Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's Official!

Greetings to our Raff Update Blog Followers:

Our blog started out a couple of years ago sharing the news with all of you that Gil had been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of leukemia. Fortunately, that episode in our lives only served to make us stronger as a family. And he's still thriving.

And to this day, we have much to be thankful for.

Add to all that gratitude, Marika's welcome news from the weekend.

On Friday night, shortly after midnight, she was sent the most delightful link to a YouTube video announcing that she was ADMITTED to the U-M Medical School Class of 2016.

The photo above is from the U-M Medical School website and the "baked good" is the pumpkin bread -- it hasn't been iced yet with Marika's homemade cream cheese frosting -- that she and her friend, Elizabeth made as Marika waited to hear about her admission status on Friday night.

The entire Raff family and many friends are thrilled for her. (Whether she chooses to go to U-M is entirely up to her as she completes her other interviews across the country.)

But we are secretly, and perhaps somewhat selfishly, hoping she chooses to stay in Michigan. (Having Marika around is like having eternal springtime -- she is smart, kind, optimistic and a good friend to all.)

Gil has been taking some awesome photos of Kent Lake in Kensington Park nearby when we go out walking with the dogs. He has promised to post them in our November  blog update.

I spent the day in Ann Arbor yesterday at an artist's studio ( making a whimsical wooden fish to hang on the wall. I have not enjoyed a day quite like that for a very long time. It reawakened in me a passion for making art. (I lovingly referred to the experience as my "make-and-take-it" day.) As winter approaches, I'm going to restock my craft studio downstairs and start "making stuff" again. (I made the piece below which I titled Fish with Attitude. He's about a foot long, made of a discarded piece of Adirondack chair wood, and painted metal flashing. The "26" represents my birthday and Gil's and my wedding anniversary date. The fish "trophy" hangs on the wall and I'm still deciding where he should go.)

I'm heading off to Kentucky for a short visit with my mom and her family. Her brother from California is coming in town next weekend and we are all meeting up to welcome him back to Kentucky where he grew up. There will be brunches and lunches and dinners together until he returns a few short days later to Riverside where he lives. Wishing his entire family and all our cousins could come back with him. California is just too far away sometimes!

So many doctors
Doctors Raff, Raff, Raff and Raff!
Too good to be true

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Then ... and Now

Then and Now.

"Then" was on October 7, 2009 when Gil received his stem cell transplant and many of you lived through that very trying time with us. The top photo literally shows Gil's sister's stem cells being administered through his IV. Genie spent all day in the lab at Karmanos having her stem cells extracted and filtered during the apheresis process for the end-of-day transfer to Gil.

The transplant procedure itself -- the slow drip, drip, dripping -- took 20 minutes and was not accompanied by much hoopla. It was routine for the staff but a one-time utterly unique and life-saving experience for us.

"Now" is a photo taken several days ago when we met one of the co-recipients of the stem cell transplant on the same day as Gil's. We try to go out with Mark, and his wife Kim, at least every other month. This night we were at a restaurant celebrating the two year anniversary of the transplant itself.

There were three recipients that day. Most of you will remember that Bonnie was our third recipient and valiantly as she tried, she did not survive to celebrate this occasion with Mark and Gil. We still keep in touch with Bonnie's wonderful husband and family and although Bonnie's death has left a huge hole in their hearts, they are graciously joyous that Mark and Gil are doing well.

Update on the kids:

Marika has been living in Ann Arbor for the past month and is working hard at her research at U-M.  She's had several medical school interviews -- U-M, Pitt, heading to USC in LA this weekend for an interview there next week and returning for an interview at Michigan State. Interview requests from the schools are still coming in. Fingers crossed that she gets admitted to one of her favorites.

Evan is doing a fourth year clerkship at U-M in radiology for the month and is living with Marika during those four weeks. He has applied to interventional radiology residencies across the country, is beginning to hear back from the programs and is scheduling travel for interviews. He thinks Ann Arbor is pretty laid back compared to LA but I can see he is secretly enjoying the slower pace and changing leaf colors of fall.

Adam is heading to Philadelphia for a one month clerkship in dermatology near the end of October. He has also applied across the country to dermatology residencies. He will be scheduling his travel to interviews as well.

I'm still getting my Cushing's syndrome work up. Waiting for a particular medication I've been taking to clear out of my system before we do some additional tests. So more on that later.

Gil is doing well as you can see in the "now" photo. He let you know in one of our recent blogs that an important paper had been accepted, and now his team at Beaumont has seen the paper published. He continues to think up new research projects and is" going strong" which means he has energy and enthusiasm for life!

We've been going on long 3-mile walks each day in Kensington Metro Park -- trying a new path or trail each time. It's good for the dogs and good for us. The fall color is spectacular!

It's my favorite season. (I know. I know. I say that every season.)


Two out of three kids
Just "down the road" in Ann Arbor
Almost like old times!