Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Home, Again

The dachshunds are grinning from ear to ear John is reading Brent is doing homework and I am arranging pillows on the bed. I will sink into them and close my eyes and give thanks. For doctors, nurses, family, friends, the gift of life.

Sweetest dreams.

Monday, September 29, 2008

For the Nurses

I think I always knew that nursing was a calling; that it matched a special person to a special job. As a patient in intensive care for the first time, and an extended time, I have seen the knowledge, care, and devotion brought to people in need. Being on the receiving end of this care has become a significant part of my own experience. It reminds me of the magic of giving and receiving love. For much of this hospital stay, I have been almost entirely dependent on the assistance of others. I will never forget my night nurse for the first three nights; I can see her almost floating around during the quiet hours in my room that was not really dark but not really light. In between checking vital signs and administering medications, she fluffed my pillows just so, knew when I needed water, a change of gown, a cool wash cloth on my face.

My own recovery is proceeding well. Thankfully, you probably can't tell that there is a 7 inch wound where my ribs were separated and a vital organ permanently removed from it's home of many years. Once the blood pressure, blood sugar and bodily function issues are resolved, I will be back in the arms of my dachshunds, I mean family.

Sundown tonight brings the beginning of the Days of Awe for those who observe. Regardless of your religious preference, I hope we are all inscribed in the Book of Life, and that we will be looking back in the fall of 2009 at a year full of good health and other promising things.

L'Shana Tova.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sadly, Sam Schatten was not able to win his battle with the cancer demon. We send our condolences and warmest thoughts to Janet, their children, and Sam's extensive family and friends for this unthinkable loss.
I had another good day yesterday. I was in the chair and up walking around for a good part of the day. But while I think that visitors are a good thing, the powers that be here at St. Jo's do not agree. Visiting hours are limited and the nurses can be strict in their enforcement of this rule. Hopefully I will be going home tomorrow anyway.

The hospital stay has not been as unpleasant as I anticipated. The nurses and other techs range from OK to great. The bottom line, which will come as no surprise to anyone, is that I don't like to feel helpless. I have not yet been able to get off the bed unassisted. Today's wonderful nurse, Jo, has been on my case all day complaining that I am trying to do too much and not taking enough naps. The pain that I have been experiencing since this morning cannot be ignored. Recreational drugs notwithstanding, my past experience with pain killers includes tylenol and extra strength tylenol, so the stuff they want to give me is way out of my league. So I am learning to heed Jo and Jane's, mantra: stay ahead of the pain.

I am glad that I added a few extra pounds to my frame before the surgery. My taste for hospital food has not improved with my stay. I am mindful as always of what I need to eat, but am reduced to simply eating enough calories to sustain me. I am surprised that Jo has not yelled at me about my food intake yet. If she does, I will have to resort to the tried and true kid tricks like moving the food around on the plate or feeding it to the dog. (I wish!) If all else fails, then I will resume the milkshake diet. Arby's Jamocha and Chick-Fil-A chocolate milkshakes have gotten me by before and I am sure that I can count on them again.

Here come the dinner trays. Now where can I hide that Salisbury Steak?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My Kingdom for a Bath

My kingdom for a bath. I want to clean up to welcome today's visitors. I have been trying since 5am to accomplish this simple, yet involved task.

I had a great day yesterday, talking, walking, and sitting up. Sleep came easily courtesy of last night's Sedate Debate of 08 (snappy catch phrase belongs to cousin Kathy). Worked better than valium chased by Baileys on the rocks. Doesn't matter anyway, because I've already cast my ballot.

I didn't have a clue how it would feel to lose a lung. Well. it feels darn good to get an organ riddled with disease out of my body. I have no sensation of loss in my chest. I am breathing easier, and my cough is virtually nonexistent except for clearing my right lung of the anesthesia.

I am definitely on the mend.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Good Morning!

Good morning campers! It's time to get out of bed, shower and inhale that first cup of coffee!

I slept well and have bathed with help from my wonderful nurse. It's a little on the early side, but it feels good to be sitting up, hunting and pecking away on Brent's laptop.

