Monday, November 29, 2010

Just The Boys

Dori started Vidaza, Round 3, today. Her counts look very good. White and red blood cell counts are steady, and platelets jumped to 238. She doesn't have to go back for labs until the end of December. She returns Tuesday through Friday to receive more Vidaza.

Will and I spent the weekend at Charit Creek Lodge in the Big South Fork last weekend with two buddies and their Dads. This was my third time to Charit Creek, the first with Dori on a day hike about 14 years ago and last year with Kathryn.

The three men and three boys hiked through gorges, across cold mountain streams and to spectacular overlooks. We went over and around rock formations like the Twin Arches and other formations that have been eroding for more than 300 million years.

We built a bonfire and ate Southern fare. The Dads enjoyed some local wine and extra sharp cheddar cheese, while the boys caught crawdads and explored the area with refreshing curiosity. We simply had a grand time.

Evaporating frost

Father and son

Rock hopping

South Arch, Twin Arches

Young outdoorsman

Proudly rooted

Hiking fraternity

Friday, November 26, 2010

Darned Good Bird

Happy sisters giving thanks

A few days ago, Dori and I picked out a fresh turkey. I planned to smoke this fine bird, and found a recipe for Apple-Onion Turkey for our family and guests - Dori's Mom and her sister Kathy and their family.

On Wednesday, I prepared our stuffing and then went to work on the bird. I rubbed seven special seasonings in the cavity, quartered an organic apple, onion, lemon and orange, and stuffed those in the turkey with some fresh organic rosemary sprigs. With a hunk of french bread, I sealed off the bird and placed in the fridge to sit overnight.

Yesterday morning, I ran the Boulevard Bolt, a traditional start to my favorite holiday. This year, Will joined me on the course at around Mile 2 for his first Bolt. I ran slowly the first half of the race on the jammed course and then was sidetracked by a bathroom break for nearly three minutes. Nature called; I listened. I wasn't worried about running fast anyway, just a calorie-consuming pace.

My Mom and Kathryn were at the turnaround on Belle Meade Boulevard, and so was Will, who hopped on the course. We ran a 9:30 first mile together and then dropped the pace gradually, finishing the last mile at about 8:00/mile. The run was easy for Will, who crossed the finish line under no strain and asked, "Can I run the whole thing next year?" Yes, I said, and I won't hold you up, either. My Garmin time was 47:30 for 5.04 miles, just under a 9:30/mile pace.

Back to the bird, I fired up the smoker, settling on 235 degrees. For 6 1/2 hours, I tended to the well-oiled bird and smoked some spicy sausage on the side. My family members began cycling through the house, first my Mom and later my Dad and his wife and my sister Anne and her husband. It was a good day to laugh and chat, and we did it well.

Dori and Kathy prepared some amazing sides, and I brought in the bird, once it reached 165 degrees. After it sat a spell, Kathy's husband Nathan carved it perfectly and we garnished the platter. The four children each said a prayer of thanks, with Will capturing some hearts with a thank you to the doctors and staff of 11 North. Amen, buddy. Perfectly said.

The turkey was perfect. The white meat was moist and bursting with flavor. We enjoyed a magnificent riesling from Arrington Vineyards, a fine compliment to the cornucopia of fantastic food prepared by all.

And that's how you do a great Thanksgiving!

Finely smoked

The spread

The fantastic four

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thankful For Much

I spent some of the morning surfing the Web for more information about Vidaza, a brand name for the drug azacitidine. As you know, Dori is receiving it in six weeklong rounds, with Round Three set for the Monday after Thanksgiving.

I'm learning more than I probably want to know, including clinical effects and personal stories on message boards. The drug is very expensive, which we already knew, and made by Celgene, a company in the Boston area. Celgene has seen its sales soar as more providers are recommending it. Some governments like the U.K. and Australia agree the drug is effective but won't include in their national plans because of cost. You can buy Vidaza online in Canada, too, it appears. 100mg costs about $1,100 across the border.

