Thursday, February 28, 2008


Hello, Clotters,

My, how time flies when you’re having fun. It is hard to imagine, but today is our four-week anniversary since the Whipple. I wonder if we will measure the passage of time from that event…like BCW (before classic Whipple) and ACW (after classic Whipple). Instead of observing the occasion with a moment of silence, the Clot is going to celebrate with a day of vociferous, raucous cheering. (Dennis will just smile under his beard, which is as raucous as he gets.)

I thought I would give an up-date on our latest doctors’ appointments, because, as you know, the terrain changes quickly, and it is best to blog before another “Ralph” enters the race. (see previous blog for clarification)

On Wednesday, Dennis and I met with Dr. Kim Jones and Dr. Chen. His vital signs were dang good, and for once his weight was greater than his blood pressure! In fact, he weighed in at a whopping 118 pounds. (We prefer to register his body mass in pounds instead of kilometers…because his velocity has decreased of late.) Anyway, Dennis was saying that 118 lbs. was probably not accurate because a lot of that was fluid retention in the tissues. I asked Dr. Jones if that mattered. She said no. Personally, I don’t care if it’s turkey poop and rainwater, 118 is 118. RACK IT! Now in the interest of accuracy, the man is not exactly abdominally endowed. But if it becomes necessary, we can always have ab implants to mitigate the “gaunt” factor. But that is an issue for another blog.

Dr. Jones and Dr. Chen decided that it would be in everyone’s best interest (mostly Dennis’) if we wait to begin chemo until March 14th. Even at 118, Dennis is still a little diminished (which is the diplomatic way of saying he is way skinny) But we are cool with that because we need bulk time. In fact, Dr. Jones gave him a “scrip” for pancreas enzyme meds which will help his body tolerate actual food in-take. The girls suggested getting enough for the whole family to ease the stress of my Sunday dinners. I didn’t think that was funny, and from now on, they can make their own gruel. Anyway, Dennis will begin a regimen of a chemo called gemcytobene, which he had pre-op. This chemo is fairly well-tolerated, and it was effective in shrinking the tumor. It will be given in a stronger dose since it will not have its little “fufu” friend to assist. However, Dr. Jones feels he can handle it. Both Dr. Jones and Dr. Chen reiterated what a big surgery the Whipple is. Of course, we all knew that. But when I saw both doctors express awe at the magnitude of the procedure, I was very glad to be looking back on it. I actually experienced a moment of “post traumatic Whipple anxiety.”

Dennis’ night went without incident, and that is a tender mercy in itself. His feet are less swollen, and he just seems better. He is much less gaunt-looking, and there is more pink apparent. I looked up the exact quote about the grapes and the sun and include it because I love it. Galileo said it. “The sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the universe to do.” There’s something that resonates about that image. The other morning I went for an early-morning walk when it was dark, and the wind was blowing in mighty gusts. At first I thought the conditions would prove prohibitive. But that was not the case. I wonder if there is such a meteorological phenomenon as a wind “warm” factor. In fact, the wind was at my back as I was going uphill. I still had to make the ascent on my own, but it helped to have the assist. The sun is lighting the sky earlier each morning in preparation to ripen our grapes. There is not so much darkness these days. This is all good.

We send you all our love,

The Clot

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Greetings, Clotters,

I apologize for the delay in the up-dates, but things have been a little like the current political landscape – every time you think you know the players, someone throws you a “Ralph Nader.” I tried to pass off to Erin and Brodi to post the blog, claiming the “fifth” and “aggressive dementia.” They conceded both, but refused to accept the mission. So I am forced to self-destruct by trying to pass on information that I neither know nor understand…(standard operating procedure). The girls suggested beginning the narration with a blanket apology for whatever is forthcoming, but advised me not to lift whole passages from any of the candidates’ apologies, lest I be accused of plagiarism.

