Sitting in my house about to enjoy a grilled steak and a St. Louis Cardinal game on TV on an otherwise ordinary Southern California night. Not very exciting but exactly where I was one year ago when I got the call that Big Don was sick, I mean really sick not just poop sick and whining about it, but really you should go to the hospital sick. The days and weeks to come provided quite a few kicks to the groin, but I will always remember exactly what was going on when mom called that night. I guess you always remember details like that when you experience something big, good or bad it seems like time stands still forever a snapshot in your life.
I have thought a lot about that night and the last 12 months lately. Big Don is doing great, one in a million they told him at the surgeons office at his follow up, a description less than surprising to me and most everyone that knows Big Don than the surgeons and staff we had to peel off from hugging Big Don. He is recovering each day able to eat more and sleep less. His stomach still makes funny noises but so does mine and just about every Dulle stomach out there. I'm not sure how we will ever thank Dr. Selby and his team, what a gift Big Don has been given, I suppose the best way is for Big Don to keep getting better and living life, a specialty of his. He will go back to Arizona this week and to the Mayo clinic to meet with the oncologist and decide how to proceed wiht more chemo and treatment. We don't know exactly what to expect, but he will almost certainly have to do some chemo even though they still think they got all of the tumor during surgery. Unfortunately this disease is not one that quits easily and we know cancer will always be a part of Big Don and all of our lives. This is something that he will have to get checked and rechecked for years to come. But you see I said years and damn that sounds good.
On that night one year ago you couldn't help but search the internet to find out things about pancreatic cancer. The numbers were disheartening to say the least, and quite frankly 'years' was not a term that was used very much. I even had some notes in the margin of my medical books from back in school that said in capital letters "DONT GET THIS ONE" next to the section on pancreatic cancer. It became so depressing that we all had to stop looking and get busy fighting. At that time we got some of the best advice we would get from a wonderful woman who herself is fighting and beating cancer. She said "Don't let Big Don become a statistic, (he is a living breathing, very much alive person)". So we didn't. Pancreas cancer has no blueprint. Even the doctors sometimes scratch their heads, so we just kept moving forward. I'm not sure we did everything right, or even most things right, but we know just how lucky we are to still be in the fight and we are happy because Big Don is still a living, breathing, very much alive person (whose stomach makes some really funny noises). There are so many memories from the last year and some I will leave out, but I guess this is our blueprint for year one.
Get out of Montana, move into my future in-laws house, throw up a burger at in and out, chemo at the Mayo, more funny sounds from Big Don's stomach, pool parties at the Kirks, a heart attack by Senior Don and heart surgery in Arizona, pregame on the field at the Arizona Cardinals game, a fight and escort out of the Indian casino, Thanksgiving at Benihana, a new apartment in AZ to check out chicks, radiation at the Mayo, a half marathon for Kay, Mary, and Bobby with Big Don at the finish line, moving back to Montana and commuting to the Mayo for chemo, news of a new baby coming in the fall from Bob and Tess, a bachelor party funded by Big Don but not attended due to his bad behavior at the Indian casino, a wedding (awesome if I do say so myself and thankfully Big Don's stomach did not make any inappropriate funny noises), a meeting with a new surgeon, preparation for surgery including a four mile hike the weekend before followed by a trip to the waterslides, a 14 hour surgery, 22 days in the hospital, an incredibly strong wife, extremely proud kids and kid-in-laws, great friends and family, more than a few prayers, and one tough SOB in Big Don.
I am not sure what the future will bring, I hazard even a guess. 12 months ago I expected a year full of tears and sadness, self pity and anger, long days and nights. I expected the worst year ever, but a funny thing happened on the way to our worst year ever, it turned out to be our very BEST.