Tuesday, March 29, 2011


My brother, Mark, does not have any children.  However, he has two dogs, Lily and Daisy, Jack Russell Terrier mixes and both rescues.  These are his children.  Because Lily was a rescue, she is very shy around anyone other than Mark, or his partner, John. 

Several weeks ago, one Thursday morning, John was walking both dogs in downtown Seattle near Western and the viaduct, when they were set upon by two other dogs, whose owner could not hold them back.  Both Lily and Daisy slipped out of their collars and went running.  John was able to grab Daisy but  his last sight of  Lily was of her running up the off ramp to the viaduct and heading south. That would be the lower level of the viaduct, which is  pictured below being repaired after one of our earthquakes:

John called Mark in a panic.  Mark was at work in the operating room at the hospital  (he's an anesthesiologist), and Mark found a physician to sub in for him, and he and John went searching for Lily on the viaduct.  Someone had seen her heading off to the industrial part of Seattle south of downtown, so they, together with neighbors and relatives from John's side of the family, began a sweep of SoDo that lasted Thursday, Friday and part of Saturday.  I had just returned from Hawaii and had just had an infusion, so was not able to help in the field.  As a result, I participated by assisting Mark by putting an ad with a very generous reward on Craig's List, and by listening to both Mark and John as they went through this very traumatic event for them.  It is a very desolate area where Lily was thought to be, with 16 wheelers all over the place,  and dozens of railroad tracks blocking traffic.  But the group was indefatigable, placing signs, knocking on doors of warehouses, factories, and even a sweat shop once!  Mark and John were in the industrial part of Seattle  at 3am both Fri and Saturday mornings.  And then getting up at 5 or 6 am afterwards to resume their search.

On Saturday, Mark increased his already generous reward on Craig's List five fold.  And then at 11 a miracle happened.  A young man, on his way to Tully's (the old Rainier brewery) on the west of I-5, saw an exhausted dog shivering on the doorsteps of a vacant office building.  He took this picture with his phone camera:

He went up to the very tired, cold dog, whose front paws were shredded, and put his jacket over her to warm her up.  Then he fashioned a collar and leash out of some string he had in his backpack and he and the dog went to Tully's where the dog could further warm up, and he could meet the friends he was planning to meet and get some coffee.  He called his wife and texted the dog picture to her.  She went online to Craig's list and found my brother's ad with his picture of Lily and said, "I think I found the dog."  She called my brother's number and Mark and John zoomed down to Tully's to a very jubilant and tearful reunion with Lily.  It was just incredible.

The couple was very kind.  They were the loving parents of  a rescue dog themselves, and insisted that they didn't want the reward, but my very stubborn brother was having none of it and he wrote them the check for the full amount.  Which was truly serendipity because this was a young couple living in a one bedroom apartment in Ballard, and it seemed that they not only deserved the reward but that they could use the money.

So that Saturday evening, the guys held a champagne celebration for Lily in their house on Perkins Lane, and all of John's relatives and all their neighbors who assisted in the search came over and toasted Lily's return. 

I had a nice conversation with some of their neighbors and, as it does oftentimes with me, we discussed modern day politics.  And to no one's surprise here,  I have very definite opinions on things and was quite free with them.  Well, it turns out that the one of the persons I was talking with works for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  As a Judge.  Well....  Good thing I practice in state courts. 

His wife raises black labs, so they too, are dog lovers and it turns out that one weekend evening when he was out of town, she was walking one of their labs on the Magnolia bluff and her dog fell over the bluff and was caught in the branches of a tree.  She called Mark and John and they lowered Mark on a rope so he could grab the lab and they pulled them back up the bluff.  She said she felt, that in searching for Lily, she was only returning the favor.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The candle of the heart

I found the following, written by Joan Borysenko, an MD and psychologist, today and wanted to share:

