Tuesday, April 2, 2019


Two weeks now since the gamma knife procedure. I still have a numb skull and experience moments of panic when I think it will always be like this. But they said "weeks to months" so I just need to wait out the time. The peg holes are scabbing over, still hurt, and Richie found two more in the back next to the other ones that nobody said anything about. Did they hit the wrong spot and had to do it twice?? I will ask the radiation oncologist when I see her in 2 weeks.

The two peg holes on my forehead are starting to scab and heal as well. One is barely visible.

Today I had my 2.5 hour evaluation to see if I am eligible for cataract surgery. I am and decided to go forth with it. I spent most of that time testing with opticians, optometrists and technicians who did tons of tests on my eyes. The best part of the eval was that  my choice of surgeon was available at the end of my appt to come and talk to me. I chose Vance Thompson, the internationally recognized ophthalmologist and surgeon. I cannot believe how laid-back and warm he was. So reassuring, helping me decide what lens will be best for me. Asking me about myself. He said at the end that it was going to be an honor to work on me and that he promised me a great outcome. I have total trust in his care.

This will happen on April 22 and April 29. I wonder how many miles over the 8 years we have racked up driving to Sioux Falls for for hearing loss, cancer, scans, scan results.  So tired of the drive. Good thing medical mileage is tax deductible.

So now I have 3 weeks and I refuse to worry about it. God tells us in scripture that we need to lay our burdens on him, and he will give us rest. And so I will.

That's it for tonight. I only slept last night from 5-7 AM due to the stupid decision to eat something sweet before bed, which I have vowed not to do. I was buzzed all night. I am WAY behind in sleep and am going to bed right now----at 10:00-----way earlier than my usual 12-1 AM I hope I can sleep for 10 hours.


Thursday, March 21, 2019


Well, I promised a report on my Gamma Knife radiation and here it is: I SURVIVED IT! God showered me with a peace and calm that truly did pass all understanding.

The neurosurgeon, who told me he was from Cloquet, MN, came into my room and inserted 2 of the pegs (pins I guess they call them). (Yes, they numbed me up well.)

This pic is of half the "cage" they locked me into. The other half is attached like a football helmet with another two pins in the back of my skull. They did not give me sedation for the Gamma, but a sedative enough to make me dopey and mostly unaware, but I could still talk to them. I laid there for 2.5 hours without moving. That is another God thing. When it was over, they bandaged me up and sent me on my way.

I must say I had the greatest nurse ever. She stayed with me for the entire day, (as well as the day before when we did a CT and an MRI), tending to my every need with a huge smile and oodles of sweet compassion. She and I just clicked......we hugged when I left and she told me to "ring the bell" for last treatment. (from her lips to God's ears)

So, the life after Gamma Knife:
1. My entire head/skull is completely numb. I can't feel a thing, not even my hair. It may be weeks or months before it comes back. It is, friends, the weirdest sensation I think I've ever felt.

2. I have to sleep on 2 pillows for at least a week to keep my head elevated. For someone who uses a limp goose-down pillow every night (which means I'm almost flat), this is a real challenge. I have maybe gotten 3 hours of sleep each night. After tonight, only 5 more nights to go. 

3. My son has aptly dubbed me "Numbskull."

4. My skull itches and I have to rub anti-itch cream into my hair and thus making a mess when I lay against anything. I carry a towel around. Interesting that an unfeeling scalp can itch and that the cream temporarily helps.

5. Today I am in a new phase of beauty. The med is running down and pooling under my eyes giving me a lovely blue/purple hue and I have my 2 pin scars on my forehead that have to heal up and I have very trendy yellow betadine highlights around and on my hairline and eyes. (Scary mommy)

6. I have to rest and elevate my head for a week. I have not left the house for 6 weeks between the bronchitis and vertigo and bad eye problems. Why should I let Richie have to give up the honor of frequenting Walmart and doing almost all of the cooking.????

7. My vertigo is getting so much better. Praise God for that.

God gets all the glory for a good outcome to the Gamma Knife procedure. We won't know how effective the treatment was til my next scan. I was anxious about it and God's fingerprints were just all over it, giving me a great team, his amazing grace and peace, and a successful outcome.

I will have Richie take a picture of me post-recovery!! I am so ready to be healthy, feel healthy, and live a restored life!

Thanks to you all for the multitude of prayers for me before and during this time of stress.

Happy April. Let spring begin!!

Friday, March 15, 2019


It has been a tough month....maybe the worst since I had my brain radiation in 2015. Just before we were to leave on our Florida trip, I came down with a severe case of vertigo. Richie had to carry me to the bathroom. The spinning was awful. I threw up twice the first day and prayed like mad I would be over this in 5 days so I could pack. 

