Sunday, September 28, 2008


Well, the day is rapidly approaching when Dennis will reclaim custody of his stethoscope, his tongue depressor (an instrument solely designed to render the tongues of children very sad), and his gag swabs, (solely designed to gag), and return to work. As with everything of late, we have mixed emotions. On the one hand, Dennis can’t wait to see his “super troopers.” They are absolutely delightful. He has even been thanked by young patients who have endured particularly disagreeable procedures…once the gag reflex has recovered enough to form words…observing charming etiquette prompted by their moms. The children are spontaneous and cheerful, and can reignite one’s enthusiasm for the welfare of this world in the hands of this up-coming generation.

Dennis has also missed the daily association with the finest colleagues and co-workers in the medical field. (They provide welcome diversion from the incessant presence of…me!)

We have long anticipated this day
We welcome Wednesday!

On the other hand, preparing for a day that at times we wondered would arrive, is a little like anticipating the first day back to school. We are stock piling our dwindling time with such copious fun, that our erratic and bizarre activity is rendering us chronically and moronically exhausted…and slightly light-headed. But we don’t want to squander one precious remaining moment by getting adequate rest. No. No. A suspension of perpetual merriment might cause our eyes to lose that look of the characters in cartoons indicative of the profoundly stupid.

For instance, today we decided to go roller blading at Liberty Park. (That decision alone is compelling evidence of our splendid neurological decline.) We put on our roller blades, and Dennis helped me negotiate the curb to the sidewalk. Talk about the inept leading the impaired!

It wasn’t long before a young man skated past us with extended, gliding strides, graceful, controlled, poetic. He would alternately coast and propel, all with exceeding velocity…and hubristic and entirely inappropriate self-confidence!

Well, needless to say, I was inspired. So I channeled my inner Apollo Ohno and embarked on my first lap of the day. I wasn’t afraid of falling, really. I have no pride. Vanity, yes. Pride, no. Besides, I found solace in the reassuring presence of multiple concentrated cellulite clusters centered around my landing gear. These clusters are programmed to deploy upon impact. They’re not exactly aerodynamic. In fact, they provide enough drag that I can comfortably maintain minimum speed while giving the illusion of forward thrust. In addition, varicose veins intersected with splotches of red on a background of astonishingly pale, quivering thigh flesh presented a wonderful image of geriatric patriotism that caused many of our fellow blade brigade to remove their baseball caps in a gesture of respect. It was all good.

However, we have always loved to roller blade, although ability, unfortunately, has not necessarily been the by-product of practice.

Sometimes things happen that make particular days memorable. A while ago, Dennis and I were roller blading at Liberty Park when a young girl skated past us. She was obviously skilled and able…and pretty. It wasn’t long before she had completed a lap, and passed us again. This time, we noticed that she had worked up a bit of a sweat in the heat of her workout. In fact, the more she skated, the more she perspired, and the more she perspired, the more transparent her skimpy attire became. (It seemed to me the attire became skimpier with each succeeding lap!)

On the third lap, I became aware of an interesting phenomenon: in spite of superior and more aggressive blading skills, not a single male passed her! There accumulated an ever-increasing multitude in her wake. The visual absurdity made me laugh out loud.

Suddenly, I heard the screech of fire engines and their high-pitched screaming sirens. I looked across 7th East to see smoke billowing in the sky and obstructing the view with black. It was alarming, to say the least. But what was hysterically remarkable, was that not one man’s eyes were diverted by the on-going, unnerving catastrophe. Remarkable! I thought it all exceedingly funny,…until I said, “Wow! Would you just look at that fire!” And Dennis said, “What fire?” I ceased to be amused. In fact, it was very nearly the last statement in mortality that he uttered. Luckily, I did not have my lawyer on speed dial.

We weathered that particular atmospheric disturbance, but ever since then, I scope the terrain for perspiring, athletic young women capable of distracting one from a life of devoted sobriety, before lacing on the roller blades. And whenever we hear fire engines screaming by us with ear-shattering sirens, I say, with the sweet, guilt-laden delicacy innate to my gender, “Wow! Would you just look at that fire!” ‘Nuff said.

