Monday, December 20, 2010

AFTERMATH: Life WIthout My Brother and MOM

THE AFTERMATH Holidays without Scott and Mom

I still can’t imagine my life without my brother and Mom being an
every day part of it. I know it is real, as real as it has been,
for the last eleven months. The knot in the pitt of
my stomach is a constant reminder.

It has been almost a year since Scott passed away.
I guess for the most part, I am doing ok; functioning, getting up in the morning
going about, and doing, what appears to be my life.
Yet, there are times when the "two-by-four" feeling and thud, strikes
me with a blow and force, that knocks me down on my
emotional ass. I stay there for a while and think and wonder...
The shock and emptiness of it all. The harsh, tragic realities that happen,
in this thing we call life.

As much as I sit here, stagnating, thinking and wondering,
I already know what they want me to do.
Stand up, shake myself off,
and get on with things; my life. LIVING.
That is what Scott asked of and wished for me,
mere hours before he died.
Not distracting myself from the pain and emptiness I feel-
but how to live and carry on inspite of it.

Scott believed that distraction is an activity that averts
our eyes from seeing what is really happening, all that is REAL.
Yes, I am a grieving sister and daughter, yes, the loss of my brother and mom
will follow me wherever I go.
I won’t distract myself from the pain that surrounds me.
I will follow their lead-
and LIVE.
Enjoy and be grateful, for all that I have.
The family and friends I have been
so richly blessed with.
Grateful for those who love and care for my brother and Mom.

Be grateful for even the mundane.
They were.

loves and hugs.
I, we, all miss you so very much.



Monday, March 22, 2010

Plagiarizing, Copyright Laws and Permission

Monday March 21, 2010

To who it may concern:

This is to inform the "anonymous" person or persons PUBLICLY,
That this blog, written by my brother, Scott H Swaner belongs and is entrusted to me, Sheri Swaner, the Administrator.

ALL Comments, posts anything and everything written from the day Scott began this blog:
Poetry and Cancer
are copyrighted. NONE of his posts, or mine, the one's following his death,
are to be used or borrowed for monetary or non-monetary gain or purposes
without consent from me, ever.

I have noticed that the font has been changed, worse still, many "comments" have been deleted from his blog, especially
his posts during the months he was dying of pancreatic cancer.

Please be aware that this will NOT be tolerated and you will be pursued, fined and contacted with and by every legal
authority possible.

I hope this is clear.

The "comments" are part of Scott's story. It is a story and blog of purpose, love, hope, family friendship loss and suffering.
It is filled with a unique voice of a brilliant,
dying man confronting a foreshortened life.
Who do you think you are to trifle with, taint, plagiarize or alter his blog?

Please realize you will be punished and pursued until this matter is rectified.

If you have any questions I can be contacted through the blog
and by email:


Sheri Swaner
Blog Administrator

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Another Blue [Ink] Day of Cancer

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

JUST ANOTHER DAY ... (not really)

Sheri Swaner to Joanne 10/10/2009

HI and greetings.
I am forwarding an email I received from Dr. David McCann, Scott's mentor, professor and dear friend.
David and Scott remained close long after Scott's graduation from Cornell and Harvard; both experts in their ability
to translate the Korean language and their shared gift of the poetic and written word.

David was also a frequent blogger on Scott's blog; supporting, caring, sharing and loving him through his nine months
of fighting against Pancreatic Cancer.

Dr. McCann was recently diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, as he states in his kind and eloquent email.
I am so sick of cancer--and the many people I love and care for having to fight against this insipid
and senseless disease; all diseases and illnesses, (far too frequently)
that threaten the lives of those I (we) love.

David also attached a poem he wrote about Scott. It is beautiful and telling of the friendship they shared;
also, their fondness for fountain pens, ink and fine, wanting to be written on, high quality paper.
Paper that makes one drool and elicits, inspires one to be moved, inspired to write.

Scott gifted many of us with ink, pens, journals and great books --
the tools that symbolize, personify some of what he did; the passion
of an expressive and gifted writer and the words that touch, move and impassion us.

I want to share and pass this on to those who know David, either personally,
or through his association of knowing our brother and friend-
This and his beautiful posts and writings on Scott's blog. Whew!

I will remain in contact with David, supporting and caring for him, as he did Scott.
He is such a good, talented man. Both of them are.

Loves and best wishes to all of you.


The poem is attached, titled: BLUE INK. It is also part of one of David's recently published book of poetry,
entitled: _Sijo_.
Yes, it is published and this particular poem, dedicated to Scott.
(yes, to those that are plagiarists- It, is copywrited. ; ) Ya, goofballs.

Reminding me once again, though I don’t need to be, just how much:

Cancer Sucks!


From: David
Date: October 7, 2009, 10:35:52 AM MDT
To: Sheri Swaner
Subject: Re: sijo, Kudos and Scott Swaner

Dear Sheri,

Thanks for your message. I apologize for the delay in replying, but I've been
in sort of a rough patch. It turns out I have prostate cancer, and will be
having an operation on Friday next week. Trying to figure out the treatment
options and such has been a challenge. It does make me think of Scott, of
course; and I've written some other poems about him. I'll attach one sequence
of sijo...

I will hope to be sort of back in stride in a month or so. They say 4-6 weeks
to get going again, and then some interval even after that for the full
recovery. Let's keep in touch.

With all best wishes,


Blue Ink

This ink is blue, though you can’t know
that if you read this in a book,
nor that this ink in a bottle
was given me by a colleague
formerly at U Dub, Seattle,
up the hills from the waters

of the Sound, where one can see
on any day boats as they pass
bound in, away, a metaphor
for the traffic, our commerce, life.
His life stopped near three years ago,
the in and out of his breath.

Yesterday I found an old pen
and cleaned it, soaking, wiping,
twisting the screw control, ink
drifting away from the nib
overnight. Then I made it drink
a barrel full, my friend’s ink.

And I sit here on the couch
writing in this deep blue ink
across the white notebook pages,
anticipant of my own course
of treatment, hoping, ill or well,
to write the end with his gift.

--- David R. McCann

One Reply: Joanne Lee (Scott’s Birth mother)
A very fine writer, herself, and someone I am forever grateful to
for “the gift,” the blessing of Scott.

Joanne Lee to me


Hi Sheri,

Thanks for the poem. Yes, Scott - pens, ink, paper. Of course I didn’t know that about him in the beginning.
Well, not the beginning beginning but the middle beginning. Our beginning. I sent him moleskin notebooks while he was in Korea.
He wanted to know how I knew. He seemed slightly embarrassed by his notebook fetish. I have it, too.
Nothing to be embarrassed about, I said. I shopped pens for him but never bought one.
The ones I wanted for him (for me)? were hundreds of dollars.
Carved. Fine metals. Sleeping smugly in their padded beds.
For years I have had beautiful small potent bottles of colored inks.
They sit, waiting in my art studio. Waiting. For what?
They are so full of that potent beauty that I have never wanted to ask more of them.
Never wanted to stretch their beauty out across a page.
To dilute it. Isn’t it enough to be beautiful in that small potent way?
And paper. I still lust for paper. Collect it. Stack it. Fondle it.
And sometimes, even use it. Splash paint across it.
Frame it under glass – though by then it plays second fiddle.
Melting behind the narcissistic image. Holding space.
Letting its beauty be usurped.

How is it that the very mention of Scott, the memory of Scott brings poetry out of us?
That he lives on in the pens and ink left behind.
Maybe I will buy one of those outrageous pens.
And invite Scott’s spirit to dwell there. In its padded bed.

Sweet Sheri. Thanks for being you.




For: Tiffny , who brought me back to Life.
My Thanks, gratitude and love, always.

Bright Petaled-roses
Scattered on frozen concrete,
Your name
Etched and scrolled
Lay frozen on the ground.

Were you there?
Sitting, waiting for a glance?
Perhaps a chance
To meet
To greet
She is the one I talk with you about?
The “she”
that makes the corners of my mouth
Turn Up-wards
Closer to where you are;
Closer, always closer
To where I look for you-
The space, place of you;
The one that feels at home

Yes, (with her)
I feel like I am home.

