Tribute to my Dad

It was in September of 1976 when my 48-year-old dad went for a routine physical, as required by his employer. No one thought anything of it. He was in great health, other than a painful knee that had arisen recently after a long drive from Washington, DC.

Life was great. He had a job that he thoroughly enjoyed and at which he excelled. Mom had recently gone to work at the same savings and loan where he worked. My brother was doing well in high school and I was married and had recently had a baby boy.

Imagine our surprise when he got a call from his doctor. The chest x-ray had some suspicious spots that needed further investigation. Dad had smoked cigarettes until I was a teen, but at Mom’s insistence, he had switched to a pipe many years previously. We didn’t think he was a prime lung cancer candidate, but the biopsy showed he not only had lung cancer, he had Stage IV lung cancer. He was given six months to live.

He had adenocarcinoma, like I do. It is a cancer that smokers get, but so do non-smokers. In fact, it is the most common type of lung cancer seen in non-smokers. Adenocarcinoma is found in the outer parts of the lung. According to, more women than men are diagnosed with this cancer. Furthermore, it is more likely to occur in young people than other cancers. says that adenocarcinoma is a slow growing cancer and that it is more likely to be found before it spreads. Unfortunately, my experience refutes this statement. Just about everyone I know with adenocarcinoma of the lung was diagnosed with Stage 3 or 4.

Even though it has been nearly 40 years ago that we received the news that my dad was very sick, I still remember hearing the news. Needless to say, my mom and I were shocked and devastated. Dad was stoic. Then and for the rest of his life.

I hadn’t really thought all that much about my dad and his experience with lung cancer. I mean, the knowledge that he had the same kind of cancer I do comes to mind, but his actual fight against the beast hasn’t been something I have really dwelt upon. Until recently.

For some reason, I was thinking about my dad’s journey against lung cancer. His was much shorter than mine has been. Thankfully, I was able to get into the clinical trial for Opdivo when my cancer threatened to kill me. Dad wasn’t so lucky.

But, here’s what I remember about my dad’s fight. He was working in downtown Dallas. Because his leg hurt so badly, someone else was driving him to the office in the mornings. It turns out his leg hurt because his cancer had metastasized to the bone there. The doctor told us lung cancer commonly spreads to the bones – often to the knees or elbows. I always worried when I had a pain in one of my extremities after hearing that.

Because he was being driven to the office, Dad needed a ride to his treatments. Unlike in my case, he was able to get both radiation and chemotherapy. Also unlike in my case, no one went with him to his treatments. Never once did any of us accompany him to his chemo treatments or to his radiation sessions. Never once did it ever occur to us that we should (or not that I remember anyway). I would pick him up at his office and drop him by the hospital for his treatment. My mom would come pick him up when his treatment was over. We did that for months.

The radiation didn’t bother him much. But, that chemo sure did. It made him deathly ill. So much so that I called his doctor and asked him why in the world they continued to give him the drug when his prognosis was so awful. The doctor told me that Dad would hear of nothing else. If there was even the smallest chance he could recover, he wanted the treatments, no matter how sick they made him. Watching my dad suffer, I vowed that if I ever had cancer, I would do radiation, but I would not do chemotherapy. Amazing how we change our minds when we are actually faced with a life or death decision.

My dad went to work every day during the time he was in treatment. I do not know how he did it. I was talking to my mom about it tonight. She said, “Well, he didn’t do anything you didn’t do.” But, I think he did. I don’t know what drugs he was given, but I suspect they were harsher than the ones I got. Or, that the overall treatment plan was not as good. Surely oncologists have learned much in nearly 40 years.

Dad worked until 3 weeks before he died. I was lucky enough to get to retire on medical disability after I had fought my cancer for slightly over one year. That means I have had nearly 2 years of life without the obligation of going into the office.

I might be wrong since I was no longer living at home when Dad got sick, but I do not recall him ever missing a day of work. He got his treatments later in the day so he didn’t even miss those days. I didn’t know then what I know now. At least for me, I was deathly ill for several days after a chemo treatment. And, so exhausted that a simple walk was very, very difficult. Chemo brain is a real phenomenon as well. I often missed a day or so after a treatment. And, I generally left the office an hour or so early. And, the demands of my job were nowhere nearly as huge as his were. He was making multi-million dollar investment decisions.

