Sunday, August 24, 2014

Not Just For Me...

I want to thank all of you for your complete support and encouragement during my "small moment" (adversity and affliction - refer to first blog).  You have given me great joy and comfort through your prayers, thoughts, service, and love.

After I finished chemo treatment, I heard horror stories about radiation.  A few people told me it was worse than chemo, especially if it was the last part of the treatment plan so I tried REALLY hard to get out of it.  Since the surgery went so well and they were able to get everything out and clear the margins, I asked the doctor if radiation was necessary.  The radiation oncologist told us, without radiation, there was a 30-40% chance of the cancer returning.  With radiation, there was a 10% chance of it returning.  They won.  Here I am one day post-radiation treatment completion and guess what?  It wasn’t hard at all…it was a breeze.  I was anticipating a very difficult six weeks and only had one day of down time due to discomfort.  My radiation oncologist told me it wasn’t that bad and she thought I would get through it just fine, but I wasn’t quite convinced.  At my last appointment, she said people don’t believe her when she tells them it’s not that bad.  I had also been considering going to acupuncture as I heard that would help with the side effects and my doctor suggested I wait a couple weeks to see how I felt.  I’m glad I did, because she was right, and she saved me some money.

Our six weeks here in Seattle couldn’t have been more perfect.  The weather was wonderful.  I think I can count on one hand how many times it rained.  I really wasn’t looking forward to the Seattle rain and grey skies during my stay.  I love the sunshine.  It lifts me up.  It made the five day a week drive from Arlington to Seattle and back very pleasant.  Plus, Jim and Jamie were able to take turns driving.  Sometimes all of us would go, and that made the trips more fun.  In addition to the drive being very pleasant, the staff at SCCA was amazing.  They are so uplifting, kind, and encouraging.  They always have smiles on their faces, greeting us with a warm welcome.  Jim kept busy making homemade filled chocolates for the staff in the radiation oncology department.  He made ganache, cherry, nectarine, blueberry, strawberry, caramel, and caramel nut.  Of course we had to sample them and they were delicious.  The staff was happy for me on my last day; however, they were also sad because they said they would miss us, but we think it was really the chocolates.  

We thought we would have so much time while we were here, but it just flew by.  In fact, we were going to write in the blog more often but, as you can see, you only get one.  We kept a pretty busy schedule driving to Seattle every day but, on top of that, I went to all of Jamie’s Zumba classes before my appointments which I believe helped me to feel so great during radiation.  We also met up with many friends.  In fact, I had a friend I hadn’t seen in over 40 years contact me, and Jim and I were able to meet with him and his wife a couple times.  We played mahjong, a Chinese tile game our nine year old grandson, Steven, loves to play.  We planned menus, did a lot of grocery shopping, cooking, and eating.  Fortunately, it’s crab season so, thanks to good friends, we had a lot of crab over the last month and a half.  Yum!

As a patient of SCCA, my family and I were able to participate in a couple of events donated by organizations and people in the community.  We attended a Seattle Storm game on breast health night and they recognized those affected, their families, caregivers, health staff, and pretty much everyone associated in some way.  We had a great time, it was a great game, and they won!  Today, we went on a schooner and sailed around Lake Union.  It was our celebratory sail.  The weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  There were kayakers, paddle boarders, seaplanes, and all kinds of boats.  We really enjoyed looking at all the houseboats, including the one in Sleepless in Seattle.  It was cool seeing the bridge open and close for our sailboat.  I’m sure the cars weren’t very happy about having to wait, but we were grateful to explore.  

I have always believed everything happens for a reason.  Now I would like to share with you, what I believe, is the crowning glory of my journey.  It’s completely different than what I could have ever imagined and than what you are probably expecting.  

Jim never knew his father.  He disappeared before he was born, and he was told his father didn’t know about him.  His mother never wanted to talk about his father or the situation.  The only thing she told him was that his father was murdered on his way to a different state to look for work.  After she passed away, Jamie asked Jim if it would be ok to look for his dad.  If there was a chance he was still alive, she wanted her grandfather to know her awesome father and to know the family history.  She has been searching for almost 15 years and has found bits and pieces but not enough to get anywhere significant.  In that time, she found out his birth month and year, he was adopted, and some information on his adopted parents.