I came to visit you
No, Not in the usual way.
(Alone, but not lonely)
I brought her (My “she”)
to introduce-
For you to meet and greet.

Concrete softens,
Falling like rain;
Gentle and wet,
Puddles and memories
Of life
Of death
All mix into One...

Splash, splash
Pitter pitter
pat, pat pat
My HEART now beats
21 Love poems
per minute
For 21 (effulgent) days.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Missing Mom: In Memory, Nadine Cox Swaner

January 13, 2010



September 13, 1927 ---- January 13, 2006

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Dear family, friends and loved ones,
Today, at 3:25 p.m., our wonderful, beautiful Mother, Spouse, Grandmother,
Aunt and friend,
Nadine Cox Swaner, died at the Huntsman Cancer Institute;
Surrounded by her family.

We held her hands, sang to her, and read her stories.
Stories, that for years and years she read to us.
We stood around her, listening to her breathe-
Even, and especially, as it became less frequent and more shallow.
Thinking, just how beautiful and complete she was.
How formidable, how strong, how determined and selfless she has always been.
A true "Saint of A Mother" to be sure.
And yes, she did make the best Carrot Cake.

It was only one week ago that we were together with many of you,
As we grieved, honored and paid tribute to our brother, her son, Scott.
They were such dear and tender friends;
Their bond and love for one another was deeper and stronger
than one could imagine.
This is a tragic and unexpected loss.
We can only hope they are together,
now both free from pain-
Together, continuing to make a difference.
Together, glowing,
Together, teaching.

The loss of our Mom, the loss of a Mother is especially difficult.
She has loved, protected and taught us so much.
She is unique in all the world.
We count ourselves particularly lucky and blessed to have been hers.

She is grand, eloquent, beautiful, selfless and long suffering.
She will be remembered most for her graciousness, generosity,
unconditional love and magnificent strength.
She lived a determined and purposeful life. Always.
She is the strongest woman we know.
Her faith and love for her Heavenly Father is unparalleled.

Our Mom was a gentle woman, with a twinkle in her eyes
And a smile that could light up every room and brighten any heart.
She brightened all of ours.

We love you Mom! Infinitely and Eternally.
We will miss you more than you will ever know.
Our hearts are broken and we are so sad.

No one, and nothing prepares one adequately for the loss, the death of your Mother.
We promise that we will love and cling to each other, forever and always
And think of you every minute of every day-
We are grateful for every moment and memory we shared with you.


Hal, Sue, Sheri, Stacey ( and Scott )

Please feel free to contact us and we will help as best we can.

Sue Swaner:
Sheri Swaner:
Stacey Swaner Moore:
Harold Swaner:

A Mother's Love
A mother's love determines how we love ourselves and others.
There is no sky we'll ever see
Not lit by that first love.
Stripped of love, the universe
Would drive us mad with pain;
But we are born into a world
That greets our cries with joy.
How much I owe you for the kiss
That told me who I was.
The greatest gift--a love of life--Lay laughing in your eyes.

Because of you my world still has
The soft grace of your smile;
And every wind of fortune bears
The scent of your caress.

Nicholas Gordon

Saturday, December 19, 2009

With Gratitude and Thanks: Scott's Beloveds


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Friday, December 18, 2009

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of and miss my brother.
He lived an extraordinary life; a life of purpose, determination and graciousness.
The loss of Scott, his life shortened, stolen by the wretched, insipid and indiscriminate
Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer continues to break my heart. It always will.

However, I know that I am not alone in my grief and sadness-
I am not alone in loving, caring, missing or being touched and changed by his unique voice. Scott, indeed, was loved, respected and revered by many.
The rest of my family, his students, his incredible friends and those dearest to him were all shocked and saddened by his death. Also, of equal significance, is the profound effect, the indelible memories of love, learning, laughter he left us with.

