At University Hospital Feb. 2011

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

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Life is good . . .

The highlight of our summer has been Mark's marriage to Cassie!  They're the cutest couple ever, and so much in love.

What a wonderful time it was being together as a family!  That's all that really matters—FAMILY!!!

Our children from left to right: Jeff, Liz, (me), John, Cassie and Mark, (Phil), Becky and Adam.

It's been a great summer and Phil is doing well.  Today he learned that his carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) count has dropped over the past months from 6.7 to 4.9 to 4.6.  Carcinoembryonic antigens are tumor markers which, while not entirely reliable, tend to indicate what tumors are up to.  In Phil’s case, the numbers seem to confirm results of his last CT scan on June 11—“no new growth.”  And while it would be wonderful if the tumors could just shrink and disappear, no new growth is terrific news.  Especially since his cancer was already inoperable when discovered and he's had no new growth of tumors in the colon or the liver since he started chemo in March of 2011!

Much of this success can be attributed to the excellent care Phil receives at Huntsman Cancer Institute, and particularly from his oncologist, Dr. John Weis. These two have become great friends and besides "friending" each other on Facebook, they enjoy swapping stories at Phil's monthly appointment.  At our last visit on Monday, Dr. Weis opened his FB page and showed us his album of pictures from a recent trip to Europe.   We saw the castle where he and his wife and son stayed, and learned that Dr. Weis’ father, a U.S. Intelligence officer, stayed in the same castle during World War II.  His father played a significant role in preserving freedom and we see the same kind of courage as Dr. Weis fights the war against cancer.

                          Phil and Dr. Weis at our last visit on Monday, July 16.

Among our many blessings are other incredible friends we've made at Huntsman Cancer Institute--like Dov Siporin (pronounced Dōv, with a long “o”).  There is a definite camaraderie among cancer survivors but Phil's bond with Dov is exceptional.  We feel that meeting Dov was "bashert" (meant to be)!  Dov is always paying it forward and Phil is following his example.  

Dov has fought every minute for nearly four years to survive colon cancer.  He fights for his wife and their two young children, and also for everyone he can reach at Huntsman and beyond.  Dov is such an inspiration!

Moving from Stage 3 at diagnosis, to Stage 4, Dov has endured painful surgeries, countless radiation and endless chemo treatments.  But despite all this, Dov never stops helping and lifting others with his endless antics and colorful personality!  He usually shows up with a big bag of treats that he distributes liberally, and I wish you could hear his hilarious monologues.  He can make the most drastic procedures and circumstances seem funny!  There is no one who can lift your spirits like Dov.

                                     Dov on Valentine's Day as "Chemo Cupid!"

We met Dov at Phil’s first chemo treatment and he literally changed our lives.  We walked into the chemo lab fearful, not knowing what the future would hold, and walked out with a renewed sense of hope and, yes, even adventure.  Dov normalized for us, the most abnormal of all circumstances.  Thanks to Dov, we no longer saw cancer as something that would take everything from us.  Instead, we realized that a terminal diagnosis SHOULD and COULD be defied!

 Here's another of Dov's countless stunts on his way to get a (you guessed it) PET scan!

Dov helped us discover that behind all the terribleness (and there’s plenty of that), there is a wonderful, magical quality to this journey.  

Phil's cancer has brought us so much growth and understanding--we've never been closer or appreciated each other more, and we've never felt more dedicated to serving others.  

Some might think we're overly optimistic or dwelling in denial, but it's actually the opposite--we're keenly aware of just how precious life is and we choose to experience it with joy, not fear!  

Yes, Phil deals with the ugly side of illness--not being able to do the things he used to enjoy, like taking walks together, being able to taste and enjoy food, mowing the lawn, playing “dark house” with our grandkids, going for months without needing to see a doctor, staying up late (or even past 6:00 p.m.), and more.  You never realize how much you appreciate the simple things in life till they’re no longer possible. 

Through it all, however, Phil stays positive and optimistic.  Not even relentless fatigue and feeling crumby all the time can bring him down. Nothing dampens his faith and optimism.  Really . . . NOTHING!  Like Dov, Phil is an inspiration!

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