Amazing Sacrifices For Those We Love

I didn’t write this, looks like it’s from People Magazine but wow!

After eight-year-old Gabriel Marshall underwent surgery to remove a tumor in his brain, the large scar left in its place “made him feel like a monster,” Gabriel’s dad, Josh, tells PEOPLE.

“He was very embarrassed about the scar – he wouldn’t even leave the house without something covering his head.”

“He said that he felt like everybody was staring at him and it made him feel like a monster, which broke my heart because to me he’s the most beautiful thing,” says Josh, 28.

Dad Gets Scar Tattoo to Match His Son's Brain Cancer Surgery Scar: 'I Wanted to Take Away Some of the Stares'| Cancer, Health, Bodywatch

Josh and Gabriel Marshall

Josh wanted to make his son feel better about the procedure, especially once Gabriel’s tumor – an anaplastic astrocytoma that had metastasized to his spine – was showing no signs of regrowth. So Josh decided to get a tattoo to match Gabriel’s scar.

“I asked him if it would be okay if I went and got his scar tattooed on my head if that would make him feel better, and he agreed that yes it would,” Josh says. “[I wanted] to take away some of the stares or attention from him.”

“He was very excited when I came home and showed him that I’d gotten it done. He said, ‘Wow that looks so realistic.’ ”

With his dad by his side, Gabriel learned to appreciate his scar.

“He’s now very proud of his scar because he knows that that it means that he was tougher than [the tumor] that tried to hurt him,” Josh says. “He calls it his battle scar.”

It’s been 15 months since Gabriel’s tumor was removed but doctors are monitoring him closely before officially saying he’s in remission.

“There is still some tumor in there, but his last sets of scans have shown that there is no new tumor growth,” Josh says. “The tumors are stable, so right now he’s just on watch with MRIs every 6 to 12 weeks.”

And on June 13, Josh, Gabriel and their matching scars made the news after Josh entered the annual Best Bald Dad contest, put on by St. Baldrick’s, a childhood cancer charity.


Scary

“You have to be strong,” the woman in the waiting room at the oncology radiology facility said. “My husband has lymphoma everywhere in its final stages and we are cheerful and optimistic. It’s what you have to do to be with cancer.” Her husband will probably die. He is completely hunched over by what I suppose is osteoporosis in addition to the lymphoma his lovely wife told me has taken over his entire body.

That first day we went for Steve’s radiation treatment, I noticed a bell on the counter with a ribbon tied to it. On the ribbon it said I made it the whole way! I was so new to this idea of my youngish husband having to go through radiation that I didn’t quite get what that was. Then, when Steve was in treatment, someone walked out, picked up the bell and rang it. Everyone in the waiting room applauded and some jumped up to hug the person who had just completed the grueling months long, daily treatment of radiation. I suddenly got it and of course, was one of the jump-up huggers. But I was also in tears.

A couple weeks ago was Steve’s last radiation treatment for a mild recurrence of prostate cancer. MILD? Can you really even say that if its cancer? You really can’t. It’s cancer. In his case even though his numbers are low and very encouraging, you get only one shot at radiation. One. You can’t do it again because radiation causes cancer. What? We are trying to solve cancer with a cancer-causing agent? Yep. OMG.

On Steve’s last day I was in the waiting room, waiting. My husband is a very subtle and humble person. He is not a person who has a need to bring attention to himself so I wasn’t expecting him to ring a little funny bell. I just assumed he would want to get out of there and put it all behind him while we wait and wait for results of radiation.   He walked out, made eye contact with me, picked up that bell and rang it loudly with a huge smile on his face. I burst into quiet tears; I try not to be a spectacle either. People applauded, jumped up to hug him and it was a demonstration of how beautiful people can be when we realize we are all in the same damn boat. Cancer levels the playing field.

 

 


Pacemaker

 

“I tried to get through your text without crying but it didn’t work,” George’s daughter Melissa texted me.

