KARA: "Can you talk about the trials you’ve been through? How have you dealt with them, and how have they changed you?"
MARIE: "Back in 1974, I began to recognize that the testimony that had carried me throughout my life so far was not strong enough to get me through more trying times of the future. At that point, I began praying for a stronger testimony and knowledge of the gospel that would support me, help me teach our children the truth with strength and power, and would help them understand and feel the Spirit in our home and testimonies until they were able to gain their own. Little did I know what I was asking for! In 1975, when we moved to Turnerville to buy the family farm, I was pregnant with child #6. It was a difficult pregnancy because I kept bleeding and was concerned about losing the baby. By September, I was in the hospital and diagnosed with a placenta previa, the placenta was covering part or all of the cervical area. I knew that meant I would need a C-section at birth. I'd been threatened with it before because I had had problems with bleeding and hemorrhaging in other pregnancies. Because those had turned out okay, I just assumed this one would too.
Our baby was due Jan. 6, 1976, a bicentennial baby, for sure! However, after a horrid trip in a snowstorm to Utah for Thanksgiving and home again, I awoke bleeding and in labor late Sunday night. Normally, those country roads aren't plowed until early morning. We knew we were in trouble because it had snowed all day and was still snowing. Allen went to our neighbor to get the yard plowed out so we could drive onto the road. While our neighbor was moving masses of snow, I prayed for help to get us to the hospital, realizing that this was an emergency in our lives, like never before. We had a baby coming 6 weeks early and would probably have a respiratory problems. I knew Allen could deliver calves, but our own baby was something else, especially if I was hemorrhaging. Allen had also gone to tell his parents I was in labor and we needed his dad to follow us in his car, in case we ran off the road and needed help getting to the hospital, 30 miles away. While I waited, our oldest daughter had come downstairs to help me pack to go to the hospital so I wouldn't be there without some simple needs.
I heard a snowplow truck go past our house. I couldn't believe it! I knew it was a blessing from Heavenly Father and I knew the driver well - a crusty old guy that never got out of his bed to plow in the middle of the night, but tonight he had. I later thanked him for that and he told me he couldn't sleep and felt a need to go plow the road. It seemed so silly to him, but he went. He had no idea he was an answer to prayer until I thanked him.
When Allen returned with his dad, I received a Priesthood Blessing and I was put in the backseat of the car, wrapped in a couple warm blankets, and we were off, but driving very slowly. I remember we took a shortcut to the main highway on a road that is not usable today, and it cut about 10 min. off our trip, a real necessity for our situation.
At the hospital, we learned of the shortage of nursing staff and that numerous times, the hospital had requested "loan" nurses from Salt Lake City, but none had come for over 3 months. It meant little to me. I was admitted as a patient, thinking we'd have a new baby by breakfast. As I went through labor that night, I could feel the baby resisting and clinging to the top of my uterus. I knew it didn't want to be born yet.
At 7 am, I awoke to voices of a couple young ladies announcing they were the "loan" nurses sent from Salt Lake City to help them out. Coincidence? It was not! One of those nurses had just finished a course in caring for premature newborns to survive and one of the students in her class turned out to be my anesthesiologist when our baby was born.
My doctor was very sure that if he could just get the baby's head down into the cervix, we could get the bleeding stopped and I could deliver the baby vaginally. However, each time I had a contraction, I'd count as high as 13 clots passing and then I couldn't keep up. It was frightening. I was in labor for several days and I knew I was losing ground. I was weak and tired. Finally, I rolled over on one side and said I was done with labor. A nurse went to get the doctor, but he told her to let me rest. I slept well that night, but at 5 a.m., I awoke to some strong labor. I rang for a nurse and told her to call my husband first and then the doctor. We were about to have a baby. The baby had settled down into the birth canal, but I'd lost so much blood by then, that I knew we'd have to do a C-section.
I remember waiting for an obstetrician and anesthesiologist to drive from Jackson Hole to deliver the baby. They finally arrived around 8 a.m. and came in to talk to me. I felt like I was going to faint, even though I was flat on my back. I didn't recognize what was happening, but when I heard a nurse give my blood pressure as 64/46, I knew things were not good. I felt the bottom of the bed lift and two nurses propped it up so the blood had to drain to my head. It helped and quickly. They knew they were losing me. I barely recall going into surgery, but I well remember getting my first unit of fresh blood - warm and wonderful from his body to mine! The next two units of blood were cold and not so comforting or inviting! I got more blood during surgery. I remember waking up before I was stitched, and a nurse I knew well rushed over to say, "Marie, you have a beautiful baby boy!" Then I was out again.
