Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jessica and Luke Host Christmas Dinner


Luke came to Fresno for a visit.
So we put him to work right away.
Practicing working in the kitchen together with Jessica.


They did get some occasional input from Sue.
But not much.


Jessica cooked the turkey, the potatoes, the gravy,
the cranberry relish, the jello, and the vegetables.


And Luke helped.  He cleaned the turkey,
put it in the oven, took it out, carved it, and
said the blessing for the meal.


Valerie set the table and made the salad.


And we're talking first class all the way.


The elders sat and enjoyed ourselves.


Sipped a little wine and encouraged the dinner hosts.


And it all came together without a hitch.
Maybe Luke and Jessica will host Thanksgiving in
Colorado Springs next year?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Joyful Christmas Morn


2009 was a hard year, but we have a lot to be thankful for.  This Christmas morning we had sunshine and blue skies, good friends and family, good food spread over the Christmas table, and a honkin' big bottle of  brut champagne.  Here's a few snapshots from our joyful Christmas morn.


Red and greeen girls with red and green surrogate mom, Cindy.


Christmas presence. Two peas and a pod.


Love around the table.  Family, friends and food. 
Who could ask for more?


Similar haircuts, similar smiles, similar devious natures. 
Simlar black and red outfits. Maybe they're related?


Dr. Woof inspects the sedated Christmas scene. 
We were young, once.  But that was then, and this is now.


Treed up.



T'd up. Mamosas and fire-hot eggs. 
Now that's a California Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

When It Rains



You'd think having cancer for a year would garner one enough attention.  But some people seem to like a lot of attention.  It's not as if Sue wasn't already getting enough attention from Doctors and other medical professionals.  Still, that is her car, and that is her in the driver's seat, and that is a fire truck and a police car and Sue was interviewed by paramedics as well as the policeman.  And that is the ambulance that took Sue to the emergency room this morning, where she was attended by doctors and nurses and x-ray tecnicians and such.  And that is me dressed for the office Christmas party I didn't attend, and Valerie took the picture and also didn't go to the Christmas party.

However, the Madera Management Company office Christmas party traveled to Fresno and we had a festive exchange outside the Saint Agnes Medical Center emergency room.

Sue did her very best to take out the electric service boxes that control the lights at the First and Herndon intersection.  She got the first one good, but the second box was a little instransigent; It turned out to be on a concrete base.  Sue's car smells like gunpowder now from the driver's side air bag deployment.  The car also looks a little shorter today than it did yesterday.  And a little dehydrated.








Sue 's back home now.  I think she'll recover.  I have my doubts about the car making a full recovery.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What Good Am I?

Sunday December 13, 2009. University of California at San Francisco.  Sue's back in the hospital here, and I am reacquainting myself with some of my old friends, like Ms. Blood-bot.  I said I was done blogging but as they say, never say never.

A month ago Sue had scheduled a routine follow-up exam with Dr. Wolf for Friday, December 11. It turned out to not be routine. About a week ago Sue started experiencing pain in her lower back again. By Thursday night Sue was experiencing extreme pain in her lower back and increased neuropathy pain and weakness in all four extremities (feet and hands). She was discouraged, in a lot of pain, and emotionally wrought.

Until recently Sue had been doing very well, so I booked one of our favorite Christmas vacation spots, the Grand Hyatt at Union Square.  Union Square at Christmas is usually festive. This weekend it was rainy and cold.  While we managed to squeeze in a nice late dinner Thursday night with David Carico and his friend, Rhonda, at Zuni's Cafe on Market Street, Sue was uncomfortable the whole evening.  Sue did not sleep much on Thursday night.  She paced around and cried a lot.  Some of the crying was from the pain, and some was from the emotional stuff, mostly unspoken and inferred by me:  Why me?  Why now?  I was getting better.  I was planning to go back to work in January and get back on with my life.  I can't keep doing this.  It isn't fair.

So on Friday she was also quite exhausted, both physically and emotionally. As we sat in the exam room at 500 Parnasus, waiting for Dr. Wolf, a young woman walked by with an older man. Normally the exam room doors are closed, but this time it was open.  The young woman looked at Sue, stopped, backed up, approached the room and said, to Sue, "You're my oh my myeloma, aren't you?" My Oh My Myeloma is Sue's blog "handle." The young lady, I'll call her "SFL" for San Francisco Lady, had recognized Sue from her blog. SFL had been reading myeloma blogs because her father had been diagnosed with myeloma.  SFL's father had a stem cell transplant at UCSF just after Sue had hers, and so Sue's blog (and mine) about her STC experience was of particular interest to SFL. SFL's father doesn't speak english, so she has been his primary assistant through all of his medical treatments.

Sue was delighted and encouraged by our brief encounter with SFL and her father. We had but the briefest hint of the struggles SFL was going through.  She was in college at another UC campus, she'd said, and it was hard for her to concentrate on her studies.  Further, she really didn't have anyone to talk to about her situation.  SFL is from a private family and from a private culture where talking about such things is not usual.  Just the day before she had decided to start a blog. 

We have been extremely blessed by the many caring friends we've encountered on Sue's cancer journey.  Our blogs have brought us in contact with many good people outside our normal circles.  We've developed friends and prayer partners throughout the world.  You blog readers have been a community for us.

Sometimes when you are knocked down you think thoughts like, "I'm broken.  My life is over.  What good am I?"  There are times of experiencing sadness and loss.  We had prayed for God to show us what good could come from Sue's cancer experience, that is, what good we could do.

We don't think our encounter with SFL was a chance encounter.  We think it was an answer to our prayer. SFL's blog is titled: A Daughter's Perspective, and can be found at:

http://dadsmyelomajourney.blogspot.com/

I invite you to read SFL's blog and then to join Sue and me in being in community with her.  I specifically invite you to pray for SFL and her family.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gone Fishin'

When Sue was diagnosed with cancer last May she started blogging to inform her friends and family and cancer family about her treatments, her prognoses, and her needs. She suggested that I blog about my perspectives regarding her cancer experience. So I did. I blogged for six months under this blog title --The My Wife Has Cancer Blog.

While she still has some healing to do, Sue's better now, and there's not much to write about on this blog. She's very much alive, and this blog is dead. I got hooked on blogging, though, so I'm starting a new blog called The Fisher's Line. And if you care to read it, it can be found here:

http://thefishersline.blogspot.com/

I thank you all for following this blog, and especially for your prayers and concern for Sue and our family.  I've enjoyed getting to know some of you better through your comments and by following your blogs.

If you have been reading this blog because you have cancer, or because someone you know has cancer -- particularly multiple myeloma, and you want to know how all this ends -- or if you are concerned that Sue's cancer may kick up again -- in which case I'll probably start blogging about it here, you can either click the "Follow" button at the top of this page (if you are a member and if you are logged in), or the "Subscribe To" button at the bottom of this page, to be advised of any future posts.  Remember, though, no news is good news on a cancer blog.

