Wednesday, July 1, 2009

So Long, Farewell

It is official. I am no longer a partner in Aussenberg Waggoner LLP. Tears, grief, sorrow, more tears. The desk, credenza, file cabinet and bookcases have been removed from the office I adored and replaced with someone else and something else. I leave behind not just beautiful furniture, artwork and every detail that was selected with pride and joy; I leave behind something else. Even the word maestro cannot describe it.

So it goes with life lessons. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. One door closes, another opens.

Patti, Chris, Brett, Jennifer, Dana and Jill - I wish you and your families the best. I hope you will carry on the values that were always so important to me - Look diligently for solutions without creating new problems or making the existing ones worse. Make every case and every client your most important one.

Next, I bid farewell to Team Dream. When the days were dark and no one knew where to turn or what to do, it was an uplifting idea, and a wonderful way to keep up my spirits. Almost $25,000.00 has been raised, which astounds me. You have given generously and from your heart. There is no way to tell you what that means to me. I have spoken with the director of the National Lung Cancer Partnership, which is the organization with which Team Dream is associated. I have been assured that your donations will be used wisely, in exactly the way they were intended. If you would still like to contribute to Team Dream in my honor, the opportunity will remain available until the end of July. No pressure. You have already been wonderful. John donated the first $100.00 and on July 31, John will contribute the last $100.00. There will always be opportunities to contribute to this woefully underfunded cause. The Addarios, the Gaetas, NLCP, these are just some of the organizations that are actively fundraising, educating, and more. I intend to participate in local events aimed at raising funds for lung cancer research and I hope you will join me. As for the paddling adventure, I am looking into ways to make it an annual event. It may have a different format, but it will still be a blast.

And, finally, I am bidding farewell to my beloved blog. It has been the single most important factor in seeing me through the past year. I counted on it more than you will ever know. But it is time to move on, to turn my energies elsewhere. I reserve the right to come back to the blog if I need to, but I am stable for now, and have different needs. I'd love to hear from you as I close this chapter; Burton may also be willing to explain how to become a blog follower, so that if I do post anything in the future that you will automatically receive notification by email. I may also use the website that was used to schedule meals for my family. I can send out email blasts from there, and you can also post comments, so if you have not signed up you may want to consider doing so now.

Houston, we're at stable one. The ship is secure. This is Apollo 13 signing off.

Love to all.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dream Team

Gyms are like a second home to me. I have logged countless hours doing cardio, weights and stretching in rooms with multiple sweaty and smelly bodies. I may glance annoyingly at the thirtysomething with a great tan and taut muscles working out next to me, but I have never been intimidated by whoever or whatever I encountered during my workouts. That changed after surgery last fall. At the recommendation of the surgeon and with encouragement from Dr. Scheinberg I embarked on a 24 session program to rehabilitate my remaining lung and restore muscle tone to a body that had not lifted a free weight since April 2008.

The prospect was daunting. Last November I strapped on the oxygen and spent 10 to 15 minutes on various machines trying to build up respiratory capacity. Then I was handed a set of pink free weights. Not a good sign, I thought, and I was right. Two lbs. That was an emotional punch for someone accustomed to (relatively) heavy lifting. Then came the December setback and I retreated from even this mild exertion.

In January, with a few weeks of Tarceva under my belt, I was determined to once again participate in the rehabilitation program. 10 to 15 minutes of cardio turned into 15 to 20 minutes, gradually increasing to 45 minutes on a single machine. A little incline and some speed didn't make me sweat but I knew I was getting somewhere. I'm not doing any heavy lifting, and may never get back to where I was, but I have definitely progressed from the pink two pounders.

The thing is, I did not do any of this on my own. With every step I took and every weight I hefted there they were. Kim, Prince and Megan (r to l). At first I needed oxygen, and frequent O2 saturation, blood pressure and heart rate measurements. Gradually I stabilized and the need to monitor my every move subsided. But whenever I looked out of the corner of my eye, there they were.

