Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Journey of the Heart

Susan left this morning for Medjugorje. As I think we have explained previously, this is the holy site in Bosnia Herzogovina where there have been innumerable appearances by the Blessed Mother Mary. I said goodbye as she climbed into our friend, Nettie's, car this morning and headed off to the airport. I turned and drove to the clinic for my chemo. The two hour clinic visit gave me much time for reflection. This little bundle of energy we know as Susan is tromping off to Eastern Europe for reasons she can't really articulate. All she knows is she has been called. That's all she can explain. This much I know--when it comes to matters of the heart, Susan's compass has always been 100% accurate.

From my perspective her journey for me, for her, for us and for our family is but another humbling event of an incredible year. She is packing herself halfway across the world to deposit my disease at the feet of Mary and ask for my healing. She doesn't profess to know how this can occur, only that it can. The more I contemplate the journey, the more I realize it really isn't about outcomes. It's not about what she asks for or what she, or anyone receives. The fact of the journey says it all.

She has been nursemaid to me for many many months and has cared for me in ways one might only expect to occur much later in our lives. All done without complaint and with a depth of love that is palpable. This cancer has not just happened to me. It has happened to us--Susan, Cates, Julia and me. And now Susan has volunteered to carry my cancer overseas and ask that I (we) be rid of it. Symbolically she is carrying my blue wrist bracelet purchased from the Multiple Myeloma Foundation and intends to leave it there, symbolizing the depositing of my cancer for Mary to take care of. She also carries my meditation beads to absorb the energy, blessings, and spirit that pervades this holy place, so they can be returned to me fully blessed.

And yet, this is not really about any of that symbolism or what Susan might see, feel, or experience while in Medjugorje. Susan's intentions and her willingness to travel to Bosnia to ask for healing is more than enough, in itself. I am humbled that someone would venture so far to ask so much for me. I can almost feel her intentions as I sit in this quiet house. She has, of course, left me dinner in the refrigerator complete with instructions for preparation. She has filled the freezer with food for my mother's visit while she is gone. And she is no doubt thinking of me, praying for me, and asking for my healing as she flies across the Atlantic. The care I have received from this young woman I fell in love with so many years ago is beyond description. Her heart is bigger than anyone's I have known and I have often exclaimed that I am so fortunate to have fallen in love with and been able to marry the nicest person I've ever met.

My studies in meditation have taught me that spiritual growth and healing are as much about intention as they are about action. The deeper the wish to grow or heal, the greater the growth or healing will be, especially when those intentions are accompanied by action. Right now a woman full of great energy is flying through the universe heading toward Medjugorje with a deep intention to heal her husband and her family. A greater love I could not ask for or receive. Please say a prayer tonight for my Susan. Godspeed my love. Dan

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Just Checking In

Not much news, but I thought I would log on and let you know what's going on here in Denver. I'm doing quite well on the velcade/dexamethasone. The steroids make me feel better and generally lift my spirits, so that's nice, although I do feel a bit like I'm flying on these drugs. Susan, Catherine and Julia accuse me of having 'roid rage. I am more loud, aggressive, argumentative and obsessive compulsive on this drug--we had this experience one year ago on my first chemo regime (thalidomide/dexamethasone). But I also have more energy. The weather has been beautiful so I have been taking lots of bike rides as well.

Susan leaves for Medjagoria this coming Thursday--a pilgrimage to the site of many apparitions of the Blessed Mother Mary. She is doing this for me and for her and will be praying for my health. Unfortunately she has come down with a sinus infection this past week, which she is trying to get rid of before getting on the airplane.

While Susan is gone my mother will be visiting. The family is still nervous about leaving me alone. I guess that comes from those many months when I was not to be left alone. Anyway, we'll have a nice visit, although I continue to believe I don't need looking after.

Catherine graduates on May 11. She will be graduating from the University of Colorado with high distinction with a degree in Finance and International Business as well as a certificate in Leadership Training. She is already working part time for a pension consulting firm and will start full time with them in June. We are, of course, very proud of her. Our friends, Sigun and Joe, will be flying in for the ceremony, direct from Paris. Susan's brother, Gary, will also be joining us.

My brother Tom will be visiting over Memorial Day and we are already putting together the job list for him. He is always so willing to dig in and do whatever needs to be done.

And then in early June a group of my high school classmates will be visiting for a mini reunion of the class of 1970. We have about 14 people committed to the event already and are all getting excited about seeing one another--for some of us it has been 30 years since we last saw each other. I am so touched that they would all fly in to Denver for this event and can hardly contain my excitement.

