Category Archives: I Cherish…

A Birthday Celebration

Today our family is celebrating Byron’s 74th birthday. There is chocolate cake and lots of laughter. I reminded him that he told me early in our relationship that he didn’t think he would live to be 30 years old (not an unusual statement from a man facing the draft during the Vietnam War). We will pamper him all day, make his favorite dinner for him this evening, and let him know in as many ways as possible that he is so dearly special to all of us. A happy day!

About Today’s Header

Today’s header (just for one day) is an old photo of my daughter, Jamie. She was born on Halloween and so our celebrations of this day have always been joyous rather than spooky. She is a beautiful and talented person, and is such a delight for us with her humor and compassion. We are so very proud of her. Happy birthday to our lovely daughter! And happy Halloween to you all!

I Cherish: Beautiful Autumn Days

Byron at the wetlands…

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful Autumn day. After our recent rainy spell, it was so nice to be able to get out and enjoy the sunshine and fall colors. Byron felt up to a walk with the aid of his cane (didn’t need his walker!), so we headed for Fern Hill Wetlands to enjoy watching all the wildlife and soak in the colors of a lovely autumn day. A cherished time together!

Embracing Mobility

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This week, I have been focused on finishing one of my enjoyable reading challenges. It’s a great feeling to meet a challenge one sets for oneself!  However, it’s another level of good feeling to meet a major challenge that Life throws at you. In the last month, my husband has been faced with another major physical and mental challenge related to his Stage IV metastasized cancer.

One month ago, he finished the radiation treatment he underwent to hopefully lessen the pain in his hip caused by the bone metastasis there. He walked into the five-day treatment on the first day, unaided but limping from his sore hip. Unfortunately, by the end of the five days, he was suffering from a not-so-common side effect from the treatment called a “pain flare, ”  which is an inflammation of the lining of the bone due to the radiation. And it is extremely painful. So for his final treatment, I had to wheel him into the building in a wheel chair.

The inflammation was treated, the pain has slowly lessened throughout the month, and Byron has worked hard to regain his mobility. Truly a challenge! But he has embraced each step in this process, which started with the arrival of a cane we ordered on the day after that final treatment because he could not walk unsupported. A few days later, a simple walker was delivered to our porch, a surprise ordered by his primary care physician! He was delighted with it because he was much steadier getting around the house and could now do some limited walking outdoors. After a week with that more limited walker, we went shopping for his “off road walker,” as he calls it. And he was thrilled with the new walker we found!

So now, he does laps around the house with his fancy walker. We load it in the car and walk the sidewalks around the campus here in this university town. And the more he walks, the better he feels, even though energy and endurance are limited. It was not the kind of month we expected, but I am so proud of the way my husband faced the pain and the setback, and embraced the challenge to return to better mobility, one level at a time.

 

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.

Mother’s Day, 2021

I sure do miss this beautiful lady! This is my third Mother’s Day without her, and I think about her and miss her every single day. I still look up to her, as in this photo, with love and admiration. I was so fortunate to be her daughter, and I cherish the lifetime of memories I have of her.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I Cherish…#5: Dad’s Rose Garden

Today, my Dad would have turned 101 years old! He’s been gone for 27 years now, but I cherish my very special memories of him. They keep him close to me every day. The last time we drove past our old family home (pre-pandemic), his rose garden was flourishing! It warmed my heart to see his beloved roses in bloom, still gracing the old neighborhood with their beauty.

Rainer Maria Rilke: Thoughts on Marriage

52 years and cherishing every moment…

I recently read Letters to a Young Poet, by the Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, and found it full of warmth and wisdom. I was particularly touched by his thoughts on marriage that were included in one of the ten letters he wrote the young poet. After 52 years of marriage, I thought he eloquently expressed our own truth.

The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875-1926

I Cherish…#4: My Best Friend

Pam and me on the rollercoaster, 1965.

I cherish… my best friend, Pam. We met on the first day of school in 7th grade, in band class. We both played the flute, were seated next to each other, and discovered we were both wearing essentially the same outfit. After a moment of hysterical laughter (forgive us, Mr. Bird!), we proceeded to become best friends. For a lifetime!

Pam sitting on my parents’ memorial bench. She visited it when we were unable to travel to visit it ourselves during quarantine 2020.

There have been times when we’ve been out of touch for awhile, but the minute we get back in communication, the friendship picks up right where it left off.  Since the COVID-19 quarantine started in 2020, we’ve been visiting each other by Zoom. It’s been delightful to ignore the miles between us and the pandemic that keeps friends and families separated, and just visit and laugh on Saturday mornings.

We cherish our shared memories of family members now gone. We cherish our memories of our teenage years and the “capers” and adventures we shared. We cherish the unconditional love and support we have given each other through all the ages and stages. I can’t wait until we can travel once again so that I can visit my buddy, Pam, and give her a great big hug.

Best friends.

 

The word I chose to guide me through the year 2021 is CHERISH. I am keeping this word ever present in my mind, every day, and I thought I’d start sharing with you some of the people and daily kinds of things I am cherishing right now.

I Cherish…#3: The Grandboy

I cherish my one and only Grandson, Kai. He has been the delight of our lives from the moment of his birth 14 years ago.

The word I chose to guide me through the year 2021 is CHERISH. I am keeping this word ever present in my mind, every day, and I thought I’d start sharing with you some of the people and daily kinds of things I am cherishing right now.