Saturday, June 14, 2008


Brevity has always held zero appeal for me because it requires an inordinate amount of time. It is infinitely easier to blog long than to blog short. Editing one’s musings demands more firing neurons than I have at my disposal at the moment, (not to mention discretion), and I am in the throes of brain-drain neuro-muscular flab. (I think that’s a viable medical diagnosis.) Dennis thinks it’s a simple condition of “sympathy chemo-brain”…sort of like fall-out from prolonged exposure in close proximity to gemcitobene. He has assured me that full neuro function will return in due time. (He’s been saying that for years. Either he’s optimistic, delusional, or deliberately amnesiac of just how severely curtailed my brainbox activity can be.)

That said, Dennis’ vitals look reasonable to quite good. His weight has remained steady. He’s still down a hunka, but he is filling out nicely. We are anxiously awaiting the morning when he emerges from his crysallis buff, toned, bulky, and disfiguringly big. In the interim, we bought him some clothes more accurately proportioned to his diminished dimensions. (Having shirts with collars cinched into neck pleats by his tie is soooo tacky!) There is slight variation in his pulse, temperature, and blood pressure. But his height has remained constant, and we’re so proud of that. I was afraid when he was untethered from his pushee-thingee, he would lose the appearance of altitude, and I feared I’d have to retire the old stilletoes that were mandatory to maintain upward vertical proportions. This, happily, is unnecessary…I still walk funny, but I look tall.

I have always taken the procedure of drawing labs for granted, since the technicians are so skilled they make it look easy…that is, if one actually looks at the process. ( I steadfastly decline the opportunity.) But recently, Dennis’ veins have been somewhat contrary, and this has caused some frustration for the techs. One very persistent nurse was so determined to secure a hit, that I wondered if she was an aspiring acupuncturist, or perhaps resorting to some sort of voodoo maneuver. Of course, I suggested trying “enabling expletives,”… “persistent profanity,”… as a solution to this “sticky” situation and as an interventional humanitarian gesture on Dennis’ behalf. Hey, it works for me. However, she declined, citing medical oratorical ethics. Whatever. But Dennis now has multiple puncture wounds, and, even worse, I suffer from night sweats and extreme recurring needle aversion. How good can that be?

Unfortunately, after all that, the lab results indicated prohibitively low white blood cell counts, which prevented him from receiving this week’s chemo infusion. This means that his immune system will be somewhat vulnerable until he is able to rebuild his white cell population, and we can all once again cough and sneeze directly up his nostrils without restraint. He often wears a face mask, but I think it’s less about disease prevention than it is about going into the witness protection program as a direct result of some of my inquiries. And this circumstance will profoundly influence this weekend.

Since Dennis’ birthday and Father’s Day both fall on Sunday, we planned a double celebration complete with pyrotechnics and a pachaderm parade. However, with the recent immunity restrictions, we have decided to exchange the elephants for hot dogs in tin foil dinners, and the only “trunks” at our party will be worn by the grandkids as they play in the pool. And we are so fine with this. Sunday will be an occasion for our usual deranged Ashton Family gathering. The grandkids will be simultaneously chattering at “Alvin the Chipmunk” velocity, which always makes us wish that children came with subtitles. And the adults will be franticly trying to clean up messes that appear suspiciously like ubiquitous Rorschach inkblots. The family men will be pounding down “Little Debbies” while Dennis performs his long-awaited rendition of “Little Darlin’,” complete with the falsetto DoWop in the background. The girls have threatened a gift of a custom Speedo complete with suspenders and “hunka hunka burnin’ love” embroidered wherever it can fit for their father’s birthday. There will be no protest from either of us. I recall when we received tickets for the River Dance performance which took place while Dennis was still in the hospital recovering from massive surgery. So we gathered in his room prior to curtain time, raced to Kingsbury Hall, and then cell phoned the performance to him when the program began so he could hear the music and the amazing tap dancing that sounded like a thousand typewriters typing in synchronization. Illness is often the mother of innovation. And we will watch our daughters with grateful hearts. Oh, there have been times as they were growing up when we had just cause to strike our names from their birth certificates…we wouldn’t have been convicted by a jury of our peers. We have been known to identify them with genealogical epithets: “Those words are so Dorrity-esque,” or “She’s definitely acting very Young/Gates/Ashton!” I can even detect a little generational degeneration when I see some of my characteristics flagrantly apparent in the youngest child’s latest tantrum. It’s OK. Dysfunction is so entertaining. In spite of the challenge of raising a family, we wouldn’t change a thing. Through it all, we have never had “beget regret.”

Circumstance is a great instructor. There is a lady we have become acquainted with in the infusion center who is currently undergoing chemo for breast cancer. She is bald and beautiful. And at the base of her head, where there used to be hair, she has a tattoo in bold letters. The ink reads CANCER SUCKS. No poet or philosopher could have said it better. It is a profound proclamation. And she is an exemplar of lovely dignity and courage. It is amazing how easy it is to strike up a conversation with someone bearing such graffiti. I offered to ink some two-word bit of profound wisdom on the top of Dennis’ head with my magic marker, but being well acquainted with my generational oratorical inclinations, and having a certain reluctance as to just what those two words might be, he respectfully declined the offer. Hmmmm.

So this weekend we can hardly wait to celebrate the opportunity to hang one more up on the calendar. We look forward to the hip-huggers and knees-squeezers to remind us what’s most important in life. This is all very good.



The Clot


Cam Ballou said...

We are so happy things are going well! Hope you enjoy your father's day!

Anonymous said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND HAPPY FATHER'S DAY! This is a wonderful day to celebrate your family and the successes you have experienced the last 8 months. I hope you all had a wonderful celebration. Thanks for continuing to keep us updated in Dennis progress and the ups and downs of treatment. I agree with the woman's tats that Cancer Sucks and hope that TREATMENT RULES will become the Ashton theme well into the future. Thoughts and prayers to all of you. Chris C

New York Sims said...

Happy Birthday! Sounds like you had a wonderful day. Miss and love you guys so much! -Mel

Dave and Sandy Ashton said...

Happy not going there! Lets just say 59 and holding!! And its neat being a father and grandfather, don't you think!! Those munckins are the cutest.
Hope your day was great and its so wonderful to be vertical and ventilating, as they say.
Cheers bro. God Bless you all.
Love ya, Dave and Sandy