Monday, March 30, 2009

Marriage Penalty

Many of the readers of this blog know that last Saturday was supposed to be a pretty big day. The one that involved a white dress and a way-overpriced party. A lot people felt it was important for me to mark the day in a special way or be busy. Sorry folks- every day kinda sucks right now, and just because I was supposed to get married on a particular day doesn't make it any worse. I just bummed around on the rainy day. Just like I will do again on some days in the future.

At the time we cancelled the wedding, we didn't acknowledge it on the blog. I suppose some thought this was because it was too painful. Truth is, we didn't even have time to deal with it at the time it was all happening. A few quick phone calls and emails to vendors undid a few months of planning. My mom and dad graciously and discreetly stepped in to handle the rest- picking up the wedding dress, formally notifying the guest list, and worst of all- dealing with the gifts. To this day, I am not sure what happened to them. I think some are still at my parents house in-limbo.

I know people felt terrible about the whole situation. After all- a wedding is supposed to be one of the big three personal event that make a person's life complete in today's world... wedding, first home and kids. Truth is, the wedding planning gave me something to do for a couple of months while I was unemployed and while Dan was undergoing chemo. Even when we were planning, all of the things we focused the most time on were for other people- the gifts and special touches at the reception. In most ways, we knew the wedding wasn't really for us, but more like a big "thank you" to friends and family. And we had a lot to be thankful for with respect to our support system.

To this day, I don't really care about the wedding the way you readers probably think I do. Truthfully, it saved me a lot of money that ultimately allowed me to stay with Dan the last few weeks of his life and now to take time for myself. Sure, it was fun to plan, but I am a planner. I enjoy the process of planning most anything.

We did get a marriage license, and thought we'd go to the courthouse by ourselves when Dan had a good day. Well, he never felt well enough for us to go after that (which should tell you something), and it never really mattered to us that we weren't married. It certainly would've saved some headaches with respect to the fact that a fiancee has no legal rights, but we dealt with it the best we could in the time we had. Though it's a real kick in the shins to be told that, as a fiancee, you've got no rights and that legally, you're no different than the average schmo on the street.

As I was saying to the Boss Lady today, the only reason not having the wedding bothers me is that it was the one thing that cancer took from us during our time together. Until the very end, cancer never prevented us from traveling, working, running... basically enjoying a normal life. Dan & I were more than adament about having a normal life. I remember when we met with the priest the first time last April to schedule the wedding. When he learned that Dan was a cancer survivor, he asked us if we wanted to move the wedding up as opposed to having it in 11 months. You know- just in case. I remember Dan saying that we just wanted the normal process, and 12 months seemed like a good timeframe (we would've married 1 year and 1 week from the day we got engaged).

Would we have changed it if we'd known what was in store? Probably not, because after the cancer spread, the wedding ceased to be of any real importance, other than to have a big party for friends and family. And when it did spread back in late June, we didn't know what would really become of our relationship in some respects. We were optimistic, but realistic.

So yeah, I didn't get married. Cancer took away the party, and it irritates me just for the fact that Cancer got us on that one. I don't think it's as tragic as people would like to think. What would've been tragic... what if I decided that I couldn't hack it, and since I wasn't married, had no obligation to stick around for the tough stuff. People get divorced over illness. People leave. Dan's illness brought us full circle. No regrets.

So sorry if I seem emotionally detached from the whole topic of my wedding. I guess I don't buy into the traditional notion anymore that life begins when you say "I do". Not being married doesn't make the loss any easier. Being married wouldn't make the loss any easier either. I just find solace in the fact that I had a good love story. As Dan said to me "We had a good run". A pretty great run. Of course, I desperately wish that run was a lot longer, but man, what a wonderful ride no matter how short.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Remembrances III

Following is Ellen Stovall's speech from the funeral last week. Ellen was Dan's "boss" at NCCS, and a fellow cancer survivor. She was an important influence on both Dan and myself with respect to the way Dan was able to advocate for himself during his treatments, and with her incredible attitude and fighting spirit.

I am here today because Dan Waeger knows how much I hate speaking in public and he would do anything to say, “Gotcha, Boss Lady.” Yes, “Boss Lady.” That’s what Dan called me. Being someone more than old enough to be his mother, Dan loved to tease me, and I loved nothing more than coming to work every day for the past three years to be teased by Dan. I feel almost apologetic today as I realize that I and my co-workers of Dan’s at NCCS got to spend more time over the past few years with him than any of you gathered here.

I am here representing a group of colleagues and friends who Dan met through his work at NCCS. Some of them have traveled great distances to be here and some are agonizing that they couldn’t make the journey due to other commitments. Nearly all of them took the time to recount a “Dan Moment,” and I hope these stories help paint a picture for you of what it was like for us to live with, work with, play with, and to love our Dan.

