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

On Thursday I participated in the Mass of the Last Supper at St. Helen and on Friday in the Good
Friday Service at IC. Both were food for my hungry soul – both raised up powerful dimensions
of Holy Week, and both immersed me in wonderful prayer communities with people I love.

On Friday afternoon, however, I got home and went immediately to my chair – exhausted, sick,
worried that I would not be up to all the events planned for the Easter weekend. But – oh my
gosh –was I wrong about that!

My brother’s dear family – my sister-in-law, my nephew and 4 nieces – came to West Milton for
a family centered Easter weekend. They arrived at 4:00, just when I was at the bottom of “sick
and tired.” About 10 minutes after they arrived, however, we had our first (of many) big laughs. And I started to perk up. Within an hour I was high as a kite, full of energy and laughter. My non-
existent appetite woke; I craved junk food and pizza and anything that they put in front of me. I
even drank half a beer!

Family was better than any medicine I’d received. One of the many highlights was a long slide show of old photos, recalling so many of the family stories, the crazy antics and happy trips and special memories. I was, and still am, overflowing with gratitude. It all culminated in a quiet little Easter Sunday Mass, just our family and our beautiful God who gave us to each other and who connects us with all who have gone before us. The stuff that happy tears are made of!

And then, in the middle of all this, came Saturday evening’s Easter Vigil. I was so excited to
have the opportunity to preside at it one more time in my life. I had been fearful that my
fragility would prevent me from doing it. Oh my, were my fears misplaced!

For one thing, dear Umit was so grateful to be receiving the great sacraments of Baptism and
Confirmation and Eucharist, to be received into the Church she had come to love. I wish you
could have seen her eyes as she experienced it all.

For another thing, so many folks came to participate in a the Vigil. I crave seeing these people
that I love and was able to absorb the delight of being with them – with you.

And then there was the power of the Vigil itself and all that it means – seeing Umit being
immersed in the great waters and realizing that all of us are so saturated with the grace of
God’s love, and then realizing that this is most likely my last Easter. Oh my! Christ into the dark
tomb and then out of it, free and fully alive! And Christ fully alive in me as you will be putting
my into my dark grave and then with Christ out I will come from that grave to glorious eternity.  Oh
my, indeed.

I still fear death. But next to that fear, and stronger than that fear, is deep and delightful hope.
Both the fear and the hope are so real. But once you put me into that grave, the fear will be all
gone. Fascinated love will endure.

There are so many other things I want to tell you about, but I think I’ll stop. The glow of this
past weekend is enough for one entry. I want to tell you about beautiful Jeannie and her
cancer journey side-by-side with me. I want to tell you about a couple wonderful reunions that
have happened these past couple weeks – relationships continue to be the focus of this chapter
of my life. I’d like to talk about a book I read: it has the most in-your-face title of any book I
know, namely Advice for Future Corpses: practical advice about death and dying, written by a
hospice nurse who understands, a very helpful book. I want to warn you that my hair is finally
falling out, so I’ll probably look a lot sexier the next time you see me,. But all these stories can wait for another time. One thing at a time…

Many thanks for your love and support. It is a great privilege for me to be so connected with
you. Maybe I will see some of you at the Healing Service at St. Helen on Tuesday at 6:30. I hope
so.
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