Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Warning to Widows and Other Single Women

I published a blog called “Just One Text” a couple of months ago. This is a continuation of that topic. Apparently, there must be a book out there like, “Scamming Widows for Dummies” because I am getting quicker at spotting them. This time, the culprit was on Match but the similarities were unbelievable. There must be some sort of research that supports what kind of things women who have been through loss will fall for. So beware if you “talk” to a man who has this type of story.

Born in another country. (I’m not sure what the point of this is, except that initially you might tend to excuse any oddities that might pop up due to cultural differences.)

Raised without a dad, either because they died or left their family. (I’m not sure of this either, except that perhaps those of us who are compassionate immediately think, “Oh, how sad for him to grow up without a father.” Fosters the empathy you feel toward him.)

Has a spouse that died of cancer two to three years ago. This is the obvious connection they have to another widow. When you meet someone who has lost a spouse, you recognize them as a member of the club that no one wants to belong to. There is an instant bond with them, whether they are the same or the opposite sex.

You are the first person they have “talked” to since their spouse died. They are usually just trying to get back in the game and they were lucky enough to find you. It makes you feel special, and perhaps it is Kismet or Fate that has brought you together.

They are financially well off. That way, when they ask you for money eventually, you know it’s just some weird circumstantial thing and they are certainly capable of paying you back.

They have one big job left until retirement. (I’m not sure about this, but perhaps it is so when they reveal they are not in your locale, you will be patient because you know they are coming home “for good.”)

Then the kicker. They are off somewhere for the big job so they can’t meet with you in person. They probably can’t even talk with you either. The first scammer was in Turkey. This Match guy was in Cairo.

Seriously? I could’ve died when I started watching the story unfold. I turned him into Match and within two days, he was back on. A slightly different user name was created, but the pictures and profile information were exactly the same. The only difference was this time he claimed to be divorced rather than widowed. I turned him in again.

What’s a widow to do? Lie on her profile so she isn’t targeted? Then any decent guy you meet will not be interested in you because so many women lie on their profiles. You can’t lie, so you just remain a target. Lovely.

For all you ladies that are single but don’t have the advantage of being a widow, don’t worry. Never fear. There are plenty of dating gems out there for you to discover.

Scenario one: The guy who works out-of-town a lot. I had one I saw on average 40-60 minutes every other month or so. In a six month period, I talked on the phone to him three times total, averaging about 15 minutes a conversation. Texts were infrequent, most days were one text or none. He eventually told me, “You want more than I do” which wasn’t going to work. Shame on me. I really am needy with outrageous expectations, aren’t I?

Scenario two: A couple of seemingly great high-end dates that ends with the text, “You’re a wonderful woman but…”.  Dumping you prematurely isn’t enough though. Then they add, “I want to man up though and have coffee in person so we can talk.” This initially makes you think he really does get kudos because most guys now-a-days don’t even tell you they are dropping you, so saying goodbye in person is a pretty classy move. Until, of course, they don’t follow through and decide to ghost you instead. (For those of you that are unfamiliar with that term, ghosting someone is when you completely disappear. You could email, talk, or text a person for any amount of time ranging from once to several months, and suddenly the person completely stops responding with no warning or explanation. This is when the only good excuse for such poor behavior is that you died or are in a coma.) I just scratch my head. Dropping you isn’t enough of a thrill. They go to all the trouble of saying they want to meet and talk and then just rub salt in the wound. So much for class.

My head is too tired to add any more scenarios just now. I am counting down the hours until I get to see my grand kids for Christmas. They are much more worthy or my love, attention and excitement.


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Genetics Update

Yesterday I posted on Facebook that I was sitting at Roswell and was unnerved and anxious. I was overwhelmed with the responses of support and curiosity that I got. Thanks to all of you! Let me back up and explain.

This whole world of genetics is new to me and it carries a whole lingo and mindset that needs to be learned. To understand how I even got involved with it, check out my blog from September 22 of this year called “Genetic Markers.” Initially there was a whirlwind of research to do and then there was a waiting period until this appointment came yesterday.

Whenever I go to Roswell, there is a slight PTSD type of reaction. It’s not that we had an awful experience there, it’s just having cancer is awful. The place triggers it all- just the sight of it, the smells, the atmosphere. It all comes back. Not rushing back, but it comes back nevertheless. I was waiting to register when a lovely woman brought a tea cart over. It is one of those little things they do there that makes a big difference. I find tea comforting.

