Your Life Is Your Story. Write Well. Edit Often.

20 Inspirational Cancer Quotes For Survivors, Fighters – Inspirational Quotes Ideas

Well, we surely are editing our life’s stories at present. Cancer has reared its dreaded head and we are in the first stages of finding out how Ian’s life story is being edited.

Ian has just spent 3 days in the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre emergency room, having gone in with severe bloody diarrhea, had a colonoscopy and CT scan and is now home. The medical team found a rectal tumour which is the source of the bleeding. That means cancer, of course, but we are happy to hear that it is localized and not expected to metastasize elsewhere. We are now awaiting a consultation with a surgical oncologist to see where to proceed from here. Thank God, he is not in any pain, just really exhausted. We’re sure the surgeon will have difficulty in deciding whether or not to operate since Ian is 85 and in poor health otherwise, so it might not be possible. Time will tell. Prayers are being sent up!

Gayle is anxiously trying to master the art of injecting Ian twice a day with an anti-coagulant that is necessary to prevent a stroke, since he is highly susceptible to them and has been on Warfarin for several years. That has been discontinued and a twice-a-day injectable anti-coagulant that is easier to counter-act if necessary has been prescribed. To say the least, nursing was never a career choice for Gayle, but she seems to have been forced into a non-professional form of it now and earlier in the care of her late husband. Again, prayers are being sent up for guidance, patience and endurance.

Present circumstances have sent us in search of some inspiration and these quotes have helped.

Though no longer writing, when he can stay awake and alert, Ian takes great pleasure in reading one of his published books. Right now he is concentrating on our children’s book, Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie, chuckling from time to time and marveling that he ever managed to write it. The latest chuckle came when he pointed out a section where he had brought in a Scottish reflection to his fictional story. It reminded Gayle how, as the past editor of a thematic magazine, her life often seemed to reflect whatever theme was being worked on at the moment. Quoted below is the passage Ian read aloud:

“Some months later, the week after Jake’s twelfth birthday, another problem appeared. And Jake was sure a certain kid was the cause of everything getting all messed up again. As far as Jake was concerned, he didn’t want to go through any more troubles. But that little kid appeared at his door and sure screwed things up for Jake in a BIG way!

“Now Jake’s Grandpa was an old Scotsman who loved the poetry of the even-older Scotsman, named Robert Burns. Even Dad had started quoting some old sayings of Burns’, so it wasn’t surprising that a phrase from Burns’ poem “To a Mouse” came into Jake’s mind. He had often heard both Grandpa and Dad say something like, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”– meaning that you can make really good plans but they can often go wrong. However it was stated, Jake thought, the saying must apply to 12-year-old boys too, for things certainly did go wrong for Jake—well, for a little while anyway.”

 

We rejoice that Ian has these writings to fall back on. They help to jog his failing memory and keep his spirits up. It’s good to always look for the silver lining in the inevitable clouds. Peace be with us all.

SHARING OUR STORIES – THE SNOWMOBILE TO STRASSENBAHN SAGA

SHARING OUR STORIES – THE SNOWMOBILE TO STRASSENBAHN SAGA

We send greetings to all our readers, hoping that you have had wonderful Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations and that you will have a happy and peaceful New Year 2017. This year’s celebration has been a cozy one for us, though Ian’s health is fragile, necessitating a lot of sleeping, sometimes into late afternoons. He has to be cajoled (Gayle’s task) to get dressed and participate in some of our celebrations though he didn’t get out for church services, Gayle’s choir concert or the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s glorious performance of Nutcracker. We did host his Winnipeg family of daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren and their spouses, plus five great-grandchildren on Christmas Eve, though. Thirteen of us in our small penthouse floor apartment made the choice of the description “cozy” a true reality, but our gathering was nonetheless enjoyable. Chinese takeout and frozen pies made for a festive but easy supper. The adults and one teenager huddled in around our large dining table while the four younger kids enjoyed kneeling around their own festive coffee table. With city lights twinkling below us through our decorated windows on our 17th floor apartment, candlelight inside, festive decorations, goodie bags for all, new pjs for the kids to don, some early presents to exchange and some Christmas carol singing and dancing, we all had a great time. As a long-time percussionist, Gayle has a collection of rhythm instruments that she brought out to enhance the music from our Christmas CDs, so we could all participate in singing and making music.

