Merle Makes the Newspaper

The Atlanta Journal Constitution ran feature article on Merle in Sunday’s paper. Here it is.  Click on it to make it large enough to read.

Merle’s Obituary

Dr. Merle Edward Hamburger of Lilburn, GA, born March 1, 1966, died of pancreatic cancer on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 10:45 pm. Merle’s life was dedicated to the development of good character, strong values, and positive self-image of today’s youth. His work at the Centers for Disease Control focused on preventing youth and domestic violence. As a black belt in the martial arts, he taught students courage, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit at Northeast Tae Kwon Do and American Karate Productions. He was also active in adult leader training for the Boy Scouts of America and an involved leader of the youth at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett. Merle is survived by his wife, MaryBeth; children Benjamin, Kevin, and Abigail; mother Sydney; and siblings Marjorie, Isaac, and Sidney. Merle was predeceased by his father, Edward and older brother, Sandy. A memorial service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett, 12 Bethesda Church Road, Lawrenceville, GA 30044 on Monday, July 25 at 2:30pm. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Awareness Network, www.pancan.org.

Memorial Roast

Merle’s wish was that people gather to celebrate his life rather than sorrowfully mourn. A memorial will be held at the:

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett
12 Bethesda Church Rd
Lawrenceville, GA 30044

The memorial will be held on Monday July 25, 2011 in the afternoon. Mary Beth is finalizing arrangements with their minister. A specific time will be set and posted on this blog shortly

Memorial Roast Dress Code:
Scouts: uniform would be OK
Karate: uniform would be OK
All Others: Casual “Merle” style clothing is appropriate or Tuxedo with Birkenstock sandals and white socks

Lodging
A block of rooms and group rate of $79 have been arranged for at:
Country Inn & Suites
1852 Rockbridge Road
Stone Mountain, GA 30087
770-465-6515
Let them know you are with the “Hamburger” group

In Lieu of flowers please make donations in Merle’s name to PANCAN.ORG
(Pancreatic cancer claims 95% of all patients with-in five years)

Another Update

 

Today has been challenging; filled with frustration wanting to keep Merle comfortable while the inevitable approaches. Sydney (Merle’s mom) and MaryBeth have been with Merle all day. Scott, MaryBeth’s brother drove all night to be here as well. Diney, Merle’s  brother returned this evening. Merle’s highschool friend, Kathy, is flying down from VA tonight as well. Throughout the day there has been  a steady stream of visitors from AKP, the CDC, UUCG, and the BSA.

Merle seems comfortable however his breathing is labored and he is growing weaker.

We will continue to provide updates through this blog.

Here are some photo’s

Merle's 45th birthday with his family.

Merle, his brother Diney, and his best friend Luis

Merle on July 16,2011

 

 

 

 

 

Merle and MaryBeth at home June 2011

Merle gets a big kiss from his daughter

Brothers

 

Brothers

 

Returned Safely

For those of you not on Facebook, you will know that the family and I successfully returned from a trip to the great white Northeast. We traveled to NJ to attend my niece’s Bat Mitzvah and to get together for Hamburger Hanukkah. Well, our trip started out kinda rocky, as our flight was quite delayed. Suffice it to say, we expected to get to my Mom’s house around 10:30 or 11p and we ended up getting there around 1a.

We awoke, much to the amusement of my 6-year-old daughter, to a light dusting of snow. Little did we know that this was the beginning of a historic snowfall for December. By mid-morning, we received a call from my sister to let us know that the Bat Mitzvah was moved up from 5p to 1p. As the hours ticked by, the snow piled up; however, we braved the weather in our rental car and got to the synagogue on time. The Bat Mitzvah went wonderfully; my niece was great.

We returned to my sisters house for the celebration (noting that the snow was continuing to pile up).  After a wonderful celebration, however, we decided it was time to head home.  My mom started out ahead of us and had some trouble with her truck, but we both eventually made it to her driveway.  Mom’s driveway is about a mile long of narrow, windy road.   It had snowed about 14″ by the time we were driving along and while my Mom’s truck had sufficient clearance, our rental car did not.  After about 50 yards, the rental car began to act like a snowplow and the pile of snow in front of the car prevented any further forward momentum.  We were stuck.  (Oh and on Saturday evening, our Sunday afternoon flight had been canceled.)

The driveway didn’t get plowed until late Sunday afternoon and, needless to say, the Merle Hamburger’s missed the fun of Hamburger Hanukkah.  We also found out late Sunday afternoon that USAir could not get us confirmed onto another flight until Tuesday afternoon.  Thus, we were able to hang out with Mom for a while longer (which is amusing, as Mom is coming down to Atlanta the day after Christmas).  We were able to negotiate delayed flights and flight plan delays out of Atlanta and arrived home (after a quick stop for dinner) around 9:30p.  And then we collapsed.

I am glad we got to be there for my Niece’s Bat Mitzvah.  I am disappointed that we weren’t there for Hamburger Hanukkah, but we largely got to see everyone at the Bat Mitzvah celebration, so it wasn’t a total loss.  HOWEVER, this is yet another, in a long string of holiday travel nightmares, that reinforces my belief that my family and I should simply NOT travel in the month of December (and probably into January).

Thank you for checking in with me.  As I said, I will be updating this blog more frequently for a while.

Cheers,

Merle

And Now for my Weekly Update

A reader of mine suggested that even though I might not have anything to report, I should try to update the blog at least once a week so folks know I’m alive and well.  Who am I to deny “my fans” my online presence?  (Yeah — whatever)  Okay, well, here is my attempt at doing a weekly blog.

Important stuff: I’m doing fine.  My body still doesn’t like when I eat foods that are bad for you (high fat, high sugar).  Unfortunately, it is hard to avoid doing so around this time of year.  I simply rest assured that come the first of the year, I will get back to exercising.   All other things not withstanding, I know that when I exercise, I generally felt better about myself.  My health remains okay.  My next scan is 12/29, but I won’t get the results until 1/5.

This time of year, cancer not withstanding, is incredibly stressful.  This year, as opposed to other years, I actually tried to help MaryBeth with the shopping.  Essentially, I bought lots of stuff on Amazon.  :-)   What’s interesting, though, is the fact that people still don’t seem to get that Hanukkah is NOT the Jewish Christmas.  It is true that Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the oil burning for 8 days, but miracle wise it’s not anywhere near the supposed miracle of the birth of Jesus.  It’s just not as big a holiday and I largely resent when people try to equate the two.

In our house, we light candles and the kids get some gelt (both chocolate and actual currency).  I remember growing up and Granny giving me and my siblings aluminum wrapped dimes for each candle on the menorah.  This year, our kids made out, as the dime was upped to a quarter.  Every night, we say the blessing, light the candles, and share the gelt.  Beyond that, though, we don’t do much for Hanukkah (though, my younger son has a hankering for cooking some latkes). Of course, we also have the Christmas tree set up in our living room and the kids (particularly my daughter) is already bouncing off the wall in anticipation of Christmas.

I have to say that I am looking forward to getting together with my family to celebrate my nieces Bat Mitzvah and Hamburger Hanukkah.  What makes this gathering all the more memorable is that the last time this same group of people got together it was to mourn the passing of my father.  I am very much looking forward to seeing my family under much happier circumstances.

In the meantime, if anyone knows J.J. Abrams, please let him know that I, too, am a Star Trek devotee and would be happy to fill in as an extra in the Star Trek sequel on which he’s working.

Thank you all for keeping track.  It means a lot that people still check up on me and care.

Merle

Realization

Several realizations hit me over the last couple of days, but I have to warn you, this may be a very “stream of consciousness” type post.

Last week, I got an Email from the woman in charge of organizing a blood drive where I work.  Before April 2008, I prided myself in giving blood at least 4 times a year.  I checked last week and found out that I am still not eligible to donate (because it’s been less than a year since I stopped my treatment) and may never be an acceptable candidate.  That makes me sad.

I mentioned on my Facebook account that the family and I went down to Florida this past weekend to celebrate Rosh Hashahnah (Jewish New Year) with my step mom.  Actually, we took the opportunity to visit with MaryBeth’s grandmother (Peggy) who lives (relatively) near my step mom.  Peggy was not doing so well a month ago, but she seems to have perked up more recently.  It was a good visit.  As an added bonus, MaryBeth’s mother and aunts were down for their regulalry scheduled “Sister’s weekend.”  So the kids got to visit with their great grandmother and their grandmother.  In fact, we were able to take a pictures of 4 generations of Doddridge women (the picture will be posted as soon as it gets Emailed to me).

I am not sure how I got on the topic, but I came to the realization this weekend that I had never really considered the possibility of making it to age 45.  I can’t say that I’m ready to plan a trip 2 years in the future, but I think I had a passing thought that I could be here in 2011.

Lastly, I was moved by a comment I received from a woman named Jeane.  It appears that Jeanne’s husband, Roger Wagowitz has put together a celebrity golf tournament and auction to raise awareness for pancreas cancer.  They have a website set up, so please go check it out.  Last year, Roger was able to raise $400k for the cause and they are hoping to top that number this year.

Apparently, Jeanne did a search for pancreas and star trek and found my blog (remember my post about Randy’s on-screen presence in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.  Anywho, apparently Jai, Randy’s wife, has donated to the auction the actual uniform Randy wore in the movie.  Jeanne asked if I had any good idea how to advertise this great donation to the widest audience (essentially to get the largest donations possible).  Let me know if you have any ideas that I can share with Jeanne and Roger.

I just finished up with a really hectic couple of weeks at work and there is some other stuff that I’m dealing with outside of work.  If you are so inclined, happy thoughts and prayers directed toward MaryBeth and Me would be appreciated.

Until next time….

Cheers,

Merle

Glimmers

Although fairly busy, yesterday was a very good day. Sunday started off with an early trip to church to meet yet another parent of a prospective OWL participant. Church was, well, church (in which I spent the majority of time explaining to my almost 6-year-old daughter what was and was not appropriate behavior in church. Keep in mind that we go to a Unitarian Church, so the bounds of acceptable are pretty darn wide! :-)

After church, however, the family loaded into the van and trucked off to Turner Field to watch the Atlanta Braves (as it turns out) lose to the Cincinnati Reds in 12 innings. While there was some dissension in the ranks as the sun beat down on us and there were lulls in the action, overall everyone had a great time. Even better, there was a free concert after the game, so we got to enjoy that as well.

Once home and having gotten everyone in bed, MaryBeth and I talked a bit and I came to the realization that, for the first time, I had a glimmer of hope that perhaps I would beat this disease.

I have always maintained that I remain cautiously optimistic, but I have done so with the full realization that my chances of long-term survival are less than ideal. Yesterday, I was able to give voice to the notion that perhaps I may be one of the lucky ones.

As MaryBeth so accurately explained, last year at this time, we were not really willing to plan activities more than a couple of months into the future. Today, we are considering the possibility of what we might do for a 2010 summer vacation. There remains concern about whether those plans will come to fruition, but the big news is that we ARE thinking about it.

I continue to deal with the feelings surrounding my father’s death. On Friday, my brother Sid texted me to inquire about the results of my scans on Wednesday (he and my other brother Isaac were visiting with my step-mother Arlene in Sarasota). I told him the results (that they were unchanged and I remain cancer-free for at least another 2 months). Sid texted me back to say that they were currently at my Dad’s grave and that they would tell Dad my good news. I nearly broke into tears when I read that. Not that I’m overly analytical or anything, but I found myself wondering why I would have that reaction. (Okay, I get that it will take a while, but I have never had someone this close to me die and I’m still learning how one reacts to this kind of loss — cut me some slack.)

Thank you for your continued support.

Merle

Anxiety all over again

The last couple of days I have been experiencing a growing sense of dread and anxiety.  I had a “re-staging” CT today and I was amazed at how stressed it made me.  I was next to useless during this morning at work, as I could not focus my attention on anything but the CT.

The reason for this scan begins last October when I visited with the in-laws in Cincinnati.  While I was in Cincy, I had an attack of diverticulitis and I ended up in the emergency room of Jewish Hospital.  The doctors there ran a CT test to examine my abdomen and, apparently, upon review, the doctors there noticed something questionable on my liver.  I showed Dr. Kauh the images and he called the “thing” a “vascular blush” — suggesting that it was possible that the scan was taken just as the dye was moving through the liver blood vessels.  To be sure, though, Dr. Kauh put in an order for a follow-up CT.

As the days passed and today drew closer, I began to become more stressed about what the CT may or may not show.  In fact, I realized today that I was experiencing levels of stress that were similar to when I first was diagnosed.  A fact further enhanced when I met up with Cindy and her husband in the Radiology department at Emory.

Cindy was diagnosed with pancreas cancer a month before me (in March of last year) and had her Whipple in April, 2008.  Her Whipple was successful, in as much as there were negative margins around the tumor.  When the surgeon removed her tumor, he also removed some tissue around the tumor.  Getting a negative margin means that there was no cancer cells in the removed tissue around the tumor.  This is a good thing.  Unfortunately, Cindy also had evidence of the cancer in two lymph nodes.  Cindy underwent Gemzar follow-up chemotherapy (needing to take it every other week, like me, because she could not tolerate the more frequent dosing).  She had a follow-up CT scan recently and, regrettably, she found out last month that her cancer had metastasized to her liver.

In addition to just the saddness I feel for Cindy and her husband (I believe they do not have kids), her experience leads me to wonder whether I am fated to have the same experience.  Now, as with my Dad, I realize that we are separate individuals and there is no reason to think that Cindy’s experience has ANYTHING to do with Merle’s experience; having said that, though, there’s a part of me that worries.  I’m sure I will be better tomorrow (though, I won’t get the results of my CT scan until later this week or next week), but today I’ve just been out of sorts.

As I have tried to do previously, I will leave you with an image.  As I have said, I try to look for different perspectives when I take my pictures.  I want to try something new, though.  I want to post the image and see if you all can guess what it is (and no fair participating if I’ve already told you what it is).  So take a look and leave a comment with your guesses.  I’ll post the answer in a couple of days.  Enjoy!

Merle

Happy MLK Day

My wife and I were sitting watching TV last night when the news came on and talked about the Sunday service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church at which Martin Luther King Jr. had preached.  In lieu of the inauguration tomorrow, I would expect the worship service at Ebenezer yesterday was particularly meaningful.

For many people, today is an opportunity to celebrate the teachings of Dr. King, some of those people might have decided to march in one of the many parades going on today (several members from UUCG are marched in an MLK day parade here in Atlanta in support of Troy Davis).  Yet others answered Barak Obama’s call to service today.  More than 12,100 service projects (e.g., delivering meals, refurbishing schools, being a mentor, etc.) are taking place across the country, prompting those that participate to treat MLK Day as “a day on, not a day off.”  I on the other hand, used today to spend time with my wife, enjoying each other’s company while our various and sundry children were off playing.

I’ve had to take things kinda easy the last couple of days.  Every time I feel as if I am getting over my last chemo treatment, I find myself getting a little nauseous.  For whatever reason, the effects are lingering; I’m sure I’ll be fine in a bit.

Which brings me to the picture for today.  As I have said here, of my children, my younger son (the middle child) often seems to have the hardest time dealing with my being sick.  My younger son spends a lot of energy (mostly) helping to take care of his little sister and defending his older brother.  A lot of stuff for an 11-year-old to have to deal with.

Luckily, he has many other outlets to express himself.  This picture was taken earlier this week at his Winter concert.  In addition to playing the bass in the 6th grade concert band, he also participates in boy scouts (he’s currently a Tenderfoot, but he is very close to completing his Second and First class rank requirements).  In addition, he often helps me as a den chief in the cub scout Webelos den I help run.  In addition to these activities, my son is a red belt in Kenpo Karate and enjoys attending the youth group meetings at Eastminster Presbyterian Church.  As busy as this all sounds, though, he has quite a bit of free time, and he spends that hanging out with his friends or playing on the computer / Wii.

More tomorrow.

Merle