If you wish to dialogue with me about your cancer, or about our experience with Sue's cancer or her treatments, or any other subject of interest to you, please feel free to email me at:

thefisher@comcast.net

For now, like Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby in their famous song (click the link for the song), I'm Gone Fishin'.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Follow Your Dreams

One time I had dinner at the house of a man who loves to listen to Rush Limbaugh. “Do you listen to Rush?” he asked. “I’ve heard his show on a few occasions, but I don’t listen to it.” I replied. “Why not?” he pressed. “Because I find him to be mean-spirited,” I said. I really don't have time for negativity, or for dream-bashers.

There are lots of choices in this world in terms of who or what you can follow. You can “follow” talking heads, like Limbaugh, “follow” sports teams, “follow” certain shows on t.v., and “follow” your favorite blogs. This blog even has a few faithful followers.

The 1947 broadway play, Finian’s Rainbow, is playing again on Broadway. The show features a song called Look To The Rainbow which features this chorus: “Look, look, look to the rainbow. Follow it over the hill and the stream. Look, look, look to the rainbow. Follow the fellow who follows a dream.” (I believe it's author, Edgar Harburg, also penned Somewhere Over The Rainbow.)

For the past 20 years or so there's been a coffee cup on my desk at work with a broken handle and a picture of a rainbow and the words "Follow Your Dreams." The cup holds my pens, pencils and letter opener, so I look at it multiple times a day. Over the years I've tried to be true to that motto. About four years ago Susan and I had an opportunity to follow another dream, that of co-owning a small resort at Huntington Lake with some of our friends.

Lakeview Cottages is a seasonal resort. Every fall we have to board up the cabins and winterize them to withstand the snow and freezing temperatures that inevitably blanket the high Sierra Nevada mountains. This year Tom Curwen, an annual summer guest of the Cottages and a writer for the Los Angeles Times, wrote a story for the Times about closing the Lakeview Cottages for winter. His story, "An Elegy For Summertime," is personal and poetic, touching on Sue's cancer and how fragile and uncertain life can be. There is a companion audio slide show by Times photographer, Mark Boster, titled "Buttoning Up."

Life really is fragile and uncertain. We don't have forever to do what we have to do, or what we want to do, or what we're called to do. Follow your dreams. And if you follow someone, follow someone who follows a dream.








Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Is There Another Way?

Often when Sue and I are hiking in the back country of the Sierras -- particularly over unfamiliar terrain -- we'll be trying to look and feel our way through, trying to find the best path to where we're ultimately headed, and we'll come to a place where the path ahead looks difficult, dangerous or even impossible. When that happens we are faced with a choice: forge on, or retreat. Always the underlying question is: Is there another way? Or maybe more correctly: Is there a better way?

Usually, though not always, there is another way. But what constitutes a better way? One that's less risky? Shorter? Easier? More scenic? More memorable? Usually the easier way is less risky, but also less scenic and less memorable. Sometimes you really don't know which way will be better, and once you pick one route over the other(and unless you later traverse the other route) you may never know whether the choice you made was the best choice.

People, like Sue, who are faced with life-threatening medical conditions are often faced with this question. Sue and I had to decide whether a stem cell transplant was the best way. There were alternative routes. But once we chose that STC trail, or at least once we were committed to it, there was no turning back.

It's been a hard trail -- especially for Sue. For a while there she was hecka sick, and majorly distraught and discouraged. But it's been a memorable trail (though there are parts of it that Sue doesn't remember). The big ups and downs, great victories, the high mountain passes, as well as the big valleys, the hardships and trials, tend to etch their circumstances into our memories. The hard trails are like that. The unusual trails are like that. And this has been the most unusual trail of our lives so far.

Did we choose the best route? Would Sue have been just as well off, or even better off, if we had not chosen the STC trail? We'll never know. All we know now is, this is the trail we chose; this is the trail we're on. So we're making the best of it.

Oh sure, like every hike we've been on, there's been pain and irritation. The pain of sore muscles, tired feet, blisters. The pesky mosquitoes and gnats that dog you on the trail. The tiredness at the end of the day, hoping the climb will end, hoping the day's campsite will appear so we can throw down our packs and rest. But we're waking up every day and giving thanks for another day on the trail. For another sunrise. For another scrambled egg and bacon burrito eaten over an open fire. For another breath of pure mountain air. For another beautiful vista. For the awe that fills us every time we are on the trail.

And we are thankful for our hiking companions. For each other, yes. And for each of you who have walked all or part of this trail with us.

Is there another way? Well, maybe there was. But not now.

Is there a better way? I don't think so.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

We Gather Together


Last weekend I enjoyed five "gatherings" outside around open fires; two night-time campfires; two early morning fishermens' warming fires; and one mid-day trout-fry fire. Though the gathered few were somewhat disparate in our faith views and practices, each of these "gatherings" was a worship session of sorts. For example, the first night fire was started by my buddy, Mark, in the campfire ring by his cabin. Five of us gathered around to cook hot dogs on marshmallow forks, sip wine and share a deep conversation that ran from politics to fathers. And through it all we each were held in wonder and awe at the handiwork of God with which we were surrounded.

One of our gathered group, Mark Boster, is a professional photographer. He had come to our gathering from an assignment taking fall pictures in Yosemite. Somehow the subject of the well-known Yosemite Chapel came up. At 130 years of age, the Chapel is allegedly the oldest structure in Yosemite National Park. The Ken Burns television series on the National Parks, which aired recently on PBS, noted that John Muir thought it somewhat asinine to build a church in one of the greatest cathedrals in the world, though, according to a May 2009 article by Lynn Arave, Muir did speak there on at least one occasion. We might even assume that Muir worshipped there occasionally. Galen Clark was another Californian who, like Muir, sought to protect Yosemite. Clark put it this way:

"It seems almost sacrilege to build a church within the portals of this the grandest of all God's temples. It is like building a toy church within the walls of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. But it will clearly show the contrast between the frail and puny works of man, as compared with the mighty grandeur and magnificence of the works of God, and I hope it will do good."

I pondered these thoughts this morning while sitting in my home church, North Fresno Mennonite Brethren Church. We were gathered in a group of two hundred or so church brothers and sisters, surrounded by sedate tan walls, listening to Gary Wall, our district minister, preach (among other things) about the importance of gathering as a community.

Do we need the buildings of the local church to discover the mighty hand of God? Not at all. God's own creation will be witness enough. Do we need the gathered body of the local church to worship God? Not at all. We may walk alone in the wilderness -- or be together only with the wild animals in one of God's own grand cathedrals -- and have a most excellent time of worship. But what of being community?

