Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Nuts

~Christmas Nuts~
By Susie Whiting
Copyright ~ December 2014

~Christmas Nuts~

The snow was falling and the wind the weatherman had forecasted had made its way down from the north.  The sign above the bank said twenty-two degrees Fahrenheit, but the shoppers bundled in coats, boots and scarves said it was much colder.  She couldn’t feel it though.  She walked down the street in a sleeveless Armani dress, cropped to the knees.  The only ice she felt was the diamonds that hung around her neck and wrist. 
Her coat was up there on floor six; the ICU unit. The nurse had hung it in the closet not taking care to sponge off the blood.  Oh well.  A ten-thousand dollar full length mink coat wasn’t a worry; nothing was anymore.  Nothing had been for a very long time.  Her Victorian Tudor house had been a place to sleep, sometimes eat, or work in its office.  If she were honest with herself, she would say it wasn’t home.  A home in her eyes represented a place of love and peace and joy.  She had never had any of those things.  She had been tossed around in the system.  She had been told she was loved but when the minute came for her foster parents to be relieved of her, their love had never been enough to beg for her to stay.  She didn’t need them.  She didn’t need anyone.  She had what she needed; a good brain and a lot of drive.  The minute she was seventeen, she hit the streets.  The library was her home.  She studied incessantly and on occasion would find a hollow between the books where she could stay the night.  She got a part time job in a coffee shop earning enough to provide for her needs.  She didn’t need much.
She had ambition, smarts and wits and she used them all to get her GED and get into college with a full scholarship which included housing.  Housing wasn’t much.  She shared a small room with a girl; one of those that you had to like because she was so sweet and kept all of her stuff tidy; never infringing on your private space. 
A large truck sped by splashing snow and mud onto the sidewalk; onto the pedestrians.  Others cursed and stomped their feet and brushed at their clothes.  She felt nothing at all and just kept walking. 
Christmas lights adorned the stores. Rockefeller Center was bright with its large decorated tree.  The ice skaters twirled and spun, and giggled and fell, to get up and do it again.  The laughter she heard in the air almost hurt her ears.  Laughter was something she wasn’t well aware of; nothing she had become accustomed to.  She walked away.
Her steps took her to a graveyard in Arthurs Kill.  She had never been there before.  After all, she would not want her $1,000 boots sinking into the marshy path; but now her boots were also on the sixth floor of the hospital so what did it matter.  If she passed through a centuries old roadside graveyard which consisted of horribly eroded grave markers along a garbage strewn path, her feet would begin to sink into the mud at the Arthur Kill Boat Graveyard.  She didn’t know what was drawing her toward the old wheelhouse she saw in the distance…nor did she care.  It had been so long since she had cared about anything in this God forsaken thing called life.  She had learned at a young age, if she didn’t want to get hurt, she just couldn’t set herself up for it. 
He had said he loved her.  He was going off to California and wanted her to go with him.  They would build a life together.  He would help her through school.  She could help him.  It wouldn’t be easy but they could make it.  He loved her he said.  He would always love her.  But she couldn’t risk it.  She couldn’t put her heart in harm’s way.  Better to be alone than to be broken.  Better not to love than to be crushed by it.  It would be better to dream of love, than to have love turn into a nightmare.  So she watched Dan walk out of her life.   Had she been honest with herself, she would have run after him.  She would have let her heart rule and not her brain.  She had always let her brain rule.  Emotions had no part in her life.  That is why, behind her back at the hospital, she was known as “The Stone.”  They didn’t know she knew what was said behind her back, nor did she care. 
If she let the wall she had built around herself crumble, she would hurt for the young girl in pediatrics with a disease not covered by her medical insurance.  She would feel for the mother who sat beside the girl’s bedside and cried into the night; hopeless and helpless.  
She couldn’t feel the waves as they splashed over her feet as she was drawn toward a wheel house that was settled at a slant in the mud.   She heard a voice coming from inside.  It wasn’t laughter because it didn’t hurt her ears.  She stepped so very lightly up onto the first step and then the second and then the third until she could see over the side.  No.  It wasn’t laughter she had heard.  It was a young boy lying beside a younger girl.   He pulled a plastic tarp over her to try and break the breeze.  She still shivered.
“Can you drink a little warm tea,” he asked as he raised a Dunkin Donuts cup to her lips.  Someone left it on her table.  It is still warm though.” He raised the small girl’s head up and pressed the cup to her lips.  Her lips were parched and cracked and her face was flushed with fever.
“You can’t leave me, Mattie.” The boy cried softly.  “We’re all we’ve got.”
The lady stepped over the side of the shack.  She knew they didn’t see her.  She leaned down to place her hand on the girl’s brow, but her hand could not make contact; of course not.  Her real hand was connected to her body that laid on a gurney on the 6th floor of ICU. 
Her Lexus had skid on black ice at the same time a big rig jack-knifed.  All she remembered when she knew the crash was coming was “Oh Well.  This life has been hell anyway.”  Her death wasn’t as quick as she thought it would be.  Her shell of a body was lying in a hospital with tubes and respirators keeping her brain alive.  Keeping her from passing on to a place she hoped was far better than the one she had been living in.
Now, she needed that body.  She needed to be able to feel.  She needed to be able to talk.  She needed to be able to send help to this little boy and girl.  For as miserable as she was as a person, she was still a fine doctor.
Suddenly, it seemed as though she was caught on the wind; blowing.  In an instant, she was at the window of the sixth floor and in even less time she was through it.  She looked down at the body on the bed; laying silently, laying still.  The hum of equipment made her chest rise and fall.  The beeping of equipment signified her heart was still beating.  She was in a coma the ER Physician had said.  Not certain she would ever regain consciousness.  But she had to regain consciousness.
Her body hurt as she tried to force her spirit back into it.  Her spirit hurt too.  She had been free of pain outside this shell of a coat called a body.  But she had to hurt.  She had to heal.  She had to help the children in the wheelhouse.  She was a doctor.  There was the oath she had taken. 
Her body moaned as she forced her spirit back into it.  The heart started beating rapidly.  The blood pressure raised and then lowered erratically.  The body moaned again causing nurses and doctors to rush by her side.  The doctor opened her eyelid and the light about blinded her.  She felt so confined in such a small space but she moved around and settled in.  She had settled back into life.
She willed where her energy would go.  She didn’t care if her legs worked for now.  She didn’t care that she couldn’t lift her arms.  She didn’t care if her eyes couldn’t focus as well as they should.  She could work on that later.  Right now, her energy needed to go to her mouth.
“Policemen,” She whispered to the nurse.  “Get policemen.”
The nurse recognized the urgency of her voice and did as she asked, but warned them to not stay too long.  Not to weaken her further.
Every word she spoke was hard.  How she had taken the ability to speak for granted.  But then she thought, she had taken everything for granted.  Her own bitterness had prevented her from appreciating the ability to walk along the beach and feeling the sand beneath her toes.  To listen to a symphony and let the music she heard swell within her breast.  To watch the sun fall into the west and leave its brilliant colors in its wake.  To appreciate the scent drifting from Carmine’s promising the patrons rich spaghetti and meatballs and hot garlic bread.  With her Lexus, and her apartment in Manhattan and a rich bank account, she had still been very poor.  God bless those who are so poor, all they have is money.  She didn’t know where that thought had come from, but she knew it applied to her.
With all the strength she had, she was able to tell the policeman about the two children and they had promised they would go find them.


