Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas...Everyone.

The Lord came to me a little early this year – in way more than a manger. Not that he'd ever been away, I just hadn't been paying enough attention. Unfortunately, in my case, my star was about the size of a ping-pong ball in my pancreas.
Thankfully, even though the ping pong ball is gone, the light still shines. I hope that God's light finds you this Christmas and throughout the New Year.

I made my first post-op visit to my surgical oncologist (my revered Dr. August) today (Christmas Eve). He gave me full clearance to enjoy my Christmas. If nothing else, my timing has been good. I went in for my Whipple procedure on the Monday after Thanksgiving – so got to enjoy that. I've been able to be home with the kids for the holiday season. And now I can wait up for Santa tonight.

It's been all about recovering from this major surgery since Dec 1st. The cancer, and fighting it further, is secondary right now. We'll get to that after New Years.

I've had two ports in my abdomen since the surgery. Til today!
The one was a feeding tube that hasn't been used since the day before my discharge from Robert Wood Johnson Hospital (on 12/7). It's been there in the event that my new and reduced digestive system didn't tolerate food well. Fortunately, that has not been the case at all. I've been eating like a champ and have recovered more than half of the pounds I'd lost. The other port has been collecting leakage from my newly assembled piping. The volume has been decreasing in the 2+ weeks since I've come home. The volume is so small now that the amazing human body can manage it (the healing) without this artificial collection system. Each came out relatively painlessly.
I also learned from Dr. August that I should not be lifting >10 pounds until February – which really surprised me. I've already crossed that line actually. But with the danger of having a hernia, I'll try and stay on the safe side of it for the next several weeks. Also, surprisingly, he gave me the go-ahead to drive. – which I actually don't feel quite up to. I'll just work on getting in my walking in for now.

Next up is my first appointment with my medical oncologist, Dr. Bruno Fang, on January 2nd, to start a new year of healing.

So…please go out and celebrate Christmas with your loved ones. This is the beginning of so many good things to come. We all have much to be thankful for. Remember those with less. Hug the kids extra. Peace and love…

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


In the spirit of sharing both the good and the bad on this blog, having it be a therapeutic space and so somewhere to practice the art of letting go, and forgetting that that there are so many of you out there reading this (but remembering that you are all dear to me) – here's a shot at a "poetic" recap.


Goin down the road with Emmanuel.
Still waiting to grow up, powerful and young at 42.
Poised for another glorious birthday marathon
through my beloved streets in just a few weeks.
Grooving on the soundtrack to the most blessed life known.

Goin down the road with Emmanuel.
A little stomach setback taken in stride.
On the new-to-me medical highway a week later,
focus shifts, the ante is upped, as things turn orange.
No liver virus is a mixed bag; each answer begs more questions.
The stakes rise and the ride progresses to gloomier places.
Exits slide by to the left and right, tempting in the rear-view.

Goin down the road with Emmanuel.
“Covering all bases”- one time precautions - become mile markers of doom.
Fear challenges hope by Halloween as worst-case scenarios loom.
My Sweetest Three pay the tunnel toll with me.
The wheel more anchor than steering.
At each off ramp, I pray for the best result at that moment.
The driver tangibly next to me always delivers.

Goin down the road with Emmanuel.
Destination unknown – now as ever.
Trust in him and dread battle inside my heart and head.
Needing a misdiagnosis or minor miracle,
rough roads remain at best…or worse.
Challenged by "thy will be done"; down with his plan unless it undermines mine.
My directions never included a premature dead end.

Goin down the road with Emmanuel.
Buoyed through surgery by the whisper of a thousand prayers.
Emerging from that tunnel saved by sure hands and miracle-giving family and friends,
all packed into a station wagon cruising towards brighter sunshine.
A life once lost now gained, where only precious days remain.
Though the sword of Damocles dangles above my road to an unknown end – that's okay.
Still goin where the water tastes like wine.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Recovering Remarkably

It has been nearly a whole work week since I got home and my body has certainly been on the job and accomplishing much it seems.
I am pleasantly surprised (again) with my system's response to the introduction of food, tolerating everything I've tossed down. I have a good appetite and all of the plumbing seems to be functioning well. I try to eat often with smaller portions. Having said all that, I am still about 13 pounds below my "fighting weight"- which is where I have been, more or less, since my return home.
I am in discomfort moving around but it is getting easier daily. I can go up and down our stairs and am able to interact with the kids more and more. On Sunday, picking up more than 2 books was a challenge; a gallon of milk was beyond me. Both are doable now.
My pain is being managed beautifully by a Fentanyl patch.
Jacquelyn, Ana and Noah appreciate that I've been able to shower a couple of times.
I've had a nurse visit three times this week to check on my wounds and change my dressing. I still have a capped feeding tube port – just in case I should need it because my GI system stops cooperating. I also have a drain port on my pancreas. The amount collecting in my reservoir has decreased significantly meaning that my system is tightening up (i.e., less leakage).
Sleep is my weak link. I can only get about 5-6 hours in each night somehow. I try to make up the rest in an afternoon nap. I don't know if that's enough – seems like I'd need more – but it doesn't seem to be inhibiting my recovery too much so far.
The kids are respecting papa's boo-boo by not playing too rough around me and expressing their love more gingerly. Okay…so they are not "listening" any better, but I can't expect a little surgery to solve the independent streaks of two two-year olds.
My Jacquelyn is doing well – managing her third baby with incredible patience. She is an amazing nurse, wife and mother. I know that those of you that know her are not surprised.
There's still a long way to go for us – but so far, so great! I know that the Lord is still with us every gentle step of the way, clearing obstacles.
Your continued thoughts and prayers are making it easier for us and appreciated immensely.
May God bless each of you as he has blessed us.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Back Home! The Tools of a Lovely Recovery

