Thursday, November 16, 2017


 God keeps putting opportunities in front of me for giving back. Among them, we are getting trained into working the community food shelf. It is such a great program. There is a lot of carrying of pallets of food, which I cannot do, but I have found my niche as the check-in person and someone who helps the shopper pack up all their groceries. I really love the thoughts of one of my trainers when I told her I might have counted wrong. She said, "Always err on the side of generosity. If they take two too many cans, just let it go. This is all about giving food away."  Even though we need several more shifts of learning the ropes, we are enjoying it so much.

We went to Minneapolis to see the kids and decided as long as we were 5 hours in, we went up to the cabin, through lots of snow that made it feel very Christmas-like. I sat frozen in front of the bunkhouse heater for an hour (how can rooms possibly get this frozen?) until a contractor came who met with us about doing some work for us next spring. He hasn't decided yet if he wants to put a bid in. Since a storm was in pursuit of our area up there, we turned around 2 hours later and drove over 4 more hours. 9 hours of driving in one day. Ugh. 

I have to show you the pictures of our garage rooftop at the lake. The snow that had fallen that week slid down our metal roof and made a beautiful etched curlicue!! Wonder if it is still there.

We are so excited about going to Kansas City for Thanksgiving. We will be with Joyce (Dick's sister) and brother-in- law Ron and their family. They have 2 of their 4 kids in town and 6 grandchildren, so there will be a great family gathering. They are such a fun family.

My one side effect of hearing loss due to brain radiation and chemo has gotten to the point of me not hearing a soft-spoken person sitting right next to me .It is so frustrating. I have resisted getting one for so long. I need to be humble enough to accept this loss. My first appointment is the Monday after Thanksgiving. I am going to check out two different places with very different policies about trying out the aids, so we'll just see.

Dick and I just finished a 1 hour exercise class (8 circuits) and it is REALLY a workout, for both of us. It is a challenge because my balance and my muscles are already so compromised. We've met so many nice people. 

I am so thankful for all my blog readers. Thank you remaining steadfast in listening to the ramblings of a memory-impaired woman. I have probably written the same thing twice at times. Have a wonderful grace-filled Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

ATTN: Anon

To the anonymous person who made a comment yesterday. First of all, thank you so very much. It touched me a great deal that my blog was able to give you any sort of inspiration. I would really like to know who you are and find out in what ways I can be praying for you. If you are on Facebook, please find me on Facebook search and send me a personal message!! I would love to get to know you! My last name is Hieb-Ekstrom.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


In this lifetime, I think we all have wished something to be that ended up not to be. Before every brain and lung scan, I think, "What if I hear the words CANCER FREE?" But, for perhaps the 22nd time in 7 years, the results were NOT "cancer free", but "status quo." In other words, my half dose of chemo is not decreasing my tumors, but neither are they growing. What can I say? I left the cancer center grateful once again for the gift of life, but still wishing THIS HAD BEEN THE DAY.

We are not going to change up the regime. I am tolerating this dosage without nausea and loss of appetite. Despite my 24/7 pain everywhere in my body, the pain reminds me that I am alive, and that Jesus suffered even more than I am. I try to cope with it without complaint.

I asked Yahweh again this morning what He had for me as far as my purposes in Him. I so want to be used in the kingdom of God, but I have so many limitations. I've asked him the same question for over a year, every day. Today, I felt that the Holy Spirit gave me the word "GIVE." I felt it loudly in my spirit. 

Perhaps that is all He expects in this season of deficit. I can give what I can give. My time. My money. My resources. My wisdom. I can give encouragement and compassion. I can give advice to others my age who are dealing with caring for aging parents. Perhaps some of my writing on this blog can bless someone sometime.

Yes, I still can give. And I believe that is what I am supposed to do for right now.

Today I went with Dick to fill an Operation Christmas Child shoebox for Samaritan's Purse (which is always fun); I treated my elderly next door neighbors to the Lion's Pancake Lunch; and we are leaving in an hour to put in a shift creating sustainable meal packages for the FEED JUST ONE organization, which ships food to starving children in Honduras and other countries.  