I have now graduated from the program and received my certificate. I am free to exercise wherever and whenever I please. But I just can't seem to leave the warmth of the small gym and the watchful eyes of the therapists. Maybe someday. But not yet.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Year of Cancer in 12 Steps

1 pneumonectomy
2 trips to Houston
3 PET scans
4 brain MRI's
5 weeks of radiation
6 treatments of carboplatin and taxol
7 CT scans
8 days at MD Anderson Cancer Center
9 visits with Dr. Scheinberg
10 minutes of Alimta
11 days in the hospital
12 trips to Atlanta Cancer Care
Countless xrays, blood tests and IV's.

And a partridge in a pear tree.

Memorial Day Weekend 2009

Beautiful Amelia Island.

There wasn't a whole lotta sun but there was a whole lotta fun!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Poem

Jeans are blue
Khakis are tan
I bet you wanna know
The results of my scan

Some nasty juice
I had to drink
With nothing to eat
I was at the brink

Then it didn't go well
There was pain in my arm
The kind, sweet tech
Almost sounded an alarm

Then wait and wait
And wait I did
Into a teeny weeny
Funk I slid

Then Dr. D
Called on the phone
All is well
No reason to groan

My arm is fine
My lung is too
Hip hip hooray
A wish come true

During this week last year
I was taking some tests
PETs and CTs
I could hardly rest

One year ago
The shoe did drop
But I have beat the odds
And I will not stop


Friday, May 15, 2009

With Apologies to Novick, Eric and Rachel

As the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis approaches, some thoughts:

One year ago, my diet consisted mainly of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, high quality protein, and chocolate.
Today, I eat hot dogs, convenience foods, Chick-fil-A and chocolate.

One year ago, a drink before dinner meant martini.
Today, it means V-8.

One year ago, I avoided the medical community like the plague.
Today, I owe my life to David Rodriguez, Paul Scheinberg, Dan Dubovsky, Nancy Wiggers, John Moore, Roy Herbst and a host of other physicians, nurses, PA's and medical professionals.

One year ago, I was vigilant in taking steps for the prevention and early detection of melanoma, and breast, colon, ovarian and cervical cancer.
Today, I have lung cancer.

One year ago, MD Anderson was just a cluster of buildings in Houston.
Today, I have a patient number.

One year ago, I stepped on the scale and hoped it would show that I lost weight.
Today, I step on the scale and keep my fingers crossed that I did not lose any.

One year ago, I felt empowered by my roles as attorney, law partner and boss.
Today, I feel empowered by something completely different.

One year ago, I was disheartened as John and I struggled to find a high school for Brent that could meet his needs, which we were told would be impossible to meet in public school.
Today, Brent is finishing his freshman year at Milton High School with honors, thriving and happy.

One year ago I believed that if I had to be admitted to the hospital for any reason, that I was in trouble.
Today, I believe that if I have to be admitted to the hospital for any reason, that I am in trouble.

One year ago, I took so much for granted.
Today, I don't.

CT scan on Monday.
Stay tuned for results.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

It was not an easy week. There was more fatigue and coughing than usual. Too much fun last weekend, fighting a cold or allergies like everyone else, or something from the dark side? I will likely find out the week of May 18th when I go for my first set of scans since my visit to MD Anderson and the declaration of NED. The week had its highlights, however, especially for Andy P. He was admitted to the NED club, with highest honors. There was other good news, good meetings and good encounters, which keeps the spirits high. Not sure, though, if No. 1 son turning 15 and obtaining his learner's permit within hours of his birthday qualifies as good. The jury is definitely out on that one.

Speaking of high spirits, despite a bold attempt to ruin my Mother's Day Weekend, Sunday was a delightful day. From special cards, to fresh bagels and cheese eggs, to spending the afternoon with husband, son and Attila the Roz, I could not find a way to be unhappy. I could only see sunshine and feel love.

