Fr. Dave’s Story

Site created on April 22, 2018

1.       I have been diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct. (During the surgery of May 15 the doc realized that the cancer originated not in the bible duct but in my pancreas.) 2.       On April 16 I met with Dr. James Ouellette, who will perform the Whipple surgery on me May 15 at Miami Valley Hospital.  The surgery normally takes 5-6 hours.  It involves the removal of my gall bladder, bile duct, parts of my pancreas, duodenum and colon, and then the restructuring of these parts. It will not be robotic surgery. 3.       After the surgery, I will stay in the hospital c. 7-10 days, followed by 2-3 months of recuperation. 4.       What happens after surgery will depend on what they find during the surgery.  If there is involvement of the cancer in any location beyond the bile duct (e.g., pancreas, lymph nodes, etc.), chemo and/or other therapies may be required. But there are no indications that this will be necessary.  One of the first things during surgery will be to examine the liver to make double certain that no cancer is there.  If, in fact, the cancer is found in the liver, the surgery will be ended and other strategies adopted. 5.       I should plan for no visitors other than family during my stay in the hospital. 6.       I look forward to the anointing service at St. Helen on Tuesday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. 7.       If you are curious about the whole story, here it is (probably way more than you want to know…):   I had only minimal awareness of something wrong beginning Sunday March 4, when I noticed a slight queasiness in my stomach. On Sunday March 18 someone noticed that I was a bit jaundiced, so I met with my doctor, Dr. Matthew O’Connell, on the next day. (I have the best doc!) He took a blood sample which raised some concern, so he sent me for a sonogram of my gall bladder and related areas. That same day my doc arranged for me to meet with a GI specialist, Dr. Saxe – another gift from God for me; this was the first time that the word “possible large mass” was presented to me as the likely cause for a blockage of my bile duct. Later that day I had a CT scan, which ruled out the possible “large mass” but affirmed that something important was going on. On Friday March 23 I had an outpatient procedure at Kettering Hosp to open the blockage and drain the bile from me. This procedure was unsuccessful, so I was admitted to the hospital. On Sunday they did a surgery to go through my liver to insert a drain of my bile duct (my liver is still angry with them for that procedure!), and then on the following Wednesday another procedure was done to insert a sonogram near the blockage, to insert a stent to keep the drainage open and to take a few biopsies of the area. These are the procedures that confirmed the cancer on my bile duct. 8.       I was so naïve to what was happening that even as late as Thursday morning of that week (Holy Week) I was hoping to do the Holy Thursday Service! As things turned out, I was not able to do any of the wonderful Holy Week services, nor Easter Mass. What a terrible loss this was for me, as those services put a perspective on all of life. I did, however, have quite a unique experience of Holy Week because of all that happened to me during those 9 days in the hospital. What a blessing it is for us to know that Christ is walking with us! During the 9 days I was in the hospital, for example, I lost 16 pounds. Yikes! I am still weak and am frequently short of breath, but gradually bouncing back. Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.

Newest Update

Journal entry by Fr. Dave Brinkmoeller

Friendship.  A thousand years ago (1164 AD!) St. Aelrad wrote a tribute to friendship. "What is more pleasant," he said, "than to unite oneself to the spirit of another."  In saying this he has articulated the great blessing that has been given to me by so many these recent months.  What a gift.

Earlier this week, for example, 18 of us gathered for a picnic here at Transfiguration Center.  Half of the group consisted of guys who began high school together 60 years ago.  The other half were their wives.  (One of our friends was taken from us a few years ago by esophageal cancer, but his wife, gratefully, is still part of our group.  All the wives, in fact, seem to have seamlessly joined our group.)  The evening was such a delight: conversation that included lots about the "good ole days" but also about our future, including our deaths; reflections on the blessings of those 60 years and also the failures and struggles of those years.  60 years of friendship is indeed a deep blessing.

