I remember the call from my oncologist so very clearly. After months of battling brittle bones and being injected daily with bone hardening drugs into my stomach, just as I thought I had begun to make progress, he called me to tell me that my bone marrow biopsy was positive for multiple myeloma…a bone marrow cancer.
My first thought was thank God they finally know what’s slowly killing me. My second thought was like the words of the song says, “Lord, this time you gave me a mountain. A mountain that I may never climb. It isn’t a hill any longer. You gave me a mountain this time.”
It isn’t surprising that my first thoughts were of God and mountains. Throughout the four years that I battled multiple myeloma, at first just to survive, then to get mobility back, I would often mentally picture walking in the mountains of Montana. Mountains have always been where I have felt closest to God and found peace.
Multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, destroyed my bones. They became so brittle that all of my thoracic and lumbar vertebra sustained compression fractures. I once had six new fractures in my back at one time. I also endured several cracked ribs.
I would break my back doing the simplest of tasks including flossing my teeth, lifting a toilet lid and trying to pick a shirt up off of the floor. For over 18 months I was imprisoned in a chin to hip hard body cast. I spent over two and a half years confined to a hospital bed in my living room staring out of my living room window at a small oak tree in my front yard. I was unable to stand or walk without using a walker for over three years. So, being able to hike in the mountains of Montana was a pretty far-fetched goal.
Getting stem cells
Sitting up in body cast, watercolor painting, not allowed to lift elbows off of the table.
Where I spent almost two years.
If in reality I couldn’t get to mountains, I could in my mind. I dreamed, I was in those mountains, often. I was there when I was encased in that body cast. I spent time in them when imprisoned in the hospital bed in my living room. I was climbing those mountains the day they put the Hickman chemo port into my chest. I visited those snow covered peaks each time they bored holes into my bones using only local anesthesia before they used a massive syringe to suck out bone marrow samples.
Those mountains were in my nursing home, rehab and hospital rooms. They were there the day I watched, “the nuclear bomb” of chemo for my stem cell plant slowly enter my body.
There were times during those years of battling cancer, fear, depression, chemo therapy and stem cell transplant side effects, mobility loss, and pain when my only contact with the great outdoors, for this outside farm girl, was dreaming of mountains and their meadows.
To beat my cancer I did everything the doctors asked me to do, except for one thing. I refused to use a wheelchair. I had no intention of being trapped in one of those. For, I had decided, like Winston Churchill stated in his greatest and shortest speech to “Never, never, never give up.” In fact, I bought a silver dog tag engraved with those words to always wear around my neck on a necklace that included my cross, a silver family tree given to me by my grandson on a Mother’s Day long ago and the first ring my husband ever gave me.
After making the decision to fight on, no matter how sick I was, whenever someone helped me out of bed, I would push my walker around my kitchen island until I was too tired to go any further. First one, then five, 10, 20 and eventually a 100 laps a day. I wore a trail into my hardwood floors.
During the long months that stretched into years when I was too sick and weak to leave my home, occupational and physical therapists would come to bathe me, and help me relearn the simplest of tasks. First, I had to learn how to get out of bed without breaking more bones. As I would sit up I could feel my weak spine bend sideways just like a willow branch and would pray that it would not snap and paralyze me. It didn’t.
Eventually, I re-learned how to do stairs. Then, after months of being totally house bound, with two therapists, one on each side, I was allowed to go outside and push my walker to the end of my driveway and back.
There were many trips to the end of my driveway. I can still remember the sheer terror of trying to step down from the driveway to the street for the first time without jarring my spine. I did it, though, and my world began to grow. First just to the edge of our property line, next came the end of our street and eventually laps around the block pushing a walker with tennis balls on the bottom. As I grew stronger, I mastered using a walker with wheels, next came two canes and eventually just one cane.
I walked and walked. I walked with shuffling feet, bent over, with a broken back. I walked sick and exhausted from chemo. I walked bald. I walked masked. I walked on flat streets, inclines and hills. I wore out many tennis balls. I have worn out many rubber stoppers on the bottom of my canes. I climbed stairs many times a day just to strengthen my bones and leg muscles. Each step I took was me telling my cancer to go to blazes.
After such a hard and long cancer battle, you cannot imagine the joy of traveling out of state for the first time in almost six years; being in Great Falls, Montana, to visit and hug my dear Aunt Margaret who faithfully called me weekly throughout all of those years to lead me in Bible study; and to at last stand on a hiking trail in Montana and see a horizon filled with snow and wild flower covered mountains.