Pickle ball has changed my life. After back surgery for a herniated disk, my husband was worried I’d not be able to play tennis again and he found this new sport for me. Pickle ball is played in a gym on a badminton size court with a whiffle ball and a paddle and it’s a game of mixed doubles. Men and women of all shapes, sizes and ages all play together. It is a fast, aggressive game combining tennis with badminton and some people say Ping-Pong. I don’t see the Ping-Pong part of it. It’s an incredible work out but also an amazingly fun and addictive sport. I now play between 5 and 6 days a week for between 2 to 3 hours. It’s like my job, that and speaking about Gorillas and Chimps at the Dallas zoo 2 days a week. Lucky me. My recovery from the surgery was so excellent, I could easily play tennis, but I have no desire! My new love is Pickle ball.

I have met so many people and I have many very close friends in Texas as a result of Pickle ball. I am in awe at the support and camaraderie this PB community provides.

Not long ago, several of our Dallas police officers were shot and killed in a race relation issue. The next day at Pickle ball, one of the players called us all together and asked that we bow our heads in a minute of silence for the men who died. You could have heard a pin drop in that gym. It was powerful.

A couple months later right before we began play, a woman asked us to gather as she had a sad announcement. One of our dear Pickle ball friends Sarah, we were told, just lost her 48-year old daughter a day or two before. Again, we gathered, bowed our heads in silence and surely a lot of prayer for one of our own. Then the coach, Dave, went to get a bereavement card, which we all signed and he sent it. Sarah is not back yet but our community is there for her when she is.

Recently, one of our wonderful friends, George found out his heart rate was way too low. George is very athletic and otherwise a very healthy 72 year old, but his doctor was insistent on a pacemaker. He was going back and forth, stressing out about the decision because he felt so good and was playing Pickle ball several days a week aggressively. He was finally convinced it was what he needed to do.

George had the surgery to install the pacemaker on a Monday morning. Most everyone in our Pickle ball community knew. Shockingly, on Tuesday afternoon George sauntered in to the gym. He didn’t have his paddle with him and he didn’t intend on playing but he felt great and wanted to see us. Here is what I texted his daughter later, of whom I am very fond even though I don’t know her well.

Hi Melissa!  I wish you could have seen the scene when your father walked into the gym today.  The only word I can think of, and I don’t think I have ever used this word before, is “Fellowship”.  Several women jumped up to embrace him.  Our coach then went over to give him a hug and handshake and brought him a cushioned chair so he wouldn’t have to sit on the hard bleachers.  Then as games ended, men began walking up putting their hands on his shoulder or shaking his hand asking about his procedure and how he was doing.  He was the prince of the ball and everyone was quietly rejoicing in how well things went and how fabulous he looked.  Then a much older man than George took the padded seat and your father, of course, didn’t say a word and sat on the hard bleachers. He’s a special man and I know losing his wife was devastating as it was for you losing your mother.  But as a family, you have each other, and now know you can take comfort in that your father is a beloved member of a huge Fellowship of Pickle ball people.  Love, Andie

Here is Melissa’s response:

I tried to get through your text without crying but it didn’t work. What a wonderful thing to read. Thank you. Thank you again and the Fellowship of PB’s for caring about him so much. I’m so glad you’ve all gotten to know the awesome man I’m lucky to call “Dad”.

I’m kinda starting to like Texas….


Great Apes

I don’t usually write fiction but I dabble in it from time to time.  Here’s something I wrote a while back.

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I’m in fifth grade but I really should only be in fourth. Mom started me early and then I skipped a semester in second grade because I was way ahead of everybody else in math and reading. It was hard because all of the sudden I was in a class with other kids I didn’t know and all my friends weren’t there.