For all of us at NCCS, one of our favorite memories is of Valentine’s Day 2007. Meg was working directly across the street at the big Discovery Building in Silver Spring and Dan was talking with his second mom at NCCS, Nina, and asking what he could get Meg for Valentine’s Day. Never a one with small ideas, Nina suggested that Dan put up a poster-paper sized sign across the expanse of windows in our office that when facing out read “Happy V Day, Meg. And so, the office Valentine’s Day project unfolded and Meg was the envy of every woman at Discovery and at NCCS. Dan had come up with the most romantic gesture of the day. No one could wipe that Technicolor smile of his off his face for days. From that day on, he was known as “Dan the Man,” much to the jealousy of many men in the lives of the women at NCCS.

For me, one of the best memories is of a cold spring evening nearly a year ago at Wrigley Field in Chicago with Nina, Michael, Meg and Dan. We drank lots of beer, threw peanut shells, and suffered major heartburn from the Polish kielbasa that Dan insisted I had to eat—not one, but two of them—as that would be the only way to authenticate me as a true Cubs fan. That ballgame kicked off four days of indigestion that we endured while trooping around a big convention center at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. This is where we meet once a year with many of our supporters, including leading pharmaceutical companies and clinical researchers and practicing oncologists from all over the world.

Dan was loved by all of our friends in many companies—several of them have written me or told me stories about what an impact Dan had on them.

One special friend, Linda House, wrote:
I remember the first time I met Dan. I remember so clearly his face - oh my - that smile that brightened everyone around him - and the way it opened his eyes - and when you looked into them, there was such energy, life, possibility, acceptance of others, hope, and friendship in there - frankly that I've never experienced with anyone before or since. There are many things I think about that make me smile - his leaving work last St. Patrick's Day and earning the name O'Waeger, him asking me if he taught me to text message or if I already knew how!, him being my silent accomplice for the practical joke on Nina, his playful disgust when all I had to offer him during a rainy day in Indiana was an old and broken casino umbrella (versus the nice golf umbrella he is accustomed to), his challenge to our CEO at Ely Lilly--not knowing he was present, and more . . .I also promise to get to a point of having a Dan - worthy way to honor him - I just need the world to brighten back up a bit first .

From Stacia---
I will attend Mass here tomorrow morning and remember Dan privately. I will most certainly plant yellow flowers to remind me of his smile - the smile that could light up any room. I'll plant white flowers to symbolize the peace which I pray he has found - for him to take strong, deep breaths without a cough and to hit every ball long and straight off the tee.
But I'll also plant some red flowers to remind me that no matter what anyone says, this just wasn't right. Perhaps it symbolizes the restlessness that Meghan talked about, for that is the only word that can describe what I've been feeling this week.
The fact of the matter is, I don't think Dan would have wanted an all yellow garden planted for him. I think he would have welcomed the red. I think he would want us to feel restless.

Whether it was speaking to gatherings of pharmaceutical executives, including the CEO of Eli Lilly, or to Adrienne’s class at Bullis where she had organized a dodge ball game to benefit Dan’s Scholarship Fund, Dan’s message was clear and sound and left people feeling like someone special was in their presence. He often told these audiences one of his favorite Pete Rose stories that he adapted as an attitude about living his life. He told them that if Pete Rose didn’t wake up every single day thinking that he could hit the ball every time he came to bat, he didn’t deserve to be at-bat. Dan’s message was that we can all succeed—that we can pass a test—that we can get an A in class that may not be our specialty. We need to believe that we are going to get a hit or score the game-winning goal, or we shouldn’t be in the game in the first place. He told them “Don’t just be good at something—challenge yourself to be great.” He went on to say that “in difficult times, we must remember that life’s’ challenges are not supposed to paralyze us and bring us down, but help us discover who we are and who we can become.”

And from Ty—
I have a Dan story but I didn’t share it yesterday in the staff meeting because I didn’t want people to think that I hadn’t been here long enough to speak of anything concerning Dan, but I do.

Dan would always call me T-Dubya for Ty Williams. I was working on putting together some Board materials in January and Dan was getting some figures/facts for me. Dan comes over, adds his bit of information and we just chatted for about 60 seconds. Then, as he was walking back to his office, he said, “Thanks. I love you, Ty”. Without thinking, I responded, “I love you too, Dan.” Then it hit me – did my coworker just say he loved me? I thought, I never did anything special for Dan; I was just being a team player and assisting in what was one of Dan’s projects. I just thought that was the coolest thing. That someone, who isn’t a family member or best friend or significant other, would say what I think God wants us to share with all humans – that we love them!

And lastly, I want all of us who are here today to feel the comfort of the sentiments expressed by one of our Board members at NCCS. Dr. Brad Stuart, the Senior Medical Director of a Hospice in California, who, after reading Meg’s blog about winning, wrote the following to the NCCS staff and Board:
I went to bed last night with Meghan's profound words in my head woke up with this. Our work is about survivorship, but something profound happens when one of us no longer survives. Yes, winning is important in life, and it gives us a kind of euphoria. We feel that rush of joy when the treatment works. We've won, at least for now. On the other hand, losing gives us pain -- Dan left a Dan-shaped space in the lives of everyone who knew him, and that loss hurts. But when someone dies the way Dan chose to, when they live all the way to the end with a quiet kind of passion, with devotion, perseverance and love, as they go they lift up the edge of life and we get to look underneath, inside ourselves toward a place where differences come together, where winning and losing no longer contest each other, where grief and a certain kind of joy merge together so at some point you can't tell them apart. Then underneath that, there's a silence, and gratitude that we all are in this together, sharing our pain and our joy. Sometimes grief lets us go down to the bottom of this well and bring up the water of life, which feels like tears of joy. So maybe Dan won after all, and in this way we all win.

