Tuesday, December 29, 2009
But, lo and hehold, it is our wedding anniversary today! Number 28! And I wrote a poem for Sabine:
when was it
when was it
when was it
when was it
for one another?
when was it
we could not
when was it
became better than
when was it?
it is now.
Monday, December 28, 2009
So, here we are back at UW Hospital today trying to find out why her arm was so swollen, bruised and painful. It appears she has some kind of blockage and the docs are going to take a picture of the veins in her arm and she where the problem lies. Then they will attempt to clear the blockage so we can get back to our buttonholing process.
[A short time later] Dr Yevzlin reported he found two narrow/blocked areas in her arm and opened them up. We also have a picture of the fistula which should help dialysis staff find a dialysis site without probing with needles!
So, we are now ready to go, back to the dialysis center tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. to do some more vein expanding! (Sabine must feel like a pin cushion!).
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
New Journey Farm in Blue Mounds
Christmas News -- 2009
Ye gads! Another Christmas newsletter -- and time for a review of the past year at New Journey Farm in the rolling hills of Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. As the newest member of the Couper-Lobitz menagerie, it is my duty to make this year’s annual report.
First is the category of MEDICAL! I, joyful and thankfully, report that Sabine’s stem cell transplant last spring seems to have been successful (after all, she now has hair and I just saw her shoveling snow last week!). Sabine and David continue to be active in the Madison Multiple Myeloma Cancer Support Group. Sadly, they lost two of their group members during the year.
I also see them maintaining their exercise regimen – power-walking the hills that surround the farm in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter. Along with cycling (they now have a tandem) and health club visits in nearby Mount Horeb, both of them seem to be in pretty good health. Recently, they took Tai Chi lessons and I expect that this will be David’s 5th or 6th martial art.
Sabine’s mother, Charlotte, recently came home from undergoing a knee replacement (she was not too happy about the nursing home stay for rehab services.) She made it home in time to cook for all of us at Christmas. Quite frankly, I miss her hair brushing and hope she can come down and see me. I am a little jealous, because I heard that Mocha got to visit her when she was doing her rehab work in Mt. Horeb!
David is finishing up his two-year project on the police book and recently retained an editor to put finishing touches on it. They expect to have a “polished” copy to present to an agent by early summer. David feels that the book (some 400+ pages) will give him closure with his police career and send him forward to then write about the church! He and Sabine continue to worship with our local Lutheran parish in nearby Mazomanie and David occasionally is asked to lead worship and preach in the immediate area. (I think he likes doing that!).
Sometimes on Sundays they are late coming home from church. I have heard them talking about a second church they attend nearby made up by the “nones;” those who say “none” when asked about their religious denomination. This “church” they call “The Church of the Cinnamon Bun” or, for those more liturgical, “The Caramel-rollians.” I have heard them say that this “congregation” assembles on Sunday mornings around 10 o’clock to converse, drink coffee and enjoy a home-baked cinnamon bun or caramel roll at a local business. That’s where they met their good friends and neighbors Frederika (who taught Sabine how to knit) and her partner, Bonita.
Some of the things David and Sabine have done this year involve camping two weeks in Glacier Park with friends Andy and Kathy, getting together with David’s old friends from his days on the Minneapolis Police Department, Art and Grace Maxwell in Red Lodge, MT, fishing in Iowa with Sabine’s sister and husband, Ken (who have wonderfully helped out numerous times during Sabine’s illness), and going to a Broadway play in Milwaukee along with their usual trips to the American Players Theater, an open air theater near Spring Green, the Madison Rep (until they sadly folded), and saw talented friends in “The Music Man” held in the Ringling Brothers Theater in Baraboo. Sabine says there's no such thing as too much theater!
They also traveled to Hutchinson Beach, Florida, in February where they were joined by kids and relatives, and spent a week in Milwaukee at the Pfister Hotel when David was called as an expert witness. Sabine was the featured speaker at the local “Relay for Life” which raises money across the nation for cancer research. They also taught a seven-week marriage course at New Heights Lutheran Church in Mazomanie. Grandson, Ben, along with family members, Peter, Tammy, Samantha, and Hannah, came down for a summer visit and Peter, Ben and David went for a 50 mile “3 Generation” bike ride in the hill country (Whew! They sure looked tuckered out when I saw them!). In October, they spent a long weekend at Pinecrest near Iron River with friends Ted and Barb Chesney, Dave and Gretchen Considine, and Steve and Duffy Krug. They also experienced their first snowfall of the season that weekend.
