Posts Tagged ‘Breast Cancer’


Why I Stopped Writing…

crying woman

Warning! Grab 2 of your favorite beverages first. And maybe a box of tissues.

Have you missed me? I’ve missed you! It’s time to get back to what fuels “my fire” and to once again, do “self-therapy” through writing. Honestly, that pretty much sums up the majority of what I write—my way of trying to fight through the “darkness” that life can sometimes bring and still come out on the other side to find joy and blessing.

So, what kept me from writing for so long? On December 11th of last year, just as I was getting over not having to give myself stomach shots anymore and not having to let the vampires suck me dry for blood tests, my older brother sent me a text message. We are not what I would call “frequent texters” even though we live a mere two hours from each other. So, imagine my shock when my normally very healthy brother sent me this: “Apparently, it’s my turn now. Being admitted to hospital. Will need a transfusion and they’re trying to figure out why. Probably related to stomach problems. Tell you more as I learn more. Looks like a one day stay at this point.”

At Thanksgiving, my brother had complained that, for the last few months, he was having to eat more slowly and avoid “thicker” foods. He wasn’t complaining because he was losing weight—something he had been struggling to do for several years. We just thought it was an “aging problem.” My brother lives alone and has no family of his own, so since I am his closest relative, I knew my assistance might be needed if he didn’t get out of the hospital after 1 day.

The next day I got an even more shocking text: “They found cancer; cut some out and sent for biopsy; chest & stomach CT scan this PM; oncologist on board & will see me tomorrow with a game plan.” Noooooooooooooooo. This can’t be happening—my brother was just pronounced absolutely healthy by his doctor in late summer.

My life changed instantly. It went from amateur-aspiring-writer-mom-volunteer to caretaker. It also changed for our oldest brother, who had recently retired in Louisiana, and also had no family of his own. We knew we were my brother’s only “back-up” crew. We flew into action as our family typically does. My children helped when they could, despite really busy schedules. The world seemed to pray for him.

The next few months were cram-filled with a myriad of doctor’s consultations (so many that I lost track of all the doctors he saw), tests, nurses (such a new fixture in his life that I became good friends with a fair number of them), technicians, drugs (so potent that special kits and gowns are packaged with them to prevent them from getting anywhere other than where they needed to go), and…sheer and utter panic.

My researcher nature and past history with other cancer-afflicted friends has taught me where to go to find reliable information on the various kinds of cancer. My brother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, one of the few cancers that still has a high “death rate.” Even if my brother fought valiantly and managed to survive the treatment (no small feat—trust me!), he probably was not going to live to see 70 (He was already 63.). The panic physically surfaced with this realization and I had to up my dosages on several of my heart medications, as a result.

After a series of complications (and I have the most detail-oriented, instruction-following brother on the planet) beyond my brother’s control and ridiculous amounts of pain and discomfort, the brother who fought with everything within him finally said, “I’m done” in late February. I found this out through my other brother in a tearful phone call. Again, I was shocked. This can’t be over this fast. My eldest brother asked me to come back to the hospital the next day and help him with making arrangements for hospice care. I did so and became extremely angry with the doctors caring for him. It was so obvious to me that my brother couldn’t fight this anymore and was extremely fatigued and yet, doctor after doctor insisted on trying to talk him out of his decision. While I didn’t want to lose my brother, I also didn’t want to see him suffer any more than was absolutely necessary. They were prolonging his misery! Despite his fatigue and pain, he asked intelligent questions to rule out any possible avenue that could lead to a faster, fairly positive result. But, each time he posed a different scenario than what the doctors had already proposed in December, he was told that wasn’t possible. So, he kept insisting that his decision to quit treatment was final. At one point he said, “It’s time for me and my family to move on.” While he waged a verbal war with them, my eldest brother and I visited two hospice facilities on nearly opposite sides of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in a matter of a few hours, despite rush hour traffic and a wide array of DFW highway construction zones.

The first place did not impress us at all—it was dirty, had an annoying alarm on the entrance door every time it opened and was housed in an assisted living facility. The second was housed in an older section of a very clean hospital. The staff there were friendly, patient and quiet as they showed us around. There was a gentleman quietly playing acoustic guitar in the hallway. Since our brother used to dispel his stress levels with playing acoustic guitar and was quite entertaining to hear when he brought said guitar to family events and get-togethers, we knew this was God telling us where he was supposed to spend his final days on earth.

Within a matter of 24 hours, he was there. Hallelujah! The hospice staff quickly addressed all of his discomfort and he finally was able to rest many hours of the day without incessant interruptions from doctors, nurses, vampires, technicians, custodial staff and nutrition personnel. Being the executor for our parents and one of our aunts, my weak brother, the eternal accountant, began dictating how to get into his computer and personal files so that my eldest brother could pay his household bills and take care of settling the estate, giving numerous pointers along the way, to save us time, money and headaches as we did so. As part of his “dictation,” he had decided to sell his car to my husband and me to use as a car for our youngest son. I hesitated to bring him the title to sign over, thinking it was barbaric on my part and so, I reiterated that if he didn’t want to do it, it was okay.

