No one ever expects to receive the dreaded news: “You have cancer.” Yet, considering the number of new cases diagnosed every year in the U.S., an individual shouldn’t be all that shocked if their number does come up. According to the National Cancer Institute, the lifetime risk of developing cancer is approximately 38.5 percent of men and women who will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime. This percentage was based on NCI’s 2012-2014 data. The National Cancer Institute’s latest figures also show an estimated 1,688,780 new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017. Hence, the battle for survival ensues. Unless it has happened to you or a loved one, it is impossible to fathom how the trauma of a cancer diagnosis alters the life of the person who has suddenly been thrown headlong into the cancer-patient arena. The same holds true for his or her family. Their lives will never be the same as they undergo the trials of helping their loved one battle the disease, and additionally live with the fear of losing that family member. We are there. One final statistic: NCI’s five-year-survival rate from 2007-2013 (the latest figure available) is 67 percent. Twenty five months ago, on June 8, Mr. Outdoors was given the Big “C” diagnosis. Yup. His world, and that of our family, turned upside down in a heartbeat. Bob’s oncologist, Dr. Paula Gill, has told us she will never say the words cancer-free. However, the fantastic news he received recently soothes the soul almost as much as hearing those words. Last week, The Outdoors Guy learned his CT scan is clean again!! Since Feb. 22, 2016, this is his sixth scan. And it is the sixth where there is no sign of the pancreatic tumor he was diagnosed with on May 8, 2015. There are no words to describe the jubilation we feel each time we receive such incredible news!!!! Besides the CT scan, the tumor marker is another important part of the equation. Previously, we were told 55 is normal. Recently we learned a number below 35 is normal for cancer patients. Mr. Outdoors’ is looking fantastic at 7!!! Bob’s liver is also doing much better since he is no longer undergoing chemo. Dr. Gill was elated as she told Bob, “You are doing "’SPECTACULAR’!!!" This marvelous news feels like gazing at the exquisite beauty of the heavens on a star-filled night, complemented by 4th of July fireworks!!! The awe and wonder of God’s grace is all around us.
“And His mercy endures forever!!!” Psalm 136:1
Of peaceful wooded mornings, ticks, wine, righting the dock…
Holiday weekends in our family always come with the unfolding of a mishmash of planned activities, plus a few unexpected surprises. I’m guessing, more often than not, it works that way in your family, too. Last Thursday, Mr. Outdoors and I headed north for a second visit to the cool cabin our son and daughter-in law, Jon and Sara, recently purchased near Barnes, WI. The Kids, plus grandsons Jackson and Bryson, were due to arrive late Friday afternoon. Before unloading the Jeep, the lake was calling. We strolled down the path to capture our first view of the lake, brimming with high water from all the rain. Jon sent us photos earlier in the week showing how much the dock had moved as a result. Sure enough, it was about 10-12 feet from it’s normal position. Righting the dock was one of the starred items on the to-do list we had to accomplish. But, for the moment, never mind that!!! Mr. Outdoors looked down and saw five ticks making themselves comfortable on his calf! He brushed them away and we hot-footed it to the cabin!! It was to be the first of several stories from the weekend. Ticks. Ticks. And, more ticks!!! AAARRRGGGHHH!!! The Outdoors Guy and I went to dinner at the only nearby restaurant in Barnes. After an excellent meal, we returned to the cabin and got a chilly greeting when the heat in the cabin wouldn’t come on. Then, we had to drive a ways to reach Jon by cell because we couldn’t get a signal. He told us the hot water heat takes quite a while to get going. We waited and waited and kept turning up the thermostat. Finally, we felt the in-floor heat doing it’s thing! With that resolved, it was time to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. Friday morning, we were up bright and early, taking in the peaceful morning and the woods surrounding us…just what The Outdoors Guy loves! He went down to the lake to drop a line. This time though, he wore knee boots