Sunday, November 05, 2006

Letting Go, Starting Over

Nearly a month has passed since I lasted posted an entry on this blog. Many of our friends have contacted us through cards, e-mails and phone calls. I apologize for not responding. The past month has been a major life transition for us and we have been overwhelmed most of the time just getting through the challenges of the day. I have been awake since 3:30 am and finally decided to sit down and write about what I've been thinking.

Nearly everyone who knows us asks me with the most sincere intentions: "how are you doing?" I'll just answer that this morning by letting you know that for the first time in nearly three years I can tell you that I feel like we are actually doing well.

Our 9/11 occurred on December 23, 2003 when we met with the doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and heard Vicki's diagnosis. Some of you may not be aware that after the meeting at MSKCC Vicki and I had several hours before our train departed Penn Station. We took a taxi cab down to the World Trade Center Site, walked along the perimeter and then sat down on a bench along the Hudson river. We talked for a long time and sat in silent devastation for even longer because the news that Vicki would not survive this disease. We grieved together, and now seperately, ever since that moment.

Throughout the three years of Vicki's illness, we anticipated Vicki's eventual departure. We had hoped for another answer, a miracle, or a breakthrough treatment, but as time passed we increasingly became aware that Vicki's time was limited. Through the early months of 2006 Vicki's condition grew steadily worse and she gradually became less and less a part of our daily lives due to her failing health. I remember so clearly the day, August 23rd, when she woke up confused and disoriented and now recognize that those symptoms were the clear signs that she was at the end of her struggle. In the end I felt an uncomfortable mix of grief over her loss and relief that her suffering had ceased.

Since Vicki's burial we have attempted to let go and start our lives over again. I have to confess that for me this is an inconsistent process. Others who have already travelled this journey have assured me that it gets better over time and I believe them. Still others have told me that I will never fully recover. I think that is probably true too. In fact, I do not want to fully recover, I want to hold on some. Her life and memories are priceless treasures that deeply influenced the three of us, and many others in her circle of friends and family.

Although a cliche to many, the phrase "one day at a time" has become a concept to rebuild my life upon. Matthew 6:34 tells us to live one day at a time: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." And, it seems at this point I have little choice. Single parent life has really challenged me to find the right balance over the past month. Through a number of trials and errors I think we are making the necessary adjustments and moving on. Our fall schedule packs in three birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Although we are not nearly as proficient as Vicki, I think we are retaining many of the traditions we established as a family and this provides the girls an important sense of stability. Vicki hoped and expected that we would continue on even after she was gone, and we honor her by doing so.

Lauren, me, and Kelly at Andrea's wedding in St. Louis, MO on September 30th, 2006. We are moving on with life one day at a time.

Vicki's grave at Chestnut Grove the day after the burial and memorial service. I am in the process of deciding on a monument for the grave.

Pastor Neal Jones with Kelly, Lauren and I just after Vicki's burial at Chestnut Grove.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Weekend Wedding

On September 30th my niece, Andrea, and her fiance, Joe, were married in St. Peters, MO - a suburb of St. Louis. The three of us attended the wedding and Lauren was in the wedding. We would not have missed this celebration for Andrea and Joe. We returned to Washington and to an empty house. The quiet house posed a stark transition from the fury of activity during the month of September. But September passed, summer ended, and people moved on with their lives. The quiet crisis in our lives didn't end, it just changed to new crises. There's really too much to even write about here and I'm not sure I want to write it. Maybe it's best I just put it all behind me. I wish Vicki were here.

Here are some pictures from the wedding:

This is Joe and Andrea at the front of the church after the wedding.

Gregg and Paula (Father and Mother of the bride), along with Andrea, Joe, and Joe's mother.

The wedding party.

Gregg (Father of the bride, and Andrea.

My Aunt Martha, my older brothers Chip, Gregg, and Joe, and me.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Memories of Vicki

Today I pulled out a couple of shoeboxes from a closet with dozens of cards and letters Vicki and I had written to each other through the years since we met in February 1987. I read each one and they led me on a journey remembering the many good times Vicki and I shared. It's funny that the boxes had sat in the closet undisturbed for several years, and now I treasure the cards and notes that serve to remind me of her.

It's nearly 4 am here on the east coast. I suppose I should try to get some sleep, although that seems a little futile. I think I'll post some of the pictures I found in the shoeboxes today.

This is a picture of Vicki and I on our second date on March 14th, 1987. We are standing in front of my apartment in Annandale, VA. We doubled with our friends Tracy and Susan to see Citizen Tom Paine starring Richard Thomas at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

Our first date was on March 8th, 1987. We just went downtown to visit some of the monuments. The weather was so nice and we had such a great time visiting with each other we decided to eat dinner. I picked Tandoor-An Indian Restaurant on M St in Georgetown. The dinner was awful, but the company was perfect.

Later that month, on March 21st, 1987, Vicki and I went downtown to the Smithsonian Kite Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC. We bought a kite and gave it a test flight. We still have the kite in our garage.

For the Independence Day holiday on July 4th, 1987 Vicki took me to Florence, SC. to meet her parents. Her dad took this picture of us standing in their driveway in Florence. Vicki kept this photo in a picture frame in our bedroom throughout our marriage.

In September 1987, Vicki and I spent a day hiking and enjoying the falls at Great Falls National Park, just outside of Washington, DC in northern Virginia.

For Halloween in 1987 we decided to carve a pumpkin at her apartment. Neither of us were very interested in going out to parties. We were very content to stay at her place and spend time together.

Vicki and I invited her parents to Washington, DC for Thanksgiving in 1987. We rented a cabin at the Shenandoah Valley Farm in McGaheysville, VA. We had a wonderful time making Thanksgiving dinner and visiting. In this picture Vicki is sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of the cabin.

This is one of my favoite pictures of Vicki. Vicki was the director of the Girls in Action missions education program at Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, VA. This picture was taken when she was leading a Lottie Moon International Missions program at the church in December 1987.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Leanne's Tribute to Vicki

This is a photo of Leanne and Vicki on graduation day in 1984 at Furman University.

On Saturday, September 16th, we celebrated Vicki's life. For me the entire day was at once devastating and comforting. I cannot fully grasp the reality of Vicki's absence. My every thought of her drives me to tears because of the tremendous void she has left in our hearts. But throughout the weekend I drew great comfort from the hundreds of family, friends and neighbors gathered to honor Vicki.