He quietly reached for the title, reached for the pen in my hand, and shakily signed the title without any hesitation. When I wondered if he was really coherent enough (from all of the painkillers) to make such a decision, he quickly asked, “Did you find the folder in my office with all of the information about the car?” I nodded and then he drifted off to sleep again. Then I shook my head—only my brother would think to ask about whether or not I had found the folder with every auto-related transaction neatly and orderly filed, along with instruction manuals and warranties for said car. His question was my confirmation that he knew exactly what he was doing.

As friend after friend called to check on him (He asked for no visitors.), I was greeted by loud, never-ending sobs at the other end of the phone. But, I wasn’t surprised. What my brother had done for my youngest son was just one of many examples of what he did for others on a regular basis in his life.

A few days later, his tongue swollen, he barely whispered, “I’m trying to do this fast.” My brother and I reassured him he was “doing it” just fine. He nodded his head. A few days after that, his gaze no longer showed that he recognized my brother and me. But yet, he kept looking at us with his enormous blue eyes. One night as he stared at me with those eyes, I managed to eke out, “If you want to go, it’s okay. We will be okay. Just go towards the light, or the angels you see, or Mom and Dad, and go. We’ll be all right.” I nearly choked on the words, but knew, based on watching my dad die, that those might be the words he needed to end his suffering. What happened next scared the tar out of my brother and me. He didn’t take a breath for another 10 seconds. How do I know? I counted. It scared me that much. He kept doing that and my brother reiterated what I had said. But, even though we lingered by his bedside for quite a while, he kept breathing just enough to keep himself alive. We finally told him good night and left.

The next day the phone rang at my brother’s house around noon. My oldest brother answered it and I could tell it wasn’t good news. He hung up the phone and said, “He’s gone.”

The time from that moment until now, has been one long, continuous blur of cleaning out his house, sending back medical equipment that went unused, writing a eulogy of his life, meeting with family and friends, crying and settling his affairs. It often feels as if I am existing in a very surreal fog. The fog will, hopefully, clear after this coming Monday when my brother closes on our brother’s home. But, having walked down this path too many times in recent years, I know it probably won’t. It may cease and desist for a few moments or even days or even weeks, but it will still be there. For a long time.

And that’s what made it difficult to write for the past few months. And why, even though I have missed you, dear readers, I still find it difficult. So, I hope you will allow me to “wallow” in the fog for a little while–once again, doing my “self-therapy” through this blog. You are most likely going to hear about the facts regarding esophageal cancer and other cancers that have an awful prognosis for its victims and why.

You are going to hear about the funny moments (Because my family handles stress best by poking fun at it!) and yes, there were plenty of those. And if requested (and only if requested through your comments below), my eulogy, in its entirety. I’ve done three now, so I’m starting to become an expert on writing and delivering them (Some family members have already booked me for theirs….I guess that means I’m good at it???). Can you put “professional eulogist” on a resume??? Hmmm…

But, have no fear, my normal brand of insanity and silliness will be back before long. Because…there is still joy and blessing in my life. I love you, big brother! See you on “the flip side.”

Friday’s Post: We’re still losing this war…

You might also like: So, Where Are My Posts?; Lessons Learned from Heart Attacks 3 & 4; and A Real Scare


A Real Scare…


Book Club Readers: The MIP Reading Plan is up for November’s book! Click here to see it!

Warning: Get your favorite beverage first. 

What I’m about to discuss is not even known among a lot of my friends and family. Perhaps I should send them all smelling salts by FedEx first? If I am blessed to call you a friend or a family member, just do me a favor–sit down first, okay? And if you have a heart condition, take your meds first. But, I promise…it’s going to be all right.

In April 2013 I did my annual check-ups. Yes, plural. I have to do one for my heart condition and one for the female stuff. I have been doing the former ever since 1999 when I first discovered I had Prinzmetal Angina. The latter I should have been doing all along, but honestly, like a lot of women, I had lapsed on that exam for several years.

Enter my best buddy, Kim. Kim, like me, grew weary of the annual exams where our doctors usually chew us out for weighing too much, not exercising enough, and not eating right. Thus, when she felt a lump in her breast, she ignored it. If Kim were here, she would tell you that is the stupidest thing she’s ever done and she paid the ultimate price for that neglect: her life.

Thus, I resolved to be a better medical patient and started going to my annual female appointment again. This includes a routine mammogram due to my age. Normally, these come back just fine, despite having the very common, usually “no-big-deal” fibro-cystic disease.

This year, I got a very short report saying that they needed to re-do the test. That was it. I kept reading the report to try and discern whether the “re-do” was because they hadn’t gotten a clear pic of the “girls” or if they suspected a tumor. Even when I called to schedule this new mammogram, the receptionist wouldn’t specify why I was doing the test again. However, the scary part is that the radiologist would give me the results right away–I would not have to wait 10 days to hear whether or not everything was okay. I considered this both good and bad news.

