Halloween

NERDS 1999

NERDS 1999

Before my husband died, he could have told you without looking at a calendar what day and date he received a phone call.  I know these dates because I have them written down and know the day of the week, but the actual dates have become fuzzy except that Halloween is now a reminder.

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7-years ago tomorrow, November 1, 2010 at 8am, my husband received a phone call from our primary doctor that he needed to be seen at 5pm in the gastroenterologist’s office to go over results of his CT scan and follow-up from the colonoscopy that preceded the CT.  It was a Monday and the CT was the previous Friday and the colonoscopy the day before that.  Right after that call, he called me at home.  I could tell immediately that there was something wrong.  He told me he would come home and pick me up to go with for his appointment.  Of course nobody would say what the issue was but we knew it wasn’t good because our test results were always given over the phone.  We were completely blindsided.  The gastroenterologist began by drawing pictures.  First was a piece of carpet with the padding and then carpet and carpet fibers on top.  He explained that 3 years prior when my husband had a polyp removed inside his colon that the polyp removed was in situ, so basically it sat in the top layers of the carpet fibers and did not penetrate to the pad.  He explained the likelihood of cells with the results of the CT scan, that likely cells penetrated through during that time because the CT showed a very large tumor in the very spot that polyp was removed; at the cecum and that it was likely cancer because he also had peritoneal carcinomatosis which meant that it had spread throughout his abdomen.  We were speechless.  I asked everything that I could think of, but my brain was so overcome with fear or more possibly shock, that I didn’t get too many thoughts out.  While in that office, the doctor immediately got on the phone and called an oncologist and made an appointment for us for two days later, first thing in the morning.    7 years of grief, life altering, life distinguishing news that he had cancer.  There’s no need to rehash the details here, they are written in journals for now.  By Friday of that week we had a definitive diagnosis from biopsy – appendix cancer.

I am a changed woman because of what my husband had to endure.  I hold no anger because he was ravaged by a rare disease, but I hold disappointment in my heart and sadness not only for myself and my family, but mostly for him because he embraced life and all it had to offer with such incredible zest.  He was an amazing patient, an incredibly strong human being both physically and emotionally to have lived with his cancer diagnosis for as long as he did, knowing each day that he would die from it.  I so wish this did not happen to him, but it did.  I’m glad God ended his suffering when the miracle of a cure was not possible.  I’m grateful that I was the one to love him and walk him home.

Maybe one day Halloween time won’t be a reminder of our lives being turned upside down.   I will concentrate today on the fun we always had and continue my gratitude for the laughter that was so prevalent in our lives.

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“The only thing constant is change.” – Heraclitus of Ephesus

Today is, for the most part a typical Sunday morning, the clouds are abundant and the streets damp with the rain that fell last night.  It’s early at 5:15 a.m. and I didn’t go to sleep until midnight.

What is this energy I feel that isn’t typical?  Ever-evolving I am.

The other day I was looking for something and ran across an ancient pedometer that I believe my husband had brought home from some golf outing he attended.  Like most things fitness, it either went into a corner, was given away or thrown into a drawer.  This is the most basic of pedometers that you can find.  It tracks your calories, kilometers and miles.  Not steps, but that is okay – any step forward is better than back.

I went to that pedometer which seriously has to be no less than eight years old and pulled the small piece of paper attached to it to see what type of battery it would take.  In doing so, I pushed a button and the display came on.  “Some battery” I thought to myself as I began pushing the buttons. 0000 meant I had an awful lot of work to do.  It’s a balmy 60 degrees Fahrenheit, a nice breeze.  I can do this.

Like my husband’s death, we planned for it.  We knew it was coming and it would change my life in ways I had only imagined.  But I could have never imagined how much it would change.  I’ve lifted the covers from my head to the point I can breathe a bit easier.  I no longer need that filter to embrace the daylight.

