Thursday, November 27, 2014

From some friends

The note below, from friend Jay Cunningham, is self explanatory.  What a gift for Peter.  Enjoy!

Peter and Susan,

On Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 a group of musicians collected at the Chameleon in Durham.  Linked by their friendship with Peter, they paid tribute to him and played a few songs.  Members of the groups recalled their relationship to each other and to Peter who often introduced them to each other or to certain songs that have been favorites over the years.  Many of the musicians met at Duke in the early 70s and appeared on Peter's radio show.  Some were in groups with Peter - the Flashbacks or Green River. 

In attendance (in alpha order):

Mike Bisdee - guitar
Michael Borstleman - mandolin and guitar
Billy Stevens - keyboard, harmonica, vocals, more
Toni Stevens - vocals
Jay Cunningham - guitar and vocals
Al Dawson - guitar and vocals
Charlie Ebel - guitar and vocals
Janet Stolp - guitar and vocals
Robert Truesdale - bass
Rodger Tygard - drums and bongos
Lew Wardell - bass

Videos have been uploaded to a special YouTube channel "Peter K" (kind of like "Murray the K" or "Coach K") here:  This is a public channel so you can share it friends and relatives. 

I uploaded them in the order they were performed, so you should view them in reverse order as they appear on the You Tube channel.

Speaking for everyone who was there, this was a joy to contribute to and a good excuse to get together and share memories and friendships!

P.S.  I also uploaded a couple videos to my own channel recorded at a recent Claptones practice.  These were recorded especially for Peter to watch and enjoy! 

The Claptones are:

Al Dawson on guitar
Mike Gallimore on bass
Rick Parks on guitar
Jay Cunningham on vocals
Brian Murray on drums

Happy Thanksgiving from Down Yonder Farm


I had to look back at what I wrote in the last post.  I see that we were still hoping to make it to NY for the family Thanksgiving gathering, and that didn't happen.  Amanda, Alejandro, Jessie, Matt, and Levin did make it, though, and are all with Peter's mom, Sunny, and his sister, Karen, in Rye, NY, right now.  Sunny called this morning just thrilled with Levin's presence in her home.

All but Sunny will head into the city for the evening gathering.  If Levin wasn't a party boy before, he will be now.  He will be covered in kisses all evening I am sure.  I will really miss being there.

Peter and I are appreciating a really quiet day here.  Things have been way too busy, but now all the medical equipment has been delivered and appointments scheduled, and Peter's sister will be here on Monday.  We're moving into this next phase of life.

I see that I posted this last time:   "Talking on the phone is difficult for Peter, as it causes him to cough, and he doesn't have strength for visitors right now."  

This remains true.  But you need to know that answering calls and retrieving messages is very stressful for me now, too.  I want to concentrate my energies on taking care of Peter, and he needs more of me now.  I changed our phone messages to ask you not to call or leave messages.  Please respect that request.  If I see a message, I will assume it is urgent.

But email works!  Peter is active on his tablet when he is awake, and loves hearing from you.  So email away.  Tell him funny stories and send him pictures.  Upbeat messages are best (he says).  I am on email, too, and Facebook.

Ages ago I found this article and it was really meaningful to me, not only with Peter's illness, but it helped me with challenges that friends have gone through.  I hope it might help you in your own challenges, or in dealing with the suffering of others:  RING THEORY.

I know what the urge to help feels like when a friend is in crisis, and we appreciate all of the offers that have come from you.  My high-school friend, Michele, who lost her husband several years ago, advised me to respond by handing out tasks.

That will come, but right now tasks require some orchestration, and we don't have the energy for that.  For me, doing the things that need doing is feels good to me right now--part of the rhythm of life.  But Peter and I started a list and, when the time is right, I'll post it.  

For now, just accept our appreciation for your offers, and if you have something specific in mind, send an email.

Much love from Down Yonder Farm,
Susan and Peter

Thursday, November 20, 2014


On November 17, 2011 Peter received his original cancer diagnosis. We have had tough times, ups and downs, and fortunately lots of quality time as a family and wonderful goings-on on the farm since then.  One of those will be happening tonight (see last

The last time we wrote anything here was in May 2014, on the way home from Peter's scan in Philadelphia --with good news that the tumor had shrunk and should continue to shrink.  The doctor mentioned one tiny spot elsewhere that "was probably nothing," and we headed off to the airport where I thumbed that hasty post that described the doctor as "enthusiastic."

