It’s not easy bein’ a pretty flower.


I tried to think of something clever with the  “It’s not easy bein’ green,” Kermit the frog thing, but I couldn’t.  This is it, people.  It’s Friday.  Friday night.  Bear with me.  This long week is coming to an end and here I am getting time to sit.  Being a florist is not actually a “sit there” job.


“Kermit” Mums, about 1.5-2″ wide.  Amazing color.

It’s not easy being a florist, period.  It’s a physically tough job.   It’s even more challenging to own a small town flower shop.  Even big city florists are tossing in the roses and calling it quits.  Locally we are down 50% in brick and mortar florist’s from when I started almost nine years ago.  We’ve lost one shop  in Weiser and two in Ontario.  Three flower shops remain in the valley.

I can remember when I bought the store, in 2007.  Joyce, the former owner and my mentor, said that the business took a big hit after floral departments were added to the local grocery store (was this in the 90’s?).  I didn’t get it then, but I get it now.  Things you wish you would have gotten back then!  Anyhow, until this point, flower shops were the only places with flowers.  This new level of grocery and department store competition shook the industry.  First it was just flowers, but then all of the plants and balloons, too.  And at prices that flower shops can’t even buy at!

My store is competing locally with two northwest grocery and department store chains – Ridley’s and Bi-Mart.  There are major franchises like Albertson’s and Walmart just twenty minutes away on the highway.  This is a regular commute and destination area for a lot of folks.

We were recently asked if it were possible for us to make a “consumer bunch” of flowers for a local business.  This is a grouping of flowers sold in cellophane, you’ve all seen them at the grocery store check-out line before.  This customer purchased their flowers from Walmart and Ridley’s, regularly, and was interested in “buying local.”  We were upfront with the concept that these retailers have huge buying power and it would be very difficult for us to compete.  The customer insisted.  Repeated calls insisted.  Even though we were super busy, we made trips to the grocers, obtained pictures, stem counts, prices, and dimensions.  Even though we knew it was a long shot, we made a comparable bouquet.  Instead of the $9.87 price at Walmart, twenty minutes away, ours would be $15.00.  We did not triple the value of the flowers, the normal industry standard, and it wouldn’t include the cost of labor or the wrap.

The customer had anticipated that they would need this bouquet refilled two times per month.  There was anticipation that this initial agreement, could lead to more business.  We were hopeful when we called them that we had satisfied their requirements and the purchase price would be considered a good deal-paying more, but staying local.  We thought we nailed it.

When the customer arrived, she looked at the flowers and said she could get the same thing at Walmart for $6.00.


I was so sad.

My helpers and I discussed later that we had all reminded her in one of our several phone calls and visits, that Walmart has contracts, if not their own fields, for flowers that we don’t have.  Making money on one rose is not important to them.  I can attest to the fact that I can also buy flowers cheaper at Walmart!

I guess the insult on my effort and the realization that the customer, who has never purchased anything from me before to my knowledge, somehow thought they had buying power with their $6.00, twice a month bouquet offer.  They didn’t really want local flowers, they wanted more flowers for less money.  I was eager to earn the business.  And lost it.  I would have lost money selling the flowers to them at $6.00.

That is why, flower shops are less and less.  We can get it cheaper somewhere else.  I’m totally guilty of this myself.  I am on such a budget that flowers are luxury items we normally wouldn’t afford.  I get it.  I just don’t like the feeling of unworthiness the customer suggested.  I would have liked her to be upfront that she would have preferred to have more flowers than Walmart, for less than she was paying them, and we could have saved everyone their time and pride.  I don’t know how to tell ya’ll this, but our flowers aren’t more because we are jerkfaces trying to price gouge you.

Our flowers are more because we can’t just order 2,000 of one item like Walmart.  They die in ten days!!!  We have to order one or two of 40 items, a couple times a week.  In order to maintain this inventory, to get Aunt Cindy her one yellow rose in a vase and Mary Kate her red and white carnation’s for making varsity cheer leading, and Dave’s pink and peach corsage for his wife for their 40th anniversary… I hope you can see why  it gets tricky to manage a perishable product, that you only need minimal flowers for, but have to buy full bundles of.  Try as we might to maintain a large inventory, we will never be able purchase in bulk and quantity like these super stores.  The things that we can control are design, value, and quality.

