Wednesday, April 23, 2008


The future's so bright, he has to wear shades...

Greetings, Dear Ones,

In keeping with our policy of “Breaking News Airs Immediately,” I have a most joyous up-date to share. We had an appointment with Dr. Mulvihill on Friday, and we were really looking forward to it. At our previous visit with the Doctor, I had promised that the next time he saw Dennis, there would be vast improvement. Dennis has not only gained weight, but stamina and strength as well. He is borderline stud-muffin! His sense of humor is back, which saves my bacon concerning personal blog blab, and there is an over-all sense of well-being. I could hardly wait for Dr. Mulvihill to see I had made good on my promise.

It is my custom to take notes during the course of the appointment, because there is so much information dispensed that it exceeds my cranial capacity. When Dr. Mulvihill entered the room, he began enthusiastically informing us about Dennis’ over-all physical condition. He was anxious for Dennis to transition off the tube feedings, and promised that he will feel even better at the conclusion of the chemo treatments. He stressed that we continue the positive mental attitude, daily physical activity, and good diet. He did not want us to neglect the social aspect of meals. I had not thought of that, but I guess there is some validity to gathering the family around the old gruel pot.

But then he inserted something into the general interview that caught us both off guard. He said he wanted us to transition our thinking from cancer patient to cancer survivor. SURVIVOR! He said SURVIVOR! He continued with his reasoning for this, but Dennis and I just sat there looking bewildered. We looked like we had just been “tased.” I’m talkin’ “deer-in-the-headlights” stunned. It was a textbook case of “survivor confusion?” Is it possible that the idea of NED can so take one by surprise it becomes impossible to process the information? Even Dennis’ mouth was open. Oh, perhaps not the full-blown, molar-exposing, mouth gape like I was, but drop-jaw, nonetheless. For once, I was absolutely speechless! And I haven't stopped talking about it since. When I finally managed to get both my upper and lower lips in near enough proximity to form words, I asked him if he could walk me through that idea one more time…did he actually consider Dennis a survivor? He said unequivocally, “Yes.” He reiterated that Dennis was NED (no evidence of disease) there are no abnormal lymph nodes in the neck, his eyes are clear, and his tumor markers are 36. I wanted to ask a follow-up question to my follow-up question, but as luck would have it, all my faculties froze, and my allergies kicked in. My throat closed off, and every facial portal opened up. I oozed from all my orifices (orifi?) It was not pretty. Dennis was able to compose himself enough to inquire about going to Disneyland and returning to work this summer. Dr. Mulvihill thought both were excellent suggestions. I was about to ask about a Mediterranean cruise, but I was afraid that might be pushing it. And then Dr. Mulvihill left.

We lingered in the exam room hugging, before we were composed enough to emerge. We were scheduled for Friday infusion, and had to have labs drawn. However, Dennis’ vitals must have been affected by our visit with Dr. Mulvihill.

Blood pressure: 90 over 63 (!!!)

Temp.: 98.6

Oxygen: 94

Pulse: 92…after passionate kiss – 92 ½ (Memo to self: work on technique, girlfriend!)

Weight: 121 fully clothed.

Height: 5’8” – after good news…5’12

Color: pink…accentuated with designer gray

Smile: quite perceptible.

This is all good. However, the blood counts and his ANC were low enough that it was decided to postpone the chemo infusion until next week as they did not want to compromise his immune system.

So we drove home, speaking in word fragments and partial sentences. (we--, what the…hmmm, that sort of thing)

And then we worked on our transitioning skills. How do we think like a survivor? Dennis suggested we buy a toilet. For some reason, that seemed reasonable. Then I suggested we buy three. And for some reason, that too seemed reasonable. (Memo to selves: keep working on transition skills!)

When we arrived home, the Willow Creek angels arrived with home-made chicken soup and a bucket-load of candy. In our best effort to think in transition, we pounded down a theater-size box of “Goobers” without pausing for breath. We polished off those bad boys like it was an Olympic competition. And then we collapsed, exhausted and panting, into our recliners in a sugar stupor that surpasseth all understanding. Oh, the therapeutic value of the common Goober! (But we’ve got a ways to go on this transition thing.)

