Holding her own

The Wonder Husky is holding her own against lymphoma. It is slowly sapping her energy, and her breathing is sometimes harsh. The lymph nodes in her neck are becoming larger and harder, but it is not time yet.

She is eating canned cat food and peanut butter on dog biscuits. She no longer eats her regular chow. She enjoys walking along the fence sniffing the grass late at night and relaxing in her dog pen either in her husky hole or on her porch. At bedtime, I hide a pill in a lump of peanut butter so she will rest comfortably. She is not in pain.

People are too quick sometimes to end a pet’s life when a terminal diagnosis is made. There is a special dignity to caring for a sick pet. It is an honor for me to feed her by hand with soft food on a tongue depressor and seeing her relish her meal. I always enjoy watching animals eat. There is a certain loving closeness as I give my best dog friend nutrition of any kind.

Tipper will tell us when it is time. I thought I would help her go while Earl was in the hospital but Tipper really has been OK. Not great, but OK. I didn’t want to have to go to the hospital with her collar to show Earl. I haven’t been able to spend as much time with her during Earl’s hospitalization, but she has always enjoyed being alone in her dog pen or in her crate. The cats supervise her when she’s inside. It’s amazing to me how the cats know what is going on, especially Matthew, her special feline buddy.

Whenever an animal family member has been sick, I have been ready to euthanize it before Earl has. I have always waited, with two exceptions, until he has agreed that it is time. The two exceptions were when he was working in Denver, and I had to make a decision after consulting him long distance. The first was my cat, Pruney, the cat of my life, born at the end of my senior year in high school, and was found outside in a coma under a bush shortly after vet school graduation in 1987. The second was our first dog, Keli, who was comatose on a hot July evening in 1997. My classmate and neighbor helped me run blood work, then euthanize Keli under her favorite tree, which is where Tipper will go when it’s her time.

Earl is coming home from a tough hospitalization today. Tipper will be here to greet him. He will process her situation, and we will agree, with Tipper’s input, when it is time to send her to my friend Jean, whom I know is watching and will come to take her to a place with no illness, the Rainbow Bridge.

Vote for Jimmy Chang!


Franklin is eagerly waiting for Earl to come home today so he can be bedridden while Earl sleeps. It’s funny that the cats have hardly slept with me while Earl has been hospitalized. Yesterday morning, I turned my sheets down a little, and there was Frank, snoozing all day against my pillow. I guess he doesn’t like the bed made up.

People you don’t know can make such a big difference in your lives. When I had my injury, I looked forward to Ophelia coming to clean my room every day. She was so nice and put up with my practicing Spanish with her. Being hospitalized can be pretty boring once you are on the mend.

The man cleaning Earl’s room is Jimmy Chang, originally from Taiwan. Yesterday, Earl wasn’t feeling so great. The day before had been the day post-op where it felt like a semi ran over him. Yesterday, Earl was to have an ultrasound-guided aspiration of some ascites and a liver biopsy. He was not a happy camper.

Jimmy came in to clean, and happily told us that there is a big banquet next week where employees of the year will be announced. He is so proud that he was nominated a second year in a row. He really wants to win this time. He is taking his wife; they are getting their best clothes ready, and are looking forward to a really good meal. Going to that banquet is a real honor for Jimmy.

Earl’s mood brightened as Jimmy laughed his way through his description of the upcoming event. The sun came out on Earl’s bad, scary day as he laughed with Jimmy. We totally got into it with Jimmy, “Vote for Jimmy Chang!” I even put it in ink on the door sign that said no food for Earl that morning. “Vote for Jimmy Chang!” Jimmy was so tickled, he thanked us over and over while bowing in his native tradition.

I went down to radiology to be with Earl while he had his procedures done. I came back up ahead of him to order lunch for us. On his worst day, Earl would eat all the Jello in the universe, but he is on solid food now, and was hungry. The radiology technician gave me two coupons, so I could order a guest tray. Usually, I get my food in the café, using my volunteer badge for a discount.