Last week I took the incredible challenge to change.  I began a weight loss program and this morning, I used that pedometer.  I promised myself when I moved last year that I was going to do this.  I need to get healthy again.  I did try but often met neighbors who walk their dogs and wanted to chat – once that happened, my walks never continued as I need to walk alone at a pace that is comfortable to me.  I need to do this, I want to do this.  I am 4 lbs. down … and today I logged 0.778 miles on that pedometer.  It is baby steps.  I have a long way to go but when I realize my grief began with my husband’s diagnosis, I’ve been living this heavy burden for six and a half years.  Indeed it is time for change – my habits, my health and my life are as important as the man I loved, cared and advocated for.  As I walked this morning, I imagined him telling me “honey, you can do this and I am with you every painful step of the way.”

I don’t care much for change, especially when it is out of my control, but hopefully, the tools of faith, hope and the desire for change, will bring me further into the light of joy.

On Friday evening, I was privileged to return to the site of the Beloved retreat that I attended in January.  This time I was able to carry the luggage of new retreat-ants and light their path in the darkness to knowing they are beloved.  As I came together in community with others I had met on my own retreat, others who had attended at different times and once again my daughter at my side, I was able to share with them just how much I grew from my own experience there and that I did in fact keep my promise to find joy.

We do not always know when we go about our own lives how we sometimes affect others.  Sometimes, out of the blue, you can be called upon and a split second decision to say yes or no can make or break a person or situation.  I used to be a constant yes.  Grief began to change that and that is not the person my husband fell in love with.  Yesterday I said yes again to someone, to help them sort their feelings, their fears and angst and talk them through a situation that otherwise may have ended differently.  We do not know when we will be called – either spiritually or literally, but if we open our hearts to the possibility that carrying the load for others when they are burdened with the weight of the world, we can become the change that another person is seeking.

A step outside of our own comfort zone does not need to be a heavy task.  I can say with a smile in my heart, I am beginning, truly beginning to find joy.

 

Choices, Consequences and Life

 

trust and faithI have started to blog several times because I have a lot to say (surprised, aren’t you?) and then have ended up deleting because it all sounded so whiny.

Choices – as a reasonably responsible adult I knew I would have to make a choice about my living situation.  It was becoming apparent that I was sinking deeper and deeper into a situation financially that was not going to have a good outcome.  Here I was, for the first time in my life, living alone in a big house in which I generally occupy 3 rooms – the kitchen, family room and my bedroom.  The rest of the house was taking up space in my pocketbook and in my head.  I had to move so I made the choice to call a realtor to get “an idea” of what I might sell the house for.  Things moved swiftly with the help of a few wonderful people and the house was put on the market in two weeks from first meeting and then subsequently sold 14-days later.  Okay – now what?  The new buyer wanted to close in a month and I had no clue where I was going to live!  To say that I became a crazed insomniac would be putting it mildly.  Day and night I was searching for the perfect home … somewhere close to where I used to live, about 40 minutes north of where I am now.   I would be closer to the grandkids.  I could find nothing in my price range that didn’t have 15 or more stairs (hey I’m “oldish” now).  For what I could find, my car wouldn’t even fit in the garage.  To know me is to know that my vehicle should always be protected from the environment … to make matters worse; it would cost me what I am currently paying.

Yeah, not all things in life work out the way we want them to work out, but they do work perhaps as they are intended.  In the meantime I needed to get a pre-approval for a new mortgage and submit the necessary documentation.  I have learned that I keep way too much “stuff” but I am organized in most of it.  That financial process, for the most part was easy and approval came two days later.  What I wasn’t expecting was an IRS issue.  Stress … when you open your mailbox and receive a letter from the IRS.  It happened to come on the day of our annual TEAM KEITH fund raising event.  That was a Saturday and I had to wait until Monday to contact both the new loan company and the IRS.  I needed to submit 3-years’ worth of tax returns.  I did that.  But as a normal course of business, the lenders will generally have you sign a document requesting IRS transcripts.  It’s sort of a double check that what you provided is actually what was filed.  This is a public service announcement: If you apply for a loan and you have previous filed a joint return with your spouse and request records and he/she was the primary on said taxes, the file will be flagged.  Dead people should not be applying for mortgages – period.  I learned that in fact, people will try to do that in an identity theft scenario so the IRS began doing this “flagging” upon final tax returns for the deceased.  All is well that ends well, and I was able to have the IRS fax me the 33 pages necessary after giving my crazed, manic-even, sob-story to the agent on the end of the phone line!

