day finally arrived for my first Leukemia
Fundraiser! I am so blessed to have
such wonderful, talented, and generous
friends in my life! Together, we were
able to raise $353.00 for the Leukemia
& Lymphoma Society of Pittsburgh!
Many thanks to all the musicians who
donated their talent, and all my friends
who attended! And thanks also to the
owners of the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern
for generously allowing me to hold
this event in their establishment.
12/13/03: I visited
my brother today and was happy to
tell him all about the leukemia benefit.
I even got to show him the digital
photos, still in my camera! He was
really moved that so many people came
out to help the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
I also found out that my brother might
finally be released from the hospital
tomorrow. It's been 5 weeks now, and
he's anxious to go home and be reunited
with his wife, Barbara, and their
cat, Musica. If he has no fever tomorrow,
he will be allowed to go home.
But, now will come the long journey
of searching for a matching bone marrow
donor, while my brother spends at
least 2-3 months regaining his strength.
Even if we had a match right now,
the doctors say he must wait a few
months to recover from the chemotherapy
drugs. We will be hoping and praying
for a match in this interim period.
12/14/03: My brother
got to go home today! It snowed last
night in Pittsburgh, and I felt badly
that his wife had to drive down to
Pittsburgh from New Castle, PA. the
day after a snowfall. But she drove
slowly, and the trip was fine. Rand
was so happy to finally be allowed
to go home. He was released exactly
5 weeks to the day from his admission
on Sunday, November 9, 2003.
I drove to the Leukemia & Lymphoma
Society of Pittsburgh, located in
the heart of downtown Pittsburgh.
I presented them with a money order
for the $353.00 earned at the the
fundraiser last Friday, December 12,
2003. It was a pleasure to finally
meet the members of their staff, who
have been so helpful over the phone.
I felt like I already knew these people,
who have helped me and my family ever
since my brother was first diagnosed.
The Leukemia &
Lymphoma Society does an amazing job
helping those affected by Leukemia
and other blood-related cancers.
was readmitted to Shadyside Hospital
today. He only got to spend 4 nights
at home, before he was called back
to the hospital. His blood test done
in New Castle revealed 85% blasts
in his blood! This was considered
a blood emergency, and he had to have
blasts removed from his blood through
the apheresis process.
Similar to dialysis for liver disorders,
the apheresis machine is capable of
filtering the blasts from the blood.
This is the same machine that collects
stem cells when bone marrow donors
donate peripheral stem cells from
the blood; and the same machine that
allows people to donate plasma.
Rand was also started on yet another
round of chemotherapy. We hope this
will buy him some more time, while
we continue to wait for a compatible
bone marrow donor.
doctors finally decided that Rand
was stable enough that he would be
allowed to go home the next day. My
mother had called to tell me that
Rand was anxious about going home.
He didn't think he was ready. He thought
it was too soon.
I went to visit Rand in the hospital
the night before his release and asked
him about his feelings on the subject.
He expressed concern to me about his
recurring bouts with fever and infection.
He thought the doctors were sending
him home too soon, and if something
went wrong, it would be harder to
address the problem outside of the
I asked him, "Don't you want
to get the hell out of this place?"
I thought after close to 3 months
in the hospital, he would be anxious
to go home. He said he did want to
go home, but not before he was ready.
We wondered if it had anything to
do with the doctors and insurance
I told Rand that there was an entire
team of doctors consulting on his
case, and that they wouldn't send
him home if they didn't think he was
stable. I asked him if he trusted
his doctors, and he said, "Barely."
But I had met with some of his doctors,
and I truly felt they had his best
interest at heart.
That evening Rand looked so good
to me...like he was feeling better.
He was in "civilian" clothes
for the first time in a long time:
Sweat pants and a t-shirt...instead
of the hospital gown and/or scrubs.
At that moment in time, I really thought
he was going to be fine. Now I wonder
if his hesitation to go home was somehow
a foreboding of things to come. But
I also think it was a gift from God
that he had 2 weeks to spend at home.
01/28/04: Rand was
allowed to go home on Wednesday, January
The doctors decided that he was stable
enough to wait at home for news about
the bone marrow transplant. He still
had to return to Pittsburgh a few
days a week to see his doctors and
get the occasional transfusion, but
overall was doing better and feeling
We were still waiting for news about
an unrelated bone marrow donor. Rand
was told in December 2003 that there
were 3 "potential" donors
for him, but we have heard nothing
new since that time. We don't know
if they were able to locate any of
those people, and/or if they are still
able and/or willing to donate. So,
we are stuck in "limbo land"...not
knowing the status of the so-called
potential donors. It's very frustrating
to play the waiting game, but we are
all trying to be patient and hoping
for the best.
