Thursday, February 19, 2009


Happy Valentine’s Day, Dear Ones.

What a season for celebration. It’s the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of the Great Emancipator, Mr. Lincoln, and the Great Evolver, Mr. Darwin. And how best to celebrate a bicentennial than to kill the fatted bicen!

And if that weren’t enough holiday glut, we just saw Punxatani Phil, the official ground hog weather prognosticator, who forecast six more weeks of winter. WooHoo!

And who could forget the International Year of Astronomy. I’m not sure if there is some official revelry protocol to note the occasion that could rival the collision of orbiting space thingees that contributed greatly to our cosmic junk stock pile, which will continue to orbit the earth upon a trail of radioactive debris until it decides to flame out in an atmospheric Big Bang, and plunge to earth at astronomical velocity causing cataclysmic demolition and KILLING US ALL!!! Did I mention it is also the Year of the Paranoid?

But in our house, we are anticipating the arrival of Mardi Gras – that erratic and paganistic orgy of self-indulgence, unrestrained conspicuous consumption and regal hubristic bloat that is inserted so tightly between Christmas and Easter as if it were an atomic wedgie.

Mind you, we are not planning a parade of the usual bizarre assortment of genetically mutated characters. (For us, that would be just another routine day.) But Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday,” and coincidentally, Dennis’ weight has mushroomed to a colossal 127 pounds over the past week (Sound the trumpets!) I mean, the guy’s got heft. He has an appetite like a lumberjack…a very little lumberjack. So, we salute Mardi Tuesday, Mardi Wednesday, Mardi Thursday…well, you get the idea.

I know that Lent is also fast approaching, but we’re just not that into self-denial or penitence. We are somewhat selective about what calendar events we observe. It’s all about convenience and feelin’ good.

However, Valentine’s Day we pulled out all the stops in a renewal of romance. First of all, we went for our routine 5:00 a.m. “walk of the voyeurs.” Because of the snow and extreme cold, we donned so many layers, we resembled woolly mammoths engaged in some prehistoric stroll of the mastadons. But the air was so clean and crisp and un-particulated that we felt safe to breathe deeply…and there is nothing as endearingly pleasant as oxygenating one’s blood cells with someone you really like.

Later on in the day, Dennis took me to a Jazz game. Well, actually, it was a Jr. Jazz game…of 8-year olds…where dribbling is optional, but only if the ball handler really wants to interrupt his spring to the basket by releasing custody of the ball at regulated intervals. Our grandson, Josh, was laudably disciplined, and only averaged a dozen steps per dribble. We cheered him with wild abandon. The final score was 20-8 for our team. The opponents kept having trouble with turnovers, because when they dribbled, our guys stole the ball. I think the NBA is just a mite too regimented on the traveling calls.

And, of course, in the evening, we turned up the romance-o’-meter by watching 4 marathon hours of Bull Riders Only. Bones, Sir Patrick, VooDoo Child, Troubadour, and Chicken on a Chain are bovine rock stars on the tour. Now, I’m not exactly a groupie for these particular athletes, but they are two tons or rank, murderous horns and hide, and 8 seconds on their backs is an eternity. I’ve always thought in my next life, I plan to join the PBR. Dennis always says that for once the bull would be full of me. Hmmm.

Over the years, you learn what works and what doesn’t work, Cupidly speaking. It’s a little like choosing between Lincoln and Darwin in one’s approach to romance. For instance, if Dennis brought me flowers, candy, perfume, or jewelry on Valentine’s Day, I would suspect him of deep-seated guilt, put him on the witness stand, and interrogate him relentlessly, until he confessed to crimes and misdemeanors he didn’t even commit. (I know how to waterboard.) Those are gifts one gives his wife on ordinary days, nothing days, regular, undistinguished days not high-lighted on the calendar by the media blitz of the greeting card cartel.

