day in the life
the everyday life of a couple living well with a slow-growing cancer.
always easy, and there will certainly be sorrows and losses
along the way. But being alive is good. It is very good.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Live like you were dying
Gary was videotaped yesterday morning for a
piece that will be featured at all four services on
Easter weekend at our church. The sermon series,
“Live Like You Were Dying,” is inspired by the
McGraw song of the same title:
I went sky diving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
On a bull named
And I loved
And I spoke
And I gave
I'd been denying;
And he said,
"Someday I hope
you get the chance
To live like you
This is our nephew, Brett (and
Gary), sky diving.
and I have often thought of cancer as a gift (but certainly not
one that we would re-gift). Interestingly, when I interviewed
survivors and caregivers from across the
country, almost all of them had similar thoughts. One young man
that cancer was
the best worst thing that ever happened to him.
At one point in Gary’s taped interview, he admitted that cancer changed his priorities and one of them is finding out what God
wants him to do with the time he has left. I like that. Only,
I think all of us should busy ourselves in finding out what God wants us to do with the time we
the Rocky Mountains, but close!
Without a drastic wake-up call, most of us think we have all the
time in the world to someday spend with the people that
are most important to us, to do the things we've always wanted
to do, to make a difference in the lives of others. I am
grateful for wake-up calls.
As the song goes, I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Working our way out of
our day jobs
weekend involves a combination of several of the simple
pleasures we know in life: our weekly date, connecting with
family and friends, writing, hiking/snow-shoeing, Chai tea,
attending church, cooking, a good movie and/or book, housework
(not that I enjoy housework but I enjoy having a clean house),
and accomplishing something in the direction of our vision.
Gary made up this rule that he gets to eat whatever he wants on
his birthday. And then he revised it to read, “Whatever I want
on my birthday and my half birthday.” (It won’t surprise me if he
changes the rules to take in quarter birthdays, as well.)
So, on September 22 and March 22, he invariably
chooses a steakhouse to make up for the fact that he
has to eat basically healthy stuff the other 363
days of the year. We celebrated at The Outback on
Friday, which wasn’t the 22nd but close
enough. It was a fun date, although beef is a bit
Spring has come to Central Oregon, and we have the snow to prove
it! Because of cloud cover in the mountains, we took a couple of
brisk walks in our neighborhood, bundled up in layers against
the cold wind. Not the same as hiking in our beloved Cascade
Mountains, but it’s always good to get outdoors and get the
I won’t bore you with details. Suffice it to say that my good
husband kicked in with the vacuum cleaner.
We watched an old Jimmy Stewart movie this weekend,
You Can’t Take it With You. It doesn’t rank
up there with his other classics and it had its
silly moments, but it was fun.
As for current reading material, I’m in the middle
of The Golden Road, the second in a 2-part
series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Homey, endearing –
the perfect book for a cold, wintry spring weekend
(is that an oxymoron?).
worked on an essay about training to hike the Swiss
Alps … only it’s really not so much about alpine
training as it is about
to live well despite cancer. The plan is to submit the essay to
a periodical in the next couple days.
Southwest Chicken—a new recipe featuring black beans, corn,
chicken breasts, salsa and cilantro layered in the Crockpot—was
quite tasty, although my gringo husband gave it one thumb
up for the combination of ingredients and the tender chicken
breasts … and one thumb down for being a bit spicy.
gray skies put me in the mood to bake, I made a healthy version
of an old family favorite - Raisin Bars. Yum! (They’re almost
Gary and I are tentatively scheduled to be at a joint National
Institutes of Health (NIH)/Chordoma Foundation survivorship
event in Bethesda, MD, at the end of June. We’d like to take the
week before to visit New Jersey family and connect with a few
cancer centers in the DC/NJ/NYC area. I spent some time this
weekend researching East Coast cancer centers that host
survivorship programs. Books and cover letters will go out in
the mail this week, with follow-up phone calls.
surely we are heading in the direction of working our way out of
our day jobs.
So you see,
the perfect weekend!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Summer, talked me into opening a Facebook account. “I don’t need
one more thing to manage,” I whined. But she won out. And then
Gary kept writing status updates in my name so I told him to get
his own account. Now he’s addicted.
It’s great to be in contact with people through
Not to mention web cams that allow us to spend part
of Christmas with family on the other side of the
country. And cell phones for instant conversations …
that also snap photos and shoot video that can be
posted online. And e-mail that allows us to write
and receive instant letters from near and remote
places – no postage necessary.
I’m part outdoors girl – always ready to
strap on snowshoes, lace up hiking boots, explore
mountain lakes via canoe. And I’m part e-girl
– enjoying the electronic connections
and friends via cell phones, digital photography, Web sites,
Facebook, web cams, text messaging, YouTube.
the best of both worlds would be to have a writing assignment
with my hiking partner, Gary, beside me and an internet
connection high atop one of our local mountains. A girl can
dream, can't she?!