Dennis has spent the last eight days at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital, as you know, because he sprang a leak, and was moistening his tutu. (No, it was not a bladder-control problem) Because it was the weekend, and a holiday weekend at that, it was decided to stop any caloric in-take for five days, put him on a saline drip, allow him a constant menu of ice chips, and wait to see what should be done. Having earned my degree in logical consequences, I predicted further weight loss. This indeed happened. The rationale for NPO was to have Dennis ready in case a drain was to be installed. However, after a little tincture of time, it was determined that he was no longer leaking kryptonite, and his body resumed absorbing nitroglycerin. He was no longer at risk for detonation. This is just what we had hoped for.

All seemed well. But just when we thought it was safe to go back in the water, we were thrown a “Ralph Nader.” It arrived in the form of unrelenting diarrhea. Now this may be more information than you really want, and if so, you may opt to skip this paragraph. Anyway, this particular “Ralph” can have serious consequences such as weakness and further weight loss. And, of course, that could impact plans to resume chemo. But for every “Ralph,” there is a “Mulvihill.” Dr. Mulvihill said that Dennis’ condition was to be expected, and there were options for treatment before resorting to making an incision in his chest and removing all his organs. OK. I was cool with that approach. In the meantime, the Clot decided we could assist in the resolution of Dennis’ dilemma by using our brains to send positive waves to his bowels. We got a book by Louise Hay called “Heal Your Body.” According to the author, this particular affliction has a probable cause of “Fear. Rejection. Running off.” (duh) And the new thought pattern to assume is “My intake, assimilation and elimination are in perfect order. I am at peace with life.” So we began chanting this new thought pattern repeatedly until Dennis gave us a full-body eye roll, we got the giggles and the “fiddle farties” set in. But I’m here to tell ya, it worked. Within 12 hours, we stemmed the tide, and a degree of normalcy was restored. This has come to be known to the Clot as a “Mind Over Poo Poo” moment. (Just as an aside, did I mention that Dr. Mulvihill ordered a powerful anti-diarrhea drug, “lomotil,” to be administered immediately?) However, I think the results were purely coincidental. Dennis has requested our next philanthropic exercise should be “Mind Over Coo Coo,” but we have been unable to come up with just the right jingle to achieve success. However, if anyone has an ailment that needs particular attention, the Clot will be happy to come to your house bringing the recommended chants, new thought patterns, and…lomotil.

The other night Dennis and I watched “Bull Riders Only” at the hospital. My father was a cowboy, and I grew up with cattle, horses, rodeos and a lot of bull. The object of bull riding is to stay on the back of two tons of rank anger for 8 seconds…and then to get off very carefully before the beast can stomp you into a moist spot in the dust. Sunday evening a rider named Renato Nunes stayed of top of one on the rankest bulls on tour named “Chicken On A Chain” for the full 8 seconds. Chicken is impossible to ride, but Nunes got a score of 95. I have never seen that happen before. It was amazing. But as courageous as this bovine warrior was, he paled by comparison to a hospital gladiator who stayed 8 days on NPO, syringes, rubber gloves, pain medication, and a quirky family chanting “om’s” and reciting thought patterns directed at his bowels. Dennis’ victory laps consisted of six circles in measured succession around the fifth floor. I would award his performance a definite 98! (He got two demerits for the eye-roll)

Dennis came home on Monday, and we are so happy. Joy is all relative, and having him in the house “absorbing” his meals is a special occasion. We try not to look back to try to figure out what has happened, nor to look forward to figure out what is going to happen, lest we lose our perspective and our balance. But we do know that your love and tender concern have not allowed us to falter. It seems that since we sent out an SOS, we have been buoyed up, and kept afloat with our heads above water. You continually bless our lives.

Our love to all,
The Clot

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Dear Ones,

As you probably already know from the Ghost of Blogs Past, Dennis is back at the Huntsman Hospital. Brodi’s account was fairly graphic and accurate. But just to give a quick review: Dennis and I were spending our Saturday evening as we always do. I had just gotten implants and a new red dress, and Dennis had one of his attacks that can only be satisfied with the prolific layering of polyester. Following a glut of disco music and feverish dancing, Dennis began feeling poorly. He reassured me it wasn’t anything to do with the choreography, but he had some significant pain above and beyond the Travolta marathon. A sleepless night and twelve hours in a tiny room at the U of U ER later, and we were back at the Huntsman again.