Uncle Klynn and Aunt Margie
As I stood beneath a snow-capped footstool of God, the bible verse that I clung to throughout my cancer battle was again prayed.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
It did not matter whether I could only lift my eyes to the top of a small oak tree in my front yard, or the summit of a great mountain, my help always came from the Lord….who never left me or forsook me.
With baby steps, a bit a grit and by the grace of God, I climbed the mountain!!!
I hope you enjoy these vacation pictures!
Lots of Wild Horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Herd of Wild Horses at Theodore Roosevelt Park
Foal with Mare
Foal trying to eat car
Beautiful Wild Flowers
Animals galore! Bear, wolf, elk and antelope too!
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
It was a great trip. We hiked from sun up to sundown and I never even got sore muscles….Bully!!!!!
While I have taught Christian Education and read the scriptures for most of my life. I had never actually read the entire Bible cover to cover. I decided last winter that if anyone asked me, if I had read the entire Bible, I wanted to answer in the affirmative. For the past several months, I have been reading the Bible book by book, chapter by chapter and verse by verse.
The New Testament went fast, but the Old Testament is a much slower read. At least for me. I am over half way through and am now about midway through the chapter of Psalms.
I have been a very good reader of the New Testament, but whenever I read the Old Testament, I get overwhelmed and a bit freaked out. Parts of the Old Testament truly test me. One of the stories that has always troubled me was the story of Abraham and Isaac.
That story is about God asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac as a burnt offering to test Abraham’s faith.
The very idea of sacrificing a child is repulsive and terrifying. As the scriptures tell us, “Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.” My treasures are my children and I cannot imagine how horrible it would be to lose a child, let alone be party to their death.
That is now thinking, not then thinking.
For much of ancient human history child sacrifice was considered the ultimate offering to appease or please an angry God. At the time that the Old Testament was written many cultures practiced child sacrifice both in the old and new worlds.
The Bible sites many examples of this practice.
2 Kings 17:31
the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelek and Anammelek, the gods of Sepharvaim.
Psalm 106: 38
They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood.
Personally, I will never forget a trip to the Papago Indian Reservation, with a member of that tribe, to visit a site where four small children had lost their lives during a ritual human sacrifice. As the legend was told, there had been an big badger who had dug a hole so deep that it had tapped into a natural spring. Water was gushing out of the spring into the dry desert. Fearful of their world being flooded, it was decided to sacrifice four small children to save the tribe. The children’s small bodies were shoved into the hole, the water stopped, and the tribe saved and therefore, the sacrifice had worked.
Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice Isaac would not have been considered unusual. What is unusual is the strength of Abraham’s faith. Abraham had been promised by God that he would be the leader of a great nation, have more descendants than there were stars in the heavens and that these descendants would be the result of his union with his very elderly wife Sarah who was past menopause. Isaac’s birth and life was a promise fulfilled by God.
Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”
Genesis 21: 12
But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.
Genesis 22: 2
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
After reading this Biblical passage more than once, it occurred to me, that Abraham told his servants that “we will come back to you”. Regardless, of what Abraham had been asked by God to do on that mountain, he believed that both he and Isaac would be returning. His faith in the promise made to him by God was so strong, that even if Isaac had been sacrificed, he believed that the boy would be returning with him. God would not break his promise that through Isaac there would be an everlasting covenant, even if it meant raising Isaac from the dead.
God providing the ram for a sacrifice instead of Isaac, certainly symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ. However, while God was making an example of the unfailing faith of Abraham, God was also setting an example of ending human child sacrifice. In fact, God abhorred child sacrifice and has a history of destroying nations who practiced it.
2 Kings 17:17
They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.
2 Kings 16:3
He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.
2 Kings 17:31
the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelek and Anammelek, the gods of Sepharvaim.
2 Kings 21: 6
He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritualists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.
for they have committed adultery and blood is on their hands. They committed adultery with their idols; they even sacrificed their children, whom they bore to me, as food for them.
Not only did God abhor child sacrifice, he preferred obedience to sacrifice period.
1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
“The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
Psalm 40:6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but my ears you have opened burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with
To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Even after being raised in a Christian faith that believes in the trinity of God….Father, Son and Holy Ghost…in my mind God the Father was a much tougher guy and quite different in temperament than God the Son. Christ’s description of his heavenly Father, I must admit had fallen on deaf ears.
Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
John 14: 7
If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
These past few months as I have read through the Old Testament, it has become very apparent to me that the God of the Old Testament, is not nearly as angry and blood thirsty as I had believed. He is, in fact, just as loving and tender as his son Jesus.
The violence of the Old Testament was never the wish or will of a just and loving God, but the result of humankind’s transgressions. We are the angry, blood thirsty, immoral and vengeful. Not God. Never God.
The Old Testament clearly demonstrates time and time again that having free-will and the ability to defy God and commit acts of rebellion (sin) has consequences. As the very first couple learned in the Garden of Eden.
Isaiah 50: 1
This is what the Lord says: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away.
So, it seems to me that Isaac on that mountain is us asking, “Father?”
“Yes, my child?”
“The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
“God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my child.”
God did provide a sacrificial lamb for Abraham. Just like he provided the sacrificial lamb who gave up his life on the top of another hill, shaped like a skull-cap, called Golgotha. There, God kept his covenant with humankind when he provided his own son as the sacrifice to wipe away the sins of the world. Jesus was the ultimate and final sacrifice.
Jesus always knew that his destiny was to die on that cross.
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was the greatest expression of love.
John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
When I think about the Trinity, Jesus was not the only one on that cross at Calvary. God the Father was right there with him. It was a combination of child sacrifice and self-sacrifice.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
It is awe inspiring to know that God, who abhorred child sacrifice, sacrificed his only son, because of his great love for me, to forgive my transgressions and rebellion. Really, what kind of a wondrous love is that?
Hymn: “What Wondrous Love Is This”
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?
2 When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down;
when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.
3 To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM –
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
while millions join the theme, I will sing.
4 And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.
Tomorrow morning is Easter. A day to celebrate the risen Lord, and his victory over death and the grave. He has risen! He has risen indeed!
Just over a week ago my husband and I finally made plans to go on vacation this summer. For the first time in years, we plan to hike in the mountains of Montana.
So, last week was an eventful week. It all began on Monday morning when my husband called me from work to say the he had made an emergency eye doctor appointment. Driving to work that morning he noticed his vision was distorted. When he closed one eye, then the other, it was immediately apparent that he had lost vision in his left eye.
He came home from his doctor appointment with a severe headache, a diagnoses of a macular hole and an announcement that he will need surgery.
This is what his vision looks like now out of that eye.
Normal vision Distorted vision
Learning that he would not be able to drive home after his appointment with the surgeon was a bit unsettling….for my husband. You see, I have not driven on a freeway in over five years. I have not driven, because I could not turn my head. However, after my trip into the oncologist the Friday past and the physical therapist breaking down the scar tissue that had grown onto my skull, I could move my head quite well. I was good to go.
The night before our expedition, I had the weirdest dream, which is not uncommon on my Chemo. This dream, however, repeated itself over and over again. It was of me driving. As I shoot down the on ramp my car ends up right in front of a big blue semi truck. I guess it must have been on my mind some after all.
When I woke up, I said a prayer for God to watch over my husband and myself, got dressed and we were out the door.
The surgeon’s office was in a neighboring city and was not the easiest place to find. Eventually we were successful. We both chuckled as it was right next door to the animal emergency hospital. With multiple resources readily available, our situation was obviously well under control. The surgeon checked my husband out and scheduled his surgery for April 9.
After meeting with the surgeon, my husband explained the good news is the surgery will be outpatient. The procedure can restore between 40 and 90 percent of his vision. The initial recovery should be a couple of days, followed by several weeks or months of restrictions. Honestly, all I heard was he was going to get an eye patch! I have asked him for almost 40 years to dress up like a pirate.
As my owl-eyed, severely pupil dilated husband headed for the car, he again asked if he could drive. I showed him, that I had my own keys. At that point, he got into the passenger seat. It took me forever to adjust the driver’s seat in our car. My husband is six feet, four inches tall. On a good day, I might be five feet, three inches tall. I adjusted all the mirrors, put on my seat belt and proceeded to drive out of the parking lot.
I never even made it out of the parking lot before my husband provided advice on safe car length distances. Which he is an expert on. It has been noted that at times he uses the age-old and well-practiced rational that the distance you are behind a car can help motivate the driver of the car in front of you to increase their speed. The optimal distance required to perform this motivational maneuver is easily discerned. It is when you can read the bumper stickers on the car in front of your without using the glasses to correct your severely near-sighted eyes required by your drivers license.
