Well, I have been AWOL on this blog for about a month. The reason…I have been taken out by a tsunami of a…..sneeze. The dastardly incident…broke my back!
It did not seem like a disaster at the time. Just a sneeze accompanied by a “pop” or two. I remember thinking at the time that, that might hurt later. Then, I went on with life and ignored the situation until it became beyond ignorance to do so.
Within a week or so I had a extreme pain in my ribs. Breathing hurt with every breath. I decided that it was time to make a trip to see a doctor. He said that he thought that I had dislocated ribs during the sneeze. He said it was just going to take time to heal….weeks.
So, home I went and continued cooking, baking and oil painting as much as time and pain would allow. The pain continued to get worse.
During my routine oncology visit the following week for my monthly chemo four and a half hour infusing to treat my Multiple Myeloma cancer, my oncologist ordered a CT scan as the daily chemo medication I take can cause blot clots in my lungs and he wanted to rule that out.
After my cancer nurse Jen, she’s a little might, but nobody in their right mind would come between her and her patients. It became quickly apparent that she and the radiation scheduling people were not on the same page. She felt very strongly that a CT scan for blood clots on the lung needed to be done that very day and not later in the week. I immediately had the scan.
Thankfully, it showed no blood clots.
Home I went with orders to use Tylenol as needed for the rib pain.
This was on a Friday…by Sunday night the pain had escalated to the point where I need further help to control it.
Back to Regions Hospital I went. The Emergency Room staff was great, as always, helped me get some pain relief and admitted me to the hospital. Next, I was sent down for and MRI test. This test showed that I had a new a complete compression fracture in my spine and two other partial collapses.
I was kept in the hospital at Regions until a back brace could be made and fitted. I was not even allowed to go for walks in the hospital.
I have to wear the brace for 12 weeks. Absolutely no oil painting or pretty much anything else for 6-8 weeks. I am on week 4 now. The back pain has moved from everywhere to just the spine and has settled in the breaks. Progress!
This is my first time at the computer typing…so as long as I keep my elbows tucked close to my body and resting on the desk surface…this should be OK for short periods of time.
Other than being totally disappointed about this whole turn of events, feeling nauseous all the time from the pain and having doctor ordered physical limitations again. I have a lot for which to be thankful.
While horribly stressful to have done…the PET scan than followed the MRI…showed no cancer.
Bone fractures heal. So, while laying in bed waiting for them to heal I have spent my time praying for those I love and those I don’t. Keeping up with my friends and family on social media and watching lots of YouTube videos on metal detecting, ocean beach foraging, fishing, crabbing, wild horses, horse auctions, rummage sales, American and Russian flea markets, world travel and recordings of survivors of the Titanic disaster..which reminds me that….it can always be worse.
And, I count my many blessings. I have a wonderful caring husband and fabulous doctors. My neighbors and friends help whenever I call them for assistance..for those times when gravity hates the disabled. I can still bathe myself, get my underwear on and for the most part dress. I can with limits….feed myself and walk for short distances in the house without a cane or walker. Walking outside is a different matter, but then my neighbors, husband and a walker or cane assist me. Sliding open the patio door for my pups no longer brings tears to the eyes. And, one of my friends even sent me several jars of her fabulous and highly sought after homemade jam…delicious! All of the cards have been wonderful and a real morale booster.
While I wait for the pain to go away, and my strength to return, so I can go hiking in the badlands later this summer with my husband, my doctors still allow me to crochet my “Grandma Pat Happy Hats.” I give them to my fellow cancer patients and the Regions Cancer Care Center. I am told that they are very popular. I was asked to make some for sick children so that is what I have been doing. I can complete one just about everyday. If I don’t either get better soon or slow down production, I will soon disappear as the pile of happy hats continues to grow.
When I can again ride comfortably in a car and walk short distances, I plan on going with to deliver them to the children fighting cancer…they are all heroes.
Until then, I am on my back in bed crocheting with the occasional trip to my backyard patio to hear song birds sing, yell at my dogs to get the squirrels away from the bird feeders, shout at my dogs to stay out of the mud, feel the sun on my face and burn my extra sensitive photo sensitive chemo skin.
