Monday, December 31, 2007

December 31, 2007

At this hour all are dry, warm and safe. MJ and I will be forever grateful for your prayers, love and unwavering support. We toast you on this New Years eve.

Arnie and MJ  

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Shall Be Released

By now it seems customary to begin my posts with an apology. As I've said many times, I'm well aware that leaving loyal readers in the lurch, without a meaningful update to brighten their mornings, is a grave, possibly unforgivable sin. To go nearly a week without reporting from the front line -- well, it may be an offense so odious as to be beyond terrestrial judgment altogether. With all of this in mind, I offer my sincere thanks to the Arniholics who, despite the toll my irregular posts are taking on their work and home life, continue to faithfully check the blog. (And no matter what your spouse or boss tells you: when Arnie is your drug, rehab is for quitters.)

To make it up to you, the loyal readership, I offer this post. More than mere words, this post is a multimedia experience. It's six days worth of posts consolidated into one super-charged, video-packed blitzkrieg of an ArnieUpdate.

To really get the most out of this post, however, there are some instructions you'll have to follow. Before you scroll down to the second half of this post, go ahead and play the embedded video below. Although this video is not technically a prerequisite to understanding the sentences that follow, I think its function as tone-setting device is crucial. (For those of you who have heard NPR's This American Life, you know what I'm talking about.)

Seriously, go ahead and press play. Don't worry about me. I'll wait on the other side while the video loads.

Are you hearing music? If not, you've either directly disobeyed the clearly stipulated rules of this post or you've proven unable to operate a fairly adult-proof application. I admire either your defiance or your complete unfamiliarity with YouTube.

For those of you hearing the [insert your own adjective here] voice of Bob Dylan, you're doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing. Great job! (Whether this makes you a tech savant or a feckless lemming is probably the subject for another post. Either way, thanks for playing along.) From here on out you can treat this like a traditional post. Even forget, if you can, that this is a full-fledged multimedia experience. Forget that this is totally Web 2.0. Just let the music play in the background as you scan, using your eyes, from left to right, sounding out words where necessary.

So: According to my calculations, Papa Goodwin has spent 23 straight days in the inpatient facilities of the U of C Medical Center. Although not precisely the same as a stay in a minimum-security prison, it's not really that far off either. While the food may be (a little) better at U of C, his taste buds have been too disagreeable to make any use of it. Although he isn't forced to pledge allegiance to the Aryan Brotherhood to survive an afternoon in the yard, he also hasn't actually had the opportunity to be outside in about a month. So, while I've never heard A. H. refer to the hospital as a penitentiary, the analogy doesn't seem too far-fetched.

(Right about now, The Band and its many famous accompanists should be thundering towards the chorus. If you're one of those speed-reading types that likes to show off by going faster than everyone else, take a few seconds to do this math problem [(32 + 12) x 81] before continuing. Once you hear all of them shouting about "any day now" you've reached the ideal point in the song--and in this very carefully orchestrated multimedia experience--to read the following paragraph.)

If my Dad's been an inmate for the last month, then the news I'm here to deliver is the akin to a call from the warden. As you've probably guessed by now, it looks like A. H. Goodwin, long a prisoner of IVs, catheters and socially challenged dermatologists, is up for parole. Although the terms of his release haven't been finalized, there's hope that he'll be out by Friday, December 21st. As in two short days from this very moment. While it's probably too early to celebrate in earnest (and although he's still feeling severely under the weather), I think it's fair to shut your office door, grab your guitar, and sing along with Bob and The Band. After all, if sparkling-new marrow and Christmas at home isn't worth singing about, I don't know what is.

Free at last, Free at last,

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Head for Figures

For better or worse, I'm abandoning my long-winded approach to "ArnieUpdates" for tonight's post. This is a consequence of the fact that, unlike the much respected blogger that came before me, I have a job. And at the moment, my manager, Microsoft Excel, and the entire city of Washington, DC, seem to be conspiring to prevent me from composing a proper post.

Normally, my undisciplined ways would get the better of me, and I'd put off Wednesday's update until tomorrow (or Friday...or the Monday after that). But not tonight! For tonight, my friends, we have news worth hearing.

In the words of Mary Joe, although A. H. Goodwin is "still miserable," for the first time in at least a week, he's feeling "better" than he did on the day before. More importantly, we have some hard numbers to back these claims. Because these numbers speak for themselves -- and because I don't have time to do the speaking even if they didn't -- I present a graphical progress report in lieu of my traditional verbosity.

