August 31, 2004

Picture Tuesday

We haven't updated much, because things are progressing nicely here on the home front. Yesterday we went for a walk around the always beautiful Boulevard Park, so I thought I'd share a few photos. Here's the crew: Keith & Eulalah Craswell, Mom & Dad and me. The backlit pictures are always the hardest. Don't they look like a band in this pose? I thought so, so I turned it into an album cover. I'm not sure what kind of music they would play, but no doubt it would include piano, gut bucket, and some harmonic singing. Dad saw his shadow, but wasn't frightened so here comes Spring! A rest during the walk. Always love those silhouette shots:
Posted by Martin at 09:09 AM | Comments (14)

August 28, 2004

The Moment You've All Been Waiting For/Dreading

The picture you all have voted on. Click below to get taken to the page that shows it--but be warned that it does show the scar pretty darn well! Here you are--brave souls--click to expand.
Posted by Martin at 06:01 PM | Comments (13)

August 27, 2004

The McClellans

Dad suggested we post some pictures so I'll start. This is the whole gang (well, almost, Christine wasn't able to join us) enjoying Family Camp at Camp N-Sid-Sen on Lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho. Back row Marilyn, Charles, Dani, Donel (of course), Martin, Ron Front row: James, Allie, Jeni, Nicole And of course the photo session wouldn't be complete without some goofing around: The cousins taking a break from filming their movie: Nicole - 7.5 James - 8.5 Allie 10.5 (those half years are important!)
Posted by Jeni at 08:36 PM | Comments (4)

Friday Update

If you were lucky enough to be walking down South Forest street earlier, you might have run into Dad and me taking a stroll. The only thing that might give a bit of the story of the past few weeks is the cane that Dad had with him. It was a nice walk, and every day we're going to go a bit further. Otherwise, it's been a quiet day, watching tv, catching up on news, eating, napping. Dad's been okay too (rimshot anybody...anybody?). Here's a few points of interest: We've been hearing that people who want to read everything from the beginning have a hard time finding where to start. I'll make a permanent link on the side, but if you start here and step through the posts, you'll see every post and comment. Also, Ginevra Kirkland, who works for Six Apart (the company that makes Moveable Type, the blogging software that we use) wrote a really nice comment on her blog. It seems a little odd in one sense to link to somebody who linked to you (kind of a mobius strip of links), but Ginevra is super great, and anybody curious about blogs, blogging or how to do it should contact her. I've never had better customer service from any company ever. They have very easy options for people who are non-techy to start their own blogs. We want to read blogs for all of you! Feel free to add them to our comments as soon as you have them ready. No pressure. Are they ready yet? Are you still reading? Is it ready now? Dani & Charles & James have landed in Singapore and called to let us know they arrived safely. We've told her she should post remotely, and hopefully she will. Dad also suggested that all of us post pictures of ourselves for those of you who don't know us all, or haven't seen us in many years. Finally, the results of the poll were overwhelming. Scar curiosity take the day. We'll continue our quest for the perfect picture, composition and lighting. Keep checking back.
Posted by Martin at 06:11 PM | Comments (3)

August 26, 2004

3 Things

In order: 1. Visiting Policy Since so many have inquired about visits to the home--Dad would be thrilled to see people on short visits. Please just call first to check that he's feeling up for it. 2. Please Vote! No, not in November--we know you ALL are going to do that, right? Vote in the very first Bright Wings poll. The question posed is: Should we post a picture of Dad's scar? Anybody want to see it? Use the comments section to speak your voice. Please note, though, that one time in Woodland Hills Dad held a poll to decide whether or not he should cut his beard off. The congregation, loud and clear, said that he should keep it, and in the end he cut it off anyway. However, if nobody wants to see the scar, we'll keep the picture to ourselves. We promise. Really. No need to peek through your eyes when reading the blog if you're squeamish. 3. More Pictures And some fun ones, too: The colorful pin board in Dad's room--note the accurate release date--and the picture was taken by him as well. Making his rounds at the hospital this morning. The conversation was something like this: Doc 1: "The patient in 7314 seems very disturbed. I'm worried about how the drugs are affecting him--his sense of humor seems very distorted." Doc 2: "But the family says he's acting totally normal." Doc 3 (Incredulous): "Surely you must be joking. Even the puns?" At home, reading the blog on his own, on his own computer, in his own chair. Hurray!
Posted by Martin at 05:22 PM | Comments (15)

Stairs? Phoey!