Yes, his was an amazing life. How grateful I am that Scott lives on through his works, words, beautiful mind and expansive heart. His relationships were as unique as they way he shared them. Which is to say, each of us knew and loved Scott individually, in our own unique and distinct way and for various reasons.

As the third Anniversary of his death approaches, I am not only reminded of Scott
but also of his loving friends, especially those who loved and cared for him both before his diagnosis and until the moment of his death.

When I flew in to Seattle from Salt Lake, I immediately had to take Scott to the Emergency Room. He was in so much pain and was having difficulty breathing.
He remained in the Hospital until 4 days before he passed away. Many, indeed most, of those memories are harsh and sad. Watching him die, not wanting or able to eat anymore, barely being able to move and sometimes, not able to speak, especially during his last days, are filled with images, feelings of hopelessness and such sorrow.
At times, I was totally paralyzed, often having to leave the hospital, as I could not watch him die.

I continue to have trouble forgiving myself for being so weak-for not being able to “be” and remain in the present for Scott. I just kept falling apart, bit by little bit. I am hoping Scott has forgiven me for that; that he knows and is aware of my heart and true intentions. Knowing Scott, I can only believe that he has and understands.

This post is one of gratitude and thankfulness to all of those who loved and cared for my brother, most especially, his “Seattle Family.” Those precious, courageous, caring, selfless, thoughtful and strong individuals who were with Scott during his illness, daily, indeed, those who were with him until the moment he died.

I don’t know, nor did I meet many of Scott’s friends and colleagues that lived in Seattle but the ones I met, especially those who cared for and watched over Scott during his last days, I wish to thank you. There are not enough words, or words that adequately express how much I appreciate your loving my brother.

To Frank Chiarella, one of Scott’s best friends, indeed, his brother, (mine too) who brought so much love, laughter, balance and incomparable friendship for so many years. I love you big guy, forever and always, just as you know that Scott did. You were beloved to him-but I know you already know that. Also, I want to thank you for the years of friendship and support, you have and continue to be for me. Yes, “You are my favorite thing.”

To Ted Mack, a dear colleague and friend, who was with Scott when he got the horrific news of his diagnosis; you planned birthday parties, spoke at Scott’s funeral, took turns taking Scott to Chemotherapy appointments and supported and loved Scott for so many years. You came to love and care for our Mother as well, for this and many things, I am forever grateful.

To Gillian Harkins, a colleague and dear friend. You are dear to me. So often Scott would write and speak of his closeness, respect and friendship with you. When we all went to dinner one night, I remember seeing my brother smile, hearing his laugh, just as he did before his diagnosis. It made me giddy and I smiled. Also, for your hours at the hospital,
whether taking Scott to his Chemotherapy appointments, or practically living in the hospital, when he became so, so ill. You were always there, often giving no thought for the many things you needed to do, your teaching obligations.
I will always love and appreciate you and remember with fondness, yours and Scott’s friendship.

To Kim Luu: How does one thank the person who was with Scott the moment died? The person who loved, cared for and lived with him, “In sickness and in health?” Truly, I have no words. Your strength of character, selflessness, your ability to minimize Scott’s anxiety-These are moments, characteristics that always amazed me. Please know, forever know, you are and will always be, loved and appreciated by me and my family. You were so often the conduit between and for, giving out vital information to us and all those who loved Scott. You are an amazing woman. I hope this finds you well and happy. And yes, yes, I thank you for everything-for the loving care you gave to Scott.

Indeed, all of these people, brought me and my family comfort and piece of mind, knowing that you were there with him. It helped calm my grieving Mother’s heart, as she was ill herself, and could not be where she wanted; With Scott, her only son and favorite person. She died soon after Scott’s death; Not so much from Leukemia, I think, but from a broken heart. I miss her, too, just as I miss and love my brother.

When I think of all of you, this poem by Emily Dickinson frequently comes to mind.
Please know, forever know, that you fine people not only “eased” Scott’s pain and mind but also that of his family.

"If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching, or cool one pain, or help one fainting robin unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain."