I remember some of his coworkers being in awe over how he continued to work, despite his illness. I think he got a bit grouchier with them. I know he did at home. At least some of the time. I understand that now much better than I did then. He had to have been reaching into himself for reserves most people simply can’t access. It must have taken every single bit of his strength and willpower to go in to work every day and to actually be a productive employee. By the time he got home, it is no wonder that he could no longer restrain himself if something irritated him. He had to have been totally spent. Along with totally ill, much of the time.

My cancer is in both lungs and spread to lymph nodes near my collarbone. I have not ever had any pain associated with my cancer. Dad, on the other hand, had the bone metastases which were very, very painful. I can’t remember any longer whether he had radiation to those tumors on his knee and, if he did, whether or not the treatments worked to eradicate the pain.

When Dad was finally so weak that he could not go to the office any more, he was also so weak that he could barely leave their bedroom. My grandmother came to stay with him, while my mom, at his insistence, continued to work.

Soon before he died, he lamented to my mom how awful it was to be in the state he was in. He told her, “I can’t live and I can’t die.” It was frustrating to him. I can understand that. I don’t really want to be alive past the time that I can actually live. When I can’t go out and play with my dogs and go places with friends, etc., then, I hope God calls me on home.

Three days before he died, he received a visitor from the office. The president of the savings and loan where he worked dropped by with some investment questions. Amazingly, Dad was able to give good advice. I was over there later that night. I had tax questions. Dad, a CPA, had always completed our tax returns for us. Since he was so ill, I was preparing to do our return for the first time. Between bouts with him fading into unconsciousness, I asked him all of the questions I had for completing the return. We were audited that year. His advice all held up.

The night he died, nearly 6 months to do the day of being diagnosed, he was still lucid enough to know that touching my mom’s hair was taboo. He accidentally brushed against it that night. And apologized. Amazing. My mom also heard him answering questions that he was being asked by God. Scoff if you like. Or say he was hallucinating. This man believed strongly in God and in Jesus Christ as his Savior. I have no doubt but that he was standing in God’s presence when Mom heard him answering. That has always been somewhat comforting to us. That he was in God’s presence. Even though the answers my mom heard him give were along the lines of, “I don’t know.”

I wasn’t ever particularly close to my dad after I was about six. He was blessed with a son about that time and he sort of forgot he had a daughter. He was very, VERY partial to his son. And didn’t try to cover it up. Maybe that is the reason why I never really sat and thought about all that Dad went through and what a courageous man he was the last six months of his life. No matter what his and my relationship was, I have to say, I have not seen many who have lived and died with the dignity he did.


A Grateful Heart

It seems strange to be fighting Stage IV lung cancer and still talking about being grateful. But, grateful I am. For so very, very much.


First and foremost, I am grateful for my faith. Without the knowledge and belief that there was something more, something that comes after this life, I think I would be bereft. Instead, I believe this earth is temporary for us all (a belief all should hold since surely no one disputes that we all die at one point). Heaven is our reward. It is our final home. Imagine the moment in your life when you have felt the most loved and content … now imagine living like that forevermore.

I don’t want to die. I’m not ready to leave my family and my beloved dogs behind. But, when I go, I am going somewhere far superior to here!



I am blessed. My family is small, but we all love one another. We don’t get to see our grandchildren any longer, so there are just my mom (who at 85.5 years still plays bridge several times every single week), my brother, my husband, and my son in my immediate family. I also am blessed to have some cousins that I am close to and whose company I enjoy immensely. I think my cancer has brought us closer. It has certainly encouraged us to make the effort to get together. We might not have otherwise actually followed through and done so.

I consider Cotton and Barney a very vital part of my family. They bring me great joy every single day.





I can be sad, sometimes, because I feel like people I considered friends before I was diagnosed have moved on and left me behind. They remember me on occasion, but mostly, I am in their past. That hurts. But, it makes sense. I would be guilty of doing the same. We can’t be expected to quit living our own lives because someone among us can no longer keep up. But, when you are the someone who can’t keep up, it causes pain. I try to distance myself from Facebook most of the time so that I am less aware of all that is going on that I am no longer included in.