Figure I:

As the above makes clear, A. H. Goodwin is collecting white blood cells like the Bears' many quarterbacks amass interceptions. No question about it, this is a good sign. (Note: unlike some of the figures that follow, these are real numbers, with real clinical significance. The fine folks at U of C have been tracking his WBC count since admission, and today's giant leap forward is evidence that real progress is being made.)

Figure II:

My dad's overall physical well-being is also being buoyed by a recent up-tick in sleep per night. Some pretty serious narcotics are reportedly playing a role. Mary Joe felt that, thanks to a decent night of sleep, he's more like himself than he's been since the transplant. (Note: these figures were collected by my Dad who is, depending on whom you ask, a slightly less reliable statistician than the U of C oncology department.)

Figure III:

According to emails from Dr. Godly, my Dad has seen a truly unprecedented rise in his RHODGUC (Relatively Happy and Optimistic Despite Genuinely Unfortunate Circumstances) Index Score. Although still somewhat controversial within the medical community, Dr. Godly assured me that a one-day increase of this magnitude (from a 1.98 to a 4.37) is extremely promising. Figure III explores the relationship between my Dad's RHODGUC spike and the morphine they've been giving him to help him sleep. I say, keep that man drugged!

All right. Time for me to get back to working for the people that actually pay me. See you next time.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Run Hard

With Sunday morning came red eyes, a dull headache, and a chance to speak with my Dad. As usual, conversation veered towards our favorite topics: the fragile state of Pakistan's constitutional democracy, and "President" Musharraf's preference for batons over tear gas; the impact of an impending interest rate hike on our 36,000 shares of Google, and whether or not we want our Maserati's to match; life with cancer, and the similarities and differences between a hospital room and a prison cell.

All told, there is good news and bad news. As is always prudent, let's begin with the less palatable: at the moment, A. H. Goodwin is seriously uncomfortable. The difficulty with sleeping has persisted, and very little in the way of food tastes right. I can tell he’s really hurting from the lack of sleep because he talked about the prospect of getting “six or seven” hours of dreamless sleep like you might talk about getting a third home in Aspen. It’s something you’d really like, something you may even physically crave, but it's also something you don’t harbor any delusions about getting.

(On the food front: unexpectedly, along with green Lifesavers, my Dad has found a taste for Fanta Orange Soda, which he describes as "clean and cold." If you're in the neighborhood, he might appreciate a case of Fanta or its similar-tasting cousin, Sunkist.)

And it's not just sleep and sustenance. My Dad's cellular interlopers have continued to wage their unique war of attrition. Unlike conventional warfare where bullets and bodily harm are the principal weapon, my Dad's idiosyncratic enemy seems mainly focused on indignities. Discretion precludes a full accounting of disease-related indignities, but let's just say that life is exceedingly annoying at the moment. His body is exhibiting stubbornness and intractability worthy of adolescence. All the usual parts are doing totally unusual things. Just getting up from the bed is taxing and time-consuming; once accomplished, there is rarely much energy left for completing whatever task inspired leaving the bed in the first place. All of this has come together to make an A. H. Goodwin that sounds unlike himself.

The good news is that all of this is proceeding just as expected. Turns out, sleepless, tasteless, bed-ridden days are a sign of progress. Or, at the very least, a sign that his experience is closely mirroring that of almost all other patients. It may be a tired metaphor, but the image that seems most applicable is that of a marathon. No matter how much you've trained, no matter how many mornings you rose with the sun to get a few miles in before work, come the second or third hour, things are going to feel ugly. Your legs are going to cramp up and you're going to be desperate for water. It's an unfortunate truth that there's no getting around. But with every mile you tough out, you're left one closer to the finish line. And for those of us not looking for an 2008 Olympic birth, it's not about how fast you run or how pretty you look while doing it; it's just about getting from point A to point B without succumbing to heat stroke.

At the moment, then, my Dad is huffing and puffing his way through mile 10 or 11. He's sweaty and foul-smelling, rubber legged and sore across the middle, but he's continuing to put one steady foot in front of the other. He's tired, and sure, he'd probably wouldn't mind if the race got called on account of bad weather, but he's not going anywhere. He's moving on down the track with all the expediency and grace his 240 lbs can muster. He’s going to run as hard as you can when you have to push an IV drip every step of the way.

Finally, although he has to do the running on his own, it's always easier to fight through the cramps when you have cheering fans lining the course. To continue this now extremely tired metaphor, it sounds like he could use a large cup of emotional Gatorade (orange flavored, of course).

