January 21, 2002|


As of 5:30pm, we haven’t heard from the insurance company, the case management company or the hospital. From last Friday, there was a 72 hour turnaround time. Obvious to all, that has been violated. Just more evidence for our case. Hopefully Monday we will receive news. Look for an update sometime Sunday. Till then…Go Steelers!

Latest News: No Baseball Bat-to-the-Head Fatalities to Report

My apologies for taking so long to write this latest update. Computer availability and my availability have been spotty at best. When the computer lab is open here at the Ronald McDonald House of NYC (hereafter to be referred to as the RMH) I am typically napping or out exploring Manhattan. When I am in prime writing mood (which sometimes comes after my sleeping pills have worn off at 3AM) the computer lab has long since shut down. Dejected, I instead write the update in my personal journal, only to discover the next morning that I a.) know gibberish, but just don’t realize it when I am awake, b.) wrote something so unintelligble and confusing to the English language that it would take a team of forensic scientists and anthropologists to unmask the mystery or c.) can’t read it because the ink smeared on the page, thanks to being left-handed. Anyway, all of my gold thoughts of last week are hidden in that journal only to be uncovered at a later date.

So the latest news: We are on appeal #2 with the insurance company, waiting for an answer Tuesday or Wednesday. Without getting into the laborious details, the basic argument by the insurance company as to why I haven’t been admitted into Sloan-Kettering is that this mini-transplant is too ‘experimental’ according to their language. The kicker: other insurance companies have approved such procedures on the first go around with riskier patients at Sloan-Kettering.

Definitions and Explanations

Full Bone Marrow Transplant– proven, older procedure where patient gets blasted with enough chemotherapy that the patient’s immune system and, hopefully, cancer cells are obliterated. Afterwards a matching donor’s bone marrow (or stem cells) is inserted into the patient which regrow the immune system and help to fight any remaining cancer cells.

Mini-Bone Marrow Transplant– newer procedure where patient gets blasted with very little chemotherapy and a lot of immuno-suppressents. Afterwards a matching donorís bone marrow (or stem cells) is inserted into the patient which regrow the immune system and help to fight any remaining cancer cells. The goal of the procedure is that the donor’s marrow will do the entire work, recognizing the cancer cells as being foreign entities.

Importance of MBMT to Art– I have done way too much chemotherapy in the past two years to allow me to do a full BMT. One telling statistic that was revealed to me- my blood gets oxygen at a 50% less clip than a year and a half a go. Simply, any more large doses of chemotherapy and my heart stops. Simply, if we don’t try this MBMT, the cancer takes over my body and my heart stops. Don’t have too many options, do we?

Life vs. the Bottom-Line

I can somewhat understand the insurance company’s dilemma. The company is on hard times. It just laid off 2,000 workers a few weeks ago. Managers are getting pressed into cost-cutting measures. The letter of the law is being dictated. I would not want to be the doctor who has to make the decision to fund this procedure.

I say somewhat though because this goes beyond the bottom line and your average ordinary medical procedure. This isn’t approving hydro-therapy for someone’s bad back (although I can empathize completely). This isn’t cosmetic dental work. This isn’t wart-removal. This is someone’s life at stake. Hello! I don’t get this procedure, I perish. I get a different procedure, I perish. It’s not about the Benjamins, it’s about a life.

Realistic Optimism

Being alone in the city the past few weeks has given me the time to grip that above tension and also the very subject of death. It is so hard to fathom that someone has the right to decide if you die or not, let alone over a dollar amount. Is my life worth a price? Is all that I have done and will do, is there some figure attached to it all? It plainly sucks knowing that someone in a boardroom, in an office, in a cubicle perhaps, is right now deciding whether or not to fund the procedure that could ultimately save my life, hinging on that person’s definition of the word ‘experimental’. Unreal.

It’s not easy coming to grips with what could be your death. This is not to be grim or dark. I don’t want this to be an Emily Dickinson-like rant of impending doom. Rather, in cases like this you have to be realistic. I am a twice-relapsed cancer patient. The chances of survival are heavily against me. Does that mean I give up? Of course not. Does that mean I am not optimistic about recovery? Of course not? Does that mean nothing will work? Of course not.

Importantly though, I (and you) have to be a realistic optimist. I still fight. I still believe I will be healed. I still live each day. I am still cheerful (and goofy). I don’t stop my daily activities or friendships. I am still looking for a good intern/assistant (know of anyone?) to help me manage e-mail, phone calls and appointments 🙂 But I don’t live in a delusional state, blindly believing that there is no doubt that I will be healed. I understand the nature of the ballgame.