Our care-takers helped control the pain with massive doses of narcotics and promises that they would try to distract me from aiding and abetting the nurses while keeping me from starting the second season of Veronica Mars. (I have now switched to “Gilmore Girls” and “30 Rock,” thus proving that I am ambidextrous…I can watch two series at the same time with equal ease.) Now here’s where it gets a little murky, so review the alphabet, get a program, and follow along.

The doctors kept Dennis NPO, which means “nothing by mouth, don’t even ask for it, ‘cuz it ain’t happenin,’ Budddy!” They wanted him to be ready in case they decided to surgically implant a drain for all his bodily fluids. They did keep him on IV fluids so he would stay hydrated and PP. A brand new PICC line was debated in case TPN would be considered. (The initials stand for “Total Something Something.”) It’s a way of providing nutrition without bothering any of the digestion system or related organs. Keeping him in a prolonged state of total lack of caloric intake caused a loss of LBS. He got very THIN. We have achieved NED. (No Evidence of Dennis!)

It was decided that aspirating the fluid that was leaking and scrutinizing it with all kinds of tests and cultures was a good idea. We were not allowed to witness the procedure, and we definitely did not request a front-row seat, but we did over-hear someone in the procedure room say, “We’re gonna need a bigger syringe, Doc!” It was at this point that The Clot decided to stroll around the grounds until we felt at home.

As the medical staff was deciding to TPN or not to TPN, that was the question, Dr. Mulvihill arrived, and the debate was over. He preferred tube feeds over TPN because it is better to FTG. (Feed The Gut) I’ve been saying that for years. I just hated to cook to do it. The drainage tube is still an option, however, if Dennis gets distended and can’t hold his Jevity, but for now we’re in a holding pattern. Have I lost anybody?

By the way, I have to tip my hat to Dr. Mulvihill. He is such an accomplished surgeon. But he also has a read on The Clot. (This is a task in itself, as you well know.) He explains what’s happening, what he’s going to do about it, and then leaves time for questions, which he answers with clarity and patience. But he also seems to intuit concerns and even questions that are not asked, those nagging worries at the back of the mind that no one gives voice to…the unspoken shadowy things that create distortion in one’s perception. When he leaves, he has dispelled any concerns, answered questions, and reassured us we are not derailed, off course, or on a detour. I think all the prayers are inspiring him as well.

And we are able to go forth with confidence. Dr. Mulvihill is not even worried about Dennis’s weight. (Although I have yet to see him give Dennis a hug, which is when all the boney protrusions are particularly apparent) So as of now, our game plan is to stuff Dennis full of Jevity till his tissues are squishy, plug any leaks, chubby up every square inch, and proceed forth with enthusiasm and eventually obesity to chemo.

We are so grateful for your unending love and concern. You have assumed so much of the responsibility and weight of our trial. You have truly lightened our burden and provided spiritual floaties that have kept our heads above water. We can see ways and means to do this awesome task because of you. Please know you are all in our prayers always.

Our love to all,

The Clot

Monday, February 18, 2008

Saturday Night Fever becomes Sunday Morning ER

Good Morning Clotters.

It’s an oldie but a goodie. Dad’s back up at Huntsman Cancer Hospital, with its beautiful view of the mountains. We’ve missed those views, so this is all terribly convenient.

Starting on Thursday, Dad experienced an increasing pain in his belly. a.k.a. A really bad tummy-ache. (I hope I haven’t lost you with the medical jargon). Given the intensity of the pain, and its escalating nature, my Dad felt the situation should be addressed immediately. So, a short four days later, when the pain had become so unbearable that there was a great gnashing of teeth, the Clot rushed up to the University Hospital Emergency Room. Being a Sunday, on a Holiday Weekend, the timing was very suitable, and the parking situation was much more efficient. Our new motto is: what’s a holiday weekend without the mad dash to Huntsman?

We checked in to the ER at 8:30 a.m. and Dad changed into his favorite formal hospital gown. Four hours later, they decided to do a CAT scan. Eight hours later, the results showed a buildup of fluid in Dad’s belly. It looks like he has sprung another leak. He insisted that as long as he was in a reclined position, and he didn’t move ever again, and no one talked to him, he would be fine. We said to the doctors: “You’re going to trust the guy wearing the dress?”