Even though this health blip has, as my good friend and neighbor Jackie pointed out…has really taken it out of me….with the help of God and according to his will….I’ve got this!
Seeing that Culture Club was playing at the State Fair brought back many memories.
Yes, I had several of their albums. Had being the operative word, I am pretty sure that my husband probably used them for target practice along with the Donny Osmond ones.
My favorite Culture Club song probably was not played at the State Fair or been heard by many other people. The song is called, “Victims” it was released in 1983 the year that I lost the baby that would have been born the week of Thanksgiving. I always have thought that this child was another boy.
It was this pregnancy loss that spiraled me into the severe suicidal depression.
You see in 1983 AIDS was in the blood supply, but they still could not test for it. When I bled out from the in-uterine death, the doctors did not provide blood replacement as they did not want young mothers risking contracting AIDS from a transfusion. I ended up spending over a month in the young adult mental health ward at Abbott Northwestern Sister Kenny Institute. And, over a year on anti-depressants.
I was a participant in the trial for Xanax. And, I rode my exercise bike several thousand miles to make my body produce the endorphins needed to lift the depression. Ten miles every morning and ten miles every evening. Many times on that bike this song was playing in my headphones.
I was off all meds for depression in just over a year.
Our daughter was born in 1988.
I played this song a lot in 1983, and then again in 1989 when I was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer.
Whether it is a mental health ward or an cancer infusion room, “the victims we know so well.” And, it is still, “sink or swim, like its always been.”
No matter what we must love the victims of our world. Our heavenly Father provided us with a perfect world with no victims, we mucked it up, not him.
For all of the times that I have been victim, God has never left me or forsaken me. Even when I could not see him, always saw me. He has sent earthly angels time and time again to help see me through the battle. Whatever that battle may have been.
This morning I am again going to be administered to by earthly angels….cancer nurses and the many volunteers that make the cancer battle easier and bearable.
Now, I am off to the infusion room at Regions. I am going to hang out with the victims for a while….I know them so well……
Here is a video of Culture Club performing this song.
During and after five hours of chemo yesterday I had several people comment! “You poor woman!” My response delivered with a grin is generally, “Ahhhhhhh……..it could be worse.” In Pat language this can be translated to quote the title a hymn called……..”It is well with my soul.”
Long ago after Doug and I had lost our second baby and I was hospitalized for a suicidal depression for over a month. I had bled out and at that time there were no transfusion given as AIDS was in the blood supply. The huge loss of blood and hormone changes trigger the depression. Then, too, our insurance had no coverage at all for mental heath and oh how those bills were piling up.
During that darkness, I had many fellow Christians who professed to love me and God question me over and over again about what I could have done in my life for God to punish me so harshly. I was a twenty-year-old kid for Pete’s sake!
I remember receiving a phone call from out of the blue. It was a pastor from a nearby Lutheran church calling at random doing outreach. When he said his name I recognized it, he had been the pastor of the Lutheran church in Litchfield , MN where my three great aunts Doris, Hilda and Esther attended. I used to go with them whenever I stayed with Aunt Doris.
He was now the pastor of the Lutheran church nearest me in St. Paul. He was surprised he had not seen me at worship since I had lived here for months.
I told him I couldn’t. I was mad at God.
I told him the whole sorry story and when I finished I cried to him, “Try as I might I cannot understand why God hates me so….I had asked Jesus into my heart as a little girl, been a good kid, taken care of my grandma and grandpa, respected my elders even when I thought some of them were nuts, not only had I attended church regularly, I had been one of the first female ushers, and the first girl to light the altar candles, I had taught Sunday school since I was 15 years old, memorized the catechism, been a youth leader at church, never went to parties no matter how much I was mocked or bullied at school,
I had never drank alcohol or tried drugs. Up until recently I did even not swear, had been a virgin when I married, read my bible and prayed often.
Why am I being so punished? I know that I have not led a perfect life. Pastor caught me playing cards in the balcony with the guys when I held my cards too high and he spied them during his sermon and told me to hold them lower right from the pulpit. I once accidentally sprayed him with water when I had been demoted to dishwasher after the naked lady pancake incident during an Easter breakfast.
