Funeral update

Hello,

We had planned to gather for a funeral on Sept 11. We are going to postpone that so people can travel, gather, and enjoy each other without worries. We will update this blog again once plans are in place.

In the meantime, we are putting together a slideshow. If you have pictures you would like included, please email them to lynch.barton@gmail.com

Obituary

Dennis Henry Lynch down July 19, 1951, died May 1, 2020 at age of 68.

He grew up in Ashland, KY with his five siblings and loving parents. He leaves behind his loving wife Susan and his two sons Hank and Barton, of whom he is very proud, his brothers and sisters, and cherished nieces and nephews and their children, who he loved as his own.

His family taught him how to work hard, laugh frequently, and love fiercely. He graduated from the University of Kentucky and was employed at Fasig-Tipton company for over 20 years.

He was instilled with a lifelong passion for thoroughbred horses by attending races all over the country with his family growing up. He was fortunate to make horses his lifelong profession and never considered he had a real job, doing something he loved so much.

More than anything, he loved his Catholic faith, his family, and friends. He was happiest hosting and being surrounded by family and making sure they were well-fed and watered.

Funeral mass arrangements will be made at a later date.

A wake will be arranged at Fasig-Tipton at a later date. He has requested that any painting he has given to a friend be brought to ensure a bit of levity.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the St. Paul Catholic Church Historical Committee (859-252-0738, 425 W Short St, Lexington, KY 40507) OR Northside Lexington Family YMCA (859-258-9622, 381 W Loudon Ave, Lexington, KY 40508)

Roll from the quarter pole

Dennis Henry Lynch

July 19, 1951-May 1, 2020
Husband, father, brother, uncle and friend he was this to all of us. He was also a man of deep faith in God. “Let’s roll from the quarter pole” is something Dennis said many times when he wanted to get everyone moving in the same direction. Although we were not ready for him to leave us, Dennis was ready to move to heaven. 

“Let’s Roll from the Quarter Pole”

I thought I had a great idea for my blog as I’ve been noticing how this terrible virus and the 7 dwarfs whose names you can’t remember hanging around the house. If you are confined to quarters and have the effects of cancer and chemotherapy, believe me there are lots of similarities.

I was waiting for the scan results to finish.

But yesterday Susan and I went to the hospital for some fluids and they gave us an unexpected time line for my condition.

Due to the effects of the cancer in my liver, they gave me several weeks to several months depending on how fast it takes over.

Bad news, I know, but I sit here thinking my family is provided for, I come from the greatest Irish Catholic family ever, have more and better friends than anyone, and have had more fun in my lifetime than is imaginable. I say that’s pretty good.

I have great resolve in my faith knowing that the eternal reward is what we all strive for.

Susan has been and is unbelievably strong and my boys are coming in so we are fine here and going to get settled in to make things easier on them (and me).

I love all of you. I might be slow on response but gain great strength knowing you are there.

I’ll keep all posted.

Love you,

Dennis

The Green Mile

One of my favorite movies and one I’ve watched many times is The Green Mile.  It’s a dramatic story of the relationships between the inmates on death row and guards in a Southern prison.  The Green Mile refers to the last walk a condemned person takes to his rendezvous with Old Sparky, the electric chair.  

Living with cancer for the last few years seems to shade how I now look at most things.  I remember at first, after my diagnosis looking at a package of socks at Costco and thinking I wouldn’t ever use that many socks.  I would just do with my mismatched drawer of socks I already had.  But as I passed one checkup and scan after another, I got over the “don’t buy green bananas” syndrome, but I always felt there were definite parameters now to my life.  

That long walk in the movie is definitely the finite end of the line.  The movie is also laced with supernatural happenings.  The protagonist prisoner cures the sympathetic guard of his painful bladder infection and brings the crushed and dead pet mouse of another prisoner back to life.

All these things were bouncing around in my mind as Susan and I waited for my oncologist to come in last Friday and deliver the results of my most recent scans.  We had been kind of prepared for this because the doctor had taken me off of the harsher chemo treatment December 4th and had told us that there might be some advancement, so don’t be surprised.

