Tuesday, December 27, 2005

One Year Later....

One year

365 days

(ok, minus a few hours)

Last year on this date, December 27, 2004 at 1:30pm I accompanied Frank on a visit to an urologist. We waited for a VERY LONG TIME in an office where we brought the average age down to oh, say about 65, and then we waited some more in an exam room where I began my education (from the posters on the wall in the exam room) on the male’s urology system and the different types of kidney stones one can have. Those posters are not suppose to scare you are they? Cause I never want to play with a set of jacks again.

Upon the entrance of the venerable Dr., our Frank “dropped trou” and said Dr. pronounced a diagnosis:

testicular cancer.

It was stunning, and not in the, "have you seen the latest fashion line, it’s stunning," sense of the word.

The afternoon Zombie like we wandered the halls of the hospital where Frank got to meet the nice ultra sound wand up close and personal. We also got to walk the results back to the Dr.’s office and INSISTED that he read them for us then and there. Yep, one was evil and diseased and the other, well, was just a dumb nut.

So began a journey that I never thought I’d take, never wanted to volunteer to take, but don’t begrudge that I had to take it because the reward was well worth the journey: Frank is still with all of us.

Thank you to each of you for having supported and walked with us this past year; it is a blessing to be able to know of the love and support that we have surrounding us.

Now, I just have to tell you about the most wonderful Christmas Day: Sunday, December 25, 2005.

Yes, we had church. AND we had decent attendance for a day when other churches thought it a good idea to be closed.

We, and by we I mean my mom (and a helpful cook in the church who had back up in case we needed more--we did!), made cinnamon rolls for everyone who came to church. Instead of Sunday School we had a fellowship time where everyone sugared up. It was delicious!

BUT the most amazing part was that everyone had been invited to bring a wrapped gift for baby Jesus; something that could be part of a baby layette kit or a baby bundle (page #14) for missions.

The manger was overflowing with gifts!

I tried to share a meaningful children’s sermon trying to equate how hard it is for us to talk to ants vs. how hard it is for God to talk to us and that is why he sent Jesus—I even had glow in the dark bugs for the kids to have—but mostly they were amazed that I’d even consider talking to ant, b/c it would bite you, especially the red ones, and when I tried to say we were kind of like ants, one young one said, I don’t want to be an ant, I’d get squashed by somebody’s thumb!

Admitting defeat (or at least recognizing that the cinnamon rolls and candy before church were working their sugary magic) I thought it best to move on to the presents.

There were enough gifts for baby Jesus each child to open 2 or three. They tore into them and were excited that baby Jesus was going to give them to other babies who needed them. Then they started showing me what they were unwrapping and I appropriately express astonishment and wonder at each thing presented to me.

“Ohh diapers!”

“Wow a sleeper!”

“Look oneises!”

“What a soft blanket!” (A sweet 4 year old wanted to keep the flufy pink one for herself--it was very soft and very pink, and she did ask very nicely. She is also the one who almost had a sit-in in my office because I wouldn't let her take one of the lady bug stones I have in a fountain in my office; I've since learned that she has given tours of my office to her grandparents to show them the lady bugs. *grin* Oh, I did not let her have the blanket either.)

At some point there were more hands showing me things than I could keep up with and they gleefully started piling all the gifts on top of me. Giggling. While I was still trying to share/tell what all the gifts were for the benefit of those not up front with us. Thank God the worship leader came to my rescue and helped usher the kids in the direction of putting the unwrapped gifts back into the manger. Meanwhile, one 1st grade boy began picking up the paper saying, “I'm the trash monster, err, err, err!" Then 5 seconds later, as he contined efficiently picking up the paper, "I CAN'T believe I'm picking up the trash!"

Then some of the children then went to "Children’s Church" where they set up a birthday party, complete with cake for us to share after the worship service.

One child decided that she didn't want to go back to sit with her mom and grandparents so she stayed up front with me through a hymn and the prayer time until her grandpa came and fetched her. She was very well behaved and cuddled on my lap during the singing of Angels We Have Heard on High.

So to recap:
We fed everyone wonderful sugary home made cinnamon rolls before church.
Had a gift opening frenzy.
And then fed them birthday cake before we sent them home.

Later my sister remarked the only thing I didn’t do to jazz the kids up before sending them home was to give each one of them a puppy!



I hope to have some pictures to share with you soon from our church photographer.

I hope each of you had a very Merry Christmas too!

The Rev

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Longest Night is Over; Watch for the Light!

Last night I held a Longest Night Service at my church. December 21, the winter solstice, more hours of darkness than any other night of the year.

I did my 1st one last year as a response to the heaviness and grief I was experiencing with the weight of all that had happened in the life of my church. Before any of the **** hit the fan with Frank I was exhausted. I remember lounging in my PJs on December 25 grateful that at least on this one day I could rest.

In 2004 in addition to the normal day to day things in the life of a church, from August through December I conducted a number of funerals that were painful and emotionally draining. I do not begrudge the job, it was an honor to walk with each person as they faced their grief; but because I was tired – and probably not acting out of my best self at all times – I too was in a state of grief and shock along with them. The December weather was also particularly dark and dreary, that coupled with the red and green commercialism found at every street corner wore on me. I had no motivation to do anything than what was necessary.

Darkness surrounded me.

In other words *I* needed to find hope and thought that it was a journey that others needed to be invited along on too. It was not enough to be present in church to watch the Advent wreath gain a candle each Sunday in Advent. I *was* watching for the light, but even for me, it can be hard to see the light for all the darkness that surrounds us.

So, a Longest Night Service. I first heard of it when a dear departed friend, Sara Fleming, conducted one at my parent’s home church. It is a service geared toward those who are seeking peace and calm in the midst of all the hustle/bustle/ho ho ho ness of this season. Particular attention is paid to those for who have experienced a loss of any kind. Perhaps this is the 1st year without a loved one, or the 10th and every year is difficult because of the grief that precious memories can stir in one’s hear.

For all that has happened to us personally in the past 12 months I am a bit surprised that I can say that I am in a much better place this year than last. I am enjoying listening to holiday music and a bit put-out that the radio stations I listen to are not playing more of it this week.

I'll admit I am a bit melancholy as we begin to recount the “on this day last year we found out ____ about Frank” but know too that I have always been prone to reflection about where I’ve been and where I’m going. It's part of being me. As for where we are going…I am wondering what wild and crazy thing we can do to mark the year anniversary of Frank’s diagnosis…we’ll see.

But I digress….For me things are different this year. I’m not waxing for things that I did in the past:

I gave my self permission to NOT put up a Christmas tree. We – I ;-)– hadn’t for two years and I’d felt bad about it – up to this year. I made a conscious choice to enjoy what others were able to do and not worry about being able to keep up with them; a girls gotta sleep ya know.

I set out a simple advent wreath at home. I light it on the Sunday afternoons that I remember (I’ve had a bad cold all December and the cold meds have made me a bit loopy), if I forget, oh well, it is not a reason to kick myself. Seriously. None of this "I wish I could have at least remembered to do that!" stuff.

AND I have also given myself permission to not worry about sending out a Christmas letter, or even and Epiphany letter (January 6, some pastors I know who in their busy-ness don’t get a Christmas letter out, opt for getting them out on the day the wise men arrived, the 12th day of Christmas or Epiphany), we will continue to blog and keep you, our friends, family and others in this journey of life with and after cancer informed.

Perhaps it is a new / different perspective? Is it having walked through the ambiguity of disease? Is it b/c I have finally gotten to a place of maturity where I really am able to let things go and just be to be? Maybe I am beginning to be able to prioritize that which is truly important and do that which makes my heart sing. (What I encouraged each of you to do.)

Following is the poem that graced the cover of our service bulletin. It is my prayer for each of you.

The Christmas Spirit
Is that hope
Which tenaciously clings
To the hearts of the faithful
And announces
In the face
Of any Herod the world can produce
And all the inn doors slammed in our faces
And all the dark nights of our souls
That with God
All things are possible,
That even now
Unto us
A child is born!

Grace and Peace to each of you this Christmas.

-The Rev.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The “Bibby” season has begun!

Tonight marks the 1st anniversary of Frank telling me that “something” was not quite right with all his bits and pieces. For about a week he’d been experiencing discomfort and finally invited me into the situation by telling me about it.

Could it be that he’d gained weight and his underwear was just binding him?

Could it be that he’d pulled a muscle whilst trying to tone up by doing sit ups? (I don’t he’s done any since then…heh heh heh. Anyway.)