I feel so good about today. This GIVING as a primary focus can change my own and others' lives. So my new goal is to give back and feel the joy from it. Cancer tumors or no cancer tumors, I intend to be a giver until my journey ends.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


We are back from our road trip and enjoyed it so very much. We would rate the Black Hills #1, Grand Tetons #2, and Yellowstone #3 in terms of sheer beauty. There were several highlights: the sweet donkeys on the highway in Custer SP who voraciously ate our whole wheat crackers while trying to get their entire heads in the window; the herd of maybe 50-75 buffalo delaying our traffic, surrounding our cars, sauntering down the highway in Yellowstone (one humped another within 3 feet of my window....a sight I hope to never see again); a breathtaking Big Horn Mountain gorge where we pulled over to eat our apples and protein bars for lunch; all the geyser basins in Yellowstone, Old Faithful.

The weather was interesting. We could have a temp in the 40's in the early mornings and be in sweatshirts because the sun is apparently much warmer the higher you go. The tourists throughout the trip were heavily Japanese. We were in the minority. Half of Tokyo must have been in Yellowstone last week. We didn't hear a lot of English until we got to Jackson Hole. There we felt like country bumpkins amidst all the "elitism." Way too upscale and expensive for our comfort.

We took very few scenery pictures. You realize that a camera cannot even come close to bringing the beauty to life. It is so one-dimensional. The scenery is in our memories where it is still 3-dimensional and stunning. 

Decided on Sunday, our 34th wedding anniversary, to try to drive all the way from Cheyenne, WY to home in one day. It was a long 9.5 hours of driving, but we "celebrated" with a $1.29 Chicken Little at KFC, eaten in a parking lot next to an abandoned business. We have had more romantic anniversaries! We stopped in Nebraska to see my dear friend Earleen and her new husband Carl. So good now to picture where they will be starting their new lives together. I love it when widowed people find new love.

Having new brain and lung scans the week after next. So interested to see if my half-dose of chemo is doing anything at all, or if the tumors are just growing. I am so grateful to God every morning-----for life, for my husband and kids, and the gift of another 24 hours on this earth.

Here are a few pics--
One of many lunch stops

Needles Highway in the Black Hills

I loved the donkeys

Fascinating to watch the boiling water causing the steam in the geo-thermal pools.

Old Faithful 

Sylvan Lake

Entering Yellowstone. We saw lots of high elevation snow.

The buffalo surrounded our cars and held up traffic for 20 minutes

Thursday, September 21, 2017


We are back home, having said goodbye to our cabin on one of the nicest days of the summer. It is always sad to leave the lake. Every summer, even after 29 years, we invest more and more of ourselves in our 26 acres of woods. It is like putting layers of treasured memories around the soul of the cabin. 

It is filled with laughter and grief and games. S'mores over the campfire, storms that have turned us into a war-zone, and picking berries.  Taking Sam skiing, having all our church youth group hanging out, and lazy boat rides on whisper-gentle days. Five deer slowly walking across our large front windows and us freezing ourselves, lest the least little flinch will alert them and cause them to run off. The memories---so many--- exist between every pine board that lines our little cabin. Yes, it is hard to leave the lake.

It has taken a good week now to get re-settled and to remember where everything is. And where I am!! For 4 days, in the middle of the night, I would look around and have no idea where I was. This was not our cabin bedroom!! I continue to open the opposite under-the-sink cupboard for garbage and answer Richie's questions about where does this or that go?

Funny how you can absorb the footprint of a place so deeply that being back in your home feels foreign.

Went to the oncologist on Monday and he is keeping me on the current regime. I will have a brain scan and a pet scan in a month. Other than the bad muscle pain and weakness over my whole body, I am tolerating this half-dose well. We'll see in a month if it is doing anything to help my tumors shrink.

We are taking off again on a road trip. Heading to Yellowstone and Jackson Hole, via the Black Hills. I have a gene for planning and organization and my husband wants to be unscheduled on this trip, so I need to find a cell inside of me that can deal with flying by the seat of my pants for awhile! Yikes!