The doctor had told us on our initial post-scan visit that what I had was not curable at this time, but with numerous meds and chemo, the progression could be slowed.  I don’t know if doctors are much smarter than the rest of us except they “got” chemistry and biology.  But when we entrust to them our health, be it eyes, knees, or cancer, we tend to listen intently and measure each word.  Our doc had told us to be prepared because on one of these visits he would say, “your house is on fire.”  Those words stuck with Susan and me and so when the nurse says the doctor is on his way, we become very anxious.  The rest of the time between scans I never think of it.  I know all the techs in radiology and I assume the various positions in the CT, CAT, and bone scan machines automatically.  Those last few minutes waiting for the results, however, reinforce my belief that “I ain’t that strong or brave.”  Mostly, I rehearse how to react to not alarm myself or Susan if the house afire verdict comes in.  Last Friday doc came in and said “your scans look like a million bucks.” Of course, in my mind, I fast-forwarded to remission.  Not so fast, my friend.  Not remission, but no progress in bones, pelvis, or liver since last time.  This is very positive, as Susan is quick to point out. The small cell cancer in the liver is very aggressive and just keeping it contained there is a big win.  

We went down the hall from there and had an immunotherapy infusion, which gave me some time for reflection.  Before the scan report reminds me of waiting for the last minute call from the governor that never comes in the movie.  This time I reflected on the supernatural elements of the Green Mile.  I remembered the cards that come daily in the mail, emails, Rosaries from all over the world, numerous texts from friends wishing me well with, and the prayers.  Oh so many prayers.  Since my last scans I have had friends come to my house and display their faith by asking if they could say prayers for me for healing.  I’ve had Spanish and English prayers said over me.  This type of evangelizing is not often seen by Catholics.  Other denominations are much more open to showing more outward expressions.  No sooner than I said that to Susan than we were invited to a dinner party which our former parish priest was attending.  After dinner he asked if he could perform a healing prayer service for me and our hostess who also had an upcoming scan.  Father said beautiful prayers and had his holy and sacred relics with him.  It was a very moving expression as were my in-house prayers said by my friends.  Susan was exposed to the full Monty Catholic healing service complete with oil and holy water.

There is no way all these well wishes, prayers, and kind words showered on me, even if not deserved, are not the reasons my scans came back without my house being on fire.  I remain in deep debt to all who have shown me such kindnesses.  I strive to show this with others in similar circumstances as myself.  Thank you all for what you do.

Gratefully,

Dennis

Happy New Year

The last two years have brought several challenges. They also have provided some outstanding opportunities to grow and learn. Cancer is one of the unforeseen consequences, for some of us, of being alive. This time in my life has been characterized by humor, sorrow, lightness and darkness, and it is something that will remain truly vivid in my mind. I have learned a lot about myself, my family and so many of my friends.  Without all of them and my faith, this journey would have been so much more difficult if not impossible. I will never forget the kindness, love, and prayers shown towards me.  

Now for 2020:  December 4th my oncologist decided to stop the three-day-a-week chemo sessions every three weeks, which included the chemical Carboplatin.  It’s the nasty stuff familiar to a lot of cancer patients. They know its calling cards: fatigue, nausea, and the ever present hair loss. I had been scheduled to do 18 treatments but my doctor pulled the plug after 16. I am not sure if he thought I had had enough, or it was losing its effectiveness but I could have kissed him when he told me. He decided to take new scans and from those results form a new plan. The decision was made to start me on an infusion schedule of immunotherapy given every three weeks. This is much easier and not nearly as toxic as Carboplatin. I was given this infusion on January seventh. That meant that my last three days of Carboplatin were given in mid-November. Once the poison got out of my system, my stamina started coming back and my hair began to grow.  

Losing my hair wasn’t a big deal to me but having it come back makes me feel more alive. I started seeing sunlight clearer and hearing birds sing (if I had my hearing aids in). When I was in the winter doldrums I would look out the window and know I needed to fill the bird feeders but it might take two weeks before I could muster the energy to go out and do it. Now I relish doing some chores like cooking, etc. I still have to take it easy and avoid overdoing, but my days are much better now. Once feeling close to normal, I realized even the days I thought were ok during the last two years were really not that good. It makes me appreciate how wonderful life is and cherish each day. The doctor didn’t say I was cured, or even any better, but simply feeling better is like coming out of a dark tunnel or shedding a black cloud.

