day in the life
the everyday life of a couple living well with a slow-growing
always easy, and there will certainly be sorrows and losses
along the way. But being alive is good. It is very good.
Down a lazy river
so sure about getting into a raft with her offspring. But hafta
say, I think she had the most fun today.
The family floated
down a lazy river this morning and ...
... I’m sorry to
report that they are still acting like tourists.
At one point, sis-in-law
broke out into a rendition of
Which was better than bro-in-law’s
A Small World.”
know, I know. It was good there was very little river traffic
I used to not be
able to sit still and do nothing. Maybe it had something to do
with finding my worth in being productive.
something that Hubby’s cancer is teaching me as our lifestyle
has slowed down a bit lately: Enjoy the pace.
Notice the beauty.
And the peace.
Take pleasure in
every slow river float.
We were in no
danger of exceeding the posted speed limit. Which is exactly
what we had in mind for this lazy morning on the river.
Tuesday, August 26,
are still in town. Today’s plan was to
browse through the quiet, western town of Sisters, followed by
dinner at Tumalo Feed Co.
Pretty safe. They shouldn’t be
able to embarrass me too much, right?
Wrong. Hubby and
his siblings had tourist written all over them.
And then this at
I can’t take
Monday, August 25,
Hubby’s mom and
sibs are in central Oregon for a week. Pull out the
We’ve never done a
*siblings and mom-in-law* vacation together. I’m exhausted from laughing so
much. Great medicine for Hubby.
and sibs, minus Steve :(
We’re in the small
resort town of SunRiver. Deer in the backyard.
Couples taking turns
cooking (does my heart good to see the Johnson men in the kitchen).
Eating way too much
cornbread and rhubarb cobbler for dinner tonight
Checking out the
local mountain lakes.
And running the family
Having more fun
than a bunch of old people ought to!
Monday, August 18,
Creamed tuna on toast? Really?
are already causing trouble even though we’re not scheduled to
begin our vacation together until this weekend.
We’ve been shooting
a flurry of e-mail back and forth planning menus when one of
Hubby’s brothers made a suggestion:
do want mom to make cream tuna on toast but do not tell [my
Which got Hubby
reflecting nostalgically on his childhood and how good his mom’s
creamed tuna on toast was.
And then he pulled
out a couple of family cookbooks, which really got me worried.
Thanks to the
cancer center dietician, the new philosophy in our home around
Hubby wants, Hubby gets.”
had for lunch
remember if his mom’s
version had peas in it
I’m pleased to say
that my creamed tuna on toast did not taste as good as
mom-in-law’s version. Or at least as Hubby remembers it.
Which means I’ll
always be able to say:
I can’t make creamed tuna on toast because it just won’t taste
as good as your mother’s.”
Had me worried there for a minute.
Sunday August 17,
Creating the life you want
Drake Park. The
scene of this past week’s date. (Have I ever mentioned how much
I look forward to Friday date night?)
Seafood for Hubby
and teriyaki chicken for me—why is it food always tastes
better outdoors?—with foot traffic and water traffic for
Relaxing. Spending time side by side.
But then yesterday,
I did something not so side-by-side. Hubby talked me into
joining up with the cancer-kicking hike group. Probably to get
me out of his hair (what hair there is after chemo).
don’t want you to feel left behind.”
know how much you love hiking; I want you to go.”
enjoyed the exercise
miles round trip
with an 1100’
elevation gain; and
it was nice knowing I could keep
up with the hike leader even though Hubby and I haven’t done a
serious hike since pre-chemo and radiation days;
scenery is incredibly beautiful, the trail never too far from
the sound of Fall Creek tumbling down the mountain, still ...
was something missing.
A hole in this photo where Hubby fits
perfectly. A lonely spot in my heart along the trail.
One of the two Green Lakes, flanked by South Sister
to the north
I don’t think I’ll
be doing a lot of hiking without Hubby. Because time is
precious. Because time represents life. Because we don’t know
how much of our lives remain, whether we’re dealing with
terminal cancer or not.
Someone wise once
time will pass anyway. You can either spend it creating the life
you want, or spend it living the life you don’t
want. The choice is yours.”
The life I want is
living in the moment with Hubby. Not shelving our dreams, but
enjoying this time together. Heart overflowing with
gratefulness. Counting blessings.
As much fun as date night is, to my logical way of
thinking—which is something I do quite often, this logical
thinking—Hubby and I should establish two date nights a week and
double the fun. Right?
