Tuesday, October 2, 2018


I was off the grid and could not post my "prognosis day" picture in August. But now I am back on earth and wanted to simply document it for myself. Eight years of living with stage 4 brain and lung cancer. Praise God.

Happy 35th anniversary to my wonderful husband!!

Sunday, September 30, 2018



If you have a couple hours of free time, go to Christopher Robin in a theater near you. The moral of the story is for adults, but the kids will be focused on the animals. It brought Dick and me back 25 years or so when we would sit and read Pooh bear stories to Sam, rocking him and cuddling him. He had a tiny golden Pooh that he carried around, with a golf ball in the other hand!! The songs you will recognize and they will pull right into a state of nostalgia. The "animation" of the gang of friends is beyond amazing. Bring a tissue. Some of Pooh's words will make you "leak."

Saturday, September 29, 2018


I am not looking forward to winter. The more weight I lose and the colder the temps get, I shiver a whole lot. I am trying to put on pounds, even by having an occasional sweet, but I cannot get enough calories in, no matter how hard I try. It is SO frustrating. I'm sure my lack of a hearty appetite is chemo-related.

Richie and I went to the Bills/Vikes game last Sunday. Sloppy game, but win or lose, we always enjoy the atmosphere and energy of US Bank Stadium. My daughter-in-law gave me a very cool Vikings sweatshirt as a birthday gift that I wore so I was purple too!!

We are back in the groove at long last. Getting back to volunteer work is meaningful. Getting back to our church family is even more so. Starting next week I am  volunteering at the elementary school with kids who need help with reading or groups who are gifted and need more stimulation and challenge.

We got back into our wellness center workout schedule and while it just counteracts the chemo's side-effects, working out helps me not lose more strength. My muscles are so frail that it becomes a given that I will pull or strain one of them several times a week.

I brought home a little bookcase from the lake that I am stripping and refinishing. Like an airhead, I painted it green one year and stripping has been quite a challenge, but we are finally ready for the sanding man (Richie) to start the next step with the electric sander. I have special plans for it.....it has a special origin.

In 35 years of marriage, Dick and I have never indulged ourselves in any way. Well, we've purchased cars when ours tallied 16 and 17 years but that is more a necessity. We are nothing if not on the bottom of the scales for treating ourselves over 35 years.. We are the couple who eats out maybe twice a year (unless we travel); the couple who will turn down the heat in the house and use a space heater in the room we are in, rarely exchange birthday or anniversary gifts.

Well, we decided 2 days ago to dip our toes into the cream of indulgence and take a 35th anniversary trip to a mineral springs spa. It has been a dream of mine for many many years. We are going full-tilt and getting massages, and facials and we intend to sit in the hottest springs we can stand.....several times each day. I can't wait. We spent many hours researching the country for the one we wanted. It took a whole day. But reservations are now made and confirmed!! I have never done anything this spontaneous before!! I may never return!!!

My doctor scheduled my next lung scan for the end of October. I suggested we wait another month for the brain scan. My eye doctor reports that I am about a year away from cataract surgery. The chemo has taken much of my peripheral vision. And the center vision is getting worse. She ordered me a higher RX on my right contact which has really  really helped. 

My ENT finally diagnosed an ear issue I've had for 6 weeks where my hearing one one side suddenly goes into a tunnel and I feel like I have to pop that ear but can't. She said my Eustachian tubes have atrophied since chemo and I need to counteract that by eating more food and hydration plus sinus spray called Ipratropium Bromide. It is meant to make my tubes more pliable and soft. Hope it works.

Have a wonderful fall!!

Monday, September 10, 2018


 I finally got the pics downloaded but this blog would only allow me to put these 5 up. Rats. I do not like when methodologies change when I am off the grid.  Well, I am gonna ask around and see if anyone can tell me what to do to get the rest of these from my download file to this blog. Anyway, before they shut me off, here were the first 5.

Boating on the lake with Sam

Mandatory rest period for my woodsman

The day I planted my very first garden

The day I had to pull up my pretty garden.

