Monday, January 31, 2022

The Day My Son Died

 Today is the day my son died…. And I had a strange conversation that brought memories back.

“I wish I could trade you places. Take your place and die from the cancer,” the man said.

I stared at him. We don’t know each other well. In fact, he’s really come to know me through my writing. 

“Why?” I finally asked, penetrating the silence.

“I’m old. I’ve lived a good life.”

“I’m feeling older by the day.” My voice sounded strained. “And I’ve lived a good life too.”

“I would still trade you.”

Studying the depth in his eyes, I knew he meant every word. I looked away, stunned. We hardly knew each other—and he would offer his life for a stranger. 

I want to be THAT good, but I’m not. I’ve never offered to trade places with a stranger, but I have wanted to take my son’s place….


He squirmed in the little hospital bed, obviously in more pain than we could possibly fathom. Maybe the doctor’s confirmation should’ve soothed me: I’d made the right decision, to take him off of life-support. But even the kindest, most humane decisions can sometimes come with a price. And for years I felt like I’d killed my own son.

I later wrote in my journal saying I couldn’t “tell you what color the sky was the day Zeke died…or tell you if it felt cold or warm the moment he passed…The truth is simply: It lasted forever.”

I’d honestly wished that we could trade. He could live a long, HEALTHY life. I could die from a diaphragmatic hernia. Everything would be right with the world. But that wasn’t God’s plan, and as odd as it is, little miracles started happening after Zeke’s death. As if he sent breadcrumbs from Heaven, signs “appeared” so I’d know that he’s okay. Because the ONLY thing stronger than a mother’s love—or the bond she has with her children—is the love of God.

And each time I’ve witnessed a “breadcrumb,” his death hasn’t been sad anymore or completely devastating: It’s been bittersweet. Now, I live my best life because I realize that he didn’t get to. So, even though sometimes cancer seems inescapably horrid, and it’s exhausting to even get out of bed, I shake it off. My boy might be looking down from Heaven—and just in case he is, I want to make HIM proud.


I pondered the old man’s words before fully responding. “I wanted to take someone’s place once. My son…before he died.”

The man’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“I am too. But he’s still with me somehow. They never quite leave. I know something though; we all go when it’s our time. God knows. And in that realization is a sort of peace.”

The old man finished his coffee and looked into the mug sardonically. “It’s all finished.” He sighed. “Washed up.”

I got the feeling he referenced himself not just the cup of joe.

“Hey,” I reached across the table and gently squeezed his hand, “it’s not over yet.”

I paid the bill, walked out of the diner, and smiled up at the sky. I know life can be hard, but when it’s tough, I simply remember there’s a boy in Heaven who’s rooting for me—and loving me almost as much as I love him.

To read about the breadcrumbs and Zeke’s story, please check out his book here:

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

A Message in a Statue

The statue fell over with a crash. She’d already lost her hand, but now her arm completely shattered from her body. I crumpled, kneeling on the ground, and my first thought was, “Piss on me.” 

Yes. Can you believe it? Piss. On. Me.

The statue has been on my writing desk. She normally stands so elegant and beautiful. And somehow I’d come to think of her as a perfect little guardian, but now she’s disfigured…like me. 

My parents gave me that statue when I got my dream job—managing a newspaper in Southeastern Idaho. That job was incredible, interviewing senators and a governor, chasing fires, and writing bittersweet stories that could even ease the pain of loss. But the newspaper is no longer in business, I got cancer…and a doctor did actually call me “disfigured.”

I know it might sound stupid, or even overindulgent, but some days it’s hard to be 38 and think that I can’t run, skip, or hike—or sleep long at night because of painful tumors—or walk normally. (And I don’t want to think about how other people have it worse—because THAT is even more depressing. 🥺 I’ve never understood how thinking about other people’s suffering should make me feel better.) 

Anyway, my parents had been so proud when I ran the newspaper, but who would be proud of me now? I’m…a cripple.

I wiped my tears—it’s okay to cry sometimes, but I better not make it a habit! It wasn’t until I picked up the statue that I realized something! Someone had stuffed paper in the bottom of it.

I pulled out the first note: 
“Elisa, I have always been so proud of you...” The note from my mother began. I set it down, almost shaking and read the next note, from little Indy.


“I hope that my mom will sleep well and get better and that I’ll sleep well too. I love you, God.”

The air around felt so heavy. My poor little girl, being so courageous. I rolled the papers and placed the notes back into the statue on my desk. 

I decided then, she will remain—without her left arm. 

It reminds me of the word “sincere.” Someone so dear to me once said the root of sincere means “without wax.” People used to repair broken statues by placing wax in the cracks and then painting over them. The amazing thing is that over time, the statues that are worth the most are the ones that no one fixed. They are who they are—flaws and all. And you know what, embracing that is a beautiful thing. 

If my little girl can find hope and courage by leaning on God, then I can do the same—just the way I am.


Monday, January 24, 2022

An Anonymous Package—And a Memory

A huge—anonymous—package arrived at our house. Mike and I gingerly brought it inside and opened it with trepid hands.

As if looking for buried treasures, I pulled numerous ice packs from the packaging.

“Ummm…,” Mike glanced at me, probably remembering scenes from every murder mystery he’s ever watched. 

What did someone send to us that needed to be frozen?! 