It is for community that We Gather Together. One can sing a most excellent melody alone, but, aside from multi-track recording, one cannot sing alone in four-part harmony. However, it isn't solely for the harmony of music we gather in community; We gather together because we are social beings made whole only by the blessings of being in community. Sue is lifted up and blessed, and healed, by our community of church friends.
Whether we gather with a thousand faithful in the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, or we gather as a group of five around a campfire at Huntington Lake, being together in community is a significant part of what God intended for us. American Public Media has presented a special one hour Thanksgiving program, narrated by Garrison Keillor, titled "We Gather Together." Why don't you gather together with several of your community of friends and listen in? Click the link and then click "listen to the program."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Surrogate Mother

Sue's mother, Peggy, passed away around 1990. She died at the age of 59 of cancer. We had two little girls at the time, ages 2 and 1.

But Sue wasn't ready to be without a mother. Lucky for her, she had a really good aunt, Aunt Audrie, who stepped in and became something of a surrogate mother to Sue. After she graduated from college, Sue took a job as a quality-control specialist in a garment factory in Los Angeles. During that year Sue lived with her Aunt Audrie and Uncle Russell in Hermosa Beach, California.

Sometimes when you're sick your mind takes you back to yester-years. You remember being sick as a kid, and how your mom took care of you. Now, even though you're "all grown up," sometimes when you're sick you just want your mommy.

Aunt Audrie is one of the most gracious, kind and generous people I have ever met. She calls Sue periodically and I have overheard bits and pieces of the conversation. Sue loves her Aunt Audrie, and several times recently I have heard her choke up a bit on saying goodby to her.

Yesterday Sue's Aunt Audrie, together with Sue's Uncle Val and his wife, Betty, stopped by for a visit. They were on their way back to Southern California following an elderhostel trip to Carmel. We shared a dinner meal with them. Our neighbors, Mark and Cindy, also joined us for dinner. They are surrogates of a different kind. We refer to each other as "chosen family." They've been like an extra mom and dad for our daughters.

For the past two weeks Sue has felt crummy. She's had a cold and she's been a little depressed -- or anyway a little sad. But yesterday was a really good day. She felt good and her spirits were buoyed. It's amazing how much healing power is in a "mother's" touch and presence. It's amazing how important it is to be surrounded by family, even if some of them are surrogates.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Shades of Sadness


On Monday of last week I left Fresno at 6 a.m. to drive up to Huntington Lake to meet representatives from Southern California Edison and the U.S. Forest Service about taking down some hazard trees to which SCE has attached their power lines. When I hit the country roads north of Fresno with a good view of the mountains it was still dark in the valley, but a pale white light -- what we fisherman call "first light" --was creeping up behind the mountains to the east. The mountains were black, and the only thing ascertainable was the ridge line behind which, slowly, the white light began to illuminate the landscape; First giving gray form to mountains and trees previously hidden in darkness, then, by degrees, giving up details.

As I got up to Pine Ridge, about 4,500 feet in elevation, I had a good view of the foothills and valley below. Low-lying fog filled the areas between the foothills and spilled out in thin sheets across the valley. As the sun rose and the light intensified; it changed the hues of the fog from gray to white to pink to orange, giving the foggy landscape below a melancholy, soft-edged watercolor-painting look.

The temperature at Shaver Lake was 30F, and steam was rising off the surface of the water as if the lake was a huge simmering cauldron. By the time I got up to Tamarack Ridge the outside temperatures had dropped to 20F. There was a fair amount of ice on the road. Icy mountain roads can be dangerous. I slowed way down so as not to become a statistic.

Fog and cold are two things that can slow you down. And while they have the capacity to invigorate, fog and cold also have the capacity to lock you up in unmoving, frozen gridlock. Let's be dead-on honest -- fog and cold can depress you, and if you aren't careful, they can kill you.

Sue was diagnosed with her cancer around May 1, following four months of increasingly debilitating pain. She is now in her fifth month of grinding medical treatment, so this whole process of having cancer, being diagnosed and being treated is coming up on a year now. And while she has, for the most part, maintained an amazingly good attitude throughout the whole ordeal, there have been times when sadness has settled over her like a cold fog. It's understandable. It's almost inevitable, or anyway, it's common.

In Sue's case, the neuropathy has been a constant source of physical pain. At one of her recent appointments with the local oncology doctor, the doctor told Sue that her neuropathy should have resolved by now and, since it hasn't yet resolved, maybe it won't. My mom always told us kids that "honesty is the best policy," but I'm not sure that's always the case. After Sue had that appointment with her doctor, I thought I noticed more sadness than usual.

I've been depressed myself at times, and I was worried that depression may have set in on Sue. True depression is different than just being sad, and, unaddressed, it can be as dangerous as an icy mountain road. Sue denied being clinically depressed, but at my urging she did consult her doctor about it. The doctor thought her sadness was normal and didn't seem overly concerned. I don't know clinical depression from tropical depression. But I know a sad person when I see one.

People often misuse the phrase "I'm depressed" to mean they are sad about something. It's used kind of fliply. But no one wants to cop to really being depressed in the clinical sense. It seems that people are stigmatized by the idea of depression, like it is some kind of a bad thing that you have done or you are somehow defective if you get it. Recently (August 25, 2009) Scientific American ran an article titled "Depression's Evolutionary Roots" suggesting that depression is not a malfunction of the brain, but that it is actually a useful survival adaptation of the human species. The authors of the article cite research which indicates somewhere between 30 to 50 percent of people in the U.S. have at some time met the current definition of "major depressive disorder." The authors conclude: "When one considers all the evidence, depression seems less like a disorder where the brain is operating in a haphazard way, or malfunctioning. Instead, depression seems more like the vertebrate eye—an intricate, highly organized piece of machinery that performs a specific function."

On this sadness versus depression question as it pertains to Sue, and even to me, I am in a bit of a dark fog. I can see some outlines in black against the first light. And as the light is beginning to intensify, the hues of the fog we're in are changing from gray to white to pink to orange, giving the foggy situation a melancholy soft-edged watercolor-painting look.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Power To Move Mountains


Last weekend while "the girls" quilted a few of "us boys" did a little "man" work. We cut up some wood using chain saws. We spread some wood chips around using a golf cart and dump trailer. We split some wood using a hydraulic wood splitter. If you've ever split wood the old fashioned way and then split wood using a hydraulic splitter, you know the power of machines. It's awesome what a machine can do.

The guys who are going to mill the trees we had felled at Lakeview Cottages have a big machine, a John Deere tractor with hydraulic claws, that can move logs the size of mobile homes. That's me in the cab. Only the photographer knows for sure whether I'm really operating the tractor. But even if I'm not, it's the idea of the thing, that with a machine like that I'd have the power to lift a huge log and move it around like lifting a toothpick and waving it around.

And as I spent the weekend marveling at the power of machines I contemplated the notion of power. What has power to move things? And it occurred to me that, as powerful as machines are, we have at our disposal at least three things with even more power than machines.