At the gym

Knowing how lucky I am encourages me to look towards 2020 with eagerness while knowing I will still have to follow the protocol and do what I’m told, but The Beast hasn’t beaten me yet. When I first got the diagnosis, my interest in a lot of my hobbies waned. I had taken about two years of Italian language classes and had mastered just enough to be obnoxious to Italian speakers. I painted a lot, went hunting and fishing, and was picking up the saxophone. After the diagnosis, I forgot every word of Italian, wasn’t up to outdoor activities, painted less, and forgot how to hold the sax. My world had gotten very small. Now I welcome the kindness of others when they host outings, ball game parties, etc. I have started a Live Strong program at the Y where I am going to the gym daily. Coming out has been fun but a slow process. I will play the ball where it lies, and strive to maintain a good attitude with the help of all my loved ones.  Love to all.

P.S. Susan says my hair is long and luxurious and I should get some goose grease and train it while I can. (It’s about 1/8” long)

Christmas 2019

Susan and I reported for my scheduled chemo appointment on December 11. After the first day’s infusion, the oncologist cancelled the remaining two. This was ok with me as, unlike martinis, one is plenty and three is too much. The decision was made that he would get new scans taken end of year and evaluate them. I start a new chemo treatment January 7. I’m not sure if reasoning or science is behind this decision, but we trust our guy and we charge on.

So I’m out of stir for Christmas, and will rest up and be ready for the new protocol in January.  

Thanksgiving was a very reflective time, remembering how grateful we all should be for all the blessings we have, and all the blessings yet to come. Since then I have seen on a daily basis evidence of many more things to be grateful for.  

There is a subculture within cancer patients I have noticed. When in waiting rooms or during infusions, it seems like we are all evaluating each other; How sick are they? Do I look that sick?  

There is a shared lingo, mostly in abbreviations. PSA, mets, Dx, SCLC, etc. All deal with “The Beast.” I’m getting involved with an organization called Live Strong. It was founded by Lance Armstrong when he dealt with The Beast. It is now a part of the YMCA programs in which I have been active for years. I made inquiries at my local Y, where I am a board member. I was told it’s for cancer survivors. My first question is , “who qualifies as a cancer survivor?” The director said, “anyone who is diagnosed with cancer and is still breathing.” I figured I qualified! A lot of things are shared, but as the director said, “it’s not a sit around the tissue box meeting, it’s mostly physical.” They talk about where you are in your treatment, what kind do you have, etc. It’s a special bond these people feel towards each other. The two most common experiences people share are the universal fatigue factor for chemo warriors and the outpouring of love and kindness from family, friends, and strangers when they hear of your sickness. I have mentioned many times how humbled I am by the outpouring shown me. People from kindergarten, grade school, high school, college, fraternity, horsey and non-horsey friends in California, Ireland, Florida, and everywhere around. All have shown me much kindness. I try to respond to any card or email or note I get and hope I keep up.  

When I was hearing all these accounts, it showed me what can happen when we share others burdens, when we build one another up, and encourage them to succeed, when we cherish and shelter others from life’s unfairnesses and cruelties, when we become companions who make one another feel stronger and more capable. Maybe we don’t always understand, but we can be always accepting. I was reflecting on these things learned from other cancer people and I thought what a place we would live in if we all took example from these people.  

These are the things shown to me to an unbelievable extent by friends and family since I told others about my cancer (Susan and I waited 18 months to let anyone else know, because I didn’t think I was ready to tell people). But what I’ve seen in the the last six or eight months, what a world we would have if we could work at showing this to all. I’m starting to think The Beast is one of those moments in life when it’s both the best and the worst thing to happen. Like when your son beats you at ping pong for the first time. I’m starting to see all this clearer now.  

Love and Christmas blessings to all.

Love, D

P.S.  I didn’t have any photos that seemed appropriate this time, so I took pics of random coasters around the house.  When I see one that’s blank, or needs changing, I just paint over it, and Susan has taken to hiding the ones she wants to keep.

Thanksgiving 2019

Always an extremely happy occasion in my family.  This year is even more poignant, it seems. Since my mother died, my sister Mary Jo has hosted our Thanksgiving with many of the sights, sounds, smells, and even dinnerware that bring to mind our Thanksgivings at home growing up.

We have always tried to remember what Thanksgiving stands for, not just a happy gathering and the roast beast. This year has struck me like a lightening bolt.  

Writing the blog

In advance of the fourth round of chemo a set of scans was scheduled: CT, MRI, PET scans, etc. all take a look inside the body and give a reading on where your cancer is and what it’s been up to in comparison to the last set of scans, which were May this year in Houston.