Ok, maybe soaking down a blushing pastor is a grievous sin. And, yes, it was also wrong to put the fox paw in the pocket of the cheerleader’s winter coat at school. Especially, since it was already several day’s old. But, she was such a bully and it was trapping season.
I know, I rarely obey speed limit signs and more than once opened a hunting season early when the temptation of a good shot got the better of me. I am far from perfect and know it.
But, God took my babies that I wanted so desperately and people all around me pop out kids they don’t want or are even kind too. I cannot come to church because I am so angry with God all I would do is sit in a pew and cry the whole time!”
Pastor Wallrod never made a sound as he patiently listened to my entire tirade. Then, his quiet deep voice drifted into my ear and went right to my brain. “Oh, Angel, (it was the nickname he had for me) God does not hate you. You are not being punished….what kind of a God do you have that would not understand the anger of a young woman who has had such a huge dose of this imperfect world. God is crying with you and for you. Come to my church Angel and cry and we will cry with you.”
On the phone that day he finished with, “to those “Christians” who reaped more grief and suffering upon you by saying your loving Heavenly Father has not only deserted you but is punishing you and then went about their lives leaving you to this struggle alone no less…….all I can say about them is if faith is never tested is there faith?”
“Angel, I will see you Sunday.”
He was standing in the doorway with a box of Kleenex, open arms and a bear hug.
At that moment I knew what it felt like to know that, it is well with my soul!
We were members of his church and after yet another pregnancy loss he eventually baptized our only daughter Aurora.
Aurora is Latin for dawn. Our daughter is named after the Psalm, “Weeping may endure the night, but joy comes with the dawn.”
The hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul” was penned after traumatic events in the life of hymnist Horatio Spafford. The music was composed by Phillip Bliss.
The first catastrophic event was the death of Spafford’s son at the age of two. On the heels of that loss came the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre.
In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he finished up some business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire.
While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone”.
Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had die..Bliss called his tune Ville du Havre, from the name of the stricken vessel.
The Spaffords later had three more children. On February 11, 1880, their son, Horatio Goertner Spafford, died at the age of four, of scarlet fever. Their daughters were Bertha Hedges Spafford (born March 24, 1878) and Grace Spafford (born January 18, 1881). Their Presbyterian church regarded their tragedy as divine punishment.
In response, the Spaffords formed their own Messianic sect, dubbed “the Overcomers” by American press. In 1881, the Spaffords, including baby Bertha and newborn Grace, set sail for Ottoman-Turkish Palestine.
The Spaffords settled in Jerusalem and helped found a group called the American Colony. Colony members, later joined by Swedish Christians, engaged in philanthropic work among the people of Jerusalem regardless of their religious affiliation and without proselytizing motives—thereby gaining the trust of the local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities.
During and immediately after World War I, the American Colony played an important role in supporting these communities through a time of great suffering by operating soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages and other outreach initiatives.
The colony later became the subject of the book Jerusalem written by the Nobel prize-winning author, Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlo.
The hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” was first published in Gospel Songs No. 2 by Ira Sankey and Bliss (1876). It has become the favorite hymn for many Christians including me.
It Is Well With My Soul (Original lyrics)
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to knowa
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!
“know” (at the end of the third line) was changed to “say”.”
A song in the night, oh my soul” (last line)
was changed to “Even so, it is well with my soul”.
Click on the link below to hear a most beautiful rendition of this heartrending hymn.
I started a new oil painting just over a week ago. Whenever I start a new painting I always try to challenge myself. On this one I want to paint a cyclonic super cell with a tornado, and capture the soft marshmallow look of the wind bands of a super cell without losing the harsh menace of a tornado. It’s a goal.
I have painted a lot of paintings of storm clouds, but I have never actually painted a tornado and I am finding it a challenge. The more is less and less is more art principle certainly applies to this project.