Could it be that he had testicular cancer?

Naw, it was probably just and infection of the epididymitis (an infection of the testis, or worst case (ALERT: the following will make you squeamish) a twisted teste—it does happen.

But that wouldn’t explain why one was hard and the other wasn’t.

It was Friday night, the church choir had a Christmas concert and he’d waited to tell me until after 5pm. I had half a mind to make him go to the emergency room. He didn’t want to go and in retrospect they would have told him what we decided to do anyway: Frank would make a call to an Urologist 1st thing Monday morning.

I sat by myself at the concert watching him sing with my imagination running wild. He’d not felt “good” for several weeks. His back had been bothering him, he looked tired. He has cancer! He can’t have cancer! Why would HE get cancer? It’s just an infection…..

That was December 17, 2004. The following week he wore bib overalls—“Bibbies”—every day in an effort to lessen the pain and be comfortable. He’s never been one to dress up for work, but even I thought he was pushing the fashion limits of his office. His appointment wasn’t until December 27, a full week away. We tried different kinds of underwear—maybe that was causing his pain? And he did TONS of internet research, sharing only some of it with me—why freak me out when I had one of the busiest weeks of the church year going on?

And now we come full circle, the choir has their Christmas program tonight.

What a year.

I’m glad it’s over and yet, I learned so much.

Some I didn’t want to: being an expert in testicular cancer is not always the most useful of party tricks for a female clergy person.

But, most of all my love, admiration and appreciation for my amazing husband grew deeper and stronger. I don’t know if I needed cancer to help me do that, but I’m trying to find the lemonade made from the lemons of the last year! Now I’m going to dry the tears that are inexplicably dripping from my cheeks!

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Rev

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

those darn inquiring minds...

In answer to the questions raised by Vinnys last post--'cause I just can't bear to leave you hanging--

Said nursing student evidently was "overwhelmed" (remember the patient also had antlers that he was shaking at the doctor) by the port-a-cath scar (about an inch wide above his right peck) and the insignificant 14 inch line running from his sternum into his underwear zone and did not initially recognize the tiny extra milk spout.

There was also all his hair...


You wanted to know......

Merry Christmas!

the rev

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Yet another boring follow-up visit

Had a CT done yesterday along with blood draws. BORING! About the most excitement I had was when being examined by Dr. V: he brought in a nursing student to see if she would notice my supernumerary nipple. So add that to my list of party tricks (although this one isn't cancer related).

We talked a little bit about the Raynaud's I'm experiencing, but that's about it. Anything he might prescribe to help would make me loopy and would be verboten as far as the FAA is concerned, so I decided to pass. We'll see if I acclimate to the cold temperatures at all. It's freakin' cold today - it's 7 degrees this morning, with a chance for us to make 18 by the evening. I bought a new pair of insulated gloves yesterday to see if that would help.

I neglected to bring in a hat - I have a Santa cap with battery-operated Christmas lights that would have been perfect for the occasion. Fortunately, the phlebotomists in the lab lent me a set of reindeer ears with bells. When Dr. V. was doing his exam I shook my head and said, "You're making my bells jingle!" He decided to bring in Nurse Gay to document any further harassment I might initiate.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tastes worse than menudo

(A Jones Soda Holiday Pack review)

Wow. I'm normally an adventurous eater, but last night I really put my iron stomach to the test. Along with some willing guinea pigs from the Columbia Chorale, The Rev & I hosted a little Thanskgiving soirée as we celebrated the traditional foods of the season in soda form.

I never thought I would find something that tastes worse than menudo (that's menudo the mexican tripe and hominy soup, not Menudo the boy band that Ricky Martin was once a member of). I should state for the record that I would eat menudo before I would eat beets or slimy canned mushrooms, but that's another story.

Anyway, the new winner (or loser, depending on your point of view) is Jones Soda Brussels Sprout Flavor. I've always considered Brussels Sprouts as having all the consistency of a ball of sawdust with none of the flavor, and this soda is true to its roots. This is a soda with a message, and that message is, "Beware!" I just couldn't stomach more than a few sips.

Fortunately, Jones Soda Cranberry Sauce makes an excellent chaser. I think I could actually drink a full bottle of this soda without initiating my gag reflex.

I can't say the same for some of the other flavor varieties. Pecan Pie was super sweet; Pumpkin Pie didn't taste like pumpkin pie at all; Corn on the Cob tasted like the water you use to boil corn in; Wild Herb Stuffing tased like selzer water; and Turkey & Gravy had a gravy-ish aftertaste.

Surprisingly, Smoked Salmon Paté was not that bad. Neither was Broccoli Casserole.

Well, at least it was all calorie-free, sugar-free, caffeine-free, carb-free, kosher, and vegeterian. Oh, and it's for the children. The Jones Soda folks are hoping to raise $150,000 through sales of these ghastly flavor packs for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Toys for Tots.

Drive safe this week. Count your blessings. I know we will.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Not-so-fond memories

Yesterday evening I had an unpleasant reminder that the side-effects of my treatment aren't quite dead yet. With the sudden change in temperature, I was treated to a sneak attack of Raynaud's Phenomenon. Basically, my fingertips get cold, change colors (to white, blue, or red), then throb and tingle. In fact, I'm having another attack as I write this.

Meanwhile, combined with peripheral neuropathy - which I still have although it doesn't usually bother me - I can't even feel my fingertips. If I rub them against parts of my hand that have feeling, it's like I have the pads of a dog's paw touching me. Very odd.

Hopefully this won't be a constant problem all winter, but I'll ask Dr. V. next month when I go for my next CT & labs. Maybe some electric hand-warmers are in the cards for me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Hitting the Big Time

Well, this is the break we've been waiting for. I am pleased to announce that the state newspaper for United Methodists did a two-page article on blogs, and The Rev and I got our own half-page sidebar on our blogging contribution. Woo-hoo!

Man, the visitors should start pouring in anytime now!

Anytime now...

Seriously, I will be watching the stats over the next week or so to see if there is any appreciable increase, but I can't imagine there are that many net-savvy Methodists who 1) read this paper and 2) are interested enought to take a look. The average circulation of the bi-weekly is 6,000 (out of a claimed total church membership of 176,000) and it goes primarily to pastors and local church leaders. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

For those of you interested in reading, here's that issue of the conference newspaper. The blog story is on the front page; our story is on page 6A.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Flying High

It's been a good month, especially from a flying perspective. I think I've been making up for lost time while I was undergoing treatment. In the past month, I've flown:
  • to and from Columbus, Ohio to pick up a second airplane for our flying club;
  • to and from Omaha, Nebraska to pick up our church secretary from a family gathering;
  • to and from Kennett, Missouri on business;
  • to and from St. Louis twice;
  • plus a few instrument flying lessons as well.
The best part of all this flying is that a good deal has been at limited or no cost to me, which is the best kind of flying there is.

Perhaps the most interesting trip was the one to Kennett. I took my boss down there to speak to a local church after he had agreed to meet with them without knowing exactly where they were located. As it turns out, it would have been a 5-6 hour drive each way, which would have necessitated an overnight stay. Instead, it took about 2 1/4 hours of flying each way. Plus, the cost to use the airplane was less than the reimbursement for the mileage would have been, not to mention the hotel.

The weather has cooperated for nearly all of these flights, save the last one to St. Louis, which had quite a bit of turbulence in the takeoff and landing phases -- enough that both Sarah and I "caught air" when he had a couple of violent losses of altitude (only a few feet). It's a similar feeling to riding in the rear car of a roller coaster and being whipped over the summit of a steep incline.

Now it looks as if some crappy fall/winter weather is settling in. We're planning to fly ourselves down to see my folks for Thanksgiving next week (weather permitting); it will be the first time that all my siblings and their spouses have been together in some time. It may also mark the last time there's any semblance of sanity at a family gathering -- the number of small children may be tripled by this time next year (and no, none of them will be provided by us as far as we know).

I'm also planning a little "exotic" Thanksgiving feast for some folks next week involving Jones Soda. It should be interesting, to say the least, from a culinary standpoint.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

New Job...

...well, in addition to my current job(s). I've been invited to help moderate the new discussion forums at Don't Be A Schmuck, the TC site for teens. I've even had the honorable title of "Funky Lump Master" bestowed on me. Something about my attitude, I guess...

