The scene: The bank.

The scene setting: A very long line and just one teller, because banks don’t want you to have a personal experience with bank people any more.  The bank used to be one of the places a person could go year after year and really have a relationship with a banker.  You knew their name and they knew you and what your banking preferences were too.  Now, they want you to use the machines.  Withdrawals and deposits are a waste of time to bank people now, so the longer the line, the better.

The scene changer:  Except for the person who was being helped, the rest of us were standing and waiting and waiting some more.  A bank person rounded the corner to observe the long line and decided I would be the one he’d usher out the door to “teach” me how to use the machine.  (I know how to use the machine.)  I calmly said I was fine waiting although I was surprised they had only one teller working.  He launched into his prepared speech about how easy it is to use the machine and persisted that I follow him outside and I did, only to get lectured on how these machines were meant to help all banking customers, even those of us who are used to banking “the old fashioned way.”

The scene closer:  I took that to mean the “older” customers.  So I responded by saying I thought having just one teller available was not good planning on the bank’s part.  He quickly came at me with an explanation: “One of our employees has had a loss in her family.  Are you suggesting that we shouldn’t have given her time off to grieve for her loved one?”

This is where I don’t have to tell you,  that I could have launched into quite a strong response.  Instead, I simply turned away to use the machine to avoid eye contact.  I was just about to begin the transaction when the screen lit-up with a message that said “Out of order, please see the teller inside.”

I walked back into the bank.

You never know who you’re talking to….so don’t EVER go there.

 

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
1 Comment

As bad as cancer is, and it is bad, there are ‘pieces’ of it that bring people together.  I mean really bring people together, years after the worst of cancer has happened.

In my experience, I watched Leroy’s circle of friends grow and surround him with love and kindness and caring.  I watched his pals lift him up with so much love it would leave me in tears. And he cared for them so much that at the end of his life, he couldn’t say good-bye.  It was just too painful for him to face a farewell to the group.  We talked about it many times, but he wanted to remember them in the ‘present,’ with “Hello’s” and not “Good-bye’s.”

So fast forward almost 9 years now, and having just gone through his birthday and our anniversary, you can imagine my memory bank is overflowing at the moment.  It’s been an emotional few days and it is exhausting to go through it. But the best part is, I haven’t gone through it alone.  Those great friends have lifted me up too.  All these years later, so many kind words, emails, pictures, events, all played out over the last few days in celebration of Leroy’s life.  He had a VERY good birthday and we had a VERY nice anniversary!

These are the ‘pieces of cancer’ I’m talking about; the friends who stick with you, year after year.  The friends who ‘get-it’ and realize you never stop remembering and you will always miss your person.

On one hand, being the care-giver and the one tasked to find a way to reinvent your life after cancer ends your dreams, is something you have to figure out on your own…period.  But, one the other hand, you have those ‘pieces’ to lean on, to rely on when you’re feeling a little weak in the knees.

I doubt cancer even knows it creates this support team because it’s so busy trying to destroy a perfectly good life.  But I’m here to tell you, something very positive comes from something so awful.  I couldn’t imagine life without those ‘pieces.’

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
2 Comments

It’s another day of flash backs.

It’s our wedding anniversary.

 

 

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
2 Comments

The Big 6-2

Leroy E. Sievers

Born June 16, 1955….Turning the BIG 6-2 tomorrow, don’t I wish.

Instead, I’m writing about him tonight and thinking about the ‘what if’s’ of a life cut short two months shy of 9 years ago.

Colon cancer is a nasty cancer.  It brought down a 6-foot 5-inch tower of strength in a hide-and-seek game of “Catch me if you can.”

Some days, we actually thought we were winning the game.  Those were great days too. Leroy had the ability to push cancer away, keep it out of his thoughts.  Instead I’d  hear his deep, booming laugh.  I’d see him hiking in the Grand Tetons or floating in the pool in Maui.

Nothing gave him more pride than putting on a solid, information packed “Nightline” broadcast.  He actually looked forward to planning coverage of a conflict that held a secret spot on a global map, because it meant bringing that spot into your living room and making you aware of a part of the world that needed attention.  It was a challenge he welcomed with gusto.

He also liked the coming home part too.  That was the best part for me, because I always worried that one day all that planning would fall just a little short, and something bad would take the place of seeing him walk through those doors at customs.  But it never happened.