Yet, we continued on—because we’re not quitters! And after removing several section of bubble wrap, Mike said,” Someone sent us a…frozen…” we continued digging, “pizza from Little Caesars?!” Mike is hilarious, and at this point his eyes lit with childlike wonder. (You’d think he’s never seen raw dough.) The kids were pretty excited too.

Anyway, this generous act of kindness made me realize that I should tell you how I met Raymond Lowery.

The "Little Caesars Dancing Man” worked tirelessly, spinning his sign on the corner of Antelope and Main seemingly all day, every day. He beamed, so happy and ALWAYS kind.
     My kids were still quite little, and they’d smile and point as he’d spin the sign on his foot and flip it over his head. And no matter what kind of crappy mood I’d be in, this stranger would always make my day better.
    In fact, I received some really bad news one particular afternoon—but as I drove home, I spotted the Little Caesars Dancing Man, just rockin’ away to some unheard beat. The light turned red, so I continued watching his complete exuberance for life. I fully realized then; he's perpetually happy even though he's out there, working in the blistering sun or the freezing cold. He waves back and smiles. You’d think he didn’t have a worry in the world, but in actuality, he must have been so tired.

That day, I turned right instead of going straight home, parked by the dancing man, and decided to meet a legend! 

“I’m Raymond.” He grinned, offering me his hand.

“I’m Elisa!” I smiled back, and I knew an awesome friendship had begun. Then I told him what an inspiration he is—how he might not know it, but he makes life better every day for people like me and my family. He grew very quiet and thanked me. I could tell the words probably meant far more than I would ever know.

When I got home, I friend requested Raymond, and then blogged about my experience.

A couple of weeks later, I received something amazing in the mail—a letter from Little Caesars’ corporate office! They’d actually read my blog and sent two $20 gift cards! They had one request: for me to keep a card and give one to someone else. I remember reading the letter in the post office, then I gave the second gift card to the post office employee, John. He said the story was even better than the money!

The whole thing seemed so exciting at the time. And to think, if I’d never stopped that day, I would’ve missed out on the whole adventure. 

Raymond and I have been friends for nearly 10 years now. I’ve seen him experience good and bad times, and smile the whole way through—just like he used to when he danced for Little Caesars on that corner in Layton, Utah.

So, we got a pizza from someone who’s remaining “anonymous,” and I’m extremely grateful. Thank you to whoever sent that to us! The kids absolutely loved it—and I’m happy that it brought back a memory. 

I’ve had the most wonderful people come into my life over the years. I am truly the luckiest.

I’ve had the most wonderful people come into my life over the years. I am truly the luckiest.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Always More

 We all have secrets. Every one of us. “Unless you get hit by a car or have some freak accident… You know how you’ll die, you just don’t know when.” My doctor said there’s 99% chance that I’ll die from melanoma. Gee…thanks. She should be a motivational speaker. Anyway, cancer is the secret I carry. I glanced around the hair salon. What baggage do those people have?

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through!” a beauty said, her luscious hair swaying.

My ears instantly perked. My religious friends say that loving gossip—and eavesdropping—is bad, but I guess I’d make a terrible Catholic.

“My favorite restaurant closed.” Mrs. Luscious almost whined. 

Ummm seriously?!

“I haven’t known anyone personally who’s gotten COVID,” she told the hairdresser in booth two, “but it’s been terrible to be quarantined with MY children ALL the time! And my husband and I can’t even go out dancing to our favorite place anymore!” She paused to appraise herself in the mirror. “Did you hear the schools got shut down on Friday because so many teachers were sick?”

I wanted to flip out on Mrs. Luscious and tell her what bad things actually are, how I could die soon…how I can’t dance ever again because of tumors—how my son died! Or how I’m HAPPY to be quarantined with my children because it means I’m still alive and so are they.

I turned to my daughter and raised a brow.

“Okay,” my kid whispered, “I know what you’re thinking. But just because we’ve been through a lot more than she has, we shouldn’t judge her. Maybe she REALLY loved that restaurant.”

I scoffed. Out of the mouths of babes… My kids are so great. I wanted to be a better person then, really—yet, I couldn’t stop imagining Mrs. Luscious in a horror movie. You know the character who’s wearing a bikini, screaming and running around because they’ve never seen a zombie before—and you’re trying to get them to calm down and fight, but they’re too busy bawling about some dumb thing (like their favorite restaurant). Of course they’re the first to die.

“El…lyssia Ma…goog…ma?” Talk about a slaughter. I don’t correct people anymore. 

“Right here,” I said and hobbled back to get my hair trimmed.

I’m embarrassed to say that I judged the hairdresser too. She stood perfect AND darling. She’s probably never experienced anything bad. “Your hair is…interesting. It has a different texture in some spots, and the color is totally different too, blonde, red…gray.”

“I have cancer,” I said in almost a monotone because I’ve said it so many d*mn times to about a million different strangers. “Huge chunks of it fell out from radiation, and it grew in differently.”

My daughter stared at me, practically willing me to be my happy, normal self.

“I’m…so sorry. I would’ve had no idea,” the beautician said.

“It’s okay.” I smiled at my daughter. “Now it’s growing out into a mullet! I told my kids first I got cancer and then I got a mullet—I don’t know what’s worse.”

The woman broke out laughing.

“I lost my eyelashes for a while too! It’s funny the things they never tell ya about. I’ll admit that was pretty bad!”

