Category Archives: Family

Diagnosis

Last fall, my husband received a devastating diagnosis. He has Stage IV metastasized prostate cancer. Although this news packs a powerful punch, and there is no soft, kind way to share it, I need to let you know about this major change in my life, dear friends. I am sorry for the pain such news causes.

We have had time now to process the initial shock, to learn much more about what happened and is happening to his body, to begin the process of “getting everything in order,” and to start letting people know about it (although he’s a very private person). And in the middle of all the adjustments and doctor appointments, we are living our new life, which now has a one to four year time limit to it.

We have entered a new world — the world of cancer patients, survivors, caretakers, doctors, nurses, technicians, counselors. Cancer has become the kernel of truth within our daily lives now. Ever-present.

Cancer is a tremendous opportunity to have your face pressed right up against the glass of your mortality.” But what patients see through the glass is not a world outside cancer, but a world taken over by it—cancer reflected endlessly around them like a hall of mirrors.

~ from The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

My husband describes the first months of his disease as “surreal.” Surreal because he felt mostly healthy and normal except for the side effects of his treatment medications, and some pain that came occasionally. His body has been tolerating his treatments well so the cancer has been controlled for the time being. That is slowly changing as this disease finds new ways to get around treatments, but the inevitable decline has not started, yet.

Cancer is an expansionist disease; it invades through tissues, sets up colonies in hostile landscapes, seeking “sanctuary” in one organ and then immigrating to another. It lives desperately, inventively, fiercely, territorially, cannily, and defensively—at times, as if teaching us how to survive. To confront cancer is to encounter a parallel species, one perhaps more adapted to survival than even we are.

~ from The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

He entered this disease in excellent health, with excellent vital signs for his age, and no “co-morbidities,” using the term we’ve heard so often during this Covid-19 pandemic. He was, and still tries to be, active and fit. He feels his best when he is out on his bicycle. Genetic testing showed no genetic mutations that would have caused this to happen, and that, gratefully, are not something our children and my husband’s brothers need to worry about. It just happened. It is real…but it is not yet “real”. Surreal.

Right now, we are deeply grateful and profoundly sad. Grateful that we have time left to be together, to live life together. Grateful that we can face this disease side by side, as we have faced every other challenge in our 52 years together. Grateful for each day that he wakes up in the morning and is “mostly well.” At the same time, we are both profoundly sad, and the sadness comes in waves between otherwise “mostly normal” days.  We are seeing everything in life now through this new lens of impending loss, and are living each moment with crystal clarity. 

And from this vantage point, with deep feeling, I want to ask you to please cherish those you love. Please cherish yourself. Please cherish the daily-ness of your lives. Please cherish all the little things, because, as they say, those are truly the biggest and most important things. Live your life to its fullest, each day, because “today is all of time,” as my grandmother wrote in one of her poems. Today is all of time.

Lost in the Yellowstone

Dad (in that special hat) leading the way on a beautiful walk…

The year before my father passed away, our family had a wonderful reunion in Yellowstone National Park. The entire family was there, including the grandkids, and the memories of that special trip are some of my treasured memories of my Dad and family. I haven’t been back to Yellowstone since then, and that’s been way too long! When the pandemic hit last year and we couldn’t even think about taking a trip, I found myself longing to return to Yellowstone. I am hopeful that we can plan that trip sometime soon.

So when I came across an audiobook called Lost in the Yellowstone, by Truman Everts, I downloaded it immediately to help fill my Yellowstone craving. It is the true account by Truman Everts of his incredible misadventure of being lost in Yellowstone for 37 days. He was part of the 1870 Washburn Expedition exploring the area that later became Yellowstone National Park. Mr. Everts was not an experienced explorer and had little or no survival training, so it was truly miraculous that he survived his ordeal after becoming separated from the group. And it was truly an ordeal! Everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong…but he survived nonetheless–just barely.  When he was found 37 days later, he was emaciated and hallucinating, and had frostbite as well as burns from the many steam vents. It was a fascinating story of survival.

It wasn’t the kind of trip to Yellowstone I had been thinking about, but it was interesting to hear his descriptions of the area in its natural state, and to read his story of how he was able to survive. A short but interesting read!

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Reunion

One year ago, we lost Mom. After we celebrated her life, we decided that, as a family, we would continue to get together at least once each year. So my brothers and their wives, and Byron and I, all met in Salt Lake City once again last week for our first annual get-together. What a wonderful reunion!

It was nice that this first get-together was in Salt Lake City. We were able to visit Red Butte Garden and spend time at our memorial bench — our memorial now for both our parents. They both donated their bodies to the University Medical School, so we don’t have a gravesite to visit. Instead, we have a memorial bench in the rose garden of Red Butte Garden, and it couldn’t be a lovelier, more uplifting place to sit and remember them.

During the week, we also enjoyed time at the Natural History Museum, always a favorite; went on long morning walks; hiked around Silver Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon; went out to eat at all our favorite restaurants; visited The King’s English Bookshop; and spent a lot of time reminiscing.

Books are always part of our discussions when we get together as a family.  We shared about books read and then, of course, some of us bought new books. Here’s a bullet list of books discussed and/or purchased during the week.

  • On Immunity, by Eula Biss
  • Chances Are…, by Richard Russo
  • Dark Money, by Jane Mayer
  • My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor
  • Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
  • Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer
  • Furious Hours, by Casey Cep
  • Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain
  • Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen
  • Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
  • The Sadness of Beautiful Things, by Simon Van Booy
  • Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman
  • The Natural World: Portraits of Earth’s Great Ecosystems, by Thomas D. Mangelsen

Such a fun week! Good people, good food, good books, and a beautiful location for a reunion. We also decided that next year we’ll meet on the east coast!

On the Road Again

Road trip! We are heading to the Intermountain West to meet up with my brothers and my sisters-in-law. We have so much fun when we all get together! I am looking forward to lots of reminiscing, sharing photos of grandkids, endless talking about books and music, hopefully not too much time spent discussing politics, eating out, hiking in the canyons, walking in Red Butte Garden, shopping at The King’s English Bookshop, going to the Natural History Museum. I’m taking my Kindle and a couple of library books, but I’m sure I’ll come home with more books than I started with, and my TBR list will definitely be much longer. On the road again!

Books I’m taking with me: