Saturday, December 26, 2015

POST-HOLIDAY CHEMO NEWS

The new drug has been approved and is available. My pharmacist at the cancer center is trying to get it nailed down as to who has it and where she can order it. It comes as no relief or anticipation to me, as even though touted as much better than chemo #2, it brings with it many side effects. 

I have been off my chemo for one week today, as I told my doctor I was taking a drug holiday for Christmas. I wanted to feel good while the kids were here. Once again, it feels so amazing to simply feel normal. I am not anxious to start chemo #3. I have decided that if it ruins my quality of life, it is not worth taking it.

Yes, you can pray for no side effects!!

Sam and Gretchen came for 2 full days and we had such a great time with them. They left Christmas morning to drive 8 hours to Hibbing where her parents live. We missed them as soon as they drove out of the driveway! Fun traditions and fun memories.

It was a hard Christmas without the folks. I had at least 5 cooking questions for my mom and she was not there for the first time to answer them!! I so wanted to just hug them both and talk with them. Moments of tears would rush in at random moments. We spent the last few years (except last year) going to Fargo to be with them for Christmas. I know why so many people hate the holidays. It is a very bittersweet time of year when you think of people you have lost. I am so glad the radio stations can go back to real music. I am tired of tearing up with every "Silent Night."

Dick and I have a massive downstairs project and are going to spend the weekend tackling it. Why are house projects never done.......

Happy New Year to you all.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

MY TREE OF LOVE AND MEMORIES

I love my Christmas tree.

We got thru the whole decorating-the-tree process without me shedding a tear, even holding all the ornaments that Mom had made for me over the years.

It is a tree of love.

Christmas is love....
     Our creator-God, sovereign over the earth, sent his son as a baby to be born knowing full well that 33 years later, His son would be murdered for our sins, to redeem US, to give US His righteousness, His salvation, His healing, His peace. All for us, a planet full of sinners. If that is not love, I don't know what the season is about.

I have 3 nativity ornaments on my tree. All I see is Jesus's love when I look at them.

I have lots of friends who prefer a monochromatic Christmas tree, the same ornaments, usually all round balls, all decorations on the tree the same color.....the kind you might see in upscale department stores. My preference is a tree of memories. Every ornament has a history and a story and they all speak LOVE to me.

I loved it when my Mom flew down to Tampa to spend a week with me while in grad school. We went shopping and found an intricate "visions of sugar plums" ornament made with felt. We both bought one. We've always loved hanging them front and center.

I see the pop-can cowboy snowman that Sam picked out In Branson, MO as our souvenir when he was about 6 or 7. He loved it so we loved it too. Mom made me an old man when I became a gerontologist. He still hangs. I love her mindfulness with him.

I see crystal hearts which she loved and gave me before she died. I see Sam's preschool macaroni ornament and his kindergarten pine-tree picture ornament. I so loved that time in his life when he was a little critter, just learning about the world. 

We tried to get souvenir ornaments from all our trips. We shopped together until we could agree on a perfect representation of the locale. Our Chicago trip had us hunting on Navy Pier. They did not sell any ornaments anywhere so we decided to buy a key chain with an engraved pier and it was our 2010 ornament. My best friend sent me an angel seashell when she moved to Florida in 1990. It reminds me of how deeply I missed her in a time of no texting and cell phones.

Oh, so much love....such fun stories.

I have my favorite ornament from growing up years and a couple that were left from my Dad's growing up years that he had saved. I am transported back to Grama and Grandpa's house in Kulm. My sweet cousin Mae sent me a little silver butterfly ornament after Mom died. It says, "Miracles happen to those who believe." She stands with me in faith for healing.

And I can't forget the snowflakes. Every since we were little, my great-aunt Bea (I still hear Andy Taylor calling his auntie "Ain't Bay) tatted snowflakes for all our trees. (These snowflakes sold for $5 apiece at Macy's in NYC!) And we all have boxes of them. They beautify a tree like nothing else can. And make us remember the great love we had for great-auntie, who died at 102.

Yeah, I love the love that covers my tree. It is not "classy" as the fancy trees are, but it is a patchwork of our lives.....who we are and who and what we love.

Yes, I really love my love tree.

Friday, December 4, 2015

NORMALCY

I have had the most incredible 7 days. I had to take a drug holiday due to increasing side effects of the chemo. I had forgotten what it was like to feel like me, to feel normal, to feel the joy of being alive. I have had 7 days of NO gastrointestinal issues!!!! Unbelievable. God has just blessed this time. Unless you have "been there" with chemo side effects, you wouldn't understand the gravity of normalcy. 

We went to Minneapolis last weekend and had a wonderful time with the kids. We made Christmas cookies, picked up and decorated their tree, and got totally spoiled with the great meals they made us (my, how things change....the college guy who lived on mac and cheese and hotdogs during college is making maple-glazed salmon for his folks....).

Anyway, I have been in a prolonged praise-fest with the Lord.

The answer is yes, I have to go back on the chemo. It is difficult, not only because of how I feel OFF of it, but because we don't know if this "old" chemo is doing anything. I got off of it because it is ineffective. But we are still waiting on the 3rd generation drug to come out so maybe it is staving off growth of the growing tumors. Either way, I am bummed to go back to the side effects.

For those of you who usually receive my Thanksgiving card, there won't be one. I just wasn't feeling up to the task in early November.

Thank you all for continued prayers.

