Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chemo Day...

It is a good day. Jud has "passed" his blood test and his white blood cells are up, so he is able to have his second chemo. The last of the late afternoon sunshine is on him as he has a cup of coffee and prepares to sit back in his warmed Barcalounger. He is so lucky to be at Methodist Hospital which is a place he works, doing Courage and Renewal work. 

Check the view out his window. This is the "Healing Garden." In the warmer months, there are gardens of colorful flowers.  I think the winter view is just as beautiful. 

I am sitting on the other side with my crafts in hand (a collage from Silver Bella that I still have not finished). My latest "toy" is up by that big computer...my IPad...I love it!!! Note the TV on the wall and across from Jud's chair. Not bad, huh?

This is such a beautiful, relaxing setting for healing. We feel very fortunate to have him here.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Our Friends Are Like Angels...

Our friends are like angels
Who brighten our days
In all kinds of wonderful
Magical ways

Their thoughtfulness comes
As a gift from above
And we feel we're surrounded
By warm, caring love

Like upside-down rainbows
Their smiles bring the sun
And they fill ho-hum moments
With laughter and fun

Friends are like angels
Without any wings
Blessing our lives
With the most precious thing

Thank you for being our friends.
We are so grateful.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Visit from Saint Nick...

Several years ago a woman approached Jud at a conference. "You look like someone I know," she said, "but I just can't figure out who it is." "Well, I did teach at Phoenix," said Jud, "and I went to the conference in Minneapolis." "No, that's not it," she said. "I'll have to think about it."

Twenty minutes later, she returned. "You look like Santa Claus!" she cried. "You have those rosy red cheeks and those merry, twinkling eyes!" (He was also a bit heavier at that time and had the round little belly!)

So here he is...what do you think? Just imagine a little more hair, perhaps a white wig and beard...

Fast forward to this lovely couple. Some of you will remember Petar and Jelena. Petar was our much-loved exchange student son during his senior year of high school, after three very wonderful "daughters." Jud, Kat and I were lucky enough to attend their wedding in Croatia this September.

They were married at sunset in the Church of St. Nikolas by the Adriatic Sea.

Petar and Jelena sat in white satin chair during their wedding, gazing at the saint himself. Suddenly Petar started to laugh!

"He looks like Jud," said Petar to Jelena.

Those of use who know him can't help but agree!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Light at the end...

It is amazing how our life, in general calm and predictable, turned into a roller coaster when Jud was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Our latest episode took place at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto,California, where we learned about SBRT radiation therapy, a form of treatment in which very specific radiation is delivered to the site of the cancer. 

Stanford Cancer Center is a beautiful place...the California version of Mayo Hospital. There is beautiful art on the walls and the waiting rooms all face toward the gardens outdoors. We liked the doctor and we felt the treatment offered some hope. Jud, however, needed to not have any other cancer in his body to qualify. We were anxious to get home but...

...the Midwest was in the middle of a blizzard and we were stranded in Denver. As luck would have it, Jud's parents had just arrived in Colorado Springs that morning and we had a wonderful twenty-four hours together. 

Jud and his two lovely sisters and amazing parents.

This one includes our niece, great nephews, great nephew-in-law and me.

Before we left. Jud took this beautiful picture of the sunset from his sister, Joan's, back porch.

We returned to the Twin Cities on Monday and today, Jud had a Pet Scan. We had some good news a couple of hours ago. The Pet Scan was negative, no cancer at any other place in his body except the pancreas. We met with the lovely Melissa, his doctor, and she was enthusiastic about the Stanford program. 

Jud will start chemotherapy on Thursday. Around January 6, we will head back to Stanford and he will have SBRT treatment. We will be there for three weeks, then come back here for three more weeks of chemotherapy. After that, they will do another scan to see if the tumor has shrunk enough to do a Whipple procedure, a surgery that could extend his life. 

Thanks be to God. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I cried...

"Tears are words the heart can't express."

These days, I feel guilty when I cry in front of Jud. I don't want to add to his sorrow or to have him need to spend his energy taking care of me. It was bound to happen. We visited Stanford yesterday and looked at a different treatment, a radioactive knife that will remove tumors. We felt we had things in place before we left and we worried this would happen...that we would see something new and feel confused about what we should do. 

Stanford is a nice place and the people were kind (I give people lots of points for "kind" these days, especially in major medical centers). They were collecting blood samples in hopes that they would someday find a tumor marker for pancreatic cancer. Jud was asked to be part of the study and I was pleased to be asked to be his control. I could do my part, in a small way. Then...the blood draw. I am not very good with needles. I used to be downright phobic but repeated drawings for a pulmonary emboli twelve years ago somewhat desensitized me. I was glad to do my part. It went fine. I always thank the technician if I get a good draw. Really. It's a blessing! God slipped in!