Back to the story, I was out with my Realtor looking for a home and becoming very discouraged.  On a whim, I had asked to see a home or homes within a 55 plus community – the opposite direction of where I wanted to go and about 10 minutes south of where I am now, but quite close (maybe too close for him) to my son.  I was not thrilled, but did not rule it out either.  On the last day of looking for a few hours, I sat in my Realtors car, put my hands over my face and cried “what have I done”?  I was second guessing myself … maybe I could have stretched the pennies a bit more and just stayed … now the house has a pending contract, a cash deal and I’m closing in 29 days … I have nowhere to go.  At that moment, the realtor’s phone rang and it was her office assistant.  The seller of the home I had not ruled out just lowered the sales price.  I asked my brother in-law to come and see it with me … and the next morning, he and my sister in law came and gave their blessing.  It’s got “good bones” he told me.  The kitchen though … it needs a major overhaul.  My brother in law said he would do the remodel … As my Realtor and they stood in the kitchen talking, I walked into the main living space which I will call my great room and I swear, I don’t know, out of nowhere, I heard my husband’s voice … “make it our home honey”.  I looked at my brother in law and gave him a dollar figure and said “tell me what you can do” … so things moved quickly – I made an offer and it was accepted.  My daughter and friends came and helped me pack one day I am almost completely done.  I will move on the 9th of September, and fortunately, was able to negotiate with the buyers of my current home a rent-back for these 9 days.  The new home will be painted on the interior this coming weekend.  Yes, I am a woman blessed.

The new home is not the home of my dreams; I am leaving that one behind.  My dreams were fulfilled in this home and it is a bittersweet move.  In reality, Keith and I knew that someday we would downsize and oh how I wish we were doing this move together, but I feel his love and presence every step of the way.  I had the pleasure of meeting the new owners on their final walk through last night and they have two small children.  This home needs life again, and I know they are the perfect buyer.  I told them that I hope they love the home as much as my husband and I did and they were so excited in saying, “we do”.  I am happy for them and I am happy to leave them with a home in pristine condition – a reflection of the best parts of Keith and me together.

Consequences – Everything we do in life provides a consequence, sometimes good and sometimes bad.  I truly believed in my heart I needed to be where Keith and I began further north; after all he is buried there.  There is 15 minutes added to my commute to get there (minus rush hour traffic) … I am not readily available on short notice for the grandkids being further away, but as it turns out, they don’t need me like they used to.  My daughter is happily married to the man of her dreams and they have their family dynamics worked out perfectly.  Being closer to my son is just an added bonus and he need not worry about me “dropping in” because that’s not my style.  The consequences of this move are positive ones so far … it was a very wise financial decision and my insomnia should lessen over this issue once settled in.  I am looking forward to living on one level, with two spare rooms for those grandma sleepovers and my essential office equipment.

Life – It continues to happen whether we want it to or not, so I have decided to be present in it.  I am looking forward to a big conference in Washington, DC in November with the ACPMP Research Foundation and I will be starting some volunteer work at my local hospital in the spiritual care department as well.  I hope to meet new people and engage with others again and not sit at my computer 24/7 like I have the past few years.  I want to be healthy of mind and body and the only way to do that is to make positive changes.  I think I just made my first step.  I am choosing life.  I am grateful for my faith to see me through.

Ripples and Circles

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This photo was taken off the shore of Waikiki, two blocks from Diamond Head, in June of 2012 during our first visit to Hawaii.

A slight wind or pebble in the water will make a ripple and spread out to sea.  Keith is a ripple inside of me.  With his love and with my memories, I brave the  often-times tumultuous waters. Life is full of ebb and flow and I am grateful for the ability to ride these waves.

I wrote this on Keith’s CaringBridge site on January 28, 2014 as the decision was made to bring him home from the hospital with Hospice Care:

“Both of us believe today that no matter what transpires, our love will cross the heavens and earth and will hold strong until our souls are entwined again. We believe God mapped this out for us. He brought us together because He knew what each of us would need from beginning to end. I won’t pretend to understand how God knows I am the one who will endure, but I have faith enough in His purpose for me.”