Here's what you and I know about Vidaza. Dori is improving, and our kids still have their Mom. Dori continues to wear her "Hans Lives Here" black night shirt with pink lettering to bed every night, investing in faith and hope he will stay on task. I pray nightly that Hans keeps up the good work and for Vidaza to continue doing its mysterious thing.

Vidaza is being administered outpatient to Dori, which is much less expensive than an in-hospital stay. About every few days, I ponder what another transplant would have meant to my family. I'm grateful, as you can imagine, we're not camped out at the hospital. That's how I feel about Vidaza.

Last week, I looked at Dori midway through Kathryn's first basketball game and saw that same thankfulness. Kathryn's team was down 12 points, and we could have cared less. Kathryn was playing well and Dori was there, enjoying it all. Just smiles.

We will celebrate Thanksgiving with Dori's family this week. Her Mom and her sister's family will arrive in a few days. Dori is planning the menu, and I'll smoke a turkey or two. The kids will play with their two cousins, and their two dogs will join Pepper in a packed house. I'm quite pumped. This will be a great holiday for Dori and the kids. Ten years ago, I might have been bracing myself. Not these days. Bring it on.

I'm planning to run the Boulevard Bolt, a five-miler on Thanksgiving morning. I ran six last Sunday, and three and five milers during the week. I ran four this morning, slow at first and brisk at the end. My weekly 15-mile regimen the last month is probably enough to allow me to run an OK pace, though I'll probably look for a friend or two and just run comfortably with them. I don't have anything to prove with this run.

Nearly 8,000 people have already entered the Bolt. Proceeds feed and help the homeless. It seems like more are homeless this year, from all the people we see standing at intersections selling $1 newspapers. I love the Bolt because it's a great cause and great way to start my favorite holiday, and I see so many friends from over the years.

I hope you all have similar plans. Happy Thanksgiving!

By the way, check out the updated Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation website. Lots of good news there on a better looking site!

Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation Presentation from PAPA Advertising on Vimeo.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Getting Strong, Girl

Mother and son enjoy the outdoors.

On Saturday with our favorite cancer survivor, Will and I experienced a memorable six-mile hike. We explored the Savage Gulf State Natural Area, perhaps my favorite spot in our home state.

Dori and my Mom decided to join us for two of the six miles, but at the turnaround Dori said, "I can do the whole thing. I feel good." So off we went, with Pepper on point. My Mom headed back to our cabin where we were staying for the weekend and celebrating an early Thanksgiving.

I wondered if this was a good idea. Dori has been improving, but six miles into remote wilderness? ... Ahh, what the hell?

We left the Stone Door and started skirting the cavernous Big Creek Gulf along the Big Creek Rim Trail. The views over 800-foot dropoffs were spectacular, even a few weeks past peak fall colors. Dori wasn't keen to staying near some of the more exposed points on the trail, given that her balance isn't 100%. She enjoyed the views in her spots of choice.

Near Mile 5, I could tell Dori was tiring. I said we should slow down. So what did she do? She charged up the only major hill, more defiant than determined. She pushed hard. Near the end, I reached for her hand, more to slow her down. She declined. I said, "Sweetie, you're getting a little wobbly." She kept walking. I said, "Please stop now." She listened, rested and we finished the last few hundred yards.

She did great. It takes a little attitude to do what she did.

We believe in our Creator around this corner of the Web. We continue to thank Him for this past weekend, during which we saw the sights you see below and heard not a peep but for our own pitter-patter on the trail.

"Look at this view, Mom."

"I'm ready when you are, big fella."

Good advice.

She was sitting on a log, if you must ask.

Looking down Big Creek Gulf.

"Now I see why Aunt Anne likes painting."

Restful reader.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Be the Match!

Many of you have said, "I want to help Dori and your family but don't know what to do."

