Saturday, January 26, 2008


Good Morning, Loved ones,

This update will be coming in increments because that’s simply the way we live our lives these days. We are never quite sure just what’s going to occur. But here is how things stand as of the moment.

Dennis is still at HCI, where he has been since the midnight flight last Saturday. Since then, we have become acquainted with all the staff, including housekeeping. And we really like everyone… but we keep clicking our heels together and saying, “There’s no place like home,” … and everyone looks at us like we’re crazy. As you know, Dennis has a brand new shiny stent somewhere within the walls of his chest, but there has been persistent pain and nausea… completely unrelated to the constant presence of the Clot, we assume.

He is being treated with antibiotics for evidence of infection and fever, and he gets regular doses of Zofran and pain meds when needed. The doctors ordered an echocardiogram to check his heart, and besides showing an over-abundance of gratitude (yes, that actually showed up on the chart) everything looked great. They finally decided to do a CT scan of his gall bladder, and that little guy showed evidence of inflammation and irregularity of something or other. Its walls looked like they needed painting, and it might have lost some of its squeeze. (In the middle of an “Oh, Crap” moment, the doctors insist on trying to make me understand things, but that’s just like trying to reason with roadkill!)

So the dilemma is this: Do we operate on the gall bladder and push back the Whipple? Do we put a drain in and try to maintain status quo and keep the Whipple in its regular programming slot? Do we bring him home? Do we leave him there? Do we continue his feeding tube Jevity? Is Britney Spears going to get custody of her children? These are all the things we must decide.

So the Clot did what we always do in these moments of extreme stress and anxiety: We went to the Bistro, got French fries and diet Cokes, and watched Veronica Mars. Because of the severity of the issues on the table, it required three straight episodes without a potty break before we finally decided on the best course of action. (did I mention the size of the soda cup was extra extra gihugeous?) This is serious stuff. (I sometimes wonder if world leaders can’t bring about world peace because of “junk food deprivation.”) Anyway, Dennis is scheduled to have a drain installed in his middle domain this morning, so we may not be able to bring him home today. Bummer. The house has seemed so big, and quiet.. and clean… since he’s been away. This will never do. He needs to get back to Kansas, … and his little dog, too.

I have actually been able to get some things done, in spite of the long hours at the Huntsman. I even had my annual mammogram while I was up there. Mammograms are interesting things. What an experience. To the uninitiated, the techs issue hospital gowns that tie in the front and are designed to cover absolutely nothing. Then they escort you into a room with a contraption that has very ominous-looking vice grip-looking thingees in front. It does not require much imagination to understand what is about to take place. In an effort to accumulate enough flesh to compress in the “jaws of death” vice plates, the tech pulled body mass from every quadrant of my being. Then she scooped it all together like a snowball and bulldozed it en masse toward my sternum. She told me to take a big breath and hold it. and then she smashed it all… and I’m talkin’ “road-kill flat!” It was all I could do to stifle the primal scream… and the harsh language. It was a good thing she had included some of my tongue in with the mammary tissue and impaired my ability to articulate. When I regained consciousness, I asked her if she saw anything suspicious in the pictures. She declined to speculate, deferring to the radiologist, but she did assure me I wouldn’t need a colonoscopy for a while, and I should get a pedicure. Without the elasticity I had in youth, my body tends to retain the contours imposed by blunt force trauma. When I returned to Dennis’ hospital room, he knew right away where I had been… and he was in a Zofran-induced stupor! All I could say was, “Don’t ask!” Oh well, I hope my short-term memory loss kicks in and deletes the mental images before there is permanent damage.

By the way, cancer does have its privileges. The other day Andre Kirilinko of the Utah Jazz and his wife stopped for a visit and to take some pictures… although why he wantd pictures of us I don’t know. Anyway, he autographed pink hats for me and Brodi and a Jazz jersey for Dennis. We also gat a banner with his signature. He is such a nice fellow (and too shy to ask for our autographs). He is taller than he looks on TV, and the only one in the room as thin as Dennis. I was able to try out some of my high school Russian on him, and he even understood me. he seemed duly impressed with all four words, and began laughing. Gee, I wonder what I said. Oh well, when it comes to saying the wrong thing, there are no language barriers.

The Clot doesn’t exactly have a “bucket list.” For us a bucket is something you barf in, not kick. But after Dennis has the Whipple (does that name conjure up visions of a fussy old man squeezing Charmin?), we have decided to go on tour as Elvis impersonators. If we have learned anything, it is to not postpone plans and reams until too late. So when you see us in the Spring, get out your velvet and start painting our portraits!

Every day there is a little extra light grafted onto the lengthening evening. This is a good thing. We will make our way to February 7th one day and one organ at a time. For those who wonder how Dennis is doing on this roller coaster ride, I must say he is an emotional Samurai. He knows where we are trying to go, and he will not allow anything to deter from his appointed rounds. It is a privilege to know him.

We love you all,

The Clot


cristie said...

dang, we keep looking for Dennis to be home. in any case it is good to know that he is getting the best of care.
i do admit to smiling throughout your entry although the truth is that a whole lot of Jerry's humor was lost on me each time i was in labor.
the beat goes on here at Mt. Springs, but the music is not as sweet. we look forward to your return. xox

the4ofusut said...

Nick saw the picture of you with AK and sweetly asked "So Mom, do you think we should go visit Dr. Ashton? And by the way when do the Jazz players come visit because that would be a really good time to go..." The subtleness of a 9 year old!

We continue to miss you and include you in all our prayers. Hurry up and get home!

Dan, Stephanie, Brandon and Nick Urry

Brenda said...

Joan & Dennis,

Being huge Jazz fans, we're impressed with your list of visitors. At least you will have something a little exciting to tell about your visit to the hospital besides CT scans and PICC lines. We are so very grateful for the frequent updates and will be looking for news that Dennis is improving. We can't wait to see him up and healthy. Stay strong. We love you.

Glen and Brenda

A & M Ras said...

Ashton Family,
I found your blog through a friends of a friend and so forth. I am not sure if you remember me or not . My dad went to high school with Dr. Ashton but that is not how I remember you. You were the pediatrician on the day my newborn son was to be released from the hospital. Cancer was found on that exam and thanks to Dr. Ashton we have my six year old here with us today. You can read fhis story on our blog at Please email me and let me know if there is anything I can do for your family. Dr. Ashton saved my son's life and we will forever be indebted to him. My email is
Marissa Neumann Rasmussen