Saturday, January 20, 2018


 I am pretty jazzed up tonight. Sam called and said Cumulus Media is flying him to Philly to cover the game with full press privileges. For anyone who is living in a cave, I am referring to the Vikings/Eagles NFC championship game tomorrow. Unfortunately, they routed him thru Washington where there are thousands of people "marching," and he needs to get to the train station where he takes a train to Philly, where more are marching. Cabs might have trouble getting anywhere. So I am praying for travel ease and no hangups. If you haven't seen the Minneapolis Miracle, find it on YouTube and watch it.

The only sad element in this is that his pop does not know it because he is in Haiti on a mission trip and they are in the poorest part of the island. He very much doubted he would have cell towers and WIFI. I know he would have been in touch if he could be. He would be elated about Sam's trip. I'm so disappointed he can't know. But he is doing the Lord's work and helping people with all sorts of issues and conditions. Pray that he has stamina for the long hot days, gets sleep, and stays healthy.

I got my dreaded hearing aids and am on day 4 of adjustment to them. They said 3-4 weeks of learning to hear with them in a different way. I guess my brain has to re-program the hearing process or something like that. I would say I am doing OK for 4 days in. I need to turn them down a notch already because every sound is so loud.....running water, doors closing, electric toothbrushes, keyboard's pretty unusual. But I know I need them and will force myself to adapt.

My pain management appointment is a week from Monday. I am anxious to get there. They open their doors next Monday.

I am on my 7th week without sugar. It feels so good and I have even lost the desire for it!
I will probably give in to a couple ice cream cones at Kilwin's when we go to Florida. A reward for doing well on the no-sugar promise.

It has been a deep freeze here for so long that when it got up 60 this week, people did not know what to do with themselves. You saw a lot of short-sleeve shirts! We have lived through many consecutive below zero days (not counting wind chill). Coldest I have ever remembered for that long since moving here. I know that north of us was even worse.

Well, friends, I will update about my Palliative Care appointment after next week. Again, I am so indebted to my niece Anna for steering me to this opportunity!


Saturday, December 30, 2017


Happy New Year from my family to yours!

The new year is beginning in an arctic deep freeze the likes of which we haven't seen in SE South Dakota since living here. When your highs are negative double-digits for multiple days in a row, I think it might be time to explore moving south. And then more south.

We had a nice family Christmas. Sam and Gretchen came home for just about 27 hours, but they were here on Christmas Eve, which is when we do all our family traditions. And they didn't have to leave til mid-day Christmas Day.

My pain level has been rising so I talked to my sweet niece Anna, who works in palliative care in Denver. They specialize in pain management. She recommended a palliative care physician in SF to consult. I went to my oncologist last week and told him I wanted to work with her and he thought it a good idea. The circumstances had God's fingerprints all over them. She only does in-patient work now, but my doctor told me that she is starting up an outpatient pain management clinic in January at my cancer center! Talk about divine timing! So I am hopeful. 

He put me on Hydracodone every 4 hours, but after the first week (which took a little edge off), I must have accommodated to it.

Have my first hearing-aid appt this week. I was hoping God might heal my loss before I needed to take this step, but I can't wait any longer. That radiation and chemo really destroyed my inner ear. The thought of living with those in my ears makes me shudder. I wouldn't be surprised if I just can't stand them after the trial period.

Richie is going on a medical mission trip in January to Haiti. He is brushing up on basic Creole and gathering up supplies that they welcome. I hope for his sake that it is not too hot that week. No A/C at the clinic he will be working at. Depending on weather, I may make a trek to see family and friends while he is gone. I will miss him, but I know he is doing physical therapy as a representative of Christ, and is able to pray with his patients. The Christian medical group he is going with support prayer in treatment.

I was off sugar for 3 weeks before Christmas. I indulged myself with a few treats over the holiday, but I am now back on NO sugar. It is widely known that sugar is not good for cancer, and I have been a cheater. But I have more scans in 2 months, and I want to see if there is any change not having sugar for 2 months. Believe me, it is hard, but I just keep thinking "poison" when Richie is eating the last of the goodies I made!

Time to do some cleaning and then napping.  A frigid Saturday begs for cozying up for nap on the sofa by the lit Christmas tree and a football game playing softly in the background. Happy 

New year to all!

Saturday, December 16, 2017


There is a yarn to spin about every Christmas ornament I have collected over the years. Every season of my life is represented on the tree. The very worn styrofoam cut out nativity scene I loved as a little girl......the felt visions-of-sugar plums Mom and I bought in Tampa when she helped me move there for grad school......the crushed can Santa Sam picked out in Branson when he was about 6......the macaroni star Sam made in preschool....the gold shell my best friend Susan sent me when she moved to Orlando. They each have a story. I delight in remembering them all every time we decorate the tree.