And since Steve Beagle doesn't hold the patent on humor, here goes:

A suburban mother's role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car forever after.
Peter De Vries

I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford. Then I want to move in with them.
Phyllis Diller

God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.
Jewish Proverb

My mother's menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it.
Buddy Hackett

Love to All.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Take Me to the River

It could not have been a better day. Everyone was there. Old friends, new friends, family, doctors, dachshunds, nurses, colleagues, kids, good paddlers, great paddlers, and Ann and Ruth. Everyone.

There was a little rain, a little sunshine, great sandwiches, amazing cookies, and a lot of love. Love for the outdoors but mostly for life.

It was a stellar effort by Amy Waggoner and Laura Sidelinger with great support from the city of Roswell. Speaking of Roswell, tucked snug and dry in a compartment in my boat was the following:


WHEREAS, Lung cancer takes the lives of more Americans each year than breast, prostate, colon, liver, and kidney cancers combined; and

WHEREAS, Former smokers and people who have never smoked comprise the majority of new cases of lung cancer each year; and

WHEREAS, Seventy percent of new lung cancer cases will be diagnosed at late stage, with a 5 year survival rate of 15%; and

WHEREAS, Early lung cancer diagnosis and management protocols exist, yet have not been embraced as the standard of care; and

WHEREAS, Funding for lung cancer research falls far short of funding for research on other, less fatal diseases.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JERE WOOD, as Mayor of the City of Roswell, do hereby proclaim May 2, 2009 as LUNG CANCER AWARENESS DAY in the City of Roswell, and urge all citizens to do what they can to educate themselves and protect their families.

In witness whereof I have hereunto
set my hand and seal this 2nd day of
May, 2009.


Link to pictures:

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Boss and Me

Dear Bruce,

You and I go back a ways. Maybe not as far back as some of your fans, but August 1975 to be precise. We first met in Atlanta at Alex Cooley's Electric Ballroom across the street from the Fox Theater. It was my friend Lance's idea. He was headed back to school in Chapel Hill and we wanted to spend some time together before he left. Lance had a Cutlass 442 and an astute taste in music so off we went. It was a Wednesday night which was Ladies Night which meant I got in for free. Things only got better from there. The Electric Ballroom was set up like a club instead of a theater with small tables in front of a stage. From the moment that you hit that stage, I was gripped, captivated, spellbound. Never had someone performed for me with such energy and exuberance. You danced on our table. And when you caught the "Spirit in the Night" in your knit cap our fate was sealed. Over the years, we continued to see each other in Tampa, Atlanta, Memphis, and Chicago. It was in Tampa that you and I became really close. Front row center in November 1975. You danced on the back of my chair as I propped you up. (Not sure I was helping all that much but I'm keeping that as a memory anyway.) After that, I knew we would be together forever.

Seeing you at Philips Arena last night reminded me of how important our relationship is to me. When I saw you in Atlanta last year it was on the eve of a life-changing experience for me. One year later, I am celebrating a renewal of sorts. While my journey continues, you are like bookends to a year unlike any other. I realize that you are a devoted family man, but that does not affect our connection. It is as strong as ever. Which is why I am writing this letter. I also know that you are engaged in many equally important endeavors beyond music and family. But I am asking for you to do one more thing. The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation is seeking popular celebrities to perform 30-second public service announcements on television to raise awareness of the unpleasant realities associated with lung cancer. The statistics are grim. You can get all the information from many websites, including Lung cancer, which is increasingly affecting nonsmokers like myself, kills more Americans each year than any other kind of cancer; more than breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer combined.

When you are ready to step up to this plate you can contact the Addarios at the website above. They are waiting to hear from you.

All the best from One True Fan,


Devoted Blog Readers - If anyone knows anyone who knows anyone who can get this letter to Bruce I will be forever grateful and in your debt.