So, if you get a chance, leave a blog post or a voicemail: let him know we're all still watching, whooping it up on the sidelines as he runs past.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Green Means Go

Apologies are in order. Three days have passed since my last posting, and that, dear readers, is three days too long. I vow renewed diligence in the face of mounting procrastination. Moreover, I won't let a lack of news deter me from posting; I promise to make things up whole cloth if that's what it takes. You have my word.

With apologies out of the way, on to the main attraction. What follows is a day-by-day accounting since we last chatted.


Contact with A. H. Goodwin and his goodly wife was attempted, though not accomplished, at about 6 pm EST. Although I have no eye-witness evidence to support my assumption, past experience suggests that my Dad laid supine, alternating between putting pressure on his left and right side, for about 22 of Wednesday's 24 hours. Media of the British variety was likely watched, NPR was likely heard.


Mary Joe and I exchanged electronic telegraphs on Thursday. Mary Joe reported that the (understandable) crankiness exhibited on Tuesday had largely abated. This was attributed to spiritual re-centering and a marked rise in the intake of green Lifesavers. Apparently, radiation therapy and foreign bone marrow has prompted a new-found appreciation for hard candy, generally, and green Lifesavers, in particular. According to Mary Joe, the importance of the Lifesavers' color can not be overstated. While orange Lifesavers are begrudgingly tolerated, my Dad's irradiated tongue is apparently hopelessly devoted to the sugary discs in emerald green.

(I, myself, choose to attach great significance to this new development. To me, it seems like fairly irrefutable evidence that progress is being made. His body, or more specifically his taste buds, have come together to signal his physicians and the greater community of Arnie Watchers. With each green Lifesaver eaten, his body is unequivocally saying: "don't stop now! You're doing great! Green means go!" This would also explain the apprehension surrounding yellow Lifesavers and the revulsion prompted by red Lifesavers. Or that's my interpretation anyway.)


Since Wednesay, although I've communicated with Mary Joe across a few different mediums, A. H. Goodwin has remained an elusive target. This is somewhat surprising given the half-dozen IVs and catheters keeping him tethered to the bed. Anyway, on my way home from work this evening -- less than an hour ago -- I was able to reach him directly. On the whole, he sounded like he needed some sleep. Apparently, his non-existent immune system and irritable bowels have conspired to make non-narcotic sleep difficult. And then there's the challenge of finding a way to keep your mind (benignly) occupied when you have, say, 17 or 18 hours a day to burn. In total, then, he sounded (surprisingly) chipper, lucid and (unsurprisingly) annoyed. Like he was in need of some green Lifesavers.

(And remember: green means go!)

That's all I have for the moment. Look for a summary of the weekend, and its candy-related developments, on Sunday.

Be well,

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Trading Spaces

Across the next week, even the most casual readers of "A Healthy Goodwin" will likely notice a distinct change in the tone, length, and above all else, quality of posts. I'm anticipating a significant reduction in philosophizing, a marked decline in pre-dawn soul searching.

Why, one might ask, would "A Healthy Goodwin" stray from a proven path? Why abandon the course that has resulted in legion fans from the sandy shores of Wilmette to the tree-lined streets of Oak Park?

The (temporary, I promise) changes at "A Healthy Goodwin" are a sad consequence of the metaphorical "passing of the keyboard" that took place last night. In order to devote 100 percent of his efforts to things like sleeping, drooling, being bald, etc., Arnie has elected to take a brief leave of absence from his position as chief executive officer/vision-quest guide at "A Healthy Goodwin." Pursuant to his expressed, legally binding wishes, the authorship of "A Healthy Goodwin" has been left in the eager, if less able, hands of a younger, better-looking generation of Goodwin's.

This grim news might lead one to wonder: if I'm not getting patented Arnie insights and beat-poetry styling, what exactly am I getting out of all of this? Why should I bother swinging past this archaic text-based blog on my way to Facebook each morning? Fair question, thanks for asking. It just so happens that "A Healthy Goodwin" is going in a radical new direction, offering a totally revised product lineup. After getting some strategic-communications guidance from SGDP, we've decided to "re-brand" the site as a one-stop-shop for 24-hour "Arnie Updates" (trademark pending). Expect a new logo/font package shortly.

Here's the game plan: out with the wisdom, in with no-nonsense how-is-he-feeling, what-chemical-is-he-spending-time-with kind of information. And what we lack in substance, we plan to make up for in gimmicks. I'm thinking the site needs a real-time display of Arnie's heart rate or a color-coded system that tracks his bowel movements. (As Mary Joe artfully indicated earlier today, the bowel-o-meter would probably be approaching a reddish-orange at the moment.)