Vicki's friend Leanne provided one of the most memorable moments of the day when she delivered a tribute to Vicki - a tribute for which I will forever remain grateful. I am posting the text of Leanne's comments here for those of you who were not able to attend the celebration service:

This is written in loving memory of my precious and beautiful friend Vicki. I met Vicki during our freshman year at Furman University in the fall of 1980. I was immediately impressed by her kindness and thoughtfulness and amused by her mischievous fun-loving side. Regarding her mischievousness, Vicki instigated and executed a prank on a mutual friend, Denise, during our freshman year that involved filling Denise’s dorm room with crumpled up newspapers within a few feet of the ceiling. The Furman friends have pictures documenting Denise’s surprise upon returning to her room to discover she was the recipient/victim of Vicki’s conspiratorial handiwork, including a picture of Denise standing in the middle of her dorm room completely engulfed by crumpled issues of the Greenville Daily News! With respect to Vicki’s thoughtfulness, she organized and implemented a surprise birthday party for me in cahoots with other Furman friends and my Mother in the summer of 1981 that caught me completely off guard and remains the happiest of all my birthday memories!

The above examples are an opening, but I cannot close here, because I have loved and known Vicki far too long to conclude with one or two stories when our friendship has spanned the entirety of our adult lives. Not long after learning of Vicki’s diagnosis, I was visiting a mutual college friend, DeeAnne, in Birmingham, Al. Typical of old friends, we pulled out snapshots from our college days and one picture of Vicki struck me deeply in the heart. It was a picture of Vicki taken during a dorm room party our sophomore year. She is happily dancing and playing air guitar. This picture captures a wonderfully spontaneous, joyful, carefree moment in Vicki’s life, and I suppose it had a profound effect on me for this reason – it provided a visual representation of a prayerful wish that I held for my precious and beautiful friend – a cancer-free life filled with joy and populated with people to love and be loved by.

When I reflect upon Vicki’s life, I know my prayerful wish for her was answered 1,000 times over in many immeasurable ways from beginning to end, and I consider myself truly blessed to have been a recipient of her fellowship on earth. I can only hope that I was in some measure as good a friend to Vicki, as she was to me. I’m glad I had the opportunity to room with her our senior year at Furman, to write a glowing recommendation for her as a supplement to her US-2 Missionary Application in the spring of 1984, to serve as the Maid of Honor in her wedding in 1989, to rejoice with her when her children were born, and to weep with her over the knowledge that her life was being cut short by terminal cancer.

When I think about the hopes and dreams of my lovely young friend dancing in the dorm, I rejoice that Vicki was blessed to have wonderful parents, a loving husband, and a beautiful family because I know this was a dream come true for her. I remember when Vicki visited me with Kelly and Lauren in the summer of 1997. The girls went swimming in my apartment complex pool and left their hand prints on the sliding glass doors of my condominium. Although I am compulsive about cleaning, I confess I never washed Kelly’s and Lauren’s hand prints off those sliding glass doors. I knew how happy Vicki was to be a Mother of two lovely daughters and those little hand prints on my sliding glass door represented the fulfillment of my friend’s dream; and served as a constant reminder to me of my friend’s joy. When you love someone, you rejoice in their hopes because they have left a permanent imprint on your heart.

Vicki and I matured into young women together at Furman and I know that loyal steadfast friends like Vicki are a rare and irreplaceable treasure. I am deeply saddened by her loss and my heart aches for all of us who have loved Vicki as a wife, daughter, mother, sister, aunt, cousin, teacher, church member, volunteer, co-worker, and friend. I will never be able to fully articulate the essence of my lovely friend, but I do know I will always have the utmost respect for her integrity and grace. I will miss her vibrancy and spunk! I will remember that Vicki was a person with many talents, all of which she refined through a strong, determined, conscientious, and willful spirit. Although I am earthbound, I believe that Vicki’s spirit is dancing and playing air guitar!

What else can I possibly say my dear friend but this…
“I thank my God in my every remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3).”

Friday, September 15, 2006

Vicki in Her Own Words

Throughout Vicki's life she focused on making good friends, and being a good friend. Her years attending Furman University in Greenville, SC provided her some of her most cherished friendships and experiences. Shortly after Vicki's cancer diagnosis several of her college friends traveled to our home to demonstrate their support for her. I have included a picture I took at the front door to our house that weekend, and a letter she later wrote to her friends. Here is the letter Vicki wrote:

April 14, 2004

Dear Denise, DeeAnne, Julie, LB, Leanne, and Mary Beth,

I’m finally getting around to writing a letter that I’ve been “thinking” for over a month. I admit to being somewhat overwhelmed by the tremendous gift that you all gave to me by coming up for the weekend to visit. What a fun time of remembering and catching up that was! I’ve often told people that my college years were some of my favorite years of my life. Friends like you are what made those years special. Friendship is a powerful and wonderful thing. I’ve been truly blessed through my life by having good friends all along the way. I’m thankful to be able to count each of you among my friends.

Denise, thanks so much for opening up your home for the crowd to come and stay. (I only wish I could have come and hung out there too.) Thanks for coordinating, chauffeuring, feeding, navigating, etc. for the weekend to help all of the details come together. Thanks to the rest of you for clearing your schedules and leaving your families to come together to encourage an old friend who really needed it. Your sacrifice is noted and appreciated. DeeAnne, how is your Kelly doing now? I was so sorry to hear of her illness and all that y’all went through to get her diagnosed and stabilized. Will she be having surgery soon? Keep us posted so we can remember Kelly and the rest of your family during that time.

Your presence here with me over the weekend reminded my of Job’s friends in the Bible. As Job was getting pummeled with one thing after another, his friends came and sat with him. Knowing that there wasn’t much they could “do”, they just sat there to be an encouragement. (This was before they started opening there mouths and suggesting reasons that he may be going through was he was going through.) Thanks for coming and sitting, talking, and laughing. Under normal conditions, I imagine that we would have been out and about, touring, eating, etc. But unfortunately, I’m not in a “normal” condition. So thanks for adapting and making the weekend special by just being together.

This last treatment hit me hard from the very beginning. I’ve had more pain and, therefore, have been on more pain medicine this time. The medicine helps with the pain but it also makes me very sleepy as well. I feel like I’ve slept (or may as well have slept) through the past month. I began having trouble with the skin on my hands and feet—a result of the oral chemo drug I’m taking. The doctors have had me cut back on that drug some in hopes of eliminating that problem or not allowing it to get any worse. I still have hair on my head so I haven’t had to dip into my hat bag yet. (Thanks for the hats, by the way. It’s good to know that they are there if I need them in the future.) Julie, I wanted you to know that Lauren wore the hat and scarf you made to church one Sunday and also to school one day. She looked very chic in her attire and got compliments from several people. She was very pleased.