I actually had to register Frankie as a patient because he is the one who is eligible for genetic testing. When you are a patient at Roswell, they make you a green, plastic card with your name and a patient number. You have to use it every time you go for an appointment or test. That became a major trigger for me. No amount of rationality helped me. By the time I was in the waiting room at the clinic, I was worried I might have a panic attack. That was when I posted on Facebook. Telling someone, even if it just posting in cyberspace, somehow seems to help me. Then all those amazing responses got me through.

Once I got in, it was actually quite great. Mary was warm and engaging. She was clearly prepared. She had all of the information I had sent in and had organized it and done her homework. She knew everyone’s names and has a brilliant, scientific mind. I told her at the end that I could follow her when I concentrated fully, but I don’t totally wrap around the concepts overall. My brain just doesn’t work that way. My strengths are in an entirely different area of the brain.

Anyhow, this is a lot of information but so many people expressed interest in it for their own families, I will tell you everything. Your situation won’t be the same of course, but I think you can get the basic ideas through my information. It is all quite fascinating (even though it makes my brain hurt!).

First step is to gather all information possible on both sides of the family. The paperwork was done around Frankie, but Mary wanted to redo it with Tim as the center. I don’t have very much information on Tim’s side of the family but I did what I could. Death certificates are very helpful because they usually have the cause of death. You can get copies if needed, but they do cost money. Just like in the mental health field, what you look for is patterns. Also, you look for other contributing factors. Was this person in the family a smoker? Did they have other related diseases (in Tim’s family it was diabetes)? One of the most curious ones was is there any Jewish ancestry anywhere?

I remembered while I was there that at one point I did a genogram (family tree) of Tim’s family to try to figure out who everyone was. I found it later and took photos of it to send to Mary. That required me going through the two memory boxes I have stored in my closet. I haven’t pulled them out in a while. I had forgotten some of the things I had put in there.

The majority of people who have cancer, have a “random” form of cancer and don’t need a genetic evaluation. One of the ways they determine that, is to look for a cluster of diseases and other such factors. There are some things Tim does not fit the criteria for, but he does hit three major points; 1- he was under the age of 50 when diagnosed 2- his form of cancer was rare 3- he had a family history of it (his dad’s cancer was also at a rare age). Those three things make it appropriate to ask the question, “Is there a possible genetic contribution”?

Now, of the people who fit the criteria to even ask the genetic question, only 20% of those get an answer to what they are looking for. Sigh.

With current technology/research, there are 50 genes that are known to have a cancer connection. Everyone has these genes. What they are looking for is an alteration of the gene of some sort. Because gallbladder cancer is so rare, there are no known genes that are directly linked at this time. There are however, two possibilities that could be correlated.

The more likely of the two is Lynch Syndrome (HNPCC). It should be “considered”, but gallbladder is less likely to be correlated than other types of cancer. For example, colon cancer has a 50-80% chance; uterine 60%, etc.; so the chances are much less likely but it should still be considered. Having said that, this type is adult onset, meaning there is no testing until age 18, and no screening until age 25 so Frankie is at no immediate risk. However, the older three kids are exactly at the ages where it could be relevant. There are five genes associated with this, and they are found by a blood test. If it is a no with the test for the five genes, that doesn’t necessarily mean the family doesn’t have Lynch Syndrome. It just means we are at the end of the limits of our current technology/research at this time. If Tim does have it, each child would a 50% chance of having it. It would also mean at least one of Tim’s parents had it. That would mean this information would be relevant to all of Tim’s sibling and their children as well. I’m sure I lost a lot of readers by now. It makes your brain tired, doesn’t it?

Even less likely, is the second possibility, the link to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that have been studied. For women this usually plays out with breast and ovarian cancer; for men in breast and prostate cancer; or generally in melanoma or pancreatic cancer. This is hard to detect because Tim’s siblings were all male so no chance of the female occurrence. The same information is true for this as far as if he tests positive, each child has a 50% chance, etc… (Who wants to read all that again?)

One thing to remember in general with genetic testing, is that the risk is NEVER 100%.

One of the vast improvements in recent years, is that historically a separate test would be required for each of the genes in question. This was costly and time prohibitive. Now they do what is called panel testing, and there can be many tested all at the same time. This is cost and time efficient.