Design may be in the eye of the beholder, but I always take the time to make sure the bouquet looks like pride and effort were taken in the final product.  It’s the small details that make the arrangement complete, unique, hopefully personal, and memorable.  Part of making a bouquet memorable is making a bouquet that will transform with time.  Understanding the graceful waves of the lily.  Where does it align now and as it will open?  Is the blossom overlapping a longer lasting bloom so that when it fades, another will remain?  There is the art and science of nature’s perfect beauty placed at my fingertips and it’s like a symphony in my mind, much like words.  Stem placement isn’t mechanical, but fluid.  Music.  The two things I’m graced with ability:  designing flowers and words.


Strategically designed arrangement – the lilies will take days to open.  The focals will then add new color and drama.  Until then, red roses, rovers, and sunflowers are worked in among greens and dried stems and pods to create this rustic , one of a kind sentiment.

I’m learning to edit both.   In my anxiety, I can rarely ‘save it for later’ when I write because, I will simply never post it later.  If I didn’t just get it out there, I would second guess myself and the doubt would keep my writing private.  I’m learning to write with quality  and confidence, almost as I am adamant about providing stellar flowers.

I take great care in cleaning my cooler, buckets, utensils, and I’m a stickler for fresh water and flower food.  And, of course, the flowers!  We keep our product hydrated, fed, cleaned and re-cut as necessary.    I know why we have such an awesome product that gets rave reviews- because we take the time to take care of it.  And, the people who we get these products from, they took time to take care of them too.  And all of this time to take care of, to grow, to cut, to bundle, to transfer, and to ship just one bundle to me, and one hundred to Walmart, will change the price those bundles cost.

One bundle just doesn’t demand the price guarantees that grocers have.  I don’t know that the floral industry will ever be the same in a rural setting such as ours.  It is my hope that the value of flowers will expand to include the thoughtfulness in the arrangements and the uniqueness of the product, and that the sheer availability of having a local florist who cares will prevail as a luxury in and of itself.






There is something deep and dark and sad within me.  Something that words, man, there aren’t even words to pray.  I start praying, but the words are empty.  They don’t mean much.  Even though I went through this amazing “miracle” cancer procedure with my mama and everything seems like it’s going to be okay, there are still so many hurts in my heart and the presence of God is not felt within me.

I made a hard choice at the flower shop this year and hard choices mean hard roads.  It was a difficult journey coming and going and leaving the shop during one of the most prosperous weeks the shop will see this year so that I could be with my mom during her surgery and recovery.  Without a full-time florist, how do you flower shop, right?  During Mother’s Day week.  A group of awesome angels and Toby geared up to rescue me and I tried, through the miles, to give them direction as much as I also tried to let go.

The experience at UCSD wasn’t just about my mom.  There was this inevitable “break” that would happen at the end of all of it.  Me and her and Oscar’s ceviche and the beach for a few weeks of recovery time.  The biggest break I’ve gotten since my oldest was born 12 years ago.  A break I fought, but a break I realized I needed.  And, just as I succumb to it, it’s scooped away into the emptiness it came from.  And the month turns into just days and I come back late to work early and hard and I’m left feeling well undeserving of rest and quiet and finances and goodness.

That’s the thing with me.  Always unworthy.  I can work hard and get all this seemingly “extra” money, but there is always medical debt. There is always a prescription.  You get one bill paid off and turn around to find eight more.  Lesions scattered across my brain MRI, new lesions, at least five, and I get the call from my neurologist’ assistant, “Everything on your MRI was normal.”  This is not normal.  The radiologist even notes that this is an abnormal presentation of Multiple Sclerosis.  At what point will I really get help?  And how much will that cost?  I’ve invested at least one college education into my health and have no long-term help.  There is no light at the end of the tunnel except that of heaven.

The pain is  everyday.  Sometimes a leg, sometimes an arm, shoulder, neck.  This “Stiff Person Syndrome” thing, that I have positive blood tests for, that nobody will treat me for, is seemingly progressing.  Spasms, cramps, inability to walk far…  no escape.  The only thing that helps it is rest and sleep and there are not enough hours in the day to sleep it off.  Sleep I often wish I won’t wake up from.