Once again, I want to appreciate the chance we have to do this work together. Dan doesn't get to go on with us, but the memory of how he lived, and how he chose to die, lives on within us.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


So I just returned home from catching up with an "old" friend. We had dinner, and then moved to another bar for a drink. And it happened to be Karoake Night. Don't worry- I didn't get up and sing, but it is hard for me to not sing along with those that do brave the karoake gauntlet. So I sang along, and observed the scene around me. I found myself laughing at moments, and some moments literally turning over my shoulder to make a comment to Dan. We spent a lot of time at Karaoake Night at Savannah's in Kensington... though he never stepped up to the mic.

It was a reminder to me that I am caught between two worlds. My old "Dan" life, and the "yet-to-be-determined" life. Still the same me, but at the same time, a whole new me. Let's face it, I've learned things that people don't learn until they're 80. My faults and positive traits are there for me to see in equal measure. It's a confusing time for me. I am allowing myself to be shuttled among different people each day. Kinda like a huge Meg mosh pit.

I don't know what grief is yet. When I wake up, it feels like the same way you do when someone throws you in the pool fully clothed... heavy. I could care less about things I used to obsess over, like where my coffee comes from (although, Dunkin still rules). I don't cry.... haven't shed a tear in any meaningful way since he passed. I wonder if Dan was just a dream, but if he was, why I don't really dream at all. I feel like I am in a state of shock, which is normal, so "they" tell me. I almost feel worse for other people's loss than I do my own. The absolute worst part of the funeral for me was seeing Dan's friends cry. I just wanted to make them feel better versus seeking any comfort of my own. I feel a profound sense of loss, but it's more from observing other people than actually feeling it myself. As the saying goes- "De Nile" ain't just a river in Egypt.

I suppose I am seeking all the normal avenues of recovery. I had a good shopping spree. Fortunately, I snapped back to reality just in time. I almost dropped a couple of hundred dollars on a white suit... John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever had nothing on me. But I was able to realize pretty quickly when I being to cross the line. Though I looked pretty darn sharp in that suit!

Making the initial first step to get out tonight was a little weird. But I was able to remember that I like to karaoke, and that Dan claimed to be a fan. I can still laugh and joke. I am still me, but with a new sense of purpose. Maybe I am Meg 2.0.

And, I do need a go-to karoake song if the guy in the bar ever plunks down a book with 10,000 options!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Rememberances II

Life is definitely quiet. I suppose it will feel that way for awhile. I don't really feel up to writing much more yet- maybe by the end of the week.

Below is James' speech. James is Dan's brother-in-law, and to say that Dan looked up to him and admired him is an understatement.

My name is James Urban – I am Patrice’s husband
You’ll have to bear with me on this a little bit…the speech I had been planning on doing was supposed to be a best man’s toast, but…
I am honored and humbled that Dan wanted me to speak at his funeral
I am not going to try to be eloquent or profound
I am going to try to be real and speak from my heart
In thinking about what I wanted to say today, I couldn’t help but think that Danny would want us to celebrate his life rather than mourn his death
That’s what I am going to try to do

I have always thought of Danny as my brother – how could I not?
Danny was 8 years old when Patrice and I started dating
I remember rushing downstairs when Patrice and I got back to the house after dates because I wanted to go wrestle with Dan or watch whatever game was on – at the time I’m sure Patrice didn’t think that was very romantic, but I know she knew one thing…I sure liked her little brother
I remember one time when I was off at college playing football…Danny was 11 or 12 and he rode alone with my parents to a game – now, they are my parents and I love them, but I don’t think I would want to sit in a car alone with them for 5 hours when I was that age – it didn’t bother Danny…he wanted to see me play
Dan and I always had a special connection…
We were the same height
We had the same hairline
We both went to small colleges and had great experiences playing the sport we loved
We both got into coaching as a way to get a Master’s Degree and continue being around that sport
The connection with him was so strong that our first born child is named after her Godfather – her name is Brielle Dannie

He was just one of those people that it’s easy to be attracted to and who you wanted to be around…as you might expect with Dan, it’s all the great little subtle things that I remember fondly and will miss the most…like…
Ketchup…have you every seen anyone use more ketchup than Dan? I mean he used to put it on his turkey at Thanksgiving
Dogs…man he loved dogs…I think he related to them on a different level than any of us
Gifts…whenever you gave Dan a present you always knew if he liked it or not because he’d just tell you
Andy Van Slyke…his favorite baseball player of all time…Danny liked him for all the right reasons
Golf…he was a purist…I never once saw him cheat on a golf course
Phil Mickelson…his favorite golfer of all time…by the way, in case you missed it, Phil won in dramatic fashion on the final hole just hours before Danny passed away
Silence…he was one of those people who had the unbelievable ability to sit and say absolutely nothing

