy congested city and National Capital, about an hour and half drive in reality, though most people say about an hour. 🙂 I have no car and thus use my regular drivers here for the hospital trips.

Total Parotidectomy

A parotidectomy is the surgical excision (removal) of the parotid gland, the major and largest of the salivary glands. The procedure is most typically performed due to neoplasms (tumors), which are growths of rapidly and abnormally dividing cells. Neoplasms can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). ~Wikipedia

Note that this was the official surgery but the growth extended into the lymph nodes in my neck which were also removed. And I came home with a drainage tube coming out of the left side of my neck.

The best specialists for my problems

I am convinced that I had the best cancer surgeon for this job in Dr. Christian Hernández who specializes in only cancers in the head an neck. He also used a super gerontologist for my pre-op exams and then when we developed a side-affect with the severed nerve he brought in a lady ophthalmologist who may be the best in the country to help with my left eye problem which I will try to explain below.

A Nearly 7-hour Surgery

He said more than 6.5 hours or nearly seven hours and was very tedious going the full length of the left side of my face. He did the kind of thing you might expect from a younger doctor, while explaining it to me he pulls out his cell phone with brilliant blood red photos of what he found in the parotid gland, pointing out a section of the facial nerve that was surrounded by tumor and could not be saved. (No, I don’t have the photo to show.) Then he followed the tumor down to the lymph nodes which he said is a common occurrence. He believes he removed every bit of it but can’t say for positive that it is or isn’t cancer until the biopsy report next week.

A Bad Photo of what I look like right now

Face after removal of salivary gland & lymph nodes.

Cancer? Probably – Know with Biopsy Next Week

He has seen enough of these to believe it is a cancer and one of two types, but will not know for sure until the biopsy report he will explain to me next week. And if what he thinks it is the additional treatment will not be chemo but radiation therapy called radioterapia here. Thus I will know more specifics next week. In the meantime it is what it is.

How do I feel?

Is what everyone asks and it almost seems like a “loaded question” to me, but I will still try to explain. With that long a surgery I was in and out of sleep all day Monday and into the night when I think I became more aware of things and that my left eye would not close. The only pain I’ve had thus far has been what feels like a “sore throat.” Pain medication has kept me from hurting.

Tuesday I slowly got back to “normal” or at least eating soft food and having bodily functions. I felt pretty good when they wheel-chaired me to the adjacent office building to see the ophthalmologist though she did a couple of things to my eyes that hurt a little, she was finding out that the only nerve in my eye that seems to be not functioning is one of those that helps control the eyelid and we may be able to work with other nerves to get it to close naturally again.

The other problem is the facial nerve controls the left side of my mouth and smile, so Dr. Hernández said I now have a “Texas Smile,” with the lips turning up only on the right side, or maybe a one-sided smirk? The surgeon says that some mouth exercises may help left the left side of my smile and help with managing the food in my mouth which I now can’t control on the left side, making it slower and more difficult to eat! Got to fix that! 🙂

And of course the left side of my face is swollen now and for a few more days.

But I’m generally in good spirits and hopeful for a more functional recovery of everything. And I will keep you posted on this blog.

¡Pura Vida!

Staying Positive When Cancer Comes

Since I was a high school boy when Mom gave me that book The Power of Positive Thinking for Young People by Norman Vincent Peale, I have made being positive a part of my life philosophy and really a part of my personal faith in God and the act of following Jesus.

It is kind of like happiness, it is inside you and you actually decide to be happy or not I believe. Then when bad things happen or come to your life, you make the best of them and keep on living. That is what I did for 20 years of a very difficult marriage while she was never happy and I was always happy in spite of the situation. Likewise with those overlapping years of a special needs child with autism and another rebel child. One survives by staying positive and finding the good things and opportunities, even within the bad!

Now don’t jump to conclusions – I’m not announcing my imminent death by cancer! 🙂

What has been for several years little skin cancers all over my body may have grown deeper roots or a separate and totally different cancer may have come that is more complicated.

New Adventure Started February 11

Not sure what to expect, I kept a journal of what was happening on one of the “static pages” or non-blog-post pages of my website and called it FIRST RAMPANT FEELINGS ON POSSIBLE CANCER. Kind of long.

The Latest Diagnosis

All those appointments and diagnostic tests lead to this current summary diagnosis with more detail in the online journal:

  • I have a tumor inside the salivary gland between my left ear and left eye that has grown fairly rapidly to around 3 X 4 cm now.
  • Though the needle biopsy indicates it is almost certainly a type of cancer only removing it will tell us for positive. Outside chance of no cancer. Prayers appreciated! 🙂
  • Surgery is scheduled for 15 March at Hospital La Católica in San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Dr. Christian Hernández Mena is my oncologist and surgeon – terrific in every way!
  • After surgery, a full biopsy is done, and the exact type of cancer determined, I could be receiving radiation and yes going bald! 🙂 More reports after surgery!

My Blog and Travel Plans Continue

I had to postpone my March trip to Tambor Bay, but hopefully by the time of my planned May return to Arenal, I will be able to travel just like always if radiation schedules don’t interfere! 🙂

For any readers who are also facing cancer, I want to recommend the following website and encourage you to stay positive and continue life as I will with the same kind of travel and nature blog posts right here at Retired in Costa Rica!

How to Keep a Positive Attitude With Cancer

“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.”

—Dalai Lama

¡Pura Vida!

Two Gifts This Morning

I opened two gifts this morning – my eyes.


Photo is of a Caribe sunrise, Hotel Banana Azul,

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

¡Pura Vida!


My prayers go to the Bush Family in their loss . . .

