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Eleven

Mom, my post about eleven and the calendar made me think of things over the past eleven years since you passed away.

I wrote down the years and noted some personal and family events that have happened since January 26, 2003.

2003

  • Dad and I kept each other moving forward, one step at a time. Days blurred together, but when you’re going through Hell, you keep going.
  • One of my best friends, Gary, passed away in June. At his graveside service tears were streaming down my cheeks, a gentle breeze came to oh so softly dry them. Thanks Mom. I knew that was you.

2004

  • In honor of your 70th birthday, I donated blood for the first time. Thanks to your great example, I had the courage to go through the process and do my part to try to give back.
  • Dad bought a candy apple red Toyota double-cab pick up. You would have enjoyed it too.
  • Your granddaughter, Kylie, graduated from high school.
  • Your granddaughter, Ashley, and Nathan were married in July. A beautiful ceremony.
  • For the Light the Night Walk annual event, in Portland, to raise awareness and money to fight blood cancers, I single-handedly raised close to $1,500.

2005

  • This year must have been a blur or simply uneventful, as I can’t remember much of anything really important.

2006

  • Your granddaughter, Natalie, graduated from high school.

2007

  • I spent my 50th birthday at the Oregon Coast (I know that ‘surprises’ you ;)…. ) with a great friend, who’s name just happens to be Helen. 🙂
  • Your granddaughter, Ashley, graduated from Eastern Washington University.

2008

  • Your grandson, Grant, graduated from high school.
  • Dad got a great report from his doctor. Cancer free for five years. What a relief. You would be pleased.
  • Your great granddaughter, Cadence Anne, was born at Fort Lewis.
  • You brought Jeff and I together. I know you picked him out for me. Thanks. 😉

2009

  • Jeff and I along with Kylie and Natalie saw the musical Wicked in Portland at the Keller Auditorium. The same place we saw Cats, twice.
  • Ashley’s husband, Nathan, was deployed to Afghanistan. Ashley did a great job holding things together, especially considering her daughter Cadence had such a hard time with her Daddy being gone.

2010

  • The Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. I remember how you loved to watch the Olympics and how you were so supportive of my opportunity to move to Vancouver for work and encouraged me to make that step.
  • Jeff and I became engaged during the time of the Winter Olympics.
  • Ashley and Nathan had their second daughter, Piper Joy. Another great granddaughter for you.

2011

  • Dad battled chronic kidney disease. On the brink of needing dialysis, he did what the doctors said and turned the disease around. He still is mindful of it, but doing much better.
  • On 9.10.11, Jeff and I were married in Athena, Oregon and in spirit Mom, you were right there with us. We had an awesome day.
  • Jeff and I spent our honeymoon in British Columbia – Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, Nanaimo.

2012

  • Natalie and Scott got married in May. Kylie and Eric got married in September – a week after Jeff’s and my first anniversary. With Kylie marrying Eric you gained another granddaughter. You’d love Mila. And Scott and Eric.
  • Your granddaughter, Candice graduated from high school.
  • Stuart was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. Surgery and treatments followed.

2013

  • I was able to purchase a new sewing machine for my quilting and sewing projects. Mom, you would love it and like see what it can do.
  • Stuart was sent to the Mayo Clinic for more testing/evaluation. Surgery was set up at a hospital in Seattle. Then things changed. The cancer had become more aggressive and surgery was not the best course of treatment, no longer an option.
  • Another great granddaughter was born, Harper Lee.
  • Stuart endured 8 weeks of radiation treatments five days a week and chemotherapy one day of that week. The treatments took their toll, yet, following your example, he battled back.
  • Cadence started kindergarten. I can see you encouraging her in school. I know you would dearly love the little girls.

2014

  • Good so far – the best news is that Stuart is feeling stronger, recovering from the radiation treatments.
  • Dad’s health is much better. Encouraging reports from each doctor visit.
  • Mom, your Seattle Seahawks won their division, won their conference, and next week they will play in the Super Bowl. I know you would have been so excited to see their playoff games and the ‘big game’ certainly. I know you’ll have the best seat in the house for the ‘big game.’

Eleven. The calendar remains the same.

Eleven seems to be the most common.

Calendars repeat themselves, to the day, every eleven years. Sure leap years will vary this, they repeat to the day every 28 years. Stands to reason, but 2003 was not a leap year.

