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Oct 5

Farewell to Gary

Posted on Monday, October 5, 2009 in Tests & Appointments

Thanks to everyone for their help with the Celebration of Gary Owen’s Life on Sunday, October 4th in Arroyo Grande.  There were hundreds of people there and many wonderful stories were passed along.

If you were unable to attend, we have a recording of the formal celebration.  Our apologies if the player isn’t showing on your web browser.  For those, we have also given a hyperlink.  Right click (on IE7) and “Save Link As” or just click on the link to bring up your own system’s audio player.

Opening Remarks by John Buerger (Gary’s son-in-law) Get Adobe Flash player

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Garrett Owens (grandson) reads a letter from Karlee Owens (grand-daughter) to Gary Get Adobe Flash player

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Gary’s brother Jeff Get Adobe Flash player

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More Thoughts and Stories Get Adobe Flash player

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More Thoughts and Stories Get Adobe Flash player

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More Thoughts and Stories Get Adobe Flash player

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Final Thoughts and Gary’s favorite song Get Adobe Flash player

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You can still Read Gary’s Obituary and post a comment in Gary’s obituary guest book.  That website will be brought down in a couple more weeks.  You are also welcome to post your comments here.  We will keep this website open (and continue to update it) permanently.

If you have photo’s you want to share, please send them to me and I will post them here (my email address is

Thanks for all your kinds words and support.  Helen and the rest of the family really appreciate your energy and effort.  It has been a big help to us all.  Thanks as well to the Optimists who put on a great bar-b-que and all the donations of food and drink for yesterday’s celebration.  You all did a wonderful job.

If you want to leave a comment … just click on the comment “sticky” at the top right of this post and scroll to the comment box at the bottom of the new screen. Gary will get a copy of whatever is posted here. If you wish to subscribe to email updates which will be sent every time we make a new post, then enter your email in the “Updates” box at the right and click on the “Subscribe” button.

Sep 28


Posted on Monday, September 28, 2009 in Tests & Appointments

Thank you to all of you for your continued support through all of the challenges the past many months (and especially the past couple of weeks).

Gary Owens passed away at 2:41 am on Wednesday, September 23, 2009.  Read Gary’s Obituary. also allows you to post a comment in Gary’s obituary guest book.  You are also welcome to post your comments here.

There will be a celebration of Gary’s life on Sunday, October 4, 2009 from 12-5 pm at the Portguese Hall (formerly known as the Arroyo Grande Center) on Huasna Road in Arroyo Grande.  Comments posted here or at the website may be read to those attending as part of that celebration.  There will be food and a good time to be enjoyed by all attending (Gary would want it that way and do everything in his power to make certain of it).

Gary spent most of the past 30 years in broadcasting here in the San Luis Obispo area.  The news of Gary’s passing was quite a shock to many of his friends in radio.  Dave Congalton, a local talk-radio host, spent some time during his show on the day Gary died talking about Gary Owens and what he meant  to many local business owners and broadcasters.  You can listen right here …

Dave Gongalton Show Audio 2009-09-23 Get Adobe Flash player

Many have offered all kinds of help to the family and this is much appreciated.  The obituary requests that instead of flowers, a donation be made to Arroyo Grande HS athletics, but we are still working on some of the details on that, so please be patient.

You can always donate blood at any time to your local blood bank.  We were grateful for all the fresh frozen plasma and other blood products that Gary was given during his final stay in the hospital.  The blood banks will tell you they can never have too much blood.

Sep 23

2009-09-23 – Resting

Posted on Wednesday, September 23, 2009 in Tests & Appointments

If your day is a little duller today and the world seems a little less full, it is because Gary Owens passed away this morning at 2:41 AM (easy to remember because he came into this world in 1941).

The objective of the day yesterday was to manage the pain and get Gary to the point where he was comfortable.  That was achieved pretty quickly after our meeting with Dr. Spillane.  In fact, he was finally able to sleep – something he had been unable to do since Friday.

Many family members were able to get by to see him yesterday and this morning he was surrounded by his kids and beautiful Helen, whom Gary called his “everything” right down to the end.

We will post more when we have final arrangements set.

Thanks to each of you for your thoughts, prayers and positive energy.  It has made this journey much easier for Gary and the family.

Sep 22

2009-09-22 – One Day at a Time

Posted on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 in Tests & Appointments

Thank you for all your kind words.  They mean a lot to Gary and to all of us in the family as they have through this whole ordeal.

We are now to a time frame of “one day at a time” as the focus has changed from fixing a problem (fighting the cancer) to managing pain and keeping Gary comfortable.   “Finding that magic comfort level” where Gary feels that the pain in under control but he can still enjoy being with loved ones is the objective of the day.  Dr. Spillane’s orders  are to up the narcotics to whatever level achieves this goal.

Meanwhile, the cancer which has metastasized to his liver is growing quickly and causing that primary filtration organ to fail.  Any effort to attack the cancer at this point will likely cause more harm than good and not help Gary’s quality of life in the process.  The DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulopathy) isn’t helping matters, but we have opted to stop the addition of blood products.