There were visits from Sabine’s sister, Barb, and hubby Ken during that tense time of the stem cell transplant (they really couldn’t have done it without them!), along with summer visits from daughter Yumi (whose smiling face meant everything), and Sabine’s brother, Rainer, who always brings a trusty hammer and saw to make farm improvements – including those to our pen. Sabine's long-time high school friend, Shirley, stopped by with her new beau, Ron, and Sabine and David were happy to see them.
As is the case, our Christmas this year will be on a sliding scale from December 18th to the 25th. I expect to get ear-rubs from their daughter and son. Sarah and Joshua, who live locally, along with pets from nieces and nephews from Missouri and Illinois, daughter Sumi and her family (husband Scott and daughter, Taylor) from New Jersey, daughter Yumi (who will soon be deployed to Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division where she serves as an administrative officer to a medical unit) and their son Matthew and his daughter, Gracie, who will be coming from sunny California and experiencing snow for the first time.
This is a blessed time of year. My relatives made room for the Christ-child when he was born and we carried him in Jerusalem while walking among the palm boughs.
Love and peace to all,
(Who was adopted after our donkey Mauritz passed away earlier this year)
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Thanks be to God -- his mercy is everlasting! What a journey we have had during the past 23 months! And what wonderful friends we have. Thank you, again!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The benefit of using a fistula in her arm versus the plastic tunnel catheter she has had in her neck for almost two years will be enormous because we will be able to remove the tunnel catheter which is always has the danger of becoming either clotted or infected.
Other than that, Sabine's cancer numbers (those nasty lambda light chain proteins) are behaving themselves and she is now, after the second series of blood tests post stem cell transplant, still within normal ranges. We see Dr Sheehan tomorow for the second check-up since the transplant. Thanks be to God, all remains well and we are both looking forward to a great Wisconsin winter with lots of snow!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
has everyone left?
our morning chirpers
our friends the sandhills
florida by now
the pond peepers
we mulch leaves
put away lawn furniture
the furnace man
and chimney sweep
come and go
yes, it’s sunny-crisp day
tree by tree
walk our woods
then to read a book
by the wood stove
Sunday, November 1, 2009
We continue to enjoy this blessed "interim" period in which the cancer does not dominate our life with medical appointments, chemotherapy, and the constant barrage of lab tests. We attended our church's "Trunk or Treat" in Mazomanie. The adults dress up and park their autos in the church parking lot, open the trunks and wait for the kids crying, "Trunk or treat!" We are happy to announce that we did not have to put any of the children in our trunk.
The next picture portrays a "boys afternoon out" on Friday. My friend Jeff and I got together at his house and after some heavy discussion that solved the world's problems, we took a motorcycle ride around the Blue Mounds area. (Jeff has TWO big bikes!). It brought back a lot of memories of motorcycles in my past -- from teenager dirt track days to getting rid of my last motorcycle when I went off to seminary, having decided God saved me enough and I wasn't taking anymore chances!)
But the real exciting event of the weekend involved trusty wonder dog, Mocha, who ran into a fence or some sharp object on our morning walk in the woods and received a nasty gash in her chest. We had to make an early morning "ER" run to the vet that morning. Thanks to Dr Williams (another Dr Williams is Sabine's GP) being in his office in Mt Horeb, we got her stitched up. Then we had to go to Goodwill and select an appropriate shirt for her to wear so she wouldn't take out her stitches! (You can't see it clearly but it is a cheerleader's top with sequins attached!).
So we are enjoying this calm in our life. In a couple of weeks we begin the "buttonholing" in Sabine's arm. The surgery went well and her arm has healed quite well. This will involve driving into the Madison dialysis clinic three times a week until the sight is developed and we can use it for home dialysis.
We hoping for a winter with lots of snow so we can do a lot of snowshoeing and skiing!
And a Happy All Saints' Day to all of you who have been saints to us!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
In the interim, I have taken to writing another blog on the religious/spiritual experience and how one's beliefs should inform our action.
This blog can be found here on blogspot at:
Hope the summer has been as good for you as it has been for us.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
We had a great and successful day at UW Hospital yesterday. The surgery went well, and the medical staff were great!
Sabine's vein has "matured" over the last six months and she will be ready to start the "buttonholing" procedure in about three weeks.
She slept well last night (just a little pain) and woke up raring and ready to go to see the Broadway musical, "Spring Awakening" in Milwaukee tonight!!
p.s. by the way, I am doing another blog on life, living, God and the Holy Spirit at
Sunday, October 4, 2009
While the unexamined life isn't worth living, so also is a life in which there is no reflection. We are all so into action that reflection seems not worth our time; a trivial pursuit. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
It has now been nearly two years since Sabine took ill. It was the worst time in my life and it also became the very best time in my life. How can I say that? Stay with me... while Sabine's illness and fatal cancer diagnosis scared me almost to death and broke me emotionally, it also brought into focus what is important in my life. As a friend of mine reminded me, responsibility is not meaning. Men like me take being responsible, in charge, in control as being meaning. I found out it isn't. I was no longer in control.
For the first time in my life I HAD to depend upon God. I had two choices -- put myself into God's hands or to kiss God goodbye (I did consider the latter!). The choice I made was reasonable and rational -- it is the mettle of the psalms -- "trust in God -- no matter what happens."
God sustained me. God answered my prayer and lifted me up when I was down; encouraged me and listened to my tears. Because of the terrible days, I more deeply appreciate the many wonderful ones we share in between. It is in our primary loving relationships that we get glimpses of God and, at the same time, we are given our greatest test as human persons.
I also realized that the intense happiness I have enjoyed loving Sabine for 28 years and being her partner is temporary in this life. One day it will come to an end as sad and frightening that may seem to me. There is a beginning, middle and end to all things on this earth; no sense whistling past those graveyards.
I know this now. I have come to grips with it and it is OKAY! This realization strengthened my faith in a loving, caring, compassionate God who is worth seeking and knowing.
So, today I am reflecting. I am thankful. What Sabine and I have sustained together strengthens my life and deepens even more my love for her.
Peace and love to each one of you who have walked this journey with us.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Sabine met with her primary cancer doc (Dr Sheehan) today and he reviewed her recent tests and all looks GREAT! All the important markers within normal range. He will see her in SIX weeks! This coming Monday, Sabine has some "minor" day-surgery to start to establish a "buttonhole" in her arm for dialysis purposes... swimming is just ahead!
It's been almost 2 years since that terrible diagnosis. Thanks to all of you for your support and prayers -- we couldn't have done it without you!
Love from both of us!
Monday, September 28, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
AND THE "T" STANDS FOR TANDEM!
Because Sabine believes that her cancer hates oxygen, we purchased this used tandem from a couple near Lodi (thanks to craigslist.com).
It is both an on and off-road tandem so we can use the many bicycle trails in our area. Next Wednesday, Sabine plans to take the tandem into her appointment with Dr Sheehan and ride it back home (a round trip of about 60 miles!).
The picture is our first ride on the tandem near the Military Ridge Trail at Blue Mounds.
Sabine plans to save gasoline by using the tandem to commute the 10 mile trip to our cottage in Mazomanie during dialysis days (with good weather!).
p.s. it's taken me 28 years to get her on a tandem bike! I used to have a tandem when we were dating and she simply did not like having to be in the rear! (my smelly shorts?). Generally, the person with the most upper body strength is the "captain" (in front) and the other person functions as the "stoker." This is NOT sexist!
So, it's taken me all these years to break her in (don't tell her I said this!) and now she seems to enjoy the team effort of tandem riding. Again, life may not be fair, but it is good!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Then next week we start the "buttonhole" process (establishing a fistual site in Sabine's arm to enable dialysis in a more aseptic way than the tunnel catheter we have used for nearly two years!). This will permit access for dialysis in Sabine's arm and enable her to engage in swimming and water sports which were prohibited by the tunnel catheter in her neck. We have a day surgery scheduled for the 5th of October.
