Posts Tagged ‘cancer’


Maizie’s Musings: A Word from the Mom Person…

I am busy taking a nap today, so I’m going to let the Mom person have access to MY keyboard just this once. If I’m not satisfied with what she writes, I’m taking it away from her.

Dear Maizie Fans:

Our family has learned some sad news. Maizie has cancer.

She has had several benign growths removed recently, but the last one was malignant and she has other lumps on various parts of her body. We have elected to let nature take its course.

While we could pursue treatment for her, it’s costly and doesn’t have a great success rate. Maizie has handled the multiple surgeries well, but since she’s been such a great dog, we can’t bear to subject her to the difficulties that normally ensue from cancer treatment.

She is still a happy girl and often gives us her “cute puppy looks” when it’s playtime. She still jumps up and down when one of her favorite people arrives. She can’t wait to jump into the “big water bowls” when she gets a chance. She is eating pretty normally and still fond of chewing on bones.


YOUR Top 10 of MIP 2014: 4 & 3…

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

We have now officially passed the 2nd anniversary of the inaugural MIP post, which just happened to be about inaugurations, because I like irony. It amuses me.

A LOT has happened in 2 short years in this “neck of the woods.” For instance, we just purchased a part of another neck of the woods…literally.

Personally, I am a bit surprised that I’m still writing this blog. How about you? Let’s pause to ponder and appreciate that little fact. (If you seriously think I’m going to pause and reflect about anything having to do with this crazy blog, then we need to have a talk about how well you know me.) Nah…let’s just get to today’s blog post business. You’re really here to learn what your fourth and third favorite MIP posts were last year. Without further adieu…!

If you don’t find # 4 odd, you may want to consider coming to my favorite counseling center.


The New Anniversaries…


Warning: Get a beverage first.

Most anniversaries are happy events. I felt this way for many, many years. But as I age, I am learning, all too painfully, that there will be more and more anniversaries that will be sad and yes, painful. As I write this, a year, to the day, has passed since the onset of heart attack # 3 for me. This day marked the beginning of what turned into a painful year. Here’s why:

June 10th – My valiant attempts to ward off another heart attack are in vain and I find myself, in the middle of the night, on an emergency helicopter flight to a Fort Worth hospital.

June 17th – After being home only a few days from my Fort Worth hospital stay, heart attack # 4 rears its ugly head and I, once again, can’t stave it off with aspirin and nitroglycerin. Another helicopter flight and another stay in the hospital. This heart attack was different in a multitude of ways and the first one where I really thought I wouldn’t survive.

June 27th – My youngest son’s last birthday as a teenager. While a joyous time, it was difficult because even a brief time outside in the Texas heat worked on my heart in a negative way.

July 2nd – My brother’s birthday and the anniversary of my mother’s death. Since the latter occurred on my brother’s birthday, we, as a family, have always sought to make it less somber by going to watch the Rangers play baseball. I still wasn’t sure if I could handle the heat, but with the help of my family, I made it. It’s my brother’s last birthday celebration.

August 2013 – The youngest leaves for college; the middle child starts her last year of grad school; the oldest is promoted and moves to a new home; the latter’s dog comes to visit for an extended period of time and I find out, quite surprisingly, that I will be giving myself stomach shots twice a day every day and that I have a blood clot in my heart, putting me at risk for a stroke. I have to eat a very strange diet during this time.

September 2013 – Partially to keep myself from going insane and partially because I believe in keeping my promises to God, I arranged for 10 of my friends and I to attend Women of Faith. It was a tearful event, basically because I couldn’t believe I was still alive.

October 2013 – Two of my friends are diagnosed with breast cancer and unfortunately, neither one of them were diagnosed as Stage 1. But the best news is that they seem to be doing fine and hanging in there just as I knew they would.

November 2013 – My last Thanksgiving with my brothers together in my home. We knew my brother was having to really slow down while eating, but he had been checked out earlier and the fall and the doctor had pronounced him healthy.

December 2013 – My brother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Christmas was poignant to say the least and my research told me he was fighting an uphill battle at best. He arrived at my house with his head shaved and hat on, feeling it would be easier to take baldness if he had some control over it in the beginning. Again, without knowing it, it was my last Christmas with him.

January 2014 – My brother is in and out of the hospital repeatedly with complications, despite trying to be meticulous in following his doctors’ instructions.

February 2014 – My brother makes the decision to “pull the plug.” He moves to hospice care.

February 27th – My other brother and I tell my brother it’s okay for him to go. His breathing grows farther and farther apart. It’s my last time to see him.

February 28th – My brother dies.