When Rand was released from the hospital
last week, he and his wife moved in
with my parents in New Castle. Rand
cannot be around their cat for the
time being, because of his immune
system being compromised. His doctors
have advised against him being around
the cat until his body's immunity
is back to normal...or at least
close to normal. This may not
be until many months after the bone
Fortunately, Rand and Barb's house
is only a mile away from my parents'
house in New Castle, so Barb can go
home each day to check on the cat
and the house. Unfortunately, there
is no one in New Castle who can give
the cat a temporary home during these
troubled times, so this is the temporary
solution they have found.
I am hoping for Rand to stay at
the Family House in Pittsburgh after
he gets his bone marrow transplant.
According to his doctors, he must
be in close proximity to the hospital
for the first 100 days after the bone
marrow transplant. Most likely, the
first half of that will be in the
hospital. So, we are looking at Rand
and Barb possibly staying at Family
House for 1-2 months during Rand's
Family House, which provides
low-cost housing for patients recovering
from a wide range of illnesses,
has 3 locations in the East End near
Shadyside Hospital. Two locations
are in Shadyside, and 1 location is
to Shadyside Hospital on February
14, 2004. Rand was home in
New Castle for about 2 weeks, but
took a turn for the worse on Saturday
evening, February 14, 2004. He was
having trouble eating the whole time
he was home due to the oral chemo
drugs he'd been taking, and the lack
of food made him weak. He started
running a high fever again, and also
developed severe back pain.
My father called an ambulance to
take him to Jameson Hospital in New
Castle. Later that night, he was transferred
again by ambulance...this time back
to Shadyside Hospital.
SUNDAY, 02/15/04: Today
I found out that my brother was back
in the hospital. I went to see him,
and his wife Barbara was there. She
planned to spend the night with him,
as she would sometimes do, and sleep
in a chair beside his bed.
Barbara would always bring fun things
to hang up to make Rand's room more
cheerful. "Eye Candy" they
would both call it! We weren't allowed
to bring flowers because of Rand's
suppressed immune system, but Barbara
had some stuffed animals, mobiles,
and inspirational messages on the
Barb had sent me 2 photos of their
beloved pet cat, Muzika. So I scanned
them, blew them up on my computer,
printed them out. I thought the photos
of the cat would help inspire Rand,
while adding to the "eye candy'
in the room!
Barb was very upset when I spoke
with her on Sunday evening. Apparently
the doctors she spoke with that day
had given Rand very little chance
of recovery at that point. She was
very angry at the doctors, as she
held onto the hope that Rand would pull through. The doctors'
forecast was very grim.
After spending Sunday night
at the hospital, Barb's mother picked
her up on Monday morning. Tuesday
she was still too upset to return.
She was really pissed off at the doctors.
I felt so sad for her. I wasn't present
when she spoke with the doctors on
Sunday, and so I don't know exactly
what the doctors said to her. I wondered
if it wasn't really her anger at the
situation itself, but the doctors
were the ones conveying this horrible
Today (Monday) I spoke with one of
Rand's doctors. He explained the grave
situation to me, as I wept. Rand had
developed "Refractory Leukemia"
which meant...he had stopped responding
to treatment. The trademark "blasts"
were once again overpopulating his
He had a high fever off and on...up
to 104 degrees at times. He had fungal
pneumonia in his lungs. And he had
also developed severe back pain and
elevated respiration. He was now on
morphine, which he claimed merely
took "the edge" off the
back pain. No one really knew for
certain what was causing the back
The doctors told me that he was no
longer a candidate for a bone marrow
transplant because he was too sick.
And the doctors told me that the elevated
respiration rate would eventually
cause the muscles in his lungs to
But even if Rand had been well
enough to receive a transplant...it
turned out that NONE of the so-called
"potential donors" had been
a perfect match.
The field of "potential donors"
had grown to 7, and we had been so
hopeful that one of these 7 people
would be a match. But they all turned
out to match only 5 out of 6 markers,
and the doctors needed an exact 6
Because Rand never went into complete
remission, and because of the complications
he had with fevers and infections,
the doctors would have only attempted
the transplant with a perfect 6 point
But it all became a moot point.
