Friday, February 1, 2008


Beloved Family and Friends,

Well, it is the morning after the day before, and the Clot is joyous…and a little tired. But it is the first time we have had a wake-up sans mass, and we are ready to party on!

Dennis got through the night with a little help from his friends…strong narcotics and a conscientious nursing staff. Ally, his main nurse, came in at regular six-minute intervals throughout the night, which was very reassuring to me, because this was no time for a well-intentioned but hysterical wife to be in charge of his post-op care. I was spared any sleep, which was good because I could monitor every event from my corner on the couch. I was a little tired from the day yesterday, which greatly inhibited my ability to articulate anything intelligent (situation normal)

Dennis is hooked up to a PCA button which allows a patient to squirt pain killer as needed. This is good in theory, but Dennis is so conservative that the nurse had to encourage him to get liberal with his button, or she would award custody of the button to me and I could sedate him into next week.

During the night, we had a sphincter-control drill when Dennis’ blood pressure dipped to 82. Now I don’t have to be the surgeon general to know that isn’t good. There was a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on in the room. The doctor lowered the head of his bed. That, along with harsh language, ( my contribution) seemed to do the trick, and he got stabilized, and we were able to return to wide-eyed vigilance. (Sleep was a no-show, but that’s ok. I didn’t want to miss a single play of THIS super bowl)

The nurse turned off the epidural drip, and the commotion subsided just as I was about to go into “concentric circle” mode. I was able to reassemble my composure and the episode passed.

Lights are blinking and bells are ringing, and I have had a lightning course in technology. When the red light goes on, I yell, “Breathe deeper, Dennis!” When the orange light goes on, I yell, “Up your blood pressure!” You can probably imagine what his response is. Dings that occur with vengeful regularity, trigger a personal bladder response, and I just run to the bathroom. We managed to pass the night with minimal “Oh Crap!” moments.

Dr. Fenton came in this morning with a little more clarification on yesterday’s events. Apparently Dennis was fitted with some “grenades.” I wasn’t exactly certain just what that referred to. This was rather unsettling in light of the latest news from Baghdad. I hoped they hadn’t taken me literally when I said I wanted to blast the little %*&#$ to outer darkness. But Dr. Fenton said his grenades looked good, so I stopped asking questions and ceased worrying that Dennis was wired and could blow any minute.

Speaking of blowing any minute, Dennis’ task for the day is ”flatulence resurgence.” Talk about gas prices – what we wouldn’t pay for some rumbling down under. The doctors admonished us that it doesn’t count if he gets proxy assistance from the Clot, so we promptly cancelled our room service order for chili. But we all keep an ear to his nether region and are currently placing wagers as to when the silence will be broken. In the meantime, the Clot is doing our best Dallas Cowboys cheerleader imitations: Give us an “F!” Give us an “A!” Well, you get the idea.

By the way, I would be a miserable failure as a coach of anything, especially breathing. Another task for the day is working out on the spirometer. Dennis must use it ten times per hour per day to keep his lungs clear and working. So in an effort to help and encourage him, I went into rowing team meter mode. In perfect rhythm I repeated, “Suck in…Suck out” at regular intervals. He came out of his narcotics-induced stupor to inform me, “You can’t suck out!” We laughed, he breathed. Mission accomplished!

There was so much positive stuff that happened yesterday, but ironically, one of the best was Dr. Fenton’s assessment of margins – “grossly negative.” Isn’t that wonderful? It’s interesting what causes euphoria for the Clot these days: a mass that is no longer with us, the confidence of highly-skilled doctors and technicians, and the love of family and friends.

Yesterday our family went into the battle of our lives with a formidable 3 cm. foe. I must admit it was daunting, knowing we have a chance, not a guarantee. But I also know we did no to into this war alone. We could not have done it alone. You were with us, and there was never a single moment when we didn’t feel your presence. That operating room contained a multitude. We were blessed by prayer warriors who circled the wagons and covered our backs. There are no words to express what is in our hearts. We pray Heavenly Father’s sweetest mercies will be with you always.

Dennis is resting right now. There is some pain, but it is manageable with his squirt button, massive doses of narcotics, and the reading of your comments from the blog. He has such a peaceful look on his face. He is rather bony still, but his spirit is morbidly obese. We have not won the war yet, but we won the conflict yesterday. You all are a part of that victory.

How you have blessed our lives. We will blog regular up-dates as we count our blessings and try to enumerate the miracles. Know that you are counted among them both.

We love you all so much,

The Clot


Jo said...

I am so glad the surgery was a success! My thoughts and prayers are definitely with Dennis and your family! Curse all that is cancer related forever, as my mother will surely agree! Joanna Gibb

stanandpatolsen said...

Your day yesterday brought back memories of our journey, 10 years ago with our son John. Stan and I felt every agonizing hour along with you as we remembered what a long, nerveracking day is spent waiting for the final outcome. We also had to smile at your description of the "blowing implement" That sure kept John in the game, seeing how high he could make the numbers go with each blow. The Nurses and Doctors are amazing, as you said, they forever have a special place in your heart. We are so happy that the ordeal is over, now it is on to healing and completing the task at hand. We know Dennis will do a great job finishing this healing process. We love you and your family. We appreciate you keeping us up to date with every aspect of this hard test that your family has been given. We still have special memories of the Spirit of the Savior in getting us through John's journey, we know that you have felt the same Spirit in your own journey. Thanks for your friendship. It was great hearing from Dennis the day before his surgery. We felt honored to have him call us. Love, Stan and Pat

Em said...

