Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Prepare the Way

It's finally hit me: this season's time of busyness. And I've go a sore throat.

In preparing the way I've got the following to prepare:
  • A Longest Night service tomorrow evening.
  • A funeral on Saturday for a beautiful 92 year old who reminded me of my Grandma, esp. her beautiful white hair.
  • Two services for Sunday
And while Sunday is Christmas Eve, it is not "eve" until after sun down and thus during the day it is the 4th Sunday of Advent. That means two different services--even though most folks will probably only be attending one or the other; why go to church twice on one day if you can have the convenient excuse of hosting "family". I fear some are using that excuse to stay away altogether, too bad, because when they do they are missed, more than that they really do miss out on the gift of grace that is given when the people of God gather....but I digress. Come see us defy the laws of physics while two things (4th Sunday of Advent and the celebration of Christmas Eve) occupy the same space at the same time on Sunday MORNING!

Following is a picture of the season that I wanted to share, to remind you and me that our preparation isn't all about us, nor is it about this crunch of time, but it is indeed timeless.

The Holy Family is always looking for shelter, a place to rest, a place to be to host the Christ child.


Claremont UMC has put the finishing touches on a provocative unconventional display on the church’s front lawn. Instead of the traditional wooden stable, hay bales, and illuminated plastic figures of Mary, Joseph and infant Jesus, a group of artists designed and built a life-size homeless encampment adjacent to Foothill Boulevard in Claremont. Visible from the street, the display features two figures huddled around a small cardboard shelter protecting an infant’s child seat. A neon sign illuminates the shelter containing the word “Love” in script. A neon star hovers over the scene, atop an eight-foot block wall on which the words “Peace on Earth” have been spray-painted. “People get so busy with ‘holiday events’ that it’s easy to forget for whom Jesus came,” commented Rev. Dr. Sharon Rhodes-Wickett, pastor. “We don’t want to keep Jesus as a sweet first century story, but rather as a 21st reality, who shakes us up and provokes us to act in behalf of justice and peace for all.” The display is illuminated at night and will continue through Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone.
The Rev.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rev. Unplugged

The United Methodist Church in Missouri is presenting a series of devotional podcasts during the Advent season (for you unsaved heathens, that's the four weeks preceding Christmas day). Every day a different pastor gives a short 2-3 minute message. The Rev. is on tap for today (December 6). Note that this file may have some issues - I had to crank up the volume to hear what she was saying.

Your browser doesn't support the EMBED tag, but you can still listen to The Rev.'s message by <a href="http://progressive.powerstream.net/002/00361/20061206_Evans.mp3">clicking here.</a>
Meanwhile, we're still dealing with the consequences of a 15-inch snowfall here in Mid-Missouri. Our fair city, for some reason, uses cinders from the municipal power plant, mixed with salt, to spread on the roads. Once the snow melts and evaporates, we'll be left with dingy streets reminiscent of a Charles Dickens novel until a good rain comes our way.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hitting the big time

My beloved Columbia Chorale is finally getting some recognition. This year our Messiah production has been picked up by the University Concert Series and they've done some great promotional work on TV. Check out the ad:



Thursday December 7, at 7 PM. Be there!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Giving Thanks

I received a solicitation from the Indiana University Cancer Center yesterday, and my first thought was, "Boy, I'd give my left nut to help find a cure for cancer!"

But seriously folks...

It's coming up on two years since my initial diagnosis, and Thanksgiving seems to be an appropriate time of year to reflect on where we've been in the last couple of years. If not for the intellectual curiosity of folks like Dr. Einhorn, I might not be around today. So the Rev. and I will be making a donation to further research at IU.

You can give to IU online through the IU Foundation, but it's a pain in the butt using this method to designate your gift for cancer research. The easier way to support IU cancer research is to write a check to "IU Foundation/Hem-Onc Gifts" and mail to:

Indiana University Cancer Center
c/o Indiana University Foundation
PO Box 663802
Indianapolis IN 46266-3802

Happy Thanksgiving! Follow the Rev. and I online tomorrow as we head to Atlanta.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Boring days and not-so-boring days

Another yawner at the oncologist's office today. That's my last visit for 2006. We'll try for a surgery-free year in 2007. Hard to believe we'll soon be marking two years from my initial diagnosis. Some of the folks who were going through TC when I started this have not been as fortunate as I have. Just this week I learned from my TC mailing list that two more folks from our ranks have departed this life and a third has begun palliative care. Sad, but life goes on.

On the less-boring side, our birthmom / adoption partner is planning to move to town this weekend. While we are encouraged by this development, it will be an exercise in proper boundary setting.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Be a Star!

Here's your chance to take part in a sort of classical music karaoke. My esteemed singing group Columbia Chorale will be performing Handel's Messiah on Thursday, December 7 as part of the University of Missouri Concert Series. It promises to be a great night and it marks a new high as we've increased our artistic stature over the past few years.

The following Sunday, we'll also be singing Messiah at Missouri United Methodist Church as part of their concert series. Now then for the fun part: the eight solos (two for each voice part) will be auctioned on eBay. The winning bidder gets to sing a solo at the Messiah sing-along on Sunday, December 10, accompanied by the 9th Street Philharmonic Orchestra. Starting today and continuing for the next week, a solo will be put up for auction. You can now bid on the Soprano Aria "Rejoice greatly, o daughter of Zion". Best of all, your donation is tax deductible!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Baby News, Vol. 2 Issue 2: Meet the Parents

Tuesday (Halloween) was a good day, even if it was exhausting and emotional. The Rev. and I took off for a 1 1/2 hour flight (vs. a 5-hour drive) to meet with our birthmom and go to some appointments together. Neither one of us slept very well the previous night, just due to the pure excitement I suppose. I'm probably acting a bit more cautious than I normally would, with our recent experience with Mini Vinny still fresh in our minds, and Birthmom probably picked up that vibe or else chalked it up to being tired.

Anyway, the ultrasound went well (Birthmom is probably 18-19 weeks along). The Rev. and I crowded over the monitor as the tech, who was very good at his job, took all sorts of measurements and showed the three of us different views of what was happening inside Birthmom's belly. It's a boy (we could see the penis and scrotal sac) and he's quite active. He seems to have all the necessary parts; he's about 9 ounces right now and is scheduled to make his debut in early April 2007.

We had a nice lunch together and talked about all sorts of stuff. Amazingly, we even managed to have a non-baby-oriented conversation! After lunch, we headed to the OB/GYN office for a brief visit and got some suggestions as to adoption-friendly folks to work with at the hospital. Afterward we walked to the hospital and Birthmom asked for a tour of the birthing suite and postpartum rooms. It was a slow day in babyland, so the hospital staff was able to accommodate us.

In a lot of ways, Birthmom reminds me of my younger brother. She's very passionate about her role in this process and wants to provide us with as full an experience as possible. She also seems to know exactly what she wants and is not afraid to ask for it. We could see that in her interaction with the nurse in the birthing center. She basically took charge, explained the situation and while not bullying anyone, made very clear what her expectations of the hospital would be for her and for us when it comes time for the baby to be born. She wants us to be well taken care of.

There's a possibility that she may move a little closer to where we are. She seems to be highly motivated to be out on her own. Her moving closer has several potential positives and a few possible negatives, as you can imagine. Our boundaries will probably be tested, although right now I can't say with any certainty what those boundaries ought to be. We'll have to figure it out as we go.

The journey continues, and it is never boring.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Happy Birthday TCRC!

Today marks 10 years (since folks first started counting) since the Testicular Cancer Research Center first made its appearance on the wild and wooly internet. In addition to being the home page of the TC-NET discussion list for TC-affected folks, the TCRC is also a great source of information for all things TC. The site gets an average of 800-plus hits a day from more than 170 countries around the world.

I found the TCRC in a flurry of internet research the night before my first trip to the urologist. While I was impressed with all the concise info, I had basically convinced myself at the time that it wasn't cancer and I would get a nice script for an antibiotic and everything would clear up in a couple of weeks. Well, you all know how that turned out. The TCRC has been great for me and I have recommended it highly to others new to the TC ride.

The folks who founded and edited the site are long-time survivors (10, 14, and 19 years respectively), and I plan to join those ranks eventually. For now I can just say thanks.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Smooth Tunes...