2003 to 2014 marks eleven years ago, to the day – January 26, that our Mom passed away. After all the time she had so courageously fought back the cancer that was ravaging her body, her passing was peaceful…very sad for us, but peaceful all the same.

With the 2014 calendar matching up with the calendar of 2003 memories come day by day….reliving that time frame, the last month of Mom’s time on this earth.

Taking a look back a few days prior to that last month, I remember that she had to be in the hospital over Christmas – yet we did have our family Christmas when she was back home – the calendar really meant nothing to us for that holiday. I do remember Dad and I watching a movie on that particular Christmas Eve, one that I will never watch again.

There are so many ‘lasts’ to that January – this year when those days come around the memories seem to be more vivid, even though they were eleven years ago. Yet, because they were eleven years ago, the calendar shows them on the same day, they repeat themselves just like the numbers that represent eleven, a 1 and another 1.

Some of those poignant memories, the lasts included, can be sharp and cut through your life like a piece of broken glass. Other memories of that time, the ones less painful, come and wash away some of the sadness of that day.

That month.

That eleven.

A healthy, yet cheesy idea.

The other day while shopping for groceries, I had the idea to bake some vegetables with some cheese, similar to a casserole yet sans noodles. I knew what characters I’d cast, just not the exact script for this dish.

I googled broccoli casserole. Among several recipes, I found one that matched my idea of what I had in mind to do – put me on the right path. Broccoli Cheese Casserole from ‘add a pinch.com’, I simply used this recipe as a guide. I made it for our lunch today. Warm, cheesy goodness and healthy too.

In addition to the broccoli, I chopped and sauteed onion, celery, carrots and near the end added some chopped kale. I seasoned the veggies to our taste – a small amount of red chili flakes, salt and pepper. I let the saute rest on low heat while I made the cheese sauce according to the recipe (yummy). Then I spooned a layer of veggies in my pan, then a a layer of shredded cheese and the rest of the veggies. Now, for the cheese sauce. I topped it off with another layer of shredded cheese and some crushed buttery crackers.

I baked the casserole at 350 for 40 minutes. Makes a great side dish or a light meal.
And…. I just thought about another ingredient…. BACON… yes, this would be good with bacon. 🙂

sauteed veggies: broccoli, onions, carrots and celery. kale was added just before

sauteed veggies: broccoli, onions, carrots and celery. kale was added just before layering the casserole

making the cheese sauce

making the cheese sauce

ready to chop the fresh kale and add to the other veggies

ready to chop the fresh kale and add to the other veggies

first layer of veggies and cheese

first layer of veggies and cheese

behold... the cheese sauce

behold… the cheese sauce

top with more shredded cheese

top with more shredded cheese

cracker crumbs for a crunchy top

cracker crumbs for a crunchy top

turned out better than I had imagined... look at the bubbly cheesy goodness surrounding the healthy veggies

turned out better than I had imagined… look at the bubbly cheesy goodness surrounding the healthy veggies

Thanksgiving…. for now…..

Thanksgiving, in our county, is this coming Thursday.

Thanksgiving, in our family, came today.
Actually, today’s Thanksgiving is just one of the many Thanksgiving celebrations we will have.

You see, today, my brother returned to grade school, so to speak.
Today, he received a certificate of accomplishment. A major accomplishment.
He got to ring the bell — the big gold bell…. a well deserved reward.

Today, my brother had his LAST radiation treatment. Quite something to celebrate.

Since early October, he has endured being secured to a table – under a mask, contoured to his  face, neck and upper body, to keep him still and in the same position to receive radiation beams every day, five days a week. He as also sat quietly while chemotherapy drugs coursed through his veins on one of those days each week. All to try to arrest the metastatic papillary thyroid cancer that had become more aggressive…. now, an angry cancer with a mean streak.

While the mask has not been the most comfortable thing, he and the mask have been through a lot and the mask helped to keep him still and in the same position so the radiation beams could be targeted to bombard the cancer, to knock it back.

The initial discomfort of the mask now pales in comparison to the current radiation burns on his neck and chest, his ravaged and raw throat complete with thick mucus that he has to cough up or choke on, the awful metallic taste in his mouth and the nausea and vomiting he battles. Then, there is the fatigue…. only rest and sleep… and more sleep can help that.

There are new medicines to take: painkillers; anti-nausea; cream to sooth his radiation-burned skin; a liquid to swallow to cool and coat his throat and esophagus.