So now my job list includes:
Funky Lump Master
Scrooge (i.e., Money Man) for the Daniel Boone Flying Club
Money Man for the Columbia Chorale
Chief Maintenance Officer, Financial Guru, and All-around Good Guy for The Rev

And those are my non-paying positions (financially speaking, though I get some pretty good fringe benefits from The Rev -- not including everlasting life and all that stuff)

And all this with one ball tied behind my back (well, actually, completely removed, but you get the picture...or do you?)

Suggested Reading

For those of you who enjoy a good read (and you know who you are), may I suggest any book by Christopher Moore. My personal favorite is Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal; Sarah just finished Practical Demonkeeping. Really, any book that makes you laugh out loud and also slightly offends you has to be good for your soul.

Well there you go. My finger on the pulse of classic American literature.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Previous Halloween Costumes

2002 Head Chef of the Russian Ballet

2003 - The "Perky" Reaper (Not Grim at all)

Putting hats to good use

I haven't used any of the chemo hats since I finished my treatment, but this seemed like a prime opportunity. Some nearby friends invited us to share in their daughter's 1st birthday party. The theme of the party was butterflies. I know you'll probably be suprised to hear this, but we didn't have any butterfly paraphenalia around the house (well, actually we do have a couple of butterfly finger puppets, but we couldn't find them). So I decided the next best thing was to wear a flower that would hopefully attract some butterflies. Looks like it worked.

I'll have to think of some good uses for the other chemo hats. Halloween is coming, and I didn't dress up last year, so I need to make up for lost time.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What a weekend!

What a weekend! Know how I can tell? It’s already Wednesday and I’m just now coming out of the fog that I can get into when preparing for and helping to accomplish a huge event.

Our church had its annual Country Dinner, the 70th Annual dinner to be exact. The dinner has had many different manifestations over the years. It began in 1935 as a fried chicken supper. In 1952 it morphed into a Country Ham Dinner. A few years latter the two meals were combined with the men curing the ham for the dinner and the women sponsoring a craft bazaar. As history always seems to repeat itself, chicken has come back into the menu in the past few years, hence the name change from the Ham Dinner to the County Dinner, where we still have salt cured country ham, but also grilled chicken for those who don’t want to have to drink two or three gallons of water the next day to make up for what the salt absorbed from their system.

Fixing food has been a long tradition in the church that I serve; the women started serving dinners for public farm sales in February of 1914, using the money they raised to help with the upkeep of the church. That first year they raised $125. Amazing!

This year’s Dinner was a wonderfully chaotic success. In addition to the meal (ham/chicken, green beans, fried apples, coleslaw, baked or sweet baked potato, bread, dessert) and the bazaar (three rooms overflowing with craft items and fresh baked goods) we added a tent where folks could sit outside and eat while a local bluegrass band, Ironweed, played. For the kids there was a bounce house and a zip line (always a favorite, and probably the reason many of the kids love coming to our VBS each year), and a petting zoo with chickens, rabbits, goats, a sheep and a baby horse! Oh and puppies! They were soooo soft.

My job is to greet folks, but I found myself pulled to helping and supporting the members who were working the kitchen. We served at least 900-1000 people in 4 hours, about 200 of that were carry out meals. With seating for about 130, and a full meal to eat, and neighborhood folks that wanted to visit, it was amazing.

It helped that many took their food outside to enjoy the beautiful fall day. And it couldn’t have been a more perfect day, comfortable temperatures, the Mizzou game was early and many folks left it early (the team was really getting stomped) and showed up at our little country church. Plus two of our members did a media blitz on Thursday appearing on two radio stations and on TV station.

Another TV station, the local ABC affiliate sent one of their feature reporters out early on Saturday morning. He interviewed a few of us including a six year old boy who was here helping. Really, he was a great help, his mantra over the weekend was, “Rev. Sarah, do you have a job for me?” He helped me make brownies on Friday night. When interviewed and asked why we did the dinner his reply, “To celebrate Jesus.” What a great spokesperson this little one is.

The best part of the weekend for me is that the man in charge of the event gets his name called at least twice as much as I hear my named called. ;-) It is good to be able to not always be in charge.

Things are happening in this little church I serve. It is full of amazing people who are committed to being in ministry not just to the people that come into our church, but our whole community. Our dinner is a way to get folks in the door and share with them. Hopefully it will help them in some small way to know that they are always welcome here.

Those who served tirelessly on Saturday have a new appreciation of how our building limits our ability to welcome folks (well at least to have room to move in the kitchen and seating for those who eat). While I would never be in support of a new faculty that was used just for one day a year, I’m amazed as the many different things that we pack into our current facility on a regular basis. It is a good feeling when other pastors who live in the area say, “I never seem to go by your church at night when there aren’t cars there. You all have so much going on.” There seems to always be a need for more space.

I was reminded of it a few weeks ago when our building committee interviewed architects. The members of the committee where sharing all the needs they have identified that a new activity center could help to meet. It inspired me to hear the passion in their descriptions of what kinds of ministry would happen in a new space. After being hesitant myself, I was encouraged by their enthusiasm. I hope others find it contagious as well.

So, all that is to say that we are back in the swing of our busyness. Frank helped park cars on Saturday, I’m glad he willingly wears his farmer hat w/ the built in 50SPF. Having had chemo he’s more susceptible to developing skin cancer especially this year. He also had a blood test yesterday, the routine kind. This year he’s got blood test every two months and CT every 4 just to make sure none or that nasty little terratoma was left in his belly and has decided to grow. His next CT is in early December. After May 31, his surgery anniversary, the surveillance schedule backs off and by year five tapers to only going to the cancer box to say hi to the nice folks who helped to make him well.

I can honestly say that he’s back, feeling good and being Frank. I never really felt like he “went” anywhere, but it is good to have him "back" nonetheless. We are all so blessed to have him in our lives. I’m the luckiest girl; he’s my love and my anchor.

I get to go to KC at the end of this week for a “Clergy Boundaries Training”. It’s the biannual mandatory event for all serving in an United Methodist clergy position in the state of Missouri. It’s where we’re reminded that we deal with delicate situations in the lives of the people we serve and we best not take advantage by say, making a pass at or profiteering from someone in a vulnerable state. You know the situation: pastor leaves spouse and runs off with ______ (fill in church employee or volunteer position here) leaving a trail of tears and sadness not only for the pastor’s immediate family, but the whole congregation. I have never heard of a church that is able to fully recover from such a misuse of power on the part of the pastor. It is devastating. So while I don’t want to go, I will go and put my happy face on and try to learn so I can be better where I serve and support my clergy peers to be better where they serve.

Long post; thanks for “listening”.



Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Our bodies lie to us sometimes

It's true. How do I know this, you ask? Well, I had a little bit of unplanned excitement last Friday night that was exacerbated by the lies my body told me.

As you may know, I 'm a pilot. (There's an old joke: How can you tell someone's a pilot? Don't worry, they'll tell you.) Anyway, I was on my own Friday while Sarah and her sister went to St. Louis to see the Indigo Girls. I decided to use some time to get some night flying in (in order to fly passengers at night, I'm required to have completed at least three takeoffs and landings at night in the last 90 days). The weather all day had been scuzzy, with low lying clouds and some rain. However, that night, the weather conditions for nearby airports were reported as clear, so I figured that I'd be okay stying close to the airport and getting my takeoffs and landings done.

Not so, as it turned out. As I took off and started climbing, I was no more than 500 feet above the ground when BOOM! - I couldn't see anything outside. No city lights, no horizon, no nothing. Those clouds are sneaky at night - they're as dark as the rest of the sky. In aviation parlance, I was in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), which means that you can't fly by looking outside for references. Now this in itself isn't a problem - that's why airplanes have instruments. The problem is that I haven't completed my training to be certified to fly in instrument conditions.

Fortunately, I have received some rudimentary training in instrument flying, and fortunately, some of that training must have taken hold, otherwise I might very well have been in a smoking hole near the airport instead of writing this. What we're taught when going into IMC (whether it's accidental or on purpose) is to stop looking outside and start concentrating on the instruments. Unless there's been a catastrophic system failure, the instruments are your ticket out of this mess.

The problems start when we listen to our bodies instead of trusting the instruments. Without an outside horizon for our eyes to reference, our bodies become quite disoriented because there are no cues available to interpret what our balance organs (the semicircular canals in our inner ear) are perceiving. The results are frequently bad: a small aircraft accident caused by spatial disorientation is fatal nine times out of ten.