Monday, November 23, 2015

HOLIDAY

I feel much better than last Thanksgiving week when that evil chemo was destroying my liver, I couldn't walk stairs and had no equilibrium. I am on my old chemo and it has side effects, but I can run stairs and am not so klutzy. Some days I actually feel, at least for some hours, like my old life 5 years ago. I treasure every hour that feels "right."  

First Thanksgiving without our son. Another first-time empty nest experience to get through (and we will)! Sam and Gretch will be with her family and I'm sure they will have a great time. We will see them the next weekend, not for the holiday, but for cookie-making and tree-decorating. Should be fun!!

I haven't had the courage yet to get the Christmas decorations out-----so many made by or bought by Mom for me over the years. She made my tree skirt and gave me her Nativity set. She made my wreaths for me and gave me all her Spode Christmas china. Can you see why I don't have the courage yet? I need a day when I'm not at work to absorb the emotion and many tears that are going to come with the unpacking. She should be hanging the beautiful wall hanging she quilted for me. Yeah, this first holiday as an orphan is hard.

I truly do have a blessed life, though, when I count my many many blessings. I have an incredible husband, amazing son, sweet and beautiful bonus daughter, too many friends to count, a cozy little house, job, and a God whose healing promises have kept me alive for 3 years longer than I was supposed to live. All praise to him for all I have. So rich am I.

I have an oncology appointment on Wednesday. No test results to anticipate; for that I am thankful. Probably just a pow-wow about side effects and seeing if my doc knows anything further about the 3rd generation drug supposed to be here in a couple months.

For my loyal blog followers, I wish you a blessed holiday this week. Thanks for reading. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Update

Well, I have been on a double dose of chemo now for about 8 days. It has not made me any more nauseated than I am every day, but y'all know what chemo-constipation does to me. Well, now it is double that. Truly, peristalsis is dead. My blood pressure has plummeted as well, so I have had some swan-like faints. One in a jewelry store. Me splayed out in the aisle between the crystal and the thousand dollar Rolex watches. I made for much excitement with the older ladies in the store who wanted to drive me home!!! I am dedicated to do lots of blood-to-head exercises before I get up in the mornings.

Other than that, I have only to deal with the flashing lights in my eyes in the early mornings. Along with the vitreous detachment, I see a regular light show while I'm in the shower.

I can already tell that getting through these first holidays without Mom and Dad are going to be tough. While shopping for drapes at Penney's, they had on their Christmas music(I'll be Home For Christmas) and it reduced me to tears. I want to be shopping for their gifts and find out what we are having for Christmas dinner and share recipes. I know all "orphans" go through their first Christmas and make it to the other side. But it is not easy.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

ENCOURAGEMENT

I love how God gives you what you need at just the right moment. For me last week, he provided a supernatural encounter, clearly orchestrated by Himself. Dick and I try hard to live in the supernatural where the kingdom of God resides. We expect bold answers to bold prayers and fully expect that God still has signs, wonders, and miracles for those who profess faith in them and walk in the Spirit.

When my "divine appointment" was over, I was left overwhelmingly grateful to God that He found me, who is a "nobody" in this world, worthy of a supernatural encounter. Dick got in on the last part of the appointment and he received a word from God that brought us both tears.

I am blessed that my God cares enough in times of stress and discouragement to do something so lavish to encourage. It gave me increased faith that maybe, just maybe, it is the 11th hour in this cancer walk, and that healing is coming.

On a medical note, I am 2 weeks into the old chemo (the one that I quit a year ago because it was ineffective) and I am doing OK on it with the exception of the very severe chemo-induced constipation side effect. Seems like I am living on laxatives of every shape, size and consistency. Nothing seems to work. Peristalsis is dead.

I will have a decision to make soon. They want me to double my chemo dose to get closer to the recommended dosage. I am afraid that if I double the dose, my constipation will be highly out of control. It will be my call whether to stay on this "almost placebo" dose or risk doubling.

Please pray that my peristalsis would begin working with the laxatives and that I could have some relief. It colors my every waking day. Thanks so much.

Friday, October 16, 2015

ANOTHER CHALLENGE

I wish I could bring happy news to y'all as you check my blog, but we face challenges ahead. My tumors in lung and brain are growing and several new ones have popped up. They were going to radiate the brain tumors until they found "more pressing matters" in the lung. Until the 3rd generation drug comes out in December or January, they are going to put me back on the chemo that stopped being effective a year ago. I cannot take the 2nd gen chemo because it made me horribly sick and was destroying my liver. So we are asking God to protect me in both places as we wait.

Would it be easy to just throw in the towel? Oh, yes. I am so weary of cancer that I cannot articulate it. But then I think, what if it is the 11th hour? What if a miracle is just around the corner? What if? If I give up now, I will miss it if it is coming.

I think of the 19th century English preacher Charles Spurgeon who said:

We are here, like soldiers on guard, waiting for the dawn, and the night is deepening.We must stay on night watch. It is not for any of us to say, "We will desert because it is so dark."

Be of good courage, soldiers of Christ, and still wait on in patient endurance. Courage, brothers; the Lord has not forgotten us. We are in the dark and cannot see Him; but He can see us and he knows all about us. Let us not be dismayed, our glorious leader forgets not the weakest and feeblest of us, neither is any part of the battle-field beyond the reach of the great Captain's eye.

He is coming to turn the scale in the worst moment of the conflict, for the battle is the Lord's and he will deliver the enemy into our hand.