I have a handful of favorites, but the one that maybe touches me the most are my teeth ornaments. Two enlarged perfectly-cast white plaster molars hanging on red ribbons. It was my Christmas gift from my little brother his first year of dental school. Money was tight, but Chris came home with homemade gifts. Mine were the teeth ornaments. Attached to the teeth was a "legend" he wrote. It still is in my desk cubbyhole.

The gift came without a dollar spent, but it has always meant so much to me because Chris's love, humor, time and creativity went into it. I read my yellowed dog-eared copy of "The Forgotten Gift of the Magi" every year. I want to share it with you all....just in case you have never heard about the fourth wise man.......

          According to legend, the three wise men were joined by a fourth wise man while traveling through the Barren Straits of northeastern Judea on the way to Bethlehem. As fate would have it, the fourth man fell victim to a severe toothache. Luckily for him, the wise man carrying the gold was a dentist named Jacob Cohen from Veranda Heights, a suburb just outside Jerusalem. Gold at this time was the restorative material of choice.
          Upon examination, the aching wise man was diagnosed with having an acutely abscessed first permanent maxillary molar and retained ankloid primary maxillary molar. In his haste, Dr. Cohen extracted both teeth and prescribed Empirin #3 PRN for pain to the ailing wise man. Too drowsy to ride his camel, the fourth wise man was forced to stay behind while the other three pursued the star that would them lead to the baby Jesus.
          The fourth wise man was really in a bind at this point because he had planned on picking up a gift for the baby at Garstein's, an exclusive shop in the Bethlehem Mall. Having nothing to give the newborn King, the fourth wise man sent along the only thing he had. These ornaments symbolize the fourth and unknown, forgotten gift that the Christ Child received.

May you treasure the gifts you receive that cost nothing in currency, but everything in heart. And may the God of Glory, whose ultimate gift to all of us cost Him everything, richly bless your Christmas holiday.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


I am so in awe of how God answers my prayers, especially when I cry out to Him for mercy. On Saturday, my pain level was so high that I cried a lot of the day. Then I got a belly ache. I had not been feeling well for a couple of days prior and it felt like I was just reaching my coping limit. I had diarrhea and bad body pain on Sunday and stayed home from church to cry some more. All I wanted was to talk to my dad. My dad with skin on. 

Instead I cried out to my Abba for relief and mercy and deliverance from this 2-year siege of pain. God's spirit told me to call my brother Mike (the family physician) and blubbered in his ear. He told me I had to call my very bright and knowledgeable niece Anna. Annie has worked in palliative care for at least 15 years. Her team's specialty is managing pain for cancer patients.

Anna insisted I see a palliative care physician here and she sent me the name of one at Avera. At my oncology appt yesterday, I told my doc I wanted to see her and he thought it was a great idea. In fact, the timing is all God's. Right now, Dr. A is only seeing inpatients, BUT she is opening a new OUTPATIENT pain management clinic in January at my Avera Cancer Institute!! Does that have God's fingerprints all over it or what? My doc will get me on the short list when Dr. A starts taking appts. I am so grateful that in a month or less, I will have a team of people leading me to the perfect drug at the perfect dosage to alleviate or reduce my pain!

She just also happened to grow up in a little town near Dick's hometown and is a UND alum. She gets extra points for those two facts!! I am anxious to meet her.

In the meantime, my oncologist has me on 4 hydrocodone a day and even though I tried it in the past for pain, I was always afraid to take more than one a day. So many pain drugs make me sick. Anna laughed and told me how mild of a drug it really is in comparison to the drugs they use for pain. It doesn't even come into the group with morphine or fentanyl. 

So here is the deal. I started the 4 per day Sunday afternoon and have taken it for 2.5 days and I can actually feel a small but perceptible reduction in my pain. The drug has yet to get built up in my system, but I am SO hoping that I may not need a whole lot more than this. Even a very slight change in the body pain like this makes me giddy. If the pain is ever alleviated in me, I will be up on the rooftops shouting God's praises!! 

Annie's hope and encouragement made such a difference in my spirit, which was already spiraling downward by Sunday. She is such a great resource for me and has been for these 7 years. Hope is almost everything. Faith is everything. I love her so much.

It doesn't take God long to answer the pleading of His hurting kids. All praise goes to Him for this turn of events.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Today is a tough day. My faith does not waver that it is God's will to heal me at some point, according to Scripture. It is a promise from Him. But today I am wondering if I will die before His timing comes around from the agony of side effects. Today I have vertigo which makes walking around a wobbly, dizzy trek. My muscle pain and weakness over my whole body is so bad today. I have been close to tears this morning. I could just pack it all in today and say that my quality of life sucks. 

I am grateful for a spot to express my deepest feelings here in this blog. I try to never complain about my aches and pains. But writing is okay. This blog is my personal outlet for my emotions. I am not looking for sympathy or advice. This is just me putting those pent-up tears in print.

Today, I have had enough.

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.