She had paid for the largest tree to be delivered and set up in the foyer.  She had paid for the house to be decorated with pines and poinsettias and candles.  She had a giant Santa’s sleigh delivered and set up in the family room and in it were gifts;  gifts for a young boy and girl.  She had wanted to do the decorating and shopping herself.  ‘Herself’ she laughed.  Before, ‘herself’ had wanted nothing to do with Christmas.  Her wheelchair was restrictive and she wasn’t able to get out has she wanted, so she called upon her finances to make happen what she wanted. 
              The investigator she had hired found the children’s parents had both died from heroin overdoses.  The boy and girl had run away when they found their parents dead.  There were extended family members somewhere in Mexico, but the children had never known them.  They had been born in the United States and as being so were citizens.  Carlos and Maggie were their names and Carlos and Maggie were being released from the hospital this afternoon. 
              She hooked her Ipod to its base station and Christmas music filled the room; happy Christmas music. 
              She watched as the van from the hospital pulled up in front.  She could have called for the maid to open the door, but she wanted to welcome them herself.  She wheeled herself over and opened the door wide as two scared, apprehensive children walked toward the door. 
              Hello Carlos.  Hello Mattie.  My name is Kathryn.  Please come in and let’s have a talk together.
              Bertie, the maid, brought in a plate of sugar cookies and mugs of hot chocolate and sit them on the coffee table.  The children looked at them with wide eyes but yet apprehensively. 
              “It’s okay,” she told them.  “You can have some.”
              She smiled as Carlos handed a cookie and then hot chocolate to his sister.  He was still taking care of her.
              She told them her name was Kathryn and she explained to them how although she was rich, she had still been very poor because she had lived with a broken heart.
              “We know about broken hearts,” Carlos said through a bite of cookie.  “Our hearts got broken too.  Mamma and Daddy broke our hearts.”
              “I know,” Kathryn responded.  “I had someone find out why you were living in the shack.  I hope you don’t mind.  It wasn’t because I was being snoopy.  It was because I cared about you.”
              “That’s okay,” Carlos replied again.  “It’s good to have someone care about you.  Momma and Daddy cared but they cared about drugs more.  But they loved us anyway.”
              “Of course they loved you.  I’m certain they loved you very much.  Their addiction to drugs was an illness they couldn’t heal.  It wasn’t because they didn’t want to.  It wasn’t because they didn’t love you.”
              “But anyway, Carlos and Mattie, I have had an illness too.  Like I said, I’ve had a broken heart that I haven’t been able to fix.  Because my heart was broken, I didn’t look at life the way I should have.  I need someone to help me laugh again.  I have this very big house that is pretty empty.  It could use a boy and girl to help fill up the rooms.  They would be safe and warm and able to go to school.  They would never be hungry again.  I would do everything I can to make them happy.  If you would like to be that boy and girl, I would love to have you live here with me. 
              “Do you have a puppy?” Mattie asked for the first time.  “My daddy said that if someone loved a puppy then we could trust them.”
              I’ve never had a puppy before,” Kathryn said.  “I always felt I was too busy to take care of one.  But to be honest with you, I always felt one would break my heart if anything happened to it.  But you know what?  I am tired of being afraid of being hurt.  I am tired of a broken heart.”
Kathryn rang a silver bell that was sitting nearby and Bertie came through the door.  “Bertie, would you bring in Cleo and Hank please.”  A few minutes later Bertie entered with two small dogs on a leash.  Hank was a Golden Retriever pup who quickly ran to Carlos and licked his face forcing giggles from the little boy.  Cleo was a Pomeranian who laid beside Mattie and stared up at her with big black eyes.  Smiles radiated from the children’s faces as they petted their new Christmas friends. 
“So do you think you want to give it a try and live here with me?” Kathryn asked.
“What if we’re not able to make you happy?” Mattie asked sadly.
“I don’t expect you to make me happy, Sweetheart,” Kathryn said.  “It’s my job to make myself happy. And I really think for me to do that, I need to stop being so selfish.  I need to stop being wrapped up in myself.  By being all wrapped up in myself, I’ve made a very small package.  I want to be wrapped up in you and Carlos and Hank and Cleo.”
“We will be kind of a strange family, don’t you think?” Carlos said thoughtfully. “ A doctor, two Mexican kids, a Golden Retriever and a Pomeranian.”
“Look at that bowl of nuts on the table,” Ellen said.  “There are walnuts, and cashews, and almonds, and peanuts and pistachios.” They are all different, but they are the same.
“So we will be a family of nuts, huh?” Carlos replied forcing laughter from Kathryn. 
“Yes,” she laughed.  “I hope we will always be a family of nuts.”