While technology/research is constantly advancing, that means what is tested today could be very different from what they would be able to test for in the next five years. For example, just two years ago there were only 40 genes, and now there are 50. Roswell cannot legally contact patients to let them know of new research. So they will encourage myself and any other patients to call in yearly to check on any new advances in a relevant field.

For Tim specifically, we have the option of testing his tumor. The hospital keeps samples seven years, and we are at six and a half. However, the current tumor technology is specifically geared toward treatment planning for those patients who are still alive. To test his tumor would cost about $4,000 and would not yield information that would be useful for our purposes.

The really great news, is that Tim signed up when he was a patient to allow his blood to be used for research at Roswell. I don’t remember that detail, but I am pleasantly surprised because he was not an organ donor. That concept kind of creeped him out. Mary contacted their research lab and found out that Tim’s blood has not been used for any research yet and I have the legal right to get it back!

The lawyer is looking into what legal document is necessary to prove my right to it, but I need something that shows I was married to him at the time of his death. While that sounds simple, so far that has proven to be more difficult than it should be. There are marriage certificates and divorce decrees, but no one has thought of a document to say, “Hey, this couple never got divorced.” Go figure. Anyhow, once that is all taken care of, Tim’s blood will be sent to Prevention Genetics in Wisconsin, which is a DNA bank. They will keep it until we know exactly what we want to test for. The cost is $149, a one-time fee.

Any testing though, will be an out-of-pocket expense. It’s one of those insurance rules that lacks common sense. It would be cheaper to do genetic testing and prevent cancer than pay for treatment for cancer if the person gets it. But, nope. (Just wondering why they cover birth control because it’s cheaper than paying for pregnancy. Same logic, isn’t it?) Mary is looking into how much blood is available and if there is enough for more than one round of testing. Once I know that, I will have to make a decision: test now, or wait several years until Frankie is older. The advantage of waiting is that by the time he is old enough, technology/research will most likely have advanced significantly. However, testing now would help the older kids. The question is, do the older kids plan to follow-up on the information now or not? Many people do NOT want to know the results of such testing. This is a conversation I will have to have with my older kids.

By the way, the current cost of panel testing is $1000 smackers. When the time comes, maybe I will try to set up one of those “gofundme” accounts. I have seen them for much less noble causes, so why not try? If not, I will certainly pay for it myself. Possibly saving one of my children’s lives would be worth much more than that. By the way, I will be asking Mary to read this to see if I slaughtered the information or did it justice. If I screwed anything up too bad, I will write corrections on next week’s blog.

Last night I had a tough time. I thought I was all good but after spending the evening alone, I laid in bed and felt all the tears well up. Looking through those memory boxes (ever so briefly!), thinking about cancer, talking about Tim so much, and worst of all imagining my children having to possibly deal with their own diagnosis someday caught up to me. Haven’t had a tough night like that in a while. But I got through and today is a new day. I hope this is helpful to some of you. I hope some of you found it interesting. And for those of you who were bored to tears, thanks for reading anyway :)!


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Girl Crush

I love karaoke. But almost every time you go to karaoke, someone sings the song, “Girl Crush.” Even though it might be well-performed, it is still like, “Again?” But that is not what this blog is about.

I love my girlfriends. My sisters, my adopted sisters, etc.. Girls rock and they are dependable. I recently had the opportunity to participate with the Buffalo Gateway Chorus, and man, what a powerhouse of women. (Isn’t it funny to say man in that sentence?)

There are normally 90 women in that sucker. At Christmas time the number is down to 75 because of all the snowbirds. If I didn’t have to make a weekly commitment, I would so join them in a heartbeat. It is all upbeat energy and positive stuff. (Now, women are women. I’m realistic. Is there some bitchiness here and there? Well, of course!) What they do at Christmastime is allow guests to come in. You only have to go to two rehearsals, and then you can join their holiday show. What a total blast.

One of the rehearsals, a guest came in to thank the group for their generosity. They had caught wind of a female teacher in a more poverty-stricken area. She had a terrible problem with attendance because the girls often didn’t have shampoo or deodorant. The embarrassment only triples when they have their period and don’t have feminine products. So in walks one of the members with several enormous bags of supplies. Girls helping girls. Love that stuff.

