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“There IS a God”

It’s Memorial Day Weekend in the year of 2010. We spent six hours of yesterday cruising across our great state of Oregon in a hybrid car containing three people, three dogs and sacks full of various sorts of travel things, peanuts and potato chips and bottled water and books to read. “Don’t forget the A&W” adds Dell and every so often I’d have to ask the folks “are you sick of me?” and the reply comes with giggles and a loud “Yes!” And so it goes.

Richland Oregon, our place of rest, population 200 or so sits close to Eagle Creek. The neighbors next to the homey, but undeniable double-wide, tend the lawn and garden so when we arrived it is laid out, and sprouting the first yields of rich and well tended garden beds. Smokey rolls of hills cascade out in every direction, house free, tree free, sunny and quiet expanses that once were full of buffalo and the Natives of America. My great Grandma White came to this place on the wagon train as a young girl. “She trailed behind the wagon train” mom explains, as she cleans out the refrigerator freezer still in her bathrobe.  Family lore is that “and some Native Americans came toward her and she was hustled back to the wagon train. And she probably got in trouble,” mom chuckles. My great, great grandma called Lizzy “was a cutie” mom says. “She never left her bedroom without being fully dressed, had nine children and worked from four in the morning until sunset.” She married Walter Saunders. “He had this gravelly voice, it was really hard for me to understand him, deep, low, gravelly voice.”

In thanks to the neighbors who tend the yard and garden so meticulously, the folks pick up four big pizzas from Papa Murphy’s on our way through Baker City and cook them up for a neighborhood Pizza feed.  The picnic table in the yard, with assorted chairs, and everyone comes with something to add to the table.

This year Diane, who is the granddaughter of Grandma and Grandpa Saunders and daughter of my Uncle George and Aunt Clara asked that we all take a turn introducing ourselves to every one since there were some people she didn’t know. Earlier in the day sitting across from me in the living room, Diane explained that her husband Don had received a bone marrow transplant twenty years ago. He had Lymphoma. They lived in Seattle for three months while his clean bone marrow was harvested and when the lymphoma returned, they gave him a transplant with it. It was encouraging to hear this account of someone who had survived for years. Later during the tell-your-story-time, Uncle Jr. the youngest son of Great Grandma and Grandpa Saunders told the story of the day the doctor told Walter Saunders that he had six weeks to live. Twenty years later W.S. happened upon the obituary of said Doctor and had a big smile on his face for having outlived the man who had given him a death sentence that he did not abide.

There were thirteen or so people huddled around the pizza feed on this slightly sunny Sunday sharing their stories of how they ended up in Richland.  Toward the very end of the group sat Steve and Sam. “I’m not related to anyone in Richland,” said Steve. And then he began to offer up the story of how he met Sam.

While Steve was in law enforcement it was known that a large truck and trailer full of booze had been stolen (allegedly at the hands of two Native American men). As the story goes, they took the trailer up into the hills along with a tractor with a back hoe and a plow.  They dug a hole big enough to bury a truck and trailer and then they drove that truck and trailer into the big hole they’d made and buried it in dirt. Mom thinks the trailers at the time had wood on the side and opened on the top. One day Sam, who was hunting illegally for a dear, stumbled upon a bottle. He opened in and smelled it and it and discovered it was black berry brandy. Just below that bottle, he found another one and said he raised his hand with the first bottle in it and said “there IS a God!” He spent a lot of time, at night, digging up his treasure. Steve said, “Sam didn’t feel bad about it because he didn’t steal it, he found it.” Steve searched for Sam for years and years and even the FBI was involved but they couldn’t nab him. When Steve retired from the service and moved to Richland and met up with Sam one night he said “I’ve been looking to nab you for so long!” Sam says he never sold an ounce “but I had a lot of friends.” Steve added, “Sam and his friends partied for ten years and never spent a dime.” As Sam recalls he came up with 700 cases of booze. He hid it near his house. “There IS a God”

Good neighbor Sam died this week – 8/18/15

Johnston front 022 Johnston front 024 Johnston front 034 Johnston front 036


Medical Update: all is well

Medical Update: all is well. A few weeks to go before the CAT scan that will tell us what the time table for the actual transplant will take place. I’m hoping to write my unknown donor a letter soon. Easier said than done.   What do I do with my time? Some wonder.




Happy Birthday Teisha

Teisha 2 views blog 8-3-2015


Please note, I have cataracts

iphone 3g 916 iphone 3g 917 iphone 3g 918Please note, I have cataracts. Damn. It is from the prednisone. My ass. It could be worse. I know this. But still, I had at least 90 seconds of wondering what the hell has happened to me. Why me? My eyes two and a half years ago were, “pristine”.

“I love glasses!” said Shelly. “The guy at the eye glass store said he thought of them as an accessory,” I replied.


That is the truth, be that as it may

computer 020An honest description of the past several days does not make for an inspiring or even interesting message. Still, it will rest here where I can look back on it and remember through dowdy drug infested memories what it was like to watch the body fight against itself. The GVHD which rose up because we tapered the immuno-suppressants in order to have the new immune system kick some cancer ass was indiscriminate and started a fiery surge against my skin. My vanity rose up loud and proud as I watched the lines on my skin bubble and turn dry and unforgiving all over my body. I looked like I’d aged about 10 traumatic years. My hair has started to fall out and the two bald spots at the front of my head bare witness to the conflict going on inside of me. I wake up during the night and in the morning with sheets of skin having sluffed off onto the sheets and into my pajamas. I know this is gross and an unsightly image to convey but it happens and I’m going to allow myself to write it down.  If you decide to stop reading at any time, I completely understand.

