Monday, July 24, 2017

All About Ned



          Steve here (thought I’d throw that in up front in case you think you’re getting the real deal with one of Gabrielle’s star-studded entries…just doin’ the full disclosure so you know what you’re getting). 
            I don’t know anybody named Ned.  As a matter of fact, until today, I had never really thought much about Ned.  It’s a non-descript sort of name, don’t you think?  My apologies to all the Neds out there, but it’s just that I haven’t run across too many members of the Cool Ned Club (CNC) till now (more about that later).  Ask me about Ned and three come to mind.  Ned Beatty…now there’s a Hollywood hunk if I ever saw one, a veritable heartthrob Brad Pitt look-alike.  Then there’s Ned Kelly, an infamous Australian bushranger who made a suit of armor and terrorized the Aussie authorities till he was captured and unceremoniously hung for his indiscretions.  And then there’s good old lovable Ned Flanders, of The Simpsons fame.  I don’t know much about that Ned, as I never had the Simpsons on when the kids were little, being too fearful that they’d grow up telling me “don’t have a cow, Man!” or “eat my shorts!” 
            And that about sums up the Neds I know, or know of.  Oh, except when Gabrielle’s friend Maribeth was dating this guy named Ed (now her husband), I kept referring to him as Ned in the hopes that when Gabrielle finally met him, she’d get his name wrong, but she was on to me.  I had succeeded once before with a friend from church, Tom Bush.  I kept saying “George Bush, George Bush” over and over again and sure enough, she fell for it.  We got invited to his house once and she extended a big warm handshake and said, “You must be George Bush!” 
            But back to Ned.  Gabrielle is now the newest, proudest, most vocal member of the Cool NED Club.  No, she doesn’t have pictures of Ned Beatty on her wall. Rather, in medical terms, NED stands for (wait for it!) NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE!!! Can’t get much better than that, can you?  We met with her oncologist today who came in with a big smile on her face and told us the good news.  The PET scan showed shrinkage of all the previously concerning areas to the point where they just weren’t there (mostly lymph nodes, but also metastases in the liver).  The PET scan looks for metabolically active areas of cancer and there was no uptake, nada, zilch!  Anywhere!  Gotta say it again, just for fun: NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE!  This is not the same as it being completely gone forever and ever, but it is great news, much better than we had hoped to get and we are over the moon happy.
            Afterward, Gabrielle had this massive smile on her face all day long.  We went on a walk, and everything was wonderful.  “Look at those wonderful flowers!”  “Look at that cute saying some kids wrote on the wall in chalk!” “Look at the pretty dog!”  She even told the lady at Central Market that she was having a great day and explained why.  And the checker was almost as delighted as Gabrielle (though I’m not sure the people behind her, waiting to buy their groceries were quite as thrilled to have to wait longer).  We went on a boat ride to celebrate and grabbed food before we got on board.  Comments throughout the day included: “Best shrimp roll ever!”  “Isn’t Mt. Rainier pretty today!”  “Oh, look at the boats in all the pretty colors!”  “Boy, isn’t the water temperature great!”  And there was even some praise for yours truly, “You don’t sweat too much for an old guy!”  Basically, this is a description of someone on Cloud 9, as the newest member of the Cool NED Club.  You can’t really blame her can you?  After all, she has been in chemo for a year and a half straight.  It’s time for a well-earned break from it, and we are all delighted.  She has been a long-suffering warrior in this battle, facing it with grace, faith, dignity and good humor, way better than I could muster, that’s for sure. 
            Thanks so much to all of you for your prayers, good wishes, support, cards, and simply for being there for us.  Gabrielle is so blessed to have such good friends in her life.  And now, she is on to a new task.  She’s starting to compile a list of all the foods she wants to eat now that it won’t all taste like metal.  First up: find a great Italian restaurant in Seattle.  Any suggestions, folks?  After that, her tastes increase in price.  I heard she was going to be looking into plane tickets soon for some trips she plans to take.  Oh, and she just told me that I should plan on working till I’m 88 to pay for it all.  Fair enough!  At this point, I’m feeling pretty good myself, so I have plenty of gas in the tank (at least for now).
            I will end by saying that when we got home from our Cloud 9 walk, Cloud 9 lunch, and Cloud 9 boat ride, we were greeted by an amazing tray of Ina Garten’s salted caramel brownies made by Daniel as a way of celebrating the good news!  Can’t wait to dig in!

            Yep, it’s a good day!

Daniel's Surprise for Gabrielle--her favorite salted caramel chocolate brownies!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

In a world full of struggles, the days of pure joy are God telling us to hang in there...for joy can be just around the corner

Dear family and friends,

Since I last wrote, I have experienced a tremendous amount of joy.  Overwhelming joy.  Like the joy one gets when standing on the top of Mt. Rainier after a long, arduous climb.  Or the joy of holding a newborn baby after months of discomfort and hours of hard labor.  Forget that I’ve remained in chemo.  Forget the upset stomach, shots in the belly, constipation, and fatigue.  All I will remember from the past month is the pure JOY of life and love.

The first joyous experience was a weeklong trip to Cannon Beach with Steve, Renee, and Daniel.  We have been taking the kids to Cannon Beach most every summer since they were babies.  But this trip was especially poignant, as it was our last trip as a family of four—taken just one week before Renee’s wedding!  I love the ocean, for it speaks to me of God’s power, presence, grandeur, and peace, and reminds me that like the continuous waves, one after another, His love for us endures forever.