On the plus side, I have made some of the most awesome friends ever since I was diagnosed. I would not have become friends with some of the people if not for the cancer. Some new friends are others who are in this club that no one wants to join. No one except someone else who is fighting cancer can fully understand what it is like. I’m not sure that even someone else with cancer truly understands what a colleague is going through. For instance, I don’t understand people that wallow in self-pity and that concentrate on the problems they face rather than looking at the positives. They are so miserable and unhappy. In my own opinion, they are letting cancer win the battle while they still have life.

It is highly, HIGHLY likely that I will ultimately die from my cancer. (Hopefully, it won’t be real soon.) But, right now, I am alive. I feel pretty darn good. I don’t have the stamina that I probably would if I wasn’t in this fight for my life, but I have a lot of willpower. Where my stamina lets me down, my willpower often takes over. Cancer teaches you, if you will let it, to enjoy every single moment. A flower takes on new beauty. A fragrance is breathed more deeply. The wonders of God (the sky, the mountains, trees, babies… the list is endless) are so very precious and magnificent and appreciated in ways that they never were before. The joy of being with friends (two and four legged) is that much greater because you appreciate that these times may be limited.




Life is different now than it was before I was diagnosed with cancer. There’s an innocence that is lost when you get that diagnosis. You learn you are a whole lot more vulnerable than you realized. It doesn’t just happen to others. Nope, it can and it did happen to you.

But, if I were asked to honestly respond with whether I would change anything about my existence, I think I would say “no.” I have learned so very much about myself and about others on this journey. I don’t think I would trade that.

I learned that I am strong. Much stronger than I ever imagined.
I learned that I am resilient. I can withstand a hard knock.
I learned that happiness comes from within. We spend way too much time looking for happiness in all of the wrong places.
I learned that there are some really fabulous people in this world. And I am blessed to have some of them in my life.
I learned that some people are acquaintances that I enjoy but that I can’t count on. This has been a really hard and painful lesson.
I learned that a kind word, a phone call, a card, any simple gesture can make a day. And, I hope I have learned to be more generous with those gestures myself.


Independence Day … and Agility

For the first time ever, Barney and I went to College Station for a two-day agility trial over the July 4th weekend. I had really looked forward to this trip because I enjoy getting out of town and staying in a hotel for a night or two and having a short drive to the agility field.

You would think if I was looking forward to the trip, I might have done a bit of planning. You would think. But, you would be incorrect.

I am not a planner by nature. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. That was never more evident than on this trip.

Getting There

I had a busy week prior to leaving. I had chemo (immunotherapy) on Monday. Class on Tuesday and Wednesday. A movie on Thursday. Brunch with friends (both also fighting lung cancer) on Friday before heading out for College Station.

I packed up most of my stuff on Thursday afternoon after the movie and lunch out with Anna. I didn’t do much planning – just started throwing stuff into the bag. It doesn’t take a lot for agility – some socks, underwear, shorts, and t-shirts. No big deal. Not much thought has to go into it. Of course, since I’m taking Barney along, we do have to remember food, bowls, leashes, crate, chair, etc., but really, packing didn’t take a lot of thought.

I finished packing on Friday morning after I had my shower and got my  makeup on. Loaded the crate, chair, camera, and my clothes bag into the car before going to meet my friends for brunch so that all I had to do was put together my cooler and grab Barney and my map.

Naturally, I stayed longer at brunch than I should have. I wanted to leave town at around 1 (if not earlier). I got back home from brunch at about 1. So, I was in a real rush to get the rest of my packing done and get out on the road.

Barney and I were all packed up and on the road by 1:30 or so. I called my mom so that I could catch up with what was going on with her while I drove. We talked for an hour or so when I realized that I really had not even read the directions I had printed on how to get to College Station. I had spent several minutes agonizing over the best way to get to the restaurant in Dallas where we were having brunch, but had not even read the directions to a town three hours away where I had not been in over 30 years. Hello????? Anyone home in that brain of yours, Donna????

Somewhere in my mind, I had decided erroneously that there would be an exit to Bryan/College Station off of Interstate 45 and I would just follow the road signs. Sounds plausible, right? After all, College Station is home to Texas A&M, a large, popular university where lots of kids from Dallas choose to go.