Danny was at a very exciting time in his life…coaching golf, halfway through graduate school, training for a marathon…but then we got the call…

Danny and I were looking forward to a guy’s weekend of golf, beers, and late night Playstation
Instead, we got emergency heart surgery and intensive care
A few days later we got the terrible news
I can vividly remember sitting in that room in Holy Spirit Hospital and Dr. Leal, a compassionate and caring man, getting down on one knee at Danny’s bedside and saying, “ have cancer…[SILENCE]…it’s ok to be scared…[SILENCE]… I’m scared…[SILENCE]…this is very scaring stuff we’re talking about.”
Danny shed not a tear…he clinched his teeth, looked Dr. Leal right in the eyes and said, “Tell me what I have to do to beat it”
At that exact moment I remember thinking “If he can’t beat it, nobody can”
Recognizing the rarity and severity of what he was up against, Dr. Leal got Danny quickly connected with the loving folks at Johns Hopkins – Dr. Donehower, Keith, his beloved Margaret and all the others who helped along the way
His nearly four year battle was a roller coaster ride…there were ups and downs, twist and turns, fast and slow…all the while Dan stayed the course and kept driving the train straight in his quest to beat back this terrible disease that was eating away at his insides
Somewhere along the line I remember telling him the Pete Rose story which he liked so much…the gist of it is that during Spring Training before the season a reporter asked Pete Rose how many at bats he would need to get the 78 hits to break Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record…Pete matter of fatly replied 78…the reporter said, “Come on, Pete…you can’t be serious.” Pete replied, “Every time I step into the batter’s box I don’t hope to get a hit, I expect to get a hit.”
Danny didn’t hope to beat his cancer…he expected to beat it
People took his lead and drew from his determination and will and supported him in his fight…family, friends, co-workers, fellow cancer survivors, complete strangers…from the old to the very young…
Shoot, 2 year-old Brielle even got into the act and was coloring pictures to make her Uncle Danny feel better…she brought one particular picture to Patrice and she said, “Mommy, I made Uncle Danny a bootiful picture.” Patrice looked at it and said, “That is beautiful, honey. What is it a picture of?” She said, “It’s a picture of my poopy.” “Why did you draw Uncle Danny a picture of your poopy?” In all her 2-year old logic she explained, “Because it made my belly feel better when it came out, so it will make Uncle Danny feel better, too”…Needless to say, I think Uncle Danny really liked that picture
Despite all the love and support that was around him, I knew that Dan was somewhat guarded with his most intimate thoughts…I always felt like Dan needed someone that he could really open up to and share with…and along came Meg

We got an email from Dan that went something like this…“So dot dot dot I met this girl…and I don’t know what IT is, but she has IT…and I told her everything about my cancer…”
Meghan was his best friend…his soul mate…his confidant…his one and only…his fiancĂ©…but for a piece of paper, and I know in his mind, his wife…at the end, his nurse… at the very end, right by his side…
I think the natural inclination is to tell Meghan that you don’t know how she did it…imagining yourself in that position is unthinkable…you can’t comprehend how you could possibly watch someone you love so dearly dying before your eyes…
In my simple mind it is all very easy to understand…she loved him…she loved him with all her heart and to the core of her being…and despite all the pain, she was not going to let him go it alone…
This may tell you all that you need to know…not too long ago I asked Meg if she was OK with Danny’s wish to have her and her alone by his side at the end…without hesitation she looked me in the eyes and said: “OK with it? I’m honored. There is no other place I’d want to be.”
Meg…we’re honored. We’re honored to have you in the family and we’re so very grateful that you found each other and that you loved him so unconditionally

So where are we left to go? Frankly, 26 is just too damn young. We all loved him and will miss him dearly, but now what?
No matter how you define it, Danny’s legacy is huge
We’ve got the wrist bands…will any of us think that WWW stands for world wide web ever again?
The slogans…my favorite is “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”
The acclaim…US News & World Report, USA Today – twice!, LiveStrong, Lance Armstrong Foundation, the Eli Lilly speech
The National Collegiate Cancer Foundation…ask the 10 students with cancer who are currently on scholarship what they think Dan’s impact is
The Blog…has anyone ever read anything so deeply moving and honest?
Though he is no longer with us, clearly he will continue to live on
How blessed we all are to have shared in his glorious life

And so now I say to you
Danny Boy
Soul Mate




Saturday, March 21, 2009


Many have asked that the speeches given at Dan's funeral be posted. Here is mine- I will see about getting the others next week.

Dan liked to quote a lot of famous people in his speeches. I always told him that had plenty of material from the things that came out of his own mouth- so much so that I started to call them “Waegerisms”. I am sure that many of them are familiar you.

1. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
2. If you’re going to sit around thinking about something all day, then you might as well do something about it.
3. Attitude is everything.
4. If you don’t wake up every day thinking that you will overcome whatever curveball life throws at you, don’t bother to get out of bed.
5. Focus on the “who” you have on board in your life before you focus on the “what”.
6. Always make sure that people are having a good time and feel appreciated.