Hat tip to NotherFrog for pulling me down into this abyss. Welcome to Yacht Rock, where you get the (made-up) behind the scenes stories on musicians like Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Hall & Oates, Steely Dan, and others. Their music is so SMOOTH!



The show ran on Channel 101 for an unprecedented 9 months before it fell out of the ratings and was "canceled".

I would warn that there's adult language, but because the music is from the late 70s/early 80s those children whose ears might be affected by the language will be absolutely bored out of their skulls by the plot lines and music anyway, so I doubt they'd even want to watch.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Baby News, Vol. 2 Issue 1: A New Journey

Or...The Tao of Adoption

Also, I show off a few new stupid HTML tricks I learned. See if you can spot them all. Anyway, moving on...

In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu says "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."1

And so we begin again. Our adoption portfolio (our "marketing piece") has been chosen by a potential birth mother, and after studying her profile, we've decided we want to work with her. We've spoken on the phone and The Rev. and I are excited in a cautious way, if that makes any sense.

What can I tell you about our partner in the adoption process? Well, she lives within driving distance, has children, and has an immediate family that is supportive of her intentions. These are all good things.

We are currently proceeding in the manner of an open adoption. Birthmom is keeping a pregnancy journal that she has offered to share with us and also has invited us to be present at her next doctor appointment (including an ultrasound) in the upcoming weeks. Granted, the phrase "open adoption" means different things to different people -- it's a notoriously vague descriptor.

She is due sometime in late March/early April, and as they say in golf, there's a lot of green between here and there. Anything can happen, thus the reason for the caution that tempers our excitement. Still, we are once again jumping in with both feet. As they say (all too often) in Texas Hold-em, we are "all in" (as we at the same time continue the overuse of random goofy jargon). Can you tell we're excited about becoming parents?

I should add that The Rev. had the requisite Target trip to celebrate this event. She purchased some burp rags emblazened with baby turtles, along with coordinating washcloths. She takes pleasure from the little things in life, you know.

1 Depending on the translation you read. Sometimes it's rendered something like "A journey of a thousand miles begins at the spot under one's feet." Whatever. You get the idea.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

If you're really interested

There's been a couple of graphic things shared lately on the TC Cancer Forum that I regularly participate in. One of them is a link to the University of Virginia Health System's Pathology Department. They have a page that has in-depth discussions of the various types of testicular tumors. And there's pictures too! NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH, GROSS OUT ALERT!

But even more fascinating was the sharing of a picture from one member's RPLND. While I had a 7x10 cm node taken out, another guy had a node removed that was 34x24x17 cm and weighed 8 1/2 pounds. His surgeon took before and after pictures. Here's the link to the discussion. You have to click on the picture links to actually see them. Again, major gross out alert.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cancer in Comics













There's a web-based comic strip called "Innies and Outties" which I will admit is a bit weird, even for me. The main characters are children who seem to function as adults in their world, kind of a fantasyland of sorts. Anyway, one of the characters is a vegeterian zombie named Harold (the vegetarian part is important, otherwise he'd be eating the brains of the living, you know) who happens to be dealing with cancer in a certain area of his body. The writer never comes out and says it, but it sure looks like TC. Currently in the timeline of the strip, the zombie is undergoing surgery. I'm curious to see where it will lead.

Enjoy at your leisure. As I said, it's a bit weird, but there you are.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Band! THE BAND!

NPR's All Things Considered had a story the other day about adult marching bands, which mentioned that the oldest adult marching band is the Second Time Arounders, based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Not so fast there, NPR! Those guys may have been around for 25 years, but there happens to be a band from Atlanta that's been around for more than 32 years, namely the Seed and Feed Marching Abominable. This picture is of the band at the 2006 Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina. Full disclosure compels me to state that the term "marching" is a bit of a misnomer where the S&FMA is concerned; they generally stroll, and not necessarily in time with the music. Not that I'm splitting hairs...


For me and the Rev., the band holds a special place in our hearts, since it's where we first met way back in 1998. The Rev. never tires of sharing the saga of how she finally roped me in after several attempts (most of which were done somewhat surreptitiously). The band is quite the eclectic group of folks, with artists, retirees, attorneys, realtors, doctors, scientists, and more among its membership -- not sure if they've had any clergy members since the Rev. and I moved away. It's one of the few things we miss about Atlanta.

Fortunately, another one of the members of the band in the "diaspora" pointed out the grievous error, so NPR corrected the mistake in their Thursday letters from listeners segment, played a recording of the band performing the theme from The Magnificent Seven, and even plugged an upcoming gig. Here it is, in case you missed it live.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Check 'em Lads on TV in the UK!

Phil Morris and Mick Riley (of checkemlads.com fame) made a recent TV appearance in the UK to raise TC awareness. Go lads!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The roller coaster continues.

Life marches on. Frank had a CT and blood work done today. Based on some advice he received from other TCers, he mixed the CT contrast shake with some raspberry Crystal Light. When asked if it tasted better he said yes. However, he had to begin drinking it at 4:30am, so he may have been too asleep to even taste it. (Frank here: By the way, they tried using a different IV contrast dye today and there was no horn! The CT tech marked it on my folder and said in the future to make sure and ask for the "special sauce". Not sure I want to know...)

After the appointment he’s told me that all looks normal. Good. It’s good that one thing looks normal because so much of our life happens so fast that I don’t think I really know what normal really is.

We spent last week resting at Frank’s parents’ home. It was a good week. In addition to being able to be complete vegetables in a quiet space (who knew that sleep deprivation began only three days into having an infant at home?), we also got to spend time with children who will be in our lives for a long time.

The triplets (our niece and two nephews) that I baptized at the end of July had doubled in size. One of them was beginning to recognize that there were other babies in the crib with him. It is amazing how fast they grow. My nephew who turns 2 this week was ok with his mama not being around and Frank and I got to bond with him while he watched train videos that Frank Googled on the internet.

I needed something to do with my hands and I started a cross stitch kit. My niece who has begun kindergarten helped with a few of the stitches as she was fascinated by the sewing part of it. I worked on it a lot, including during turbulence on our ride home. It is almost finished, but I fear that I will leave it unfinished as my life marches on and I don’t seem to be able to find (or to take) the time to sit down and just be.

Taking wise advice from one of the elders in Frank’s flight club, we mailed all the baby stuff back to MO before we left VA, so as to lighten our load, emotionally and physically. I picked the box up yesterday afternoon. It sits unopened in the baby’s room. I know that there will come a day when I don't think about Vincent. And then it will be a few days, and time will march on and there will be a small person in our life that will be the recipient of our love and affection and “Mini Vinny” will be a wisp of a passing thought. However, in the mean time, it is proving to be hard to sit at my desk, or even sit in a group and not have my mind wander to thoughts of him. Part of me wants to open the box to look at his hospital pictures; another part doesn't want to open that part of my heart open again. Such is grief. It just has to be muddled through. There is not quick route to get around it.

For the record we are ok and have peace that the baby is in a good home. But, worry is still in the back of my mind. In the state of Virginia the birth mom has 15 days to change her mind after waiting the 10 days before terminating parental rights; a total of 25 days at the earliest. The baby was born on August 27, if everything happened as soon as it could, that new family is still waiting on pins and needles until September 22 to be “in the clear”. Maybe that date will be a date of peace for me too, although we have no legal rights to know how or what is transpiring.
Trust and faith.

We will be attending the local Adoptive Parents Network meeting this Thursday night. If I had any doubts about our place/right/worthiness to be there (probably just some of those normal jitters when you are “new” at something), they are gone. While our time with Vincent didn’t end the way we hoped it would, we have entered the world of being adoptive parents.

Folks say being a parent will change your life. Some say it with a “Ha ha ha, you have no idea what you are getting into” look in their eyes. I think we do. My experience of this process is that there is a lot more thought and intention than that the "normal" way of starting a family. How many people do you know have to have a social worker come into your home do an interview, hire lawyers, wait for someone to pick you, and then have a judge approve that you are ok parents including that your house pet has had all of its shots up to date? (How does one give a fish a shot? Just kidding, no I have not gone out and purchased another pet.)

We are ready, we are still on the roller coaster that is adoption. I plan to hang on even though the ride may get rough. In the end, I plan on looking at Frank and saying, "What a ride, I'm glad we did it together!"