So, here I am stuck in the clouds. Airplanes don't have a reverse gear; you can't just back up and get down to the runway the way you left, so that option is out. Meanwhile, I look at the instruments and realize I am in a climbing left turn that is getting quite steep. I wouldn't have known it if I hadn't been checking the instruments. So I straighten the airplane out and start ticking off my landing choices and getting the radios set up. Then I look at the instruments and see that I'm starting a downward spiral (again, my body doesn't know what's going on). Level the airplane. Flying on instruments by yourself really keeps you busy.

I did get back down on the ground safely, after about a half-hour of intense excitement. That was enough flying for one day. I learned the valuable lesson that your body can sometimes deceive you. Be careful!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Watch out for funky lumps!

Found yet another TC site through Tim Stollery's page. It's aimed more at the younger crowd and has lots of quick reads for teens who might be going through the TC wringer:


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A blast from the past

Got this in my inbox today from my folks' former neighbors. This picture is so old, it should be in black & white!

The kid behind me (Robert) is now a freshman in college, and the one in front (Katherine) is old enough to ride a m/c herself.

Plus, I'm wearing a watch -- a Swatch diving watch -- to further date things. I haven't worn a watch since July 1998, which, not coincidentally, is when Sarah and I were officially engaged. (Our marriage was a foregone conclusion from the time we started dating, at least in our own minds.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I'm wondering....

I've been reading about the disaster in the delta region of our country through a New Orleans paper that is miraculously still publishing, at least on the internet, giving much desired news about the devastation to those of us who sit comfortably from a distance in awe, shock and horror.

One reason our home has been paying such close attention to the situation is because, as you all know, New Orleans is Frank’s childhood home; he lived there until he was 14. The city that holds his childhood memories has drown and there is a certain amount of grief that accompanies that coupled with the empathy many of us feel for the plight of those who rode the storm out. Another reason is that I, like many watch searching for clues on how I can help.

We've all heard those being displaced by floods and the destruction of the hurricane as "evacuees" in the last day the term "refugee" has been used more and more frequently. Imagine, you've been told to leave your town, you have no access to basic necessities like food and clean water, you have no idea what the next few hours hold for you, let alone the next few days and weeks.

Then I recalled the experience I had with our church youth at the Heifer Ranch in 2000 in what they call the "Global Village". Our group, along with the others at the camp, spent a night in a situation that simulated the differences found between the developing and undeveloped parts of the world.

We split up into new communities of people: Appalachia, Africa, Honduras (they had access to running water!), the Barrio, Asia (the mosquitoes were very big), and a group of Refugees, one of whom was "pregnant" which meant a water balloon secured with duct-tape inside the T-shirt one of them wore. The adult leaders were told that our role was to be a 2 year old toddler; they youth were in charge of decision making.

We were left there with the instructions that no one was to leave the village for the night and that there was enough food in the village for everyone to eat, although the food was not evenly distributed among the communities. Honduras had the most resources, including food and didn’t have to share with the rest of us if they didn’t want to; the refugees had nothing, not even a place to lay their heads. As I recall none of the refugees were from our church, but I do remember what an impact in made on me to see a small group of three wander around, asking for work to earn some food, to earn a place to stay for the night.

Our plight was not nearly as desperate as the situation in the Delta. Human nature being what it is we too had our share of "looting"--a member of the Barrio snuck back to the Heifer Hilton's soda machine and brought goodies back for his community. We had our share of "cheating" too; members who'd illegally brought candy into the village used it to "bribe" the 2 year olds into being quiet about breaking other rules. But we also knew that when it was over we'd get to take a shower, get into fresh clothes, and be able to cook a meal where no one would have to even worry about going hungry. And within a few days back to our homes in Missouri with our families and our “stuff”.

As I recall the experience we shared as we spent a night in another world, I wonder: what will our response to the situation in front of us will be? There are so many resources for us to pull together to share, what are you going to do? I look forward to hearing your ideas.

Peace, the Rev

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Water, water everywhere

New Orleans, my beloved city, is drowning, and it is absolutely breaking my heart.

I imagine that for many people, it must seem like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah or the fall of Babylon, but for me, it's the loss of my childhood home. Even though it's been more than 20 years since I lived there (if you count the two years I spent at Loyola University in the late 1980's, then it's more like 15 years), I still feel a closer connection to The Big Easy than I do to either Chicago (where I was born, and where the majority of my blood relatives live) or Atlanta (where we moved to after I finished 8th grade in school).

It seems a little bit silly, but for me it's almost as if I'm watching my childhood die right in front of my eyes (via TV and the internet). I take some comfort in the confidence that the people I know and care about there surely did the smart thing and got out before Hurricane Katrina blew through the area. Still, it will never be the same again. Tens of thousands of houses will have to be rebuilt after having been submerged in the flood waters from Lake Pontchartrain and the Industrial Canal.

I was planning to go there in October for a work-related conference, but that is almost assuredly out of the question at this point. It's more likely that my next trip there will be as part of a relief effort with UMCOR (The United Methodist Committee on Relief) than a pleasure trip.

The ironic thing is that for a while it seemed that New Orleans had once again, through its mystical powers, managed to escape the forces of mother nature, only to be surprised by a failure of its floodwalls. I am told that at present the Mississippi River is calm and almost blue in color. For me, it's an eerily unnatural picture of the river; churned-up mud and silt has always been a sign of the city's status as a hub of water-borne commerce.

Friday, August 26, 2005

It's not fair

But who said life was fair?

Why do some guys get testicular cancer and others don't? Some folks have told me it's not fair that I got TC, especially after other troubles I have experienced during my life (mainly, losing both of my birth parents in an auto accident when I was 19 - almost 16 years ago). Others caveat the"it's not fair" bit with a well-meant, but unhelpful, platitude like "God won't give you anything you can't handle".

Taking it a bit further, why do some guys with TC sail right through treatment as I did (relatively speaking, mind you - there were certainly times when I didn't feel like I was "sailing") while Andrew, who has a particularly nasty variant of TC called extragonadal germ cell cancer, has gone through chemo (twice!), lost his prostate gland, lost his bladder, gone through radiation therapy and neutron beam therapy (seriously!) and will still in all likelihood not live to see his 35th birthday? I honestly don't how I would deal with a terminal diagnosis myself, much less explain the situation to three young children.

It's times like these that can lead one to doubt one's faith. I know I would if I were in the same situation, and I'm an amateur theologian! :) I just want to know, "Why?" The answers are never easy to comprehend, but I think the mystery is part of what makes life worth living.

Andrew has been a fighter for the last two years and has been an inspiration for me as I went through my TC experience. I am quite sure sure that he won't stop fighting now and will continue to enjoy life to the full.

Livestrong, Andrew.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Perception vs. Reality

An interesting thing happened the other day. Sarah was talking to a friend of ours who's been going through some rough times as of late. Anyway, they were discussing my little sojourn through cancer canyon and our friend said I seemed pretty angry while I was going through treatment.

Sarah and I were both taken aback at this comment, mainly because I sure didn't feel angry at all. I was definitely intensely focused on my treatment, knowing what I had to do and what I had to put up with after arming myself with as much information as possible. It may have been this particular person was just reflecting what they were feeling inside while going through this turmoil. Then again, my intensity may have looked like anger to those who aren't intimately familiar with my mannerisms.

As I ponder the interpretation of my attitude our friend had I think in retrospect it may have more with our friend's anger and problems in the clear communication department (especially with family and friends), which in turn has given rise to the personal difficulties this person is experiencing. Thankfully this person is now actively working toward wholeness.

Communication is absolutely vital to healthy relationships. I don't want to toot my own horn (TOOT! TOOT!), but if there's one thing Sarah and I do consistently, it's talking to each other and listening to what the other is saying. It heads off lots of problems before they have a chance to really get rolling.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me!

So tomorrow I turn 35. I suppose once you reach 30 only birthdays evenly divisible by 10 count as major events. It's been a hell of an interesting year so far, much more exciting than I would have ever imagined.

The birthday celebrations have started and are expected to continue at least into the middle of next week. Had lunch with a friend today who's going through his own version of hell right now. Tonight is the local Relay For Life (actually the Relay Replay, since the first was canceled for inclement weather), where I'll get to walk the cancer survivors' lap and get a free dinner. I haven't decided which shirt to wear: "Cancer Can Kiss My Ass" or "kcuf recnac".

Tomorrow a friend has invited us to a progressive dinner-cum-drunken croquet party. I have no idea what it will be like. The Rev. will not be participating in the drunken part due to the whole church-on-Sunday business.