Meanwhile, Gary being Gary, his only concern in our family meeting with Dr. Spillane was with everybody else in the room, how they were feeling and what they were thinking.  I spoke with Dr. Spillane in the hall a little later and his comment, “I could only hope to be that big of a person and to care that much about others, especially at a time like that” expressed exactly what we all know and love about Gary Owens.

So the clock is ticking and time is running out.   We’re down to a few days at best and we’re working on making them as good as we can for Gary.  He has chosen to stay at French Hospital and not to go home.  It will be easier to manage things this way.

Thanks again for your comments, your thoughts and your prayers.  It has really helped.  We’ll update this again no later than tomorrow or if there are any substantial changes.

If you want to leave a comment … just click on the comment “sticky” at the top right of this post and scroll to the comment box at the bottom of the new screen. Gary will get a copy of whatever is posted here. If you wish to subscribe to email updates which will be sent every time we make a new post, then enter your email in the “Updates” box at the right and click on the “Subscribe” button.

Sep 21

2009-09-21 – More Issues

Posted on Monday, September 21, 2009 in Tests & Appointments

Gary is still in the hospital today as we have not been able to clear up the issues that sent him to the ER last Friday.  This update has some good news and some bad news.  The good news is that we know a lot more about what’s going on.  The bad news is that we know a lot more about what’s going on.

Before we get too deep into the details, it is being requested by Helen and the rest of the family that everyone keeps the phone calls and visits to the absolute minimum.  Please DO KEEP Gary in your thoughts and add comments to this site.  We share them with Gary whenever we can as it is a great source of strength for him to know who all is behind him.  We all know that you love and care for Gary and would do just about anything to help – just as he would do for you – but time and energy (especially Gary’s) are very limited resources and there isn’t enough to go around right now.


First off, we have the results from Thursday’s biopsy on the mass on Gary’s liver.  That mass was originally discovered by the CT-Scan performed about a week ago as part of the battery of post-chemo-radiation-course tests and analysis that normally follow the completion of the first course of chemo-radiation treatments (which Gary just finished earlier this month).

The biopsy confirms that the cancer that was in Gary’s esophagus and a couple of his lymph nodes has metastasized to his liver.  The official diagnosis is a “metastatic poorly differentiated adeno-carcinoma in the liver.”  This is not encouraging news, but it is not all that Gary is battling right now.


Gary went to the ER on Friday because of severe chest pain.  The EKG showed that everything with his heart was fine, but his blood pressure was really low and the blood work showed that he was bleeding internally and that his PTT and platelet counts were all out of whack.  The diagnosis given to us today is “disseminated intravascular coagulophathy” or DIC.

You can learn more about DIC by going to the link or doing a search on the web.  In simple terms, a bunch of very small clots within Gary’s blood system are using up all the blood clotting proteins in his system which make him bleed from other areas like a recent surgery (the biopsy) and other internal organs.

Throughout the weekend they have been giving Gary transfusions to replenish those proteins and those have worked to slow the problem, but we do not have a concrete long-term solution yet.  Dr. Spillane and others are working on this and hope to have some ideas within the next day or two.

In the meantime, we do encourage you to leave your comments here, keep Gary in your prayers … and if you are ever given the chance to donate blood, please do so.  It may not help Gary directly, but we have been most grateful for the donations  in the past that have become the Fresh Frozen Plasma and other transfusions that have helped him the past 72 hours.

Sep 18

2009-09-18 – Back to ER

Posted on Friday, September 18, 2009 in Tests & Appointments

Gary went to the ER today – the day after his biopsy on the spot on his liver – due to complications from that procedure on Thursday.  The initial diagnosis is bleeding caused either by a low platelet count or the procedure, although there was always a small possibility (1 in a 1000) that there could be some excess bleeding from the biopsy itself.

Gary was in great pain earlier today when Helen took him to French Hospital Emergency Room (right next to Dr. Spillane’s office).  Dr. Spillane was there right away as was the doctor who performed the biopsy yesterday.

Tonight, Gary is much more comfortable.  His blood pressure and platelet counts are all moving back to more normal levels and his color has improved greatly from earlier in the day.  As Dr. Spillane said (directly to Gary), “This is just a bump in the road.”

From our conversations with others who have gone through this as well as your comments here on this website, there are going to be these challenges along the way – the road is going to be filled with a lot of “bumps” and many may be just as rough as this past one.  It is – unfortunately – part of the journey.

We appreciate your kind thoughts and your concerns.  Please keep the comments coming.  We share them with Gary whenever we can.  As hard as this time has been for him, he is much stronger because each of you is there behind him.  This is not just one single, strong person (Gary) fighting this.  This is Gary with the help of hundreds of us behind him …

… and that is a force that he need to beat this.

Best wishes to you from Gary (he told me so) and all of his family.

Sep 16

2009-09-16 – Rough Transitions

Posted on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 in Tests & Appointments

Let’s start with the good news:  Uncle Dean came to town and that was a great visit and most helpful to Gary after the first course of chemo-radiation.

