Sunday, March 29, 2009

3/29/09 Three weeks down four to go!!

This has been a pretty nice weekend, all things considered. On Friday my good friend John Ohara took me to Clifton Springs and after treatment I set up the hammered dulcimer and played for the folks in the chemo lab and the radiation lab. It was really wonderful, and felt like a miracle to be able to play for folks right now. When we got home I was completely exhausted and pretty much collapsed into bed, but it was worth every minute! On Saturday afternoon we went to the labyrinth walk that was held in our honor at the McCrobie building in Oswego. It was a wonderful event and was so deeply moving. The room was filled with so much love and support from this wonderful community of friends. I felt as if I was wrapped in a protective blanket of all these concerned friends who will help me see to it that the cancer will be gone after I do my part with these treatments. It was a wonderfully moving afternoon and a big thank you to Judith Ann for setting the whole thing up and to those who came out to walk the labyrinth and show their support. Also a big thank you to those of you who walked a labyrinth at another location and those of you who did the “finger walk” labrynith. I have put up a file with about 20 jpgs from the afternoon. Here is the url; just open the file and you’ll see thumbnails that can enlarged.

Tomorrow will be a long day, chemotherapy in the morning and radiation in the afternoon. The effects of the treatments are starting being felt quite extensively.
My throat is really sore and eating becomes more difficult everyday. We will start to use the feeding tube today or tomorrow. My voice is really weak and I think that I’ll be doing a lot of texting over the next few weeks. My beard is coming out in clumps and most likely will disappear before too long. This is all caused by how close the radiation machine needs to be to my face. So for all of you who have ever wondered what my chin actually looks like you might just get your chance to find out! I still am dealing with some nausea and I’m sure that it will be an issue again as we start round two of chemo. Hopefully we can get a leg up on it early in game this time around.

Once again I am constantly finding myself humbled and blessed by this wonderful community. Your thoughts, notes, and generosity have overwhelmed Peggy and I and we are so grateful for all that you are doing. As we continue these next four weeks of treatments I am well aware how difficult things will become. I will do my best to keep you all up to date, and I’ll look for all your wonderful vibes as we move on through all of this. Spring is almost here, the trilliums will be out in a month and we hopefully will have these treatments done by the end of April. Thanks so much again and I’ll look for you at 7:00! By the way, to date “For the Love of Friends” has been downloaded 990 times!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

3/25/09 To taste is human to swallow divine

Before having head and neck cancer I often took for granted all the complicated processes that happen in your mouth. How the salivary glands keep everything moist and help to protect your teeth, how your taste buds give you a good idea of the food you are about to eat and how swallowing, which is a complicated function using many muscles is something we just do. Well whatever shape I am in after these treatments I will never take any of these great gifts for granted! I am in the middle of week three of treatment and on a positive note my energy level has picked up a little bit and I have been able to walk with Peg and Zeus {our lab, border collie mix } a few times around the back field each day, and truly loving it! Unfortunately the radiation has started to catch up with me and my throat has become really sore with swallowing being quite difficult.I was given a prescription for some liquid that numbs my throat and that has helped a little bit, but it will only be a short term fix. Food has begun to taste really strange,and especially the after taste. My goal is to be able to keep eating all I can this week and then begin to use the peg tube next week.I was aware of all this going in, but when it starts to happen it certainly is a different story all together! I think we are going to take the juicer and the blender for quite a ride.

On Monday we went to see a naturopath who is part of Clifton Springs hospital. He is a really nice guy and will help me to have a total body healing approach once the treatments are done and we need to put things back together.I think it will be a big help as we go through this entire process. Monday is the second Chemo treatment and I hope we’ll be able to soften some of the side effects with the knowledge of how my body reacted to the first treatment. Time will tell. But right now I am trying my best to take one day at a time, and pull the best from each day we can !! Today was near 60 and there really was not a chill in the air at all. The farmers up the road are tilling the fields and the sweet smell of good soil is everywhere !!

I continue to be so humbled by the graciousness and concern from so many of you. I can’t tell you how much it lifts us up and helps us to get thru another day. This circle of hope as I like to call it is truly a gift that continues to surprise us day in and day out. I can’t thank you all enough and when this process is done I will never forget how kind and caring so many of you have been. Speaking of amazing, my wonderful wife Peggy has been great through all of this and I really don’t know how I would do this without her. My sadness is how stressful this is for her, but I am constantly amazed at how gracefully she has been able to juggle this, teaching and performing. In so many ways I feel so fortunate. I do hope to see some of you at the labyrinth walk in Oswego on Saturday. If not I’ll look for you at seven! On Friday we’ll have three weeks down and four to go! Oh and humor me, the next time you eat a really nice meal, give thought to the entire process that makes that possible, it really is amazing.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

3/21/09 Labirynth Walk

Here's a press release for a Labirynth Walk to be held in Oswego next weekend. If your in the area I would love to see you !

