Fr. Dave | CaringBridge

Fr. Dave’s Story
1.       I have been diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct.

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.

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Newest Update

Journal entry by Fr. Dave Brinkmoeller

Yesterday I had Treatment #7 - one more step toward freedom.  When I receive a treatment they give me a large dose of steroids in order to counter some of the side effects of the chemo.  So I am still on a steroid high - slept last night from midnight till 2:30 and have been going ever since.  Soon I will crash.

Here is a quote from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.  I've been praying with this quote a lot lately:

Love [people] even in [their] sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.

The belief contained in this statement so attracts me. It matches my learning from my cancer and chemo that we all need each other in so very many ways.  We are all needy.  We are all so greatly blessed.  Our weaknesses are what make us strong.  Our connection to God and to all God's people and all God's creation is what makes life worth living.  "The divine mystery in everything" is what makes life fascinating and can energize us to deal with whatever we face.

At every Mass we pray "gather us all into one by the power of the Holy Spirit."  This is a bigger prayer than it may seem, for all of us can grab at the illusion the we be "independent," "individual," "achievers who achieve on our own power."  Cancer - and other sufferings as well as all our failures - teach us about just how very needy we are and how graced we are.  The word "religion" comes from the Latin word religio whish means re-binding together (think of the word "ligament").  The work of religion is to lead humankind to a binding oneness with God and all God's people and all God's creation.  I love how Dostoyevsky said it!

So now I head into several days of chemo after-effects, and embrace them as best I can as friends who want the best for me. All the notes I receive, all the fantastic kindnesses that you show me, all the memories from the Holy Land, and the divine mystery in everything sustain me
.  Thank you so much for your love.
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