While waiting, I called the CEO’s office to talk to the secretary and tell her that we wanted to see Jimmy win the employee of the year in his division. I told Gloria how wonderful Jimmy was every day with his infectious smile, happy giggle while patting Earl on the knee and wishing him a well. After that, I saw Jimmy in the hall with his supervisor, and told him I had called the boss’ office. He laughed and bowed in his excitement. His supervisor laughed also.

This is one reason why I volunteer. There is an opportunity every day to help people who are having the worst day of their lives feel better. Sometimes it takes only a smile and a little kindness. Jimmy helped Earl feel better on a bad day. I hope the hospital recognizes him for that. The room is pretty clean, too.

Vote for Jimmy Chang!


39 years

Today marks the 39th anniversary of Earl’s kidney transplant. He was born with a defect that covered the outlet of the bladder, causing pressure on his kidneys, and spent his first four months in the hospital. He did pretty well throughout his childhood. In adolescence, the kidneys started to fail, and it became necessary to consider transplantation.

Fortunately, the best surgeon in the world was at the University of Colorado, Dr. Thomas Starzl. Transplantation was still fairly experimental in 1970, and Earl was fortunate to be a part of a study and have his transplant done with little charge.

That’s a lot to have on one’s mind when you are only eighteen and want to be a champion athlete. He never wanted to be known as the ‘kidney boy.’

Finding a donor was not the long wait some people have to endure. His mom was considered first, but they found an aneurism on her splenic artery. She ended up having a splenectomy.

Next, Uncle Jerry stepped up to be the donor. Although Jerry’s kidney was only a D match, it has done very well. Jerry is a special guy. You wouldn’t know it from meeting him, though. He’s a regular, easy-going man that plays in a band, loves his Dalmation, and holds the family together with his crazy demeanor. Three generations of Carlson decendents have Jerry as their special uncle, much as my Uncle Tom was my special buddy. Jerry also took care of his parents, and moved into the other side of my in-laws’ duplex with his mother, our Gram, so they could live next to my in-laws. After my father-in-law and Gram passed away within 12 days of each other in 2003, Bev and Jerry now have a wonderful relationship as brother and sister separated only by a closet. Neither is alone. What Jerry really did for a living before retirement can’t be discussed, or the government would have to kill me. I still don’t know all the details, but national security was involved.

Earl could have been on disability his entire life. Instead, he went to college and veterinary school. He opened a small animal clinic, and then worked for the State of Colorado as Animal Welfare Veterinarian for the Division of Racing Events. He rarely missed a day of work. The most work he ever missed was during my ortho soap opera. He stayed home with me for three whole weeks after my hip replacement.

He has done much research to benefit racing animals, and is a popular speaker at conferences. He’s really good at that. My heart always turned to stone whenever PETA would picket the racetracks and target him. He was hired to protect the animals. He worked with retired greyhound associations to help greyhounds get adopted. The beautiful plaque and statue given to him by the greyhound industry on the occasion of his retirement attests to his care of racing animals.

Monday, he has his colon surgery. We are hoping for the best. It could be benign, as was a friend’s grapefruit-sized colon tumor. Skin cancers that are not much of an issue for normal folks blow up in transplant patients. After months of our wonderful dermatologist hacking away at Earls face, his skin cancers are under control, and he will start prophylactic radiation therapy on these after he recovers from surgery. He underwent needle-guided ultrasound biopsies of some lymph nodes that lit up on the PET scan. That was not very fun. After it was over, we went to lunch at the famous Silver Grill, and feasted on cinnamon roll French toast. After we went home, Earl popped a Vicodin® and went to sleep.

My quiet, mellow gentleman is really a tough guy. He is training for the surgery by going to the health club every day. My mom never lived to have a son-in-law, but she adored Earl. She did tell me one time, “You don’t deserve him! He’ll never look at another woman!” Thanks, Mom. I miss you after 30 years, special lady. Yo, Carol!

