Saturday, December 30, 2017


Happy New Year from my family to yours!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New year to all!

Saturday, December 16, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


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

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

Today, I have had enough.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


 God keeps putting opportunities in front of me for giving back. Among them, we are getting trained into working the community food shelf. It is such a great program. There is a lot of carrying of pallets of food, which I cannot do, but I have found my niche as the check-in person and someone who helps the shopper pack up all their groceries. I really love the thoughts of one of my trainers when I told her I might have counted wrong. She said, "Always err on the side of generosity. If they take two too many cans, just let it go. This is all about giving food away."  Even though we need several more shifts of learning the ropes, we are enjoying it so much.

We went to Minneapolis to see the kids and decided as long as we were 5 hours in, we went up to the cabin, through lots of snow that made it feel very Christmas-like. I sat frozen in front of the bunkhouse heater for an hour (how can rooms possibly get this frozen?) until a contractor came who met with us about doing some work for us next spring. He hasn't decided yet if he wants to put a bid in. Since a storm was in pursuit of our area up there, we turned around 2 hours later and drove over 4 more hours. 9 hours of driving in one day. Ugh. 

I have to show you the pictures of our garage rooftop at the lake. The snow that had fallen that week slid down our metal roof and made a beautiful etched curlicue!! Wonder if it is still there.

We are so excited about going to Kansas City for Thanksgiving. We will be with Joyce (Dick's sister) and brother-in- law Ron and their family. They have 2 of their 4 kids in town and 6 grandchildren, so there will be a great family gathering. They are such a fun family.

My one side effect of hearing loss due to brain radiation and chemo has gotten to the point of me not hearing a soft-spoken person sitting right next to me .It is so frustrating. I have resisted getting one for so long. I need to be humble enough to accept this loss. My first appointment is the Monday after Thanksgiving. I am going to check out two different places with very different policies about trying out the aids, so we'll just see.

Dick and I just finished a 1 hour exercise class (8 circuits) and it is REALLY a workout, for both of us. It is a challenge because my balance and my muscles are already so compromised. We've met so many nice people. 

I am so thankful for all my blog readers. Thank you remaining steadfast in listening to the ramblings of a memory-impaired woman. I have probably written the same thing twice at times. Have a wonderful grace-filled Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

ATTN: Anon

To the anonymous person who made a comment yesterday. First of all, thank you so very much. It touched me a great deal that my blog was able to give you any sort of inspiration. I would really like to know who you are and find out in what ways I can be praying for you. If you are on Facebook, please find me on Facebook search and send me a personal message!! I would love to get to know you! My last name is Hieb-Ekstrom.

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."

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Today is the 7th year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. I look back on that devastating day and felt, along with my husband and son, a pain so deep, the bottom of it couldn't be reached. We thought it was the beginning of the end. My first oncologist gave me 14 months to live.

Seven years later, as I continue to have faith that God is still going to heal me of this stage 4 lung cancer and brain cancer, I marvel at the milestones I never dreamed I would see. Sam finishing his freshman year of college, being able to take him back to Dordt for his second, third, and fourth years, graduating, getting married to a great gal, helping him move to Minneapolis, rejoicing with him as he got jobs that he loves. Never in a million years did I think God would grant me ANY of those great moments. Yet, He did. 

Oh, the grace of my Abba......

Lavish grace that has allowed me more time on this earth.

On the night of my diagnosis, while tears were soaking my pillow, I heard from the Spirit of God, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's son may be glorified through it." (John 11:4).

I believe God is faithful to His word and I believe the message from His Word was meant to sustain me in all the very difficult days and years ahead.

While on occasion, when I am weak, I still plead with God to heal me. But much more often, I just thank Him now, for what he Has given me and what He is going to do. I thank Him for the unexpected blessings that have graced my life for the past 7 years.

7 year anniversary

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Things are going well for us. My chemo was upped to half strength and my only side effects are headaches. Richie tells me these are brain tumors evaporating, and I am choosing to believe him and not stress over the headaches. I am here in town for another appointment today.

Our lake is the warmest it has been in years. It was 81 degrees yesterday and the air was colder than the water. It has been great sitting on our floats and going WAY to drift in.
It is finally shorts weather!!

Richie is building a beautiful retaining wall for us. We had a piece of land cut off from our hill by our driveway to straighten it, and we need a wall to hold up the hill from eroding. The blocks are 70 pounds apiece so he is building muscle for sure. He also is losing weight. He is drenched from head to tow from sweat by 11 in the morning, if not earlier. The job he is doing is meticulous. You would never guess a professional didn't do it. I am so proud of him taking this on. Getting 8 tiers of rocks perfectly level is no small task!!

