Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Pity Party is over. This morning, I enjoyed celebrating with Molly Flynn and her family at Temple Kehillat Chaim, and now we're off to North Carolina. If you know me then you know my special connection to all of the outdoors; the trees, the mountains and the water, especially the water. I will take pleasure in the opportunity to spend time with my family doing the things we love, and to do some healing.

Wishing all of you a safe and fun holiday weekend.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pity Party

It was bound to come around again. The weight of the decisions I have faced and still face, the physical toll of treatment, the stress of undergoing tests and waiting for results, and the prognosis, the sheer magnitude of the odds against surviving, have culminated in one crummy week. I have not been very communicative this week for a reason. I am not terribly comfortable bemoaning my fate to others, as I know there is always someone else worse off than me. I have also found that it can be awkward for those who care to comfort someone who is simply inconsolable. I know myself well enough to know that I will rally, but this whole thing just plain sucks. It really does. I am tired of feeling and being sick and exhausted. Plus, it doesn't help that but for this abysmal inconvenience, today I would have been headed for Tucson and my much-adored Canyon Ranch.

The week was not a total loss, however, as I managed to make it to yoga and water aerobics classes. And the weekend holds some rays of hope. John, Brent, and I are planning to go Asheville to pick up Brent's new kayak, a Fluid Flirt. If I am feeling up to it, I will paddle the Tuckesiegee River on Monday. Paddling would probably do more to lift my spirits than just about anything.

BTW, my deepest apologies to water aerobics fans, but that always seemed to me either the exercise of choice for people who can't do anything else, or the last stop in exercise land before abandoning exercise altogether. Rather than getting you into shape, it's where the infirm go to try to keep from getting less infirm. Still, it was fun. For someone who can't do anything else right now.

PS The picture accompanying this post is definitely not me, nor anyone else I know. It's just a cool picture of a Fluid kayak.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Green Light

I never thought that getting the green light for surgery would be a cause for celebration. All roadblocks have been removed, and I'm on the road to pneumonectomy-ville. Of course, preparing for this means more work, more decisions. I also think that the surgery will take place sooner rather than later, maybe the week following Labor Day. The coming week will be a busy one.

I continue to receive energy and strength from my friends and family. I am a boat, you are my oars.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Couldn't Resist

Just when you thought it was safe to check this blog, that the subject had been fully explored and expressed, check out

Smiling boosts the flow of chi. Not bad for the soul, either.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More Good News

I have to admit that my faith was hanging by a thread. But the good news was delivered this afternoon. The biopsy I had yesterday showed no cancer. At stake was whether, despite the otherwise successful response to treatment, cancer had spread to the bones. I am greatly relieved, ready to move forward. There is still a question floating around about an abnormality in my clivus. No, not that clivus. That clivus is fine, thank you. It is a bone at the base of the skull. I have had more tests than I can count over the last 10 days. This problem was never a great concern, and while it would have been nice to get a green light instead of a yellow light, with the blessings of my doctors, I am now ready to take the discussion about surgery to a final conclusion.

Tomorrow I will get radiation and the 7th of 7 chemotherapy treatments. I will probably get radiation on Friday, as well. But the more radiation I get, the smaller the window for surgery. So, the discussions and decisions contemplated over the next few days are critical. I have some serious work ahead of me; so what else is new?

My relief should be palpable.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Some Good News

An issue concerning my left upper lobe was resolved positively today. "Radiation pneumonitis." Translation - inflammation resulting from being in the radiation treatment field. Score. Thanks Drs. Komaki and Wiggers. I love good news.

Otherwise, it was just another long day at the hospital. MRI, radiation treatment, meet with doctors, and wait. Lots of waiting.

Tomorrow is another test, one that requires some anesthesia. It's not the general kind, it's the kind where you get really, really relaxed and then you don't remember anything. And if you're me, you probably throw up sometime afterward. I appreciate anesthesia, but we don't entirely get along.