They couldn’t schedule the re-test right away. Not good for a woman who can make mountain ranges out of an anthill. I considered whether I wanted to relay this to my family for prayer requests or whether I just wanted to “go it alone” with my husband and a few close friends who understood all too well the ramifications of what this test might mean for me. I decided on the latter. The friends told me this was very common and that often, women’s breasts calcify as they age and most of the time, these calcifications are not harmful in any way.

Finally the day came for doing the re-test. The technician did finally confirm that my breasts were calcifying and that these calcifications had grown considerably since my last annual exam. Not only did I have to redo the original scans, but now I had to endure even more uncomfortable positions for this test. Basically, they tried to wring out my breasts like a dish rag and since I’m a C cup, this was not exactly my favorite thing to do on a Monday morning. But, I survived, probably because my other health adventures have taught me a lot about surviving stupid medical pain.

As I waited with the lovely enormous pink paper towel (I didn’t know the Jolly Green Giant had breasts.) over the top part of my bod for the technician or the radiologist to return, I was actually calm. All I can say is that faith in God and the prayers of my family and friends intervened there.

The technician came back and said that the questionable spots on the mammogram appeared to be just calcifications and I needed to confirm this again with another mammogram in late October. I scheduled the appointment and returned home.

Being the researcher that I am, I got on WebMD and discovered that 98% of the time the re-mammogram of such calcifications proves to be nothing to worry about. That was even more calming news. I let those who had been praying know that all seemed to be okay for now.

Enter the health adventures of the last 4 months. Let me just add that my annual heart check-up went extremely well, so I was not prepared for my heart to go berzerk in June and then to create a clot in one of my ventricles this past August. As I recuperated from all of that mess, my mind periodically remembered the eventual October appointment. Again, I thought, “Should I tell more of my family and friends?” Most of them were in rather large transitions themselves and it seemed silly to tell them about something that was probably going to be okay. However, I had seemed to be okay heart-wise as well. And look how that turned out! My luck was pretty much non-existent!

I decided to only tell a few more people about the situation and proceeded with last Monday’s test. Again I lived through the “booby-trap” process I had endured in the original re-test. (I’m thinking a vise grip would have been kinder to my poor left side.) And this time the radiologist saw no reason to re-test until my next female exam in 2014. Yay! Hallelujah! Thanks be to God!

In the meantime one reader friend has also had to deal with an actual diagnosis of breast cancer. It is just scary how many women I know who face these rather unnerving, somewhat painful experiences every day and seldom tell a lot of people simply because they just don’t want to worry people unnecessarily.

The good news? Even if diagnosed, your chances of surviving are awesome today, particularly if you are diagnosed at Stage 1 and Stage 2. In fact I just learned that a vaccine is expected for breast cancer in 10 to 15 years. The friend recently diagnosed said that our country is full of great resources and support, often only a phone call or web site away.

So, dear lady readers: Is it time for a check-up? If so, make that appointment today. Don’t let cost deter you. Many places make mammograms and other female appointments free throughout the year. It never hurts to ask! All they can say is no. But, keep asking.

And gentlemen readers: Have you checked on your favorite person of the opposite gender to make sure she is having those appointments regularly? Be a man and stumble through it, if you have to. At least she will know you care. And that may be the very thing that gets her to the enormous, pink paper towel. You may even save her life. And just for the record, men get breast cancer, too. So, make sure you’re going to YOUR appointments, too.

Yes, friends, it’s that important. The life you save may be your own. And I am always here for support any way you need it. Why? Because I made the decision to keep my appointments. 🙂

Friday’s Post: The Patron Saint of Writers…and???

You might also like: Lessons Learned from the 2009 Dallas Breast Cancer 3 DayHow I Cope with a Heart that’s a Ticking Time Bomb, and 8 Women Who Changed My Life


Lessons Learned from the 2009 Dallas Breast Cancer 3 Day…

Pink Ribbon 

A mere 4 years ago (2009) I walked, along with 3 wonderful women, 60 miles in 3 days. Yes, back-to-back-to-back days. If I can do it while closing in on the big 5-0, you can, too. (And I wasn’t the oldest chick on the course…by a long shot!) All you need is determination, love, compassion and support from your family and friends. Here’s what I learned from my 3 Day:

1. Pink foam bunny ears can be a hot commodity. Do not get in my teammate’s way when she’s hunting for them.

2. I still remember how to do the Bump to Kool & the Gang…unfortunately, I did not remember how inflexible and slow I am at doing it now.

3. Don’t get mesmerized by the pretty pink flags at the Opening Ceremony and wind up at the back of the walker crowd.

4. You can take any theme and turn it into something about boobs…the favorites? “Boobstock” by the 60s hippie push van, “We’re Busted” by the Jailhouse Rock push van, and “No booty, just ta-ta’s” by the Pirate push van.