I love God because he is sovereign and majestic and hundreds of other reasons. But this summer I have seen his sense of humor. Earlier in May, I considered trying to let my hair grow out white, which was what it came in as after brain radiation. Dick and I both decided we weren't ready for me to be white. So for 2 years, I have been coloring that white. As it grew out I always had white roots.

Well, I had a chat in May with Terry, my pastor's sweet wife and friend who I noticed had some patches of white on her head. I asked her if she going to quit coloring and go white and she said yes. Something about what she said just gave me the courage to do the same. What do I care the way people look at me? If they think I look 75 years old, they do. 

So.....I assumed the transformation would take about 2 months since my hair is so short. Well, here is God's humor. He has changed my (when, I don't know) hair color to salt and pepper. Today, there is some white, but just as much dark brown. Are you kidding me? The radiation people told me my hair would probably come back and stay white.  Apparently God thought I would look better with some color!! He laughs.

Here are a few shots of our summer.

Captain, Sam's pup we babysat

Richie cutting up a dead tree he just felled in our front woods

Patty, my best friend through my early years

A view from the shore

Dick starting his wall

Four rows done (one under the ground), starting the fifth

Just lounging in the warm sun

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


We are at Sam's house in Minneapolis puppy sitting for a week. I am in hog heaven with access to wifi and internet and being able to talk on my cell phone. I am taking advantage of being able to sit at my computer at their kitchen table and be ON THE GRID. After years of being out of touch every summer, I never take internet for granted. I can even send video from here!!!

Pup caretaking is time intensive. We imposed a mandatory nap time for all 3 of us after lunch every day and Captain is real good about going in his kennel and taking his 1 hour nap (or more). Richie is taking on 90% of the dog care, for which I am very grateful. A question for God someday: WHY did You put such sharp teeth into the mouth of a puppy?

I am going to lunch today with Bill Gengler, a grade school classmate I haven't seen since high school. We reconnected online and I am anxious to reminiscence with him. Tomorrow my dear friend Patty (who I saw in March in Florida) is driving up to spend some time together. She is about 45 minutes south of Sam's house. I am so grateful to her for doing the metro driving which I am very skittish about. I lived here 40 years ago, but driving back then was a breeze compared to now.

I am soaking in the warmth of the Twin Cities summer. You can sit on the deck at night in short sleeves and be comfortable! I got my fill of cold and rain in June.

The only side effect so far with the chemo is the return of headaches. An Excedrin doesn't even take it away. And this is on less than a half dose. I hope they don't get worse when I go onto half dose next week. Muscle pain and balance are still bad, but they are a side effect from steroids and radiation 2 years ago. Headaches I can live with. Nausea I can't. So no complaints. I am anxious to get hearing aids (tho I hate the thought of wearing them) as my hearing loss from radiation keeps getting worse.

Don't know when my next update will be. I'll be at the public library sometime in the next few weeks, I'm sure.

Happy July!!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


Being off the grid and being unable to have internet or wifi or talk on cell phones, I am feeling really frustrated. For my few minutes in the town library here, I just want to update you. With God's lavish deliverance, I was able to crawl out of the darkness of depression, no meds needed. I praise Him for that. I started up on the chemo again 4 days ago after being off all drugs for a month. I am starting at less than half a dose and working up to half dose. I think I am going to make the choice to stay on half and not try a full dose again.

We are going to grandpuppy sit for a week in Mpls. Hope to connect with friends who live there.

Cold and rainy and cloudy June, but July has been warm and sunny. Hope you all are having a good summer. It is a third over already. Feel like I was under a rock for all of June. Just now seeing the sun again!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


I am weathering storms. The mysterious rash that appeared last week is going away (the PA at the little country clinic up here had no idea its source, but told me to take Zantac and Benadryl. It is working well. The vertigo that descended on me mid-week is starting to abate on Meclizine and by doing Eppley maneuvers. My depression is slowly being lifted with God’s mighty hand. It has been 3 days since I have been assaulted with something new and I am so grateful for that. I haven’t walked much since the mosquitoes are so bad, but I feel a bit surer on my feet.

