The Fight Continues

“When someone has cancer, the whole family and everyone who loves them does, too.” Terri Clark

In my little circle of friends there are many who are fighting cancer.

Some have been on the battlefield for a long time and some are just beginning.

I’ve been on the sidelines for many battles–cheering on loved ones as I prayed the different therapies would work.

I have learned to pray hard and prepare my heart for God’s answer. I understand His plans may not always match my petitions.

Take a moment to join me in prayer.

Father God, we humbly pray for all those who are fighting cancer. Give them the hope and courage they need each day. Comfort them in their pain and bless them with healing. Strengthen their family, friends, and caregivers. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I am…

B…simply being. 

~Peace~

Thank you, Michael, for letting me use your picture of the ranch near Mason, Texas. It is beautiful. I love you. 

 

 

 

Cinderellie

“He died that day because his body had served its purpose. His soul had done what it came to do, learned what it came to learn, and then was free to leave.” 

Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain

In July of 1985, I walked away from my old life and home, packed my car, and headed from Waterloo, Iowa, to Denver, Colorado. My two sisters took vacation time to travel west with me to help me settle into a duplex I had not seen in a town I wasn’t even sure how to spell–was Englewood spelled with an I or an E?

I did learn how to spell my new hometown and we did make it to my new address without any real problems. There was that scary guy in Sterling, Colorado who ran a stop sign. In a nano-second all our futures were in question–thank God our guardian angels were near and attentive.

The three of us arrived, tired, but quickly unloaded the car and moved what we had into my new home. As the sun rose and set, we waited for the moving truck to arrive.

We waited…and waited..and waited. My entire house had been in storage for weeks because there was a high demand for moving trucks in Iowa at that time. I was part of many who were heading west.

As time passed, I was learning how expensive it was to move to a new city in a new state where you had no established credit. My savings dwindled away and we were all still sleeping on the living room floor.

When the moving company returned my many calls, the news was not good. They could not locate “my stuff.”

What? I’m a thousand miles from “home” and I’m being told the moving company has lost all my stuff? And…I’m scheduled to start my new job in a week.

I learned a lot during this time in my life. I learned a cashier’s check does not clear immediately. I learned that the cost of living in the Denver area was MUCH higher than I’d expected. Seven to ten days is a very long time to pinch pennies. I learned even though Denver was a mile high and the nights often cool down, it is still very hot in July. I learned that three women living in an empty duplex for a week with nothing to do lose patience with waiting and with each other.

My lessons continued to come fast a furious. I can’t say it was easy–I struggled. I can say I did eventually learn to trust myself and I survived–alone. There were no cell phones–long distance phone calls were expensive. I had no extra money for phone calls. I had my kind and generous friend, Cindy, who was there for me. The problem was Cindy lived quite a distance away and she had a young daughter and her own new job. Being on call did restrict us but thank heavens calling her was a local call.

My first day at my new job was a whirlwind. My co-worker lived a short distance from me. In order to make it easy for me, she offered to give me a ride that week back and forth to Children’s Hospital in Denver. Lucky for me, both our department and the hospital at the time were small. The cardiology department and cardiovascular surgery shared the third floor of Tammen Hall, expanding the size of my work family. That first day it seemed I met dozens of people, all of them were talking about the Huey Lewis and the News concert they’d all gone to that past Sunday.

As I stood listening to snipets of their conversations and enjoyed their bursts of laughter, I knew I’d found my new spot. My gut told me, with time and patience, I’d find my way into this exciting group of people. I wasn’t sure how. I only knew that they represented a large part of what my new life would hold–I was soaking up their energy and the genuine love I felt they had for each other.

By the grace of God I DID become part of this amazing group of people. We were all the same age or close to the same age. Our work was important to us and we worked extremely hard doing it as well as we know how. We worked long hours and covered call–our time off was precious. We played as hard as we worked. Because we were older, we’d all been “players” in the past and most of us had experienced “being played.” We were done with the games–we wanted people around us we could trust. We encouraged each other when we had bad days, when we made mistakes, when we lost patients, when we had relationship issues, and when we experienced those times when we felt lost and alone. Through it all, we knew we would be there for each other…

I’ll never ever forget how this group of people took me in and made me feel loved and always welcome.