And, oh yes, the Marriage Course (www.themarriagecourse.org) begins at New Heights Lutheran Church in Mazomanie on October 8th!
My hobby (I have finally realized) is writing poetry. Some of you have read some of it from time to time here on this blog.
Some events have happened which resulted in some wordsmithing: Sabine's temporary remission as a result of the stem cell transplant, a father and son dying nearby us, ruminating on past loves and losses with one of my daughters, and a bicycle ride discussion I had with my friend, Jeff, about "What's it like to be you?"
this interim time
sweet as summer squash
peaceful as an afternoon nap
i hold my breath
watching you sleep
about that cancer
lying in wait
like a mugger
on a dark path
God, you know what
you have to do
yes I said smite
evil mugger cells
like you smote
you can do it
two deaths you say?
so close together
a father and son
along the road
and the toe
as two souls
like evening mist
to all i've loved
(i mean it)
me much through
trial and error
hurts & pains
and yes grief
(let’s not forget
(we can't forget
the loss either)
your teaching has
not been lost
a love that
all of this would
what's it like
to be you?
whew, you say
yes, but what IS
it like to be you?
what makes you
how can i love you
if i don’t know
what it feels like
think about it
i’m thinking about it
what’s it like
Thanks for all you continued support and prayers!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Yes, that's Sabine and me on the far right (for once!). We were at the annual "Bob Fest" in Baraboo (a liberal bastion of democrats and free-thinkers). We got some good t-shirts and lawn signs.
You are probably wondering "where's the blogs?" But you know that NO news with me is usually GOOD news. We are celebrating this new lease on life called a stem cell transplant. Sabine is feeling great and strong! (And, thus, lowering greatly my nearly two year long anxiety!)
This is Sabine outside the new indoor American Players Theater near Spring Green. In one week's time we saw two stunning plays. First. "Old Times" by Pinter (wow!) and then O'Neil's "Long Days Journey Into Night." Both were powerful relational plays and gave new meaning to dysfunctional families!
We met with the "access" folks at UW Hospital and Sabine has her surgery to bring her vein connection up on October 5th. (Just in time -- we begin teaching The Marriage Course on the 8th). It's a day surgery and this is the second step now to creating a fistual access point in her arm for dialysis. It will also permit her to rid herself of the tunnel catheter in her neck!
We are greatly enjoying this late burst of summer, taking hikes, and enjoying each other's company.
LIFE IS GOOD!
Monday, August 31, 2009
The last pic (above is a video)...
Here we are this past weekend's Wisconsin Riverfest near Spring Green. Just had to get out and boogie! I feel like the axe of the executioner has been stayed... and we all ought to celebrate life fully each day. Why wait? Life is short and there are blessings all around us... You are reading the words of one happy guy! Did I ever doubt those dark days in January 20 months ago? I was scared... but somehow I knew we would get through this. We don't have a cure, but we sure have a blessing!
Friday, August 28, 2009
The long-awaited call came from Dr Longo concerning Sabine's bone marrow biopsy and the test for her light chain disease (a 24-hour urine test). All markers for her cancer.
Bone Marrow Biopsy: Normal Bone Marrow!
Lambda Light Chains: 0.18! (she started out with over 25,000 and the Velcade/Dex chemotherapy brought them down to around 100 before they started climbing again).
Dr Longo's Diagnosis: Multiple Myeloma in Remission!
This, of course, is not the end of the fight. It is round two or three in which Sabine has a definite advantage. She is scheduled this month to raise up her connected veins so that she can develop a fistula for dialysis purposes and then get rid of the tunnel catheter in her neck. This will not only enable her to engage in water sports, but also provide a dialysis connection that is more aseptic. Who knows what the future may bring? There has even been the mention of a kidney transplant if she remains cancer-free for a period of two years.
Plenty still to pray for and we thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts for your love, concern and prayers. You are wonderful friends!
To this we give God glory and raise up the power of love and prayer!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
On Tuesday, we started out with Sabine having a visit with her primary care physician, Deb Williams, at Group Health Cooperative (GHC). Then we were off to our multiple myeloma support group in the afternoon.