Weather here has been generally speaking, cold and rainy. June up north is not a great month. The furnace still goes on 3 times every night.  I have read 4 novels in 2 weeks and am out of books. I know this makes no sense to most of you, but I almost feel panicky without a stack of books to be read. As soon as my vertigo is completely gone, I need to drive myself into the library in town.

Richie works his tail off every day trying to keep up with all the tasks of being a good steward of acres of woods. Limbs need trimming, downed trees (of which there were many from a late heavy snow) need to be cut off and cut up, and dead trees need to be felled. He has hauled 4 or 5 trailer loads full of pine boughs, logs, and other tree parts to the “back forty.” We decided to thin out a little of the front woods so we could see the lake better so he has been on a tall ladder taking boughs down in the thickest pine. It is a never ending job.

We go next week back to Sioux Falls for an appointment. I will most likely be starting back on my chemo, so pray that I will tolerate the single dosage. I will let you know how it goes. Thank you from the deep recesses of my heart for all your prayers.

Monday, June 12, 2017


There have been many changes since the last time I posted. A couple of days before we left, I had a bike accident, delaying our departure by a day (I still have bruised and scabbed knees). When we got here, for some unknown reason, for the first time in years and years, I felt “blue.” Having experienced depression before, I started on an antidepressant. That lowers blood pressure. I was already taking several meds which did the same thing and I probably was not hydrating enough. My blood pressure did not need to be taken to know how low it was. I got up here and the next day, my body collapsed. Could not even stand up. Dick had to walk me to another room, put me in bed. It was the lowest point of many years. My Avera consult resulted in them telling me to get off ALL drugs, including my daily chemo.

My body was just not tolerating the double dose well. My quality of life with nausea, weight loss, headaches, body pain was marginal at best. When I added my hearing loss and vitreous detachments to the new list of side effects, I could not see myself spending a summer like that.  If they hadn’t taken me off the chemo, I would have requested it myself. They want me to get back to a “baseline” before they start me on the single dosage again. I will not try double dosage again. The drug may extend my life, but at what cost? My choice alone.

Each day is a step forward. Today I walked 70 feet to the lakeshore without Dick’s help! Did two loads of laundry. That’s it My sweet sister-in-law Margie tells me, ALL FORWARD MOTION COUNTS. She has battled depression too. Have not seen any friends up here. They may not know I’m here yet. Haven’t answered the phone from friends at home. I’m still sort of isolating…..if you’ve ever walked the “blues path,” you know what I mean. It has been a long time since I have faced depression---years before I was rendered cancerous. It is such an insidious disease, and one that I hope I can be victorious over---with God’s help and getting back on the meds when I have baselined. I need physical and emotional strength badly.

I feel like a butterfly who has lost a wing. But I know that it is God’s promise to prosper me and not harm me; to work all these ugly circumstances together in a way for my good. That is the only trust I have.

We don’t get into town much (library where they have wifi), but I will update you when I can. Thanks in advance for any and all intercessory prayers that go up on my behalf!!

Next day:

I have such a servant husband. He dropped me off at the library so I could post this, and he is doing the big grocery shop by himself. It's his least favorite thing to do. I couldn't do it. He just has such a good heart. 

A sudden rash appeared on half my belly last night. Have no idea what it could be, but 
I just sent a picture of it to my brother. He can tell me whether I should get it looked at. I said to God in the night, "Go ahead and let it pile on......   In all things, give thanks. So thank you, God for the rash.

That's it.......there are probably grammar and spelling errors all over this post, but I don not have the energy to edit. Sorry.

Monday, May 22, 2017


I had a good first week on the chemo. Then they had me double it. Nausea kicked in right away which is the symptom I so hate. Nothing worse when you are trying to keep weight on. I lost 5 pounds that week, but then the nausea started lessening. On this past Wednesday, I had my first nausea-free day. And 2 more after that. And I have had pretty good days since, with just a couple of low-grade nausea hours. I am trusting that it will continue with more thumbs-up days than thumbs-down.

Richie has been on a fishing trip for 7 days and should be home tomorrow. My best friend Susan from Georgia flew in for 3 of those days and we had a great time together. It is hard to be so far apart, but it is what it is. We generate lots of telephone time!!

I am the worst selfie-taker EVER.

Susan arrived on her birthday and requested REAL chocolate mousse!

Finally, I have a shout out for my young friend Jocelyn who is doing such a fabulous job losing her baby weight. I hadn't seen her in about a month and her ongoing path to getting fit and trim again post-pregnancy is really paying off. Her face even looks different. I love encouraging these young women to do the work to get it all off.  She doesn't have far to go! Way to go, Jocelynn!! I see trim, fit and healthy just around the corner for you!!