“Are you still getting treatments—I mean, are you getting better?” Her hands shook and her eyes glassed as if a memory had overtaken her thoughts.

I instantly knew, that flawless beautician has experienced loss. And it must’ve been from someone who died from cancer. 

“I’m still getting treatments,” I said more gently now. “They initially gave me two years to live, and now they’re saying I might have more.”

The pansy in booth two—Mrs. Luscious—shut her mouth and started listening—she’d make a bad Catholic too.

The hairdresser told me everything then, how her mom died of cancer at a young age, and how her dad is fighting now. 

She pulled up the sleeve of her right arm. “Always more,” I read the vibrant watercolor tattoo. “What does it mean to you?”

“We all have secrets,” she said, mirroring my own thoughts from earlier. “There’s ‘always more’ to everyone’s story.”

Everyone on that side of the salon quieted down. Then Mrs. Luscious shocked the hell out of me. “My brother died of cancer. We used to get coffee together every morning. I’d go to the restaurant alone for years after he passed. But now…well, it’s closed down.”

I blinked. The beautician finished my hair, and I went to pay. “You’ve given me a lot more than a haircut today,” I said. “I needed that reminder. There really is…always more.”

Here’s my new look:

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Impervious to Hardship

 I’m becoming a villain.

After my diagnosis, Mike once said, “This is like seeing Snow White get cancer.” But I’m not staying innocent and sweet like I used to be. Nope! In fact, there’s a saying that “if I don’t die soon, I’ll live long enough to become a villain.” I’ve never seen that so plainly as I do today. 

The phone rang, and when I answered music played before a robotic voice said, “This is Idaho Power. Please stay on the phone. A representative will be with you shortly.”

The music started again, and after a moment, a man came on the phone. “It shows here that you’re late on your payment. Unfortunately we’ll be shutting off your services tonight unless you can settle this over the phone.”

“But, I just paid. We’re up to date.”

“It looks like you paid SOME of the balance but not the total amount.”

“Wait, that doesn’t make—“

“You owe $80.03.” He paused.

“We budget everything. This isn’t right.” I sighed. Good grief—maybe it WAS right. And it suddenly seemed as if I shouldered the problems of the whole world. “It’s just that I have stage four cancer, and we’re going through sooo much. I can’t believe we’re late on this bill!” Then for some stupid reason I started crying. “I’m so sorry. It’s just really tough right now.”

“It’s okay. Ma’am, I completely understand, and we’re here for you. Let me transfer you to the payment center so your power doesn’t get shut off—on top of everything else you’re facing.”

“Okay. Yeah.”

So he transferred me. Another representative answered. And even though those jerks knew that I have cancer, they still tried to steal $1,500 after I turned into A COMPLETE IDIOT and gave them my credit card info. 

Luckily my bank caught it a few hours later—since it was an “overseas purchase.” But after my bank called, I sat stunned. How can people be like this?!

“We’re trying to recover the funds,” the woman said. “And we’ll reverse the overdraw fees from a few other things that hit after this transaction.”

“How can people do this? I have cancer—and I told him all about my problems. And he still tried to steal money from me. I know cancer doesn’t make me impervious to other crap, but I’m still just shocked.”

“People suck,” the banker said.

“Yeah, some people do,” I said—TRULY acknowledging this for the first time in my life. 

Later, at the store, a lady in front of me asked why I “walk weird.” In my head I ACTUALLY called her the “B” word.

Later, I sat wondering, am I becoming a villain?! Since when did I start calling little old ladies b—witches in my head? And when did I start wallowing in the fact that some people suck?

So, I decided to force myself to find the good. Sure, this used to happen naturally all of the time, but now when I think terrible things, I’m gonna just FORCE myself to find the good. 

Anyway here are five good things about this situation:

1. I met a genuine Captain Jack Sparrow kind of thief! I live in Idaho—I don’t meet many career criminals.

2. My money is being recovered. Whaaa??? My credit union—is amazing!

3. I learned how to NOT be a dumba$$.

4. Now, I can appreciate being positive even more. Why? Because I get to work for it.

5. I met someone in the store who made me feel really strong emotions. THAT, my friends, means I’m still alive.

So, while this wasn’t the feel-good post you wanted, it is a reminder that sometimes there are crappy people, but you don’t need to let them “get you down.” Sometimes you should just work to find the good. Trust me: It’s worth it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Kim’s Chicken-Noodle Soup

 Our insurance company is refusing to pay $41,000. They’ve reneged like this before—and then after hours on hold, Mike and I have begged them over the phone and they’ve paid. I saw this insurance denial first thing in the morning—and it started my day off poorly. You know those days: Your computer keeps crashing and your dogs get into the garbage can. You find dirty socks hidden in the sofa, and someone eats all of the cookies you JUST baked. That was my day—and I cried. All I could keep thinking about was my mom’s chicken soup with homemade noodles. If I could just have some of that and a hug from her, it would all be better—even the cancer.

Trey saw me crying and instantly pulled out his earbuds. He might usually act like a teenager, but he’s honestly always there when I need him. “I’ll do the dishes. Indy, you clean up the mess on the ground and then take a shower. Mom, go lie down.”

“But, I need to cook dinner and—“

He cut me off. “Go rest! Now! We can figure out dinner after you rest!!!”

So I went to my room, shocked that Trey had taken charge like that. I fell asleep for about an hour and woke up from a little knock on my door. 

