Monday, October 17, 2011

The Only Thing I Want for My Birthday … Next Year

I have been off the blogging grid for several weeks.  There were/are stories that I wanted to share . . . things going on during shows and in the store . . . but there was a story from my personal life that I wanted . . . needed . . . to share first.  And I couldn’t until the time was right – and until I got permission.


You might remember this picture – it was taken on my mom’s birthday on August 28, during a family outing to a Dayton Dragons’ game that was arranged by her sister, Nancy.  We had such a good time – it was a simply perfect day.

Three days later, I found out about the lump on Mom’s neck.

If I hadn’t had a sinus infection, Blake and I might not have known about it for some time (Mom is a very private person), but since we happened to be at the doctor’s office at the same time, a simple “What are you here for?” led to the news.  We weren’t terribly concerned at the outset – our doctor suspected it might just be a thyroid problem and ordered some tests, which unfortunately ruled that out.

At this point, I started to type a step-by-step narrative of what we (yes, “we” – Mom has done all of the work, but we have gone through this as a family) have done and seen and experienced since that point – but my high school English composition teacher would have written “wordy” all over it.  Suffice to say that we went to an Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist and an Oncologist, to at least two hospitals for tests and a cancer center for treatment.  Mom has had an ultrasound, a CAT Scan, a needle biopsy, minor surgery to take a “frozen section” of the lymph gland for further testing, a PET Scan to see if the cancer had spread anywhere else in her body, and an Echocardiogram to check the strength of her heart because one of the chemo drugs can stress it.

And somehow through all of this, I missed only one appointment in three weeks while traveling to shows in Anderson, SC, Fort Wayne, IN, and York, PA, and a golf trip in TN – Mom would never have allowed me to adjust my schedule.

The final results came last Wednesday – “Stage Two High Grade Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma” (along with another couple of words that I missed – the oncologist went through them pretty fast).  Stage Two is not as good as Stage One, but it’s not horrible – the cancer was in more than one lymph node but they are side-by-side.  High Grade is better than Low Grade because the cancer cells are fast-growing and that’s the type of cells that chemo is most effective on.  And Non-Hodgkins is better than Hodgkins because it can be cured.  The oncologist recommended that Mom start with three chemo treatments three weeks apart – a five drug combination they refer to as “R-CHOP” (the first letter of each drug).  Then he will evaluate the results and continue with three more chemo treatments, switch to radiation, or do a combination of the two.

A nurse came in and went through lots of sheets describing the treatments, side effects (nausea, fatigue, hair loss, etc.), diet, and such.  And they were ready to start as soon as we were, so we scheduled the first treatment for first thing in the morning this past Friday – it was supposed to last seven hours.

There is humor in almost any situation if you look for it – and my laugh came when we arrived at the cancer center on Friday morning.  Mom was the first patient to arrive, so when she walked into the treatment room, a nurse told her to choose any of the 14 easy chairs in the room.  It looked like a scene from “The Three Bears” as she went from chair to chair – one was too soft, one was too hard, one sat up too high, and finally one was just right.  And her first chemo treatment went so smoothly that she got finished an hour early.


I took this picture three hours after Mom got home on Friday – when I walked in, she was washing silverware because she had run the dishwasher and found a bug on one of the spoons as she was emptying it.  I am very happy to report that it is now three days later and Mom is doing great – she’s tired, but has had no nausea at all.  And she is preparing for her new look (Dad will probably '”help” her with that later this week since he cuts his own hair) – she has bought a couple of do-rags and a skull cap, and is giving some thought to a wig.

When we first started this process, Mom was not ready to “go public” until we knew what we were dealing with.  During the chemo treatment on Friday, I talked with her and she gave me permission to write this piece – I have shared a lot of our life over the past few years and so many have told me how much they enjoy it.  This isn’t nearly as enjoyable, but it is part of who we are.  And as the holidays approach, there will likely be pictures of our family gatherings and the inevitable questions will have already been answered.

The title of this piece has had nothing to do with anything I have written so far.  But my birthday came in the middle of this process a week ago Sunday while I was at a show in York, PA.  Ever since I moved out on my own, my phone has rung at 6:53 a.m. on my birthday (the time I was born) – when I answer the phone, Mom and Dad are on the other end singing “Happy Birthday.”  I thought it was a little hokey in the early days, but now I really look forward to it.  (My brother has never experienced this quite the same way, partly by his own choice – he was born at 1:52 a.m.)  And the four of us usually get together for lunch on my birthday when I’m in town.