I went through this school of hard knocks with ministry, hoping that somehow, being devoted to Him and His word would somehow benefit the rest of my life…  it doesn’t work that way.  Just because you serve, doesn’t mean He offers you protection from the pain.  Just because you love Him, doesn’t mean He will make it easier.  I laughed at scripture, really laughed, that said He was with me holding my right hand.  He is not with me right now.  I often wonder what I’ve done to earn this life and  what I need to do to get Him to help me. I am at a loss.  I can’t even believe His promises because I don’t want to be hurt by His abandonment anymore.  I know I’m not good enough, let’s just, both, settle on that so I can stop trying to love you and you can stop rejecting me, ok?

I cried on my way to church the other day.  A faith choice to go, my feelings telling me I’m going to continue to get hurt chasing after this Jesus, especially here.  The church, my once beloved church, long since feeling like home to me.  A hard reality that I’ve been working on since last October and beyond.  A church, ironically, where my husband is now the associate pastor.

On the day when he serves communion, his first time being approved to do so, was the first time I didn’t take it.  The first time since becoming a Christian eight years ago that I didn’t celebrate in Christ’s death by consuming the bread and juice, a remembrance of Him.  Wouldn’t you know, that I’m in this empty pew, Toby up front to pray over the sacrament, and sure enough the pastor of the church comes to sit by me.  Then, the tray of bread and juice is served to me by two of my loves, my Brucey and Ster, and I have to audibly tell them I’m not partaking.  Then, the pastor’s wife comes to sit by me after she is done helping to distribute communion to the congregation.  The one day I don’t take the elements because I know my heart is long from being right with God,  I have my husband officiating, my pastor and his wife sitting on each side of me, and I can’t even just pass the tray, I have to verbally and shamefully turn it down.  Of course it happened that way.

I probably shouldn’t, but I feel super embarrassed.  Super stupid that the two most meaningful people in the church sat at my right and left while I sat empty handed during one of the most intimate rituals one can partake in for our God.  It was humbling and hard.  My lips didn’t move in worship that morning.  I sat, eyes mostly closed, clenching onto tears.

Sadly, this is most of my days.  Waiting for the pain, always on the defense.  Facebook became one of those places.  Not only because people, good “Christian” people bring me down, but because I gave up on sharing the story, sharing His glory, when I realized that I was only going to continue getting attacked -spiritually, physically, emotionally.  Unable to continue spouting out how great things are, when deep down I didn’t feel loved and protected and hope for the future.  His promises empty.

I am as weak and poor spiritually than I have ever been, even pre-Jesus.  We have enough money to get by, but there isn’t a future of prosperity for us, despite how hard we will have to work.  There is not a doctor in Idaho that can help me and I don’t know who to go to and I’m not wasting anymore of my time or money pursuing empty attempts at getting help. The physical pain is my only constant.

I am at this point that I have to accept that this is life.  I was born to suffer and endure emotional, physical, and financial pain.  I’m at this breaking point where I need to decide if it’s worth it.  Where do I go from here?  There is nowhere to run.  There is no God holding my right hand guiding me to a place where I can be favored like my mom and Toby.  These two.  If I didn’t have them and some of God’s goodness that I was able to breathe in when I’m around them, I probably wouldn’t have any favor at all.  I am both thankful and hurt that I can’t be loved the way they are.  The way things just happen and align for them always.  Not much effort on their behalf.  And, I’m here drowning…  it doesn’t take long before you realize that you’re the one that doesn’t fit into this Kingdom.  And it’s so hard fighting it.  And, I’m tired.  The deep, dark sadness inside of me festers bigger and my worth has wore down to just shreds that once were.

I’m sorry that I am not a source of hope and joy and spiritual enlightenment today or always.  Sometimes, like now, it’s just too hard to fake it anymore.  Pain too close to the surface. Just, too much pain…


This Cancer Thing


There are several layers to this cancer thing.

You’ve got the patient.  Most obviously in this case, my sweet mama, Sue.


Pictures with “Magaw” February 2016.