Thank you to all who have supported us, it means a lot.
The Rev.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

back home

After nursing our hearts, from VA to GA to MO, we are home.
We "re-enter" our respecitve worlds tomorrow morning.
I will hit the ground running with a 7am meeting. For those of you who know and love me, you know I don't do mornings often or easily.
I for one would like to have a stern talking to with the crazy woman who scheduled all the church meetings for the month of September. (Yes, that would be me.)
Thanks to all who have kept us in your hearts, it has helped.
The Rev.

Friday, September 01, 2006

BN Vol. 1 Issue 4: Starting Over

Today has probably been the worst day of Sarah's life, and it certainly ranks in the top (bottom?) two or three of mine as well. Mini Vinny is no longer in our arms. We fought hard and had a lot of people in our corner, but circumstances and the law were ultimately against us.

We found out Thursday afternoon that the birthmom had changed her mind and found another family to be the adoptive parents. We had hoped for some sort of reprieve, but late Friday morning found us handing Mini Vinny over to another set of well qualified parents, although of course in our minds not NEARLY as qualified as we.

It hurts, hurts, hurts a lot. It's more of a selfish hurting for ourselves, rather than pain for Mini Vinny. But he's in good hands, and that really is the most important thing. He is happy and healthy and we have given him the best days of his young life so far and provided a calm and healthy place for him to spend his first hours on this earth. And, we have managed to make an amazing number of friends in the legal and medical profession in our short time here, and they were all (of course) impressed with us, so much so that they were willing to place their professional reputations on the line to help us and help Mini Vinny.

Is the battle for Mini Vinny over? Technically, no, because anything can (and probably will) still happen in the coming days. In reality, probably yes. We are subject to the birthmom's whims, and this particular state's adoption laws are far more favorable to the birth parents than to the adoptive parents. Anything is possible, and we have hope, but that doesn't make this any easier.

So, like we said earlier, we will pick up the pieces and move on, continuing to work on finding a child who needs us to be his or her parents. We have no regrets at all. I think that the joy of experiencing Mini Vinny for a few short days and having a positive impact on his life far outweighs the pain of seeing him go.

Interestingly, near to where we are staying is a prayer labyrinth back in the forest. We spend early Thursday afternoon there with Mini Vinny, contemplating how the labyrinth walk is like the adoption process: oftentimes it seems like you're getting farther away from the goal, but eventually, if you stay on the path, you will reach your destination. We will plan to visit the labyrinth again before we leave town.

We'll be taking some time to be alone as we process this latest turn on the road and cope with our loss. Meanwhile say a prayer for little Vincent Harrison (the name we decided upon), because he deserves as many people as possible to be looking out for him.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

BN Vol.1 Issue 3: Baby Layaway or House Arrest

Can't sleep, so might as well blog.

This day has theoretically been just as long as the last few, but today seemed to move at lightning speed. Maybe that's a preview of how our perception of reality may be changing.

We picked up a rental car, made a mandatory Target trip (for other "essentials" as well as to provide me with some necessary toiletries), then we headed to a local fire station for baby seat installation training. After that we headed to the hospital.

If you're a prospective adoptive parent and have a friend who is a certified nurse midwfe, it probably helps you immensely if the baby you wish to adopt is at the hospital where your friend usually practices. Everybody in the birthing center was absolutely in our corner and laid out the red carpet for us. We met with the social worker, who copied our IDs and placed them in the baby's chart so that we could more easily gain access to the nursery. Then we waited. We were on hospital time.

The nurses in the nursery wheeled the baby's cart over to where we were standing on the outside looking in. He's a beautiful boy, born Sunday night, with lots of black hair. After what seemed like an eternity, we were escorted into an isolation room in the nursery and they brought the baby in to us. We held and cuddled him and fed him, then we had to leave to visit the in-state adoption lawyer.

Meanwhile, phone calls continued to intersperse the day. Our friend had been contacted by the baby's mother and the mother wanted us to call. We spoke with the pediatrician as well. We tried several times to contact the baby's mother but were unable to reach her.

We got the lowdown from the attorney: The baby's mother could terminate her parental rights as soon as the baby was 10 days old, then she had another 15 days to change her mind. So right there, it's a mimimum of 25 days before her rights could be completely terminated. There are interstate issues as well, so the baby can't leave his home state with us until the interstate issues are resolved. The baby needed an attorney. The mother needed an attorney. The father needed an attorney. There had to be a face-to-face meeting between us and the mother. A lot of things had to be done in court. There were genetic tests to be done as well. It all takes time, money, and patience. I think we can handle the first two items, but the patience thing, well, you know...

Anyway, we headed back to the hospital for more baby bonding time, and to stake our claim, if you will. We fed him again, then met with the pediatrician, who planned to release the baby that evening. The mother had already signed forms allowing the hospital to release the baby into our custody. So we had a brief overview of Baby 101, learning how to bathe and care for him. The Rev. will leave the umbilical stump to me, since she has belly button issues.

One more thing before leaving the hospital - circumcision. Our PTBNL (Player To Be Named Later) performed admirably. The pediatrician came in and said I would probably be upset seeing how the baby's "package" looked, but I informed her of my TC history and said I had seen and had a lot worse done to me in that area. The Rev. was wheeled out in a chair with the baby strapped in to his seat, and we were gone.

So, here we are back at base camp. "Mini Vinny", as we've taken to calling him, has basically been asleep since we put him in the car seat around 10 PM last night. So at this point he's been sleeping for 7 1/2 hours. For the last three hours I've been tossing and turning, wondering when he would wake up and request to be serviced. He stirs and makes a few gurgles and gasps every once in a while, but hasn't really fully awoken yet. We have formula and diapers at the ready when he does.

I'm glad someone's getting some sleep. I'm currently trying to figure out the logistics of the next month - getting back to Missouri, getting one of our cars out to Baby Central so we can return the rental, getting the adoption done, figuring out my work schedule, planning visits from grandparents while we're under "house arrest" in the state, etc.

I haven't quite come up with an appropriate analogy for our current status. At first I was thinking Baby Layaway, but since we already have him in our "posession" that doesn't quite fit - it's more of a "No Money Down" baby, although considering the lawyer costs so far, that's not a very accurate descriptor either.

We'll have a follow-up visit with the pediatrician on Friday, but at this point we're basically under unsupervised probation. What were these people thinking, letting us take home a baby that isn't ours yet?

Actually, that's not quite right. The baby may not yet be legally ours, but he sure is emotionally and spiritually ours. The Rev. and I have attached ourselves to what we believe is in our son's best interest and we will fight like hell (if necessary) to preserve his place in our family. If this adoption should fall through, we'll pick up the emotional pieces and move on. We are cracked pots, after all.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Baby News, Vol.1 Issue 2: The Trip

Monday was a helter-skelter kind of day. We decided we needed to travel to meet this baby and see if we could put the adoption wheels in motion. We'd been preparing for this day, which would require tying up loose ends at home and work then leaving for an indeterminate length of time, possibly a month or more. It was time.

It would take 16 hours of driving by Google's reckoning vs. five hours (plus stopping time to refuel) to fly ourselves. You can guess which option we chose. By early afternoon the Rev. had her job duties taken care of and officially started her maternity leave. She picked me up from work and we drove to meet with our attorney and spent an hour or so discussing the plan of action with him. The day was interspersed with numerous phone calls to our friend the midwife, the baby's mother, the social worker at the hospital, an attorney in the state where the baby was born, etc. No wonder that we weren't ready to leav the house until almost 4 PM.

We packed for oursleves plus some essential baby stuff: car seat, couple of bottles with nipples, couple of changes of clothes, two baby quilts, some toys, and cameras (still and video). Did I say essentials? Anyway, we made sure that everything would fit in the plane, including a baby seat with a baby occupying it.

Again, glad I got that instrument rating. We had to do a little bit of thunderstorm dodging the first half of the trip, then fog set in at our destination and I had to shoot a GPS approach to get in there. The Rev. did an admirable job, following some brief and intense on-the-job training, as my copilot on the approach, informing me of our position and looking for the runway.

Our friend's husband picked us up at the airport around 12:30 AM and we got to their house and settled into bed by 1:30. We were up by 6:30, as they have a 3-year old in the house who goes to school in the mornings. We showered and had breakfast, and arranged for a rental car that we would need for at least a few days, but for how long we didn't know.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Baby News, Vol.1 Issue 1: The Call

Well, we've had quite the full weekend. On Saturday we hosted a party in honor of my sister-in-law, who finished her Master's in Counseling Psychology and at the same time landed a job at a local high school. We had about 50 friends and relatives over and although the weather threatened all day long, the rain held off.

Sunday was busy also. We had a guest singer in the church service who was talented, but the service ran a bit long. Meanwhile, friends of my parents from New Orleans were in town on their way to Colorado, and we visited for a little while at the house. But not for long, as I had to go to a big airport and pickup two kids from church who were returning from their Grandmother's funeral. It's a 2 1/2 hour one-way drive to the airport vs. a one hour flight, so naturally I opted for the flying route (after clearing it with the kids' mom, of course). Good thing I got that instrument rating, because the weather around the big airport was atrocious. We got back into town around 6 PM and were pretty much worn out.

Later in the evening, we got a call from a friend of ours who we've known for at least 8 years (the Rev has known her longer). The Rev. had heard from an acquaintance that our friend had just had another child, so we asked if she had a new baby in the house. Her response was something to the effect of, "No, but I might if you two don't get the one I'm calling about." Did I mention that our friend is a certified nurse midwife? She had been caring for a young woman who was pregnant with her second child, but due to the status of her relationship with the baby's father, she was not interested in keeping the baby.

Whoa. We got the details and called our local adoption attorney, who advised us to follow our friend's lead. We then spoke briefly with the baby's mother, who affirmed that she was interested in placing the child with us through adoption.

Holy cow. The world just got a little more interesting.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Whew!




We're back! We had a marvelous time, but things got interesting on the return trip. The weather forecast called for steady rain the entire way from Chicago back to Missouri. Here I was thinking that I could get some actual cloud flying time on the way back. Once we got to Quincy, Illinois, things began to get interesting (see pictures at left). ATC steered us toward Kirksville at first, then down towards Knob Noster and Whiteman AFB. As we headed south another cell of storms started forming to the west, and we skated into Boonville just before those storms hit.

Our last day was a wild swing cuisine-wise. Thursday night we ate at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill, with some Chiapas-inspired dishes. Friday morning we stopped in trendy Wicker Park for breakfast at Earwax Cafe, where they serve things like Tofu Benedict and Vegetarian Hash. For lunch we grabbed sandwiches from a Corner Bakery around the corner from the hotel before heading for the Gary Chicago airport, via the South Shore line train. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Boonville. Back to normal!

Monday, August 07, 2006

For my next trick

Well, as of noon on Saturday, I'm officially an instrument-rated private pilot. What does that mean, you ask? I suppose it all depends on who you talk to. I can legally punch holes in the clouds now, and the ability to fly through less-than-perfect weather gives me a bit more flexibility when flying long trips. More cynical individuals would say I now have the ability to cause abject terror for my flying passengers in new and exciting ways.

So now what? The Rev. claims that at some point I told her to put the brakes on if I tried to go any further than an instrument rating, but I've been giving thought to a commercial certificate, just to keep learning (and maybe become a flight instructor on the side - I've been told I'm a good teacher).

In the imaginary (aka geek) world, I'm about to graduate from the virtual air traffic control academy and will hopefully be controlling and talking to REAL virtual pilots on the internet (as opposed to SIMULATED virtual pilots on the internet). (The Rev here: 1st, he really did say to remind him to stop after IFR and now he has "conveniently" forgotten; must be the chemo brain at work. 2nd, he never asked my opinion on the virtual geek world stuff. Do any of you have any idea of how far back into my head my eyes have rolled at this??? A hint: I have had the opportunity to count the wrinkles in my gray matter. It's all very X-files: in order to finish his training he is waiting to be "contacted"--I'm expecting to see a big X in the clouds, or duct taped to our driveway or bedroom window...) I have to say though, real piloting and virtual controlling are very complementary - I've learned a lot to help me in the real world. (<--with this have NO complaints.)

Next week I plan to put my new instrument rating to use and fly the Rev. to Chicago for a conference. I've been told that it seems like once you get your instrument rating, you'll never get to use it flying in the soup. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

We're Back!

We are back from the beach and had a great week with Frank's family.
7 adults, 5 children (3@ 3.5 months, 1@ 20 months, and 1 who starts kindergarten soon), 2 condos, a pool and the ocean. We also got to meet the 7.5 month old who lives about an hour north of where we were staying. Then we all caravanned back to Atlanta for the baptisms of the triplets on Sunday morning.
What an amazing family I get to be a part of and what a blessing to baptize the latest additions! (I used a black shell that Frank and I had found on the beach Friday morning to do the baptism)
I have now had my "baby Jones" fired up and am getting even more ready for when ours comes home.
Thanks to all who held down the fort while we were away.
The Rev.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

NOLA Trip Pics


Unbelievable, originally uploaded by Thepreacherswife.

For those of you who are interested, here's a link to our NOLA mission trip photolog, via Flickr.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Weather Outside

Yes, it is stupidly hot here this week. Temps over 100, with heat indices in the 110-115 range. It's also Vacation Bible School Week at the church, featuring an outdoor sand dune for "archeological digs". It looks a bit more like Death Valley than the Sinai, mainly because of some of the added "treasures": elephant femur, rhino skull, etc. Fortunately, no incidents of heat stroke thus far.

To add to the weather fun, Wednesday night St. Louis was pounded by intense storms that knocked out power all over the metro area. We got an early morning phone call from the Rev.'s parents:

"How much freezer space do you have?"

Apparently, their house will be without electricity for the next five days or so, and they have a treasure trove of frozen meat (that the Rev.'s mom bought off the back of a roving pickup truck, but that's another story) that needs a temporary home. So our freezer, and perhaps freezers at the church, will be filled up for a little while, and the in-laws will stay at the lake.

Meanwhile, we're going to the beach for vacation next week. My folks made an executive decision to switch from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Coast for a change of scenery (not to mention the fact that the Gulf Coast beaches have had to be replenished several times recently due to hurricane damage). We'll spend a week with the nieces and nephews (4 of whom are under a year old) then head back up to Atlanta where the Rev. will baptize the triplets.

No news on the adoption front lately, so we won't be adding any insanity (child-wise) to the beach mix this year.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Reason # 7,348

Reason #7,348 to thank Dr. Einhorn.

Ok, so I haven't actually sat down and counted up the reasons, but as I was driving in blinding rain to Wally World last night at 11pm on a quest for a pump to keep the water out of the basement I had two flashes of insight:

One, on the heels of being in NOLA it is interesting how big a little bit of water in the basement can seem.
Complaining is a leisure activity: it was late, we were tired, it kept raining, the water kept rising, and after not falling down for well over two years that I slipped twice on our concrete patio and scraped and bruised toe/foot/knee and my ego.
Perspective is a gift: so I may need to repack my grandma's dishes, but I also need to get them out an use them anyway, it's not like the entire basement was flooded 4 or more feet. (What a mess THAT would be!)

Second, (and the reason that I'm blogging) I'm sure glad I am that I don't have to face everything by myself. But it really is easier for me to have someone else sharing in the frustration of the situation. We fell into bed exhausted, resigned to the knowledge that there would be water in the basement in the morning, but we did it together.

Thank you Dr. Einhorn.

BTW: I have bailed that basement window well by myself before, it was a pain, but it was day light. 4 inches of rain fell in an hour that day. And I followed it with 2 hours of what I call the "Shop Vac Shuffle" in the church basement. The church has since installed pumps that worked very nicely last night where were got about 5 inches in total.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Re-entry

We're back. Five days of mucking out flooded houses and two days of driving, followed by July 4th to help smooth our re-entry into normal life. How was your holiday?

The devastation in New Orleans has to be seen with your own eyes (and in some cases smelled with your own nostrils) in order to be fully appreciated. There's really no other way to explain it - it simply defies description, and we're talking 9 1/2 months after the storm/flooding. Nevertheless, we'll post pictures soon.