And so, we wait in the dark, maintaining our faith that He will turn the scale in His time.
Thank you in advance for any prayers prayed for my protection from side effects from the chemo and from enlarging tumors.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

GROOM'S DINNER PICS






God was meting out grand doses of favor on the night before the wedding. For our groom's dinner, we cruised down the Mississippi on a paddleboat. It could not have been a more perfect night. Not a breath of wind, short-sleeve temps, a slow sunset. 

Here are a couple snapshots of the evening:



Sam's best man James and his wife Meredith

The two dads

Sam and Dick

Gretchen with her sister and sisters-in-law
Gretch and her parents Sam, and us



Photo credits go to my sweet niece Gretchen who gave us the gift of her photography skills for the evening. She captured all the people and the setting so beautifully. No way to re-pay her for all the work she put into editing all the photos over the summer. Love you, Gretchie.

Friday, October 2, 2015

WEDDING PICS, FINALLY

My Facebook friends have seen pics of Sam's wedding, but my non-FB friends who read this blog have not, So out of a staggering number of pictures, I picked out a handful to post here. It was such a magnificent day. And I have an amazing new daughter!




Sam seeing Gretchen for the first time







What a sweet addition to our family!
My awesome son with his mom and dad (below).


The best man's speech stole the show!!

Sam with his beautiful bride and Hieb cousins


Dordt College was well-represented by the 4 tallest guys in the wedding party, including Sam!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

ANOTHER HEALING

This is just a quick update for my family and close friends who have been wondering about my biopsy results in Denver. Finally heard from my doctor. Here he is, this world-reknown researcher, making his own phone calls and talking with me as if he hadn't another task to accomplish all day. He even laughed about my new email address. He explains everything so clearly. Love this guy.

The biopsy of the fluid around my lung is cancerous. But the growing tumor has NO cancer! Amazing. 

God is healing me in small steps. While I have asked Him many times for the more immediate supernatural healing, He has chosen to mete out my healing slowly: the leg tumor, the tumors squeezing my bronchus, and now this new one. 

I am asking God, in the name of Jesus, to suck that fluid right out of there by the next scan!! Dr. C gave me a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. We are starting with Plan nothing.

I had my brain scan yesterday and made it thru without coughing....had many praying people covering that base. Results on Monday.

Five years and one month with Stage 4 cancer. Am very thankful today and every day to my Savior Healer.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

THE LAST TASK

I spent the last 2 hours today on the 5-6 hour project that was sorting through all of my mother’s papers and files. My brothers “gifted” me with this task as a way to get out of it and it is patently unfair that they left me with the task of throwing/sorting out our mom’s precious memorabilia. I will get revenge, trust me.

There were 5 boxes of stuff, put in a larger box, too heavy for even Dick to lift (does that tell you the quantity of stuff?). So smaller box by smaller box, I have had to sift through everything my mom kept that meant something to her. I had files on: pictures (hundreds), bits of wisdom, new cards, stationery, her Norwegian sweater patterns, how to care for the quilts (she made many—an expert quilter), Christmas cards, devotionals, obit programs, newspaper write-ups, including her own wedding, Gretch/Bets Project (don’t ask ME), letters and cards received (I would not have needed to write a new eulogy for mom in May…..all I would have had to do was choose one of the dozen Mother’s Day cards or letters I wrote to her). All here in a file. And all for me to decide what to do with.

It was emotionally tough. You pick up your mom’s engagement calendar from 1998 with sweet words on the square days……”Kids coming!!!!!!” or “Going to visit Mary, Dick and Sam….so excited.” You read letters from my brother writing home from college needing more money and telling the folks how much they meant to him. You find your mom’s high school diploma and her wedding registry book. I could make this paragraph a foot long and not even touch on most of the tidbits.

On several of the files was my heavy magic marker: MOM, please go thru these files and throw out stuff. That was in 2013. The answer to your burning question is clearly no.

The first toss-out was the hardest. I had steel my emotions and realize that these were the things that SHE prized, not me, and that for me to hold onto things that had no history for me did not make sense. All that does is push the same problem down to Sam one day; Nanny’s treasures along with his mom’s and dad’s. That was my criteria. If I knew that Sam would have no connection or interest in the item, I could throw it. I kept a handful of special things that were dear to me because they were dear to Mom.



There is a weaving of guilt and freedom in this process, and every adult child who has done it understands that. It is impossible to part with it all, because part of it is our history, (our numerous, yearly, family skits, for instance, written in longhand) and part of that history is OK to pass onto your own children. The guilt comes with every throw-out where you hear your mom’s voice, “Oh, no, you’re not gonna throw THAT away, are you?”

The one conviction I am taking from this task is that I will do all I can to go thru my own memorabilia now and toss what I know is not important in my life anymore (i.e. cheerleading scrapbooks???). Things Sam does not need to drag through his life in MY boxes after I am gone. I want to be mindful of the things only that would touch his heart (all the Mother’s Day cards he has ever made me…..think he only missed a couple years) or that he would feel is important history (copies of the two genealogy books I’ve written and the 4 books I have written for him). 

I promised him already that when I am done sifting through my own stuff that he will have minimal miscellaneous paper to go through someday. I think it is time that I can throw the file full of child-raising advice, philosophies of aging, and  picture albums with pics that Sam wouldn’t have a clue who anybody was. Meaningless to him.

