Friday, November 30, 2007


We have partnerships we don't even think about. From those we form with the darker parts of ourselves, the ones that we try so hard to hide, but yet trip over time after time, to the obvious ones in business, play and life. The partnerships of convenience or necessity, intensely bonded, but fleeting. I believe they make me feel guilty because when the intensity fades the partnership fades, you're simply less involved in the activity, or the person or the need.

I'm currently in a partnership with Dr Godley. I try to read her like someone who I've known much longer. I feel familiar with her because she's the key to my recovery and she is making the decisions that I only see or hear the top-line on. She's partnered with colleagues, Fellows, distant oncologists in other countries to figure this out and set a course of action which she shares with me a week at a time. It is a partnership of necessary convenience. She is no less invested in this partnership because of its nature, but we both know that it will fade by the end of December and continue to be less intense until it hopefully becomes the inevitable check-in, see you next year.

I got off on this thread because of line of copy I heard on NPR yesterday. No more than a sentance, it described Bill and Hillary's intellectual/political partnership, not marriage. The general point was that they are "great partners", focused on the things that matter to them, forgiving to each other at least in a public way about more personal transgressions, but seemingly united in the larger issues that have nothing to do with their hearts.

Anyway, it was this idea of convenient integrity of relationship that made me want to write about the partnerships that have shaped the trajectory of my life, taught me what I know to this point, inspired me and supported me and encouraged me and loved me, warts and all. I can't tackle them one at a time- I can't there are a lifetime of them and so many in this last decade that I couldn't even cover those.

However, not to the exclusion of the 100s of partnerships I've enjoyed over my long and unusual life, I want to honor Mary Joe for her unique blend of love, affection, patience, insight, humor, curiousity, forgiveness, loyalty and empathy. This disease came upon us very fast. I was trying to recreate a life that I had prior to my infectious brain surgeries and it wasn't working very well, I was stuck in a past not looking out to a future. I became mired in what could have been- not what was- But, as we know cancer is a very focusing disease and it has quickly done its job.

I was diognosed on August 18th, from a Pathology Lab in Wisconsin on a referral from my primary care Dr. I was shocked and stunned to say the least. I went to UCH and confirmed the diognosis, was referred to Dr Godley (great name) and our partnership was formed. She planned, I begged for some time to redirect my life- change critical things that I felt would unbind other partners from what could become a burden to them or our enterprises. I told Ted first at lunch when I got the call from Dr Ettner. I'm not very good at keeping things to myself. Mary Joe. My children. Mary Joe's children. Vicki. My sister. Her kids and of course the people who call out of order of importance and you just can't restrain yourself and you tell them. It's kind of a controlled leak moving toward an uncontrolled flood of information. Zachary's idea of a blog was a great one - I love working in it, I like the freedom to talk about what is uppermost in my mind. I have unique worlds of people that I have lived in and nourished my mind and spirit in and all you guys may have in common is me. But through this medium, you see and hear each other, and I think it becomes obvious you have so much more in common than me.

Mary Joe is telling me to lay my weary head down. No doubt she'll set up some media for us that was provided by her son, my buddy, Jake. He downloads tv and movies from here and England, some of it really edgey, some dark, some writerly--as he says it's the best of category download for this occasion of my incarceration--the best of reality tv, the best movies, the best sitcom, the best brittish etc. He ordered me an external harddrive and then made it all happen seamlessly. He answers his phone in class to provide tech support. He's a generous and kind young man, growing visibly on every level.

Something that Mary Joe and I are talking about and internet researching is destinations we each want to take our daughters (Erica and Kate) where it's easy to get in and out of, and a space to have normal conversations and pass some time comfortably. Mary Joe says she and Kate are getting together in crises or ceremonies and she misses the opportunity they used to have to discuss a topic "ad nauseum". Erica and I have rarely been alone, we have yet to discover our common language, that easy rhythm that only comes with the luxury of time and attention. So, we were thinking to ask the people who check in on this blog to share their favorite trip and why it was so. Mary Joe will read them aloud to me as they come in, as we've been led to believe that this last chemotherapy administered today and a couple days hence, might be the one that finally lays me low. It's been remarkable how I've somewhat thrived on chemo so I don't know, maybe I'll do fine with absolutely no immune system, it has certainly killed my rheumatoid arthritis.

I dream of golf. All who know me, know that's a great sign. So, probably I'll be lying down and kinda staying down for the next several days. Ingrid's bone marrow will be mine on Monday. Then, if all goes as planned, it will start to create healthy replacement blood cells gradually rebuilding immunities, strength and aliveness. Won't be talking much. That's where Jake's media kicks in 24/7 and Zach and Erica will call and make any important entries in this blog. So, send me your travel essays please. I welcome your words and prayers.

Love to you all, I'm all choked up here thinking about you.



Rich said...

Good luck buddy. We're all pulling for you and MJ. Please ask her to email me her phone number - all I have is your cell.

I think that a medium length driving trip with a restful destination could yield the result you desire. We've found Door County to be a nice stopping point, and I bet a Winter trip there for a rest by the fire and then some cross country skiing might be fun for both of you. But really, anywhere that would allow you both to find something wonderful at which to look and absorb could trigger deeper connections.

Hope to see you sooner rather than later.


Mark Drozd said...

Arnie: another big thing your extended network has in common is we are all sending love and hope your way . . . together.

Thinking of you.


Rhonda K. said...

Hi Arnie:

Envision a beautiful blue lake, like glass, reflecting the perfect cloudless sky. Three mountain peaks peek from the horizon. I sit in the sunshine, drinking a glass of red wine, eating a plate of cheese and olives and salami, watching tourists and locals stroll by on their way to the beach, to go trout fishing, to have lunch, under the brilliant sun. This, five years after my illness, was my favorite vacation moment in New Zealand (Taupo, NZ, to be exact, the trout fishing capital of the world.) Dream it, and reach for it. I am thinking of you often and am building you healthy white blood cells in my mind.

Julia Peters said...

Hi Arnie,

I've just caught up on your blogs, and I am so humbled. I thought I was having a terrible 24 hours, and now I am aghast at how stupid Michael and I were to have a full-blown argument over nothing. Your writings are strangely serene. I stand in awe of your spirit.

Tuscany, Italy is food for the soul--literally and figuratively. Closer to home is St. Barth's--luciously clear water and the beach is steps from your "hotel" cottage (the island code is no hotels can have more than 14 rooms, so they're all cottages along the beaches). For a real adventure, Siem Riep in Cambodia has the most incredible temples--Angkor Wat being the most famous.

My prayers and hugs for you,

Kim said...

Hi Arnie,
Two words: Breckenridge, Colorado.

Picture this--it is Christmas time and this beautiful little ski village is covered in snow and white lights. The biggest decision of the day is to decide whether to ski or just watch people ski from the bar in the lodge. And if you go a little off road on the way back to Denver--there is a place in the backcountry where you can mush your own sleigh of eager huskies. It is particularly beautiful and peaceful early in the morning after a new snow. This is a place to make great memories.
Love you--miss you,