Johnson women unite
This is about trust
in marriage. And how important it is.
Due to a blood clot in his leg, Hubby now has to give himself a
shot in the stomach. Daily.
For some reason, he
declined my generous offer to do it for him.
And then I
overheard a conversation between Hubby and one of his brothers.
oughta let Marlys do that for you.”
I don’t trust her.”
Hubby went on to
tell his brother how I had once offered to clip his toenails ...
and how I’d clipped the top of his toe in the process.
Sheesh, is he still bitter about that?
don’t trust [my wife] to do anything for me either.”
Wendy, Cheryl – the Johnson women need to unite. (Not sure what
we’d be protesting, but we need to unite.)
Hubby has several small bruises on his stomach. I am pleased to
report that I am not responsible for any of them.
Tuesday, August 12,
We learned today
that Hubby’s cancer has metastasized to his liver. Ten spots
that weren’t there in May. His PSA count is at 103.
Once again, not the
news we wanted to hear. But there’s still much of life to
And so we visited a
place in town we’ve never been to. Because we heard they make
good Reuben sandwiches. And because every Tuesday evening at
6:30, a group of ukulele players entertains there.
And we know this
because it was this same group that provided fabulous
around-the-campfire-S’more-making music at Soaring Spirits Camp
this past weekend.
once interviewed Warren Zevon, a composer and performer, who was
dying of lung cancer. Letterman asked, “From your perspective
now, do you know something about life and death that maybe I
To which Zevon
replied, “I know how much you’re supposed to enjoy every
Taking nothing for
granted. Enjoying this husband. This ukulele music. This
Sunday August 10,
Nothing says camp like running off the end of a dock, right?
The photos may look
the same every year around this same time when St. Charles
Cancer Center hosts its annual Soaring Spirits Cancer Survivor &
Family Camp (ninety-two campers this year).
But they’re really
Sure, every year,
one of our oncology nurses brings her horses.
And every year,
co-worker and Crafts Queen Lizzi comes up with some pretty
amazing craft projects – sun catchers, beading, decorating photo
frames with a fun
Every year, campers
of all ages flail away with hammer and nails, creating
And every year
there’s a writing workshop for would-be authors and a water
color class for budding artists.
And always, plenty
of water activity.
impressive, a one-armed canoeist
And every year,
marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate around an
evening campfire – this year with a 15-member ukulele band
playing lively S’more-making music (I can’t seem to get
out of my mind).
And every year
we plant a tree during our Sunday morning Celebration of
The photos may
look very much like last year’s photos. And those from the
different. Because they represent new campers and new
friendships forged. The sharing of life and encouragement.
The exchanging of e-mail addresses. People that were perfect
strangers on Friday, hugging each other good-by this
You wanna know
one of my favorite things about our annual cancer camp?
Charles Cancer Center staff hard at work
We are all about
helping create community to reassure cancer survivors and their
caregivers that they are not alone on this journey.
I get to work with
some of the best people on the planet.
Thursday, August 7,
pretty bad, isn’t
it, when you walk into the surgery prep area and the nurse
greets you by first name?
Today was our second visit in two days. Same male nurse checked
Hubby in yesterday and today.
Same female nurse accessed his port. And the nurse who did his
done them before.
Christine and Katrina
Yesterday was Hubby’s
regularly scheduled nephrostomy tube replacement surgery. So we
went through the
And then Hubby decided he wanted to go back to the hospital in
the middle of the night. And then again today. Something about
kidney pain and tubes not draining.
Really? A girl needs her beauty sleep, you know.
Just for the record, no beauty sleep was gotten during any of
the aforementioned hospital visits. Well, except for the patient
who peacefully dozed under a warmed blanket in a comfy hospital
bed after being pampered by so many nurses, one of whom kept
calling him sweetie.
Gotta love those St. Charles nurses.
Saturday, August 2,
walked a 3.2-mile loop of the Deschutes River trail today. A new
distance record for Hubby since completion of chemo and
also resumed our after-dinner walks. Earlier this week, I came
across this flower growing out of a gutter in the neighborhood.
It reminds me of
Not sure Hubby
would want me to refer to him as a lovely flower. But I was
thinking more along the lines of tenacity. One of my
This flower has
pluck. Hanging in there against all odds. Surviving in limited
resources. Doing what it was created to do, despite not-so-great
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Short, but sweet
Look who flew in
from California for the afternoon! Another beautiful
ex-rah-rah, as Hubby is fond of calling my previous
cheerleaders back in another life.
ex-rah-rah speaks Mandarin, Cantonese and English. Originally
I met her at the
airport and we drove home to pick up Hubby. Which was our first
Back in the day,
standard greeting – when rah-rahs knocked on our front door –
was to close the door in their faces.
hasn’t changed a bit,” observed Qiwen wryly, who got the door
shut in her face today.