I have seen many tornadoes. The first one I ever saw was when I was a very small little girl. My family and I were on a trip from our farm to the Twin Cities and a tornado dropped of the sky right in front of our car. It crossed the road and ripped a very large metal factory to shreds. Large pieces of sheet metal delicately floated through the air like wispy spider web threads caught in a breeze. The contrast of the tornado’s awesome destructive power and its gentle beauty was not lost on me…not even as a small child.
Soon, after that experience I began having a repeating nightmare of being chased by tornadoes. I didn’t have these dreams every night, but I did have them often. I had them as a child. I had them as a teenager. I had them as a mother and I have had them as a grandmother. They are always heart pounders.
In the dream the blackness of the storm is crushing. It is evil. It shows no mercy. It is deadly. It chases me everywhere I hide. I can save others, and do, but the tornado always continues to stalk me. When all hope is gone, I always turn and face the storm. I want to see the thing that was going to get me.
Just before it destroys me, I always wake up.
As horrible as those tornado nightmares are to my subconscious, my conscious loves watching storms. I always have, even as a child. As a teenager, I raced storms across our farm fields on my horse. The F3 tornado that hit Hugo several years ago, came down just three houses from mine. I watch storm chasers on television and the real thing whenever I get a chance, which in Minnesota is this time of year. I love watching the ways clouds move. Never the same twice. If I am outside, you can bet that I am watching the sky.
Several years ago a fellow artist saw my work and thought that maybe I like looking at clouds so much, because I like looking up at heaven and that is where God lives. That could be part of my fascination with storms. However, there is a part of me that thinks that if I watch enough storms during the day, the tornadoes that visit me in the night will go away.
Obviously the tornado of my dreams is symbolic of fear. Over the years I have given this issue a lot of thought trying to figure out just what fear the tornado represents.
Throughout my life I have found myself in more than my share of fearful situations. Fear was often my constant companion. Especially after the doctor told me at age ten that I was so sick with asthma that I would not live to see my twentieth birthday. I can remember being just a little tiny thing going into the back of my closet and hiding in a toy box under a blanket to feel safe.
When Grandma Esther found out about my hiding from fear. She told me that if I didn’t admire cowards I should choose not to be one. After the delivery of that excellent advice, I became quite good at confronting fear and letting it go. My approach to life became…what doesn’t kill me, will only make me stronger.
Stronger I became, but nothing ever got rid of those tornado nightmares.
My cancer diagnosis for Multiple Myeloma.
A person doesn’t often think of good coming from a cancer diagnosis and treatment, but getting rid of those nightmares was a good thing. Then, too, when faced with your own mortality, you feel more alive that you have before. Cancer teaches you that each day is a gift and to live it fully. Relationships become so much more precious and nothing gets taken for granted. And, if you ask, you will find that God will give you the peace that passes all understanding and that there is no challenge this side of heaven where he will not walk right beside you. Yes, good can come from a cancer diagnosis.
So was the tornado in my dreams the Multiple Myeloma? I don’t think so, because I had thyroid cancer when I was only 30 years old and I still had the those nightmares. It is probably more likely that the tornado was the severe asthma, that enlarged my heart and gave me the lung capacity of one lung, that was cured by the stem cell transplant. Or, that after surviving 18 months in a body cast, all of the vertebrae in my back having compression fractures, over two years stuck in a hospital bed in my living room looking out a window at a tree, then going through six months of chemo and a stem cell transplant, I really just do not have much to fear anymore at all.
What doesn’t kill me, only makes me stronger!
Or, maybe I finally learned that no matter what tornadoes may come, I am never alone and have no reason to be afraid for God, my heavenly father, will never leave me or forsake me.
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Regardless of why, I am so very grateful that both the nightmares and the cancer are gone.
I wish everyone’s nightmares and cancer were gone.
May God be with all of my fellow cancer soldiers and their families who did not choose, but were drafted into the war against cancer.
Numbers 6: 24-26 24 The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 6 The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
I have always believed that a promise given is a promise kept. Yesterday was all about memories and keeping a promise to myself.