With the water level going down for the winter the faces of the four dams at Huntington Lake are exposed. I rode my Yamaha 225 around a bit inspecting dams and lakebeds and old short-line railroad tracks and massive water pipes and huge turbines and just marveled at the work that was done to create this system of lakes and power generating plants. But it wasn't the machines so much as it was the power of an idea -- the power of imagination and vision, that moved this huge project from nothing to reality.

John Eastwood, an engineer who was a pioneer in dam building and hydroelectric project design, rode alone on a mule through the San Joaquin river watershed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, envisioning a series of dams and hydroelectric power generation facilities at a time when no comparable system existed anywhere in the world. While he was given little credit for his ideas, and did not profit much from them, it was Eastwood's ideas and vision that really set everything in motion to move the mountains and capture the power of the water. Southern California Edison calls the emergent project, the Big Creek Project, "the hardest working water in the world."

Machines don't make ideas; Ideas make machines. So ideas are more powerful than machines. Ideas are in the mind, where another great power originates -- that of faith. I once heard a speaker say that every great champion has one thing in common; they all have faith (a strong and abiding belief that something will happen before there is concrete evidence to support it). These people have faith before they become a champion, that they can and will be champion. Faith is a driving force without which great things usually cannot be accomplished. Faith taps you into power beyond yourself. Jesus once said that " ... if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20

One thing is still more powerful, or at least more essential. All the recent science fiction movies envision the horror of a world controlled by machines or computers. Great and powerful machines but lacking the one great power of which we humans all have the capacity. And here I am talking about love. Paul, the apostle, put it this way: " ... if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:2

Sue's slow recovery from cancer has relied on all of these great powers: the power of machines; the power of ideas; the power of faith; and the power of love. But without the latter, without the love you and we have given her, it's all for naught. Love has the power to move people, and really that's more important than moving things, isn't it? Be a powerful person today. Tell or show someone you love them.


Friday, October 2, 2009

The Fabric of Community

Last night began the second annual quilters' retreat at Camp Keola. Last year a group of women from North Fresno Mennonite Brethren Church met there for an informal communal quilting retreat. This year they will be joined by women from Mennonite Community Church. It's quite a sight to see these ladies, young and old, with their projects spread out over numerous tables throughout the dining hall; Fabrics in every imaginable color and pattern, notions and sewing machines, clippers and pins. Tables of food and fruit and cakes and pies and cookies and snacks line the back wall, and coffee and tea are brewing all day and all night. All the while the ladies are working and carrying on the conversations of community.

The days at Huntington Lake now are clear and cool, and overnight temperatures dip into the high twenties. But the big dining hall is heated and as cozy as a large community teepee. I can imagine women and girls of the long-ago tribes sitting together cross-legged in their community teepee with their leather or bead or craft projects on their laps, contentedly working and humming and carrying on the conversations of community in the native ways.

Sue does not really have the energy for this yet. But she is there, among them, camped out in a canvas easy chair, wrapped in coats and blankets, with a hand-stitching project on her lap, listening and laughing and enjoying the comeraderie. And napping on and off. There is something healing about community. It's like an aromatic, warm balm.

Jessica is there, too. She's almost finished a dress and is starting a new quilt. Jessica needed help putting a zipper in the dress. Sue did not have the oomph to get up and show her how to do it, so Dotty showed Jessica. That's part of the beauty of community -- the whole village chipping in to help each other, to show the way, to teach and learn, to share stories, share a laugh, share a meal, and to share each others' burdens. For Jessica they are all surrogate moms and sisters.

It will be a busy weekend, but measured. Women creating beautiful quilts, sharing lives, making memories. Tom Hunter's song "Weaving" puts it like this: "We are weaving, weaving, weaving the future from the fabric of our past." These ladies are weaving the fabric of community, and it's a crazy, durable, strong, beautiful fabric .

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Good That You Have Done



This week Sue and I have been watching the Ken Burns series on the national parks which has been airing on PBS every night at 8 p.m. PST. It's fascinating. One of the most interesting aspects of the series is that it highlights the many and disparate individuals who played pivotal roles in the creation of the national parks, which the Burns' series calls "America's Best Idea."

Stephen Mather was one of the most pivotal characters in the creation of the national parks, and in particular the National Park Service. A self-made millionaire who found his soul restored in the wilderness, Mather spent a good deal of his own money and devoted much of his life and energy to the creation and development of the National Park Service and the creation and development of our national parks. I have stood at Mather Point on the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park, camped in Mather Campground in Yosemite National Park, and traversed Mather Pass in Kings Canyon National Park, never knowing who Mather was and what he did. A number of the national parks have brass plaques honoring Mather which read:

"Stephen Tyng Mather July 4, 1867 - January 22, 1930. He laid the foundation of the National Park Service, defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be developed and conserved unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good that he has done."

This morning while going over a property management contract I was reminded of a recent "investigation" that was done on a former business partner and friend of mine, Mark D. This fellow showed up at my office one day out of the blue and started asking questions about Mark. Said he was an investigator. I was a little cautious until he explained that Mark had applied for a position with the City of Fresno and the investigator had been hired by the City to check on his background by interviewing former employers and associates. I truthfully told the investigator all about Mark, which was all good. Finally the guy asks me, "isn't there anything bad you can say about this guy?" And I told him no, there really wasn't. He told me he just had to meet this Mark guy because I was the tenth person who basically told him the same story. Super nice guy, super competent, great to work with, nothing bad to say. He said he didn't really believe the first two people who told him that, but by the time he got to me he was pretty much sold that it might all be true; Maybe there is a guy who really is a good guy.

This evening when I got home from work a lady named Kathy S. was just leaving after having visited with Sue. Kathy had brought some food for us too. She's one of the ladies who gave Sue the gift certificate for a pedicure last May (see my June 3 blog titled "Decisions Decisions"). We'd just finished a plate of Kathy's food when Connie and Steve F. brought enchiladas and other midwestern food delights. Connie brought food last week too. Connie and Steve have each had their own serious health issues and I am ashamed to say I never even sent them a card (though I truthfully thought about them both a good deal). These are but three of many who have humbled us with thoughtful, helping goodness.

Cards by the dozens, gifts and food and quilts and shawls and hats and scarves and visits, phone calls and prayers. Assistance with appointments and needs. Grater lights, gifts and prayers from people we've never even met. The list of deeds and doers is too long to mention. The good that you all have done for Sue has helped her maintain a remarkable attitude. She has at times been thankful to have experienced such an outpouring of love and goodness which, but for her cancer she would not have experienced to this degree; Thankful to have experienced having cancer, because of the good that you have done.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Harps In Heaven

O.K. Needler, this is for you.

Larry Martens has been a fishing friend of mine for a few years now. He was our pastor at North Fresno Mennonite Brethren Church and I first got to know him in that capacity. I liked him as a pastor, but I like him even better now that he is retired. You know, for us sinners there can be a little strain when you're fishing with your pastor.