 

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How enjoyable we find reading through many short stories in a favourite Christmas present: the 2016 “Chicken Soup for the Soul” anthology: The Joy of Christmas: 101 Holiday Tales of Inspiration, Love, and Wonder, compiled by Amy Newmark with a foreword by “Mrs. Nicholas Claus” and highly recommend it for your holiday enrichment. We also love to re-read and recall holiday stories of our own.

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In past years we have shared several holiday stories from Ian on this blog: (Dec. 10, 2012) “Unusual Holiday Flavoured Passages from My Memoir” (including “My Non-Event Christmases of Childhood” and the New Year’s Eve story of his youngest daughter’s premature birth and how her life was saved by a bottle of Scotch whisky) and (Dec. 31, 2012) “Happy Hogmanay! Happy New Year” an excerpt from our yet-to-be-published autobiographical book “Mexican Follies.” Below pictures Ian, Gayle and our poodle Peppy in our motorhome patio in Mexico in December 2004.

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In December 2014 we blogged a spontaneous play that Gayle and her then-4-year-old daughter had originated “The Christmas Story According to Gwynne” complete with Gwynne’s original illustrations.

manger scene for Christmas story

This year Gayle wants to share her story of a unique holiday trip she and her late husband Gus Johannesson made in December 1972 from their home in Germany to visit Gayle’s family in North Dakota. She calls it “The Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga.” For those who don’t know German, Strassenbahn means “streetcar” or “tram.” Those who read her story will understand why Gayle is reluctant to consider any more extensive travel during the wintertime. Pictured below are Gayle’s family at the time: back row: husband Gus, Gayle, sister Barbara, niece Danelle, mother Grandma Mil, sister Doreen, nephew Todd and brother-in-law Bill; front row: nieces Billi, Lisa and Lori. Missing is brother-in-law Danny who presumably took the photo.

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The Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga

Gus and I had moved to Germany in summer 1965 where he began to pursue a doctorate in systematic theology at the University of Heidelberg and work part time as a civilian chaplain with the US military and I worked as a secretary for the Judge Advocate, U. S. Army, Europe and Seventh Army. By 1972, we had already spent seven Christmas/New Year’s holiday seasons in Europe, either with Gus’ aunts, uncles and cousins in Norway or with our friends in Heidelberg and were excited to finally be flying home to the States to spend the holidays with my family members.

In many ways, 1972 had been a disastrous year for us–mostly because of Gus’ health. He had lost over 30 pounds due to an illness which was finally discovered in July and had already taken four bouts of rectal surgery for abscesses and fistulas, leaving him with a lot of pain and sapped strength, all of which grossly interred with continuing work on his doctoral dissertation. In addition, I had shattered nerves after terrorist bombs had killed three people in the barracks where I worked and our headquarters were plagued with continuing bomb scares and security precautions. Despite Gus not really feeling well, we had been able to get away to Spain in June for a few weeks’ respite touring the Moorish treasures in Grenada and then relaxing at the home of friends on the Mediterranean island of Minorca, sunning, swimming, snorkelling, exploring ocean-side caves and touring quaint fishing villages with Gus doing a lot of napping. However, returning to Germany and our daily routines led to more stress and, for Gus, the string of surgeries. We were really anxious to get away from it all and back to family and a traditional holiday at “home.”

In December, after several days with friends and attending to business in Chicago and Minneapolis, we flew on to North Dakota, spent some time with each of my two sisters and their families and then finally took a bus from Fargo to my mother’s home in New Rockford (middle of the state). We had a few relaxing days alone with Mom before the rest of the family arrived for Christmas. Here’s Mom (Grandma Mil) and Gus on one of our walks.

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It was wonderful for me to bask in the smells and flavours of the traditional Swedish-American Christmas of my childhood. Picking out and decorating the live Christmas tree, stringing coloured lights, putting up the manger scene we had sent Mom from Germany,

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singing melodious carols in English, Swedish and Norwegian, helping Mom to bake spritz cookies, sandbakelse, krumkake, Julekake, pepparkakor, and Swedish almond bars (from my grandmother’s recipe brought from Sweden), buying and wrapping gifts, preparing turkey, ham, Swedish meatballs and even Lutefisk (though I still didn’t like it, but good-old-Gus sure did!).