“Mama,” Indy said plopping down on my bed. She placed her head on my pillow and faced me so our eyes were only inches apart. “Do you ever get scared of dying?”

She seemed like a woodland creature I’d chanced upon in the forest. She has the biggest, most-innocent, fairy eyes.

“Yes. Sometimes I get scared of dying,” I admitted.

“Me too. It sounds painful. Is that why you get scared?”

“No,” I said. “I get scared of dying…because I don’t want to leave you.”

She bit her trembling lip as we imagined a world without each other. 

I honestly can’t fathom leaving my family for whatever the hell the afterlife might be. I just don’t even know if we’ll remember each other or if I’ll quit existing. If it’s Heaven…or if I’ll become a drop in an endless ocean of energy.  “I don’t want to be away from you either,” Indy cried. “Oh…Mama.”

She threw her arms around me. We sobbed together, both trying to comprehend what we’re going through and how hard life can really be. After we stopped crying, I wiped my eyes, thought of something, and broke out laughing. 

Indy raised an inquisitorial brow.

“I was so stupid today!” I confessed. “I got upset about the dumbest things! Bills. The dogs. That I didn’t…get a cookie.” We both laughed. “Sometimes I lose perspective.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“When I used to get upset about dumb stuff I’d pretend that I’d already died and God let me come back to live for one single day. If I imagined that, everything bad would seem insignificant because I was so lucky to be ‘back on earth.’ The day would seem amazing no matter what came at me.”

“Would that even work with cancer?”

“Yep. And then I’d think of things I’m grateful for like all of my kids, and Mike, and Noni’s chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles.” That reminded me—I needed to make dinner!

I walked out of my room and right after I told Trey how thankful I am for him, someone knocked on our door. Kim—our neighbor—stood there, holding a big pot of chicken noodle soup. He left after I thanked him for the meal and the French bread. Indy came around the corner, we set the soup on the counter, and lifted the lid. 

“Homemade noodles!” Indy exclaimed.

“Just like Noni makes,” Trey said.

I stared at the soup, stunned.

So, I gained perspective again. I’m so grateful for my kids, my family, my friends (including my amazing neighbors). I feel like anything can come at me, and I’ll be happy because this is another day that God has allowed me to be on this earth with my husband and kids. It’s another day, filled with little miracles—like Kim’s chicken soup with homemade noodles.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

An Embarrassing Wedding

 The couple gapes at their pastor—who recently got divorced.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, to talk about marriage. God will never leave you or forsake you, because He left that up to women. You'll be with this woman a LONG time. She might lose her health, a leg, her beauty, and her kindhearted soul, but you’ll still have to stay with her. You could be stuck with the devil herself—is that a contract you're willing to sign?”

The groom pauses, speechless.

“Of course he'll sign it,” the woman whispers, batting her eyelashes AND gritting her teeth.

The groom turns to the pastor but doesn’t catch his eyes completely. “I guess so.… Yes.” He glances at the bride's chest.

“And you…you wanna-be harlot,” the pastor turns to the bride, “are you willing to rip out this man's heart for better…FOR WORSE? To smash him into the dust, as long as you both shall live?”

“Ummm….” the bride says, but before finishing, a wise woman interrupts her.

“Hey,” the woman stands from the shocked audience, “you have this all wrong. Is she willing to stay with a man who will probably trade her in for an upgrade? Does she know she might end up hemming his underwear, and he might purposely pee on the toilet seat? Does she know…he will bald and take her best years. Her boobs will sag. She'll have millions of his babies. Then, years later, he'll probably leave on their thirtieth anniversary?”

Everyone remains quiet because that's what the thought of pee on a toilet seat does to people. Then some kid would turn to his mother and whisper, “Why would anyone sign a contract like THAT?”

The point is that marriage isn’t always easy, and neither is everything it entails!

I’ve given away copies of my humorous novella, “How to Avoid Having Sex,” at bachelorette parties, wedding anniversaries, and to friends (both single and not) for Valentine’s Day. If you like my posts here, check out “How To Avoid Having Sex” (the paperbook, eBook, or audiobook):

“The author is hilarious. I really do not recommend her book for how to avoid sex—but if you have been married for years, I recommend it for laughs,” Cins-a-Joy, Amazon reviewer.

I hardly ever do this, but thank you for letting me add a shameless promotion 🤣🤦‍♀️💓

Friday, January 14, 2022

The Irony of Perspective

 I know most people go to old folks’ homes or cancer centers to volunteer, but I decided to play my violin at an inpatient behavioral health unit. 

I heard rumors that a woman actually killed herself there. She’s done it with a sack from the garbage can. Now they don’t allow sacks…or scissors…or gowns with long strings…. 

“Follow me,” the leader of “music day” said. It seemed weird watching patients who are physically healthy, walking around in hospital gowns. But of course, they weren’t there for physical ailments—they’d been admitted for something else. And unfortunately I’ve had moments in my life when I’ve understood this all too well. Long before my cancer diagnosis I’d get sad from things a man had told me. He made me feel like a burden to everyone who knew me. Or I’d feel bad, thinking about my son who died. It did get better with counseling. And years after my divorce, the thoughts only occasionally came back.

The irony is that, since my first melanoma diagnosis in 2018, I haven’t been plagued by that at all. Facing a terminal illness has given me true perspective and ignited my will to live. What a dichotomy.