Last weekend Larry accompanied his wife, Kathleen, to Huntington Lake. Kathleen attended Margaret Hudson's annual art retreat at Camp Keola, and Larry and I fished. The fishing was really lousy, but the company was good. In the course of the day Larry told me about a dinner he had recently attended where the speaker was a man named Don Piper. Piper had written a bestselling book about his experience of being dead for 90 minutes and then coming back to life. While he was dead, Piper recalls spending time in heaven. The book is titled "90 Minutes In Heaven." I haven't read the book yet, but based on Larry's description of Piper's story, I definitely will read it. I do believe in heaven, I just am not sure where it is or what to expect when I get there.

Susan and I returned to San Francisco on Friday for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Wolf. Her numbers were good, she was mentally present and alert, and Dr. Wolf thinks she is recoving nicely. Friday was day plus-24. Dr. Wolf says she'll be about back to normal at plus-60, i.e. in about another month. Dr. Wolf is predicting Sue won't be seeing heaven for years. Note: The title of this blog is "Harps In Heaven" -- not "Harpers In Heaven."

On the subject of harpers in heaven, while we were in San Francisco we took a gift basket of appreciation to the staff of 11 Long. When we walked into the main lobby of the hospital, there was a harpist playing who plays in the lobby regularly. I intended to blog about her when Sue was in the hospital up there, but it never worked out. One time Dotty Warkentin, my favorite harpist, called me after I had spent some time listening to this hospital harpist, and I told her the hospital harping had caused me to think of her. (Actually Dotty called for Susan, but I answered the phone. Nonetheless, she seemed pleased to know I'd thought of her.)

Anyway, while Sue and I sat in the hospital lobby listening to the harpist play Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In the Wind" on Friday I thought, "you know, this is risky playing harp music in the lobby of a hospital." Harps, it seems to me, are the official instrument of heaven -- well, besides trumpets. It brought back a memory of a time when Valerie was quite young, possibly three years old, and we were passing a grave yard on our way to church, and Valerie piped up and said, "Hey, there's heaven!" Upon exploring this with her a little, it turned out that she'd added up that (some) people go to heaven when they die, and we'd told her that Grandma Freeman had gone to heaven, and she knew Grandma Freeman was buried in a graveyard, so she figured that graveyard we'd just passed must be heaven (or at least part of it). It all made perfect sense.


We made a quick turn-around on Friday and then on Saturday morning we headed up to our small corner of heaven on earth at Huntington Lake. Sue felt pretty good all weekend and walked around a bit, visited a bit, napped a bit. Here she is inspecting the stump of one of the five trees we had professionally felled last week. This tree quite possibly will not be going to heaven. It literally has a black hole in it's heart. Maybe that's why the tree was weeping constantly. (Really, there was a constant stream of water weeping out of the tree.)




It's sad to lose a big tree like this. We're going to have it milled into lumber and, among other things, we'll be making picnic tables from the lumber to serve the guests of our cabins. You know, in some ways it's like this with people. Life sort of saws you off at the knees and you have to make adjustments to continue to be useful in some other way than you were before. It's either that or just give up and join the Harpers.

Postscript trivia: What is the difference between a "harper" and a "harpist?"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

ruoT yretsyM lacigaM

Roll up, roll up, for the Magical Mystery Tour. Sue's medications were cut back significantly yesterday. Then, this morning, just like magic, she was back in her mind. Sort of like a magical mystery tour in reverse. I knew she was back last night at 2:00 a.m. when she wanted to get up for a snack. I asked her "when did Columbus sail the ocean blue?" By golly, she came right up with the textbook answer.

The medication cutbacks have already resulted in Sue experiencing mild symptoms of pain (mostly the neuropathy in her lower legs and feet) and mild nausea. We are all relieved to know her confusion of late has been medication induced, and is probably not the result of a physiological problem. Our local team of caregivers will be in earnest conversation over the next weeks, together with Sue and her doctors, about setting medication levels that deal with Sue's symptoms while not sending her off on another magical mystery tour.

Meanwhile, the love is back at our house and we are all on our own Magic Bus. But that's a trip to describe another day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Common Ground

The comments to my "Too Many Cooks" post are mild compared to some of the emails, personal "talks" and phone calls I have received. Did I hit a sore spot here? Apparently so.

What I have discovered is that there are a lot of people who have gone through a similar situation where a loved one is in need of medical care (and medications) and the nuclear caregiver family members (plus extended family and caring friends) are in some disagreement about how the care should be done. This, coupled with an already stressed family group, various disfunctions of communication and relating and problem solving, etc., has led, in many cases, to personal pain and relationship strains.

Thank you to those who have shared some of your painful experiences with me, as well as your concerns and insights. My post was not a clarion call of distress. Actually, I read the post to both of my daughters prior to posting it. Do they agree with everything I said? No. Will they ever agree completely with me? No. Do they know that I love them and that I am proud of them both? I'm pretty sure they do. I tell that to them often and it's one of the things I say that they do agree with as reasonable on my part. Is everything hunky-dory? Not yet, but that's o.k.

Was my post intended as a public trashing of those who disagree with me? Not at all. It was intended as an honest yet somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at a real situation we faced --which apparently is similar to situations some of you have faced as well. Did I own my own shortcomings? Well, some I did. This is, after all, my blog.

By the way, we (Sue, Jessica and I) did consult the local oncology doctor this morning and she has prescribed a significant cut-back of medications. Now where did I put my own pain and sleep meds? Ciao.

Cancer Cookin'

As a counterpoint to my last "Too Many Cooks" post I have to mention this gem. Jessica found and purchased a Cancer Cookbook from the American Cancer Society. The book is creatively titled: What To Eat During Cancer Treatment. Notwithstanding the drab but informative title, it is a fantastic book. I recommend it to you if you are being treated for cancer or as a gift for someone you know who is being so treated. I only wish the food service director at the UCSF medical center, where they treat hundreds of cancer patients a year, would have used this book as a resource for providing food to the "guests" of 11 Long.

This isn't to say that the food served at the UCSF medical center wasn't good. I enjoyed it tremendously. Unfortunately, Sue, the patient, could hardly eat any of it. Nausea is practically a given with patients who've had a heavy dose of Melphalan (or other toxic chemo drugs). Diarrhea is also quite common. You would think a big hospital like UCSF medical center would have a special diet specific to the STC/BMT ward. You know, something like the Cancer Brat Diet.

Anyway, Sue's eating better now that she's home. Additionally, our team of cooks is working at getting on the same sheet of music. Or is that the same cookie sheet? Talk about mixed metaphors! We're getting together in some kind of sheet.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Too Many Cooks

We are living our own version of Hell's Kitchen at my house this week. The problem is, as I see it, that Sue and I raised our girls to be strong, independent-thinking women. We also raised them to not be afraid to speak their mind. Now that Valerie turned 21, that's pretty much what we got two of -- strong, independent-thinking women who aren't afraid to speak their minds. Make that three if you count Sue. I'd also be a strong, independent-thinking woman if I were a woman, though, in my humble opinion, I'd be substantially more controlled about speaking my mind. Who'd've thought they'd turn those strengths against me, their great "tooter?"