Christmas Day~

              Miracles do happen.  But it does take opening oneself up to be able to accept the miracles that surround us.
              I looked at the clutter in the house.  Wrapping paper was spread across the family room carpet while two tired dogs lay on a rug before the fireplace.  Carlos was playing an Xbox game and I was manicuring Mattie’s nails with the bright orange polish she had received from Santa.  Bertie had a turkey in the oven for Christmas dinner.  I had never had a cooked Christmas dinner in my house before.  I had always gone out to five star restaurants and tried to convince myself that the less work the better. 
              It was strange how I felt inside.  I was lighter.  By lighter I mean I didn’t feel as heavy inside and by lighter I mean I didn’t feel the darkness that had hid inside me all my life.  It was as though my mind had opened wide and all negativity had flown out and my heart had opened up telling the universe to send on in the miracles.  And then the doorbell rang.
              He stood on the front porch with a silly Santa hat on.  His eyes were still the brightest blue; his hair touched slightly with gray at the temples.  His smile was not changed at all.  It spread easily and honestly across his face. I had heard through the grapevine he had never married, but I glanced at his left hand anyway.  He wore no ring.  Dan was back.

              “I heard about your accident,” he said.  “I thought since you might be tied up in the house for a while you might need a little something to keep you company.  He reached in a box and pulled out a tabby cat.  The dogs barked, the children screamed and the cat hissed and jumped from Dan’s arms as it tried to climb the curtains.  And I laughed.  Dan’s smile widened as he watched me laugh until I lost my breath; until my sides ached.  At the time he didn’t understand that another nut had been added to our family tree in the form of a tabby cat and as I stared back at the silly man in the Santa hat, I hope this man I loved would be the next to fall into the nut bowl.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Daren's Letter - November 12, 2014

Hello Honey:

We found that little cedar house that was available to lease in Salcha, Alaska.  It had been a cute little house, but the people who had lived there before had thrashed it.  It was so dirty.  They had raised dogs in one of the bedrooms and the smell was awful.  The price was right, and if we could get the owner to let us clean it for the first month's rent, it would work for us.

You and I painted and your dad cleaned forever on the bathrooms and the garage. The boys helped pull up carpets and we replaced them.  Stoves were cleaned, cupboards scrubbed, windows were washed and before long, we had a home.  I was prepared to make do with whatever we could find for furniture, but the people were so kind.  Soon, we had enough.  We had a cute little home that sit back in the pines with moose coming into the backyard.

On "Survivor Night" we would all load in your truck and head to Haley's for our Survivor Party.  One night it was dark and cold.  The roads were iced and snow blew across the road limiting sight.  You knew riding in cars was a thing that had scared me all my life.  I think it was handed down genetically to me through my dad who was in such a bad automobile accident, he never drove afterward.  You were driving and your dad was riding shotgun.  I was sitting in the back seat.  After a few minutes, you turned and asked "Are you praying, Mom?"  I was.  You knew me so well.

Your unselfishness always amazed me honey.  Even in that little house, when Jen moved up to stay a while with us, you instantly without a word, gave up your bedroom.  Jen moved into town, and Shannon and the girls moved in with us, and you passed your room on to them.  I never heard you complain about any sacrifices you made.  I guess that is one of the things that made you so loved by so many people.

I didn't know then my darling son, what I know now.  I didn't know the time would come when I would move heaven and earth if I could be back in that little cedar house with you, your boys and your dad.  I didn't know how much I would miss your making a peanut butter sandwich or the way you would cross your legs, or the way you would clean your ears with a q-tip.  I didn't know how much I wish I could see you drying your hair with a towel and then flipping your head to put it in place.  I didn't know how much I would miss watching Grumpy Old Men with you.  How many times did we watch that show?  How many times did we laugh at the same spots.

I miss washing your clothes and cooking you meals and talking about all the things we used to talk about.  I miss the smell of Marlboro Reds.  I miss your hands; the way they looked like my dad's.

I miss laughing until my sides hurt at some of the things you use to say.  I miss seeing you put your arm around your sons and telling them you love them.  I miss your asking me if I had an extra cup of coffee.

I didn't know honey.  I didn't know that someday I would be missing all the things that made you you and I would be missing them so much I'd think my heart could break in two.  So my sweet boy, most of the time I need to put all the memories on a shelf in my mind.  Looking at them is so painful.  Not remembering is a means of saving myself.

But then the time comes when I can't help but remember.  I can't help but miss you.

I'm glad you're my son sweetheart.  I'm glad I got to be your mom.

Leave me a feather.  Let me know you're around me.

For ever and ever my baby you'll be.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Cancer ~ Count My Blessings

I stopped in at Kohls after my radiation treatment.  My granddaughter is getting married on the 4th of October and I needed a blouse to wear.  I walked up and down a few isles hoping something would jump out at me without my needing to put much effort into shopping; I really didn't feel well.  Radiation treatments kills not only the cancerous cells, but also the good ones, requiring the body to work extra hard to rebuild what is dying.  I felt the fatigue all that work caused.  My feet and legs ached along with my hands.  Chemo has caused neuropathy.  At first they feel numb and then the numbness turns into pain. I left the store without a blouse, sat in my car and had a pity party.

"I can't handle this." I said silently to myself.  "I've reached the point where I don't even have the energy to shop for myself.  I can't have my daughter constantly be responsible for taking care of me, but I feel like crap."  My mind continued down the path of feeling sorry for myself until I remembered once again something my father had said so many years ago.