I go back to the hospital on Monday, April 19th, for my next treatment. I’m having a hard time getting psyched up for it. Each one has been worse than the one before. So I’m trying to prepare myself for that. But…how do you prepare yourself for that? I just have to go through it one step at a time. We don’t know yet what the doctor will be doing this time. He doesn’t know until he gets me on the machine what he’s going to find and what he’s going to do. They did a CT scan in the hospital after my last procedure so I haven’t had another one midway between the treatments like I normally do. Therefore, I don’t have any new news since Paul’s last e-mail following my treatment. The radiologist and liver surgeon were supposed to meet to discuss me and bring the team up-to-date. Hopefully that meeting took place.

Please continue to pray for these doctors to have wisdom in how they treat me. Also, please pray for more and more tissue to die in the right places so that it can shrink away from the vital veins and allow the surgeon the room he needs to get rid of this cancer. Please pray for our family—that we can encourage each other and prop each other up during this challenge. Paul has been an excellent care giver to me from the time I was diagnosed. This is an unusual role for him to play but one that he is doing so well. He is a huge encouragement to me. He encourages me to cry when I need to and he also reminds me that we still have reason to hope for a positive outcome. Please keep him in your prayers. He’s tired from all that he has going on but he’s trying to be strong for me and the rest of the family. (I can’t remember if I told you in an e-mail that Paul’s dad’s lymphoma cancer has come back. He was several months away from being declared cancer-free when he began to feel bad. The cancer is all through his stomach and lungs. He’s undergoing extensive chemotherapy right now. They cannot cure it but they hope to control it. Paul has been helpful to them in interpreting some of the medical mumbo-jumbo that they’ve been getting. He’s armed them with a lot of questions to ask the doctors and empowered them a little more in this devastating situation. Paul is going to St. Louis at the end of the month to spend a long weekend with his parents and brothers.)

Kelly got to spend spring break in Canada with some friends of ours who have a house up there. We visited this family there this past summer when we took a family vacation up there. Kelly was excited about learning to snowboard. (She thought she knew how to snowboard when she used a neighbor’s board during a snow here in February. She could snowboard without falling from the front of our house down to the road. So she was confident that she could snowboard now.) She was in for a rude awakening as she attempted to board down the slopes at one of the largest ski resorts on the east coast. I think she ate a bit of humble pie, which is a good thing to do every once in a while. The house was quiet without Kelly here to pick on Lauren and fuss with us about everything. Did I mention to you that Kelly is pre-adolescent? Moods going every which way. Sometimes she's still like a kid and sometimes she thinks she’s 18.

Mom and Dad helped me put together a good week of activities for Lauren. She had friends over, went shopping with Gramma (her favorite activity—thank goodness I didn’t have to go!), went to a movie, went on an outing with her Brownie troop, went to a pet expo and an Easter egg hunt. She enjoyed getting all of the attention but by the end of the week, she really missed Kelly. She declared that she was glad she wasn’t an only child, that she was glad she had a sister and that she didn’t want any sister but Kelly. How sweet! That did this mother’s heart good!!

Mom and Dad took a trip back to SC the last week of my last treatment. I was glad that they could go home to get some things done and to have a break from stuff here. Our family enjoyed having the house to ourselves and having a sense of normalcy here. However, it was good to have them back again for the next round. They lighten our load so much with all they do—big stuff and little stuff. We’re so grateful that they can be here and that they share themselves with us this way. They plan to leave again at the end of May through early June. My nephew, Randy, will graduate from high school in early June and mom has doctors appointments that same week. If I’m still on the same treatment schedule, they’ll come back up here for a couple of weeks before we (hopefully) head to the beach in SC for a week at the end of June. I sure hope all of that works out.

I’ve rambled on long enough, I guess. Just wanted you to know what all is happening here. I appreciate all of your expressions of interest in what’s going on with me. Thanks for the e-mails, cards, calls, etc. They mean more to me than you’ll ever know. They are reminders that someone is “praying me through”. You all are so special to me—each of you for various reasons. I enjoy wonderful memories of times we spent together and am glad to have our recent weekend to add to the memory bank. I pray for each of you, too, when you come to mind. God has connected us together for a reason. Please stay in touch with me and with each other. I hope to see each of you again. I love each of you very much. Take care!


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Papers Publish Vicki's Obituary

We submitted death notice and obituary information to various newspapers. The papers have now published this information in case you are interested in reading the news reports.

The Washington Post

The Morning News, Florence, SC

The Salisbury Post, Salisbury, NC

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Day Vicki and I Met

In the photo above, Vicki and I were visiting Lake Konigsee in southern Germany. We had taken a vacation in Germany in August 1999 to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary.

I have numerous stories of life with Vicki over the past 19 years. I decided to share one of them tonight. Maybe some of you recall stories involving Vicki and would like to share them as well. If so please e-mail a story to me and I will post it on the blog so others can enjoy the memories.

Here’s the story of the day Vicki and I met.

I first met Vicki on Saturday afternoon February 15, 1987 at Waxie Maxie Records in Falls Church, VA. I remember the moment so vividly that it seems I can just close my eyes and I am back there again. Vicki used to love to tell this story, making sure I did not omit any of it.

I had been working on a crisis project over the weekend in downtown Washington. I left work in the afternoon and headed home to my apartment in Annandale. On the way home I decided to stop by the record store to shop around.

Shortly after I entered the store I noticed a very attractive young lady enter. She looked familiar to me, but I could not quite place her. I wondered: do I work with her? Maybe I went to college with her? Well, I wasn’t sure so I decided to just be bold and ask her. I walked up to her and asked “haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” (I have to issue a danger warning here: you could injure yourself if you fall out of your chair laughing at me. Apparently I was the only person on the planet who was unaware that the phrase “haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” is a common pick-up line.)

She looked at me incredulously for a moment without speaking (As she told it she was in shock that anyone was dumb enough to use that line on her in a record store.) Then, in a truly inspired moment, I asked her which church she attended. Now, I am sure that’s not a common pick-up line. When she answered I discovered we attended the same church, which explains where I had seen her.

