Select Page

“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.” (Ps 136:1)

Dear family and friends,

I know it’s been a while.  I haven’t given up on the blog, but also have been hunkered down with work.  Without any new developments since the last good news, I wasn’t struck by anything particular to write about.  In reality, there’s plenty to write about, so I should be better about that.  One thing I’ll say is that given the lack of any physical indications – whether due to the disease or the therapy – that I’m sick, I actually find it’s pretty easy to just plain forget about the whole cancer thing for days at a time.  It’s kind of like that “too much going on to ask rhetorical questions” sentiment.  So, hey, there’s another reason to be thankful for a good job and all these kids: helps you forget about cancer.  I’ll have to write that down.
My treatments have proceeded unremarkably every two weeks.  Last week I had the next CT scan.  I went back to my old friend “Berry” flavor for the contrast, repentant for ever turning my back on it.  It was like coming home.  Results were: stable, no change.  While some of us were thankful for that result, at home the response to the “no change” results were as close to the QUIT HAVING CANCER reaction as I’ve gotten since the original.  I’m still thinking that non-bad news is good news.  I will continue to try my best to quit having cancer, but let’s not forget that my first post-treatment scan showed no change.  There’s also the fact that no-change scans can easily be within some margin of error, so it’s possible that there is a slight improvement.  My oncologist says that continued improvement is certainly possible, and that a no change result isn’t of particular concern.  He added that if patients do well in year 1 on this therapy, they tend to plateau (in a good way) and continue to do well for years.  There are patients who have been on some form of this treatment in trials for 10 years with no growth of their disease.  My doctor feels that I’m in that plateau group and that he’s not so concerned that I see further shrinkage of tumors.  We’re just looking for no further growth.  Ten years with no growth of cancer sounds pretty terrific to me, and I suspect it could put me in the next generation of therapies that could buy me another 10 years or a cure.
Last time I wrote, our friend Suzanne had just passed away.  I went to her funeral shortly afterward.  It was a time to reflect on her remarkable life and decade-plus battle against cancer.  In Jay’s eulogy – I can’t imagine how I could do it – he said that he was going to make a spiritual retreat of re-reading Suzanne’s blog.  What a good idea – to meditate on the writings of someone we believe lived a holy life.  So I went back through her blog, too.  If you want to check it out, the cancer news begins to trickle in 11/11/09, and she has beautiful reflections on 11/22 and 12/22 of that year.  I recommend them as a way to put a current challenge, obstacle, or some suffering in a healthy perspective.  In between the more poignant pieces, though, are a lot of pearls.  She maintained incredible cheerfulness as she just lived out her daily life with faith, hope, and love.  An excerpt:
…So, there is only one conclusion left: this is a gift.

Crazy, you say? Many will think so, but I do not. I firmly believe that God gives us what we need to become better people and for some reason I needed this. This is an opportunity for me to learn charity from those around me, to smooth the rough edges of my pride and to come to appreciate what is really, truly important in life. God would not have picked me for this great trial if he did not think I could handle it and rise to the occasion. And I certainly intend to do so to the best of my ability. So, like Mary, ‘my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name…’
I did not have the opportunity to say “yes” to this cancer, and I can’t honestly say that I would have had the strength to do so if asked. However, now that it is mine, I embrace all that I have to learn from it. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
As I was leaving the funeral, I was one of hundreds of people who got to speak to Jay briefly.  What a strong and faithful guy he is.  Jay knew for many years that this day was coming.  He was in as good a place and surrounded by as much support as one could hope to be.  He is not alone in most ways, and yet alone in one very important way that neither I nor any of the other mourners could directly help with.  So I’m praying for Jay and the kids and ask you to do the same if you are inclined.
We just got back from spending Thanksgiving at the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest National Parks.  
More squinting than we planned, but it was REALLY sunny
We have now done several camping and national park trips over Thanksgiving and really enjoy getting out in the outdoors and away from distractions, particularly for this holiday.  It gives us time to do so many things together:  talk, read aloud, learn, play games, hike, joke, and tell stories.  It’s ideal time for investing in our family culture in a way that goes far beyond just occupying the same space.  And being an over-doer, Kendra always makes it memorable.  We’ve cooked a turkey and pies on a Weber grill more than once, and it’s not a Tierney national park Thanksgiving without fine china. 
We have a tradition of having everybody talk over dinner about something they’re thankful for.  I mentioned one at the table: having no real side effects.  As I read through some of Suzanne’s accounts of episodes with severe side effects, I had to give thanks for the very different experience I’m having.  And given that I even forget about cancer, I need to stop and give thanks for that – and not take it for granted.  Also on my mind have been a work success that I too quickly attributed to myself instead of giving God the praise.  And also, I’ve been thinking about how thankful I am for the adoration train.  You are all taking such good care of my family and me through these last several months, and I can’t thank you enough.
I’m also thankful for Lulu, whose birthday is today, and who often sighs contentedly at various ordinary aspects of daily life.  What a gem.

With fortitude and prayers for you,