And so my sweet mama’s life has come full circle in a way. With every move the last 9 years, she had to leave behind “things.” In the last 18 months, from condo to apartment, to a smaller apartment, to the nursing home room, we watched as her world was diminished down to a bed and a couple easy chairs, with none of this precious memorabilia for her to enjoy…..she couldn’t see anymore. It is hard to see a life once rich and full in people, conversation, travel, hobbies, giving, entertaining….. diminish in front of your eyes. Pat loved life more than anyone I’ve ever known. The end was hard on her and all of us.


I kept a handful of items that meant a lot to her. I will treasure them. But I realize that in the end, I wouldn’t have needed to. I had her unconditional love, support, encouragement and wisdom every day of 60 years as she spoke into my life. That is the only memory I truly need to hold onto.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

MORE DELAYS

If anything is growing inside of me, it is going to get big. More delays. I woke up with a sore throat on Monday which rapidly mushroomed into a full-blown head cold, cough, and sinus infection. I have not been sick for 5 years (I had to become a germaphobe to some degree to accomplish that), and had forgotten how miserable "the crud" is. I obviously could not have have my brain MRI with all my coughing so that has been rescheduled for next Wednesday and I will have results on the 21st. I hope and pray the cough will be gone by next week. I am so ready to have this done. I am yet waiting on my doctor in Denver. I wonder if the long wait means I have something so rare that they need to research it before calling me.

I know how I got sick. I worked on Friday, and one little boy I was sitting with at a table kept sneezing and coughing at me. I turned my head around each time, but I don't think I escaped it all. 48 hours later, boom. The way I feel today, I could quit my job!!

Friday, September 4, 2015

HURRY UP AND WAIT

Heard nothing from Denver today. Looks like the waiting will go into next week. On Thursday, I will be having a brain MRI and those results WILL be on Monday the 14th. I am very anxious to have the answers in hand.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

BLESSINGS AND BIOPSIES

I love seeing God splashing his blessings over my life, his favor, his love. I am amazed that as I try to live my life in the supernatural as I am supposed to, He is right there with that favor.

By a miraculous turn, Dick and I got an appt with Dr. C in Denver last week. We were told it would be 3 weeks out, and I was making a short list of people who were willing to go with me. But I wanted my rock, my husband. He simply cannot NOT teach for 4 days in the middle of a week. I did not want to go with anyone else. I said to the scheduler,"Can you make a miracle for me?" (I found out she is a devout believer when I met her). And a day later, she called me and said, "Bonjour, Miss Mary, you have your miracle. We can get you in next week."

We would be on our last week of vacation. Dick could go. Praise God. I called around the UCCC campus for motels that might have a shuttle service both to the airport and to the medical campus. Few did. I reluctantly tried Crown Plaza as I know they are very pricey, but they had shuttles to both. The gal then said, "And because you are a UCCC patient, we will give you your room for $89 per night." WHAT? Are you serious, God?

There was a blessing on the way to the airport. We stopped at Tobies in Hinckley (South Dakotans have no clue what I am talking about, and that is ok.) and when we asked for our check, the server said that an anonymous person in the restaurant paid our bill. WHAT? WHY? (We were not even dressed as northwoods ragamuffins that day) Thank you, God!

In Denver we were about to order Taco Bell when the power went out. They shut down and we walked to Qdoba across the street. They had no power either, but the owner quickly came to us and gave us 2 tickets for free dinners that night! WHAT? God was just blessing our sox off.

In bed that first night before the biopsy, I was reading my Scripture verses and John 16:23 just jumped off the page at me. It is such a powerful promise. I TELL YOU THE TRUTH. MY FATHER WILL GIVE YOU ANYTHING YOU ASK IN MY NAME. Could it be that simple to take away this anxiety? Jesus says nothing He cannot do. He cannot lie. I stuck my faith right there and believed Him.

I claimed that verse 3 times, asking in Jesus' name that the big risk of the biopsy, which was a collapsed lung, would not happen. By the third time (I know. I only needed to say it once) I decided that the truth of that promise was mine and that everything would go without a hitch.

In the biopsy room, a large black nurse anesthetist was there as an angel sent by God I am certain. When she asked me, as I was laying down on the CT scanner, how I was, I told her I was just praying. She said, "Well, Miss Mary, I pray for all my patients and I am praying for you too. I'll be checkin' on you often." And true to her word (I was under conscious sedation so I heard everything), she came close to my face every few minutes and said, "You doin' OK, Miss Mary?" I grunted a "yuh" and she'd return to her monitors. Thank you, Jesus, for giving me abundantly more than I could ask or imagine.

11 hours after we arrived at the medical center, we were back in the motel and wiped out. Our plane left at 6 and we had to take a 4 am shuttle to the airport. It was a tiring trip. But as Dr. C told me, perhaps this biopsy of the growing tumors can tell us what kind they are finally, and tell us if he has something in his repertoire of targeted drugs to combat it.
We should have news by the end of next week.


I TELL YOU THE TRUTH. MY FATHER WILL GIVE YOU WHATEVER YOU ASK IN MY NAME. UNTIL NOW, YOU HAVE NOT ASKED FOR ANYTHING IN MY NAME. ASK AND YOU WILL RECEIVE THAT YOUR JOY MAY BE FULL.   John 16:23-24



Friday, August 14, 2015

SUMMER WINDING DOWN

My Avera team is now feeling like the growing tumors are a good opportunity to get the biopsy that my Denver doctor suggested in November. They sent him all the scans and reports last week, but there has been no word yet. SO. We may be on a plane to Denver next week instead of enjoying the woods. In Denver they would do genetic sequencing to determine what kind of cancer I have. Lung cancers have many labels, and he doubted whether my diagnosis about the ALK mutation was correct. So we wait.