No donors and the transplant was
now out of the question.
The doctor told me that his number
one oath was to, "Do no harm."
And that a transplant in my brother's
condition would surely kill him. I
felt like I was watching a movie as
I listened to the doctor speak. It
all seemed so surreal.
I spent the entire day and most
of the night at the hospital today.
My parents had driven in from New
Castle in the morning, but only stayed
a few hours. They both looked like
they'd been crying when I arrived.
They soon left, and I was alone with
my brother for the rest of the day.
I think it was too painful for them
to see Rand in that condition.
That day, the social worker spoke
to my parents and my brother, trying
to find out what Rand's wishes were
regarding a DNR...Do Not Resuscitate
order. Rand was opposed to it, because
his wife was opposed to it.
But Barb eventually changed her mind,
and phoned the social worker from
her parents' house in Youngstown,
Ohio to say she would support whatever
decision Rand would make. Barb spoke
with Rand on the phone, but he would
not make a decision without Barb present.
She was due back at the hospital Wed.
morning, and Rand said he would decide
when he spoke with her in person on
I wondered if Rand would still be
able to speak and make that decision
by the next day. It turned out...he
A very kind nurse at the hospital
gave me permission to use the phone
at a nurse's station right outside
my brother's room. So I began calling
my cousins and family members, urging
them to visit my brother as soon as
possible. I didn't want to make the
calls from my brother's room, especially
since I ended up crying through each
My brother could still talk on Tuesday
afternoon and evening, but I could
see that he was in a lot of pain from
his back, and his lips were dry and
chapped from breathing through his
mouth. He had a line of oxygen into
his nose, and was only using his mouth
to breathe. So, I kept putting lip
balm on his parched lips to try to
help. And I'd offer him water and
food. He only ate 2 teaspoons of a
protein shake the entire day.
He could barely move his body at
this point. He needed me to push the
buttons on his bed to elevate the
bed or recline the bed. I pulled my
chair up next to the bed and held
his hand as we watched TV together
that evening...for the last time.
I was afraid to leave the hospital
that night, but I still thought he
had more time. I never thought things
would happen so quickly. I went around
to all the night staff on duty, and
gave everyone my home and cell phone
numbers. I gave everyone instructions
to call me overnight if anything changed.
Since I live 15 minutes from the hospital,
I figured I could return at a moment's
notice. No one called me that night.
WEDNESDAY, 02/18/04. THE
SADDEST DAY OF MY LIFE.
MY BROTHER LOST HIS FIGHT WITH LEUKEMIA.
I HELD HIS HAND AS HE TOOK HIS LAST
BREATH. MY FATHER AND I WERE BOTH
WITH HIM, HOLDING HIS HANDS. I KNOW
HE DIED KNOWING HOW MUCH HE WAS LOVED
AND HOW MUCH HE WILL BE MISSED.
My mother called me Wed. morning
to tell me to get to the hospital.
They had called my parents in New
Castle, and my father was on his way.
Then the doctor called me from Shadyside
Hospital and told me to come right
away. Rand's blood had stopped clotting,
and he was starting to bleed out.
I rushed to the hospital.
It all seems so surreal. Just a few
weeks ago things were looking optimistic.
Leukemia is such a devastating disease.
In the last few days of my brother's
life, everything spiraled out of control.
Rand's wife Barbara arrived at the
hospital and only stayed a short time.
I crossed paths with her and her mother
and sister in the hallway. I was arriving
as they were leaving. Barb was in
tears, and we hugged each other. I
think it was just too traumatic for
her to watch the final demise of the
man she loved so dearly. But while
she was at the hospital, she gave
consent for the DNR.
That morning, Rand had been taken
to the ICU. I kept thinking about
what the doctor had told me on Monday...that
his lungs would become exhausted from
the elevated respiration. I didn't
know how much time we had together,
but my father and I were there with
him to say good-bye.
My father was standing on Rand's
left side, and I was on the right.