We had a great trip to Target Field with the kids to watch the Twins squash the Royals 17-0 on a gorgeous 74 degree night under a nearly-full moon and stars. Epic game to see in person.

I didn't take many pics this summer, but here are a few.

Twins game with the kids

Our finished retaining wall. Richie did a fantastic job.
 Every single brick is square on level. (Cell phone pics make it look wavy, but it is not)

Crappie fishing

Sam and Gretchen's puppy climbing onto Richie, sound asleep in the recliner,
and attacking his face with licks.

 I made a brick rock garden for flowers next summer. Just need to
add dirt and plant!

A quote I found very inspiring this summer (in one of the 30 books I read): 

"What is patience?" the protagonist asks. The response: "IN THE ARC OF A LIFE LIVED IN FAITH, IT ALLOWS THE ALMIGHTY TO BE ALL-MIGHTY."

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Today is the 7th year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. I look back on that devastating day and felt, along with my husband and son, a pain so deep, the bottom of it couldn't be reached. We thought it was the beginning of the end. My first oncologist gave me 14 months to live.

Seven years later, as I continue to have faith that God is still going to heal me of this stage 4 lung cancer and brain cancer, I marvel at the milestones I never dreamed I would see. Sam finishing his freshman year of college, being able to take him back to Dordt for his second, third, and fourth years, graduating, getting married to a great gal, helping him move to Minneapolis, rejoicing with him as he got jobs that he loves. Never in a million years did I think God would grant me ANY of those great moments. Yet, He did. 

Oh, the grace of my Abba......

Lavish grace that has allowed me more time on this earth.

On the night of my diagnosis, while tears were soaking my pillow, I heard from the Spirit of God, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's son may be glorified through it." (John 11:4).

I believe God is faithful to His word and I believe the message from His Word was meant to sustain me in all the very difficult days and years ahead.

While on occasion, when I am weak, I still plead with God to heal me. But much more often, I just thank Him now, for what he Has given me and what He is going to do. I thank Him for the unexpected blessings that have graced my life for the past 7 years.

7 year anniversary

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Things are going well for us. My chemo was upped to half strength and my only side effects are headaches. Richie tells me these are brain tumors evaporating, and I am choosing to believe him and not stress over the headaches. I am here in town for another appointment today.

Our lake is the warmest it has been in years. It was 81 degrees yesterday and the air was colder than the water. It has been great sitting on our floats and going WAY to drift in.
It is finally shorts weather!!

Richie is building a beautiful retaining wall for us. We had a piece of land cut off from our hill by our driveway to straighten it, and we need a wall to hold up the hill from eroding. The blocks are 70 pounds apiece so he is building muscle for sure. He also is losing weight. He is drenched from head to tow from sweat by 11 in the morning, if not earlier. The job he is doing is meticulous. You would never guess a professional didn't do it. I am so proud of him taking this on. Getting 8 tiers of rocks perfectly level is no small task!!

I love God because he is sovereign and majestic and hundreds of other reasons. But this summer I have seen his sense of humor. Earlier in May, I considered trying to let my hair grow out white, which was what it came in as after brain radiation. Dick and I both decided we weren't ready for me to be white. So for 2 years, I have been coloring that white. As it grew out I always had white roots.

Well, I had a chat in May with Terry, my pastor's sweet wife and friend who I noticed had some patches of white on her head. I asked her if she going to quit coloring and go white and she said yes. Something about what she said just gave me the courage to do the same. What do I care the way people look at me? If they think I look 75 years old, they do. 

So.....I assumed the transformation would take about 2 months since my hair is so short. Well, here is God's humor. He has changed my (when, I don't know) hair color to salt and pepper. Today, there is some white, but just as much dark brown. Are you kidding me? The radiation people told me my hair would probably come back and stay white.  Apparently God thought I would look better with some color!! He laughs.

Here are a few shots of our summer.

Captain, Sam's pup we babysat

Richie cutting up a dead tree he just felled in our front woods

Patty, my best friend through my early years

A view from the shore

Dick starting his wall

Four rows done (one under the ground), starting the fifth

Just lounging in the warm sun