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Gus and I got away a few times for walks alone. The photo above shows us posing on the frozen James River, not far from Mom’s two-bedroom apartment in a four-plex right across from the church where I had spent so much of my childhood. (I had been shocked when we first moved to Heidelberg to find out that the Neckar River there usually stayed open all winter long, only having frozen up once during the Twentieth Century, right after World War II.)

Once my sisters and their husbands and children had arrived, we were a family of 12. One sister had married a local boy so those five could overnight at his parents’ house just a few blocks away. However, my other sister’s family of four stayed at Mom’s, as did we. She and her husband slept in the living room on the couch bed but their two little ones got to sleep with Grandma Mil. Gus and I, as the “honoured guests from across the Atlantic,” got the guest room. This was fortunate as I had to be the nurse who cleaned his open (rectal) wound several times a day. (Surgery in that area has to heal from the inside out without any stitching.) It was a bit difficult to maintain much privacy, however, especially with five little ones underfoot. We got the biggest laugh of the holiday one evening when our two-year-old niece came out of the bathroom wearing two long “q-tips” (that I’d previously used to probe the wound and thought I had disposed of discreetly), one in each ear!!! (Even now in her late forties, she doesn’t appreciate the humour when reminded of the situation.)

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Other laughter was more pleasant, while unwrapping gifts, joyously sharing the Christmas story, telling the little ones of Jesus’ birth, singing, eating, going to church, playing games, taking walks in the snow, shopping and loving being together. Billi, Lori and Todd even got in some ice skating time. billi-lori-todd-skating-1972How wonderful for me to be at worship services in our home church again, sitting with my sisters and singing all those beautiful carols in three-part harmony as we had always done in the past. We revelled in a sunny, snowy North Dakota winter (coming back to a gray, rainy Heidelberg winter seemed a bit of a drag). With five small grandchildren, three daughters and three sons-in-law under foot for a week, Mom (“Grandma Mil” was then in her late 60s) stood up surprisingly well. Here’s Uncle Gus taking nieces Lisa and Lori for a walk. Our church, First Lutheran Church of New Rockford, is in the background at the left and part of the school I attended through Grade 12 is in the background at right centre.

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After our week together my sisters and their families drove back to their homes further east and we had another couple of days resting at Mom’s. Then came the start of our return trip, which I’ve named the “Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga.” The trip started with a wild bus ride in a near-blizzard to Fargo. This is usually a three-hour drive and took about twice that long. We were met by my sister Doreen and driven to her house in Fargo’s twin city of Moorhead, Minnesota.

Instead of flying out the next day we had a day’s delay caused by full-blown blizzard conditions which closed down the airport, plus everything else in the twin towns. We were to have flown from Fargo to Minneapolis and then on to Chicago where we were catching our international flight (a military charter airline from Chicago via New York to Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany). Listening to the radio, we learned that there was still a possibility of our getting out of town to meet our plane. The Great Northern railroad had a train plowing its way from Montana and across North Dakota, due in at 1 a.m. The only problem was that we couldn’t get to the depot (in Fargo, about five miles away from my sister’s house in Moorhead). My sister’s car was buried under layers of snow and, anyway, the roads were not passable. Fooling around in the snow in front of their house was about all we could do.

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Absolutely nothing was moving … but snowmobiles. Gus had heard on the radio that emergency snowmobiles were evacuating people. He figured that we qualified for an emergency since we had to meet a “military flight” in Chicago the next day. He called, explained our situation and we were granted clearance from the city police. To my two little nieces’ delight and my terror, we were picked up by two snowmobilers at midnight. Gus and I rode behind one snowmobiler; the other one carried all our luggage. There we went, over the (Red) river, through the woods and over 18 inches of snow, not to mention four to five feet of snowdrifts to Fargo’s train station. I hung on for dear life and had visions of falling off all the way; but we made it, only to have a long delay. The train arrived three hours late, struggling across North Dakota with a snowplow on the engine. I was too flustered by the whole situation to get any photos at the time.

So at 4:00 a.m. we boarded the train. Delay continued to be the motto of the trip, however. We missed our first plane connection from Minneapolis to Chicago and barely squeezed onto the last possible one, making connections at the Chicago Airport five minutes before we were to report in for our charter flight. Luckily, we had friends in Chicago that met us at the airport and got us from the domestic to the international departure area in record time. Had we been on our own, we never would have made it in time. We were delayed an hour getting out of Chicago, had to circle New York for two hours because of fog, were delayed in New York because of waiting for other passengers who were late in coming in from connecting flights, made an unscheduled landing in Shannon, Ireland (we never did hear why) and finally landed in Frankfurt six hours later than scheduled.

