4/22/22

Grief Break : Earth Day

House Finch

I gave my broken heart a little rest and took a break from writing about my soul mate's death and hereditary cancer prevention on CURE and The Mighty to do a quick sketch of a House Finch building a nest in the acacia tree in my backyard.

And a reminder to everyone this Earth Day to take the time to look around for the small wonders of nature -- even if it's in your own backyard.

Know nature. Learn to be still.

4/9/22

Expressions of Grief: Another Heartache Today

Today marks the 37th anniversary of the day I officially began my full-time freelance career. But I’m not celebrating today. 

Last June my wife, Donna, died after a nearly 4-year battle against hereditary cancer. Donna wasn’t just my wife and mother of our child; she was also my muse and co-creator on several projects over our 40-years together. It is an unbearably heartbreaking loss, especially because her death from cancer was nearly 100% preventable.

 
Being Donna's caregiver hastened my retirement from freelancing. Cancer caregiving is awful beyond words as you watch cancer rob your loved one of their life. And it's something no spouse should ever have to go through. So now I’ve turned my attention to cancer prevention advocacy* and volunteer work. I'm doing it because speaking up might prevent others from suffering horribly and dying from cancer. And because of the pain I will always feel from the loss of my beloved wife and the countless hopes and dreams that were lost personally and creatively. All because a handful of people didn't have the brains, courage, and the heart to speak up.

3/27/22

Expressions of Grief: The Universe's Plans

Late the other night I stepped out into the desert night, stared up and took a deep breath as tears ran down my face. I looked into the darkness and tried to think about the last time my wife and I stargazed before her cancer diagnosis. Then I started thinking about an incredibly stupid and insensitive comment that was directed my way about “how the universe has plans.”

What about my wife's plans? Plans to continue to teach, to be with her daughter, to travel and to create more books with me. Plans for all the moments big, small, and ordinary. Plans to love and be loved. Plans to live a full life.

You are telling me that my beautiful and sweet wife was singled out in all the vastness that is the universe so she could suffer and die in my arms from a horrible disease like cancer because the “universe has plans?”

If that is the case, the universe is a dark place indeed.

3/18/22

Expressions of Grief: Hearts & Brains

Hearts and brains -- in the game of life it takes both of them to make humans, well, human. Unfortunately, I have found along my path in life that there are people who, sadly, either lost a few cards along the way, or were never given a full deck to play with.

3/10/22

Expressions of Grief: Speaking Up to Save Lives

In January, a Breast Cancer Gene Screening bill I initiated -- HB 2529 – was introduced into the Arizona House. Basically, it would obligate primary care doctors to properly screen for familial BRCA mutations and recommend genetic counseling if appropriate and it would be covered by insurers. If passed, it should save many lives. It would also save on the enormous expensive of cancer treatment paid by the patient and the insurance companies for a cancer that was not prevented or caught early. It is based on a law passed in Nevada in 2021 (SB 251).

I initiated the bill in my wife Donna’s honor because she died a horrible and needless death from hereditary cancer. Had this bill been in place, I would not be a widower. It would have made her relative's  incomprehensible failure to speak up about a germline BRCA2 mutation a non-issue. Proper screening years ago, genetic testing, and prophylactic surgery would have reduced Donna's cancer risk by 95%. 

I sincerely hope support for this bill will grow and it will pass and prevent many, many others from suffering Donna's fate.


Text of the bill:
https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/2R/bills/HB2529P.htm

Currently it is pending in the House Health and Human Services Committee. Hopefully it will move along soon. Progress report: https://legiscan.com/AZ/bill/HB2529/2022

If you live in Arizona, please contact your state representative and urge their support. Thank you!

Legislative Members Roster: https://www.azleg.gov/MemberRoster/

 

(This is based on post from my site BRCA2wise.com)

3/6/22

Expressions of Grief: Some days are like this...

I hate this "journey" I'm on. I should be drawing silly cartoons, painting landscapes, or just sculpting something for the sake of it. But here I am again, in a dark place. Something brought back a flashback of one the numerous times I rushed my wife to the ER because of some complication due to her cancer and/or cancer treatment. Being a cancer caregiver was hell. Watching my wife suffer and die in my arms from a horrible, but preventable cancer was/is total hell. And all because of a handful of people had the compassion, emotional maturity, brains, and the reading comprehension and the communication skills of a toilet brush.

3/3/22

Expressions of Grief: Life and a Ladybug

While sitting outside staring at a cloudless azure sky, feeling hopelessly blue while thinking of my beloved late wife and what could have been on a day such as today, a ladybug alighted on my shoe. My thoughts turned to the wonder, beauty, fragility, and
brevity of life -- and love. And how many people just don't f@#$#! get it.

 

2/14/22

Love and Cancer Prevention

February is National Cancer Prevention Month. Here in the US, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 3 men will develop cancer in their lifetime. Think about that. How many members are in your family? How many friends do you have? Do the math.

Cancer is hell. For cancer patients. For cancer caregivers. For families watching their loved ones suffer from cancer and the side effects of toxic chemotherapy and other treatments. And the grief of losing a loved one to cancer is hell. It tears lives and families apart. It crushes hopes and dreams of the future. However, many cancers can be prevented. So, take the time to know your risks and to get screened regularly. And learn about your family’s cancer history and get genetically tested if there’s even the remote chance of a mutation in the family. Then openly share the results with all blood relatives.

In June of 2021, my beloved wife of 40-years died in my arms from a preventable hereditary cancer because acutely aware relatives did not care enough to promptly share genetic data and talk openly with unaware family members about the deadly seriousness of a BRCA2 mutation. It was hell watching her suffer. It’s been hell losing her. That’s why I’m showing up and speaking up about cancer prevention.

This Valentine’s Day show love and compassion for yourself, your loved ones, and your friends by taking cancer prevention seriously. Take time to care. A little effort and love can make a big difference. Not just in one life, but in all the lives connected to that life. 
 

 

  Cancer Information Resources
Please share these links.

Take a Stand to Prevent Cancer!
Staying on top of your health is one of the most important calls you can make. Nearly 5,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every day in the US. Routine cancer screenings are incredibly important for early detection, especially for individuals with a family history of cancer.
 
National Cancer Institute


The American Childhood Cancer Organization


St. Jude's Children's Hospital


Breast Cancer Research Foundation


American Cancer Society
 

National Breast Cancer Foundation


Living Beyond Breast Cancer


Breastcancer.org

1/19/22

Secondary Losses

On June 26, 2021, I lost my beloved wife, Donna, to hereditary cancer. When you lose your soulmate of 40 years, you lose more than just their physical presence, you suffer so many secondary losses -- so many of the shared small things, little memories, and magic moments that made life together so special.

The word bereave comes from the Old English word, befearfian, which means to "deprive, take away, or be robbed." And that is what cancer and death does, it robs the cancer patient and their family of so many of those precious little moments together that are often taken for granted.

Over next few months I will be sharing some thoughts and simple drawings from my grief sketchbook that my beloved wife and I will never share together again. Mark Twain said, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” Maybe you can relate, or maybe it will just give you pause to reflect on your own life and how precious the ordinary moments of life are.

But I think BrenĂ© Brown said it best:  "We chase extraordinary moments instead of being grateful for ordinary moments until hard shit happens. And then in the face of really hard stuff -- illness, death, loss -- the only thing we're begging for is a normal moment."