And there is one household rule that I’ve been trying to stick to- “It’s ok to cry. But leave it at 10% of the time. Use the 90% to do something productive about what is actually making you cry.” So 10% of the time is 2.4 hours per day. I think we can all abide by that. Plus, Dan always said I am an ugly crier.

Being in the fortunate position of observing Dan at home, with friends & family and during his advocacy work, I’d like to add one more to the list. One big thing I learned from his example by watching him every day.

He taught me that the biggest differences in life are not made by making the extra effort, but by being the one to just make the effort in the first place.

I hope we can all remember these “Waegerisms” as we leave here today.

I think they’ll look good on the back of the next batch of NCCF t-shirts.

Dan and I both love a lot of the same things- singly loudly to country music in the car, the NCAA basketball tournament, having a beer and hotdog at a baseball game, finding silly hats for every occasion, really bad reality tv shows, and creating instant traditions.

I can now proudly out Dan as a very sappy and romantic guy. And he loved romantic traditions.

I like to say that Dan knew how to make you feel like a million bucks without spending a dime.

One of those ways he made me feel special was in the form of letters we’d write, especially around holidays.

I’d just like to take a few minutes to share with you all some excerpts of a letter I wrote Dan about 7 months after we met for Christmas.

Dated December 20, 2007, I wrote this letter to Santa about Dan.

Dear Santa

As much as I love receiving gifts and ripping off the wrapping paper, I’d like to return everything this year.

I don’t want to be greedy because you already brought me the best present a girl could wish for, and being with him is like celebrating Christmas every day. Let me tell you about all the gifts he brings to my life- Peace, Joy, Love and Hope.

Thank you for bringing me someone who is teaching me to enjoy life and not be so consumed by the little things.

This is a blessing for someone like me with a Type A personality and alledgedly, overly-competitive.

Now that he is here, there is nothing more peaceful than just squeezing into the big green chair and doing nothing for hours… even if it means watching Phil Mickelson.

He lets me be myself and thinks I look pretty good in an old highschool sweatshirt & yoga pants.

He really gets a kick out of me, which makes me feel at peace with myself.

I know a lot of people that are happy, but I never really knew anyone who was joyful until I met him.

No words are necessary for him to express how excited or happy he is. Just that huge smile creeping over his face and then the brightness in his eyes, followed by the wrinkles framing his happy eyes. And there is that laugh.

I love to watch those eyes shine, especially when he shows enthusiasm for everyday things like seeing a dog on the street, playing with his niece, wearing his Christmas sweater or delivering on the promise of a perfect first date.

Seeing life through his eyes is like being filled with the sense of wonder and amazement at life like the feeling you have when you’re a kid waking up on Christmas and racing down to see all of the presents.

As you know Santa, ours is an unlikely love story. He reminds me that life can be a true fairy tale.

He teaches me about love in a lot of different ways. First and foremost, love is fun and easy, and in his case, sometimes a little cheezy.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t challenges, but with love, anything can be overcome.

There are moments now when all I see is love.

He is my best friend, my partner in crime, my confidant, my teacher and a good buddy.

Loving him makes my world bigger.

Santa, it’s all too easy to sit here and write about how he inspires hope in the people around him.

To others, he is the miraculous cancer survivor and the relentless advocate.

To me, he is just Dan. Dan in real life.

I think the qualities that make him so successful under those other titles have been there his whole life.

He is genuine and kind.
He is smart, goofy and a big kid.
He is humble.
He is patient, but not enough to be my golf instructor.
He is quietly and keenly observant.
He is empathetic and motivated.
He is a sappy romantic schmuck.
He is not afraid to dance or sing of key.

He is willing to try anything and never takes himself too seriously.

He is a loyal friend, a good son and brother and a doting uncle.

He has the remarkable ability to simultaneously see life through childlike eyes, but express himself with the wisdom of an old man.

He has all the qualities you hope to find in someone, but hardly ever exist in just one person.

He gives me hope for the future.

I feel lucky to know what love is, and to have someone by me that I admire and respect, and that I can learn from everyday.

I have fun and laugh all the time, even on those tough days.

And I have someone to work with when facing big issues, and something special that will always be worth fighting for.

I feel honored to be welcomed into his big, noisy, fun-loving family, and feel blessed to see him welcomed into mine.

So thank you Santa for bringing me Dan. I don’t need much else in the years to come, though for Dan’s sake, a boxer puppy would be nice.

Thank you Dan for bringing all of us together. Thank you for leaving such a wonderful legacy.

And thank you babe for writing such a beautiful love story with me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Next Steps

Thank you to all have reached out- it is a great help to hear all the funny and touching stories about Dan. I still plan on using the blog for myself and to communicate about NCCF. I hope you'll humor me. I miss my buddy, as I am sure many of you all do. I look forward to seeing many of you later this week.

Please find details regarding the funeral arrangements below.

Dan’s funeral mass will be at Friday March 20th at 11 am.

There will be a visitation period in the Church prior to the mass for anyone wishing to pay their respects to Dan. The visitation will begin promptly at 10am.

Please do not send flowers to the Church as it is during Lent, and flowers are not permitted.