This group I knew I had to join earlier this month–to be with one of our own and comfort her during her time of loss as only old friends can.

The best way I can think to talk about Julie and John is to retell a story she shared at John’s memorial. I’d heard the story before but it’d faded from my memory.

Both John and Julie worked at Children’s in Denver for years–Julie in the heart room in the OR and John was a radiologist. Even though they’d most likely walked by each other daily, they’d never really met. Now they were both newly single meaning there were several people making it their mission to get them together. As we know, timing is everything–throw in a little bit of luck and you have a grand plan. The date of the annual hospital gala was rapidly approaching. All those great minds came together to nudge John, suggesting he ask Julie to the grand event. He agreed to ask her and the plan was in motion.

John asked and Julie nervously accepted.

John arrived at Julie’s and rang the bell. Carol, Julie’s roommate, rushed to answer, and as Carol describes it, she opened the door to this tall and handsome man, dressed in a black tuxedo, smiling, and holding a single red rose. Carol quickly admits she wanted to say she was Julie but, alas, knew he knew better. Welcoming him in, she ran upstairs to tell Julie he was there. Opening the bedroom door, Carol sings out:

“Cinderellie, Cinderellie, your Prince Charming is here!”

For the next 26 years, John was her Prince Charming, standing beside her through all their trials and tribulations. It wasn’t easy. They faced many challenges and they both found ways to make it all work. They were a good team and they had three amazing sons who will help us all take care of their mom.

It has been an honor, privilege, and a blessing witnessing and being a small part of this grand story. Like so many of our childhood fairy tales, we watch helplessly as the ominous music crescendos, signaling the wicked witch has released her evilness out into our world. We prayed the witch would be foiled. If we could find a way to defeat her our hero and heroine would live happily FOREVER after. Reality strikes again. This time, cancer proved to be the greatest and strongest Witch of the West and that damn clock chimed midnight much too soon.

I love you, Julie. My John rest in peace knowing we will all take care of you as we’ve taken care of each other for all these years. You will not be alone–none of us will be because we all have our memories to give us comfort and eventual peace.

Abba Father,

You hold time within your hands, and see it all, from beginning to end. Please keep and carry these precious people in their sadness and loss. Cover them with your great wings of love, give their weary hearts rest and their minds sound sleep. Lord, lift their eyes so that they may catch a glimpse of eternity, and be comforted by the promise of heaven. 

We ask all this in the precious name of Jesus.

Amen. 

I am…

B…simply being…

Reach out to those who may need you today.

~Peace be with you~

I am so fortunate I have an amazing photographer in my circle of Facebook friends. Thank you, Mr. Chuck Hackenmiller, for allowing me to use your wonderful photos as part of my blog. You can see many of Mr. Hackenmiller beautiful pictures on the Facebook page, I grew up in Iowa. Please note, no re-use of this photo without permission from Chuck Hackenmiller, Boone, Iowa.  

 

 

Compassion

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” 

Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

When my sister was diagnosed with lung cancer in January of 2007, my life went into a tailspin. I was a thousand miles away and my workplace was busy. This was going to be difficult.

I  remember telling my office manager I was leaving and heading to Iowa. As I sobbed, I told her I didn’t know when I’d be back but I’d call when I had more information.

For four months (much longer, really) my work family protected me–giving me the space I needed to do whatever it was I needed to do.  No one questioned me. No one grew impatient with me as I took phone calls from family and chased down physicians as my sister’s condition deteriorated. At home my husband made sure we had whatever we needed in order to travel at a moment’s notice–not an easy feat when you are traveling to Iowa in February and March and the wind chill is somewhere around -20. Our friends did what they could to make all things easier–one rapid trip home was made possible because I was given a buddy pass for a direct flight to Des Moines. Our family and friends in Iowa were always close by supporting and visiting Beth when we could not be there while helping us all as we struggled along, attempting to understand.

Cancer is a brutal and aggressive in its battles. We understood the cards were stacked against us. Beth fought hard. Mid-May she told me she was ready to be done–she was tired–we headed to Iowa to be with her.