Thank you blog readers, for your prayers for me in this long-enduring walk with cancer. You have been persistent and generous in talking to the Father about me and I am so grateful!!

Saturday, May 13, 2017


I took a short walk at 9 last night. Beautiful, balmy, birds still singing. I wasn't thinking about my folks at all when I walked out the door. And then, so out of no where, grief descended like an angry storm cloud. And the first tears fell before I was past my house. And then came the aching, the longing, the deep deep yearning to hold them and talk to them/hear their voices and joke with them and love on them. I cried the whole walk. Grief, which lives so close to the surface of our souls, had wrapped itself around me and wasn't letting go. Dick held me for a awhile when I got home, but my heart seemed to need a grief explosion. I cried and cried, til there were no tears left. I was at the bottom. 

I don't think if you had a tight bond with your parents that it ever gets any easier. My brothers both have those moments too, they've told me. We all have an emotional hole---even some of the grandkids have expressed it. How hard it is living without them in our lives. How blessed we Hiebs all are to have had two people so loving, so generous, so full of wisdom, so fun, so giving to others, so full of goodness as Eddie and Pat.

All I really know is that the best parts of who I am were created from the best parts of who Mom and Dad were. They live within me. I feel them. And if in honoring that love we shared, I need to spend a few nights sobbing out my grief, then so be it. 

Happy Mother's Day and Happy Father's Day, Mom and Dad.

Friday, April 28, 2017


I got approved for the chemo and I was able to get my first dose Thursday. Surrounded by the prayers of so many trusted prayer warriors, I felt God's peace as I took the first pill. I kept it down without any nausea at all. PRAISES TO MY LORD for that. Susan, Risa, Julie, Mary Ruth, Margie, Jackie, Cole, Sarah, Penny, Ann, Peg, Lee, Jackie, and Earleen, you guys ROCK as prayer intercessors and doing spiritual warfare against the enemy. You well supplemented  Richie's and Sam's prayers. I felt angels surrounding me, battering down the fears and anxiety that day. How can I ever say thanks? I will just have to pay it forward to y'all when your needy times come.

I double the dosage in 1 week. I am hoping that doesn't change anything in terms of nausea.

The final 2 weeks of getting approved for the program to get the drug early was highly stressful. When I came home Friday after being in SF 3 times that week, probed and tested and picked and tapped and scanned and MRI'd, I walked in and promptly slept for 6 hours in 2 different afternoon naps. THAT's how wiped I was. I admit I am still not back up to snuff. But the wait is over and now my prayer is for the effectiveness of the drug to be evident.
I'll welcome any prayers for that. This drug is my last hope (medically speaking). My real hope lies in Jesus and His mighty healing power.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


I am a grammar buff, and proud to be one. I had no choice in the matter. Spelling and grammar were areas where my parents were not lax. They wanted their kids to be articulate. We all had our grammar corrected immediately upon using the wrong word. They had a great deal of help from the Catholic nuns who educated us, who were nothing if not rigorous in teaching us the King’s English. Every grandchild, when visiting, got corrected as well. I thanked Mom and Dad many times for the gift of that early correction. Sam has thanked me many times for the same.

If a wine snob is one who appreciates fine wine, I must be a grammar and spelling snob. I like “buff “or “aficionado” better. My brain lights up when I see misspellings and hear bad grammar! I want to rectify both! I have many friends who use poor grammar and I always notice it. It is all over TV; even my favorite reality TV host uses it. Sports analysts (and Sam would agree) and broadcasters are not known for good grammar. The morning talk shows are sprinkled every day with grammar missteps. Yes, I notice every one.

Mom and Dad raised an S & G buff. I raised an S & G buff, and I have no doubt that if Sam has kids someday, their speech will be readily corrected by their papa. Because Sam had college journalism classes, he is even more knowledgeable about high level grammar rules than I am.

I have been able to use my particular area of passion in my job. My subbing in the schools was a prime place to make a difference. I swear parents don’t correct poor speech anymore. When a student asked or told me something like, “Can him and me go to the library?” I would just calmly say every time, “Ask me again using proper English.” It may have taken 3 or 4 tries, but they eventually got it right. And then I told them how they could not make that mistake again. Of course I was there only one day at a time, and without daily reinforcement, I’m sure my efforts to teach a few grammar rules went by the wayside, but I put my due diligence in anyway. I never let poor grammar slip.