5. When your feet get tired, walk past an elementary school, complete with a wide variety of cute pink ribbon pictures, tiny hands desperately trying to reach above their playground fence to give you a high five, and teachers with pink wigs and ties on.

6. Dallas cops are the best…they will stand, in their uniforms, in the hot, Texas sun all day to hold up traffic so you can get through busy intersections and still wave their pink foam bunny ears at you (and wear pink wigs and beads and flowers). They’ll even stage photos for you of them arresting you.

7. The orange safety crew is the most tireless group of people I’ve ever seen.

8. 3 Day mileage is not calculated the same way my car and my pedometer does it. Apparently, it’s computed twice as long.

9. Pink tents up ahead is your salvation.

10. The port-a-pots with the shortest lines are the farthest away from where you are standing.

11. It only takes 2 days to forget how to flush a toilet.

12. No matter how hard you try to keep from tearing the wipies, you’ll tear the wipies.

13. Actual soap and actual water is a luxury. Purex is a necessity.

14. Toilet paper is a luxury.

15. Take Imodium AD with you on the 3 Day…let’s not go into why.

16. I can retie my shoelaces, call the hubby, re-stretch my lower extremities and eat a package of baby carrots all during one light cycle at a Dallas intersection.

17. When you get winded, drink water.

18. When you get lightheaded, drink Gatorade.

19. When you get nauseous, suck it up, Princess.

20. The next great innovation for the 3 Day will be portable morphine IVs.

21. I want the adhesive tape concession next year.

22. My teammate is not very fond of  eating chicken for lunch.

23. Another teammate doesn’t like peel on her apples.

24. Sitting on acorns is actually comfy.

25. A curb is your friend at the pit stop…it’s your enemy while walking. (And who designed those mile-high versions????)

26. I have a new appreciation for handicap accessible sidewalks.

27. Warning signs need warnings.

28. Nowhere else will the pack of walkers ahead warn you of bikers, acorns, traffic sign poles, and uneven sidewalks.

29. It doesn’t matter what collegiate team you root for on the 3 Day…there is someone else there who roots for them as well.

30. When you think you can’t take it anymore, a cheer station complete with dogs in pink bandannas saying “Dogs for the Cure”, toddling little girls in tutus, the craziest signs, cold water, bubblegum, Twizzlers, Snickers, Starbursts, Starbucks, stickers, high fives, and your family and friends will do the trick. (I was ready to walk up mountains after that!)

31. Only at the 3 Day is it normal for the most macho men to wear pink boxers, pink sox, tutus and pink fanny packs.

32. Harley bikers are the most compassionate people in the world.

33. Smuckers PB and J’s, pocket bananas, and trail mix are da bomb.

34. A sea of hot pink tents is home.

35. Young, handsome, virile men walk on eggshells after the 2nd day of the 3 Day.

36. Your feet going numb is actually a good thing.

37. Speed is not the key on the 3rd day.

38. Irony is walking past the Hooters during the 3 day and no waitresses in orange shorts come out to greet you…as every other restaurant’s staff did.

39. The Dallas West End cheer station will make you feel like a rock star.

40. When the sign says, “Uptown”, it means it. Where the heck was the sign for “Downtown”?

41. Going down hurts as much as going up…pray for even sidewalks.

42. Narrow sidewalks are just annoying.

43. Homeowners who don’t trim their prickly bushes are now targeted for their trees getting TPed…that is, if we can find any TP.

44. Homeowners who don’t trim off their lower tree branches should see # 43.

45. Preston Hollow is one pretty neighborhood…no wonder George and Laura decided to move there.

46. Little girls in pink PJs on a Sunday morning will automatically make you smile and go Awww.

47. There is a little 3 year old boy who hit his daddy’s pitched ball “out of the park” and already has a 2900 member cheering base. He even knows how to tip his cap to his fans. Tell the Rangers to sign him now.

48. Yes, MaryAnn can be quiet…it’s called she’s composing her next FB note.

49. We now know my teammate’s  middle name…don’t ask.

50. Don’t ask the tall guy in the green, pink and white tutu to demonstrate his stretching techniques.

51. The Bra Bug is a photo op.

52. I am now a street walker…but no one wanted to pick me up this weekend, for some reason…oh, it might be my stench….and the Grand Canyons under my eyes.

53. Remind your teammates to put their underwear on right side out.

54. Remind yourself to put on deodorant.

55. Masseuses could make a fortune massaging feet and my kids can find the prettiest pink roses.

56. Nobody cares that your pedicure is 19 years old at lunchtime on the 3rd Day…they’re more impressed if you don’t have blister Band-Aids all over your foot.