All those prayers must have worked, because not only did I get the surgical result that I was looking for, the recovery is progressing nicely. Of course, I still have an epidural that keeps the pain medicine flowing 24/7.

I have not been eating much. Yesterday I had fruit for lunch and then fruit and oatmeal for dinner. Hospital food is not for me. John will have to be a little creative to nourish me.

I will report back on my progress later.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

day after

this will probably be my last chance at the blog,the word maestro will hopefully be able to take over.
I would like to thank everyone who helped yesterday by sitting at the hospital or sending their words of encouragement.
Elyse was moved to the CICU unit room 276 yesterday at about 4:30 and gave the best smile and hug ever!!!!!!
she will probably be in ICU for 2 or 3 days.
the visitation is scheduled as follows: 2 visitors at a time at:
6:00am to 6:30,8:00 to 8:30, 10:30 to 11:00 12:00noon to 12:30, 2:00 to2:30, 4:00 to 4:30, 6:00 to 6:30, and 8:00 to 9:00.
please respect that the visits are short and are scheduled around the work that must go on in the ICU.
again, thank you everyone for being with us in your help and prayers,

love you all J.D.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

out of surgery

Elyse is out of surgery at 12:00 and everything is good!!!!!!!!!!!!
she will take about 2 hours to wake-up and then to ICU for a day.
I will let you know when and where visiting my begin.

thanks for all the support and prayers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

love you all J.D.

Hospital update

Elyse is still in surgery. Biopsy results came up negative for metastasis outside the lung, so they are removing the lung, which is the best possible outcome for Elyse. We are ready to begin a full recovery.
JD, 11:00 am

at the hospital

it is 8:30 in the morning and mom Roz, aunt Arlene, and I (John) are in the waiting room. Elyse went into the room for her surgery about a half hour ago. she was very calm and looked fabulus as usual in her little blue patterned gown and a brave smile. I will be here waiting till the doctor comes out and lets us know any news. my cell # is 678-859-1949, call if you want. the doctor thinks it will be around 12:00 to 12:30 when things are done. I will update later.

we love you all, J.D.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


On this beautiful night, the family went for a walk, dogs outnumbering humans.

I have done what I could, said what I wanted to say......it's time to let go and let it flow as it is meant to.....


Friday, September 19, 2008

No Fear

In addition to the lesson about playing the hand that is dealt, the other significant experience that has changed me is related to fear. Fear is paralyzing. I remember the days, one in particular, when I could not eat. It was not the disease that prevented me from eating; it was the panic that would not be quelled. It was a force so powerful that I could have died from it. Fear takes up a lot of space. It is all-consuming, leaving room for nothing else. But when fear is absent, the being is allowed to be. The being can then gather information, weigh options, make decisions. The being can give and receive love; take a walk; enjoy a milkshake.

I cannot recall the exact moment that I learned that I could manage my fear. I will not claim that I am never afraid. Fear will creep back in during the middle of the night, or strike like lightening with the delivery of unpleasant news. I have, however, contemplated how I have been able to develop the skills to cope with fear. I was not able to do it alone. I doubt that most of us could. The key to my success is the bond that I have with you. Yes, you. This is my journey, and my journey, alone. But you are there to push me off a rock when my raft gets stuck, patch the holes in the raft, and bail like heck when I take on water. You are not just an observer watching as I float by.

As I prepare myself mentally and physically for next week's possibilities, it is not fear of death that haunts me. I am not afraid. I will follow in the footsteps of my father. He faced his challenges, and ultimately his mortality with grace and humility. I will honor his memory by continuing to do my best to emulate him. What motivates this being is the desire to live. I have a son to raise, and work to do within my profession and in my community. And I truly enjoy the gift of living each day. And dachshunds. I love dachshunds.

I still haven’t entirely resolved the faith issue. It’s there; it’s just not clearly defined. Nevertheless, on the eve of a venture full of unknowns, regardless of where your religion, spirituality and/or faith lie, I ask for your prayers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Full of Thanks

I am feeling particularly full of thanks today.