In 20 years, I’ve rarely heard a teacher correct grammar in a student. Many of our teachers themselves have poor skills. THEY never learned well. One day a classroom teacher said in a conversation with me, “Him and Gary played tennis with I and Ann.”(names changed) I honestly cringed to my core. I went home and told my husband that our schools are failing our kids through parents who don’t care about speech and through many of our teachers. Not all of them. But definitely some of them. How can they turn their students into well-spoken adults when they themselves are not articulate?

My biggest bug-a-boo is with pronoun use. Learning how and when to use nominative pronouns and objective pronouns correctly should be taught from 2nd grade on. If kids learn it early----and it’s so easy to learn---- they will know it forever.

The second thing that I hear way too much of is using an adjective where an adverb should be: “He drove real careful.” (carefully, not careful) “He did good in that game.” (well, not good).

Then there is the “like” word that has permeated our culture, used multiple times in a sentence before verbs, nouns, adverbs and adjectives. What a meaningless word. Nothing sounds so “backwoods” to me as someone who cannot form a sentence without using “like.” I just like hope it is like just a fad and that it like eases its way out of our English vernacular like very soon.

Once I was subbing and saw a notice I was to send home with kids for their parents to sign. I read it and found 4 spelling and grammar errors in the notice. I left a note for the teacher and did not send it out. Our college education classes need to stress good grammar and spelling so that these young educators can pass that on.

Okay, this has become a lecture and I never intended it to be that. What I want to say is: Parents and grandparents, if you notice poor grammar, correct it. Teach it to your little ones. Pass on the gift of becoming articulate. If you don’t know good grammar, there are hundreds of resources where you can learn it! Turn your kid into a grammar and spelling buff!

Thursday, April 13, 2017


There is a possibility---a good one--- that I will be eligible to get the drug I need (before it is available through the FDA on May 15) now through a program called Compassionate Use. God's fingerprints were all over how I heard about this. I won't go into all the drama and detail of how it came about, but let me just say that I have passed Steps 1 and 2 out of 4 for final approval. Next Friday I will have brain and chest MRIs, as well as 4 other tests/labs to get an idea of my condition for the research team. If I pass, I could have the drug as soon as 12 days from now.

You may ask what the benefit is of getting it so close to the day I could get it on the open market. I realize there will only be a 3-week differential and perhaps to some it isn't worth going through all this protocol to get the drug early.

Let me tell you, when you have been sitting idly waiting since Feb.1 for the only drug that can extend your life, you grab at ANY advantage. The saddest part is I would have been eligible for Compassionate Use back on Feb.1. Needless to say, I fired my doctor and have hired a new oncologist. 'Nuf said on that.

I trust in God's providence for me. If I am supposed to be approved, I will be. If not, I wait. God is the same either way. When you trust God to order your steps, you have a peace that passes all understanding.

I remain hopeful and I will let you know if I am approved!!

Thursday, March 30, 2017


I am not a person who cavalierly recommends things to others. I do so primarily with books, and not even just good books. For me to recommend a book, it has to be a great read. I may have recommended a terrific movie or two over the years. But this may be the most excited I have been over suggesting something.

Dick and I have just finished watching a 4-part sermon series called Unstrapped. The preacher is a pastor from a large church in Omaha. Even though we have loved every one of his archived sermons, I wasn't sure I wanted to watch four about money. We almost chose not to delve into this series, but something in our spirits compelled us to start the first sermon. And we were totally hooked.

We finished the series in about 8 days (watching about a half hour a day) and the fourth sermon was as good as the other three. Friends, I urge everyone to listen to this series. It is about so much more than money. It is about a new lifestyle choice, your heart, what you worship, your stewardship, obedience, tithing, the way you view your life, and blessing yourself and others.

Dick and I agree that we have NEVER heard a sermon about money like this one. Six decades, and finally, a series of money sermons that felt like fresh oxygen. Each one touched us down to the marrow. We could hardly stop watching the streamed video each night. Pastor Les is so easy to listen to, so authentic, and yes, funny too.

If more believers (and non-believers for that matter) could hear this, how different things might be. We could see altered lives, and marriages coming together and restored families. If these principles were taught in churches, we would have a revival which could change the lives of many people in our fellowships, and by extension, in the community.