The fishing is getting better, the blueberries are still nonexistent, and my husband made me a beautiful headboard for our bed out of a vintage oak door. He did an amazing job and now I want him make another one for Sam and Gretchen’s bedroom back home.

Sam had a couple days off this week and came up north. It was so special having him home. I think every parent wonders how their relationship will change with their child once they are married. The past few days proved that our relationship hasn’t changed one bit. Some of my friends report that their sons rarely communicate with them anymore. No worries there. We have a wonderful daughter-in-law who is very generous in sharing him with us!!!

Today was our first hot day all summer. It got up to 88. We have had a glorious summer of mid 70’s most days. Today we got a taste of what home will be like when we get back!! It is heading into the 90’s tomorrow. We may live in the lake.

My thin, white hair continues to grow back very slowly and continues to come in pointing UP. I have a serious Mohawk that is not changing. God has a sense of humor. I hope that as it gets longer, it might fall down!! Right now it is barely ½ inch.

Thank you for prayers that we have discernment about Denver. Part of us want to forego any medical treatment and just tell God to handle it; part of us know that God aids the medical profession. We will listen to all the pros and cons and make a decision about the biopsy.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

SCAN TODAY

We are in the city today for my lung CT scan, scheduled for an hour from now. I don’t relish “starting afresh” with a new doctor, but it is unavoidable, as he will need to go over the radiologist’s findings. We are not expecting any startling news.

Hard to believe July is over. We have had a glorious summer of cool nights and warm days, but rarely over 75. We appreciate the moderation! 

My progress with my muscles continues to be so so slow. Some days I don’t think it is worth continuing to try to improve. Dick reassures me that even if it takes a year to return to normal, it is worth it. Tell that to my sore muscles from lifting leg weights.

On a positive note, my hair has finally begun to grow in. Sam was the one who noticed it on July 1. It is unfortunately coming in mainly white and very thin and wispy. My sister-in-law had the good fortune to have her hair come back in black and curly. I was not that lucky. I had read that many women have the coming-back-in-white issue. I don’t really like myself in white yet. When I am able and have enough hair, I WILL color it!!

I am meeting with my two dear friends Lee and Penny every Wednesday for concentrated prayer and intercession and it has fed my soul. I so love these women.

The deer population is way down and we have not had one deer walk thru our yard this summer. It used to be a near daily occurrence which we have loved. A mass of hummingbirds has taken up residence on Dick’s two hummingbird feeders and their frenzied activity fighting for a straw is comical.


I hope all of you are having a wonderful summer.

Monday, July 13, 2015

SUMMER HALF OVER

A quick update. Summer is half over. Where did the time go? We've seen the kids 3 times, for only 24 hours each time, but it was nice to connect. We went down to Mpls for a Twins game with them last week. My rehab is progressing very very slowly. People: Beware of steroids. They destroy muscle. Don't know if I will ever regain what I have lost. But I continue to work at it. Here are a few pics from the summer.













Monday, June 22, 2015

REHAB

I am writing this on Father’s Day. The first time I haven’t had my pop to call and tell him what an amazing dad he was. It was always, “Now, no presents, only cards.” We never listened to him. Tears have come several times today. Losing both parents in 8 months will require a lot of grief work I think. It still hurts. I miss them both so much.

Dick has me on a rigorous (as defined by how weak I am) rehab treatment plan to regain muscle strength and mass from the steroids, which totally depleted me. The progress is painfully slow. After 2 weeks, I am only up to 11 pounds on ankle weights and am up to 4 walks up our little hill…trying to add one climb per day.

I thought the reversal of steroid use would be faster. It is very slow. I am nauseous every day which has decreased my appetite to near nothing. I eat less than a 3 year old. My belly is slowly receding and my “disconnected” feelings between my head and body are very slowly starting to wane. The extreme fatigue from radiation lingers. I am a woman who normally naps maybe 6 times a year. I hate napping. I feel groggy and sluggish afterwards. But I have no choice this time. My body needs 1-2 hours of napping every afternoon. It will be a summer of working hard to try to find normal again.

We took a boat ride around the lake tonight…..first one…..and found that our 2 bald eagles are back in their nest in a very high pine with their babies. Such a majestic sight.

It is a 3 week period of time now since Mom died, Sam got married, and we had a funeral for Mom. It seems like we couldn’t possibly have walked through all of that emotion and come out the other side, but I guess we did. God wraps us in His grace and mercy when we need it. I am so grateful that we had a weekend of such pure joy at the wedding between two very hard weekends.

We have no internet this summer, so we are tech-free. If any of you have facebook-messaged us, or emailed us, and we have not responded, that is why. Most of our texts get through. It feels very freeing, actually.

We continue to have faith in healing. You may wonder why we still believe after all these years. We do, because God’s Word cannot lie and we stand on it. I don’t understand His methods or His timing. But we understand His faithfulness in what He says. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN

To the strains of Amazing Grace, Unforgettable, and Be Thou My Vision, my family----Dick, my brothers and their wives, and 6 of the 7 grandchildren and their spouses----tucked our sweet mom/Nanny in, and committed her earthly body on Saturday to the dust she shall return to. After losing Dad only 8 months ago, the pain of grief leapt up into all our hearts once again. Like we did for him, we walked her home together for the past 5 months, with love and sadness and honor, and now, this weekend, we were able to celebrate her great life.