No plans for Sunday at present, maybe a nice dinner.

Monday I'll be flying, maybe with a new birthday present (I'm pretty sure it won't be a new plane, though). Then I have a urologist appointment (woo-hoo)! Monday night is the first rehearsal of the season for the chorale.

Sounds like an exciting weekend, no? I don't think so either. However, it beats the first half of the year. I can handle a little less excitement.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


As of Tuesday August 9 Frank no longer has to take COUMADIN®, the formal name for the rat poison (seriously) that he's taken to keep his blood flowin' through the port a catheter. The 15 minute procedure went fine although we were at the hospital for 3 1/2 hours. Someone referred to it as entering the "hospital time zone". I was unselfish enough to wish out loud that I hoped that the person his surgeon was working on before Frank was ok, since it WAS taking so long and all. I also recognize how big it is of me to recognize exactly how "unselfish" I was being as I said it.

Sarcasm can bite, can't it? Seriously, I'm so worn from being in medical situations with him. Not that I wouldn't go to a thousand more with him, and then a thousand more after that if he needed me to. Being willing to go and liking it are two totally different things. I think my impatience is a result of having successfully moved past what has happened and focusing on what the future holds. Did I mention that I'm wearing sun-glasses as I type?

Life is returning to "normal". Frank is working mostly full days and feeling good energy wise. He's grateful for the anti-neuropathy drug that he can take that makes the constant tingle sensation in his extremities calm down enough for him to be able to sleep. He's decided to keep his hair on the shorter side. At least he's said he wants to, if so the boy needs to get a hair cut. (love you dear) I treat him like this even after the trauma I felt as he was loosing it, boy he's lucky isn't he? ;-)

We're talking about maybe doing a mission trip in the future; by his own admission it may be next summer or fall before he's ready to tackle something like that.

In the mean time he's helping me find a vacation spot where a girl friend and I can escape to at the end of January. As I wondered if my cell phone would work, say in Mexico, he instructed me that I will be leaving my cell phone behind. He rarely makes any kind of ultimatum, so I guess I will have a few days w/out my little silver life-line to the rest of the world.

As Emily Saliers says in the song, Get out the Map, “I'm gonna clear my head I'm gonna drink the sun” Mexico here I come. I did add that last bit.

You’d think with the heat around here of late (it’s only 96 degrees outside right now) that I’d be making plans to visit a cooler climate…

Thanks for checking in on us.

The Rev.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A line from my book of pickup phrases

I forgot to mention that when we were in Kansas City celebrating Sarah's birthday, I had a flash of brilliance (the mojitos probably helped) and leaned in close to Sarah and said,

"You know, when I'm with you, I forget that I can't feel my fingers and toes."

Ahh...true love...the kind that makes your loved one shoot wine out her nose!

Keep on truckin'

Had my first post-RPLND CT today, as well as labs. Sarah started freaking out last night, "What if there are spots in the pictures? I told her, "Well, then I guess I'd be a leopard." She stopped talking about it after that.

As for today's pictures, they look good now that the "cancer leftovers" have been removed. Everything looks stable, including that one-time potential trouble spot in the lower lobe of my left lung.

Honestly we did more chit-chat w/ Dr. V. and nurse G. about life in general than talking about cancer; nice to feel mostly back to normal...There was of course that damn bump on my head that showed up about 5 minutes after they started pumping the contrast dye into my veins. So wonderful feeling like I'm wetting myself while my head sprouts a horn. They both chuckled at Sarah's comment regarding the cruel nature of removing a man's testicle and then surgically placing an arrow (the scars) on his body to point out the fact that it is gone. This is quickly becoming her favorite TC joke, but it makes me a little “testy” (which is her second favorite TC joke).

We did talk Dr. V about getting "Harry the Bastard" (the port-a-cath) out and he agreed it would be OK, so that'll be the next exciting thing. The best part about getting Harry out is that I can finally quit the coumadin I've been taking daily for the last 6+ months.

But, of course, I couldn't just give up one medicine without starting another now, could I? The neuropathy has been causing me problems at night, especially when trying to sleep, so I'm starting on Neurontin, which won't do anything about the numbness but will stop the pain receptors in my extremities from firing at random like they do presently. Hopefully this will help, and hopefully the neuropathy will eventually ride off into the sunset. The drug isn't cheap, even as a generic ($75 for this round, but I'll go the mail order route after since it's quite a bit cheaper), but if it helps it will definitely be worth it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

IU Redux

Well, I think we've made our last medically related trip to Indianapolis. I like the city, to tell the truth, and I could see myself living there -- there's lots of things to do and it's not as crazy as the "big" cities out there. Anyway, we had one more round of visits with the gurus at IU Cancer Center. Dr. Foster said I was healing very well from the surgery. We also met Dr. Einhorn (the man, the myth, the legend) for the first time. What a nice guy! Very friendly and unassuming, although I will say that his picture on the IU website is a bit out-of-date. Sarah resisted the urge to prostrate herself and kiss his feet in adoration and was content to thank him profusely for pioneering the chemotherapy regime that saved my life.

We also took some pics at the Richard & Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park next to the IU Medical Center. As I was making this entry, I discovered that there are multiple versions of this park all over the country! All of the parks have been made possible by the R. A. Bloch Cancer Foundation which is based in Kansas City (Mr. Bloch was the cofounder of H&R Block). Who knew?

We were told that I had maybe a 10% chance of teratoma returning, and a very small chance that the cancer itself would come back. Dr. Einhorn also suggested I could get rid of "Harry the Bastard" (my port-a-cath) if I wanted. I'm giving serious thought to the suggestion. It's not like I need a constant reminder that I'm not out of the woods yet. If I do have a recurrence of the active germ cell cancer that requires additional chemotherapy, I can always have another port put in. I think I'm willing to take that risk if it means asserting my freedom from cancer.

We returned from Indy to find a letter from the FAA telling me that while I couldn't get a regular medical certificate because of my history of cancer, I would be able to get a special issuance certificate. This basically means that I can return to flying, but will need to update the FAA annually on my condition for the next five years or so. I think I can handle that! I'll be scheduling my first post-cancer solo flight as soon as I can.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Goofballs at the beach Posted by Picasa

Sarah and The Niece Posted by Picasa

Frank and The Niece Posted by Picasa

The niece and nephew Posted by Picasa

The Nephew Posted by Picasa

The Niece Posted by Picasa

Definitely not a PETA-approved VBS! Posted by Picasa

"Geoffrey" looking over the sacntuary. Posted by Picasa

Yes, that is a real giraffe head and neck. Posted by Picasa

VBS registration tables Posted by Picasa

Vacation Good -- VBS Wild

Our beach vacation was good, not long enough (what vacation ever really is?,) but good.

One our way down we entered (unbeknownst to us) the airport triathlon: KC to Dallas, Dallas to not the beach but Houston, Houston to Destin, on a different airline altogether. Four differnt airports, three different flights, two different airlines, none of which corresponded to the tickets we purchased. At least we got there. Boy did we need to be there once we got there; it took two days just to relax from that!

And btw: Houston (International, aka George Bush) is not an airport I recommend flying into/out of/or through. Hot, really hot, and VERY POOR signage, not to mention that in transferring to a different airline meant having to go down two floors, back up two floors in a different part of the airport and then through security again. It may be hard to imagine, but I was, at the end of the day, actually happy Frank insisted that I not check any luggage.

The beach was good, family time was excellent. Our four year old niece is well into being a little girl and is quite the conversationalist. She is also drop dead cute when her hair is in pig-tails and she twirls her hair as she is asking you a question. And our 10 month old nephew is very mobile and had just discovered he can open and close doors. He crawled his way down the hall following the sound of his sister’s voice as she talked to me. And he is wild about balls. He can already (with both hands) throw a ball about 4 feet w/ good aim. Aren’t kids amazing?

Tropical Strom Cindy curtailed our outdoor activities on Wednesday, but my niece and I did arts and crafts all morning. I’m really glad that ink will eventually wear off and that her mom is laid back enough to not worry that I made her daughter’s hand dark purple…it did wash to a nice shade of pink, which is my niece’s favorite color. The sustained winds on the eastern side of the storm were strong and long lasting; I thought the windows would never stop whistling.