I saw them perform in September and my jaw remained on the floor the entire show. They are all a capella music, and compete internationally. I could see why they always place well. They are incredibly talented, with women of all ages in the group. The director totally stood out to me. (I told my friend who is a member that she needs to party poolside with us next summer so the invitation has already been extended!) I have since found out she is 64 years old, is quite attractive and charismatic. I didn’t take my eyes off of her very often. And every once in a while she turns around during the song and sings to the audience as well. She just blends in with the group. Just not an ego in sight.

After working with the group, I realized she is definitely a powerhouse. I wouldn’t want to piss her off because I’m sure she could take me out if necessary. Her directing talent was astounding. I’ve been a musician since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. She was teaching us things I had never heard before and I was amazed by it. And a super great sense of humor too.

As the 12 hour day went on for the performance day, I came to a realization that came out in my out-loud voice. Oh my God! I have a girl crush! It was the only way I could explain it. I find her to have a terribly attractive personality and I just wanted to be around her. There were a couple of times we exchanged conversation and I was so excited that she acknowledged me. Later, she popped up on Facebook and I got brave and friend requested her. To my delight, she accepted. As a musician, she also gave me a compliment that I was deeply grateful for. She said she could tell that I “get it”- meaning the concept of the importance of excellence and the pride that comes with it.

I was telling my friends Nina and Mike about the weekend at separate times and they both laughed at me. They said I sounded like a school girl and I was like, “I know, right?” Anyhow, my humble thanks to Diane and the Buffalo Gateway Chorus for a very special experience.

I am ending this was a photo of several of us. One of the requirements was to wear bright red lipstick. We called it the stripper lips. So we gave our best stripper pucker for this photo. Merry Christmas to everyone!
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Trouble in Tennessee

Last week we went to Tennessee for Thanksgiving. While we were driving, my niece Sara saw on-line that a bus of children were in an accident in Chattanooga. As the details unfolded, it appeared like it might have been on purpose. Now it is hard to tell. At the least, the driver had been complained about and six children are dead. Horrid.

At the end of the week, I drove to Chattanooga to meet my dear, dear friends that I wrote about last week. Melinda is a friend of my daughter Emily in Georgia. She was an amazing help when Emily had her time in the hospital. She has a fascinating life and history of travel and culture, but to me she seems like everything good that you think of when you picture a Southern mom. She is beautiful and charming, and she has raised five children. I haven’t met her son, but I’ve met her four daughters. Three of them came with her to meet me last week. Laura is 19, Mia is 17, and Lily is 14.

They say boys don’t mature as fast as girls do, but I can’t even believe that Lily is the same age as my Frankie. She is gorgeous like her mom and sisters. The other thing they all have in common is they are polite as hell. I love the “yes ma’am” thing they have going. When I was waiting at the table for them to arrive, Lily and Laura raced to see who would get to me first in the booth. They both hugged me hard and long and I just wanted to cry. I mean, I just adore these women. I can’t tell you how honored I am that they seem to adore me back.

The truth is, I was pretty sick that day. I kept trying to talk myself out of it because I was so damn excited to see them. Of course Melinda could not be fooled and she called me out during lunch. I had to admit I was fading. We decided she would drive my car to a drugstore, then to their hotel down the road. The girls would stay at the mall and shop, which is what we were supposed to be doing the whole day.

Melinda took excellent care of me and she acted like she didn’t mind one bit that her time with her girls and myself was turning into laying on beds chatting instead. We were surprised though when the girls got to the hotel shortly after we did. They told us an announcement came over the mall and they were locking down the stores. They were able to get out. It was a bit unnerving when the truck didn’t start right away but they got to the hotel safely. We had to wait for the story to break on-line and then on the news later. There was a lot of confusion, but the story we got was there was a shooting at the mall! We were in shock and scared out of our pants.

It turned out the incident was actually in the parking lot and thankfully only person was taken to a hospital. It was most likely a personal issue and not a mass anything. Not that it was a good day for that person, but until you get the correct information, it very well could have been another massive tragedy. The odd thing, is that before anything happened, Melinda and I were talking about Laura and what an amazing woman she is. She is a rock in a crisis. I told her that Laura is more mature and responsible than many women I know who are much, much older than she is. She is an old, wise soul. She just proved us right. Bad week for Chattanooga though. Holy cow.

And now there are those raging fires. I don’t mean this in a condescending way in any shape or form, but poor, poor Tennessee. That is a lot of hits in a couple of weeks. Let’s all keep the people there in our thoughts and prayers.

To Laura and her delightful girls: I owe you a REALLY fun time, hopefully very soon!