As promised in my last blog update, I have some exciting news to share – I know I am a week delayed, so hopefully nobody has held their breath for my news!

Effective this evening, I am officially a member of the Board of Directors for the PMP Research Foundation.  

This is the full circle that I mentioned before.  What does full circle mean, anyway?  We all start somewhere and we end somewhere; first the womb, and (my belief that) in the end, heaven. But the middle holds a lot!  I met Keith, we fell in love, we created a beautiful life and then he died.  That was a full circle.  Lucky for us, we can link these circles together, and my joining the Board, does this!  It is with Keith’s love and I know, his blessing, that I continue my personal advocacy, awareness and support for those being treated and who will be treated for appendix cancer and pseudomyxoma peritonei.  Forever linked with these memories of Keith, the decision I made a year ago to be a background volunteer for the PMPRF has come full circle!

This is a huge personal gain,  for those who know me.  I am very much a team player, but have always preferred to play in the background.  The time for me is now.  With the support of my family and friends, and especially the other Board Members, I am ready to tackle my very first national public appearance on behalf of the PMPRF.  Arizona here I come!  I can’t think of a better place to be on Valentine’s Day than to be supporting our organization with amazing love in my heart!  One of the best things Keith did for me was to constantly tell me that he was proud of me for helping others all throughout our marriage.  The key for me now is to remember his sweet words and carry them with me.  After all, it is because of him and my love for him, that I am paying his life forward.

A little background of the PMPRF:

The PMP Research Foundation is an IRS-designated 501(c)3 charitable organization. The Foundation was created in 2008 by a community of individuals affected by Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP), Appendix Cancer, and related Peritoneal Surface Malignancies (PSM).”

“Our organization exists to support and fund promising research that moves us toward a cure for pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), appendix cancer, and related peritoneal surface malignancies (PSM). We also endeavor to support the PMP, appendix cancer and PSM community of patients and their caregivers by providing the latest, most accurate information about the best practices in managing their disease.”

The truth is I am still so very much in love with Keith.  I can’t help but believe he is also in love with me – eternally.

 

 

Loss, Love and Paying Tribute

I am here.

I am here.

It is difficult to console the inconsolable heart.  Each must experience the pain of loss or it will never leave us.  I’m not describing loss of love.  I’m describing loss of life of someone who made your world every bit as wonderful as it could be.  Be it a spouse, a child, a sibling or best friend.  Maybe you have lost a parent, grandparent, an aunt, uncle, cousin, a mentor, or a partner.  We always say “I’m sorry for your loss” but we cannot possibly feel another person’s loss.

People think they know the depth of your loss but they don’t.  That is what we call empathy and most of us are capable of feeling that.   Many of us can empathize with others.  But nobody can feel what is in your heart during such a personal, tumultuous time.  Think of times that you have realized loss through death.  Like most, we are sad and move forward and sometimes we become stuck in a place where every waking moment is wrapped tightly with emotion of that person. I’m in between those places and it is a good place for me to spend my time.  Sounds odd, right?  Actually I have found moving forward and being bombarded with beautiful memories, the perfect balance.  Memories are the driving force behind getting out of bed and living my life the best I know how.  I do not believe for half a second that I would have been able to do this if I had not had the best of the best as my husband.  What he gave me personally in my life will always be enough.  But he is where there is no more cancer, no more fear of what tomorrow might bring.  He is in a place that only peace and harmony exist.  His spirit is alive and well within me and that is a beautiful place for him to rest.  I am glad Keith was a patient man, because now he waits patiently as I live my life – day by day, month after month, and hopefully year after year.  Thanks for the memories, Keith … may they continue to keep me lifted to this place of peace.

Keith spent his 60th birthday celebration in heaven, on Sunday, August 23rd.  I bet the angels sang beautifully!  We had some chocolate cake and sang happy birthday to papa – it felt good for us to still do that and be thankful that we had the time we did with him while he lived.