Once at the Frankfurt airport, we had to take the subway into the city’s train station, then take the train from Frankfurt to Heidelberg (an hour away) and then the Strassenbahn (streetcar) to our stop on Rohrbacherstrasse and walk a block to our apartment on Turnerstrasse. So – bus to car to snowmobile to train to airplane to another airplane to subway to train to streetcar to foot – and we were finally home. (I think we had just about every mode of transportation but ship and dog sled.) It was time for a long winter’s nap – well, at least two day’s worth – before I had to get back to work and Gus to start cracking the books again … then surgery again. He had 16 surgeries in all over a five-year period before the problem finally resolved itself. I ended my Christmas/New Year’s letter that year with the following: “Neither of us has ever had a great deal of patience, but we’ve had to develop it lately. Once one gets through the inevitable periods of despair and self-pity and gets back to the basic trust in God’s presence and strength, things look better. So, we’re hoping for a year of fulfillment and health – and wish you all the blessings of our Lord for the New Year.”

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

BODY AND SPIRIT: LIFE’S LESSONS REINFORCED

BODY AND SPIRIT: LIFE’S LESSONS REINFORCED

 

Through the years, Gayle has shared the following with friends who are recovering from accidents or lengthy hospitalizations. Sunday she learned another friend was coping with a fractured ankle after falling on skies as she was getting off a chair lift and was jostled or startled by an over-anxious skate boarder. Here’s to a good healing, Pat! Gayle can’t blame a skate boarder for a previous accident she experienced. She was the over-anxious one wanting to spy a bird building a nest on her roof. And she never did see the darn bird! Perhaps this is what it looked like.

Bird building a nest on roof-bartramsgarden.org

 

Life’s Lessons Reinforced by Gayle Johannesson (later Moore-Morrans)
adapted from an editorial originally published in Esprit magazine, 1999, presented at a Lake Chapala Society Writer’s Group in Ajijic, Mexico, 2005

One fine Manitoba day in early May 1999, I eagerly awaited getting home after a long day at my editing job. After seven months of winter, Winnipeg was a glorious place to be and I planned to spend a long evening on my deck enjoying the warm air, extended sunshine and birdsong. As soon as I walked in, my daughter excitedly shouted, “Mum, you should check it out. I think a bird is building a nest on our roof.”

Of course, I can never leave well enough alone, so had to immediately trot out to the deck to investigate. I jumped up onto one of the benches surrounding our hexagonal deck table and then onto the table, but wasn’t close enough to view the roof. Jumping down, I hauled the table and bench closer and again hopped up onto the bench and then to the table. This time, however, I landed on a corner where there wasn’t a table leg. Down I crashed—all of three feet, mind you—slamming my right leg on the bench and landing wedged against the railing of the deck on my back with my right arm pinned under me. My frantic screams quickly brought my daughter and next-door neighbours to the scene. Soon the fire department and ambulance service arrived. I have little recollection of their rescue other than a vague feeling of horror as they threw all the furniture off our high deck and struggled to get me into a neck brace and stretcher, down the ten steep steps to the back yard and into the ambulance.

All this resulted in seven and a half hours of emergency surgery to repair what turned out to be seven breaks in the right ankle, knee and upper arm. I woke up in considerable pain with 17 pieces of metal in me—a rod and screws through the humerus, a four-inch plate in the fibula, bolts to try to hold the crushed tibial plateau at the bottom of my knee together, numerous screws to keep all these things in place, and, of course, a huge leg cast and arm immobilizer. Because of the multiple breaks it was a long time before I could get out of a wheelchair and onto crutches. My doctor declared me “architecturally challenged” because my bi-level house necessitated going down eight steps to the lower level or up eight steps to the upper level. Thus, I was destined to spend three and a half months in hospital, only being discharged in mid-August when I could finally maneuver steps on my crutches.

Most of my fourteen weeks was spent in a rehabilitation hospital, braving four hours of physiotherapy daily and gradually adding occupational and hydrotherapy sessions. I learned quickly, however, that my injuries were minor compared to most of my fellow patients, the majority of whom had suffered severe strokes, spinal cord injuries, complications from multiple sclerosis or loss of limbs due to accidents or diabetes.