St. Jane de Chantal
9525 Old Georgetown Road
Bethesda, MD 20814

After the mass, we hope that you will join us at a reception to honor Dan.

Positano Ristorante Italiano
4940 Fairmont Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814

Dan will be laid to rest in a private family ceremony in Harrisbug, PA on Saturday.

Special Request:
Dan requested that people wear yellow and green on this day. He didn’t feel that suits were necessary either.

Yellow to honor his belief in the LIVESTRONG message from the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Green to honor the National Collegiate Cancer Foundation. And it is his favorite color.

In lieu of flowers, the family would like people to direct donations to NCCF.

National Collegiate Cancer Foundation
PO Box 14190
Silver Spring, MD 20911

Monday, March 16, 2009

Keep Me in Your Heart

Dan passed away at home early this morning. I am not sure if relief is the best word, but there aren't many words to describe the feeling. He lived with lung cancer for 3 years and 10 months. And when I say "lived", that grossly underestimates the contributions he made to all of us that love him and those that were inspired from afar.

I am afraid that I haven't quite figured out what to say. Dan was always the one to provide the inspiration or guidance, and he did that until his last day. I hope I was listening closely enough to him to remember everything.

There is nothing you can say to me to make me feel better. No bible passage or inspirational quotes. No anecdotes or memories. Please, don't try. In my mind, I know that what happened was a release for Dan. But that doesn't make me want to not throw myself on the ground and have a tantrum.

But I am still Dan Waeger's fiance. I know that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. I know that if I don't get up every day believing it will get better, I shouldn't get up at all. I know that attitude is everything. I could go on with what I like to call "Waegerisms", but those will be for another post.

I am so very sorry for our collective loss. I hope that Dan is at peace, but that his spirit will be restless and visit us often.

It is quiet at home for the first time in months. Somewhere, Dan is breathing easy and standing on the first tee. With that beautiful smile that made his eyes wrinkle.

Sweet dreams, babe.

Funeral details will be available shortly.

In lieu of flowers or anything else, we encourage people to donate to the foundation Dan established to help other young adult cancer survivors pursue higher education:

National Collegiate Cancer Foundation
PO Box 14190
Silver Spring, MD 20911

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I remember sitting at the Livestrong conference this summer listening to Lance Armstrong relay a story about work going on around LAF's Global Cancer Campaign. At one point, as he sat with Doug Ulman (LAF CEO) during meetings with top doctors & global dignitaries, Doug leaned over to Lance and said- "This is fun." And Lance told the audience that his response was "It's only fun if we win."

Of course this is Lance Armstrong we're talking about- 7 time champ of the Tour de France. From "Winning isn't the only thing, it's everything" (UCLA Bruins coach Russell "Red" Sanders & Vince Lombardi) to "If you ain't first, you're last" (Ricky Bobby), we are a culture obsessed with winners. And as one who is competitive, I've always gone along with the idea that victory is only achieved when you wipe the field with the other team.

But when Lance said that to the Livestrong audience, I remember thinking that judging victory in cancer solely by "winning" maybe worth another look. After all, many cancer survivors, like Dan, don't see the ultimate victory in being cured. There are 100s of cancers, and to ask for a cure sets a high bar, and one that may be unrealistic in our lifetime. This is not a "one-size-fits -all" solution. Many cancer survivors would be ecstatic if their cancer could be managed as a chronic disease- like diabetes or AIDS. Or if genetic testing could even narrow down the treatment options so that they avoid toxic and crippling treatments as a cruel form of trial & error.

The day I heard Lance speak was about 3 weeks after we'd found out the Dan's cancer had spread. I knew that even then, if Dan's "win" could only be fun if he was cured, than we were in trouble. If he passed on from cancer, we would surely say that he "lost his battle". But as many of you've pointed out, Dan's story isn't a straight win/lose scenario. There are more ways to win than just judging the score.

To prove my point, I went to the dictionary and looked up the word "win". Of course, the first definition is "to finish first", closely followed by "to gain victory". Then it gets more to my (our) point here on this blog... here are more definitions of "win"....

1. "To succeed in reaching (a place, condition) by great effort"- such as a "place" like peace, acceptance or enlightenment... a "condition" like compassion or infectious advocacy

2. "To get by effort, competition or conquest"- such as getting through treatments and still living a normal life or making the effort to help others instead of yourself, and ending up with a foundation that will outlast you

3. "To gain (a prize or fame)"- such as having numerous articles written about your work and many friends to share your story which will continue to pay forward

4. "To gain (favor, love, consent) as by qualities or influence"- favor, love & consent gained in all areas of a life by merely staying true to who you are a person (and who you were before cancer)

5. "To gain the support of"- such as delivering speeches and having the audience listen to the message, whether the audience are high school students, corporate executives or cancer survivors

6. "To persuade to marry"- I don't even need to say anything on this one! but quite true :)

So, I guess the story here fits the definition of winning in more ways than one. And I think Mr. Armstrong will agree as well, especially since he is riding this year to spread the cancer awareness on a global level, and that #8 would be gravy.