A director announced that musicians had arrived, so masked patients started pouring from their rooms, coming to a large area where they could hear songs that I played with the guitarist.

Then a tiny girl raised her frail hand. “Excuse me.” She practically squeaked, seeming so nervous about talking. “Can we hear the violin…umm…alone?”

“Well?” The guitarist looked to me for confirmation. “Do you feel comfortable with that?” he whispered.

“Absolutely!” I said. I remained still for a minute and closed my eyes. I honestly didn’t know what to play. 

I didn’t want to make them cry—or feel worse than they already did. And then it came to me, something I just had to play. 

The strange thing about me and the fiddle is that we’re one—like the two of us were always meant to be together. I swear God created me so that I always knew how to play. I remember the first time I held a violin in my hand; it felt like greeting an old friend. So…I played “The Ashokan Farewell.” Rich, low tones swirled up and around, coming from deep in my soul. Tears poured for my eyes, and I couldn’t believe the emotion flowing from me. 

I prayed the whole time, pleading with God. “Please hear me! Whatever is good in me—no matter how big or small it is—please give it to the people in this room.”

By the end of the song it had turned into something else, a song I’ve never heard of. Irish melodies came to me. And as fast as they had come, the song came to a sweet…stop. And I could’ve fallen to my knees because I’m so weak from the cancer. It’s hard to stand for too long. After a while my back starts bending oddly, and it’s hard to stand up straight.

All of my problems seemed so small then, insignificant when I opened my tear-filled eyes and looked at everyone who just stared at me, almost gaping. 

“That was…” one girl gasped, “beautiful. But…what’s wrong with you?” She lost all couth. “Are you okay?” 

I’m still not sure why, but I told them everything how I’m fighting cancer and doctors told me I’m going to die. The guitarist looked genuinely shocked because he hadn’t known either. And for some reason I think something settled in that room, something I’ve been dealing with since my diagnosis—I think it was perspective. 

A girl came up and hugged me before medical staff told her we should stay 6 feet apart. I hugged her really hard before they pulled her away. “That last bit…that song…my mom used to sing it to me.”

A sob stuck in my throat. I didn’t even know what I’d been playing. It literally just came to me.

As I hobbled from the hospital I looked up into the sky and thought that it was the greatest, most beautiful day in the whole wide world. 

I sure hope that all of my love will stay with those people who have fallen on hard time and are so sad. I’ll be thinking about this for weeks, months…years. It’s the day I got to play for a behavioral health unit, where I saw some light come back into a young woman’s eyes.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Proving Patty Wrong

 I clutched the sides of the restaurant's copper sink and stared at the river of mascara on my cheeks. I'd worn my best dress (albeit from Goodwill). We'd gone to the best restaurant. I'd expected to have the BEST time. But my old "friend" had said something terrible--especially since I'm fighting death. Despite reason, her words rang in my head: "I just thought you'd do something with your life."

When doctors have told you that you'll die of cancer, you NEED to die knowing that your life mattered. I guess it "makes the medicine go down."

This happened months ago, and I'd honestly thought I'd moved past it, until I got COVID. Fevers plagued me for days, making life almost unmanageable. I woke up shaking at 3 a.m. one morning, and that woman's words echoed in the walls of my mind. "I just thought you'd do something with your life."

WHY did she think I'm a failure? I started checking off a list of meaningless accomplishments in my head: I've owned successful businesses, managed a newspaper, written nine books in ten years, purchased a home at the age of 19, attained degrees despite being a single mom, hit the bestseller list on Amazon several times, had over a million views on my blog, managed a medical clinic and its staff ... Yet, she'd dubbed me a failure. WHY? Sure I'm not the president of the United States, but I'm also not a serial killer! If melanoma specialists don't find a cure--and I'm going to die within the next several years--I need to know why she thinks I'm a failure. What am I missing? I shouldn't care, right? Well, let me explain ...

I met Patty in a writing group right before my divorce. She had a PhD, a fancy house, a husband you read about in bodice-ripper novels, wit and beauty, a traditionally published YA novel, a devote relationship with God, and more money than anyone I know. Our first fight started years ago. She didn't like Mike and insisted on setting me up with all of her wealthy friends. "I am NOT going out with him again!" I said after one date.

"Give me one good reason why. He's stable, older ... settled. You won't have to worry about anything. And he doesn't mind that you already have kids!"

"He said I had to kiss him just because my dinner was so expensive."

"Well, did you kiss him?" she asked.

"Hell no! That's ridiculous. Despite what you obviously believe, I am NOT a hooker."

But SOMEHOW we got over the fight, and when she heard I had cancer, she seemed deeply concerned. "I'm coming up, and I'm bringing you out to eat a fancy dinner." Then she drove all of the way from Southern Utah to my small town in Idaho.

I'd been so excited. I got out a black second-hand dress that has frills in all the right places and hugs my body so I look like I'm standing up straight despite not having all of my vertebrae. But when we got to the restaurant, Patty kept talking like I'd already died. Then she kept saying that I could tell her how bad it is and that I can be honest with her about how terrible my life is because of the cancer. "But you're happy with Mike?" she finally asked. And, as she probed further, I got a strange inkling that she isn't as happy in her relationship as she wants everyone to think.

"He's THE BEST. He's my best friend. Don't get me wrong, we've had some big bumps--mainly my fault--but I can't imagine life without him." I took a sip of my water. "It's crazy because I had an 8-hour surgery. They had to do a blood transfusion--and I almost died. When I finally woke up from the anesthesia, I couldn't remember my own name, but I remembered Mike. I swear that's how much I love him."