Monday, March 9, 2009
I spent the
past weekend working on a grant submission to an Oregon Trust
Fund and a Letter of Inquiry to a foundation based in Florida. Now
that I’ve come up for air, I need to tell you about an event
Gary and I attended last Friday evening at The Loft – a lovely
“upper room” in downtown Bend refurbished with tin ceilings and
hardwood floors and a cozy fireplace.
The occasion was the launching of a cancer
fundraiser. It seems that the local garbage haulers
got together and came up with an idea to include
lavender envelopes in their April billing. If
everyone in their service area enclosed a minimum of
they would raise $65,000 for St. Charles Cancer Services. They
call their program CAN Cancer … and they want everybody to pitch
in (pun intended!).
the cool thing – the funds are intended to assist with non-medical living expenses
for people dealing with all types of cancer. Up until
now, we've mainly had funds to help breast cancer patients (it’s
because breast cancer women have their act together and got
organized a long time ago and now have long-standing, reputable
programs with funding for the sisterhood).
assisting patients with all types of cancer – Wendy’s Wish
has reached its endowed level and now has funds to spend
toward its mission, very similar to the CAN Cancer mission.
We had our
first “customer” today. It was a simple thing, but the patient
couldn’t afford an expensive over-the-counter product. I made a
mad dash to the local Safeway pharmacy in the below-20
temperatures, purchased the item, bravely bypassed the Starbucks
stand on my way out of the store … and our oncology nurse was
able to give the product to our patient. Very cool!
I forgot to
say that part of the CAN Cancer program was a fun, promotional
idea. We purchased paint and brushes and recruited cancer
survivors to paint ten 65-gallon garbage carts. The carts have
slits on top and will be placed in businesses throughout Central
Oregon for year-round collecting of loose change.
It turned out
to be a community thing. I think only one survivor painted her
cart entirely on her own. The others enlisted family members and
friends and co-survivors.
was painted by the 4th grade students of Karen
Brockway, breast cancer survivor. They were asked, “What do you
think people need to help them go through cancer?” These smart
graders responded with words like, “love” … “friends” ...
“courage” ... “laughter”, which they painted on the roll cart in
between their handprints. See what you think!
Brockway (standing second from right) and her 4th grade students
Sunday, March 1, 2009
The power of one
read two non-fiction books: Three Cups of Tea, a gift
from our daughter, and a book that Gary's sister sent, Same
Kind of Different as Me. They are two entirely different
stories, but have some interesting parallels – they both
illustrate how one person can make a difference in this world
and, in both stories, the more privileged person benefited
from the friendship and wisdom of the seemingly underprivileged.
Three Cups of Tea
is the amazing narrative of an American mountain
climber, Greg Mortenson, who wanders into a poor
village in Pakistan after a failed attempt at
climbing K2. The villagers nurse him back to health
and he keeps his promise to return and build a
school for their children.
Mortenson’s story doesn’t end there. In time, he
builds dozens of schools on a shoestring budget in
an impoverished part of the world that is not
considered a safe place for Americans.
There’s a point in the story where the first school
isn’t being built quickly enough to
Mortenson. He has become a hard
The village chief, Haji Ali, finally takes Mortenson’s plumb
line, level and account books, locks them up, and asks his wife
to prepare some butter tea.
“If you want
to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways,” Haji Ali
says to Mortenson over tea. “The first time you share tea with a
Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are
an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you
become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do
anything, even die.”
think we have to accomplish everything quickly,” reflects
Mortenson. “We’re the country of thirty-minute power lunches and
two-minute football drills … Haji Ali taught me to share three
cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as
important as building projects.”
(The book is
well-written but with a lot of detail, which makes it hard
sometimes to keep all the locations and names of people
At first glance, you would think the other book,
Same Kind of Different as Me, is about a wealthy
international art dealer that befriends a homeless
man who has drifted to the streets of Fort Worth,
Texas from a brutal sharecropper’s life in
But really, it's
about how the homeless man, Denver Moore, befriends
the rich white guy, Ron Hall - offering his strong
shoulders and wisdom as he helps Hall navigate a
difficult period in his life (an event, by the way,
that came too close for comfort and required nearly
an entire box of tissue).
The underlying theme of both
stories emphasizes the
one – how we each can make a difference in our own corner of
the world without any special training, but with passion and
persistence and a recognition that relationship-building is
critical to being successful in our vision.
Fun with the medical professionals
To my valentine
Moments in Jersey
Leaving on a
Welcome to life
Back in high school
Out of the mouths of babes
A merry little
Somewhere on purpose
Men and menopause
My Thanksgiving list
saved my life
The speed of a turtle
Cancer Adventures – the book
Blue and orange town
pleasures are the best
and kite flying
The new and relaxed Gary
Packing the essentials
One step at a
PSA count celebration
Frost in August
9:30am rock band
Grand for a reason
Survivorship is all the rage
Follow your dreams
Only in America
Unrelated goose incident
Friday night date
Tough day on the job
Light bulb moment
Testing the limits
The last lecture
Mother’s Day thoughts
Welcome to our world, Lydia
Cancer community – Part II
Homemade soup day
Mice and tumors
Waiting room magazines