57. Want applause? Do the entire Thriller dance at lunchtime on the 3rd Day of the 3 Day.

58. Don’t play “Party in the USA” around my teammates unless you wanna get slugged.

59. Amusing texts from family and friends are the only way to survive while on the 3 Day.

60. Your family and friends are now officially “Walker Stalkers”. 🙂

61. Where you walk on the 3 Day is apparently a national secret.

62. Daily route cards are more valuable than gold.

63. Dallas 3 Day walkers raised $ 7.5 million. Yet, there were only 2900 walkers (they’ll take 5000).

64. The number of volunteer crew members needed to run a 3 Day? 450.

65. The number of volunteer crew members with smiles on their faces and still shaking “their tail feathers” after 3 days? 450.

66. Kim can do Chemo on Friday, cheer for her team on Saturday and Sunday and be too sick to party with you afterward…she’s my hero.

67. You know your shoes stink when your husband sprays them with enough Axe for a third world country.

68. You know you stink when even you would prefer not to be around you.

69. Don’t get between my teammates and the wine.

70. I have the most supportive friends and family in the world, including those who wrote us all notes which we found at the 3 Day post office on Day 2.

71. The most beautiful sights in the world are an overweight woman and a pregnant woman limping along for the lumps.

72. You can jay walk for jugs!

73. 10 years ago I had trouble walking around the block after 2 heart attacks…this weekend I walked 60 miles….God is good. And yes, that will bring tears to my eyes.

74. Yes, I will cry at the opening and closing ceremonies…yes, me.

75. Breast Cancer still hasn’t been cured, but we’re making progress. Doing something that matters….matters.

In early November a friend of a friend, Ms. Janet Carter, will be walking her 2nd 3 Day. She walks in memory of a friend who lost her battle with breast cancer at the tender age of 24. Please donate so that she can qualify to walk for her by going to her page here.

I am shocked that Americans haven’t risen up and maxed out the limit for walkers at every 3 Day. Let’s show them how big the heart of America is. There is no such thing as too old, too fat, too creaky, too sick. There is no such thing as unable to raise the funds (It just takes some perseverance and some audacity and last time I checked, Americans are audacious.). There is no such thing as “It’s a bad time for me.” Four women with 7 jobs, families and working on 3 degrees managed to find the time. Start early, start now…the site is:

Love you all…thanks for what you did to try and stop breast cancer from harming those we love (and what you continue to do)…I’m sure you have saved a life….maybe more than one. Maybe you saved your own.

Friday’s Post: What took me so blessedly long to read this book?

You might also like: Lessons Learned from Walking 18 Miles and 15 Miles Back-to-Back and Lessons Learned from Walking 18.2 Miles…in the Rain


Lessons Learned from Walking 18 miles and 15 miles back-to-back…

treadmill training

treadmill training

This is “Part 2” of the stupid weekend of doing 33 miles in 2 days to prepare for the Susan G. Komen 3 Day Walk in 2009. After trying to unwrinkle every wet digit on my body, I chose to do the 15 mile (2nd day) part on my trusty INDOOR treadmill. So, what more could I learn from doing 15 more miles? Plenty:

1. 60 miles in 3 days seems REALLY far. I’m thinking a trip to the moon is closer.

2. Blister Band-Aids also work on sore toes.

3. It’s easier to walk outside in the rain than it is on a dry treadmill (ummm…perhaps that was because 18 miles had been walked outside first?)

4. No tennies on the planet will keep you from having sore feet afterward.

5. Forget Vicodin…just open a vein and give me morphine….STAT!

6. There aren’t enough ice packs in the world for all of your aching body parts.

7. Having access to over 500 channels isn’t enough to keep you from being focused on the aching body part of the moment.

8. 15 miles actually seems farther than 18….it’s Susan G. Komen math…’nuf said.

9. Even your favorite flavor of G2 doesn’t quite bring a smile to your face.

10. One wonders how one will find a tent, set it up, find his or her luggage and drag oneself to the shower after 40 miles of walking. Where is my magic lamp and that infernal genie???

11. Paul Bettany is the villain in The Secret Life of Bees? I didn’t recognize him with a southern accent. Kinda like hearing House with a British accent.

12. You can watch 4 movies start to finish while walking 15 miles.

13. Forget the incline on the treadmill…the distance is enough for you to decide against applying for the Biggest Loser and suggesting that Jillian be your trainer.

14. If people ask you a question while you are huffing and puffing, it doesn’t matter what the question is…you still consider it an insult.

15. Your thought that you might do the Breast Cancer 3 Day walk 5 years from now goes right out the window. (2013 update: So glad I read # 15 again!)

Monday’s Post: WOW time!

You might also like: Lessons Learned from Walking 18.2 miles…in the Rain… and Lessons Learned from the Breast Cancer 3 Day Garage Sale


8 Women Who Changed My Life…

Pink Ribbon

Warning: You might want to get your favorite beverage first. 

Note: The MIP Book Club started yesterday. Haven’t started reading yet? That’s okay…you’re only fashionably late. Go here to find out what you’re missing!