Just so everybody knows--we're in Bellingham, at home now. We drove Dad up, and when we got here he marched up the stairs like nobody's business without assistance. I think the only risk here is that he may be buried under an avalanche of cards from well-wishers. He's got music, cards, magazines, and--when he's ready--wireless internet. Healing in the modern world! I have a few shots of Dad motoring around the hospital--I'll post those when I can.
Posted by Martin at 02:19 PM | Comments (8)

Stepping Out...

Here's a shot of Dad from last night. He asked me to post it, and show off his new quilt. On the back it says: "Each knot is tied with a prayer by your fccb congregation for Donel McClellan, Bellingham, Washington, 2004. In stictches [the quilting circle at First Congregational, Bellingham] Joan, Karen, Carolyn, Phyllis, Mabel." Members of the church contributed squares, which are often signed by the people who contributed them. Dad loved the quilt, and was very touched by all the prayer and care that went into it. It looks like today may be the release day--all the tubes, drips, plastic and fluids are disconnected, and everything is moving along swimmingly. Dad says it is "perfectly grand to anticipate going home today, and even if it doesn't work out, the possibility is invigorating."
Posted by Martin at 06:58 AM | Comments (7)

August 25, 2004

Taking the Time...

For those of you worried that mom wasn't taking time out to smell the flowers. We offer proof! mom_flowers.jpg
Posted by Martin at 12:33 PM | Comments (6)

August 24, 2004

Room Party

A nice feeling in the room on this rainy afternoon. Dad's Norah Jones CD is playing, mom and Jeni are reading, dad is dozing. Martin will be coming in a bit later to spend the night here with dad. Can't remember what has already been reported, but the quick story is that dad has had a shower and a long walk this morning. When the docs told him that he would need to take another walk later on this afternoon, he asked if he could get extra credit for skipping. Apparently, dad could be sent home as soon as Thursday or Friday. This is my last posting and my last full day with dad here at the hospital. Charles, James and I are heading back to Bellingham tomorrow night and then heading to the Vancouver airport early Thursday for our flight to Singapore. I feel so fortunate to have been able to have this time with my family. A month earlier, Charles and I would have had a difficult time leaving our work for so many days; a month later, we would have been in Asia. Now I we can look forward to reading dad's blog postings from Singapore. Can't wait! Thanks once again to everyone for your outpouring of support and love. It has helped keep our family afloat through these difficult weeks and will continue to support dad as he navigates these strange, new waters.
Posted by Dani at 05:29 PM | Comments (9)

A Shower and A Meal

How refreshing to be given a shower and a meal! Dad is venturing into the exciting world of showers, chicken broth, jello and popsicles. Mom refused to let him drink the tea - lukewarm and not to McClellan tea standards. She's promised to bring him real tea if he is interested (he's not!) Now comes the work because his nurse is going to make him sit up in a chair and take more laying around - it's time for active healing and we're thrilled.
Posted by Jeni at 01:54 PM | Comments (4)