A Fond Farewell

Today we bid the fondest of farewells to Marvin Kaplan.

Husband, father, grandfather, friend. It didn't seem like he was quite ready or that we were quite ready but 85 years, good years, is a blessing. I hope he knows how much he was loved, and that he is at peace.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Good News for Slackers

Thank you to everyone who signed up for the Paddle Lung Cancer Dead and Kill It event. Participation has exceeded expectations, and it is sure to be a fun adventure, especially for you, Ruth. No sneaking out of this one. You are getting in that boat and heading downstream. If you end up upstream, well, some things just can't be helped.

The deadline for registering has been extended to April 24. So all you procrastinators with names like Bernstein, Bordett, Cynman, Gaslowitz, Martin, Perlman, Somerstein, Steine and West still have time to sign up. Did I forget anyone? If I did and I remember who you are, I will do another blog post just for you.


PS Steve B we miss you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Good News and Other Stuff

The Other Stuff first.

This is like the last day of the semi-annual public radio fund raising week. No time left to make your pledge. This is it. This is the end of line. There is NO MORE TIME to register for the Paddle Lung Cancer Dead event. You have to sign up today. Or else. The boats (not votes!) have to be counted. There will not be another opportunity to get one. This is the drop deadline. It's now or never. Really.

Oh, the good news. Today's lung xray was clear. NED. No evidence of disease.

See you on the river!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fatal Attraction?

Two times last week I was confronted with the word "fatal." The first time it was aimed directly at my apparently imminent demise. The other encounter referred to someone else's "fatal" lung cancer diagnosis, despite her thriving lifestyle.


I am very interested in viewing the tools used to deliver this summation. Was it a crystal ball? Tarot cards? Was a seer consulted?

The grim reaper may be camped out in my back yard, but he (he is definitely a he) will not be invited in. I spend a lot of time in cars. Can I assume that I am now safe, protected from an accident that would otherwise result in my death? If my cancer is fatal, then I can totally relax during take off and landing. No more worries about a funny looking mole or crossing a busy street. Whew. That's a load off my shoulders.

And does "fatal" come with a date? That would sure help for planning purposes.

Not a single one of my doctors has ever told me that my situation is terminal, let alone referred to my diagnosis as fatal.

My deepest appreciation goes out to every single person who sees me as a living, breathing being, even if it is only with one lung. (Remember, I am doing fine with just one.) Unless you care to share with me the date, time and precise cause of my demise, I will continue to choose life. Every day.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Next week is Spring Break for our family. We are heading to a somewhat remote place for peace and quiet and to let nature rejuvenate us as only nature can.

When I return I will check the sign up list for the Kill Lung Cancer Dead and Step On It paddle event and start naming names like Kleinman, Kaye, Scott, Richardson, Hebert and so on. Did I say Kramer and Perlman? And Silver?

No one is safe.

Have a great week, a Happy Passover and I will be in touch soon.

With more names.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Desperately Seeking a Cure For Lung Cancer

via The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation by sheila on 3/23/09

Meet Elyse Aussenberg, attorney by vocation, athlete by avocation and Lung Cancer patient – not by choice. Either way you see it, here’s her story of optimism and hope for ordering Lung Cancer out of her life – and the life of everyone else.
At 52, Elyse Aussenberg was a poster girl for healthy living. She loved whole grains, salmon and leafy greens; practiced yoga, hit the gym religiously, and had a travel passport to exotic places across the globe. She lived life passionately, committed to her profession as an attorney and helping others through difficult family law matters, and shared a love for her four dachshunds with her husband, John, and son, Brent.

In spring of 2008, the Atlanta resident refused to ignore a persistent cough. As she searched for help, the internists she consulted diagnosed a mold allergy, prescribed antibiotics for pneumonia and told her to drink Robitussin three times a day.

But, Elyse knew her body. She knew something was seriously wrong.