So the nice folks at Huntsman booked him into his favorite fifth floor of the HCI. They have stopped all feedings, even the ones by tube, in hopes that this will stop the leak, and Dad will lose that extra 5 ounces he put on since being home. It was a very long day yesterday, at least 24 hours, but the Clot is just happy to have good doctors addressing Dad’s pain. We keep promising him, it’s not always going to be like this. And he looks at us sympathetically and promises us it’s not always going to be like this.

We’ll know more today, at which time I’m sure my mom will contribute a much more eloquent update filled with puns and witty asides. Thank you all for your continued support to my family.


The Clot

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Abraham Ashton?

Dear Loved Ones,

In spite of a tremendous blizzard, winds whipping massive snow drifts across freeways, trees bent over with the weight of the snow, and a wind chill factor suggesting arctic blast, it’s a lovely day. As you know, good news brings sunshine, and there was a sunbeam this morning when Dennis rolled (literally) out of bed. When we checked the gauze over the place where his grenades had been, we found it to be dry. Apparently the little peep hole left over from the surgery has sealed itself. This is such good news, now that we don’t have to have it stitched, taped, zipped or plugged. (My cache of emergency bubble gum wads can now be disposed of). The Clot is especially happy because we have been trying to harness our collective mental powers to remedy the situation.(That’s a feat in itself!) We have been chanting “Om” and repeating “Super Glue” in an effort to effect a seal…and it worked. (Of course, Dennis claims this is the result of natural bodily functions, but is gracious enough to remain silent as we’re all chest-thudding each other in the air.) We celebrate all victories.

February is a month distinguished by second-tier holidays. Besides Valentine’s Day, there is also President’s Day. And those who know our family, know how much we revere Abraham Lincoln. In fact, our first grandson is named Abram, which is a derivative of Abraham. Lincoln's actual birthday was on Tuesday, February 12th, and I was rather disappointed it wasn’t duly noted in the newspaper. I have read so much on Lincoln, and lately I have noticed some striking similarities between Lincoln and Dennis.
They both have beards.
They are both tall and lanky…except Dennis, who isn’t tall.
They both have a great sense of humor.
They are both quiet…except for Lincoln, who gave a lot of speeches and told a lot of humorous stories.
They both have a fondness for the tune “Dixie,” except for Dennis, whose favorite tune is “Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.”
And they both have wives who are…well, let’s not go there.

As you can see, if the two were in the same room, they’d be practically indistinguishable.
But it was Lincoln who said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the over-whelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” And so have we all. Lincoln preserved the body politic, and Dennis is preserving his body. They’re like brothers born of different mothers.

And speaking of preserving the body, the Clot has detected a slight increase in Dennis’ body mass. Now this increase is not evident on the scales. In fact, it’s not even evident to the naked eye. It’s more on the cellular level, but it is undeniably there. We can intuit a microscopic regeneration, and this growth will form ounces that will evolve into pounds which will have babies and produce great mounds of flesh till the “hunkas” are back en masse, and the man’s dimensions fill the void in the universe with…HIM!
(As you can tell, sometimes our imaging takes on a life of its own!)

Today we will observe a very romantic get-away. We plan to hold hands in our matching recliners and watch “Casa Blanca” while measured and rhythmic infusions of Jevity are periodically squirted into Dennis’ nose hose. I defy anyone to devise a better way for sweethearts to invest this holiday. The day is stormy, and the world looks white and pristine. Our driveway has been cleared…an early and anonymous valentine. How we love you all. In a recent Relief Society lesson, our teacher included a quote that I can only paraphrase. She said that the sun, with all its responsibilities in the universe, shines on a clump of grapes as if it had nothing else to do. You have brought us your love and support without restraint, as if you had nothing else to do. We are warmed and safe, and our hearts are full.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Dearest Ones.

The Clot

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Good Morning, Dear Clotters,

Having Dennis home is nothing but good. He is wearing non-hospital attire, which means that he isn’t perpetually flashing us as he moves around the house. (This has produced some “rear view” withdrawal on our part, but we’re adjusting as best we can.) He still maneuvers his pushee thingee through the rooms, but it has the same soothing effect as big wheels on pavement, so we always know where he is, and we are reassured that he is getting his exercise. In fact, the only indication that he just underwent major surgery is his nose hose…and, of course, massive weight loss. Other than that, you’d hardly know.