March 8th – My brother’s memorial service. It’s a time of laughter and fond remembrance, but it is still difficult for all those who attended.

March 9th – May 5th – My other brother and I clean out my brother’s home and say goodbye to “the House of Tears” as my other brother calls it.

May 9th, 10th and 11th – My daughter graduates with her master’s degree and those festivities are quickly followed by Mother’s Day. While I am so, so grateful to see her graduate with all of her friends, the brother who always celebrated those graduations with us and often celebrated Mother’s Day with us, is painfully absent.

While I’m grateful to still be walking and talking, I am squelching tears as I write this. I know, all too well, from having grieved other family and friends who have already gone on to Heaven, that this coming year will be difficult for me simply because I have a few more “anniversaries” to get through. And I also know that more and more things of this nature will probably continue to take place. At my age the passing of friends and family is simply inevitable. It will happen with more and more frequency and more and more depth of pain.

With this reality ever present now, I do my best to remind myself that I am one blessed woman. Grief and tears are actually a blessing. They are an indication that we love a lot and have been loved. It’s an acknowledgement that my joy will never be complete until it’s my turn to journey to Heaven. And I am blessed to be an American, live in a nice home, in a nice town, with plenty of comfort. I’m blessed to still be surrounded by a wonderful husband, wonderful children and a wonderful extended family and great friends.

Even so, if I don’t smile as much this year, if I don’t crack jokes as much on MIP this year, if I seem a little preoccupied this year, you’ll have to forgive me–I don’t do grief well.

I know I have much to learn in this phase of my life and probably the most significant thing to learn is to still smile, to still celebrate, and to still cherish those whose presence I’m still privileged to enjoy. Thank you all for giving me a reason to smile, to celebrate and to cherish.

Friday’s Post: God’s Sick Reading List…

You Might Also Like: So, Where Are My Posts?; Lessons Learned from Heart Attacks 3 & 4; and Lessons Learned from Being a Pansy and No, I Don’t Mean the Flower




We’re Still Losing This War…


Warning: War & Peace was shorter.

If you’re hoping for a book review or book announcement or something humorous from me today, you came to the wrong blog. Sorry! But, as I said on Wednesday, I’m still in my grief fog. Thus, I’d like to do something productive with it, so here goes:

The reality is that even though many, many types of cancer are now virtually curable, there are some other forms of cancer that still are, basically, a death sentence for its victims upon diagnosis. Yes, a death sentence.

Now, I want to be absolutely emphatic about a few things before I launch into specifics:

1. ANY battle with cancer requires tremendous courage on the part of the patient, curable or not. Even for these cancers, our treatments for them are still barbaric, if you ask me. We either chop off a part of your body, nuke it, or poison it. In many cases the treatment plan includes all three. NBC News just did a report last night on how chemo may not be a wise treatment for many breast cancer patients because of its long-term psychological, physical and economic ramifications. Thank goodness–for breast cancer patients, there ARE other alternatives, in many cases.

2. I am not bringing this to your attention because of what happened to my brother. I’m bringing it to your attention so that you can make better decisions about how you participate in the solution to these deadly cancers. In fact, esophageal cancer has a better rate of survival than several others. If you ask me, the ones more deadly than esophageal cancer need to be addressed first.

3. Don’t assume that you can target your donations to a cancer research or fundraising organization for the most deadly cancers. I checked on this for the most known cancer organization in the U.S.—you can’t.

Now, with that being said, here’s what I know and have learned:

1. Cancer is about to become an epidemic in this country in a few short years. When I would tell people about my brother, most people’s responses were: “Geez. Everyone I know seems to have cancer.” And they are right to feel that way. If it hasn’t touched your immediate family yet, consider yourself one of the fortunate few.

2. We still know very little about what agents in our universe cause cancer. Even if we do know, we seldom alert the public about it enough for anyone to change their lifestyle to limit their risk. For instance, did you know that drinking alcohol is a risk factor for esophageal cancer? My brother quit drinking cold turkey the day he learned that. Too bad he didn’t learn it sooner.

3. Deadly cancers are deadly cancers because there is far less money donated to these cancers than others.  The reason why that’s so is because we, as a society, decided that these more curable cancers, at one time, were so deadly and killed so many people that we had to attack them with a vengeance. I agree with that philosophy and I am thankful that I’ve been able to enjoy the presence of so many of my family and friends because of that philosophy.

4. When less money is donated to a particular type of cancer, that means fewer scientists want to research ways to treat it. This isn’t mean or greedy on their parts–they need to pay the bills, too! If you’re being paid through a research grant, you have to research whatever the grant wants you to research!