Despite the seriousness of our team's task, we generally had a good time. The hospitality was wonderful, and the people were grateful. We listened to a lot of survivor stories, ranging from minor inconvenience to personal tragedy. Friday's work day was the hardest from an emotional standpoint - we were cleaning out the personal possessions of a house that had at least 8 feet of water, and the house was basically untouched since the storm. It was a day we needed to remind ourselves that our work wasn't futile, that it would make a difference to someone. It was a starfish kind of day.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that the rebuilding process will take 15-20 years, so we'll have plenty of opportunities to return and offer more assistance. I'll be back.

Meanwhile, the world doesn't stop or even slow down. I have labs and a Dr. visit next Tuesday, and yesterday we learned of yet another person in our church who's been diagnosed with cancer. That makes five twelve (according to the Rev) in the last two years, if my counting is correct, in a church with an average attendance of 110 or so. No rest for the wicked.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Titanic Task Ahead

Early Sunday morning, seven of us from our church will sojourn down the Mississippi to New Orleans to do some relief work through the United Methodist Church. The trip has been in the works for several months, but it seems like all of a sudden we've gone through a time warp and realized that it's just about time to go!

My official team member function will be that of sherpa and translator, in addition to helping out with the physical labor. Being a New Orleans expatriate, I've been watching with great frustration and sadness the plight of the city in the 10 months since Katrina made her presence known. It is a prime example of how the short attention span of the American sheeple works. The hurricane and her flood-causing aftermath made for great headlines until we all got bored and tired of the story. Life went on (for everybody not directly affected by Katrina, that is), and as long as nothing interrupted the broadcasts of "American Idol", we generally didn't bother to concern ourselves with what I really believe is history in the making.

As several bloggers from the city continue to point out on behalf of the decimated population, things are not OK in New Orleans. The city made headlines again briefly at the beginning of the week, when a quintuple murder prompted the mayor and governor to call in the cavalry. The National Guard was summoned to patrol abandoned neighborhoods so that the strained city police force could actually do some policing in the ares where people are actually living. And when I say living, I mean surviving from day-to-day. Life in the city for a large percentage of the population was a struggle before the storm, and obviously, things really haven't improved since.

The violence, however abhorrent it may be, isn't the real news here. The real news is that a major American city has experienced total devastation and for the most part, people don't care. According to a city population study done in January, only 14% of the pre-Katrina population has returned to flood-damaged areas. The New York Times reported the other day that suicide and depression are rampant and that more than half of the area's psychiatrists and other mental health workers are gone. The fire department is understaffed and underequipped, having to rely on Coast Guard helicopters to scoop waters from the nearby lakes and canals so that urban fires don't get out of control. Several locals have taken to calling the city "Debrisville" as mounds of trash from demolished homes sit in fetid piles waiting to be picked up.

Our group will in all likelihood be deconstructing a house somewhere so that it can be rehabilitated. Ten months after the storm, there are still thousands of houses with molded carpet and belongings, refrigerators filled with pre-Katrina groceries, and the occasional 10-month old dead body.

No, New Orleans is definitely not OK. Meanwhile, it seems like America has cut and run.

All this begs the question of why we (our mission group) are bothering to take part in an effort that has all the outward signs of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It took southern Florida more than a decade to recover from Hurricane Andrew; some would argue it still hasn't completely recovered. America has Katrina Fatigue and would rather throw in the towel on New Orleans rather than actually working to find solutions to poverty in the midst of plenty, because that would take too much effort.

Well, as as a famous musician (not a policeman) once said, "We're on a mission from God." It's part of our duty (as an alleged Christian nation) to care for the least of these, especially since we Wesleyan types believe that we need some works mixed in to make our faith truly come alive.

I'm excited and ready to go. I'll see old friends and hopefully make some new ones. We'll laugh, we'll cry, we'll listen. We'll work together to keep hope alive for those who need it.

See you in a week.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

An open invitation to our guests

Things have been slow around here lately, so I figured I'd share this. Two researchers at the University of Kentucky are doing research on the use of new communication technologies, presently concentrating on how health information seekers, particularly cancer patients and their families/friends, adopt blogs.

They're asking visitors to take an anonymous and confidential survey. They believe the information gathered from this study will greatly contribute to our understanding of the adoption of new communication technologies by cancer patients.

To take the survey, click here. If that doesn't work, cut and paste the following URL into your browser:

https://wintis.mowsey.org/survey/

They may have some certificate issues with your browser. If you get a message, just continue on.

In other news, Annual Conference for Missouri United Methodists is this weekend in Springfield. This is the first time in the past three years that the Rev is having to go (two years ago we went on vacation, and last year I was busy having my RPLND). She was really banking on us getting an adoption placement in time for her to start maternity leave and skip yet another annual conference. No such luck. You can't win 'em all!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Another anniversary

A year ago today, I was lying on an operating table in Indianapolis while a very good surgeon sliced out a lymph node chock full o'teratoma. Time flies when you're having fun! Today, the scar looks OK, although the top part is a bit uglier than the bottom part (my guess would be that several of the urology interns took turns stapling me back together after surgery, and some did a better job than others). It's by far the best $25,000 ever spent on me.

Life goes on. Hallelujah.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Coming soon on DVD!

[Fade in...]

Pathologist: "It's cancer."

[Dissolve to...]

Pathologist: "Sorry, I was smoking crack, is isn't cancer."

[Cut to title with voiceover]

Announcer: "Who cares what the hell it is?"

It's

Frank's Thoracoscopy!

Check it out on video (it's in four parts, this is part one of four). No, it's not my actual surgery, but a close facsimile thereof. Although not for the squeamish, I happen to find it very cool.

Anyhoo, yesterday was the follow-up with the thoracic surgeon. Very uneventful, although after looking at the chest x-ray that was taken right before my appointment, that chunk of lung he took out seemed a lot larger than I had previously visualized (even though it was probably only about 2% of my total lung tissue).

A nurse took my BP and said, "119 over 72. That's awesome!" I smiled smugly at The Rev., who proceeded to roll her eyes so far back into her head that I did in fact see her optic nerves.

Awesome? Well, yes, but I already knew that.

Oh, in answer to the question I had the other day, the doc said they got the chunk out by deploying some sort of bag with a drawstring around the specimen, then cinching it tight before taking it out through the thorascopy port. (They had deflated my lung in order to operate on it, using a breathing tube and a ventilator to keep my right lung working. The lung tissue folds easily when deflated.)

Part four of the video shows how this happens. The diseased area is isolated with staples and removed from the rest of the lung, then placed in a bag to avoid contamination of other areas of the chest cavity. Cool!


At the end of the day, I was sent home and told the surgeon didn't need to see me again. I felt like I had been spurned following a one-night stand. It was the same story I had heard from my urologist as well as the surgeon who did the RPLND. Why are these surgeons so afraid of commitment?


Back to surveillance!

Friday, May 19, 2006

More fun in CT land

I went back to the Cancer Box for my first post-lung surgery CT scan today. They had me pre-medicate this time because of the hive that continually shows up on my forehead during CTs after the iodine contrast is injected, so I was well-doped up on Benadryl when I came in. Guess what - it didn't help a damned bit, the hive showed up again, and all I got was a sleepless night to add to my cranky morning since I couldn't eat beforehand. Still, I managed to make a new hat for the occasion...

Those are CT contrast bottles taped to my hat, by the way - the smoothie that tastes like artifically flavored berries mixed with dirt in a creamy white base. The proper medical term is "barium sulfate suspension". According to Wikipedia, other uses for barium sulfate include paint pigment (it replaced white lead) and pyrotechnics. Just thought you might like to know. I suppose it could be worse - sometimes the barium sulfate is given by enema rather than orally (usually for colon and small intestine studies).

Anyway, the CT looks good - you can now see staples where the mass used to be. We also got the pathology opinion from IU; they agreed with the local folks that the mass was teratoma and not active cancer. Hot dog! We're back on the surveillance schedule. Like Dr. V. said, it was just a speed bump.

Later in Dr. V.'s exam room, fabulous nurse G. scored me some breakfast from a buffet that had been set up for employees. Eggs and sausage - SWEET! Plus, nurse R. from the chemo room came by and got to satisfy her picking jones by pulling out some suture parts from one of the thoracoscopy ports on my left side (the sutures were popping out and keeping the wound from healing completely). Apparently the nurses all have their own wound fetishes. Nurse G. didn't like the picking at all, but apparently she totally goes wild for pus shooting out of an abcess. OK, that was probably TMI, but welcome to my world.