The Oswego Music Hall is having a healing “Labyrinth” walk for long-time Music Hall contributor and musician Dan Duggan on Saturday, March 28, from 3 – 7 PM, in the McCrobie Civic Center, 41 Lake Street, Oswego. Created and provided by Judith Ann Benedict, this cloth labyrinth is an exact replica of the classical 11-circuit labyrinth that was embedded in the stone floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France around 1220. Walking the labyrinth has become an powerful form of spiritual and emotional growth and healing. Many use the practice for self-healing, but Ms. Benedict had an idea to set up the labyrinth as a way for Dan’s friends and supporters to focus their intentions on his recovery from head and neck cancer, and his continuing health.
Supporters can drop in to participate in the walk any time between 3 and 7 PM. Due to the nature of the cloth labyrinth, it is requested that participants bring an extra pair of clean socks to walk in. Donations will also be accepted at this event to help Dan cover medical expenses. To help with set up, donate flowers, or more information contact Judith Ann Benedict at 315-947-5097.

This is going to be a wonderful event and I am so thankful to Judith Ann for setting this up. Once again if you are in the Central New York area I would love to see you. Think Spring!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

3/17/09 Happy St. Pats Day

We’re in treatment mode right now and today I finished my seventh day, one fifth of the way thru! The first week of chemo was difficult but not impossible. I have had a lot of nausea and in turn lost about 8 lbs for the week. The oncologist gave me another anti- nausea drug and a new antacid to try out so we’re hoping that will help to take the edge off. We are also trying all sorts of other options too. My energy level has been really low but if all goes well it should pick up a bit before the next treatment on March 30th. Yesterday was a long day. First thing in the morning I had surgery to have the peg tube installed, they gave me fentanyl as an anaesthesia and for some reason it did not put me out at all so I was awake for the whole procedure! Then afterwards we went to radiation, then to the lab to have blood work, the back to the lab and finally a meeting with the chemo oncologist in the afternoon. When we got home I collapsed on the couch. Its going to take a while to get used to having the peg tube, and right now its still quite sore from surgery, but before long I won’t know what we did with out it!! The radiation is slowly dulling my taste buds and drying my mouth but for the moment I can still eat and as long as food taste OK we’ll do the best we can. I am reminded everyday to take one day at a time. Today we had some fun at the clinic because it was St Patrick’s day, and as soon as I get a little more energy {hopefully next week} I’m going to bring in my dulcimer and play some music for both the radiation and chemotherapy clinics.

Today was a beautiful day, sunny and high in the fifties, the snow is nearly gone, the birds are singing and the first sign of flowers are starting to poke up in the ground. We all know what this means, MARCH MADNESS. Yes the tournament starts on Thursday and I’m looking forward to watching lots of games and keeping abreast of all the madness. Last week all the leagues had their tourneys and it was great to watch my team, {The SU Orangemen}, go to the final game of the Big East tournament. But the best part was the historic six overtime win over U Conn. on Thursday night. Stay tuned, fill out your brackets and let the madness begin !! Go Orange.

Once again I am so thankful to all of you for your thoughtful notes and heartfelt concerns. Yesterday was really tough, and when I came home I found over 10 cards in the mail. It really helped to pick up my spirits a lot. This family of concerned friends is growing every day and has touched and humbled me more than you will ever know. On this day as we celebrate St Patrick, I find myself walking the cliffs of Moher by the sea, tipping a pint and playing some tunes at Gus O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin, and Peg and I hiking along the coast of the Dingle peninsula celebrating our success with these cancer treatments! I think Peggy captured it best :

“Talk to me of Ireland,
will we walk there by the sea
I need to think of someplace greener
Will you share that dream with me”

It’s another day for hope and another day to dream.
Thank you all so much again for everything, I look forward to seeing you at 7:00!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

3/11/09 Who is that masked man !!

Well we have survived the first three days of chemo therapy and radiation. Monday was a rather long and exhausting day. Five hours of lots of intervenes drips, steroids, anti nausea drugs, chemotherapy and then finally more fluids and I was on my way to radiation. The drugs certainly do wipe your system out and it has been a struggle to have much energy. I have been pretty nauseated, had some wild chemo hiccups, and have felt really tired but except for that we are getting along pretty well. Eating is a bit of chore when my apatite is not great but we’re doing the best we can and as always Peggy has been wonderful! I’m hoping that some of the nausea will ease up in the next few days.