Once Vicki established that I was legitimate she began to talk much more openly. We connected instantly and began building a friendship that afternoon. We talked about a wide range of subjects for well over an hour while standing in the middle of the record store. I went home that day just sky-high after meeting Vicki. I later found out she went to her apartment and told her roommate about meeting me too.

Even if I did sound a little foolish at first, I was so glad that I took a risk to introduce myself because I had just met my best friend. The next Christmas Vicki gave me a calligraphy of the words to the James Taylor song “You’ve Got A Friend.” I still have this hanging on my bedroom wall. And the song should be playing on your computer now.

Some people have a saying that beauty is only skin deep. I would phrase this differently. I think beauty runs much deeper than skin. In my view a person may be attractive or unattractive based on external appearances, but once he or she begins to speak my view of the person can change dramatically. Vicki was a beautiful lady with a wonderful, friendly smile. But beyond the external features, Vicki possessed internal beauty. She was one of the most gracious people I have ever met. She was always faithful and fully committed to me and our family. So, when I first saw her in the record store that February day I thought she was attractive. Later, when I really knew her I realized she was beautiful.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Vicki's Final Arrangements

Today, Vicki's father (Olin Bullock) and I completed final arrangements for Vicki. We posted this information so that those of you who are able and wish to participate will have adequate advance notice.

Friends may call at the ADAMS-GREEN FUNERAL HOME, 721 Elden Street Herndon, VA on Friday, September 15, between 6 and 9 p.m.

Internment will be held at the CHESTNUT GROVE CEMETERY in Herndon, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, 16 September.

A celebration of life service will be held at SOUTHVIEW BAPTIST CHURCH, 2620 Reston Parkway, Herndon, VA at 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 16.

The family requests in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Vicki B. Sartorius Memorial Fund, Southview Baptist Church, 2620 Reston Parkway, Herndon, VA 20171-2559.

For those of you from outside the Washington, DC metropolitan area who plan to attend Vicki's funeral, I have included some links that may provide useful information:

If you are flying to Washington you will want to fly into Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), which is just a few minutes from our house. You will need to rent a car at the airport. See any of the major rental car company web sites to rent your vehicle.

Herndon has many moderately priced hotels. I have included some that are very close to the funeral home, cemetery and church.
Hawthorne Suites Herndon
Spring Hill Suites Herndon
Residence Inn Herndon-Reston by Marriott
Embassy Suites Dulles Airport
Courtyard by Marriott Herndon-Reston

Vicki Bullock Sartorius - April 27th, 1962 - September 8th, 2006

After a long, valiant struggle with bile duct cancer, Vicki died peacefully at home at 12:32 a.m. on Friday morning, September 8, 2006. By God's grace and His power our Lord Jesus Christ rescued Vicki from her suffering. He has restored her to live for eternity in His heaven.

"But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again." (1 Corinthians 15:20)

Once again, I thank each of you who supported our family through these past years of struggle. You have richly blessed our family with your gift of prayer, encouragement, time, meals, and friendship.

I will post memorial service and burial arrangements on this web site when I can confirm the times and dates. Earlier this week I wrote a short biography/obituary to send to the newspapers. I will post it now so you can read it here first:

Vicki was born April 27, 1962 in Maryville, TN. In her early years her family moved to Salisbury, NC and finally settled in Florence, SC where Vicki attended West Florence High School, class of 1980. She then attended Furman University in Greenville, SC, and in 1984, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish.

After graduation, Vicki accepted a position as a Christian missionary with the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board. In this role she was assigned to the staff of Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, VA where she served for two years as a missionary to the various foreign embassies and consulates in Washington, DC.

Following her service as a missionary, Vicki accepted a position with the Meetings and Expositions Department of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) in Alexandria, VA. For the next seven years she coordinated annual and semi annual meetings and national and international conventions throughout the US and Canada on behalf of the Association. By the time she resigned from APTA in 1995 she was the director for exposition services.

In late-1995, following the birth of her second daughter, Vicki began her career as a stay-at-home mom and followed her life-long love of music by becoming a part-time piano teacher. As a piano teacher, she focused on the development of beginner music and piano fundamentals in pre-teen children. She taught piano in her home in association with the Fairfax-Loudon Music Fellowship (FLMF), where she also served for a period as the treasurer. She continued in this endeavor for 10 years, until in early 2006 she became too weak from the ravages of cancer to continue.

Vicki expressed her love for children throughout her entire adult life. She participated in, and usually led, various children’s missionary education programs and Vacation Bible School programs at Columbia Baptist Church, and later at Southview Baptist Church in Reston, VA.

For most who knew Vicki, the word gracious captures her personality. She always greeted people with a smile, striving to encourage others and build consensus. She lived a beautiful, but all too short, life. Before she went home to the Lord, she spoke of her only regret: she would no longer be able to help in the lives of her daughters and students. But she will remain in our hearts forever. Her spirit will carry us until we see her again in heaven.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Vicki Entering Life's Final Stages

Vicki entered into life's final stages over the past several days, according to nurses from Capital Hospice. She has shown multiple signs of the end of life processes such as an inability to eat or drink, and an inability to communicate. These signs have developed progressively and rapidly. The Hospice nurses tell us she could be in the last day or few days of her life. As you can imagine cancer has devasted all of us. Even though Vicki has fought this disease for neary three years, we could never prepare for such a demise.

Today the Hospice delivered a hospital bed and oxygen to make Vicki as comfortable as possible. We disassembled our queen-size bed and moved it out of the bedroom, and replaced it with the adjustable hospital bed. We also have an oxygen machine that connects to tubes and supplies Vicki with support for her breathing. Based on the directions from the Hospice doctors and nurses, we have discontinued all of Vicki's earlier medications. She now simply takes a liquid pain medication. Each of us have taken time to spend our alone time with Vicki. At this point she is non-responsive, however, her hearing will shut down last so we still speak to her.

Thanks to our good friend Jim and several other close friends we finalized plans for cemetery plots, funeral and memorial services, etc. Many, many other friends have helped us in so many ways that we cannot even count them. Our family continues to offer our thanks for such a wonderful community of friends and neighbors.