Franklin is already lined up to take care of Earl. I believe he posted about being a Feline CNA. He does not leave the bed when Earl is resting. We tease that Frank is bedridden. He did make one boo-boo yesterday. Earl was talking on the phone to the admissions nurse. Frank jumped on the bed landing directly on Earl’s abdomen. Not good. Earl and I laughed like idiots about where Frank would land on Earl after surgery. 16 pounds of cat landing on a new incision. Oy.

We are having a blizzard again today. I slept in a little. Cowboy Joe came to visit, purring loudly. Frank was positioned on my pillow, and we were head to head smooching. Earl had returned to bed after feeding Scoot and Hannah, and letting Tipper out into her Husky wonderland. Earl petted Joe and said, “There is nothing better than a cat purring on the bed.” I think Earl is well covered for companionship during his recovery.

Life is so strange. I closed out Jean’s estate yesterday, sending a certified check for the dregs of the Estate account to Morris Animal Foundation. I was going to walk around the mall for a while to think, but I went home and burst into tears. My duties for my best bud are finished. It was more emotional than I thought.

I also have a decision to make. University of Wyoming MSW program, or Texas Tech University School of Law. Paid up in both places, but need to know where Earl will be after surgery. I retired at 53, and that was too young. School teaching was making me ill, my room was toxic, but I was too young to stop using my overactive brain.

So, I will employ a phrase I read long ago. Let time pass. Send some good thoughts our way, please.

Kicking cancer in the teeth-rock on, Carly!

Earl and I were in a restaurant at the end of February where we saw two former teaching buddies, Scott and Mary. They are expecting their first child in September. We chatted for a while, sharing pleasantries and laughs. As we were leaving, Scott said, “Not to put a damper on your evening, but we just found out that Carly has Hodgkin’s.” Carly is his daughter, a young lady whom I have known since she was two years old. We share a love of horses. She was the first kid I let ride Scooter when he was new to our crew. Carly was seven at the time.

Cancer at 16. What a blow for a girl in the prime of adolescence. 16 year-olds should be getting their licenses, going out on dates, driving their parents nuts, getting into trouble and focusing on the fun of high school while thinking ahead to college. One might feel sorry for her, but that’s the last thing Carly wants.

Carly is a brave young woman whose first post on her online journal was, “The cancer picked the wrong woman to mess with!” and “We’ll smash this small speedbump in my life to smithereens. Adios cancer.”

Carly’s website is provided by Caring Bridge, an organization that provides “free, personalized websites that support and connect loved ones during critical illnesses, treatment and recovery.” Carly and her family immediately jumped on this opportunity to record her journey for people to follow. It also helps to connect with Carly in a way that does not intrude on her life at a time of delicate health issues such as low blood counts during chemotherapy. Since the beginning of March to date, Carly has had over 1200 hits on her website. A few more and I think she gets a set of steak knives.

Since her hair has just started to fall out in dribs and drabs, she is going to shave it today. She posted previously about going to a meeting where she asked an older woman about hair falling out, and what to do about it. She was told to laugh.

When I fractured my hip, I had the nurse write on the whiteboard in my room, “Use humor, it helps.” Instead of focusing on how banged up I was at the time, I preferred to find something to laugh about, like having a deaf nurse on the day I lost my voice due to the tube that had been in my throat during surgery. “Speak up, Mary!” No, I don’t think I will.

Carly’s dad was one of the people who helped me out a lot during that time by visiting me, and helping Earl make accommodations at home for when I was released. Now it’s time for their family to get a lot of support.

It’s OK to laugh at cancer. A friend who was fighting cancer at the same time I was an orthopedic train wreck told me that she had a hard time going upstairs, even with her husband helping. I mentioned I had the same problem. We agreed that cancer and fractured hips must be the same disease. Then we laughed our heads off. My friend, Jean, about whom I have written many times, and I shared many a laugh during her treatments. She was visited by one idiot hospitalist that really ticked me off. As her medical power of attorney, she knew I hauled him out into the hall and reamed him a  new one. Jean forever referred to him as “Dr. Bite Me.”