Then there was this weekend, which I spent with 9 Sisters and Associates of the Congregation of St. Joseph.  (I was, of course, the only guy!  Smile happily.)  They came from around the Midwest all the way to Ludlow Falls so that Jeannie and I could be with them.  It was a whole weekend of retreat-like conversation about the state of our hearts, the values and longings and laughter and hurt that shapes our God-given selves.  We prayed together, had Eucharist together - joined in a very conscious way to all those youth currently living in cages at our border, those mothers separated from their children, all those refugees around the world living in camps, some for 20 or 30 years.  We feel so grateful to be part of a Church that begs the people of the world to recognize the horror inflicted upon these people.  All in all, what a wonderful weekend we had.

St. Aelrad had it right: there is "nothing more sweet" than friendship.  Here is his whole statement:

I do not presume that I can explain it in a manner befitting the dignity of so single a good, since in human affairs nothing more sacred is striven for, nothing more useful is sought after, nothing more difficult is discovered, nothing more sweet experienced and nothing more profitable possessed. For friendship bears fruit in this life and the next. 

It manifests all the virtues by its own charms; it assails vices by its own virtues; it tempers adversity and moderates prosperity. As a result, scarcely any happiness whatever can exist among humanity without friendship, and a man is to be compared to a beast if he has no one to rejoice with him in blessing, no one to whom to unburden his mind if any annoyance crosses his path or with whom to share some unusually sublime or illuminating inspirations. … He is alone who is without a friend.

But what happiness, what security, what joy to have some one to whom you dare to speak on terms of equality as to another self; one to whom you need have no fear to confess your failings; one to whom you can unblushingly make known what progress you have made in the spiritual life; one to whom you can entrust all the secrets of your heart and before whom you can place all your plans! What therefore is more pleasant than to so unite oneself to the spirit of another and of the two to form one, then no boasting of one by the other to cause pain, no praise on the part of one to bring a charge of adulation from the other.

Amen to all that!!!  Thank you to all of you who have been providing such rich friendship through your cards and notes and visits after Mass - - and to your wonderful participation at the Masses I have been able to have at St. Helen or Immaculate Conception or Ascension. 

Ups and Downs. It is ironic that, just as I received such good reports about the help my chemo has provided (better cancer marker numbers in my blood tests, tumors made smaller and softer), I began to feel lousier.  For the past month I have had more fatigue, more of a sickish feeling, more soreness at cancer sites.  On top of this, a week ago new pains appeared across my stomach, which bulged in the shape of a football.  This bulge has turned out to be an accumulation of fluid (whew! I was thinking it was something much more drastic!), which was drained at the hospital a couple days ago.  Because of all this I was unable to have Mas at Ascension last week and I have had t cut back on some of my activities.  Nuts!  I meet with my doc on Thursday, when I hope to learn more about what is happening.

Birthday.  Speaking of Thursday, that is the day I will celebrate my 74th birthday.  My family - the locals, at least - and I will celebrate with a great dinner at Prima Vista in Cincy.  Another wonderful blessing, even if I won't be able to eat much -- or drink much ...

Sunday Masses.  Finally, let me mention the amazing joy I experience in returning to "my" 3 parishes in Dayton.  As you know, my bucket list consists almost exclusively of relationships - with God, with family and friends and parishes.  the three words that ground this bucket list are gratitude and forgiveness and love.  As I prayed with this bucket list, I decided to ask Fr. Satish and Fr. Ed if I could return one last time for each of the scheduled weekend Masses at each of the parishes.  Ohmygosh, what a blessing.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to thank these people for what they have meant to me.  Even more simply, I am so grateful just to be with you, to love you and be loved by you, to be in Eucharist with you.  Ohmygosh, indeed!  I still have 4 of these Masses to look forward to: 7/21 at St. Helen at 10:30, 8/3 at IC at 4:30, 8/4 at 8 at St. Helen and 8/18 at Ascension at 12:15.  Oh how I hope I will be able to be there for each of thee Mases.

Thanks to all of you.  I love you.
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