Monthly Archives: May 2011

Wednesday, May 25th and Thursday, May 26th

I had a sobering meeting with Dr. Kirkwood about the actual details of my surgery.  Holy. Shit.

I was not aware I would have so many tubes protruding from my body. One in,  two out. I’ll be receiving nutrients though one directly into my small intestine, as my stomach may be paralyzed for a couple of weeks. Any pregnant or formerly pregnant women who can give me tips about dealing with an epidural (for seven days)? Any assistance would be much appreciated.

This is not a small operation. Dr. Kirkwood told me she booked the operating room for 14 hours. There will have to be a break in the middle, during which Dr. Kirkwood will have a snack and the residents assisting her will get a juice box and a bag lunch.

Despite this daunting news, I left the meeting comforted, and with even greater confidence in Dr. Kirkwood’s abilities.

Luckily, my mother is flying into town the day before the surgery. Knowing she and my brother will be around gives me great comfort. And of course, Kaki and all of my friends. Except for Cal, who has disappeared on some kind of walkabout and left me high and dry.

(editors note: Hi, this is Cal. I’m actually typing this as Dan speaks, and though i have to include everything he says, I can reliably inform you that he is full of shit and just busting my balls. Sorry Dan, one of the drawbacks to having an official stenographer 🙂   – and now back to our story in progress…

OK, where were we? After the meeting with Kirkwood I dropped Kaki off back at work and went to the jobsite to meet the granite installation guys, who to my chagrin did not show up till 4:30 PM. As a result, my planned quiet evening at home started at 10:30 PM.

On Friday I spent the day handingover the reins on the kitchen job to my shopmates Toph and Aaron. Hallelujah and praise the Lord!  I could not be more happy and thankful that they are taking over. I have spent my entire illness remodeling this kitchen and when it looked like it would not be done in time for Jen and Craig to come home with their children it was very disappointing.

Now, thanks to Toph and Aaron, the end is in sight.

Sunday, May 22nd

Sunday was a continuation of the weekend’s festivities with Kaki’s family. Her brother Karl engineers circus-like flying performances for a living. So we went to see a performance he rigged, a balletic visual feast including flying dancers, hula hooping, and tetherball performed on the side of a four-story building. Incredible.

Saturday, May 21st

Kaki and I drove east to Oakland to try and find some warm, windless weather.

San Francisco has had a bitter, cold spring. We haven’t turned our heat off yet this year, and it’s almost June. We spent Saturday wandering Oakland thrift stores well into the afternoon.  We had a nice long visit with Dave and Deb, since they weren’t going to be around till after the surgery.

Tonight we had dinner with Kaki’s sister Karina and her husband Bobby. We also got to meet Bobby’es new truck, Susan. She’s from Japan. Dinner was at one of our favorite restaurants, Lolo

We followed dinner with a trip to Karina’s favorite ice cream parlor, Bi-Rite, where I got a hot fudge sundae. This marked the beginning of my eat-whatever-I-want onslaught. I’m not sure what I’ll be able to eat in the aftermath of my operation, so I’m tasting everything now.

The sundae was incredible. Unfortunately, the lavender ice cream was overwhelmed by the hot fudge. Sundaes should be a strictly chocolate or vanilla affairs, otherwise the delicate flavors get lost in the flood of chocolate sauce.


Friday, May 20th

On Friday afternoon,  Kaki and I went to see her brother Kyle inducted as an officer in the U.S. Army. While momentous enough in its own right, this event turned out to be the beginning of an extremely busy evening

Because of my chemo brain (see Monday, May 9th) I had ordered some doors for the kitchen I was working on in the wrong size. Luckily (ha!) I was able to pull the cancer card and have themanufacturing company remake the doors and UPS them out to me in record time.

I only mention all of this because I  had to leave Kyle’s indoctrination ceremony early to chase a UPS driver through San Francisco’s Bayview District (think warehouses, housing projects,  and industrial parks),  because – as  Murphy’s Law dictates – my regular driver’s truck broke down and his replacement didn’t know the route. Thus, the whole delivery schedule was thrown off.

After finally catching him, I headed over to the Huntington Hotel to meet the rest of Kaki’s family, including her father (an anesthesiologist) ,who had diagnosed the air-bubble-related shoulder pain instantly.

I would have made it to the Huntington on time, but I had to take a phone call from Casey’s Bar in Somemrville, MA, where a bunch of old friends from high school (whom I haven’t seen since high school) were holding a fundraiser for me. They decided to call me and pass the phone around the room. What an incredible experience!  My iPhone had been turned into a time machine.

I did finally make it to the Huntington for Kyle’s reception, where i met Kaki’s extended family on her father’s side. I got the added bonus of getting to see her brother Karl and his wife Charlene,  which was great because I haven’t seen them in over a year.



Thursday, May 19th

I’ve spent the last couple of days lying with my head below my waist, trying to get the air bubble in my chest to disperse.

I have learned that when you have a laproscopy they blow your chest up like a balloon so they can see more clearly.  This creates an air bubble in your chest which, apparently, commonly causes shoulder pain.

I spent the rest of the week lying low. and trying not to walk. It only seems to hurt when I walk.


Tuesday, May 17th

Today’s the day: laporoscopy. Thumbs up or thumbs down. I woke up and went to the jobsite because I was so anxious and needed something to occupy my mind.

At 11:11 AM , I got a text message from Kaki wishing that the time till my procedure that afternoon would pass quickly. At that exact moment, I got a call from Dr. Kirkwood saying a surgery scheduled ahead of us had been cancelled. Could I come the hospital early?

The pre-op time at the hospital was pretty uneventful.  Everyone there was consistently lovely and attentive and took great care of me. I felt in good hands.

As some of you may know, I have a long history with the time 11:11. So I saw saw the early Kaki/Kirkwood text/call as a good omen. But I think the even better omen was that as I was falling asleep from the anaesthesia, Dr. Kirkwood held my hand until I went out.

The next thing I knew I was  waking up to a beaming Dr. Kirkwood, who kept repeating, “Your liver is clean, everything is fine.”

I immediately started bawling, which seemed appropriate, and trying to get out of the bed, which was not. They gently told me to stay in bed for a bit.

Kaki, Donna, and Cal hung out with me while I recovered, which only took a couple of hours.They disconnected me from a spaghetti of monitors and I went home, sore but very happy.

Because I find myself, after three make-or-break tests and three long months, still in that lucky 15% of pancreatic cancer patients who have a shot at survival.



Sunday, May 15th

The fundraiser at Slow Club. Had an AMAZING time.

I wasn’t looking forward to having to answer a lot of questions about my condition or treatment, especially with this new, big uncertainty I’d been wrestling with over the past week. But there was none of that. It was an incredibly light, fun event. Everything that had been weighing on my mind disappeared, and I enjoyed the hell outta myself.

The turnout was awesome, the food was mouth-watering, and the atmosphere was celebratory. Erin Rooney put on a truly great event. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to her, and to have such wonderful friends.

I’m also grateful to Tom Sewell for shooting video at the event. We’ll get that posted up here as soon as it’s ready for public viewing.

Thanks to everyone for attending and sharing that night with me. I’ll never forget it.