I found a great website, cafepress.com, that has t-shirts, caps and other funny and poignant items for just about any condition or occasion. I bought one for myself that reads, “I’m totally hip.” The P in the word hip is in the shape of my implant. I wear it annually at the Orthopaedic Center of the Rockies “Joint Walk.” When my little cousin started medical school, I got her a shirt that read, “Veterinarians treat more than one species.” Jamie and her classmates had a good laugh about that one.  Jean got a shirt that said “Chemo-sabe.” I sent that one to Carly.

Carly will be OK. She will get through her “speedbump.” Visit Carly’s website and see true courage in real time.

Rock on, Carly!

The benefit of the doubt

This day is a day of thanksgiving for us. One year ago, Scooter underwent surgery to remove a huge abscess from his abdomen. Thousands of dollars later, and having had Scooter away from us for over two months following his surgery, the young man is doing just fine, thank you, and had a wonderful summer of mountain riding.

On Feb. 11 of last year, Earl found Scoot lying sternal (on his chest) in an unusual place-by the water trough. We got him up, and Earl noticed that Scoot gave one small kick of his hind leg. This means abdominal pain. We gave him a physical and called the clinician on call. We held off on taking him in to the hospital.

In the morning, I drew blood from Scoot, and delivered it to the CSU lab. In the meantime, we made an appointment to take him in. We didn’t want to wait. As it turned out, being worried horse owners saved his life. A rectal examination revealed a mass the size of a watermelon near the root of the mesentery, the place where the small intestines fan out and are connected by mesentery, a Saran Wrap-like membrane filled with blood vessels and lymph nodes.

The rule outs from an intrarectal ultrasound were an abscess, most likely from the strangles bacterium, Streptococcus equi, or a mass, probably cancer. A cancer that large was not something I was willing to treat, it would have been too advanced. The clinicians at the hospital, Dr. Lutz Goehring, Dr. Gabriele Landolt, and surgeon Dr. Diana Hassel all thought it looked like an abscess. Knowing the cost involved, but the prognosis if it were to be an abscess, we were willing to give Scoot the benefit of the doubt. Surgery was on for 8 the next morning. I insisted on watching, as if it turned out to be a malignancy, Scooter was not to be recovered, and I would perform the euthanasia on my sleeping boy.

The surgery went well. The experts were correct. It was an abscess. I remember Dr. Goehring running samples to the lab so we could find out that it indeed was bastard strangles. Dr. Hassel performed the surgery aided by first-year resident Dr. Annette McCoy. They got over a liter of pus from the abscess which they believe was an infected lymph node right at the root of the mesentery. They never opened the abscess, that would have killed him. They carefully tied a suture into the abscess wall, inserted a trocar into the abscess, tighened the suture and suctioned off the pus. Then they closed the purse-string suture, so nothing was spilled. They flushed his abdomen, gave massive antibiotics, then took him to the recovery stall. I took pictures of the surgery. Dr. Hassel was elbow-deep in my paint’s belly.

I observed Scoot by TV monitor until he had awakened and could stand. My former workmate at the VTH, Lucien Brevard, a calm surgery and anesthesia tech who had once shod our mares long ago, watched the monitor carefully. It was comforting being with Lu as I saw Scoot come to his senses and try to stand. 

When Scoot recovered from anesthesia, he went directly to the isolation barn, as strangles is highly contagious. His progress was monitored by TV with the staff and student assigned to him the only ones allowed into his stall.

How did he get this serious disease? I really have no idea. Hannah’s pneumonia the previous month may have been strangles pneumonia, but when S. equi is cultured, other bacteria quickly overgrow it. Her bacteriology report said, “mixed flora.” It is strange that both horses were so ill within a short interval of each other. Neither horse had been off our place in over three months. Our neighbor, the only other horse owner for miles, had no diseased horses. It’s a mystery that will never be solved.

