Friday, February 11, 2022

Close, But...

 As has so often been the case lately, whatever results we expected to get from Kathy's bone marrow biopsy turned out to be something else. We think. Sort of.

As you may recall, the point of the agonizingly slow test was to see if all the cancer cells were gone from Kathy's marrow ("You may be a winner!") or whether they were still there in significant number ("We've got lovely parting gifts for you.")

After days of being told "today's the day" to get results, it actually happened today (Friday). "If we look at your sample through the microscope," said the doctor, "we can find no visible cancer." Hooray, right?! "But..."


"But when we use sensitive genetic tests we can tell there's still a little bit in there. For now we will let your blood cells begin to grow again. If the good white cells come back strongly, then we will continue treatment. If the bad cells come back then we will need to have A Discussion."

Additionally, to be considered for a stem cell transplant Kathy will have to achieve remission (ZERO cancer) and stay in remission for at least two months. So all in all, the long-awaited test results only told us that there's a lot more waiting and uncertainty that has to happen here at the hospital before we know anything at all.

The news hit us pretty hard; we were already exhausted AND keyed-up. "More of this" wasn't what we most hoped for but it clearly beats at least one other alternative. So we're taking deep breaths and continuing the fight.

Despite being weak, Kathy outdid herself with physical exercise today (what she accomplished wouldn't sound impressive unless you knew what she's coming back from). Solid food? Oh yeah - take THAT cottage cheese and tropical fruit cup! The woman is a superhero.

Still, motivation can be hard to come by and a little unequivocally good news would go a long way for us about now. Personally, tonight I'll be praying that a conversation tomorrow begins: "Good news! We totally misread those finicky genetic tests!"


When Kathy was struggling with her physical therapy exercises today, she grew frustrated about how little she felt she was accomplishing. Her nurse decided to cheer her up by saying: "It's like my professor in Nursing School said: How does an elephant eat an apple? One bite at a time!"

"One bite at a time," agreed Kathy.

"Uh, pardon me," said the least necessary man in the room (me). "But that's not how an elephant eats an apple! An elephant eats the whole thing at once! He pops it in, takes one crunch and it's done. An elephant couldn't take a bite out of an apple if he wanted to!"

"I never thought about that," admitted the nurse. "I've been using that saying for years! When my stepdaughter became a nurse, I taught HER that elephants eat apples one bite at a time."

"Well they don't."

And such is the manner in which I spread enlightenment and joy to others. Whether they want it or not.


Jim Irre said...

So you're the guy with the needle in the room full of balloons! C'mon man!

Still prayin' for you all!

Mike aka Proof said...

The joke is: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
Sheesh! More hurry up and wait! But, hey! Cottage cheese AND tropical fruit cup!
Today the fruit cup, tomorrow the world! Godspeed, y'all.

G Cooper said...

Well Stilton, our prayers are still with you and your family. The elephant thing, the way I heard it years ago when you had a formidable task and how do you handle it, the same way you eat an elephant, one bite at a time.

NCDub said...

Was the elephant in your refrigerator?

Julian said...

WE are still here, grinding out the prayers non stop, for all of you!!! And yes, the nurse had mis remembered to saying about eating an elephant which, I think would be akin to eating a half ton of shyte, no matter how many bites at a time. Eating the cottage cheese and fruit cup is GREAT news!!! Eating almost anything is a good sign. Unless a nurse comes in and says Today is Soylent Green day in the cafeteria!
I love you guys so much, and have said before, if I could carry your pain for you I would do it in a heartbeat, you are part of our FAMILY, you know.
Take care of yourself best you can. Here if you need me,

Paul Donohue said...

Last night I lay in bed having woken from the worst kind of dream and I couldn't get back. So I took the opportunity to say a few extra prayers for those I am championing to the Lord and Master. Some were fore you and Kathy and your situation, some for me and mine.

Still not able to sleep I picked up my notebook and continued reading a book I had started re-reading the prior night - Who Cut the Cheese. Thankfully, that allowed me to sleep again. (Not that I find it boring.)

Tonight, after tucking my Annie in bed, I thought of all y'all again, wondering what was happening and hoping that it was good. I opened my email and found your latest missive.

I am so happy for your small victory and hope and pray that next week's epistle will include more and better news. But whatever happens you should know that I and so many of your other "friends" continue to pray for the three of you and embrace you in our thoughts.

God bless us all.

Jee said...

Stilton and Kathy, I’m sorry you didn’t get the news we are all hoping and praying for, but we will keep hoping and praying you do get that news soon! Hope the nurse starts using Mike aka Proof’s version of the elephant remark.

