An Unexpected Gut-Punch

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As a note of fair-warning, this post has absolutely nothing at all to do with racing, but has everything to do with news we received in our household on Friday. If you only want to read about racing here; come back Wednesday when I’ll offer my thoughts on Conor Daly securing his fulltime ride with Ed Carpenter Racing. If you are concerned about our news, keep reading.

Throughout the last eighteen months, I have kept readers of this site up to date with the health issues of my wife, Susan. As most of you know, in early July of 2020, Susan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was initially given about twelve months to live, since the disease has only an 8% five-year survival rate. We feared the worst, since my father had died of the exact same disease in 1994. He lasted only six and a half months, so I knew what we were up against.

As you now know, Susan beat the odds. She endured six months and twelve grueling rounds of the harshest chemo out there, before having surgery last February at the University of Louisville. After a bout with COVID in March, she began oral chemo and then six weeks of daily radiation treatments. She finished all treatments in early June, about eleven months after diagnosis.

As you also know, things were going great throughout 2021. Over time her hair, weight and stamina all came back. She had two scans, in August and November, which showed no signs of any return of the pancreatic cancer or any spread to organs where it usually shows up. By the end of 2021, life had gotten back to normal. We closed out the year attending the Music City Bowl on Dec 30 and had this photo made just before the game. We were all decked-out in orange, right down to the orange “T” on Susan’s right cheek, to cheer on our Tennessee Vols against Purdue. The outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but we still had fun. Life was good!

Music City Bowl - 2021

When cancer invades your household; no matter how well things are going, in the back of your mind you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It dropped with a loud thud this past Friday.

Last week started out as any other week. We were coming off of a relaxing long weekend of being snowbound, with my offices being closed the previous Thursday and Friday. I spent the weekend watching football, while Susan was busy in the kitchen working on a wedding cake for the specialty bakery she works for in her spare time. The only thing unusual was Susan had been complaining about an irritating rash that was getting worse. With what she had been through in the past eighteen months, she considered it more bothersome than anything else.

But it was annoying enough that she returned to her doctor for a follow-up visit on Tuesday. Surprisingly, the doctor said he wanted to do a biopsy on it. She texted that information to me that afternoon. Once you’ve dealt with cancer, anytime you see the “B” word in print, red-flags pop up in your mind and casual concern transitions into outright worry.

Our worries morphed into full-fledged panic on Thursday, when she got a phone call. It was not from her regular doctor, but her oncologist. She told Susan that the biopsy report was showing some irregular cells, and they wanted her to come in for  blood work. Friday at lunchtime, she got the dreaded phone call – leukemia.

Not that it matters, but they told her that this was unrelated to the pancreatic cancer. I guess she can still claim victory over that deadly disease. As it turns out, it was indirectly related. They say the leukemia was most likely caused by the daily radiation treatments she received back in the spring.

Regardless of the source, Susan has another fight on her hands. We now know what a fighter she is, and how she conquered the mountain that is pancreatic cancer. She is, without a doubt, the strongest person I know. She is still somewhat numb, but as this past weekend progressed – I could see her fighting spirit emerge after the gut-punch we both suffered on Friday. She’s just really, really mad that this has happened after all she’s been through.

We don’t know much else. She was told that this is treatable and even curable, but we don’t really know what is ahead yet. She will go through a barrage of tests on Tuesday, before we both go meet with the hematologist on Friday to discuss the results and learn what we are facing.

The good thing is that right now, she still feels great. She is as energetic as she has been for the past two years. Her appetite is good and she’s lost no weight. Other than what appeared to be a simple rash, she has no symptoms. By the time she was officially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, we were devastated but not completely shocked. She had been showing symptoms for a while, including significant weight loss, back pain and fatigue. That’s not the case now and is why this has come completely out of the blue. It was totally unexpected just a few days ago.

Eighteen months ago, I wondered how I could keep this site going. What I learned was that it provided therapy to take my mind off of things. Plus, her going through chemo saw nights when she was in bed by about 6:30 pm, leaving me with plenty of time to write at night. I suspect the same will be true during this battle. But there may be some scheduled times (Monday-Wednesday-Friday) when nothing drops in, and the previous post is still there with no explanation. Just know that if that happens, I’m dealing with something more important and I will most likely post the next scheduled day.

Please keep Susan (and me) in your prayers. I believe in the power of prayer, good thoughts, good vibes, positive energy – whatever you feel most comfortable calling it. For the past eighteen months, there were a lot of people praying hard for Susan each and every day. I am fully convinced that those prayers combined with her incredible attitude and humor, enabled her to win her battle against one of the most deadly cancers out there. She will need your help just as much this time around over the coming weeks and months. I know what she’s made of and it’s impressive. I’m confident with your help and support, she will win this battle too.

I will give regular updates, when called for. I was very quick to give the great news I’ve been bringing for the past eighteen months. It’s only right that I give the not-so-good updates, as well. Thanks for reading through to the end. As I said earlier, writing is very therapeutic for me. Wednesday we’ll go back to discussing the NTT IndyCar Series.

George Phillips

26 Responses to “An Unexpected Gut-Punch”

  1. Please send my best wishes to Susan from across the Atlantic. You both are in my thoughts….

  2. Leslie Bissell Says:

    Prayers for you both. Susan’s strength and positive attitude are truly inspirational.

  3. Matt B. (Dayton, Ohio) Says:

    George, I for one appreciate your openness on Susan’s health status. As a regular reader I feel like you are both friends of mine. So sorry to hear of this setback. My thoughts and positive energy are aimed in the Nashville direction for the foreseeable future. It’s great Susan has a fighting spirit and a supportive husband. Look forward to your future posts and hoping for some good news soon.