When this dedicated athlete collapsed following a bike ride, she refused to stay knocked down. After visiting doctor after doctor, she finally found an internist who ordered a CT scan.

On May 27, 2008, Elyse was diagnosed with “Bronchial Alveolar Carcinoma.” Translated: Lung Cancer.

“My story is not a pleasant one,” says Elyse, who recently joined the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation as our newest board member. “It is thankfully ongoing, but I have suffered greatly from not only the lack of early detection of the disease, but a conspicuous lack of knowledge about Lung Cancer.”

Elyse was forced by circumstances to smarten up about Lung Cancer and took it on like her fiercest legal challenge. In many ways, she feels like she needed a degree in cancer treatment to take on her own Lung Cancer case.

Now, she’s determined to take her own journey through cancer as the guiding force to help others through this troubled situation. For patients who aren’t Lung Cancer gurus, (and who is?) Elyse hopes to help make the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation the top crusader to end this killer cancer.

So how does Elyse stay so positive? She says she keeps on keepin’ on in large part because her friends have rallied to her side, and because together they are taking on Lung Cancer like they would any major challenge that they refuse to let shake their worlds.

“I have endured radiation, chemotherapy, the removal of a lung, targeted therapy, traveled to a major cancer center for help and have still not been “cured,” says Elyse. “I have and continue to spend many hours educating myself on this disease and treatment options. I enjoy bits and pieces of life in between doctor visits, rehab and resting, but I am primarily consumed with the act of staying alive.”

Elyse’s friends have formed a “Team Dream 2010,” and plan to bike across the United States to raise awareness and funds for Lung Cancer research: “3,415 miles, 10 bikes, 7 weeks and 2 oceans, 1 cure,” is how they are billing the feat they currently are training for.

In the words of Elyse’s dream team, who already has raised more than $20,000: “We’re committed to KILLING Lung Cancer.”

With doctors recently saying that all signs of cancer are gone from her body, Elyse is optimistic. She’s also more committed than ever to increase the awareness of Lung Cancer and get the information others need to know about Lung Cancer into the hands of folks who may be unknowing patients.

“I am filled with hope,” says Elyse.
Visit Elyse’s Big Adventure Blog, now in the “Our Survivors” section.

Things you can do from here:
• Subscribe to The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation using Google Reader
• Get started using Google Reader to easily keep up with all your favorite sites

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hello? Hello?

Are you out there? Have you signed up yet? You know, for the paddling event. The one on May 2. On the Chattahoochee. Benefiting lung cancer research. I am going to have to start naming names like the Falkensteins, Jacobson/Lacks, Kramers, Perlmans, and Silvers. And there's more. This could get ugly.

Welcome, Spring. I am happy you're here and I'm happy I'm here.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

I am thankful for a quiet weekend of gentle rain.

I am wondering how I will be able to handle the small tasks and social events that seem to be building up into a busy schedule, at least by my new standards.

I am thankful for the moments filled with smiles and hugs and kind words.

I am so, so grateful to be here today.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lung Cancer Definitely Needs a Paddling

Everyone knows I love a good party, especially if it's a fundraiser, but a paddling event to raise money for lung cancer research and awareness? Sounds like my idea of heaven. This is not bashing white water. This is the Chattahoochee River, which is oh-so-lovely in May, and a delightful paddling venue right in the middle of north Atlanta. I will be taking names of everyone who does not participate and eliminating you from my Will, except for the Arogetis, who have a simcha that day and are excused. But just barely. And we will miss them. Please, please show your support for the eradication of lung cancer, preferably in my lifetime. If you're coming from out of town we can arrange lodging.

And YES I will be there, with John, Brent and one or two dachshunds, at least.

The link to registration is to the right. No excuses. Be there.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Results Are In

And it is the best possible outcome under the circumstances. "No evidence for active lung cancer." "No evidence of recurrent disease." Anywhere. Good blood work, physical exam normal. I was elated and thrilled, hugging and screaming (Neil tried to stop me but he couldn't). We celebrated with martinis and wine, a nice dinner, and coconut ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert.

