Thursday, August 30, 2012


I had two doc appointments in the city today. My right knee has been increasingly painful over the summer (unrelated to the arthralgia in my two legs from chemo) and the orthopedist wants an MRI of it next week to rule out a meniscus tear. They wanted me to do a closed MRI, but I flatly told them they would NOT get me into that tunnel. No way. 3 Xanax wouldn't even do it. So, we are both compromising and I will do the upright MRI which has better imaging than the flat open MRIs apparently.

I told my oncologist that I felt I did not need to see him every month any longer. I am taking my chemo daily without incident, and I can get my Xgeva shot here in town every other month. He was totally on board. This saves me a chunk of money in co-pays for office visits and a chunk of gas money as well. I was confident in making this decision and I was relieved that he agreed to it. My cancer doc is great.

I drove home circuitously to see Sam, deliver chocolate chip cookies and a textbook from Amazon that didn't arrive before he left, and give him a new thick memory foam mattress to top his horribly hard bunk mattress (or what all colleges try to pass off as mattresses). It was good to see the apartment "put together"...... of course any mother would say it needs a woman's touch, but hey, if they like a living room consisting of stadium sofa seating (3 sofas) and 2 TV's and nothing else, who am I to judge?? He likes most of his classes, or at least thinks they will be tolerable. Got himself a second job (in addition to broadcasting for his work study job) at Casey's gas station/convenience store. Hope he can juggle it all.

I've been gone since 8 this morning and am pooped down to my toes. Lots of driving and lots of waiting on doctors. Headed to the sofa to watch the Vikings win? lose? It's a toss-up.

Monday, August 27, 2012


The times they are a changin’. I don’t think this will come as much of a surprise to most parents of college kids, unless your child is a Luddite. It took 2 cars to get our son to college. TWO. His Camry was full to the brim, and Pearl (our beloved old rusty mini-van) was 3/4 full as well. I could have squeezed a dog in there somewhere on top of Sam’s foam mattress pad.

TWO loads, people. I would have thought that by junior year, he would have figured out his mother’s motto: Less is more. NOT! My child lives by the Boy Scout code: Be prepared. He was never a Boy Scout.

I went off to college with 2 suitcases, my portable stereo, a box of albums (Dan Fogelberg; Carole King, James Taylor; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Creedence Clearwater Revival; Chicago….) and my Dad’s cast-off Smith-Corona typewriter. Toiletries, a few pictures of family and boyfriend for my desk’s bulletin board, and 4 pairs of shoes. It all fit quite nicely in the trunk of the family car.

I moved myself down to Tampa to attend graduate school at USF with all my earthly belongings (minus winter coats and boots) in the back of a tiny green Chevy Vega. I left 16 months later with a master’s degree and those same belongings. I hadn’t wanted for anything.

My friend Jill got her daughter Kayla (Sam’s good friend ……they must have been comparing notes) back to UN-L needing a truck load and a full van as well. Kayla’s roommate’s mom told Jill they also had a truck load and a car load. When I emailed my brother about my head-shaking over what kids THINK they need at school today, he bested me. “Funny, in the last 2 weeks, I had three truckloads of junk to haul up to Grand Forks for Maddie’s new apt. set up. Every creature comfort known to man. I remember throwing a few bags of junk in my VW and heading off to college.” Chris then wrote the same words I said verbatim to my hubbie: “What’s wrong with this picture??!! 

I could eloquently expand on all the cultural changes that have brought about these new mores of college life, and perhaps bore you with my philosophies about how to get kids to want and need less. I won’t do that. But senior year, I am going to remind our son how his dad went off to college each year. In an old 4-door sedan, carrying not just himself and HIS things, but 2 friends and THEIR things as well. Without anyone complaining or riding on the roof.

We could title Sam's living situation this year: THE FIVE DUTCHMEN AND THE GERMAN/IRISH/SWEDE/CZECH/ENGLISH ODD MAN OUT. 
Note the last names of his roomies!!!

From left: Sam, Tim Bierma, Lee Veldkamp, Sam Verhulst and Zach Jensema
Nate TenBroeke hadn't arrived yet when we were there.

We couldn't be happier about the young men Sam has attached himself to. These 5 guys are smart, studious, godly, fun, sportsy, and easy-going, and they have been great friends since freshman year.

I should have asked each of them how many car loads it took THEM to move back to Dordt....

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I thought by the third year it would be easier. Yeah, right. I have come to understand that saying goodbye to my son will never be easy or without emotion, but I think he and I are both pretty grateful that I am here today to shed those college-return day tears!!! We are so proud of him and are so happy that he loves his college, is getting a terrific education, and has such awesome college friends.

Off to Dordt to move in with 5 of his best friends.......

Monday, August 20, 2012


 Always sad to see the last days of August arrive....

The three of us with Grama Ekstrom in Kenmare, ND

Me with my nieces Allison and Rachel. They are precious, fun and interesting young women who are both
doing an amazing job as stay-at-home moms (the hardest job on earth!).
 I loved hanging out with them in Kenmare!!

