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by beaty

My cancer journey with help from family and my guardian angel

August 12, 2010 in Home Page, Journey Through Cancer, Parent with Cancer by beaty


Dad’s Story

“Dick, Dr. Malone is on the phone and he wants to speak to you.”

“I do not like to give you this kind of news over the phone. The results of your biopsy indicate that your prostate is 65% consumed with cancer.”

My wife Helen has told me that her hand was on my shoulder during the phone call, but I did not recall. She is always there for me, a friend for 51 years, and wife for 48 years. I would not have made it without her. Read the rest of this entry →

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by rick

Cancer Cannot

February 2, 2010 in Home Page, Keeping Up Your Spirits by rick

One of my favorite passages of scripture is Psalm 139—the one which reminds us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. When my first son was born, I examined him from head to toe; and I was in awe of the miracle of birth and the beauty of the human body.The older and more mature I grew, the more aware I became of the great complexities of the body.Along the way, during the course of my clinical pastoral education and as a hospital board member, I’ve had the opportunity to view various types of surgery and to observe from a rather close perspective the inner workings of some of these marvelous and complex organs of ours. Read the rest of this entry →

Damn Weeds

January 26, 2009 in Home Page, Keeping Up Your Spirits, Physician's Thoughts by Laurie McCarthy

January 26, 2009

“Look at all those beautiful little white flowers,” I said to my wife. “I don’t remember seeing them there before.”

In the neglected ten-by-thirty foot corner of our garden, a crop of white flowers began to emerge toward the end of the summer.

“You never saw them because they are weeds,” my wife said.

“What do you mean…weeds?” I asked. “They are beautiful!”

“Weeds aren’t always ugly, but even the pretty ones grow fast enough to choke out the other flowers,” my wife reminded me.

“But they are growing so well there.”

“That’s what weeds do—they get in while you are not looking and take over everything.”

“Don’t you even think about going out and pulling those weeds,” I growled. “I will do it myself…damn weeds.”

My wife’s recently diagnosed leukemia had weakened her immune system. She spent most of the summer in bed—recovering from the fatigue of the disease and the nausea of the treatment.

And somehow, while I was taking care of everybody’s cancer, leukemia had crept into my home and attacked my wife’s body. For months, I had missed the telltale signs of fatigue and malaise, chalking them up to day-to-day stresses of motherhood. When the diagnosis came, she crumbled; and I went into survival mode. I watched as my wife struggled to climb the stairs like a sick person, stopping halfway to a landing. I saw as they started an IV and observed the red blood cell transfusion dripping into her veins easing her fatigue. I rubbed her back when she threw up the life sustaining pills that were just too big to get down. And I put her to bed and cuddled her, like I did with the children, to ease her fear. I couldn’t do anything real except simply be there. And just when things seem to improve, a simple walk in the yard led to a simple scrape on the shin which led to a complicated skin infection (cellulitis to those of us in the know) which led to several doctor visits, and threats of hospitalization.

“I wasn’t planning to do any work in the garden. I’ve learned my lesson. But what am I supposed to do? Sit in the house all day?” she asked.

“No, but you must protect yourself, wears gloves, and long pants when you go out for this sort of thing. Life has changed for us, and I can’t afford to have you in the hospital because you are too selfish to give up gardening or too stubborn to wear gloves!” I grumbled.

“Well I don’t need to have you hollering at me in my own back garden.” She turned and headed for the house.

I remained…and looked at this impenetrable hedge of pretty little white flowers which grew as tall as me. And I began to pull. And I tore at the earth ripping out every lost opportunity. And I reaped a harvest of the pain of the possibility of my daughters’ weddings without a mother-of-the-bride. And I clawed at the anger of the chance of going to my girls’ graduations alone. And I scratched and groveled at the ground pulling and tearing weeds half crazed with a mission to reclaim this little corner of the garden. Dirt flew into my hair and clothes and mouth. And sweat stained my clothes and streaked my face. My eyes burned with salt and dirt and my flesh tore from unseen pickers. And my quiet whimpers grew into audible sobs and heaves until I was startled by my 10-year old.

“Are you okay dad?” she asked.

“Yeah. I‘m fine.I lied.

“Are you crying?”

“No,” I cried.

“It looks like you are crying.”

“Allergies…damn weeds.”

“It sounded like you are crying.”

“Dads don’t cry. They get allergies.”

“Do you need a hug?”

She always knew when I needed a hug. “I think I do.”

My tiny little 10-year old jumped into my arms and hugged me closely to her.

“Ouch, my neck,” I hollered.

“Love hurts, Dad.” She giggled as she ran back to her tree house vanishing as quickly as she had appeared.

When I looked up, I had thrashed through the entire bank of weeds. My wife’s accounting background allowed us to quantify gardening performed by the number of green trash bags filled. I had 16. It was more than that though. The irony had not escaped me. I had managed to protect and preserve just a little corner of my life which had been taken over by some outside uninvited monster. A once impenetrable scourge of weeds were untimely ripped and tossed away in a neat row of bulging green trash bags.