She scooted her silverware to the side. "I don't get you," she said. "You sit there, dying of cancer, you're wearing a dress that someone else didn't want, you have no money because of medical bills, and you honestly still seem happy. I'm almost embarrassed for you. I never thought you'd end up this way--in such denial! When I met you, you were getting divorced. And I thought you'd accomplish so many amazing things. I really took you under my wing and even brought you shopping with me and read your manuscripts. But then, you kept doing things that embarrassed me. Like when you treated my friend so bad after he went on a blind date with you ... I just thought you'd DO something with your life."

I mulled all these details from the past as my COVID fever raged. I even messaged a couple of family members, asking them for advice. My two oldest daughters wrote back such nice things like "you ARE NOT a failure," but it's amazing how onw negative comment can stick around longer than it should.

It wasn't until my fever subsided, that I finally got some clarity. I'd prayed, "God, please help me get this in perspective. Please help me see that my life has mattered."

It wasn't long after the prayer that I heard this woman's voice in my head again, but I remembered other things; I remembered all of the times she said that I embarrassed her. She'd been "embarrassed for me" before I got my bachelor's degree and before I got remarried. She'd been embarrassed by my small house and unappealing yard. She'd even been embarrassed by one of my other friends! I realized then, it wasn't about my accomplishments or if I'd even been a failure. She'd just wanted me as a means to a prideful end. If I couldn't benefit her in some way by following HER plan for my life, then I was an embarrassment. How arrogant of her to think that just because we'd become friends in some dumb writing group, she could dictate all of my future endeavors!

I thought then about what really matters. My books, my career, my "accomplishments" ... When I die that's like an ant going up to a human and saying, "Hey, I got this awesome degree from an anthill on the most prestigious side of the yard. And I had the nicest hole in the ground." "And I owned a lot of ... rocks." Wow! Neat.

Nope. My true accomplishment in life is making a difference--not just for strangers--but for the people who are closest to me day in and day out: my kids, Mike, my extended family, my close friends. When you strip me down to bare bones, I hope I can be positively judged by the people who really know me. I look at Patty, and I'm a bit sad. She might think I'm an embarrassing failure, but when I strip her down to bare bones--and how she's treated me, especially while I've had cancer--all I see is an a$$hole. I guess I might be dying of cancer, but that doesn't mean I can't cut other kinds of cancer out of my life too. I've decided today to surround myself with people who are worth my time. If her words ever gain credence in my mind again and make me feel like a failure, I'm vowing to simply do something nice for someone else. I've made more mistakes than most, but at least I'm trying to get through this the best I can. That's honestly all I can do. I AM NOT a failure.

I hope you've never felt like this, just because of something someone said. Just know, you're not alone in letting something negative "get you down." I guess it's a great opportunity to stand back up and prove them wrong. Continual success requires making daily choices to keep trying. Anyone who tells you that success doesn't take effort is lying.

To proving Patty wrong,

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Update on My COVID Situation

I just wanted to thank everyone who’s messaged (or texted) to see how I’m doing. (I’m so sorry if I haven’t responded yet; I’ve had an overwhelming amount of support—especially since getting COVID.)

I’m doing sooo much better, still feeling some COVID symptoms but not anything like even a couple of days ago. I’ve decided I 100% love breathing! 🤣

They had to do some tests this week (X-rays and stuff), but everything looks awesome—except for cancer (oh well). So…yay for some good news!

Just wanted to give you a quick update and say thank you to the people who I haven’t responded to yet. 💓

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Loss of Another Friend

Ron and Dottie at one of my book signings (when I dressed up like a character from my YA fantasy novel).

The bookkeeper peeked into my office. “Some guy’s on the phone, says it’s imperative that he speaks with the publisher.”

“Did he give you a name?” I asked.

“Barrett. Ron Barrett.”

“That doesn’t ring a bell.” I tapped my fingers on the desk. “I’ll take it.”

Laurie turned around and chuckled. “Of course you will.”

“Hello, this is Elisa, the publisher of the Morning News,” I said.

“Well, hello there, little lady.”

I paused I don’t remember names or faces, but I always remember a voice. This happened to be one I’d never heard before. “I don’t know you. Care to introduce yourself?”

“I read your articles d*mn near every day. You’re a character, so I want you to join my band.”

“Well…sir, I’m already in a band and—“

“Listen, we’ve both fought cancer. What was it you had removed on your wrist—when they took out muscle and bone and you worried you might never fiddle again?”

“Melanoma,” I said. So he had read my articles.

“Well, my wife plays the piano. I play around on the guitar and sing.”

And before I knew it, I’d grabbed my coat and headed toward the door.

“You gotta quit doin’ this, Elisa,” Laurie said because we’d become like sisters. “What crazy story are you covering now?” 

I broke out laughing because she’d seen me livestream stories about fires, car accidents, and even when a deer jumped through a storefront window.

“It’s not a story this time.”

“You’re going to meet another stranger, aren’t you? Good Lord—I swear if something bad happens to you one of these days…”

“He wants me to fiddle with him in a contest. It’ll raise money for cancer awareness.”

She just shook her head. “Share your location with me this time!”