I am especially glad to have Dennis here besides all the obvious reasons. But the other day something happened that made me glad I wasn’t alone. A little bird flew into our window and fell onto our deck. This was rather surprising because our windows are so dirty I couldn’t figure out how he didn’t see them. Nevertheless, the contact left him stunned and panting, feathers ruffled, on his side. (I think it was a “he.” It is so hard to determine bird gender, and even upside down, there were no identifying markers.) Ah, but I digress. Anyway, I went immediately into “Joan/crisis” mode and hollered to Dennis to do something. He inquired as to suggestions. That is so like a man. I identified the emergency. He should fix it. Do I have to do everything? Perhaps he could administer mouth-to-beak resuscitation. Or maybe we could suck out some helium from our welcome-home balloons and inflate his body to keep it afloat until he regained consciousness (Sort of interventional lung intubation). There must be something we could do. Dennis suggested we wait. Oh yeah, like that’s going to help. But we waited. Dennis waited better. I do my best waiting while pacing. Waiting is hard for me.

After a while, the bird righted himself, regained his equilibrium, and assembled his disheveled feathers. And then the bird waited…and waited. He seemed to be meditating, composing his thoughts. He was very patient. And then, when the time was right, he flew away.

I share this incident for a reason. Dennis and I have done a couple of walks since he has been home. He did a full lap around Liberty Park on Sunday, and yesterday, he did some walking at Sugar House Park. But then he detected some fluid escaping from the place where his grenades had been extracted. It was a classic “Honey, I sprung a leak” moment. Of course, I went directly into “Joan/crisis” mode, looking for immediate solutions. Dennis suggested we wait. No, he didn’t think I could stem the flow by jamming my finger in the dike. No, bubble gum stretched over the hole and held in place with duct tape was not a good idea. Yeah, well exactly what did he have in mind? He suggested calling the doctor. Oh right! Like anybody could have come up with that solution. It’s rational, but shows a galactic lack of imagination! The doctor suggested we wait. Perhaps it would resolve on its own with gauze compresses. If that didn’t work, the doctor would take a stitch. Nobody’s feathers seemed ruffled…but mine. As it turns out, the “be patient and wait” method was actually efficacious. I don’t know why it’s so difficult for me to learn these lessons. I so often have my head in Friday when it’s only Tuesday. Windows happen to all of us. I understand that. But I can’t wait till I finally learn patience.

Besides springing a leak, Dennis also has a rather menacing bed sore at the end of his tail bone. So we brought it to the attention of the home health nurse. She said she would have to photograph it in order to chart its progress. Hmmm…OK. Now, under ordinary circumstances, we would have declined the offer. But times being what they are, Dennis doesn’t care if they bring people off the streets to observe any bodily condition. This experience has certainly helped us shed any inhibitions. So, he flashed her and she flashed him, and you will all be getting 8x10 glossies in your Christmas cards this year. We got him a U-shaped donut pillow to ease the pressure, which was actually in accordance with our collegiate affiliation. But in the interest of being politically correct, the Clot are “cross-cheerers” and would have gotten a Y-shaped donut pillow if it provided more comfort.

You will never know the many ways you sustain us. Whether it is by prayer, loving thoughts, frosting on cookies that is so rich it is hallucinogenic, or even thinking of us in white powder while skiing, it has all given us the ability to move forward with confidence and determination. This is all so good. And we are so blessed.

We love you,

The Clot

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

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Wonder Twin Powers Activate! To form: a Tsunami

(My Dad on Spa Day at the Hospital)

Good Morning Fellow Clotters,

Sorry for the Clot Blackout of late. Once again Mom has given the blog responsibility to the girls. We both apologize in advance for this.