for tick protection. After a few bites, but no keepers, and additional ticks, he returned to the cabin. We took a 30-minute drive to Hayward in the afternoon to pick up a few supplies. Then, it was time to return for The Kids’ arrival. After a happy reunion and lots of hugs, Gramps got the grill going. Festival Foods’ brats were on the menu…yum! We voted on who prefers the precooked and who likes the regular. It was a tie! Early Saturday morning I quietly slipped down the stairs. As I tiptoed into the kitchen, it looked like someone had spilled something on the kitchen floor. It still looked wet. But, when I reached down to touch the area, I found it was SUPER-STICKY!!! Then, I discovered more and more sticky areas. When I finally finished mopping it up, I had done nearly the entire floor! I wondered who had made such a mess and why they hadn’t cleaned it up! When I was sure I had it all, I went to get milk for my coffee and found more of the sticky stuff by the fridge door! Eeeek!!! Frustrated, I decided to leave it there so Jon and Sara could figure it out. When they woke up, I told them what I had found and pointed out the goop still by the fridge. They didn’t have a clue! I went upstairs. When I returned, the mystery was solved. Jon found a cork and foil laying on the kitchen floor opposite the fridge, which was where, on top of it, they had a wine rack with several bottles on their sides. One of the bottles was a carbonated wine. Apparently, something had triggered it to blow it’s top, causing the wine to splay across the kitchen floor and even onto the closet doors, which I hadn’t noticed. The bottle was blown backward and lay against the wall behind the fridge. Despite more cleanup, including pulling out the fridge and finding additional goop, we were thankful no one was in the path of the cork-turned-missile!! Saturday morning we all went to Hayward. The guys looked at boats, bought a lawnmower, trimmer and picked up additional spud poles. Sara and I shopped and grabbed lunch at our favorite local coffee haunt, Backroads. When we returned to the cabin, the guys were already back. Jon was giving Jackson, age 10, and Bryson, seven, instructions for operating the new mower. They did great, but will need time before they can mow themselves. The boat isn’t due to arrive until next weekend. Needless to say, Jackson was totally bummed because he was expecting to go fishing with his Grandpa. Now, he has to wait until next time. I was so sad for him. However, we needed to continue on to the next item, which was moving the dock. The guys put on their chest waders and got it into position. Then, they placed the spud poles, while the boys chattered and eagerly assisted. Sara pitched in when and where she was needed, while I snapped photos. Suddenly, Gramps picked a tuber from a water lily and shoved it in his mouth!! Everyone gasped and groaned. How could he put that thing in his mouth? He chewed it for a few seconds and spit it out! We were all laughing and gagging at the same time! When the dock was almost finished, Sara pointed at the ground and yelled in disgust, “What is THAT?!!!” Crawling through leaves and pine needles on the forest floor was the most revolting-looking creature we girls have ever seen!! Gramps took one look. “Oh, that’s a leech,” he casually remarked. He scooped the repulsive piece of black, accordion-like slime off the ground to the chorus of more shrieks!!! Then, he laid it on his arm. Immediately, the blob started to attach itself to him!! Jon pulled it off Gramps and the creature did the same to Jon!!! Meanwhile, the rest of us were going nuts! Gramps pulled the leech off of Jon and tossed it in the lake. Sara scolded Gramps and said, “Thanks, Grandpa!! Now I won’t be swimming in the lake this summer!!” The boys and I agreed. Yet, I suspect Jackson and Bryson will forget all about that leech once the hot weather kicks in! Sara? Not so much!! We left on Sunday to give The Kids an extra day to themselves. They finished the 1,000-piece puzzle that will be framed and hung in the boys’ room. Another puzzle awaits for their next stay. Mr. Outdoors and I brought home six uninvited guests…TICKS!! One would expect evening showers would get rid of them…NO WAY! Finally, there was one big AHA discovery: It’s downright amazing how a family can actually survive without…yup, you guessed it…television, and minimal internet and cellphone service!!! HAPPY SUMMER!!!!
