Tag Archives: cancer

FROM THE VAULT: A System Worked and a System Failed. How Illness Impacts our Dear Friends…and Us.

Editor’s Note 1/30/12: Dear all…I was so pleased this weekend to read a “Caring Bridge” entry re: my friend Sammye.  To even begin to share the challenges she’s experienced since this post was written 1.5 years ago would be impossible.  If you’re interested, you can check on her entries here.  But most importantly, I read this paragraph early this morning:

“HIP HIP (left hip, not right one) HOORAY!  PET scan taken at the end of last week shows no malignancies!  Dr. Hollen is as happy as he can be and of course I was relieved, happy, grateful, prayerful, thankful, and every other positive emotion one can think of!  All is well…inside and out!  My visits with Dr. Hollen will continue every three months with scans every six months.  The hip (right one) is still no fun but I’m getting around and focusing on all the things I can do, rather than the things that are still tough.  I’ve lost weight and as more comes off (sounds easy, huh?) I am sure that the hip will show even more appreciation! “

This post was well-read 18 months ago, so I’m sharing it again “from the vault” to remind us that personal things…even haircuts…have histories much bigger than just a word. Love, RDK


Editor’s Note:  We have two “impact of illness” perspectives to share with you this morning.

♥  One comes from Sammye Cravens, CFO-COO of Public Strategies, Inc. in Oklahoma City.  On June 4, 2009, she was diagnosed with Malignant Lymphoma, Diffuse Large B-Cell Type.  She used a wonderful tool called CaringBridge.org to communicate with her friends, family and supporters. What a day of celebration there was when her body said “yes” to the treatment and she got through every step of the process.  She has opened her journal, now, to the public and recently wrote an essay on the “chronology of her hair” to share with the community.

As we know, hair can be a fairly precarious concept when getting through cancer treatment. I hope you are endeared by Sammye’s history of hair.  I know I was.

♥  The second came in my mailbox at home, and now I’m sharing it with you.  Holly Foote grew up in Oklahoma and attended my church until she graduated from high school.  She earned her Masters in Nutrition at Columbia University and recently finished medical school at Touro College; she’s now wearing a white coat.  Her best friend Amy, also one of our former “church kids,” contracted Type I diabetes when she was only nine.  She died in May of 2009 and the events surrounding that tragedy were medically incoherent.

You can read about the “broken system” that misdiagnosed and mistreated Amy in Holly’s blog entry, “Failing Heart.” The card I received explains a bit about her grief experience and was a way to touch back those who had tried to reach out to her during her difficult time.

I thank both Sammye and Holly for sharing their funny and/or vulnerable real lives with their friends, and for giving permission to post their thoughts here at the RDC.

Sincerely, Red Dirt Kelly

~~~ ~~~ ~~~


by Sammye Cravens Continue reading FROM THE VAULT: A System Worked and a System Failed. How Illness Impacts our Dear Friends…and Us.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch: Westerns, Blackberries, and Windfall Profits

This was not the day I was expecting.  My school was closed in honor of Veterans Day.  I woke up at 3:00AM (my usual time), got comfortable, and managed to stay in bed ‘til 7:00AM.  My day had endless possibilities.  I walked around in pajamas, drank coffee, and watched a little TV, but a missed call from my husband plus a voicemail was how I learned that my father-in-law, Chris Allgyer, the reason we get to enjoy this beautiful country life, died in his sleep.  Chris had spent the last five days at home but the previous six weeks in the hospital fighting complications from cancer.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind of tears, visitors, and funeral arrangements.  Even the animals were confused at all of the activity.  One of my indoor cats ran outside and had still not come back in by our bedtime adding to my conflicted emotional state.  I went to bed but did not sleep.


Chris 1
There weren't many places we went without Chris. This was before a Valentine's Day dinner at a local church.

In 2004 after we sold our house in the city, we moved in with Chris. The trailer was small, but cozy.  Well, not as cozy as it was HOT.  He kept the thermostat at 73 degrees all while running the propane heater in the living room.  I tried to watch Friends reruns, but he insisted on watching anything on the Encore Western channel instead.  Chris loved Western movies.  Gradually, the Westerns grew on me.  I loved the horses and the old-fashioned cowboy attire.  I even consented to watch different versions of the same movie…the old one…. and the really old one.  We continued the “watching Westerns during dinner” tradition even after we moved into our own house.  Most Sunday nights I would cook dinner for Greg and Chris, Chris would complain that I didn’t put enough chicken in whatever we were having (he called it “dragging the chicken through”), and I would find a Western for us to watch during dinner.  After dinner Chris would settle in the big chair, close his eyes, and ask for a blanket.  Our thermostat was not set at 73 degrees.


One day while I was mowing Chris’s yard, I came across some wild blackberries.  He informed me that he knew about a gold mine of the berries and promised to take me.  The next morning we gathered our buckets and I met him at the tractor.  I stood on the Bush Hog (kids, don’t try this at home) and he drove us down to the corner of his property. We picked pails of blackberries and I made my first blackberry jam and cobbler.  This past summer he was too sick to take me, so while my OSU friend Kim was visiting, I took them both to a nearby blackberry farm.  Kim complained about the thorns and Chris could not breath well enough to get out of the car to help.  Chris, sitting there in the car, reminded me of how he used to sit in his own truck in the shade and take a nap.  The cobbler didn’t taste nearly as sweet as it did the summer before.

Windfall Profits

In the summertime, it was often only Chris and I at the ranch.  If I had a little cash on me, I would text Chris and ask him to lunch.  His first question would always be to ask me where I got the money.  My standard answer would be “Don’t worry about it.  I’ve had a windfall profit.”  He always laughed and started calling any amount of cash I had on me a windfall profit. We would try to go to lunch at least once a week or two to the post office in Laconia, TN.  It was one of his favorite places to eat.  For me, not so much, but I would still go and get a little cornbread and green beans while he loaded his plate down with chicken livers, greens, and other country-fried foods.  It didn’t take me long to clean my plate so I could be the first to survey the dessert table and report back the selection.  I’d pay the tab (a total of $8.50 for all-you-can-eat) and we’d head home.  On into the evening he would walk out onto the back porch, turn on the porch light, start up the diesel (I could hear it from my house) and take off for a late night cup of coffee and a lottery ticket.  Before I went to bed I would wait for his headlights to come up his driveway.  If my husband was still awake, I’d simply say, “Dad’s home.”  The truck was parked and the porch light was turned off.

Mitchell, Christin, Chris, and Melissa at Greg's 50th birthday celebration. Chris was proud of his grandchildren.

This morning I woke up to find my missing cat scurrying on the porch past the French doors that face Chris’s trailer.  I noticed the porch light at Chris’s still on.  I know the evenings of looking for his headlights coming up the drive are gone and that porch light will stay on until one of us goes up there to turn it off.  Once I let the cat safely in the house, I thought to myself, “Dad’s home.”