5. When fewer scientists work on a particular type of cancer, there are fewer odds they will find innovative ways to fight it. Let’s be honest–the more brainiacs we have working on a kind of cancer, the greater the odds something brilliant will happen to find a great treatment.

6. When there are fewer ways to fight it and diagnose it early, then the chance of you dying upon diagnosis is much, much higher. Why? Stage IV cancers are much more complicated to fight. This is, largely, what happened to my brother. In esophageal cancer there isn’t even a Stage IV because you’re dead before it’s diagnosed!

7.  Even if diagnosed early, fewer treatment methods mean fewer chances for remission. Even if you go into remission, the chances are far greater it will return for deadly cancers.

So, which cancer is the most deadly? Here’s the top 5 and their mortality rates:

1. Pancreatic cancer – 94%.

2. Liver cancer – 83.9%.

3. Lung cancer – 83.4% and it still claims the most lives every year.

4. My infamous buddy–esophageal cancer – 82.7%.

5. Stomach cancer – 72.3%.

Notice anything about the top 5? 4 have to do with digestion. Think about that for a moment. If you get cancer in your digestive tract, isn’t that going to lessen your chances for survival? Uh. Yeah. Because you can’t get proper nutrition while you’re enduring this barbaric way we currently treat cancer! And that’s exactly when your body needs the most nutritional help!

My brother’s tumor was located at the junction where his esophagus meets his stomach. The tumor so blocked the stomach that he couldn’t even swallow his own saliva. And if chemo made him nauseous, things didn’t go the other way, either. Gross, but true.

Now, let’s look at the highest funded cancers for research per the National Cancer Institute:

1. Breast Cancer.

2. Lung cancer.

3. Prostate cancer.

4. Colo-rectal cancer.

5. Leukemia.

What does that mean for our Top 5 Deadliest Cancers? They are not as likely to find cures as quickly. Now, since lung cancer takes the most victims, I am very, very thankful it’s # 2 on the funded list. And I’ll agree that we need to throw money at leukemia, too. Why? It’s # 8.

Want to know where breast cancer, prostate cancer, colo-rectal cancer and leukemia fall on the deadliest cancer list? Here’s the most curable cancers:

1. Prostate Cancer

2. Thyroid cancer

3. Skin Cancer.

4. Breast Cancer

5. Uterine Cancer.

Want to know where the deadly cancers rank for funding levels? Pancreatic cancer is # 10. Liver cancer is # 12. Esophageal cancer is # 19. Stomach cancer is # 28.

When I was a kid, breast cancer was definitely a death sentence. But because of the Susan G. Komen model, it now has an overall survival rate of 89.2%. Stage 1 breast cancer is at 98%! Here’s even more good news: There are Stage IV survivors who have survived for 2 decades! When I was walking the 3 Day for Susan G. Komen in 2009, they announced that the Komen organization had been responsible for nearly all of the great advances in breast cancer research over the last 30 years. They seem to know who to fund, don’t they? That Komen model works!  My suggestion? We need to replicate it for those deadly cancers. And fast…before that cancer epidemic.

And, I think we need to be smart about taking care of our bodies and knowing what cancers are in our family history. And we should “choose wisely” when sending in our cancer donations.

When I realized that you couldn’t target donations to a well-known general cancer organization and realized that my brother was going to die, I decided to look for an organization that targeted funding towards esophageal cancer for those who wanted to send a donation in his memory. I found one that’s working on genomic testing for esophageal cancer. Genomic testing could lead to earlier diagnosis and thus, better survival rates. This organization is quite young, but it’s very well organized and pretty creative about fund-raising.

If you, like me, wonder how much of your donation goes to actual research, you can check out your favorite cancer organization at Look for cancer charities with a 4-star rating. A 3 star rating is also good. But, if it has less than 3 stars, please consider giving to an organization truly worth your hard-earned money or asking that charity to take the necessary steps to earn a 3 or 4 star rating. Or suggest that they take a page from the Komen model and find ways to get that money where it most needs to go.

Why? You and your family may be the very beneficiaries of that.  And here’s a thought: Most of us can spare a dollar a day without really suffering. If we did that every day for a year, each of us would have  $ 365 that could be spent on cancer research. If just half of the U.S. did that this year, we would raise over $ 58 billion dollars for cancer research. Let that marinate in your vast brain for a while and then go make me proud.

Monday’s Post: The return of WOW!!!!!!! Can I get an Amen?

You might also like: Why I Stopped Writing, Another Kind of WOW, A Real Scare, and Lessons Learned from the 2009 Breast Cancer 3 Day


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