In recovery, Allen said the baby had to go to Salt Lake City and my first thought was, Yes, whatever it takes to help him live! But before he could go, he had to have a name and a blessing, so we quickly agreed on what to name him and it was done. The air flight nurse came in to show me our new tiny boy before they flew away with him. He was so tiny, but had good color. The "loan" nurse and anesthesiologist had "bagged" our baby for 2 hours while the air ambulance flew from University of Utah Hospital to pick him up. I knew it was another blessing, not a coincidence that those two people had been on hand to assist our little boy until help arrived. He was flown out of our valley toward a tiny blue pinpoint in a sky of Grey cloud cover. Everyone was praying hard because our son had only 2-1/2 hours of oxygen left in his tank and the flight was a full 2 hours, if all went well. He arrived in SLC in good time and was well taken care of for the 12 days he had to remain in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit.
Meanwhile, back at the hospital, things were not going well. I developed Thrombophlebitis (blood clots) in my left leg, pneumonia, and infection in my stitches. I went through many ordeals during my next 2 weeks in the hospital. The anesthesiologist popped in to see me when he came for a tonsillectomy and was shocked at my condition. I'm so grateful he was able to help me at that point. I was on a very strong antibiotic that was killing my veins and he was able to get things manipulated with my doctor so I got a different antibiotic. My IV kept infiltrating and he inserted a deep-vein IV that finally stayed in place. As a result, I began to get better. When the stitches were removed, I was so full of infection I couldn't eat a thing. After the stitches were removed and the infection allowed to run out and be squeezed out, I was able to eat again. It felt so good!
I finally determined I had to go home and take care of my 5 daughters, who hadn't been with me for nearly 3 weeks. The nurses thought I was crazy, but I knew I would heal better at home where I was needed. I left the hospital to stay with my husband's parents for a while because I still needed help and care and really couldn't take care of our family yet. The day after I came home, the University of Utah hospital called to say they were flying our son back to us. I was in no condition to care for him either, but I knew I had to. It was very difficult for me. I could barely take care of myself, but I knew I had help from my in-laws, from my older two girls, and especially from my sweet husband. It was truly a wonderful moment when we saw the airplane land that was bringing our tiny baby boy back to us. He came in a big red stocking the volunteers had made for the premature babies who get to go home for Christmas. It was a wonderful, merry Christmas for all of our family!
After our son was born, I wasn't able to be on my feet more than a few minutes at a time, because of the pain from the clots that had formed in my leg. I could do dishes by putting a chair next to me and putting my foot on it while I washed and drained them. It would take me a long time to do dishes! After 15-20 min., I'd have to lay on the couch and prop my leg up the back of the couch 30-45 min., to get the pain to subside and the swelling to go down a little.
Going to church on Sundays was out of the question because I couldn't walk from the car to the chapel. It was just too far and painful for me, plus I had to keep my leg elevated all the time. I stayed at home with our new baby and read the Ensign, my scriptures, and lessons for Sunday School. (We weren't on the 3-hour block yet.) It was my time alone with my Heavenly Father and my Savior. How I relished those moments! Reading those spiritual articles, lessons, and scriptures to myself, allowed me time to ponder everything, to bear my testimony to my Heavenly Father and grow a spiritual closeness I hadn't felt for a lot of years, maybe since I was a teenager.
My testimony strengthened. I couldn't feel angry for the trials I'd experienced if I was able to achieve a solid, strong, unwavering testimony. It was part of the plan. This was just an earthly body. It would be perfect when resurrected. I knew that. I was grateful. Once, my 2nd daughter Dian made some angry comments about how I'd been ravaged physically because of neglect and lack of care when I was in the hospital. I told her I didn't care. I would go through it all again, if that's what it took to strengthen my testimony as much as it had. She was a teenager and didn't agree or understand.