What kept me relatively sane throughout all this was my editorial job. Luckily, my quarterly magazine was due to go to press a week after my accident and most of my work had been done. Our publisher quickly secured the services of one of our writers to complete my editorial and put the thing to bed. One week later I started serious work on the next issue, clumsily using my left hand and the telephone. Soon I became a one-hand whiz on my laptop computer, with the modem enabling me to communicate with writers, the office, our art designer and printer, aided by daily visits from our secretary who delivered papers back and forth. The hospital staff got quite used to me burning the midnight oil at the computer, probably considering me a bit nuts though they were very supportive as long as I didn’t keep my three roommates awake.

I’d like to share with you my editorial for the Fall 1999 issue of Esprit, the magazine of Evangelical Lutheran Women. The magazine is thematic and, as coincidence would have it, the theme for the issue which was finishing up just as I left hospital was “Body and Spirit.” I entitled it, “Life’s Lessons Reinforced.”

“Beginning to write this column brings me full circle since the last issue of Esprit. Then, my horrendous fall and seven breaks in right leg and arm bones resulted in the need for someone else to write this column. Now, after 14 weeks in hospital (most of it in rehabilitation), I have two more days before going home and this editorial is due. What a place this has been to glean ideas for the topic, “Body and Spirit!” I would not have chosen the classroom, but every minute in this environment has reinforced some important lessons in life.

“Lesson #1: I am a combination of body and spirit—an integrated whole that cannot be divided into neat categories of spiritual, emotional or physical. Wound the body and the spirit is wounded. Wound the spirit and the body is often equally affected.

“Lesson #2: It’s OK to cry. Roommates or caregivers need to allow one the chance to release emotions without feeling that the crying has to be explained or “fixed.” And, I needed to give myself permission to cry without feeling guilty or “stupid.”

“Lesson #3: Private moments are precious. I only realized how much so when I didn’t have any. Grasp them, however and whenever they come.

“Lesson #4: The social part of my humanity is equally important. The need for others is as basic as food, water or shelter. The warmth and touch a person receives or doesn’t receive from family or friends can have a profound impact on healing. What a contrast I saw in the progress of two roommates who had had similar strokes. One had no family present. Her four children, in another province, neither visited nor wrote. One son called a few times, promised the doctor he’d visit and take her home with him and then never showed up. Only one friend ever visited and then rarely. Her body healed enough to leave hospital but her spirits were low. The other woman, an Inuit from the far north, arrived with eight family members in tow. They attended therapy sessions with her, assisted in her care and kept her in their midst except for sleeping. Despite considerable disability and almost complete lack of English skills, she progressed with a cheerful demeanor, appearing confident and content.

“Lesson #5: Communication is a wonderful release. If someone will listen, it’s good to be allowed to unload a frustration, share a pain or rejoice in an improvement. When I’m the one feeling up to it, it’s also important to allow the other person to unload on me.

“Lesson #6: God loves a cheerful caregiver—and so do patients. Caregivers love a cheerful patient as well—but patients often find it hard to be cheerful all by themselves. Cheer travels, though, so let’s start with the caregiver.

“Lesson #7: Many of us who have prided ourselves as caregivers have a hard time accepting having to be cared for. It’s a humbling experience to have to ask for everything one needs. Proverbs tells us “humility goes before honour.” However, it sometimes takes a little assertiveness to make your needs known—one shouldn’t be too humble to ask.

“Lesson #8: The little things in life can give the greatest pleasure. When progress towards healing is slow, it’s important to note each little step forward. How uplifting it can be to have a therapist point out the centimeter improvement in bending or straightening a broken knee or the slight movement of a stroke-paralyzed hand. A woman I’ll call “Jane,” silenced by brain injury, one day surprised us by suddenly singing out, “When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles at you!” How we celebrated those words, even though it might be a long time before she could repeat them.