While we were taking shifts power washing the deck, Dick left me a sweet
"Dick loves Mary" message for me to see when I went out to take my shift.
Can you tell how much ground-in pollen and dirt we had? We do it every year

because of the buildup. The pollen in the north woods is heavy.

Sam and Gretchen got us this wonderful tent which we used as a game room,
reading-the daily paper room, and also put a gravity chair in there for naps.
 It was such a nice addition.

Sunday, September 9, 2018


Back on the grid, friends! Had a wonderful summer. The fiber-optic cable that we were promised 2 years ago made it up to our house, but we can’t get it activated til next spring. It will be SO nice to be able to have the internet!! We still won’t be able to use our phones because we may only get 1 bar if we’re lucky, but we WILL be on-line and we’re happy about that.

We went to my sister and brother in law’s anniversary party in Iowa, and my niece’s wedding in Frazee, MN. Also had a wedding up here at our chapel. Went back to Sioux Falls after the Frazee wedding for a doctor’s appointment and had to end up staying a whole week. 

My doc recommended trying an increase in my daily chemo and the side effects have increased. Much more muscle and joint pain and imbalance. We’ll see if the increase  is doing anything after the next scans.  I celebrated my 8 year anniversary of my diagnosis in August and I am so grateful to God for the extended years of life.

The biggest loss for me this summer was not blueberry picking. Dick took me once and we quickly realized that I am too crippled to do it alone. Every time I needed to move to a new patch, I had to call Dick away from his patch and have him lift me up and move me to a new patch. I quickly deduced that I was more of a hindrance to the effort than a help. So Dick became picker extraordinaire and spent many hours in the hot sun securing our lot for the year. Coming home with fish fillets and blueberries always feels good.

I spent the lion’s share of my summer reading novels and more novels and a half-dozen non-fiction books. I bet I read upwards of 30-35 books. Dick laughs at me because when I would run out of books, and knew I couldn’t drive to town to the library for a day, my reading addiction becomes obvious. I pace, I get anxious, I feel a physical NEED for a book. My dad’s genes…..only more potent!

I did plant my very first flower garden in the brick bed I made last summer with Dick’s help. I know NOTHING about gardening, but it turned out to be lovely array of purple fountain grass and polka-dot plants. I nearly cried when I had to pull each one out a few days before we left.

Sam came up on 3 weekends. His schedule is so packed, he doesn’t have the time to come home to “Sam’s Place” (a sign an older friend made for our house when he was born) very often. But every time was great fun, with laughter and closeness.

Dick worked nearly 6-8 hours per day with some sort of maintenance project or another. He made me some beautiful cedar shutters for all the cabin windows which we will install next spring. I can’t even begin to count the dead trees in the woods which he chopped up and hauled off.

I am trying to figure out how to get my pictures downloaded. Somehow GMAIL changed everything over the summer about receiving pictures. It used to be so easy. Dick will help me and I'll post them tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Hi, my faithful blog followers: I have a feeling you won't hear a great deal from me this summer. Once again, while we were promised internet this year at the cabin, the company is being very vague about it. So we needed to order a landline so we would at least have some means of communication with the world. 

The loss of being able to email friends is frustrating. Texting occasionally gets thru the woods, but rarely, and often a day later. The facebook break will be healthy and is something I am ready to do. Until Mark Zuckerberg makes good on his promises to transform facebook into what it used to be (personal and not so commercial), then stepping away will be a good thing for me.

Richie finished up his third round of antibiotics and we hope this will be a permanent cure. He is never going to Haiti again (my orders, his choice).

I don't have to be back for brain and lung scans until mid-July. I am SO ready for the scans to be clear of all tumors. God has been chipping away at my healing for almost 8 years. I would love to see its manifestation.

Y'all have a great summer and I will try to update after my scans, if not before. God's blessings, Mary

Friday, May 4, 2018


I don't even remember April....it went so quickly.....a month of hope and then snow.....hope and then snow again. An April 14 blizzard. It is over 70 here today and I opened a few windows. Feels like heaven.