My father died when I was nine years old.  During those nine years of my life, Dad was in the hospital about six of them.  When he died, Mom said he had thirteen major illnesses racking his body. He had a disease where his body built too much blood.  It would get to a point where if he bumped his arm, blood would seep through the pores. Another was the partial lung he had to breath with.  Dad had been in a coal mining accident that had crushed his chest leaving that piece of lung to supply his oxygen needs, and even it had black lung disease.

Mom related the story of once when the doctor walked into the hospital room to visit Dad.

"How are doing today, Mac?" the doctor asked.

"Just fine," Dad replied.

"You can't fool me," the doctor said.  "Remember, I'm your doctor.  I know what you suffer with and I know how that makes you feel.  You're not feeling fine."

"No," Dad responded.  "But you don't have to look far to find someone worse off than you."

I thought of his words while sitting there in the car and felt ashamed for the pity I was allowing myself.

I have a beautiful granddaughter getting married, and I have the opportunity of sharing in her happy day.  I had enough money in reserve to buy myself clothes, when there are some that do not have enough money to buy themselves food.  I live in a country where my illness was treated by knowledgeable and trained physicians, surgeons, oncologists and radiologists.  After my treatment, I went home to a comfortable bed, surrounded by people who love me.  I did not lay alone on a dirt floor in a hut in Africa or in the slums of some cities in America.  Yes, I had cancer, but I was in remission while there are others who suffer the same disease for years; some of whom are children.

After an adequate self talking to, I wiped the tears from my face, touched up my lipstick and went back into the store and found the blouse I needed.

I won't guarantee myself that I won't have other days when the sun leaves my sky and clouds darken my days.  But I do guarantee myself that when that happens, I will try to remember the words of my dad, take a look around me and be thankful for the problems I have instead of having those of others. You truly don't have to look far to be thankful.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Daren's Letter - September 9, 2014

It's September Honey.  The weather is bringing a few cool days with rain washing away the heat of summer.  The mountains are starting to color; red for now and soon the gold of the aspen will intermingle creating a kaleidoscope of color.  As much as you loved your summer sun, this time of year still brought with it the excitement of fall; the pheasant hunts and elk hunts.

If I could turn back the hands of time or turn the hour glass so the sand could pour backwards, I would take it back to the fall of 2008, and I would take us: you, your boys, your dad and I, to Dry Fork Canyon.  Our trailer house would be nestled back in the pine trees and your tent would be down the road a ways.  The smell of my cooking fried potatoes and onions and pork steaks would pull you, Vince and Christian to the trailer.  We would eat, and sit and the hunting stories would sail in the air. I remember quietly sitting there and listening as your dad would tell you stories of the past; stories you have heard since you were a little boy.  I could almost feel your excitement and the boys' excitement for opening morning.  You would take off through the mountains while your dad and I would road hunt since our hiking days had been lost in past years.  You could always find your way in the mountains.  You could even as a young boy.

I remember once when you went with the church on a hike with several other girls and boys and the teacher who was suppose to be the guide.  Night came, and none of you arrived at the designated time.  It ended up the teacher/guide got lost, and it was you who led the group of young people out of the mountains and safely home.  The mountains were a part of your blood, handed down to you through your dad.  The mountains were his church as they also became yours and Mark's.

In my mind, I picture you as you walk out of a strand of yellow aspen, your boys close behind.  You all are wearing your hunter orange.  I can feel the peace and happiness fill my heart, because I know at that time and place, you are filled with peace and happiness.

If I could only turn back that clock, I would capture the smile on your face, the scent of sagebrush on your clothes.  I would see you holding your gun with your left hand as you took your long, graceful steps and walked towards us.  You would steal a Pepsi out of our cooler and lean against the truck and tell us what you had seen.  

I love you Daren.  I love the times we spent together.  I love your stupid sense of humor, your laugh, the way you crossed your legs when you set down.  I love how you defended me with every breath you took and how you defended your sisters and brother.  No one messed with Daren's family.  I love the way you could talk to people.  It didn't matter if they were rich or poor, they were your equal and you theirs.  I love how you always stopped to help anyone in need and how you taught your boys to do the same.  I even love the smell of Marlboro reds.  I have a package on my nightstand in case you ever want to light one up.

Thank you Sweetheart for letting your Dad and I live with you while we were in Alaska.  You always made me feel so special.  Thank you for helping your dad bait his fishing pole when he became too ill to do it himself and thank you for helping him pull his king salmon from the Salcha River and help him hold it while he had his picture taken.  Thank you for giving up your bed so we could have one.  Thank you for keeping your patience when your dad decided to repair the bedroom door when you were trying to sleep.  Thank you for teaching your sons the value of family, and thank you for teaching me the value of unconditional love.

I miss you Honey.  I miss the sound of your voice on the other end of the telephone.  I miss feeling your arms around me in one of your bear hugs.  I miss your advice.  I just miss everything about you.
I know you are close by me.  I know that your love for me didn't die anymore than my love for you.  Love is what lives on and I know wherever you are at, you still carry all of your love with you.  But sometimes knowing you are close by me is not enough.  Sometimes I still want to feel your hugs, want to smell the scent of your aftershave, want to watch you run your fingers through your hair to straighten it.  Sometimes I want to watch you dry your ears with q-tips and put on the bracelet you made from parts of your fishing pole.  Sometimes I want to see you driving in your truck with your elbow resting on the window frame or see you bouncing along the highway in a backhoe or grader.

But, I have learned the hard way that I can't have everything I want.  But I am fortunate to have had them for as long as I did...long enough to build up the memories that roll through my mind as I sit here tonight.

I love you baby.  At some time long before this life, you honored me by choosing me to be your mom.  You chose me to give birth to you, to watch you grow, to laugh with you, to cry with you, to share in your achievements and in your losses.  You chose me to be the mom that would climb through the bushes and under limbs with you when you were a little boy.  To sit on the ground beside you next to a babbling brook and eat the ditch bank stew you had cooked in a coffee can over a little fire, using vegetables you had "borrowed" from a neighbor.  You chose me to accompany you on your trips to Dry Fork Canyon and build the memories that each fall replays in my mind.  You chose me to be the one who would love you, lose you, and miss you.

