Monday, October 27, 2014


For some reason I've been thinking a lot about some of my pioneer ancestors lately. Possibly in part because I've been tackling a bit of family history work. I think it's a wonderful thing to do when life seems a little overwhelming. Sometimes it helps to look at our ancestors and see how they handled some of the stresses in their lives. True, their trials were of a different nature and time, but tough times are tough times regardless of when they occur. The emotions are the same: disappointment, heartache, and grief are experienced by one and all. Ponder, for example, how Adam and Eve must have felt when Cain slew Able. That had to have been a difficult time. And yet, we read nothing that indicates they threw in the towel, and said, "That's it! This is too hard!" Instead, they lived on, had other children, and did the best they could under challenging circumstances.

I think that's all any one of us can do, when tribulation enters our lives. We all get knocked flat from time to time by various trials. The true heroes are the ones who quietly pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and continue on their way.

One of my ancestors, my 10th great-grandfather (John Howland) fell off the Mayflower. (This is where we suspect we inherited our klutz gene, but I digress.) It would've been easy for him to have panicked and decide that was it--life was over. Instead, he fought desperately to survive. He managed to grab one of the halyard ropes hanging off the back of the ship, and he held on for dear life until some of the other passengers noticed his plight. He was hauled aboard, and fought off the ravages of a severe cold. He also managed to survive that first, ugly winter in the Plymouth colony, during which time, several people perished from illness and lack of food. John Howland managed to live through all of that, and he eventually married another survivor, Elizabeth Tilley. Both of Elizabeth's parents died during the first winter in that settlement, but she endured, and went on to help her husband raise a large family. (I descended through their daughter, aptly named: Hope.)

Keturah Lunn Broadbent, was expecting a child when she crossed the plains in a handcart company during the 1800's. One day as they crossed the Nebraska plain, she didn't feel very good. During a brief lunch break, she wandered off and sat under the only tree visible for miles. The pioneer company didn't realize she was missing, and started back on their journey west. Meanwhile, my 2nd great-grandmother went into labor all by herself. Eventually, a passing Native American saw her plight and helped deliver the baby, a strapping boy she later named, Orson. This wasn't the way she had envisioned giving birth, but she got through all of that, and the new friend who had helped her, rode after the pioneer company to let them know that she had been left behind.

I could go on and on . . . but I won't. ;) I think you get the idea. This life wasn't meant to be a smooth and easy journey. It was to be filled with challenging trials that would stretch us to the limit of what we think we can endure. Looking back over my own life, there are things I have experienced that I would never want to wade through again . . . like the suicide death of my father . . . barely surviving my first pregnancy that was filled with complications . . . the severe illness I endured before finally getting diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic, etc. and so forth. Though I wouldn't want to relive those events, they are the things that have helped to shape me into who I am today. From the lessons learned during my own school of hard knocks, I have learned patience, empathy, tolerance, and the fact that no matter what life throws my way, I can survive if I will follow the courageous example of my ancestors, and keep moving forward. An interesting sense of humor has been passed down through our family line. I know it helps us to cope when challenging moments come. I've always believed that laughter is truly the best medicine. There are times when hard trials surface and it seems like you will never smile again. But I have found, even during those difficult days, the Comforter helps us find a way back to the sunlight.

Someday, our example will be discussed by our posterity. Hopefully we will have left a legacy that will inspire faith, a smile, and the courage to continue on. We may think that we are the only ones affected by the choices we make, but we're not. Others will come along who will look to us for guidance in dealing with the challenges they will face. May our lives reflect the image of hope they will need.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Dreaded "C" Word

In this day and age it seems like there are numerous cases of cancer of varying kinds being discovered with increasing frequency. Though we are often saddened by the number of people who are affected by this ravaging illness, it isn't until cancer strikes one of our own that we take a personal interest. For me, cancer was that dreaded "c" word that had taken the lives of distant aunts and uncles. Then several years ago it claimed the life of one of my grandmothers, striking a more personal blow. Since that time, I have stood helplessly by as others, just as near and dear to my heart, have struggled bravely against this debilitating disease. As mentioned, it comes in a variety of forms, targeting different part of the body. All of it is nasty and heartbreaking.

Some win their battle against it--I've known friends who courageously underwent painful surgical procedures, and then endured the supreme discomfort of chemo and radiation, and have successfully gone on with their lives. There are family members who have also faced this harrowing gauntlet and come out the other side, cancer-free. In recent days, my mother's sister struggled through this process and is currently recuperating at home under the care of loved ones. We've been amazed at her tenacity and applaud her determined spirit. 

Then there are others who fought just as bravely, like one of my sister-in-laws. She fought harder than anyone I know against tremendous odds, doing daily battle with glioblastoma--a vicious form of brain cancer. Though her attitude remained positive right up until the end, she lost the final battle. She had lasted longer than most--living a year after the initial diagnosis. We lost her in February of 2013. Her courageous example holds a tender place in all of our hearts.

A few days ago, I was asked to blog about another kind of cancer, mesothelioma. I was hesitant, at first, but then decided that if it would help others who are facing this kind of illness, or maybe even provide information that would prevent people from suffering from this disease, it would be worth it to share some details. 

Not long ago, the father of a good friend, passed from this mortal existence from this form of cancer. We suspect it may have also had something to do with the premature death of my father-in-law. As most of you know, this type of cancer is preventable. It is caused from exposure to asbestos, which used to be utilized as a form of insulation. It was found in industrial work places, some homes, and older buildings. It was also used to build ships, in railroad infrastructure, and in power plants. 

The reason it is so hard to treat, is that it is a very durable product and once someone's lungs become contaminated, it causes untold damage. It often lodges in the outer lining of the lungs, also called the mesothelium. Workers exposed to asbestos had no idea at the time that they were breathing in these damaging fibers. And they weren't the only victims. Often their spouses and children were exposed when these workers returned home; the fibers were on their clothing, hair, and person. 

Here is a link to an extensive list of items that were contaminated by asbestos: Asbestos Products 

Fortunately, the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission took a stand against the production of asbestos in 1989, regulating this dangerous product. Sadly, for many people, the damage was already done. But the good news is that there is treatment available  (Mesothelioma Treatment ) and people are winning the fight against this disease. ( Mesothelioma Survivor

Here are the symptoms to watch for: lower back pain, side chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, persistent cough, fever, weight loss, or fatigue. The disease is characterized by a lengthy latency period--the average length of time between exposure and the development of the cancer is often 35-40 years.  The scary thing is by the time this illness is diagnosed, it's often in a progressed state. You can read more about that on this link: 
( Mesothelioma Symptoms ).

So just a heads up--if you suspect that you, or someone you love may have been exposed to asbestos, go get things checked out. It may just save your life, or the life of someone you love.