Thursday Frank got kissed by a sea lion at Gulf World. It was the highlight of his day. (natch)

Friday morning was a beautiful picture perfect Gulf of Mexico beach day. The waves, which had up until that day been huge w/ a strong riptide, were just lapping up to the shore. It was wonderful just hanging out in the water. And that would also be the day that I was least diligent in putting on sunscreen. The strips of burn are beginning to itch; I can’t wait for them to peel! Foil by Blistex is a great product to put on a sunburn.

Long story short we didn’t find out about the hurricane Dennis mandatory visitor evacuation declared at Noon on Friday until after we’d decided to leave Friday night at 8pm, a night early and drive through the night with the family back to Atlanta. That meant that Frank and I got to change our flight from Destin to KC (through Dallas, thank God not Houston) to Atlanta to St. Louis. A big thank you to my parents who picked us up at the St. Louis airport and drove us home on Saturday. I went to bed at 7 pm Saturday night and slept hard for 12 hours. Another thanks goes to my sister who turned around on Sunday afternoon and helped us get our car parked in the KC long term parking back home.

This week is Vacation Bible School, in the evenings. It is another busy year with over 75 kids in attendance! I serve a really neat church, people are very generous and this week is no exception. The church is elaborately decorated for our Serengeti Trek, lots of live green plants from a local garden center and from a member’s personal collection: animals from Africa: we have a giraffe in the sanctuary, neck up, it’s taller than the cross. Frank will take pictures b/c I know some of you will just not believe it unless you see it. Other animals lurking about: a zebra, an antelope, a warthog, a baboon. I can’t wait until Sunday when we celebrate VBS in worship!

This Saturday we send our Senior High Sunday School Class off on a mission trip and then Frank and I’ll head for a family gathering on the western side of the state.

Monday finds us traveling back to Indy for Frank’s post surgery check up w/ Dr. Foster and also an appointment w/ Dr. Einhorn. I think Dr. E likes to meet w/ TC patients who come through IU even if he’s not been directly involved in their care. Heck if it weren’t for him finding the BEP one-two punch of chemotherapy many men would not be alive today. I would like to shake the man’s hand, perhaps even prostrate myself at his feet to say thank you. And like all good research drs. my guess is that he wants to see what Frank’s experience was and since Frank’s tumor tissue now part of the IU research library on TC, perhaps they want find out if they could tweak treatment and or find a way to help prevention efforts.

It feels weird talking about it though. I guess that means that it is no longer occupying my every other thought. This is a good thing. It’s still a part of who we are, where we’ve been, but I am so DONE with it. I’m ready to have Frank back at 100% (he’s getting there) and for us to move on and live our lives. Here’s to the new normal!

And remember how stressed I was over him losing his hair? He’s decided to keep it short and had his 1st hair cut since chemo yesterday!

From the wilds of Mid-Missouri, I hope all are doing well.


The Rev.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A true vacation

I write this from the Hotel Savoy in downtown Kansas City as we prepare to head to the Florida Gulf coast for what I think will be our first real vacation since chemo started. We'll fly in to Fort Walton Beach where (hopefully) we'll be met by some member or members of my family for the drive to Seagrove, which is about the halfway point between Destin and Panama City Beach. We'll stay for a week doing absolutely nothing constructive, just slumming about in our bathing suits all day, trekking back and forth from the (rented) family compound to the beach.

Sarah and I look forward to spending time (further) corrupting our 4-year old niece, starting with a new book: Walter the Farting Dog. By the way, for those of you who don't know, the official motto of Sarah's family is "Fartus humeratus est [sic]". I heartily agree and have agreed since probably 1st grade - farts are hilarious! Not sure what my sister will think of our attempt to teach her daughter new and exciting vocabulary words (like flatulence), but I think she'll probably be too preoccupied by this latest round of shark attacks to care or notice. Our 9-month old nephew is mobile now, so I imagine we'll all be quite busy keeping tabs on the kids during the week.

Our ridiculous schedule kicks back into high gear as soon as we return. Vacation Bible School at Sarah's church starts the Monday after we get back, but before that on Sunday at church there is a baptism, a send off of the mission team and communion (the things Sarah thinks can be acomplished in an hour....), then the aforesaid high school students head out on their mission trip to North Carolina the following week. Meanwhile, I'll be busy at work churning out investment reports for the second quarter of 2005 (I worked about 5 hours on Thursday to build up my work "chops" a bit). We head to Indianapolis shortly thereafter for a follow-up visit with Dr. Foster and Dr. Einhorn at IU. Then, my brother is planning to come for a visit the next week.

By the way, I think I may have mentioned that IU wasted no time before sending out a bill for my RPLND. It was about $12K, which I thought was quite the bargain, so I wasn't really surprised to get a bill today from Dr. Foster for an additional $12K for his services. Again, I'd have to say it was money well spent, but thank goodness for insurance. On a curious note, the renewal for my medical insurance came in and only went up about 15% or so (which is about par for the course these days), so I was quite pleased (not to mention relieved).

Let me put in a plug for those of you who may be traveling to KC and recommend the Hotel Savoy. It's a stately old hotel that has been in continuous operation since the 1880s and has now been converted to a bed and breakfast. We've stayed here several times over the past 7 years and they are continuing to upgrade the digs (desparately needed upgrades, I might add). It's quite the bargain: for under $100 you get a king-size bed with lovely antique bath fixtures (the claw foot tubs are cool, but the individual hot and cold spigots in the lavatory take some getting used to) and a killer breakfast that should last you until at least supper time, if not later. You have your choice of a couple dozen items, from eggs benedict to lobster bisque to lamb chops to veal scallopine to Oysters Rockefeller to Coquille Saint Jacques (a scallops dish). It's not an either/or menu - you can order as much as you think you can stomach. The hotel also houses the Savoy Grill, a fabulous steak house that dates back to 1903. (They also now have wireless internet access, as I can attest.)

Meanwhile, we're off to celebrate Sarah's birthday, Spanish style -- with tapas! We'll check back in with a report from IU in a few weeks. Take care!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Long Time, No Post

Well, it's just about three weeks since the great RPLND took place, and I am slowly matriculating into the normal world again. The trip is not without occasional bumps and stutters: I had a sneezing fit last night and thought I was surely going to die, as I know my stomach had ripped open and my insides spilled out.

I've transitioned from Vicodin to Ultracet so that I'm OK to drive again, and I drove to my Board of Directors meeting on Saturday. It was a local trip, and the meeting lasted about 4 hours, which I seemed to tolerate well.

I got Dr. Foster's notes from the operations and confirmed what I had suspected - they had to severe a bundle of nerves that were tied up with the tumor, so I have a bit of nerve damage in my left thigh. Not sure if this is permanent; others who have been in a similar situation say that the tingling will go away after a couple of years, but that's just anecdotal evidence.

I had another one of the church RNs come by and pull the staples and apply the Steri-Strips. The incision is healing nicely, although when I went to the cancer box this morning for blood tests one of the nurses who obviously has a scab fetish picked off a bunch of my scabs. OW!!! Supposedly it will make for a nicer looking scar, but with as much chest hair as I have (and it is coming back with a vengeance), pretty soon you won't be able to see a scar anyway. I'll try soaking in a bath tonight to get the rest of the steri-strips and scabs off, hopefully in a less painful fashion.

I head back to Indiana next month for a follow up visit, then the rest of my care should be handled locally from then on. I'll have regular blood tests and x-rays, as well as the occasional CT to make sure that no teratoma comes back (so I get to keep on chugging those berry-flavored, yet earthy, barium shakes - whoopee).

I had Sarah shuttle me around this afternoon to pick up various medical records so I can put together a packet for the FAA and get my butt back into the air (naturally, the club plane is in the shop due to a little fender-bender, so there won't be any flying happening for the next couple of months anyway).

That's the way things are right now. I'll check back in a few weeks, unless anything new pops up.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

My SpongeBob nightshirt, made by my mother-in-law on Saturday morning. I think it took her all of five minutes or something.Posted by Hello

With Mom & Dad (and Maggie's dog) in my room .
This is Wednesday, the morning after sugery. Posted by Hello

In surgery waiting Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A humbling experience

Wow. It's Saturday morning, less than 4 days after major abdominal surgery, and I'm not in the hospital.


Apparently I've been blessed with a body that recovers well from surgery. When Dr. Foster came by to see me on Wednseday afternoon, he did a bit of a double-take, surprised that I looked alert and in good spirits. By Thursday afternoon he and his team of doctors-in-training had decided it was time for me to go home. I was released Friday morning (early afternoon if you include us being held hostage by the hospital pharmacy while waiting for my at-home meds) and we drove to St. Louis that afternoon. I sat in the front seat and got out to walk around every chance I had. There was a ongoing contest between me and Sarah's mother, who has gone through a knee replacement and back surgery in the last couple of years, as to who could walk the fastest. It was like tortise racing.