As a postlude, I'd like to insert here that I questioned the doctor about what happened to all those clotted veins. He informed me that they die and hang like cords in the leg, new blood veins would be formed so the blood would be rerouted where it needed to go. True or not, it made sense to me. I've always walked for exercise so I decided that walking would help me and my leg. My first day to walk was 4 months after our son was born. I put on my knee-high snowboots and a warm coat and walked out to the road, about a block's length. I stood there for a few minutes, my leg throbbing painfully, and I knew I had to get back to the house! I walked back, went inside, Allen worked for about 10 minutes to get my boot off, but I'd done it. Each day I walked a little farther and returned to have my boot pulled off the very swollen leg.
As the snow melted and spring became more visible, I could walk in my tennies and stay out of the mud till I got to the pavement. By June, I had planted a garden up in the field by the house we were going to move into. I would put my rake and hoe across the handle bars of my old Schwinn bike and ride downhill to our farm house, up into the field, hoe my weeds and then ride uphill home to the house we were renting. My leg still swelled, but the pain was so much less. I knew I'd made a good and healthy decision concerning my leg. I was and am not the kind of person who could spend my life with one leg propped up to relieve swelling and pain for the rest of my life and never exercise again. Goodness, I was only 31 years old. I was not dead or thinking of it! I truly believe the Spirit directed me in this health decision. My doctor was very concerned about my choice and gave me lengthy warnings and counsel about what to watch for. None of it ever happened and he learned something in the process of my stubbornness! What a blessing it is to have the promptings and guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives and to use it wisely!
I think the hardest of trials parents face is when a child chooses to wander away from the Gospel teachings parents have worked so hard to instill in their children. We've had two children who have chosen that path, and although they have returned to the church and those teachings today, the period of time they were wandering was very painful. It's especially difficult when you know the promise of the child and their potential. Our daughter began her journey away from the church in her last year of high school and finally came back, really came back with full dedication at age 35. That's a long wait. She'd made many attempts but until she came to the realization that she was waltzing around and across Satan's territory, she really wasn't where she ought to be. She'd compromised her standards for so long she'd almost forgotten how to draw the line. And most of those years, she was in church, active physically, but inactive spiritually. It broke our hearts and those of her siblings, but we could do nothing. She made the choice. We had to let her choose when to return. All we could do was love her and let her know she was the most important person to all of us. And that helped her a lot. The day we went to the temple for her to be endowed, she said, "I've been so stupid. How could I have denied myself and my children these blessings for so long?" I just held her and let her cry and told her it was all in the past, let it go and move forward. Her ex-husband is less than a stellar person, but I have always had a fairly good relationship with him and we are non-confrontational. I talk to him like there is nothing wrong between us, and although I don't agree with lots of things he does, I treat him like I always did when he was married to our daughter. She has learned to deal with his abusive attitude and nature and work around it now that the kids are older. He was kind enough to bring my grandson to Laramie, so I could see him, when he found out I was in the hospital from breast cancer surgery. He's done things like that for me, which tell me he still cares about me and how I feel. I really appreciate that from him.
Children are supposed to learn from each other, right? So why did our oldest son choose the same path she had? We'll never know, but she has been his closest sister as she's mentored him through his grief and pain to return to the Gospel and be part of our family. He's a returned missionary, but that means nothing if he doesn't obey the commandments. When his wife decided to not live according to the temple covenants she'd taken, he had no choices left. It broke his heart. It was, as we said many times, a divorce that should never have happened. It broke all our hearts because we loved her so much, and we still do. She is the mother of their son, of my grandson. I'll walk to the ends of the earth to avoid offending her. We have a good relationship and she knows I love her unconditionally, forever. I tell her I love her every time I see her and compliment her on what a sweet son she has. those are the trials we have to face, that we didn't choose to create.
I still believe the most difficult trial we all face is forgiveness and loving those who are rude or use you. But it eases our minds, our hearts, and our spirits if we can do that. It lifts the load from us and gives it to the Savior so we can go forward spiritually and do what we're supposed to do. If I want to be forgiven, I must forgive. If I want to be loved, I must also love - everyone! It isn't easy, but it is wonderful to lose the burden and the weight of it."
KARA: "You are going through breast cancer right now, correct? How has this impacted your life? Is there any advice you’d give to women, in general, about breast cancer? I know, from personal experience, that having a life-threatening disease changes you. How has this whole thing changed you?"