Babe- Waeger Will Win. You show us the way, and we will make sure we'll continue the movement. And of course, we WILL have FUN above all else.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Defining Moments

I am sure that our experiences are causing a lot of people to reflect on their lives and try to imagine what this might be like. How incredibly sad and heartbreaking, not only for Dan, but for me & for us. How unfair it is that someone so young who has done nothing but turn a terrible situation into a source of inspiration for others and opportunity to contribute to the betterment of the world will leave way too soon.

I am painfully of aware of these emotions. So much so that I don't need people to repeat them for me, or even acknowledge them. I don't need anyone to go try to imagine it- trust me, it's not worth the trip.

If I stopped to think what has happened over the past year, I may not be able to move- engaged last March...Dan is hospitalized for an infection but non-cancer related...six weeks later- the cancer spreads. Wedding halted. The fall is spent trying a new treatment-it fails. A new treatment is started, and it's brutal. I lose my job. The treatment improves the cancer situation, but robs Dan of a quality of life. Wedding is on. Ascites. Grave concern. Wedding cancelled. New treatment. No response. No options.

I am no saint. Dan comes pretty close. I've lost my temper, sometimes at him & most of those times, unfairly. There is so much loss here... but I have gained so much.

Although sadness is with me daily, there is an overwhelming feeling of joy and peace. How is that possible? I have enjoyed getting to spend so much time over the past week with Dan's brother Bobby who lives in CA. It has been a privelage to watch one brother care for another, and to spend this time together with the both of them. I've learned more about Dan from the letters & posts that people have written- some things I may have never learned. I have better insight into cancer and specifically, young adults with cancer.

Time comes and goes only in beautiful moments now. I am immensely aware of the fragility of life, and how much that makes things so clear. And not just huge things. Like today, I was thinking how much I like wearing jeans, a t-shirt and flip flops. And how perfectly worn in those flip flops are... and it made me happy.

Of course, it helps that Dan guides me through this, as usual. He is at peace with what is happening, and that makes it much easier for me. I am not afraid. I am not burdened. Although tiring, caring for him is effortless for me. He trusts me to get him through it, and I am honored to do so.

This is not to say that the bottom won't fall out for me- I know it will. But not yet- it's not the right time. My job isn't done yet. And even though it's tough to imagine some days, I believe that this story will not be a tragedy. I know it certainly sounds like one (go ahead- explain it to someone- sounds like a Lifetime movie of the week!). At a time when it would be so easy & understandable to be bitter & angry & desolate... I still believe that there will be a happy ending somewhere down the road. And that brings me peace.

Dan is resting right now. I am sitting with him. I can't imagine any other place I'd rather be...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Remember Me?

Wow- what a nice and loving response from so many of our extended circle! There is no easy way to deliver news like that, and it's never easy to hear. But I think we're all doing well on both sides. I hope you all feel that way, too.

One of my favorite movies is "Jerry McGuire". There is a scene where Jerry takes Dorothy (it took me 15 minutes to remember Rene Zelweger's name in that movie) to dinner and they start discussing past loves and heartbreaks- the "woe is me" exchange. And then Dorothy interrupts Jerry with the line "Jerry, let's not tell our sad stories."

It would be easy for me to go down that path right now- being sad and angered. But I need to remember our life right now before cancer became our third wheel. I am all for grieving, but not just yet.

So I thought it would be good to write about us as we are in real life. To remember and remind us we are just normal people despite such abnormal circumstances. So I borrowed the Facebook game of listing 25 Things About Me. So here is a joint post from Dan & I...

1. Dan has had 4 dogs- Snickers, Scooter, Shadow & Honey. I only had a guinea pig named Willy who, um, starved to death (it wasn’t really our fault- something was obstructing his throat).

2. Dan went to college at Western Maryland (McDaniel) & grad school at Wagner. I went to Miami (OH) and grad school at some no-name university in Cambridge. We are both extremely close to both our high school and college friends.

3. The first time we went golfing together, I hit it off the tee and right onto the green. Dan was so excited, he planted a little one on me. I think it was the first kiss. Later that day, I holed out from the bunker. My golf game has not reached those heights since.

4. Dan is the youngest of 5, and I am the youngest of 2. The rest of Dan’s siblings all own dogs and so does his dad (they all love dogs!) His immediate family is bigger, but my extended family trumps his.

5. When he was little, Dan wanted to be a taxi driver, and then a greenskeeper. I wanted to be a doctor or scientist. I even asked for & received a microscope for Christmas one year. My career in medicine didn’t make it past college chemistry.

6. Dan has a weakness for golf shirts. I have a weakness for sweaters.

7. Dan would rather be a Superbowl-winning quarterback than win the Master’s. I’d rather hit a grand slam home run in the bottom of the 9th, game seven of the World Series with the bases loaded.

8. Dan doesn’t drink coffee. I drink coffee every day, but have never made it myself. Preferred brew: hands down Dunkin Donuts.

9. Dan’s favorite meal is Grannie’s No Peak Chicken and his favorite candy is peanut butter M&M’s. But he doesn’t really like sweets. My favorite meal is just mashed potatoes and my favorite candy is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I inherited a bad sugar tooth from my mom.