I do love to read. Mom says I’m amazing because I learned at two. She says that as soon as I could see the words on a page I could understand them, as if I was “remembering” how to read instead of learning how. Now they say I read at a tenth grade level but I don’t think that’s true because all I like to read about is Great Apes. Chimps mostly but also Gorillas and Orangutans. I don’t think Mom likes it. She always tries to get me to read her books; books for grown-ups, grown-up’s stories, science books and doctor books. She went to work this morning before I woke up and she left me a book called, “The Old Man And The Sea.” Her note said to read it and we’d talk about it together when she got home tonight. I tried to read it because I want to talk with her but it’s boring and I don’t really understand it. She’s not home yet anyway and it’s almost my bedtime. Sometimes I wish she would read about Great Apes. I think she would love it if she tried it. I asked her if she could read one Chimpanzee book instead of her science books and then we could talk together about it but she says she doesn’t have time.

My Mom’s a surgeon and says she works hard so we can have nice things. We live in a house that is really too big for a Mom, a kid and a baby-sitter. There are so many dark, quiet rooms in our house that no one ever sleeps in. No one even goes in to some of them except the maid to clean. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I had twelve brothers and sisters sleeping and playing in all these bedrooms. I think our house would be better like that.

Mom says I’d be a great doctor because I’m so smart and she’s saving her money for my medical school. She bought me a video about the inside of bodies. We watched it and it was really gross. We talked about it for a little while but I don’t think it was a very good talk for my Mom. She seemed kind-of nervous and I don’t think I said anything she liked. I really wanted a video called “The Wild Kingdom.” I wish she bought that one because I think we would have had a better talk then. That’s OK because I can read my books instead of watching videos.

I don’t know my Dad. I asked her about him for the first time and she told me not to worry about him because he is not good enough for us anyway. I can’t help it; I think about him all the time. I hope he isn’t alone or lonely. I think he might be good enough for me. I wonder what he looks like and what he reads about. I wonder if he ever thinks about me. If I had a little girl who I did not live with, I would call her on the phone, at least. I would call my Dad but I think Mom would get mad if I asked her for the number. When I grow up, I am going to visit him.

Mother chimpanzees take good care of baby chimpanzees. They hold them and carry them everywhere they go. Mommy and baby chimps hug, kiss and snuggle and the Mom picks the bugs off the baby. When the baby gets a little older, she picks the bugs off the Mommy. It’s really cute and it’s for good grooming but also a way they show love. Mommy chimps spend the day teaching the baby things and they sleep very close together and keep each other warm. The Daddy chimp is always somewhere near-by and protects the Mommy and baby.

Sometimes, after school, when the baby-sitter is sleeping, I pretend I’m a baby chimp.

 

 


Father and Son

I’ve done a lot of research on these people.  This man was a couch potato.  Depressed by the situation with his son, he hardly got out or got any exercise.  After a doctor appointment he was told he needed to get more active so he took his paraplegic son on a walk in his wheelchair.  Apparently his son told him that when he was out moving with his Dad, he didn’t feel like an invalid.  Look what Dad then did.  Get the tissue.

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If it doesn’t work as a link, cut and paste it into your browser.


Young and Old

Aging is not easy but neither is being young. The challenges for each are completely different, but they are both challenging. I remember my mid to late teens and at least through my twenties feeling so unsure of myself, so self conscious, so worried about what people were thinking of me. To hide that vulnerability, I built a façade of a strong, confident young woman that I hid behind and in retrospect kinda seems to have worked. Fake it till you make it, I guess. I wonder, though, how many older people saw right through that disguise as I can see through it in young people I encounter today. It seems like the tougher the outside package, the mushier the inside reality.

I’m 57 and there are things I like about getting older. Wrinkles, achy joints and lose skin are not some of them.

I love not being self-conscious. What you think of me is none of my business. I’m very comfortable in my own skin and I don’t second-guess myself anymore. When I see an injustice directed at me, someone else or an animal, I step in without hesitation. I (usually) do it with tact and caution but I’ve seen so much of it in my life and I have a very low tolerance for it.

I love that women, now that we are older, tend to connect instead of compete. I’m not sure if that is because my attitude has changed or that all of us aging gals have changed, probably the latter, but it’s huge.

