Remembering Richard at Christmas

Six years ago a dear friend died just before Christmas.

 My husband and I had watched him battle cancer (two different kinds) for over two years.  It was hard to see him slowly lose the battle.  He fought hard and he never lost his courage or his great sense of humor.

His family asked my husband to do the funeral service.  It was an extremely hard thing for Paul to do.  They had been friends for almost 20 years.  In the very beginning of their friendship, I had surgery for breast cancer.  The cancer was very advanced and my husband was  frightened as his mother had died from breast cancer.  Richard came to the hospital and sat with my husband through my surgery and did not leave until I was out of recovery.  That cemented their friendship.

That – and their love of golf and corny jokes.  Although they claimed they played golf, I think from listening to their tales that they spend more time laughing at each other’s skills than they did actually playing the game.

After my retirement, I often joined the two of them for breakfast.  It was such fun to just sit and listen to them as they teased one another and shared stories of their time on the golf course.

While it was hard for my husband to do the funeral service, he was honored that the family said that was what Richard would want.  As we arrived at the funeral home, his daughters handed us an envelope.  On the outside it said, “Paul and his bride.”  That was how Richard always referred to me – “Paul’s bride.”  When Paul and Richard met, if I was not present, he would always ask, “How is your bride?”  The handwriting on the outside was clearly not Richard’s.  So we assumed it was just a card saying thank you for doing the service.

When we opened the card it was a Christmas card.  Thinking it was a little strange that his daughters were giving us a Christmas card, we opened it up.  My heart skipped a beat as I saw the signature inside the card.  It said simply, “Richard.”  We immediately recognized his signature.  Also enclosed was a picture of him.

His daughters told us although Richard never sent Christmas cards, just before his death he asked them to get him some Christmas cards.  He then signed a few and asked them to give them to his special friends at his funeral.  He knew he would not be here for Christmas and he wanted us to know what our friendship had meant to him.

This is a special card my husband and I will treasure forever.

Merry Christmas Richard!

Celebrating 20 Years!!!!

Laughing at how much I look like my Dad with my bald head!

Laughing at how much I ook like my Dad with my bald head!

This month I celebrate 20 years cancer free!   I am so thankful to God that I am still here – a cancer survivor!

I think of all the things I would have missed:

  • Wedding and graduations of many of my grandchildren
  • Seeing my oldest daughter earned her Master’s in Education
  • Seeing my youngest daughter become an ordained minister in the Wesleyan tradition
  • The birth of my youngest granddaughter and several great grandchildren
  • All the many trips my husband and I have made exploring our great country
  • Perhaps most of all just the 20 years I have enjoyed life with my husband who is also my bff.

I kept a journal during the fight with cancer.  Every year I get it out and read it again.  Here are my thoughts from that journal during the first few days facing the battle ahead of me.

Day 1 – Cancer! A simple word describing a disease that other people get. Just a word. Until suddenly I hear the word as I get the results of my biopsy. Abruptly my whole world changes forever. Nothing will ever be the same again.

It all started when I found a lump in my left breast. Although I called and set up an appointment with my doctor, I told myself there was nothing to be concerned about. This would just be a benign tumor. Cancer would never happen to me! After examining me, my doctor assured me it was probably nothing. Cancer in the beginning stages, she told me, seldom hurts and boy did I hurt! It was probably a cyst. If so, they would insert a needle to remove the fluid, and all would be fine. Nothing to worry about.

Then why did she tell me not to leave until she had an ultrasound scheduled? Still, there is nothing to fear! Cancer happens to other people, not to me. I’ll grow old and die some day of a heart attack.

Day 2 – After the ultrasound the radiologist wants to speak to my husband and me. He tells us he is trying to get in touch with my doctor to recommend I have a biopsy as soon as possible. He tries to comfort us by saying that cancer is seldom painful in the beginning stages. I’m in so much pain, it’s probably just a benign tumor. If pain means no cancer, bring on the pain!

Day 9 – The needle biopsy is completed. It was supposed to be painless, but I have to have three shots before they can complete the biopsy. Lord, let it be good news.

