Sunday, February 10, 2008


Dear Fellow Clotters,

Dennis is home. It has been a week and a day since we made the trek to the Huntsman Cancer Hospital to have major surgery known as the Whipple performed. I don’t know if it is possible to chronicle this particular part of our journey and do it justice. Some things will be pondered in our hearts, while others demand to be exposed. I will try not to get the two mixed up.

Dr. Mulvihill performed a very successful classic Whipple on Dennis, and all went quite well. They thought they might have to “harvest his carotid” during the procedure, but that turned out to be unnecessary. There was minimal blood loss, and all the contingencies that were so meticulously prepared for did not occur. Dr. Mulvihill says Dennis is NED, (No Evidence of Disease) to the naked eye. This was our goal, and we were successful. The Clot is still celebrating.

Tuesday was singular to say the least. It was more “tsunami” than “super,” but that was only a portion of the day. Brodi and Erin were quite articulate in their narration of events, and I must say, they express themselves very well. But in the interest of fair and accurate reporting, I thought it would be appropriate to include an “op ed” addition to their report. To begin with, these girls have shown courage and fortitude and single-mindedness that has galvanized and fortified our entire family. I know the source of their strength. But I guess it takes great adversity to understand the depth of that strength. Dr. Mulvihill said we might experience a let-down during this whole process. That was like saying Vesuvius was a mere pyrotechnic display! But he put things in perspective, and reassured us that things are still on track.

When order was restored once more, and all the body parts were correctly distributed and re-assembled, the girls recognized that we needed a blessing to close out the day. Our bishopric arrived to salve the rawness, mend our hearts and feed our souls. They even looked at the graphic pictures of the resection that Dr. Mulvihill had shown us, and all commented on how remarkable and very clear those pictures were. The Clot was quite impressed because these weren’t exactly photos of the grandchildren. No one lost consciousness, however. We suggested this might be a good time to humiliate and hurl insults at the mass, but this offer was politely declined since the men were all in suits and ties. These things must be done delicately. How grateful we are for men such as these.

We cannot express how much we love our daughters, and how proud we are of them. They are elect. They did not ask for this task, but they do not shrink from it. Just because they cried doesn’t mean they lost their composure. Where there is much devotion, there is much emotion. We have agreed that we will not let the rain beat us down. When asked if there will be light at the end of the tunnel, we simply explain that we are not in a tunnel. All we see is light.

And each of you has been a source of that light. In fact, when I spoke with a friend, I told her that Tuesday had not been “super” at all. Renee said, “Joan, you only lost a few delegates. You will sweep the rest of the nation and go on to win the election!” Oh, the power of the positive image!

Preparing Dennis for discharge was an exercise in the surreal. First of all, Dr. Fenton informed us with great joy that because of Dennis’ remarkable progress, he (Dr. Fenton) was going to pull his (Dennis’)grenades! Think about it. That has the same visual impact as being informed that they are going to “harvest his carotid!” For only the second time in my life, I managed to stifle responding, “Touch his grenades and die, Buddy!” I am glad I managed to restrain the lips, because Dennis would no doubt have detonated those grenades had I spoken on impulse.

The grenades are actually drains…that drain stuff. Again we get into medical terminology too complex for me to understand what I’m talking about. Suffice it to say that the removal of these grenades…HURTS! Of course, I immediately demanded that the staff call in the entire pain management squad. I even remembered to request Tylenol for Dennis!

The process of grenade extraction seemed to go on forever. But you know Dennis. He bore it stoically, the only indication of pain being facial distortion. However, at one point, he uttered an “audible” that verified he was indeed an alumnus of West High. This sent me into convulsions of agony, and by the end of the procedure, I was a twisted piece of wreckage collapsed quivering, shaking and moist by his bedside. Vicarious grenade extraction is not as fun as it sounds! Afterward, I had to lie down on the couch to recover. I was exhausted. The next thing I knew, Dennis was tucking a blanket around me. I was never any good with arranging covers. It’s his forte.

And now Dennis is finally home. Our house doesn’t seem so cavernous. I have really missed his “thereness.” And we are celebrating.

Prayer is such holy domain. You have extended sacred hospitality by inviting us to be guests in your prayers. We are especially touched by the prayers of the children on our behalf. You have provided shelter, and a sense of safety and protection. You have helped to sweeten the bitter cup. There are not the words to express our love and gratitude. But please know that you are all in our prayers of thanksgiving, and will be so tonight.


The Clot


Anonymous said...

We're so happy Uncle Denny is home. We love the pictures. Thank you for the update, Aunt Joan.
Love, Megan, Jesse, Harper & Quincy

Anonymous said...

It is amazing to think just one week ago Dennis was recovering in a bed draped with hospital garb and IV's and "grenades" and now he is dressed and walking around your house! What a tremendous feat YOU have all accomplished the last week. I wish you continued wellness as Dennis continues to heal and want you to remember that tears are good for all of us it reminds us that we all care greatly for the entire Clot! Chris C

the4ofusut said...

We are so thrilled to know you are home, Dr. Ashton. To your dear family - thank you for sharing all the updates and keeping us all informed as to what is going on in your battle. Dr. Ashton has been a member of our family for over 10 years and now we feel as we know all of you and we worry and care for all of you as much as we do him. What a wonderful day to have him home. Congratulations on this major step!

The Urrys

joan said...

So glad Dennis is home. Sending lots of love and prayers your way. Thank you for sharing your experience through your blog with all of us. You are a tremendous example of the power of love and family. Thinking of you often.
Joan and Adonis Nielson

Jane said...

The best news of the day was clicking onto this blog and finding out Dennis is HOME! Wonderful!! His size may have diminished a bit, but his spirit I am sure has filled not only your home but the entire ward..universe! What a great treat to read this blog. We feel so honored to be a part of The Clot! Love, prayers & faith to you all. Tom & Jane

New York Sims said...

I am so HAPPY! Welcome home. We love you so much!

Mel, Pete, and kids

Anonymous said...

Home never looked so much like sanctuary. Dennis never so dashing and relaxed as at the end of this particular journey. Welcome to peace and clean sheets Ashtons. Who deserves it more?

Our love, Diane & Jim

Kate O said...

Welcome home! Love Kate O

cristie said...

there's no place like home...clicking heels three times. xox