There is a condition talked about in chemo circles called “scanxiety.” It is when you have anxiety worrying about the results of an upcoming scan.  I have experienced this usually while in the oncologists office waiting for him to come in with the results. Like horse sales, it’s sheer boredom surrounded by a few moments of terror.  

Great surprise in mail

These most recent scans were taken at the halfway point in my chemo. Three sessions, nine infusions, with three more sessions (nine infusions) to go. I had been secretly prepping myself for a 40-50% reduction in tumor size, given the volume and  uncomfortable nature of this regimen. Since I would be half finished, I thought this was reasonable. NOT! My scans came back a little bit larger here and a little bit smaller there, for a net score of basically the same. I heard only the part that said “no improvement.” Wise Susan heard the part that said “no worse.” I didn’t hear much after that and walked out with Susan with a pouty lip and disappointed attitude. I had to walk down the hall and start my chemo session right after that. One of my hardest parts of having cancer is the fact that I get “down” but hate people thinking I’m down. I’m not talking sobbing or anything, but maybe is just acting normal for most people. Maybe a little quiet and reflective. When I do that, I find people calling 911 on me thinking I’m deathly ill. I was acting that way and the nurses all wanted to know what was wrong. Their inquiries snapped me back to reality–Susan was right (again).

No change in aggressive cancer is a “win!” I had fallen into the “woe is me” thinking. I had forgotten all the wonderful things I should be grateful for. I had started thinking of all the things cancer can take from you: your hair, your stamina, your taste buds, your sleep, your balance, your ability to stay warm, etc. All very minor things. When I got home that day, a card was in the mail which always cheers me up. It listed the things cancer couldn’t take away. It read:  It can’t cripple love, it can’t shatter hope, it can’t corrode faith, it can’t destroy peace, it can’t kill friendship, it can’t suppress memories, it can’t silence courage, it can’t invade the soul, it can’t steal eternal life, it can’t conquer the spirit. Plus, in the words of Irving Berlin, I have the sun in the morning and the moon at night. I had all these things, what was I feeling down about??

People give you great hats

I keep all my correspondence, and I have kept this one on top to make sure I remember what I have to be thankful for. I intend this Thanksgiving to be the best ever and I have had some really good ones. And to all my family and friends, I wish the most thankful of all Thanksgivings. Know what we have.

Love,

Dennis

With all this horse manure, there has to be a pony around here somewhere

My last chemo treatment three weeks ago has seamlessly morphed from three days of infusion to two and a half weeks of what they tell me is chemo flu. Everyone’s experience with chemo is different, so I can only speak of mine. For me, the three infusion days give me various degrees of nausea and fatigue, which I think is pretty standard. Mine had a little twist to it in that I had a previously existing autoimmune condition.  

One of my chemos gins up my immune system, while my other meds were suppressing it. As Kramer demonstrates in a Seinfeld episode,  bad things happen when two worlds collide.

Joints lock  up, head is in a fish bowl and legs feel like they’re walking in quicksand. Doc gave me some top of the line narcotics which started reversing this condition and, two days before I started the next treatment, I was sleeping and feeling pretty good. This rough patch over! During the three week time between treatments, Fasig-Tipton offered 1500 thoroughbreds for sale. This is a code red with all hands on deck. Everyone works extremely hard on logistics to get those horses housed, muck removed, hip numbered, catalogued, registration papers filed, and sold. I didn’t feel I had been pulling my share and was eager to try and help out, even minimally. This opened my eyes and I started finding many ponies in all the horse manure. I had whined about not finding the bright side of cancer. Well, I got my blinkers off and looked around and thought, what could I have been thinking?

First, the smell of horse manure in the morning will liven the step of any old racetraker. I was issued my own golf cart to tool around the 24 barns, and I was able to visit or at least yell at all the people out there. The golf cart depot was down by the muck pit and 1500 sacks of muck a day can add up.  

I started driving around seeing all the people who I’ve known for over 40 years. The good wishes and shouts of encouragement started making me see the brighter side of cancer I had been missing. I buzzed the barns with an old friend GB who is a Vietnam war hero and also dealing with health issues. In the bright sunlight of a beautiful fall day my spirits started to soar. Susan always asks me who I see at the sales, and I always say all the same people I’ve seen at every sale all around the country for 40 years, but now I had really started seeing them.  