Day 12 – It’s not good news. I have cancer. How can that be? Not me! I call my husband on his cell phone. He is coming to take me to lunch and when he answers the telephone, he starts chattering away, making nonsensical comments. I cut him off, “Honey, listen to me.” Now what do I say? How do I say that dreadful word? There’s no way to avoid it, no way to make it sound all okay. So, I just say it. “I have cancer.” His response is engraved in my memory. “I’ll be right there.”

Now I have to tell the kids. How do I tell my children their mother has – there’s that word again – cancer? The kids come hurrying over with their families. I can tell they struggle with the news. My two daughters who have never been at a loss for words when talking with me are now strangely silent. They seem to avoid even looking at me. How I long to take away their pain, but I am totally helpless. This is not like when they fell as little girls and scratched a knee. I can’t wash away the pain, can’t put a bandage and a kiss on it and make everything fine again. Cancer was never something we thought we would have to deal with. That happened in other families, not ours.

Day 13 – Finally, almost 24 hours after I get the news I have cancer, the kids go home and my husband runs an errand. I am alone at last to absorb the news. I take a bubble bath and as I relax in the warm water, the tears finally come. I cry and beg God over and over, “Please let me live! Please let me live!” Over and over comes this desperate plea.

Weebles Wobble but They Don’t Fall Down

I have not posted anything for almost three weeks (have you missed me?). In case anyone was wondering, here’s my story.

In 1971 Hasbro/Romper Room created small egg-shaped figures that “wobble” from side to side but return to an upright position. Their slogan for these toys was “Weebles Wobble but They Don’t Fall Down.” Inside each weeble is a small weight. When the toy is tipped to one side the weight will cause the toy to “wobble.” Gravity soon brings the toy back to an upright position.

For the past few years, I have experienced chronic pain throughout my body. At first, I just thought it was arthritis creeping up on me or perhaps damage done to my body from the many chemo and radiation treatments I had as a cancer patient almost 20 years ago.

Along with the pain, it has become more difficult for me to stand for any length of time and to walk any great distance. My husband and I have always been active, but this constant pain and difficulty walking was beginning to make me depressed. I began dreading growing old and living a limited lifestyle.

My clothes also did not seem to fit properly. My tops always hung to the left and anything with sleeves would find the left sleeve longer than the right. No matter how many times I tried to straighten my tops – they refused to remain straight and even.

Finally, my granddaughter told me “Grandma, you wobble when you walk.” I felt like those little weebles – bobbing from side to side as I tried to walk straight. On uneven ground or climbing stairs I even wondered if this “webble” would fall down.

At my last doctor’s visit, I pointed out to her that a rib on my left side was sticking way out. She gave a closer examination and determined that my left leg is shorter than my right and because of that my spine has slowly been tilting to the left. Thus, why my clothes do not fit properly and why I “wobble” when I walk.

Diagnosed with scoliosis, she sent me to their physical therapy department for further evaluation and treatment.

First order of business was to add an insert to my left shoe to begin to even out my legs. We have had to slowly raise the height of the left leg because my therapist said too much of an increase all at once would only make things worse.

My first few visits to PT were basically sitting, lying while they did adjustments to my pelvis, my spine, and my hips to try to bring me back into proper alignment. After four weeks of therapy, three times a week and more inserts in the left shoe, they have declared I am back in proper alignment.

I have four more weeks of PT where we are working on building strength into my muscles so that I can retain the proper position of my pelvis, spine and hips. My therapist told me I will need to continue these exercise three to four times a week for the rest of my life if I want my body to keep the right alignment. They can make adjustments to my spine, but it is the muscles that will hold that alignment.

While doing the physical therapy and learning to make other adjustments – such as losing my recliner for a more straight-back chair, using the right size pillows when I sleep, wearing shoes all the time (which I hate), adjusting my computer so that I am not looking up or down at the screen which is hard on the neck, I have been too busy to blog.

Honestly, I have thought about not returning to my blog and I have mixed feelings about it. But here’s goes my story of my absence – and I do hope some of my followers have missed me.