Another test means more waiting for results. That kind of waiting is so very hard. If you've never been in that position, you're lucky. If you have, you know what I am talking about.

Please keep those virtual hugs coming.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Back Home

I'm back in Atlanta without the answer I was looking for but a concrete plan to move forward. This week I am undergoing more tests and resuming treatment. The window for surgery is still open, but just barely.

I cannot thank my brother and his family enough for everything they did for me this week. It was far beyond the call of duty. Liz served as my chauffeur, confidante, adviser, she gave me some of the best advice I have ever received, and made sure that I did not lose weight on her watch. Likewise, my gratitude for the medical care I received at MD Anderson as well as from my physicians in Atlanta knows no bounds. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

The Denys boys held down the home front, and Amy and crew are making sure Aussenberg Waggoner LLP is still the premier family law firm in Atlanta.

I'm moving forward. Thanks everyone for staying with me.


Thursday, August 14, 2008


Another day another test.

I'm beginning to feel that whatever life I do have is getting sucked out of me. I have had enough of cancerville. Tomorrow is another meeting with Roy Herbst. I'm not sure that Herbst & Co. is satisfied that they have all the information that they want to make a recommendation. Regardless, I will most likely get on the plane on Saturday to return to Atlanta. I feel that I am losing my perspective on where I am, which will make it difficult, if not impossible to make a good decision. I will make the most of tomorrow's meeting and then it will be time to regroup.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Medical Industrial Complex Day III

The day started a little easier, sleeping in until 7:30 (instead of 5:15) and being able to eat breakfast (instead of fasting). The rest of the day was spent inside the MIC (not your MIC Ruth). I had one test that a normal person would probably think was unpleasant but to which I am now immune. I also met with three physicians. It was another intense day. I feel as immersed as ever in this alien world. Despite my upbeat attitude, this experience has been difficult. No one will tell me that my cancer is gone and it will never come back. Instead, physicians convey what little information they have about my limited options, we continue to review test results, and we move toward a decision. It is a laborious process, physically and emotionally.

I am thankful for the opportunity to consult medical personnel who are trying to make things better for me and for all lung cancer patients. I am equally grateful for their endless compassion. I have another test tomorrow and an appointment with a physician on Friday morning when I am scheduled to leave. Today, I do not have the answer I came for, but on Friday I will likely have all the information I need to make a decision. Regardless, no decision is a cure.

I spent the evening being inspired by a friend of Neil and Liz's who was not expected to survive her cancer. Here she is, 11 years later, looking more like she survived an afternoon at a spa than radiation, chemotherapy, and two recurrences. Thanks, Holly. You make it look doable, if not easy.

BTW, even if I wasn't fighting cancer, I would still have disliked Pineapple Express.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Medical Industrial Complex Part Deux

I am still awed by the smooth operation of this behemoth. Tests run at 8 am put results in the hands of the doctor by noon. I have several more tests scheduled, so no conclusions yet. The surgeon, however, did set a world record today. Liz and I waited 4 1/2 hours to see him. My 9:30 am appointment began at 2:00 pm. But we managed to eat a delicious breakfast and an equally appealing lunch. MDA takes hospital food to a whole new level. I also was paid a visit by the Jewish Chaplain. Who knew that MDA supported Healing Touch and Shamanic Journeys, my faves from Canyon Ranch?

We're off to see Pineapple Express. That should take my mind off things.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Medical Industrial Complex Day I

Picture the Northside/St Jo's complex around Johnson Ferry and Peachtree Dunwoody Roads. Now multiply that density by 10. Then multiply that by 2. You probably get the picture. Luckily, my schedule today consisted of visiting only two buildings, and I was accompanied by either Liz or Neil.

I was familiar with all the tests that were conducted, so no surprises there. I guess my predominant impression is that for such a massive organization, it seems well run with superior employees. With a minor exception, everyone with whom I came in contact performed his/her job effortlessly and with great compassion. Like my experience at Emory, if it wasn't for getting stuck with needles and injected with dyes, it could have been a pleasant day.