It was humbling to receive so many back slaps, handshakes, and sincere wishes for my recovery. I often became emotional listening to the people open up to me about our friendship. They range from my horsey artist friend from California to the boys on the muck crew. Raw emotions are good for the soul, so I was wrong about not finding positive things about having cancer. Realizing and appreciating life long friendships can’t be outdone for lifting one’s spirits.  

I’m glad I got my vision back and I’ll try not to waste any opportunities to appreciate my loving family and friends.  

I got through the last three day rough patch and am now waiting to do scans to see how I am doing on the 19th, and a new session of chemo on the 20th. My spirit is bolstered by sharing love with all these people at this time.  

I love you all!

D

That darn cat!

I don’t really remember seeing this Disney movie in the 60’s, but I remember it being kind of a popular phrase people used when the movie was out. I found myself saying it to myself the other morning in my outdoor shower.  I was drying my hair off vigorously and noticed tufts of hair blowing in the breeze. I immediately thought of our house cat who sometimes finds odd places to nest, like the linen closet on the towels. I figured she had left a nest of hair on the towel but it proved to be mine, not hers. Welcome to the twists and turns of chemo! The girls at the infusion center had said my hair seemed to be hanging on, but not to count on it – they were right. It’s no big deal losing my hair, every new inductee in our military service gets the buzz. It’s just a little disconcerting to know you’re putting stuff in your body that causes so much to happen, right down to the follicles. I didn’t want to be a shedder, so Hank and Susan were commissioned to hack the rest of my hair off in the backyard, used as a bonding moment!

I thought chemo would be 3 days of infusion (bad), followed by 3 days of chemo hangover and then back in the pink till the next round. Not so fast my friend – it ends up the first part is correct, but you still feel mostly like a mutt the rest of the time too. But there have been so many advances in meds that relieve the nauseas feelings and body aches. I have nothing to complain about. I know what people went through  20-30 years ago. Mark me down as lucky.

I had a port inserted the week before treatments and what a great difference. No more pin the tail on the vein trying to find one, just plug it in like a toaster.

I know I repeat myself concerning how this blog helps me tell my friends whats going on, it’s very therapeutic for me. People always want to know how you are feeling and how you are doing, and answering those questions you have to be careful not to sound down or complaining. Most days I don’t feel pert as a rutting buck, but saying “not too good today” doesn’t do me or my friends much good. One of my favorite inquiries is “going through a little rough patch?” I like answering that with “yeah, a little but not bad.”

My friends from eastern Kentucky use that a lot – it’s used to cover lots of things; losing a job, not feeling well, or look out for a icy patch out on the highway. Little rough patch covers a lot, no specifics needed and both people feel good about asking and answering.

I have 4 more of these 3-day treatments, lasting till the end of the year. The second one was worse than first and I don’t know how the next one will be. But we always knew to buckle up for a bumpy ride. Another thing that is bothersome is that not one time, be it Lexington, Houston, NYC, or Nashville has anyone said, “we have some ideas that will make you better.” Each has been very honest in saying they have no cure, but we have lots of plans, with new ones every day, that will stall or delay the advancement of your cancer. I’ve been very grateful for these opportunities but it sure would be encouraging to think something was actually getting me better. To me it’s kinda like taking a class and being told to do all the work, take all the tests, pass the final, and getting no grade, just the right to take it all again. 

I’m reminded of a cartoon I once saw of two emaciated looking buzzards staring down at the vast Grand Canyon hopefully seeing some dead carrion down there somewhere to eat, the one looks over at the other and says “Hell, with this waiting, lets go kill something.”

Susan is a honey badger when it comes to challenges, so we are off in search of something to make me better. Maybe it’s spiritual healing through prayers, more positive attitude, or some magic beans that Jack sells door to door. Whatever she will find it, but please keep the prayers coming.

I’ve always been able to find something fun buried in every lousy job I ever had. So far, this journey has proven elusive in offering up something fun. But an overriding feeling in all of this is the good wishes, prayers, and the support I feel from my family and friends. Including more monkeys showing up in mail, books, blankets, caps, magic oils, gummy bears, cards, letters, flowers, rosary, lemon drops, and many other heartfelt expressions of love.

All in all, this patch ain’t that rough.

All my love,

Dennis