I Asked for Two Years – I Now Have Nine Years

When I was 54 years old I was diagnosed with a very aggressive and advanced stage of breast cancer. My doctor said I had only a small chance of still being alive in ten years.

Ten years – that would put me into retirement age. At that time I planned to retire at age 62. So I figured if I could last ten years and retire at 62 that would give me two years to enjoy retirement with my husband.

For years I had worked a secular job which kept me busy with work Monday through Friday. My job was a very demanding job and often required overtime. When the weekend came I was really not free to enjoy time with my husband because he was a pastor. That meant that much of his weekend was involved with the church.

So I thought if I could just make it to those ten years, that would give me two years of retirement to enjoy more time with my husband.

That is what I asked for – “Lord, let me live to retire and give me two years to enjoy some quality and quantity time with my husband.”

As the time grew near for my 62nd birthday, I was thankful that I had made it eight years – but finances dictated that I needed to work until I was 65.

“Lord, let me live until I am 65 and give me two years of retirement with my husband.”

Well, obviously I made to 65. What is so wonderful is today I celebrate nine years of retirement. Nine years ago today I walked out of MidAmerican Energy Company for the last time. Still praying for those two years of retirement with my husband.

God has given me now nine years of retirement – and I am still going strong looking forward to many more years.

What I have been able to enjoy in those nine years.

Seeing my oldest daughter get her Master’s degree
Seeing my youngest daughter become an ordained minister in the Wesleyan Church
Being able to just “hang out” with my grandsons
Enjoying my “crazy” grandchildren – and seeing two of them happily married
Meeting my first great grandson – and looking forward to seeing the second one.
Getting to watch this youngest granddaughter grow up.

And all the trips we have been able to make:

All across the south loving the old oak trees and the Spanish moss.

Enjoying the beach and the carriage rides.

And out west to Wyoming and Montana following the Pony Express/Mormon Trail.

Being a history nut I have been able to visit many former presidents’ homes and I loved walking the grounds of Fort Laramie.

Seeing the names carved into the rock at Register Cliff.

But most of all, I am so grateful for all the quality and quantity time I have had with my husband, my bff, these past nine years.

Still my bff after nine years of “real” togetherness!

Thank you Lord for your blessings on me!

I Have Hair!!!

Those who follow my blog know that I lost my hair 19 years ago after 16 treatments with three powerful chemo drugs following surgery for breast cancer. Although the doctor assured my hair would come back for years I did not. It was only a few years ago that we found out that one of the drugs I was given could cause permanent hair loss.

I was okay with that – I just wore a wig. No one ever knew it was a wig and were surprised when they found out.

Lately, however, I became tired of the wig. Old age I guess. I also was showing some hair growth – not much – very thin – but hair.

My two daughters encouraged me to take the wig off and see if my hair might grow back. They wondered if the wig might be preventing hair growth

I was scared – but I decided to take the plunge and do it.

My approach to difficulties of life has always been:

with a strong faith in God and a good sense of humor I can handle this.

So – I wrote a couple of blogs trying to make fun of my baldness.

Now – after about three months without the wig – I HAVE HAIR!!!!

It’s pretty thin – but it’s my hair!!!!

As it grew back it was a sloppy unkempt mess. I had to let it get some length before I could get it styled so for a few weeks I was so embarrased to go out in public – but I just remembered my prayer “Give me hair!” and was thankful that God was answering that prayer.

Finally a couple of weeks ago I was able to go to a beauty salon and get it styled. The stylist kept asking me if I wanted to use a curling iron or a blow dryer and how I wanted it styled. . Since it had been 19 years since I had any hair to comb or style, 19 years since I had been to a beauty salon, I put myself in her hands and trusted her to guide me through this.

So once again I have hair. It is not thick – it is not red – but it is my hair! I am getting used to the white/grey and actually beginning to like it.

I am so happy and grateful – I HAVE HAIR!!!

Memories and Potato Soup

October is a month that brings back so many memories to me. It was in this month nineteen years ago that I was diagnosed with a very advanced and aggressive cancer. So it’s natural that I have memories of that time every October – and especially since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Some of those memories are not pleasant. The surgery – the chemo – the radiation – the very hard effort to stare death in the face.