Nutrition now is high calorie ‘shakes’ several times a day, when he can keep them down. Intravenous fluids when he can’t – that really helps him to feel better.

All these radiation treatments and chemotherapy infusions are a direct result of a visit with doctors/specialists in Seattle late last September….when he was to have life-saving surgery. He (and the rest of our family) was mentally prepared for the surgery when everything came to a crashing halt. The cancer had changed, spread, became more aggressive. Instead of surgery, more testing. More waiting and uncertainty. More agony. More sleepless hours for my brother. The testing done, he, along with his wife and middle daughter went into consult with the team of specialists while Dad and I stayed in the waiting room. I felt Mom sitting right there with us… and I was hoping that my brother felt her presence too…. he needed her there… we all did. I know she was. Mom was there to bolster us all as we learned that the life-saving surgery was cancelled. (How can that be? What does that mean? Are they giving up?) The cancer dictated what would take place in his life now. Cancer was much worse than expected. It had spread a lot. Surgery would mean removing his voice box, possibly his trachea and maybe a carotid, maybe more, totally devastating his quality of life and without guarantee it would be all gone. He was sent home, back across the state of Washington to get set up with radiation and chemotherapy at a cancer center in Tri-Cities. The new plan was to try to arrest the cancer, slow it down, anything else was to be considered a bonus. Stunned, does not really describe how we all felt.

He’s endured much, since he was first diagnosed over a year ago. The other day, at his latest appointment his radiation specialist told him that as bad as he feels now, he will surely feel even worse in about two weeks….. then the long, long road back to feeling better. Feeling better will come more slowly than feeling this bad did.

Thanksgiving for the seemingly little, yet GIGANTIC accomplishments like receiving a certificate of accomplishment and the privilege of ringing a big gold bell are worth every blessed moment of celebration.

And… Thanksgiving always reminds me of Mom.
Mom always loved celebrations, any reason to celebrate was reason enough.
Mom always loved celebrating Thanksgiving.
Mom always loved celebrating her family.

Thanksgiving for now will be giving thanks that my brother is still here… still fighting on.
Thanksgiving for now will be giving thanks that my brother has endured his radiation and chemo treatments.
Thanksgiving for now will be our traditional family dinner… yet my brother won’t be able to enjoy the food, just the company of his loving family, the energy of his beautiful granddaughters.

Thanksgiving later…. when he feels better and can eat food again… will be a feast…. a GRAND CELEBRATION. A truly thankful Thanksgiving celebration.

Persistence

Through grueling hours, days of persistence in pursuit of a highly skilled surgeon to even review his case, my brother and his endocrinologist feel they won the lottery.

It was not easy.

Working with an insurance company.
Sometimes they seemed like a heartless lot without an inkling of a soul.

Sifting through online documents trying to find just the right, highly skilled surgeon who in turn would be approved by the insurance company, and who worked at an approved facility. Not an easy task.

Calls were made. Return calls were anticipated.

Finally. A call they had been waiting for. A highly skilled surgeon told them to send him all the documents regarding the case so he could review them. All the local documents, test results and all of the same from the Mayo Clinic.

We could now all breathe a bit easier, especially my brother and his doctor.

Couple this search with the fact that both my brother and his doctor are working a full schedule. Both have a life away from work. Both want the best possible outcome for my brother. I feel like he won the lottery when he was assigned to this doctor. She’s the best and I could never thank her enough for all she’s done for my brother. For what she’s done for my family.

The highly anticipated call came. After reviewing the case, the highly skilled surgeon, at a Seattle hospital said he would do the surgery. AND… both the surgeon and the hospital were approved by the insurance company.

Mixed emotions. While my brother was so impressed with the Mayo Clinic and knew he’d be in good hands there, he is comfortable with the man who will perform the life-saving surgery closer to home.

Again… a lottery win.

Persistence paid off.

Mom taught us that.

Won’t give up.

After a week of coping with what is going on with my brother’s battle with stage 4c papillary thyroid cancer and coming to grips with what my Dad said last night, I simply needed an evening alone…. a simple evening at home.  Alone.  An evening to create.

My brother needs surgery. A difficult, complicated surgery. Life saving surgery.

My Dad is dealing with chronic kidney disease and told me that he’d refuse kidney dialysis if his kidney disease got that bad. We had a short, unhappy conversation about that. It ended abruptly.

My coping skills were less than stellar today. I needed a distraction when I got home from work.