When I was incapacitated from the fractures in every thoracic and lumbar vertebra in my spine caused by the cancer Multiple Myeloma, I found it heartbreaking that in only six short months I had gone from Assistant Communication Director/Press Secretary/Blue Book maker for Secretary Mark Ritchie to lying in a hospital bed in the Capitolview rehab center at Region’ hospital looking at our beautiful Capitol out of a window. At that time, I was very convinced that I was never going to get to go in it again, let alone climb any of the beautiful marble steps that I had raced up and down for so many years.
One day the social worker came to visit me. She picked up a notebook that I had been using as a journal. My body at that time was broken and there was nothing that I could do to make it heal, so I focused on preventing my mind from slipping into depression. After losing a baby, years before, I experienced a severe postpartum suicidal depression. During the weeks that I had be hospitalized at Sister Kenny Institute’s Young Adult Depression Unit, I had been taught coping skills. Boy, did that training pay off!
In my journal the therapist found I had written, “I will have better days!.” Over and over again. She commented how amazed she was to find an affirmative statement under the circumstances. Right then and there, I promised myself that some day I was going to again climb the stairs to the Minnesota Senate Chambers at our State Capitol. It may have taken almost four years, but yesterday, was the day!
The day began with a trip to see my oncologist. I had already seen my labs so I knew it was going to be a good appointment. He said that I should remain healthy indefinitely. That’s just what I wanted to hear from that guy! Then, we chatted about how far my physical recovery has come. He recalled the first time we met in the emergency room at Regions and how very fragile I was. My young Irish doctor noted that I was basically a conscious vegetable, completely incapacitated. When we had finished our reminisce, I gave him the cookies that I had baked for him and his staff. They all had worked so very hard to save my life and help me regain good health and mobility. I felt they deserved a treat.
My next stop was the infusion room. If you have never been in a cancer clinic’s infusion room, it can be quite overwhelming. These rooms are lined with many, many reclining chairs filled with people of all ages, genders and ethnicity just like you getting chemo. Cancer does not discriminate.
Sitting next to each patient’s chair is their IV stand hung with a multitude of bags filled with blood products, liquids and drugs. Some of us are bald and some of us are not. I have been both. Scattered about the room are baskets filled with donated stocking hats of every color imaginable free for the taking. Chatting the patients up are the worried and tired looking family members and friends that accompanied them.
World War II Buddy El Ewert and I enjoying our bald heads
My infusion was just for a bone hardening drug. For some reason, yesterday my oncology nurses all came by to remind me of the “fragile state”I was in the first time they met me. Maybe I got their attention when I asked one of my favorite nurses where her bright green hair was today. During St. Patrick Day’s past her green wig was a big hit.
The nurse got a hold of physical therapy. The therapist came to assess my movement and help with some trouble spots in my neck and back. I still cannot completely lift either arm and have lost considerable motion in my neck . Whenever I move my head from side to side or tip it back, I get pain in my spine, right between the shoulder blades. Not being able to turn my head is what prevents me from driving and was going to prevent me from seeing the top of the rotunda at the Capitol.
She knew exactly what the problem was and went to work. I had a muscle that was looped and a lot fascia that was being very stubborn. Then,she exclaimed, “Pat, you have adhesions sticking your muscles to your skull!” Which explained my incredibly unpleasant under the chin Charlie horses. She went to work. Finally she said, “There it goes!” At that moment, for the first time in years I could turn my head from shoulder to shoulder and backwards. Bully!
With my doctor appointment, infusion and physical therapy behind me, my husband dropped me off at the side door of the State Office Building. Fondly known to those of us who have called it home…the SOB. That door is the one I used for many years when I worked in that building.
As I stood in front of that door I noticed two things. Time had just been rolled back and it had been refinished. Loaded down with a bag filled with my friends’ favorite cookies, I headed for the Secretary of State’s Office. I barely got through the door when I was greeted by one of the two Brads. I asked for Bert.
Bert came and he took me on a complete tour of the office. It was wonderful to see all of the changes and meet new staff. So many of my friends were still there and they all looked so good.
Then, Bert and I had a good visit in his office, just like we used too. Bert used to keep me out of mischief when we worked together. It was a necessary role and he hasn’t changed at bit. He felt that it was alright for me to climb the Senate stairs, but all other stairs were strictly off limits and elevators to be used. When we worked together, he knew that I could rarely be found in an elevator if I could get some exercise taking the stairs. I promised him, I would follow his advice, and that if I got too tired I would be back to sit with him in his office until my husband could pick me up.
