Monday, June 24, 2013


Sometime in everyone’s life we have been required to write a paper, whether it be a book report, what we did over summer vacation or a graduating thesis. I can remember struggling with the required word or page count for certain writing assignments and wondering how I could stretch my writing to fill the requirement. This could be making things up or doing more research.

I have never been one to keep a journal and write down my thoughts and feelings in a book on a regular basis. The best I ever did was writing books for the girls about their early lives. I kept up pretty good till they got to be older and then time just seemed to slip away and I got behind and just stopped writing. At least the girls have details about me being pregnant and the first few years of their lives to add insight as to things that happened to them.

Before Heather was diagnosed with cancer I did not write much except for a few emails to people telling them what might be happening with Heather. Of course as cancer hit and my time suddenly was not my own I could not keep up with all the updates that family and friends wanted. I could not text long messages about the details of things and found it not a good was to keep up with people. I had been told about the CaringBridge as a way to get info out for lots of people. When I began the posts in the early morning hours of April 11, 2008 I never dreamed or imagined what that would turn into. People asked me if I was going to journal Heather’s cancer journey and I told them I did not have time to do that. What I did not realized till later was that I was journaling it I was just doing so with 100’s of readers following. I found myself being open, honest and venting my feelings and frustrations about everything that was going on. I found it very healing and very therapeutic for me to blog on the CaringBridge.

When Heather died I tried to continue blogging but felt that was Heather’s story and not mine. That was when I created Confessions. I have found myself really being healed by the blogging, journaling, writing or expression of my feelings that I have done for the past five years. Wow, yes it has been five years of journaling this experience that I have been on. I see how far I have come from the first few posts to now. It is really quite something to see the last five years of your life written out in such detail.

In the beginning our family struggled to have a reason why cancer happened to Heather. Of course there is no reason why it just did. Neither Heather nor I asked to be on this journey and neither did our family. But we were on it nevertheless. We could sit and do nothing or try to get through it the best way I or we knew how to. From the very first moment I had a camera in my hand documenting in photos the journey. It was not for some gross exploitation of Heather, but she wanted the photos as well. She wanted to have a view many years later at what she had come through. The photos began with the first cut of her pony tail taking 24 inches of hair off, until the casket was placed in the hearse and driven away. They are very powerful photos and tell an incredible story. Between the journaling I was doing and the photos I hoped to write a book some day and explain our journey. It isn’t anyone else’s it is personal and private but I felt it could help someone struggling to understand blood cancer and what happened.

Heather and I talked about writing a book many times during her treatment. She wanted to have a book about her struggle and felt it could be a reason, not the reason why she was chosen for this trial. I began My Porcelain Doll book a little over 6 weeks ago and I am proud to announce that I have finished the manuscript and it is currently in editing. The book contains 35 chapters, 8 parts, 244 pages, 73,329 words for right now. The beginning word is “IN” and the last word of the entire book is “HAPPY.”

 Currently I have been working on the nearly 80 photos that will be in the book in classic black and white. I am very proud of what I have written and the current feeling is the book is a very easy read, full of vivid emotions and a page turner you don’t want to put down. I am excited and scared all at the same time. Instead of trying to remember the details of what happened I had it all written for me on the CaringBridge blog.

In writing a book I have realized that this is not as easy as it sounds just to sit down and write a book. I had most all the information in front of me and did not really have to create much but just the basic things of the dedication, table of contents and acknowledgments. This is the very beginning of the book and could be the part that helps the reader purchase the book. I began with one set of chapter titles and ended with several chapters being added and several chapters titles changed during the writing process. For the most part all of the chapters came together very easily and I felt good about them when I was finished but I did struggle with a couple of them and still feel they are not as strong.

I will keep up posted as to the progress of the book but this is an amazing piece of work that I am very proud of and I cannot wait to begin the second book. I printed all the pages and placed them in a three ring binder; as I looked through the printed pages I was overcome with emotions and tears. This is a dream come to reality and it feels good.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


How many times do we pass our neighbors on the street or at the mailbox and say a passing hello? Do we really have any idea what is going on in their world? Do we care? Are we so focused with our world and issues that we don’t have a moment to ask how someone is doing? We have lived in our house for 19 years and for the most part have the same neighbors as when we moved in. On 74th Place we only have 16 houses on our little street. It is a quiet street now that most all the kids have grown up or are at least school aged now.