Here's the tale of the tape (because guys like to compare lengths on everything):

Incision length: 11 1/2 inches
The incision begins about an inch below the bottom of my sternum and heads south, detouring to the left around my navel, and ends just below my waist line.

Number of staples: 37
The 1/4 inch staples will be removed in a couple of weeks and replaced with steri-strips, another fabulous 3M product. I have the staple remover and steri-strips in a bag given to me by IU, so I suppose we could do this on our own if we REALLY wanted to.

It's really amazing to me over the past couple of days how my mobility seems to have increased drastically just by the passing of time. Last night I was able to roll from side to side in bed with little difficulty or discomfort. This morning I hardly needed to push off of anything when working my way out of bed. Thanks to my friend Marjorie for her breathing advice; it has certainly been a huge help.

I'm on Vicodin for pain, along with Colace to help "keep things moving" while I take the pain meds. According to the docs, once I'm off the pain meds, I can return to driving provided that I can stomp on the brake pedal and turn my head from side to side. The only other restriction is no heavy lifting for 6 weeks.

So, what's next? It would be a bit premature to say I am "cancer-free" at this point, since there is a possibility of future recurrence (that is, there may still be cancer cells that aren't big enough to be picked up through blood tests or scans). For my particular brand of testicular cancer (non-seminoma), the greatest risk of recurrence is in the first two years after treatment is completed. But from a practical standpoint, that's the way I'll be treated over the next several years - as if all the cancer is gone and we're just checking to see if any has tried to make a comeback.

Meanwhile, my mother-in-law is calling upon all her sewing skills to make me a Sponge-Bob extra-long night shirt, so I can go about the house without wearing anything that has a waistband that presses on the incision (yes, that includes underwear). I will definitely be the height of fashion for a while. If you come to visit, I promise not to cross my legs when I sit.

Thanks to everyone for their love, prayers, support, and advice. Stay tuned for future updates - maybe we'll have to change the name of the blog to "Vinny Had Cancer"...

Thursday, June 02, 2005


Lab work looked good. Teratoma and necrotic tissue so pre cancer and dead cancer which means chemo did its job so the surgeon could do his job better.

Everything seems to be progressing on a good timeline.

Broken Link

Hey, I don't know about you, but when I read my seester's post I immeadiately clicked on the link so I could pester my bother-in-law in a new way. Alas, the link was broken.

I think this one should do the trick. This one right here.

Near as I can figure if you look on the upper right side of the screen, there is a place where you can register. Click there, fill out the form and then you should be able to send Vinny emails.

Ok... now I've tried it... once you register, I don't think they make it super obvious how you email a patient, but you beautiful people have me to help overexplain thus making your lives easier.

On the furthest left column under Clarian Health, there is an link to Billing and Online Tools. Once you click on that, the new page has the option to Email a Patient.

And the last thing is... he's at Indiana University Hospital.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Indy is a beautiful town

Eureka! I've found an internet connection in the bowels of the basement of the IU hospital. After all the planning and bringing the lap top, wireless seems to be nonexistent in the places we've been (or cared to be) over the last two days.

Gosh, has it only been two days? Maybe tomorrow I'll feel like going to IU library and seeing if they have wireless.....

Frank *is* doing very well. The adventure to K-Mart last night was to get 100% grape cranberry juice. We succeeded and managed only to see two groups of police cars w/ lights flashing, talking and whatnot to the locals. (However at lunch today Mom and I watched a guy get handcuffed and searched. I said, 'Wow, I hope this isn't a trend.' She said, 'I see this sort of thing all the time.' Where has this woman been hanging out???? ;-) )

Frank's parents headed home this afternoon. It was very good to have them here. He/I/We love them so much.

He has been up in the chair twice today and took a lap around the floor. While *I* am able to transverse the bowels of the basement of the hospital, his bowels alas are not moving yet. That will be the key to him getting to leave the hospital. Tomorrow (Thursday) will be a big day as the dressing and all tubes will be removed, allowing him to move about the cabin--er hospital room--at will. If you are inclined to pray, you may feel free to pray that he will fart freely. Did I just say that? It doesn't need to go on the church prayer chain or anything, but you all know what I mean, right?

Dr. F will be by to see Frank later this afternoon. As soon as I finish here I'll go back up to the room. If you are able, please send him an email through the hospital’s site (I can't print anything). It is not too painful to register and he'd love the mail.

As for the city: The night before surgery he and I took a walk to Canal at the White River State Park that is down town. Think RiverWalk in San Antonio, but w/o all the commercial gee-gaw and restaurants. It is very nice. The last time we were here it was the middle of chemo and winter. It seemed like a dark, dingy town. With leaves on the trees and the streets not black from the cinders having been laid down for cars to drive in the ice/snow, it is a pretty town. Maybe we might comeback just to look at all the public art!

Please keep my friend Lynne in your prayers, her father has cancer and only a few more days of life left. She and family are traveling cross country.

Thanks seester for all you are doing for us.

Peace, The Rev.

Insanity as Diversion...

Last night I called seester to see how things were going, doing the whole checkin' in thing. She answered the phone with, "Hey, we're in the process of getting lost... here's mom, she'll make you laugh".


So mamacita gets on the phone, "We're not getting lost, we are lost" (chuckles from The Dad heard in the background) "We're trying to find a KMart and your sister refuses to stop and ask someone. I mean, we keep passing people that I think look like KMart shoppers, but will she stop? Nooooooooo." (more chuckles and muffled speech from The Mom and The Dad, apparently in the back seat... oh, by the way, these are Vinny's parental units). My mamacita continues, "The Dad noticed that there were quite a lot of cops in the park we just drove through but your sister wouldn't stop to ask them either......... well, The Mom did notice that there were several people in handcuffs next to the cars so that was probably best."

So here I am 6 hours by car and 2 hours by plane from my seester who has apparently been kidnapped by well intentioned retirees. I've decided that they are using insanity as a way to keep my sister's mind off of Vinny's healing process...

Did they find KMart you ask? Yes, the last words I heard before my mom hung up on me were, "There it is... look every day items are 70% off today!"

Attention KMart shoppers, insanity is currently on bluelight special.

Oh and they did mention that Frank seems to be doing well.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

One more thing...

The Rev just called with a funny (already a funny from this surgery...)

In Vinny's pre-op paperwork there were two questions that he spent some time answering...

Question One: Who may make medical decisions on your behalf? Easy... The Rev.

Question Two: Who may not make medical decision on your behalf? Initially he left it blank. I'm thinking that he figured my seester would take care of him, not allowing decisions to be made willy nilly. She suggested he think a bit more.

His answer to Question Two:
The Congress of the United States of America and/or George W. Bush

The doc overseeing this portion of the day thought it was so funny he took the paperwork to his supervisor. Because apparently the actual paperwork makes it better than just sharing the story.

I just hope that the good folks at IU know what they got into by agreeing to do his surgery :)

And the verdict...

He's keeping his kidney, folks!

Just got the call from seester... the details as I understand them:
  1. Surgery lasted about 1.5 hours
  2. Dr. F believes that the tumor that remained was mostly teratoma (the pre-cancerous cells that could cause a flare-up if left in his body)
  3. The kidney wasn't involved so he won't have an odd tilt to his body... at least because of losing a redundant organ
  4. While they had Frank where they wanted him, the surgeon poked around to check things out and they look fine

If you go to the American Cancer Society's page, here, you can learn more than you probably wanted to about teratoma. Lab results will be back probably on Thursday. This will confirm Dr. F's assessment and I would imagine give information as to what type of teratoma. As I get updates, I'll pass them along. And, if it is teratoma, it means that there isn't cancer... THIS IS VERY GOOD NEWS.

Now, for an abuse of power...we had a great weekend visiting the rents, combining friends and family. One of my favorite things was going to Shakespeare in the Park... The Tempest.

Friday, May 27, 2005


While THE Rev and Vinny prepare for their trip to Indy and perhaps for the first news bulletins post-surgery, I'll be guest blogging. I have the keys and they are letting me drive... I'm mad with POWER!