On a Sunday afternoon, almost three weeks into our stay, Jamie got her genealogy folder out and was showing her dad some information and decided to search for some of the nieces listed in his grandfather’s will again.  She found an obituary for one of the nieces (Jim’s father’s cousin) which listed some of the relatives she left behind.  Jamie searched for information on them and found some phone numbers.  She told her dad, “Now I have to get up the courage to make the calls,” and he said, “I’ll make them.”  After she found several numbers, Jim made a call to a lady in Nampa, ID.  He explained who he was and asked if Bert and Nannie were her aunt and uncle.  She responded and then Jim said, “Yep, then we’re related.”  This is the first contact Jim has made with family on his dad’s side.  All these years, Jamie has been searching and making phone calls and, because we were there with her, Jim was able to make the phone call that counted.  We consider this significant.  The story gets better.  At this point, we had a link to his childhood family.  As far as we knew, he disappeared before Jim was born and have no idea what happened to him after that other than what Jim’s mom told him.  Jim and Jamie talked to this cousin’s daughter and she mentioned she found a draft record for Jim’s dad.  Jamie was anxious to get her hands on this because this is something she hadn’t been able to find before.  Sure enough, it was available online and she was able to confirm his birth day.  This linked to a social security death index for someone with Jim’s father’s name, birth month, and birth year, who passed in Missouri.  We were pretty sure this was Jim’s father but we had nothing else to confirm it.  Jamie started searching for Statlers in Missouri and there were a ton of them.  It would take forever to find a link to him so, after sitting in front of the computer searching for a while, Jamie sent her dad to the living room to relax and told him it could be years.  She started searching for Statlers in the small towns around where he died and a female name came up who would’ve been around 89 (he would have been 93).  This peaked her interest and she began searching that name in the area and a couple things came up.  She happened to click on a link and a double headstone popped up for the lady she found and a man with the same name as Jim’s dad born the same day and there was a chef hat above his name.  For those of you who don’t know, my husband is a chef.  The chef hat sealed the deal.  We knew it was him.  This meant a whole lot of things for us.  He wasn’t murdered.  He lived until he was 77 years old and obviously had married again.  Did he have other children?  What had happened to him all the years in between?  After doing more research, we were able to find and get in touch with some of the relatives in Missouri.  Jim spoke with a niece back there and explained who he was.  She was very kind and interested in hearing Jim’s story.  She told him his father was a wonderful man, very loving and kind.  Jim was very emotional hearing these wonderful things about his father.  She was so sad for him that he did not know his father.  She told him that he and her grandmother had a very happy life.  Jim had a lot of questions for her and she was able to get answers to some of them which he was very grateful for.  We have received pictures from the families in Idaho and Missouri, and it’s intriguing how much he and his father look alike.  

We are hoping to meet all of these family members at some point in the future.  The “meeting the family” chapter will begin next week when we go to Idaho to meet Jim’s dad’s childhood cousin and her family.  The cousin’s daughter told Jim over the phone that her mother was excited to meet him.  I had to finish the conversation with her because Jim was so overwhelmed and tearful that he couldn’t talk.  We will be heading home to Yakima tomorrow for a couple days and then heading to Idaho with Jamie and her family for a few days.

“Small moments” are blessings in disguise.  When I look back at the “small moments” throughout my life, I realize the blessings that came and are still coming from them.  This journey is no different.  I have seen an abundance of blessings throughout this “small moment” and know there are many more to come.  It is impossible to accurately relay the feelings of our experience here the last three weeks with the discovery of Jim’s father.  The fact that we were there with Jamie as she was researching, that Jim was able to make the phone calls, that we were together 24/7 to look at the evidence in the same room, to experience the emotions that come with this type of situation and be able to hug and cry with each other was extraordinary.  It felt as if the windows of heaven had opened and we were being showered upon.  This experience wasn’t just for me…

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