Sunday, March 30, 2008


Greetings, Dear Ones,

OK, Dennis and I went up for the third infusion of gemcitabine in this first series of chemo. We get next week to rest up. Then we will do two more series of three infusions with a Friday off in between. Does that make sense? I hope so, because I’m always unclear on the concept. We have six remaining infusions…and this phase of chemo is complete. From there, it is surveillance, where Dr. Mulvihill and Dr. Jones will surveil on a regular basis. This will be an interesting transition…a little like free-fall. I can hardly imagine what it will be like sculpting days without chiseling programmed appointments at HCI into our regular routine. What do people do with all that time? Clean house? Oh please, say it ain’t so! How does one organize life to give full recognition to difficulties without being victimized by them? And what should I put on my grocery list? So many questions, so little time. Oh well, we don’t have to cross those bridges now.

I just want to focus on some lovely numbers. Dennis’ vitals are quite pretty: temp – 96.6; pulse: - 83; oxygen: - 99. In addition, brace yourself…he is tipping the scales at a buxom 109 ½!!! But the sweetest number of all is 36. As of Friday, his tumor marker was 36. 36! According to Dr. Jones, this is NORMAL! WOW! Read ‘em and weep! Which is what I did. We were exhilarated. We were so excited that Dennis went into rapid-mode absorption and sucked up his complete bag of chemo in record time. And after that, he had enough energy to lightly turn his fancy to thoughts of spring…and fertilizer. (So much for romance.)

We went to get some pre-emergent for our lawn, but were told we were a little tardy for pre-emergent. (I suggested we try my own personal pre-emergent, but Dennis didn’t think Red Bull would promote lawn growth.) He also nixed the idea of sprinkling gemcitabine, citing the fact it might leave a carbon footprint the size of New Jersey. The guy has no imagination! The man at Smith’s referred us to a product called (and this is the unvarnished truth) …”Liquified Worm Poop.” Now I admit I am not savvy on worm physiology. I was granted conscientious objector status by my biology professor, so I didn’t have to dissect the critters. Being conscious to take the tests seemed to be a major consideration.(However, after seeing Dr. Mulvihill’s 8x10 glossies of Dennis’ Whipple, I have been radically de-sensitized to anything visually disturbing. Worm guts would be a walk in the park!) I’m not exactly sure just how they harvest worm poop, but it did conjure up visions of worm colonies being fed a steady diet of prune juice and laxatives. Anyway, we passed on the liquid worm poop (no pun intended) and decided to just dig up whatever doesn’t look like lawn. In our domain, that could be anything from crabgrass to grandkids.

We are quite pleased with Dennis’ ability to tolerate this third-phase of chemo. He has some nausea, but is able to manage. There has been minor hair down-sizing, but the scalp looks healthy, pink and shiny. It even allows for lipstick application when mirrors are not available. He is also taking nutrition by mouth, and visions of peristalsis dance in his digestive system. I’m just glad he isn’t going through simultaneous radiation. Talk about “scorched earth.!” Dennis continues to absorb, which is very efficient because it goes all through the night. And when we wake up in the morning, he is fat and squishy. We are so used to the ubiquitous tube feedings that we think of them as “Canned Chub.” And each container is filled with densely packed calories just waiting to morph into more Dennis. The guy has plenty of backbone… but it is less apparent. He is becoming more visually perceptible, and will soon be his old self …a “hunka, hunka burnin’ love!”

Actually, we can never be the same again. And this is OK. We realize that there are no guarantees, but we have never asked for guarantees…only hope. We know the source of that commodity, and we have it in abundance. Sometimes it seems we have been skiing this black diamond slope a long time, with all its inherent hazards. But we are grateful for storms that make us aware of whom we can rely on. Confronting difficult predicaments has given us greater wisdom and understanding and renewal. And it has clarified for us just what it is we value most. Each of you has helped us impose order on the chaos with your optimism, love and prayers. We are better people because of your friendship. Please know of our deep and sincere appreciation.

Our Love to All,

The Clot


Mykio said...

Funny you should mention worm poop...I actually watched a show the other day about harvesting worm poop! It is a lengthy, disgusting process! I am always so glad to hear the progress Dennis is making! You guys make it so easy to continue to be optimistic! We all miss you so much at work, as do your patients! I am so looking forward to walking back to your office and seeing you kicked back in your chair; walking down the hallway of Willow Creek swinging your stethoscope with a big grin showing from under your beard! Always glad to hear you are doing well! Hope to see you soon!


Deanna said...

I guess I harvested worm poop and didn't even know it until now. When I go fishing and thread the worm on my hook the term that comes to mind-- "he was so scared he pooped his pants" or I guess the shorter less eloquent phrase would be "scared X@?*@@". You get my drift. If I had known it was good for my lawn, I would have saved it in a baggy. I can't even imagine how many worms would have to drink that prune juice to make even a dent on yours or my lawn. It is a funny visual though. What a good report--you are all so very loved by me and my family and I will continue to include you all in my prayers.

Dad & Mom Williams said...

Hi, from LeAnn
Thanks for sharing with us your blog site.
I am learning a lot about hope.
Joan you must be an English Major; your postings are so good.
I love your humor in the face of adversity. We are praying in great faith for you both.
Roger and LeAnn

Amy Weech said...

Uncle Denny & Aunt Joanie,
Hooray for good numbers! The only technical knowledge I have of pancreatic cancer is what I've learned from reading your blog, so I'm hardly an expert on what all the numbers mean, but I figure that if you're excited about a 36 then so am I! And I think the 109.5 is also a very impressive number--every ounce counts, and as long as that number keeps going in the up-direction then why worry about how fast it's going there. Just keep on keepin'on! It has been such an honor to keep you in our prayers and thoughts for the last several months, and we love your family so much. We can't wait to start seeing more of Uncle Denny, both at family stuff and also at Willowcreek. But mostly, we can't wait for there to be more and more of Uncle Denny to be seen :) .
Love, Amy & Lee & Jackson & Kara

Anonymous said...

What an AWESOME update. I am so HAPPY that the calories are adding some "Hunka" back on and am glad you decided to pass on the worm poop...that would be something to turn even the healthiest person's stomach! I look forward to the remaining countdown of gemcitabene with positive results and continuing positive numbers. Your toughness and on-going optimism is contagious to all of us. Love and prayers to the next few infusions and the continuation of weight gain and lack of nausea!! Chris

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for the update and the good news about Dennis' numbers. All any of us can do is take one day at a time and appreciate the goodness that day has to offer. Having you as friends has been one of the great blessings in our lives. This past five months, you have made us realize even more that we should not let one day slip by without acknowledging our love to those we hold dear. Thanks for enriching our lives. Good luck with the future treatments.

Love you,

Janice said...

My four kids are patients and I am so glad to hear that things are going so well. Dr. Ashton is in our prayers.

As far as pre-emergent goes, I have been told, you put it on when the forsythia is blooming--which it hasn't yet. So, I think you still can, if you really want to.