On Monday morning my Aunt Kaye lost her battle with leukemia. She was raised and schooled in Western Wisconsin. After marriage a few short stays in the area, Kaye and my uncle moved to Pennsylvania and raised their own family. She taught school in Pennsylvania for many years then moved back to Western Wisconsin for retirement. With the both of them being raised in the area, it was a coming home for them. In her retirement she wrote a column for the local newspaper. She titled her column ” A Bird’s Eye View.” She would tell tales of everyday life and stories of yesteryear. When she made her announcement to her readers that she had leukemia she penned the story titled 40 Days and 40 Nights +3
I have shared her story with others who are having their own struggles. Sometimes in life we build the barriers that keep us from knowing our neighbors in this life. Kaye tells how some of those barriers are removed when you are sick. When you are sick all the rhetoric of life styles, religions, nationalities and politics seem to fade away. All the doctors, nurses, and specialists are trying to help you get better or make your finals days more peaceful.
I share her story as a tribute to her. Right now for our family there will be a rain of tears, but soon the rays of sunshine of her life will be shown brightly thru the clouds.
40 Days and 40 Nights + 3
Forty days and forty nights—that’s how many days it rained in the 600th year of Noah’s life. According to Genesis, “In the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. On the very same day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark.” Two animals of every species on earth also entered the ark.
Can you even imagine watching it rain nonstop for 40 days and 40 nights? That’s a long time—it’s a period of time for which I have some appreciation and certainly some understanding.
Last week, on April 19, I was released from Methodist Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota after being treated by doctors at the Mayo Clinic for acute leukemia. I was there 43 days and 43 nights. While there, I underwent an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy—the possible side effects are harrowing and take up pages.
I am pleased to report that I had only mild nausea, no mouth sores, no fever, no infection, no complications of any kind. I did, of course, lose every hair on my head, and I am not an attractive bald woman—I think some women’s heads are so perfectly formed, that they feel comfortable appearing in public sans hair. That is not the case with me. Wigs and scarves will be my constant companions until my hair grows back. This time I want it to be thick and curly instead of thin and straight.
My future holds additional chemo and a bone marrow transplant. That’s my new reality.
Today I share with you, my dear readers, some past realities from those 43 days.
• We live within driving distance of a world famous medical center—that’s very good. People travel from all over the country and in fact the world to be treated by the doctors at the Mayo. It takes us exactly one hour and 20 minutes from our front door to the front entrance of the Mayo.
• My 43 day-43 night experience was no walk in the park due to boredom and of course stress as I waited for my blood counts to slowly return to normal after being wiped out by chemo. I also felt, to put it mildly, blah and had little if any appetite.
• Every four hours (except during the night) nurses took my vitals, chatted amicably with me and asked me over and over again, “What else can I do for you?” I was not surprised by this—I am a lover of nurses no matter where I encounter them. Complain about nurses, and I’ll offer you a deaf ear—not going to listen.
• Every morning about 10:00, a team of doctors gathered outside my room discussing every aspect of my condition and then filed into my room. The men were dressed in suits and ties and the women in suits or other equally professional looking attire. The head doctor talked to me while the other five looked at me, nodded, smiled, took notes and told me to have a good day when they left.
• One of the interns checked on me regularly throughout the day. His name was Dr. Mohammed Brochiere and every day we had a contest as to who was wearing the most outrageous socks. I received many pairs of socks as gifts from friends and family, so I had a good selection.
• Not long ago a presidential candidate called for “An absolute ban on all Muslims entering the United States.” If he had made that proposal 10 years ago, and if he had gotten his way, here’s what would have happened. A large percentage of the gifted, talented and extremely intelligent doctors and nurses at the Mayo Clinic would not be there. And I suspect that’s true of hospitals across this country. As to my Muslim doctors and nurses—I adored them—I trusted them completely—beautiful people with beautiful smiles and a warmth that rivals that of my Norwegian relatives any day of the week.
So to all my readers, I’m finally spilling the beans about my illness. It’s been a difficult and stressful time made tolerable by the cards, emails, phone calls and visits I received from friends, family and many of you. For that I am most grateful.
I’m also grateful to Paul Seeling who has never, not even once, expressed any frustration to me—his only reporter—about my long absence. Instead, he offers encouragement and wishes for improved health.
Forty days and 40 nights—that’s a lot of rain . . . that’s a long stay in the hospital, but who among us has been promised a worry-free, stress-free, disease-free life?
A friend of mine facing a liver cancer diagnosis shared this quote. “You either get bitter or you get better. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate. It belongs to you.”
I’m choosing “better.” This journey I’m on . . . like the people/animals on the ark . . . will eventually end with the sun’s rays coming through the clouds. Of that I’m certain.