The FB Faithful will know this one practically by heart, but it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month again and I hate what this awful disease is doing and has done to those who have made me what I am today. When I wrote this in 2009, I only knew these eight women suffered or survived breast cancer, but now, I could, unfortunately, add to the list. But these eight women and their families are what motivated me to do something crazy back then. Read on…

1. She is one of the sweetest women on the planet, but if you cross her, watch out…she was a mom to 4 very different children and grandmother and great grandmother to too many to count….she made the best homemade pies on the planet and could feed 2 as easily as she could feed 100 (all of them would be related to her in some way.) She was the wayward daughter who found her niche and found it important to live all of her life by her mom’s and her mentally impaired older brother’s side. She is one of the most caring women I know and she wouldn’t tell her family she was losing her battle until after her 90th birthday. Her name is Maribelle and she was my aunt.

2. She is art personified, in every aspect of her life and yet she has lived her life with a disability. However, you would never know that…that wouldn’t be artful, now would it? She is brilliant and she sees the unique talents of everyone around her and puts them to good use. She is a visionary, making connections no one else can. She believes in the worth of each person, no matter what hinders them and believes in you becoming more than worthy of what God called you to be. She was my mentor for 8 years. She is Mary and she was my boss.

3. She led a school as a principal. She once put her troubles aside to be at the bedside of her granddaughter when said granddaughter was forced to be in the hospital on the eve of her prom. The only telltale sign of her own troubles was a perfectly coiffed wig. She’s a serious woman, but you can tell that her family and those in her charge are her priority. She is Nelda and she is Laura Ann’s mother-in-law and Shayla, Miranda and Landon’s grandmother.

4. She is beauty personified, as well as grace. She is as content in an evening gown as she is in a cotton skirt and flip flops. Her smile lights up a room, not because it is a pretty smile, but because warmth and caring are behind it. She can laugh at the world when others would cry and charm others into doing her bidding in the most unassuming way. (It’s usually for a good cause!) She readily welcomes others into her home and they are welcome to stay as long as they like. When she makes you her friend, that friendship is for forever…you know? That Heaven kind of forever. She is Michaux and I’m blessed to have her as my forever friend.

5. She is the mother of my son’s childhood buddy. She is my Bible Study buddy and wisdom is her watchword. When I need knowledge, when I need a well-thought-out opinion, this is who I call. When I need a calming voice, she is also there for that, too. We may be worlds apart from each other in terms of logistical distance, but we are only a moment away from each other in our hearts. She is southern hospitality and an educator at heart. She is the mother of a very impressive young man, one she largely educated herself. She is Nancy and I’m blessed that Facebook has brought me closer to her son, Kyle.

6. She is my pregnancy buddy…you know…the pregnancy that was equivalent to the Immaculate Conception in terms of miracles? She, too, is my Bible Study buddy, and I can count on her for telling me the most ridiculous joke and being blatantly honest all at the same time. She nurtures little children all day long and considers it both a nightmare and a blessing all at the same time (well, who wouldn’t!). Her life has been anything but predictable, but you would never know it. She deals with it as if it were an everyday occurrence. She is April and she is my friend.

7. She was a virtual stranger to me just a few short years ago, but now I don’t think she would flinch if I just called her Mom. She broke down watching her daughter dealing with a ridiculous ordeal, all the while getting over her own ridiculous ordeal and dealing with her husband’s ongoing ridiculous ordeal. She bravely, angrily stared all of them in the face and her slim body wouldn’t take no for an answer. She is compassion and she is courage and I want so much to make it all go away for her. Her name is Shirley and she is Kim’s mom and BriAnne and Ben’s grandmother.

8. At a time when I thought there were no more best friends left in the world for a crazy person like me, this woman embraced my nuttiness calmly and actually allowed it to continue. She is a great mom, a wonderful wife, the hostess with the mostest, a phenomenal cook, the most efficient President of a volunteer organization I know and can run entire departments while battling a nasty disease on only 20 hours a week. When I think she can’t take any more, she calmly, resolutely walks onward, through the storm, and deals with each new blow with dignity, charm, and a little bit of humor. She was Kim and she was more than my friend…she was my inspiration to walk 60 miles to end this stupid disease called Breast Cancer.

Some lost their battles, but the rest continue on. They have families counting on them…they help more people in one day than I could ever hope to help in a decade…they deserve and deserved a lifetime. Pray for them…comfort them…cheer for them…I know I do.

Point to Ponder: Who are the 8 women in your life? What would you be willing to do for them?

Friday’s Post: Lessons Lessons Learned from a Garage Sale…

You might also enjoy: Best Quotes from the Dallas Women of Faith Conference and Lessons Learned from Attending Women of Faith


Lessons Learned Because of Kim…

woman's hat

Warning: Get 2 beverages first.

Special Note: Once again, I am editing this as I reel from the horror of what has happened to West, TX, just 81 miles from my home. Please pray for healing and all resources necessary to combat this tragedy.

Note: Today is a tough day for me. My good friend, Kim, used to celebrate her birthday on this day. Those of us who were privileged to know her and love her still miss her helpful presence in our lives. This was first written after her memorial service in early 2010, after Kim passed away from Stage IV breast cancer, at the age of 51 (It may help to read last Wednesday’s post first!):

You knew it was coming, so buck up, grab your hanky if you must, grab a beverage while you’re at it, and then read on…it’ll be okay.

