Wednesday, May 31, 2006

No News Is Good News

I was reminded today that people (that would be you) still check my blog regularly and there hasn't been a posting in some time. So here's the latest on "the numbers", as well as "my life". I last saw Rifkin 2 weeks ago. He was mildly encouraged by the last drop in numbers (from 2580 to 2030) and as a result, approved a 7th cycle of velcade with steroids. That starts on Monday, after a much needed 2 week break from the chemo. It also feels a long way from the depths of the sadness when I was told, after 4 cycles, that I wouldn't qualify for continued participation in the study. Yes, the roller coaster ride continues. Anyway, labs will be drawn on Monday with results on Thursday. What's next? don't know until the results are in. But I am generally feeling good--especially when I think about where I was last summer.

The family continues to take care of me--not just Susan, Catherine and Julia, but also my mother, brothers and sister. As you know my mother was here in April when Susan was in Medjagorie (sp?). Tom was here for the Memorial Day weekend and, as is our practice, we put him to work. He once again reorganized the garage--after the girls moved home and deposited more "stuff" in my parking space. His last day Susan presented him with the proverbial "to do list", which he completed with a smile. The house keeps running thanks to everyone else.

Susan and the girls also just returned from a long week at Scotsdale, AZ, thanks to Susan's cousin Eileen, who used her frequent flier miles or customer points, or something like that, to book a room at a local spa for the "girls". While initially it was to be a 4 day stay just for Susan and Catherine, as a graduation present for Catherine, Eileen later decided that she and Julia needed to join them. So, Catherine and Susan spent Monday through Friday there, and Eileen and Julia spent Thursday through Monday there--overlapping on the Thursday. They all look appropriately bronzed and relaxed. Eileen's generosity has us all overwhelmed. We are truly enjoying her being in Denver on assignment and will certainly miss her when she finishes her job here (I continue to receive a weekly package of home made cookies, which I'll also miss) But, what a nice gift from Eileen for the three ladies who took such good care of me this past year.

Next week more than 20 of my high school friends (24 is the current number) will be descending upon Denver for a 36th reunion of the class of 1970. This event was the brainchild of a couple of friends (as I understand it that would be Brian Bogner, Jim Weiler, and Wayne Hutsenbiler) as a way to boost my spirits as well as to just get together after too many years. The event has exploded into a guys weekend out, with golf, ROckies baseball, a reception at my law firm for "beer and brats" and lots of story telling.(No, I'm not playing golf but think I can manage driving the beer cart) The emails in preparation for this event have been numerous and hilarious. Initially I thought there would be 6 or 7 guys, but it has grown into this "can't be missed" weekend. I continue to marvel at the number of friends who are coming to Denver and count this, among so many other things, as one of the disguised blessings of this nasty disease. I will let you know if Denver survives the weekend onslaught of North Dakotans.

So that's the news. If this is sounding more like a normal life, then here's to it. It is actually beginning to feel that way too. While I still have my health issues, I have come to appreciate that while this is not a life that anyone would script for themselves, it is my life and thanks to all those who are in my life, it still brings me much joy and happiness and for that and all those who make it so, I am thankful. Love, Dan

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mysteries Not To Be Solved

Medjagorje, Medicine, Meditation, Messages (spiritual and otherwise) From Many Many Family and Friends. Who knows where the magic lies? Thursday morning "numbers" report shows drop of 550 points in the "enemy" IGGs--from 2580 to 2030. The lowest those numbers have been in 11 months. More movement in the last 3 weeks than in the last 3 months! The rollercoaster ride continues, but this time we are not plummeting. No upset stomach. Hope does not seem futile despite its taking me out of the present. This hope makes the present pleasant. I feel good, energy continues to increase, whether due to decrease in cancer levels or increase in steroids is irrelevant to me. The final test comes in 3 weeks with the bone marrow biopsy--to get definite measurement on the cancer levels and determine, once again, a course of action for the future.

While this is my fight, many times I have thought that I have small influence on what ultimately happens with this nastiness inside of me--not that such moments have lead me not to try. But at times,I really do feel like a passenger on this journey. My meditation practice describes the process as one of surrender--not giving in, but letting go, and allowing the work to be done by nature, the universe, spirit, energy, God, or whatever you call that force that keeps us alive in this place we live. Well, the work is being done and it is being done with the help, push, force, prayer, and whatever other words might describe the intentions of all of you who have worked so hard to influence the outcome of the battle.