A Summer Journey

What a journey we have taken and continue to take. I have been but a passenger while my adult children (all six of them) have taken the helm. They have allowed me to be here all day and into each evening while taking 24 hour shifts themselves. They have not wanted their father to feel alone and unsupported and so they have been in his room, seeing to his needs, and keeping a log of the activities including his small, but important, steps of recovery. They also logged his lucid moments when he was more drugged. These often were quite amusing, but he will get to see those much later when he has gained some distance from the ordeal. It is wonderful to see him emerge from the fog. Yesterday was a good day and I expect today to be excellent. He is very strong according to the physical therapist. And, indeed, he is able to get himself up and down quite successfully. It is food for the spirit to see Donel emerge from the stupor. I have consistently felt that our ship is being followed and surrounded by an enormous fleet of tiny tugboats cheering us on through blog notes, cards, and well wishes. I cannot even begin to let you know how amazingly therapeutic that has been. When Martin set up the blog (with an address of hellbox for heaven's sake), I wondered just how it would work. Would people understand that a hellbox refers to a receptacle for used type, that Donel used to be a hobby printer, and his son is fascinated by printing? I'm the least computer literate in the family — and that includes my three grandchildren. I didn't really understand how amazing it would be to beam people right into the hospital to share our experience. Needless to say, I'm overwhelmed. If all of you are the tugs that nudge us towards recovery, I must at least share an important experience that has kept me going. One morning, just after Donel was diagnosed (the first time), I had an amazing experience of hearing a very strong and persistent voice telling me twice that I didn't have to worry. I have held onto that voice and it hasn't failed me. I have no doubt that this ship is and will be held afloat throughout the journey. When my mother-in-law conceived her third son and fourth child so many years after her other family was born, she often mentioned a time sitting in church when she had a clear sign that this baby was a gift from God. When Donel was a teen, he had a strong call to the ministry which sustained him through all his years. And, on a lighter note, all of us family members know that he has parking angels that always save him a place no matter how many cars are in the lot. Our lives have been truly blessed and those of you reading this blog are a major part of that blessing. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.
Posted by Marilyn at 01:46 PM | Comments (7)

August 23, 2004

He Walks!

Dad has had a very successful day! He just got back from his first walk and his Oxygen stayed up so they removed the Oxygen. He's now free of all tubes and wires except the IV which is clearly a great relief. It's been a great day and we feel that he's certainly turned a corner and is on his way to rebuilding his strength. Keep up the prayers and posts - they're working!!!
Posted by Jeni at 08:29 PM | Comments (16)

Montlake Bridge Pictures

As promised, a few shots of the bridge. Down:


And the Southwest American Indian weaving at the foot of his bed:
Posted by Martin at 04:09 PM | Comments (5)

Technical Matter

For those of you who are getting strange bounce-back messages from my University email account, I apologize. We have the blog set up so that any new blog comments are automatically forwarded to Jeni, Martin, mom, and I. When Charles, James and I leave Washington, we will be spending a year in Singapore so my work email has been generating an on-leave email. Some of you have received these and wondered where they are coming from. We will be taking care of that small technical glitch, but just want to apologize for the confusion. Please keep those notes coming. It is wonderful to read them to dad.
Posted by Dani at 01:09 PM | Comments (6)

Looking at the Montlake Bridge

I'm sitting right now with Dad in his room. The hospital provides internet access in some of the rooms, and we (luckily) got one. Today's been a pretty good day--Dad becomes more lucid and himself every day--always gracious and making small jokes. We'll know he's 100 percent when the puns start coming out. He got out of bed into a chair, and can stand just fine--pretty amazing considering what he's been through . The great thing about this room is the view of the Montake Bridge. If I can get any pictures to turn out, I'll post them.
Posted by Martin at 01:02 PM | Comments (6)

August 22, 2004

Round 'em up, swim around

Jeni and Dani have been doing such a good job updating that I haven't felt that I needed to add anything--but I didn't want to let another day go by without sending a big shout out to someone who became our close friend over the last few days: A longhorn cowfish named Spike #4. In the waiting room of the ICU there is a fish tank. Anybody who is apt to notice such things can't escape watching Spike #4 motor around the tank. He's quite a personality, and all of us fell for him readily. Sad to think of what happened to Spike #1-#3, but glad to see this chunky guy floating around. If it wasn't such a big tank, I'd be tempted to wheel it up to dad's new room for all to enjoy.
Posted by Martin at 07:17 PM | Comments (10)

Another good morning with dad

Good morning. I am just back from spending the night in dad's room. This room also has a very nice view. We have decided to post a family member the room with dad around-the-clock. The hospital is apparently low in staff this weekend and continuous in-house advocacy seems to be helpful in such conditions. Dad is doing well and his vital signs are strong. He is still foggy from the medication. But, even half zonked, he is polite and gracious. We actually had to inform his nurse that she could not use the classic question asking dad to rate his pain from one to ten, because dad will always reports the lowest amount of pain possible. Luckily we have non-verbal cues that we can also use. Cousin Connie sent us some good hospital advice that has already been quite useful. For those of you who have enquired about visiting dad, we think that it is stilll a bit soon for that, but we hope that he will be sitting up and ready to visit in the coming days. We will certainly keep this report up to date as best we can. Thanks once again for your support and love.
Posted by Dani at 08:00 AM | Comments (13)