 And then life resumed its busy-ness.  We welcomed our first grandchild (a boy, Levin, born to Jessie and Matt Gladdek) on July 1.  Peter continued all of his volunteer activities and daily swimming.  I signed on to teach Servant Leadership again and also took on a curriculum project with the Episcopal Service Cops.

All of which brought us to the tail end of summer and the 3-month scan on August 4th (report on the 5th).  Peter was in NY visiting him mom and took the train down to Philly.  I flew in from Fayetteville, NC which (who knew?) offered a cheap flight.

We did not meet Dr. Enthusiastic this time.  The tumor had not continued to shrink as predicted, but had grown.  The "probably nothing" spot had grown, too, and three other small sites of metabolic activity had been detected.  The doctor urged chemotherapy and said that he could later "spot weld" (radiate) some of the metastases if necessary.

I can't see that I ever wrote about our first encounter with Dr. James Tulsky and Duke's Palliative Care Center.  It would have been in late 2013, after the recurrence had been diagnosed and after radiation (at Duke) was taken off of the treatment options.

Thankfully Dr. Tulsky, in his kind, thoughtful, and meticulous style, walked Peter through what chemotherapy-- the only option available at Duke-- could and could not do.  Peter did not choose chemo at that time.  Had he been on those toxic drugs when he developed the pneumonia in January 2014, he well may not have survived that bout.

The events of his month in Philadelphia (February 2014) are all recorded in previous blog entries, all ending with that brief post in May.


After our return from Philadelphia in August we began meeting with Dr. Tulsky again.  I should give a shout-out to our physician-friend Dr. Sharon Van Horn for putting us in touch with Dr. Tulsky just over a year ago.  Palliative Care is not an end-of-life program, but one to provide guidance and comfort to those diagnosed with serious illness. 

Dr. Atul Gawande's excellent book, Being Mortal, will tell you a lot about Palliative Care and difficult choices.  Dr. Tulsky has guided Peter through the maze of chemotherapy options and has helped him see the realities behind the sometimes vague statements from the oncologist (such as, "It might do some good").

Last week Peter enrolled in Duke's Hospice Care.  These days they recommend that patients enroll very early.  Right after signing on Peter suffered a third bout of aspiration pneumonia.  With the immediate availability of the hospice nurses and Dr. Tulsky, Peter got on the medications he needed quickly, and I have had someone to call with questions about Peter's needs and my caregiving.

"Some people graduate from Hospice," Dr. Tulsky told us.  I am praying that Peter is one of those people.  In the meantime, this is a level of care I've never seen before, an am so grateful that it is available to Peter (to us), and so much of it based in our home.


Back in September, Peter's mother, Sunny Drimmer, made the trip from NY to NC in one day (down and back) to spend a few hours with her great-grandson, Levin.  Late in October she fell ill  and was hospitalized for a time, but she is now back home in Rye, NY, with home care.  We all have plans/flights to visit her and other family members at Thanksgiving, but we’re not sure as of today if Peter can make it.


On November 8th Peter performed in the 8th Murphey School Radio Show.  Prior to that his band, Red's Rhythm had a few fun gigs, and last week he had a blast when Ryan Stolp, (son of our friends Janet and Brett) spoke to Peter's Grange meeting about his mountaineering feats. 

Until this week he was counseling patients on Wednesday nights and meeting with his VA writing group on Thursday mornings.  Now he is taking a break from all outside activities until he feels better.

But tonight (20th) we are hosting a return visit by singer-songwriter Heather Maloney here at Down Yonder Farm.  We’ve got lots of help making this happen.  Heather performed here last year with a group called Darlingside, and she immediately became one of my favorite artists.

Life has been really good to us.  We hope that Peter recovers his strength and stamina soon.  Meanwhile, a great deal of rest is called for. However, no doubt that he'll at least make an appearance at the concert tonight.

Talking on the phone is difficult for Peter, as it causes him to cough, and he doesn’t have strength for visitors right now.  I will do my best to keep this blog updated and hopefully he’ll be on the phones and out and about very soon.  

Thanks for all of your love and care.