My next cookie stop was House Supply. I don’t think I will ever forget the look on Bill’s face when he saw me standing there. I didn’t get to see Jess, but found Steve later. I was introduced to Danny’s son, he looks like his dad, and was assured that one of the over a dozen gingersnaps I had made for Danny would be saved for him. I bet he does only get one.
Next, I headed out for the Capitol and those senate stairs. Bill was concerned that the incline to the Capitol would be too steep for me, but it wasn’t at all. Heeding Bert’s advice, I took the elevator up to those stairs.
Stepping back into the Capitol after an absence of almost five years affected me a bit. Then, I headed for the Senate stairs.
I took this picture myself from the top of the stairs.
Stairs never looked so beautiful. There they were, just as I remembered them. I had thought of them so very many times. They were before me when I sat in a chair with a therapist helping me to lift one leg then the other. They stood tall when I tried and tried to go up those four little steps in the physical therapy room. I dreamed of those stairs when day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year were spent in a body cast trapped in a hospital bed in my living room. Those stairs taunted me when I wanted to give up. Those stairs helped me conquer my cancer and it was finally time for me to conquer them.
As I stood before my nemesis, I took a deep breath, said a prayer of thanksgiving to a merciful God, held on to the railing and up I went. It wasn’t even hard! When I got to the top, I took a picture. Then, I found one of those big old oak Capitol benches and just sat for a bit to savor the moment.
It will surprise no one that, that did not last long. Soon, I was back on the trail to find my senate friends. Many of whom had no idea where I had disappeared too so long ago.
After a great visit with John in the information office. I went into both the House and Senate chambers. I had worked in both. It was then time to just take in all of the Capitol renovations, especially the artwork. I walked into the rotunda, tipped my head way back and took in the whole dome. Magnificent! The colors of the murals in the Supreme Court chambers were particularly glorious. I did not go into the governor’s office, on purpose, because it leaves me a reason to return.
Next, I decided that I needed to explore the new Senate Office Building and see where Senator Mary Kiffmeyer had hung my painting of U.S. Grant. That building is so light and roomy and marvelous. I was impressed! As I headed out to find friends, they just seemed to find me. David found me in the hall, then Ward showed up and Troy. We had a good chat.
As I turned to continue on there was Glen. He showed me where to find the other Sergeants at Arms. Those guys have always been some of my favorite people. Not all of them were there, but I got to see Herb and Bob. Bob and I were always good friends, and he escorted me up to see my painting. When I was standing next to it, as he took my picture, I noticed that I had painted it in 1997. It was twenty years old!
Bob and I continued our tour ending up in the Senate offices. I saw Steve, Sven, Marilyn and of course Nick Thompson. Since, they did not know what had happened to me, they were surprised to learn of my challenges. We shared memories and laughs. Then, Nick gave me one of the best compliments ever.
After working in both the Senate and House for Republicans, I think many people were surprised when I went to work for Secretary of State Mark Ritchie a Democrat. Nick said that it had surprised him. However, after he thought about it a while he came to the conclusion that the decision to hire me was probably one of the best decisions Secretary of Ritchie ever made. I, sure, hope the Secretary felt the same way.
By this time I must have looked tired. The infusion I had received that morning always causes fatigue and I had been wandering around the Capitol for hours by this time. I told the folks that I was going to head back towards Bert. Nick asked me several times if I needed help. I am sure that he would have had the wheelchair out in a shot if he thought for one second that I did.
On the way back to the SOB, I needed to find the new press pool. I had been in the old one many times and wanted to see if those hardworking folks had finally gotten better digs. I could not find it! Just then, I spotted Bill Werner, a reporter. He pointed me in the right direction.
Several of the reporters that I used to work with were there. It was so nice to see them again. One of them, sadly told me that she’d had just lost another friend to cancer the day before. We agreed that cancer sucks. I did miss seeing my friend John from KARE 11, down there, but he was on vacation.