August 21, 2004

A Room with a View Too

Once again Dad is back in a "normal" room. Most of the day was spent preparing for the room, last minute ICU checks and waiting for the new room to be ready. He's comfortable and enjoying music and occasional blog updates. Sorry it took us so long to give an update. The surgery pavillion is closed on the weekends, and it is in this beautiful new facility that we have found our internet connections. Martin is currently working on bribing the nurse for permission to connect the computer so we can blog from the room and Dad can add his comments and read yours himself as soon as he feels strong enough. Thanks for the wonderful comments - keep them coming they are wonderful food for the healing soul!
Posted by Jeni at 07:13 PM | Comments (12)

August 20, 2004

Blessings and Good Night

I find it amazing how much you learn when sitting in an ICU waiting room. I believe Dani already mentioned Kim Folk and his liver transplant. His wife Kate & 10 year old daughter Jade seem to be pros at ICU and have regular support visitors popping in for positive words. They have positive attitudes and are a delight to talk with about the wonders of modern medicine. Things are going well with Kim and they've even heard the utterances of the word "miracle" coming from the surgeons. Keep them in your prayers while you are at it! We sit and hear snippets of conversations from others waiting on brain surgery patients, some with not so good news and we feel blessed by each good report we get on dad. We've all decided to head to our homes for a good night sleep and will be back at the hospital early to await the move out of ICU. Dad thoroughly enjoyed the blog comments and we thank you all for your love, support and especially humor!
Posted by Jeni at 11:11 PM | Comments (10)

The ICU: A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

Dad's surgeon, Dr. Takayama, came in while Martin and I were visiting with dad this afternoon. He is very pleased with dad's vital signs and thinks that he will be moved out of ICU tomorrow morning. Dad is bleary but lucid and already able to make jokes. The ICU nurse said that they are all glad to see that his remaining kidney is working well and that he seems to be recovering rapidly. We read him yesterday's blog comments and he was able to recite Anne Lamott's three prayers along with us. Mom is doing well and is whipping us all on palm-pilot scrabble. She has requested mac and cheese take-out from her favorite Seattle restaurant Pair. We are all feeling very fortunate that this difficult surgery has had such an evidently successful result and we are feeling surrounded by all of your love and support. Thank you. (By the way, for those of you who are involved in prayer circles, we have been sharing the ICU waiting room with a young woman and her daughter whose husband/father had his second liver transplant yesterday while dad was having his surgery. We were feeling that eight hours seemed long for dad's, but these folks had a fifteen-hour watch. Their news has not been as clearly positive as dad's, so keep them in your thoughts and prayers.)
Posted by Dani at 05:53 PM | Comments (8)

Curiosity is a good sign!

I went to check in on dad around lunchtime. After smiling at me, the first thing he asked was if I had brought printouts from the blog! I assured him that when I returned this afternoon I would share all of your well wishes! The ICU nurse was very positive and said he's doing extremely well for someone who just went through the surgery he did. He was alternating breathing room air and getting a bit of oxygen when I went in. Mom is relaxing in the waiting room reading a book and by now eating a delivered deli sandwich (the hospital food can get a bit...shall we say...old...after awhile -- as impressed as we are by the selection). --Jeni
Posted by Jeni at 01:08 PM | Comments (19)

A good & bright morning

Dad had a quiet, restful night. The ICU staff removed the breathing tube and dad is relaxing in relative comfort and very much enjoying the Goldberg Variations (thanks Judy Widrig!!!) The ICU staff is wonderful and attentive and have high hopes for a speedy move to a 'regular' room. He's looking great for a man that just went through 8.5 hours of surgery and we're all looking forward to relaxing and just being near as he gains strength and recovers. Martin & Charles stayed at the hospital last night trading off naps and scrabble turns while Dani, Mom, Ron, Christine & I took refuge in a good night's sleep. We thank you all for your prayers and comments on the blog - it's been a wonderful experience to feel so connected to so many people who love us and Dad and we most definitely were shored up by your support and well wishes. -- Jeni
Posted by Jeni at 10:39 AM | Comments (9)

It's a good Friday...

