Sunday, August 25, 2013

The cancer survivors park

Marilyn and I ran across a sculpture garden devoted to cancer survivors in a park near downtown Santa Rosa, California. It's properly known as the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Plaza at Fremont Park, and it was an unexpected pleasure and an inspirational place.

After spending some time there, I found myself wondering why there aren't more places like this, tangible art installations where those of us fighting cancer can take time to reflect and find encouragement. And then, lo and behold, I looked it up on the internet and found that there are 24 of these in the U.S. and Canada, all sponsored by the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation. It turns out that Richard Bloch, a founder of the tax service H & R Block, was a lung and colon cancer survivor who died of heart failure in 2004 at the age of 78. His foundation does more than encourage public art, but it is the art that captures the imagination in a way that words sometimes can't.

The park does contain some pretty good words, by the way, which can be found on numerous plaques offering spot-on cancer-fighting advice. One grouping of plaques is known as the Positive Mental Attitude Walk.

So consider visiting a cancer survivors park near you. Below are some photos we took in Santa Rosa, just in case you can't make it there. All the parks have the same sculpture by Victor Salmones, depicting people of various ages entering -- and emerging from -- the challenge of cancer, represented by a series of distorted squares. You'll see me in one photo, ready to leave the last square; I have also updated my photo at the top of the blog to reflect the way I look now -- namely, hairless. 

Speaking of surviving cancer, I have now completed three rounds of R-EPCH, which came on top of two rounds of OFAR. The tumor burden is vastly reduced; during my last treatment there was no threat of tumor lysis and no significant increase in LDH. It appears that the chemo has done most of what it can do. Nodes are still palpable under my arms, but none can be felt in the abdomen. That doesn't mean they're not there; to see where things stand, a PET scan may be in order soon. It's likely there will be between one and three more rounds of chemo, followed by a maintenance drug to get me past January 1, when new health insurance kicks in and provides coverage for a stem cell transplant. It looks like I will be having an interesting year; may yours be as dull as possible.

"There is no such thing as false hope for a cancer patient. Hope is as unique with each individual as a fingerprint. For some it is the hope to make a complete recovery. But it might also be the hope to die peacefully; the hope to live until a specific event happens; the hope to live with disease; the hope to have their doctor with them when needed; the hope to enjoy today." -- Richard A. Bloch


Anonymous said...

hi david ,
Really good to hear from you and to see you out and about and yes just from the photos and the reading it is inspiring , i can imagine the impact much more when walking round .....and reminds us all to have hope at our darkest times ...Have you got back some of your energy levels from pre richters ? anyway keep well david and remember this blog also is inspiring to me and others with this disease .


Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping us updated and for sharing the pictures. I love that you are photographed ready to step through that one last square. Next year after your transplant we'll need a picture of you fully emerged :)

Skullgal said...

Glad to see you out and about! Thanks for the great pictures.

Be well and stay strong!

Jt said...

Hi David I have been reading your blog now since last winter I was going through frontline treatment with BR my oncologist gave me a choice of that or FCR I took the less toxic of the two although it was challenging some of the time I had a lot of similar side effects of yours I am in a good remission now I pray that it stays that way no matter what the doctors say!!!! David my heart was deeply saddened when I heard of your RT but like what you showed us in this very hopefull cancer survivor memorial that WE CAN BEAT THIS!!!!!!! I believe by the grace of God and good medical care that He has provided for us healing is very possible. David my prayers will be withYou through your battle and it is my hope that next year this time that you will have a brand new immune system that loves to go on safari for malignant B cells large and small till they are extinct!!!!!! Yours sincerely Joseph t

Anonymous said...

So happy to read your update. The parks are quite inspirational - I had not heard of them before. I will say that your new picture shows such determination. I love it! Continued good travels and enjoyment, David and Marilyn. Keep the David groupies up to date...we care a great deal.
Deb in Chicagoland who is now
Deb in South Carolina

Anonymous said...

Hello David - I just want to thank you for sharing your journey. I have learned most of what I know about CLL from your posts! I'm sure that there are others like me who don't comment but who read and enjoy your writings. You almost always make me smile!
I was diagnosed with CLL (Stage IIB Rai/Binet - unmutated) 3 years ago at age 61. I went to the ER with what I thought was the worst case of food poisoning ever. It turned out that my intestines were blocked by enlarged nodes. After lots of steroids and two Rituxan treatments, I turned orange. A bile duct was blocked by another enlarged node. They added Fludara for the remainder of treatments. It all happened so fast and it seemed like I was in the Twilight Zone. I ended up having my gall bladder removed when I was already in tough shape. If I can just get to February (3 years) without additional treatment, I will be very grateful. My spleen is enlarged and I too look somewhat pregnant. My ribs can get uncomfortable sometimes. I am blessed with a great family including 11 amazing grandkids who live near me. I look so forward to meeting God one day, but I want to be with the grandkids as long as I can.
You are a brave person and an inspiration. I was sad when you had to sleep sitting up because of the pain in your back. You've been through some very tough times lately. Just know that you have been a blessing to me and others that you don't know. Best of luck and I like the bald look! SallyMN

Anonymous said...

Hi David

Thank you so much for sharing this. I was diagnosed with CLL last week. Your blog is helping me. I'm 44, married with a 6 year-old daughter. I don't know details about my CLL yet. I'm learning all I can. On the off chance you happen to still be in Northern California I would love to meet up and talk if you are up for it. You can reach me at

Thank you and thanks again for sharing. -JB

Anonymous said...

Concerned about you.
How about an update???