muddy feet memoirs

The Chronicle of My Comeback

Month: January, 2014

Love Notes: Dr. Ari Umutyan


I have not posted in quite a while.  Jay is in Hospice and I have deferred to his writing, choosing to let his voice be our voice.  I realize it is time for me to have an independent voice, though I still reserve the right to speak for both of us – Jay and I – at least for the weeks I have that luxury.  We are separating and I must strike out on my own in many ways, but first I’d like to  write love notes on both our behalves.  My first love note is to our oncologist Dr. Ari Umutyan.

Ari, you are a lovely man.  I cannot imagine the weight you carry home to who is surely an amazing wife.  How could this have been your calling?  We were a train-wreck of neglect, but you brought us into your care.  We knew more of Jay’s cancer situation after 10 minutes of your review than ever with our previous oncologist…  You accepted us and gave us years of life together.  We raised children during those years.  We considered God in those years.  We are more able to face our future because you helped have this extra time together.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.

I imagine we are basically the same age, you’re probably (slightly) younger.  Your kids are certainly younger – I’ve glanced at their photos printed out on your simple printer, 8.5 x 11, taped to your office furniture in your modest office.  Sweet faces, maybe a boy in a soccer uniform, maybe a young girl…  I have never pried.  I heard the sound of your wife’s cell phone ring during one of our visits and you excused yourself to answer.  Good man.  With the weight of so many lives on your shoulders you are not only serving us but you know that ultimately your priorities are with your family.  Damn straight.

Jay and I are amazed at your compassion and brilliance, able to focus fully on the minute details of so many individual patients, and yet be ever-ready to respond to your family’s needs.  Our prayer for you is to continue in your demanding calling to serve cancer patients but to always keep your family first in your mind.  We know that children deserve the finest parentage, and I believe you understand that too.  You are a fine doctor and evidently a fine parent and husband.  God bless you and all your beloveds – I do not doubt that you are capable of facing any need your family has with grace and fierce devotion.

Lastly, please let me praise your professional brilliance and the amazing team you surrounded us with.  Immediately after meeting you we had the names of Angie and Adelle, Hospice Bad-Asses and Cancer Support Gurus (Love notes coming soon).  You advocated for surgery twice before your tumor board allowed it – I am confident last year is something I owe to you and your Mr. Wizard, Dr. Kanan, exclusively  (yet another Love Note for a future post).  You have always collaborated with us regarding any treatment choice – your scientific expertise always willing to bend towards the intuitive understanding of your patient’s sense of their own body.  Every patient hopes for a physician like you.

As we face the end of Jay’s life, as I consider the future while reflecting on the road that brought us to this place, I have nothing but love and respect for you, Dr. Ari Umutyan.  You are the impresario who conducted the last years of this opera.  We could not have wished for anything finer.  You are a brilliant and deeply compassionate man.  We are so grateful to have been served by you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you,

Adrienne (and Jay)


January 8, 2014

Jay’s reflection on our time away…

deyoung deconstructed

I am sitting in a beautiful room overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  We are at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay.  Adrienne is across from  me in a white robe.  We’ve eaten our favorite foods: pate, olives, cheese and cured meat.  Besides going to town for provisions, (I may be staying at the Ritz, but I refuse to pay $6 for a bottle of Pepsi), we have hardly left the room.  Later we’ll go to the beach to watch the sunset.

Thanks to all of you who contributed to our “Hawaii” fund.  I am too sick to make the trip.  The idea of going to the airport was too overwhelming.  So instead, we are here.  Better than Hawaii.  Thank you.

There are so many ideas in my head about what to write about. I have a list.  A lot of them are very sad.  But I am not feeling sad…

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Room 435

Ritz Carlton HMB

We chose the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay in lieu of the Hawaii trip we had hoped to take.  A fine choice, especially since we’ve barely left the room.  Our friends contributed generously to our Hawaii fund, a last-hurrah for our marriage I suppose…  This was just as romantic and much easier to get to.  Many thanks to the folks who have helped us have this time together, either through funds or watching the dogs – you have given us a great gift.

Jay has taught me to love hotel rooms.  This one is average in size, with more of a view of the golf course than the ocean, but has a deep, wonderful bath and a fire pit on the small veranda outside of our sliding glass door.  Inside this room I am content.  Our drama has paused.  We are here, now.  Cancer is too, but to no great effect – as long as I linger over our minutes and hours like days and months.  This morning we listened to men, like giant babies, have temper tantrums on the course.  What exactly are they cussing about?  Across the service road, within earshot, we inhabit different worlds.  Good.

Having drinks this evening, downstairs in what used to be the “high tea” room, our conversation shifted to the memorial service.  What will cremation cost?  We’ve already asked our friend Tony to say the eulogy…  who could speak other than that?  We should call Hospice tomorrow and get that started…  I feel us segueing rapidly back into real-time and head back to the room.  Time is slow in room 435.  I cry on Jay’s good shoulder, we sit outside under the stars listening to the surf, he takes more pain meds, yet another bubble bath and things slow down again.  Much better.

Jay’s pot cookie is kicking in and he’s ordered room service.  We are in our lovely cocoon, listening to African music on my phone.  Tomorrow we head back to our lives, collecting our kids from school and his sister from the airport, but until then our lives are in slow motion.  I will imprint his touch on my hand.  I will remember how he comforts me now and store it away for another time.  We will shoulder the weight of all of this together – joy, grief, fear, anticipation, loss – until it is just me.  I have never been so heartbroken and never felt so blessed.

This afternoon I read to Jay from Ecclesiastes:  “There is nothing better for a man than he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour.  This also I saw, that is was from the hand of God.”

Carpe Diem, ya’ll.  This time is a gift.