We walked and napped on the beach, hiked forested trails with peek-a-boo ocean views, ate cheese, ice cream, and fudge in Tillamook, visited the Jacobsen Salt Company in Netarts Bay for sea salt caramels, ate the best oysters of our lives at Pacific Oyster in Bay City, discovered empty beaches full of sand dollars, starfish, and anemone-filled tide pools, and we ate ocean fresh halibut and chips and our weight in pepperoni slices from Pizza a Feta.  At night, we played mini golf, basketball, carpet ball, and our favorite new board game, Ticket to Ride.  I thanked God often during this week for the gift of our loving and close family.  Steve, Renee, and Daniel—your love is a priceless gift that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. 

Rested and refreshed from our time at the beach, we took deep breaths and entered the wild ride of wedding week!  We hosted the rehearsal dinner in our backyard, and a great time was had by all.  Then on Saturday, we laughed, cried, and smiled until we thought our cheeks would break as we watched the two most beautiful brides—Renee and Riley—commit their lives and love to one another for as long as they both shall live.  I was honored to read the Scripture at the wedding—words that were all about love in 1 John 4:7-12.  The wedding was beautiful, meaningful, and worshipful.  And then the party began at the Edmonds Yacht Club!  We ate delicious Mediterranean food, wrote “candy bar stories” about the girls in our table groups, listened to four of the most heartfelt toasts, ate three kinds of Simply Desserts cake, put temporary tattoos on our arms, and danced the night away, with a sparkler send-off for the brides.  Oh, and I guess I should mention that Daniel and I surprised the girls with our choreographed dance to the song, “Say a Little Prayer for You,” which received a standing ovation!  Steve and I remarked to one another a few days later, as we visited Mt. Rainier for a relaxing day in nature, that the wedding was one of the top five happiest days of our lives.  One we will never forget—and neither, of course, will Renee and Riley!

Before and after the wedding, I have been giving a lot of thought to what it means to love your spouse ‘til death do you part.  At Cannon Beach I finished a book called “When Breath Becomes Air,” by Paul Kalanithi.  He was a neurosurgery chief resident who got lung cancer in his sixth year of residency and died just months after his first child was born.  In the book he included a quote from C.S. Lewis’ book, “A Grief Observed,” written after Lewis’ own wife died of cancer.  Here is the quote:  Bereavement is not the truncation of married love but one of its regular phases—like the honeymoon. What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase too. If it hurts (and it certainly will) we accept the pains as a necessary part of this phase.”

Living with cancer, I think often about how married love for Steve and me (and for all of you reading this who plan to stay married for life) will one day mean entering the phase of bereavement.  Lewis accepted the tremendous pain of bereavement as the toll, or “tax” one has to pay for loving one’s spouse so well.  If you choose to skip the joy of loving your spouse so long and so well, you could avoid the tremendous pain that bereavement will one day bring.  But think what you would have missed along life’s way.  So much love.  So much joy.  Faithful friendship, romance, companionship, adventure.  The pain of bereavement will be terrible indeed, but Steve and I agree that it is definitely a price worth paying.

And while going through the years of grief and bereavement, how does one “live our marriage well and faithfully?”  How do we honor the relationship, the loss of which we now mourn?  I have been thinking about that and believe that we honor it best by first letting ourselves feel the pain deeply, to the very core of our being.  We must cry all those tears, feel the pit in one’s stomach, ache with loneliness as we recognize, like Lewis did, that “her absence is like the sky—it covers everything,” and that grief is like an amputation—you may learn to get around one day on crutches, or with a prosthetic leg, but you never again forget that you are no longer a biped.  But also, while feeling and expressing that sadness to the fullest, you pay your spouse the highest compliment--honoring the marriage the two of you had--by continuing on with the parts of life you enjoyed most together.  Head to the mountains and hike!  Jump in a lake on a hot day!  Travel!  Snorkel!  Explore tidepools!  Eat amazing food!  Try your hardest to beat everybody on game night!  Crack up at Frasier re-runs!  Go boating!  Pick blackberries and bake a pie!  Surround yourself with family and friends to celebrate life’s many milestone moments!  And never forget that you were one of the most blessed people on earth—to have loved, and been loved, so very deeply. 

In conclusion, please pray for us as we approach my PET scan on July 20.  We won’t get the results until July 24th, and will update you in our August blog post.  And please enjoy some joy and love-filled photos below!

Love,

Gabrielle

Daniel and me on Oregon Coast!

Two dwarf bunnies we fell in love with and adopted in Seaside, Oregon!

Kids and me about to hike at Ecola State Park!

Jericho enjoying Edmonds Water Park!

Rehearsal Dinner in our backyard!

Steve and Renee practicing their walk down the aisle!

My new daughter-in-law--Riley Dudley!

Rehearsing at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church!

Steve and me hiking at Mt. Rainier!
Renee and Riley at sunset in Edmonds!
Daniel and his girlfriend, Adrienne, at wedding reception!
The Dudleys!
Beautiful brides!
Brides and Jericho, the ring bearer--wearing his more comfy shirt and sandals after the wedding is over!

Daniel and me enjoying Yayoi Kusama exhibit at Seattle Art Museum!