I took the photo of Vicki above on our honeymoon in April 1989. We married at Vicki's home church in Florence, SC on April 8th, 1989 and then took a week-long vacation at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Vicki's in Hospice Care

Yesterday afternoon I decided to place Vicki in the care of Capital Hospice. The people we met with from the Hospice seemed to be quite knowledgeable and caring. We seek to make Vicki as comfortable as possible in these last days, and hopefully, allow her to spend her time with friends and family in the comfort of her own room.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Comforting Vicki

Vicki's gastroenterlogists consulted with us over the phone several times yesterday (Friday, 1 September), after reviewing her test results from Georgetown. They believe that conducting an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) would not help Vicki. The ERCP potentially could have allowed the doctor to insert a small plastic tube (stent) through the endoscope and into a blocked bile duct to open a passgage. However, the doctor's believe the real problem lies deeper in her liver, in the thousands of small tree branches of her bile ducts that the tumor has invaded.

We could continue to push for more procedures and I am sure Vicki's doctors would do the best they could to improve her condition, but the ultimate outcome would not change. One of Vicki's options includes using a stent to drain her bile ducts from inside her liver, through her abdomen, and into an external bag. However, as I noted earlier, the real problem lies in the many smaller bile ducts that we cannot drain. So we are now shifting our focus to comforting Vicki, and preparing for her imminent death.

Overall Vicki continues to fight for life the very best she can under the circumstances. She eats well. She suffers from significant fatigue which cleary affects every aspect of her life, and chains her to her bed most of the day. However, she perks up a just bit when a close friend drops by for a visit. In addition, she continues to struggle with what I believe to be only a mild case of hepatic encephalopathy which we are treating with several daily doses of lactulose. Some of her friends have signed up for rotating night-shift duty and stayed in the room with Vicki, sleeping on a mattress by the side of her bed. In this way friends provide round-the-clock assistance should Vicki require any help during the night. Those of us working throughout the day also have the opportunity for some needed rest.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Update on Vicki

Dr. Marshall from the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown called today with Vicki's test results. The blood tests were more consistent with a blocked bile duct than liver failure. However, the sonogram showed no clear evidence of an obstruction in the common bile duct. Rather, the test showed a partial blockage further up the biliary tract which has been evident in previous CT scans. Unfortunately, the net result of these inconclusive tests yields no obvious choice. We believe the best course for Vicki will be to place stents into the bile ducts in an attempt to improved the drainage and alleviate some of her symptoms of disorientation. By tomorrow we hope to complete the arrangements for conducting this procedure at either Fairfax or Georgetown University Hospital, depending on the doctor's recommendations.

The combination of the reduced liver function, cancer, and radiation treatments has dealt Vicki such a tremendous blow that she can now barely function on her own. On Tuesday night we began round-the-clock observation in our home, with close friends staying in her room at night to be sure she has ready help. She can only communicate with short words or phrases. She rarely has the strength to open her eyes and when she does she cannot hold them open for very long. When I look at Vicki I wonder how long she can survive in this condition. We try to make her as comfortable as we can.

With the help of some close friends and Vicki's parents, we have begun to make a variety of arrangements. This morning we met with a representative from Capital Hospice. After the doctors perform this next procedure (or if they perform it) we will begin Hospice care for Vicki and our family. Our close friend Jim has helped us contact a local funeral home (Adams-Green) and cemetery (Chestnut Grove), which is only 100 yards from our house. This afternoon Jim, Olin (Vicki's father), and I walked through the cemetery to review the various options. We also discussed Vicki's funeral and began preparing. I suppose I always knew I would have to deal with these issues, but I had not given them any thought over the past three years. I spent my energy and time on finding the best treatment. Even now I am grateful for the friends who carry me because I find all of these so difficult to think about.

I spoke to both Kelly and Lauren very directly over the past two days. I believe they understand but they also process grief differently. I think we adults know what to expect and anticipate the grief so we feel much more pain before a tragic event. I am not sure if children realize what might arise when a parent dies. So they may not feel the full force of the blow until Vicki actually dies or even some time later - when the sense of loss manifests itself in their lives. Kelly just came into the office while I wrote this note to say goodnight and give me a hug. She said "dad, you're doing a great job with all of this, I love you." That's a great way to end a very difficult, emotional day.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Very Challening Night, Call for Help

Vicki and I experienced a very difficult night last night. However, for the first time in 24 hours she now appears to be sleeping comfortably. I urgently need help - please read through to the end.

Vicki is suffering from a condition called hepatic encephalopathy which affects people with decreased liver function due to cirrhosis of the liver. She began showing noticeable symptoms of this condition last week and has since wavered between various degrees of confusion and disorientation.

Last night the condition grew progressively more severe. She remained awake nearly the entire night, moving from one floor of the house to the other, engaging in a variety of unusual behaviors. Throughout the night I followed her around the house to be sure she did not hurt herself or do anything that might endanger the house and/or family. As a result, I have also had little sleep in the past two days. And, I certainly cannot leave the house without Vicki remaining under the constant supervision of an adult.

Vicki spends a great deal of her time in bed, usually sitting up to take pressure off of her abdomen. At times she is reponsive and alert and at other times she appears to be asleep or semi-conscious. She labors hard to breathe, which I suspect is a result of the fluid building up in her abdomen and pressuring the other internal organs such as her lungs. The cancer has also spread to her lungs so she may be experiencing some additional difficulty as a result.

I do not really know how much longer Vicki will live. I don't know if she can recover a bit from this latest series of complications. But, when I look at her and see how she is suffering I find it hard to imagine that she can survive for much longer. We will discuss all of these issues with Dr. Marshall when we meet with him later today.

Many of our friends and neighbors have helped us in a variety of ways for the past three years. I thank you on behalf of our whole family for all of the help and support. Now, during this very difficult period I ask for even more help. I am in urgent need people who can come to the house to help me. I need help watching over Vicki. I need help getting the girls ready for the start of school. I need help preparing for the end of Vicki's life.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Vicki Returned Home Today

The doctors at Georgetown released Vicki this afternoon. Unfortunately, they also sent her home with another difficult diagnosis. The doctors now believe that Vicki's liver is not functioning properly. In fact we have know for some time that her liver had come under severe strain due to the combination of cancer and treatments over the past few years.

The evidence of this strain began to manifest itself when earlier this year she had a build up of fluid in her abdomen. This latest problem is simply a further decline in the function of the liver resulting in a harmful build-up of unsavory chemicals in her body. The chemicals (e.g. ammonia) can be toxic and cause a number of symptoms such as a lack of oxygen in the blood supply, leading to the confused state of awareness. The doctors sent her home with some medications to try to alleviate these symptoms.

Tonight she came home and went straight to bed - like she usually does after another exhausting hospital stay. Just a short while ago she took a shower and cleaned up for a good night's rest. I helped her brush and dry her hair, just like I used to do with our girls when they were little.