I love you Sweetheart. If you can, sneak into my dreams.  Let me hear your voice.

Forever and ever my baby you'll be.


Cancer~ The Miserable Journey

"I have cancer." The minute you let yourself absorb those words, your life changes.  What had been important yesterday, is either more important today or less.  Family and friends are definitely the more important, rather you can get a dye on your hair or not really doesn't matter any more.  You just hope you will at some time end up with hair again.

I have heard some say that chemotherapy didn't bother them.  I wasn't one of that group.  From the minute I took my four steroid pills the day before chemo and got severe migraine headaches,   chemo played havoc with me.  The headaches would come first.  I was given pain medication for the headaches and they proceeded to make me sick at my stomach.  I was given nausea medicine to counteract the pain meds and the nausea medication proceeded to give me more headaches.  I had developed an infection in my left breast which required my taking antibiotics which created yeast infection.  I do not need to explain the scourge of yeast infection as most women have suffered from it.  Needless to say, it is nothing I would wish on my worst enemy.

I would lay on my bed, with my plastic garbage can close at hand to vomit in.  My darling daughters, and daughter-in-law and sister were never far away bringing me ice packs for my aching head, carbonated sodas to dry and still my stomach, ice water to try and keep me hydrated, oatmeal and dry toast.  This would last for about two weeks.  Going into the third week after chemo, I would start feeling pretty good.  Hope was renewed that I was in fact not going to die with my head in a garbage can.  I felt a little more energy seep into me and was able to get out of bed and at least put dishes in the dish washer.  Of course, that period would only last a week until I received my next dose of chemo an would start all over again.

I was told my hair would start falling out the third week after my first chemo treatment, and as if on a tight time schedule, that is exactly when it did.  My daughters and son had taken me to San Diego for a few days during my one week of feeling good.  I showered and washed my hair to find it falling out in my hands.  It was strange.  It's not like losing a few strands here and there that usually accumulate in the bottom of the tub or on the shower stall.  It was handfuls of hair.  It was like pulling weeds after a soaking rain storm.  I used a comb and very, very carefully tried to assemble it without combing it all out.  Rainee had bought me two wide-brim hats so they came in very handy in trying to hide what was going on beneath.  The day we got back home, Shannon took me to Diane's Wigs and I had my head shaved.  I did not want my hair laying all over the house and I knew if I didn't get it cut off, that would be what would happen.  I bought a wig and several scarves to wear.  A person has two choices in life.  You can either find something funny or you can find something miserable.  My "hair situation" has been the bunt of many a joke between my children.  My son Mark awoke from a nap in his recliner and he had a hair style quite associated with Alfalfa on the Little Rascals.  I told him I liked his hair-do and he responded with "Well at least I have hair."  Rainee has told me not to use her shampoo and conditioner and Dawna my daughter-in-law asked if I carry hairspray in my purse.  It's the Whiting way of handling life and this way has seen me through many tough times.  I love my kids and their warped sense of humors.

On July 5, 2014, with the help of some old friends, I attended our 50th high school reunion.  What fun it was sitting with a group of women that had been my friends throughout my life.  I think when one suffers a life threatening disease, it puts everything into perspective.  You appreciate more and find less to ridicule.  Petty things suddenly find their place at the bottom of the pile.

On July 6, 2014 I awoke and was unable to get out of bed. I couldn't move to the left, nor to the right.  I called Mark who came in and helped me get out of bed and then took me to the emergency room at American Fork hospital.  It was determined through a CT scan I had some ruptured vertebrae.  The scan detected a light spot on my spine and the ER doctor suggested I have a PET Scan done.  With a PET scan, your blood sugar is tested when you go in, then you are given a drink of sugar based liquid.  Evidently, cancer likes sugar.  If there is cancer, it attacks the sugar showing up in the scan. The report was sent to my oncologist and she said it didn't show anything alarming.  I took the maximum amount of ibuprofen to try and get the inflammation out of my back along with a muscle relaxant when I went to bed.  My back seemed to get worse.

I went to an orthopedic surgeon to see what could be done.  After an X-ray he asked me "How did you hurt your back so bad?"  (Apparently, I had five ruptured discs.)  I told him I haven't fallen, I haven't been in an accident and I don't know how I hurt my back as bad as it was hurt.  I told him I had lifted an air conditioner and pushed a tire into the tire well in the back of my car, but he told me that wouldn't have caused the damage that I had.  He suggested I have an MRI to see if I had cancer in my back.  I was scheduled for another lumpectomy three days later, on September 3, 2014 so they scheduled the MRI for Friday, September 5, 2014.

The lumpectomy went off without a problem.  Rainee took me to the University of Utah Clinic located in Day Break.  Lola met us there.  Dr. Poretta removed a lump the size of a golf ball, cleaned out scar tissue that had accumulated since the original lumpectomy and cleaned the border of the original incision that had indicated there might still be cancer.  All in all, I felt like an egg beater had been put inside of me and turned on high.

Mark and Dawna brought me over a feather tic mattress to fit on my bed.  It made sleeping much more comfortable.

Friday I went in for the MRI.  I spent two hours in the tube having my upper and lower back checked out for bone cancer and then waited anxiously through the weekend waiting for the results.  On Monday, I received wonderful news.  My back was cancer free, and so was the second lump removed by Dr. Poretta.  I am cancer free!  I need to have radiation treatment that will last between 3-6 weeks, and I need to decide what to do about my back, but as of today September 9, 2014, I am on my way back to healthy.

The God I believe in doesn't pick and choose from the prayers sent His way.  He doesn't make the choice to save some of his children from cancer while having others die from the same disease.  With that thought, why then did I get breast cancer. Why do I get to live?  There has been no history of breast cancer in my family.  My mother and six sisters did not have breast cancer, so why me.  I only know that my experience with this disease has made me more aware, more compassionate, more caring towards others that suffer cancer and chemo and the side effects.  It made me cry for the woman I met sitting in a chemo chair who had stage 4 breast cancer.  It made me cry for my daughter's friend who's little granddaughter has liver cancer.  I have been blessed throughout my life with a minimum of health issues.  I don't think I truly appreciated feeling good.  As I write this, my feet and part of my legs, along with my fingers suffer neuropathy.  It is a result of the chemo that causes numbness and pain.  I don't know how long it will last, or if it's something I will just need to deal with for life.  I recall my sweet husband in the last weeks of his life.  His legs were so swollen and were constantly cold and painful.  I would put towels in the oven and heat them to wrap around his legs to try and warm them.  As I crawled into bed last night, my feet were so cold (but not on the outside, only inside) and I thought of Danny.  I appreciated all he went through with his illness, thankful to have been able to help him when I could, and regret any impatience I showed him when I shouldn't.  I admire the strength he showed.  He didn't give up.  He didn't give in.  Until the day he died, he was still "doing".

Having cancer has made me rely on others.  I have always been one who didn't want to ask of people. Having cancer released me from that pride.  I couldn't have done and faced what I did without the help and support of my children and my sister.

Why did I get cancer?  It was a lesson to be learned; a tool to teach me with.  It wasn't suppose to kill me.  It was to help me live more fully.

Now, if I just don't get Alzheimer's Disease and forget the lessons learned during this year.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Letter to Danny - July 26, 2014

Hi Honey:

Remember how I told you that everything builds up inside me until I become a pressure cooker ready to explode and its then I know I need to write to you.  It's funny.  Writing is what does it.  Remember when we use to go for rides and we would be riding along not saying anything and you would say "I can see you writing in that head of yours."  And you would be right.  My mind would be writing as we traveled along.  If you've been watching me lately honey, you haven't seen me writing. I wonder what it is you see when you look at me now. 

Do you see me sitting on my bed with a scarf covering a head that no longer has the long hair you loved so much? 

Do you feel my insecurities in not being able to do the things I use to do?  Do you feel how tired I am and not only physical,, but so emotional drained. 

Do you know what I would give to have you say "Let's go for a ride," and climb in your truck and take a ride up the canyon and smell the scent of pine needles and sagebrush.  To have you point out the deer and elk in some meadow or a sage grouse along side the road. 

We'd share a Pepsi and some fried chicken as we traveled along.  You would have your Copenhagen and I would have my Hersey bar and everything would be as it should be.  But its not that way honey.  Nor will it ever be again.  It's not the way it should be.  Or maybe it is.  Maybe this is as it should be.  Maybe this is what life has lead to.  Maybe this is the place I was meant to be.

Maybe there's lessons I need to learn that I couldn't  learn with you beside me.  Maybe the lesson is to appreciate what I have at this moment like I really didn't appreciate the moments I had with you bumping along in a Dodge 1-ton. 

What is it you see when you look at me now honey?  Why can't you just whisper to me

"You're doing okay Pretty One.  This is how it's suppose to be.  Everything is as it was meant to be. Remember when you use to tell me that we were the writers of our lives and that before we came to earth, we wrote our life story so we would learn the lessons we needed to learn. And I would say 'Oh God! That can't be true. I wouldn't have been so stupid as to include so-in-so in my life.' Remember when you use to tell me that.  Well just hang in there, Pretty One.  Everything is okay.  Everything will be okay.  Get up and get busy and you will feel better.  Remember when you use to tell me that a full head of hair didn't make the man.  Well guess what, Babe.  It doesn't make the woman either.  I know you're tired.  I know you've taken a lot of hits over the past three years.  I was one of the ones who hit you.  And then Daren.  And now cancer.  Well babe, it's all part of the life story you wrote.  And here I thought I married a smart girl.  Just keep on keepin' on Pretty One.  I know it would make you feel better if I were there and said 'Why don't you get up and fix me a bologna sandwich and grab me a Pepsi.'  I'm kidding.  It wouldn't make you feel better.  It would make you mad. I'm still with you though.  Can't you feel me brush your arm?  Can't you hear me whisper your name?  Can't you feel me kiss your cheek?  Maybe we're not taking a drive up the canyon, but wherever you are you can know I am with you.  You can know that I love you.  You can know that all's well."

I wish I could hear you say those things to me honey.  I miss you so much.

I love you Far Beyond the 12th of Never.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Cancer ~ This Kind of Sucks

The oncologists agreed that since I would be doing Chemo, perhaps a colonoscopy should be ran.  Since I had an abnormal EKG when I had my port installed, they thought I should also follow up with a cardiologist to make sure my heart was up for Chemo.  The colonoscopy was scheduled and prepared for.  Is there many things worse than the night before the colonoscopy?  I stayed up the night before drinking the giant sized Gatorade with a bottle of Miralax dumped in it.  I followed with the recommended dosages of Dulcolax.  Morning came and my sweet sister picked me up for first the colonoscopy in the morning, and then the Echo Cardiogram of my heart in the after noon. Lola had driven down from Centerville  (a sizable drive) to be my moral support, care giver, and encourage r.  I was feeling pretty darn yucky when I got in her car, but Lola being Lola had thought to bring a barf bag.  I chalked my nausea up to the medicines I had to take.  The colonoscopy went off without a hitch.  All was well....except for me.  I felt like I was going to die.  I told Lola I would need to reschedule my heart tests.  I needed to go home.  We were told I should to to American Fork Hospital and have some fluids administered intravenously, so Susan and Rainee met us there. I was then taken home and thankfully snuggled down in my bed.  Since my will is in place, and since I was certain I was dying, in the middle of the night I planned my funeral.  I could hear a part of my brain figure my cremation costs.  Then I would be planning the food, prayers, video clips, etc, etc. etc.