Dane and Scottie (Dr. Ashton's little patients) wanted to say he is the biggest "trooper" they know. And they hope to see him back at the office soon.
Dana and Emily Adams (Stan and Pat's daugther)

Deanna said...

We're not going anywhere--we are with you all until the war is won!
Now as to the flatulence hmmm
What an inspiration you all are.
Love you guys---

Kristen Harmon said...

Dear Ashtons: thank you so much for sharing all of this great news with us! It allows us to rejoice with you. Surely there must be something that this fat old in-law on the sidelines can do to help. Any chores at the house, and errands, any anything -- please, if you need an extra pair of hands (you already have my heart) for any reason, please don't hesitate to call on me. We love and appreciate you! God bless, be well. Get some rest, all of you. The future is coming.
Warm regards,
Kent Norton

Anonymous said...

Dear Ones:
Bruce and I are so grateful. Tender mercies indeed. Our thoughts and
prayers are with you. I can hardly wait to get home from work to hear of your wonderful progress.
Hang tough and hang together. You are all amazing!!!
Much love,

Kounalisfamily said...

I am so glad the surgery was succesful. Mr. Dennis you are in our prayers for you and your family. We wish you a fast recovery and looking to seeing you soon.
Maria and the Boys

Amy said...

Uncle Denny & Aunt Joanie,
I'm so sorry I haven't left left a comment in several weeks. Our little Kara Marie was born on January 18, and our first 11 days with her were pure bliss. On day 12 (Wednesday of this week), Dr. Jopling diagnosed her with RSV and we've been fighting our own little battle ever since. I want you to know how much you've inspired me. All day long yesterday I reminded myself that if you can beat cancer (which I knew you could), then we could beat RSV. I reflected on what I've learned from you both during the last 3 months about the power of prayer and faith and the preisthood and hope and courage and most importantly, love. It buoyed me up so much, and I'm so thankful to you for the inspiration and the strength you've given me. I'm also so grateful for my mom--without her, we would've probably already gone to the hospital, but so far we've only had to make daily trips to Willowcreek. It just all makes me so thankful for the amazing family that we all come from--I have no doubt that Grandma and Grandpa Ashton have been calling in favors and pulling strings like crazy to help the Clot win the war against the Mass. And I'm sure that no one is enjoying the jokes on your blog more than Grandpa :) . By the way, if you need any pointers on how to master the art of flatulence, I'm sure my sweet little Kara could provide tutoring services. Unfortunately, you definitely need to stay IN the hospital right now, and we're still fighting to keep her OUT of the hospital, so we might have to arrange a teleconference. We are so happy for your victory and we love you so much!
Love, Amy & Lee & Jackson & Kara

Paul said...

Hold on...more on its way.

Paul said...


Sorry... this was written already once, but apparently got lost over the airwaves (just as well) I'll try again.

After reading Joanie's uncensored, unexpurgated (and as-usual hilarious) account of the last few days, it finally makes sense why, at West, you opted out of Etta Nelson's shop class and jumped into the "Lamaze for Fun" course instead...especially when "sucking out."

We've taken a poll and have decided to hold a "Flatulence Vigil" in your honor....that is, of course,unless you've managed to crank things up on your own. We desperately hope do the neighbors!

While you've been "sucking out," we've been "praying-in."

Ash, you can't imagine the admiration we feel for you as your stoicism, optimism, and heroism play out as you confront this imposing challenge. Such mettle!

It's a relief that in spite of the tarnishing influence of your early friendships on Capitol Hill, that you have turned out so well!

I'm telling New Zealand about this.

Be "weller" every hour, dear Friend...

Say Ort and Family

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that the tumor is gone and the margins are negative...that is the MOST POSITIVE news to get. Now on to the healing! Just a tidbit of info...days 3-5 in my past ICU experience was ALWAYS the hardest on the patient and family. The realization it was behind them and the exhaustion I presume but I always believed it was good to share with the families so they wouldn't be surprised by it! Take care and our love and prayers for a steady recovery are sent your way. The Chytraus'

brenda said...

Oh, my goodness! I missed reading your blog for a couple of days and was shocked at all the news. We are thrilled that the surgery was a success and are sure that Dennis is on his way to a complete recovery. You certainly have the well-deserved love and support of a multitude. Count us among those who are praying for you every day. You all need a much-earned rest, but it was gratifying to see the smiles on your faces.
We love you,
Glen and Brenda

Rick Jackson said...

We are so happy to hear the surgery went so well. Realizing you're not totally out of the woods yet, our prayers and thoughts are continually with you and the Clot. Dennis, you look good. By the way, how did you get that good lookin' tan? It won't be long before you and Joan are hitting that tennis ball back and forth together again. We love you guys. We will talk to you soon. Love, Rick and Linda Jackson

Paul said...


Hope you had a good night. May the wind at your back be your own!

Say Ort

Anonymous said...

we are thrilled for the "NEGETIVES"! and so glad surgary was successful. continued prayers for healing. our love to you all. my kids looked at the blog for the first time today with me, they wanted to have a peek at "dr. ashton". olivia wondered why he had a tube in his nose, and when i explained it to her, the only comment was "HMMMMMM". not sure she will be taking her food like that any time soon!
with love the nielsons~
kyle dorien josh grace eliza & olivia