On Wednesday, Sabine had her blood drawn at GHC and began collecting urine for 24 hours which will tell us more about her cancer levels.
The break in the week was taking Sabine's mom and her friend, Pat, to the American Player's Theater to see Noel Coward's "Hay Fever" on Wednesday evening.
The next day, Thursday, was our long-awaited "100 day post-transplant" visit with Dr Longo where Sabine got about seven holes put in her arm before they were able to get an IV in for her bone marrow biopsy. The good news is that -- so far -- Dr Longo seemed encouraged by Sabine's blood work. But, as the say, "the proof of the pudding is in the biopsy" (or something like that). Dr Longo promised to call us on Thursday or Friday giving us the results of how the transplant is dealing with those nasty cancer cells and proteins!
Thursday afternoon was spent at our monthly clinic at the dialysis center in Madison.
On top of this we had daily dialysis that took up a half-day every day of the week except Thursday!
Needless to say, we are hoping and praying for great findings this coming week!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
That may be true and we have often said that if we didn't have to dialyze five times a week we, too, might think that. But then...
On our arrive home on Sunday, I retrieved my emails (a great benefit of Glacier Park is that there are few internet connections and, for the most part, no cell phone service!) and was brought suddenly back into the reality of CANCER!
Just after we left Madison, two members of our support group whom we had grown to know and love died. We felt bad that we missed their funerals and memorial services and could not say goodbye to them. There remains a deep sadness in both of us.
When we joined the multiple myeloma support group 18 months ago we were both in "post-diagnosis distress." Within our group we immediately found two real "fighters" with tremendous energy and enthusiasm for life: Maggie Heyden and Chuck Koval. They became models and mentors for us.
Maggie was a young woman with children still in school and she was determined to beat this cancer. She was both energetic and full of life. As the year went on, Maggie sought medical advice from around the country, and traveled far and wide to find ways to resist the cancer and improve her health. Then her husband was diagnosed with cancer and Maggie's most recent attempt at another stem cell transplant (this time from a donor) failed. Both Sabine and I will miss her and the joy for life she had.
We had known Chuck and his wife, Peg, before we came to the support group. Their son was an outstanding member of the police department; a man I was privileged to hire. Mike still serves as a training officer on the department and I see a lot of his dad in him. Chuck also had a love of life and learning. As a trained scientist, with a Ph.D. in entomology and a U.W. faculty member, Chuck had a deep understanding of his cancer and shared it with each one of us. His questions to those who came to address our group were not only marked by his knowledge of the disease but also by the clear and special role he had as a patient, a consumer of medical care. (Often one of the visiting physicians would inquire as to whether Chuck had an M.D. or a Ph.D!).
Both Maggie and Chuck gave us all hope for the future. They both had valiantly fought and held back their cancer for many years. Their passing was a sad event for all of us who knew them. Though they both now have passed from this life to their Creator, they still give me hope and the realization that life is a special gift -- to be lived everyday and never squandered.
Thanks to both of you, Chuck and Maggie, and may your souls rest in peace now and forever!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Well, we are just back and I thought I would put something up right away (full story of the adventurous trip to follow!!).
1. Sabine and I dancing at Many Glacier Lodge.
2. Andy Marks and I after our ascent of Swiftcurrent Mountain and fighting 50-60 mph winds! Whew!
3. We caught cut throat trout by the dozens at Avalanche Lake. I thought I was in New Zealand! Thanks to brother in law Ken for introducing me to this great sport!
4. On the westside of Glacier rests this little old mountain town called Polebridge. Good food and drink.
5. At Granite Chalet where unless you make a reservation a year in advance and hike up there and carry your own food and water, you are out of luck! Breathtaking view!
On top of this mountain Sabine celebrated her 100th day after transplant. We packed in a glass of wine and marked the day with a dehydrated "gourmet" meal.
6. Clowing around at one of the many absolutely awe-inspiring waterfalls in the park.
Okay that's it for now. We had some vascular problem with dialysis the last two days and after a short stop at some old friends from my Mpls PD days (Art and Grace Maxwell) we headed back to Wisconsin.