As you can see, it will be a busy couple of months and it feels good to have the energy to have all these plans in the works. Despite its difficulties, life is full. More velcade/dex tomorrow and Thursday, then a week off. I'm doing well. Love, Dan

Friday, April 14, 2006

6 More Weeks of Velcade

Yes, the visit with Rifkin took place today at 4 p.m. The numbers report: IGGs at 2586, down from 2601. Not impressive; not even deemed responsive; but not upward. The multiple myeloma continues to be stable. The skeletal survey shows no change from 6 months ago, so that is good. Kidney and liver function are OK. I was more worried about the kidney function and a sore right hip. Rifkin attributes the hip pain to arthritis, although he is going to have the xray reexamined to make sure there is no change. No, it's not the bike riding as it started before I bought the bike. Because on the nonresponsiveness, however, I do not qualify for staying on the study for 4 more cycles.

Rifkin gave me the option of continuing with the velcade for 2 more cycles or going to Revlimid. Rifkin has presented papers at national conferences showing that 15% of the people on velcade don't show a response until 6 cycles. Feeling lucky, I chose 2 more cycles of velcade, which Rifkin said he was very comfortable with. Then I asked about using it in conjunction with dexamethasone (a steroid). He agreed that would be a good idea, and he could try the combination as I will no longer be in the study. My first treatment was thalidomide with dexamethasone,and I had a good response; although that combo ultimately put me in the hospital with a myriad of problems. So, the plan is 2 more cycles of velcade, with dexamethasone given IV with each shot of velcade. I felt that I had done my homework today, asked a number of questions, received good answers, and am pleased with the plan going forward. Susan and I both were relieved. Although we would certainly loved to have received news of a big drop in the IGGs, we have had doctor appointments with much worse news. Maybe stability in the numbers is OK after all.

Rifkin was also pleased to hear of my bike riding, saying that one of the goals of treatment is to give people some quality of life during treatment. He asked about work and I told him of my continuing struggles with back pain and memory issues, such that I was not comfortable taking on client's legal matters. (energy is also unpredictable) I taught a class at DU law school a few weeks ago. It was a good "trial run" as after one hour my back was killing me and I was exhausted. So much for that. I guess I'll stick with a leisurely bike ride!

If you didn't see the pictures from Australia, check out the prior posting. Those pictures are, again, compliments of John Sadwith, executive director of Colorado Trial Lawyers. He also provided the pictures from Africa and South America. Talk about being connected! Thank you John.

So, I start the velcade/dexamethasone on Monday and will finish in 6 weeks, likely with a bone marrow biopsy to check the cancer levels. I'll keep you posted if anything interesting happens on my bike rides.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


[Dan's comment]
Photos from Australia. We have now circled the globe and received get well wishes from every continent. Amazing, just absolutely amazing.

From: Eva Scheerlinck
Subject: Photos for Dan

Hi John

As promised, here are some photos we took for Dan yesterday at the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. The people in the photo are JoAnne Barnes, Courtney Oliver, Kyrn Stevens, Patrick McCarthy, James Fielding, Gerry Ferretter and myself.

We all enjoyed our little field trip to the harbour. We hope they bring a smile to Dan's face.
[posted for Dan by Glen]

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Roller Coaster Turns Into a Bicycle

After those last two posts, let's lighten things up a bit, don't you agree?

Julia and I went bicycle shopping today--for me. After a cursory review of the high end bikes, we selected a low end, wide seater with upright handlebars for yours truly. NOw, buying a bicycle might not be a bit deal, unless the buyer was in a walker 7 months ago and could hardly walk up a set of stairs 4 months ago. Under those circumstances this is a BIG DEAL. I remember thinking in January that I hoped I could recover enough from the transplant to ride a bike this Spring. Well, guess what--we have arrived!

The family was so cute. First, Julia maintained a watchful eye as I took my test drive. She tried to help me off the bike, but I refused any assistance, as I knew I had to do this on my own, or I wasn't deserving of the vehicle. No spills, so I didn't have to buy the training wheels. Wouldn't that be a sight! Susan and Catherine were concerned when I said I was going to ride my new bike home from the store--a mere 2 or 3 miles. I was required to take my cell phone "just in case", and when I turned the corner at home there was Susan with her camera in hand to preserve the moment. Small steps but important nonetheless.

I got over my funk within the required 2 days and am now ready for whatever the doctor prescribes. And in the meantime, if you need to get ahold of me, call me on the cell, as I will most likely be out for a ride.
Love, Dan