Fortunately, I had not gone so far on I45 that I had to turn around, but if I had not gotten off of the phone and looked at my directions, I might have ended up in Houston instead of College Station. I learned as I drove that not only was there no exit off of I45 for Bryan/College Station, once I left the Interstate, I was going to be on multiple two-lane highways.

That’s okay, I thought. I will just use my Google maps to direct me. Wrong. Google Maps didn’t want to find me or direct me. Uuuuggggghhhh! Fortunately, I had printed the directions, along with maps, so I was not completely without resources to guide me. (Naturally, I do not have a paper map.)

It was quite an experience, but I made it fine into College Station. I was shaking my head at myself much of the time. I am still amazed that I failed to prepare for the drive there. What was I thinking? Obviously, I was thinking it was a much easier drive than it proved to be. (Actually, the way we came back home WAS pretty easy, but the backroads way Google had me go was NOT easy!)

The Trial


I was so excited to go trial at the A&M horse arena. I mean the AIR-CONDITIONED A&M horse arena. Anyone who lives in Texas knows the importance of air conditioning in July! I had heard I might even need a jacket there!!

Well, it wasn’t cold enough for a jacket, but it was a very pleasant trialing experience. Because there was a big price break if you signed up for all of the runs offered, I signed Barney up for 12 runs – six on Saturday, six on Sunday. I drove down on Friday, but originally planned to come home on Sunday after the trial. Thank God, I changed my mind and booked a room for Sunday night as well.

As it turns out, there were 965 runs booked for the weekend. That is a lot of runs. Especially since many of them were novice runs. It was very exciting to see so many dogs in novice. It means our sport and our venue will have people coming up to continue it. On the flip side, novice handlers and/or dogs tend to take a lot longer in the ring.

So, we arrived at the arena at about 7:15 AM on Saturday and we didn’t leave the arena until around 7:30 PM that evening. We had fun, but it was stressful. The arena is air-conditioned, but it is not an easy place to be with a dog that tends to be aggressive toward other dogs (which is how Barney is, unfortunately).

There were many places where people and dogs congregated that were difficult to navigate with Barney. Also, there were many novice people there who haven’t yet learned the importance of keeping their dogs close to them.

There was a lot of noise in the arena. Dogs barking, people talking and enjoying themselves, just a lot of noise. My hearing is not very good – I can hear sounds, but I can’t make out what is being said, especially when there is so much background noise. It is a bit nerve-wracking for me.

Barney had six runs on Saturday: Elite Weavers, Open Chances, Elite Regular 1 and 2, Elite Jumpers, Novice Hoopers. We earned three qualifying scores and three non-qualifying scores. We only got a few of his Saturday runs on video.

A recap of the runs (as best I remember two days later!)


  1. Weavers: oh my! This was our worst run of the weekend. I am not usually nervous when I run, but for some reason, I was a little nervous before we started this one. I don’t know if that’s what the problem was or if Barney was just so excited to be at a trial, or what, but we had a bunch of errors on this run. Most were my fault – I did a poor job of telling him what to do. A few were his fault – like not staying in the weaves. We did have a video of this disaster!
  2. Chances: We have been trying to earn a qualifying score (Q) in open Chances for at least a year. To no avail. Finally, FINALLY, we earned a Q on this run. Admittedly, it was not a very difficult course, but a Q is a Q is a Q! I was so excited! Fortunately, this run was also videoed!
  3. Regular 1 and 2: Neither of these runs were videoed. Barney did a beautiful job in both runs. He earned a Q in Regular 1 and did not earn a Q in Regular 2 because his handler (me) momentarily forgot the course. I sent him over an off-course jump before remembering the flow of the course. HE did a wonderful job and did exactly what I asked him to do.
  4. Hoopers: This is not a game we play very often. In fact, this was only our second time to run a Hoopers course. This one didn’t require any thinking. You just had to guide your dog through a bunch of hoops. The first time we played, several years ago, it was Strategic Hoopers, which requires a lot of planning and thinking. Anyway, Barney did a very nice job in this game.
  5. Jumpers: This was the last game of the day. I was so exhausted I could just barely lift my aching feet. Barney had a perfect run, but apparently we were too slow because he did not earn a Q because we had a time fault. Others also got time faults they didn’t understand or anticipate. We don’t know if the standard course time was incorrect or if we were really that slow at the end of the day.
I was so glad to go home! We stopped and got a pizza that we took back to the room. I rejuvenated a bit after eating, so Barney and I went and walked with Linda and Louie and Diane and her two dogs, Izzy and Sampson. We sat out on a main street and watched what fireworks we could see that were being shot off at A&M. It was a great time to train Barney not to worry about lots of cars zooming by!


