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

1 comment:

Mykio said...

I can't believe it has been an entire year since the big surgery! It seems like such a long time ago, but at the same time, it seems like just yesterday! I think I speak for all of your co-workers, Dennis, when I say I am so grateful that you are healthy and thriving! And we are so glad to have you back at the office!