We got home and the floodgates opened. It was not pretty. I sobbed. I started talking, amidst the sobbing, and all my worries came out. I thought the doctor was trying to "sell us something." I didn't understand all the "medicalese." I couldn't see how this was any better than what we had been offered at home. The "survival rates" were no better. My outburst lasted a long time. We snuggled together on the bed as I continued...snort...snort...sob...sob. So much fear. So much sadness. Serenity gone. 

I finally calmed down. Two hours later. My head is pounding this morning, but I feel calm. The Presence has returned. Once again, I am ready to continue up and down this roller coater called cancer. 

We will be here for the morning. Jud is meeting with an old high school friend who is head of radiology here (how did THAT happen?). Bob was actually at Jud's "Tumor Board" meeting yesterday. Then Jud is going to have some acupuncture with a Stanford-trained doctor. I will rest and read. We are renting a car and heading an hour or so north to see our friends, Susan and Gary. Susan was diagnosed with lymphoma a couple of years ago and is doing well. She is an old South Dakota buddy and we have known her forever. 

Hopefully we will have some great talks and some laughter. I am sure there will also be a few tears.

"Perhaps our eyes need to be washed with tears every once in awhile so that we can see life once again with a clearer view."
Alex Tan

Monday, December 6, 2010



"A blessing is a short meditative exercise in which a person focuses on the goodness of something in a way that it creates an opening for God." This weekend, two of my favorite grad school friends came to our house and we lit the candles on the menorah for the fourth day of Hannukah. Though our religious views may vary, it was a blessing. All of us experienced God's presence, though the three of us were Jewish, Congregationalist and Unitarian.


On Sunday night, we were again visited by Cathy Crooks, our dear minister, whose presence is such a balm to the two of us. At the end of our meeting, we held hands and she prayed about the goodness of many things in our life...the gentle caring of the "little white dogs," the healing nature of the act of breathing, and our community of loving friends who were bringing us food. We each felt very blessed to be in this sacred space and feel the goodness of God.


This week we will visit dear friends who practice an Eastern traditions. Their home is a center of calm and I know I will experience a sense of peace when we are with them. God is certainly present in the goodness of the lives of Susan and Gary. We will meditate together and when we will practice times of silence in our own home, we will think of them. It will be a blessing.


At our neighbor's home, we sang the Johnny Appleseed grace with our grown children this weekend, as we have done for thirty years. Each one tries to sing louder than the next. I hope God knows this cacophany is a blessing. I think he does and maybe He is laughing.

We ask you to bless us, in your own way, as we go visit another set of doctors at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, California. Cathy prayed that we ask for help to open that door with the doctors, the clerical staff, the secretaries, the radiology technicians so that this can be a time of blessing for Jud. Help us open the doors for God to slip in.

"When we offer up blessings, we raise up sparks of holiness, releasing the God-light housed in our world back to its Source. We receivers become givers and the nurturing flow is sustained."

The circle comes around. Thus, we also, will be blessing you.

(Thanks to the work of Julie Neraas and Cathy Crooks. Quotations are from"Apprenticed to Hope" by Julie Neraas.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sleep in Heavenly Peace...

                                                       picture by Zdenek Sasak

We arrived home after dark from our appointment at Park Nicollet, which also happens to be Jud's clinic and hospital. We felt quite good about our visit. We immediately connected with the oncologist, Melissa Sampson. Our friend, Kathy, described her as a "sterling human being." It describes her well. She is warm, kind, extremely intelligent, honest and well-versed in the area She helped us sort out a lot of our concerns.

Melissa divided the treatments roughly into those that focused on a chemo/radiation program, at the start and those that focused on the new True Beam-type programs which use radioactive knives. The best program in the first area is MD Anderson. The most prominent one in the second area is John Hopkins with Stanford also in the running. Mayo, while good at many cancer treatments, does not  have as good a reputation in the area of pancreatic cancer. We were ready to head there for a second opinion and will now go a different direction.

Our immediate plan is to visit the program at Stanford, which is now the Patrick Swayze program. Then we will be able to compare the two types of programs. We have dear friends who live only five miles from the clinic and have been invited to stay with them. We really feel we need to see this program first-hand to understand the differences. If is looks better for Jud, we will move out there for five-six months.

The MD Anderson protocol is also the one that Park Nicollet follows. Melissa feels very confident in her ability to treat Jud during this phase of his treatment. Jud and I could stay at home and have the same excellent treatment.

We will deal with the surgery part of the program when we get there. We hear the same name over and over again when people talk about this procedure and that is reassuring. He is also located in the Twin Cities.

Jud is asleep. Our shattered nerves are calming as we approach a plan. My guess is that Jud could begin treatment in a week and a half.

So tonight, I think we will both sleep.

You, too. I hope you sleep well. Thank you so much for being with us on this journey. May you sleep in Heavenly Peace!