“You are at my side, dear friends, and God is everywhere. Yet ultimately we are alone, making our way home by the candle of the heart. The light is steady and sure but extends only far enough to see the next step. That there are steps beyond is a matter of faith. That we have the faith to endure and walk our own journey-even when we think that we are lost- is a gift of grace, and of friendship. Many times our light seems to go out. But another light, one held by a stranger or a friend, a book or a song, a blackbird or a wildflower, comes close enough so that we can see our path by its light. And in time we realize that the light we have borrowed was always also our own. ”

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Updates, Updates

I had my latest infusion Thursday.  It's really not chemotherapy because the experimental drug, MDX 1105, is not cytotoxic, i.e. it does not kill cells.  Again, what it does, is rev up my immune system so that it becomes aware of the cancer and attacks it like it would any other invasive foreign body.  After initial blood tests and meeting with the trial manager, I went to my assigned  'princess room' (so called by the nurses because it's a separate room, not just a reclining chair cordoned off by curtains) at the clinical trials unit and had the infusion.  It took 2 hours, one for the infusion and a second hour to monitor my temperature and blood pressure.  Everything went well, and other than my usual spring allergies and a most attractive upper body rash, I seem to be in good physical health.

Hawaii Update

The house that I stayed at with my friends is located on Kealakekua Bay on the west side of Hawaii, the big island.  That bay, which is the location of the Captain Cook monument, was hit by the tsunami from the March 11, 2011, Japanese earthquake.  The pictures I saw online showed houses that had fronted on the ocean like mine, buckled in half and one was completely torn from its foundation and pulled into the bay where it floated before sinking. 

My friend, Tim from Honolulu, took his sailboat out of the marina once he heard the tsunami was coming, and went out into the ocean where he stayed all night and part of the next day.  He and his boat made it, and his current marina weathered the tsunami, but the marina where had had kept his boat last year was almost completely wrecked

I worried about what had happened to our beautiful vacation home  for about five days, and finally sent an email to the vacation rental company inquiring.  I heard back from the daughter of the owners of the property, who live in California:
Dear Regina;

Thank you for your thoughts. The house was untouched- a miracle- but there were homes near Kealakekua bay that were swept into the bay. There is a big cleanup effort to help the marine life there. Thank you for your prayers. If you could write a brief comment on VRBO about your stay at the house, that would be great. Please ask Tim as well.

Dad had a heart attack and is at home recovering and Mom just fell a fractured her wrist. We never rented the house out until last year. We are trying so hard to keep it rented to great people like you to relieve the costs (i.e. like the tsunami insurance.)

Best Shelley

That was a relief.  Maybe I can return next year.  One of my best vacations ever.

Proposed Change to the Presbyterian Book of Order to permit ordination of gays and lesbians

The Seattle Presbytery met and voted on the proposed change to the Book of Order which would permit the ordination of gays and lesbians on March 15, 2011.  I was one of three voting delegates sent by my church.  The meeting was at Steel Lake Presbyterian Church in Federal Way, so the three of us car pooled after work to make it to the meeting. 

I would like to report that the change passed in our Presbytery, but I cannot.  There were two hours of impassioned discussion by elders both pro and con.  The majority speaking against the proposition were male, and many were about my age.  Although I wanted to speak, I felt constrained by my lack of voice and instead, uncharacteristically. sat mute.  However, while sitting there I reviewed  the New Revised bible tucked in the pocket of pew ahead of me.  As a speaker railed about how he was constrained by the word of God as revealed in the Bible to vote against the measure, I found this passage in the New Testament, in the sixth chapter of Luke and wondered how the Presbyterian church had been able to wriggle out of the plain wording of this direct quote from Jesus:

18 ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
I wanted to ask all the literalists, how many of them were divorced. 

And then again, I wondered how they reconciled their positions with this statement from Second Peter:

18 Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. 19For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, where is the credit in that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

It is not so long ago that women were finally able to be ordained as ministers in the Presbyterian church.  Perhaps that is why many of those speaking in favor of the change to the Book of Order were women.  The final vote was 124 to 106 or something like that.