You’ve got the cancer.  Depending on the cancer location, type, and staging, you have a very unique and specific disease process that responds as uniquely and differently to various treatments.  We’re dealing with adenocarcinoma of the small intestine.  I say “we” are battling this cancer, because in a lot of ways, this has become a group fight:

You’ve got the caregivers.  Those whose lives are directly impacted by the patient’s cancer and treatment.  My sister, D’Ann, husband, Toby, the three little critters, and me.  Family near and far.

You’ve got the concerned loved ones.  Some that you’ve known forever and some that you’re lucky enough to meet along the way.

You’ve got the medical staff.  Everyone you encounter:  janitors, nurses, lab techs, radiologists, and even those doctors.

If you’re really lucky, if you’re really blessed, you somehow also get this really great community of supporters cheering for you.

We are sincerely blessed.

As we come back from mom’s cancer surgery and HIPEC treatment in San Diego at the University of California, it’s taken a bit of time to let the dust settle and fully consider what just happened.  The roller coaster has whirred, screeched, twisted, and upended all of us, most intimately, mama, and as we slowly lurch back into the level resting position at the end of the ride, it still takes a moment for us to gain our feet and to brace ourselves again.  A new chapter.

We’re home.

The cytoreductive surgery  to remove all of the cancer and heated chemotherapy went…  they went amazing!  It is a little shocking to report that, all in all, there were 21 tumors taken out of mom’s abdomen, liver, large intestine, omentum, and rib cage.  19 in this surgery, 2 in March.  They were all relatively small, marble sized to one mass that reached index card size.  By comparison to other patients who receive this cancer treatment, mom’s tumor load was considered “low volume.”  They fight way bigger wars than this and win!


How we found her the day following surgery.  So many bells and whistles.

They sloshed the chemotherapy around in her belly for 90 minutes following a surgery that took about 5 or 6 hours.  We were initially told the whole procedure would take 8-12 hours.  We saw her in recovery by about the 9 hour mark.  The pain was intense, but she was closely monitored as an ICU patient throughout the evening.  ICU was overfull, as was the remainder of the hospital.  Mom ended up staying in the post-op chaos for a few days too long, until a room cleared up.


This is in recovery within a few hours of the surgery.  She stuck out her tongue for the kids.  I think she was in level 8’ish pain.

Sporting an incision down her belly, about 14″ long, there were good days mostly, with a few bad pain days as they  tried to adjust and taper her medication.  The tumors behind her liver were growing, oddly, through her abdominal wall into the muscle.  This muscle had to be removed, a large resection of about 5″ in diameter.  Ow.  This site is still causing sharp stabbing pains, muscle spasms, and intense soreness.

We were told there would be a 50% chance that something that would require medical intervention would happen – an infection, a bleed, a somethin’.  The only kink in the system became the adhesive from a band-aid on upper epidural site.  There was a clear bandage placed over this line to keep it in place on her spine, just about shoulder blade level.  She was able to press a button to release medication into the spine which blocked the pain from her rib cage down and still allowed her legs to function.  The band-aid, about 3″ x 3″ , by day 3, created a rash the size of Rhode Island on mom’s back.  The rash blistered, festered and grew.  There is still a deep brown tone to her skin where the reaction occurred.  This requires hydro-cortisone cream.  Of all the things that could have gone wrong, we get to rub some cream on it.  Sincerely blessed.


She walked up more steps than the physical therapist had asked her to.  Stretched her IV cords.  Show off.

By day six after the operation, mom had surpassed the expectations of the physical therapist.  Dr. Baumgartner and his nurse, Lisa, were both encouraged and pleased with mom’s post-surgical resilience.  They released her over to me on day seven.


Leaving the hospital!  See ya, Thornton!

At this point, I had flown back and forth to San Diego, twice, as I wrapped up Mother’s Day and more at the flower shop, with very little to no rest a night or two.  I relieved my sister from her 12-hour hospital days and she immediately flew home and went back to work upon landing in Boise.  Mama taught us to work hard.  Not gonna lie… it was daunting.

Upon getting to our hotel, I grocery shopped, started a medication log, and then we slept.  For two days mom and I slept and ate sandwiches and did laps around the balcony of our hotel.  And we slept.  Sincerely blessed.


Aunt Shannon took the kids to build a bear.  Dressed in Wonder Woman attire, she says, “We love you Magaw and mommy!”