But in between screaming in delight and the celebratory dinner I remained sober and attentive in my meeting with Dr. Herbst. I am not cured. Presently, there is no cure for lung cancer beyond surgery. The Tarceva will stop working. It is not a matter of if, but when. Could be three months, could be eight years. Unfortunately, not only is there no Tarceva II, there is no standard protocol to follow when Tarceva fails.

The plan going forward is to be scanned every 3 months, alternating between Houston and Atlanta. Dr. Herbst also suggested having a chest x-ray every six weeks. I have information on other physicians around the country working with lung cancer patients, active clinical trials and the latest research projects; I have met the people driving the Lung Cancer Alliance, Joan Gaeta Lung Cancer Foundation and the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. They will not let me down, not without a big, fat fight.

I still have a difficult road ahead of me but I am going to take some time to revel in this good fortune. I am going to finish my rehab program, continue my never-ending doctor visits, and soak up some (metaphorical) sun.

According to Scheinberg, Tarceva + prayer is a perfect cocktail. Thank you all for providing such a great mixer.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Plan for Neutral News

I have been tested, inspected, injected, scanned, crammed, and stuck. I have been covered in warm blankets and greeted with sweet smiles. I have been hugged, kissed, wished well and prayed for. The results are in. I just don't know what they are. It reminds me of the first day, May 27, as I stood in my closet and wondered, "what do you wear to the appointment when you know you are going to be diagnosed with cancer?" I have decided that the best approach for me is to take the advice of a Stage IV and plan for neutral news.

Stay tuned.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Little Help Please

On Sunday I head to Houston for a visit to MD Anderson. I will have several scans and other diagnostic tests and will then meet with an oncologist. I believe that the Tarceva is working, but the tests will show how well.

I am covering all my bases so I am asking for your good luck wishes and prayers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Covered in Dachshund

Consciousness comes, slowly.
I take stock of who I am, where I am, and that something is not quite right.
Then I remember. Lung cancer.

Before I open my eyes, I realize that there is something cold near my ear. It is Dash. I remember him burrowing under the blankets as I drifted off to sleep last night. Now this wiener dog, a bratwurst, really, has his nose by my face and the rest of him nestled on John's pillow as if tucked inside a bun. His copper red color surrounded by the beige sheet remind me of a naked dog that walked from the Varsity. He is peaceful in slumber and I know that this serenity will remain with him when he wakes. He is the Gandhi, the Buddha of the dog world, bringing peace to the Alpharetta Greenway and to wherever he goes. He is the oldest and wisest of the pack but is a benevolent leader. There is not an Alpha Male bone in his body.

My legs feel like they are glued to the bed. That spot belongs to Dewey. Dew-eyed, handsome boy. The middle child who is jealous of but loving to his older and younger siblings alike. And playful, smart, polite and wanting always to please. But big dogs, watch out. He announces himself and wants you to know he is ready to rumble.

At the corner of the bed in a spot he has claimed as his own is Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. This is not a typo. He is named for the officious if deranged seeing eye bitch in the movie Everything is Illuminated. Floppity, dumb as dirt, living for the moment and loving every minute. Irresistible to all who do not have to clean up his mistakes or pay for the ruined books. White with dark spots, he looks like an elongated beagle and howls like one. Eats like he may have the potential to challenge Dash for being the Fat Boy in Town. He completes the pack of boys, who can often be found on the bed, sofa, or comfy chair intertwined and in repose.

Suddenly, the quiet of the morning is pierced by fierce barking. That would be Dot a/k/a Dorothy a/k/a Dotalicious a/k/a Ninja. Small, stealth, 6 1/2 pounds of vigilance. The deer, the cats, the other creatures that lurk in and around our yard are never safe as long as Dot is around. Afraid of nothing, she is the bravest of the bunch. For the year before she became one of the Aussenberg/Denys pack she lived in an apartment and never went outside. Now she stays out in all but the coldest, wettest conditions. We almost lost her to a bird of prey last year. She was bloodied and scared, but she endured stitches and swiftly recovered. Dot Denys. One loud, tough cookie who now snuggles sweetly nearby.

