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.

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."