It was all a matter of timing on Tuesday. We received the results of the pathology in the morning and Dr. Mulvihill couldn't discuss those results with the Clot until later in the afternoon. This gave way to other interpretations of the results, and a subsequent Clot meltdown of epic proportions. Mom was a rock, Dad was a rock, Erin and Brodi promptly combined their wonder twin powers to form a giant tsunami of tears that nearly wiped out the entire 5th floor of the Hospital. By the time Dr. Mulvihill came to our room, and informed us that we were still on track, that the results were not unexpected, and our plan of attack had not changed, Erin and Brodi were mere pools of gobby goo on the floor.

So Mom and Dad spent most of Tuesday and all of Wednesday cleaning up the mess Erin and I had left on the floor, and sorting out the pieces of which body part belonged to which girl, and we are back on track.

The pathology did not show as much necrosis (death of cancer cells) as we would have liked. But Dr. Mulvihill reminded us how we started this journey in the top ten percent of people with this disease, and of that 10 percent, many people still don't make it to the Whipple, which is the most important step to a cure. The pathology means that my Dad will most likely get another round of chemo to target any rogue cancer cells that may be touring his body. We're fighting the statistics, but we have been doing that from the beginning. We told Dr. Mulvihill that the Clot really excels when we are given 'underdog' status. (Hello New York Giants, anyone? McCain?)

Tuesday was a little bit of a dark day for us. Around 5:30 p.m., Erin said we should get in touch with the bishop, but none of us had his phone number with us. Immediately, my mom's cell phone rang, and of course it was Bishop O'Leary, who acted on a prompting to call us. Tender Mercy. An hour later, he was in my Dad's hospital room, with reinforcements he had picked up along the way. My Dad received the actual blessing, but the rest of the Clot felt the effects as well. The bishop advised us to put on the "full armor of God." Suffice it to say, the Clot has done just that. Including our brass knuckles.

And now we are ready for the next step in this battle, confident in the knowledge that we have already made it past the hardest part. Talmage Egan, and a few others, gave us a quote from President Hinckley:

"It isn't as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don't worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers."
(From the funeral program for Marjorie Pay Hinckley, April 10, 2004)

The Clot learned many valuable lessons this week. Most important, we will never again let the dark cloud of doubt and uncertainty creep in. Let me just say, Mom and Dad never did.

We appreciate the many expressions of love and support continually shown to our family. Please join us in putting on our armor, and gearing up for the fight. We are so ready!

Love to you all,
the Clot

Monday, February 4, 2008


It’s funny what causes the heart of the Clot to twitter-pate these days. Dr. Fenton came in to check on Dennis, and (this is a direct quote) said, “You’re peeing like a racehorse.” That’s “doc talk” meaning the guy’s system is really in gear. We could tell from the grin on the doctor’s face that this is a good thing. We are so proud of him, and we plan to include it on his resume. There have been days when the cup was not only not even half full, it was completely empty. So the racehorse analogy was just fine with us! (Although I must admit I don’t know just how much a racehorse urinates.) But it does give a whole new meaning to the term, “Goin’ for the gold!” Dennis was so happy that he twisted his feeding tube into a valentine. Forget the flowers and candy. He really knows how to drive a woman wild!

Tuesday the medical team is thinking of starting Dennis on solid food. (That usually means lime green jello and ice chips. Yum.) But Dennis actually had a hunger pang today, and the Clot is going planning to go out and kill the fatted buffalo in celebration. (This might be a little drastic, but it just doesn’t sound the same to go out and kill the fatted chicken broth.) Dennis has a pneumothorax, which means there is air between the lung and the chest wall. It has increased a little, in spite of our lap-walking and work on the spirometer. So they will probably put a little “pigtail” in somewhere or other to help lose “Numo.” This is OK. We can do this. We can do this.

Dennis’ feeding tube is being ratcheted up from 40 to 60, and while this is an improvement, we are all looking forward to the moment that he has a “meal” instead of a “feeding.” We are working our way to the eventual feeding frenzy, but all in good time, my pretty!

The sub-clavian tube was removed, and now there is only one intravenous thingee left in his skinny body. I have committed myself to not blogging more information than is necessary in polite society,(Brodi just said, “too late!”) but suffice it to say that the Clot has put away the pom poms and stilled the cheers of bowel encouragement. (However, the nursing staff has requested our services on behalf of other patients on the floor. And we would be willing to make house calls should the need arise.) If there are any questions, please see me privately.

