Friday, February 10, 2017

Dad's Health

My dad has outlived all three of his brothers.  Uncle Ed, the baby, died in December of 1989.  He was a brilliant businessman in Atlanta.  His glass furniture business could have made him a millionaire, but alcoholism killed him.  In short, he got back on the interstate near Augusta, Ga---going the wrong direction--and killed himself and a 23 year-old nurse.  He was in his late 50s.  Only six weeks later, the eldest brother, Uncle Robbie, died of a burst pancreas (I think.)  I remember sitting in the waiting room at the hospital and watching the bombing of Baghdad at the start of the Gulf War.  Then, in September of 1998, Dad's second brother, Jim, died of an aneurysm in his stomach.  Dad had just returned from flying out to San Antonio to see  him when Uncle Jim died.  The picture above is the end of a walking stick he hand-carved out of sassaphrass that grew at Grandmother's homestead.  More pictures follow, and at the bottom are pictures of my walking cane he made for me.
That inscription is so full of meaning:  "Good Health, Bro!"  Indeed, my dad has been blessed with good health.  He had a stint put in an artery roughly 23 years ago.  He had colon cancer about 5 years ago.  And, he has battled skin cancers all over his head and face for over ten years.

Today we found out Dad does not have lung or colon cancer; evidently the cancer in the lymph node in his neck began in one of those skin cancers.  The GOOD news, and answer to prayer, is that there is a brand-new drug called Ketruda that just last week got approved (after clinical trials) for Dad's Merkel Cell cancer.  This is an immunotherapy drug, not chemotherapy.  Dr. Chahin (our Middle Eastern-born, Syrian medical school-graduated, Clemson-loving-National Championship attending oncologist) has said he did not think Dad could handle chemo because not only is chemo hard enough for a strong person, but the kind he would need is brutal.  So, as an immunotherapy drug, Ketruda reves up the immune system to attack the cancer.  In clinical trials it was used on all ages, including patients in their 90s.  He sounded very optimistic.  Dad should not have severe side effects.

So, this cane from my favorite uncle has a special meaning for me.  Dad has, indeed, had good health. He begins the immunotherapy on Tuesday at Keyserling Cancer Center, where I had mine nearly 10 years ago.  Dr. Chahin will take care of him as I trusted him to care for me all those years ago.  And, I will be there with Dad every step of the way.

Now, just for fun, here are the pictures of my cane, which stays in my foyer closet until I need it.

(Mine is two-faced!)