We had a number of med appointments this week -- Sabine's 100 day transplant checkup, some tests to see how the cancer responded to the transplant and meeting with our dialysis support staff. We are fearful that Sabine may need to have another procedure to open up the veins around her catheter (we had some high arterial pressures at the end of our trip).
We hiked just short of 40 miles during our time in Glacier. Sabine was fantastic (of course I know that!).
For more pics see our album on the Picassa Web: http://picasaweb.google.com/davidccouper/GlacierSlideshow?authkey=Gv1sRgCJXpn6O21tuNdA&feat=directlink
Love to all of you.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Pictures will have to come on our return to civilization. We have been here in the Glacier Park area for three days: hiking, flyfishing, and touring and eating lunch at the old lodges: East Glacier and Essex.
Dialysis has gone well and as long as we can find an electric hook-up, we are in business!
Today we take another hike up into the mountains and then return to Two Medicine Lake via boat. Then we will head further up the mountains to St Mary Lake and the Rising Sun Cabins where we will headquarter for the next four days (that is if our dialysis supplies arrive via truck! If not, we will have to leave and find a city with a dialysis center -- but I have faith!).
At St Mary we will meet with our friends, Andy and Kathy, and we will hike up to East Granite Lodge (I think that's the name) that is only accessible by foot for an overnite. Then back down the mountain the next day. The hike up and down takes a full day on foot!
On our way back home we hope to pass through Red Lodge, MT and visit with Art Maxwell, a cop whom I worked with during the glory days on the Minneapolis PD tactical squad in the early 60's. When Art and his wife, Grace, retired they walked to Red Lodge from Minneapolis and have been in Red Lodge ever since.
Okay, time is running out... Westward and Upward Ho!
Love and blessings to all of you who follow our exploits on this blog!
Monday, August 3, 2009
Suddenly, Highway 2 disappeared! We were down to a single lane dirt road for about 20 miles outside of Williston.
As I mentioned, our first night was at Sabine's brother's place near Fargo. Then at the Lewis and Clark (and Sacajewea) State Park near Williston, ND. The next night was spent at a Native Casino Hotel and RV park in Glasgow, MT (Sabine actually won 25 cents and a free drink after playing for over an hour -- Me? Never mind!).
We took an hour-long walk this morning to stretch our legs around Glasgow and then headed west again (and into the wind -- again) toward Havre, MT. I can't wait for my drive back to Wisconsin as I am sure we will then have a tailwind -- 50 mpg? Possible!
We are now settled in for our second day of dialysis at a little shaded RV park 4 miles outside Havre (which also has wireless internet connections for campers -- and, thus, this blog today while we wash Sabine's blood)!
Tomorrow, we will get even closer to Glacier by settling into Cutbank for a couple of days. Fishing? Perhaps.
I am ready for Glacier -- as soon as I read "Night of the Grizzly" I ordered a can of MAGNUM BEAR SPRAY from REI. Will it work? I don't know, but it sure will make me feel better.
Westward Ho the wagon!
Saturday, August 1, 2009
We dialyzed early (4 am) Friday morning and hit the road. Our first night was spend with Sabine's brother, Rainer, and his lovely wife, Rannae near Audobon, MN on Little Cormorant Lake. We had dinner with them after logging in 500 miles this day, took a pontoon boat ride at sunset and then hit the sack. We left at 6 a.m. and now have logged another 400+ miles to the Lewis and Clark State Park on the North Dakota and Montana border near Williston. This is a lovely spot on the Missouri River and the weather is perfect! Tomorrow we continue west on US Highway 2 after finding a church for morning worship!
Monday, July 27, 2009
Sabine ran errands and the girls hung out at the pool, visited Josh at his job at the puppy spa and did some other stuff in Madison.
This is a shot of me and grandson, Ben (age 13).
Oh yes, there were chores -- we took down a large and deceased maple tree from our yard and stacked wood (all good soul work!).
This past week, we also had a visit from one of Sabine's childhood friends, Shirley and her beau, Ron.
And, of course, the evening meal was sufficient with Charlotte's good cooking and at the outside diner.
With a quickly passing light rain there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky to the east of the farm.
I supplied yesterday at St Luke's in Madison -- there is something wonderful about that Anglican liturgy that simply moves my soul...