For so long now our lives have been measured by cycles of chemo, radiation, corrective procedures, major surgery, and doctors’ appointments. I am not sure how we will organize the propulsion of time when these treatments are concluded. By seasons? By events? By impulse? We have decided that we will be doing Thanksgiving again. I personally want to go outside, smell the flowers, inhale Spring, and schnuck up whole lilac bushes in a single sniff. Ah, but then I would have to account for the contents of my nostrils, and the humiliation factor made me think better of it.

So far, in our efforts to transition our thinking from patient to survivor, we have:

  1. Bought toilets.
  2. Stuffed Goobers.
  3. Inhaled blossoms

Now what? Any suggestions?

We haven’t taken off our armor…the battle isn’t over yet. Perhaps we never will…we’ve grown rather accustomed to it. We are a little dazed at the moment, but our hearts are very full. This has been a long voyage, and we have not reached our destination just yet. We have had turbulent seas and major storms. But you have bridged the troubled water with tenderness, mercies, endearments, and love. We are most grateful.

We love you all dearly,

The Clot

p.s. We are over half way to our $5,000 goal! The word "Survivor" is possible in large part to the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Dr. OMara is training hard for the 206 mile race- Let's keep it going! For more info, or to donate, CLICK HERE


A & M Ras said...

I am so excited for you guys! Coming from a survivor mom of 5 years it is a little crazy the first little while when you no longer plan your day around the hospital and dcotors. Except you are a dr. so that may not work. Anyway, congrats on this big step. Thanks for all you have done for our little family and we are glad prayers have been answered for you as well. We need to get a picture of our survivors together.

susie said...

This is the most wonderful post I have ever read. I am thrilled and warmed and touched and so many other things. I think I might go out and buy myself a new toilet to celebrate! :) What a great day. GREAT day.

Love you all.

Susie & crew

stanandpatolsen said...

Our daughter Emily took her little Scottie into Willow Creek today, they are extatic about getting Dr Ashton back in July. Stan, Pat and family are all extatic as well! We love you guys and can hardly wait to get together when you can. We went with our kids and grandkids to Disneyland in Februay. That is the most magical place on earth. I still think about it everday. Love you all, Stan and Pat

Anonymous said...

SURVIVOR! I love it!
Take that, cancer!
Thanks for the wonderful update.
I gotta say - I think a cruise trumps going back to work.
We love you -

Kate O said...

Hi Ashtons
I was on a training ride yesterday and stopped by your house to pose for a survivor and rider picture for the LOTOJA website. Alas you weren't there - perhaps you were out training for survivorship or maybe buying a toilet? I missed seeing you. I'll stop on my next ride till we get that picture. Love, Kate O

the4ofusut said...

We are soooo happy for you! What a great day!! And I truly understand the joys that buying a new toilet can bring you. We also bought a new toilet a couple of weeks ago (not in response to fabulous news but due to the fact that the old pink one thankfully no longer matched the bathroom) and it was actually very pathetic how much attention one piece of porcelein can bring :)! We can't wait until July!! Is there an appt called "just because we missed Dr. Ashton?" If not I'm sure I can convince Nick to cough a few times to make it valid :)

Keep up the good work!!!
Dan, Stephanie, Brandon and Nick Urry

Bro. Dave said...

Way to go Dr. Den, Joan, and all the Clot. That is great news! Something we have all been praying about, and will continue to do so as I understand survivors are always in remission. They just don't want to say the "c" word--cured. But we will take it here and at your place.
We love you guys and the rest of the Clot, and hope to see you sometime later on this year.
Dave and Sandy Ashton
p.s. hope you got soft goushy seat(s)? Why not? Live it up!

Anonymous said...

What AWESOME news...if anyone can beat the big C you guys proved it can be done. Your positive attitude and continued love for each other should become a chapter in the textbook on how to beat the odds. I am so happy for all of you and hope you have a great time in Disneyland and look forward to seeing you back at Willowcreek. Chris