Hello all you Bright Wingers--thanks for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. Last night Dad was taken to ICU where we got to see him around 9:30pm or so. He was awake, although heavily sedated, but he waved his hand at us to let us know he was there with us. Charles and I stayed at the hospital last night, and periodically would check on him. We made sure he had some music playing in his room. This morning around 6:30 we had a brief pantomime session where he wanted the music turned up. After a bit of motioning and misunderstanding of what the motioning was, Charles realized he wanted the music turned up higher. More exciting at this time was that he was almost completely breathing on his own, and when Mom, Jeni and Dani showed up after 8am, he had the tubes out and was able to talk to them. He's lucid, and comfortable. We're guarding him like hawks, but luckily the nurses are doing a great job. More later!
Posted by Martin at 10:31 AM | Comments (2)

August 19, 2004

Surgery is over!

Dr. Takayama just came and gave us the report. Dad's out of surgery. Quick news: the doctor is very happy with the way the operation went. Dad is being moved to the ICU right now, and will probably be knocked out all night. More detailed news: The tumor was larger and had spread farther than Dr. Takayama had expected. It had travelled further up the Inferior Vena Cava, and had grown so that the IVC was distended to three times its normal size. This sounds bad, but in the end turned out to be for the best because it meant that Dr. T was able to cut out sections of the vein and simply close with the existing structure, instead of patching in sections. Currently, his IVC is about the size of a normal one, and is flowing blood normally. It was a bit more difficult than expected because of how high the tumor went. The doctor had to physically flip the liver to the other side so that he could clamp higher up the vein. This is to stop sections from traveling through the heart, and possibly into the lungs. The tumor did come apart into pieces--Dr. T says that some pull right out, but some attach to the vein walls--and this is what happened to Dad. Dr. T said that he felt the inside of vein with his finger and felt no sections of tumor left. They had to scrape some of the interior walls, but despite these complications, he says that Dad's heart is strong, and his lungs are fine. He's expecting him to heal up just fine. But, of course, he's in intensive care for the night, and will probably stay intubated for the evening. The really good news is that the doctor said that if the tumor had gone unchecked, he would have only had a few weeks to a few months before it would have caused a major problem. Dad should be able to start talking tomorrow, and will probably be out of IC tomorrow as well. Of course, you know where to find updates. Thanks again for all of your prayers and thoughts--we're all ecstatic, beat, relieved, and ready for dinner! More to come...
Posted by Martin at 06:49 PM | Comments (10)

3:30 (ish) Update

Things are still progressing as planned. Dad's in good shape. The surgery did slow down a bit at this point...a bit of the tumor is attached to the wall of the Inferior Vena Cava, so they have to pull out that section and patch the vein. This is nothing that wasn't expected, but does slow things down a bit. More when we know it. Thanks for all the prayers and thoughts -- keep them up, and keep checking back! (sorry for the delay in the posting--we're sharing internet here, so I can't always get on right away)!
Posted by Martin at 03:44 PM | Comments (9)

1:30pm Update

Nurse called from the o.r. She says everything is going fine, and they should have the specimen removed within a half-hour. More as we hear it...
Posted by Martin at 01:41 PM | Comments (5)

11:30 Update

Nurse just called--everything is moving along just fine. More news in a few hours--and she asked how we were doing. We're just fine--with a full compliment here. Dani, Jeni and I, Mom, Ron, my partner Christine and Bobbi. We've taken over a comfortable section of the waiting room. Thanks to Dick and Karlene for the lovely flowers. Here's a shot of them, and one Dad this morning underway to the surgery--smiling all the way!