1. 98% of women diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer survive for at least 5 years. That statistic went up 3% since Kim was diagnosed.

2. 15% of women diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer survive for 5 years. The average length of time a Stage IV breast cancer patient lives following diagnosis is 2 years. Kim lived 2 years and 3 months after diagnosis at Stage IV.

3. The Susan G. Komen organization has funded nearly all of the studies that have led to huge breakthroughs in breast cancer research over the last 30 years.

4. 410,000 breast cancer patients will die this year and every year and yet, breast cancer is not the # 1 killer of women. Heart disease is, but even though I have a personal vendetta against heart disease, it never took my best friend away from me. In comparison over 200,000 people passed away one time from an earthquake in Haiti. Just sayin’.

5. A real friend tells you when you aren’t thinking correctly.

6. A real friend reminds you that you are worthy of respect, honor and love when it seems like the whole world is against you.

7. A real friend loves your kids even when you’d like to smack one of them upside the head and reminds you why you love them, too.

8. It is a privilege, an honor and a learning experience of the highest order to be Kim’s friend.

9. I can’t drive down or up Hwy. 281 (the highway that led to our certification classes) anymore without bursting into tears.

10. I’ve permanently lost my I-ness. (This is something only she and I understand—sorry—you had to be there!)

11. You can solve all the problems in the world on a round trip on a Saturday morning to work on your mutual certifications.

12. The PH is the one to consult for the perfect prom dress.

13. I cannot walk past the Engineering Technology building at our local university without looking for my Scottish stiff upper lip. Unfortunately, my assigned GA parking spots are right beside it. Thank you so much, University Police.

14. Do not take 2 helicopter moms to Texas Tech for new student orientation.

15. I will miss “I need therapy” distress IMs.

16. Roasted red pepper hummus dip should be its own food group, as should homemade guac and Texas caviar.

17. If you want some AD deviled eggs at Thanksgiving, get there early.

18. If you want AS Derby pie at Thanksgiving, do the dishes and stick close to the dessert table.

19. Never introduce 3 husbands to another fryer.

20. No food is safe from the fryer when the above 3 are in the same vicinity.

21. Normally uncommunicative males will yak more than women when deciding what to fry for Thanksgiving. Cell phone bills will be demonstrably higher and they will blame that on their teenagers.

22. A USA and a USDA has nothing to do with a government or a governmental operation.

23. Our little town lost their “hostess with the mostest” on January 26, 2010.

24. You don’t love your family and friends..…you lurve them.

25. I now know that the women that Kim loved were all uniquely special women.

26. There is no family like the Big Family.

27. I should not cough in the presence of my Big Family Children…unless I want to catch up with my doc soon.

28. Cookies are not something you eat, but they’re just as sweet.

29. Hydrocolloid Band-Aids are my friend.

30. Moleskin and a pair of scissors are better than chocolate. (Yes, I said that.)

31. Snoozing on a bed of acorns can actually be therapeutic.

32. There is no garage sale like a Kim’s Krew garage sale.

33. My buddy, Peggy, can hang clothes faster than Superman.

34. The real steel magnolias live in my town and there’s a slew of them.

35. Kim’s daughter is meant to be a nurse…all you had to do was watch her interact with her mom to know that.

36. No one loves a mom the way my AS loves his mom and she knew it and loved that.

37. No one loves a woman the way Kim’s husband loved his wife.

38. A wife and mom can reduce two seminary-trained ministers to “reaching for adequate words.”

39. No one loves youth the way our former youth director loves “her kids.”

40. No one loves a daughter the way my  adoptive parents loved their daughter.

41. Your biggest problem when a family member dies in in our town is how to deal with overwhelming expressions of love.

42. The tears at her funeral are enough to make me seriously think about investing in Kimberly Clarke.

43. The PH  does know how to cry after all.

44. The eldest DS has a very long memory.

45. The DD identifies with her sister all too well.

46. The youngest DS would rather go to a funeral home than play percussion.

47. I am very angry…but not at God, as some might think, but at a disease that has the temerity, the audacity, and the insolence to think that it can take my buddy away from us and think it will survive much longer on this planet.

48. I look like heqq after I’ve cried for 24 hours straight. Yes, 24 hours straight.

49. I now know the importance of telling my friends I love them and overcoming my stoic Scot side to give them a hug.

50. Her death does not go unnoticed. From now on there will be donations and other forms of support for those I know who continue to wage war on this vicious disease.

51. Breast Cancer: You’re gone…you just don’t know it yet. Do not mess with me or those she loves. Do not mess with our Big Family.

Tomorrow’s Post: Poetry Day!


Just Because She’s Her…

Pink Ribbon

Warning: Get a beverage first.