-- Emily Dickinson

For that and many things, I thank you, Scott’s family thanks you and we will be forever indebted to
and appreciate the love, light and life you gave to him.

With love and gratitude,

Sheri Swaner

Harold Swaner, Sue Swaner, Stacey Swaner Moore, Susan Passino, Kerry Moore, Deborah and Garth Swensen,
Mike and Whitney Luna, Matt Luna Whitney Moore Wilber (Alan,) Dayne Moore and all of Scott’s darling
Great nieces and nephew.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Sunday, December 13, 2009



Scott H Swaner

LIFE: The Crash Course Version

"Death and dying are the easy parts, it's life without someone that's
hard, the harshest ... and as bad as this feels now, it is not the worst part.”

Saturday April 29, 2006


Some bewildered musings and deeper thoughts, one Saturday morning with my brother:

My brother Scott has developed his own scale of pain in a blog he
created. It differentiates between physical and emotional pain.
Consequentially, there are always two numbers-one for how he
feels emotionally, the second indicates how excruciating the
physical, tangible pain is from the cancer that disrupts
and poisons his body much he hurts.

Today I'm writing about my own pain, as one who loves and cares for
him. How my brother's pain, anguish and befuddlement, is, as the impending end of his life draws ever near, affects me.
And yes, it is painful-- oh, so very much and in so many ways.

As of yet I have found no scale worthy enough, no barometer
or gauge I can go to or use, that adequately describes the pain I am feeling.
I don't think I even want to. It makes it too real. Yet no matter
how hard I try to distract myself, the agony is ever present. It
follows and surrounds me like a dark and ominous cloud.

We started the day with our new morning ritual; a cup of freshly
brewed coffee in hand with me asking what he would like for breakfast.
Food is a sore subject--he has no taste buds and no appetite. So I
am learning to approach the topic delicately, respectfully, though at
times carelessly, in unintended ignorance or avoidance--as if his diet is of no consequence.
Though I know it is.
However, today was different. He didn't respond in his usual way;
"Sheri, I've told you...I don't care what I eat anymore...if it
tastes good or not, even if it something I used to enjoy...Let me just get
something myself. " Today, instead, he said, "Oh, I can't eat
anything yet. Today is an oral chemo day. I have to wait 20
minutes until I can take the chemo pills, then I can eat a little
something after that, but then, yeah, something for breakfast would be great."

I was fine for a moment. Then this awkward silence descended on me.
Both of us realizing, simultaneously, that this one paltry response,
actually spoke volumes. We never used to talk about cancer or
Chemotherapy, but more exact, we never spoke about HIS having
Cancer, let alone the significance of what, how the chemotherapy is killing him too.
And it’s not even a pill that will cure him. It is only a pill that may, MAY
prolong his life, hopefully, a few more months or days, if we are lucky.

Then my brother asked me, half joking, half to break the unbearable
silence, if it bothered me if he took "the pills" infront of me?
Bothered me? I could feel the tears begin to well up, my barrier of
courage cracking as I began to weep. I cannot recall my answer, all
of the words I spoke- Only that they were feeble at best, compared to
all that I was feeling. I answered, though hardly discernible, that
"Yes, it actually bothers me quite a bit ... not that you are doing
it in front of me...just the mere fact that you have to take them at
all ... " "It just makes me so mad," as the tears
freely rolled down my face, like waves crashing on a shore.

I discovered this poem as I was searching for an Anne Morrow
Lindbergh quote. It attempts to express how and what I was feeling
during my Saturday morning session with my brother.

Fairy tales For My Brother

It seems wherever I go,
People come into my life and go out.
Touching me where I can feel,
Then leaving only a memory
Like the gossamer fairy tales of children easily forgotten.
And I wasn't through knowing them.

How do I know
Whom I am seeing for the last time?
How do you halt your life
To gather and keep fairy tales from losing their magic?

So come.
Brush against the walls of my life
And stay long enough for us to know each other,
Even though you know we will have to part some time.
And we both know the longer you stay,
The more I will want you back when you have gone.

But come anyway.
For fairy tales are the happiest stories we know,
And great books are made of little chapters.

