Our Cancer Journey, part 8: Gratitude, and closing the books on this phase of this journey

That I am here today writing this is the end result of decades of research about cancer treatment and now years of work treating me and keeping me alive. 

First and foremost I must thank my wife Marion Krefeldt. Without her, I’d be dead long ago. She is the love of my life, and always will be. When I was diagnosed she made keeping me alive her job and she has done that. 

And now thanks from both of us: Our families have been particularly strong supporters: our children, their partners, and our grandchildren Kai (and husband George), Katja, Madeline, Michael; Tony (and partner Kristen) and younger grandson Elan. Until COVID-19 put an end to visitors at the IU Health Hospital this spring, Tony visited me for every infusion session I have had over more than 3 years, save 3 when he was himself ill. Marion’s brother Uwe and his wife Ines, and our nephews Nils and Tim, have been wonderful help. My family, particularly my Mom, my sister Jodie, and my niece Jennifer, have been great help. Special thanks to Iñigo Diez Garcia, our Spanish son and a member of our family in all ways that count. And thanks to Sanjoli and Abbey, our most recent household cohabitants and the newest members of our global family.

Friends and coworkers have been tremendously supportive and helpful. Matt Link and Von Welch have been particular sources of support and strength. The Finance Office in the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology sent me a huge care package when I was first diagnosed. The accountants? Thanks particularly to Heather Pawluck for being the force behind this and to Matt Allen for his musical curation. Therese Miller and David Hancock are in a special category as dear friends and the people behind the cement “Rocky the nonflying squirrel” and the “Bad to the Bone” sign that now grace my office. Everyone I know at Indiana University has been just wonderful, particularly my fellow leaders in the Office of the VP for IT, everyone in the Pervasive Technology Institute, particularly the Research Technologies Division of UITS, has been wonderful. Dave Hancock, Matt Link, and Von Welch belong in a special category among friends and colleagues. Matt ran the Research Technologies Division of UITS while I was sick and went on to take on leadership of that group permanently. Dave Hancock took on leadership of the Jetstream project when I was first diagnosed and took it over permanently as well. Von Welch graciously led PTI while I was sick, and then was happy to focus on the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research as I came back and was able to resume my duties leading PTI. 

Cancer isn’t fun, but it isn’t all bad. I’ve gotten wonderful hugs from many friends and coworkers – prominent among them are Stephanie Cox, Kate Holden (virtually), Tassie Gnaidy, Marianne Chitwood, Deb Allmayer, Rob Ping (hugs from hot guys are nearly as great as hugs from hot chicks). Rudeana Honeycutt and Monica Shannon have been my everyday support for now many years. And IU VP for Information Technology and CIO Brad Wheeler has been extraordinarily kind and considerate. IU President and First Lady Michael McRobbie and Laurie Burns McRobbie have been extraordinarily kind and thoughtful as well.

I have learned a lot in this whole escapade. Particularly wonderful sources of wisdom and support have been David Y. Hancock, Richard Meraz, Barry McDonald, and the now deceased Bob Epps and Mike Winter. Steve Simms, Eric Sinclair, Anne Zender, Matthias Mueller, Chris Bischof, the Wernert family, and Robert Henschel deserve special thanks as well. Max Lauchli, Patrick Casey, Michael Fitzgerald, and P.T. Wilson have been sources of support and insight. Jimmy Moore, Mary Beth Morgan, and the entire communities of St. Marks United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church of Ellettsville have been great support. From Ellettsville Cindy Spahr and Mava Rogers deserve special callouts. The Chronic Disease Support Group organized under the auspices of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church has been a tremendous source of support. 

Brian Holzhausen and the entire DINO trail running community (http://www.dinoseries.com) deserve special thanks. One of the things that kept me going in the darkest moments was a desire to get back and toe up for a DINO trail race. Thanks also go to the Bloomington Area Runners Association. And if you are thinking about trying out a race, remember…. Everyone that toes up and runs beats anyone who does not. Running a race is a great form of being in community no matter how fast you are. 

Under the category of “not everything is bad no matter what,” cancer has brought me the close friendship of Don Byrd. His wife Susan and my wife Marion worry, justifiably, about what Don and I are capable of cooking up if left to our own devices. We’ll try to keep at it, knowing that our better halves will not leave us to our own devices very long or very often. This has also been a time when I have deepened my friendship with Chrissy Garrison, whose friendship and whose books (https://sillyhatbooks.com) have been sources of support, entertainment, and distraction when distraction was what I needed the most.