On Saturday, August 22nd, we celebrated Keith and our memories of Keith during our annual fund-raiser.  Thanks to generous donations, we raised $11,350 dollars for The PMP Research Foundation to continue their efforts in Research and Education.  They will also “give back” to Dr. Salti, for his programs that directly impact patients with appendix cancer and pseudomyxoma.  It was a wonderful day and I know that Keith would be so proud and so happy to know that people still care.  People still come out to share his legacy.  I am not, by any standard, a public speaker.  I did not like it in school and I do not like it as an adult.  But I forced myself to get up in front of the crowd because I had a few things to say and because I was and am, so very grateful for all of those who donated and those who attended both in person and in spirit.  Here is a copy of that speech:

Let me start by thanking Kimberly for all of her hard work and dedication! Without her, many of you would not even know about this event. She has worked tirelessly to get donations for today and there are many. Thank you Kimberly for all you do in dad’s name.

First, some of you know that I am a volunteer for the PMP Research Foundation. Funding Research and Education along with patient support through email and social media websites is their purpose. In 8 years, they have received through private donations and fund-raisers such as this, well over 1 million dollars. They have provided funding of $750,000 for research into appendix cancer/PMP with another $100,000 to be awarded in December of this year. I am proud to work alongside them in whatever capacity I am able and believe with all my heart that Keith wanted something like this for me. If I can help just one person, through volunteering, my life will be well-lived.

Second, thank you to Dr. Salti for all that you do. It is my personal goal for the Appendix Cancer and Pseudomyxoma community to know you as I know you. An expert surgeon as we call you in our support groups. I want people to know your dedication in performing these surgeries that are grueling and lengthy – Keith’s surgery was 12-hours. I want people to know that you are not just a physician who treated Keith, but you are a part of my family. I am also proud to be a part of your team going forward as a support to others as needed. On October 6th, Dr. Salti and Edward Hospital will be holding a Cancer Symposium sponsored in part by the Research Foundation. It is free for the public to attend. Check out Edward’s website or pmpcure.org for information. Thank you again Dr. Salti, for your experience, expertise and especially your dedication to your patients.

Last and certainly not least, most of you knew Keith as a strong, powerful man. He was that way, but there was a side of him that made me fall in love with him – It was the twinkle in his eye and believe it or not, his shyness. Most of all, it was desire to be loved. I loved that man with every ounce of my being and he was so afraid that after his death he would be forgotten. Despite a building and a complex bearing his name and family and friends who have gathered here, that was his biggest fear. On behalf of Keith and on behalf of my family, thank you for not forgetting him.

We will continue our efforts for as long as people continue to support us and Keith’s memory.  As my daughter told me, “mom, if that ever happens, you and I will still go to five different bars and celebrate dad”.  I hope it never comes to that.  I hope we continue to gain support through the years for Keith’s memory; obviously our driving force, but for the many others who have lost their lives to appendix cancer and its variant pathologies and for those who fight every day.  I hope the future holds a cure, that’s our purpose – but until that time, we must individually do what we can to help others.  That is what we pray for, that is what we focus on.

Truly, the man I married … I thanked God while he lived for bringing us together.  I still thank God for that.  The true measure of a man, I believe, is the indelible mark he left on the hearts of others.  What Keith left on my heart is so deep that his dying opened up a space that only memories of him can fill.

The Thrill of It All

If I wanted to go to an amusement park, I would have bought a ticket. Mind you, I enjoyed the thrill of the ride when I was younger. I never thought much about the mechanics and how one loose bolt could alter your life forever. Well at least not at a younger age. I’m older now and my mind has changed from the carefree, thrill-seeking days of yore.

Truthfully, I am OK. I am okay with the uphill climb sitting in the rail car. I’m good with the twists and the turns at a high rate of speed. It’s the sudden drops that I struggle with. Those drops come with crocodile tears sometimes. You feel them coming but you are able to control it and then whoosh! With the speed of a spiral drop fall the tears.

