Full Circle

All good things must come to an end. That title made for a killer final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it neatly encapsulates my next installment in the Levangie chronicles.

The first phase of my experimental drug trial finished today and, if it began with cautious optimism, it died with a sharp jab and an inaudible sigh. After untold thousands of dollars in injections, I find myself full circle, ending at the beginning, with a benign neuro-endocrine tumor that will continue to grow until it runs out of room and causes serious damage.

If you’re thinking: Wait a second, wait a second! Levangie recently said it was stable, that it hadn’t shown any dramatic signs of growth over the last six months, you’d be correct. During the trial, the medication fought the little bugger — er, I’m sorry, Wall-E, the adorable little neuro-endocrine tumor — to a standstill in a bare-knuckles, barroom brawl. I’d be amiss if didn’t express my gratitude for the exemplary care that I’ve received and this one chance to avoid difficult surgery.

In fact, I’m still avoiding surgery. I have entered the second phase of the study, with the understanding that I’m unlikely to finish it. My charming Kristina and I are going to try to bank some money, and get our financial house in order, so I can go under the knife in the New Year. How sad to say that the almighty dollar will be my guiding light! But we came so close to big trouble in August, and I simply can’t sit through an encore performance. That would akin to suffering through a Bridezilla marathon, and that’s saying something I hate even thinking about.

Of course, I know some of you might hope that, by dint of good fortune or the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary (my family’s Catholic, you know), that this story will end well. And it might. After all, the Bosox did win the World Series again.

But even in my religious days, I’ve never bought into miracles. I trust in science, in all that I can touch and feel. Yet I still believe life holds more than meets the eye. So I’m going to try to fill my life with small joys, and to direct this joy inward and outward, where it might do some good. If the migraines and facial pain diminish in intensity, I will hold fast to the path that brought relief, and hope that the tumor becomes less of an issue in my life.

But it’s highly unlikely to disappear, and so a core truth remains. The drug trial has to end, if not now, then when the drug hits the market in one or two years time, and the bottom line will put it well beyond my reach. Again, I’m left to ponder why the universe decided to make me brilliant instead of rich, since I clearly have a high-maintenance body.

Kristina and I have already enjoyed some interesting conversations. She sees this as nothing more than a complicated carpentry problem that can be solved with a little skill and some fancy drill attachments. I tried to steer the conversation to Kitchen Aid appliances, which somehow feel friendlier and more benign. When she refused to refocus, I decided not to tell her that a mosquito had latched on and was trying to suck her dry.

If we sound a touch unfeeling, we’re not. It is the nature of our relationship. I find an exquisite lightness in her black humor, and she keeps me from feeling sorry for myself in an unfair world where one billion souls go hungry every day.

So it’s time to suck it up, to seek out the steely eyed resolve that I know I possess. It could be a lot, lot worse. I doubt this even falls into my top five challenges. I don’t have any doubt that surgery will be successful.

Mostly it’s a time to be grateful, to laugh easily and often, and to appreciate friends and family, especially the ones who read my never-ending stories. Most of you haven’t met me, yet you still find time to touch me with kind words and a sweet remembrance or two.

It helps.


Photo: A Portrait of the Artist as a, er, Youngish Man. My 40th birthday.

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22 Responses to Full Circle

  1. Erica Orloff says:


    My shots aren’t working either, but I don’t face what you do, darling. Take care, be well . . . know you are often–very often–in my thoughts and what passes as prayers in my world.

    Hugs to you and Kristina.

  2. Stephen Kimber says:

    Thinking of you, Richard. And double-damning Nancy Waugh…

  3. Kim says:

    I’m not feeling very charitable toward Big Pharma these days. These drug trials give you that cruellest thing, as Nietzsche said — hope — and then take it away. Another friend who was enrolled in a trial in Toronto in the spring died this weekend, and I don’t say that to make you feel guilty about how good you have it, just that I hope and pray for the magic bullet along with you and feel cheated when it’s just plain old lead. Again. I can’t even imagine sitting where you’re sitting right now. But you’ve astounded me with your resilience before, and I’m sure you will again, and while I’ve never met Kristina, I’ve come to believe that maybe she’s your bit of magic, that as long as she’s by your side you can handle everything with charm and grace. So keep your chin up, and any time you need someone to send good thoughts your way … well, you don’t even need to ask, I already am.

  4. Laurel says:

    I don’t care if I sound like Pollyanna. I think it will get better, be solvable, be resolved. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  5. Melanie says:

    :( I know you don’t want to hear it, but this makes me sad.

    I admire your honesty and realistic way of looking at life. It’s much the way I approach things. I don’t pray, but I will keep you both in my thoughts.

    Now for the joke, because you knew it was coming: my kitchen knives are Kitchen Aid and they can do some damage. Just sayin’.

  6. Ginsu Steak Knives. If they’re good enough for a can, they’re good enough for me.

    – - -

    As long as you want to tell your story, I’ll listen. As long as you want to hear my thoughts, I’ll speak.

    Be well my friend.

  7. Ted Sutcliffe says:

    Richard, Winston Churchill said if you’re going through hell, keep going. You are, and your persistence and attitude is remarkable. Keep going.

  8. Richard, I am in awe of your strength and your grace. Keep up the fight!

  9. J says:

    I have an on again/off again relationship with my own faith, but for this, I will force myself to be on again, and I will pray that the surgery becomes fantastically unnecessary. And I will also say a prayer of thanks that someone who has to deal with so much got his Kristina to walk the path with him.


  10. Marilou says:

    Well richie. Life is indeed challenging you. But us levangie’s are tough stock and I know that not only will you prevail but you will have a happy ending as well. Remember your karate training and kick some ass!!!
    Sending positive vibes always

  11. Travis Erwin says:

    I’m struggling with the fact that many of my online friends are struggling in various ways. I suppose the very world we live in is struggling so it is inevitable that many of its inhabitants will as well but the arbitrary unfairness pisses me off to no end.

  12. Richard says:

    I have fine friends. Each of you has made me smile and feel grateful today. Thank you.

  13. Niki Jabbour says:

    You are very inspiring Richard!!

  14. As ever, you’ve touched me with your post. I am such a believer in the power of the human spirit to overcome obstacles which seem, and in theory should be, insurmountable. You have come this far and you will beat this thing, I know it. Sending positive thoughts and vibes from England.

  15. Guilie says:

    Damn, Richard. I truly wish there was more I could do for you both other than sending a word or two of comfort. Life isn’t fair much, is it? But you do have a kick-ass companion to push and pull you through the worst of it, someone you care about enough to keep fighting, keep it coming. Thank God for the small things, because all too suddenly they become the big things.

    Be well, Richard.

  16. Gray Anatomy says:

    [...] been spinning and toiling for weeks, uncertain of how much more I can bear. And now I have my [...]

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  18. Acceleration says:

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  19. [...] I realize that I’m an odd duck. Which brings me to this point: when I learned that I would definitely need surgery to remove a benign but troublesome pituitary tumor, one thing I did to relieve my anxiety was watch [...]

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  22. [...] a supposedly benign, harmless pituitary tumor diagnosed 20 years before was nothing of the sort. It had grown dramatically, and was remodeling my sinus cavity and threatening my optic nerves. I was running on empty, my body devoid of hormones. Tweaking my medications failed to control the [...]

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