But I also have so many good memories and today brought back one of those memories.

It is raining and chilly here in Michigan today – a perfect fall day. It is also a good day to just stay inside and watch the rain from my easy chair. My husband declared that this was a day for homemade potato soup.

I love homemade potato soup. My mother often made that when I had a cold or was not feeling good. It is my comfort food. My husband makes great potato soup so I was glad to hear his offer to make some for us today.

Watching him prepare the soup and enjoying the good smells coming from the kitchen brought back a very special memory of that time battling cancer.

I continued to work through my chemotherapy and was active but with the first two drugs I was given, I would basically lose a week of life as I felt energy and life drain from my body. I would spend several days in bed too weak to do anything but get up and walk to the restroom. My husband would fix my meals and bring them to me on a tray. If there was any meat, he would even have to cut it up for me because I had energy only enough to lift my fork.

He was so good – so kind – so patient and did all he could to help me through those weeks. One day as I lay in bed I thought how much I would love to have some potato soup. Because he was doing all the shopping, house work as well as cooking and taking care of me I did not want to make any special requests. Not knowing what he had planned to fix, I did not want to impose on him so I said nothing.

I drifted back off to sleep and some time later he woke me up to tell me he was bringing me my lunch. When he brought the tray to my bed, I was so happy. He had fixed potato soup. You may think that was just a coincidence, but I believe God knew my heart’s desire and led my husband to fix that soup.

As we ate the soup today we remembered that special time and we thanked God for how much He cares about us.

And, the soup was delicious – as my husband’s soup always is.

Mountain or Valley – He’s Still There!

Our pastor has been doing a series on Psalm 23 – taking one verse at a time. Today she spoke on one verse that has been such a blessing to me throughout the past almost 20 years. It is the verse that says:

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou are with me.

That is the verse that came to my mind the day of my first visit to the oncologist following surgery for breast cancer. His first words to me were “The odds are not in your favor.” Immediately the above verse came to my mind.

I did not know if the Lord was assuring me I would walk through this valley to health and life on the other side or if I would walk through this valley into death.

What was comforting to me was the assurance that He was going to be with me through this time.

Looking back on my life as I near the last years of life I am so thankful to see all the times He has been there for me.

What comfort I find in knowing He will continue to walk with me through the rest of my life – both on the mountain times and the deep valley experiences life may bring.

At this point in my life I would say I’m mostly experiencing those “mountain” times. Last week my husband and I celebrated 37 years of marriage. What a blessing it is to be able to say that he is my bff and our love for one another is deeper and stronger than the day we married. We are blessed with good health for our age and we have a beautiful home to enjoy.

Yet I have been facing some “valley” moments these last few weeks. When I had surgery for cancer the surgeon apologized and said that he had done quite a bit of nerve damage as the lymph nodes were full of cancerous cells and he wanted to make sure he removed all the cancer. That plus the extensive radiation I had has left me with pain ever since. The damage done to my side has, with age, also led to a damaged rotator cuff. Surgeons now do not want to do surgery to repair the cuff because there has been so much nerve damage already done.

For whatever reason – old age I guess – the chronic pain that I have learned to live with has recently become much worse. It is especially difficult when I try to lay down and I have come to dread bedtime.

This morning my church family gathered around me and prayed for me. What an encouragement that was. One young man put some legs on his prayers and offered to come help me with my housework, even to vacuum my floors. My husband is able to help me and I refuse to just sit and give in – got to keep moving. But it was so kind of him to offer. That’s what real love is all about.

How blessed I am – how good to know not only that God is with me – but He has given me friends to love and support me.

Whatever situation dear reader you may be in – let me encourage you to lean on God. He is our Good Shepherd and His promises to be with us in “all” seasons I have found to be true.

Give Me Hair!!!

My latest prayer

When I was a little girl I had beautiful red hair and my mother fixed it in curls like Shirley Temple. Everywhere we went people would comment on my hair and I felt special.

As a teenager I always felt like I was not “pretty” but I still took comfort in the thought that my hair was “pretty.”

Then as an adult cancer came and took my hair.