After safely exiting the parking lot, it was time for the big test….entering the freeway. The entrance to this freeway is at the end of a circular blind ramp. As I accelerated to merge, I looked over my shoulder, which I had only been able to do for three days, and there he was…that big blue semi truck!
As the truck did not move over, I had to drive on the shoulder for a short way until the lane was safe to enter. Thank goodness by the time this baptism by fire occurred, my husband’s driving coaching skills had been rendered impotent by widely dilated eyes and a blinding headache.
We arrived home safely and the rest of the week was uneventful until Friday. I woke up feeling seasick that morning and spent the majority of the day taking care of myself. I was so proud of our pup Oliver. Normally, he is Mr. Energy, but he had spent the whole day just resting with me. German Shepherd’s are like that, they are great caregivers.
He was pretty excited to see my husband come home from work. It was so cute to see him standing at the gate with his tail wagging, tongue hanging out, just waiting for dad. My husband stepped into the yard and threw Oliver a stick to catch. That is where it all went so very horribly wrong.
Oliver caught the stick at a strange angle, as he came down with it, the end of the stick went into the ground. The other end of the stick impaled Oliver in his mouth and became lodged. HE NEVER EVEN YIPPED! Both, the pup and my husband were sitting together in the backyard looking positively stunned.
In the Bible it says that a child will not depart from the way it is raised and I was raised on a farm with animals. Animals on a farm get injured, sick and sometimes die. Now, when our animals needed help the old doc would come out. Most farm veterinarians are laid back, but this guy could have sat and smoked his cigar in a tornado and not batted an eye. He also firmly believed that all veterinary procedures were performance art and a spectator sport. Being a girl did not get you a pass from the old doc when there was neutering, wound draining, shot giving or dissecting to be done.
Oliver came into the house on his own. It became quickly apparent that he was going into shock. No sooner did I notice the changes in the pupils of his eyes, than Truman, our other German Shepherd, began to nudge the pup. Oliver came back.
By then, the bleeding had commenced in earnest. The first thing I looked for was whether or not the blood had bubbles in it, was pinkish and foamy or was spurting. Oliver passed that threshold, but there was just so very much blood. We could not see the injury.
If anyone has ever seen the mouth wound of a small child who has fallen, you know how how awful mouth wounds can look and much they can bleed. After the bleeding stops often there is just a small cut. We waited for a few minutes to see if the bleeding would slow, but it did not. Soon, he was passing huge blood clots.
By God’s grace and my husband’s blind eye, we knew exactly where the closest animal hospital was. Oliver went with us willingly and on his own steam. Truman, our old white German Shepherd, for the first time in his life, fought with with my husband to stay with his puppy. He was so shook up.
By the time we got to the animal hospital, it looked like we had butchered a chicken in our car. Blood everywhere. As Oliver pranced into the clinic like nothing was wrong, with blood dripping all over the floor, one tech took the dog and another one offered Doug and I scrubs, should we want to change out of our bloody clothes.
We quickly learned that Oliver wasn’t in danger from the blood loss, but would need emergency surgery. Since he was stable there were several other pets in critical condition who would be taken in first. By the time of his surgery, at about 1 a.m. Saturday morning, the bleeding had pretty much stopped on its own. The surgeon found that he had a “massive” puncture wound under his tongue. He was sent home with two weeks of restrictions, antibiotics and other medication.
When we went to pick Oliver up the next morning, Truman howled the whole time we were gone. My husband acknowledged, “There goes my new big screen TV” as he paid the bill. We got to meet the dog who had been attacked by a muskrat. Then, we took a very groggy pup home.
As we were driving back, my husband made a comment about bad luck and things going wrong. That man and I certainly have had some challenges. For so very many years he had to be the one who stayed positive and strong, it was my turn. So, I told him that except for my cancer diagnoses and all of those years I was an invalid and sick, we really haven’t had that much go wrong. Besides what’s so bad? My cancer is in remission, the semi truck missed us, your eye will be fixed, the pup didn’t skewer himself in the windpipe, jugular or artery, by God’s grace we knew where to take him because of your faulty eye, we already own three T.V.’s and we are now officially the blind leading the lame.
Boy, did I get a look, and then, slowly a lopsided grin appeared.
My husband took Oliver right into the back yard when we got home. The first thing that pup did was pick up that very same bloodied stick and sit down to wait for it to be thrown. There is something admirable about getting right back on the horse…but, too soon, Oliver, too soon!