My legs ache 24/7 from chemo, but they were extra sore after being on them for 6 straight hours
the day of the party.

Richie and I decided after 25 years to paint out our white shutters on the cottage yellow. We're going to add window boxes next year and plant them with yellow and white flowers.

Our Monday night home group/Bible study group: Bob, Lee, James, Penny, and us. We were blessed beyond measure to meet with these dear friends and study divine healing all summer. It was incredible having these couples believe as we do and live out their faith in healing for others!! We are SO going to miss them, but we are hoping to meet in Minneapolis in October for a healing conference.

Sam and his best friend James on the dock. Both of the guys worked out of state all summer,
but had 5 days together last week.

Me with our old youth group from church. Richie and I loved being the youth leaders for 4 years. All of "our kids" are now in college, but we were able to rally 6 of the 10 for a campfire and s'mores.

We LOVE these kids!!!  
From left, James, Sam, Miranda, Rachel, Daniel, Jonathan

My hubbie got a nice bass one day last week!! No, we did not release him. We ATE him!!
Nothin' like fresh bass!

Our transformer blew 3 days ago. I have the utmost respect for the power company guys!!

Sam leaves for college in 6 days. Never a fun day for this Mom. But he is moving into an apartment-like dorm with his 5 best friends this fall, so he is excited about that. I love fall, but always have a hard time making the transition. It always means loss in some way (green leaves, warm lake water, shorts and tank tops, your son moving away, having my husband going back to work...) but once it is here, I always embrace the crisp air, donning sweatshirts again, and playing in leaf piles. So....onward we go into autumn.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I was rocking in a chair by the lakeshore last week. Dick walked down from the cottage, put his arms around me and said with tears rolling down his cheeks, “I’m so grateful you are here.” I asked him what brought on the emotion. He had been looking at our lake journal….something he has rarely done….and he saw the entry I made two days after my diagnosis. Later in the day I went back to look at it. I wrote:
It is August 14. I have lung cancer. We are going home. If I never return………Dick and Sam, know that I have treasured every second of my time with you here at our beloved lake and cabin. Love it and enjoy it for me……for always…...til we meet again.
It was a Thursday the twelfth. I never realized that until now. Sam remembered. It was always a Friday the thirteenth in my mind, but it’s not surprising I didn’t know the day. It was the twelfth of August when the words YOU HAVE CANCER found their way from a doctor’s lips to my fearful ears. It was the day that pain enveloped my husband, my son and me. A pain so deep we could not feel the bottom of it. It was the day that terror branded our hearts. Time became suspended in a haze of fear. Looking back, two years out, I can see how much rejoicing the devil did that day. He thought he had stolen the life of our close trio. For a while, he had.
And then I found a way to breathe in that smoky haze of fear. I found a way to stem the tide of tears for ten minutes at a time, then thirty minutes at a time. I found something deep inside of myself I never knew existed before. Was it survival instinct at its most base level? I don’t know. It was a kind of determination to live that allows you to step into the darkness in order to step from the darkness. I found a way to plant my desperation in the soil of grace. I knew it was only grace that would hold me as I pressed into the pain, only grace that would allow glimmers of light through the expanse of fear.
We slowly learned the truths we needed to walk this new path. Truths we had never heard before….astounding truths found in God’s Word, promises in Scripture that healing is God’s will. We learned about the conditions of healing, we prayed, we asked, we made the choice to believe with unwavering faith that God is true to His Word, and that healing will be manifested in my life. The three of us would ignore symptoms of cancer and look only to God’s promises.
And then, faith. Faith came to stay. Faith that this was not the beginning of the end of my life and our family. Faith in total healing. Faith that in the face of a powerful, sovereign Creator God and Savior, incurable cancer can wither and die.
It was the twelfth of August when emotional devastation changed me in ways I have yet to make my own. Pain that deep cannot help but shape you into someone new. That this new someone can write this today is a testimony of God’s faithfulness. God alone gets the glory for the statistical improbability that I am alive this year on this anniversary day.
Alive to be rocking in a chair with my sweet husband’s strong, loving arms wrapped around me. Alive to be a mom to my precious son. Alive to be a daughter, sister, friend and auntie. Alive to share the truths we have learned with others seeking information about divine healing.
I am alive.
The other day, I was sitting on the deck in the same chair I sat in that day two years ago when I had to look into the grief-stricken eyes of my son and tell him I could die. Now, as I sat in that chair, we were texting each other about something perfectly stupid and mundane, laughing together via phone screens. The difference between the two days is vast. One, a victory for the devil. One, a day full of faith that Sam will have his mom around to cheer him and support him as he hitches his wagon to a few stars.
Cancer will not win. Satan came to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10), but God came to give abundant life to those of us who believe in His atoning work on the cross, where He died for our sicknesses and diseases as well as our sins (Isaiah 53:4, 5). The three of us continue to trust Almighty God for total healing of my cancer.
It was Thursday, August the 12th, 2010 when my world tilted. Today is Sunday the 12th of August, 2012. God has re-set that world on a new trajectory. A new course, full of unexpected blessing and unspeakable gratitude.
Life is good.
God is great.
And faith, well, it’s everything.