TVAG said...

Like Ties and kissing your sister, this isn't what you need. Unless you're in deepest, darkest parts when kissing your sister merits an "I scored" in the diary.

Maybe I should have seen this coming. I mean, the whole theme of this cluster has been, "Please hold for the next agent to assist you," to the sound of something that makes elevator music sound inspiring.

"Hurry up and wait," the age old story told in every army since David was looking for just the right stone for Goliath.

Of course I have no idea how long it might take for Kathy to begin rebuilding her blood to the point when they can test her--again!--but maybe there can be something good to make of the time.

If she's not being fed Blood Hype to drive her nuts again, and if by staying off chemo for a while, she should be able to rest easier and risk fewer crises. To the extent that's true, this could me you could start spending nights at home again for awhile, take care of simple daily chores, etc, that would allow you to regain some stability. Home time with Daughter J will be good for you both, and don't deny it.

Understanding that Kathy is still vulnerable to exposure to sources of infection, I can't say when the Hospital might allow her Daughter to come and spell you on some days, but it would be a worthy goal.

In any event, like everyone else here, my prayers continue, and for the specific healing she needs.

It does begin to look like late this Spring or early Summer before she'll be coming back to your home, so don't deny yourself the sun and some hope in between bedside visits.

Today the Fruit Cup--Tomorrow, Prime Rib!


Big Wazoo said...


Ok dang I sure don't know how you do it, but there is still some jocularity in your blood.

Prayers and wishes for some good news.

Love for Kathy, you and your beautiful daughter.

Phil said...

Continued prayers for Kathy and you and your daughter.

Some hope at least. And she's eating!

Joe Drypowda said...

Still praying for you guyz.......keep the faith cuz there's nuttin' left but that !

JimC said...

This is just another bump in the road. Just another test and I am sure you both are ready graduate to a bone marrow transplant. God willing that will happen. My family and I will continue to 'storm heaven on your family's behalf for the graduation to a bone marrow transplant.

Maintain your sense of humor it is invaluable in times like this.

HankJ said...

Still praying for you guys

Keep the faith

M. Mitchell Marmel said...

What I wanna know is how does an apple eat an elephant?

Dan said...

Prayers continue.
I don't want to intrude or be tacky, but could you use some crowdfunding for the hospital and doctor bills? I know it can't be cheap. Just getting an intraocular lens replace (day surgery) had a bill of 22 grand just for the hospital. Not counting surgeon, anesthesiologist, anesthesiologist's assistant, etc. Thankfully MEDICARE and TRICARE took care of all of it. But I remember your problems with medical coverage from a while back.

Grandma Em said...

Here's the thing. At long last, you guys do have some actual POSITIVE things on which to focus such as, the Kathy you know and love is back! Go there and wallow in every little bit of the good stuff!

Prayers continue for you guys from this little piece of your army of friends here in the Republik of New Jersey.

Hyzenthlay said...

When my husband and I heard the news that he had neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer it was what I thought was the worst day of our lives. Both of us eventually realized we'd been given the gift of placing all our trust in the Lord. It's been nearly ten years since we heard that news. By God's Grace, Bill has survived, but we know that every day together is a gift from Him. You have a lot of people praying for both of you! We're only two of them.

And thank you so much for the updates!

Anonymous said...


Bobo the Hobo said...

Wait, I thought it was, “How does an apple eat an elephant?” Dang, Stilt! Not the news any of us hoped for. Unfortunately, I’m considered “too old” to donate marrow unless the recipient is somewhere north of 90 but trust me, I have some prime dago marrow for the asking.

Looks like,some,of,your readers have matched your humor in today’s outing -got a few chuckles over and above what you regularly post. And (seriously), congrats to Mrs J’s cottage cheese and tropical fruit cuisine. Today, cottage cheese; tomorrow, TAPIOCA!

Murphy AZ said...

For a family who's main menu has been sh*t sandwiches lately, I'd say cottage cheese ant tropical fruit cups is a major leap forward.

Still praying here.

Anonymous said...

Continued prayers for you and Kathy.

Wayne in Indiana

Anonymous said...

.......and progress is still matter how small the step.....praying for strength and healing...

Wayne in Indiana

Anonymous said...

Uh, Stilt? How did they fit a smelly old elephant through the door of Kathy's hospital room? You got a suite or something? Did they charge you for it? Does your insurance cover it?

Pam & Bob said...

I’m going with the half-glass: this all sounds like good news. Thoughts and prayers are with you as always.

L.C.Clower said...

