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day in the life

Highlighting the everyday life of a couple living well with a slow-growing cancer. Life isn’t always easy, and there will certainly be sorrows and losses along the way. But being alive is good. It is very good.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Healing reins

I’m thinking about changing careers – something along the lines of horse stunt person. Today I rode a large moving horse without a saddle, going from a sitting position to a kneeling position. Did I mention the large horse was moving?


And then, as if they weren’t impressed enough with that stunt, the staff at Healing Reins Therapeutic Riding Center asked me to point one leg out behind me and the opposite arm out in front of me from this same kneeling position on the back of this same large, moving horse. And I couldn’t quit laughing – it was so much fun.


Today I went with my co-worker, Lizzi, to check out Healing Reins, a non-profit that provides therapeutic riding experiences to children and adults with physical and emotional challenges. We were interested to learn if we might be able to partner with them in offerings for our cancer survivors – like, say a half-day riding camp for children from families that are dealing with cancer … or … fill in the blank – the sky’s the limit.


Stunting bareback on my knees


I love sky’s-the-limit opportunities. More to come!





Sunday, October 25, 2009

Trail to nowhere

We had a Plan "A" when we left hometo hike as far around Elk Lake as the trail would allow—and we packed everything we needed for this plan. But because someone blockaded the roads and closed an entire lake, we went to Plan "B". The only problem was, we didn't have a map for Plan "B".


From the Plan "B" trailhead, we took off uphill for about a mile before we came to a sign that pointed out a couple different options – Pacific Coast Trail and Moraine Lake this way; Sisters Mirror Lake that way. But no indication of how many miles to either location.


It's an odd feeling to hike through a forest – not being able to see anything for all the trees, not knowing what’s ahead, or how far ahead it is.


It was really great to be outdoors on such a gorgeous autumn day, but we had anticipated being able to post a new hike ... so really, we didn't get anywhere.


Getting nowhere



Ironically, when we speak about our cancer team and the importance of getting plugged into community, Gary compares it to hikingWhenever we go on a new hike, he says, we like to talk with someone who can tell us what to expect along the way. And then he says that it’s the same with cancer – It’s good to talk with someone who’s walked that trail ahead of you.


And now we have a truer sense of the importance of those words.


P.S. I looked up the Elk Lake Resort Web site after we got home. Sure enough, they’re closed for remodeling and promised to open again after they get 3 feet of snow. Even if you had read this notice beforehand, you would have thought the resort was closed, not the entire lake, right?





Thursday, October 22, 2009

Above the fray

There’s an enclosed stairwell with tall windows on the west side of the hospital thats rarely used. (Why—if you’re a hospital employee—would you do anything so healthy as climb the stairs when you could ride the elevator?)  



On mid-morning breaks, I take a cup of tea and sit on the top step of the second floor landing looking west toward the Cascade Range as it rises above the foothills. And here I am reminded to live above the fray.


The fray, of course, represents stuff like paying the bills, changing dirty diapers, dealing with sick kids and work-related stress.


Above-the-fray view from my "break" window


The fray is everyday life and isn’t always a bad thing. Dirty diapers, for example. No dirty diapers would probably mean no children, which I couldn’t imagine … and we wouldn’t have these terrific children-in-law or these adorable grandchildren. So dirty diapers can be a good thing.


I often have above-the-fray moments. Like a week ago when stress was high at work and I slipped away and met Gary for a speaking engagement at a local business. The audience was small but engaged, and the interaction refreshed my spirit and provided a healthy perspective of the good things going on in our lives.


Today, we had another above-the-fray moment – a lunch appointment with a husband and wife who are hopefully putting cancer treatments behind them for good. Their eyes lit up when we mentioned our dream of establishing a cancer education and retreat center. They have passions that fit our dream and would love to be involved.


These moments serve to remind me that we are called to something beyond a punch-a-clock world; something much larger than we are; something that will come to pass against all odds.





Monday, October 19, 2009

Knitting connections

I shamelessly stole an idea from Gilda’s Club in Manhattan and planned a 6-week pilot program that began this evening in the Barnes & Noble Café. Back in June, Gary and I met with the Program Director at Gilda’s Club – a community that does some pretty cool things for people of all ages dealing with cancer.


Among their support offerings, they have volunteer-led classes – art, writing, dance, exercise. The Program Director explained that these courses become support groups by default as the same people attend week after week and relationships are built.


Here’s where the stolen idea comes in. One of their course offerings is a knitting/ crocheting class. So … I recruited an instructor and showed up at B&N this evening with a supply of yarn and needles donated by one of the shops in town. And eight lovely ladies – ranging in age from elementary school to grandma – joined us.


