At University Hospital Feb. 2011

At University Hospital Feb. 2011
February 11, 2011 at University of Utah Hospital

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yesterday was an amazing day . . .

We arrived at Huntsman at 8:30 a.m. yesterday for Phil's first chemo treatment. Each round of treatment is counted as "Cycle 1, Day 1; Cycle 1, Day 2," and so on to day 14. Then it starts all over again with, "Cycle 2, Day 1; Cycle 2, Day 2," and so on. Phil is scheduled for 12 cycles, which doesn't sound like much till you realize that's 24 weeks, or nearly six months.

It didn't take long to feel acclimated to the Infusion Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute. Although we both felt anxious--like plunging into an abyss, Phil's nurse, Debbie, was quick to make us laugh and feel right at home. Her lightheartedness was infectious as she went from hooking Phil up to his chemo, to offering donuts, cookies and an introduction to the donor of these goodies--Dov (pronounced with a long "o" as in, "He dove into the water"). Dov Siporin has had Stage IV Colon Cancer for three years. His sidekick, Suzanne Harsha-Arevalo, was diagnosed the same time as Dov, and has also survived three years with Stage IV Colon Cancer. Suzanne announced that she was in complete remission. This is remarkable considering Suzanne had 12 lesions on her liver and her cancer was also inoperable.

Dov and Suzanne did more for us than any doctor--they exemplified what it means to fight! Dov wore a black t-shirt with "F*** Cancer" printed on the front, and "Inoperable but Undefeated" on the back. I'm guessing Dov is in his 30s. Always smiling, Dov is the picture of health--it is impossible to believe he has a stage 4 cancer. Dov did a stand-up comedy routine to rival any professional and had everyone in our infusionj room laughing so hard.

Suzanne is intense with shortly cropped hair (probably courtesy of chemo) under a black cap. Her oncologist (who is also Dov's and Phil's oncologist) wanted Suzanne to do three more months of chemo but she refused. You can't help but respect and admire her courage. Both Dov and Suzanne are devoted to inspiring others and they share their stories with frankness and humor.

In the waiting room I also met Kristen, her husband Josh, and their beautiful blond baby girl. I learned that they have three sons at home and that Josh was diagnosed with a brain tumor about a year ago. There is a long scar almost circling Josh's head, like a triumphant halo. Kristen shares their story and refers me to her blogs: and I encourage you to visit them--each is very inspiring!

I also met Max, a positive and upbeat survivor who I learn is participating in a clinical trial hoping to find better treatments for his type of cancer--melonoma. He has a couple of scars on his cheek and his neck that add to his rugged good looks! He's all about climbing mountains so his blog is aptly named: Max hasn't let cancer own him--his life is so inspiring!

So you can see that we had an amazing day. As Dov pointed out, you learn about everyone else and tell yourself, "At least I don't have it as bad as you." And he's right. It's amazing that no matter how bad you think your own situation is, you wouldn't trade with anyone else.

I've been pretty careful to keep this blog factual and all about Phil. But in keeping it "real," I realize that I've ignored the emotional side of cancer. Although Phil is a brick, I've avoided talking about feelings because they're just too raw and real to reiterate. But bottling them up hasn't made them go away--instead they intrude at the worst possible moments. Monday I stepped out of the infusion room and noticed Dov visiting with a group of folks in the waiting room so I stopped to listen. Soon I was sharing Phil's story and the tears broke through. As I began to apologize, I found myself encircled by tender and compassionate listeners whose hugs and sweet sentiments were a huge comfort!

Phil was feeling the love, too, when Dov and Suzanne paid him a special visit bringing cheer, inspiration, and most of all HOPE! We really needed that extra "infusion" of HOPE! We can mainline that stuff any day!!! We can't believe how much love there is at the Huntsman Cancer Center.

Although Phil and I took plenty to read, we read very little. It was amazing how fast seven hours sped by while visitng with new friends in the infusion center--Bob and Linda, Sterling and Maria, Ro, Ella, and others.

Soon Phil was hooked up to his portable pump which would continue to infuse over the next 46 hours. With less than a day left on his portable pump (a small ball he carries in a shoulder bag) he's feeling NO side effects, except sensitivity to cold. He gets disconnected Wednesday at 1:15 p.m. and we're going home!

We feel blessed in a multiplicity of ways--good family, good friends, good medicine, and . . . HOPE!!!


  1. Phil & Lou,
    You bring back many memories. Some of them good and some not so good. I spend several hours on many different days in the infusion center. I also carried the ball around in the shoulder bag.
    The best thing I can tell you is that it can be beat.
    Good Luck in everything.
    Mike Halliday

  2. Lou, we all love you and Phil, so this is the place to share the emotions when you are ready. You have a wonderful support group there at the Huntsman who know what you are dealing with, and feeling like no one else understands is the worst part of medical issues. When I stop to think of how far medicine has come in the last 50 years, I realize how very blessed we truly are!
    I'm sending you a hug, and as always, you have my prayers.
    Amy K.

  3. Phil and Lou,
    We are glad to hear the first infusion went well. Your post brought tears. We too met a lot of amazing people during our 26 treatments at the Huntsman 4 years ago. Folks with an amazing spirit of survivorship that we will never forget. From one caregiver to another, it is ok to cry, be angry, laugh, and sing praises for small acts of kindness. We met Roy and Karen Barraclough during the Skinny Tire Festival in Moab last weekend. Great folks. They send their thoughts and prayers. Marly and I tandem bicycled 136 miles and raised $3,230 for the Huntsman Hometown Heroes. Today, we are celebrating Marly's 50th birthday. Every hour of every day is a blessing. Know our thoughts and prayers are with you and Phil.
    Be well - Be blessed.
    Scott and Marly Boyer
    Our cancer journey: