On Friday, Oct. 28, 2008, after a courageous two-year fight against brain cancer, Brad Perkins died at age 53.
A close family friend, and Madison Park resident, Kathryn Hinds passed along a letter Perkins had written in January that is now circulating through e-mail networks again. Here is Perkins' letter, in full:
As you know I am now an official one year Cancer survivor. Thus I feel compelled to bring you up to date. Please note, too. The complexities of our lives do not permit the Perkins family the luxury of sending seasonal greeting cards. Besides you look at them once, throw 'em in some basket, then whisk the lot off to the recycling bin on January 2nd. Consider this the email version of the typed letters which come with those cards, except I'll spare you the tedium of detailing how Marit's doing in school, or how we spent our vacation at Mount Airy Lodge in the Poconos.
Over all I feel superb, though there are some chemo issues with which I still must grapple. Sara, Marit, and I try to keep life as "normal" as possible ... though it'll take some time before sitting for three hours in a recline-o-rama chair at an infusion center - with dreadful, nausea inducing medications being pumped into your veins ... while the patient next to you feels the shared TV must be tuned to Dr. Phil, or some obscure documentary on the evolution of plastic storage containers for leftovers - is considered "normal."
Anyway, here is how the treatments are going. Radiation ended in January 2007. This is for good ... barring a catastrophe on a par with the Biblical floods which recently washed away western Washington State. Chemo is a different story. I started that at the end of 2006, and will continue indefinitely. The treatments are being directed by Duke University in North Carolina, but done through my doctors in Seattle. There is a bunch of medi-legal mumbo jumbo as to why this is, and I'll spare you specifics. It does mean that twice a year Sara and I must go to Duke for a full, under the hood, inspection. Not that it matters, but there is some irony to this. In the mid 1970's when I was looking at colleges, Duke was my first choice. Sadly, the university did not have quite the same level of enthusiasm for me. So here is it 30-years later, and I've finally been admitted to Duke. Too bad it took Cancer to pull it off.
As usual I digress. The university has a center devoted exclusively to brain tumors. It puts them on the avant-garde of new, and often aggressive research and treatments. This is important in light of the Hydra-esque qualities of what was, and could still be, in my head. Hydra-esque ? Read the Twelve Labors of Hercules. Heck you've gotten this far with the nonsense I've penned. Why not delve into some Greek mythology while you're at it.
The Chemo protocol is this. I flip flop between two. If this were a football game the idea would be to alternate from run to pass, pass to run, etc. The doctors want to keep the cells in the tumor site guessing. Of the two treatments one is easy. It's Temodar. I take four pills, five consecutive nights, once a month. There are no real side effects, other than I get a bit tired and foggy headed. Go ahead. Insert joke here about how, at our age, we're all that way at any given moment.
The nasty treatments require three hour infusion treatments twice a month. I get loaded up with medicines called Avastin, and Irinotican, along with various solutions to deal with side effects. I hate the stuff. It all makes me rather sick, and extremely tired. While Temodar causes no significant impact on lifestyle, the Avastin does. Due to its half life, the medication stays in me all month. In fact following the final infusion, it still takes six weeks to completely rid the system of this toxin. Furthermore Avastin compromises the blood's ability to coagulate, and can induce clotting. This limits the sports I can play especially hockey, as even a minor injury or bruise can be a big problem. With both treatments I have issues of stimulation overload, and mental processing. Loud, bright environments, late nights, multiple or insipid conversations, as well as learning new tasks, or dealing with complex ones, can rattle me. However, it can be a good excuse to leave a party early.
I'll return to Avastin in January. In March we'll travel to Duke, and the staff will determine whether to change anything, or stay the course. Still, in light of the fact a portion of my ashes should have been scattered about the Adirondack Mountains last winter, I will paraphrase Lou Gehrig. I feel like the luckiest man on the face of the Earth, and for that matter the other eight planets in the Solar System. There are many, many people who have it far worse than me. Victory in life is a matter of turning improbabilities into miracles. The survival statistics for Glioblastoma types remain grim. Funny thing. That only heightens my resolve to beat this darn thing. My ordeal is simply akin to severe Adirondack blow-down through which one must push to reach a summit. Face the ordeal with strength and a smile, and you'll conquer the highest peak along with climbers who got there following an easier trail. Either way it's the same summit, and the view equally glorious.
As I begin to wrap up this, I would like to thank you all for your support and love as I make my journey through Cancer. This includes my family, both mine and on Sara's side; with them, no matter where I travel or visit, I am always "home" ... everyone at Epiphany, Saint Joseph, and Saint John's; quiet places of refuge where I can rest my head, and fill my soul ... friends both close to home and as far away as Europe. The years do not diminish our bonds ... my colleagues at KIRO, KTTH, and KBSG. There is no finer group of men and women with which one could work ... the entire fraternity of the Seattle Adult Hockey League; true brothers indeed. Keep those gloves dropped on this one ... and mostly Sara and Marit. The sacrifices they've made to keep me smiling, and in good health are incalculable.
Feel free to forward this to anyone you see fit. As I have mentioned before, the ease with which one can send, or reply to emails is such that one might receive multiple editions of this writing, or get something that was accidentally sent "reply all." I apologize for this inconvenience, and advise double-checking the key you hit.
Since the Perkins family is cleverly avoiding greeting cards, let me pass along best wishes for the New Year. I truly look forward to 2008, and celebrating my second year of survivorship. As you journey through the New Year, awake each morning, and pretend you're fighting Cancer. Indeed some of you are. Live fully, enjoy every moment, and let go of the petty problems, mostly of our own invention, which seek to destroy the spirit.
To good health, and broad smiles, Brad."