However, nationally, the measure appears to be headed for approval.  If so, I expect that the Presbyterian Church will split again, probably along the lines that they split over slavery during the Civil War.  Although the largest Presbyterian church in my Presbytery, University Presbyterian, seems headed that way, if their ministers have anything to say about it.  What continues to perplex me is how many of the members of that church seem not to have been informed of this by their leadership. 

Luke, chapter 5:

37 ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Staying the Course

I usually can manage to deal with what life throws at me.  But it's much harder to be a rock when my children experience adversity or disappointment.  As someone much wiser than me said, "You're only as happy as your least happy child."  It's been a bit of a tough week.

Monday, March 14, 2011

DeFeet Lung Cancer--the 2011 version

What began as a lark last year turned into a very fun event.  And quite humbling too, when they totaled up all you donated to the American Lung Association of Washington for our team:  DeFeet Lung Cancer, we finished in second place for the most money raised for an individual team, raising over $2,000!

I hope that those of you who participated last year walking, or jogging will do so again.  And I would love to see lots more of you out there.  It's on a Sunday this time--May 1, 2011.  So fingers crossed that the weather will be a bit better since we're starting later in the spring.  And if you can't make it to Seattle for the fun and celebration, well... you can still donate.  You can go to this page and click on the  "join a team" or "donate to a team" button and then find DeFeet.  I'd be happy to put up any guests who might come in from out of town.  The dogs would love to see you.  The dachshunds, at least, will be there for the walk this year, which will be held at Magnuson Park, rather than UW.

It should be a great time!  And don't forget, we all go to brunch afterwards!

Thank you so much for your support.  There are so many pressing needs these days and for most of us, we are trying to make do with less.  We just do what we can do and hope to make a difference.  I'll keep you updated on the team progress.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

That which was lost is found

Last night while I was grocery shopping, my brother called me to tell me that Aaron had called home and his parents were overjoyed.  What a wonderful story, one bright spot amid the horror and suffering in Japan.  KING 5 did a story on the Strussman's ordeal before Aaron's call. 

And the bizjournal did a story afterwards.

Thank you all for your kind thoughts and prayers during this very stressful time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Child Lost in Japan

My brother's partner posted this on his Facebook site tonight, I want to relay it to you, in hopes that someone might have a key to this.  As a parent, I can just imagine what they are going through:

Our very dear friends Todd and Kim Strumwasser have a son, Aaron, who is teaching English in Sendai, Japan, the EPICENTER of the earthquake. They have had no word from him yet. DOES ANYONE KNOW OF ANY WAY TO CONTACT PEOPLE IN THAT CITY? PLEASE HELP!!!! Thank you.

If any of you have ideas, please let me know.  Until then prayers are welcome.  Many, many thanks.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

CT Scan interpretation update

Today was my appointment with Dr. Martins, prior to starting the second cycle of the clinical trial (every 2 weeks for 2 months).

Bad news first:  Dr. Martins explained that the tumors, in the aggregate, had increased in size 9 %.  He said that if the increase had been 21% or higher, I would be out of the trial. 

The good news is, however, that the largest of the tumors (3 of them) show necrotizing in the center.  I looked at the ct scans and could see that they were darker in the center and it seemed that about 80% of the area was darkened.  Dr. Martins also said that he's has never seen this development in lung cancer adenocarcinoma.  Sometimes in other types of cancer but not this.  So he is assuming it is a result of the new therapy.  Next ct scan will show whether the necrotizing centers of the tumors are truly an indication of death or rather that they are an indication of growth of the tumor. 

I consulted with another Seattle oncologist about this, before I knew the measurements, and his response was:  "If it's enlarging, then it's most compatible with progression and just having some death in the inner core from growing too fast."   So we are not out of the woods yet.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

It gets complicated

Just heard back from my oncologist, Dr. Martins.  He says "Some of the lesions on lymph nodes are now partially necrotic (dead). Sometimes there is even some increase in size when lesion become liquefied in the center." 

Here's the CT scan read. 