Yesterday was the start of chemotherapy and my nurse and friend Jana moved us into a private room where, gladly there was a bed for me to lay my sleepy, uncomfortable, vain ass down. She wanted to keep a close eye on me in case (as sometimes happens) I had a bad reaction to the treatment. I did not. I slept through the whole last half of it after a visit from my first real boyfriend in life, Buggy. He came with the same head of hair he’s had since we was seventeen in a dapper suit and clean shoes and shared a plate of fries with mom while a stuffed a toasted cheese sandwich down my throat. We talked about family and friends and when Bug left he kissed me on the lips and said if mom wasn’t there he would have asked to see my left boob. Even though he didn’t really mean it (he has a happy life with his girlfriend and a bunch of kids) those were kind words to the newly middle aged woman on the bed in the hospital hoping that not only will she recover from the latest bought of unexpected leukemia, that someday, someone will find her attractive. That is the truth, be that as it may.

Today is day two of chemotherapy and then I have a month off where we hope, in the back of your minds, that this treatment is working. This morning I woke up to skin that looked more normal than in recent days past and it served as a gentle reminder that skin, the largest organ of the body, regenerates itself throughout life. At least, I’m pretty sure it does. One nice thing about feeling really down like I did yesterday morning, in anticipation of a day at the clinic, is that when you really feel a moment of hopeless despair and you breath your way through it and you don’t have that heaviness in your body and mind, it feels soooooo good to feel better.

Written 5/18/2010


Dear Donor

August 25, 2010

Dear Donor,

I don’t know what to say.

The donor program has asked that I remain anonymous, if I write something inappropriate, they will block it out so I won’t worry too much about what is and isn’t okay to tell you. I live in a beautiful little city an hour and a half from the beach and an hour from skiing. I live in my hometown. I come from a big family. I am a high school and college graduate; I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree. I bought my first house with the gift money my mom gave me for graduating from college. The woman who owned the real estate agency who worked for me when I bought my first home later hired me as a Realtor. I love houses and people and driving around listening to the radio. I am also a musician in a band. I sing and play the drums and I’ve been learning how to play the guitar for many years.

That said, please let me tell you a little bit about myself. I live in my hometown. I come from a big and happy family where our Christmas celebration includes at least 45 people.  My family is very musical. I live in a beautiful city close to the beach and the mountains. I have two gregarious and beautiful dogs and we live just a short walk to a park overlooking the city.

What made you decide to be a donor?

Where do you live?

What do you look like?

What was it like letting them take the blood cells out of you?

How did they notify you that you were a candidate to donate?

Did it hurt?

I know you don’t know me but know that I try to be a good person that I love life and feel like I still have a lot to learn and your donation has given me time I would not have had. I wish you could see the happy and hopeful faces of my family and friends as they watch me recover and work on making the best out of my new normal so that you could see that what you gave didn’t just have a massive and important affect on my life, you touched many people who (despite my various idiosyncrasys) like me better alive than not!

If you ever want to talk please feel free to call or email me and if not, that is okay too of course. Either way, I hope you take time to consider what a huge difference you made in the life of someone who hopes she can live the rest of her life in a way that illustrates she deserved it! You have shown by your actions what it is to reach out into the world to try to help someone who needs it.


Anonymous ohsuseptember 004


The First Day of the Year

Today is the first day of the year.  There’s only one first day of the year.  It is an annual event and it is not a matter of what you  know or who you are or where you are or even (thankfully) why you are. Today is everyone’s first day of the year. Well maybe not this very instant but  in certain time zones, for sure. This morning I have taken my medication, eaten a baked potato, let the dogs outside, twice.   Luna barks every time someone comes to the front door and I yell at her to stop. Mom said “when Luna barks at the door, that’s her job, she’s a DOG.” Live and let live. I’d like to write a song today, I’d like him to come over to watch the game, I’d like to go for a walk and all of that makes me feel like I’m going to throw up.  And I might.  Why, you may ask, am I  99.7% cancer free AND  nauseous?  Thank God for my counselor Sara because there is a shit load of processing I have to go through. 

Where is my printer? When will my puppy be potty trained? Maybe he just doesn’t love me., That can’t be true. That makes me cry.  Like talking to the Dad who told you he loved you, but you knew, he didn’t know you. A gentle reminder to you, gentle reader, I am writing for my own good. I’m not trying to tell or teach you any single thing. I show up here on Day One of the New Year, 2010. Sometimes I cry. This may really be it. I need something I’m not getting. period. Time to make a change.  I just can’t really LIVE like this. My life feels worse and better than it ever has, on the same day. Day One. Today is the day to live up to my resolution to write 500 words a day and I’m only halfway done with today’s post? Eke. Faster, faster, faster it goes. Go, Go, Go.

Now I know why real writers don’t want you to see any shitty first draft they ever wrote.  Goddamn. I have 147 more words to go.  I almost flunked out of high school geometry and were it not for the balding, pudgy, commandeer Mr. Casey who worked all afternoon, the last day of school, so that I could actually “Graduate” who for heaven sakes knows what turn life would have taken. I feel like we’ve already broken up but I’m the last to know. Is it time to reevaluate our relationship? Do you miss me? Are you seeing someone else? Do you still love me? I’m sorry for how hard it was.

Chrimson Cloverinteresting 051

in the shed

tackled to the hill

where you’ll be buried

when you’re dead

with no more time to kill.

my stomach really hurts and it’s hard to see and I’m afraid.


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