I close my eyes for a few more minutes to enjoy the moment.
Covered in dachshund.
Covered in love.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Upcoming Events

On February 21, the Joan Gaeta Lung Cancer Foundation is sponsoring the 2nd annual Dancing for Joan gala event. Like me, Joan Gaeta was a non-smoker. She was diagnosed in early 2004 and succumbed to the cancer in July 2007. The Joan Gaeta Lung Cancer Foundation was created by her husband and children to raise awareness of the disease, to educate the public, and to be an advocate for research. I am sure it will be a wonderful evening for a very worthwhile cause. John and I will be partying along with friends and we hope you will join us. You can find more information at

On May 2nd, the folks who brought you Team Dream (Amy, Amy and Amy), in conjunction with the City of Roswell (Jere and Co.), have organized The "Lung Cancer Needs a Paddling" River Trip. Be part of a fleet of canoes and kayaks paddling down the Chattahoochee River to help raise awareness and find a cure for lung cancer. All proceeds from the event will benefit the National Lung Cancer Partnership though Team Dream. I will publish the link with more information and to register at the beginning of March. Don't even THINK of not participating.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Simple Pleasures

The week has ended on a lovely note, a shining sun warming the winter air.

It was a week filled with simple pleasures...a little office time...a little exercise...some shopping...lunch and even dinner with friends within and without the legal community. Of course there was a doctor visit, but that is now part of the routine.

How nice it felt to chat with colleagues and with friends, to sit at my desk and open a few pieces of mail, to search for just the right piece of furniture for the office, and to cruise the galleries and consignments shops in Roswell with my son. Little things, like sitting at my vanity in the bathroom, now seem pleasurable. Before I got sick, I stood in front of the mirror and put on make up, dryed my hair, applied the usual lotions and creams and was quickly on my way to somewhere else. But then I couldn't stand, so I purchased a nice little stool and sat. At first, it was out of necessity. Then it became a simple pleasure. I take my time and enjoy the pretty bathroom and variety of products, many of which are gifts that came with love, that soothe my skin and brighten my persona.

February will include a trip to MD Anderson for a round of tests to determine how well the Tarceva is working and to consult with Dr. Herbst and his team of health care professionals. It is no accident that I am able to combine a visit with family and medical treatment. I am fortunate that such a superior facility is within a 15 minute drive of my brother's home. I have mixed feelings about the trip. Happy to see family and consult with the MDA team, but anxious knowing that the news may not be want I want to hear. No need to get the worry synapses popping now. I hope to have to get accustomed to facing many more exams over many more years.

What will the coming week bring? Snow, maybe. Bruce Springsteen on TV because of some big football game. More lunches to reconnect with business associates, exercising, another doctor's appointment, medical tests. And, hopefully, more simple pleasures.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I have reached a new milestone in this provocative journey.

My doctors don't say it, at least not in my presence, but I know that I was dying. Not in the way that we are all dying, in that we are growing older each day, but as in feeling the life force that is me, slip away. After my surgery in September, these same doctors were telling me that I should be feeling better each day. The days post-surgery turned to weeks, then months, and I was not improving. Instead, it became increasingly more difficult to perform the simplest tasks, beginning with arising each morning. There was no dramatic event; the two trips to the hospital were unpleasant, but there were no ambulances, sirens or melodramatic scenes a la House or ER. Just a feeling of quietly slipping away.

The changes brought on by Tarceva were subtle, until one day I again felt alive. One day I woke up and there I was. That's how I knew that this life-threatening disease had become, in fact, life-threatening.