Moral of Story: Therewill be many times when the only thing in life that you will be able to control is your attitude. Look for the blessings and count them instead of your troubles. And always remember that there is a fine line between bravery and foolishness.
WARNING FOR DOG OWNERS!!!! It is not uncommon for veterinarians to see dogs come in with severe injuries from playing fetch with sticks. DO NOT throw sticks for your dog! They should never be used as a toy. Oliver was lucky.
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.
I have had the worst writer’s block since my Uncle Mrywin died in December. Last week my cousin Chris Schneider sent me a few old family photos I had never seen before. I have looked and looked at them. She is right, I look very much like my grandmother when she was young.
The relationship I had with my Grandmother Esther was a very special one. She was a special person…a soft Christian.
You may not have met many of those. They aren’t showy and are often found in the very back pews in most churches. They don’t attend worship services to be seen, socialize or sing. Sunday was the day God set aside for them to worship and rest. It was a time to humbly meet with their maker in his house to repent for wrongdoings, seek forgiveness, express gratitude for blessings, partake of the sacrament of Holy Communion and assess the needs of other members of their faith family.
Soft Christians were also quiet Christians. They knew their bibles and loved their Lord, but would not dream of ever shouting out a hallelujah in public for fear of being mistaken for a biblical Pharisee. Prayer was private, on your knees and between you and God. To be moved by the Spirit meant seeing human hurt and need and doing something about it. Faith was action. They would stealthily go about life doing good whenever and wherever possible, not needing or taking credit for their good deeds.
These folks would never have stood for anyone teaching a biblical falsehood. They took very seriously God’s admonishment,”that it would be better to have a mill stone tied around your neck and be drowned that to ever teach one of his little ones to error.” While there was still right and wrong, they believed that everyone, including themselves, had fallen short in the eyes of God and had no cause to boast. The, “judge not, less you be judged” was taken every bit as seriously as the drowning thing.
Oh sure, some people would label these folks as meek pushovers. Now there would be a mistake! Mistaking mercy for weakness is always a mistake. Soft Christians are some of the strongest people that you are ever likely to meet. During their lifetimes this imperfect world forced them down onto their knees many times. Too broken and weak to rise again on their own, they sought strength to persevere from a loving God and felt Jesus lighten their burden. They serve God, because they know God.
The grace of God they experienced during those hard times honed their character. They are the ones who have developed the patience of a saint; learned that a kind word can turn away wrath; chosen to turn the other cheek when wronged; forgiven when it was hard and bestowed undeserving mercy.
Day after day these humble, at times invisible, folks do their best to share the love of their savior Jesus Christ with a world that rejects, mocks and tries to humiliate them and Him. Determined to set a good example, these faithful followers of Christ understand that actions speak louder than words. It is what you do, not what you say. True leadership is by example.
When I was writing all of those history lessons on leadership, disguised as letters to a grandson on this blog, I deliberately chose examples of good and bad leaders. All of these men and women had great oratory and leadership skills. However, it was not their learned leadership lessons or excellent communication skills that made them heroes or villains, it was their moral values or lack there of. The historical record provides many examples of famous leaders whose epitaphs should read, “what goes around, comes around.”
As a child when I had been the target of someone utilizing less than moral leadership by example skills that ended in unfairness, physical or emotional hurt, my grandmother would often comfort me. Then, under her breath she’d crossly mutter, “Well, if they aren’t just the limit!”
That is how I feel about our nation’s politicians and media. I think they could all greatly benefit from a good old-fashioned dose of Grandma Esther’s moral lessons.
…truth will out (liars eventually get caught)
…cheaters never prosper (be honest)
…well, if that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black (don’t be a hypocrite)
…a kind word can turn away wrath (deescalate)
…leave it go (compromise)
…turn the other cheek (refuse to sink to their level)
…forgive them (forgiveness is good for them and for you)
…move on (accepting that there are things you can change and things you cannot)
…show a little mercy once in a while (everyone makes mistakes so be kind)
…there but by the grace of God go I (have empathy)
…no good deed ever goes unpunished (do good anyway)
…pretty is as pretty does (manners and social skills count)
Soft Christians, like my grandmother, knew that violence begets violence and hate begets more hate and that no good can ever come from that. I cannot count the number of times I was told that two wrongs can never make a right. It never has and it never will ….just saying.