Saturday, September 7, 2002

Feeling better, and lots of feedback.

Dave’s Great Adventure
Chapter 2, Verse 5
September 7, 2002
Getting Better

I haven’t been keeping my journal/letters up to date over the last week. We had company and so I didn’t spend much time at the computer. Our daughter Jennifer and her family, and our elder son, Jonathan, came for a visit. It was wonderful to have all of them in the house, but especially wonderful was the opportunity to see our granddaughters again! As I keep telling people, they are sooo cute! Kirsten is 2 1/2 and Brooke is 4 months. They are such happy kids; even Brooke, as young as she is, spends most of her waking hours smiling and laughing. Kirsten had a great time helping Grandma water her flowers, playing in our landscape rocks and feeding the jays (einer Art Vogel) that are always hanging around our deck looking for a handout. We were able to spend a day at the zoo with the girls and during the time that everybody was here, before Jon had to go back to El Paso, we had a tasty cookout on the deck; filets and lobster tails! We even got most of the clan up to our favorite Mexican place for a breakfast one morning.

I’m not bouncing back from this round of chemicals as fast as I did the first time. I guess that would make sense, however, as I got more “stuff” this time. I still don’t feel unwell, I just have a lingering fatigue and weakness. Still, I can do most of the things I want to do, within reason. The jaunt to the zoo, though not at all stressful, wore me out. But it was worth it showing Kirsten the zoo animals.

Another side effect of the chemotherapy is back. I developed the same rash as the one I had last month but this time it developed sooner, during my second week. It hasn’t caused me any problems, though, so I pretty much ignore it. But if my skin is being affected more this time, I guess that means my hair will be too, since it is a “skin appendage.” The rate of my hair loss, as unscientifically measured in the bathtub, seems to have slowed for now, but I expect it to pick up again in the next week or two.

I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful feedback and messages from many of you over the past weeks, and I appreciate your taking the time to send me your thoughts. My “little brother” Dan, in Grapevine (you know, the one who’s pirating the CDs), asked if I was glad to be on the “big stuff” (the Rituxan). I am, of course, very happy to be on the Rituxan after a month’s delay because of my too high white cell count in July. If there is a chance for a cure of this disease, it will likely be with the Rituxan or similar drugs, and as I mentioned a few weeks ago, there are dozens of similar drugs in development at the present. Charlotte Finley, a very distant cousin up in Iowa, whom I’ve never met, sent Kathy and me a very nice anniversary e-card last month. It was just perfect, Charlotte! My cousin Wanda Drayton up in Illinois called my verse that I named “Reality,” “...a very touching and beautiful love story.” Along the same lines, Kathy Roberts out in Atlanta told us that we are so rich in love. “Rich doesn’t come with dollar signs,” she said. She also liked the way I try to find the humor in whatever situation I’m in. My other brother Doug, out in South Carolina (in Rock Hill, if you know where that is) said I was brave to write about my crying. It is a different view of me than most folks have. Crying hasn’t come easily to me in the past; I tend to internalize most of my feelings. I don’t think my kids have ever seen me cry. But I don’t feel particularly brave having written about my crying, just completely honest about what I’m going through, and what Kathy is going through with me. And Jane Forte, another friend up in Iowa, told me not to give up hope. Her husband was supposed to have died about 20 years ago after a series of seizures, but is still alive and, as they say, kicking, today. I really haven’t completely given up hope about this disease, but I want to be realistic too. Most folks do not outlive this disease. I’ll be very happy if, say 10 or 20 years from now, I can find out that I was wrong in my thoughts about what my chances are/were.