Posted by Martin at 11:49 AM | Comments (1)

9:35am Update

Just got a call--dad went to sleep just fine. They started the surgery at 9:15, and they'll keep us updated every few hours. While we're waiting, I'll take this time to comment on the amazing art collection at the University of Washington Medical Center. It's really one of the nicest collections outside of high-end galleries and museums in town. One of the greatest things Dad & Mom have passed on to us is an appreciation of visual arts, and how they can be a guide, a comfort, or sometimes even so simple as pleasing to look at. Dad mentioned that the art here was very inspiring. It will be a great encouragement for him to get up and walking soon.
Posted by Martin at 09:35 AM

Morning Update

Dad's been wheeled into surgery. We were all there to greet him in the morning--he says he slept well, and was bright and cheery. "I thought maybe I was in denial and that all my repressed feelings would overwhelm me," he said. "But, actually, I think that I'm just okay with all this." Dr. Black, the senior resident, came in with a group of students on rounds, and just before they wheeled him into surgery Bobbi Virta showed up to say hello, and hang out with us. After a prayer with Bobbi, off he went, wheeled down the hall. Currently, we're all in the waiting room reading the paper, chatting and (so it seems) blogging. More when we know it.
Posted by Martin at 08:00 AM

August 18, 2004

The Late Update

Well--he got caught by a nurse. Turns out patients aren't supposed to use the terminals in the room. He got permission from his surgeon, but the nurse is the one who would get in trouble if something happened, so she sneakily shut down the computer when she left. He was sorry he couldn't post from his room, but was glad that we could for him. I can only reiterate what Dani said--he's in great spirits. He was joking with the nurses, and insisted that I take a few photos to document the process. There are a few below--you can click on them to make them larger. We'll post progress reports tomorrow as often as possible--or as soon as news comes through and we can get internet access. It should be noted that a request was made: in lieu of flowers, if someone wanted to start a collection to buy a fine bottle of scotch, that might help him heal all the faster. And at the rate that he drinks, it's a guarantee that he'll be around to share it with everybody for a good, long time.

Hospital admittance bracelet on his wrist next to his Lance Armstrong LiveStrong bracelet.

With his healing buddy, Llewellyn McClellan.
Posted by Martin at 11:39 PM | Comments (1)

A Room With a View

Just want to report that dad is checked in to a very nice room overlooking Husky Stadium on the 7th floor. He is in great spirits and has had a very busy afternoon with numerous doctors and residents coming through to meet him. Surgery is scheduled for early tomorrow morning (about 6:30 am). He has managed to find out the secret to logging onto the internet via the information monitors in each patient's room so you may even hear from him (if he doesn't get caught by a nurse first...) Thanks so much for all of your good thoughts and wishes. We will keep you posted.
Posted by Dani at 07:33 PM | Comments (2)

August 17, 2004

Gracious Friends

One of the benefits of facing surgery is that it brings out delightful and humbling expressions of caring in one's friends. The cards sent, presents delivered, jokes told, hugs received and prayers promised have been overwhelming—especially for a basically shy guy like myself (no guffaws please). So many people have told me of little events which they remember fondly. that I feel somewhat embarrassed that I haven't told them of similar times when they embodied grace to me. It seems to take something dramatic to break through our natural reluctance to share appreciation and good news with other people. My cup runneth over and expressions of gratitude can never convey my sense of being enfolded in countess hearts. This blog has been a wonderful distraction as I prepare to enter the hospital tomorrow. I go with no conscious anxiety and with an eagerness to address my medical problems. I suspect I will not write here again for some days as I am leaving the computer home and won't have access until some time in the recovery process. In the meanwhile I will be depending upon my family to keep the blog up to date. I look forward to returning and hope my sense of gratitude and confidence will survive the recovery process. But whether or not it does, you'll be the first ones to know.
Posted by Donel at 10:14 PM | Comments (9)