So once again I humbly thank all. I am still processing Susan's journey across the seas for me. I don't believe much in coincidences so the turn of the numbers coinciding with her Medjagorje visit are not lost on me. Then again, I am a bit of a scientist and the change in medication was recent. But don't forget that papal blessing, or all the masses being said for me around the world, or my daily meditation practice, or the many many friends who visit, write, email and blog--just to see how things are going, and there was that visit from my mother, and there is all that food that is still being delivered--prepared with love and care. Yes, everyone's efforts are continuing to keep my eyes alive with the enjoyment of life and my body is responding. No further explanations are needed, not even for this logic based, left brained lawyer. Keep up the good work everyone. Love, Dan

P.S. We saw Catherine graduate yesterday. She was in the top 2% of her Business School class--and she actually has a job. We are so proud of her.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Susan's Message From Medjugorje

Dear Family and Friends,
I am a weary traveller just back from Eastern Europe. It took 26 hours to get home and three airplanes. It was grueling but I am safe and full of thoughts and remembrances of an incredible journey, a once in a lifetime experience that I never would have guessed I would make.

Medjugorje is situated in Bosnia - Herzegovina and is truly in the midst of some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. It is a green, lush valley, surrounded by high rocky hills. The people are war weary and it is obvious they have been through alot. Yet they are kind, welcoming and always smiling. These are Croats surrounded by Serbs. The ethnic cleansing that was inflicted on them has left each family scarred and bereft at the loss of loved ones. That is why it is a gift for them to have the Blessed Mother always present in their community through her apparitions. You can feel the spirituality of the place and they have opened their hearts and homes to pilgrims from all over the world. Pilgrims of all kinds: young, very old, every ethnic group, religious, and clergy, all are there to profess their faith, or to be called back to their faith, or to pray for someone or for themselves. It it certainly not an experience I had ever expected to have, and yet, it is the most perfect gift I could have been given.

I told my family that I prayed more in these 10 days then I have over the last 30 years. I travelled with a remarkable group of believers who looked out for me, felt the pain I carried, and supported my desire to help Dan. We were fortunate to have a Benedictine monk, Benedict, travel with us. He is the brother of Jim Neenan who travelled there with his wife Nancy, son Chris and his pregnant and beautiful wife, Leah. I cannot even begin to tell you the comfort of having someone like Benedict with us throughout, leading us in prayers, saying Holy Mass and blessing us and every religious article we purchased. In addition to the Neenans I was also kept company by our long time friends, John and Jennie Amato.

It will take much time for me to sort out all I saw, experienced and wrestled with. I felt like I had returned to the Church of my youth and there was great comfort in that. I would always joke to Dan - "once a Catholic, always a Catholic" - but I knew deep down it was not a joke at all. I was always a Catholic and now I have been given the blessings of the sacraments and a group of people who live their beliefs and support one another in the kindest and loveliest of ways.

I have seen hundreds of people lined up for Confession, groups of people, all walking with their Rosary in prayer, a church filled to standing room only from 7 in the morning till 10 at night. Pilgrims were hiking up Cross Mountain in bare feet over huge, sharp rocks, praying the stations of the Cross and meditating on the Crucifixation with pain and sadness in their faces. I have seen old people going up those hills and mountains and I have meditated on the power of faith to keep us going literally as well as figuratively. I have seen Visionaries and listened to their words, tried to read their faces and feel what was in their souls. I have heard birds sing all night, and then be magically silenced as soon as one of the Visionaries experienced the presence of the Blessed Mother, saw the sun spin and witnessed a bronze statue of Christ drop water from his leg (as it has inexplicitly done for years) as people placed their religious objects on the spot and then kissed the object reverently. There are stories too numerous to relate, that would indeed fill a small book, but a book nontheless.

I will say I was in a place that is wonderous, devotional, pulsating with a spiritual consciousness, and at the same time difficult, even very difficult, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I found the life of a Pilgrim to be a daily challenge in comforts and belief. But at the end of the journey, the challenges were forgotton and the faith remained. I believe in my heart and mind that I was in a sacred, holy place that is filled with the presence of the Blessed Mother.

With that belief I left Dan's cancer at Mary's feet. I climbed up Apparition Hill where Our Lady first appeared to the children 25 years ago. There one finds her statue and I carried Dan's written intention with me and left it there for her to do as she decides. I have heard requests ring out twice in grand Churches; requests spoken by my friends on the trip, asking for Dan's health , once in a packed and beautiful service at St. James in Medjugorje, the other in Dubrovnik, in an old and inspiring place where Father Benedict said Mass for our small group of wear travellers at the end of our journey. Both times I said Dan is in good hands.

So I will remember, and try to understand, and accept on faith those things that my mind is incapable of comprehending. And most of all, I thank Mary for calling me to such a place. It is hard to believe it was only last October when I was first made aware of Mary's appearances at Medjugorje, and her statute visited our house, and now I have visited the place where she first appeared and stood on Apparition Hill. We are all on an amazing journey.

Love, Susan