This is my journal entry for today.The significance of watching my
younger and by all accounts, except for his having terminal pancreatic cancer,
healthier brother ingest oral chemotherapy, oral toxic poison, to (hopefully, though painfully)
steal a few more days of LIFE and LIVING.

This is a journey, an experience that no one prepares you for. There
is no rule book to guide me through my anguish and sorrow. And so I
depend on the strength and comfort of my friends, partner, family and
loved ones to help steer me though this. Not for myself -- but so
I can be of some use to him, as he becomes weaker, as I know he will.

What makes this so uncanny and peculiar is, I still find myself relying and depending on him to assist me with the answers on “how to cope” and as a source of strength
and balance. These are two of the roles he is and has always played in my life.

I want and need to be there, for him. Sometimes, though, I don’t know what to do with my fears, the grief and sadness I feel, as I watch him in pain.

I learned early on in his diagnosis, that to pretend that this isn’t happening, to try and distract myself from this harsh reality, is insensitive, superfluous and only causes more pain.
Again, BALANCE; I need to discover my own.
And yes, this scares me and I tremble at the thought of how to really listen, listen to my brother and what he needs. Confronting, standing straight up and forward:
The process of losing my brother.
Doing it alone.

I will follow his lead.

Something else, another observation...As ill and weak as he is, knowing he will die soon, and all the thoughts and fears that come with that knowledge,
Scott still, as always, tries to shield and protect me from what he knows will be
My sorrow, after he is gone. He knows, has always known, how much he means to me.
Indeed, he knows of the ominous hole, void, emptiness that will become a part of my waking life, after he has gone. He is so selfless, thoughtful and gracious-even and in-spite of his facing death, head on.

This I do know: Scott will not, has not and could never lose his "magic."
His importance in my life, if anything, is even more penetrating, alive and prevalent.
The thought of losing him is the most unbearable pain I can think of.

But, "I will come anyway" and join him in his fight and struggle in
trying to make some sense of this most senseless and crude diagnosis
and disease.
He is fighting for his life. I am fighting for his life--and hoping for a miracle.

As I continue to love, enjoy, learn from and honor him,
I am grateful for every moment and experience we have shared. Every thought
and stolen memory I have, and will continue to remember; knowing I was blessed with the most wondrous brother; one who amazes and overwhelms me every day and in every possible way.

My heart breaks a little more each day; With the swallow of a pill, a groan, a sigh,
or the pensive look of ashen pain, that hasn’t left his face since his diagnosis--
Either way, he remains determined, always. Productive, beautiful, self reflective,
and thoughtful, constantly.

His is an amazing life. And yes, I stand amazed and in awe of him.

I love you, my brother.
"This is not good-bye"



Now, from Scott:

Since the middle of Friday night, when too many of us were ripped from an ignorant sleep, I’ve been searching for “death.” What now? What next? The more I looked around for “death” the more I found that another term, another experience, always seemed to occupy the same page: wherever I found “death” I seemed to find “love,” someone’s love. This poem is one example:

“42. love is more thicker than forget”

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky (CP 530)

So there we have it, from the poet e.e. cummings: we have love and memory, we have love over death, and we have love above all else. Is there anything else we see with more brilliant clarity at this moment? “That which takes place out of love takes place beyond good and evil” (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil 103). In love, in acts of love, in acts of loving memory, we are not working in conflict with someone else’s version of right and wrong. Today in memoriam, we are not here as believers and non-believers, as faithful and faithless, we are here as family. The family first, the family beyond forgetting, the family of love.

When we think of death we are most commonly strictured in our minds by what we assume is the usual pairing of experiences and feelings—in other words, the pair, Life and Death. This, however, begs the question: should we think of these as a natural pair?
The answer is no: rather, it should be thought as Love and Death. Because life and death are not opposites, they are the same. Love and death are opposed, and yet complimentary. It is through love that death acquires meaning, it is through love that death becomes more than Nothingness with a capital “N.”

