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.

I’m Back – and God is Good!

My blogging has taken a bad seat to pain and physical therapy. After two months I am back.

I no longer wobble when I walk.

I am so thankful that after several years of pain that just grew worse each year, I am free of pain. Seven years ago, I had my right knee replaced. I was supposed to have the left one replaced a year later, but I had such difficulty healing from the right knee that I did not do it. Apparently as my left knee got worse, my left leg began to bow, and I ended up with one leg shorter than the other.

Several times I went back to my surgeon who had replaced the right knee complaining that my knee still hurt. (Actually it was not the knee, but the area just below it.) Taking x-rays of my knee he would assure me that the knee replacement was fine. He finally sent me to the University of Iowa and they recommended a knee brace to make that knee stronger. The brace did nothing for the pain and my back began to be extremely painful also. Over the years pain and I became bosom buddies.

At 74 years of age, I began to despair and wondered if I really wanted to live to be “old” if this was going to be my life. The pain limited me from playing with my granddaughter, from taking walks with my husband and even standing in church for worship.

Thankfully I finally found a doctor that realized what was causing all the pain. My body had slowly tilted to the left and my spine, my pelvis, my hips, my shoulders – all my body was so far out of alignment that I even had a rib sticking out on the left side.

Off to physical therapy. The initial evaluation revealed my range of motion was extremely limited and my strength, especially on the left side, was very weak.

After two months of hard work – I am in alignment, I am free of pain.

The first time I took a long walk with my family and experienced no pain, I felt like pinching myself to see if I was really awake and not dreaming.

Lesson learned from all this. Speak up when your doctor does not seem to address your problem. I realize now that the surgeon who replaced my knee was only trained for knee problems. When the x-rays showed the knee replacement was okay, he just dismissed me and my pain. He never gave a thought that there might be other issues than the new knee. Other doctors told me I had arthritis and assumed that was the cause of the pain. An older woman complaining of back pain – easy to just say “arthritis” and prescribe a pain pill. Only when I insisted that something was wrong when a rib was sticking way out of place did anyone begin to say “Hey, let’s take a look at the whole patient and see what’s going on.”

it is up to me now if I continue to be free from pain. The exercises have to be an ongoing part of my life. Changes in my lifestyle were also made. No more sitting in a recliner with my feet up in the air putting pressure on my back. No more going barefoot less I start leaning to the left again. Small changes with big dividends. I can do this!

Being absent from blogging I have debated whether to return. I have asked myself if anyone really enjoys the blogs or if anyone is encouraged by anything I write. After prayer and reflection, I realize that I write because I love it. While I may never have hundreds of followers, if only one or two are blessed because of my blogs, I will continue.

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.

My Miracle Man and His Art

About this time two years ago my husband fell in his art studio in the basement of our condo. It was a Thursday and because Covid had just started, we were not sure about going to the doctor. He felt fine so we went on with our daily routine as normal.

Until Sunday. After church on Sunday he complained of a severe headache and being nauseated. I drove him to the emergency room where I was told to go home and wait. They would call me after examining him.

When he went in to the ER he looked and acted fine to me. The only thing I was going on was his comment of the terrible headache he had.

About an hour later the ER called and told me a CAT scan revealed bleeding in his brain. They had called the main hospital in Lansing, the capital of our state, and an ambulance was getting ready to take him there for further evaluation.

I jumped in the car and raced to our local ER. Although at first they said I could not go in, I turned on the tears and pleaded to let me say goodbye to him. Realizing the seriousness of a brain bleed, I was afraid I might not see him alive again. My tears I guess were good enough because they let me go back to the room and say goodbye before the ambulance took him away.

I could not believe the change in him in just a little over an hour. He was very confused and very incoherent.

After they took him to Lansing, I returned home anxious to know what would happen next. About an hour later I got a call from the surgeon’s assistant who told him they were taking him in for emergency surgery. He asked me if he had been having trouble talking. He said that he was talking to them, but they could not understand what he said and it made no sense. Without the surgery I was told, he would not survive.

The assistant promised to call me after the surgery to let me know how it went. I got no call. They took him into surgery about 4:30 that afternoon and at 10:00 that evening I still had not heard a word. A call to the hospital revealed that the surgeon had completed the surgery and had gone home. All they could tell me was that my husband was out of surgery and in ICU. They promised to have the doctor on duty that night give me a call. Finally, around midnight the doctor on duty called. He said he was not involved in the surgery and all he could tell me was that my husband’s chart said the surgery went well and he was in ICU on a ventilator.