I continue to struggle to put into words how devastating this experience has been for all of us. I cannot find the words to describe the depth of hopelessness and helplessness. At one time, before cancer, Vicki radiated with life, energy, and kindness. This disease has reduced her to fearing being alone in her room because she may not be able to get up again, may not know who or where she is, or may not live through the night.

This week I am taking off work since it is the last week of the summer before the kids go back to school. All summer I had planned to make home movies featuring Vicki to capture some lasting memories. Now I wonder if I put it off too long, by a week or so. I don't know. I'll wait until next week to see if she improves a little.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Back to the ER

Vicki had to skip her radiation treatment today, and instead went directly to the ER at Georgetown University Hospital. She had been having significant difficulty communicating and seemed rather incoherant. After a number of tests the doctors believe she may have made a mistake on her pain medications which caused her to be so disoriented. I just spoke with her on the phone and she sounded much better than this morning. She may be able to come home tomorrow. Several doctors will see her in the morning and evaluate her condition. She will also see Dr. Putnam, a pain management specialist she has seen before. We hope that Dr. Putnam can continue to help Vicki strike the right balance to have relief from the pain, but also not be overcome by the medications.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Vicki Completes First Radiation Treatment

Vicki completed her first radiation treatment today at Georgetown. The treatment began on time at about 10 am, progressed quickly, and Vicki and her Dad arrived home by 12 noon. She will have a total of 14 radiation treatments during this first round. Each treatment will be at 10 am. She will have the weekends off. After Labor Day the doctors will image the tumor in the L-5 vertabrae with CT scans to see if the tumor has reduced in size.

We took this picture on one of our many trips to New York over the past few years. Vicki had been meeting with some doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in hopes that they may have a potential cure. During our visits we tried to add some fun events to distract us for a while from our true purpose. In this picture, taken in July 2004, we were in Times Square to see Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 07, 2006

Radiation Beginning Wednesday

Vicki completed all of her MRI exams this morning with no problems. Then, after a four-hour delay the radiologists began the preparation for radiation treatments. They placed markers, or aimpoints, on her to designate the points they will target for radiation. We arrived home late in the afternoon and Vicki was exhausted. We will begin the actual treatments at 10 AM on Wednesday.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Radiation Planning Scheduled for Monday

Vicki will complete her MRI testing at Georgetown beginning at 7:30 am on Monday morning. The doctors will have to sedate her because she has been in too much pain to lay down for the length of time required for the MRI exam. At 10:30 am Vicki's Radiologist, Dr. Brian Collins, will aim the radiation therapy instruments. This should take about two hours if all goes as planned.

We still do not have a radiation schedule, but we hope Dr. Collins will have the plan ready for us tomorrow. Once we begin radiation treatments Vicki will need to go to Georgetown every day for about two weeks. Each treatment will only last about 20 minutes but the ride to and from Georgetown and the potential waiting at the hospital could add up to be several hours each day.

I believe this will prove to be an exhausting few weeks for Vicki because of the daily trips and the radiation itself. Vicki has typically complained that one of her greatest challenges is a lack of energy.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cancer Spreading Again

Today we met with Dr. Marshall at Georgetown to review the results of Vicki's latest CT scan. Unfortunately, we received very bad news. In just the past couple of months the cancer has spread again - this time to the L-5 vertebrae in her spine. The tumors in her lymph nodes in her abdomen have also grown larger, and the tumors on her lungs have grown as well.

With this new measurable tumor growth, Dr. Marshall counseled us that we need to act quickly to try to stop the tumor in the vertebrae. If the tumor on the L-5 vertebrae continues to grow it could weaken the bone enough that it may collapse and potentially cause nerve damage or even paralysis.

Tonight the doctors at Georgetown are conducting an MRI on Vicki's spine. Tomorrow morning we will meet with Dr. Brian Collins, a radiologist at Georgetown. We expect him to prescribe radiation therapy to attack the tumor in the spine. We will know more after tomorrow's meeting.

Curiously, the tumor in the liver has not changed in two years. The earlier treatments through the first half of 2004 seemed to have stopped that tumor very well. The areas of new growth are actually the same cholangiocarcinoma cells that have spread to other, more distant areas of Vicki's body, and seeded themselves in various organs and tissues.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Visit to Georgetown

Today Vicki held her regular appointment with Dr. Marshall at Georgetown University Hospital's Lombardi Cancer Center. In the discussions Vicki asserted that the pain she has been experiencing has significantly degraded her quality of life, and I agree based on my observations over the past few months. This past week she has spent nearly all of her time in bed and all of her time in pain.

Dr. Marshall gave Vicki the option of cancelling her chemotherapy treatment, which Vicki agreed to. This will provide Vicki a little longer break and hopefully help her regain strength for our annual trip with her family to Myrtle Beach in early July. Her next appointment and chemotherapy treatment will be July 11th.

Dr. Marshall also called in a specialists in palliative care and pain management, Dr. Andrew Putnam. Dr. Putnam spent a significant amount of time interviewing Vicki to learn more on the details of the pain she has been experiencing. He made some recommendations for slight modifications in the dosage of some of the pain medications and asked her to follow up with him on Thursday. We liked Dr. Putnam because he spent a great deal of time listening to Vicki's concerns and seemed to think he may be able to help her.

Vicki will also have an appointment with her new gastroenterologist on Thursday, Dr. Axelrad. We are hoping he has some idea of how to control and alleviate the symptoms of Vicki's Ulcerative Colitis. So far he has not shown us that he has anything better to offer than Vicki's previous gastroenterologist, but at least his office is closer.

I have spent this week trying to resolve several mistakes by our mail order pharmacy, MEDCO. In addition to these problems, an employee at UPS has either stolen or lost one of the narcotic pain relief presriptions MEDCO had sent Vicki. I am filing a prescription drug fraud report with the County Sherrif's office this week on the matter. In the meantime, Vicki has run out of an important pain medication so we obtained an emergency prescrition from Georgetown today. Believe it or not, every week I have something like this, a fouled up bill, prescription, appointment, or similar event. This is par for the course in medical administration.

In fact, the whole series of events has raised my stress level past the breaking point. Taking care of a terminally ill spouse, two kids, a dog, a house, working a full time job, and dealing with all of the associated problems that go along with these has proven to be too much. I am forgetting more than I remember. I suppose many things will just have go undone and in the end it may not matter much. I look at tomorrow and I really don't even see how I'll get through it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Vicki's Home from the Hospital

Yesterday the doctors at Reston Hospital released Vicki. They never did determine what caused the pain in her abdomen. So I suspect we are likely to experience this cycle of events again.