Now that I've spent a lot of time talking about it, let's try out this new format for a second:

Mary Joe reported Arnie was intermittently awake, and consistently crabby, on the second day following bone marrow transplant. He is expected to be fully neutropenic by Friday, which also means that things may be slightly less comfortable as the week wears on. Thus far, no sign that his sister's marrow is doing anything other that what it was designed to do.

For the moment, according to my sources, that's all that's new in the world of Arnie. Check back throughout the week for 'round the clock coverage.

And don't despair: Arnie will be back in the saddle soon!

Interim Arnie, A Healthy Goodwin

Arnie's Poopin'

He's pissed (good sign) at all the poopin. But he asked me to write up the story I told him upon arrival. Coming up the garage elevator I met a tall Black couple in their early 40's maybe. She was in considerable pain and looked to have suffered a stroke at some time. They were hoping to find a wheelchair on 3 and had to go back down to the bridge for the husband to go to the lobby to get one. She was on his arm and prepared to walk with him. I said what can I do to help, should I go down and get the wheelchair or shall I stay with her while you go? He said thanks, maybe if you would just stay here and I'll get the chair. So she and I stood in the window, she leaning against the handrail. I'm in so much pain she said, it's been with me a year now, sometimes worse than others. They don't know what it is but when it gets this bad I just keep coming to the neurologists and they give me something for the pain but they can't really fix the seizures and muscle contractions. I have 4 kids, my youngest is 2 and everyday I get to be with them is a blessing, you know we're none of us guaranteed a tomorrow. And this is changed my perspective on life and I see the blessings all around me everyday and it helps me to believe it's a part of God's plan for me and my family. I said, my husband is being treated for a cancer only about 150 people have ever had. The biggest blessing is that he was accurately diagnosed from the start because we are at this place. The oncologists are concocting a protocol that is dicey on one hand and customized on the other. And he's really laid low today. But I feel on a deep level he and I have an agreement to come together and help each other through the really hard parts, so I have faith that God knows, you know? God knows. So just as she and I were looking solemnly at each other and our words were all said, her husband arrived with the wheelchair and we helped her sit. He said to me, your shoe is untied and he knelt down and tied my shoe. When he stood up, he said, Can't be trippin'. We laughed and I said, No we can't be trippin' now. I said well, goodbye you darlings and they said in unison "Bless you."

Monday, December 3, 2007


We, started this journey on August 18th when Dr Godley told me that the UCH Pathologists had confirmed a diagnosis of plasmacytiod dendritic cell tumor, a rare leukemia/lymphoma that little is actually known about. Since that time I've been under various treatments aimed at getting me to this day; disease in remission, body and blood prepared to accept my sister's platelets, briefed and in a curious way rested and for the moment calm.

In the intervening months I've turned everyone I love lives upside down. Mary Joe had to move me by herself while I was in the hospital. My children showed up in full support and on an instant, to meets Mary Joe's children, spend more than a dinner with Mary Joe and me and be part of a wedding that was put together in a week. SGDP rallied, Ted steps forward and engineers a plan to protect both the business and me and my family and obligations, all in another week. Lawyers, new will, agreements, change, reconciliation, thinking, writing, coming to terms, deciding how I want to conduct myself through it all. All very demanding, all very unexpected, all very confusing, all very scary. All very fast. Oddly, a privilege, a gift.

It's really, I believe, the fear we all fight off. Somehow the inconvenience and the resentments and surprises get set aside and we'll move forward as a new kind of family Mary Joe and me, my kids and hers, we'll find our voices and our way given the chance and time to assimilate it all. Ted and I will find our places and I hope to contribute to a company that I believe in and find exceptional in so many ways. Right now, we're brought together within the narrow spectrum of my disease and what it takes to deal with it, I'm praying for time later to set what's wrong right and give back to those who have been so generous and kind and loving to me and my family.

Like I said, it's a privilege and an honor to go through this, not alone in fear and resentment, but with you all, with your words and thoughts and humor and tolerance and wonder and wisdom and most of all love.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Baby Bird Has Landed

On an October trip to Chicago, Erica text'd a short message to her assembled family hovering around Midway Airport. "Baby Bird has landed". It made us all laugh.

Baby Bird has landed indeed.

She's 20, beautiful, talented, smart and, as always, taking on the biggest challenges she can and wondering why it sometimes hurts to do so. She's being successful despite odds that would bring a lesser person to their knees. Her pure toughness masked by her soft beauty, blonde hair, youthful glow. Simultaneously a grown women and the prime of youth.