There is nothing as messy and delightful as a backyard picnic with grandchildren. Everything tastes better when stuffed in the mouth with small, particularly grimy, germ-laden hands. Sterile procedure is discarded, and one only hopes there is an adequate accumulation of immunity to withstand the assault of food with discoloration of dubious origin. Such moments are forever recorded in the heart.

We are savoring the time. We regret the close of one day, and rejoice in the beginning of the next. In spite of, and perhaps because of, everything that has happened, we consider our lives blessed beyond measure.

Our love to all,
The Clot

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


We knew that she could do it! And indeed she did. Dr. Kate O successfully completed the Lotoja (Logan to Jackson) secured the yellow jacket, dethroned Lance Armstrong, and won “Rider Cup.” By our calculations (with the aid of an abacus and severely impaired maniacal mathematics), it works out to be a distance of exactly 10,000square miles and approximately 2,347,986 pedal rotations, not counting the occasional downhill coast. This was done over treacherous terrain where the official set of guide books cite the possibility of unimaginable peril that belies the tranquil beauty of the wilderness. She was able to successfully fend off plagues of flying locusts, infectious insects, grizzlies, swollen knees, fatigue, a husband who questioned her sanity, and young children who repeatedly asked the age-old query first uttered byAdam,…”Are we there yet?”

Actually, our version of this remarkable accomplishment is not exactly the unvarnished truth. In fact, the truth was not only varnished…it was shellacked. But the point is, Kathy O’Mara, with guts, perseverance, and determination, completed a grueling ride…and dedicated her efforts to raising funds for the Huntsman Cancer Center. That feat needs no embellishment. In the end, she delivered a check for $4,200 on behalf of Dennis and all who suffer from this unspeakable affliction. What accolades could be extended except deep and sincere appreciation, and the pleasant thought that one of those dollars might just be the one that tips the scales in favor of discovering a cure. I know that day will come, an answer will be found, and we can delete the expletive, expunge “The Great Obscenity” from our vocabulary, and only hear it referred to when we are researching the plagues of ancient antiquity for a history class.

To all who made a financial contribution to the cause, we sincerely thank you. And for all who have made emotional contributions and supported morale, we are indebted. May you all be blessed for your generosity. And to Kathy, our love.

And now for an up-date on Dennis’ current condition. He’s terrific. He is getting stronger every day because he works out like an insane gym addict. Well, in point of truth, that is a monumental exaggeration! However, he does amazing things with his gigantic, inflated work-out ball. As his lovely assistant, my duties are to retrieve the capricious little sphere when it rolls with wild abandon down the hall, and mock and jeer as he’s going through his regimen of stretching and building exercises to the point of such exasperation that he chases me through the neighborhood, and we both get a cardiac work-out. He is still shy a “hunka,” but he is at least “one hunka and holding.” (Actually he looks like he’s just gone 15 rounds with Jenny Craig!) He has ponderous pectorals, but it is a daunting task to accumulate body mass on a steady diet of pablum and rain water. However, he is sensibly proportioned and less acutely angled. His bowels are unbound, and so is his enthusiasm. (Call me later if you feel the need for greater clarification.)

I have taken a solemn oath to “blog lite,” but that vow will not be implemented until a later date. My apologies. But I have been seized by “keyboard purge,” and I fully intend to empty the contents of my final firing neuron into cyberspace. So, fair warning: fasten your seat belt, or proceed with caution. Viewer discretion is advised.

I love September. And I love autumn. It is that interim time that gives ample opportunity for reflection…and birth. I have heard that most people have September as a birth date. That is certainly the case in our family. We have a cluster of birthdays, including both our daughters. I guess that is due in part to the wondrous biological consequence of cold Utah winters.

Erin was born on September 11th. I can legitimately claim rights to having given birth to the original terrorist. Osama has nothing up on this Mama!
Brodi was born exactly three years and one week later…in spite of my vociferous proclamations of “never again!”