Special Note: I am editing this as I reel from the news about the Boston Marathon. The tragedy that struck there should not deter us from doing good things for others. If anything, it should motivate us, even more, to do even greater works to counteract the evil in our midst.

Note: I first wrote this in February of 2009 after making a rather huge decision for my own life. Later on in the week, you’ll understand why I chose to re-post this now. At the bottom, I have provided an update. We are the selfless acts we perform for others:

I met her in 1993, a few short months after moving to our little Texas town. At first she intimidated me, honestly! She didn’t smile often and she was ALL business. We met in Sunday School, back when our kids were tots and very soon, I realized why everyone talked about her. I encountered her next as President of the Young Homemakers, a group that does community service around talking to each other about how challenging it can be to be a mom of little ones.
Next I encountered her as President of the elementary PTO. I noticed a trend–when she ran a meeting, they were done in an hour and productive. Few others seemed capable of such a feat, considering that the Board was composed of 27 very talkative, very opinionated, very stubborn women.

Then, she came down with thyroid cancer. While I wouldn’t say I knew her well at this point, something compelled me to visit her hospital room while she recovered from surgery to eliminate the cancer. I think she was a little surprised and stunned to see just an acquaintance visiting her. I was a little surprised myself. To this day I don’t know why I did it…but I think it had something to do with how she would eventually influence my life.

She was there, like many others, when I had my own crisis a few years later…those sudden heart attacks I often talk about. I don’t even want to know everything she did for me then. Let’s just say I felt her presence.

Next, she subbed as secretary of the church while I was drowning in church financial paperwork. As usual, she was competent in every way and I so wished she would just stay to do the job right.

I wound up working at our local university and one day not much later, so did she. We decided to do a certification together that would require us to get up at ridiculous hours on Saturday mornings to go to a town an hour away. I decided that I didn’t want anyone but her seeing what a grizzly bear I would be at that time of the morning. I knew she wouldn’t hold it against me! We solved the world’s problems then and talked about what we hoped our children would do later in life….the stuff that Moms talk about. And in those car rides, a friendship–an undying friendship was born.

Next stop was visiting colleges together with our eldest children. It was both a time that brought a lot of giggles to our faces and a time of complete and utter frustration–watch 2 moms try to counsel 2 very stubborn children on how to be independent…yeah, that’s really what I said…let’s just say 4 people were all very upset with each other and yet, we still came out on the other side loving one another even more intensely.

About this time the hubbies starting buddying up, too, and that’s a rarity…when you not only have a friendship, but your spouses do, too. Pretty soon I found myself loving her children as my own, for not only were they wonderful people in their own right, but they often interceded to make my children’s lives better, too.

One fall she and her daughter got it in their heads that our family and another should be invited to their Thanksgiving Dinner. That was one fun, crazy day and a tradition was born. What’s more…a new family was born…the infamous, wonderful BIG family.

One day the local “momma mafia” started emailing, calling and texting asking me if I had seen her lately. I hadn’t–many of our convos happened over instant messaging! But, soon I did and I knew why I had been contacted. Something was drastically wrong with Ms. Competent and we were gearing up for “Iwo Jima” to make sure she got herself looked at…that’s the momma mafia for you!

The exams confirmed our worst fears…Ms. Competent was dealing with Stage IV Breast Cancer…it was ravaging just about every part of her body. And yet, despite our collective tears, worrying, and overzealous attempts to help her family, she persevered and got herself back to the point where she could work part-time and be that mom again.

Soooooo….because she’s her, because she’s my buddy, because she’s the second mom to my kids, because she’s Ms. Competent, I’ve decided to send her a little “Get Well card” by walking the Dallas Breast Cancer 3 Day Walk next November in Dallas.

We’ve started a team…Kim’s Krew. The eldest DS consented to be my personal coach and chauffeur during those 3 days. See you there!

Update 2013: Kim’s health took a “nose dive” in the fall of 2009. Kim’s Krew completed the 3 Day in early November 2009, raising more than $ 10,000 in donations. Kim was there, even though she had just endured yet another painful round of chemo. (And even though we told her it would be just fine if she didn’t attend.) Unfortunately, Kim lost her battle with breast cancer in early 2010. We still miss our Kim…a LOT.

Point to Ponder Challenge # 1: My second cousin, Deb Cottle, is now battling breast cancer and was diagnosed at age 30 in 2011. A benefit spaghetti dinner will be taking place to help offset her substantial costs in fighting this nasty disease this coming Saturday from 3 pm to 7 pm, local time. If you’re in the Scottville, Michigan area, would you please do me a favor and eat some spaghetti and donate what you can? If you want more details, let me know an email where I may reply. I cannot attend (prior commitments, unfortunately), so you’ll make me one happy woman if you can attend for me!

Point to Ponder Challenge # 2: If that’s not possible, then do Deb and Kim a favor and sign up to run or walk in a breast cancer event in your area. Every little bit helps and many lives have been saved because of such selfless actions in the past. You are their heroes. Thanks!

Tomorrow’s Post: Slam Jam Session…