The next morning I woke to more fluid draining from the point of incision; this time it was a brownish-green color.  I told Mark I was going to emergency.  He told me he was taking me.  He called Susan and Rainee and once again my troupe was in place.  The diagnosis was simple.  The breast had become infected.  A bag of Intravenous antibiotics were flushed in to me.  The emergency room doctor called my surgeon and verified I would be sent home with added antibiotics and should see the surgeon the next day.  The next day, I went to my surgeon's office to be seen by his PA and his nurse.  They tool samples of the infection to have it checked and I went home.
My Chemo therapy of my triple x cancer cells was being delayed because of an infection caused by fluids escaping the incisions.  I was put on further antibiotics.  The next day my surgeon called and said after reviewing my situation and the problems that I had, that on the following Tuesday they would go in and either clean out the breast or do a mastectomy. I called Lola and told her what he had said and Lola got on the line and made me an appointment with a doctor from the Huntsman Center.  She turned out to be just what I needed.  She was caring, compassionate,thorough.  She scheduled an MRI to find out exactly what we were looking at.  She found another cyst in the same breast.  A biopsy had been done on it and came back negative, but the size and shape worried her.  Apparently, woman with Triple X also run a chance of having a separate cancer type in the same breast.  After weighing the options of more lumpectomies, biopsies, etc. I asked her to just remove it.  More antibiotics were ordered and chemo was scheduled.  First Chemo, then Mastectomy, Radiation and Reconstructive Surgery.  A Plan was in place.

June  4 was my first chemo treatment.  You are given a tube of cream that you spread about 1/4" thick over your port.  This is done about 1/2 hour before you go for chemo.  This cream is covered with plastic wrap.  This process numbs where the port is at.  Having the needle inserted into the port was a piece of cake.  There was no pain at all.  My problem began with the four steroids I was to take the day before Chemo and the day after Chemo.  The steroids are suppose to help build resistance  I ended up getting a four day headache that would not go away.  I had been given pain medicine for the headaches that would only hold the pain at bay for about two hours.  And with PAIN MEDICINE COMES THE WONDER WORLD OF CONSTIPATION.  THEN ADD TO IT THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF YEAST INFECTION BROUGHT ON BY THE ANTIBIOTICS.

So my first bout of chemo was a learner and it sucked.  The 9th of June was to be Danny's and my 50th wedding anniversary...That day I was ready to bag chemo ever again.  But then, enter my children. They came in the force they always come in.  There is Crying.  There is Get Up and Get Busy, it will make you feel better, There's the never ending "Where are we going to Eat?"  There is the laughter in the house. There is the "What can I do for you Mommie?"  "I'll drive down from Idaho for your next treatment.  Mom, I'm flying down from Alaska tomorrow to be with you. "Mom, when you feel like it come on home." And within a matter of hours my crazy bunch of children are planning to take me to San Diego. To the ocean, the sands, peace.  Two of my loves have left me.  Now stands the Magnificent 7.

With this type of love.  I've  gotta Win!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Daren's Letter - May 26, 2014

Hello My Darling Son:

It's Memorial Day and I don't have a grave to decorate for you and your dad.  But it's okay because I know that you would not be there anyway.  I know you are not in the ground, or in the urn with your ashes.  You are everywhere that you always wanted to be.  I picture you on a Harley along Highway 101 taking in the view of the ocean along California.  I see you walking through the vineyards or lounging in the sun on a Caribbean beach.  How you loved the sun.  I can see you in your cut off Levis hand fishing the Provo River.  The sun shines off your hair as your back becomes more bronze.  I can hear your laughter in the breeze and hear your prayers amid the mountain pines.  I picture you free my dear son.  So free and happy.

Rainee and I took flowers to the Provo River today.  I kissed each one and threw it out into the current, knowing that from where you are at, you will see them floating in that old river that you and your dad loved so much.

There are times honey that I think I am forgetting the sound of your voice and it scares me  That should be ringing in my ears every second of every day; or so I think.  I close my eyes and I listen to my mind.  I picture myself calling you on your phone and hearing you pick up.  You say "Hello" in the way only you would say it and then you would say "What's up, Mom?"  And we would talk.  An hour could go by and we would still have things to say to each other.

I know that if you were here today, you would be a nervous wreck worrying about me and my cancer.  You would be telling me to get mad at the doctors and make them listen to me.  You would be so angry thinking that I wasn't being taken care of.  You always worried about me.  Even when there wasn't really anything to worry about.  And I find comfort in knowing that you and your dad are not worrying about me right now  Not because you don't love me the same, or care about me.  It's because where you are at, you already know the outcome of everything.  You have a unique view of the road I am on, and you know that wherever that road leads me, it will be the one I should be on and the destination will be where I am destined to end up at.  And I know my darling son, you and your dad are with me  I know you stand watch over me as I sleep, and watch me as I walk my days.  What a comfort that is to me,

I miss you honey.  I miss you so much, but I wouldn't want you to be back here fighting the demons you fought for so many years.  I would rather you be on your beaches, or your Harley, or in your mountains.  I would rather know that wherever you are, the sound of your laughter echos and that you are truly free.

Just so you know, there are so many times when I am missing you that Mark will say or do something that is exactly like you.  He was working in his yard yesterday and had been all day.  Suddenly, like a little boy throwing a temper tantrum he yelled "I'm done.  I'm not doing this anymore." and he threw his weed bucket across the lawn.  I burst out laughing because not only was it so much Mark, it was so much you too.  It makes me happy you both share that same silly gene that has brought me to laughter so many times.

Well my darling boy, will you do something for me?  If you get a chance, at night when I'm sleeping will you whisper in my ear.  I need to hear your voice.

I love you darling.

