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“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.” (Ps 40:1-3)

Dear family and friends,

I got very good news Friday. The therapy is working, and I have had about a 50% reduction in the volume of the tumors they are measuring.  My doctor said it’s called a “partial response” to the drugs, which sounds like a teacher’s comment next to a short answer question you got only half credit for, but apparently the oncologists got together and that’s what they came up with.

I had gone in for a CT scan Thursday, roughly two months since the last one.  As of the last one, there had been no change in the tumors, which was good in the sense that no bad news = good news.  I decided to go with the “Mochaccino” barium smoothie this time.  The first sip made me think I might have a new favorite.  I sent a picture to Kendra, and she suggested that I might want to review the various flavors.

It wasn’t long before mochaccino settled in to occupy exactly the same place on the scale of delightfulness as its”berry” cousin.  Then things kind of went downhill.  Thinking about Kendra’s idea of reviewing flavors, I started thinking about the “banana” flavor I am usually offered but have never tried, and I could not imagine being able to get it down.  I sent a first-ever text, admitting that I didn’t think I was man enough for something – the banana barium smoothie.  Later when I got the iodine injection while I was in the CT scanner, I almost . . . regifted the smoothie to UCLA.

I was disappointed in myself, actually.  I had decided that I was going to smile through the iodine injection and offer that as a prayer for all of you.  The mochaccino effect and something about smiling apparently was not a good plan.  Oh well, I made it through without a “Billy, we’ve got a cleanup in the CT scanner” incident.

Moving on, I went in to see my oncologist before my infusion today.  He had the results and said that the 50% reduction number is a bit of a back-of-the-envelope calculation owing to the challenges of estimating volume from 2-dimensional images.  But there is a clear, measurable impact of the medication on the melanoma tumors.  My immune system is following orders: boots on, face to the enemy, running to the sound of gunfire . . . and kicking the cancer in the teeth.  Given Kendra’s reaction to today’s news, it appears that the perception of my listening abilities has improved.  No stern directives to quit having cancer, though I am crystal clear that my marching orders remain unchanged.

I want to pause and share a heavier moment here.  This week Kendra and I had a friend pass away after a long and grueling fight with breast cancer.  Suzanne leaves her husband Jay and seven children.  She wrote a blog about it for a while.  Suzanne and I were initially diagnosed around the same time.  There’s a twelve-year amazing story to tell that I can’t do justice but, friends, she’s one of the ones who had it rough.  And I’ve had it easy, and that’s just hard to live with.  I believe she’s in heaven, and I’m praying that she is still praying for me, before the face of God – Saint Suzanne.  So I’m not sad about where she is now, but I’ve been tearing up this week when I think that we were both picked for this and that she and Jay and the kids got the harder road.  I think Suzanne somehow, in a way that transcends the mere timeline of these last 12 years, had something to do with my easy time of it and my good news this week.  I can’t know if her suffering, which I know she offered up for me, was so effective a prayer that it has given me these extra days and months and hopefully years.  The responsibility of that time is almost too much to take, but I will try to make the most of it…whoowee.  Nunc coepi – Now I begin.

When I came home, I asked my little kids especially if they had prayed for me.  Mary Jane (3) told me she had prayed for me once in the car, which was great.  I told them their prayers had worked.  Please tell your kids who prayed for me, too.  Of course, we don’t know what happens next.  Maybe the trend continues and I live to 102.  Maybe cancer fights back.  So what?  They should know that they have helped to bring about an outcome that reveals the might and power and glory of God.  That’s big.  What a gift.

With fortitude and prayers for you,