The feeling of being an orphan is daunting. My brother Chris expressed wondering what he should do with his son-role. I can echo that. The daughter-role was such a vital component of my life, especially as the 3 of us have done caregiving for both Mom and Dad. I have always worn the badge of daughter with pride. I would have done anything for my parents. How do you give that up?

There were lots of tears last weekend, both at the wake, where we all got up to talk about what she has meant to us, and at the funeral and the burial. We are Hiebs. We cry. A lot. Another piece of DNA from our mom. She was Irish. She laughed hard, played hard, and cried hard. Happy tears. Sad tears. All 10 of us got the gene, 3 kids and 7 grands. So this weekend, we did the domino dance many different times, involuntarily falling one after another into our tears. When one Hieb cries, we all cry. That’s what Hiebs do. In the months to come, I hope my private tears will be cleansing and somewhat healing.

I need some healing. Because I don’t know how to do this……to be motherless. I can’t express how that feels. Mom was the keeper of my past. She knew the secret moments that formed me, and the deepest part of my being as I grew up. She loved me like nobody else could ever love me……she was, after all, my mom. That’s what moms do. I was so blessed to be loved like that for over 60 years.

My niece Rachel and my friend Julie essentially said the exact thing to me at two different times one day. “You will be able to walk forward without her because she taught you how.” I will cling to that.

The last time I was with her, her words were mere whispers and not clear, but when I said to her, “Mom, you will live in my heart forever,” she said back to me, tapping her heart, “We’ll live in each other’s hearts forever.” And so we will. That kind of love never ends.

It says in Psalm 139 that the number of our days were determined before any of them came to be. God could have ordained her days to be over when she was 30 or 50 or 75. But He was gracious enough to give her 94 years. God gave her 65 years with the man she deeply loved. He allowed her to see the happy marriages of her 3 children and her grandkids.

I got to have my mom at my wedding. She watched me graduate from her alma mater. I got to watch her big tears fall as I laid my long-awaited newborn son in her arms. From that moment on, for 23 years, she called Sam “my boy.”

“How was my boy’s game today?”
“When is my boy gonna come and visit us?”
“I want to come down for my boy’s piano recital.”

I guess she had the right to partial ownership. God gave HER the dream that he was to be. After 6 years of our infertility, Mom had a very poignant and real dream that Sam was going to be conceived, and that he would have big blue eyes and curly blond hair. God let her see him first. I did conceive and he looked exactly like the baby in her dream. Exactly. That bonded the two of them in many special ways.

Mom was always on the other end of a telephone when I needed to cry, when I needed affirmation or encouragement. Anytime I had a “Samism” to share, she’d be the one I would call. She never stopped teaching me, whether it was coping with a trial, cooking, or taking risks. She always knew what I should do. And I almost always took her advice. She was one of my best friends.






Pat was a life force. She was a hurricane of love and passion and opinions and selflessness. She was a gourmet cook, even published in the New York Times Cookbook. She was involved in community, school, and medical auxiliary events, and belonged to many clubs. She was a highly trained medical technologist. Mom was smart, sentimental, loyal, and always up for a party (remember she was Irish). She was a devoted caregiver to two elderly aunts and both of my grandmothers.

Her gifts and interests were so varied. I wish I had inherited her skills at all of them. Sewing and quilting (exquisite hand quilting), antique refinishing, gardening, bridge, cooking and baking, entertaining, crafts of all kinds, and knitting (she could knit an intricate wool sweater better than any Norwegiaknitter!!

Nanny was adored by each of her 7 grandchildren and the adoration flowed back to her in return. They each forged a unique relationship with her that was exclusive only to the two of them.

My mom was the hub of our family. Sam texted on the day she died, “Without Nanny our family is like a boat without a rudder.” Indeed.

She made every occasion special with traditions and memories and incredible food. We were all spoiled by her devotion to making every family event one to be remembered. I will never forget the surprise party she planned for my 13th birthday. Never had I been more surprised! She anchored our lives with wit and joy.

I’ve had friends send me remembrances. My dear friend Peg remembers Mom’s pies and her grace. My best friend from grade school, Patty, remembers being made to feel as if Mom were a second mom to her. More than a few friends recalled the PDA between my folks. There used to be a lot of necking while she was cooking dinner!



Mom wore butterflies her entire life. They were her "signature." She had butterfly everything. Clothes, pins, dishes, etc. She gave away so many butterfly pins. And it had nothing to do with the insect. She always told people it was a sign of the resurrection. She knew eternal life awaited her and she loved a symbol of that transition.

Did we have enough time with her? No, it was not enough. My son will never be able to lay his newborn someday in his Nanny’s arms. She won’t be here to advise me through retirement. I will never be called “Precious” again.

But I would not ask God for more. It was an amount of time that few children do not get with their parents. We were the lucky ones.

We cannot imagine a life without our mom and Nanny. She is woven through us from birth to death. She stood at our mileposts and celebrated with us.

How do we say goodbye to her without saying goodbye to a piece of ourselves? There is a large chunk of Patty in each of us. In the 3 of us kids and even in the 7 grandkids. Traits, idiosyncrasies, habits and looks….the most enduring parts of her are in the 10 of us.