The only thing I want for my birthday next year is that phone call – with two healthy voices singing on the other end.


  1. Thanks for the update Greg. I will keep your mom in my prayers. And, Happy Birthday to you ... a little late!

  2. Thanks for letting all of us in on your family's ups AND downs! Thank your Mom for sharing her story with us...I will be praying for her complete recovery and for an easy time with her chemo.

  3. Happy Belated B-Day to you Greg. Thanks for the update on your mom. Please let her know that the marco's Paper blogger family will keep her in our thoughts and prayers. Here's hoping all the chemo treatments go as smoothly as the first.
    Sharon L-S

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I feel like I know your family from all the pictures and stories. Praying for a very good outcome . . . and for that phone call next year.

    Happy (belated) Birthday!

  5. So sorry that this has happened to your Mom. I
    will be praying for a good and healthy outcome from
    her treatments. Please give her a hug from me the
    next time you are together. Oh, and Happy Birthday.
    Hope next year's is just a burst of song!

    Sherry in MI

  6. Thoughts and prayers for your Mom and all the family.
    Belated Birthday wishes to you -

  7. Belated Happy Birthday. Thank you Mom for allowing you to share this, maybe it will help someone else. Please tell your Mom that we'll all be pulling for her. From what you've said about her, now and in the past, I'm sure that she's got the pluck and will power to deal with this! Give her a hug from all of us, and one for the rest of your family too! Since, as you said, this doesn't just happen to one member of the family, esp. one as close as yours. One last hug (well really ear scratch for you to deliver for me, if you'll be so kind) and that's to Cloe. I'm sure you'll be getting that phone call next Birthday!

  8. Thank you, Greg, for sharing this -- I will be praying for your Mom -- and your whole family as this definitely affects all of the family members both geographically near and far away. I am glad your Mom allowed you to share this -- other wise how would praying folks know to pray!

  9. I will be praying for your Mother's complete healing as well as for your family. My brother will start his chemo tomorrow for Non-Hogkins Lymphoma. So as you read this, I ask that you please lift up "Sam" in prayer as well as anyone else that is battling this horrible disease.

  10. I'm sending good thoughts to your mom. Please tell her that her hair will grow back. I finished chemo in Feb. for breast cancer, and now I have a full head of hair that has come in curly.

  11. Wow, what a moving post. Thanks for sharing , I have always loved your blog posts and I do hope that next year your wish comes true.

    Many prayers and good wishes to your mom as she goes through her treatments.

  12. I'm so sorry. Your Mom seems to be such a wonderful, upbeat person that I bet she'll go through this with the best possible attitude, thereby giving her the best chance of it going well :) She will be in my thoughts and prayers; I hope treatments go well and that you get your birthday wish next year!

  13. Thanks for sharing. My thoughts & prayers are with your mom & your family as you go through this difficult time together. Happy belated birthday.

  14. God Bless You and your family. May your Birthday wish come true for many, many years.

  15. i will be keeping your mother , you and your family in my thoughts. i too get the birthday phone call at 5:33pm ( i spoiled my mother's entire day according to her) from my parents. i dread the day when the phone won't ring.

  16. Greg, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family...I really hope your Birthday wish comes true next year!!!

  17. Thanks for the update on your Mom in today's Marco's mailing. Glad to hear that she's doing so well, and please tell her that I think she looks great in the photo.

  18. Greg, thank you so much for sharing this story with us. Now your Mom has even more prayers and good thoughts behind her. I hope the treatment continues to go smoothly and do the job we want. Most importantly, I wish that you get that phone call next year!

  19. As a Uterine/Endometrial/Ovarian Cancer Survivor of 2 1/2 years, I wish you well. Here are a couple of things that may help - Before she shaves her head, Try an Ice Cap during Chemo. It can help slow the hair loss and keep it only thinning. Sandwich treatment - Chemo - Radiation - Chemo. My Oncologist stated that it can be good to give the body a break and that she will tolerate the Chemo better. As for nausea, There are multitude of combo drugs that will help. If you get nauseas, treat it right away and your Doc can change up the meds. If she has any questions, please don't hesitate to e-mail me back. My Oncologists were the top at Oregon Health Sciences University, and home to Dr. Brian Druker, the researcher who discovered Gleevec.
    Sunny Klampe
    Cancer Survivor

  20. Thanks for sharing your story, and your mom's. May you get what your requested for your birthday next year.