  4. jvolgarino Says:

    George and Susan. You don’t know this old gearhead out in Iowa but somehow I was led to begin reading about Indycar and all things related to a racing genre I know little about. Once I finally kicked my own writing back into gear following “retirement ” I was determined to start learning about those things I know little about. So I’ve appreciated your missives and you’ve also provided a bit of human context to your writing. George, you and I share something neither of us would ever sacrifice…the unconditional love of a spouse and it looks like Susan has much of the same fighting spirit as my Deb, a country girl determined to always be kind and work through even the worst situations with vigor and poise. I am fully aware I don’t deserve anyone quite like her but am grateful everyday she accepts my foibles and crazy ideas and keeps me pointing forward. Count on prayers being sent from out here in 🌽 country.

  5. We offer our prayers for both of you in this new fight.

  6. Andrew Turner Says:

    Sending positive thought from Toronto. Susan is an amazing fighter.

  7. Prayers you have by the bucketload but I suspect it’s Susan’s fighting, never-give-up spirit that will carry the day.

  8. Denise Weltzin Says:

    I’m so sorry this has happened, but I truly believe Susan’s fighting spirit will prevail yet again and defeat this horrible disease. Thoughts & prayers to both of you.

  9. Rick Johnson Says:

    My prayers to you both.

  10. Keeping you and Susan in my prayers.

  11. billytheskink Says:

    Prayers coming from from the Skink household as well, and they are not going to stop.

  12. James T Suel Says:

    George and Susan there is just no justice in this world. You both have our prayers. With the battle she put up against the cancer she became my hero. All the best to you both. You have our support and prayers.

  13. Paul Henry Says:

    THE strongest yet most humble couple I have had the pleasure to know. One day at a time friends. Your heads are always held up high. Don’t change that ever. Here’s to another display of your inner strength.

  14. Brent Blaine Says:

    🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  15. Many, many prayers and positive vibes to you Susan and George!! 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏 ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  16. Cancer absolutely sucks. Prayers for restored health throughout Susan’s whole body, and peace of mind for both of you!

  17. northeastvista Says:

    I will be sure to remember you and Susan in my prayers. We’ll pray she recovers in time for Indy and Road America. May God be with both of you!

  18. George, sorry to about Susan’s new cancer after what she has been through. My wife just finished up with chemo following removal of a foot and a half of her colon and as of right now she is cancer free, but we still have a batch of follow ups to do I sure would not have to go back and go through it again. We will be praying for the both of you because this is something that is felt by both -God bless

  19. Well, damn! With that expressed, and time to consider the situation, as Susan likely will, I can see the bright side. You are both now faced with a battle that you have a much better than even chance of winning. You both have experience now to help you in this fight. You can, and will come out on top again!

  20. that’s not fair. but if anyone is tough enough to weather yet
    another round, it’s Susan. Susan, it has to be heartbreaking to face yet another challenge but keep punching. We’ll be cheering you on from the cheap seats.

  21. Prayers. Good thoughts. Good vibes. You and Susan are getting all of them. I’m so sorry to read this news George. I wish I had a superpower to make bad shit stop happening to good people.

  22. I don’t know what to say other than I am so sorry to hear this terrible news. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Susan in person but I feel like I know her and you through following your writing for years as well as your Facebook posts. Her incredible strength, courage, and attitude are apparent in the way she deals with all the adversity she has endured. I will be praying for the both of you and hope to see you in Barber or Indianapolis. God bless you both.

  23. Sending prayers and positive thoughts.

  24. Will continue to keep both of you in my prayers!!

  25. Matthew Lawrenson Says:

    Sending positive thoughts and my hopes for good news and outcomes from this side of the pond for both Susan and you, George.

  26. Hello from the UK.

    Many thanks for your post and I am very sorry to hear about your wife. I had a diagnosis of cancer which turns out to be incorrect as I have toxic poisoning via sodium nitrite which led to nitrosamines which are far more toxic. This came via food (sodium nitrite is legally allowed in small amounts but quite unnecessary), principally bacon in my case, but it is many processed meats.

    The information on sodium nitrite and nitrosamines has been around for years, at least a century it seems. I consider medical profession unprofessional and very ignorant in far too many cases.

    I swapped from margarine to butter in 2020. It contains A,D and E vitamins. Far better than margarine. I also enjoy cream which has these good things as butter derives from cream.
    Red wine good as anti-oxidant, and has some vitamin C, an anti-oxidant. Goes well with vitamin D to help in the overall metabolic process.

    I had various MRI scans but in the UK they use gadolinium as a contrast to enhance the image, yet this is currently banned to the USA due to serious health concerns. Gadolinium is a heavy metal and may well be part of the issues of my tiredness and limited energy.

    To add to this I had 9 sessions of immuno-therapy which I stopped as I realised they were not doing me any obvious good. I then found out that there are at least some concerns that the pituitary gland which controls thyroid activity may suffer damage from the drugs, whatever is in them as this is not clear. Again this would account for my energy depletion etc.

    Thyroid tests indicate an imbalance, so this makes sense.

    Has anyone tested your wife for vitamin D? Have she tried boosting her vitamin D? D is vital in all sorts of ways and will help in metabolism of food along with balanced diet of other minerals and vitamins.

    Majority of big pharma drugs are neuro-toxins and if she should be on these, then it is likely they are interfering with your gut health and the good bacteria stopping absorption of essential minerals.

    I don’t know if you have had the wretched vaccines but these are no better. People have been fooled into taking something pointless. I can explain further if you wish

    Kind regards

    Baldmichael Theresoluteprotector’sson

    Please excuse the nom-de-plume, this is as much for fun as a riddle for people to solve if they wish.

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