I had a wonderful celebration marking 53 years. That's right. I'm 53. Most of you know that. If you didn't, then now you do. I guess I'm grateful in a small way for the gift of looking young. I hope to also feel young again some day.

I am grateful for the gift of a smooth transition to high school for Brent. I spent a not insignificant amount of time and energy working for this. I cannot even claim that my efforts paid off. Public school was his first, and only choice. And much to my surprise, and great delight, he is thriving.

And in a reverse psychology sort of way, the coincidence of two inappropriate encounters today reminded me how blessed I am. The first was an unpleasant comment from a litigant in a 1991 case. She helped reinforce the primary lesson that I have learned from my present challenge; that we are all dealt hands that we don't like. It's what we do with them that counts. (The fact that this woman showed poor judgment today reminds of exactly why she did not get what she thought she deserved in 1991). And to the gentleman who told me to "call him after this thing was all over" so we could get together, thank you for illuminating what is special about my life right now. It was easy for me to turn away from your remark and feel the immediate embrace of my supporters. I am fortunate to be able to count on so many to provide what it takes to keep going. It is a strength I feel every hour, every day.

So I feel the need to pause and give thanks to everyone who cooks, writes, emails, blogs, visits, hugs, donates, prays, walks, drives, cycles, treats and works for me. You are getting me through this adventure cum nightmare, every single one of you.

Sending all the thanks I can muster,

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Quiet Celebration

We're off to a quiet place to sing happy birthday to each other and mark 17 years of marriage. No more adventures planned, just a peaceful getaway amidst the storm.

Speaking of storms, I anxiously watched Hurricane Ike crashing ashore in Galveston last night, and woke up to the images of a battered southeast Texas this morning. To my Houston family and friends, I've been thinking of you and wishing for your safe passage through the tempest.

Coincidentally, this week marks the anniversary of the storm that John and I rode out on September 11, 1992, on the island of Kauai. Rita Bennington, John, an old pit bull, an Australian Shepherd (beloved Aggipah of blessed memory), a cat and me spent six hours in a hallway and then bathroom drinking Fuzzy Navels and pretending we were not afraid for our lives. The aftermath of the storm brought days during which there was little or no communication intra-island, and no means whatsoever to communicate with anyone off the island. I have personally witnessed the devastation wrought by Mother Nature's fury, and would not willingly put myself in harm's way again. I have my own version, but this is what Wikipedia says about Hurricane Iniki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Iniki

There are also photos that paint the picture of destruction at the website below. We were in Princeville: http://www.hawaiimovietour.com/iniki2.htm

This week's brightest moment? The words of my son.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Labor Day 2008

Some pictures speak louder than words.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Getting the House in Order

Are you prepared if you or your significant other unexpectedly dies? Or worse, lapses into a coma? Do you have a Will, Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Financial Power of Attorney? Do you have adequate life insurance? And if you do, do you know where these important documents and policies are? I am relieved that John and I have the financial documents we need. However, we have not followed through with all the estate planning advice and made the appropriate changes on the titles to property, financial accounts and beneficiaries. And whoops, 2007 income tax returns have not been filed. And what about the harder questions? The ones you really, really don't want to pose. What would life look like without you? How would your family cope?

None of the above relieves me of my usual round of phone calls to doctors and other health care providers to keep up with my eligibility for future clinical trials, to follow up with insurance issues, and to address other matters that come up on a daily basis. And most importantly, for me anyway, to do whatever it is I need to do to survive against overwhelming odds.

Since the end of May, I have not been able to return to a predictable daily routine. That has not changed even as treatment has ceased. Since May, I have been relegated to approaching each day, each hour even, as it comes. The few plans that I do make come with the condition, spoken or unspoken, that I may have to cancel due to a conflicting appointment, or if I am just not up for it, which is often. Thankfully, with few exceptions, my friends and colleagues have been wonderfully understanding.

Today I am grateful for another day, another week, to put one foot in front of the other.

