“Don’t Shoot My Son!” NAMI Advocate Writes About Son’s Incarceration

(5-9-24) “I hope my book can bring awareness to those struggling with a mental illness or those who know someone who is, to not feel alone in this lifelong battle. I do not want this to happen to anyone else,” explained Colleen Phipps when she sent me a copy of her book, Walk Barefoot In The Mud For Me.

I always am grateful when someone with a mental illness or a parent or a loved one shares their personal story about their struggles obtaining help from our inadequate, often confusing and frustrating mental health care system.

A tireless advocate, who is NAMI’s Butte County President in Chico, California, Phipps describes in her book what happened to her adult son, Donovan, who has a serious mental illness. His is a tragic story. While psychotic, he drove through a red light, killing a person. Donovan was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 32 years to life in prison. Of course, his parents had tried to get him help but couldn’t.

I’ve not yet had a chance to read her book, which began as notes that she took tracking Donovan’s illness.  These notes inadvertently created a diary which Phipps’ daughter, Lori, persuaded her to get self-published through Amazon.

Bravo Colleen – for continuing to love, support, and fight for your son and through him, all of us.

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Popular Podcast Advocate Challenges Claim That Bipolar Sparks Creativity

Vincent Van Gogh painted Starry Night while in a mental institution.

(4-26-24) Are bipolar disorder and creativity linked?

In her groundbreaking 1996 book, Touched By Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, argued that “many artists subject to exalted highs and despairing lows were in fact engaged in a struggle with clinically identifiable manic-depressive illness.”

Her book helped promote the idea that artistry/creativity and bipolar disorder are linked. The 2001 Academy Award winning movie, A Beautiful Mind, further cemented in the public’s mind that genius and serious mental illnesses go hand-in-hand.

Gabe Howard, a talented speaker, popular mental health podcasterauthor, and tireless advocate for those living with bipolar disorder,  writes that the “narrative of mental illness as the source of creativity is simply untrue.”

What’s your opinion? Are creative people more prone to bipolar disorder? Does the illness foster creativity?

What We Get Wrong About Being Bipolar | Opinion

By Gabe Howard, first published in Newsweek Magazine.  Used with author’s permission.

As someone who lives with bipolar disorder, there are many things about my life that society gets wrong, one of which is that people with bipolar disorder are more creative than the rest of the population.

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My Lung Cancer Is In REMISSION! Targeted Therapy Is Working!

Celebrating a great PET Scan with Patti

(4-23-24) My PET scan shows that my Stage Four Lung Cancer is in REMISSION, which is defined as a “decrease or disappearance of signs of cancer.” I am ecstatic and feel as if my life has been given back to me.

Dr. Alexander Spira, my oncologist at Virginia Cancer Specialists, told Patti and me the good news yesterday, and we are overjoyed. He said my targeted therapy is working so well that the tumors in my right lung aren’t noticeable on my PET scan. This makes me wonder if I need to reconsider my journalistic skepticism about miracles. When my cancer was discovered in February by an ER doctor, it was suggested that I had six months to live.

The cancer is still there and it could emerge at any time, but it’s unlikely it will grow anytime soon while I continue taking Alecensa, a chemo-medication specifically designed to fight non-small-cell lung cancer that has spread. I will be taking 8 pills a day for life and every other month, undergoing scans and blood work.

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Cancer Update: Promising News, Determination & Hope. My New Goal: “Substantially” More Years

Photo courtesy of Peg’s Foundation, from The Morgan Impact Awards, Pete and Patti, 2021

(4-3-24) Since learning in February that I have Stage 4 lung cancer, I have undergone a series of scans and tests. I can now share some hopeful news.

My cancer is being treated with targeted therapy, which only can be done in a small percentage of cases. I am taking a medication (8 pills per day) specifically designed to target molecules that the cancer needs to spread and survive. While my cancer can’t be cured, it can be treated and targeted therapy is much less caustic on my body than chemotherapy.

Individuals with my cancer diagnosis who receive targeted therapy routinely survive three to four years, with some surviving substantially longer.  Clearly, this is much better than the six months sentence that was suggested in the ER.

I am 72 years old and hope to be among those who survive “substantially longer,” but this time line has certainly changed how I now look at my life.

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Your Kind Words Offered Me Hope: Thank You!

Courtesy of Cottonbro on Pixels

(3-3-24) I want to thank all of you who read my blog – A New Journey: I Have Stage 4 Lung Cancer – yesterday and offered me your support, prayers, and best wishes.

Writer Hal Lindsey once wrote:

 “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.”

Your words offered me hope and touched my heart. Life gives us many unexpected challenges, as all of us with a loved one with a mental illness know. My good friend, Walt Harrington, once told me: “No one gets through life without getting beaten up.”

That’s true, but those punches are much easier to take when you have people who voluntarily share them with you by genuinely caring.

I will be forever joyful and appreciative because you reached out to me during this uncertain time in my life.

Hope changes lives.



A New Journey: I Have Stage Four Lung Cancer


(3-2-24) I was staring at the wall clock in the INOVA Fair Oaks (Va.) Hospital when the emergency room doctor spoke but I cannot tell you now what time it was. I only know that it was at that single moment when my entire life changed.

Just before Christmas, I’d fallen while hiking in the Shenandoah, breaking three ribs. Seven weeks later, I began gulping for breath whenever I walked upstairs. An x-ray revealed fluid in my right lung, which caused my wife, Patti and me to drive to the ER.

The fluid needed to be drained, the first ER doctor explained, while ordering a CT scan. Patti was nervous. “What’s taking so long?” she asked. The doctor finally returned. “We have a problem. There are three masses in your right lung.” Masses? My first reaction: “They must be from my hiking accident.” He replied: “They are highly suspicious.”

A second ER doctor arrived to schedule the draining of fluid and admit me into the hospital. “Do you understand what you are dealing with?” he asked. I blamed my fall. He said, “Cancer. Lung Cancer.” Patti and I stared at each other. Stunned! The doctor continued typing into a computer without making eye contact. Not a hint of empathy or emotion. “Lung Cancer that’s metastasized is Stage Four,” he said in a voice no different from when someone orders a pizza.

Patti urged me: “Don’t check the Internet.” I did. In less than an hour, I’d gone from being a hiking fall victim to having a fatal lung disease. “This can’t be happening,” I said out loud. Not to me.

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