The people who support Marion deserve special thanks as well. I know many days they have been and continue to be the support that gets Marion through the day. Particular thanks to Susan Schneider, Marie Deer, Sue Swany, Beth Lodge Regal, Rhonda Winter, Marion’s walking group, running group, English Book Club, and German book club.  Susie Hinkle and Jennifer Hart have long been sources of support for both of us.

Keeping me alive in spirit is great, but somebody needs to take care of the body as well. I don’t even know all of the names of all of the people who have kept me alive. Some of them I never got to meet while awake, as members of surgical teams often came and went without me ever being awake to thank them. Gratitude is owed to many that I can name or at least identify, including:

  • The nurses and technicians of IU Health. Thank you all. Particular thanks go to the staff of the IU Health Indianapolis Infusion Center and the nurses and techs on the 3rd and 4th floors of IU Health Hospital Indianapolis. The most miserable nights of my life were spent on those floors, and the nurses and techs were a source of comfort and aid.
  • Dr. Patrick Loehrer and Dr. Ora Pescovitz. Dr. Loehrer is the Director of the Simon Cancer Center and my primary oncologist. He is also the IU PI of the research study that is keeping me alive. He is an internationally recognized GI cancer researcher and a wonderful person. Dr. Ora Pescovitz is the former Executive Associate Dean for Research at the IU School of Medicine. She is responsible for much of the greatness of that School today. And when I was at my desperate, I reached out for her help when she was nearly half a globe away on Valentine’s Day 2017. At something around midnight local time she called Dr. Loehrer who turned around and called me at about 8 pm on Valentine’s day to say that he and the IU Cancer Center would do their utmost to take care of me. And they have.
  • My surgeons, gastroenterologists, and radiation oncologists: Bryan K. Holcomb, Michael G. House, Ehab El Jagg, and Susannah Ellsworth. Though the slightest of the bunch in physical stature, I am most scared of Dr. Ellsworth (radiation oncology) who certainly hurt me the most.
  • A special shout out to the MDs of the IU Precision Health Genomics Program: Milan Radovich, Bryan P. Schneider, and Bert H. O’Neil.
  • Dr. Tracy Gunter and Linda Brown deserve special thanks. Dr. Gunter in particular has been a part of my medical team from my first day of chemotherapy up to today. On days when the car is in the middle of the road, I have her to thank. Both have been invaluable to our success in navigating these waters.
  • Dr. Marc Frost gets the unique trifecta of being one of my doctors, a friend, and a running buddy.
  • Other members of my medical and advisory team that deserve special thanks are Drs. Anantha Shekhar and Paul Herscu and Linda Manus.

Three organizations deserve special thanks; I donate to all regularly and if you find yourself dealing with cancer, you may someday have reason to as well: 

  • The Simon Cancer Center. THE number one reason I am alive is the medical treatment I received from the experts at the Simon Cancer Center, part of IU Health. Donate at http://cancer.iu.edu/giving/index.shtml. As a sign in the cancer pavilion states, we who experience cancer thank Melvin and Bren Simon for the gift that established this center.
  • Fairhaven. To quote their web site – “Thousands of patients come to Indianapolis each year from across the Midwest for expertise and specialized care … We share the love of Christ during a time of great difficulty by providing a convenient and comfortable place to stay near the hospital.” Marion and I stayed in one of their apartments in Indianapolis and are ever grateful. Donate at https://fairhavenfoundation.com/donate-to-fairhaven/
  • Caring Bridge. Caring Bridge provided Marion and me a way to communicate and hear from a wide group of friends and supporters. https://www.caringbridge.org/give

And in closing: I am ever so grateful to you for your support, and for reading these posts. I hope they have been of use to you. Nothing on earth is ever so good that there isn’t something bad contained within, and nothing on earth is so bad that it is impossible to wrest some good from it. Understanding the love and support that surrounds me, and helping others, have been among the good that has come from my experience with Cancer. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

One closing note: I am sure I have forgotten someone who desperately deserves to be thanked. I’ll update this post as names come to me, and if you are a person I overlooked I apologize – please let me know and I will make amends. After administering an appropriate number of dope slaps to myself. 

For now, we are closing the book on these chapters of our cancer journey. Thank you for reading, take care of yourself, and be compassionate with yourself.