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Frank Kaiser: Difficult year results in new focus on life

Frank and Carolyn Kaiser are fighting back.

Special to the Times

Frank and Carolyn Kaiser are fighting back.

We're back.

Thanks in great part to your compassionate thoughts and prayers, after a year almost to the day, Carolyn and I are just now out from under the likely death sentence that is cancer.

Death sentence? A bit dramatic, isn't it?

Much depends on how much you love life. A year ago, Carolyn fought for hers as she underwent a stem cell transplant to arrest newfound multiple myeloma cancer.

"Have the death-defying transplant or never see 2009." That's what doctors concluded.

I remember the time well. I had a heart attack that weekend.

And as regular Suddenly Senior readers know, it's been going like that for us pretty much ever since.

My cancer was diagnosed in October. It, too, is Stage IV — terminal. I also had a choice. Undergo surgery and extensive chemo and radiation and live maybe a year. Or die in 16 to 20 days.

Talk about a no-brainer! Yet some advised me to give up; that chemo was worse than death itself.

Not true. Turns out today's advanced technology eliminates much of the pain and suffering associated with the treatment of cancer.

Shaping up

For Carolyn and me, every additional day we're alive is a gift. A miracle, really. Around us, all life grows more sacred. As does our love for one another.

We've each lost 50 pounds in this struggle. We go to bed early now.

Today Carolyn suffers a new and distressing foe, enchondroma, a cartilaginous tumor within her right hip. Doctors predicted months ago that severe pain would eventually overwhelm her. That's now happening. Surgery and rehabilitation will follow. Meanwhile, no skateboarding or bungee jumping allowed.

The good news? Carolyn's cancer is in partial remission. And once my oncologist figured out that my rare and incurable bladder cancer is more like a common small-cell lung cancer, under my current therapy of chemo and daily radiation, he now predicts a 20 percent chance of remission.

A presidential pardon couldn't have been sweeter. A bit of a long shot, perhaps. But hope is once again part of the plan.

So, beginning today, with some help from our friends, Suddenly Senior is starting anew. Chemo brains and all. Some of you may only see the monthly column in LifeTimes. But that's only a taste of what you'll find on our Web site,

Carolyn's popular "Week's Best Jokes" every Sunday:

A Suddenly Senior column every Friday.

Significant senior news e-mailed daily.

Each is distributed by e-mail to about 40,000 readers, and via to hundreds of thousands in 179 countries worldwide.

It's a big job.

Smart and funny

Still, treatment renders us feeble; there are days we seldom leave our bed.

So we've asked members of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists to help out. More than 30 of these exceptional journalists — top columnists all for newspapers across the country — have pitched in with columns especially for Suddenly Seniors.

When you don't hear from Carolyn or me you'll be hearing from someone really smart and funny.

Again, with help from good friends, we plan to expand to include more features our readers have requested, including a bulletin board where you can exchange ideas, information and hope.

And truth.

That's why Suddenly Senior started: to tell the truth about getting old — nose hairs, comb-overs, health crises and all. Nobody was doing that in 1999!

I mentioned that we go to bed early. Truth. We turn on our sweet-sounds music channel and lie in each other's arms. Every night for most of this past year we've given each other sweet, lengthy massages, soothing away the rigors of the day. Most evenings we make love, often as if it's the last time ever.

Tonight we will be closer and more in love than ever.

How can this be?

Perhaps the deep and often nagging knowledge that we will not always have this wondrous life. Death will win out, after all. But not without a hell of a fight.

We fall asleep, cuddling, and wake in the morning, laughing to note that we're still above ground. We give thanks accordingly.

Frank Kaiser is a nationally syndicated columnist who lives in Clearwater. His Web site,, includes nostalgia and links to senior-focused sites. Contact him at or by writing to 2431 Canadian Way, Suite 21, Clearwater, FL 33763.

Frank Kaiser: Difficult year results in new focus on life 04/27/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 27, 2009 4:30am]
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