This happens quite often; those “oh no, here it comes” moments. Recently I’ve had some health issues and had gone to the doctor. This doctor was part of Keith’s care team and actually the one who broke the news to him about the cancer. The nurse asks the usual questions after taking your blood pressure and asks about medications and changes in family history. I said, no just changes in my family dynamics and mention that my husband passed away in December. The usual “I’m sorry” niceties happen and she left the room. The doc came in and we talked about what’s going on with me and he went to check some recent labs and then came back in to discuss them. He walked out and then walked back in and I thought he was going to cry – the nurse must have told him. Nobody internally told him about Keith and he wanted to say how sorry he was. I thanked him and then he started about what a wonderful man he was and how strong he was and he just wanted his part to do whatever he could to keep Keith comfortable. This is the second time I had to explain (including to our primary care doctor) that Keith passed away. So here came the roller coaster, creaking and winding its way to the top and BAM! The tears started flowing as I said yes, I miss him terribly, voice cracking and crocodile tears streaming. I felt like I just want to get the hell out of here and not deal with this. But of course, I wiped the tears and smiled and thanked him for his kindness. I am certainly glad that is over with! In the end, Keith abhorred this doctor … he felt cheated by him and I think because he is the type of doctor that just wants to help, when he couldn’t help, it was hard for Keith (and me at the time) to accept some of the things he said to Keith. He’s just too nice and it’s hard for him to say “it’s not going to end well”. I’m over that because I feel he is a good physician and I have been going to him for many years so he knows my history.

One would think (I wish everyone thought like I do) that it would just be an automatic process – while Keith was a hospice patient, he was still under the care of oncology in our group of physicians.  I personally notified his surgeon because I maintain a professional relationship him. I guess I didn’t realize it was my burden to notify all physicians.

I am finding more confidence in myself as the days go on and thank God for the strength that He has given me to endure. Certainly there are days that I feel like it’s not fair, but it is what it is and I can’t change it. Boy, if anyone knew me 25 or 30 years ago I could have never said that! I remember how irritated I would get at the words “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and I would think (not always to myself) – what the heck does that have to do with anything. It wasn’t until Keith got sick and we wanted immediate results, immediate answers that we realized we had to build foundations, brick by brick, to get a solid plan in place. You can liken phone calls and paperwork to that process. In retrospect, all that building and planning and infrastructure of keeping Keith alive for so long was to help me cope today. It was an on-going blue-print with a completion date known only to God. And definitely not built in a day!

I am now my own building and currently undergoing renovation. I neglected things (myself) during the past year especially, despite Keith begging me not to. Now that things have calmed down, I am listening to his voice in my head and keeping yet another promise.

What is it like to be lonely? I frequently leave the TV and music off to listen to my thoughts because there is so much noise in my head that the competition of the electronics gets annoying! Unfortunately these days my brain is working overtime and not letting me get a good night’s sleep. I must be dreaming a lot and not know it and those dreams must be in a boxing ring somewhere. By the looks of my bed in the morning, I’m fighting off someone or something! Seriously … I think I’m looking for that guy that I slept with for over 20 years.

Doors close. Doors open. Although the roller coaster will continue, I am finding peace. Grief truly does not have a timeline. I despise that my husband died. I despise that I am left to pick up the pieces by myself and live the rest of my life without his companionship. But somehow I just can’t be angry about it. I think that if I was angry it wouldn’t be painful, but how can I be angry when God gave me so much to be thankful for in my life with Keith. As I lessen my hurt, I am able to feel Keith’s presence more and more. I have moments like I did in the beginning where I can just take a deep breath and slowly let it out and feel his embrace. When Keith held me, it was always the only thing to truly ever bring me the most calming peace I have ever experienced. I miss that but my memory is returning as I let go of the hurt. My heart will never fully feel what it did but that doesn’t mean it isn’t open to new ways for me to find joy.

I am looking forward to August 22nd to celebrate Keith’s life with those who truly cared about him. Those folks who are able to physically join us for our annual fundraiser, the pub crawl, probably have no idea how their keeping Keith alive in their hearts makes me even more proud of Keith – is that even possible? I hope that I don’t experience too many of those big roller coaster drops that day, but if I do, they just may be tears of joy.

I am also looking forward to my first experience at a symposium hosted in part by the PMP Research Foundation and Dr. Salti at Edward-Elmhurst Hospital taking place in October.  I am grateful that I will sit at a table representing the Foundation knowing that Keith’s life mattered and all of those facing or who will face this disease have hope for the future.