I used to know a poet who would say of poetry, and therefore of life, that “Fear of loss is every lover’s fear.” If death is the personification of loss, then the lover, is left alone by death, alone to live on until released from, or reconstituted by that loss.
To state it differently, without love death means nothing, it is scientific, numerical, and perfunctory.
Life, of course, it simply dies: death, of course, is already dead, leaving us with love alone. Love alone survives. Love alone resists. To put it in the harshest possible light, love alone is too damn stubborn or stupid to know any better. So we are left here, either too ignorant or too intransigent, standing gaping around this frightful rent in life’s fabric. The gaping hole in meaning and life.

How long will the edge of this fabric support us? We wonder while we weep and gaze into that oblivion. On this side of death we are only left to remember—with pain as the most powerful reminder; we are left to be chastened, at least a little; and we are left to be admonished, somehow, next time, to do better.”

---Scott H. Swaner

All words, works, by and in behalf of Scott H Swaner
Belong to Swaner Family Trust
Copyrighted material

Thursday, October 08, 2009

He Went Not Gently: The Daily Transit

He went not gently
Published June 4, 2007

It is perhaps one of the saddest things in life to lose touch with a person only to later find that they have passed away – the understanding that there will never be a reconnection bears a heavy weight.

This morning, I felt the brunt of this sadness as I tried to look up a former professor of mine from the University of Washington. It was strange; when I failed to find his email in the directory I simply assumed he had moved on to another school – he was a young guy and, as far as I knew, in good health.

I decided to Google his name just to see where he might have wound up, only to come upon the ominous subtext of the first link, from the UW Department of Asian Languages: “The department mourns the passing of…”

I clicked the link anxiously, eyes wide as they jumped between the text and the black and white photograph of my former professor. I spoke aloud and disbelievingly to myself and to the silence of my apartment. Everything was making horrible sense – the emails that were never returned, and in front of me, the glaring fact that he had died last year.

Professor Scott Swaner was not someone I could call a personal friend, which seems quite obvious given my obliviousness to his death. But to me he was somewhat of a kindred spirit. He was my adviser and professor in 2005, and a great scholar of Korean literature.

We shared a common bond in our passion for the culture of the peninsular nation, and I always smile when I think of the comedy of two tall white guys with somewhat outlandish facial hair sitting in an office speaking in Korean. Professor Swaner always pushed me (and all of his students) towards a deeper understanding of Korean culture through literature and towards sharper language skills. He was one of the first professors to really teach me how to think, and he encouraged and further inspired my ambition to be a journalist in Seoul.

I remember fondly other things about him – the Korean movie poster covering his office door, the John Coltrane poster hanging on his wall, and the time we ran into each other at an anti-war rally in downtown Seattle. Professor Swaner was a confident, complex and wise man, and I regret that I didn’t take more time to visit his office hours, to just chat, to listen and learn.

While in subtle mix of disbelief and sorrow this morning, I followed the internet hypertext trail to a comment on an NPR segment on cancer about Professor Swaner, and from there to the blog that he ran from his diagnosis to his death. It’s called Do Not Go Gentle, the title inspired by the poem by Dylan Thomas.

Though I hardly have the heart to backtrack through his battle with the disease, his first post is perhaps one of the most sobering – I’ll re-post a bit of it here:

Imagine you’re moving through your life, beginning your career, enjoying some success and good health, and like anyone else you’re making plans. You’re 38–in many senses it’s the prime of your life. In any event, you’re young still. You liked reading and writing so you went to graduate school, you traveled a bit, in 2003 you started teaching poetry in a university in Seattle. You get halfway through your second year, gearing up to finish that “first book,” when your doctor calls to follow up on some tests about stomach pains you’ve had: “You’ve got cancer of the pancreas.” [...]

It is both an unimaginable nightmare and a stark reality – that life, one day, ends. It is always sad, but for Professor Swaner and all good-hearted people who face death young, it is a tragedy.

Professor Swaner died of pancreatic cancer on December 20, 2006.
He was 38 years-old.