Now if Sue were firing on all cylinders this would almost certainly not be an issue. But don't be fooled by the fact that she was discharged and is now at home; she's got a lot of recovering to do before she's firing on all cylinders. In fact we are all concerned about her mild state of confusion. What we are not in agreement about is what to do about it. (Note: We'll ask the local oncology doctor in a follow-up appointment tomorrow morning.)

The disagreements center principally around the administration of the multiple medications the various doctors have prescribed, and are exacerbated by our differences in communication styles. One of the daughters insists the meds be taken strictly according to the doctors' orders. Her take-charge approach has harkened me back to Al "I am in control here" Haig. The other daughter has inferred a sinister belief that my lack of strict adherence to the medication orders may be a subtle plan to off my wife, and/or that my failure to strictly document every medication administered by me may be a subtle plan to have my daughters off my wife by having them overmedicate her. The patient, herself, periodically wants to refuse some of the medications and insists on understanding the name and purpose of each medication -- four times a day.

During Sue's stay at the UCSF medical center, the nursing staff and doctors were fairly quick to acquiesce if the patient refused a medication. Such acquiescence is consistent with the UCSF Patients' Bill of Rights, and in particular the patient's right of "participation in decisions about treatment options, benefits, risks and alternatives including appropriate pain management." The UCSF patients' rights document states: "We respect the rights of each patient. We are aware that each patient has unique and diverse health care needs. We encourage a partnership between you and your health care team. And we encourage you or your designated representative to participate in discussions and decisions about your care, options, alternatives, risks and benefits."

Note here that "designated representative" in the last sentence above is in the singular, and the right of participation is offered to "you or your designated representative." Imagine the fiasco if our "team" tried to participate with the health care team at the hospital (or locally) in discussions and decisions about Sue's care. I am pretty sure that "designated representative" refers to the patient's designated agent for making health care decisions in the event the patient is incapable of making her own decisions. In Sue's case, that would be me. But it points out one of the important reasons for making a thoughtful Advanced Health Care Directive (Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions) before undergoing significant medical procedures. Well, really, you should make one in any case -- just in case. Who knows when you, or your well-meaning "too many cooks" team might need it?

I leave you with these questions: 1. Are doctors gods whose pronouncements are universally what is best for the patient? 2. Are pharmacological solutions always (or only) the best way to heal? 3. Who should be in charge of making medical decisions if the patient is lacking mental competence? 4. In the continuum between total pain and total incoherence (and assuming the pain medication is the cause or a significant cause of the incoherence), what is the most appropriate level of pain medication?

[Postscript to my several pre SCT blog readers: You will not be out of the woods when you get discharged from the hospital, and you will not be back to normal. Sue pressed for and received an early discharge, but irrespective of when you are discharged you will need a lot of support at home. This will be particularly true if you develop mental confusion or cognitive lapses, which I am learning are fairly common post SCT -- and which are compounded by the medications which will be prescribed for you. In any event, you will need assistance with administration of your daily needs, including medications, food preparation, shopping, cleaning, transportation to follow-up medical appointments etc. Oh, and be sure to prepare an Advanced Health Care Directive.]

David Carico's Ridiculous View

Maggie posted this question: "What is the 'ridiculous view' OF?"


Well, it's a view FROM this long porch perched on a hill above Tiburon.


It's a view OF the City from the north side of the Bay.


It's a view OF the Golden Gate Bridge from the north side of the Bay.


It's a view OF the Tiburon Yaght Club.


It's a view most of us have to take an expensive vacation to get. David's got it whenever he wants it. He's got it, oh baby he's got it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Out and Out Doesn't Work

There are people in the world who have an amazing capacity to serve people in need. They get in there and get dirty and do what needs to be done. How, or why they don't get tired and burned out serving that way is beyond me. There are some, and I'm not one, who are energized by such contact with people. Contact with needy people wears me out.

Sue and I have just had an interesting three weeks in our 30-plus year journey together. She was rendered quite helpless and needy and I was called upon to serve her physically and emotionally. I was tested a little bit. I was out of my comfort zone, but I think I did o.k. I was happy to do it for Sue. But for sure it's not my calling. Don't call me if you need that kind of ministering to.

1 Corinthians 12 indicates that we are all given different gifts, service to those in need being but one of many. My true spiritual gifts, I have discerned, are drinking coffee and going to meetings with people who are well enough to go home on their own power when the coffee and cake run out. I can lead a group discussion. I can also work with a chain saw or other piece of equipment all day. The closest I usually come to ministering to people is to take a guy fishing. I can sit in a fishing boat and "visit" with a guy all day and we'd not say more in total than some people can say in five minutes. Yet we'd come away from the experience feeling like we really connected.

On all but a few days of my time in San Francisco I took time out for me. Time to get some exercise and some air. Time to see something interesting and meet some people who didn't expect anything from me nor me from them. I got sufficient rest. I got in a little reading to feed my mind --I read the beautifully disturbing book "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini. I took time to help David Carico move from one apartment to another. David's new apartment in Tiburon has, as Matt Friesen puts it, "a ridiculous view." I went to a Giants vs. Dodgers baseball game with Dave Friesen and Matt Friesen and went shopping with my daughter, Jessica. I actually worked a bit from my makeshift office in Sue's room, and blogged most every day. And every day included multiple times to get coffee and to contemplate and to communicate with the Great Grandfather In The Sky.

Now you'd think that, having done all that, and more, I didn't have much time to be with Sue or I didn't give much of myself to her. I beg to differ. A pitcher can only be poured out for so long without being filled up again. If you don't fill it back up, it runs dry and is useless to the thirsty. Further, who wants to drink stale water?

So if you are ever called upon to serve someone in this way, take some advice from me. Out and out doesn't work. Get filled and get fresh every day. Then serve.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Home Sweet Home Again

When I called our daughters, Jessica and Valerie, to inform them to get the house cleaned up and wiped down because Sue was coming home, they panicked. You might have panicked too, given the grave reports of Sue's condition which I truthfully reported in previous blogs. You might have thought, as they did, that you weren't equipped to deal with such a sick person, that you wouldn't know what to do, that something bad might happen and that you'd have to feel guilty the rest of your life about having killed your own mom.

But we did come home, and things are working out beautifully; just beautifully. To be sure, Sue is still sick but she is much, much better. She is really, really happy to be home. And no, no, I am not inadvertently repeating myself. I am not a writer for the department of redundancy department.