Instead of a 14 day hospital stay, we ended up making it a 14 day stay in San Diego.  Mom literally rocked it.  I believe all the of the prayer has kept this genetically aggressive tumor from reacting the way it is wired to act, God’s protection.  Somehow, mom is just defying the odds of this cancer prognosis.

This year we found out mom’s cancer was back in January.  We were told in February that doctors in our location could do nothing more to help her.  She was given the choice by her oncologist to let the cancer grow and take chemotherapy after the disease had advanced as a way of “slowing the cancer down” and prolonging life.  Mom had taken this regimen of FOLFIRI and responded poorly.  It made her feel sicker than the cancer.  We left the oncologist’ office feeling down, but hopeful that our surgeon would be willing to help us by removing the tumors.

The Idaho surgeon refused to operate and refused to help us find a surgeon who would help us.  That was a sad day.

In the following weeks we were denied service by MD Anderson in Houston, Texas. – reportedly the best cancer institution in America.  Without hesitation, I called a number in our back pocket.  A Facebook comment by a long-distance friend.  We called the Moore’s Cancer Center at the University of California – San Diego.  That phone call was the first time I had hope in a long time.  Thank you, Kate.

We ended up with a phone interview with our new surgical oncologist, Dr. Joel Baumgartner, in late February.  This led to a laparoscopic procedure in San Diego in late March.  We also went to San Diego in April for a pre-operative visit.  And, finally, we are home from our May visit with the best possible news.


Mom and her doctor.  This was taken the day following surgery.

Somehow, it’s a little hard to celebrate.  I think we are all scratching our heads thinking, “What now?”  I mean, really, just heal and hope, right?  It is a new blaring reality that mom will need follow-up visits with doctors in San Diego and we will start this in July.  It’s not over yet.  You try to keep both feet on the “miracle” side of the line, but you know there is a scan in a few short months and more San Diego.

At this point, I know two things.   There is no way to predict what will happen in the future and I am just trying to rest and breathe and lay it all at His feet.  This is so hard for me.  The second thing I know, is that it is impossible for me to thank all that need to be thanked at this point.  I must give all glory to God, because there is no way to put a name to every act of kindness that has been shown to us.

Super blessed.

Another layer to this cancer thing:  the story itself, as a whole, and the hope it provides.  If anything you see in us offers hope for you or your loved one’s cancer, know that it is God shining through us as He has offered this path for us.  It is one of the hardest, frustrating battles that we will fight, and it has taken a lot of courage on everyone’s behalf.  Getting to tell the doctor and his staff thank you for being willing to try the save my mom’s life was humbling and hard and real and it wouldn’t have happened if all of the other layers – the love of those near and far, our family and friends both new and old, the angels He has planted among us, the rejection, the open doors, the prayer, the financial support, the plane tickets…  all of God’s intricate design working together for our good.






At the Cross


Mount Soledad in San Diego.  Mama Sue and Dana.  March 2016

Standing at the cross of Mount Soledad in San Diego, last month, mom and I took in the scenic view as we embarked on this crazy journey of cancer fighting.  Fighting for life.

It’s interesting that our host would advise this location as one of our tours.  Now used as a war memorial, the cross stands among the beautiful blue skyline of San Diego despite legal efforts to have the piece removed.  The cross still stands.

I reflect on the meaning of the cross and the death of Christ on the cross and there it was…  He wasn’t at the cross fighting for His life, but ours.  Fighting for OUR lives, by sacrificing His.  The only perfect offering that could satisfy the Creator and bring  the grace of life – full and everlasting – to all who believe.

It really is kinda wild to believe Jesus is who He says He is.  To believe the scriptures.  To choose to believe, by faith, with your heart, that He died for you on the cross…   and thankfully He did that we might receive the Holy Spirit.

And with this Spirit, the power to commune with God intimately and continually.  What a gift.  All of these doors for San Diego’s cancer treatment have flung wide open.  By the grace of God and with the power of the Spirit.

It is, with faith, that I must conclude Jesus is leading the way for this spectacular cancer treatment that we are days away from embarking on.  May we be sensitive to His guidance.