I have included in this post a picture of the radiation machine and the mask that is used to keep me in place. The radiation machine moves in arch’s and covers a little different section during each arch. There are a total of ten arch’s { Sometime 12 }, and then the treatment is done. Overall it takes about 30 minutes and this week I have not yet been feeling any adverse effects from the radiation but it is a cumulative process so it should catch up to me in a bit. All the doctors, nurses and staff at the facility have been wonderful and I can’t imagine where else we would ever get such personal care. It is such a comforting thing. They are monitoring me like a hawk and will do blood work every week to check on white and red blood cell counts and any irregularities that may arise. One other great relive this week we were finally able to lock in the prescription drug coverage with our health insurance. After several “misunderstandings” and lots of phone calls we are officially locked in. Next Monday will be a long day, peg tube surgery first thing in the morning, radiation, blood work then a visit with the chemotherapy oncologist. Never a dull moment!

As always I am totally overwhelmed by the response from this wonderful community of friends. As of Wednesday afternoon, “For the love of friends” had been downloaded 535 times. It seems like our circle is growing every day. Thank you so much again for the wonderful thoughts and comments from all of you. It really makes all the difference in the world. I will do my best to keep up with posts and as always I look forward to seeing you all at 7:00!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

3/08/09 A Small Token Of My Thanks

As I have been getting closer to treatment time I find myself reflecting on so many things. I also have been going over all the comments, emails and cards sent by so many of you and words cannot describe how grateful I am to all of you. This wonderful community has meant so much to Peggy and I and has certainly lifted us up when we have needed it ! While thinking of all this last week I wrote a little Air, Waltz in honor of this wonderful community of friends. I aptly named it "For The Love Of Friends" and quickly recorded it with piano and guitar. I have posted a link below that will take you to the tune at You can play it right there or you also can download it to your computer and in turn to your ipod or mp3 player. It is not very polished but is my small gift to all of you. Peggy put it perfectly in her song "Giving Thanks"
" In this season of joy and thanksgiving
when I look at the life I am living
I count up the blessins of old friends and new
And I am grateful for you
I give thanks for you"

As I start chemotherapy and radiation tomorrow, I will hold on to the thoughts from so many of you and look forward to hearing from you as the weeks progress. Keeps the vibes coming and I'll look for all of you at 7:00!
For the love of friends mp3

Thursday, March 5, 2009

3/05/09 Visualize !!

This has been a busy week of prepping for the radiation and chemotherapy that will start on Monday. This past Monday 3/02 I met with the speech therapist in regards to swallowing issues and any speech issues that might happen due to the radiation. She is really nice and was quite hopeful and informative. I will meet with her in the middle of treatments and at the end to help determine what rehabilitation will be needed when we are done. On Tuesday I met with an acupuncturist who was wonderful, and I will be having treatments with her every other week during the radiation treatments. Yesterday I met with the Dr. who will put in the peg tube the first or second week of treatments. Peggy and I will have an information session with them on Friday as to how the feeding tube will function and what we need to know to have success with it. At that point we’ll set up the actual procedure to have it put in, most likely on Monday 3/16. Tomorrow we will also have an actual simulation with the radiation machine to make sure that all the computer settings are functioning properly.

As we get closer to starting treatments I have been doing some visualization techniques to help with a positive outcome. There are a lot of ways to visualize good things and it really is a personal process. During quiet times I have been visualizing a lot things; the cancer at the base of my tongue gone, eating and tasting my favorite foods, Peg and I being happy, healthy and cancer free playing and performing our music as we so love to do. I also have been visualizing some of our favorite places and people and many great times that will happen in the future. This is where I would like to ask a favor of all of you. Many of you may already be doing some visualization about all of this and if you are not I would ask if you could try it out. It really is simple and in quiet moments just put out those positive thoughts. I have been so touched and moved by the out pouring of love and thoughts from this wonderful circle I just know that collectively positive visualization can really be a powerful tool for all of us. I thank you in advance for trying this !!

I am now about a month out from the surgery and enjoying eating immensely! My neck still gets really sore and I imagine it will for sometime to come, but I can see improvements every day. This Saturday night Peggy and I are getting together with some of our local friends to share a meal and have a wonderful visit before the treatments start. I know as we go through the process eating will become more difficult and I want to take advantage of all that the taste buds can offer right now! I can’t thank you enough for all of your wonderful loving support and thoughts. The response from all of you have been overwhelming and humbling to me to say the least. This journey has certainly taught me the power and strength of friendship and I feel it everyday. Peggy and I so appreciate everything that you are all doing for us. Thank you so much again. I look forward to the 7:00 pm vibe and remember to visualize !! As Pops would say ; ABP.