I love being at a place where I do not have to wake to an alarm. Ever.

I love the harmless flirting during mixed doubles at pickle-ball. Most of us have been married forever and it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s just fun and funny.

A couple years ago I decided that one of my jobs as an aging person is to help, whenever I can, a young person to feel really good about themselves. For example, a young man, early twenties with mild special needs who was a bagger at the grocery store was one day working as a checker.

“You got a promotion!” I said excitedly.

“I did!” he said proudly.

“That is so awesome! I don’t even know you but I am so proud of you!” I replied.

His wide smile, flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes said it all. I’d done my job.

Another time I was at the zoo and as I was passing the lions at some distance I noticed a group of oh so cool young people taunting them. If people at the zoo litter, I pick it up and throw it away. If they smoke, which they are not supposed to, I look the other way. If they taunt animals, it falls into the “injustice” category and I step in assertively with no hesitation. I made a beeline for the oh so cools but before I got to them a young, sort of nerdy guy approached the group and I could see that he was shaking slightly. He was scared.

“It’s super uncool what you are doing to the lions,” the young man said.

“Oh really?” one of the oh so’s said, “How would you know what’s uncool?”

“It’s cruel,” the twenty something said, still shaking.

“Yeah?” a young woman said. “What are you going to do about it?”

“He already did something about it!” I said loudly as I approached. “He’s educating you people who should know better what’s cruel! Move away from the lions now and if you taunt any other animals at this zoo, I will have you thrown out.” They skittered away.

I turned to the brave young man and said quietly, “What you just did took a ton of courage and I don’t even know you but I am very, very proud of you. Animals need strong, brave people like you and I thank you and the lions thank you.”

“Well, I love lions,” the young man said, “and I can tell you do too.” And then he hugged me. It took my breath away. I was not successful in suppressing my tears as I made my way back to my gorillas.

Nothing is ever cut and dry, is it? Things in life are complicated. I wish I could have a chance to make the oh so’s feel better about themselves because cruelty to animals is a clear indication of not feeling very good about ones self. Surely, I’ll never see them again.

Still, every day, I try hard to do my job.

 

 


Youthful Advice

I’ve got my younger self reminding me of a few things I’ve forgotten over the years which is kinda obnoxious.  I finally decided it’s time to go through VERY old cards, letters, documents  and my own writing and get rid of some stuff.  As a young woman I was incredibly ambitious and driven and I wrote a lot.

I wrote and conducted workshops, seminars and training programs for corporations but I also wrote for myself.  Unlike today, I was very analytical back then, trying (and in many cases succeeding, hehe) to figure everything out.

I’m WAY more laid back now looking for fun, funny and how I can help animals and other people.  In fact, going through all this stuff made me feel exhausted.  I read one document from the early 1980’s about my goals for the following year and it had an entry that said “Rest from time to time.”  Which was VERY unlike me!  It should have been a SMART goal!!  Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely!  “Rest from time to time” is simply not good enough for my old self!!

Now, as my friend Tim will tell you, I wallow with coffee and the paper until 9:00 or 9:30 in the morning.  It’s heaven!  But in many ways, that other life was heaven, too.  Just so demanding.

Why am I telling you all this?!  Well, it’s because as I hold all these tattered and yellowed pages with old fashioned computer fonts in my hands, I can’t just throw them away.  I have to capture them somewhere and my blog will be the victim.  Some of the upcoming posts of writings from years gone by will be longer than my normal short stories.  As usual with any post on any blog, read what you want and move along when you are over it.  I am going to post this stuff in smallish doses and will continue to write about the zoo and other stuff also.

BTW, it’s called The Accidental Texan and my earliest posts were about how much I hate it here.  I don’t hate it anymore.  I have a full life now and there are things here I love.  Lots of things, but mostly my gorillas.

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The buddies laughing and playing.