I hate this for all of you.
How can an elephant get by on one apple?
And who has enough buns to make an elephant sandwich?

Beegee said...

Two steps forward, one step back. Keep the faith, and we all are praying for Kathy and you.

Snark said...

I have been at a loss for words (quite an astounding condition for me) for responding to your continuing journey through hell. Yet, as is required you both keep putting one foot in front of the other, trudging along that unseen path. Hope, Faith and Love are the qualities required for life and both of you continue to manifest all three with a bit of humor tossed in. Here in the Peanut Gallery we watch and hope and pray with you, impatiently wishing for good news, while waiting for Godot.

Prayers continue, marveling at your endurance and hoping for that Good News.

Nancy Dickerson said...

SO sorry that you guys are having to deal with this. It absolutely does not seem fair at all. Have a feeling that Kathy would like very much to hear at least one good thing per day to make her outlook brighter. And the elephant: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That was the original little ditty, but you are quite right about an elephant not being able to eat a bite of an apple. Just can't be done. May God bless you and your family.

Unknown said...

"An apple a day keeps the nurse at bay."

PA Ray said...

Continued prayers, thanks for the update.


Thanks for the update, I hope you start getting more positive news going forward, continued prayers for you, Kathy & Daughter J.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Readers- Saturday morning here, gray in every conceivable sense. No news, really. So let me respond to a couple of comments (trying to do it from memory since I'm doing everything on my smartphone these days, and I'm unfortunately not a smartguy).

No need for any fundraising efforts. So far it seems like Medicare is already paying for pretty much everything, meaning that if you've ever paid money into Medicare we're spending YOUR dough already and would like to thank you for it. Additionally we got our insurance situation straightened out some time ago and we're fortunate enough to be comfortable financially. So at least THOSE crises aren't bedeviling us.

Regarding taking time off, the Covid policy will now allow a one-day visit home each week to catch up on things. I'll do that when I can because Daughter J and I could sure use it, but it would have to be at a time when Kathy doesn't literally need me here. And there haven't been many days like that.

@Hyzenthlay- Bless you for sharing the good news about your husband! I've lost dear friends to pancreatic cancer and 10-year survivors are rare. This is a good day for us to hear that miracles happen.

And because we've spoken of elephants, here's a joke that I actually learned as a small child when it was acted out on the Captain Kangaroo show...

A new restaurant opened and to get publicity they put out a banner: "If we don't have what you want we'll give you $100."

People streamed in, gave exotic and preposterous orders at the counter, but somehow the cook was able to fill every order.

Eventually a man sat at the counter and ordered an Elephant Ear Sandwich.

The cook looked slightly concerned and began checking under the counters, in the refrigerator, and more. After conducting an exhaustive search, he said: "Well, Mac, it looks like I owe you $100."

"Ha!" the man laughed. "I knew you wouldn't have elephant ears!"

"It's not that, sir" the cook replied. "We're just out of the big buns."

Patrick said...

Praying for the normal white cells and a long - eternal, actually! - remission.

Rick Nigh said...

The saying I've always used in training others is, "You do this just like eating a whale (Elephant would work just as well.) sandwich. One bite at a time."

CenTexTim said...

In the "It could be worse" category"

There was an old country sheriff who always said, "It could have been worse." No matter what happened, the old sheriff always had the same answer: "It could have been worse."

One day, two deputies in the sheriff's office answered an emergency call at a farmhouse. When they walked in, they found the nude bodies of a man and a woman in the bedroom. They had been shot to death. When they went to the living room, they found the body of a man with a gun at his side.

"No doubt about it," one deputy said to the other. "This was a double murder and suicide. This guy came home and found his wife in bed with somebody else and shot them both. Then he shot himself."

"You're right," the other deputy replied. "Double murder and suicide. But I'll bet you when the sheriff gets here he's going to say "it could have been worse."

"No way. How could it be worse? There are three people in the house, and all of them have been shot to death. It couldn't be worse. You're on."

About that time, the old sheriff arrived at the scene. He walked into the bedroom and saw the two nude bodies. He then walked into the living room and saw the man on the floor with the gun by his side. "No doubt about it," the sheriff said, shaking his head. "It was a double murder and suicide. This guy came home and found his wife in bed with somebody else and shot them both. Then he shot himself." After hesitating for a moment, the old sheriff looked his deputies squarely in the eyes. "But, you know," he said, "it could have been worse."

The deputy who had lost the bet jumped up and shouted, "Sheriff, how could it have been worse? There are three people in this farmhouse, and all three of them are dead. It couldn't have been worse!"