Each of us had a hand to hold. My
father leaned close to my brother's
ear and told Rand, "Don't be
afraid. It's a better place you're
going to. Don't be afraid. And you're
going to see Bubbie, and Zaydie, and
Aunt Becky." My father was referring
to his parents (Yiddish for grandma
& grandpa) and his baby sister
Becky, who died of breast cancer in
I wanted to lighten the moment. I
started thinking of what heaven might
be like. If all the good people throughout
history went to heaven. If this is
true, then when we die, wouldn't we
get to meet them all? Why would we
only see our relatives? Wouldn't we
get to see all the famous people who
had done good deeds throughout their
So after my father told my brother
that he would see our grandparents
and aunt, I said, "And Benjamin
Franklin, and Lincoln, and John Kennedy!"
I have NO IDEA why those 3 names popped
into my head, but they did! My
dad gave me a dirty look!
And then we looked back down at Rand.
I saw him take one more breath, and
then his body froze. My father said,
"He just died." I said,
"No, he did not!" I just
couldn't believe that was it! I thought
he would hold on at least until my
cousins and my aunt arrived to say
I was able to contact my cousin Miriam
from Pittsburgh, and tell her that
my brother had passed away. She still
wanted to come to the hospital and
pay her final respects.
My cousin Kim, her husband Fred,
and my Aunt Paula were en route from
Youngstown, Ohio; and I had no way
to contact them. I had forgotten to
get their cell phone numbers. So when
they finally walked off that elevator
at Shadyside Hospital, they had no
idea that Rand was already gone.
I had to convince the hospital staff
to leave Rand in the hospital bed
until my cousins and Aunt arrived,
so that they could pay respects and
say their good-byes. My cousin Miriam
arrived first around 6:15 P.M. and
then my cousin, her husband, and my
Aunt from Youngstown arrived at 6:30
P.M., right when the staff had told
me my time was up! 5 minutes later
and they would have missed seeing
Rand at the hospital!
It was a very emotional day, as I'm
sure you can imagine. And the saddest
day of my
life. I am so grateful that my cousin
Miriam came to pay her respects to
Rand, and to offer emotional support to me.
And I am extremely grateful to my
cousin Kim, her husband Fred, and
my Aunt Paula, who spent Wed. evening
with me in Pittsburgh before returning
to Youngstown. They bought me dinner,
and came back to my apartment for
a few hours. My father had returned
to New Castle to tell my Mom the sad
news in person, so if not for Kim,
Fred, and Aunt Paula; I would have
been alone that evening...on the saddest
day of my life.
FRIDAY, 02/20/04. THE SECOND
SADDEST DAY OF MY LIFE...RAND'S MEMORIAL
It was a source of controversy for
a while. My brother wanted to be cremated.
I discovered that this goes against
the Jewish religion. I didn't know
that. But my brother hadn't been a
practicing Jew for many years, and
he had put his wishes into a will.
So out of respect for his last wishes,
he was cremated.
My father was very much opposed to
this, but finally gave in to Rand's
last wishes. I know that my father
visits the graves of his parents and
other relatives, and I think he felt
saddened that he wouldn't be able
to visit Rand's grave. I told him
my philosophy: that the
spirits of our loved ones live on
in our hearts. So, he can talk to
Rand anytime he wants...anywhere he
Four of my friends from Pittsburgh
traveled to New Castle that day. I
was so touched that my friends would
go out of their way to lend moral
support to me and my family. It's
about an hour and a half drive from
Pittsburgh to New Castle. I was
also touched that 4 guys who graduated
with my brother from High School,
read the obituary in the newspaper,
and showed up at the funeral home
with a huge bouquet of flowers and
And of course, I am grateful
that so many relatives traveled long
distances to be there. It meant a
lot to me, and I know it meant a lot
to my parents. Many thanks to all
our friends and family for your sympathy,
kindness, and prayers. We are grateful
for your support during this difficult
Rand will live on forever in
OF MY BIG BROTHER
As kids, we used to argue, fight
and wrestle all the time. But I was
a scrawny kid, and my brother was
2 1/2 years older than me. Finally,
my parents laid down the law. Rand
was not allowed to hit me, because
they didn't want to pay the hospital
bill! So I continued to jump on his
back, and he could only push away
the bratty little sister who wanted
to follow him everywhere!
Rand and I were both into Science
Fiction as kids and teens. We used
to beg my parents to let us stay up
late on Saturday nights to watch "Chiller
Theatre." We both loved the claymation
at the start of the show. Those of
you reading this and living in Western
PA may remember the letters spelling
"Chiller Theatre" slowly
devouring each other! How coooool
we thought that was! Groovy special
effects for THOSE days!