I can't help but be filled with metaphors for this experience. I am fortunate to have so many fond memories, brought about by the wealth of people and experiences that are the fabric of my life. When I think of where I was in December, and where I am now, I see and feel sunlight. PFS. Since 6th grade, Carole has always been there reminding me to Pray for Sun. I had the feeling, way back then, that she was on to something, but I have now lived that phenomenon. It is winter, and January weather has not been kind to Atlantans, but I am enveloped in my own stream of sunlight. This is the recurring metaphor: from darkness to light.

There is another metaphor prominent in my mind at this point. I went from devastating diagnosis to drawn out staging process to simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation to Emory to MD Anderson (remember Medical Industrial Complex sometimes known as Cancerville?) to suspected metastasis then back to treatment then treatment hiatus then surgery then post surgery recovery that wasn't then back to Emory and back to the hospital (twice) and more consultations then more chemotherapy and more tests then another devastating diagnosis then Tarceva. It was like being squeezed through a very constricted and abrasive tube. Or tossed around in a dryer on a long, hot cycle. I can finally breathe now. Literally. My one lung, if cancer free, will probably provide me with a very decent quality of life, as far as breathing goes. (BTW, last year I bought my first new pair of ski boots in 15 years. I plan to use them.)

More difficult, I think, is coping with the effects, the scars, of where I have been. Even more daunting is knowing there is a high probability that the cancer will recur. Clouds that could restrict or block out the sunlight. Next month I will have the first scan since I began taking Tarceva. And perhaps I will be lucky enough to be able to face more scans over many more years. That would be a good thing. But first I have to prepare for this one.

Know that I am truly thrilled to get out of bed each day. It is a joy that previously went unnoticed and unappreciated. Now sunlight isn't just rays from the sun that I take for granted, and clouds are no longer innocuous vapors that simply come and go. Each precious breath now counts. Of course, each breath always counted. I just didn't know it or appreciate it. Aside from skiing, I am not sure how I will use this new found awareness. I want to be productive, that is a given. And for as long as possible, I will be walking, maybe even running, in sunlight.

If you're coming with me it's time to get a good pair of shades.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More Good Days

The week is rolling on and I am continuing to get out and about. I have two more pulmonary rehab sessions under my belt, done some office time, had lunch out, and of course kept up with my MD visits. Given my status a month ago, I couldn't be more pleased with my progress at this point.

Because rust never sleeps, I am thinking ahead. I will need to be rescanned for a more accurate determination of the effect of the Tarceva; and I feel the need to keep my eye on the options if the current treatment fails. The good news is that clinical trials are ongoing, so options are expanding as time goes on. Nevertheless, I am on alert and on guard.

I am still struggling with the side effects of Tarceva. I have not yet found a prescription medication or an over-the-counter skin treatment to relieve the rash and dry skin on my face, which continue to plague me. However, Dr. D prescribed a marvelous antidote for the digestion issues - tincture of opium. That's right. Recreational drugs are making a comeback in my life. And not a moment too soon.

January has traditionally been a difficult month for me. Long, cold and dark. Not this year.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Last night John and I went out for dinner! To a restaurant!
I shared an appetizer, ordered an entree, had a few bites of dessert and even a glass of wine.
Woo hoo!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


With only three days under my belt, the new year looks promising. Since Monday, I have been out of the house each day doing simple tasks but feeling like I have accomplished something. It is a big shift from someone who arose at 6AM, did some combination of cardio/weights/yoga at the gym, worked a full day and then went to a meeting/board meeting/general schmooze and eventually home to family. This is clearly a new reality, but I am thankful for the prospect of returning to a productive life, in whatever form that takes.

There is a prayer giving thanks on special occasions for the opportunity to reach that particular day, which according to Paul Scheinberg, really applies to every day. I have to agree.

ברוך אתה ה' א‑לוהינו מלך העולם, שהחינו וקימנו והגענו לזמן הזה

Translation: "Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season."