To say that Erin was colicky is profoundly understated. We actually financed Dennis’ medical school education from funds accrued on winnings from ill-advised friends willing to wager that no baby could cry that loud for that long. We emerged with a medical degree and minimal debt. Happily, the colic eventually subsided…upon acquisition of her driver’s license. And there was a merciful if momentary decibel lull in our household. One of Dennis’ most endearing attributes as a pediatrician is his empathy for parents of colicky babies. But she came trailing streams of laughter, that we fondly refer to as “The Comedy of Erin.”

Brodi, although she could pass for Erin’s stunt double, was an entirely different phenomenon. I remember taking my new-born for her six-week check-up with our pediatrician, and pouring out all my worries concerning this baby. I explained that she only cried when she was hungry, and when I fed her, she stopped. In addition, she would actually sleep for four to six hours at a stretch, and then wake up happy. What could possibly be ailing her? Dr. Lloyd listened very carefully, and then asked me if I had ever considered the possibility that her behavior was normal? The thought hadn’t entered my head.

There is no question that this year’s birthday celebration was singular. We celebrated not just the birth of our daughters, but the joy of who they are, their vibrancy, their radiant personalities, their humor, and our bonds. I saw these young women of inestimable consequence shoulder burdens of epic proportion in times so trying if defies description. They could shed their tears, bind my wounds, invent nonsensical limericks, and simultaneously breach hospital etiquette by vociferously celebrating the wholesome restorative occasion of flatulence. Now, that is my definition of multi-tasking! And that’s my definition of “normal.”

I sometimes wonder where the time has gone. And yet I can account for every minute…especially of this past 11 months. I sometimes wonder where the time is going. That, I’m not sure. But I am going along for the ride, and I rejoice in my traveling companions.

Finally, autumn’s quiet does stimulate reverie. Part of extracting wisdom from experience is reflection. At the risk of stating the obvious, it seems to me that adversity has purpose not readily identifiable at the moment of its descension. One cannot philosophize as one is being ground to fine powder. But it also occurs to me that tribulation generates a plethora of “ities.” A particular by-product is unity. Prosperity does not seem to possess the unifying properties of hard times. When mortality becomes reality, we seem to reorder our priorities to reflect the people, the relationships and the kindred spirits we hold most sacred and value most deeply. Perhaps the need to gather, unite, huddle, circle the wagons, comes from our primal understanding that there is strength in numbers, and that we were never intended to negotiate this mortal existence alone. When life proceeds without hindrance, as we busily raise our families and establish our kingdoms, we tend to allow the tyranny of busyness to postpone our attention to other vital things. But adversity, calamity, catastrophe, wake us up, shake us up, and gather us together, even as we maintain individual distinctions, under a common canopy, like many people under the same umbrella. This is the highest form of “herd mentality.” This is a good thing.

As you can tell, full hearts are our harvest. We are so grateful for your love, your friendships, your portion of our joy. We are grateful for off-spring whose comedy has been an essential element of endurance. Collective clothood is good.

We love you all,
The Clot

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I suppose I’ve always known that some day I would have to try to impose order and hopefully ever-deepening understanding on our most recent collection of yesterdays. This is difficult, because I must not only remember, but revisit. Not an easy assignment. This has been no ordinary time. I feel compelled to throw illumination on not just events, but emotions, and widen the lens on circumstances that can overwhelm when taken in its entirety. So I move forward in increments, knowing I am not always equal to the task. But such times as these are etched on one’s being and the shadows demand to be assessed, pondered and assimilated. I am obligated to extract wisdom from our extraordinary experiences and forge them onto our souls in order to preserve our intense and significant perspective. Our lives have been transformed. We must deal with it.

On Monday, August 11th, Dennis was scheduled for his final infusion. We have been anticipating this day for a very long time, and I thought it would never get here – sort of like a pregnancy that seems to exceed its due date. But when it arrived, I was surprised at the mixed emotions it brought. I was so prepared to start celebrating the infusion conclusion. The floats were ready for the parade, the fireworks were waiting to be detonated, and the “chemo royalty” were practicing their rhythmic, synchronized hand-wave. I had been feverishly rehearsing the “Sussa Favorite Marches” medley for my tuba solo, while simultaneously inflating balloons with my nostrils. It was a “go.”