Whenever we need her zest for life, her compassion, her problem solving, her strength, or humor….all we need to do is look to each other. She is there. Whenever we laugh about our “worry gene” we will think of Mom. Whenever we give each other the “I’m not happy with you” look, we will chuckle and remember that it is her face. Most of us can imitate nearly every facial expression and mannerism she had!

Patricia Mary Bolger Hieb

What do we do with all that she gave us? We absorb it all and then pay it forward. We love our own children lavishly and try to be as generous with them as she and dad were with us. We carve out precious relationships with our grandchildren. Like Mom, we make family the most important thing. We take her lessons and try to recreate the wonder of our childhood with our own kids.

No doubt we will cry along the way as we remember the love and the memories and as we yearn to have her hold us one more time. We will honor her with our tears. Because that is what Hiebs do.

I love you past the moon, Mama. And because you can’t one-up me, I get to say it all this time:

I love you.
I love you more.
I love you most.


Until we meet again…..

Monday, June 8, 2015

THE WEDDING


My Sam is now a husband!! The wedding was this past weekend in Minneapolis. The groom's dinner, wedding and reception were absolutely perfect. God's favor rested on every element of the weekend celebration. I don't have pictures to share yet (I copied and pasted these from someone who posted it on FB) but I will when I officially get some. Am so blessed to have shared this day with Sam and Gretchen.




Friday, May 29, 2015

SWEET DREAMS, MAMA

My sweet precious mom went to heaven yesterday. The lights in my world, my soul, and my heart have gone out. There really is a hole of grief so deep that you can't reach the bottom of it.

I was blessed to have this amazing woman for a mom. She loved us all lavishly. 

And as my brother and I have said back and forth over the last week, nobody will ever love you like your mom loves you. It is so true. I will miss her love til the day I die.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

SO MUCH LOVE

Every goodbye holds more pain. Every goodbye looms over my words, wondering whether it could be the last one. This past weekend, I had to do it again. It is heartbreaking every time.

The January stroke which stole my mother's independence also stole her sweet light-filled apartment, her mobility, her strength, her vitality, and some of her mental clarity.

My smart, ebullient, vital, thoughtful, and very active mother did not want to end her life story like this. People want to end their stories on their own terms. Mom did not get a choice. She would tell you, if she could, that she would want to die sitting at a bridge table with her 3 girlfriends, having just bid one-no-trump. 

And yet, what remains is undimmed and canyon-deep love for her children and grandchildren. When she may not be able to express her preferences for dinner or what to wear, she can still be profoundly articulate about her love. 

"I love you more than that."
"Nobody will ever love you as much as I do."
"You are in my heart everyday."

I soak it in. My brothers soak it in. The 3 of us have been loved intensely our whole lives. Maybe mother-love is the one enduring constant in life.

When I am about to leave her room, we can't hug and kiss enough. And we talk about how much we love each other. And we try to say goodbye. And I die a little tiny bit every time because I don't know how I am going to live without my mom. When the time comes, I really don't know how I can do that.

Mom's rich rich life was diminished because of this stroke. But she still has love. Lots of love. Love given to her, and love given by her. 

Of all she has lost, I know that if she had the choice of losses, she would have chosen everything but the ability to love her family.

That remains.





Saturday, May 9, 2015

ONE MONTH AWAY

In exactly one month, this beautiful, sweet young woman will be my daughter-in-law. I am so blessed.






Tuesday, May 5, 2015

THANKFUL

I continue to be "cancer free" according to yesterday's CT scan of my torso. You won't find an oncologist willing to say those words to anyone with a stage 4 daignosis. But it is what it is. I have stable disease, with nothing new or growing in and around my lungs, kidneys, liver or bones. So I will call my torso cancer free!! And we have unwavering faith that my brain will also be labeled that someday.

For now, we take this news as a blessing. I only wish my body felt as good as this news is. I am on steroids for one more week. Our deepest prayer is that I am able to remain off the steroids and to recover my strength, lose my bloating, and reconnect with my head!!
We are praying mightily against headaches in any form to recur. That would mean steroids again.

Dick started me on a PT rehab program last night, and I am motivated to regain as much muscle strength as possible. I couldn't lose any more or I would be bed-ridden. If it is last thing I do this summer, I am going to dance with my son at his wedding, and so I am dedicated to the weights and the Theraband and picking up my walking distances.

Thank you to all of you who are my prayerful friends and family, for the sustaining prayers and the encouragement and support as I have plodded through these past 3 months of "hell." I am humbled to ask you to continue to pray for no headahces and lots of recovery.

Friday, May 1, 2015

STRUGGLING

I don't think it has been this tough for 4 years. I feel like my body has betrayed me. Juggling this many symptoms has left me struggling. I continue to have severe muscle weakness (I did impress myself being able to walk up 2 belabored steps unassisted this week). My mind continues to be very fuzzy and I feel "disconnected" to my body in most ways. My body is still bloated. And now extreme fatigue has set in, expected after brain radiation. All I want to do is sleep. I am even falling asleep while reading a book (avid readers do NOT do this!). My energy level is nil, and I am struggling with depression creeping around my spirit, trying to cope with all this.

I am trying to let the Lord battle for me, as I have no energy for active prayer right now. I have my warriors praying for and around me, and they are what keep me afloat. It is a time of silence, waiting on God to show up. 