Monday, August 6, 2012


We just returned from Grama Ekstrom’s birthday party in ND. A great milestone. More on that in the next blog. But I can’t not post about 20 of the funniest minutes of my life----and Sam’s. The words may lack…..I think you had to be there.
We were visiting Grama Mabel in her nursing home room when some distant family friends of Mabel (late 60’s, I will call them Carol and Bob) came to visit. They hadn’t seen Dick in many years. We all stood up. Nodding to Sam, Dick said, “This is my son Sam,” and I reached out my hand and said, “And I am his wife Mary.”
The conversation continued between the 4 of them, mostly about “old times.” About 5 minutes later I hear Carol say to Mabel, “It’s good to see Dick again and meet his son and daughter-in-law.” (Dick was chatting with Bob and heard none of that). They continued to talk.
Her words did not really register in my brain for about 15 seconds, but when they did, I glanced to Sam, wondering if he heard the same thing I did. I MUST have heard it wrong, I thought. Sam’s eyes were wide and his lips were pursed, holding in laughter. He had heard it. I don’t really know why we didn’t correct her at that point, but I didn’t want to embarrass her with her mistake in judgment, and I knew none of us would probably ever see them again, so it came and went.
But as I kept glancing at Sam out of the periphery of my vision, seeing him holding in laughter and knowing my own body was nearly shaking with hysteria, I knew the two of us were going to lose it. Our silent hilarity was now palpable and so about 5 minutes later I said, “I’m going to show Sam around the nursing home.” We left, walked 20 yards into an empty lounge and let loose. We laughed until we could hardly catch our breath. Sam said, “Either that was a huge insult to Dad or a huge compliment to you.” “Or,” I added, “she thinks you are 45 years old.”
We composed ourselves and went back…..unknowing there was more amusement to come.
Bob and Carol asked Sam about himself and Sam made it clear that he was a college junior, and a bit about his summer job. Nowhere in that description of his life was mention of a wife. I am thinking, OK, now she knows she made a big mistake. She knows this is just a young adult. Surely now she realizes her mistake. Besides, do I look like the kind of woman that would marry a man more than 30 years my junior? DO I??
Carol took out her cell phone to show all of us a picture of her great grandchild. When she walked over to Sam and me to show us the picture, she looked at us and said, “So, do you two have kids?”
That did it. Our jaws dropped and we lost it. (My husband was still chatting with Bob and caught none of this). I quickly said (trying to save face for her, thinking she would assume I never heard the first remark about daughter-in-law), “Dick and I just have one child, just Sam here.”
The look in her eyes was pure confusion. “You’re not together?”
“Sam is our son,” I said, again trying to act like I never realized her earlier mistake.
“Well, you know, I thought you were Sam’s wife. Some men marry older women. Our son married a woman 3 years older than him.” I thought I was going to wet my pants.
It was such a zany, bizarre funny moment. WHAT? She thought we might be about 3 years apart in age? Is this woman for real? In retrospect, my introduction of “and I am his wife” must have cemented in her mind that I belonged with Sam. I never dreamt I should have qualified that with, “and I am DICK’S wife.”
Before they left, she turned to Sam and said, “Well, are YOU married?” (He had just told them he was a college junior, living at Dordt. Does this sound like the description of a married man?). Once again, stifled laughter from the two of us. “NO,” my son says with emphasis, “I am single.”

We are so clearly mother and could ANYONE assume we were married? (Serving at Grama Ekstrom's birthday party with my niece and nephew Allison and Daniel Swanson, who ARE married!!)

Re-telling the whole story to Dick in the car, it got even funnier as the reality of her thought process sunk in.
What a kid I have. He was a class act. To his credit, having just been mistaken for his mother’s husband, then asked if he had any children by his mother, then assumed to be only a few years in age apart from that mother, he had the maturity to find only pure hilarity in it all. Whether or not he had an, “Oh, GROSS!” ready to shout at Carol, he didn’t express it.
There are some moments in life that are indelible. This is one that will keep Sam and me laughing for years to come.
As for my explanation of the entire exchange, I am just choosing to assume that I still look 21.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


There is a devotional I read year after year. Every year, on July 30, I come to this poem which always makes me stop and evaluate my life, my acts of kindness (or lack thereof). It stays in my mind for days afterward, and though I am not a huge fan of poetry, these very old lines from Adelaide Proctor have punch. I share them with you:
It isn’t the thing you do
It’s the thing you leave undone
That gives you the bitter heartache at the setting of the sun

The tender word unspoken
The letter you did not write
The flower you might have sent are your haunting ghosts at night

The stone you might have lifted
Out of your brother’s way
The bit of heartfelt counsel you were hurried too much to say

The loving touch of the hand
The gentle and winsome tone
That you had no time or thought for with troubles enough of your own

Life is all too short
And sorrow is all too great
To allow our slow compassion that tarries until too late

It’s not the thing you do
It’s the thing you leave undone
That gives you the bitter heartache at the setting of the sun
                               Adelaide Proctor