We were so fortunate to have a wonderful senior student, Shawn Dixon, take care of Scoot. Only once did we ‘suit up’ to visit him in isolation. It was quite the process of biohazard protection. It took so much of her time, that we decided to visit from outside his window. Today, Dr. Shawn Dixon is an intern at Colorado Equine. After Scoot had three negative cultures for strangles, and a negative endoscopic examination of his gutteral pouches, he was moved back into the regular barn. We had open access to him, as long as we suited up for the barn, a much less difficult procedure than for isolation. We walked him, hung out with him and generally loved on him. He was such a wonderfully behaved patient. 

When time for release came, he had to have stall rest and hand walking. This means a closed stall, and graduated exercise by hand. This was not possible in our set up. Scoot went up to the care of Barbara Struthers, a quarter horse breeder and mother of one of the night technicians, Kit Struthers, who had taken care of both Scoot and Hannah. Barb spoiled him rotten. Scoot couldn’t get enough food, as he had lost over 50 pounds. Barb introduced him to horse cookies. She hand walked him in increments, eventually going out for hour and a half jaunts. She told me that he was only the second horse she had ever boarded that she trusted to be in the stall when she cleaned it daily. Scoot also became friends with her pot-bellied pig, Brad Pigg. Brad is hysterical to watch, but he did try to bite me when I wanted to touch his tusk. This reminded me that no matter how small, pigs can be truly vicious. Scoot, always keen for a pretty girl, fell in love with the cute little filly across the aisle. Poor guy, he was gelded when he was two, but still loses his heart to the mares. I call him “Studly Can’t Do Nuthin’.” Hannah is his true love, though.

After he was in better shape, Barb or Kit would train him in their round pen. Kit can work on any horse. His quiet, calm demeanor allows the horse to feel calm. We got our horse back in good shape to try riding in late May, and groomed like a show horse. The warmer barn allowed him to shed his winter coat faster than if he had been outside at home.

A  mid-April snowstorm delayed Scooter’s homecoming for a few days. We hugged and kissed Barb and thanked her for helping to save Scooter. Hannah awaited in the trailer so Scoot would load without trouble. He settled back into his corral after his long stay at the equine version of the Hyatt Regency. We thought he felt he was now slumming it.

Economics is a very real consideration in the world of veterinary medicine, more now in this depression than ever. I came very close to euthanizing my boy not because of cost, but because he may have had a non-survivable cancer. All Scoot has to show of his ordeal is a marble-sized incisional hernia. I check it every time I pet him. It causes no problem, and would be easy to fix if it did.

Had we done nothing, we probably would have awakened to find a dead horse in our corral. Earl’s keen eye on that subtle kick lead to Scooter’s cure.

Every morning when I feed the horses, every time I ride Scootsritealong,  give him a horse cookie, (yes, I gave in) or laugh at how goofy he is, I thank the Almighty that we gave our boy the benefit of the doubt.

The tragedy of killing horses

More on the Equus article about NorCal Equine Rescue. The article regarding the first Free Euthanasia Clinic goes on to say that it was to save horses from slaughter. This organization did this because people could not afford to have their unwanted horses put down, even the ones that were “overdue” for humane death. Typically, the article on p. 63 said, was that it costs $300 or more to euthanize a horse, including a veterinary call and the renderer’s pickup fee.

Tawnee Preisner, NCER vice president said, “Horses even get left unsold at auction yards. No one wants to buy them; the price of hay is going up.” California state laws prohibiting the sale or transport of horses to slaugshter are not being enforced.

I commend the work of NCER, but I reflect on the issue of horse slaughter. There are many websites to visit to learn the pro and con sides of the issue. There are many videos and pictures that show how a horse is slaughtered for food. It really isn’t that much different that how cattle are slaughtered. Yes as I watched, I imagined Scooter or Hannah being in the line, but then I thought that if, for any reason, I could not keep a disabled horse, one that NorCal could not adopt out, instead of wasting a carcass poisoned with euthanasia solution, why shouldn’t it be humanely slaughtered and be used to feed people and animals? The horse owner would be paid for the animal, and not keep it alive because the owner couldn’t afford euthanasia.