Thankfully Sue has lots of good friend support here. Nurse Debbie came over the morning after we got home and "organized" the medications. Neighbor Cindy took Sue to get her blood tested this morning. Nurse Debbie took Sue to an appointment with the local oncologist this afternoon. Jessica and Valerie have been supportive and attentive to their mom, who is very, very happy to be with them. Lots and lots of people are on standby to help, and Jessica will get them organized. Yes she will.
Oh, and did I mention that we got home in time for Valerie's 21st birthday? She's posing with her birthday balloon from Mark and Cindy. The balloon is tethered to the infamous fence-sitting birthday pig. That pig is guaranteed to make you smile or even chuckle when it mysteriously shows up grinning from pig ear to pig ear and waving a balloon just for you. Heh heh.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gone To The Mountains

Most of you didn’t previously know that I am partly descended from the Blackfoot Indians, a group of tribes located in what is now known as northern Montana and southern Alberta, Canada. For this reason I have a particular interest in the history of and empathy for the plight of Native Americans, as well as a particular interest in civil rights and humane treatment of all peoples.

The Yelamu Indians once occupied the area now known as San Francisco. The Yelamu were one of approximately 50 tribes of Indians known collectively as the Ohlone tribes. The Yelamu territory included the area known today as Crissy Field, the place I’ve been jogging. They lived and thrived here in harmony with nature for several thousand years before the Spanish colonists arrived in 1769. Then, in less than 100 years the Yelamu became extinct.

Adam Johnston, an Indian Agent during the westward expansion of the United States, took it upon himself to interview a number of Indians from the disappearing tribes. In 1850, the year California became a state, Johnston interviewed Pedro Alcantara, the last known Yelamu. Alcantara was born as a Mission Indian (the Mission now known as Mission Dolores) in 1780. At the time of the interview, Alcantara was 70 years old. Here’s some of what he said:

“I am very old. … My people were once like the sands of the shore … many … many. They have all passed away. They have died like the grass … they have gone to the mountains. I do not complain. The antelope falls with the arrow. I had a son. I loved him. When the palefaces came he went away. I do not know where he is. I am a Christian Indian. I am all that is left of my people. I am alone.”

We too, Sue and I, are leaving this land of the Yelamu today. Hasta la vista, Yerba Buena. Sue is being discharged today. We are going to the mountains.

P.S. By tonight you will not be able to reach Sue on the are code (415) number we previously published to you. However, then you should be able to reach her directly on her cell phone. From here on, any cards or other mail should be addressed to our house. Those who want to (or who are willing to) participate in Sue's ongoing care over the next several months of recovery should contact Jessica on her cell phone, or, if you can't reach her call Sue directly.

Yes, We Can


This morning I took my last jog in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area before checking out of David's apartment at Filbert and Baker Street for good. I have to be back in Fresno tomorrow to prepare for a labor commission hearing on Wednesday. The labor commissioner denied my request for a continuance even though the attorney for the other side stipulated to the request. Oh well. Just do it.

At 6 a.m. this morning there was a drizzly fog, almost like a light rain, swirling around. I had jogged a bit yesterday but didn't have the energy to go too far. My expectations today weren't high -- just do what I feel like. I made it all the way to Hoppers Hands on the Golden Gate Bridge without a single walk-and-breathe break, then turned around and made it all the way back to Presidio Park without any walk-and-breathe breaks. In all I went about 6 or 7 miles, and I am sure I could have done 10 without a break. But to do that I would have had to bypass my Starbucks-in-the-park latte. (O.K. Bruce Porter, I confess. I was projecting my addiction for good coffee on you. Nothing like a pumpkin spice latte and a slice of lemon loaf from Starbucks, eh?)

In prior jogs I always set goals to reach a certain marker before taking a walking break. Today I blew through all the markers. It was weird, but after I blew through a couple of the markers my body relaxed and it felt like I had an extra lung. I guess when you're just trying to hold on to get to the next marker you get tight, which increases your pain, which diminishes your capacity, which limits you in every which way. This morning was a definite breakthrough for me physically, mentally and emotionally. Last week I didn't think I had it in me to finish a half marathon on November 8; Today I am sure I can do it.

Sue has had a similar breakthrough. There were a number of days in this stem cell transplant ordeal where Sue did not think she could do this. She used phrases like "I can't do this" and "I'll never do this again" and other phrases too colorful to mention. But she has broken through the physical and emotional barriers; Today she is sure she can do it. For all intents and purposes, she has done it.

And for the politically astute among you who recognize the "Yes We Can" phrase as an Obama campaign phrase, I really don't care if you voted for or didn't vote for President Obama. And in my opinion it isn't material whether he turns out to be a good President or not a good President. What's important to me, as a republican in my brain, and as a democrat in my heart, and as a civil libertarian at the core, is that, as a nation we have had a breakthrough of a barrier.

So, yes, we can. Yes, we will.



P.S. Sue's numbers today have gone through the roof. Her WBC jumped from 4.6 yesterday to 11.2. Her ANC jumped from 4.3 yesterday to 9.96. One of the criteria for discharge from this hospital is if you have an ANC count of 1.5 or more for three consecutive days, or if you hold an ANC of 5 or more for one full day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Haircut Day


Sue's hair was coming out in globs today. It was getting all over everything, and it was uncomfortable and itchy. So we decided to be proactive. We cut it all off.

I played barber. It kinda reminded me of the time, about 26 years ago, when Sue decided we should save money by her cutting my hair instead of having a barber do it. She bought one of those Oster hair cutting machines, which we still have. The first time she cut my hair it was a big production, getting me seated on a stool in the bathroom, covering my shoulders with a big plastic cape, and then starting the Oster with a flair. I knew I was in trouble when, about two seconds into the haircut she said "oops." She'd started at the top and cut down! Everybody knows you start at the bottom and cut up.

Unless you're using a sled and giving the client a butch. That's what she got from me today. Total payback. Feels real good to rub your hands on it. She's got a nice, round head -- no weird lumps. Now she gets to wear the blue cap Jessica knitted for this occasion. In the pictures below Dr. Woof models the knitted cap pre hair cut, and then Sue tries it on for her first walk in public with her Sinead O'Connor look. (Sinead is one of my favorite female singers, by the way.)

Sue was remarkably upbeat today about the haircut. She felt much better today than yesterday. Her numbers were so good the medical staff thought there was a mistake, and they re-ran them. Her white blood count (WBC) went from .2 two days ago to .9 yesterday to 4.6 today! Her absolute neutrophil count (ANC -- the important one) jumped from .59 yesterday to 4.03 today! The afternoon tests confirmed these fantastic results.

At .59 ANC yesterday Sue was no longer neutropenic in the dangerous sense (less than .5). Today Sue is not neutropenic in any sense (neutropenia being, by definition, an ANC of less than 1.5). So mask precautions are done. Boy is Dr. Woof glad.

Thank you all for your continuing prayers and moral support. A heavy load has been lifted from Sue's head (heh heh heh). I think I'm going to start calling her the "hairless chi-mama."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

All Things New

Yesterday afternoon Jessica and I snuck down to Union Square while Sue was taking a nap. Jessica wanted to try to find a particular pair of Burkenstocks and we remembered there was a store on Stockton Street near Union Square. Turns out the store was closed last year during the recession.