Forever and ever my baby you'll be,


Friday, May 16, 2014

Happy Birthday Danny - May 17, 2014

Happy Birthday Honey!

I know.  It won't officially be your birthday for one hour and one minute  but that never stopped us from celebrating early before.  Heck.  We were celebrating days before and days after because after didn't like birthdays.  That is why, I baked your apple cakes and usually planned on your rib eye steak and potatoes and onions, or perhaps potato salad.  That is why the kids bought you presents you would never use, but would save, still in their packages, under the bed.  That is why you would ask Shannon "Whatcha gonna get me for my birthday, Bapper?" And then sing "Happy Birthday to me...and Sheree."

How could I have known Honey, that those silly little things you did, would be the things that would be the most important memories to me.  I don't think about the amount of money you made.  That doesn't matter in the least.  It's picturing you sitting and bouncing our children and grandchildren on your knee singing "Ride the Pony Brown and Small."  It's watching you grab hold of their outstretched hands and throwing them up into the air.  It's the way you hiked up your pants and the little hop you made when you did it, and your little reading glasses perched on the end of your nose.  It's the little hole you had in the bottom of your foot from when you ran that stick into it and the scar you had on your butt from when Dennis Sorensen accidentally shot you with a BB gun when you were little boys.

It is your anger over injustice, and your ability to forgive.  It's your sleeping with your bible under your pillow because you had heard me tell our children to do that to ward off bad dreams.  I close my eyes, and I can almost feel your hand that I held for more than fifty years.  It's a rough and calloused hand because you were a rough and calloused man but mostly only on the outside.

Happy Birthday Honey.  If you were here, you would be trying to convince your sisters Tessie and Sandi that you were the younger.  How you hated getting older, until you found out we got senior citizens discounts and then getting older wasn't so bad.

Your last Birthday with us, we spent at the Silver Gulch in Fox, Alaska.  You asked Ashley's boyfriend Perry what he got you for your birthday.   I can remember you sitting there with the candles of your birthday cake aglow and for a moment then, I knew, you wouldn't be with me on your next.  I swallowed that fear as I did quite often the three years we were in Alaska.  I knew Alaska would be where you would live out your biggest dream on your bucket be an Alaskan, and I knew Alaska would be the place where you would die.

Well Darling, your birthday keeps rolling around and all of us who love you so much will keep celebrating.  Perhaps it will be balloons reaching towards the sky.  Perhaps it will be a birthday letter written to you from your wife. Whatever honey, it is still the Whiting Family's National Holiday.

Happy birthday!

With all my love far beyond the 12th of Never.

Susie    .

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cancer - What the Heck?

The day after my lumpectomy I was feeling pretty darn good.  My girls and I went to a movie.  Having had seven children natural childbirth, I consider myself having a pretty high pain tolerance.  I can't tell you how many times while sitting in the dentist's chair I've said to myself, if you can have a baby, you can do this.  That phrase has helped me get through quite a few unpleasant experiences.  But there was one difference.  When you have a baby, you know the baby will be born and then the pain will start to go away.  Not so with the next month after my surgery.  My breast started to swell and soon, it was as if the doctor had inserted a baseball where the lump had been.  The skin all the way up under my arm, into the armpit and around my back became numb.  But it was only numb to the touch of the skin,  Inside, it was very painful and on the outside, the skin felt as though it was chafed. 

My surgeon said the site was looking fine.  When I asked him about the swelling, he assured me it was normal and might last up to a month.  I was to put ice on it.  I did as I was told for two weeks and there was no change.  I googled "swelling after a lumpectomy" and found that a lumpectomy can actually be more painful than a mastectomy.  The site said I should be wearing a compression bra.  My sister and I went to a specialty bra shop and they had them for $126.00.  The problem was, I had no idea how much compression I should be applying or where it should be applied to.  I didn't want to spend $126.00 only to be buying the wrong thing. 

I called my surgeon's office again, told the nurse about the pain I was in, and that I didn't know what I should be doing.  She referred me to a lymphodemiologist at the hospital.  I arrived hopeful that finally someone could tell me what was going on.  I was taken back to a small room where the lady began measuring my fingers on both hands.  She measured around them, my wrist, from my wrist to my elbow, around my arm, from my shoulder to my elbow.  With each little measurement, she told me she was hesitant about working on me because she was afraid if there was infection, she could be aiding the infection to move to other parts of my body.  My hopes for an answer was going down the drain.  My breast, arm and now back of my shoulder was aching.  After getting my measurements, she said she would call the doctor's office and let them know her concerns.  I don't know what she ever did with the measurements she took.  Somewhere in the hospital, someone knows the circumference of my fingers and wrists. 

I called the surgeon's office once again and was able to get in that day.  The surgeon wasn't there, but his physician's assistant told me it didn't look like it was infected and to keep putting ice on it.  The nurse wrapped me with a 6" ace bandage, but the way she had to wrap me caused the ace bandage to put pressure right through the lump.  When I got back home, I took it off, put back on my bra, but made it tighter so it would offer the same type of compression the ace bandage had given me without cutting through the lump.  My sister Lola kept the ice packs coming for me. 

A week later, I had another follow up appointment with my surgeon.  He was on an emergency surgery, so another doctor took care of me.  Looking at the breast, he assured me that it was extremely swollen and hard.  He said I had developed a mass of blood in the area and that mass of blood was congealing.  He asked it I had been putting my HOT PACKS on it.  I told him no.  I told him I had been putting ice packs on it as instructed.  He said I shouldn't have been putting ice on it after the third day.  The ice was causing the blood to congeal more.  I should be putting wet heat on it.  He told me it could take up to another six weeks for my body to dissipate the clot.  For the last three days, the wet heat has been making me feel better.

I decided I only have a high pain tolerance when I can see light at the end of the tunnel.  My mind needs to know what is going on.  As I write today, there is a glimmer of light shining in the distance so I can deal with this.  Everything is going to be okay.