I was so tired on Sunday morning that I wasn’t sure I really even wanted to go back to trial. I was not in a great mood when we got there and it got worse before it got better. The incessant barking, the woman sitting next to us who did nothing but complain and talk negatively about other people, the tension at the arena … it was all more than my tired mind could process kindly.
We moved our crates away from the fussy lady and the day (and my attitude) improved appreciably. Thank goodness. I didn’t even like myself. Others sure didn’t want to be around me.
On Sunday, we ran Open Chances, Open Touch N Go, Elite Regular 1 and 2, Elite Jumpers, and Elite Tunnelers. Like on Saturday, we split the day with three qualifying runs and three non-qualifying runs.
A recap of our runs:
  1. Chances: I had so hoped we might earn another qualifying score in open Chances on Sunday, but it was not to be. It was a much more difficult course for us as Barney still doesn’t do a great job of working away from me. Darn it!
  2. Touch N Go: We need one more Q in Open Touch N Go to earn our title. We have been in Open Touch N Go for way too long. This was a fun and easy course (although it was more difficult than I imagined it would be, for Barney and me and for lots of other handlers, too). I could taste that Q! But, I directed Barney poorly which caused him to take a jump or hoop the wrong direction. However, much of his run was very pretty and we handled the areas that gave most dogs/handlers problems.
  3. Regular 1 and 2: We didn’t earn a Q for Regular 1. The fact that I have no start-line stay in trials (but I do in class), caused us an issue in Regular 1. I wasn’t able to direct him as well as I needed to because of where I had to begin our run. He had a pretty nice run other than an off-course early on … and popping out of the weaves near the end.It was funny. Someone was setting up the tunnelers course in the ring behind us. Just as Barney started the weaves, the young man popped a tunnel, trying to straighten it, I think. The noise startled Barney. He stopped. Turned and looked. And popped out of the weaves. I started him over. He got to about the same spot in the weaves and the tunnel behind  us was popped again! Barney stopped, looked, but this time he didn’t leave the weaves. I finally got his attention back on the course and we finished. I was not upset because we had already had some faults. Nevertheless, the judge apologized and offered us a chance to run again and the young man who was popping the tunnels came to apologize as well. I appreciated both apologies, but Barney is in elite Regular. He should be able to tune out distractions like popping tunnels.

    I finally broke my curse in Regular 2. I had quit running two regular courses back to back because I tend to get confused. Regular 2 is usually an exact flipped course of Regular 1. It is easy for me to forget what course I’m running and start running the previous course. This time, we ran Regular 2 quickly and accurately.

    Yea! Finally a first and Q. I kept trying to get a first place because the club hosting this trial had cute toys that I wanted Barney to win for Cotton. I chose a little husky dog that Cotton loved for about 5 minutes after I gave it to her this afternoon. She has already destuffed it. I was sad to see that.

  4. Jumpers: Barney had a nice run in jumpers. I was hoping maybe we would come in first here, but an Australian shepherd beat us by tenths of a second.
  5. Tunnelers: Again, we had a nice run with over 5 yards per second, but we came in second again. No more toys for Cotton 🙁
The courses this weekend were a lot of fun. Looking back, I had more fun than I felt like I was having while it was happening. The very, very long days were quite difficult for me. I think I am not healthy enough, no matter how much I want to be, for such long days. I hate that. A lot.

Coming Home

Thank goodness, Diane knew a better way to come home than the way I traveled to get there. Linda and Louie rode home with Barney and me. It was nice to have company. We followed Diane to I45, which was also nice! I didn’t have to worry about whether I was on the right route or not like I did when I was on my way there.
It is good to be home … at least for awhile!