A problem is that many slaughter transporters and facilities broke the rules of humane treatment, which lead to a ban on horse slaughter. I assure you, it still goes on.

No life should be wasted. In a situation where a sick or unwanted horse will die, which is the more useful option: Euthanasia, which costs money and ruins the carcass for anything except inedible meat products (rendering), or slaughter for food where the owners realize a little money?

Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University, has a paper on horse transport and slaughter. Read it here. She is renowned for her work on designing facilities for lessening stress of food supply animals going to slaughter. There is much work yet to be done for horses if they are to be slaughtered for food. I have read her books and heard her speak. She is one of the true geniuses of the animal science world.

This is a difficult post for me. Please research this online yourself. See the pictures and videos. Read the positions of organizations such as the Humane Society for the United States and the American Veterinary Medical Association, both of which I am a member. Decide for yourself. If you are a horse owner, see if there are other ways to hold onto money so you can afford care for your beloved equine friends.

Happy new year!

Earl and I and our animal family wish you health, happiness and peace in 2009.

Tipper the Wonder Husky wants people to keep their dogs on a leash so she won’t be hurt by vicious dogs at-large, and Mary won’t be knocked down and reinjure her hip. Her wish for you is that you will enjoy the company of a dog. Dogs enrich our lives in so many ways. If you can’t have a dog, but would like the company of one, perhaps you could walk the dog of an elderly neighbor, or start a dog walking business. In this economy, people need to be creative about work.

January first is the date all the horses in the world have a birthday. Scooter is grateful to turn 13 (real birthday May 11) after a very serious illness last February. A surprise case of metastatic or “bastard” strangles caused a large abscess in an abdominal lymph node requiring surgery to save his life. He had to rehabilitate up in the mountains at a stable where he could be confined and hand walked. He couldn’t recover at home, because the horses have a barn that is open to the corral. We didn’t want to see Scoot run around and have his innards trailing in the dirt. After his February 13 operation, Scoot returned home April 22. Scooter’s wish for you is to enjoy the wonders of nature. After his recovery, he discovered that he is a fantastic mountain trail horse. He has always been ridden in the mountains, but climbing up steep mountain trails was new to him. We are grateful to Barbara and Kit Struthers for supervising Scooter’s rehabilitation.

Hannah is nine today (real birthday Feb. 23). The Baby’s wish for you is to take time to relax with your pets. Make time for the simple pleasures in life that come with an animal companion. Hannah is grateful that she survived a severe case of bacterial pneumonia one year ago. She spent over a week at the teaching hospital. As soon as she recovered, Scooter got sick. 2008 was a tough year for the Carlson horses. We got the Baby in 2002. I enjoyed the summer she was two riding her alone at Lory State Park. Hannah has developed into a fine saddle horse. She never did finish her year of jumping in 2004 due to my date with gravity on June 24 of that year.

Matthew the Top Cat hopes you appreciate the unique personalities of animals, and know that every cat is different and special. He’s a tough guy, but the caretaker of the family.

Cowboy Joe requests that everyone has a warm blanket to snuggle. He is a fanatic about blankets. Many times, I have fallen asleep to wake up with Cowboy on my lap. One time, while half asleep, I felt chest pressure. I thought it was a coronary. When I opened my eyes, there was Matthew on my chest just above where my arms were folded. He was my ‘heart attack’.

Lastly, Frank would like you to adopt a cat from a shelter. You will be surprised how much you can love someone you just met.

Take each day as it comes, love the life you have been given, change it if you don’t, and remember to bring some joy to someone else. Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy new year. If you had troubles or sorrow in 2008, may they be resolved for 2009. I wish you peace. 

I wish all our animal friends a loving home, safety in the wild, a steady food supply and, especially, people who care for them.

A year passes.

Trauma comes in any form.

Today marks one year since my best friend passed away from cancer. It has been a busy year of learning new things as her personal representative to provide for her family as she wished, but I miss my friend. I miss my personal advisor, life coach and road trip adventure buddy.