Tomorrow my mom and I fly down to San Diego to meet with the surgical oncologist and go through a round of pre-operative testing.  It’s a super quick trip and we will be back Friday night.  Wouldn’t you know, the chaos of flower shoppin’ would ensue this weekend as well?  My Mother’s Day preparation isn’t quite where I had hoped it to be, but God will surely work this out, right?  A couple of angels have volunteered at the store this week, and next week I have a great staff lined up.  Lord, help me trust in You during this busy, chaotic time.

My blogging time is not accounted for, but I need a moment to rest and be still, so take that.  Most of my spare time is, for the next week and a half, absolutely rare and intentional.  If I believe Jesus can do rad things like rise from the dead, heal the blind, walk on water, and ascend into heaven…  surely I can have faith that He will take care of my silly flower shop needs, my pain, my mom’s enormous cancer procedure, my family, and all of the anxiety and stress that are attached to this life right now.  Right?

As much as we associate the cross with Jesus, it’s also a symbol of our association and heir to His mercy, love, power, and grace…  May I look upon the cross as a symbol of life full and everlasting.  In the weeks ahead may we rest all of our worries, doubts, and fear at the foot of the cross.    May He provide mama healing, peace, and comfort, super natural.  We thank you for your provision, direction, and hope, Father.  Amen.


Where are we now? Here we are!


Here is a quick update on the life of the Clary – Slyter family of chaos!

Toby is almost a legitimate local pastorish guy.  He might be already, but there are so many levels of pastoring, through the church, I guess.  Blows.  My.  Mind.  Who woulda thought Toby a pastor?  Probably Jesus, but He does have a strategic advantage in the guessing game.  This means that Toby will continue to do what he has done in our church, with a special focus on youth ministry.  I am still scratching my head at this whole “pastor’s wife” thing.  I am definitely going to need more accessories.

In the meantime, Toby is actively working his day job for HP.  Lots of data entry lately and lots and lots of meetings.  It makes me gag.  I am so thankful he has his tolerance for computer life and brains for understanding computers.

In the background of his day he is helping me, watching over Tripp, and doing housework.  He does have a brief break right now, but he also has some college classes that he throws in the mix, when he needs to spice things up.

Toby’s evening gigs involve two nights of jiu jitsu training, a night of youth group, and one night of Bible study.

The guy is a machine.

And, he makes me delicious sandwiches.  He is also the best foot masseur.  Quincy is second in this division.  That Q!

Quincy is 12 going on 17.  She is bursting with teenagerness and it is a fun and weird change for all of us!  She is enjoying volleyball right now and was recently selected as Student of the Month for her grade at school.  I was glowing just as much as Tate!  Her little sister was so proud and bursting at the seams for Q to tell everyone!

Tate is a flurry of cartwheels and squeals and smiles.  She adores her animals and the tenderness of her heart toward all things growing makes me smile.  She has an inexplicable connection to nature.  With the exception of her little brother.  She does not tolerate Tripp as well!

Tripp is four going on four.  Oh, that boy.  There is so much cuteness trapped in his body that he just melts your heart while he is naughty!  I can’t even begin to describe his imagination.  Vivid.  With lots of sounds.  He is such a unique design.  Loves his “magaw.”

That’s what the kids call my mom, their “Magaw.”  For some reason when we said, “grandma” Tripp said “Magaw” and it totally stuck.  If he ever switches it, and after all these years starts saying “Grandma,” I think my heart would break in two.  Magaw.

Mom is doing okay.  There is a lot of new pain in her abdomen.  Standing isn’t so bad.  But it is difficult for her to lay down in any position.  This makes sleeping difficult.  Which makes the pain and her days a little more daunting.  She is relieved and excited to be having her surgery at UCSD the 4th!

That’s right, she is totally approved and scheduled to have all the tumors removed and the heated chemotherapy (HIPEC) on May 4th.  This is a big deal!

Mother’s Day will really never meaningful like this one.

Because of the Mother’s Day holiday at the flower shop, I will be pulling double duty that week as daughter and florist.  The details on this are still somewhat sketchy, but surely it’s going to work out, right?