When he did let us
in, his first comment was,
grown any.” (Qiwen has been all of five feet tall since high
school. And now as a wife and mom expecting their third child,
still five feet.)
goal was to fit fifteen years of catching up into a few hours.
afraid we wore Hubby out attempting it.
Lunch at a shaded
table along the river. A gentle walk through downtown Bend and
to a small park downriver.
Chai tea, iced tea,
strawberry smoothie in Adirondack chairs on the lawn behind
Looney Bean (guess which one of us had the Chai).
And the promise
that we wouldn’t
wait another fifteen years before connecting again. A short but
sweet time together.
As is Qiwen: short,
Monday, July 21,
There is this fine
line that the cancer caregiver walks. Do I
nag encourage Hubby to get outdoors with me? Or
leave him in peace?
There is no such
thing as leaving him in peace in our household, so I’ve
been walking Hubby regularly.
One of our favorite
trails is along the Deschutes River that winds lazily through
town. Here the locals and tourists line up for swimming, tubing
and stand-up paddle boarding.
Deschutes hits the tourist areas, though, there is a southern
very wildernessy, although still within city limits.
We hiked a little
more than two miles today. I believe it’s
the furthest Hubby has walked since the start of radiation.
Radiation zaps the
last shreds of energy from a patient. And when you consider that
Hubby was low energy before starting radiation, well then, you
can see what an accomplishment.
A variety of
flowers colors the trail if you take the time to look for them.
an overlook on the east side of the river that is a gentle climb
up from the water’s
the sound of river rushing over large boulders. Or the cooling
breeze from this vantage point. Maybe it was the picnic lunch.
Or quite possibly all of the above.
Whatever it is, it’s
Those things that
sneak in to cloud my mind with worries tend to scatter when I’m
here. Or anywhere outdoors. With Hubby.
Thursday, July 17,
This cancer community
Do you know how
difficult it is to return to work after the loveliest of weeks
off with family and surprise friends? Ah, well. If one has to
return to work, it might as well be this work, this place, these
I serve as
Survivorship Coordinator at St. Charles Cancer Center. If you’ll
remember from the hard-hat-wearing blog, construction has been
an ongoing thing for quite some time now. Remodeling in the
radiation oncology wing. Adding on a medical oncology wing.
pleased to report that we recently settled into our new digs.
Patients can now
receive radiation and chemo under the same roof. Along with all
the other fabulous support services we offer. (Have I mentioned
oncology massage, grocery assistance, a monthly educational
dinner meeting? Soaring Spirits camp?)
Charles Cancer Center medical
Earlier this week—on
the new deck of the new wing with the new windows reflecting
boss did some hair-cutting. A skill none of us knew she had.
cutting off pony tails in preparation for shaved
A St. Charles
employee from the Community Education Dept was diagnosed with
cancer. Chemo took her hair, so two of her co-workers
participated in a fundraiser that required the shaving of their
Brave women, these.
Professional shaver at work
If I ever have
cancer and chemo, God forbid, I would expect my office roomies
to shave their heads in solidarity. Lizzi? Alycia? Jessica?
support comes in all forms. Since cancer, Hubby and I have been
recipients of so much kindness and compassion. Which is rather
humbling. But with the background sounds of our daughter
you hate it when your kids lecture you?
and when they’re
are learning to receive.
even begin to add up the value of all the flowers, cards, books,
meals, airline tickets, Starbux gift cards, Whole Foods gift
cards, Barnes & Noble gift cards. And more.
about entering into community, isn’t
it? Because we all need each other. And because every prayer,
every gift, every act of kindness says, You’re
facing some tough things. I care. Here, let my help you carry
A new cancer center
funded by a generous community. Awesome survivorship programs
that encourage/assist/educate patients and caregivers on living
well with and beyond cancer. Head-shaving co-workers. Kindness
This is where I
work. This is our central Oregon cancer community.
Monday, July 14,
Return to the real world
Even though it’s
early, and we don’t
have to be out of this vacation home until 10:30, Hubby will
soon begin packing. And loading his things into the car.
