22 November 2015

Cancer and finances: 6 ways to get back on track and have more fun

The company where Hubby was employed as Data Processing Manager was bought by a competitor. He was in his mid-50s. Two years went by. He finally landed a job that paid less than half his previous salary and with no benefits.

Meanwhile, we sold our home, cashed out our 401(k), depleted our savings and accrued some debt.


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Photo credit: Unsplash


And then the news: “You’ve got cancer. And you’re probably going to die of it.”

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19 November 2015

12 holiday tips for coping with loss

This is my favorite time of year. Beginning with the melding of autumn leaves into gold, orange, russet; layered sweaters and scarves against colder temperatures; winter white on the mountains; geese taking off over the river; anticipation of first snow in town.

And in between all this winter beauty — family holidays and welcoming in a New Year.



Photo courtesy myfreetextures.com


But face it. The holidays – whether they’re firsts without your loved one, or the tenth – just aren’t the same. Because there’s a large hole in the shape of someone you very much loved who is no longer here.

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15 November 2015

How to know if hospice care is right for your loved one

A year ago today, Hubby checked into Hospice House for the second time. Never to return to our home.

Not too long after, I was running errands and came upon this billboard, which I’d seen numerous times. But still it caused my heart to flutter. Because these were the women who lovingly cared for Hubby in his final days.


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And if I had to put a name to the heart flutter, I’d say it was a mixture of gratefulness and sorrow and gladness. Which sounds a bit oxymoronic, but those last days were sweet and sorrowful, and mostly my heart was grateful for Hospice House and its compassionate team of doctors and nurses.

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13 November 2015

Perseverance: Oh, the places you’ll go!

I just finished reading a really great story. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. About the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew that competed for gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. With Hitler in the audience.


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10 November 2015

Cancerversaries and the art of celebrating

I watched the patient don her graduation cap and gown and, with her arm linked through her husband’s, walk triumphantly out of the cancer center having finished her last radiation treatment.

Celebrations. They come in all shapes and sizes. Parties. Ceremonies. Fireworks. Single grads leaving cancer centers.


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Why is it important to commemorate events? Because it acknowledges that something critical happened here. On this date. To someone you love. Birth. Graduation. Engagement. Wedding. Promotion. Retirement. Yes, even death.

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6 November 2015

What I’d like to tell my former (fearful) self about widowhood

We braved Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain and Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train this sunny week in a land called Florida.


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Oh, and Aladdin’s Magic Carpet. And probably at least 47 other rides. Fearlessly.


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1 November 2015

8 things life is too short for

A year ago this month, Hubby came home from his first stay in Hospice House. On oxygen. Packing a morphine pump. Only one nephrostomy tube draining.

With his filters down, he is childlike in an endearing way. He scolds me, rolls his eyes, stalls when he doesn’t want to take his meds. I pull a favorite-yellow-garage-sale-find child’s chair close to him.


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His voice is weak and I don’t want to miss a word.

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29 October 2015

6 lessons cancer taught me

Hubby and I were cancer students together. In AP courses. The lessons were too hard and we failed too many tests. Eventually, we started retaining what we were supposed to be learning. Some of us are slower than others.


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Photo credit: Unsplash


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26 October 2015

Why we need inspiration from time to time

What inspires me are stories of people who have made some incredible accomplishments with their one, simple life. I’ve always enjoyed reading biographies. Abraham Lincoln. Steve Jobs. Howard Schulz.

I’m also inspired by true life David-and-Goliath stories. As in, the movie Miracle about the American ice hockey team that beat the Soviets during the 1980 Olympic Games in Lake Placid.

And then there’s the Jim-and-Michelle kind of inspiration. Because who wouldn’t want to be as zany and enjoying life as much as these two? Michelle is the leader of the cancer-kicking, coffee-drinking walking group; Jim, her trusty assistant.


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(Either climbing the tree … or hugging it. We are in Oregon, after all.)


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22 October 2015

How to walk alongside your spouse through hard things

About the time Hubby’s cancer was taking a sharp left turn, I was scheduled for head surgery — as in, remove portion of skull, push brain aside, untangle some things.

Up until that time, I had won our household’s “Caregiver of the Year” award eight years in a row. But now there was a new contender on the scene.

The 2013 nominee accompanied The Patient (that would be me) to physician appointments, picked up prescriptions and made sure The Patient took her meds. He did laundry, cooked and washed dishes.


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He ran errands, fetched Chai tea and allowed The Patient to lounge around in pajamas as long as she wanted. All this while undergoing chemotherapy himself, some days worse than others.

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About Me

Hello, my name is Marlys Johnson. I’m a cancer widow, author, speaker and blogger. I love getting outdoors; would rather lace up hiking boots than go shopping. I have a passion for repurposing old junk into cool new stuff. And an even greater passion for showing people how to navigate life's challenges. Tenaciously. And with heart wide open.

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