. . . a truly great & humble man!

George H. W. Bush

Humility is not thinking less of yourself,

it’s thinking of yourself less.

~C. S. Lewis

REPORT ON MY BIOPSY:  After removing the 10 stitches from my arm (where all that cancer was confirmed removed) and the two stitches from my face for the biopsy, Dr. Gamboa gave me the facial biopsy report:

In brief, it says I have another carcinoma cancer on my face which is a smaller and slower growing type than the one on my arm. No problem waiting until January to remove the rest of it (the biopsy took most of it). Because of the delicate and thinner skin location next to my eye, we will be doing a more complicated and more efficient (more expensive) “Mohs Surgery” with two doctors doing it with a pathologist standing by to make sure they get all of the cancer as he examines each layer as removed (continuous biopsy). It will not be in his office this time but in a clinic, hospital-like, operating room, but still out-patient. He is checking on availability of other doctor and the clinic for the week of 21 January – after my Boca Tapada trip.  Remember —  the doctors work around my trips!  🙂    Important! That is where I sleep in a tree house 5 nights!

Dr. Gamboa also “PRESCRIBED” wearing a wide-brim hat instead of the ball caps I’ve been wearing and of course sunscreen every day when out. I sure love sunny Costa Rica, just 673 miles north of the equator, but with the value of the sun also comes with some potential dangers for someone like me who loves the outdoors. I have already become more careful, even though the doc says these current growths and cancers were probably caused by sun I got as a child or teen, more sun now can make it worse, so I must be cautious.

¡Still Pura Vida!    🙂

Ginger & Jason

This post is really only for family and close friends who knew me back when married and younger. Ginger and I divorced in 1990 and Jason tried several things before, in over simplification, ran away and had nothing to do with me since the mid-nineties except for a few times wanting money. I tried connecting with him several times but we lived in totally different worlds and could never connect.

Sometime in the last 5 years he decided to become a transsexual and except for a few close friends, I told no one. How do you? With several gay friends I had come to understand or accept homosexuals, but as I told Jason, I have no experiences with trans and no understanding of it. We remained apart, still not understanding each other. He chose not to stay in communication and I had no addresses or phone number.

A couple of weeks ago I received my first contact from Jason in nearly 5 years. He has legally changed his name to Athena and wrote to tell me that his mother (my wife of 20 years) was dying of cancer and might not last through the week. He needed to see her and close out her business and other affairs. Of course, I paid to fly him from Asheville, NC to Gatesville, TX and other related expenses. He spent a week with her in a Gatesville nursing home. He emptied and closed out her apartment, shipping himself 16 boxes. And all arrangements are made for her to stay in the nursing home until she dies by signing over her Social Security check. Her will and the deposition of her ashes are also arranged. So my little boy has grown up and handled one of the toughest times of life, though she still has not died yet.

We have corresponded several times by email and I am again trying again to “connect” with Jason/Athena, though still not sure how or if possible. He is about to turn 43 and showing some interest in family history for the first time, so that is certainly part of my language. 🙂 We will see what happens. Your prayers are appreciated! And maybe my post of last night makes a little more sense now. God is my rock and my salvation!

As most of you know, I don’t like to keep secrets and not good at it, so again I’m being very open and honest and simply trusting God to be in charge. Thank you for allowing that in me. It is good to have friends!


  Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
  think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6, Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Dios es bueno 

The Loss of Another “Best Friend” Today

It is with great sadness that I recognize the expected death of my dear friend Rus Roach. I already miss him.   -Charlie

Below is the announcement I received from Tom and the funeral is available online

An Update from our Executive Pastor
1 message

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dear First Baptist Nashville Family,

I must inform you of the passing of our dear friend and beloved Minister of Senior Adults and Pastoral Care, Cleatis L. Roach, Jr. (Rus). 

Rus demonstrated the most valiant faith and strong fighting spirit, especially over the five years since he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer. All of us have learned from him and admired the way he has continued to serve Christ, family, and church throughout his illness.
October 18, 1987, Rus and his family moved to Nashville from Texas to serve the Lord in our church’s missions ministries. Since then, Rus has served in a variety of ministerial positions-missions, pastoral care, and senior adult to name a few. Every aspect of his ministry with us has contained the common DNA of serving Christ, helping others know Christ, brightening our day with humor and happiness.
Rus grew up in Houston, TX. As a junior in high school, he knew he was called to ministry. He graduated from Baylor University and received a Doctor of Ministry from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was pastor of several churches in Texas including Lone Camp Baptist Church, Palo Pinto, Texas; and Belmont Baptist Church, Abilene, Texas, before being called to First Baptist Nashville where he served loyally for nearly 30 years. 
During his First Baptist Nashville ministry, Rus helped thousands of people know God’s love. He wrote and delivered over 1,000 sermons, baptized over 75 people, and performed over 120 weddings and over 200 funerals for families, bringing joy and comfort. Rus was a world-traveler for Christ, leading trips to Rome, Costa Rica, Rio de Janeiro, Russia, the Middle East, Europe, North Africa, and Canada, to name a few. Rus always had time for others in need. Celebrate Recovery was a highlight of his ministry as he gave every Friday evening for years, serving adults dealing with life-struggles. His church family loved him deeply because he lived fully and brought everyone he encountered toward Jesus Christ.
You may send condolences and expressions of love to these and other family members:
Mrs. Debbie Roach
Holly, Heather and Hailey
102 Gillette Drive
Franklin, TN 37069
Mrs. Pam Sloan (Rus’s sister)
1936 Edenbridge Way
Nashville, TN 37215
God bless you and thank you for your kindness and many expressions of love,