And on the 7th day – just one week after lighting the first Advent candle, that of hope, in church - the kid comes back home to rest!
I believe that a miraculous combination of the astounding wonder and power of medicine, the human body and God that have allowed this to be so.
Maybe it's my inspirational aspirator (my preferred name for the incentive spirometer that I use hourly to keep my lungs clear and exercised) – or - my well-performing Jay-Z grenade (my pet name for my Jackson-Pratt reservoir that collects pancreatic fluid from my right side) – or the steady epidural (and now patch-provided) stream of Fentanyl that has effectively kept the edge off of my pain since the surgery, but…
I am doing remarkably well with my recovery.
The original – likely conservative and more typical – 7-10 day estimate became 7 days with my release today (Sunday, 12/7).
I have been lucid virtually throughout – including some cool dreams of being chased from soccer games by tiny crocodiles through tiki bar settings in the backyards of Queens.
I was walking around on Day 2, up to three laps around the hospital floor and feeding the intestines via a tube on Day 3, had an uncomfortable nose (ng) tube pulled and a precious kids visit on Day 4, off the epidural and urine catheter and onto clear liquids on Day 5 (Friday) and taking in solids with more kids time on Day 6.
I am very tired but otherwise very good. I can walk around gingerly. It is looking like the recliner is going to be my best friend for the next several weeks.
The kids are taking it all in stride and are expressing their love by laying their heads on my thighs and kissing my hands. Their pure and positive energy will dramatically help their Papa get better after his time at the "doctors".
I've truly been continuously blessed by God every day and step of the way.
Thank you all for helping it to be so with your thoughts, prayers, calls and visits.
With much love…

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Coffee-flavored Kisses

We have very tangibly felt the presence of God throughout this entire experience. It is as if He has literally been standing with us – sometimes in front guiding, occasionally behind us pushing, always at least next to us supporting.
As each piece of information has come back during the time of figuring out what was wrong with me, we've prayed that the Lord would give us the best answer that He could at that moment. And He always has. We held that same prayer request up prior to my surgery on Monday and with my recovery since.
Going into my surgery I knew that I had two of three things going for me for sure – I am young (relatively) and in good health (relatively). The wild card was whether the cancer had been detected early enough so that its spread was minimal. As Jacquelyn indicated – per my good Dr. August – the preliminary prognosis is positive.
And, sure enough, the blessings keep flowing in that my recovery is going amazingly well. I can't help but attribute this to the combination of excellent medical and spiritual care that I am receiving.
I haven't been allowed even a sip of water yet, but Jacquelyn sneaks me coffee-flavored kisses. I've walked a couple of laps around the sixth floor with minimal pain. They will be putting some "food" through my feeding tube today. We may give the new & improved GI system a try with some clear liquids on Friday.
Each of you blessing me with your prayers and good thoughts has been for me the Body of Christ – my healing nourishment – throughout this illness.
Thanks and may God bless you back.

Monday, December 1, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

The marathon for life has begun! And Franco's off to a GREAT start. I am overjoyed to share that his surgery went very well today. After 7 hours in the operating room, the surgeon, Dr. August, reported that Franco was the easiest Whipple Procedure patient that he's ever had. Dr. August was cautiously optimistic that they've removed all of the cancer--the most wonderful news we could receive. Thanks Lord! And for all of you "angels" out there---your positive thoughts and prayers were heard and we are so appreciative. I'd like to express a very heartfelt, loving thank you to our ministers and friends, Stephanie and Seth. You've been like the water and food stations along the marathon route--refreshment and nourishment for our minds, bodies and souls.

Franco was in and out of the recovery room in a sprint-like fashion. He was awake and talking to us just hours after the surgery. And he was spewing so many jokes that I thought they might have hit the "funny bone" while in there somehow :-). Not that he wasn't funny before but....

The nurse was talking about getting him out of bed tomorrow to start moving around--amazing. Franco himself is in disbelief that he was so awake and aware tonight. He's tired of course, but looks terrific after completing the first few "miles" of this new race. The light is shining upon him ever so brightly. Go, Franco Go!

I'll keep you posted on his recovery. Much love and gratitude to all of you.