10. When Dan went to my parents house to ask for permission to ask me to marry him, he described that it was completely silent after he broke the news. Until my sister-in-law said “See, I told you he wasn’t coming to ask for money”. My dad followed with “Ok Dan, let me show you where the lawnmower is.” I would have like to seen that!

11. Our go-to favorite take-out is Guapo’s (Mexican) in Bethesda. It helps that it’s right across the street. We have no problem ordering from there 3 times a week.

12. I am more reckless on a jet ski than Dan. He is a better driver- I even failed my driver's license test when I was 16.

13. For two people don’t live in Boston, we’ve been to Fenway twice together. Dan hated the Fenway Franks.

14. Our favorite TV show is “The Biggest Loser”. Dan is also very accepting of Bravo’s reality TV lineup. His favorite housewife is NeNe from Atlanta. I can’t pick a favorite. Dan also claims his favorite TV show growing up was ALF. I can’t top that one.

15. Last summer we played hooky from work and went to the waterpark all afternoon. Not only were we the oldest ones there by 10-15 years, but we were the last ones to leave at dusk.

16. We’ve both been on championship teams in the past year as part of Social Sports of Bethesda leagues. Dan- softball. Me- football. I definitely take it more seriously than Dan.

17. Dan’s worst habit is picking his fingernails. Mine is never screwing the lids on tightly. Habitually losing my keys/wallet/parking pass is a close second.

18. We both agree that if we would have any super power, it would be to be invisible. If he were to be a super hero, Dan would be Batman. I'd want to be part of the Wonder Twins.

19. Dan has a torn ACL that has never been repaired. The worst injury I ever suffered was a dislocated finger last year.

20. Dan has to have the toilet paper roll dispense from the top. I wasn’t aware of this until now.

21. We both had Pound Puppies when we were little, though Dan was obsessed with them. He even insisted on taking them in a carrier on a plane ride for a family vacation and has pictures of it.

22. We’ve rarely faught. Mostly because Dan doesn’t get angry and can't be baited. The only time I’ve ever been really mad at him was when he convinced me to jump in the river with him after we went white water rafting in Colorado. I’ve never felt anything so cold, and I braved Chicago and Boston winters.

23. We were both very good soccer players in our primes, and we both played defense.

24. The first night we had dinner, neither one of us wanted to go home after we finished. So we went to a park to play Frisbee. Dan sent me back to that same park the day we got engaged along a 5 hour scavenger hunt.

25. We both prefer dive bars to wine bars, dueling pianos & karoake to jazz, Miller Lite to anything else, Christmas over any other holiday... we don't mind dressing up in costumes or silly hats, spending lazy afternoons on the couch playing boardgames or never getting around to hanging pictures on the wall... we like to think of ourselves as two peas in a pod.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dear Blog Family...

This is a blog entry I never wanted to write. But since we’ve made a point of publicly sharing our story in the hopes of educating others and connecting to those in similar situations, we don’t see why we should not share the sad news, too.

As your read in his post last week, Dan became increasingly short of breath. Recognizing that this was not a good sign, we arranged for a scan and doctor’s meeting last Friday. Dan and I chose to go alone this time, as we sensed that the news would not be good, and that certain things needed to be discussed in private. The scans confirmed what we expected- the disease is progressing faster than we could keep up with it. His liver seems to be getting the worst of it, though his lungs are in trouble, too. Though there are still some treatment options available, Dan’s body can’t take them.

As a family, we have spent the last week processing this news and putting a care plan in place for Dan. This doesn’t leave much time for connecting with people individually to tell them the news, so we’ve tried to put family first. I think that it will be tough for people to hear that Dan will succumb to cancer as he beat it back so many times before, setting high expectations for himself. We’ve all looked to Dan to comfort us and give us hope, which he does with his incredible “Will-Win” attitude. And he did win- for almost four years, with a disease that should probably have taken him within months.

I think I speak on behalf of Dan’s family, friends, doctors, nurses, caregivers, fellow cancer advocates and pretty much anyone that was touched by his story when I say that we are all incredibly proud of him and the way that he lives his life to benefit others. Through the National Collegiate Cancer Foundation, we know that his legacy will live long after he leaves us. It is really his gift to us, and we will do our best to continue his efforts to aid young adult cancer survivors.

Dan will be cared for at home at this time. We are not accepting visitors unless Dan requests them (though an exception might be made for Lance or Phil). Please feel free to send a card or email, but we don’t need any food or anything else at the moment. We are fortunate to be supported by two very loving families who are helping us both through this time. I will reach out if we do need anything.

I will continue to update the blog, though more with musings and observations than with medical details to protect our privacy. The blog remains our preferred method of reaching out to people. However, I don’t know that Dan will write anything further. When I asked him if he wanted to, he said "I said everything I needed to say as I went though life, and that if people weren’t listening… then they should pay more attention next time." Well said Dan.

On a final note today, I just want to say that I couldn’t love Dan anymore than I do at this moment, and consider it a blessing to help him through this time. I am ok, and my main concern is being with Dan. But I’ll write more about me later.