Stable aorticopulmonary window nodal conglomerate mass, now showing more necrosis.
Slight increase in size of left lower lobe posterior basal segment  nodule, also showing necrosis. Increase in size could be related to  treatment response.

Slightly more prominent cluster of nodules with associated scar in the left lower lobe.

No evidence of intraabdominal or pelvic metastatic disease.

Small stable indeterminate subcapsular liver lesion in segment 2.

Stable pelvic cystic lesion, for which differential diagnosis includes benign or malignant ovarian neoplasm. Further
characterization can be done by pelvic MRI.
More information tomorrow after meeting with Dr. Martins. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

While we're waiting, an exegisis

The CT scans today went fine.  I had to swallow a quart of clear solution which supposedly helped bring everything into better focus, in addition to the solution they pumped through my port right before the scans started.  You can feel the solution that is injected into the port.  It feels like a concentrated hot wave and also makes you feel like you are peeing in your pants. Most unsettling. This time I could feel the warmth spread all the way to my fingertips, so hopefully the images were clear and distinct.

Tonight, returned home late after a dinner and a meeting of the session at church.  I know, it's amazing that this deeply raised-in-Catholicism girl has been a member of the Presbyterian church since 1991 and an ordained elder since 1993.  But I have to say that as an attorney, I find the system of governance to be quite understandable (lawyers were the backbone of the founding of the Presbyterian church) and as a person, I have come to value the friendships that I have made there.  It is all about fellowship. 

Which is why I hate to see the first cracks in a new schism within the American Presbyterian church.  The last time the Presbyterian church split in two, it was over slavery, in 1861.  Now it appears that the church may be splitting over the ordination of gays.  Keep in mind that not only ministers are ordained in the Presbyterian church, so are lay leaders, e.g. elders and deacons.  So under the present Presbyterian Book of Order, gays cannot be ordained.  There has been agitation in the past twenty years to change this.  I became a member of the Presbyterian church in 1991 when it appeared that the church was relaxing its prohibition.  That was a false hope.  I have stayed with the church for the past 20 years, because 1) I found a home and 2) I believe that one can effect change better by working from within.

However, it appears that there may be a second historic split of the Presbyterian church in the future.  Earlier this year a letter was sent out to Presbyterians, by those fearful of opening ordination to sexual minorities.  This letter can be found here.  They have called for a meeting in late August in Minneapolis, presumably to discuss peeling off from the denomination.  Two pastors in the largest Presbyterian church in Seattle signed the letter, but the members of the congregation that I have spoke with, are unaware that their pastors are doing this.  That's interesting.

A Presbyterian minister, Rev. Margaret Aymer Oget, among others,  has published a response to this letter.  I was moved by her statements in a way that I have not been moved in a long time.  Her conclusion is worth reprinting in full:


The brethren who wrote this letter to the church have, on February 7th, asked that we read their letter rather than to consider the signatories. This I have tried to do. Some will claim I have done so unfairly. This is entirely possible; I have never claimed to other than a subjective knowledge, baptized but still quite human.

Still there is one phrase from the letter with which I must take direct issue: “How we got to this place is less important than how we move forward.” (para 3.) Please consider my response to this phrase my RSVP to the churchwide invitation. For indeed, my brothers, how we got to this place may well be the crux of the matter.

We got to this place, as a denomination, by praying to the Triune God and thinking as two or three gathered together about the authority of scripture, Christology, and the extent of salvation.

We got to this place, as a denomination, by ordaining groups that, until fairly recent history, were considered ineligible for ordained ministry: groups of color, women, the divorced, and members of the church under the age of 21.
We got to this place, as a denomination by suffering the creation of fellowships (like the Layman) in opposition to the Confession of 1967 and silently enduring the refusal of churches to live into their financial obligations to the whole denomination.

We got to this place because, in 1978, we declared that seminaries of the Presbyterian Church (USA), should be safe places of non-discrimination for all people.
We got to this place by acting on our belief that the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper are not ours to control but are the property of the God whose grace abounds beyond our human understanding.

