Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saying Goodbye to My Friends

I don't know if you have found yourself in the position that I have over the past year and a half, but I have now lost 5 very good and important friends in that time, and all to cancer.  No two of us had the same type of cancer.  We all had some similar cancer experiences, and we all received great blessings and even miracles.  We were bound together by faith in God and His son, Jesus Christ, though not all of the same religion.  They have all been inspirations to me, and I would like to share a little about each one with you.

Ron Hogeland passed a year ago March 8th after battles with lymphoma, then melanoma.  He was a very good man and friend, and I was honored that I was asked to speak at his memorial service about him.  When I was very ill and up at UCSF, Ron met Dale in the hallway at church and told her that he had the feeling that I would outlive him. He had just finished very successful treatments for his lymphoma, and he was cured.  1 year later they discovered lesions on his liver which turned out to be melanoma that had metastasized from his eye of all places.  It wasn't long before he was gone.  He was ready to go.  He didn't want to fight it again, he said.  A year after my bone marrow/stem cell transplant he was gone.  He had just celebrated his 67th birthday the month before his passing.

Many will remember my requests for prayers on behalf of Ken Schmutz.  Ken had been the band leader for the High School and Middle Schools in our town for many years.  He was exceptional, and his bands were too.  He had cancer for several years.  Tumors that would grow in his abdomen.  He needed a ride to Stanford for his surgery.  I had an appointment at UCSF, just up the road, the day before, so I talked him into spending the day with me and then I'd take him to his check-in at 5:30 am.  He went to my appointment and was very impressed by the whole UCSF experience, and especially Dr. Wolf.  Ken thought our relationship was special.  He'd heard me talk about it, but didn't really believe it, until he saw it for himself.  After my appointment we went to the Embarcadero and saw the sights and had a hot fudge sundae at Ghiradelli Square.  We met his son, Kenny, who was interning in Sunnyvale, for dinner at Benihana's and had a great dinner.  We stopped and looked at the new McLaren on the way to our hotel.  We talked all night. His surgery went well.  It was his 5th surgery in 11 years, if I remember right.  He was recovering well, but a wek later, while standing at the sink in his room, he collapsed.  An artery in his abdomen had ruptured.  He was likely dead before he hit to floor.  Ken had just celebrated his 63rd birthday the month before.

My friend Allan Kreamer passed September 29, 2012.  I heard that he was dying of bladder cancer 2 years earlier, and went to visit him with another friend and a member of our Stake Presidency, Kim Kunz.  I had been told by some who had been to the hospital that I'd better see him quickly if I wanted to see him before he passed.  As we entered we met Elaine, Allan's wife, who was a basket case.  I checked his machines, got the rundown, and boldly proclaimed: "I've seen worse".  I told Elaine that I thought that Allan would recover.  Then Pres. Kunz and I gave him, and her, a blessing.  He recovered quickly and it was not very much longer before he, Larry Boice and I were golfing together, and he regularly out drove us!  About a year later he complained of a pain in his back.  Tests showed that it was cancer in his spine and that it was untreatable.  Al struggled with this new development.  Once he found some purpose to the rest of his life, he accepted his fate and lived well until his passing.  Al was 70 when he passed.

Harvey White was just a great guy.  From my first experiences with him I new that he was MY kind of guy.  I'll illustrate.  I was planning on going to the Saturday night session of our church's semi-annual Stake Conference.  This was just 3 1/2 months after my transplant, but I thought I was doing well.  Harvey called a couple nights before and asked, "I've heard that you've changed a lot from the cancer.  How will I recognize you"?  I told him that he should look for the 70 year old man and that's me.  After the meeting he stood in front of me and didn't say a word.  He surveyed me up and down then exclaimed, "I've got news for you Kev, you don't look 70.  I'm 70, and you don't look as good as I do.  You look like MY FATHER"!  We both just busted up laughing.  Harvey had stomach cancer that they thought they had under control until they were going to do surgery to remove the shrunken tumor.  They discovered that the cancer had spread to other organs.  He chose not to end treatments.  He passed on the morning of Thanksgiving.  I know that there was a BIG excited family Thanksgiving gathering in heaven, just like the one planned here.  It was my privilege to speak at his memorial service as well.  Harvey was 73 when he passed away.

Tonight I learned that my friend, Dennis Lozano, passed away yesterday morning in his beloved Alaska.  I don't know how old he was, but I'd guess mid 60s?  We were roomies at UCSF, which was extremely uncommon but such a blessing to me. Dennis was not eligible for a transplant.  His numbers were not good enough and he would not survive the procedure.  So they were sending him home to die.  Dennis witnessed one of my priesthood blessings, and we talked about them  and the personal requirements for healings over the next couple of days.  Then he asked if I could give him a blessing. I did, and he was promised that he would live long enough to re-connect with his children and family if he would be faithful, attend church, and say his prayers.  He returned to Alaska. When he hadn't died after 6 months they asked him back for more studies.  Then to Stanford for a study.  Then to the Mayo Clinic.  Then, recently, back to Stanford.  The drugs weren't working.  His situation was deteriorating quickly.  But through it all we kept in touch, and he expressed gratitude for the time he had enjoyed with his family and friends.  They thought he'd only lasy 6 months or less.  He lasted over 3 years!  What a blessing.  I don't know how old he is, but I know he's not much older than I am, nor any of the others.

The purpose of my sharing this with you?  First, the fact that every one of us, Ron, Ken, Allan, Harvey, Dennis and I thought that at one time we had cancer licked before it reared it's ugly head, again, and claimed another victim.  There have been many wonderful miracles in the study of and treatment for cancers of all types, but there is obviously much more to do.  Second, do not wait for that time or situation to decide what should be really important in your life.  The Holy Spirit, scriptures and prayer, as well as a listening heart, will let you know what you need to do to enrich your life, and the lives of others.  Third, if you have a friend who is ill, please do not stay away because you "Don't know what to say to them".  I promise that if you will go and visit, you will either know what to say, or better yet, let them do the talking.  Sometimes all they need is someone to listen to them.  To confide in.  It has been a deeply rewarding experience for me since my recovery.  Fourth, I could very easily be next, so I think you should all send me things.  Golf packages.  Trips. Or just a visit.  Thank you for listening to me.  My soul grieves for my losses.  My soul rejoices for their gains.

I have many more friends suffering, battling right now.  I pray for many more miracles and that the anguish of their souls may be replaced by the peace that comes from only one source.  The true source.  Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, whom we honor at this time of year.  I know what I want for Christmas.

Make this Christmas season your most memorable yet.