What did happen was an up and down, back and forth tug-of-war with cancer and death.  THAT is a brutal combo to beat. We tried so hard to beat it.

The ‘birthday celebration weeks,’ his favorite grocery store baked cakes, the chicken pies from Moffet’s in California, and so many other birthday traditions adopted over the years are tucked away in my heart now.  I dust them off every June 16th because they make it a better day, an easier day for me to remember.

I will always remember, Leroy.  Happy Birthday

 

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
3 Comments

There are some cancers people don’t get.  When it hits home in the form of a ‘mass cell tumor’ on the most loving, special girl who walks on four legs, it really doesn’t matter. It’s still cancer and it’s still serious and for the humans who love this dog, it is nervous time.

High anxiety knocked hard in my family over the weekend and reality set-in yesterday with the diagnosis that “Bean” is in for a battle.  She has a cancerous tumor, called a ‘mass cell tumor’ on her right rear leg.  She’s scheduled for surgery in a couple of weeks, once they get her thyroid calmed down and she feels more like herself.

There really isn’t any medicine for the people who know her and love her.  We can’t get the fact that she has cancer out of our heads or our hearts.  The doctor I consulted with about her diagnosis deals in humans and cancer at Johns Hopkins.  I know that sounds ridiculous, that I would ask for an opinion from a leading oncologist at Hopkins, but if I’m lucky enough to work with these wizards, why not reach out?  And even though he doesn’t see this kind of cancer in his patients, he still knew enough about it to share some details with me.  And if there’s anything I learned in the 8 years of dealing with Leroy’s cancer journey, knowledge is power in cancer world; human or dog.

It’s still too early to tell exactly how serious this could be.  This type of cancer is very treatable if it’s contained to Bean’s leg.  Pathology will tell the story once they get the growth cut away.  Some vets, I’m told, suggest radiation, and there are two different chemo drugs prescribed, post-op.  There’s even an immunotherapy line of drugs available too.

All of this sounds way too familiar.  In fact, when I heard the words, “Bean’s got cancer,” that old, haunting feeling washed over me like a wave, all over again.

Seven years ago today, Bean was rescued from the confines of the Oakland, California pound by two loving members of my family. I’m not sure who fell in love first; Beanie or Matthew and Marisa.  I do know that the three of them have become a wonderful family.  Now, this little family is in crisis.

Human cancer, dog cancer, it really doesn’t matter; it’s time to rally and find out how best to try and save our girl, Bean.

 

 

 

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
1 Comment

I remember the day he was born and now he’s graduating high school. From his first day to his present day so much has unfolded.  He’s grown into a super kid.  He had his moments as a little guy when he wanted things his way or no way, but we all went through those years.

School came a little too easy and there were times when cracking a book lost out to a ballgame or Sports Center or texting with friends.  He was lectured by his Dad to “stop fooling around and start studying” and that would work for a while, but baseball or basketball seemed to be so much more important.

Thankfully when grades began to really count, he found his way and the grades followed.  He’ll be going to a terrific college in the Fall.

If only his Dad was here to see it.

It’s almost 6 years now that leukemia took his life.  The Dad, who pleaded with his son to study more, has missed the beauty of watching this young man grow into some one he would so proud of; some one who has his father’s expressions and on occasion even resembles his Dad with a wince or a smile.  Cancer strikes hard.

This grown-up guy will stand with his friends and graduate this weekend.  Family and friends will smile and applaud and try to pretend all is right on this joyous occasion, but in reality we’ll all be missing that Dad.

It’s just not complete without him.

 

 

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
No Comments

It’s been 15 months since she lost the love of her life and he died after a very short, very intense cancer struggle that turned her family upside down.

There were the kids first-of-all, who thought their Dad would live forever. Nothing, much less cancer, would ever take him away. If he always came home from the scariest places on earth, he could certainly knock-out cancer.  He was the rock of the family.

And then there were the grandkids, they looked at their grandpa and saw the ‘Pied Piper.’ He held them as infants and they just smiled and giggled and felt the love through his strong arms.  When they turned into toddlers, they followed behind him as if in a trance.  Where ever Papa Jay was, they NEEDED to be close by.