The phone call from Jean in July 2007 saying she had masses in her liver lead us to postulate what it could be. She had lived many years in Arizona, so we thought it could perhaps be Valley Fever lesions. But let’s get real. Jean was a cancer researcher before veterinary school, and both of us saw enough cancer in practice to stop fooling ourselves. We knew perfectly well that diagnosing cancer from liver metastases is grim.

When the biopsies came back as malignant, the doctors had to go looking for the primary tumor. They found it in Jean’s esophagus and stomach. Another bad blow.

Jean told me she had a 60% chance of making it, but again, we knew better. There is nothing like hope for getting through a tough time. Jean had hope. She endured chemotherapy, special diets, alternative modalities, and kept a positive outlook. I wasn’t about to dash her hopes.

For a while, she did pretty well. Then, in December of last year, Jean called me to say she was in the hospital to have fluid (ascites) removed from her abdomen. In a private conversation with her doctor in my role as medical power of attorney, after reviewing her lab work with me, this kind man told me he doubted Jean would live a month. Thus began my longest journey with my friend. I would go back and forth to Denver to be with her and her family, including her 88 year-old father, a true man of Catholic faith who knew Jean would go to a wonderful place after she passed.

The hospital released her for home hospice care on December 21. There is a psychic connection I sometimes get that is very strange. On that day, I was so upset that I was literally screaming and crying. All day. It was very bizarre behavior for me. I’m glad I was alone and at home. I understood why it happened the next day. Jean’s brother, Mike, recently returned from a year of civilian work in Iraq, called to tell me that Jean was being returned to the hospital. She had a rough night in terrible pain, and they were calling an ambulance.

I rushed down to Denver, and met them in the ER. Jean was given a room, then taken down for an ultrasound-guided removal of fluid. I looked at the screen. There was no fluid. Jean’s abdomen was full of cancer. I spent the night of the 22nd at her home, and went back to the hospital the next day. Jean decided to distribute her jewelry to friends and relatives. Her brother went to her house to get it. The hour was pretty late, but Mike said that if Jean was up to it, we needed to get it done if that was what she wanted. Mike went home and found the jewelry. His son, Ryan, packaged it, and I recorded every piece for the Estate. Years ago, I had admired an antique blue topaz ring of hers. She promised it to me. This piece was the first one she distributed, right onto my finger. I never thought in a million years that I would have that ring so soon under such circumstances.  Jean signed the record, and leaned back in exhaustion. Although it was one a.m, I had to go home through the snow to get to a medical appointment later that morning. I returned to Jean early in the afternoon.

I spent the next three days with Jean, going to her home to sleep on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. On the 26th, I had to go home. I had an appointment I couldn’t miss on the 27th, and Earl had one at 7 o’clock Friday morning. Jean’s doctor discharged her to a hospice facility. I spent that last afternoon with my friend getting her transferred to hospice. I disagreed with the doctor, as it was clear she had little time. The social worker the facility sent with papers for me to sign, as medical power of attorney, was ill equipped to answer questions. Jean’s sister-in-law found the answers.

I reluctantly said good-bye to Jean. I knew I would never see her again in this life. It was a personal and powerful good-bye. I asked her to ride our mare, Marcie, who had lived until age 30, meet my mother, and say hello to my sister who had been killed by a drunk driver.  Jean promised she would. 

I phoned Jean three times on Thursday. Every call found her fading further away, yet her voice still reflected hope and faith.

Early the next morning, as Earl and I were leaving for his medical appointment, Mike to say that my dearest friend had slipped away a few minutes earlier.

Peace comes in any form.

Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) was one organization Jean wanted donations sent specifically to be targeted toward health studies using alternative treatments. MAF had never done this before. Because of the donations from her family, friends and colleagues; and with other sponsors, the first alternative medicine health study ever funded by MAF is now beginning. Click on here to see the ground-breaking study to be researched in Jean’s memory.