"Yes it could," the sheriff retorted. "You see that guy there on the floor? If he had come home yesterday, that would be me in there in that bed."

Stay strong, brother!

Jon said...

You are in my prayers throughout the day and night.

Lee The Voice said...

A little good news. We've been praying for her cancer remission. Now we pray for permanence.

Shelly said...

A lot is swirling healthwise with me right now which is like a pimple on an elephant's butt compared to Kathy, but I must reply to assure you prayers are still coming your way from me.

Gmamax5 said...

Praying for help and relief, and a cure for Kathy. You guys have been through more than any human being should have to deal with. Heartfelt prayers to you, Kathy ad your daughter. Stay strong!

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Shelly (and everyone)- I hope your health worries resolve successfully. This is a special, caring community and I'd like to think that whatever anyone's woes are - spoken or unspoken - that there's something potentially healing about this space. Because of all of you.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Great news and most definitely better than the alternative....we will take it!
Continued prayers for y'all and strength through The Lord....lean on Him....
Look how far you have come and how little you have left to go....
Left, right, left, will get there!

Flyguy said...

So much love in this space. God bless the Jarlsbergs and God bless all in this caring community. This gives me renewed hope in mankind.

My prayers continue for Stilton, Kathy and Daughter J!

Anonymous said...

Keep on.
Prayers for all as always.

Brie Camembert said...

Yes, in our house its always been “How do you eat an elephant …..” The apple thing doesn’t make sense. I guess over time the original saying has become distorted. Look at the saying “I could care less” (original - I couldn’t care less) where the later version is lacking sense.
As a famous scientist observed - things always go from a stae of order to a state of chaos. Its called entropy ( the 46* admin a perfect demonstartion of the principle)

Anyhoo. Enough waffle. The important thing is the star of the Jarlsberg family and her ever loving. God bless you both and may things keep going better and better each day.

Brie Camembert said...

Whoops. the spill chocker seems to be on the blunk today!


Maoz said...

How does an elephant eat an apple? He doesn't! "Oranges, dagnabit, I want oranges! Don't go mixing apples and oranges!"

Kathy, don't hide your light under the bushel or barrel or whatever people hide it under. We know you're practicing tango routines on the sly when nobody's looking....

Prayers continue for you and Stilt and Daughter J.

Anonymous said...

In December I found out I have stage IV lung cancer. I was in the hospital 3 weeks. I have at most two years, most of them in decline. I'm not telling this for sympathy but to tell you and your wife to NEVER give up. God doesn't give us these trials for no reason.

No one knows when they'll meet their maker, including me. I can just put it on my calendar a little more precisely. When you and your wife finally get to come home, this experience will always be with you to remind you of how precious life is and that you've been given the opportunity to pass on your good fortune.

Yes, I said good fortune. It may not seem like it now, but this experience will turn into something you never expected. Judging from the comments, it's already shown you that people you've never met can care deeply about you. Whenever my faith wavers, I think of all the people who've cared for me in my life. What a treasure! I want to pass it on.

May God bless and keep you and your family. Pass it on.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Anonymous- I'm so sorry about your diagnosis and hope that new treatment options become available within that time frame. Like you said, never give up!

You're also right about the positive personal changes which can come about through hard times like these. I can't even conceive of having another boring day in my life, or failing to appreciate the good moments large and small of everyday life.

I have a new perspective about how I want to live, who I want to be, what I can do for others, and the vital importance of community with others. I want Kathy and I to be able to experience this new outlook together and share it with others. And that's why we fight; not to get back what we had, but to get a chance to have new lives.

Thank you for your wisdom and support, and know that your fight is not alone.

Rod said...

Excellent statement & attitude there, Stilt. Much respect & good wishes to you all.

Kent Whitehead said...

Who wants to eat an elephant anyway? We're still praying. Stay strong!

John the Econ said...

Facing mortality does tend to make one aware of the value of their gift of life. Renewed prayers for your getting to experience this new phase of your life in a positive way.

Colby Muenster said...

May the news be actually awesome when it finally arrives! We Muensters are continuing to hold you Jarlsbergs up in prayer.

The nurse who botched the elephant saying reminds me of Biff Tannen's, "Why don't you make like a tree and get outta here!"

Anonymous said...

hurray for you Stilt!!
you are making the best of an ugly situation.
Good man. Just remember, us humans do have limits...take your moments.
Best to you and Kathy!

WestCelt said...

Hope everything is still going as well as it can be.

Sortahwitte said...

Your friends in Northern Okrahoma are praying now. Love, Glen and Sioux.

Anonymous said...

I'm so dreadfully sorry for you all.