Survivor/co-survivor knitting circle



There’s something about women connecting – whether it’s over knitting or golf or sharing motherhood adventures. I think it’s a combination of companionship and undergirding and teamwork mixed with empathy, but it’s something wonderful that women do so well for each other.


None of us wanted to leave when it was time, but next Monday evening we’ll be back at the B&N Café in Bend, Oregon. Join us!





Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Touching everything, taking nothing

There was a rabbi, an inner-city pastor, and a sportswriter. Sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it’s actually the true story of a writer, Mitch Albom, who reconnects with his Jewish faith and inadvertently becomes involved with an African-American minister.


Reb—the nickname Mitch and his friends had given to the rabbi when he was a tall, imposing figure and they were just school kids—was now 82 and thinking about who he wanted to deliver his eulogy. Mitch was recruited for the job.


And so begins a journey of 8 years’ worth of trips from Detroit, Albom’s current hometown, back to the place of his growing-up years.


       Have a Little Faith  

Meanwhile, the inner-city pastor—a reformed drug dealer and convict—holds services in a large, brick church that used to be a place of worship for the wealthy. The church has a sizeable gash in the roof that lets in a flood of water when it rains. The paint is peeling and the heat has been shut off because they're behind in the bills. Here is where the minister feeds and houses many of Detroit’s homeless.


Mitch Albom's latest book, Have a Little Faith


Albom beautifully weaves these stories together – his own upbringing, the life of the rabbi and the life of the pastor.


There is a point toward the end of the book when Reb, now age 90, knows he is nearing death. Mitch visits him at his home and finds him going through his library of treasured books, moving from pile to pile, looking and remembering.


Something that Mitch writes makes me think beyond piles of library books: "If you could pack for heaven, this is how you’d do it, touching everything, taking nothing."





Sunday, October 11, 2009

Modern technology brings Jersey to the Oregon wilderness

My cell phone chirped at about 6000 feet .. and for a second I didnt know what that strange sound was out here in the wilderness.


Gary and I were on a repeat hike up to Four in One Crater. The first time we hiked this trail a month ago with a group of friends from our cancer community, there were no views just cloud cover.


Four in One Crater Trail     

New Jersey calling



So yesterday, a gorgeous autumn day, we packed layers and headed back up into the mountains. What we didnt count on was so much snow. We didnt need our snowshoes, but walking 4.5 miles uphill in several inches of snow wearing heavy hiking boots proved to be a good work-out. Too good of a work-out.


So, Im fumbling through the 20-something pockets in my hiking pants looking for my chirping cell phone. New Jersey was calling. It was the sweet voice of our 8-year-old granddaughter, Lilly.


"Where are you, girlfriend?!" I ask. She says shes hanging out at home with her baby sister.


"Im on top of a mountain!" I exclaim.


"Oh," she says, not as properly impressed as she should be.


So there you have it – modern technology brings New Jersey to the Oregon wilderness. And modern technology created these photos that we could download and send back out into space the same day. I love the 21st  century!


4-in-1 Crater

On the ridge of 4-in-1 Crater, flanked by North and Middle Sister (left to right)





Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hot date spot

If you haven’t already done so, you might want to add REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) to your list of romantic Friday night date spots.


We visited REI the week of Gary’s birthday—he had talked me into a new Camelbak for me as a birthday gift for him … the logic escapes me. Backpacks would be 20% off beginning October 9 so we waited until last night to make the purchase, which means our Friday night date included a romantic interlude over the backpack aisle at REI.


Actually, I have a perfectly good Camelbak. It’s this ingenious hydration bag that you fill with water and strap on like a backpack. It has a long tube that slings over your shoulder so you can sip water while in motion.



Here’s a Camelbak fact that may come in handy some day, you never know: It seems Michael Edison came up with the idea after competing in the “Hotter ‘N Hell” cycle race in Texas. His first CamelBak consisted of an IV bag stuffed into a bike sock with some metal piping running out of it. The entire contraption was stitched to the back of a T-shirt so he wouldn’t have to fumble with a water bottle while riding a bike.


There are hydration bags (such as the one I have that works quite fine, thank you) … and there are backpacks with hydration bags inserted that leave room for other items that perhaps the husband is carrying into the wilderness without much help from the wife.


Those of you who know Gary are already way ahead of me. It seems his logic is, that in buying me a new backpack with a hydration bag and room to pack in lunches and extra layers and other wilderness stuff, it makes a nice little birthday gift for him.


Off to try out Garys new birthday present!





Sunday, October 4, 2009


Red sock day

With white, fluffy stuff falling from the skies and the road crews out making the world safe, I put on my hand-knitted red socks and made a cup of orange spice tea.