Responses to “He went not gently”

Sheri Swaner

June 5, 2007 at 9:12 pm

My thanks to you for your recognizing
and your writing about my brother, Scott Swaner.
It is always good to her from those who knew him in a different context then that of family.
He was a brilliant writer, insightful teacher–
who loved Korea; its people, language and culture.
I miss him dearly.
And you are correct–
He “did not go gentle .. ” — he fought and raged against this senseless and tragic disease until the day he died.
He is my hero, my best friend–
I’m so glad you two were aqauainted
and I appreciate your caring enough about Scott,
to write about him.
If it is okay- can I pass along your blog to the rest of my family?
Thank you so much.


Sheri Swaner
Salt Lake City, UT

Pancreatic Cancer News: Rx Reverses Resistance to Chemotherapy

Pancreatic Cancer: Researchers Find Drug That Reverses Resistance To Chemotherapy

October 1, 2009

For the first time researchers have shown that by inhibiting the action of an enzyme called TAK-1, it is possible to make pancreatic cancer cells sensitive to chemotherapy, opening the way for the development of a new drug to treat the disease.
Dr Davide Melisi told Europe's largest cancer congress, ECCO 15 - ESMO 34 [1], in Berlin today (Thursday 24 September) that resistance to chemotherapy was the greatest challenge to treating pancreatic cancer.
"Pancreatic cancer is an incurable malignancy, resistant to every anti-cancer treatment. Targeting TAK-1 could be a strategy to revert this resistance, increasing the efficacy of chemotherapy," said Dr Melisi, who until the start of September was a Fellow at the M.D. Anderson Center in Houston (Texas, USA); he has now moved to a staff position at the National Cancer Institute in Naples (Italy). "During the past few years we have been studying the role played by a cytokine or regulatory protein called Transforming Growth Factor beta (TGFbeta) in the development of pancreatic cancer. Recently we focused our attention on a unique enzyme activated by TGFbeta, TAK-1, as a mediator for this extreme drug resistance."
Dr Melisi and his colleagues investigated the expression of TAK-1 (TGFbeta-Activated Kinase-1) in pancreatic cell lines and developed a drug that was capable of inhibiting TAK-1. They tested the activity of the TAK-1 inhibitor on its own and in combination with the anti-cancer drugs gemcitabine, oxaliplatin and SN-38 (a metabolite of the anti-cancer drug irinotecan) in cell lines, and the activity of the TAK-1 inhibitor combined with gemcitabine against pancreatic cancer in mice.
"The use of this TAK-1 inhibitor increased the sensitivity of pancreatic cells to all three chemotherapeutic drugs. By combining it with classic anti-cancer drugs, we were able to use doses of drugs up to 70 times lower in comparison with the control to kill the same number of cancer cells. In mice, we were able to reduce significantly the tumour volume, to prolong the mice survival, and to reduce the toxicity by combining the TAK-1 inhibitor with very low doses of a classic chemotherapeutic drug, gemcitabine, that would have been ineffective otherwise," said Dr Melisi.
The use of gemcitabine on its own against the cancer in mice was ineffective because of the drug resistant nature of the disease. However, once it was combined with the TAK-1 inhibitor, Dr Melisi and his colleagues saw a 78% reduction in tumour volumes. "The median average survival for the control, TAK-1 inhibitor, gemcitabine on its own, or TAK-1 inhibitor combined with gemcitabine was 68, 87, 82 and 122 days respectively," he said.
"This is the first time that TAK-1 has been indicated as a relevant target for the treatment of a solid tumour and that it is a valid approach to reverting the intrinsic drug resistance of pancreatic cancer. The TAK-1 inhibitor used in this study is an exciting drug that warrants further development for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. In the near future, we will study whether it is also able to make other chemotherapeutic agents, such as oxaliplatin, 5-FU or irinotecan, work against pancreatic cancer in mice.
"Our main goal is to translate this combination approach from the bench to the bedside, conducting a clinical trial that could demonstrate the safety of this TAK-1 inhibitor in combination with gemcitabine, and its efficacy, in pancreatic cancer patients."
Copyright 2009, Anti-Infectives Week via