We rode downtown on the N Judah. The conductor stopped the train in one of the underground tunnels and we were stuck there for about a half hour. Some drunk guy had wandered into the tunnel and fallen asleep right by the tracks. It took about 25 police officers and MUNI officials to sort it out. Meanwhile, they shut down the N Judah, so we had to walk to the nearest MUNI station and get on a different MUNI to get to Powell Street (Union Square).

It was a nice father-daughter outing. We went into the big shopping mall on Market (something Plaza, I can never remember the name of the place even though I've been there a dozen times) and bought a few things: some Vera Bradley note cards for Sue (in case she ever feels well enough to write some notes); some scented Bath and Body Works hand gels (mmmm, nectarine mint, my favorite).

There are a lot of stores selling a lot of pretty and shiny new things in San Francisco. There are also a lot of people here who can afford all that stuff. Pretty people dressed to the nines. People who drive B-Mers (BMWs), Lexuses and Mercedes Benzes. On the other hand, there are a lot of homeless and down and out people who can't afford a cup of coffee. Well, the good kind of coffee, anyway. You know, the kind Bruce Porter insists on having. The kind of which there's a plethora in the City.

You see these down and out people all over. At night or in the morning, and sometimes during the day, you see them rolled up in blankets on the sidewalk, blocking the doorways to stores and houses, sitting or sleeping in the parks. You see them coming into and out of the emergency room at the UCSF medical center in ambulances with their grubby, bearded, unwashed faces and their ragged clothes. Wow, such a contrast between the haves and have nots.

There was a pretty good thunder storm here last night, and a fair amount of rain. We're still getting some rain today. I'm sure the rain is a hard thing for the homeless people to deal with. But it washed the City down, watered all the plants, refreshed and renewed the City.

It's a mystery how, even amidst the glitz and allure of non-life-giving things, and amidst the decay of live's gone astray, and amidst the decaying and water starved land, and amidst those who are suffering from chronic illnesses and conditions, God is constantly making things new again -- refreshing, restoring, filling us up with pure, life sustaining water.

Revelation 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

P.S. Sue isn't feeling as good today as she did yesterday or the day before. But her numbers are up considerably. Her white blood count jumped from .2 to .9. Her ANC jumped from .1 two days ago (no measurement from yesterday) to .59 today!!! This means she is no longer in the critically neutropenic stage (ANC below .5). Indeed, He does make all things new, though we don't always understand the process.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Light House

Jessica came to visit today. Well, she got here late last night, actually. She had a brief and happy reunion with her mommy (and which was happy for the mommy too) and then we headed off to David's apartment to get some rest.

The fog was heavy at the entrance to the bay, and all night long the fog horn was going off. Think of a loud nasal base monotone: Bouououououou. (short pause, then:) Bououououou. I've grown accustomed to it and it's comforting. It bothered Jessica a little.

So in the morning I told her the poem the dean of my law school recited to the first year law students while we sat in an assembled and numb mass near the beginning of that multi-year ordeal. I've remembered it from that first recitation. It goes like this:

Light House

Light house, him no good.
Him flash lights,
Him sound horn,
But still the fog comes.

Dean Schraber likened the light house to the professors, and said they will do their best to flash their lights and sound their horns and lead us to knowledge of the law, but to be sure, the fog will come upon us. But he encouraged us, as well. The fog will lift, and we will clearly see what was once hidden.

The fog of desperation seems to have been lifted off of Sue. Her visit with Jessica today was a great encouragement. She's been feeling much better and sleeping better. Debbie Friesen is coming for a visit tomorrow, and Sue is looking forward to that. "Visiting" hour upon hour with a husband is o.k., but a visit from a lady friend has a certain appeal to a woman. Debbie's visit appeals to me as well, because during her visit with Sue, Dave Friesen, Matt Friesen and I will attend the Giants vs. Dodgers baseball game. Goooo Giants! (Did I just say that when I know there are some Dodger fans reading this blog? Oh well, the Dodgers beat the Giants up yesterday. I'm not a rabid fan, but hey, this is San Francisco.)

So I won't say that Sue is happy, but I can say with assurance that she is happier. Her smile is back, though not yet constant. Bououououou. Bououououou. I think I see the sun peeking through that fog.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Peleton Charge

Yesterday was a hard day. Sue was in emotional turmoil and wanted me to spend the night at the hospital with her. I drove to David's apartment to get a shower, get some things, and then came back to the hospital.

Having been woken up repeatedly the night before by Sue's desperate calls for me to come and get her out of the hospital, and having gotten up at 4 a.m. to get down here to just be here for her and do what I could, I was tired. Well, o.k., nearly exhausted. I figured if I didn't get a good night's sleep I was a candidate for a cold, which would render me unfit to even come onto the floor at 11 Long, much less be a physical or emotional support for Sue.

The night started badly, with multiple interruptions from medical staff, housekeepers etc. Sue was also restless, nauseous, etc. and unable to sleep. I was trying without success to sleep on a conglomeration of two uncomfortable chairs. I figured I was doomed. I figured we were both doomed. I prayed for sleep and renewal and protection from sickness. Then, mercifully, peace came over the room and both Sue and I were able to sleep. I woke up at 6 a.m. refreshed and renewed.

Because of the preceding three days of nausea and diarrhea, the medical staff required that Sue's True Blue quilt be laundered again. I took the opportunity to do all of her laundry, and mine as well. While I was at David's apartment picking up my dirty laundry, I figured it would be well to get in a little jog. I wanted to put my hands on Hopper's Hands because I felt like I had figuratively been part of an effort to keep Sue from a suicidal "jump" from the hospital bridge while neutropenic.

The jog turned out to be a good idea. It was a beautiful sunny day in the City, with blue skies and sunshine covering the inner Bay and a low fog sneaking in under the Golden Gate Bridge, just under the famous orange suspended roadway, and then dissipating. As I jogged along the path above the beach at Crissy Field, this verse came to me: Isaiah 40:31 "... but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

I did grow weary, though, jogging into the headwind blowing into the bay from the Pacific. It made me think of the Tour de France, and how the riders form a peleton to cut the wind and preserve their energy. The peleton riders do all the heavy work for the star riders, so that, at the end of the race, the stars have the energy to dash away to the finish and claim victory. I got choked up thinking about how all of you who have supported Sue through her previous chemo treatments and medical appointments and who have supported her physically and emotionally and spiritually to this point, and who continue to support her, have been my peleton. Now, like Lance Armstrong, I am ready to charge up the final hill and claim the victory.

Except it wasn't Lance Armstrong who claimed the victory in the recent Tour de France. It was his teammate, Alberto Contador, who won. And I am like all of you, just part of the peleton for Sue, cutting wind and preparing the way for her to claim the victory over this cancer. We're a mighty good team and I'm proud to be working with you.

P.S. This has been a much better day for Sue. I think she's turning the corner. Keep up the prayer work, peleton people!!!