Faith, optimism, hope have to be approached that way. Why? Well, for me, it starts with a belief in a Creator who does and acts as He wants. Just because I am Art Canning, was class president, went to an Ivy League school and worked on Wall Street doesn’t mean jack to Him. He could accomplish more in a millisecond than I could ever accomplish in full life. Ultimately, His will prevails. If I (or we) go in blindly, saying “We know Art’ll be healed. We just know it. We prayed for it, etc.” then that is no longer faith in Godís will. That is faith in our own will. That is faith in knowing that we know better how to run the earth than God.

Instead, I take my example from three guys, who as they were just about to be thrown into a giant fiery furnace said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to rescue as from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the images of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3) Translation (for them and for me): We know God can save us from any situation and certainly will save us now, despite the odds. But we could be wrong. We could be wrong. Itís not about us, it’s about Him. His ways are above ours.

So I go into this next chapter, with just that- realistic optimism. Eventually I’ll get into the hospital and weíll do this transplant. (There are ways around the insurance company that so many of you have come up with. Thank you!) Who knows what will happen? Regardless, I’ll still shake my booty in there like last time, full of passion and enthusiasm, realistically optimistic that God will use all of this for bigger and better things, whether I am here or not.

If you can, please pray for the insurance company, my company (Goldman Sachs) and the hospital. I’ll be OK. Just pray for the people there who are working on this case. I sometimes feel they need it more than I do.

P.S. Go Steelers!!!!!!!!

Waiting My Time

January 13, 2002|

Waiting My Time

I am still a free man. That wasn’t expected was it? Without laborious details that could get me into a host of legal trouble, all I can write is that we are waiting for a few of the players in this madcap adventure to resolve their differences and allow Art to enter the hospital. Right now we are week behind schedule. The days grow longer, the nights grow shorter, and Art certainly isn’t getting any better. Let’s get this bad boy on!

In the meanwhile, I have appointed Ministers of Art Information to let the masses know what is going on via word of mouth. For example, cousin Shawnee is the Family Minister of Art Information (FMAI). Any new news gets posted to her first for distribution to the rest of my family members. Frederick A. Canning Jr. will serve as Prime Minister of Art Information (PMAI, for those keeping score at home). My dear readers, it’s all about delegation. 🙂

Tuesday’s Sushi?

One of the difficulties in having cancer is in the symptom awareness arena. I have become constantly aware of my condition, knowing every creak, every ache, every sickness. So when a new one appears, I mentally run down a list to see what I did, what I didn’t, what I ate, what pill I forgot to take, etc. in order to remedy it. Friday my stomach was screaming at me. Screaming. I could only think back to Tuesday’s sushi (That would be a cool band name- Tuesday’s sushi). Vengeful justice I thought. Brag about having sushi and it bites you in the butt. It wasn’t till Saturday, though, when I yacked my brains out, that I remembered the 24-hour flu bug that had been making it’s way around New York City. And I also remembered hanging out with about a million people who had either had it or were exposed to it. They too had had a day of crazy stomach sickness/ralphing only to have it subside a day later. Symptom awareness, once again to the rescue. I am still pro-sushi, for the record.

Profound Lord of the Rings-Tolkien Quote of the Week:

“And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stayed in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually- their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on- and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same- like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?”

“I wonder”, said Frodo. “But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you are fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to know.”

– Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; JRR Tolkien, page 378

I couldn’t help but throw this nugget in. Anytime you want to look smart, quote JRR Tolkien. It always works. This passage jumped out at me as I read it on the subway yesterday. The best tales are those- the ones that we get thrown into without an ounce of prep time and that we have the choice to turn back once the road gets more difficult. Considering I am closing in on my two-year cancer anniversary, I deemed it appropriate. Chew on it.

Thanks to all those concerned souls who were ready to storm a certain insurance and case management company with baseball bats, clubs and other devices of the common day thug. I am a man of action, and I appreciate hearing of such action. It warms the heart knowing that someone is ready to knock someone else’s head off for your sake. Alas, such action wouldn’t be of any good though. Most of these people don’t even have heads, as they have been beaten off by previously annoyed family of other patients. Regardless, know that I am doing fine and that only the prayers of such passionate people will do anything to get this situation rectified that and maybe staying away from the sushi.

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Write it in Pencil

January 8, 2002|

Write it in Pencil

I was supposed to be in a haze right now. An anesthetic haze caused by the very minor surgery of having a catheter put in my chest. Instead I am wide awake, writing you from the computer lab at the Ronald McDonald House. Why? I can’t and don’t want to get into the details, but there’s been a hold up in my admittance into the hospital. Insurance company, case managing company and hospital all play a significant role in the delay. Me- I am just a mere observer of the whole affair. Funny how this all revolves around me, yet there is no way for me to enter the circling fray to expedite the process. Patience, my friend, patience.

This whole adventure has once again proven the validity of the “write it in pencil theory.” The “write it in pencil” theory (discovered by noted scientist and educator Fred A. Canning) is that in such a predicament that I am in with my health, you can never write anything in pen in your calendar. Times and dates change so frequently that the calendar would be filled with more scratch marks than actual writing. Therefore you write everything in pencil and learn the value of the eraser at the other end.

As for me, well, I am learning another valuable lesson in patience. That sounds quite contrived and cute, doesn’t it? But it really is the truth. Sometimes the best lessons in life are hidden in such frustrating, irritating and annoying episodes. Think of the clam. The pearl, the beauty, is only created by the clam being irritated.

I actually am surprisingly calmer than I thought I would be. I guess I have just been accustomed to such delays and have learned the value of the “write it in pencil theory.”

So when I will be admitted? Who knows? Till then I am going to enjoy another day of good (ok, decent) health and freedom, maybe get some sushi for lunch and head to B & N for an afternoon of Starbucks and reading. Not a bad day, if I say so myself.

The Tragedy on New Year’s Eve

January 3, 2002|

The Tragedy on New Year’s Eve

Previously on, Art vowed to be in Times Square for New Year’s Eve. It was a simple vow that as we will read this week was fated not to occur. Alas.

The beginning. It all started at the Pittsburgh Airport, where I lost my scarf, my precious, beautiful, warm navy blue scarf. A scarf is essential for outdoor spulunkering, especially for me- mr. pencil neck.

The downfall continued. My companions on the trip both exclaimed their fear of the cold. Women. You could be in the Sahara Desert and a woman would complain,”I feel a draft! Do you have a sweater!” It was 30 degrees! That’s like summer in Ohio! Alas, it was Art, left by himself.

And onward. I was not allowed to eat the entire New Year’s Eve until I had finished both my CT Scan and PET Scan. True to nature and technology, one of the two PET Scan machines broke, and I was stuck at the hospital an extra 3 hours. I arrived at 1pm, and didn’t leave until 7pm. Further my last meal was the night previous (chocolate cake, mmmm…). Not only would I be late getting to Times Square, but I would be starving also. Nonetheless I planned on.

The kicker. For Christmas, I bought myself a digital camera (Art says “Merry Christmas Art!” Art replies, “Wow! Thanks! A digital camera! You shouldn’t have!”) I was so set to take many a picture for this very web site. Of course, as I was setting it up, while waiting for my PET Scan, the battery ran out. Patient Art was becoming flustered Art.

The change of plans. There was no way I could go to Times Square. At the rate I was going, I probably would have been hit by a herd of crazed taxi drivers on the way there. Famished, I grabbed burgers from Wendy’s, headed to Katie’s apartment and watched “Memento” – one of the most perplexing and confusing movies ever made. Flustered Art became more flustered.

To the rescue.Remembering an invitation gathered the night before, Court, Katie and I convened and decided to go to our friend Steve’s New Year’s get-together. We celebrated the New Year in style, on the roof, squinting to see any sign of the ball dropping and hearing the complaints of many a woman about the cold (“Oh the wind! I feel a draft!”). It was a New Year’s Eve for the books.

More Adventures

Since then, I have been pounding the cement of NYC, hitting Macy’s, the movies, delis, and this internet cafe in Times Square that I write you from. Last night was another one for the books. Ali and I went to see “Kate and Leopold” (starring Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman) and then had tea/coffee at Cafe Lalo, the cafe from the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks hit “You’ve Got Mail.” It was only appropriate. I also saw “A Beautiful Mind” on New Year’s Day. It definitely rivals “Lord of the Rings” for Art’s Movie of the Year.

Oh yeah, there is also that whole health thing. Yesterday was another long day at Sloan Kettering, getting all the necessary pre-work completed for the Bone Marrow Transplant. The highlight was Dr. Perales’s “No-Hassle Bone Marrow Biopsy.” A Bone Marrow Biopsy is where the doctor sticks a needle (with a circumference of like 2 inches; at least it feels like it) through your muscle into the back of your hip bone. Nother rivals feeling a needle going into your bone, especially without sedatives or the numbing agent at full strength. Hearing and feeling your bone crack, it is something EVERYONE needs to experience. I think it was some sort of Nazi torture exercise. I am sure it was.

During the procedure, outside, I didn’t move a muscle, looking straight ahead and replying with all the masculinity I could muster “I feel fine!” Inside, it was a different story. I was screaming like a little school girl. “EEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!” That’s why I like this new doctor, Dr. Perales. He gets the job done and means business. “EEEEEEKKKKKKK!! June 6th- D-Day! Normandy! EEEKKKKK!”

So Much More

I have much more to write, but my minutes are running out at this internet cafe. I will try to tell of more adventures next week. Till then, keep your head up, stay warm (esp. you women) and watch out for doctors with big needles.