Love and Pain

I’ve been having trouble with my left shoulder and the pain got pretty bad. I’ve recently switched from tennis to pickle ball and in tennis I had a two handed back hand so naturally I continued to use that technique in pickle ball. The problem is the motion of a two handed back hand in pickle ball is much “tighter” than it is in tennis and it resulted in injury. I knew that is where the problem originated and I quickly learned a mean single-handed back hand but my shoulder still hurt and it has been hurting for a long time.

Finally, I went to a lovely Korean muscular therapist who explained that shoulders are very complex and injuries take a long time to heal. Her work was helping and she told me I should also consider doing acupuncture in addition to the work we were doing. So, I found a lovely Chinese woman with a PhD in Chinese medicine and acupuncture and saw her for the first time last week. It seemed to help a little so I went back today. Today seemed to help a LOT which is nice.

After my treatment as we were sitting at Julie’s desk scheduling my next appointment, I noticed a picture of her with a gorgeous golden retriever.

“Oh my god, your dog is beautiful!” I said.

“She was beautiful,” Julie replied, “and I adored her. I never had children so she was like my child.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“She got cancer, we tried everything, but we finally had to put her down,” she said as her eyes got red and watery.

“That is horrible,” I said, “I never had kids either and as an adult I have had to live through the death of three beloved dogs. Two of them golden’s.”

“Oh, that’s awful,” Julie said.

She went on to describe the day she knew it was time to put Scarlett down. She talked about the vet coming to her house so Scarlett didn’t think they were going in the car to go to the park. She described how she got Scarlett up on her lap in a big bear hug and then allowed the vet to give her the shot. She described what it felt like to have Scarlett die in her arms. She said it was very peaceful but she and I were both sobbing. She grabbed a box of Kleenex….

“I’m so sorry to make you cry,” she said softly.

“It’s okay,” I said, “crying is okay.”

They say one of the most gut wrenching things in life is when a parent has to bury a child. The problem with being a dog parent is that you have to bury most of them.



It’s Saturday Night Live!!!

I was young but I had to get out from under a man who hated me for my assertiveness and my fearlessness of him and my willingness to stand up to him. The minute I turned 16 I told my mother I had had it with my stepfather and I moved out.

Q. What do you do when you are on your own at 16?

A. Become a waitress and convince an apartment manager you are 18 and that you can handle the responsibility of renting.

Waitresses, especially when they are pretty, and I was, make a lot of money for a young person. I already had a jump on it because I had become a hostess at a restaurant when I turned 15, had my driver’s permit and had an old beat up Volkswagen. I’d proven my reliability and commitment so when it came time to start supporting myself I was able to convince the manager where I worked to promote me to waitress. Like the other nights, we would work hard, make our tips, clean up the restaurant but on Saturdays we would then congregate at someone’s apartment, smoke a joint and watch our beloved Saturday Night Live.

I just watched the 40 year reunion of Saturday Night Live the other night and I was close to tears. There are so many SNL actors who have died of diseases and overdoses and so many more who have gone on to be hugely successful in their acting and comedic careers. And I feel like I know them all. I’ve been watching for 40 years.

I feel like all the SNL people are my people. In the early days it was Gilda Radner, Garret Morris, Jane Curtain, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Laraine Newman, Dan Akroid, Bill Murray and others.

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I’ve watched the creator and producer, Lorne Michaels, a gorgeous young, creative man with shiny black hair transition to a gray haired gentry gentleman.

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I’ve seen the show go from funky cheap rented studio space where you could barely hear what Candice Bergen was saying to evil toy maker Dan Akroid, to the best in the business at Rockefeller Center in NYC. Now a-days Tina Fey, Amy Poelher, Jason Sedekis and Seth Myers recently moved on.

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I hear Lorne cries every time a beloved cast member leaves. He’s an emotional guy and his guts are invested in his people and his show. He’s a tough cookie to be sure and there are a lot of casualties who make it one or two seasons and then are booted by him, but he loves the ones he loves. And I love him for creating SNL.