August 16, 2004

All's Fair

Today the countdown to surgery began with a light breakfast followed by clear liquids until Thursday when, I assume, some alternate route for nourishment will be established as I recover. To celebrate our family went to the Lynden Fair. This has been a favorite summer pastimes for me since we have lived in Western Washington. I love the color and busyness of the fair and delight in watching other fair goers. Today, one highlight was watching two-year old quadruplets pet some young calves as they lay down in the dairy barn. Dressed in matching pink and white matching shirts, the quads were a major attraction. In the crafts barn, the three nativity banners designed by Joan Roley for our new sanctuary were on display. We toured the poultry barn watching the strange breeds of chicken and admiring a turkey tom who puffed up his feathers magnificently as we passed by. The real reason I attend the Lynden Fair, however, is to pay my respects to the draft horses in the horse barn. This small regional fair sports seven or eight matched teams of these magnificent beasts: Clydesdales, Belgians, Percherons. These gentle giants are beautifully groomed, harnessed and hitched to elegantly painted wagons to demonstrate their prowess as teams. Somehow an annual visit to these fine animals provides a certain epiphany. This afternoon I got down to business and toasted the upcoming surgery with a magnesium citrate cocktail. As it works its chemical magic I feel myself preparing for a time of cocooning and incubation. I shall be as helpless as I was in infancy and as completely dependent upon the care of others. This too, will be a new experience. How fortunate I am to have such magnificent resources at my disposal.
Posted by Donel at 05:54 PM | Comments (3)

August 15, 2004

Harmony and Hormones

As I have grown older I have become notably more sentimental. Babies almost always being laughter and tears to my eyes, as do so many glimpsed relationships in the parish. I remember asking one of our elderly members, dying of black lung disease, whether he was ready to leave behind the pain and suffering of this life. I will never forget his answer, "No," he said, "because life is sweet." Even with lungs no longer able to provide oxygen to get up and walk to the front door, life for him was sweet. My renal cancer will be addressed by surgery next Thursday. The prostate cancer is being treated by injections of Lupron, a hormone that eliminates the production of testosterone. I suppose any emotional moments can now be attributed to the hormone therapy. On the other hand, having a life threatening illness does provide a special filter through which to see worship. The simple promises of prayer and scripture seem more personal than ever, and hymns take on new meaning when sung from a place where one can almost see the horizon of life in the distance. I welcome the tears and cherish the deeper impact of familiar liturgy.
Posted by Donel at 10:56 PM | Comments (2)

August 13, 2004


We went to Family Camp the last week of July. All our children and all our grandchildren were with us at beautiful N-Sid-Sen on the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene. The program for adults addressed life's transition, birth, coming of age, marriage and death. In the conversation about death we were asked to write our own obituary. I remembered an incident in a restaurant and wrote a little poem about it: The Pastor's Last Sermon . . . Breakfasting at IHOP the man in the next booth finished talking to his wife on his walkie-talkie. He said: God bless! I love you. I'm gone! I swiped the words thinking they were the ideal obituary. God bless! What more can be said about life? Every morning is an undeserved gift. Each evening a blessing. If not blessed, then life is something less than was promised. I love you sums up the prophets and the law. To love and be loved is life's greatest promise and our finest achievement. Love trumps dislike, finesses anger and spite, defeats ennui. In the end there is faith hope and love. You know which is the greatest. I'm gone. I suspect this is a finality only from the perspective of the living. Who is to say to where I have gone when I depart this breathing physical body? I'm gone suffices— and contains within its finality the hope of another meeting, as when the man in the IHOP returns home to love's arms.
Posted by Donel at 11:01 PM | Comments (12)

August 10, 2004

Sticker Shock

Today the prescriptions for Lovenox arrived from Medco Health my provider of prescriptions for my health plan through the United Church of Christ. The box was large. Inside was a sealed Styrofoam container and several cold packs to keep the syringes at a reasonable temperature. I was surprised by the mere volume of the order. Then I looked at the invoice and did a double take, It indicated that I was billed $40 for my co-pay. My insurance carrier was billed $7,467.28 for their portion. And to think that one of the doctors would have prescribed aspirin! My apologies to other members of the UCC health benefits plan. I'll ask more questions next time.
Posted by Donel at 06:22 PM | Comments (3)

August 09, 2004

Slice and Dice

Today I enjoyed another MRI. I'm not kidding. I don't suffer from claustrophobia and find the technology of magnetic resonance imaging to be fascinating. It involves relaxing on a bed and listening to FM radio for an hour or so. That, I can do! The fine thing about the process is that I left the University Hospital with a CD of all my tests, the MRI's and CT scans. I have been looking them over on the supplied viewer and can see my body in thin slices horizontally or vertically. It is really quite fascinating, even if I can't identify any organs in the pictures. I do have lovely ribs, however, and an elegant spine.
Posted by Donel at 06:10 PM