“Lesson #9: The spirit of God dwells within me. The chances for meditation and interaction with the source of my being are endless. The Lord’s presence is there whether I’m lying on a stretcher in a speeding ambulance; being anointed with oil in a healing ritual before surgery; chanting silently God’s assurance from the book of Isaiah, “You are precious in my sight, and honoured and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4a) while painfully trying to turn the arm ergometer; anxiously taking the first steps on crutches; talking about losses and gains with my roommates; suffering neglect from too-busy medical staff; receiving a hot pack or massage from caring medical staff; praying behind curtains closed around my bed nook; or lying sleepless gazing at God’s beautiful night of moon and clouds outside my window. God is always there to sustain and comfort me. It’s good to be healing in body and spirit. Praise the Lord!

Gwynne & Gayle on crutches-Aug 1999_edited-1August 1999, Finally home after 3 1/2 months in rehab. Gwynne, just back from a summer in Norway and Gayle on her crutches. At left is part of our high deck and the steps I had to be carried down on a stretcher in May.

And they didn’t live Happily ever after … An Alzheimer Story

Yesterday our community in Vernon, British Columbia, observed a Walk for Alzheimer Research and for those who are living with Alzheimer Disease and their families. The Ukeleles for Fun band for which I usually play percussion performed for the walkers as they rounded the arena track. I wasn’t able to participate this year as I had an important commitment at my church, but I was there in spirit. I also contribute regularly to the Alzheimer Society’s research campaign and have been doing so for many years. I urge everyone to consider regular donations of whatever they can afford to Alzheimer research. The main reason I am so committed to this worthy cause is that my late husband, Gus Johannesson, had early onset AD, was diagnosed at age 58 and died four years later. At the time of his diagnosis our children were 12 and 17 years’ old. Now my present husband, has been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and is getting some help from an Alzheimer drug that wasn’t available when Gus needed it back in 1992. It is not a cure, but can hold off many of the complications from AD for a length of time. I’m hoping and praying that a cure may be found in the near future. In remembrance of Gus, I am sharing a copy of the letter that Alzheimer Manitoba asked me to write for their 1994 campaign.

Gayle Moore-Morrans


 

Alzheimer   Manitoba     

Johannessons at Pishew Falls MB 1988

And they didn’t live Happily ever after . . .

November 7, 1994

Dear Friends,

This September my husband Gus turned sixty. We wanted to celebrate as many families do, but the plans for our party were a bit different. His 60th “Toast and Roast” became the retirement party he never had and an affirmation of what he has meant to his family and friends while he is still able to appreciate it.

On the day of festivities we presented him with a book of remembrances gathered from friends and relatives around the world. This book is a tribute to Gus’s life as well as a tool for memory as he copes with his illness.

Two years ago Gus was diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease. I can’t say that our lives immediately changed. The disease doesn’t change your life overnight, but has over a number of years changed every aspect of our lives. To date, the cause of AD is unknown, there is neither cure nor definite treatment; it is progressive and will eventually be terminal.

It is incredible the emotional upheaval we all have been through these past years. All four of us have had counselling and hope that it remains available whenever we need it. The family has found comfort, relief, professional information and fellowship in support groups for adult caregivers, a children’s support group, the early stage support group, numerous educational sessions, and from Alzheimer staff and volunteers.

The Alzheimer Society of Manitoba has been able to provide these services because of people like you. I am happy to have this opportunity to personally thank you and let you hear firsthand how meaningful your help is for my family and many others.

It took a long time to really recognize that something serious was happening as Gus has always been a bit of the “absent-mined professor” type and we just figured he was getting more-so with age. This is not the situation. A man admired for his keen mind, having studied at the doctoral level in systematic theology has now forgotten how to tie a tie or manage the simple task of handling a sandwich. In happier days Gus was a Lutheran pastor giving support and guidance to others. Today he is on the receiving end.

Alzheimer Disease attacks the whole family. We are all hurting, angry, frustrated, scared; dealing with a tremendous loss.

Your roles change. I have had to become in as many ways as possible mother and father to my children and husband, directing all my energies outside of the workplace to the family. The children and I have become caregivers, not easy for an adult, let alone a twelve-year-old and seventeen-year-old. A caregiver’s day is often referred to as the “36-hour day.” That is how we live, each and every day.

As is typical with early AD, symptoms come and go resulting in good and bad days. So far Gus’s skills that are totally gone are writing, public speaking, driving, anything mathematical, and many deductive reasoning processes.

We thank God for the good days, for the patience that we are learning, for on-going medical research, for the help offered by the Alzheimer Society and most of all, for the prayers, love, help and support of family and friends.

