One Year Anniversary


This photo of Lana that was taken last March reminds me of how I felt one year ago..someone so small facing something so huge and powerful.

Last fall I was just fine except I was having trouble swallowing.  I assumed it was acid reflux and had simple swallow test that showed nothing,  gone to a doctor who had sent some tube down my nose to take a look at my esophagus  and said, “Yep, it’s probably acid reflux” but we need to rule out something more serious so I’m sending you for a barium swallow test.  And I merrily went on my way, did the barium swallow and got a call from my doctor that afternoon. It was one year ago today.

“It’s bad, Mary.  It’s esophageal cancer.  You need an endoscopy and biopsy immediately and you need to clear your calendar.  It’s going to be rough.”

I remember sitting down, stunned.  I had never heard of esophageal cancer.  And for some reason, unlike every year when I have a mammo and brace myself for bad news, with this thing I had just gone from one appointment to the next, clueless, totally unaware that it might be something really serious.

After the endoscopy the next day, the doctor sat down with us.  “There’s a mass in the esophagus that has gone into the esophageal wall and there’s at least one lymph node involved, he said.  “I’m sending you for PET scan and CT scan.   That will tell us more.    If it’s spread further, chemotherapy will give you a little more time.”

A LITTLE more time???? You have to be kidding.  “Wait,” I said to him.  “I need a LOT more time.”10629671_1086179734744812_3672807391328893382_n

He just looked at me sadly and said, “Let’s see how the scans go.  And you need see an oncologist immediately.”

That was  a year ago.  And it looks as if I’m going to get a LOT more time.  But no one really knows, do they?   A LOT more time?  A LITTLE?  All we have is this moment, this hour, this day.  I’d love to have a LOT more time, but if I don’t (I could be hit by a truck tomorrow) I am ever so grateful for the time I have had.  Ann Richards, former governor of Texas, had less than six months from the time of her esophageal cancer diagnosis to the time of her death. I’ve had that and then some and plan to stick around a LONG, LONG TIME.


Sunset on South Jetty

I know Thanksgiving is next month but for me, this is MY Thanksgiving day.   First, I’m thankful to be alive and kicking.  Next, I’m thankful for Jerry who had it way harder than I did last year and never once complained.  Next, I’m thankful for Erin and Sean who were with me –physically as well as in spirit–every step of the way.  Next, for Anne and Clark, who made it possible for us to go to MD Anderson and not worry about housing.  Next, for all of you, family and friends, who hung in there with me through it all.  And finally, for the staff at MD Anderson who told me when I arrived that they’d take care of me and send me home to go on with my life and were able to do just that.

It was also one year ago today that a former student of mine, Hannah Seay, posted on Facebook a quote:  Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.  Thanks, Hannah.  Because of you, I started this blog that kept me sane, kept me connected and reminded me that I wasn’t alone.   I can still see you…a tiny little, beautiful child in my second grade and know what a beautiful, smart, competent young woman you’ve become.

I was incredibly lucky.  I AM incredibly lucky and I know it.  I know most people wouldn’t react to a cancer diagnosis with a “Guess I should start a blog” but it worked for me. It was great therapy and the people who read the blog carried me through the months of treatment and recuperation.

I think people need to find their own way to get through the tough stuff in their lives.  Writing might work for some; it does for me.  For others, it might be music or exercise or meditation or all of the above.  Some people are very private and need to guard that privacy while they go through dark days.  Whatever works…and we need to respect each person’s way (even when everything in us wants to “fix” them.)  I feel so strongly that it’s important to let people walk that journey with you…to ask for help…but I’ve learned to back off if someone wants to  be left alone.  As I said, we need to respect each person’s way.

And, finally, Book Notes:  I haven’t read a lot this week…had company and loved having good friends to visit with.  I’ve started Gilead (about time I read that one) and I”m reading Faye Kellerman’s new one, Murder 101.  I like her books more than her husband’s (Jonathan)   I think I like her main characters more.  Most of my reading time, though, has been devoted to getting some extra info about Five Days at Memorial. (hospital with no power after Katrina)  It’s our book club book and I’m moderating the discussion next Tuesday.  I read it the first time last winter and while it disturbed me and haunted me, it didn’t terrify me the way it did now after having had surgery and known what it felt like to be totally helpless.  Should be an interesting discussion….If you have limited resources, how to do you allocated the resources you have?  How do you decide who gets “saved”?  Who decides?  How do you triage people?  Do you triage people?  How do you decide which lives have more value?  And is there a better way to be prepared for terrible things like this?


Sunset at South Jetty a few minutes later







26 thoughts on “One Year Anniversary

  1. My goodness – reading your post and thinking back with you all that this past year has meant and . . . being SO thankful for where (and how) you are now, Mary.