I have a lung scan on Monday to see what is happening in that realm. 

My prayer request would be that I do not spiral into depression right now. That would exacerbate every other symptom, and I fear it would pull me under. Thanks.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

MORE STEROIDS *SIGH*

I thought my next post would be filled with promise and progress and hope that I would get 5 weeks of steroid-free time before June to begin side effect-reversals.

Did not get what I wanted. 

On the day that I was supposed to be finished with steroids last week, they slapped on 2 more weeks of decreased dosage. Sigh.

But then, the scenario got worse. I got another massive excruciating headache on Thursday, painful enough that they felt they needed to double my steroid dosage for 3 more weeks.

3 more weeks. More steroid, not less. Oh, my.

I sent a picture of my body to my best friend. She has no reason to mince words with me. Her comment, "You must be heartbroken." Well, she got THAT right. It is an eerie out-of-body experience to look at yourself and see very little of what you are supposed to look like staring back in the mirror.

My black and blue face is beginning now to fade. Steroids delayed wound healing and bruising, I have learned. No wonder it is taking so long.

I am living in the silence, in the waiting, not knowing how this steroid experience will leave me, not knowing in what condition I will be in terms of mobility when it is over. 

I am not good at waiting.


Monday, April 13, 2015

BLIMP

Last Sunday evening, I took a bad fall at a gas station. If my muscle weakness was not so prounounced, I would have caught my trip with my right leg, but I do not have that capacity on steroids, and so I fell head first onto the cement. I am grateful to God that it did not slice my head open, but I landed face first, and within seconds, Dick saw the beginnings of what was to come.

The left side of my face is black and purple, and when you add that to my incredible bloating, I do look like a freak show of sorts.

The devil has tried his level best all week to assault me with lies and his own special brand of reassurances that falling is the first step toward the end. He wears on my spirit and my soul and I hardly have the strength to fight him. I am so grateful to my prayer warriors for surrounding me and letting me "rest" in the promise that God is doing the battling for me.

I still am looking about 7 months pregnant with no neck left. I have 2 pairs of stretch pants that I have worn now daily for 6 weeks. Only pairs of pants that fit underneath the big belly. I still can't do stairs or squat. My head is still very foggy and disconnected to my body (like chemo-brain). 

Wednesday is supposed to be my last dose of the Dexamethasone, but I know the effects do not reverse themselves immediately. My niece Anna has a pharmacist friend who she is going to consult today and see if she can give me an "average" length of time before the changes will begin. 

Please pray that the tide will begin to turn in time so that I might be able to buy a dress for Sam's wedding. I only have 6 weeks to try to look anything like Mary Hieb again, and I am storming the heavens over it. Those of you who think of me occasionally, please join in in that prayer!!!

Monday, April 6, 2015

PIPER FOR EASTER MORNING

Our family had an incredible Easter Sunday in Minneapolis yesterday morning. John Piper was the guest preacher at Sam's church for Easter services!!!. He preached from 1 Peter 1:3-9 on the meaning of the living hope we have in the resurrected Christ. He is all (and more) of what his reputation is for his preaching style and his deep theology and his passion for The Word. His sermon was nothing less than amazing and soul-stimulating. What an Easter blessing----up close and personal!!!


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

GOD'S FAVOR

Our family is humbled once again by God bestowing His favor upon me. My brain MRI this week yielded a good report. "Stable disease." There has been no progression in any brain tumor activity. Praise the Lord for this! 

They feel that the excruciating breakthrough headache last week was due to getting off the steroids too quickly. It could never be too quickly for me, but this is what is needed. So of course, they started me back on them last week and once again, I cannot walk stairs, squat or take walks. My belly is 16 pounds of bloat and I am wired up once again all night. Tomorrow I can reduce by 2 mg for another week, and then reduce by 1 mg for another week and then I can actually go off of them. I SO need to regain some sense of health here.

But the bottom line is that God is protecting my brain and all that is inside of it, and we are so so so grateful.

Thank you so much for your prayers. They have been heard!!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

ANOTHER CHALLENGE

I've had 2 of the roughest weeks ever. Even when that new chemo's side effects were killing my liver and assaulting me with pain and constipation, I at least could walk.

The steroids I have had to be on for brain swelling have been as close to a "demonic drug" as I can imagine. I cannot get up stairs except on hands and knees because of severe muscle weakness. If I squat down to look into a lower cupboard, I am unable to make myself upright with holding onto a chair or counter top or drawer handle. And then, walking. Me. The walker. 2 miles a days. Every day. I now can walk around the block once only. The steroids give me tremors, keep me awake most of the night, make me fuzzy-brained. I have mouth sores that will not heal, tremendous bloating (I have no neck and a stomach that looks like I could give birth in 2 months). They have given me 4 episodes of spasms of the esophageal sphincter, which feel like a massive heart attack and had Dick and me leaving for the ER the first time.

It has been hard. The effects had begun before we left on our trip (I needed help on stairs), but they worsened on our trip as far as being unable to walk and squat, and since we have been home, I have spent more time on the sofa than anywhere else.

I went off the steroids 2 days ago, only to be lambasted with an excruciating headache yesterday which lasted through the night and into today. It was unbearable. My oncologist put me BACK on steroids and has ordered another brain MRI for Monday.

Please pray, my praying friends, that when I get off the steroids, that the many side effects would reverse themselves. As I live with all of these daily, I start to fear that they will never diminish or disappear. Thanks so much.