Our family includes you when we say “Friends.” You probably don’t know us personally, but as a supporter of the Alzheimer Society you help make each and every day a little bit brighter, a little bit easier.

Once again, thank you for making our lives happier. Please continue your needed support. It is your caring and generosity that makes the difference!

With our sincere appreciation,

Gayle Johannesson

P.S. The number of families coping with the devastating reality of Alzheimer Disease is expected to at least double in the next decade.

 

A Scorpio Versus Scorpions

The following story was written by Gayle about an unfortunate incident she experienced during her and Ian’s time living at their house in Chapala, Mexico in 2006.

A Scorpio Versus Scorpions          ScorpionVectorImageVP

Scorpio may be my sign of the Zodiac, but that’s really all I ever wanted to have to do with the creatures!

One March evening during our sojourn in Mexico we had just enjoyed a long moonlit soak in the hot tub when about 10 p.m. Ian went inside to refresh our drinks. I took advantage of his absence to get out my foam exercise “noodle” and do my daily aqua sit-ups.

(Little known to me, there must have been a “wee creepy” sleeping in the hollow inside of the noodle, which decided to join me for his or her water exercises!) I had just put the noodle aside when I noticed what I thought was a floating begonia flower that had likely dropped from a planter hanging over the pool. Instead of picking it up with our pool sieve, I stupidly went to scoop it out with my hand and it stung me on the middle finger! Practically blinded by the pain, I slapped my hand down on my thigh and got two more stings before flinging it over the edge of the tub. Then, with terrible burning sensations in both finger and thigh, I (in Ian’s words) “came out of the pool like a tsunami and screaming like a banshee!”

There was no question in our minds that I had encountered a very startled scorpion – and we weren’t about to look for it to verify our suspicions. We quickly dried off, got dressed and within a few minutes were off to the 24-hour Red Cross clinic at the other end of Chapala.

By the time we got there (about 15 minutes later) it felt as if my entire arm and upper leg were on fire, my tongue was feeling “funny” and my lips were numbing, but luckily I had no swelling. I was rushed into a ward, put onto a bed and hooked up to an IV within a few minutes. Then came two huge syringes about 5 inches long and one inch in diameter. The combination of antihistamine and steroids gradually rid me of the mouth-numbing sensations but the excruciating stinging just kept up.

About an hour and a half later I was released and we motored off to the nearby town of Ajijic, which has the only nearby 24-hour pharmacy, to fill a prescription for pain pills (which, incidentally, didn’t seem to me to help much).

It was then midnight. I attempted to sleep but was so miserable and restless I knew Ian would get no sleep if I stayed in bed, so I went upstairs to our den with a window wall overlooking the lake and distant mountains and read through the night as best I could. The pain finally left my thigh (which sported two ugly red welts) by the following evening. The pain in the arm started to abate that first night but the finger itself just kept up that fiery stinging sensation for about 36 hours, although only a slight prick marked the spot. For the next couple of weeks my finger was totally numb; then, very slowly the feeling started coming back.

Two months later, I just had a very slight numbness at the tip of the finger. A doctor friend of ours prescribed a “second generation antihistamine” tablet to keep on hand at all times. He says any subsequent scorpion sting would probably result in an even worse and quicker reaction so it’s important to be prepared and, before heading for a clinic, to take the medication.

We’ve read that the scorpions in our area are only “semi-deadly”, that on a scale of one to four they are only a “two.” Imagine what a number “four” could do! (We’ve also heard of a local woman who died from a scorpion sting because she didn’t get medical help!)

Need I say that, ever since, I’m very careful to check my noodle before doing any exercises? And I steer clear of any scorpion I see, letting Ian zap them on sight. We continue to find the occasional dead one in the house, but Ian’s monthly spraying seems to get the critters before they get very far. Considering this encounter and others we’ve had with “wee critters” in Mexico, we don’t think we were cut out to be “southerners!”

Exercising with my noodle on a non-scorpion evening.

Exercising with my noodle on a non-scorpion evening.