Afterward, I asked for copies of all my paperwork from this year so far so I can start building my next FAA file. They farmed it out to a woman from the medical records room, who came out with the copies and said something like, "Wow, I actually get to meet Mr. Santoro!" Apparently my hats have made me some sort of legend (in my own mind at least).

OK. It's now time for a nap. Tuesday we meet with the thoracic surgeon so he can look at me and say, "Damn, I do good work!" What I want to know is this: the wedge they pulled out was about 6 x 5 x 2.5 cm (the mass inside was only 1.2 x 1 x 0.9 cm). The ports (i.e., cuts) for the scope are only about 3 cm. How'd they get that chunk out?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Picking up steam

Well, it's been two weeks since my VATS procedure, and I'm working my way back up to what I would consider normal. This weekend was a test - the chorale sang Beethoven's 9th on Saturday night and then we got on a bus Sunday to perform again at a church in Kansas City. It was a full weekend, and other than briefly resting my eyes during the first 3 movements of the symphony on Sunday, I didn't really rest at all (OK, the Rev says we took a 1 1/2 hour nap on Saturday, but SINCE THEN...). Of course, the Rev deputized several of my fellow singers as wardens-in-training to make sure I didn't exert myself physically beyond singing (and playing triangle).

Nobody saw me doing minor electrical repairs when we were moving stuff around at the KC location, though, and I did manage to carry a 2-pound bass drum stand without any devastating effects (but that was duly ratted out to the Rev upon our return).

The past couple of days I've spent 4-plus hours at work, not counting what I do at home with the power of the internet. I may try to fly this afternoon (first time since surgery), if the weather gods cooperate.

The true test of my recovery starts tomorrow when my brother comes to town for a few days. The last time he was here was after my RPLND, and he dragged me to the new Bass Pro Shops to look at fishing junk. We were there for several hours, and I ALMOST DIED! But then again, I hate shopping, and was still moving relatively slowly at that time.

Doctor visits take place in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, no news until then!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Parallel Universe

Before there was Aaron McGruder and "The Boondocks", there was (and there still is) Keith Knight's "The K Chronicles". You don't see Keith's stuff in mainstream newspapers, by and large. However, he just had a recent series of cartoons about his wife having a mass removed from her chest. It's fairly similar to what The Rev. and I have been through lately:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Big Day

Today is a big day in the life of the church.
Yes it is a Thursday.
No it’s not some obscure holy day.
It is May 4, 2006.
What’s so special about Thursdays you ask?

Nothing in particular except on this date 50 years ago the Methodist Church (now the United Methodist Church) voted to officially ordain women. Girls like me. Some at that General Conference in Minneapolis 50 years ago acted very courageously, going against convention, tradition and culture to say that God indeed does call women to preach. Some were really upset, and they may contine to wonder why it’s taking so long for the church to get to hell in the hand-basket it wove that day….

And yet it's not like women hadn't been preaching. From the UMC.org website:

Clergywomen have been part of Methodism since John Wesley licensed Sarah Crosby to preach in 1761. Although women were ordained in the Methodist tradition as early as the late 1800s, it was the May 4, 1956 General Conference vote for full clergy rights that forever changed the face of ordained clergy. The effect was that any woman in full connection and in good standing would receive an appointment. Now, about 9,500, or one in five clergy, are women and 16 women are active bishops.
I’m proud to be in good standing and expecting no change in my appointment this year. My church and I are a good “fit” and I hope to be here for a long time.

A lot can happen in 50 years, but a lot can also stay the same. Just last week I was reminded that as a girl preacher I make folks uncomfortable:
A person attending the funeral that I conducted last week came up to me afterwards and said, “That was just beautiful, thank you so much.” Then her husband chimed in and said, “Yeah, you done a good job, but I still don’t know about women pastors.” What do you say? I smiled and said, “Well God must be working on you or I wouldn’t be here!” Perhaps a smart-alecky response, but sometimes I am glad that I can think on my feet like that.
What would you have said if someone just complimented the job you did but in the same moment some else doubted you could the job you just did because you are a girl?

I’ve been very blessed. I have not been the first woman pastor in any of the churches I have served. I follow in the footsteps of women who have taught churches that clergywomen are different in the same way that male pastors are different: we each have unique God given personalities and talents that hopefully God can put to use in the places we are appointed by our bishops.

I hope that as I continue in ministry that the path I am walking will make it easier for both the women and men who come after me.

For more informaiton about clergywomen, check out this month's issue of the UM's preacher's magazine called Circuit Rider.
The Rev.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Pearls of Wisdom

I don't got none today.


Grandmother would be SOOOOO proud of my use of English in that sentence. She's probably rolling over in her grave. But wait, does the idiom "rolling over in one's grave" translate when one is cremated? Should it be, "I bet her ashes are flutterin' in her grave?" In any case, my need of her elocution degree is in honor of today's 2nd anniversary of her death -- aged 95 years and a breast cancer survivor herself.

So, no pearls, just random thoughts:

  • Glad that it's not active germ cell cancer.
  • Dealing with my anger that it was for almost a week and could still be in the future.
  • I'm learning each day what it means to live with dragons lurking in the shadows.
  • I hate dragons--yes even "Puff the Magic" one who "lived by the sea and frolicked in the Autumn mist in a land called..." Was that enough to get it stuck in YOUR head? ;-)

I'll quit...for now.

For sincere pearls of wisdom check my friend RevFrog's breast cancer blog.

Peace, Sarah

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The FFR is here!

Got a call from Dr. V. (the onc) today.

me: "What's up?"

Dr. V.: "Well, the 'FFR' is here."

me: "What's that?"

Dr. V.: "The final effin' report."

That's a verbatim quote by the way; I'm not sure the f-word is in Dr. V.'s vocabulary. Anyway, the final pathology results are in from the local lab. Turns out the mass that was removed was not active germ cell cancer after all as the preliminary report said, but was metastasized teratoma, as we had originally expected. Phew! Good news for now.

He had also spoken with the pros from Indianapolis, and they want the pathology slides so they can do their own study and report. Works for me. More news as it develops...

Of Dragons and Garden Peas

I've been in a minor funk these past few days, waiting for a bit of certainty on my course of treatment that just hasn't come yet. But I'm feeling better now...

During my downtime at home, I'm slowly getting caught up on my backlog of various magazines. I'm in the middle of my March 27, 2006 issue of The New Yorker, which features a fabulous article by humorist Calvin Trillin that is a remembrance of his wife Alice Stewart Trillin, who died in 2001 (the article is not online - check it out at your local library). Alice was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1976 (she was a non-smoker) and had surgery and radiation therapy, was given a 10 percent change of surviving two years, then went on to live for another 25 years before dying from heart complications brought on by the very radiation that had given her those extra years of life.

I see a lot of myself in Alice (or a lot of Alice in me): she was a ridiculous optimist about her situation, although at times she needed help to have the courage to wait (this companion article from the New Yorker about a potential recurrence episode evokes shades of what Sarah and I are going through right now -- waiting for the experts to confer and come to a decision on treatment). She also penned a renowned essay for the New England Journal of Medicine in 1981 entitled "Of Dragons and Garden Peas" (you'll have to dig it out of a medical library if you want to read it) in which she describes the fear of mortality embedded in a cancer diagnosis as a dragon which haunts her existence. She went on to say that cancer survivors sometimes feel like knights who have slain their dragons, but "we all know that the dragons are never quite dead and might at any time be aroused, ready for another fight."

Still, through all of this, Calvin writes, Alice felt that:
[T]he meaure of how you held up in the face of a life-threatening illness was not how much you changed but how much you stayed the same, in control of your own identity.
Just like Beth Brophy writes in her Breast Cancer blog, this sentiment hits the nail on the head for me. I think (and tell me if my perceptions are incorrect) that during this part of my life, I've continued to just be "Frank", not "Frank, who (in a hushed voice) has/had cancer". Yes, I have changed, but no more than anybody else changes over the course of a year. My walk with cancer is not a primary defining part of my nature, something that I dwell on constantly. It almost hearkens back to some of the trite expressions I would hear ad nauseam after 9/11: "If we stop [insert here something that we normally did before 9/11], then the terrorists have already won."