I am making a quilt. I wanted, no, needed to work on it. I love fabric. I love color. I love creating something, basically from next to nothing. Creating something from an idea. Creating…. soothes my soul.

While I was working on my project – a baby quilt for my great-niece to be, such a life affirming project – I was listening to Sirius radio through my satellite television connection. One of my favorite music groups came on.

Train.

With one of my favorite songs.

“Calling All Angels”, just what I needed to hear.

The song mirrored my need for my Mom to help my family.
To help me cope with all this.
To help my family cope with all this.
To help me, help them.

“I need a sign, to let me know you’re here
All of these lines are being crossed over the atmosphere
I need to know, that things are gonna look up
‘Cause I feel us drowning in a sea spilled from a cup”

“When there is no place safe and no safe place to put my head
When you can feel the world shake from the words that are said”

“And I’m, calling all Angels  (—me— calling my Angel)
And I’m, calling all you Angels”

“And I won’t give up, if you don’t give up
I won’t give up, if you don’t give up
I won’t give up, if you don’t give up
I won’t give up, if you don’t give up”

“I need a sign to let me know you’re here
‘Cause my TV set just keeps it all from being clear
I want a reason for the way things have to be
I need a hand to help build up some kind of hope inside of me”

“And I’m, calling all Angels  (—me— calling my Angel)
And I’m, calling all you Angels”

Read more: Train – Calling All Angels Lyrics | MetroLyrics

So…. I am calling on my Angel….

I am channeling Mom, more each day.

And, since I know she won’t give up.

I won’t give up.

In Between

Last week my brother and sister-in-law celebrated their 32-wedding anniversary in Rochester, Minnesota.

They weren’t truly celebrating in Rochester by their own choice. They had traveled to Minnesota so that my brother could be examined by specialists. His local endocrinologist had sent him there for highly specialized care.

My brother and his doctor are battling stage 4c papillary thyroid cancer. He’s endured having his thyroid removed, two sessions of radioactive iodine and countless examinations. He’s endured being told that ‘this is the best kind of cancer to have’……. whatever that statement means. He’s endured two surgeries and recovery periods. He’s endured nerve pain and dealing with the scarring due to those surgeries. He’s endured bouts of sleeplessness and swelling that hampers his swallowing. He’s endured the balance of getting enough rest and trying to get back to work. He’s endured his own concern for his family and the high cost of treatment.

Last Friday, my brother called me to let me know of the results of all this testing which included a painful biopsy of tissues in his neck. (I was wrong in thinking that what I read online the day before was correct, that the biopsy would not be all that painful. I know that my brother has a high pain tolerance, so I know that it really hurt.) He told me that he met with a team of specialists.

The surgeon and endocrinologist told him that at this point, surgery was no longer an option, it is a MUST. Beam radiation treatments won’t get all the cancer cells.

The two previous treatments of radioactive iodine had not done their intended job. Now, the small amount of cancer cells that had hidden during the thyroidectomy have grown in number and have become aggressive.

The surgeon gave my brother detailed information regarding the surgery. He also gave him the golf analogy “a hard lie” to express the difficulty of the surgery. Even though my brother does not play golf, he understood the stark reference.

Now he was caught in between a difficult surgery, a known painful recovery and an unknown quality of life … or …. worse, if no treatment, way worse.

A tentative surgery date was schedule.

That’s a lot to digest and deal with.  Calls to family had to be made. Results had to be relayed.

And… as if ALL this was not enough, my brother called me the next day to tell me that the insurance company was balking at coverage. They stated the Mayo Clinic is ‘out of network’ and if that did not change and he went ahead with the surgical treatment there he would be financially responsible for half the cost. I did my best to assure him he’d have help paying for the treatment if he were to go ahead with it. I’d help to pay every month for as long as it took. I’d enlist other family to help him too. He said that they’d have to jump through hoops to get the insurance company to authorize the treatment whether in his home state at a facility approved by the company or after looking over the exam records possibly allowing treatment at the Mayo Clinic.

My brother is caught. Caught in between.

In between the specialists who know how difficult and yet how necessary this surgical treatment is and the insurance company not prepared to cover the cost at a facility ‘out of network.’

In between the necessary treatment and great concern for being so far in debt that he’d never get out.

A tough place to be, yes, ‘a hard lie.’

And, in between the team of specialists and the insurance company.

My brother’s quality of life.

In between

My brother’s life.