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Our hot tub, garden and surroundings in Chapala, Mexico

 

Celebrating Mothering and Grandparenting

As Mother’s Day approaches I’m enjoying so many uplifting and poignant messages on Facebook regarding motherhood, as well as savouring the sight and smell of flowers that were just delivered to me from my daughter who lives with her husband and children in Norway. I’m also anxiously awaiting a call from my son who lives in California and hearing from my step-daughters in Manitoba. Yes, they are all too far away from our British Columbia home, but I guess that is a common situation in present-day life. Thank God for the modern convenience of Facetime so that we can regularly communicate and even see each other on my ipad and their iphones. (My son and I regularly go for a “walk” in the garden he maintains for the house he lives in and down to the nearby beach to check out the sand and surf.) Since Ian and I live in a popular retirement spot, many of our friends here also have children and grandchildren who are residing in other corners of the earth. Through Skype, Facetime and the like, they also manage to communicate and keep up with distant family members with the occasional long-distance flight to touch base in person.

I’m sharing a Pic Collage photo I compiled on my ipad to commemorate our great-grandchildren and two youngest grandchildren – the youngsters (or “wee’uns,” as Ian would call them in his Scottish vernacular) – the children in our lives who live far away from us (in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Norway) for whom we are Grandpa and Grandma and to whom we will be dedicating our children’s chapter book, “Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie,” for which I am presently doing the layout. Here they are: going around clockwise from the top center: Leland, 13 (our age-appropriate consultant for the book); Hannah, 8 (who did the drawings for the book); then Logan, 4; Brayden, 2; Lexi,2; Eva, 9 months; Gustav, 3; Caleigh, 6; and Madison, 4.  (We also are expecting two more great-grandchildren later this summer. The two photos  in the center show Grandpa Ian at his 80th birthday party in Winnipeg with six of the great-grandchildren and one grandson (Calan) whose daughter wouldn’t pose without him; plus the bottom photo of Ian and me on our 7th wedding anniversary at home in Vernon, September 7, 2010 (on the day he had his heart attack, mind you!)

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My husband Ian (the author) just turned 82 last week and is presently in a local care home for a 2-6 week “short stay convalescent care program” to help him regain some strength, balance and walking ability after over five years of serious illness and lots of medications which have saved or bettered his life but also are essentially poisonous and have lots of nasty side-effects, the worst of which has been neuropathy in the feet. I’m happy to say that a set of new orthotics plus the exercises, physio- and occupational therapy he is receiving daily is helping. I’ve seen a lot of progress in just a few days that he has been there.

In the meantime I’m enjoying some time alone at home with only the dog to take me away  from gardening and layout duties. Misty supervises me as I plant flowers in boxes and pots on our front porch, prune the shrubs in our front and back xeroscaped gardens, get the gazebo canopy and curtains set up and hire a worker to come in and clean out our pond and waterfall. I did the latter for the first time last year and could hardly stand the sight and stench of an about-two-inch layer of rain worms that had crawled into and died in the pond at the end of last autumn, during part of our mild winter and then so far this spring. I realize they are also God’s creatures, but they are ones I’d just as soon not encounter. I’ve also included some photos of our back yard from last year to share some of the beauty of our surroundings. The first photo is of my “Benjamin memorial” to remember my infant grandson who died in 2011 in Norway at 13 days old, the day after I had arrived there. The other photos show our xeroscaping, gazebo, pond and waterfall. Hopefully, Ian will be home soon to enjoy it all as well.

Benjamin memorial 1 in my garden

Backyard-Another view Patio-pond and Waterfall

We also wish to remember and honour our own mothers who passed away in 1995 at the ages of 86 (Ian’s) and 96 (mine) in 2001. Their birthdates were within a day of each other but a few years apart: Chrissie’s on June 15 (1909) and Mil’s on June 16 (1905).

Chrissie Morrans Moorhead

Ian’s mother, Christina Morrans Moorhead, known  as “Wee Chrissie” and to her grand- daughters as “Campbeltown Gran.”

                   OUR MOTHERS

Mildred Nelson Moore at 20 and 90

Gayle’s mother, Mildred Nelson Moore at ages 20 and 90, known as “Mil” and to her grandchildren as “Grandma Mil.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers on your special day on Sunday, May 11th. After church, my friend Jean (whose children are also far away) and I plan to drive up to our neighbouring Davison’s Orchard Farm, have Mother’s Day luncheon at Auntie May’s Cafe and enjoy a walk through the blossoming apple, pear and peach trees before our dog, Misty, and I go to visit Ian. Sounds like a fun day!

Gayle Moore-Morrans