Here's a great opportunity! Our friend Emmit at "I Run For The Party" is organizing a Bone Marrow Donor Drive that runs Thursday through Saturday in conjunction with this Saturday's Nashville 1/2 Marathon. Click here and check out the flyer above for more information. According to their Web site, the donor drive will be held at Packet Pickup times (Thursday from 6-8 p.m. and Friday from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.) and on Race Day under a tent across from Registration & Food near the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Nashville.

This drive is an easy way at no cost to get on the National Marrow Donor Program through the Be the Match program. Dori would not be alive today unless many caring people made efforts like this, so we would be honored and grateful if you joined them. Please let us know if you did!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Back to Work

After more than four months away, Dori returned to work today. When she walked into loan committee, 20 bankers stopped talking, stood up and welcomed back their co-worker with applause. I love that bank.

Dori put in three hours today and will do the same tomorrow. I've all but begged her to take it slow and ease into a new routine. Next week, she'll work four-hour days Monday through Thursday, another gradual step to normalcy.

I also love that about a half dozen people have told me they stop daily now to hug their loved ones, something we encouraged in a recent CaringBridge post. Hugs work, y'all, down here and up north!

I blew off a morning run and slept in this morning. Tomorrow, I plan to rid myself of guilt and pound pavement, dog in front.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Feng Shui

Moving around makes life better.

Yesterday, I biked hills for about 40 minutes, working the heart before settling in to watch college football. I purposefully avoided watching my alma mater. What Vanderbilt plays these days isn't college football. Pee Wee football, maybe.

Otherwise, I enjoyed it, before capping the night watching Rocky II with the kids. I couldn't help but identify with Rocky staying by Adrian in the hospital. When Rocky's trainer Mickey quit barking temporarily to stand by Rocky, it crossed my mind that ole Mick might as well have been our family and friends rolled into one character.

This morning, I took Pepper to Percy Warner Park for the 5.8-mile loop. Dori wondered if the distance and hills would be "too much for Schnoogie," Kathryn's nickname for Pepper. Looking just as strong at the end as when he started, Pepper answered any doubts. He's just a great dog with great spirit. I feel like the week, with an extra hour in the bank from daylight savings and the good exercise, is off to the right start.

Dori's energy level is improving even more. Yesterday, she walked 3.2 miles with our friend Renee at PWP, then proceeded to clean and situate our house like I've never seen her do. Our small bathroom seems bigger, and the living and dining rooms are looking sharp. Feng shui has always been fun to say, and now experience.

She said something this morning, as she was moving things around, that caught my attention. "Things are supposed to come in threes," some sort of decorating tip. I said, yes, but not relapses. "That's right! Excellent!" she said. And that's all I'm saying about that.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Time for a Recharge

Dori is watching her favorite show, 30 Rock. I'm a fan, but am dedicating a free moment to get off a log and blog. I haven't been blogging much, compared to when I initiated this project. I seem to have less time these days. Where does it go?

After two good weeks of running, I've been a complete slug. The one day I ran this week, Pepper pulled me through the neighborhood like a rag doll. My tank was empty, so I stopped after 1.5 and walked our canine Chris Farley home. I wasn't in the mood for his best Matt Foley.

I've hit a lull, after several pain-free, mostly fun runs, especially last Saturday. I'm going to set the alarm and give it a whirl in the morning. It's cold tonight, the kind of weather I like. Maybe I'll also bike this weekend and enjoy some countryside and brisk air.

Dori's pain from the port has slowly subsided. She's not a whiner, but I know she's been bothered by the incision. I sincerely wish, on a fairly regular basis, that I could share some of her physical burden and let her rest.

Some folks told me tonight at Will's basketball practice that Dori continues to inspire them. I see their sincerity. With equal sincerity, I share how much we appreciate them. These friends lift us up, with prayer, cards, dinners and smiles. These moments matter to me.

I am in awe of my wife, which you know. No woman has more grace and goodness than Dori. When I reflect, as I am now, it enables me to get out of the daily grind, take inventory, go big picture again, and renew personal commitments. Like a snake sheds its skin, it's time for a change.

So early tomorrow, I'll run.