Over the next few months some shocking things happened with the Barretts. We actually won the competition and raised a substantial amount of money for the event. Ron gave my daughter, Sky, guitar lessons, and Dottie (his wife) taught her how to garden.

“I have to pay you for this,” I said one day because not only had they shown Sky love and generosity, she’d begun learning the value of hard work.  

“This is something we want to do,” Dottie said, giving me a huge hug. “You don’t owe us a thing.”

I’ll never forget when I told them my cancer came back as stage four. Dottie, that tough-old broad, actually quaked a little—I heard it in her voice. And every week for months she messaged me asking how I was, giving advice about what to eat, and sending me things in the mail.

“Dottie?” I messaged her one day. “I haven’t heard from you in a few weeks. How are you?”

“I have cancer.”

“Oh my gosh…. Are you okay?”

She never responded, and a month later she was dead.

Sky, Indy, Mike, and I trudged into the funeral home. Family members whispered about “who in the hell” we were. At the end of the service, the pastor asked if anyone else—not in the program—wanted to talk about Dottie. No one stood. Seconds felt like hours, and my heart began chugging in my chest. Ron looked around.

“Maybe you should…,” Mike whispered, gently squeezing my leg. 

“You’re right.” I got up, standing much straighter than normal. My black dress was probably too lowcut for a funeral and maybe a bit high on the legs, but I hadn’t planned on giving a flippin’ speech in front of an entire family of strangers!

“He—hello!” The microphone squealed. “Ummm…I’m Elisa… And Dottie—and Ron…well, they changed my life.” And then I told them everything about the laughter and the kindness. I said how she’d been such a support through my journey. People laughed and cried. “I’ll miss her,” I finally said, and then I almost sprinted back to my seat.

“Anyone else?” the pastor asked again when I’d finished. Then Sky stood and told her side of the story. I beamed with so much pride as she spoke about gardening and spending time with the Barretts. And when I saw Ron, every bit of the whole thing seemed worth it.

Following the closing prayer, Ron struggled to walk, and a woman held onto him as he started moving toward the back of the funeral home. “Wait,” he said. “I have to tell some people hello.” Then he worked his way over to me, Mike, and the kids, and he gave all of us each such big hugs. “I’m so grateful you’re here—and for everything you said.”

“If you ever need anything, we’re here,” Mike said. 

“I appreciate that. And I’m praying for all of you every day. Praying that you’ll get better, Elisa.”

“Oh, Ron! I’m fine. We’re worried about you!”

Then the woman said they needed to leave because Ron seemed visibly weaker. As he hobbled to the back door I couldn’t help wiping tears from my eyes. A woman came up to me and shook my hand. “My mom just loved you guys,” she said to all of us, tears filling her eyes as she nodded to Sky. 

“We loved her,” Sky said. 

And when we walked from the building, I couldn’t help feeling like Dottie had seen us there, and she knew the profound impact she’d made on our lives.

It’s sobering how many friends I’ve known who have died since my cancer diagnosis in 2020. If they can see me from Heaven, I sure hope they know how grateful I am to each and every one of them.

Monday, January 3, 2022


 I have COVID. 

And yes it’s just as terrible as you’ve heard….

I rang the bell, then waited in the freezing Idaho snow. Surely someone would answer the door soon. “The window has a gold star on it,” the receptionist had told me on the phone an hour before. I guess administration sectioned off an overflow area for people with COVID. The “gold star” appeared to be a flimsy piece of yellow paper that the wind had played with. I frowned at the paper and rang the bell again.

About 5 minutes later, a nurse—wearing garb fit for outerspace—stared blankly through the glass. “Why are you here?” Her monotone voice broke through the intercom. “Do you have an appointment?”

“Yes!” I shivered, my shoes and socks soaked. “I’m a cancer patient. I have COVID, and I’m having trouble breathing. I need a monoclonal antibody treatment.”

She studied me skeptically. “Magagna?” she finally asked, and after I nodded, she requested my date of birth.

“Groundhog Day. ‘83.”

“Cute,” she said sarcastically. But I knew she’d started to like me, and I tried not laughing because she sounded a bit like Darth Vader because of her helmet. 

Then she buzzed me in, and my superpower of joy momentarily left. What I saw will stay seared into my memory…always. 

So many people laid in that room. Painters’ plastic swayed, separating the sides of each “station.” The cement floors looked more fit for a parking garage than a hospital, and my apprehension grew. It seemed glaringly apparent that this hospital didn’t want COVID patients near anyone, they’d become desperate for a location to treat people like me, and they didn’t care if it looked like a third-world country. 

“Over here!” The nurse’s helmet muffled her words, yet I still understood. Regardless, I couldn’t pull my eyes from the man who looked dead or the bald woman who heaved with each breath. These people…why couldn’t they do more for these people?

“Oh,” I whispered to no one except myself. I have COVID which gave me admittance to this terrible place: The location with the monoclonal antibody treatment. The same room where people seemed to be dying.

I sat on the hard mattress. “Someone’s having an allergic reaction to the infusion.” The nurse leaned so close to me, her eyes red from lack of sleep. “I’ll be back.”

“Okay!” I nodded.

“Hang tight!” Then she lumbered away, moving to another painters’ plastic separation where a woman spoke frantically. “I’m still itching! Everywhere! And it’s even harder to breathe. I thought this would help, not make it worse?!”

I leaned back, rested my wet shoes on the bed, and closed my eyes.