...if I give up being a pilot, then the cancer has already won...
...if I lose my sense of humor, then the cancer has already won...
...if I stop performing and enjoying music, then the cancer has already won...

You get the idea. Yet I haven't necessarily had to concentrate on being myself, I've just been that way. We often hear in the media and feel-good chicken-soupy books about those folks who turn cancer into some sort of spiritual rebirthing experience, giving them a new lease on life and an impetus to live their lives to the full. You don't always hear about the ones for whom cancer was just a bump in the road or a pebble in their shoe and for whom life just goes on. Maybe we should.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Counting Scars

I now have a grand total of seven TC-related sites (one of which, the port-a-cath, was actually used twice). Four are from this last trip to have the lung thingy removed.

I'm feeling pretty good, not even using my Norco/Vicodin/Lortab/Zydone pills very often. I take two tylenol as needed, and that's usually when I've pushed myself and feel tired more than anything else. There's a nice sized bruise among the incision sites, and a couple of them are a bit puffy still.

I'm more or less eating what I want and trying to take it easy. Today I had a pretty full plate: sunday school and church, lunch out, and a picnic for my singing group. Even with a 1-1/2 hour nap thrown in, I was still worn out after returning home from the picnic.

We're waiting for the gurus at IU to contact my local treatment team to see how we proceed. The probable options are continued surveillance or salvage chemotherapy. Salvage chemo (has a cheery ring to it, doesn't it?) generally describes of the second-line chemotherapy response to a relapse from a remission. In TC patients, it's usually VeIP (vinblastine, ifosfamide, and cisplatin).

I hate waiting. I don't know what the result will be; I'm hoping for continued surveillance, but we'll see what happens. Just a speed bump.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Cutting Loose

Frank just called me from the hospital. He says, "they are cutting me loose today."
I'll be picking him up after my morning duties have been completed.
The Rev.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Thursday Update

1st for church members. There is a funeral w/ a meal following at our church tomorrow. If you are wanting to help with the meal (brining food/setting up/serving/etc.) please let Marjorie know. If you are on the church email list you need to make sure your responses to the email request were sent to Marjorie, not to me. There’s a few things on my plate right now and I *think* I’ve forwarded all the emails that came to me through 7pm last night (Wednesday).

Ok, Frank.

He had a good night—as good as can be experienced while on a morphine drip and being in a hospital where they take your vital signs every 5 minutes or so. (Ok, not that often)

He’s still requesting no visitors but thanks everyone for all their thoughts and prayers.

All tubes execpt IV were removed around noon today. He may get to go home tomorrow.

The hard stuff:

While the surgery went well, we have encountered a “speed bump”. His oncologist, who says we “pay to be paranoid” (Dr. V’s words) has indeed earned his money on this one. He was the one who insisted that the spot on his lung come out. The initial pathology results in the OR say that the spot was germ cell cancer. These are the same cells that were in his original tumor. It is a metastasis of his Testicular Cancer.

Yeah.

Kinda takes the wind out of your sails doesn’t it?

Personally I felt like someone was sitting on my chest all day yesterday.

Dr. V has a call in to IU to get “some hand holding on this from the experts.” The Dad, my mom and dad and I were all there when Dr. V gave him the news. Dr. V even called Frank's brother Dr. Scott so that Scott could interpret for the the ladies in Atlanta. (Frank's mom and sisters).

Today, we wait happy b/c it is out of him, but also anxious to find out what IU recommends.

Things we know:

  • There were no tumor markers in his blood work when the CT was last done on April 5
  • The spot did not show up as active cancer on a PET scan—but we also don’t know if germ cells show up on that type of scan—a question for IU
  • The spot was small and the Dr. M, the surgeon, did get it all and with only 4 small incisions instead of opening him all the way up
  • Frank has a great attitude
  • And most importantly we WILL get through this

I’ve gotta run.

Peace to you all.

The Rev

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Update!

I took an opportunity over lunch to buzz to the hospital to see Frank with my own eyes. He is indeed doing well. Currently sleeping the sleep of the well medicated.

He did, however, quickly ask the assembled to scram so he could rest. In fact, he asks that folks hold off on visiting.

In lieu of visiting, considering posting a comment here and I will print it off for him.

Surgery News!!!!

Hey all! I just got off the phone with Sarah and have the news re: Frank's surgery.

Things went well! The surgeon was able to remove the area using the VAT process (the video way) so Frank's time in hospital and doing the recovery thing should be on the shorter end of the spectrum.

Thanks for all you do (thoughts, prayers, jokes, food, etc) to hold my sister and dear bother in law in your arms!

Susan

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Here we go!

It's almost time.

Here I was thinking that I could make a leisurely start to the morning and show up at 9 o'clock like they told me originally. But NOOOOOO - they had some cancellations so I have to show up at the butt-crack of dawn (6:30 AM). Well, I premedicated tonight at our local brewpub, so I think I'm ready to go.

Spent the latter part of the evening assembling a baby crib with my father-in-law, while my Dad napped in the living room. I think hanging with Sarah's folks wore him out.

See you on the other side. The Rev. or sinister-in-law will provide updates tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Regarding Frank’s Upcoming Surgery

First, thank to all who have offered or thought about offering to sit with me during his surgery at a local hospital. For the record, his dad Todd and my mom will both be here to keep me from climbing the walls. I won’t be by myself (which would be ok too—I don’t mind being by myself--even at times like this) and hey, I’ll have the bonus of being entertained by two young acting “old people.” (They are both over 60!)

Seriously, having spent time in many waiting rooms with families myself as a clergy person I recognize that there is a “critical mass” of people that can be present and I think that the three of us will be plenty.

You can best help me by keeping him in your thoughts and prayers. I promise that I or one of my minions will post on the blog as soon as we know something so that you can know just about as fast as I will know and possibly faster than Frank will “know” how his surgery turned out.

This is not a big deal, preventive and all will be ok. Just another hill to climb on the rollercoaster of life.

Now follow me:
Throw up your hands, yes, right now where you are sitting ...
hear the click/click/click of the car as is climbs the track? …
Anticipation’s building…were’ close to the top ….
Now hang on and scream
WHEEEEE!
The Rev.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fortunately...

The Rev and I are two ships passing in the night sometimes. Mondays are generally included in those times, so we decided to meet for dinner before heading off to our respective commitments. I suggested Chinese (I had Thai for lunch, if I had been thinking I would have had Korean or Japanese for breakfast to pull the full oriental cuisine trifecta).

When we eat Chinese, we generally shy away from "American Chinese" and go for something a little more exotic, like curried Taiwanese noodles or fish in black bean sauce or Jam Bong (which is technically Korean, I suppose). At one restaurant we always make the wait staff giggle when we order off the Chinese menu.

Anyway, we got the bill and the obligatory fortune cookies. My cookie had two strips of paper, neither of which I would call fortunes. One was a proverb, yadda, yadda, yadda. The other was a bit odd:

"Maybe you can live on the moon in the next century."


WTF? Was I supposed to take this as a hint to vacate the planet? Plus, you really can't do the bit where you add "in bed" to the end of the fortune - it wouldn't make any sense at all. It was humorous, anyway. The Rev.'s fortune was a bit closer to home:


"Your dearest dream is coming true."


Chew on that for a while. By the way, did you know that the largest fortune cookie manufacturer in America employs a middle-aged white guy to write all the fortunes? (He also serves as the company's vice-president and is in charge of accounting.) It was in The New Yorker last year sometime, so it must be true...

Meanwhile, my Dad is planning to come into town next week while I'm laid up - I think he's trying to escape baby duty since my sister delivered her triplets this past weekend. Regardless of his motives, he's planning on hitching a ride into town with Sarah's mom, so hilarity should ensue. Now this is when this whole living on the moon thing would come in handy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Plan

Met with surgeon today. It’s a go for April 26 at a local hospital. Lung spot of ~1 cm will be removed. Dr. will attempt VATS but will open him up more if the situation calls for it. If it is VATS, Frank will be in the hospital 2-3 days, if opened up all the way it could be up to a week in the care of nurses. I’ll make sure to request he has male ones that pull bandages off slowly so he won’t get used to the 24/7 treatment.

