The last few weeks, I’ve been struggling through creating a memorial video for a dear family friend. In January, I wrote this post after Miss Pat was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Since that time, she has gone through chemo treatments only to be told last week that the chemo is not working and there is nothing more the doctors can do but make her last days as comfortable as possible.

I feel blessed to have the skills to create this memorial video but it is likely the most difficult project I have ever worked on — for work or for personal reasons. My mom volunteered me for the job, and I of course accepted. But this is a pure labor of love on my part. Going through thousands of photos and listening to hundreds of songs, trying to find the right mix to reflect Miss Pat’s personality and love for her family, friends and husband of more than 40 years, is a challenge of monumental proportions.

I am thankful for the time we’ve been given to prepare this with Miss Pat still with us. She has been an encouragement and constant reminder of how important our faith is to making the inevitable more calming. I’m thankful for the time we’ve been given with Miss Pat over the last few months. I’m thankful for the opportunity this has given me to look back over our lives and remember wonderful times spent together — vacations, holidays, long weekends. I’m thankful for a couple like Miss Pat and Big Dave who loved me as their own children.


Life is Short

Life is short. I’ve been reminded of this a lot recently. The latest iteration came a week ago when my family received word that a dear friend was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

First came the shock of the news. In the last month, Miss Pat hadn’t been feeling 100 percent. She had lost weight, was feeling nauseous, and generally fatigued. It wasn’t until the mother of one of her preschoolers (who is also a nurse) noticed she appeared jaundiced that she called the doctors. That was last Wednesday. The doctor immediately had lab work done on Wednesday morning and scheduled Miss Pat for an appointment Wednesday afternoon. After seeing the lab results, he immediately scheduled a CT scan for Thursday morning. The CT scan showed a three- to four-inch long tumor on her pancreas and tumors on both lungs and her liver. The tumor on her pancreas was cutting off the ability for bile to move as needed so she was slowly being poisoned, hence the jaundiced appearance. Not good.

Quickly following that, the family internist referred her to a surgeon who scheduled time Friday morning to insert a stent into the bile duct to allow ease in movement. While there, the surgeon did a biopsy on the lymph nodes as well as cut a few nerves to relieve any pain. The biopsy results showed that the cancer had spread into her lymph nodes.

At this point, Miss Pat and family hadn’t seen an oncologist yet. However, the prognosis from all doctors wasn’t good — weeks to just a few months is the timeframe she has been given.

The amazing part of this story to me is how strong Miss Pat has been through the biggest trial of her life. She is a preschool teacher — calm, soothing, patient, sweet spirited but certainly not one prone to public speaking. In the week since her diagnosis, Miss Pat has chosen to share her testimony with all her friends, family, co-workers, church family, etc. Our prayer and her’s is for healing, but as she said to me that healing may not be an earthly one. God’s choice for healing her may be by taking her heaven and she is prepared.

Every minute of every day since her diagnosis, Miss Pat has taken time to tell everyone around her how much they mean to her, what their love and friendship has meant and what joy each person has brought to her life. She has taken everyone who walked through her front door aside and spent a few minutes alone, sharing her hopes and prayers for the future. She has asked us all to watch over her family and grandchildren. In this time of illness and pain, she isn’t thinking of herself. She’s focused on preparing those around her for her eventual passing.

The thing about Miss Pat for me is that she has always been my second mother. My mom and her have been friends since childhood. Our families always vacationed together, we spent more time with each other than most immediate families do. As I’ve struggled with my sadness at this news this past week, I’ve spent a great deal of time in prayer and seeking guidance from above for how I can support Miss Pat, Big Dave, their kids and grandkids, my mom and dad, etc. I’ve also realized that because life is so short, we all need to treat each day we remain on earth as our last — take time to share with our families and friends how much they mean to us. I hope anyone who reads this takes that to heart and takes a moment to call or visit a loved one, forgive those who need to be forgiven, restore relationships that need to be restored.

Struggling with Loss

It’s been a crazy month! Between work, volunteer activities and PRSA involvement, I’ve been dealing with family issues. On September 19, my father-in-law passed away. While a blessing in many ways, the family has struggled with their grief. I feel a bit guilty because, while grieving myself, I have been able to move on far quicker than my husband and his sisters.

