My last chemo session a month ago lasted fourteen hours. I kept rejecting Rituxin and breaking out in hives. My breathing was affected and I had pain in my arms and shoulders. The next three weeks were also rather dreadful. For over two weeks I had a constant fever, neuropathy in my feet and hands, pain in my legs and arms and terrible weakness.

When Pat and I went to the Cancer Center last Wednesday for my next chemo, I was filled with dread about the process and the follow-up. My blood was drawn and an IV put in my left arm and off we staggered to see the oncologist.

Dr. Craig came into the room with a smile on his face. He has a wonderful “bedside manner” and sense of humor as well as being very bright and in touch with the latest developments. I am one of two of his patients with this rare cancer. He has just lost his mother to cancer and has been much on our thoughts and prayers.

He announced that he thought I had been beaten up enough during the past six months. My labs continue to be good -although not entirely perfect – as total remission is rare with this cancer, and that he was not going to give me chemo on that day.

He told me that I would have blood work done in two weeks to monitor me but that I should concentrate on getting stronger and fitter. He will see me in July. If I have regressed I’ll be given a different “poison” given over a period of four days, one with mild side-effects. It’s worst feature is that it depresses the immune system and often results in shingles. Ugh. If I remain stable he will merely check on me at regular intervals. This is the normal life of someone with this cancer. People often live a productive life for years.

Thanks to the Church Pension Group I’m to be on disability for 52 days and can work up to 20% of a normal work life for a priest -I cynically said that many priests I’ve known work about that much normally – which means I can celebrate and keep on top of essential office work for instance.

The daughter and son-in-law of a parishioner in my former church. Trinity, Watertown, South Dakota are paying for Pat and me to fly to Maui at the end of this month. They are putting us up for three weeks in a beach-side condo and providing us with a rental car. I can’t believe it! This is so generous. Pat needs this break so much. She starts training to be an LPN in August and desperately needs a break.

I’m busy doing exercises, to the amazement of Mark, Philip, Abbey and Megan, our children. Mark has a thriving “extra-mural Anglican”parish,Philip is in construction, Abbey is changing jobs, and Megan is just back from Thailand and will begin graduate work in Oregon in 2008.

Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers. I’ve never had so many birthday cards in my life, including one from the Presiding Bishop, a touching and pastoral gesture to this old rebel!

3 Responses

  1. Bless you, Fr. Tony,

    I’m an Episcopalian, one time seminarian for the permanent diaconate, in Sacramento, CA area who has neuropathy from diabetes and spinal damage. I’m also a PN support group leader, writer of a monthly PN newsletter, and advocate for PNers with medical folks, etc.

    I long for the Episcopal Church to know and care about neuropathy. Maybe you can provide leadership for that as a new ministry focus.

    I’m concerned about what your oncologist is saying and doing about your neuropathy. I’m new to your site and so don’t know your cancer, but I would want you to know there is supposedly a study going on at Weill Medical College in NYC using glutamine to reduce PN symptoms for breast cancern. I’ve heard that it’s actually helping many people.

    Would love to be in touch with you. I’m at

    Would love to send you my newsletter via email if you’re interested with news about our groups and what we’re going in Northern California for the good of the cause. Currently I’ve arranged for a delightful poster to be placed on two counties’ buses
    this week, which is National Neuropathy Awareness Week. Are you familiar with The Neuropathy Association,

    I’m so glad the church pension fund will give you disability coverage. I really hear you about the 20% remark, but I’m glad that you’ll be able to continue celebrating eucharist. I know that matters for priests.

    Thanks be to God for the respite in Hawaii. May you and your wife find this to be a wonderfully healing time for you both.

    Grace and peace in Christ,
    Martha Chandley

  2. You’re a better man than I. I’m a third your age, but the very idea of blood being drawn and radiation makes me woozy. You’re remembered daily in my prayers. I love how the Presiding Bishop sent you a birthday card…

  3. Glad I found u on the internet. Sorry to see you have Cancer. I have enjoyed reading your blog. I am RN in California now and I hope to talk with you soon. Keep up the great work
    Your old Friend

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