In Darwinian terms, there is a sub-species category known as “homo-patheticus.” It requires more than opposing thumbs and standing upright to be an enlightened romantic in the noblest tradition. Sometimes it only takes seven pounds and a lot of bull.

Some of our most splendid jubilation is reserved for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was recently diagnosed with pancreas cancer, and underwent surgery to resect the tumor. She expects to be back to work by the end of the month.

We rejoice in her victory. If each man’s grief is my own, it stands to reason that so is each man’s triumph.

When we look back at our circumstances of a year ago, we delight in the sudden flashes of insight that have so changed our lives and provide opportunity to appreciate extra flesh, rampaging bovines, and the art of the heart.

Much love to all,

The Clot

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Everyone has their own perspective on the one year anniversary of The Whipple. Click here to read my daughter Brodi's interpretation of the procedure. Very funny!

Monday, February 2, 2009


Today is the first-year anniversary of Dennis’ Whipple. It was on this day in ’08, that Dr. Mulvihill performed a most complex, dangerous, and exquisitely precise surgical procedure that ultimately gave Dennis a fighting chance in his battle with pancreas cancer. This particular cancer has a well-deserved reputation for viciousness.

It is a remarkable day, but sobering. We weren’t sure just how we would mark the event. But we did have an appointment for a three-month check-up with Dr. Mulvihill, so we figured that would be a good place to begin the commemoration.

And we got some wonderful news. Dennis has finally crossed the weight threshold and joined the ranks of those tipping the scales at 125 and above. He is no longer plagued with “cellulite envy.” We are now considering the many options we have due to the increased weight gain…the possibilities of poundage. It must be a concentrated energy source that we could invest in some sort of physical activity. We’re considering aggressive reconnoitering, but we’re not exactly certain just what that is. (I’m pretty sure extreme cage fighting is not on the short list of possibilities.)

In addition, his blood pressure has risen to 126 over 58, (he usually registers at “semi-conscious.”) All of these numbers brought smiles to the faces of those who know what all of those numbers mean, so there was a lot of celebratory fist-bumping ala Obama. But the best news of all, the results we await with great anticipation and dread, are his tumor markers. And the labs showed them to be 23, well within the brackets of normal. I love that word, “normal”…and “survivor”…and “benign”…and “cure”…and “23.”

Dr. Mulvihill informed us that the curve of recurrence falls off every year, and that he is planning on long-term follow-up. In fact, he was so pleased with Dennis’ progress, that he suggested a four-month interim for his next appointment. (More fist-bumps.)

Our appointments with Dr. Mulvihill are pleasant because we are able to discuss not only the physical aspects of our experience, but the ramifications of that experience. And he is particularly intuitive to our needs and emotions. We anticipate his personal observations and wisdom in addition to his medical expertise. He said that he has always had great expectations from us. He advised us to live a normal life, and try not to think too much about the cancer. When we asked him how to do that, we all laughed.

Finally, Dr. Mulvihill reiterated that we were all in this together, and he was glad to be a part of our lives. Hmmmm. Part of our lives. I think the surgeon who spent ten hours on a broken leg to ressect a mass that was threatening Dennis’ life, would probably qualify to be considered a part of our lives.

We left the Huntsman exhilarated and humbled, and tried to think how best to observe the passage of this vital anniversary, the first year of the rest of our lives.

Somehow, a commemoration seemed most appropriate, a simple noting of incidents that have profoundly transformed our existence. We have opted for some quiet, reflective time – private pondering in solitude.

On the wall of our exam room hangs a plaque with a quote from Jack London.

“I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather be a super meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy
permanent planet.
The proper function of man is to live, not just exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.”

And so, at this juncture in time, we will mark a date on our calendar and “use our time.” It is ’09, and tomorrow is February. Perhaps the over-riding rationale and noblest tradition of our mortal probation can be distilled down to this basic simplicity: We are all a part of one another’s lives, and we are all in this together.

Love to all,
The Clot