I’m not sure why, but my thoughts wandered to about a month ago. “I’m a little nervous to visit Mexico.” I typed the text to my friend and hit “send.”

“Don’t tell me it’s because of COVID. You know it’s not real. It’s just a government ploy.”

“Ummm… It is real.”

“You know anyone who’s had it?”

“Yes.” I responded.

“Anyone who’s died?” she asked.


“People probably just said it was COVID. 🤣I don’t know anyone who’s actually had it!”

“Did you at least get the vaccine?” I queried.

“No way! Why would I get a shot for something that isn’t real?”

“My doctor doesn’t want me around anyone who isn’t vaccinated…. I guess they have a higher chance of getting sick. And if I’m around them, then I can get sick. My immune system is crap right now.”

“But you’re vaccinated. If you believe in all this stuff, then why get the shot?” she asked.

“I guess the vaccine doesn’t work for most people who are getting cancer treatments….”

“Ha! Figures.”

“But I at least need to try. I’m fighting so d*mn hard just to live.”

And we haven’t talked after that—both of us so upset. I couldn’t imagine her shock to see the scene currently around me, the people so desperate for the infusion, for oxygen, for ventilators…. Tears filled my eyes and dripped into my mask as I thought of dying in that cold, morbid, community room. Then I heard that woman, “I’m itching. Make IT stop!” She almost growled.

“I’m trying,” the nurse said. “We’re giving you Benadryl!  Everything will be okay.”

I wiped my eyes and told myself I’m stronger than crying like a baby. Then I thought of a scene in an alien movie, “Slither,” where a lady is enormous, about to give birth to millions of aliens. She says something in a redneck accent that always makes me smile, so as the nurse approached, I decided to say it to her.

“Hey…. Na-urse. I-ah I-ah thank somehtin’s wrong wath mey.”

She just looked at me, then broke into a huge grin. “Ug.” She chuckled. “Symptoms?”

“Trouble breathing, headache, dizziness, chest and back pain, sore throat, cough, congestion. A sense of humor.”

She raised a brow. “Any allergies?”

“Just aloe vera.”

“Perfect! Let’s get you hooked up.” Then she placed an IV faster than you’d believe. “You’ll be here a few hours.”

“Okay,” I said. 

“Any idea where you got exposed?” she asked.

“Mexico.” I nodded. “My poor mom tested positive on Christmas Day. I guess my symptoms just took a little longer to show up.”

“It can happen that way. Too bad. At least you had a fun trip until then?”

“The best!” I said. “But my parents are still stuck in Mexico. I feel so bad for them. They can’t leave until my mom tests negative. It’s been over a week. Luckily my dad hasn’t gotten sick.”

“He got the vaccine?”

“Yeah,” I said as she hooked my IV to a bag of clear liquid. “I sure hope I won’t get you sick. I don’t want to get anyone sick.” I looked at her pleadingly. “You don’t want what I have,” I whispered.

“Don’t worry about me. I know what I signed up for.”

And as she hobbled away, I couldn’t stop thinking about my friend who doesn’t believe  COVID is real. What a sad state of denial she must be in….

So, now I’m quarantined to my room, grateful to work from home. My youngest kids think this is some great adventure since we can communicate through the door. I even came out for a minute today, staying masked and far away. “I love you even though you have COVID,” Trey said. “I won’t discriminate.”

I laughed so hard that I started coughing. “I love you too.” Then—as the kids started their homework—I went back to my room and watched another episode of “Lost in Space” because that’s what the nurse’s outfit left me craving.

(You can kind of see the nurse’s outfit in the third picture—and the room where they’re doing infusions at the hospital in Pocatello.)

Saturday, January 1, 2022

A Bullfight with Death

 2022 … the year I “am” supposed to die. Maybe everybody has a timer stuck on their back, ticking to an expiration. But only God should see that. I’ve come to believe that no person should be privy to the date of their death…even if it is just the year.

Since my diagnosis in 2020 I’ve lost a vertebra and undergone grueling cancer treatments … but in 2021, that was the worst of my fight so far. I almost died two different times—the most disturbing from sepsis in Montana. If I’d gotten to the hospital three hours later, the doctor said I would have died… I cheated death—by three hours. Three hours.

Have you ever felt like you’re in a bullfight against the grim reaper? He keeps charging, and I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve almost been taunting him, even with my recent trip to Mexico. “Don’t go!” my doctor told me. “You’ve had multiple PEs.” That’s fancy-person talk for pulmonary embolisms—blood clots in my lungs. “You could get one again or COVID on the plane. Either could be devastating.”

“But I can’t stop living just because you’ve told me I’m dying!”

She laughed into the phone. I have a niggling feeling she doesn’t call many patients on the phone OR read their books. (I’ll never forget the day she told me she read “The Golden Sky”).

So, I went to Mexico. And it felt like taunting the grim reaper again. And every time that bull missed me I wanted to scream, “You CAN’T have me until GOD says it’s time!!!”

So, what did I learn in 2021? I learned to just live…the best I can. Be that sporting a bald head, a walker, a wheelchair…a wig. Be it hiking, or writhing, or crying…or swimming. Be it any d*mn way you can. And be grateful for all of it. Life... Life! Is. A. Gift.

The docs originally said I had two years to live, now they’re giving me up to ten. Maybe next year they’ll give me 30…those givers.

To taunt the reaper for another year—bring it on,