When I got back to the SOB. I headed upstairs to see my House friends. Rebecca and I had a great chat. Seeing as how I am no longer an employee of that place, I feel there is no need for me to be politically correct. Making Rebecca laugh has always been one of my favorite pursuits. Success was mine! I stopped by to see Mark’s office and where Alayne and I used to work.
Then, I went downstairs to get something to drink and ran into one of my favorite people Sean. Sean, Michelle and Valerie have worked at the SOB cleaning up after all of us since my Senate days. Sean looked great. His little girl, that I used to help tutor, is now 17 years old and will graduate next year. He has two more children. He caught me up on the news of Michelle and Valerie.
By the time I got back to the Secretary of State’s Office, I was locked out. It was almost five p.m. and I had been walking and chatting for over four hours. So, I sat down on a bench to wait for my husband.
Who should show up? Travis Reese. Travis had worked with me in the Secretary of State’s Office doing outreach. He reminded me of all the fun, he, I and Sara had working together at the State Fair. He then reminded me about my being Minnesota State Fair Reserve Grand Champion in Animal Calling in the Ag Olympics two years in a row. Both years I was beaten by a team of folks from the Department of Ag doing musical animal theater.
My state fair ribbons for animal calling.
You might think that I lost because I was out numbered, but I cannot ever remember being outnumbered. Far be it from me to cast stones, but scripted group animal calling was clearly a violation of Ag Olympic rules.
Interestingly enough, one of the years I competed, one of the other contestants was a former preschool student of mine who was then Princess Kay of the Milky. I had both her and her sister as students and they both became Princess Kay’s. Yes, she recognized, “Mrs. Detergent.”
Then, too, only I would work for Mark Ritchie at the state fair, and be on Republican Lt. Governor Carol Molnau’s team for the Ag Olympics at the same time. I had forgotten that I used to practice my cow mooing and chicken crowing in front of Sara and Travis. Travis hadn’t forgotten at all!
Bert came out into the hall right about then. He told me Becky was back and we went back into the Secretary of State’s Office to say hello.
Bert gave me a hug and then Doug was there.
My magical day didn’t end there though. When I got home, I went to the mail box and there was a letter from my cousin Chris. Uncle Myrwin’s daughter. In that envelope was the most perfect picture of my dad and Uncle Myrwin. The two brothers are sitting side by side. I will get a frame for it.
Travis’s comments reminded of my State Fair Ribbons. I went to look for them, so that I could put a picture of them in this blog. When I pulled open the drawer, there he was, right on top….my lucky Duck.
When I worked for the Minnesota Department of Veteran’s Affairs it was my honor and privilege to be the project manager for our state’s World War II Memorial Dedication. It was a neat day and we had over 25,000 people attend. One of the events that day was a flyover by World War II bombers and fighter planes.
About a week after the event, I received a package in the mail. The package was from one of my pilots. In it was a stuffed toy duck with a note telling me this was a lucky duck, because he got to fly in the cockpit of a World War II bomber on the day of our dedication.
As long as I am sharing memories maybe this is the time to report that the morning of the World War II Dedication Memorial I was informed that one of the pilots flying over our large crowd of men, women and children would be a World War II pilot flying his own plane. I paused. Asked if he had passed his flight physical, then informed the lads that he could fly as long as he did not fly over the crowd. That is why one plane was slightly out of formation.
You know, I think I am probably still the only Capitol employee that ever had to get gun permits from the City of St. Paul for a tank, muskets and machine guns. Or who, had Civil War cannon placed in the Rotunda. We never scratched that beautiful historic floor even a bit!
Yes, there definitely are lucky ducks, I own one and am one.
Moral of story:The view is definitely best after the hardest climb.
My cancer battle against multiple myeloma was a very long and painful one. It began in earnest during the Christmas holiday’s in 2012 when I first broke my spine taking the turkey out of the refrigerator. Over the next four years, I would have many new unpleasant experiences. Such as being in a body cast for 18 months, confined to a hospital bed in my living room for years, months of chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant, baldness, drug withdrawal and other physical, emotional and mental challenges.