What do you do with a 70-year-old who refuses to grow up? Case in point: Friday, two days before Christmas, Mr. Outdoors, son, Evan, and I were visiting our oldest son, Jon, and his family in Cloquet, MN. Evan and grandsons Jackson, 9, and Bryson, 7, planned to go snowboarding on a popular hill in Cloquet. First, though, they wanted to practice on the side hill next to Jon and Sara’s home. The boys had been outside for awhile when I decided to see how they were doing. On my way out the door, I grabbed my camera, hoping to get a couple good photos. The kids were having a great time! Up and down the hill they went, sometimes boarding all the way to the bottom without falling, sometimes…NOT. Meanwhile, Gramps was walking on the wooded trail behind Jon and Sara’s home where he always makes a point to scout for signs of wildlife when we visit. It wasn’t long before Bob emerged from the trail. He stood at the top of the hill, watching the kids take turns. Jackson, Bryson and Evan were having a blast! Because I was at the bottom of the hill, I couldn’t hear the conversation. Later, Evan told me, “Dad said, “’OK. It’s Grandpa’s turn!’” For a few minutes no one came down the hill. I thought Evan was repairing something on the board. I didn’t know he was changing the bindings to make them larger for Grandpa. All of a sudden, I saw Gramps take the snowboard from Jackson and plop it down in front of him. I looked at him like he’d lost his mind!!! But, I never had a chance to protest! Gramps launched before I could shriek, “Geronimo!” I could see he was looking shaky and called out to him, “Look up, not down!” But, he didn’t hear me. About halfway down the hill, Grandpa’s courage faltered when he realized he was going faster than he thought he would! With all the grace of a big old bull, we witnessed his historic colossal W I P E O U T !!!!!!! (Later, he told me the kids looked like they were going so slow. I reminded him that the bigger you are, the faster you’re going to go!) The kids rushed to him and helped him down the hill to where I was. He was shaken. But, thankfully, nothing was broken! He did, however, strain his right shoulder, across to his upper back, including his left shoulder blade, and across his chest. DUH!Landing on frozen Minnesota ground will do that to a person! We helped Gramps into the house, where, when told the story, Jon and Sara were convinced he’d lost his mind in his old age!! For a moment, father and son exchanged roles as Jon, who is analytic to the core, scolded his dad for being so impulsive. Because chemo and prolonged use of steroids, is hard on The Outdoors Guy’s liver, he cannot take pain meds such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen. I was happy I tossed the rice bag in the suitcase before leaving home. Heating it in the microwave always does the trick to soothe pain. By Christmas Day he was much improved! Kids will be kids, but when a 70-year-old grandpa and cancer patient thinks he is one, who knows what to expect from the young-at-heart Outdoors Guy in 2017!!
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU AND YOURS!!!
A fishing tale for the books
This is a true story of unparalleled proportion as told to me by Mr. Outdoors. In early April, Mr. Outdoors and longtime buddy, "Texas," planned an afternoon of fishing at Ol" Tom's boathouse. The Outdoors Guy was a little late getting there. As Bob headed toward the boathouse, he noticed Texas' fishing pole was laying on the dock of the boathouse. There was Texas, near the water trying to remove his Mepps spinner that was hung up on a bare branch high up in a tree. According to The Outdoors Guy, he picked up Texas' fishing rod, rolled the rod in a large, circular motion a few times and the spinner dropped free from the branch and into the water. Problem solved. Rather than walk up the steep hill and back down to the boathouse, Texas decided to walk along the top of the sidehill. He slipped and put his huge elbow, forearm and hand through an old, decaying fishing shanty onshore. Texas immediately shouted, “Don’t tell Kathy!!!” Between these two guys, at least one of them falls every time they are doing something outdoors-related. They have that history, so I always caution them, “Don’t fall!” But like any husband and his good buddy, do they listen? No way, Jose!! Texas left his mark at the scene of the crash: a gaping hole in the shape of a forearm now graces the old shanty! With the evidence for all the world to see, Texas has obviously hastened the demise of the structure with one graceless tumble. Yet, this afternoon, unlike any other, had only begun! After a good laugh, the guys began casting for northern pike and bass from the deck of