The flight came and went without us. By this time, I also had bronchitis and Dick had an URI. We loss our deposit, we disappointed Sam, we disappointed ourselves and I have been battling guilt because it is all due to me. I have been planning this vacation for a year---only to lose it.

I spent the next 3 weeks basically fighting vertigo, for which there is no cure. I have not been out of the house in 4 weeks, sleeping most of the time. That is my escape, the same one my Dad used. 

On the 3rd week, I developed diplopia/convergence insufficiency in my eyes and see double. This put an end to my beloved books which kills me

On Monday I will go for my scans------that would not phase usually put they are making me use a traditional MRI----the long tunnel-----which I know I couldn't get through without total panic so they have agreed to sedate me for that one. If my brain tumors are growing, they will do gamma-knife radiation on my brain the next day. I would take 10 root canals over this. I told them they will have to give me the strongest shot of sedative they have. I want to remember none of this.

I won't get into my cataract worries yet. I need to live thru the next week. You could join me in my prayers for peace and calm and no shaking from fear. I know a half dozen "DO not fear" scriptures which I'm trying to memorize. I do trust that God will put the contingent of Ekstrom angels around me both days. I will write when its all done and results are known.

Dear Sam and Gretch, who just 2 days before sold their house so they could move into the new one, got the worst news. the basements of both the new house and their own house were getting wet in this flooding. Some of my friends in Vermillion can't even get out of thie own house. Water surrounds them.

 She is alone......Sam is working in Chicago......and if I didn't have vertigo, I would be up there in a flash. A friend has been helping her. I so pray they the water damage doesn't ruin new dry wall and that they can get the carpet restored in the old house, so they can show it again. The first buyers backed out. Just ache for them.

Love to all...(ignore all the typos today. Am too weak to edit)

Sunday, February 17, 2019


If ever there was a bad week, I am having one. On Tuesday, I was told I will need cataract surgery. This, folks, terrifies me. Always has. The thought of anyone cutting on my eye gives me all-out anxiety. And I know I need it....my vision keeps deteriorating in my right eye, more to chemo side effects than normal aging. I deferred the big 3-hour evaluation til after Florida since I can't wear contacts for 2 weeks prior to the eval. If they could just knock me out.....but I understand I will be awake, but unaware. What if I do become aware? O, man, this is not what I wanted to hear. I could worry myself into a total panic.

Then the next day, I woke up with a raging case of vertigo. Richie had to carry me to the bathroom. I could not sit up, walk, bend or turn on head. It has never been this bad. I finally vomited at about 10:00 from the spinning. Needless to say, I spent the entire day on my back, mostly sleeping and watching the ceiling. It was slightly improved the next day but even today I still am woozy, unsteady on my feet, and feeling as if my head is unattached to my body. I am praying so hard that God will heal the vertigo totally before we leave on our trip. I could not go like this. I'd be a liability.

I spent Valentine's Day in bed again, and was once again reminded what love really looks like. It is not flowers and chocolates and fancy dinners out. It is having a husband who meets your every need, bringing me a vomit bowl (then, without a word, taking it and dumping it out, cleaning it, and returning it to me), wipes to clean my mouth, gum to take the edge off my rotten breath,  a phone to have next to me, ice water, bathroom carries, holding me up by the armpit when I tried to walk. This, friends, is true love. You newlyweds are rolling your eyes now, but your time will come when this becomes a reality for you too. Real love, real commitment.  I am so blessed with Richie.

I am able to sit still on this computer chair and type this without spinning today. I am grateful for that. It feels like improvement.

If you are a pray-er I would relish your prayers for quick healing of this awful vertigo.


Sunday, February 10, 2019


I officially hit a sad low in my weight today. Haven't been under 100 pounds since I was a "tween."  Looking back over the last few weeks, I haven't really liked any of the hamburger dishes that Dick has made and have eaten less than usual. I SO need to put on 5-10 pounds. It's so hard when you're not supposed to eat sugar or white carbs in any form.

We still hold out hope that Sam and Gretch will get a unit at our place. Another week to 10 days is all we have before flights for them would be all filled up. I pray boldly every day.

My Ancestry results were underwhelming. I know more from the research I did many years ago when I wrote books on each side of my family's history than I learned from them.....much more. The only matches that were close were my first cousin Nancy and 3 of my second cousins and about 500 6th-8th cousins. Why no just go back to Adam and Eve? Pretty worthless. They did not even get the breakdown right. I am 25% Irish and they got that close, 22%. But they missed our ancestral home, Castleblaney in County Wexford. They said we came from County Cork.. They had me for 33% German and I am 50% German. They gave me 31% English and I am 0% English. So anyway......it was not an enlightening report.