Thanks as well for everyone else who offered their support through their comments on this website and the occasional personal visit.  Gary (and the rest of his family) appreciates your support and prayers.

This recovery from the first course has not been as smooth a journey as any of us would have liked.  The CT scan showed that the radiation and chemo DID have the desired effect of shrinking the tumor in the esophagus, but it also indicated a new growth on Gary’s liver.  A biopsy is scheduled for tomorrow at Sierra Vista Hospital with lab results coming back a week later.

In addition, Gary has been suffering with pain in his legs (the back side of both knees) that has been diagnosed as phlebitis – a swelling or inflammation in a vein or other tissue caused by blood clotting.  The traditional treatment for this cannot be used because it would complicate recovery from the biopsy.

In addition, Gary went to the hospital this past Monday with a fever of 103.  They gave him an IV of antibodies sent him home as his fever came down.  The biopsy would have to postponed if there is any sign of a fever but as of 9am today, the fever had broken and Gary was feeling better.

For now, we (the family) are doing what we can to be supportive and there if Gary needs or wants us while trying not to overdo it and add to the stress in his life.  We’ll update this site as soon as we have biopsy results or other news.

Gary loves you all and wanted to be sure that we tell you that he sends you his best.

Aug 26

2009-08-26 – Chemo-Radiation Course 1 is Done

Posted on Wednesday, August 26, 2009 in Tests & Appointments

THE GOOD NEWS – Gary celebrated his 68th birthday on August 9 in Arroyo Grande.  His brother Jackie Lee was out visiting from Arkansas.  All his kids and grandkids were there to celebrate with him.  The weather was perfect and everybody had a great time.   Thanks so much for your cards, notes and calls to be a part of that celebration.

Gary went down to see his brother Jeff’s play “Edgar Allen Poe” at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood.   That solo performance received a great review on the front page of the Arts Section of the LA Times.   Gary spent the night at his sister’s Sondra and then even felt good enough to go up to the lake for a night.  Next up, Uncle Dean is coming to town for a visit.

THE GREAT NEWS – Last week on Thursday, Gary finished his first course of chemo and radiation treatments.  The doctors did take a week off in the middle of this course as Gary had lost a lot of weight and was more affected by the treatment than they felt was appropriate.

Today at 9:30 am Gary, Helen and Allyson met with Dr. Spillane (oncologist) to review the progress made and begin to make plans for the next phase of treatment.  The doctors are going to give Gary a few weeks off from the chemo and the radiation so he can build back up some weight and get rid of the nausea.

The next step will be a CT-Scan to see how effective this course of treatment was.  That proceedure will take place in a couple of weeks.  There is also the possibililty of another endoscopy before the second course begins.

For now, Gary is resting and healing (and back at work – not very surprising to those of us who know him well).  This treatment was very aggressive and he needs time to recover some before going back at it again.

Thanks for all your kind comments and encouragement.  It means a great deal to Gary and Helen … and to the rest of his family to know how much support he has in this battle.  Take a look at the photo page.  It has been updated.  Look at that cool looking guy in the black “LiveStrong” t-shirt.  There is NO WAY he can’t beat this.

Gary sends his best.

Jul 31

07/29/2009 – Short Break from Treatment

Posted on Friday, July 31, 2009 in Tests & Appointments

Hi All -

As most of you know I’ve been dealing with some serious nausea this past week or so. Today Dr. Stella and Spillane decided to stop my current radiation daily treatment for a week and chemo as well. Give me a week to recoup and I think I need it. Been very fatigued and just can’t seem to get rid of the nausea.

Hopefully this will help. Thanks again for all your support, prayers, cards and calls.

Love you all.


Jul 9

2009-07-08 – Treatment at Full Strength

Posted on Thursday, July 9, 2009 in Tests & Appointments

Hi Everyone,

I’m Feeling Good.

Today I had another 2 hour chemo session. I received my second dose of Oxaliplatin. I then started my second week on the 24/7 drip of 5-Fluorouracil or 5-FU as it is also known. I wear a battery operated pump with PortaCath in my chest that keeps the drug flowing through me all the time.  I also have radiation every day except weekends.

I’m very fortunate so far that side effects have been minimal. Some nausea, but I have medication for that (and licorice really does help, too) and all in all I’m very lucky in comparison to what I hear other people have gone through.  I have 5 weeks on this “course” so it probably will get worse, but, so far not been bad.

I sincerely appreciate all the support. Your many comments, prayers, and “good vibes” are truly welcomed and make Helen and I so thankful for our wonderful family and friends.

Thank god for my Helen.  She has been such a shoulder to lean on.  48 years now and I knew I had a “keeper” a long time ago but this really makes you appreciate your partner when you have something like this sneak up on you….same for my 3 wonderful kids and their spouses and my grandkids. Helps make my effort so much easier.

I’m getting kinda sentimental so will close this update…more to come later. Thanks again for your support. I’M WINNING!