Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One Year Later

Well, it was just a year ago today that we all started googling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia for the first time. In many ways, the year flew by and, at other times, it was incredibly difficult and dragging. In all honesty, the good and the blessed has outweighed the bad this year. I got engaged and then got married to the most beautiful, remarkable, loving girl I have ever known. That pretty much says it all right there. I became an uncle to a future Nats draft pick. I also got accepted into a graduate program and relocated to northern virginia as a married man ;) There were also 5ks, hikes, marrow drives and many other initiatives to spread the word and work toward a cure for Leukemia and all other blood cancers. There was the joy of sharing this experience with my dad and knowing that we had each other to lean on....and we are both still here and thriving. There was the wedding of my lifelong friend, turned brother-in-law which I would not have missed for the world. There were also Eagles games, Sixers games, Phillies games, and a drive toward the Cup for the Flyers. And, finally, on the year anniversary of my diagnosis, my friends Luke and Meg gave birth to a beautifully healthy baby girl named Clare. She is innocent and perfect and truly represents all that is good in life. Having Clare be born today brought so much perspective to the majesty of life. It is so fragile and yet so enduring. Life is our gift from God and I am anxious to spend the rest of my life returning that gift. This year of battling cancer further opened my eyes to the beauty of family, friends, and God.

As far as my treatment has been going, I am getting adjusted to my new doctors and nurses at Georgetown Cancer Institute. Everybody there has been so positive and helpful and encouraging. My primary oncologist is Dr. Broome and she is very personable and always willing to listen to me. One of the infusion nurses is actually a friend of mine from college, Mary Ellen. It was so relieving to see a familiar face in a new place. She made me feel at home instantly, as has everybody else. I am going in for chemo once a month and bloodwork twice a month. My first treatment had to be postponed because my daily chemo pills made my liver enzymes rise and my blood counts fall a bit. Dr. Broome assured me that this is all part of the maintenance phase and somthing that we will balance for the next few years. My liver and blood rebounded and treatments are back on track; I just had my first spinal tap and chemo this past Friday. Everything seemed to go well and I resumed the full chemo and pill regimen......which should last about two and a half more years.

Living with Hanna has been every dream come true. We are enjoying Virginia and married life. It is also nice to have a little bit of time to relax before I start school in August. That will be the next step on this adventure and i am really looking forward to it.

So, I just wanted to reach out to everybody that has walked at my side (and sometimes carried me) this past year. I am confident that I would not be where I am without your prayers and your love. Cancer at 28 was a true shot to the gut, but cancer survivor at 29 and beyond is something that I could get used to. Much love, God bless, keep praying and know that

ALL Will Be Well,


"There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; or you can live as if everything is a miracle"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Livin' on Cloud 9

It has been quite a bit of time since I have written here and so much has happened in the last month…..all very good! The highlight of my 29 years came true, along with all my dreams, when Hanna Jo walked down the aisle toward me on April 10th. I could never have imagined a more stunning bride. We celebrated our sacrament and then celebrated all evening with many of our family and friends. It was truly a perfect day and I thank everybody that was there, everybody that couldn’t make it, and everybody that was thinking of us and praying for us as our day approached. Our parents played such a huge role, as did all of our siblings, and I thank them all so much. And after 11 days of marriage, I have to say that I am a big fan so far…haha. Life is awesome. I wish we could have spent more time with loved ones who made the trip, especially those that came from far distances….Colin and Kathleen, Jason and Erika, Sally, Uncle Sonny and Aunt Penny, Uncle Laddie and Aunt Aurelia……and lots more. Anyway, I am still residing somewhere in the vicinity of cloud 9 and plan to stay there for quite some time.

The next bit of good news is that I have been accepted and fully funded into the PhD economics program at George Washington University in Washington DC. I’m really excited to further pursue my studies and begin working toward a long-term goal of becoming a college professor. I had been hoping that this would work out for quite some time and am so excited that tings are finally falling into place. I had to defer a similar offer this time last year because of my ALL diagnosis so it is awesome to get back to where I wanted to be. Hanna is already living and working in Alexandria, VA so I’ll be joining her down there in less than two weeks!!! I am so ready for this and so excited to start our married life together down in the DC area. We will both be on school schedules too so that should leave some good time this summer to visit family, hit up some weddings, and do some traveling.