4th day without a headache!!!!!I am no longer using my new perfume and it has made a difference.

We got a snitch of snow last night. We've had brown grass and dry roads it seems, for weeks, even as our neighbors to the north of us are getting inundated with snow. I like brown grass. This morning there is a light covering of snow....maybe an inch. My heart aches for all of you who are getting dumped on in the past couple weeks.

I am not a political person, but New York's new abortion laws have me thinking that we have a nations of barbarians. That a full-term pre-born baby can be murdered just minutes before she is born ........they are no better than the Nazis. That a big crowd of people cheered outside the NY capital when it was signed makes me sick to my stomach. Instead of this heinous procedure, why don't we have a nationwide push for ADOPTION?? Have the baby you do not want and give to a waiting couple who is yearning for a child. Maybe the government should give a sizable check to women who choose to have their child and agrees to give them to an adoption agency?? Could that change their mind?  I'll step down from my soapbox now.

Off to take a nap.....I have learned to love them!! Stay warm and safe.

     Delayed answers to prayers are not denials. Many prayers are received and recorded, yet underneath are the words, "My time has not come." God has a fixed time and an ordained purpose, and He who controls the limits of our lives also determines the time of deliverance.  (From Streams in the Desert)             

Thursday, January 31, 2019


My decision as to what option to take was actually made for me, and I think it is the best one. I called my Denver doctor's staff to set up a remote conference with him, and they never did get back to me. I don't know if my note was lost or if God's hand made it  disappear, but that week of waiting gave me discernment. I knew I was supposed to go back on the chemo that I was taking before I took the drug holiday.

My SF doc wants to re-scan me (read: dread and sighing) in 2 months and see what this chemo is doing. If the new tumors are increasing, we will have to either go up in dosage or try the brand new targeted therapy for my type of cancer. Or I will need to have the radiation again to the brain which makes me quake with the thoughts of needing steroids afterwards again. I believe I would consult my University of Colorado doctor. He is a world -renowned expert in my strain of cancer.

I keep reminding myself that God has the final word. Not drugs or radiation. I keep my eyes on Him and His Word.

We have been in the polar vortex like the rest of the midwest and east coast. Yesterday we had 45-below (wind chill temp) which I realize is warm compared to northern MN temps which got down to 64-below. Our little cabin is creaking and shivering. I am sure that the lake has frozen clear to its bottom and that ice won't be off the lake til well after fishing opener. 

We have been pretty much inside for 3 days. The whole town pretty much closed down for Tuesday and Wednesday. Today is 6 degrees and we had to get to Walmart for groceries. We were out of nearly everything. By Saturday, it should be 40!!! Break out the cut-offs.

We are still prayerfully waiting for a condo unit for Gretchen and Sam in Florida the same week that we are there. But few people have released their units for rental. I will feel so sad if they can't come.....they make Florida vacations so much more fun.  I will get on next year's waiting list this month. A year in advance puts me pretty close to the top of the waiting list. Sun and warmth can't come soon enough for me.

We have a new baby in the family. Margaux Bea was born to my niece Betsy (Mike's youngest daughter) and her husband Michael about a month ago. Can't wait to meet her. Wish we didn't live 9 hours apart.

I hope you all survived the past week without frostbite and a greater sense of gratitude for being able to afford the gas/oil to heat your warm homes.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


The results of my lung and brain scans were mixed. From the neck down, little has changed except for more fluid around my lung (it is already about 2 qts I'm carrying around) and the fact that my lung is getting smaller and has a tough cancerous rind around it so it could never descend into the lung cavity even if I had an effusion.

The three brain tumors n my brain all grew in these 2 months off chemo. There is even a new one bigger than the previous 3. One doubled in size and 2 went up about 2/3 as big. This is not great news. I had been hoping God would show His hand while I was off my chemo so he would have ALL the glory for healing.

I am faced with two options. Go under radiation again to get those tumors....which freaks me because of the steroids I would need afterward. It was the steroid use after my first round of brain radiation that ruined by body permanently. Pain and weakness in all my muscles, vertigo, imbalances, no appetite. I can hardly listen to this option. The other is to start up again on the same chemo I have been on for several months.

I pray for discernment about what to do. I want to hear God clearly in my spirit and obey. Maybe He won't weigh in on this issue, but I hope He does. I am asking boldly in the name of Jesus for clarity.

That's all I've got for now.