My uncle Bob died a couple weeks ago and Dick and I spent last week driving to Midland, Michigan for his funeral. His death is a big loss for me and my 2 brothers and cousins. He was the patriarch of the Hieb clan. His death passes down that term to my older brother Mike and to me, as the matriarch. We're the trunk of the tree now, not the branches. Not a designation that either of us wanted. In my own nuclear family, my only nephew (a Hieb) is having his first baby in June. If he ends up having girls, the Hieb name ends in our branch of the Hieb family. If he has a boy, the name endures for another generation.

We were gone for a week and Dick had a recurrence of the clostridium starting on the 4th day of travel. (again, REALLY?) He dealt with it for 3 days before we decided to leave earlier than expected, after the funeral and dinner, so that we could get a jump on getting home to his doctor. We opted for the ferry across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee to save some time and he was able, finally, after 4 days of symptoms, to get into the doc and get started on yet another (3rd) round of antibiotics. It doesn't even need to be said that he regrets going on the Haiti trip for what it has cost him and caused him.

After a month of looking and talking, we decided on a car to replace the totaled Envoy. Sad to think of our beloved "Fred" sitting in a salvage yard in Minneapolis. We took our 17-year-old Rosie to Michigan, her final road trip before she becomes the town car. The looking is over and that makes me enormously happy. A painful process.

I have been going to physical therapy with a PT who is specially trained in vertigo/balance issues, which I have. He has to INDUCE those symptoms in me to do the necessary work and it is not fun. But I hope to progress. 

When I reflect on this cancer road and how it has twisted and turned, I feel like such a different woman than I was in 2010 when they gave me 16 months to live. I cannot do a great deal of what I used to be able to do....those are losses I live with daily. On the other hand, my faith is stronger, my belief in healing is real, and I think I have become a softer, more compassionate woman. I ask God every day to show me where I can be a blessing to somebody else experiencing grief, loss, sickness, alienation, fear, anxiety, depression or

When I was working at the food pantry the other day, a client came in who I had never seen before. She was a beautiful cocoa-skinned woman with a "chemo hat" on her head. I heard one of the other volunteers mention cancer and I felt like I could be bold enough, as a fellow cancer patient, to introduce myself and ask her how she was doing. She introduced herself to me and gave me a summary of where she was at. I told her how well I understood what she was experiencing.....from the chemo fog to hair loss to memory loss. We talked at length. 

She was encouraged that my hair grew back (as ugly as it is). I asked her if she had a faith she could rely on. She is a Christian and an avid pray-er. We promised each other to put each other in our prayers. I got her phone number, and after running into her twice at Walmart and once again at the food pantry, I feel convicted that the Lord wants me to do more. I am going to invite her over for tea on a day when she is not reeling from chemo side-effects.

I am not a Mormon but I do appreciate what the LDS president said to Mitt Romney's mother, who was going blind at the end of her life, "Only the wounded can fight in the Lord's army."  I am one of those wounded warriors who wants to fight with and for others, especially those who are experiencing the same issues I have dealt with over the decades.

Moving north for the summer is only a few weeks ago and I am FAR from ready. But whatever I forget to pack (and my compromised brain promises I will), if I have some good books, flip-flops, sunscreen and a brimmed hat, I should be good.

I saw on Facebook: The governor of MN has ordered that all residents must remove their fish-house off the lake by July 3rd so they can set up for fireworks. I am not laughing too much. Last week we heard that our ice is still about 30 ft deep!!

May your May be full of sun and warmth. We ALL deserve it, no matter where we live!!

Our very comfortable ferry across Lake Michigan

Nicer than a plane for comfort!! There were only about 15 people on the ferry. It had only opened for the season the day before!

Lake Michigan. 

All the Hieb cousins (2 could not come)

All the Hieb cousins with several of their spouses and my Aunt Nancy. We know how deeply she is missing Uncle Bob.