Sinister-In-Law, SueBec

Pre-surgery workout

Well, the days are counting down to Indianapolis. Frankly, I'm tired of waiting - I was ready for this surgery weeks ago. I have my packing list done, lab results faxed in, CT scans sent, work things all tied up - I am ready to go! We'll head to St. Louis for the weekend to relax and have a little fun, then it's off to Indy first thing Monday. My folks are flying up from Atlanta and we'll try to rendezvous with them.

Meanwhile, I did some pre-surgery exercise yesterday: lunch at Booches! Booches, for the non-residents of Columbia, is a venerable old burger joint (since 1882) that happens to be right across the street from my office downtown. They basically specialize in three things: burgers, beer, and billiards. My friend and I took advantage of two of those offerings yesterday; I'll leave it to you to guess which ones. The burgers are served on squares of wax paper and aren't huge, but they are heavenly. USA Today named their burgers among the top 10 in the US a few years ago. Sarah would tend to disagree with this assessment (she doesn't know what's good for her). Lunch was followed by cheesecake with a friend from the Chorale.

We had dinner with some friends last night as part of my "farewell tour" (and again there was cheesecake!) after which we seemed to break off into two "discussion groups". In my discussion group (well, group may be stretching it - it was just Emilie and me) we talked about medical procedures. Emilie had her second child by C-section, and it was quite the ordeal. She likened it to having had a Mack truck crash into her insides. It's probably very similar to what I will have to go through, with an incision from my sternum to my pelvis, my stomach muscles cut through, my intestines pulled out and later replaced. Fun, fun, fun!

I had some spare time yesterday that I unwisely chose to spend looking for information about experiences with the RPLND procedure. That was a poor choice on my part. Now I have started to obsess with some of the possible outcomes from this surgery, and that's not a good thing. Still, I emailed a guy from the TC support list to ask about his experience at IU and while this won't be a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination, it was nice to have a complete honest assessment of what the aftermath will be like. The main thing I need to remember is to take it slowly - no rush. This particular individual was off work for 7 weeks after the surgery, but that was with a post-surgery infection.

I'm going to be introduced to a lot of things I really would prefer not to have to learn (catheters, morphine pumps, sliced abdominal muscles), but then again, that's been the story through this whole process, hasn't it? As we say sometimes in the church management world, "If you're not growing, you're dying."

Well, that's it for me until next week. We'll have the laptop with us and will try to put out an update as soon as possible after surgery. I'll keep a notebook by my side to collect my thoughts. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts, prayers, and white light.


Monday, May 23, 2005

The Rev. Recommends….

(The following is an expanded version of my column for my church newsletter in June)

One thing that I do to “escape” is read. I’m not going to lie to you; there have been times this spring when I have wanted to run away. I didn’t run, but I did escape and thus I read, a lot. I recommend the following books that I have enjoyed over the past few months as well as some that I plan on reading this summer.

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Ann Lamott. I recommend any book by her: Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, and Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Plan B is her newest book. I find myself going back to her often. Thanks to my friend P who sent me the new book for my un-birthday in March.

Tatterhood and Other Tales edited by Ethel Johnston Phelps. This book is filled with old stories about magic and adventure – folk tales from around the world – that the whole family can enjoy. It’s published by Feminist Press and has good stories for girls and boys without all that damsel-in-distress-fairy-tale-princess-has-to-wait-for-someone-else-to-save-her stuff.

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. Amazon.com says, “In 1984, Ron and Dan Lafferty murdered the wife and infant daughter of their younger brother Allen. The crimes were noteworthy not merely for their brutality but for the brothers' claim that they were acting on direct orders from God.” The author, “tells the story of the killers and their crime but also explores the shadowy world of Mormon fundamentalism from which the two emerged.” I found the book helpful to understand Mormonism in general and the way fundamentalism in any strain of religious belief can be dangerous. I read this one of the weeks Frank sat in the Chemo chair all week long.

Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. One word: Fascinating. He talks about how we make snap judgments—about people's intentions, the authenticity of a work of art, and even military strategy in the blink of an eye. Thanks to Dr. TW for loaning it to me from his "Barnes and Noble" inspired library. It was a privilege to crack the spine of the book! Dr. TW is the brain warm up guy that Frank talked about a few days ago.

Gladwell’s also written The Tipping Point, about that magic moment with an idea, trend of social behavior crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like wildfire. I’m taking Tipping Point with me to Indy to read while Frank is in the hospital.

Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. (Again from Dr. TW’s library) This one I had to wait for Frank to finish before I could get past the introducation. I set it down for a moment and then he’s all into it and I didn’t have the heart to rip it out of his hands declaring, “But Dr. TW leant it to ME!” Frank after all has cancer (said with a pathetic whine tone) and plays that card whenever he can…

That being said, I am the last person who would willingly pick up a book about economics and read it cover to cover (end notes included) within a week. But the authors argue that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don't need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections. My favorite quote: “Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work—whereas economics represents how it actually does work.” (p.13) Hmmmm. Seems I’ve preached about this before…show me your check book and I’ll show you where your treasure lies….

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is a fictional story told from the point of view of a 15 year old boy with Autism who witnesses a murder, that of his neighbor’s poodle. I read this one back in January, but find myself referring to it often. How many yellow cars does it take to make your day a bad one? One thing that stuck me as I was reading this was how much sense the boy’s thought processes made to me…..

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work : A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert by John M. Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver. Even if your marriage is working, it is never a bad idea to check in and see if you could be doing better. Frank and I enjoyed the chapter on “Two Kinds of Conflict.” Seems there are Perpetual problems and Solvable problems; marriage can survive both kinds, if you recognize them for what they are and work together. I recommend this book for everyone who is married or thinking about it.

This is one that I’ve picked up because I read about Gottman in Blink and found his work fascinating. I’m always looking for things to help folks in my congregation who say that they are struggling. I, alas, can only find tools to help people; I don’t have a magic wand to make them do the hard work that relationships require. Nor am I able to hold their nose to the grind stone, a technique that I sometime wish I could employ….

If you are searching a book that you can read for a few moments each day one of the following three might do. These aren’t new, but are some of my favorites. Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris. I heard her speak at the preaching conference I attended in Chicago last week. She reported that she is currently working on a book about acedia (from the Greek "akedia," or "not to care"), one of the seven deadly sins. She confessed that she’s having trouble getting motivated to write. Go figure. A friend of hers who is a Benedictine nun gave her condolences when she told her the topic she was exploring.

Kathleen Norris also spoke at the conference about her husband’s loosing battle with cancer. She described the experience in the following way: “it was like I was at sea, not knowing when we’d get back to dry land.” Others who have been care takers for those with cancer can relate. And while I know that Frank’s journey has been very successful given the nasty nature of CANCER, I, we, have still gone through many ups and downs, begin tossed upon the waters of the hopes and fears that accompany cancer.

The other two books in this category are by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen: Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal and My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging. In both volumes she weaves stories of healing and wholeness that are short and moving.

Dr. Remen is part of a group called Commonweal. It is a nonprofit health and environmental research institute in Bolinas, California. I read these books about 2 years ago, but was reminded of them when one of the chemo nurses was telling me about a continuing education event she attended where she learned about Commonweal’s Cancer Help Program, a week-long retreat for people with cancer. What I like best about Remen’s books is similar to what the CHP’s goals are: to address the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions of healing with cancer. Healing is multidimensional the sooner Dr.s and patients recognize this the better the journey will be for all.

And now, some of the other books on my shelf to read:

· The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus J. Borg—scandalous I know. I really like Borg.

· A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (I read In a Sunburned Country earlier this year when I wanted to run away to Australia, just for a few days mind you.)

· Two by William Sloane Coffin: Credo and The Heart is a Little to the Left: Essays on Public Morality

· Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler, his book Abraham is such a good read; this one looks very similar. There’s also an Illustrated one that is for kids that might be easier and even easier read….

· The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

· The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

· Life of Pi by Yann Martel

· The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation by Barbara R. Rossing

If you’d like to recommend any to me, drop me a note!

Grace and Peace,

Rev. Sarah

P.S. Frank is having surgery on May 31 in Indianapolis, IN at the Indiana University Hospital. He will be in the hospital for 4 or 5 days. We will take our time coming home and may stay at my parents’ home in St. Louis as we journey back to Midway. If you’d like to know how things are going I will be posting while in Indy.

You can send notes to us through the blog or you can go to the hospital’s web site (after May 31st) to send a get well card. The hospital’s web address is: www.clarian.org, look under “visiting information”. Thank you for all your prayers and words of encouragement.