Friends, I am inviting you to try out the first sermon. If you don’t buy into it, don’t watch it. If you finish it and felt as inspired as we were, share the series with others. Tell people at your church about it.

Living the unstrapped life matters. Check this link out and please let me know what you thought.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


I waited in the shade in front of the cafe for her. When she walked up to me, after 33 years, we fell into each other's arms. We both had tears. Nearly simultaneously, we said "I would know you anywhere." I looked at her and said, "252-2218." And not skipping a beat, she answered, "252-4598." Our childhood family phone numbers. Decades later, fresh on both our tongues.

My long-awaited reunion with my best friend from grade school was the highlight of my trip to Florida this year. Life and careers and distance kept us apart for all that time, but to hug Patty was coming full circle.

Patty and I met on the first day of kindergarten and became best friends. Our parents were going to send us both to the small parochial school in town so we maintained our close friendship all through school. Together, we did life through spelling bees, sleepovers, grade school dances, piano lessons, dance lessons, 60's music (the best ever), 6th grade boyfriends and the horrific day in 3rd grade when JFK was shot. 

We spent lots of time at each other's houses playing....she had the most awesome Barbie set-up under their basement stairs complete with a Barbie and Ken house and car where we spent hours. My Barbie and her large case of clothing was always in transit between houses. She remembers thinking our basement as the coolest thing ever. Until she told me why, I had never realized that Mom and Dad had, indeed, designed a perfect 2000 sq ft space for kids and teens downstairs. As a kid, I had taken it for granted.

She spent summers with her mom at their lake cabin and her dad would often bring me out on weekends. We played "house" in her bunkhouse and spent time on the beach.
As we got older, we had crushes on lake boys and would take her boat and cruise around the lake. 

One day, the girl next door said she couldn't go swimming with us and we pressed her into telling us why. That was the day Patty and I learned all about menstruation, which sounded really gross. When the 4th grade girls had "the talk" with their moms, Patty and I had a pact to act dumb so our moms wouldn't be upset that someone else had told us.

Oh, yes, we shared many secrets. Isn't that a hallmark of a bestie?

Patty considered Mom and Dad her second parents. She was a later-life bonus baby with 4 siblings much older than herself so I think she enjoyed being part of the chaos at our house. When Dad was dying, she wrote a letter to my parents telling them how much they meant to her growing up. It meant the world to them, because they always had loved Patty. Dad never did stop telling the story of scaring her to death when he jokingly told her that if she didn't eat her creamed peas, he would give them to her in an IV. Patty well remembers it. He loved to tease.

Patty and I were best friends but we were friends with others. Colleen and Mary Kay were another set of best friends that we did things with together and individually. But we always gravitated back to each other. In the 8th grade, our school closed its high school, which meant for 9th grade, we would be going to the huge public high school. The only thing that made that less daunting was knowing Patty and I would navigate it together. Going from a class of maybe 25 to a class of 350 made me tremble. I was so shy by nature. I needed her for this big transition.

Weeks later, my universe shattered. Patty was moving to a city 90 miles east. I will never forget sobbing in my mom's arms the day she told me. It paralyzed me.

We tried to stay in touch as much as possible. In those days it was mainly by a monthly phone call and written letters. Lots of letters in the beginning. We both made other friends in our new high schools and our connection got stretched out. We saw each other a few times during college years, but didn't really re-connect again until I moved to Minneapolis (where she was living) for a 3-month graduate internship. She was newly married (yes, I was her maid of honor) and we started seeing each other regularly again. 

I got a faculty position at the University of Northern KY and moved there. And eventually landed back in Duluth which was only 3 hours away from her, but our careers, life, kids and commitments got in the way. I had no idea that my wedding would be the last time we would see each other for 33 years. 

At the cafe, I pounded her with questions about everything in those intervening years. Tributaries of our memories came rushing forth. She has experienced so many losses but Patty exudes a joy about her that is infectious. I couldn't get enough of her. She was always my leader and I always looked up to her for wisdom. Our lives have taken very different trajectories, but that didn't matter at all.

My beautiful lifelong friend Patty

Our reunion was indeed the high point of my week in the sunny south. After being with Patty for 15 minutes, I knew that if we had continued to live in the same city, we never would have lost our connection. For at its foundation, it is deeper than the roots on a North Dakota oak tree.

On that day in 8th grade, when my heart cracked open at her leaving me, a hole was created in me that I didn't even know I still had. In Florida 2 weeks ago, she returned that piece of my heart to me. For me, Patty was and always will be home.