The best evidence of Dennis’ progress was the Super Bowl game on Sunday. Whenever there was a time-out or a break for the ads, he would get his hangee thingee, and we would all do laps around the fifth floor. The Clot and the grandchildren followed, and he began to look like a rock star with his entourage. But the funny thing was, everyone else would come out of their rooms, pushing their hangee thingees, and it began to take on the appearance of some sort of athletic Easter parade, with everyone in variations of hospital attire. There soon evolved two lanes of traffic, with the slower lap-walkers staying to the right, and the faster walkers passing on the left. Shared adversity produces an element of commonality, and it is easy to strike up a conversation with someone else with like tubing and uniform.

It struck me that as we watched the football game, the real heroes were the ones doing laps around the hallway, not the ones on the field. Talk about courage, determination, stamina. It is not easy pushing around a bunch of wires and bags after being poisoned by chemo, singed by radiation, and being deprived of a major portion of one’s innards. The only “tatts” visible were those used for radiation, and there were absolutely no dreadlocks. Heck, there was hardly hair at all! The Super Bowl was very exciting, but it paled in comparison to what happened Sunday night on the 5th floor of the Huntsman.

Tuesday is a very big day for us. We will be getting the pathology results. We are a little nervous. We are ready. We are grateful we even got to surgery. Miracles and tender mercies. We will hit the ball that is pitched to us.

More up-dates will be coming. Please know how much we appreciate your love and support.

Love to all,

The Clot

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Welcome to the Huntsman Cancer Institute! My mom asked us girls to be in charge of the blog today, and since we can't compete with her verbal prowess, we thought we'd throw a bunch of pictures up, in the hopes that a picture is worth a thousand eloquent witty clever words. Come, join us, on a tour of our daily treks. Remember to stay with the group. No flash photography.

Dad's located in the SCU (Which they pronounce "sick-you", which we think is rather stating the very obvious) and it stands for "Special Care Unit". This is the place where they can monitor him very closely. We renamed it "Superman's Care Unit".

The nurses at the SCU are very friendly, very competent, and very tolerant of the ever-present, ever-annoying Clot.

Dad gets many visits daily from his plethora of doctors. Pictured are his two very talented surgeons, Dr. Mulvihill and Dr. Fenton. Dr. Fenton went to high school with Erin, but we asked him to overlook those awkward years of hers. He gave us updates each step of the way, and he
has been a valued member of the team. Dr. Mulvihill is a rock star here, famous for "The Whipple" across the nation. We are very lucky to be under his care.

Boy, the Huntsman Cancer Hospital got this so right. Most rooms have a killer view of the city and the mountains, and each room is private.

The best way for Dad to recover is to get him up and about. He's still about 115 pounds soakin' wet, but if he sneaks his tubes, bags and portable electronics on the scale, he's up to his original fighting weight.
He is up to three laps around the patient floor. We told him one lap equals a mile, because an inflated ego is important in recovery as well.

He has a pneumothorax, (air stuck outside his lungs) and if it doesn't go away, he'll have to get a chest tube. So he is working hard to exercise and take deep breaths to avoid this. Erin and Brodi brought their playing cards and suggested a game of "Suck and Blow", but the nurses said this could not replace the regulation blowee thingee.

After all the work, it's time for Dad to take a break and get some rest. Which leaves the Clot with a computer and some quiet time to fill. Unfortunately for you, that means long and boring blogs. By the way, Erin nearly incapacitated my computer by "faking" this picture above. I think I have it working now, but she's not allowed to touch it again.

Eventually, when the Clot has become absolutely unbearable, my Dad pretends to be asleep, just so he can enjoy some peace and quiet.

Much love to you all, from the Happenin' Huntsman Institute,
the Clot

Friday, February 1, 2008


Beloved Family and Friends,

Well, it is the morning after the day before, and the Clot is joyous…and a little tired. But it is the first time we have had a wake-up sans mass, and we are ready to party on!