We loved the monster movies! Especially
Godzilla! But really, we loved them
all! Rodan, Mothra, King Kong. My
brother and I were also major league
TREKKIES! This was way back when there
was only ONE Star Trek series on TV!
Oh, yes...ancient, ancient history!
We used to have contests to see who
could name the most episodes! Our
favorite episode was "The Trouble
With Tribbles." Although personally,
I am also very fond of the Silicone
Monster that bore through solid rock!
When Spock does the Vulcan Mind Lock
with the monster...that is truly a
CLASSIC STAR TREK MOMENT!
Rand also love all the new Star Trek
series. And he was a major league
fan of the X-Files! He even had an
Rand and I used to play pool and
ping pong as kids. And badminton in
the summer time. I was always bugging
him to go to the community swimming
pool with me in the summer, and I
would succeed about once or twice
the whole season!
When playing ping pong, we always
tried to psych each other out by singing
goofy songs from movies. Rand's favorite
was the "Jets" song from
West Side Story. You know..."When
you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the
way, from your first cigarette, to
your last dying day!"
We also liked to use famous lines
from Sci-Fi movies for psych-out strategy.
Our favorite lines were from The
Little Shop of Horrors and The
Fly. We would alternate between:
and "Heeeeeeeeelp Meeeeee!"
We would be trying to play ping-pong
without totally cracking up laughing
each time the other one would say
the famous line!
Rand and I used to race each other
home from school to see who could
get the mail first! It was a daily
contest. We lived 2 blocks from the
High School, so we walked to school
in the morning...but we always RAN
home from school in the afternoon!
Rand graduated from High School in
1977, 2 years ahead of me, and enrolled
in the Air Force. I used to fight
with my Dad for the right to speak
with my brother on the phone when
Rand would call home.
In the Air Force, Rand spent time
in Texas, Las Vegas, and eventually
Korea. At the end of his 4 years,
he decided to live in Las Vegas. He
tried his hand at a vending machine
business, but eventually returned
to New Castle.
He started to work in the t-shirt
business with my father. They sold
shirts at a circuit of flea markets
in Eastern Ohio and Western PA. It
was at the Flea Market that Rand met
his wife, Barbara.
They were married on July 17, 1990,
and they bought a house about 1 mile
from where my parents live in New
Castle. I've never seen two people
more in love than Rand and Barbara.
I think that my brother was truly
blessed to find his soul mate. I am
grateful to Barb for bringing so much
joy into my brother's life.
I am grateful that my big brother
got to see me graduate from the Art
Institute of Pittsburgh in 2002, and
attend my graduation dinner. I'm glad
my big brother got to see his little
sister go back to school and get a
new degree! Rand was really into computers,
and he loved that I could now show
him new things!
I really got to know Rand better
in the last 10 months than I ever
had since we were kids living under
the same roof. As adults, we were
both so busy living our separate lives
in separate cities, that we rarely
saw each other more than a few times
But these past few months were a
gift. I got to know my brother as
an adult. He was our own personal
version of Cliff Claven from Cheers.
He loved to talk about every subject
under the sun! He had so many dreams.
He wanted to raise ostriches! Crazy
dreams. He wanted to buy a house and
convert it to solar power. I've thought
of doing that, too!
He always wanted to know how my web
projects were going. And I got to
show him THIS web site on the computers
at the hospital. He got to see the
photos I took of him with my digital
camera on the web site and thought
it was cool!
One of his last days, I asked Rand
what all his favorite things were.
Favorite Color: Light Purple.
Favorite Food: Barb's...anything
made by his wife Barbara.
Favorite Painter: Peter Max.
Favorite Movie: Couldn't decide on
a favorite movie, but I know he loved
Monty Python and the Holy Grail...and
the whole Monty Python TV series.
He loved comedy and sci-fi. He also
loved the movie Dogma, every
version of Star Trek known to mankind,
and was a HUGE FAN of the X-Files.
Rand adored the family cat, Muzika.
Rand like to tell the story that Muzika
named herself, because she was the
only kitten in the litter making any
noise. The other joke was that she
was catching mice in their house until
she caught enough to pay off her vet
bill from when she broke a leg as
Rand was truly an amazing person.
He never had a bad word to say about
anyone. He was one of the kindest
people I have ever known. He never
put people down. He was a dreamer.
He loved his wife deeply. He loved
his family deeply.
Rand will live on in the
hearts of all who knew him.
Rand E. Alansky, September
22, 1958- February 18, 2004.