It’s difficult for me to relate to their feelings. Not only do I still have both of my parents, but when my family members have died, it’s typically been after a long illness and everyone recognizes that he or she is simply suffering too much to enjoy life. In my father-in-law’s case, he had been ill for the last six or nine months. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 and had been going through treatment off and on this year. On top of that, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, kidney failure, and more.

The challenge for me is to provide my husband and sisters-in-law with comfort as best as I can. They have now lost both of their parents — my mother-in-law died in 1999 from an aneurysm. I have done some research on adult children losing both their parents, and it appears that many suffer from a sort of “adult orphan” syndrome. The theory is that, since the “comfort zone” or home base that exists with parents is no longer available and adults who have lost their parents feel as if they no longer have that to turn to in difficult times.

Has anyone experienced this? Does anyone have advise on how to comfort without intruding on the grieving process?

My Reason for Walking in Tulsa’s Komen Race for the Cure

Breast cancer awareness is a cause near and dear to my heart. I was asked to be on the board for Tulsa’s Komen affiliate earlier this year. I readily accepted because of my passion for finding a cure. I’m not a scientist so my involvement is nothing like those who choose to dedicate their time to the process of researching and identifying treatments for breast cancer patients. Instead, I’m using my communication skills to help educate women (and men) on the importance of early detection, treatment and regular follow-up. You can read more about my breast cancer story here.

I’m asking for your help too. Please consider donating $10 to help me reach my personal goal of $250 as I walk in this year’s Race for the Cure. $10 is lunch one day. $10 is a couple of cups of Starbucks coffee. $10 can go a long way toward research grants or educating an under-served population about the importance of self-exams, regular check-ups and so much more. Please click on this link to donate as little or as much as you would like. I truly appreciate your help!

Is It Just Me?

I’ve noticed that the years fly by faster and faster as I get older. Is it just me or is this the case with everyone?

This year in particular seems to be speeding by. The year is more than half over and I feel like we just got things rolling with our New Years’ Eve party. The next thing I knew we were hosting the 4th of July and trying to find time for a vacation (which doesn’t appear to fit in our schedules until September).

My husband and I have hosted activities/people at our home every weekend since Memorial Day. Is it wrong of me to wish for a weekend to myself? Is it just me or can I be a little selfish and wish for some alone time?

A Life Well-Lived

I spent this past weekend celebrating my grandfather’s 94th birthday and Father’s Day with my dad. While it was exhausting and trying on my patience at times, I have to say that I have been blessed in my life.

My parents have set an amazing example for me both personally and professionally. I have established myself professionally due to the work ethic my parents taught me. I grew up watching my dad balance a demanding career in the university world with the demands of a family that was active in many things over the years. I learned the joy of hosting parties in my home from my mom, who is an Southern charm exemplified. She always made people — family, friends or strangers — feel welcome in our home. Between the two of them, I hope that I have lived up to their expectations in my adulthood.

My grandfather is my last remaining grandparent alive. At 94 years old, he is a spry, opinionated man who is both flirtatious and moody. While I find his repetitive stories to be a bit much at times, I am thankful that I have been given the opportunity to listen to his memories about life in the early 20th century. I watched him care for my ailing grandmother for the last 10 years of her life and admire his courage as they battled the effects of Alzheimer’s on her mind and body. He never once stopped loving her. Now, as he remembers their early years of marriage, I hope that I can be such an example for any future children after 60 plus years of marriage.

I know that over the years I have not always shown my family the appreciation or love that they deserve. But I can tell you that, in my adulthood, I have seen the core values and experiences that I was given over the years to be truly amazing, beneficial and more meaningful than I ever expected.

Crazy Holiday Season

It’s been weeks since I last posted here. It’s been an insane month but one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

After finally closing on our new home, we’ve spent the last month moving in and getting the house ready for Christmas. It’s becoming a home now, and for that I am thankful. More space means that we have plenty of room for all of belongings but also for our families and friends. We planned on hosting my parents, brother and sister in law on Christmas Eve but a record-breaking blizzard in Tulsa prevented them from driving the hour from Stillwater. That snowfall didn’t prevent my in-laws from visiting on Christmas day though, and we had a fantastic lunch and afternoon spent opening gifts and spending time together.

We are now planning a New Years’ Eve party for our friends — the first in our 10 years together. I’ll try to post again soon, but I do hope you each have a wonderful and prosperous New Year.