I am grateful for all who helped us all during that time. I never could have done what I did without so much support from every single person who stood beside me and my family. As I look back over those days I don’t think I’ve ever taken an inventory of all those amazing gifts of love and time. I am thankful. I love you all.

“From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of each other – above all for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow-men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.” 

Albert Einstein

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless you.

~Peace~

 

 

Losses

“Whoever said that loss gets easier with time was a liar. Here’s what really happens: The spaces between the times you miss them grow longer. Then, when you do remember to miss them again, it’s still with a stabbing pain to the heart. And you have guilt. Guilt because it’s been too long since you missed them last.”
― Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, The 13th Sign

It’s been a difficult week for many.  There was the terror attack in Manhattan where a  man used a rental truck as his weapon of choice, mowing down people as they were going about their daily routines. A Dad, after making a last-minute run to the neighborhood store, was hit and killed by an unknown driver just a few feet from his home. Three people shot and killed in a Denver area Wal-Mart–motive unknown. I could go on with more, but how would I know when to stop?

On a personal note, we learned today one of our friends lost his long and hard battle with cancer. It should not have surprised either of us. We both knew he was sick before anyone put a medical label on the process. Our sympathy goes out to his family. May they all have some peace now that Paul’s fight is over. God bless.

Over and over we are given examples of how precious life is. I wish there was a way to help everyone put the damn cell phones down and be present. Look, listen, and appreciate those amazing souls surrounding you, giving meaning to your life. Allow your mind to be in that moment–not remembering yesterday or worrying about tomorrow. Make the memories–do not just record them. Our powerful brains are very capable of keeping those memories for us–use it.

As we begin our weekend, I found a prayer I wanted to share with you. I was tempted to just post the prayer without any of my thoughts for the day–I hope I was not too wordy! I think this prayer is wonderful. Hopefully, you will, too, and join me in adding it to your own prayer practices.

“Prayer of an Anonymous Abbess:

Lord, thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.

Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples’ affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But thou knowest, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends.

Keep me from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains — they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.

I will not ask thee for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn’t agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint — it is so hard to live with some of them — but a harsh old person is one of the devil’s masterpieces.

Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so.

Amen”
Margot Benary-Isbert

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace, Y’all.

Marie and Mom

 

I love September. It is the beginning of Fall and a month filled with family birthdays.

September 3 was my Aunt Marie’s birthday–at least that is the day we all believe to be her birthday.

Happy birthday, Marie. As usual, I am a few days late–which would be no surprise to Marie. This is the only picture I have of her. Marie is on the left. Her sister, Eve, on the right. My sister, Susan, and her two kids, Matt and Ashley are in the foreground. Of all the pictures I have saved through the different moves, this is one of my most treasured.

Marie was my Mom’s aunt and a nurse who took care of everyone in the McDonald family. At that time, the McDonald family was huge and scattered all over the country. Marie told me that her brothers and sisters never saw each other unless someone was sick or dying. Until Mom got sick, I never knew Marie or any of the extended McDonald family existed.

Mom’s illness started out innocently. Well, at least in my kid’s memory, that’s what I thought. It began about a month after the birth and death of my brother, Richard. I remember the details of those few days so well–I wonder if I subconsciously knew something was wrong.

Things were quiet as Mom recovered from the C-section she had with my brother. It was late summer and school was getting ready to start. I was looking forward to fifth grade, wondering who would be my teacher and what kids would be in my class. I heard Mom call me into the living room. She asked me to come look at the back of her neck. Could I see and feel a lump? Even my nine-year old self could see and feel that large lump. As I told her, the look in her eyes was my first experience of seeing fear. The question she asked next caught me off guard. She asked if I would go with her to the doctor’s office instead of going to the pool. I said sure. Not that I was giving up my favorite thing.  My motivation was I knew the waiting room had good things to read. I’d skip the pool if I could read adult-like stories and the jokes I knew were in Reader’s Digest!

Looking back, my adult eyes see things so differently. She must have been so afraid of what was coming next. She had just gone through a very difficult pregnancy and lost her son. She was still grieving this loss. What will happen to her three young daughters?

Looking back, I wonder why she asked me to go to the doctor with her and not my Dad? Looking back…I question many things.