Because of all this, I have been looking for a place in the DC area to continue my treatment. It is looking like that place will be Georgetown Hospital Cancer Center but that is still not confirmed. I am waiting to hear from one of the oncologists there. Hopefully, that will be confirmed this week. My treatment is still far from routine but I am getting used to it, since it will be a part of my life for the next several years. I am taking two chemo pills orally, a steroid, and receiving IV chemo and a spinal tap on a monthly basis. None of that is all that fun but it is worlds better than what I was going through a few months ago. One of the oral pills has a very high dosage and that caused my blood counts to drop last week and Dr. Claxton advised that I stop taking the pills for a week. My counts bounced back a bit and I re-started yesterday, after a meeting with Dr. Claxton. I will be out at Hershey for chemo on Friday and that could possibly be my last time out there. I can’t say enough about the care that I received from Hershey. Dr. Claxton and all of the nurses, PAs, NPs, and staff of the Infusion Center have become like family to me. I could not have asked for anything better. I will miss them all but look forward to staying in touch with them and meeting the new staff down at G-Town (hopefully!)

This month has been one to remember and one full of unbelievable highs. Thank you all for being a part of this journey with me…..i truly don’t know where I would be without you. Your love helped me to stay strong, keep my faith, and stay focused on the finish line…….and, although I am not there yet, it feels good to be many strides closer. I ask that you continue to pray for my health and continue to pray for so many who are afflicted by cancer….particularly my dad and a good friend in NY who will be having surgery in the near future. Still believing that….

ALL Will Be Well

“Love Never Fails” -- 1 Corinthians 13:8

".....Hope Can Set You Free"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

18 days and counting!!

Between finally having some nice weather, the regaining of a lot of strength and energy, and, oh yeah, getting ready for my marriage which is in 18 days (!!!!!), I have neglected my blog a little bit. I am sorry about that. I have just been so excited to be able to be outside and to have the strength to walk more than a few steps. It has been great. There are still lots of fears and some difficulties….i am taking a fistful of pills everyday and still need to have blood drawn twice a month and get IV chemo and a spinal tap once a month (i.e. this treatment is not all that fun), I have also had a pretty under the weather the last week. I think it is just a normal cold and my immune system isn’t quite back to its old self yet so its is just kind of lingering around. But, for the most part, I am feeling so much healthier and life is very very good. Plus, the thought of making some vows to the prettiest girl I know in a couple weeks kind of keeps me going strong.

Besides trying to gain my weight back (I have added about 20 lbs from when I was at my lowest), watching my NCAA bracket go up in flames. I consider myself to be a pretty lucky guy and I have had some successes at gambling, but Mach Madness has never been my forte. I am always so confident and usually using up the ink on my red pen by the end of the first weekend. I still love the tourney though and have been hanging on lots of the games this year.

An acquaintance of my cousin Lisa is in the running for a grant from Pepsi Co. She is the mother of three beautiful children and has lost 2 of them to infant ALL. It is heart-wrenching to even write that and I can’t imagine the heartache she must have experienced. The remaining child is a twin of one that passed away and is also very susceptible to the cancer. Somehow, this mom has garnered the strength to stand up and fight. She wants to open a center for other families in similar situations. That is why she needs this grant. If everybody could take the time to vote for her at (www.refresheverything.com/ErinsDream) and to spread the word about her remarkable story, I would greatly appreciate it. Her website is www.erinsdream.org. Her story, her attitude, and her faith put things into perspective for me and I hope that she wins so that she can use her story to bring peace and love back to the minds of other parents. During Lent especially, this is the kind of sacrificial love that truly inspires.

Anyway…..thanks for the continued prayers for myself, my dad, my family, and my upcoming marriage. They have been my strength and my security this year and will continue to be. I’d be lost without my friends. I’m gonna keep knocking this cancer down until it has no chance of standing back up and, no matter what............

ALL Will Be Well

“Love Never Fails”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Results.....

My bone marrow was still clear of any traces of leukemia....whew!! I think my massive exhale could be heard throughout the tri-state area. My blood counts were also good so I will be starting the 5th and final course of chemo tomorrow at 10am. I will be getting a spinal tap and one other form of chemo as well as starting a whole new regimen of pills. Say some prayers that my body responds well and can handle this course. Time to go crack some champagne, dance in the streets.....or, more realistically, watch some more curling. Never forget that..

ALL Will Be Well

"The end for which we are created invites us to walk a road that is surely sown with a lot of thorns, but it is not sad; through even the sorrow, it is illuminated by joy."

A New Man

It has now been a few weeks since I have had any chemo or any treatments at all. It is amazing how much more "normal" I feel. Just in these few weeks, my body has begun to recover. I have gained a little bit of weight, a little bit of strength, and alot of energy. I am walking more, eating more, and feeling way more like the Dan of about a year ago. I had truly forgotten what it was like to feel this way. I've been a little bit on top of the world the last few weeks. I think that might also have a little something to do with the fact that I soon get to be husband to the girl of my dreams.

