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 Very friendly and unassuming, although I will say that his picture on the IU website is a bit out-of-date.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!