We got to this place by following the Christ who was belittled by the religious leaders of his day for his breaking of biblical commands (notably the fourth commandment and laws regarding eating abomination); and by following the Spirit that did not even require of Cornelius the mark of the covenant (circumcision) before it fell on him, bringing him into the church.

Most recently, we got to this place by affirming as a General Assembly the anti-racist, Reformed confession written in Belhar, South Africa that affirmed: God has entrusted the church with reconciliation, therefore, “any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine.”

This year marks the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the US Civil War, a war which caused the great schism in the Presbyterian Church.
My brothers, I fear, sadly, that issues of property and like-mindedness, difference in biblical interpretation and authority and an unwillingness to be part of a larger body that fundamentally challenged their adherence to slaveocracy were exactly the reasons that the fellowships of congregations in the south created new seminaries, new synods and ultimately a new denomination.

Indeed, my brothers, my exegesis suggests that “how we got to this place,” and thus where we go from here, is precisely the point at issue.

My brothers, you invite the church into an adventure that is not at all new, but historically very familiar. It is an adventure marked by the European cultural norms of individual self-government, the right of property, a modernist take on liberty, a neo-colonialist model of mission, and a pre-modern understanding of biblical texts. This adventure has as its intent to grow the church in and for the twenty-first century, with neither consideration nor validation of how we got to this place.

I admit I am not thus tempted, and must respectfully decline.

Instead, with God's help, I will remain in the Presbyterian Church, USA, and with my denomination I will follow the Christ whose followers dwindled from 5000 to zero over the course of three years, yet who calls us still to follow; who has been demonstrated a capable healer of the deathly ill and has revealed himself to be the resurrection and the life.

With God's help, I will remain in this denomination, following the Spirit who fell on eunuch and centurion, and immigrant peoples in and from every language group of the Roman-conquered world, regardless of biblical adherence to seminal commands such as sabbath, kashrut and circumcision.
With God's help, I will remain in this denomination and follow the God who promises that, at the time of the coming kingdom, lion and lamb will lie down together, who calls for justice to roll down like waters, and yet desires mercy and not a sacrifice.
With God's help, I will remain in this denomination, living out my call with energy, intelligence, imagination and love, as I seek to do ministry with and among the contentious, shrinking, justice-seeking, mercy-doing, humbly-walking, peacemaking sisters and brothers of the Presbyterian Church (USA), who although we are dying yet, see, we live.

Even with God's help, I will be imperfect in my discipleship. Yet will I follow, relying on Jesus, my high priest, to make intercession for me; asking the Spirit of God to give me speech; and confessing with this denomination, and with the church in every age–in life, in death and in life after death, we belong to God.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Rev. Margaret Aymer Oget, Ph. D.
Minister of Word and Sacrament

Rev. Oget's response makes me proud to be a Presbyterian at this time.

Monday, March 07, 2011


This is a term that I first saw used on http://www.cancergrace.org/.  It aptly describes my state tonight as tomorrow I have ct scans scheduled.  The first cycle of the clinical trial has completed and now we find out if it has had any effect on my lung cancer.  However, even if the tumors have grown during this period, they will continue to keep me in the trial for at least one more cycle because they somehow need two cycles before they can feel confident that the MDX 1105 is either working or not.

So, in casting about for diversions tonight, I came across this Improv Everywhere spoof and wanted to share it with you.  It made me laugh out loud, not a mean feat given the circumstances.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A Pandora Find

When I was in Hawaii, our friend Tim introduced me to http://www.pandora.com/.  It's a wonderful website where you can put in a favorite group and it pulls up artists that are similar musically.  Tim had put in Van Morrison so we had a great time listening to not only Van Morrison but Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead and others on the back verandah while we were relaxing and looking across the bay trying to see whales or spinner dolphins.

When I came home this weekend, I logged on to Pandora and put in the California Guitar Trio as a place to start.  The comparables that Pandora came up with were wonderful--musicians I had no clue about.  So far my favorite is a guitarist named Preston Reed.  He has a very distinctive style.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.