Last week I had a bone marrow biopsy that will tell if the Leukemia is still in remission. This was a pretty rough biopsy because they had trouble shaving off a piece of the marrow and the doctor had to drill into my hip bone 3 different times until she was able to get the sample. This left me quite sore for the next couple of days.......there is something about taking a screwdriver to my hip bone (at least that's what I imagine is happening) that just doesn't sit that well with me. Anyway, I have a meeting with my oncologist, Dr. Claxton, today to discuss the results of the biopsy. So I have been nervous this week and letting my mind wander with the possibilities. So I will be happy to get in there today and get some good news. If my marrow is still leukemia-free (this is where the prayers come in), I will be cleared to start the 5th and final course of treatment. This is the long-term, maintenance treatment that is scheduled to last for the next 3 years (a little overwhelming when you think about it). But, this treatment is going to be way, way less intense and the doctors said I should be able to get back to a normal life during it. I will only be getting chemo injections once a month and most of the side effects should be pretty muted. My hair should also start to grow back.....I will be looking like Shaun White before you know it.

So, say some prayers that today's meeting brings nothing but good news. I just can't wait to get back to my old self and dive back into life. That does not mean I will be the same exact person. I have learned so much about faith, family, friendship, priorities, and perseverance through this journey. I will never forget any part of it and I hope to use these lessons to make myself better, help others, and live a more full life.

Well, I guess I had better get back to watching curling. This has been me and evan's favorite pasttime during the olympics. This sport has grown on me every day, plus how cool is an olympic sport where you could very easily be drinking a beer while playing. I'm gonna start prepapring for my bid for the 2014 games.....wish me luck.

I will let everybody know the results from my meeting today. Thanks for the prayers and thanks for being there. I can only imagine where I would be without the love and support of so many people. I couldn't have made it through the last 8 months. Much love and

ALL Will Be Well (hopefully pretty soon!)

“You can only come to the morning through the shadows.”

"Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys. If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it. "

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Well, the day has finally come. I'm still not sure that I believe it just yet but the worst of the treatment is supposedly behind me now. Course 4 finished up without any issues and that closed the book on the most aggressive part of the chemo. Now they are giving me a week or so off while my immune system and blood counts recover. Once they recover and stabilize, I will have to have a bone marrow biopsy (I already told them to check their morphine stock!). The results will show whether I am still in remission and if the cancer is still in retreat.....which it will be, if it knows what's good for it! If everything is looking good, I will start course 5 which lasts another two years but only involves a small amount of chemo and much fewer hospital visits. The side effects will also be much less prominent and I should be growing my hair back and getting my energy back......by summertime I will be ready to audition for the next season of 'Jersey Shore'...haha

Now I am in a bit of limbo because I am finished with the treatments and I am so incredibly ready to gain energy (and a few pounds) and get back up to speed with life but my body is still feeling the effects of the chemo and my immunity is still way down. It will take a few weeks to work the poison out of my body and to build up my immunity so I will just have to take it slowly for a little bit longer. But as Punxsutawney Phil reminded us this morning, we have some more time of being cold and having fires and drinking hot chocolate, so I can handle a few more slow paced weeks.

Its now just over 2 months til Hanna and I start our family together. I can't wait for everything that will come along with that. I think we got a bit of a headstart on "dealing with crises" so maybe we will catch some slack down the road.....I'm talking to you Powerball. We are going on our pre-marriage retreat this weekend so any thoughts and prayers will be appreciated. We have done a pretty good job on staying on top of the planning "stuff" (at least, I hope we are) with tons of help from family and friends.

Thanks for always listening to my rambling thoughts. Your support and prayers have been as important as anything throughout this year.

Life is good and
ALL Will Be Well

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

counting down the days......

There are officially 4 more days left in this 4th course of treatment. I vividly remember counting this number in months and not even being able to consider the end. The 4th course has probably been the most difficult and I will not be sorry to see it go but I have been encouraged through the tough times because I knew there was a light, shining brighter, at the end of the tunnel. That thought helped me to get through the last couple weeks because the treatment knocked me down pretty hard. My counts bottomed out and I ended up in the hospital for 5 days with a neutrapenic fever and a pretty terrible migraine. Basically, that means that my fever spiked and I was at a high risk for infection so they wanted to keep me in the hospital to ensure I don't catch anything. They pumped me with antibiotics and I just waited it out. The headache that I had when I went in there was beyond excruciating. It's hard to even describe. I couldn't see straight and I couldn't focus on anything.....easily some of the worst pain I ever had. I guess that sometimes after a spinal tap, the brain doesn't settle properly in the skull because fluid is removed and the brain can "bounce" around a bit which causes these headaches. After a few days, it finally eased up and everthing became more bearable. After 5 days in there, which was more than enough for me, they finally let me go home with some antibiotics in pill form. As "un-fun" as the experience was (and I would put it up there with watching a "thirtysomething" marathon), I can't say enough about the doctors, nurses, and staff of Hershey Medical Center. They have always been amazing and that was certainly the case during this stay.