The flower shop is hanging in there.  It is a weird season and I don’t know what the Lord has in mind.  I made the announcement to sell the store in January.  After that, things changed fast and quick.  Boise cancer treatment turned into far away cancer treatment and my mind couldn’t focus on two big things at once.  Toby calls me an unmotivated seller.  His heart wants me to keep the shop.  My heart wants me to keep the shop.  My body and mind are not so sure.  The days have gotten longer.  There is a lot of profit right now going directly into bills and more bills and taxes and more taxes.  There is debt-free life at the end of the tunnel and it’s a matter of getting there to see what we can see and to then make decisions about what’s next.

The only thing I can keep focused on right now, is keeping things as I know them.  Letting the shop get through the season, as I know it will, and getting my mom through her journey in San Diego.  A journey it will be.

We fly down at the end of the month for a brief pre-op visit with a couple of different doctors.  The following week we will go back for the surgery.  We expect mom to be in ICU for a few days followed by a few weeks in the hospital.  She will then be able to check out, but has to stay in the San Diego area for a few more weeks.  We will expect her to be there for 25 days or so.

The biggest battle she will have is getting her intestines to wake up again following the procedure.  This could take weeks.  The trauma of the chemotherapy is daunting.  More than likely, mom will not lose much hair (they said this before and she did lose quite a bit), she will suffer from nausea and the standard chemo side-effects for a few weeks to months.  She will also be recovering from a pretty invasive surgery to remove the rest of the tumors in her abdomen.  She is at the point where the pain is gradually getting more intense, that she is thankful to be helped soon.  Lord, I couldn’t imagine what the pain would be like if the cancer progressed.  My poor mama.  Lord, show her mercy.

Thank you so much for keeping all of us in your prayers as we go through the weeks and months ahead.  We are moving a few beds around so that mom will have a room at our home after we initially get back.  My sister, D’Ann, works so hard for UPS and her schedule is often slated for evenings.   When mom is up to being on her own, we’ll kick her back to her house.  Until she finishes taking care of her “personal business.”

Ha!  We watched “God’s Not Dead” on Amazon  as a family *with mom* the other night, which made it extra special.  Root beer floats and popcorn.  Dean Cain’s character cracked us up.  Looking forward to seeing the sequel in the theater soon.  May little memories and little moments multiply into big blessings in your lives this week, as they have in ours.


Cancer data in progress!



Well, we’re doing what we do most:  waiting.

Waiting on doctors and test results and emails and dates.   Supposedly this refines patience.  Huh…

We wish we had a plan and knew exactly how this cancer surgery business is going to unfold in San Diego, but we don’t.  People ask for updates.  I have none.  People want answers from me that I can’t give them.  Funny feeling.  I have these doubts from people I know and love and respect that gave input that my mama shouldn’t even have this surgery.  Funny feeling.  The struggle is real.

Small intestine cancer is so very rare and aggressive that most people with this cancer type never make it five and now ten years as my mama has.   The cancer is so fatal and rare and quick that there isn’t significant worldwide data on how to treat this cancer.   The patients themselves are not around long enough, nor are there enough of them, to collaborate a study!   I found ONE!  One study in the Netherlands that had 17 patients who reached the point my mom has – the point of trying this rigorous procedure—cytoreductive surgery to debulk and remove tumors followed by a warm chemotherapy bath poured directly in the belly.

These seventeen patients have made it an average of 31 months, but here is the thing – the data is so new and fresh, that this study is not complete!  There are still patients living, changing this average lifespan.   Changing the data.

The process to choose patients for this dramatic procedure has improved over the years.  In former days, surgical oncologists would try anything at the request of the patient’s vie for survival.  This left a very bad post-operative patient.  To be qualified for this invasive treatment, the criteria have been refined and the door is narrower and choosing candidates who will have a favorable outcome is crucial.

To select patients, one guideline is the “peritoneal cancer index” or PCI.  This PCI splits the abdomen into a tic tac toe grid.  Each square is then scored.  A rough sample of the scoring is that you get points by having tumors and whether or not they are invading other organs.  The small bowel is also portioned into four quarters and each quarter is scored.  They add up all of these points to come to a numerical reference.  This number is very closely indicated to how well you will do after the procedure, the lower the score, the more likely the surgery will benefit you.  If I am correct, the highest number they take is 13.  My mom’s score, roughly, it was just after surgery and I was hashing out quick details with our surgeon at UCSD, my mom’s score is a 6 to an 8.