The socks were a gift from a Barnes & Noble neighbor. I kept seeing this petite Asian woman in the B&N café and finally introduced myself, seeing as how we were neighbors. Her name is Dixie.


As it turns out, Dixie is a proficient knitter and made a beautiful pair of bright red socks for me.


So this morning, wearing my red socks and hugging a steaming mug of tea, with the smell of blueberry scones permeating every nook of our little house (I tried a new recipe), I am watching the world turn whiter by the moment.


Youll notice the view from our front porch, at right, also includes green-stemmed wildflowers. Wildflowers in the snow only in central Oregon!






Friday, October 2, 2009

I got all my sisters with me

For the past 16 years during breast cancer awareness month (October, if you haven’t figured that out by now), St. Charles has hosted a dinner, auction and fashion show to raise funds for the Sara Fisher Breast Cancer Project. My job includes working with the hospital foundation and community volunteers in facilitating this event.


      Tower Theater

Because high-end dinner-and-auction fundraisers aren’t so successful these days, we changed up the venue and staged our first annual Night of Hope at the Tower Theater last evening. The program featured Kelly Corrigan, author of the New York Times bestseller The Middle Place, and included the traditional Walk of Hope where all breast cancer survivors in the audience are invited to be honored on stage.


We provided some fun props for our survivors this year – feather boas, tiaras, princess wands – and 60 women paraded up the aisles to Sister Sledge’s song, “We are fam-i-ly; I got all my sisters with me” and a standing “O” that just didn’t want to end.


Night of Hope at Bend's historic Tower Theater


Earlier in the evening, Kelly Corrigan told how she was grateful for cancer and howif she had to do it all over againshe would choose cancer because it had made her less self-centered.


Gary and I would have to say the same. We would choose to deal with cancer and all the challenges and tears and hard conversations because it has molded us into different people. And frankly, I like these people better.


Side story: I get a call from a co-worker around 4:30 yesterday – did I have a copy of Kelly Corrigan’s book and could I bring it with me to the Tower? Kelly wanted to read from it during her presentation. And of course, not wanting to miss an opportunity, I ask, “Will she sign it for me?”






September 2009

Tenacious like a bulldog

Best years of my life

Now we should live

Across the high desert

50 things to do before you die


Summer past and random thoughts

Running to win

August 2009

Far cry from canned chili & peas

Knight in shining armor

Berry-Peach Cobbler

Roller coaster rides

Celebrating life

Dan in Real Life


Gift of life

Grant-writing retreat

July 2009


In the moment

Extended birthday present

River traffic

Munch & Music

Dealing with the paparazzi

Midnight cruise

Behind red doors

June 2009

Happy kind of exhausted

4:30am blog

Fat checkmarks

One of the benefits of cancer

Calm before the storm

Big picture thinking

May 2009

Back to the real world

Quick trip to the EC

Audacious living

Connecticut adventure

April 2009

Flat Stanley in Ory-gun

Baby steps

Four-day weekend

Soaring on wings

Sunbathing C.O. style

Real men wear pink

Fun in the CTC

March 2009

Live like you were dying

Day jobs


CAN Cancer

The power of one

February 2009

It's official

Fun with the medical professionals

To my valentine

Moments in Jersey

January 2009

Leaving on a jet plane

Scans ordered

Welcome to life

Insane residents

Back in high school

Engaged crowd

Out of the mouths of babes

Divine intervention

December 2008

Christmas via webcam

A merry little Christmas

Somewhere on purpose

Adventure and romance

Celebrate life


Men and menopause

November 2008

My Thanksgiving list

Thanksgiving Eve


How Starbucks saved my life

Training for Switzerland

Radio interview

Super colon

Thoughts on being invisible

The speed of a turtle

October 2008

Obligation of the cured

Cancer Adventures – the book

Blue and orange town

Hope Couture

First snow

Simple pleasures are the best

128 quilts

September 2008

Whale watching and kite flying

The new and relaxed Gary

The scenic route
Packing the essentials

One step at a time

PSA count celebration

August 2008

Frost in August

Reading list

Soaring Spirits

Checking in

9:30am rock band


July 2008

Grand for a reason

Mickey Mouse pancakes

Survivorship is all the rage

Follow your dreams

Birthday weekend

Only in America

Unrelated goose incident

June 2008


Road trip

Friday night date

Tough day on the job

Best dad


Light bulb moment


Amazing volunteers

May 2008


Extended family

Testing the limits


The last lecture

Mother’s Day thoughts

Welcome to our world, Lydia

Personal touch

April 2008

Dispensing goodness

Cancer community – Part II

Cancer community

Barn door analogies

Homemade soup day

Mice and tumors

Waiting room magazines

Weekend date

First entry