  2. Cant believe it’s been a year….Happy Anniversary and Happy Thanksgiving – we all give thanks for you xoxox

  3. Our family will be forever grateful to you for all we have learned and continue to learn from you. We couldn’t be happier to be able to share this important anniversary with you across the miles. What a glorious spirit you have!

  4. Thank you for your beautiful post, Mary. As my family goes through its own challenges, I will keep your grace, patience, and love present.

  5. Anything by Marilynne Robinson is wonderful but Gilead knocked me out! Enjoy!

  6. Happy Anniversary, Mary!You have certainly taken this year long journey with grace and wisdom. I am proud to be called a friend! Love the photo of Lana on the beach!

  7. When one hears that esophageal diagnosis, it does stun! Your blog has not only been helpful to you, but to me also. I totally understood everything you said!

  8. So many things to be thankful for……No matter the miles you’ll always be in my heart!

  9. Beautiful thoughts & great pic of u & the man!

    Sent from my iPad



  11. Please know Mary, that what you are doing with your messages are what is keeping a lot of us going. Keep the faith and know we’re all in here peddling up hill Together. Love to all!

    Sent from my iPad


  12. Frank/Annette Thoubboron

    Mary, We are overwhelmed! Thanks for sharing with us. You and Jerry are awesome!

    We love you, Dad and Annette

  13. Congrats to you on your one year Anniversary. A great achievement that you must celebrate.

    Jim Veale Have a great day! Jim—Sent from my Ipad


  14. Mary congratulations on your one year anniversary! Keep the blog going, love feeling connected. You’re an inspiration to many.

  15. Thank you, Mary. You know my plight. I hope I am as lucky as you. Love and hugs. Elin

  16. Happy Anniversary and so thankful you are well. You fought the fight and won, and you inspired all who read your blog. Thanksgiving wishes to you and Jerry.
    Chris Veale

  17. This made me cry. I know and understand your feelings and how important the day is for you.
    Sending you love

  18. Deirdre Christman

    WE are the lucky ones, Mary, to have you for a friend! I give thanks for your recovery – and friendship – every day. Here’s hoping we have many more years to laugh, cry, and share together, as well as a funny blog that chronicles everything in your life. (Just no more cancer,,please.) Love you.

  19. Thank you for sharing the journey, my friend.

  20. Mary,
    Not sure you know that Lou and I lost one of our closest friends to esophageal cancer 5 years ago. Rick Bowers was Lou’s best friend, our traveling companion and Lou’s dive partner for close to 20 years. We are thrilled that you fought this cancer head on and won and we have so enjoyed following you on your journey.
    Best always,

  21. Happy Anniversary dear Mary!! You’re sharing so much beautiful insight that has come through so many hard times. But then, that’s when we grow so much!
    I wish you all of God’s great continued ,healing blessings and love, Jane

  22. Thanks for this, Mary. Love you, my friend.

  23. So many friends said exactly what I was thinking. You are an amazing person – you make us better, you inspire us, you make us laugh and cry. You make us grateful for all we have, and grateful for you and Jerry. Love, hugs, smiles and hope every day to you. Thank you for giving so much to us. Love you, Mary.

  24. Wendie Highsmith

    Mary-wonderful photos! What a difference a year makes. One remembers the exact date when one is told, “you have cancer.” Life changes forever…you’re suddenly on a road that was not on the map. It has lots of bumps, rocks, a river or two to cross. How do I navigate?? Will I get there…to my destination, my goal of being cancer-free? With more questions and uncertainty than ever in your life, you begin the journey. Lots of folks provide their medical expertise, others provide love and big arms and big shoulders along the way, without which, it would so lonely and terrifying. And you get there, to the end of that rocky road. And you say, “whew.” And you say, “What’s next?” And you get to figure it out. Yes! Glad you are here to do your blog. You write so well! And glad for your book and movie recs! Be well, Wendie


  25. I read your post together with my sister on our plane ride home after a wonderful ‘girls’ get-a-way” with our cousin in So. Carolina. The clarity with which you write moved us both. My sister, who is a nurse, knows only too well the odds of making it through such an invasive cancer and couldn’t believe how your journey has been so blessed. Then she saw your picture, you looking so healthy and youthful in the sunlight and said, “She is so young to have gone through all that. What is she…maybe 50?” I thought you would enjoy that, because your appear rejuvenated much as I had hoped you would at this time. I am so happy for you! much love to you and Jerry.

  26. You look fantastic, Mary. And Jerry looks relaxed and strong, as always. 🙂 Much love to you both, and thank you for letting me continue on your journey with you. I always find so much to be thankful for after reading your blog. You have so many gifts, and your writing is inspiring. Much love to you and Jerry!

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