She's Baby Bird, my little girl and a father's dilemma.

How do I get to know all these parts of her? How do I honor her for what I can see and know of her. Can I risk being wrong or stupid or forget something that matters to her and that I've failed to recognize? Can she see past my self absorption, thoughtlessness, forgetfulness and just plain bad timing, my missing of hints or not seeing needs she has put out there for me to pick-up - and I've simply missed.

Can I be honest and tell her that I don't really understand how yet to be her complete father? Can I tell her how I love her in a way that she feels honored, not just well taken care of. It takes time and above alI, the courage required of any true honesty. There's a lot to understand that I don't even know yet.

I have favorite images of Erica, they trump all others. She's about 2 or so and she's playing with her life-long friend Diane on Morse Avenue. Her wispy white blond hair is askew, their noses are pressed to a window screen and they are being goofy as 2-year-olds are. They are tightly framed and shot from the outside looking through the screen. I've hung that picture every where I've moved, I always will- for me it's pure Erica, it reveals a certain essence of her that I've always seen and not necessarily understood. In another, she's a pre-toddler, lying on her stomach, head held up, resting her weight on her elbows a look of pure determination in her eyes, revealing a glimpse of who she is to become. I hang that picture where I can see it every day if I'm paying attention. These images are hints of the Erica I see today- beautiful, determined, exploring, confused, unsure, unrelenting, loyal, kind, smart, seeking answers and finding some. Questioning values, decisions, parents, meaning.

It's a big job being Erica today, but I know she's up to the task, she always has been. I'm afraid, that unless you're an artist you won't understand what she done in the last 2.5 years. Unless you've looked at a blank page and listened to a bunch of words about the "problem" and sat in a room with other kids who have been drawing from birth and you've chosen to put yourself in this place and teach yourself to draw and think like a designer and confront the demons of your creativity and originality and truthfulness and doubts and short comings and understanding and passion and potential, then you have no idea what she's accomplished. She went for broke in a program that accepted 27 kids for upper division after 2-years, of slogging hard work and murderous hours. Somewhere around 30% of those who begin as freshman, make upper division.

She's got real grit our Baby Bird and I feel all my expressions of admiration and pride wanting, I simply don't yet have the words.



It's about 5:30 on Sunday morning. Pitch black out, the halls are deep-sleep silent. The only noise is the low murmur of nurses working on the endless charting, tracking and organizing of keeping their charges cared for and on schedule. It's a nice time of day, hospital light is harsh, designed to light all the corners, illuminate the skin and reveal ones every flaw. At this hour, it seems dialed down, less intrusive and more embracing of the general qualities we want light to have.

Light ought bring shape to objects and environment, enhance our perception of where we are, clarify distance, depth, location, mystery, color and beauty to our world. Well, that's not hospital light- but at this hour it as close as it gets. And, it's still a great time to be up, the pace is different, night energy still prevails and the newly showered and freshly caffeined haven't come on the floor yet.

At this point I'm moon faced and swimming in double and triple chins. I hate this part. My vanity is close to full implosion. Seems that one doesn't do this without giving up all dignity about their person. Talking with young women, my children's age about my worn down and now curiously sick body and the side effects of the chemistry that runs through me. It's a conscious leap to give yourself over to a highly trained "almost" stranger.

It's better in my mind to give yourself over to the process than the disease, however.

If it's the disease you surrender to, than in some way you become the disease. If it's the more "organic" process you surrender to, you allow yourself to move freely in acceptance and curiosity, the subtle and not so subtle changes that are happening. Process allows us to deal with possibilities, potential and the fluidity of change, most expected and some unanticipated. It is like water over rocks, alternately smooth, rough, always continuous, seeking little gaps, creating others, but always changing the face of its environment. Subtle, continuous, altering , alive, never still. If we embrace the organic idea of process than we embrace our humanness, creativity, aliveness, love and will to be part of something, even an ugly thing. We are not in dis-ease.

However, as Monday gets closer and my fears rise and my will bends ever so slightly, it's these ideas that help propel me toward the light, not the darkness. My fear is never far away, it lurks just below the larger and more restive and life giving ideas of loving and being loved with kindness and curiosity and acceptance and empathy.

It has been said that the human mission in this life is to find out who we are and why we're here. And I think some answers are found only in the harsh light of our dis-ease, too bright, unforgiving and illuminating to ignore.

I never would have had the opportunity to skip along the surface of this question without being here in this place with my dis-ease with the light of a new day filling the shadows and opening the eyes of this place for another day.