We went to see the good doctor that afternoon. The little room was warm and stuffy as we waited with several other people, many sharing their stories about why they were there. HIPPA was far in the future and people shared more than even a kid really wanted to know. I was immersed in the Reader’s Digest joke section as my Mom waited. Silently. I sat close to her and she would hold my hand. Being there with her made me feel important. When she held my hand, I knew it was going to be okay.

She went back alone when Florence, the office nurse, called her name. As we left the office, the look I had seen earlier was back even as she forced a smile. She and Dr. Dalby had made plans and they were starting immediately.

This was the early 60’s and there was not a lot of hope when the word cancer was used. Mom went to the hospital and the biopsy came back as cancer. At the request of Aunt Marie and the McDonald family, Dad took her to Mayo for a second opinion. Mayo doctors confirmed and their prognosis was poor. All doctors suggested radiation so she had her series of treatments. In one of my life’s many twists and turns, I would find myself years later in that same room. I  would be a student in a radiologic technology program, doing a radiation therapy rotation at the same place she had her treatments. I don’t remember a lot about that rotation except the sound of the lock on the door when the Cobalt 60 treatment started. That heavy clunk sound still haunts me. That must have made her feel very alone.

Around Christmas, she began having severe headaches. I, too, started having migraine headaches at the same time. Mine would eventually pass. Mom’s headaches got worse. The first part of January, she and Dad went to Mayo for a follow-up visit. The news from Mayo was not good. Her cancer had spread to her brain. Because this was so serious, Mom asked Marie to come be with her. Marie arrived as soon as she could get there so Dad could come home to the three of us. Her stay seemed like forever. Because Marie would be coming home with Mom, they discharged her early. On February 14th, the anniversary date of her marriage to Dad, she came home. In my romantic young girl mind, that was perfect.

Looking back, I think it was just more irony for my parents to bear.

Mom began radiation treatments to her brain. Radiation is brutal. Her previous treatments and her recent surgery and hospital stay had taken a huge toll on her. After a few sessions, the radiologists determined that it was too much for not enough benefit. The same group of radiologists I would later work for sent a letter stating that–a letter Dad shared with me one late winter afternoon. We had gone to the post office box to get the mail. He handed it to me after he read it. I am not sure why I reacted with the intensity I did. I don’t think I really believed that the doctors couldn’t/wouldn’t fix her. I could not believe that God would take my Mom. I screamed. I cried. I swung my fists out at him. This had to be a mistake. Slowly, I started asking questions and settling down. Only then, after I was calm, did he tell me I could not tell Mom I knew. He had shared this with me against the advice of everyone in the family. I had to act normal.

It was a secret. It was a very heavy one and one I am sure I did not pull off well.

Mom recovered some after stopping radiation. Marie had gone back to Omaha and Dad and I were trying to take care of things.  I was feeling very adult and trying hard but it was obvious we were in an impossible situation. We needed help. Once again, Marie came to the rescue. She arrived just before Mom’s birthday, April 22. Mom passed away August 30. Marie and Mom waged a very hard-fought battle.

Marie cared for mom and stayed on to help our family for nearly two years. I cannot begin to imagine what would have happened to my sisters and me if she had not stayed. Not that I made her life easy–I made it an absolute hell on earth. She was there through all my pre-teen rants and rages. Marie was the only one who understood a young girl grieves the loss of her mother in some strange ways. It must have been the love she had for my Mom that gave her the patience to always try to find some way to break through the shell I had constructed around myself. I was still trying to act and be normal. Through it all, she never gave up on me.

I never thanked her enough. Oh, I went through the motions and said the appropriate words. In my usual very immature adult fashion, I was so busy being busy, I could not and did not take the time to appreciate her. On my list of regrets, this is one of the biggest ones. Now, as an older and hopefully more mature adult, I do realize and understand all the sacrifices she made for all of us.

Thank you, Marie, for giving me the guidance and care that allowed me to be the person I am today. It took decades for me to grow enough to fully appreciate all you gave me. In all the time Marie spent with me, I never told her I loved her. I signed my hastily written cards and notes to her with love–but never said those words to her.

I now know that time stops for no one or for any reason. You can be angry and sad and hurt. Put yourself away long enough to tell those you love that you love them. Just do it.

I am…

B…simply being…

I love you.

Peace