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.
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
Stunting bareback on my knees
I love sky’s-the-limit opportunities. More to come!
Trail to nowhere
We had a Plan "A"
when we left home—to
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
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.
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.
Ironically, when we speak about our cancer team and the
importance of getting plugged into community, Gary compares it
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?
October 22, 2009
Above the fray
There’s an enclosed stairwell with
tall windows on the west side of the hospital that’s rarely
used. (Why—if you’re a hospital employee—would you do anything
so healthy as climb the stairs when you could ride the
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
The fray, of course,
represents stuff like paying the bills, changing
dirty diapers, dealing with sick kids and
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 –
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!
October 14, 2009
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
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
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
Mitch Albom's latest book,
Have a Little Faith
Albom beautifully weaves these stories
– his own upbringing, the life of the rabbi and the life of the
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."
Modern technology brings Jersey to the Oregon wilderness
My cell phone
chirped at about 6000 feet .. and for a second I didn’t know
what that strange sound was out here in the wilderness.
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
New Jersey calling
yesterday, a gorgeous autumn day, we packed layers and headed
back up into the mountains. What we didn’t count on was so much
snow. We didn’t 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.
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.
are you, girlfriend?!" I ask. She says she’s hanging out at home
with her baby sister.
top of a mountain!" I exclaim.
she says, not as properly impressed as she should be.
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
On the ridge of 4-in-1 Crater, flanked by North and
Middle Sister (left to right)
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.
try out Gary’s new birthday present!
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.
You’ll notice the view from our front porch, at
right, also includes green-stemmed wildflowers.
Wildflowers in the snow
only in central Oregon!
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.
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
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.
of Hope at Bend's
historic Tower Theater
Earlier in the evening,
Kelly Corrigan told how she was grateful for cancer and how—if
she had to do it all over again—she 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
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
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?”
Tenacious like a bulldog
Best years of my life
Now we should live
Across the high desert
50 things to do before you
Summer past and random
Running to win
Far cry from canned chili &
Knight in shining armor
Roller coaster rides
Dan in Real Life
Gift of life
In the moment
Extended birthday present
Munch & Music
Dealing with the paparazzi
Behind red doors
Happy kind of exhausted
One of the benefits of cancer
Calm before the storm
Big picture thinking
Back to the real world
Quick trip to the EC
Flat Stanley in Ory-gun
Soaring on wings
Real men wear pink
Fun in the CTC
Live like you were dying
The power of one
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