And he won’t
say anything to me about when I’m
going to be ready to go, but he’ll
be restless and pacing. Because we need to get going. Because we
have a full twelve miles to drive home. And we need to get
going. And who knows how long it will take to drive twelve
I have lived with
this man forty-plus years. I know the routine.
I, on the other
hand, want to relish every last minute in this forested retreat.
a mama deer and her twin fawns feeding just off the back deck.
the clatter of noisy birds.
A cool breeze
blowing in through the open doors.
Sun spilling golden
on the evergreen. Clouds drawing pictures in the water below.
And back home is
unpacking and laundry and getting ready to go back to work and
returning all the items that we borrowed to turn our garage into
Hubby just now
spoke those ten magical words that made my heart beat faster.
want to stop for a Chai tea in town?”
That does it. I’m
Saturday, July 12,
Rah-rahs in town
Turning sixty isn’t
quite as painful as one might imagine. Especially if you’re
surprised by these lovely young women.
affectionately referred to them as rah-rahs. And when one
came back to visit campus as an alumnus, he called them
has-beens. And still they loved him and put up with him.
In a former life, I
was a cheerleading coach. Competitive squads, these girls.
Trophies and trips around the world.
fundraising and practicing. Lifting weights. Cheering at games.
Throwing stunts. Dancing. Tumbling. Learning the importance of
teamwork. Of conflict resolution. Of commitment.
taken cheerleaders to Hawaii and Florida. To Australia. To
France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and England.
happy to report that I never once lost a teenager. Although I
came close a couple times. (Sarah, in Paris when you left
your insulin in the hotel room. Adriana, in Frankfurt
when they didn’t
let you back on the plane to America.) But those are stories for
a different time.
from Arizona, BC, Washington, Oregon and California. To Bend. To
have lunch together and help ease me into this next decade.
Add in kids and
grandkids celebrating my birthday before they returned to the
east coast; Hubby and I still in this lovely resort village of
SunRiver; and well wishes from family and friends.
Best birthday ever.
Wednesday, July 9,
We are with the New
Summer, SIL Josh and grandkidlets—in
the beautiful forested village of SunRiver.
re-reading Ann Voskamp’s
book, One Thousand Gifts. And counting gifts.
1. Journaling on a
sun-drenched, tree-top deck.
2. Hubby right
here. One more day with Hubby.
3. Hot, honeyed
4. A sassy squirrel
playing on a nearby limb.
Cheering on miniature golfers.
6. Still able to
keep up with the grandkids (this will not always be the case).
7. Rest stop along
a lazy river.
8. Wildlife in a
9. Card games with
the little people.
princesses on the big screen with my own 6-year-old princess
11. Our personal
chef for the past month. Tonight: Grilled apple chicken
sausages. Homemade mac
cheese with smoked gouda, cheddar and mozzarella. Uhmmnhn.
On paper, all may
not seem well in our world. Hubby’s
cancer is spreading. To hard places.
grandchildren live an entire continent away.
unemployed for two years just before the cancer diagnosis, which
greatly affected our finances.
On paper, not so
good. But here’s
the truth: All is well in our world. For we are held in the
strong and capable hands of a loving Father God who sees the
matter that I can’t
see around the bend in the road up ahead, that I don’t
understand why these hard things.
It matters that I
count all the ways God loves me.
This day of life,
This day of sunny
decks and wildlife and lazy rivers.
This day with these
incredibly precious people.
All is well in our
Saturday, July 5,
The kids and
grandkids from New Jersey are here. The most densely populated
state in the U.S. (Oregon being 39th most densely populated).
population, but there are other major differences between these
two states, and between our hometown and theirs.
For starters, Bend
hosts a pet parade. Has been doing this for 65 years. Not sure
that Hamilton, NJ, can make that same boast.
not just talking dogs here.
If you don’t
have a dog, bring your pet lion.
Your chickens and
lizards and ponies pulling carts. Your flying dogs (which I
suspect Jersey doesn’t
have many of).
And if you have no
ponies or flying dogs, then bring your pet goat and walk in the
let just about anyone in. Including these New Jerseyites (New
pulling his pet Lydia in a wagon
Fifth of July
picnic at Todd Lake. I’m
also pretty sure Jersey doesn’t
have wild birds that eat off the top of grandkids’
Or even out of
pretty sure Jersey doesn’t
have mountains with snow on them in July.
bomber at Todd Lake
what Jersey has that Oregon doesn’t
have. These particular grandkids.
These particular grandkids