The giggles are echo’s now and Jay’s steps have disappeared into the shadows, but fog of loss is lifting.  His amazing widow, who has struggled mightily, is starting to notice that while she’s been in mourning, life around her has been moving along.  Spring has turned into Summer and the yard needs work.  Jay’s garden, where his flowers were prized possessions are looking a little leggy.  She’s noticed the house could use a little TLC too.  But the most important sign of all: she’s gone into the closet to find the grandkids journals.  These had been weekly, if not daily accounts of their lives and the lives of the family since their births.  She stopped writing in these books when Jay died.

Now, new entries are coming, the yard will get attention, the bird feeders will welcome back old friends and the “Welcome” sign will be back on the front door.

The fog will probably come and go for a while yet, but the sun is definitely shining over this home once more.

 

 

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
2 Comments

Here in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country, it’s been a very mild Spring.  There’s been so much rain I have a variety of mushrooms growing in the woods around me.  So I’ve been a little slower going from warmer to cooler clothes.  My closet still shows evidence of Winter.  Today was the day I decided that it was time to replace the layers of warm undershirts and wool pants.  I’m fairly certain the snow and Winter winds are a half a world away.

And there they were, folded and hiding on a shelf, under my shorts and t-shirts: Leroy’s favorite jeans.  These jeans have been to so many wars, I can’t even count them all.  These jeans have been to beach bar-b-q’s, baseball games, they’ve partied at Super Bowls and have successfully aired thousands of ABC NEWS “Nightline” broadcasts, literally by the seat of his pants! Some nights were close.

And now, I look at them and hold them and still find a reason to keep them.  I can’t let them go.  Leroy and his jeans: they were one.  No other piece of clothing identified him more.  His shirt sleeves were always rolled up to his elbows and he had on his jeans.  Even when he wore his Hawaiian shirts, those jeans were the other half of the picture.

The image is still crystal clear.

So as I change over the closet to Summertime clothing, the heavier pieces will be tucked away for another season.

Those jeans will be there too.  His favorite jeans are one of my favorite memories.

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
2 Comments

HAIR

HAIR

It’s such a part of who we are, how we identify ourselves and when we hear the words, “You have cancer,” one of the first things we ask the doctor when he mentions chemotherapy is “Will I lose my hair?”

Most of the time a regiment of chemo means losing your hair.  It really depends on the drugs but if it doesn’t completely fall out, it’s pretty likely your hair will become thin and wispy during treatment.

And so it was with my friend who has just finished her chemo and radiation.  Her hair came out in clumps.  It caused a lot of anxiety.  She’s worn her long hair in a ponytail for a very long time.  Occasionally, she’d wear it down and I would barely recognize her.  But her hair was a big part of her identity.  Without it, she stayed inside a lot, or she wore a ‘chemo cap’ or stretchy cap to hide her baldness.

So now it’s hot outside, the pool is open and she’s having a hard time coming to grips with her old routine of sitting in the sunshine and talking to the same pool pals she’s had for more than 20 years.  It’s just not easy.

Her doctor told her to sit in the shade.  She said too much sun isn’t good for my friend following all that treatment.  Her hair has grown in and it looks like a Peter Pan cut; very short and the gray has taken over where brown once resided.  These are all big changes in her eyes, but for those of us who are just happy to have her back at the pool, short, gray hair is hardly an issue.

But try and tell her that!

So we’ve come light years since it used to be the whispers about so-and-so having cancer that caused the patients to hide in their homes.  CANCER was the issue.  For years, the word cancer wasn’t even mentioned in conversation.  Other words were used, but not CANCER.

Now, it’s about the hair, or lack of it.  Being bald gives us away now.  Are there still whispers, I hope not.  I hope we’ve gotten past that part.

But it’s going to take a long time to get past the hair.

 

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
No Comments

It’s the new deal in treatment.  It’s called “precision medicine.”

Expensive, targeted meds designed to tackle specific tumors.  The same med that works on certain colon cancers could also be effective against another specific tumor.

There’s another “precision medicine” in my book.  That’s the one where you, the care giver, advocating for your patient needs to be precise and direct when it comes to the proper care and treatment of your loved one.

There’s no more nodding yes to everything the physician says, just because you’re in awe of your doctor.  You can never be too tired to question the treatment suggested.  Go to school on your cancer.  Know what is being studied about it and what drugs are being given to stop it.

Be precise and clear and know what you need to address with each visit to the doctor.  Your loved ones’ life depends on it.

Precision medicine …its’ more than the drugs killing cancers.

VN:F [1.9.17_1161]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
No Comments