Having cancer is just plain tough. I have now done it twice. Thyroid and multiple myeloma. No matter what your age, a cancer diagnoses is terrifying.
Cancer patients suffer. They become quick friends with much of the worst that life has to offer. Their new companions include the fear of death and dying; pain; nausea; anxiety; depression; isolation; loneliness; and job and financial loss.
Cancer patients lose. They lose body parts, hair, appetite, mobility and independence. While most of those things can often be compensated for or regained, there are permanent losses. Relationships change. Friends and relatives drift away, because they are either too busy to be bothered, your situation is bringing them down or they just cannot stand to watch the suffering. Some of those relationships will never be made whole again.
In addition to physical, mental, emotional and financial loss, cancer patients often miss out on everyday things that most people take for granted. Like being there for the special children in your life as they grow up. Then, too, due to circumstances beyond control special events cannot always be attended. When I was in chemo and still in a body cast due to my broken spine, I missed my only daughter’s wedding.
Cancer patients surmount. This morning when my latest round of cancer tests indicated that I am still cancer-free, I told my husband that it is time for me to experience the things that for so many years were beyond reach and only dreams.
Stairs to the Senate Chamber at Minnesota State Capitol
When I was hospitalized for weeks for physical rehab to relearn standing, walking and stair climbing. I vowed to myself that not only was I going to conquer those five steps in the rehab room, but that someday I would, again, climb the steps to the Senate Chamber at our state Capitol. After four years, God willing, next Friday, March 17, after my oncology appointment and infusion at Regions, I am going to return to the Capitol. I am going to visit friends, deliver some cookies and check out all of the changes. And, I am, again, going to climb all of those beautiful marble steps.
Later this spring, I will need to complete a short test run of a trip. So, my husband plans to take me to see where my daughter was married two years ago. Then, I am going to return to the land of Lincoln to visit my daughter and her husband and finally see their apartment.
Our last trip to Illinois before my cancer struck.
If my back can survive a car trip to Illinois, then, later this summer I am going to Montana. I am going to visit my dear Aunt Margaret in Great Falls, Montana, who spent so many hours in prayer on my behalf. When I was totally bed bound, with not much light at the end of my tunnel, Aunt Margie called me every week, for months on end, to lead me in bible study. I need to give her a hug.
Great Falls, Montana
Then, I am going Glacier Park. I am, again, going to stand outside of the cafe at Swift Current, look up at those God made granite cathedrals and hear the Lord whisper in the winds that race around those cliffs.
Glacier Park, Swift Current Lake.
After, I get my fill of the view, I am going to take on a few trails with just as much determination as I did my cancer while trying my best to avoid a bear.
Although, after all I have been through, the bears would be wise to watch out for me.
Sitting up in body cast, watercolor painting, not allowed to lift elbows off of the table.
Getting new stem cells
October 11, 2016
I just returned from a walk with the dogs, Doug and my appointment at the University of Minnesota Bone Marrow Transplant Unit to get the results of my latest round of bone biopsies and cancer seeking lab tests.
It will be four years this November when my spine first broke lifting a holiday turkey out of my fridge. Today, I am totally cancer free! They cannot find Multiple Myeloma or cancer, anywhere and they were looking!
Six months ago I still had a couple of iffy test results, but all of those items are now gone. I do not have to have anymore routine bone marrow biopsies. I do not go back to the University of Minnesota unless my regular oncologist finds something and as my oncologist at the university said this morning, “Patricia, this is as good as it gets…go enjoy your life.”
It was very nice of God, him, his staff, Dr. McCormick and the Regions Cancer Center staff to give me back a life. As the nurses, one on each side of me, were giving me six vaccinations, one of the nurses, that has been there a long time said, “Pat, if I met you on the street I would never guess how much you have been through.” I cannot think of a higher compliment.
Thank you everyone for your prayers. God has very, very greatly blessed me and believe me, I count those blessings every day. I am humbled by his grace and love.
Now, I am going to go lay down to prevent autism from all of those vaccinations. Soon, I will again be immune to chicken pox, measles and mumps and be able to go to church and events where potentially un-vaccinated children may be present. I will hug them all!