He has a lung volume test this Friday and pre-op stuff next week.

Now if anyone has answers to how to deal better with allergy season in Missouri – I’ve been doing it for over – choke – 35 years and still haven’t found anything that works besides going into a benadryll coma for a few months….

Keep his sister, preggers w/ triplets, in your prayers. She been confined to a hospital room for the duration of her pregnancy—it could be a few days or a few weeks….I get to be an Auntie soon!

Tis all for now.

The Rev.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

update

Monday’s visit to the oncologist confirmed what we suspected. The spot on Frank’s lung is not cancerous—it didn’t show up on the PET scan. What the scan did confirm is that he has a brain, kidneys, and a bladder—the trifecta of organs that collect the radioactive solution coursing through his body.
We still visit with a surgeon on Wednesday afternoon as the spot could still be teratoma (pre-cancerous cells) and needs to come out.
The Rev.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Yet another iron in the fire

I have (finally) been given permission to leak the following classified information to the press:

The Rev. and I will be adopting a child.

We're working through a private adoption agency to adopt a domestic infant. We've finished a home study conducted by a social worker, and are in the process of creating a profile of ourselves that will be distributed to potential birth parents.

It's an exciting thing, perhaps the most exciting thing we've ever done. We're slowly getting the house ready; bought some baby furniture, preparing to paint the nursery, started looking at all the baby goo-gaw at the stores. Did I mention how much we love Target?

Still, I would be lying if I didn't say I have an intense dislike for the hoops we have to jump through in order to adopt. Some examples:
  • fingerprinting and criminal background check
  • copies of income tax retuns and certification of income
  • multiple letters of reference
  • letters from doctors
  • dog's shots up to date (I am NOT making this up)
Anyway, it's worth it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another Sidebar on Ethics

As some of you may recall, I am a CPA in real life. As such, I have to live by certain rules that govern the accounting profession. One of those rules is that I am supposed to be in a process of continuous learning, so that my accounting knowledge never goes stale. Granted, there are a lot of areas of accounting knowledge, and I have probably forgotten more about accounting than I have learned since passing the CPA exam.

I'm getting off on a tangent, so allow me to back up a bit. We are in the process (at the foundation) of having our financial statements audited, and this week was the time for the auditors to do their field work. So, in addition to this business about my lung rising to the surface, I also had accountants poring over all our records, asking probing questions and demanding evidence about various the way we do things. A very low-stress environment, you understand.

Anyway, the auditors were planning to be done by Thursday so that they could attend an ethics seminar at MU on Friday. (Part of the continuing education CPAs are required to have every year is at least 2 hours related to ethics). Well, it was free, and there's nothing an accountant likes more than free CPE, so I decided to join them. I figured at the very worst, I would have my ethics requirement done for the year in April. One of the scheduled presenters (Lynn Turner, former chief accountant for the SEC) couldn't make it, so the other speaker modified his presentation to fill the entire two-hour slot. Now, most CPA ethics seminars are interminally boring, so I was a bit concerned about my ability to stay awake for a two-hour presentation.

I needn't have worried. The fellow's name is Patrick Kuhse, and he has quite an interesting history, including a four-year stint in the federal pen for bribery, plus the three years he was on the lam in Costa Rica and various Central and South American countries before he got tired of running and turned himself in. He also owes the government (actually, the state of Oklahoma) about $4 million in restitution, which he hopes to have paid off in the next few years.

During his time in prison, he interviewed his fellow inmates, both white-collar criminals like himself and violent criminals. Based on his interviews, he developed a set of lapses in critical thinking that can lead to unethical actions:

  • Entitlement. The idea that you are owed something because of who you are, and that you are justified in taking it for yourself.
  • Rationalization. Making excuses for your behavior.
  • Victimitis. Rather than taking responsibility for your actions, you play the part of the victim instead.
  • Super optimism. Thinking that you can do anything just as good as an expert, and that you can do no wrong or not get caught.
  • Situational ethics. A sliding scale of responses to ethical dilemmas depending on your stake in the outcome.
  • Affection Disconnection. Getting so caught up in pursuit of your goal that you ignore the advice of your mentors and loved ones or don't realize how your behavior is affecting them.
  • Laziness and Sloppiness. The way most criminals get caught, it happens because of arrogance.
All these breakdowns can lead to seemingly unimportant decisions that can snowball and cause your moral compass to stray from true north. Important lessons to remember, and not just for CPAs.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Woods. Again? Yes.

So, we’re not out of the woods.

Remember back in April 05 when we were surprised to hear that Frank had a dot on his lung that was “unchanged” and we didn’t even know he had one to change? At the time the doctors determined it was probably nothing, but vowed to keep an eye on it; if it changed then they’d do something about it.

Well, Frank went yesterday for his 4 month CT/blood work check up. Good news: tumor markers are not, I repeat are not elevated. However, said dot has grown from .9 to 1.35 cm. As far as Dr. V is concerned that is in the wrong direction. So, it will come out; how is yet to be determined. (When will that Star Trek technology be made real so they can just “transport” the bad stuff out?)

Frank has a PET scan (Positron emission tomography scan) on Friday afternoon to determine if there is anything else in his chest that needs to be addressed while the surgeon is inside him. Monday morning we will go see Dr. V (the oncologist) and Wednesday we will go to visit a thoracic (meaning related to the chest) surgeon here in town to inquire about the surgery (when, how extensive, do we need a 2nd opinion?).

In other words in the midst of other big huge life plans: Frank has re-entered “the zone”. It’s that place where he finds out as much information as he can about the options available to him and he sets the course for treatment to cure. (He’s even looked up the different types of surgery this may require—because as my mom said, he needs to know so he can let the doctors know what they should do.)

When in the zone Frank is determined and focused. When he’s there I try real hard not to “spin” or go into “hover craft mode”. Wish me luck. The surgery (because he’s shared with me too the information, because there is a part of me that will want to be in the OR helping) could be as simple as a few incisions, done in laparoscopic fashion called video-assisted thoracic surgery, or he could have an incision from his arm pit to his waist line. Either procedure means a stay in the hospital from a few days to over a week. BUT, do need to say that this information is not based upon my discussion with any surgeon, just what Frank is finding out in "the zone" and relaying to me.

All I have left to say is: I’m gonna be really happy when he stops this habit of collecting scars! This silly competition with my mom has GOT TO STOP.

The Rev.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cancer Sucks

But y'all knew that already, didn't you. Several items have come to our attention in the past few days to cause the Rev and I to pause and reflect on our long, strange trip through cancer treatment.

First, there was a story on NPR Monday about a man with an incurable brain tumor who kept an audio diary of his journey through treatment. Along with his taped comments, we heard his wife describe how he changed dramatically, sometimes into a bit of a monster. We thought about how lucky we both were in our own cancer battle. We had it relatively easy by comparison.

Then today, we learned that our friend (and fellow clergy person) Kelly has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is now beginning a journey through treatment with her life partner Steve. We will be with them in spirit every step of the way and in person when we can.

But we occasionally get to be a resource for others, too. It feels good to help. Over the weekend I corresponded with a fellow with TC who is about to undergo the same surgical procedure I had last May. I've been able to pass on my experiences and suggestions to many different people and hopefully in some small way I can make a very frightening journey a little bit less daunting for them. Until a cure is found for all cancers, that may be the best I can do to help.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Farewell, Andrew

Andrew Molenda, fellow testicular cancer survivor, died yesterday, after several years of fighting TC and its related complications. He will be remembered fondly and missed terribly by his wife Amy, his children Liam, Alena (Lanie) and Evan, as well as scores of family, friends, and fellow TC survivors. He was 30 years old.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Andrew in person, but in this digital age, we made contact through the internet. We started our blogs at about the same time; mine as I was beginning chemo, his as he was enduring treatment for his relapse that occurred in late 2004. He was an inspiration to me, a never-ending example of the Livestrong philosophy.

As I said in the blog a while back, I feared that Andrew's time with us was limited. Nevertheless, I was saddened to see this weekend that he had entered end of life care, and felt like I had been punched in the stomach when I read this morning about his passing. Like most major life changes, even when you expect it, you never really expect it when it actually happens.

My prayer today is that the Molenda family will continue to Livestrong, and that they will have comfort and peace.