Vicki seemed to do well last night. She stayed up through the evening and interacted with the family, organized her stuff, etc. Overnight she said she experienced more of the same abdominal pain, usually after she eats anything.

We'll just take life one day at a time and hope we can keep her home and comfortable as long as possible.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Vicki Hospitalized

Vicki went to the Reston Hospital Emergency Room on Wednesday because of cramps and pain in her abdomen. The doctors admitted her to the hospital and she has been in room 566 since late last night.

Vicki called me a few hours ago to let me know that she had met with her doctors and they were not sure why she was having so much discomfort. They initiated a number of tests, including a CT scan to try to determine the cause.

No word yet on when she might be released.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Update on Vicki

Vicki had a mixed Memorial Day weekend. On Saturday she became very sick and spent the entire day in bed. Sunday she was a little better but still mostly bed-ridden. Fortunately, by Monday she began to recover a bit and rallied for the end of the day and a nice dinner with our friend Sheila and her family. Olin arrived back from SC and Alabama just in time for grilled steaks and salmon.

Yesterday we met with Dr. Marshall at the Lombardi Cancer Center. He said he thought Vicki was doing reasonably well considering all she has been through. Still no new growth of the cancer, liver is functioning sufficiently, and blood counts were close to normal.

So Dr. Marshall recommended that Vicki continue chemotherapy treatments, but he modified the treatments to make them easier on Vicki. She has switched to an oral chemotherapy agent called Xeloda and is still receiving the Avastin via IV. Vicki and her dad went to Georgetown today for the Avastin treatment. We will meet with Dr. Marshall again on June 20th, and have another chemotherapy treatment that afternoon.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Online Memorials

Online Memorials Bring Strangers, Friends Together in Community of Grief

By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 29, 2006; Page A01

Days after his wife's death from inflammatory breast cancer in 2004, Michael Bloomer set up a Web page memorial. An old co-worker from Florida signed Kim Bloomer's online guest book. So did a high school classmate in Michigan.

For Bloomer, a retired government worker who lives in Dumfries, the memorial page became a soothing place where he could read stories, receive condolences and even reach out to his wife by posting his own messages: "Hi Honey. . . . It's only been about a month since you left, but it seems like ages since we laughed and loved when the days were normal and you were without pain. I miss you so much it hurts inside."

Bloomer says he frequented the online memorial in the first year to read new postings or to reread old ones. "It was kind of like a lasting tribute so that anybody could go on there at any time."

As the country observes the memory of those who died in its wars, online memorials have altered acts of bereavement and become palliative retreats for some who grieve. Web sites dedicated to the deceased now number in the millions in the United States, and for those left behind, posting stories, photos and videos is a way of keeping a permanent record of the person's life. Material added to mark important days such as birthdays, Mother's Day and Memorial Day, or even notes left by well-wishing strangers help the page evolve, so the memorial itself can take on a kind of second life.

Viewers use the Web sites to find and comfort one another -- not only to facilitate communication from far-flung or long-lost friends who couldn't attend a funeral, but also to send messages from one dead soldier's wife to another, from one mourning mother to another or among those galvanized to fight a disease.

Some sites such as, and have been around for about a decade and provide software tools for users to customize their Web pages. and charge one-time fees of $50 to $100 for a permanent place on their sites. There are other, smaller sites started by funeral homes; still others are set up by individuals who purchase domain names in honor of the deceased.

Read the rest of the article at The Washington Post On-line.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Update on Vicki

Overall, Vicki had a reasonably good weekend. She spent most of her time preparing for the Girls in Action (GA) end-of-year ceremony at out church. By the end of the ceremony on Sunday evening she was completely exhausted so she came home and went right to bed.

Vicki has an appointment with her Gastroenterologist, Dr. Axelrad, on Thursday to check on the progress of her Ulcerative Colitis. She seems to be getting by, but certainly not getting any better.

We are looking forward to a long uneventful Memorial Day weekend, and then next Tuesday, 30 May, we will go back to Georgetown for another appointment with Dr. Marshall and most likely another chemotherapy treatment.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Deerslayer

This morning, at about 6:10 am, a deer lunged from the center median strip of a major six-lane highway (Route 28 in western Fairfax County) and slammed into the front of my car. I swerved in an attempt to avoid the deer, nearly hitting another car. Obviously, I did not turn far enough though. At least I avoided a head on collision. The car hit the deer on the front left bumper, and the deer must have spun around upon impact - see the dents on the door. Not the best start to the day, but much better for me than the deer. I'll take the car into the shop for repairs on Wednesday.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Remembering Mom

Today I am remembering mom like just about everyone else.

I was the youngest in my family so by the time I was in 10th grade everyone else had moved away except mom, dad, and I. As a teenager I suppose I appreciated mom, but I am fairly certain I rarely let on. After all, parents are so embarrassing to a teenager. Now in my early 40s I look back on that time as a gift I failed to recognize. Mom worked as a school teacher and on nights when dad was working late I would sometimes make dinner for the two of us and have it ready for her when she came home. It was our time together and I could make any of the foods that I like, and dad would not eat - but mom would. My favorite was the Ortega Taco Kit from the grocery store.

Just over a year has passed since mom died (March 19th, 2005). It seems like just yesterday and I have not been the same since. I moved away from home 20 years ago, but never lost contact. We talked nearly every week, usually not having much new to say but talking anyway.

I never really realized the depth of her impact on me until she was gone. I find this feeling very difficult to put into words. I can only explain it as a very deeply held sense of strength and confidence I held knowing that mom and dad (see photos above) were just a phone call away. And, no matter what situation I happened to be dealing with on the particular day they would hear me and provide wise counsel.

Now neither are here and I can only seek their advice in my heart. I can still here mom's words in my head as if I were 10 or 15 years old again. I know what she would tell me to do, and she would reassure me that everthing would be alright. If only I could call her one more time - I never imagined how hard life would become. I still have the phone number in my cell phone, and, of course, it will be in my heart forever.

I have failed to distance myself from the grief of losing mom, dad, my brother Jeff, and Vicki's diagnosis of cancer. Some of you may find this to be the case for the loss you feel for a loved one. I have been reading a daily e-mail from GriefShare. They do not offer any miracle solutions, but they do offer useful insights to help make the grieving process a little more bearable.