Several years before Heather got sick I would go to a nail place owned by our neighbors across the street from us. I probably went there for a total of 4 years which is about the longest I have ever gone to one place. During Heather’s cancer Susan would give her pedicures for free. It was a family business as her daughter, son and niece all worked there. Most of the time I had Susan or her daughter, Crystal, do my nails and Heather had Amanda, her niece for her toes.

I continued to go to Susan’s for about a year after Heather died. Then one day it just didn’t seem right to go back anymore. I never told Susan that I could not face walking into the nail place anymore, I just stopped going. Of course she was still my neighbor and we would pass on the street and wave but we never spoke to each other.

One day about 2 years ago I noticed a lot of activity over at Susan’s house with many family members there. I even commented to Wendy that something must have happened. Wendy went to school with Crystal and they chatted sometimes when Wendy would go to the nail place with me. I knew their parents were visiting from overseas and I figured one of them must have died.

In the past two weeks I went to my current nail place to get my nails done and I thought I saw Susan there working. I was embarrassed and wondered if I should say anything. I ended up making eye contact with her and she came to say hello. I wondered why she was working there and figured that her nail place must have gone out of business. Susan and I talked nicely and I asked if her daughter Crystal was a medical assistant yet. She got quiet and said, you don’t know? I said no, I had not heard anything. Susan proceeded to tell me that Crissy, her Crystal, had died two years ago from lung cancer at the age of 22.

I was shocked and floored and I had no words. I asked her what happened and told her I was so sorry. Susan had another customer but told me she lost her business because of it and had begun working there about 8 weeks ago. I asked what time she would be home and told her I wanted to come by and talk with her that evening. I went to Hallmark and found a Willow Tree angel and a card, even though it seemed really lame to me after two years. I stopped by that evening to again tell Susan I was sorry and that I didn’t know what had happened.

She began by telling me that Crissy had a bad cough for a long time and had been to the doctor on several occasions. They said allergies and did a chest x-ray that showed nothing. The cough was present for over a year. During a trip to Disneyland at Christmas 2010 Crissy developed a blood clot; by the time she went to the doctor it had moved from her leg to her lungs. Crissy was admitted to Banner Baywood with a blood clot in her lungs and more testing on January 26, 2011. After a few days of IV blood thinners and testing the doctors broke the news that it was stage 4 lung cancer. Crissy never smoked one single cigarette.

It was a glorious day when Susan got to bring Crissy home. The doctors had talked about treatments that would begin in the next few days. Their house is the same model as ours with the two flights of stairs to get to the bedrooms. Crissy would drag her oxygen up and down the stairs as she would slowly try to make her way from her bedroom to the family room. After 3 days she asked her mother to take her back to the hospital because she didn’t feel good. When Crissy was admitted they did more testing and were shocked to see how fast the cancer had spread in just a few days. The doctors decided that treatment was not a possibility and neither was going home. She was moved in ICU at Banner Baywood. Crissy endured a surgery and was placed on a vent before she died on February 24, 2011 just 29 days from when the word cancer entered their world.

I cried, listened and hugged Susan as she told me about her ordeal and what she was going through. I was transported back to those days in ICU with Heather struggling to breathe and being put on the vent and the day she died. I felt horrible that I had not cared enough to come by and say hello to someone that was my neighbor and my friend. This has made me stop to think about my neighborhood and how I should be reaching out to be friendly instead of keeping to myself.

On our little street of just 16 houses we have three grieving mothers. I was the first one; a neighbor at the end had her adult daughter commit suicide and then Crissy. I can understand being in a huge subdivision and having many 100’s of houses where there could be several grieving mothers, but not in a small subdivision like ours with only about 80 houses and on our street of just 16 houses. It just goes to show you that you never really know what your neighbor might be going through. I am a fine one to talk and I do not follow my advice very often but I am trying to reach out to my neighbors more and really show them that I care and am not just the lady that lives in the house with the angel that stays up after Christmas.