And I’m also getting some great letters from our friend, Claudia Koetzle, in Germany. Claudia is the granddaughter of Marta Galla, an incredibly wonderful German woman who was my “nanny” back when I was an evil little child in Heidelberg, in the early 1950s. I used to throw rocks through the windows of a nearby hot house, tortured our cat, and once threw a handful of coal dust in Marta’s face when she tried to get me out of the coal room to clean me up. Marta’s three girls, Ursula, Annemarie and Hilde, also participated in trying to keep me out of trouble, a large task to be sure. I kept in touch with Marta over the years and visited with her many, many times while I lived in Germany. Marta unfortunately died of an abdominal sarcoma, a particularly lethal and usually fast growing cancer, about four years ago, but her children and I have kept in touch. Claudia, Annemarie’s daughter, has been receiving my “DGA” messages and then translates them for her family, which is quite a task, considering all the idiomatic English and the slang terms I have been tossing into my notes. A copy has been going to her aunt Ursula, who works in a cancer clinic in Heidelberg. Ursula sent me a very nice letter with a message about people she knows who have survived leukemia, including the Spanish Tenor, Jose Carreras. She and the family also sent a video “tour” of Heidelberg which brings back lots of wonderful memories of our times there.

By the way, Claudia and her husband, Michael, are fans of American football and follow the World Football League games in Europe. Their favorite team is the Frankfurt Galaxy, but Mike also has a special place in his heart for the San Francisco ‘49ers. I can’t convince him that the Broncos are a better team! I also continue to get cards from my friends at the clinic, including Joan’s daily “mantra” and almost daily cards and/or messages from my nurse, Debbie.

You may remember that after I fell out of the hammock, onto my head, while listening to Beethoven’s Fifth, I suggested that maybe my friend Kent could suggest some more soothing organ and orchestra music for me. Well, he did better than suggest music. My long-time friend (we met in high school in about 1963, in Germany), who lives down in Lubbock, created a CD for me that he titled, ”One Quiet Piece After Another” -or- “Organ and Orchestra Music for the Hammock-Bound.” Perhaps that should read, “...for the Hammock-Impaired,“ since I had trouble actually staying in the damned thing. Kent creates CDs professionally, recording local school bands and orchestras and church choirs and selling the resultant works to the participants.

Since I started my chemotherapy my next door neighbor, Tom Redd, has been just incredibly helpful. I never asked him for help, but he has come over on a regular basis when the lawn needs attention and mows it for me. Yesterday he came over and asked if I could use a couple of tickets to the Colorado Rockies baseball game that was to be played last night. I was still feeling pretty tired, but figured that I should be able to just sit and watch a game. Hey, we hadn’t been to a Rockies game in a few years. So we went last night and had a great surprise. Those tickets were the best seats we’ll EVER have to any sports event. They were in the front row right behind the Rockies’ dugout, probably about 50 feet from home plate. (Note to Claudia: the dugout is the place the players sit when they aren’t on the field) I did okay at the game, but tired very rapidly and significantly while climbing the stairs to leave. Oh yeah, the Rockies actually won the game.

Kathy and I went to funeral today. Much like the situation I mentioned with my friend Jim Brettell in a recent letter, a colleague suddenly lost his wife late last week. Jim Smith is the director of the Ob/Gyn training program at Saint Joseph’s Hospital here in Denver. He and his wife have a special needs teenage daughter. Jim came home from work last Wednesday and found his wife dead. It was so sad. Their daughter was with her, but hadn’t comprehended what had happened to her mother. Jim’s wife, Angie, was only 44 years old and was found to have had a heart attack. My God, 44 year old women aren’t supposed to have heart attacks! This again reinforces just how fragile life is and how little control we really have over our destinies. We think we do, but we really don’t.

I think that is all the news from Highlands Ranch for now. As I slowly get stronger, I’m looking forward to getting back to work for a couple of days during the next ten days before my third round of chemotherapy starts on September 17th. I also need to help get ready for the dinner we’re hosting next Friday. I plan on being 100% by then, and we’re having, it turns out, about 30 folks over. We’re having it catered, however, so Kathy won’t have to do any cooking. While I have a captive audience I’m going to show my pictures of my time in Vietnam, slides that very few people outside my family have seen.

Until the next time,