So now I am home and excited to be winding this course down. I will have my last chemo treatment on Tuesday and then meet with Dr. Claxton on Thursday to discuss the next course and when it will begin!! This 5th and final course will last about 3 years (ugh!) but let's not dwell on that just yet, I know some people who took 3 years to complete their Senior year of college. But, in all seriousness, it should be alot more managable. Treatments will only be about once a month, my blood counts won't be as affected, and my hair should grow back....look out "guy from Twilight". Basically, I should get back to a normal life even during this course....I like the sound of that.

Other than fighting off these infections, Hanna and I have delved into heavy duty wedding planning mode. We have a meeting with the cake guy.....I lobbied for getting the Ace of Cakes but I don't see it happening......on Saturday. That should be pretty fun actually, then we are gonna tackle the invitations and we are well on our way. In less than 3 months I will be standing at the altar with my wife....I can't imagine a more amazing thought....it gives me goosebumps. The blessings of that moment will make these trials seem a bit more miniscule.

Well, I guess that is about it. I will continue to fight hard and to beat this thing into the ground for as long as necessary....then I hope to help others beat it down too. My dad is doing well. They are going to adjust his chemo dosage which will hopefully give him more energy and make him feel better. And my mom is the saint she has always been.....somehow that little lady has the strength of an ox. Its amazing. As always, much love and thanks to everybody reading this. You have helped me every step of the way, even if you don't know it. Thank you, God bless, and

ALL Will Be Well

"At the end of our life, we shall all be judged by charity" -- St. John of the Cross

"A person's a person, no matter how small"

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bring on 2010!!

The last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind with Christmas, New Year, and the first couple weeks of 2010 so I haven't had the chance to sit down and write too much. It has been full of ups and downs as far as health and packed with only 'ups' when it comes to time with family and friends. I officially have only 2 weeks left on this 4th course. I really can't believe how close I am to finishing up the most aggressive part of this entire treatment. It's unreal to see that light and feel the end. That hasn't made this course physically easier but it is an amazing thing to keep in the back of my mind. The worst will be over soon. As far as side effects, it has been the usual smorgasbord. I have had nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, weakness, and bleeding (I will spare you the details on where...ha). The worst part was the withdrawl I had when coming off a steroid I was taking. It caused insomnia and this incredible pain in my bones and joints, mostly in my legs. The only relief was when I was walking.....so I spent a few sleepless nights, walking around the house......probably terrifying Evan....sorry buddy. Unfortunately, that was at its worst right around New Year's....but, have no fear, I was not going to concede and turn in early. I stayed out and celebrated the onset of 2010. I had to because this is going to be my year, a blessed year, and I wanted to toast to its first few seconds.

Christmas week was amazing, exhausting but amazing. I ate great, had many an amazing conversation, and saw so many faces of those I love.....the people that have been by support, my backbone through this whole fight. I participated in my first Gabler Sibling (siblings-in-law and siblings-in-law to be) Gift Exchange on Christmas Eve. I must admit I was a bit nervous but it was fantastic and I was honored to be part of such an elite group. Warren and I pulled of the feat of both drawing each other. It was also awesome to see Colin and Kathleen (Congrats to your Tide by the way) who made a last minute, and might I say proper decision, to head north for the holidays. Then on Christmas Day, we went to see my mom's side of the family and had an amazing day of laughs, beautiful Irish singing, elf hats, and WelcomeTinis. I can't say enough how much the love of my family has meant to me.

Hanna and I (along with the help of both of our families) also had the chance to get a ton of wedding planning done. We met with cake guys, picture guys, a lovely flower lady, music guys, restaurant guys, ring guys, and some other guys that I'm not even sure what they did.... It felt good to get all of this stuff rolling, but what feels even better is getting closer to April 10th. Hanna has been such a rock through this fight and I can't wait to vow everything to her. Life is good.

Well, that about covers the last few weeks. Happy New Year and may everybody be blessed in 2010.....I can feel it coming. The fight goes on and will keep going on, even when it is most difficult, especially when it is most difficult, becasue that is when friends, family, and faith take over. This month I needed all 3 and, as always, they/we prevailed.

As I am sure everybody is, please send thoughts, prayers, and help to those affected by the tragedy in Haiti. The destruction and loss of life is unreal and puts into perspective how instantly things can change. This is an hour of need for our neighbors to the south.

Much love and know that

ALL Will Be Well

"Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others."

"When the character of a man is not clear to you, look to his friends" --Haitian Proverb