This factor, alone, makes me feel confident that she would not be a hacked up, chemically filled filet of Susan after the operation.  This score helped me to see just where she was in “real life” in her abdomen.

While this PCI helps medical staff rate and grade her potential success to this cancer treatment, I smile because it doesn’t include her tenacity, spirit, courage, fight, and spunk.  It doesn’t reflect how much Jesus is fighting for her.  It doesn’t show all the prayers going up and the blessings and protection coming down.

When it comes to this stage of fighting cancer, there are a lot of difficult decisions and scary steps that one must go through.  Our hope is that as mom’s story unfolds, other people with small intestine or rare cancer will find a source of strength and renewed hope.  God’s plan is that we should all be in heaven, in personal communion with Him someday.  We have hope and security in that.  We are not ready to ship mom off eternity.  What a glorious day that will be!  However, her data set is just not complete, yet.  As long as the doors of this earthly life keep opening for her, I will choose to support, encourage, and advocate for her.  We thank you for your continued blessings and prayers.  Amen.

A complicated, beautiful mess.


I have a moment.  One unoccupied, take advantage of the quiet, moment.  Life is blurrish.

In January, I had the mindset to sell the flower shop.  My beloved.  I was realizing my place was to support Toby and our children and I was feeling defeated in my physical self.  At that time I put the shop on the altar of sacrifice.

Little did I know that February would upend me and despite my notion to sell the shop, I didn’t have time to prepare.  I was trying to run a business, Toby had to be gone for work, Valentine’s Day, I prioritized finding a surgical oncologist for my mom, and then there is house and children and that silly MS thing.  I found myself with no time to organize and inventory and prepare the paperwork for the proper sell of a business.

What is my goal?  Take what I can get and get out quick?  Or, wait, re-stock, re-group, and take the time to sell it well.  I still haven’t finished my research on how to valuate a business.  My business.  My mind is always whirring and positives and negatives both stung me hard.  With all of this cancer talk and not knowing what was to come, I chose to cling to what I knew.  Ultimately, my brain and my heart couldn’t decide if I could lose them both.  My mama and my shop.  If I was going to lose my mom, could I stand to lose the structure that the shop forces me to have?

I’d like to think I was one of those who would just pick up the pieces of life and keep keepin’ on.  But, I know myself.  I know how chronic illness and depression pull you into idleness and days of pain turn into months and years of pain.  Pain, regardless.  I need something to draw me out.  The intention of the shop was to be that place.  But, that place had turned into something to avoid.  Paperwork piling up, behind on bills, taxes overdo, more bills, and all the people…  people I loved with relationships that turned bitter.  Life took a hard twist and friendship was broken and things at the shop aren’t the same.  And, things got more complicated.

The complicated issues of cancer on top of the complicated layer of flower shop on top of the complicated layer of family with three complicated kids on top of the layer of complicated MS on top of the layer of complicated everyday life…  would the fabric of my life be softer without some of these layers?  Could I weave a more fluid life?

I could.  I think I could.

But, then my choices to fight hard would turn into the easy choices of submission.  Submitting to cancer doctors and surgeons who gave my mom up for dead.  Submitting to my presumed future disability instead of doing what I can now.  Submitting to dreams left unfinished.  I know reality, and I know that I may do some of these things in the future.  I know submission can be a beautiful thing when done for the cause of Christ.  With these things, however,  I am not there yet.

We are waiting for biopsies and tumor board meetings and surgery dates for my mom.  She has a very realistic chance at a few more years of life, instead of certain death.  We are fighting hard at the shop to pay off debt, then to restock, then to start growing again, all with the thought of making the business a more valuable asset to sell at the right time.   The right time.  His time.

I’ve been learning about hope.  Hope is trusting in His timing.  And, the thing is, is that if we have hope in God, we have hope in two things.  We have hope that even if cancer hits hard, we are heaven bound because we believe Jesus died to make this possible.  We have a second hope that God isn’t going to leave us hanging.  We may be hanging by a thread sometimes.  A complicated, barely there thread from the complicated fabric of our lives, but we have hope that He won’t leave us that way.  All this hangin’ makes us stronger and soon we are swinging into the next step He has planned for us.  His plan for us to have a good life, a beautifully complicated mess, and have it to the full.  Amen.