Tomorrow I have a PET scan, which is like a CT scan only more involved, and I meet with the surgeon. I have one more test scheduled for Wednesday, and the possibility of meeting with more physicians. Tonight I will relax, enjoy a delicious dinner sans carbs (doctor's orders for the PET), and get to bed early.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The boys are back from Idaho. They had an excellent trip with especially good weather. As much as I love the Middle Fork, it simply was not attainable for me this summer. I wasted no energy wishing I was some place I couldn't go.

Tomorrow I'm headed to Houston. It will be nice to visit with family, but this is definitely for business. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to consult at such a renowned institution. At the same time, I am apprehensive about the sheer magnitude of MD Anderson as well as the notion of plunging further into a world ruled by illness. I recognize that it's also about hope, but hope that is born of harsh circumstances. I know, too, that it is still a matter of putting one foot in front of the other as a means to reach a decision about further treatment.

I'm feeling somewhat uneasy as my old life slips farther and farther away, and in its place is the altered reality that began in May. But there are no short cuts here. I must stay focused and stick to task. It's one foot, then the other.

The party is over for Brent, as he starts high school on Monday. I think he had a good summer despite the obvious glitch. Go Milton Eagles!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The visit to Emory on Tuesday was interesting and helpful. If it wasn't about critical health care decisions, it would have been downright enjoyable. Every physician was eager to share knowledge, answer questions, and assist me in any way possible. The staff at Emory and the facility itself were equally accommodating. I feel blessed to have access to great health care at St. Jo's, Emory, and elsewhere.

It is difficult to distill an entire day with health care providers into a few sentences. The upshot is that oncologists think radiation and chemotherapy is the best way to go, surgeons recommend surgery. I am still on track to visit MD Anderson next week. Everyone, my present team in particular, is interested in the results of the tests I will undergo. Is the cancer holding its ground, or is it on the run? The tumor has definitely shrunk but what about the infected lymph nodes? Is there new spread elsewhere? Those are the crucial questions. Without going into more details and nuance, I am leaning toward surgery if the test results look good.

I was granted another reprieve from treatment this week. For the past 6 weeks, if it's Thursday it's chemo day, but not today. Instead, I saw a movie, which I enjoyed, but even if I hadn't, a bad movie is still better than chemo. Trust me.

I have more energy than usual for a Thursday night. I also have my hair and a diminishing cough. I will start getting nervous when it's time to receive the test results, but for now, Life is Good.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I am still high from the superb visit with Liz and David. I do not think I could have collected all my medical records in such a short time without Liz's help. It was hard work, but the rest of the visit was pure pleasure. Ben is still here, working away at the office and helping me at home. Again, a pleasure.

My boys are on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. They put in at Boundary Creek on Saturday and will reach Cache Bar just past the confluence with the Main Salmon on Thursday. I hope they are having great weather and a great trip. I sure miss being with them in one of my favorite places. Survey Creek will always hold a special place in my heart....

My plans for evaluations at Emory and MD Anderson are set. I am going to Emory tomorrow to consult with medical and radiation oncologists. I will be in Houston all next week for a battery of tests and to meet with a surgeon. What I don't know is the plan that the Home Team has for me. I would have liked to know by now, but I can also be patient. I have now had the maximum amount of radiation treatments possible and still be eligible for surgery. I have been granted a two week hiatus from radiation to explore the surgical option. This break is welcome not just because of the new opportunity; there is apparently a correlation between past sunburns and radiation. Kind of like an LSD flashback only no chance of fun. My back is blistered and itchy, relieved only by applying pure aloe.

Today I went to my first yoga class since the diagnosis. It was an easy and enjoyable class, but it was still challenging for me. It will be a long road back to fitness. Other than dredging up the sunburns of my past (think Callaway Gardens on July 4th), my only real problem has been fatigue. I will continue to exercise as I feel like it, but it is not my primary focus.

It feels good to be moving forward. Look for more good news soon.