The infusion preliminaries require the weekly blood draw to see if Dennis’ counts would allow for one more pint of gemcytobene. We had hoped that the numbers would cooperate, and we could belly up to the tubes and raise a pint of Huntsman’s finest with our fellow infusees. The math, no matter how we tried to tweak the numbers, was simply too fuzzy to permit the procedure. Dr. Jones pronounced Dennis officially done with chemo, and congratulated him on his endurance.

So the celebration began.

Our infusion station was surrounded by the most remarkable technicians and friends you’d never want to meet. Erin and Brodi joined us as the Huntsman Hospital Harmonizers sang with occasional harmony, their song of congratulations with heartfelt gusto, and presented Dennis with his bona fide diploma of cheme-ology, (he has now been endowed “chemo-brain emeritus,” a title of exceeding distinction) and a blanket to warm his bones…of which there are many! And then they did something I have never known them to do. There was a massive group embrace, consisting of multiple individual hugs. There was Deann, the Zen Master of needles, who can extract blood from a stone…on the first needle stick.

She eventually retained eminent domain on his vein. Karen, who called Dennis a “hottie” even when he barely tipped the scales at 100. (She seemed to recognize he is actually a spiritual stud!)

Judy, who is always humming, and will cheerfully take requests if you have a favorite tune. (She did have a little trouble, however, with Deliverance’s “Dueling Banjos,” but she gave it her best shot!) So many, so dear.

These people have blessed this experience and mitigated the trauma with their kindness and tender care. Theirs is not an easy errand. Sometimes circumstances are trying no matter which side of the chemo-bag one is on.

Finally, it was time to make our final “goodie lap.” We had brought scones, ambrosia, nectar of the gods, and all manner of culinary delights. (In a gesture of supreme humanitarianism, I opted not to inflict my culinary prowess impairment on those who have already endured so much.) And as we spoke with everyone, there was great encouragement and congratulations exchanged, and reminders to keep fighting the battle in the war in which none of us enlisted. The moment was sweet, and a little more tender than we had anticipated. It was most difficult to take leave of Dov, (“Bear”). (I have to confess I have “tee-shirt envy.”)

He has colon cancer and a wicked sense of humor, as you can tell from his chest graffiti. It would not be an exaggeration to say we know him inside and out! But under the circumstances that have assembled us together, there is no room for restraint or sensitivities. We all speak openly of conditions that are heinous. Perhaps some words seem offensive in polite society, but cancer, the great unwelcome guest, has never been polite. “Cancer,” after all, is the greatest obscenity.

And then the four of us left the room we had occupied with great regularity for so long. No one looked back. It is a place we will miss, but never want to re-visit. And we went to lunch. And Dennis was with us.

When we eat at The Point, it is usually because we are waiting for Dennis to have a procedure, a stent replacement, an infusion, or an operation. But this day we were a Clot, and there was great joy in the moment. Sometimes the ordinary is so miraculous. It felt like the first Monday following the week of the Creation. A lot of work had been done, and now we were responsible for sculpting our own existence. Easier said than done. But we will make it happen.

Autumn is the season of nostalgia. It is good to look back and try to remember. What have I learned to this point? That will be an inventory that will occupy the remainder of my life. But the summary would have to include the following.

I have a better understanding of the nature of miracles and the privilege of adversity. From this comes wisdom.

I am learning to appreciate the corrosive power of doubt, and the healing power of love, two powerful opponents. Of the two, love is the greatest.

I have learned to pray as if it were an Olympic event by prayer warriors who have been in training all their lives.

It takes a village. I have suffered anguish because we could not do it alone, and then come to the enlightening discovery that we were never meant to do it alone.

I have come to understand that “Family” is comprised of members who do not necessarily have genetic proximity.

Hope is often gauged by the pound and by the prayer.

And I know even better the efficacy of harsh language and the poignancy of a particularly well-crafted succession of expletives that can be as satisfying, and possibly more appropriate, as the most articulate poetry on certain occasions.

So, stop the world, we want to get back on.

Our love to all,
The Clot