Vicki Attends Auction

Yesterday, May 13th, 2006, proved to be a normal weekend day for us here in Herndon - soccer games and birthday party for friends. In the evening we participated in the 10th Annual Southview Baptist Church Auction to support the youth group at the church. Vicki managed a late-day rally and attended the auction for most of the time. She didn't buy anything last night. I walked away with a few gift certificates to local restaurants and some coffee.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cancer Affects Everyone

The America Cancer Society estimates that in 2006 as many as 564,830 Americans will die from cancer, second only to heart disease. In fact, nearly as many Americans will die from cancer in 2006 alone as those who died in all of America's wars combined. A total of 651,008 Americans died in battle from the American Revolution through the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War, according to the US Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration.

One in four Americans will be stricken with cancer at some point in life. And, cancer will touch the rest of us as well. Each American alive today has a nearly 100% chance of a close relative such as a mother, father, sister, brother, or grandparent, receiving a cancer diagnosis.

Many of us will experience cancer diagnoses with multiple realtives. My father received the diagnosis in 2001 when his doctor told him he had non-hodgkins lymphoma. He survived rather well under the strain of chemotherapy treatments. But, by early 2005, the cancer had begun to take its' toll on him. The years of living with cancer, his age (76), and my Mom's death on March 19th, 2005 proved to be too much burden. Dad died on July 12th, 2005. At the end I found myself celebrating for him that his suffering had ended. My other close experience with cancer was in December 2003 with Vicki's cancer diagnosis.

Cancer not only affects those with the disease, but everyone else who loves the person with the disease. It changes relationships, it changes plans, it changes hopes and dreams.

Update on Vicki

On Tuesday, May 9th, Vicki met with Dr. Marshall at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Cancer Center. I’ll fill you in on the results of the visit. But first, I wanted to provide a little background.

Vicki has endured a very difficult spring. We have hospitalized her three times (for about a week each) since March because she has been developing more complications, in some cases related to cancer. In early March Vicki suffered from a blood clot in her left shoulder. This caused significant swelling in her arm and presented a potentially life threatening risk if the blood clot were to break up and block a blood vessel in her lungs. So we admitted her to the hospital and the doctors were able to treat her effectively. This is not uncommon for cancer patients to have problems with blood clots.

In late March Vicki experienced another of her periodic flare-ups of ulcerative colitis. This episode turned out to be particularly stubborn and we admitted her to the hospital again to enable her doctors to bring the ulcerative colitis under control. Then, in April, Vicki developed pneumonia and we admitted her to the hospital a third time for treatment.

Since March Vicki’s abdomen had begun to grow larger. She also began to develop significant pain in her side. After examination by Dr. Marshall last week, he determined that she had a fluid build-up in her abdomen and that they would need to drain it. So last week Georgetown Radiology conducted a paracentesis to drain the fluid from her abdomen. Vicki also had a CT scan at Georgetown last week. She tolerated the treatment well and seemed to be feeling much better over the weekend.

Today, Dr. Marshall provided us with the results of the tests on the fluid and the CT scan. He noted that the fluid contained no cancerous cells – very good news. He also explained that neither the tumor in the liver, the enlarged lymph nodes near the liver, nor the small cancerous lesions on her right lung had grown any measurable amount since February – once again very good news.

So the question remains: what’s causing the fluid build-up in the abdomen and how serious is this? He believes the fluid build-up indicates the liver is functioning less efficiently due to the combination of the cancer – which is apparently blocking a least two major veins (portal and middle hepatic) – and the various treatments she has received over the past couple of years.

We have scheduled another paracentesis at Georgetown for Thursday and we will meet with Dr. Marshall again in a few weeks. Hopefully Vicki will feel well enough following the paracentesis to enjoy the rest of the spring weather here in Washington.

Welcome to my new blog

Some of you may not be familiar with the term Blog. Blog is a short-hand term for web log. The concept of Blogs has been around on the internet since the early 1990s. Pyra labs' release of its Blogger software in August 1999 triggered an explosion in the use of weblogs. Since 1999, the concept and use of blogs has morphed from a page containing links to new web pages to online threaded discussions, much like an online diary or discussion board. The weblog ushered in the opportunity for the average internet user to begin syndicating opinions and content and posting that content on the public internet.

You now have three easy methods available to obtain up-to-date information regarding our family. You can choose to visit my blog web site regularly by simply adding the URL link to your favorites menu on your browser and visiting regularly. A second option is to use the handy e-mail subsciption window at the bottom right hand corner of my blog. Simply type in your preferred e-mail address and click on the subscribe button. When I post some new information into the blog you will recieve an automatic e-mail notification. Finally, if you would like to use a feedreader to subscribe with RSS feeds, you may click on one of the links - also at the lower right hand corner of the page. If you do not have a feedreader please view the list of links further up the page and download a feedreader from the link I provided.

You will notice the I have already posted a few items, primarily as tests. I will attempt to update this site at least once a week, if possible. Please offer comments and suggestions on the blog site as you feel appropriate. Of course, you can always e-mail us just as before.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

This is Vicki

This is my wife, Vicki. We snapped this photo of her in front of our house on Easter Sunday, 2004.

Three months earlier, on December 23rd, 2003 our lives changed forever. That day Dr. Ron DeMatteo at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan explained to us that he had determined that Vicki has cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer).

Initially, we sought to fight this tumor and seek a cure. I remember the train ride home that evening from New York's Penn Station to Washington, DC we were in a state of shock. But, the next day, Christmas eve, we began to devlop a stategy. Through friends we learned of Dr. John Marshall at Georgetown University Hospital's Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, DC. The next week we attended our first appointment at Lombardi and soon we began treatment, hopeful that we could beat this cancer.

Two and a half years have passed and Vicki has survived a very difficult journey. The many successive battles have led to a very long war, testing our will, our courage, our stamina, and our faith. The challenges most often involve enduring the physical pain and drain of chemoembolizations, endless chemotherapy treatments and computed tomography (CT) scans, and associated side effects. The battle not seen perhaps presents the greater challenge. Grief and anxiety sometimes seem so overwhelming.

In this blog I will relate the many experiences of our battle with cancer over the past few years. I will also provide some periodic updates on how Vicki is doing. At other times I may comment on something completely different because life is much more than cancer. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Paul - September 2005

This is a photo of me last Fall at Stribling Apple Orchard in Markham, VA - about an hour drive west of Herndon. Late September is the best time of year for apple picking in northern Virginia. Posted by Picasa