August 06, 2004

The Kidney Trumps the Prostate

Today our family met with Dr. Thomas Takayama, a renal surgeon at the UW medical school. He explained that the kidney tumor extended into the kidney vein and up into the inferior vena cava. That has become the immediate focus of concern. He ordered a chest MRI to determine if there were evidences of embolism in the lungs. He also indicated that his preference for a blood thinner was aspirin. Clearly there are positive and negative aspects of every medication. All things equal I would much prefer to swallow a bunch of aspirin than to receive two injections each day. Dr. Takayama was cordial and direct and instilled great confidence in all of us. Pending the results of the MRI he is scheduling surgery for Thursday, August 19th. The surgery will take about eight hours and I can expect to be hospitalized from seven to ten days.
Posted by Donel at 06:01 PM

August 05, 2004

Two Shots a Day

The MRI indicated that the head was clear and confirmed the tumor in the kidney. Dr. Higano was waiting to know that there were no tumors in the head to begin blood thinning medication. She prescribed Lovenox an injectable drug to be administered twice a day. Since I am somewhat needle phobic, Marilyn was instructed in giving the injections and she has done very well at it. Dr. Higano ordered a two month prescription for Lovinox from my health insurance prescription service.
Posted by Donel at 05:53 PM

August 04, 2004

Lucky CAT (Scan)

A bone scan had been ordered to determine if the prostate cancer showed signs of spreading. The scan was negative except for one small spot on a rib which was deemed unlikely to be a tumor site. Dr. Higano ordered a CT scan of that rib to be certain that it was not a tumor. The bone was clear, but in the scan the radiologist noted an abnormality in the inferior vena cava, the large vein feeding the heart from the lower body. Ultra sound and further CT scans were ordered. From these it was determined that there was also a tumor in the left kidney. This resulted in an MRI of the pelvis, abdomen, and head since renal cancer often spreads to the brain.
Posted by Donel at 04:43 PM | Comments (1)

August 03, 2004

Every Journey Begins with a Single Step

In mid-July I was having some minor digestive problems and went to my doctor for a check up. He determined that the stomach problems were clearing up and ordered a blood test to see if there were any concerns in that area. I asked him to include a PSA test as well since my PSA numbers had been high for some time. The PSA came in high (43) and resulted in an immediate appointment with my urologist followed by a prostate biopsy which was positive. On the basis of that information I scheduled surgery in Bellingham for August 9th but at the doctor's invitation arranged for a second opinion with Dr. Celestia S. Higano, a specialist in prostate cancer at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (Fred Hutchinson, UW Hospital and Children's Hospital).
Posted by Donel at 04:39 PM | Comments (1)

August 01, 2004

In the Beginning Was the Blog

For me, life unfolds in larger chapters than days or hours. For that reason a blog or diary has never been appealing. By the time I discern the shape of events they are too old to be of current interest and too mundane to entertain any but the most loyal friends or indulgent family. I am a preacher and tend to think in eighteen minute segments of a classically structured speech form. Good preaching is never preachy, never bores or underestimates its audience, Good preaching is always grounded in the Good News of the faith and even when despairing about some directions of the culture or the people within it, clings to the hope which is grounded in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those events become the lens by which our lives are discerned and placed into perspective. The discovery recently of prostrate cancer and, later, renal cancer has caused me to take life in shorter gulps. My history may be rather brief from this point on, or may extend for an unknown number of years. At any rate, I have encountered the likely cause of my death. Strangely enough, this is neither frightening nor particularly unexpected. I have enjoyed 67 years of good health and never anticipated avoiding my share of dis-ease. So, this blog, with its comments and contributions by others will be a record more-or-less day by day of my meeting with malignancy, my strategizing with skilled physicians, and my reflections on the process. My faith is practical and not at all heroic, but my friends are many and their love and prayers are strong. I will be drawing upon these for the next few weeks.
Posted by Donel at 03:31 PM | Comments (21)