To make a long story short the next week and a half was very stressful as they worked for a few days to get him off the ventilator. Until he was off the equipment they would not be able to tell how much damage had been done to his brain. They warned me he might have difficulty speaking or understanding others, might have trouble swallowing, might have trouble walking. The day he got off the ventilator, they were looking for a rehab place to take him and indicated it might be weeks before he could come home.

But God had other plans.

Within days he was taking rehab there in the hospital – and he came home to me in just ten days. The first weeks at home he had to use a walker to get around and while he could clearly understand and communicate he did have moments when he would struggle for a particular word.

But he quickly recovered. Two things that helped I believe was our love of scrabble and his love of painting. We are very competitive and love the game. I worried that he would not be able to really compete with me again. He was a little slow the first couple of games we played but in no time he was beating my butt again.

The second week he was home he asked our son-in-love to bring his easel and paints from his art studio in the basement as he was still too weak to go up and down the stairs. He sat at our dining room table and painted this beautiful scene of the seashore.

In no time at all he was free of the walker, beating me in scrabble and back down stairs in his art studio painting away.

Recently a local business in our community held a Arts Explosion. From November through the month of February local artists were invited to display their work. The business is involved with educating the public about agriculture and has a lot of public events at its facility. During this time people were asked to look at the paintings and vote for their favorite artist.

Last night they held a “Meet and Greet’ for the community to come out, take a final look at the art and vote for their favorite.

It was a fun day – food and entertinment by the local high school’s dance team.

At the end of the festivities, they announced the winners of the People’s Choice. Out of 44 artists they had a winner and a runner up. To my great happiness my husband with his sea shore painting came in second as the People’s Choice.

The painting is back home now – and we are both rejoicing – not only for his award, but for the miracle this painting truly is.

To God be the glory – great things he hath done!

First Open-Heart Surgery – Guess Who Did It?

I remember all the news articles and the publicity given in 1982 when the first artificial heart was implanted in a patient in South Africa. The doctors behind this were portrayed as great men of science – as they should have been.

However until I began doing research on black history I never knew that the world’s first successful heart surgery was performed by a black doctor in 1893.

Born in 1848 in Pennsylvania, Daniel Hale Williams started his working career as a shoemaker. Seeking more education, Williams finished secondary school in Wisconsin and became an apprentice to a former surgeon general for Wisconsin. He studied medicine at Chicago Medical College.

After completing his internship he began private practice in an integrated community on Chicago’s south side. Further accomplishements included teaching anatomy at Chicago Medical College and serving as surgeon to the City Railway Company. The governor of Illinois appointed him to the state’s board of health in 1889.

Even though Dr. Williams had achieved success and some acceptance in the white community, black citizens were still barred from being admitted to most hospitals and black doctors were refused staff positions. To combat this, Dr. Williams opened Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses in May 1891. It was the first hospital in the nation that had a racially integrated staff.

In 1893 James Cornish was stabbed in the chest. Rushed to Provident Hospital, Cornish quickly began to go into shock. Suspecting a deeper wound near the heart Dr. Williams opened the wound between two ribs, cut the rib cartilage and created a small trapdoor to the heart. Asking six doctors to observe what he did (four white, two black) Dr. Williams found a gash in the right coronary artery. Holding the edges of the wound with forceps, he sewed them together. Cornish not only survived the surgery, he lived for over 20 more years.

The next year he became chief surgeon of Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C There he made improvements reducing the hospital’s mortality rate. The American Medical Association barred black doctors so Dr. Williams help organized the National Medical Association for black professionals.

In 1894, Dr. Williams became chief surgeon of Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., the most prestigious medical post available to African Americans then. There, he made improvements that reduced the hospital’s mortality rate. In 1895, he helped to organize the National Medical Association for black professionals, who were barred from the American Medical Association. Williams returned to Chicago, and continued as a surgeon. In 1913, he became the first African American to be inducted into the American College of Surgeons.

Known in his practice as “Dr. Dan,” today the Howard University Hospital use his name “Dr. Dan” as the call given for their “code blue.”

(Thanks to Columbia Surgery, New York, New York for the information on Dr. Williams and the photo of him.)

Waves of Mercy

According to Mercy Ships, five billion people lack access to safe surgery. Children, teens, and adults suffer and die every day from treatable causes, and one child in eight will die before age 5.

In 1978 Don and Deyon Stephens founded Mercy Ships in Switzerland. Don says that “A devastating hurricane, meeting Mother Teresa and the birth of his special needs son drove an idea that would bring hope and healing to the world’s poorest people.”