Dennis got through the night with a little help from his friends…strong narcotics and a conscientious nursing staff. Ally, his main nurse, came in at regular six-minute intervals throughout the night, which was very reassuring to me, because this was no time for a well-intentioned but hysterical wife to be in charge of his post-op care. I was spared any sleep, which was good because I could monitor every event from my corner on the couch. I was a little tired from the day yesterday, which greatly inhibited my ability to articulate anything intelligent (situation normal)

Dennis is hooked up to a PCA button which allows a patient to squirt pain killer as needed. This is good in theory, but Dennis is so conservative that the nurse had to encourage him to get liberal with his button, or she would award custody of the button to me and I could sedate him into next week.

During the night, we had a sphincter-control drill when Dennis’ blood pressure dipped to 82. Now I don’t have to be the surgeon general to know that isn’t good. There was a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on in the room. The doctor lowered the head of his bed. That, along with harsh language, ( my contribution) seemed to do the trick, and he got stabilized, and we were able to return to wide-eyed vigilance. (Sleep was a no-show, but that’s ok. I didn’t want to miss a single play of THIS super bowl)

The nurse turned off the epidural drip, and the commotion subsided just as I was about to go into “concentric circle” mode. I was able to reassemble my composure and the episode passed.

Lights are blinking and bells are ringing, and I have had a lightning course in technology. When the red light goes on, I yell, “Breathe deeper, Dennis!” When the orange light goes on, I yell, “Up your blood pressure!” You can probably imagine what his response is. Dings that occur with vengeful regularity, trigger a personal bladder response, and I just run to the bathroom. We managed to pass the night with minimal “Oh Crap!” moments.

Dr. Fenton came in this morning with a little more clarification on yesterday’s events. Apparently Dennis was fitted with some “grenades.” I wasn’t exactly certain just what that referred to. This was rather unsettling in light of the latest news from Baghdad. I hoped they hadn’t taken me literally when I said I wanted to blast the little %*&#$ to outer darkness. But Dr. Fenton said his grenades looked good, so I stopped asking questions and ceased worrying that Dennis was wired and could blow any minute.

Speaking of blowing any minute, Dennis’ task for the day is ”flatulence resurgence.” Talk about gas prices – what we wouldn’t pay for some rumbling down under. The doctors admonished us that it doesn’t count if he gets proxy assistance from the Clot, so we promptly cancelled our room service order for chili. But we all keep an ear to his nether region and are currently placing wagers as to when the silence will be broken. In the meantime, the Clot is doing our best Dallas Cowboys cheerleader imitations: Give us an “F!” Give us an “A!” Well, you get the idea.

By the way, I would be a miserable failure as a coach of anything, especially breathing. Another task for the day is working out on the spirometer. Dennis must use it ten times per hour per day to keep his lungs clear and working. So in an effort to help and encourage him, I went into rowing team meter mode. In perfect rhythm I repeated, “Suck in…Suck out” at regular intervals. He came out of his narcotics-induced stupor to inform me, “You can’t suck out!” We laughed, he breathed. Mission accomplished!

There was so much positive stuff that happened yesterday, but ironically, one of the best was Dr. Fenton’s assessment of margins – “grossly negative.” Isn’t that wonderful? It’s interesting what causes euphoria for the Clot these days: a mass that is no longer with us, the confidence of highly-skilled doctors and technicians, and the love of family and friends.

Yesterday our family went into the battle of our lives with a formidable 3 cm. foe. I must admit it was daunting, knowing we have a chance, not a guarantee. But I also know we did no to into this war alone. We could not have done it alone. You were with us, and there was never a single moment when we didn’t feel your presence. That operating room contained a multitude. We were blessed by prayer warriors who circled the wagons and covered our backs. There are no words to express what is in our hearts. We pray Heavenly Father’s sweetest mercies will be with you always.

Dennis is resting right now. There is some pain, but it is manageable with his squirt button, massive doses of narcotics, and the reading of your comments from the blog. He has such a peaceful look on his face. He is rather bony still, but his spirit is morbidly obese. We have not won the war yet, but we won the conflict yesterday. You all are a part of that victory.

How you have blessed our lives. We will blog regular up-dates as we count our blessings and try to enumerate the miracles. Know that you are counted among them both.

We love you all so much,

The Clot