And when I was done, the once beautiful white flowered hedge was barren and desolate. It looked far better before I had taken out my anger on it. Now a wasteland plowed under at the end of the growing season, the little corner held the promise of a better next year without god damned weeds choking everything out.

My wife returned as if on cue. “Look there,” I said proudly. “Sixteen bags.”

“What are you doing? I was going to have it bulldozed,” she said.

“But you loose the English ivy that away.”

“You do know that garden is loaded with poison ivy.”

“Great,” I muttered. “I’ll take a shower.”

“Damn poison ivy.”

Dr. Rick Boulay

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by rick

The Mayo Jar

October 16, 2008 in Home Page, Keeping Up Your Spirits, Patient's Journey, Women's Cancers by rick

October 16, 2008

You might ask me, “What about this mayo jar?What are you talking about?What does a mayo jar have to do with cancer?”

All it took was one phone call.My phone rang early on a Friday morning.When does a doctor ever call you personally—really?“You have cancer!”Speechless, I could not respond.I could not hear.His statement sent me into a trance and changed my life forever.How do you tell your family the “C” word?

From the gynecologist to the oncologist and many appointments later, I was operated on for uterine cancer.The hospital nurse told me you have something we want—you do not want to keep it. That helped put my situation in perspective.

I truly believe knowledge is power.I armed myself with information by reading medical, spiritual, and motivational books and magazines.In my reading travels, I read a story about a mayo jar.The suggestion was to find a quote that has meaning to you—one that lifts your spirits.Put the quote in a clean, empty mayo jar.Continue adding quotes, thoughts, and sayings from greeting cards.When you are having a bad day, reach into that mayo jar and pull out a quote.Just a few words of encouragement or friendship from the mayo jar helped me through the day and always brought a smile to my face.My mayo jar was soon overflowing.

Of course, I have my favorite quotes.This quote—which I have memorized and can recite to myself at any given moment—came from a picture hanging on the wall in the oncologist’s examining room:“In the secret garden, the flowers bloomed and bloomed, and in the morning revealed new beauty”.Another of my favorite quotes is “A book is a patient teacher and a quiet friend”.

During my cancer journey, I kept a daily journal which contained my feelings, my improvements, my appointments, my medication, and everything that I felt was needed for me to survive the day.A friend told me to only cry in the shower—that way no one will ever see you crying.The suggestion didn’t work.I cried inside and outside of the shower but that was OK.

Those cancer days, weeks, months were difficult.I had complications with bleeding after my surgery which lead to a second surgery.One of my biggest hurdles was to get from a lying position to a sitting position to a walking position.My muscles were cut and sewn back together making the task very slow and difficult.My pain was always at a peak—there were no valleys.I would look in the bathroom mirror and say “Who is this person?I do not know you”.I could not measure my recovery in days…only in weeks.Each Sunday, I would ask myself how I improved from last Sunday.The improvements were subtle, but they were there.I was sure to note the improvements and my feelings in my journal.

After many months of healing, I returned to work.The same day I noticed a rash.Back to the doctor—now I had shingles.What are shingles anyway?I had heard the term but truly did not know.The doctor said shingles—adult chicken pox—are caused by physical, emotional, and psychological stress.Unfortunately, I had all three.The pain was unbearable—as bad as my two operations.I was out of work for several more weeks.

Now I am turning my journal into a book.Yes, I decided to write a book.The title is “December to December” and tells my tale of medical events between December 2002 and December 2003.I do not mind if the book never sells.It is just a vehicle for me to release my feelings about my cancer situation.I must admit there were a few funny moments—not too many—just a few.Laughter is the best medicine so I decided to include those moments in my book.I feel a need to document the good times as well as the bad times; but really, there is nothing funny about cancer.My loving husband, children, and sisters will be able to read the book and reflect on the cancer journey that they took with me.I may never know if the book will help others.

My faith in God, my wonderful doctor, and my outstanding family were truly the only way I made it through the cancer journey.Prayers go up—blessings come down.There is no such thing as coincidence.God lead me to read the article about the mayo jar and helped me fill my own mayo jar and my life with inspiration to move on.

I had a happy ending—I am five years cancer free.My mayo jar gave me hope and peace.

Why not start your own mayo jar?

Beaty Christoff

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by shlampe

Are All Cancers Created Equal

January 28, 2005 in General, Home Page, Journey Through Cancer by shlampe


These are samples from the forums. Some great thoughts below:

Rick: So I’m gonna go out on a limb here a little bit, but I’ve heard many times over that there are “perceived discrepancies amongst cancer survivors”. That’s the politically correct way of saying, ” People with that kind of cancer get everything, while people with my kind get the left overs.” So…is that real? Are there true disparities in support (research funding, advocacy, social programing, public acceptance) among different types of cancer? Or do people just feel that way?

Lisa M: hmmm…have to think about this…..I think breast cancer survivors get extra support for the fact that there are so many w/ that kind of cancer-power in numbers.I support the pink ribbon always. Now, I have a question for any professional who has an answer-I kinda, sorta, believe that any cure for cancer is squashed because there is so much money being made. Not by the the doctors , but the rest-the pharm. co’s , etc etc. etc., the “bigwigs”. Any thoughts anyone?