First idea for a ship that would travel to countries without medical faculties and help came to Don at 19. His youth group saw a hurricane that came through the Bahamas when they were there. He heard someone praying for a ship that could come in and provide the care needed after such a tragedy. Later when he and his wife had a son born with special needs, he was reminded of that prayer and how many with such problems had no way to go for help. Finally, visitng with Mother Teresa she encouraged him to follow the dream God had first planted when he was a teenager.

The first Mercy Ship was a Italian cruise liner built in 1953 and called the Victoria. Converted into a mobile hospital it was renamed Anastasis. The Stephens lived on the first ship with their family for the first ten years of operation. The ship was retired in 2007 and replaced by Africa Mercy.

According to Mercy Ships “It is estimated 16.9 million people die globally each year from conditions requiring surgical care. 32% of all global deaths are a result of the lack of access to safe, affordable, and timely surgery.”

Mercy Ships until this year had one ship to reach out to the poorer nations with medical care. However, they have added a second ship, Global Mercy. Building the ship began in 2017 and was just completed last year. The ship passed all the testing to prove it sea worthy and will officially began serving the needy in March of this year. This ship has six operating rooms, 200 beds, a laboratory, general outpatient clinics and eye and dental clinics.

These ships not only provide needed medial care, but they also work to train local nurses and doctors to continue the care when they are gone. Since over 50% of the world’s population live nears a coast, the ships are the perfect way to bring this much needed health care.

The doctors and nurses who serve on Mercy Ships do so without any compensation.

Since its founding in 1978 Mercy Ships “has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, treating more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers from more than 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time.”

There are many amazing stories of lives that have been changed because of the work of Mercy Ships.

To read some of these stories – and see more of the work of Mercy Ships, visit their website:

Thank God I Have the Flu

I never thought I would love to hear the doctor say I tested positive for the flu.

It started one evening with a very sore throat and a dry cough..

The next morning I woke up with a temp of 102, body aches, congestion and I felt terrible. Our state of Michigan has one of the highest rates of Covid-19. Needless to say I was very scared as I went for a test.

Three hours later the doctor called to say I was negative for Covid-19 but positive for the flu.

Who is thankful for the flu? I am.

But I have had a few miserable days. I am slowly recovering. Fever is gone, coughing spells are fewer and the body aches are gone. But I am exhausted. Doctor said it might take two to three weeks before my strength returns.

Talking to friends who have had Covid-19 I realize my days of misery were so short compared to theirs. Although I may be tired for a while I am not experiencing many of the after effects they are.

So – I’m grateful for the flu.

Stay safe dear readers. Take care of yourself.

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.

No More “Huh” or “What”

For some time I have been denying that I am having trouble hearing. Watching a movie or listening to my pastor on Sunday there are times when I will miss a complete sentence or two because I just cannot hear well. When listening to friends I find myself asking them “what” “huh” or just trying to guess what they said from the part of the sentence I did hear.

This is not good for meaningful conversation. Trying to “fill in the blanks” when you do not hear everything someone said can lead to real miscommunication.

My husband, who has worn a hearing aid for several years now, has pleaded with me to get a hearing test. I found myself turning the TV up louder and louder until he insists we must turn it down.

While I recognized I was not hearing well, I hated the thought of needing a hearing aid. Hearing aids to me were for old people and I did not want to accept that title for myself.

Still, I knew I could not deny my hearing loss much longer. Some days my husband would not put in his hearing aid because we were just staying at home and he did not want to bother with them. However, before much time passed I would insist he put them on because he kept denying he was not having trouble hearing – but I just needed to speak up.

When we began having that same conversation – but this time it was me who was insisting he was mumbling, I found it hard to deny I needed help in hearing.

The straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak came on Easter Sunday. My youngest daughter and her family joined us for lunch. After lunch we took communion as a family. When my husband finished leading us through the sacraments, I thought he said he was going to pray. Bowing my head I kept waiting to hear him pray.

When several seconds had passed and no sound was coming, I looked up to see my family all looking at me. My daughter said in that exasperating tone that told me I needed to listen, “Mother, he asked you to pray.”

I quickly prayed and I knew I was going to be in trouble when I finished.

Again in that very exasperated tone my daughter declared, “Mother, you have to get a hearing test.”

I agreed. So – I scheduled an appointment.

No surprise – I failed the test. So now there’s the cost to consider. Good hearing aids are not cheap. I checked out different models. This one was the cheapest, but probably not the best.

Now that my husband and I both have hearing aids, buying Christmas presents for each other will be easier.

Only one thing wrong with having hearing aids. Now I can’t excuse myself from not listening to others by saying I just did not hear.