I am looking forward to the Amusement park after all. I want to ride the Ferris Wheel and watch from the top, to see what heaven sees.  For now, I am just looking forward!

A Lifetime Gift

Keith gave me the most amazing gift while he lived. He gave me his love. He also gave me an incredible perspective on life. His love helped shape my future and because of his belief in me, I am a stronger person today than I ever have been.

I’ve mentioned before this once-in-a-lifetime love affair that Keith and I shared. When I hear people mention that a good marriage takes hard work, I really and truly don’t get that. We never needed to work at anything – it just was. We went through times that our life was in turmoil with finances, raising 5 kids as a blended family, health issues, (mostly me) and outside influences that affected our lives with family and friends and incredible personal losses like everyone does. But we never let those things get in the way of what was most important. Let me say, the needs of our children came before our personal needs, always. But from the perspective of what I needed and Keith needed, truly – all we both needed was love.

A very wise woman whom I loved deeply, God bless her and rest her soul, once told me: “Your husband had better be your best friend. Someday your children will grow up and move on and you are stuck with that person for the rest of your life.” Keith was my best friend. Keith gave of himself so completely that it was impossible not to fall in love with him. There was never a “me” in our relationship, it was always “us”. There was always “we” – what are we going to do now? I refuse to go forward in life in the singular, because Keith will always be with me to guide me and love me.

We can go through life with blinders on (I lived that way pre-Keith) or we can pick ourselves up through adversity and look at the whole picture. We are on this earth for a short time and that became increasingly evident when Keith became ill. I think because Keith and I shared the same objectives in life everything just fit.

Keith and I figured out “our” key to life many years ago. For us individually and together, giving always felt good and it felt right. I am not talking about financial giving; I am talking about the giving of you – to another person, to strangers, to family and friends. We gave together and that was the best feeling of all. We were partners in love and in life and even now, when we are approaching two months since his passing, I feel him pushing me to keep smiling and living life.

I look at this experience of losing my husband as one of personal growth. Through Keith’s continued love and support (call me crazy, but I’m a believer) I have been seeking opportunities that would emulate the way that Keith and I lived.
I will not let Keith’s life and especially his death, be in vain. Toward the end of his life, Keith and I talked at length about what the future would hold. We both knew, at least we thought we knew that it would involve appendix cancer and pseudomyxoma peritonei.

Last month I contacted and asked to volunteer, in whatever capacity I am able, for the PMP Research Foundation. www.pmpcure.org.

The mission of the PMP Research Foundation is to fund promising research to find a cure for Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP), Appendix Cancer, and related Peritoneal Surface Malignancies (PSM), and to fund educational programs for physicians and patients about these diseases.

I truly cannot think of a better way to pay Keith’s life forward – to feel like a part of something that is bigger than I could have ever imagined in honor of Keith, feels so right. I am so thrilled to have been welcomed so graciously by this organization.

For those of you who are not on Facebook, please take a look at the following link. If you donated after Keith’s passing as was our wish, you can be proud, right alongside me that with others, Keith was included in the memorialization of the following research grant: http://www.pmpcure.org/blog/2014-research-grant-recipients

Keith lives on through all of those whose life he touched, those who loved him and those he loved. He will always live through me as I continue my own advocacy and awareness campaign; supporting other venues relative to this disease, and especially keeping active providing support of those whose lives were, are and will be affected by this cancer. We will also continue to be very connected to Dr. George Salti, who truly gave us the opportunity of a lifetime. So from my non-singular life, we are still together.

My life is busy and full. I am loved and I love where my life is taking me. I am also excited to share that my sister, our girlfriend and I are going to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico next month! A full week of fun in the sun and a few cocktails (hey, it’s all inclusive after all) shared with two of my favorite women has me a little more than excited! Thanks to Kimberly for holding down the fort at home!

My blog would never be complete without mentioning my faith. I am so grateful to God for bringing Keith into my life and for his love, which will truly will last me a lifetime. I am grateful for the opportunities that I have been praying about being made clear to me.  Amen.

“God is good all of time. All of the time God is good”.