After cancer treatment ended my doctor told me my hair would grow back – possibly even thicker than before. But it did not. After a year or so he ran various tests to see if there was something else wrong as his cancer patients had always seen their hair grow back. We eventually found out that one of the three chemo drugs I took caused more permanent hair loss.

I did not really mind too much as I had worn wigs during my treatment and no one knew it was not my own hair. Slowly a little bit of hair came back but it was very thin and grey. So I just continued to wear my red wig and enjoy being that “special” redhead. My husband said he loved it when we were at ministers’ conference and someone asked him who was his wife, he could just say “the redhead.”

As time went by I realized it was probably time to accept that I was no longer a young redhead and join my husband with grey hair.

So I found a beautiful grey wig and made the adjustment to losing the “special” way I felt as a redhead.

Still, grey can be beautiful, right?

After accepting my grey hair I had to get hearing aids. With aids and glasses it became hard to get my wig adjusted and the ear tabs aggravate me. The last few years my hair has come back some but is still thin. I wonder if wearing a wig all the time is preventing it from growing back. So I am going without the wig and praying it will grow back. I always loved being a redhead and it was hard to go grey. Now I struggle with having little hair.

It has been hard for me to go out in public with my thin hair, but people tell me it looks good. (Of course what are they going to say – “you look terrible.”) 🙂

I am using different essential oils with lots of vitamins and nutrients and massaging my head each night. I will give it this summer without a wig and see what happens.

In the meantime I’ll just keep playing the Cowsills song and make it my prayer.

Hope in the Storm

As my husband and I age, we find we are no longer able to be as active as we once were. For years my husband was a pastor and I worked alongside him teaching Bible classes, playing for worship and all the many tasks that come with serving a community of Christians.

This year I celebrated 72 years of life and my husband celebrated 80. While most people that meet us do not think we are as old as that and we do remain alert and active, we find our bodies do not always want to keep up with our thoughts and desires to be productive. Many days the afternoon hours call for us to take a nap.

Still, because we have both experienced true miracles in times of serious medical problems, we desire to still give and help others. (I share these stories in these posts)

I’m Back With a Miracle Man!

Cancer Survivor

Since my husband loves to paint he recently painted a beautiful rainbow scene he called “Hope in the Storm.”

The rainbow to Christians is a reminder of God’s promise to Noah after the flood. To us when we see the rainbow after a storm, we are reminded of the hope we have that God is faithful.

After receiving several compliments on the painting and its message my husband decided to paint smaller versions of this rainbow and send to those we know who are battling a health issue. He has send ones to young people fighting leukemia, to a young woman fighting a heart disease and to several others with different ailments. It has been a joy to hear from them that the painting and the message it gives of “hope in the storm” is an encouragement to them.

It blesses me to see the joy my husband has received as many have told him how much his painting has meant to them.

It is so true that when you give to others, it comes back to you.

Can I say I’m proud of my husband that at 80 he still is thinking of ways to bless others?

If you would like to see more of his paintings, check it out at PWL Art Gallery.

https://www.facebook.com/PaulWLaneArtGallery/

The Garden that Love Built

It’s Breast Cancer Month – and every year at this time I remember my own story of the battle with breast cancer. It was in October of 2002 that I discovered a lump in my breast that led to a battle that thankfully, with God’s help, I won. People may get tired of hearing my story, but I will never get tired of being grateful to be alive – now celebrating 18 years cancer free. And a reminder to all my female readers: do a monthly breast exam.

Grandma's Ramblings

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In November 2001 my husband and I moved into our new home.  It had no trees or flowers anywhere on the property. In the backyard, a deck opened onto an above ground swimming pool.  The backyard was ugly and hot with lots of concrete and rock around the pool.  Two metal sheds sat on large slabs of concrete.  My husband, who loves flowers and trees wanted to get rid of the pool.  But I wanted to try to learn to swim so I convinced him to keep the pool for our first summer in the house.

The next summer I was only in the pool three or four times because every evening when I came home from work all I wanted to do was just lie down.  I was constantly exhausted.

In November 2002 we discovered why I was feeling so badly.  After a visit to the doctor and then…

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