Love to all.

Friday, September 5, 2008

It's a Date (Reprise)

Remember way back when in June that I was supposed to have surgery? Hence the lunggone moniker? Well, we've come full circle, in a way. On September 24th I will again go under general anesthesia and John Moore will again biopsy lymph nodes in my chest, this time by frozen section, and if there is no cancer present in the nodes then he will remove my left lung. A pneumonectomy. This next step brings with it a new level of hope, that surgery could, in fact, be a cure. There is no guarantee, of course, and there are serious risks involved with this surgery. There is also the possibility, a not insignificant one, that the cancer outside of the primary tumor has not been eradicated by the treatment that I have had so far, and I will wake up to two lungs and more chemotherapy and radiation, and the same dismal statistics I have been living(?) under for the past 3+ months. Friends, that is a frightening prospect. I have been read The Riot Act about statistics but it's my life not yours so leave that topic alone for now. It is what it is.

But I have hope. I love hope. I can feel it. I feel positive and ready and I want to be cured. I want my life back. I missed the summer, I will miss the fall, but I don't think it is unrealistic to be up and about for winter. I probably won't ski, but what the heck, maybe I can handle Sugar Mountain.

So reload those prayer guns. You have all been so wonderful keeping me going on this still inconceivable journey.

Love and thanks,


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Stand Up 2 Cancer

Tomorrow night at 8:00 pm the three television networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS (remember them?) are airing a star-studded show aimed at both providing information about and accelerating fund raising for cancer research, particularly novel therapies that are in their infancy but have promising results. Cancer research is an issue that has become near and dear to my heart, and I would ask that you let this program touch you in some way, however small. If television is not your thing (it is certainly not mine), there is also a website associated with this event (www.standup2cancer.org). It is not necessary to donate money; there is a sample letter to send to your representatives in Congress as well as a host of information to help get educated on other ways to provide support.

Please make some time for this event. Unfortunately, the lives of too many people depend upon it.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Perfection and Farewell, Summer

If a bad day on the river is better than a good day at work, then a good day on the river must be, well, perfect. If there is such a thing as perfection, then that is it for me. From the gentle Etowah and Chestatee rivers to the Chattahoochee, Cartecay, Hiwassee, Chattooga, Tuckasegee, Ocoee and the Nantahala; from the Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho to the bashing white water of the Arkansas River in Colorado, I can think of no better way to stimulate my senses, and to touch, sometimes, my soul. It doesn't take a complicated set of rapids or an extra-special boat; it's as simple as breathing the air, looking at the natural surroundings, and as Burton says, finding the V's.

Did I enjoy my weekend? You bet.

Today is Labor Day, the day we traditionally bid farewell to summer. I have always found summer to be my favorite season. It's not that I don't like the other seasons; they all have their charms. But I particularly enjoy summer sports, summer fruit, the long days, the beach, a good suntan, and for the first 20 or so years, summer meant no school. Even better, summer meant camp! I think I will always be on "The Quarter System," and summer will always be my reward for passing all the tests taken during the rest of the year.

As for this summer, I hardly have much to say, as I have no perspective on it yet. It definitely was not as great as the summer that John, Brent and I went on a Middle Fork trip, followed by adventures in Yellowstone and the Tetons, culminating with Matthew Bagen's wedding in Jackson Hole. That trip was definitely outstanding, for all the right reasons. But this summer had its highlights. I will always remember the delicious meals delivered with such care, the scrumptious hugs, real and virtual, and the prayers and wishes for my recovery that were spread over near and far. I'm counting on the memories of radiation, chemotherapy, and scans and medical tests of all forms to fade. The next season will likely include the drama of major surgery and the loss of a vital organ, and more treatment. Perhaps I will aim for using the winter solstice as my turning point. I like the metaphor of darkness to light. From the shortest day of the year forward, I will strive to begin my recovery and reentry into the practical world.

There is still work to do before final decisions are made and put into place. That means that tomorrow I will do what I do on most days - put one foot in front of the other.

Love to all.