the boathouse again. I am not exaggerating when I tell you Texas matches his nickname. He seems to be the size of Texas as he stands a full 6 feet 5 inches tall! Together, he and Bob look like Mutt and Jeff! So, when Texas cast his line again, it got hung up in the another branch! Combining Texas’ height, plus the added length of the line, it seemed that line was caught-up a quarter-mile high in the tree! Texas tried in vain to use the same technique as Mr. Outdoors did to free the spinner. So long and goodbye!! The spinner remained up in the tree and his line? Busted!! Hang on! We're only halfway through the story. Next, Texas tied on a new Mepps spinner. While casting, the good ol' boys laughed and laughed while rehashing grade school, high school and college days. Every so often, one of them commented on how close a pair of mallard ducks were flying overhead. Texas cast his line again. Wouldn’t you know it, right before their very eyes, the mallards simultaneously took flight. One of the duck’s feet nicked the spinner, breaking Texas’ line again!!! Texas and Bob gazed up at the duck. The pair watched in disbelief as the duck disappeared up the slough with Texas’ spinner and line in tow. Texas, in a matter-of-fact tone, calmly proclaimed, “There it goes…” Bob shook his head! What more could he say? Texas tied one more lure onto his line. Within the next few casts he asked, "Now, what's that in the water?” Mr. Outdoors broke out laughing yet again and said, "That's the end of your two-piece fishing rod!" Texas pulled in his line, one hand over another, laughing just as hard. "This is one fishing day I will never forget," The Outdoors guy remarked. "We are DONE!!" Ironically, they weren’t because the very next day, Bob returned to the boathouse to try his luck for panfish. Texas was going to be late. Watching his bobber, The Outdoors guy looked over toward the east end of the dock. Lo and behold there… on the dock… was Texas’ Mepps spinner with those couple of feet of line still attached to the spinner, but no longer attached to the foot of the duck!! How the duck knew where to return it’s unwanted baggage is anyone’s guess. The Outdoors Guy called Texas with the news. After a day of fishing gone wrong, and now the return of the hijacked spinner, they had another good laugh, like they have had during their more than 60-year friendship. My spin? If you see these two guys together... DUCK!
On the road again - "Mr. Itchy Butt" - Part II
The following is a chronology of the unfolding of a situation beginning in April that has taken our family on a pilgrimage we never anticipated, yet one where there is no turning back.
Wed., Feb 17. Two years ago in February, The Outdoors Guy broke his right ankle. In mid-April he was downright itchy to drive, although his doctor had not yet approved it. Part I of "On the road again - 'Mr. Itchy Butt'" was when Mr. Outdoors called me from his cell to say, "Look Ma, no hands!" Glancing out the window, I saw him parked on the road sporting a wide grin. I was quick to warn him he would have to explain his actions to our auto insurance agent if his ill-advised road trip went bad. Reluctantly he pulled back into the garage. A few weeks ago, following his pancreatic cancer surgery, we revisited this same scenario. I thought: Oh Boy! Here. We. Go...AGAIN!!! The whining and complaining about his loss of independence since surgery Jan. 22, including his threats to drive, drove me to do what any level-headed wife would do: I secretly confiscated his keys!!! The day The King realized his keys were gone, I got "THE LOOK!"He most definitely wasn't happy and instructed me to, "Put those keys back!!" "I will put them back ONLY if you can assure me you will not drive!!" He did. The keys were returned to the hook, and he was a little happier, but not much!! Mr. Outdoors still has plenty of little kid in him. He loves to test the waters to see what he can get away with. A few months into The Outdoors Guy's cancer diagnosis, he was frustrated with my "follow-the-book" care, telling me in no uncertain terms, "You may be my best nurse, but you are not the nicest!!!" HILARIOUS!! I am happy to report that today Ol' Itchy Butt received clearance from his oncologist, Dr. Paula Gill, to put the pedal to the metal!! I'm almost as happy as Itchy Butt is!!! We will have test results from our visit with Dr. Gill next week once The King has completed more lab work and another CT scan. We're stuck in the seventh inning and hungry for another home run to put Baseball Bob closer to a victory over his formidable opponent. Next week can't come soon enough...
Cast all your care upon him; for he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7