A Personal Note

Today is my wife’s birthday and I’m going to devote a few words to that event.

Happy Birthday with sincere wishes for many, many more!

Last April, just about this same time, Karen was diagnosed with stage 4 (metastatic) breast cancer;  by the time of diagnosis, the cancer had already invaded her liver and one of her ribs, and she was given an estimated life expectancy of about a year.

We quickly hooked up with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and following a pretty scary consultation, Karen began serious, targeted therapy (two drugs designed to target a genetic weakness in the cancer cells) as well as chemotherapy to help prevent any further spreading of the disease

This treatment would not cure her, but it did offer to extend her life and hopefully return her to a health status that would allow her to enjoy that time.

Two months into treatment, Karen suffered a series of “shower” strokes, one at home and one when she was in the hospital undergoing treatment.  The effects of the first stroke had largely resolved when the second hit.

“Shower” strokes are described as a small clot entering the blood vessels of the brain and then breaking apart to cause numerous small blockages.  Both hemispheres of Karen’s brain were heavily involved.

The effects of both strokes left Karen weakened in an arm and a leg, impaired her memory, affected her speech and may have made her a bit more emotional than is usual for her.  She underwent inpatient therapy for a couple of months and then continued that, first at home and then as an outpatient.

Then the chemotherapy drug she was taking began to have its side effects Every single side effect listed for the drug, from the mildly annoying to the life threatening.  After dealing with that for about a half a year, the decision was made to take her off it and hope that the lingering effects, as well as the targeted therapies, would continue to have a positive effect on her liver (the most compromising aspect of her disease) while she recovered, after which another chemo drug would be substituted.

It took a long while to get through the runny and bloody noses, the various intestinal distresses, the sleeplessness, the skin dryness, all the while dealing with the stroke effects as well.

About two months ago she resumed chemotherapy and appears to be tolerating the new drug very well.  Her liver blood levels are all within normal parameters; the lesions on her brain turned out not to be more cancer; her speech is entirely back to normal, but she is physically weakened;  She can walk and stand, but can not get herself out of bed.  Physical therapy was halted because the aforementioned difficulties mitigated against it.

I can not express the degree of my admiration for this woman who has suffered more than most but who continues to fight, each and every day.  She (and I) get frustrated with the pace, we have our down days (the weather around here certainly doesn’t help)…but we still manage to have our laughs;  we still discuss world affairs, are involved with family matters.

Our hope is to get her to a place where she is comfortable (she has had little to no cancer-related pain) and can enjoy a relatively normal life, while remembering that no one knows how long they’ll live.

So Happy Birthday baby doll – and many more!


I first met Karen on the telephone some 15+ years ago.  I was writing for a bi-weekly paintball newspaper and Karen was the production manager, responsible for, among other things, copy editing the copy.

I called to talk to the publisher who wasn’t in.  Karen took a message and then very smugly said “You need to use spellchecker more.”

“Oh, why?” I asked.

“Because in your last piece you spelled “educated” wrong, so I corrected it and sent everything off to the press.”

“No!  Nooooooo!  It was SUPPOSED to be spelled “edumacated”!  That was the joke!”

We began talking regularly and Karen enticed me on to a chat program.  That lasted for about a year.  Eventually we moved in together and even more eventually we got married, 13 years ago this August.

How and why, I’ll never understand as by that time Karen had been well exposed to my idiosyncrasies and (sometimes) extreme views on various issues.  I don’t understand it, but I am grateful.  I found a true life partner in Karen, not to mention a fierce friend.  Karen is Sicilian by extraction and if you don’t behave, she WILL cut you.

She’s also not above helping me fly the Fireball, but if you think she makes the coffee, you’ve got another think coming!



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