MARIE: "My big soapbox on Breast Cancer - if you aren't checking your breasts monthly, you are setting yourself up for dying of breast cancer! I checked myself every month, well, okay, so I may have missed 3 times in the past 15 years, but that's all. My doctor convinced me 15 years ago that I should know my breast tissue better than anyone else so I could help a doctor, should I ever find a lump. I've done all those fun little checks of rocks in the Jello, etc. but when you feel that mass or tumor, it is a shock. Actually, I went numb. Then I went into denial. It had to be a lypoma because I don't do cancer! I've had lypomas before, so this must be one also. Well, it wasn't!
My other soapbox is - get a mammogram yearly! I hadn't had one for 3 years! I didn't know because I was so busy taking care of my mom after she moved in with us, and my husband had had two knee replacements and a couple other surgeries. I forgot to take care of ME! However, my oncologist told me to stop beating myself up because this tumor wouldn't have shown up on my mammogram, it was too aggressive and fast-growing. Still, I should have had at least 1 mammogram during those 3 years!!! No excuses here, please!
I still have a hard time feeling like I have breast cancer because the surgeon removed it all, as far as I know. I've seen it under the microscope, so I know what was there, and now it's gone. However, we can't be 100% sure it's gone, so I've been through the 4 infusions of 3 types of chemotherapy in each infusion to kill any cancer cells that may exist and are still growing. Right now, I'm receiving a lesser dose of 1 type of chemotherapy each week for 12 weeks. I've had two and have 10 to go. That's exciting to me. This chemo is targeting those cells that may exist in other parts of the body that we weren't aware of - sort of an insurance policy, I think. Following my last infusion, I will enter the radiation phase to make sure I have no lymph nodes still affected after all the chemo. Then I will wait and do the quarterly and semi-annual checkups. I've always felt this was going to be okay, so I haven't really worried as I've gone through the treatments. Initially, I didn't want to do chemotherapy because I watched my sister-in-law die from breast cancer and living with chemo for so long to stay alive. I also watched her oldest son and oldest daughter go through their cancer in their mid-30's and the chemotherapy. To me, it didn't seem to help them much. They died anyway!
Then I had a visit from a sister who went through breast cancer a couple years ago. As she talked about going through chemotherapy, the Spirit bore witness to me that I would do the chemo, that there was no discussion on this matter. It was such "loud" and strong witness to me, that I didn't dare argue!!! I knew I had to do it.
One thing I do know is that I will not live as long as I had previously hoped to live. How do I know? The Spirit told me about a month before I found the lump, but I didn't understand why I was being told that. Now I do and I've come to accept it. I will just be more focused on getting done the projects I had hoped to spend an extra 20 years doing! I probably won't live to be as old as my Mom who is 92. But who knows? As a sweet friend of mine once told me, "We're all on this train ride together. We just don't know when our ticket is punched telling us to get off the train." And that's so true.
I wish I could say the Breast Cancer will cause me to be more organized and focused in my life. It hasn't and won't, because organization is not one of my talents, nor is it ever going to be! I wasn't born with that ability. I've tried to teach myself and I can be organized if I really work at it, but it's terrible frustrating for me. I will just muddle on through my remaining years and know my Heavenly Father loves me and maybe I'll get some extra blessings on Resurrection Day to help me during the eternities!!! I'm also a obsessive/compulsive person. I like my light switches down or up; dust doesn't bother me if I can't see it, but if I see it, it has to go; I make lists and lists of lists; I love to cross off things as they get done, but sometimes it takes a long time!; I buy books to read and wish I had time to read them; I have to continually remind myself that "want" is different from "need" and move on down the aisle.
Having treatments for cancer has helped me stop spending so much money. If I don't feel well enough to go shop, I don't spend much money. It's a struggle for me.
I think the only thing that has really changed in me is that I've become more focused on living the gospel and getting my life in order. I have found myself slacking off and falling into TV mode instead of reading my scriptures, Sunday School lessons, and Relief Society lessons. No excuses, I just wasn't doing it. Teaching Institute has helped me really study the gospel and I'd even gotten pretty slack in preparing my Institute lessons, so I've made lots of changes in that area. I can't expect the Lord to help me with a lesson if I don't make my own personal preparations to receive the help I need. I love teaching those young adults!
I've learned more compassion, especially as I've discovered more people around who have been diagnosed with cancer. I have found the Spirit can speak directly to us if we are in tune with it and if we're worthy to receive it."
Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman (Excellent book!)
Date Night Ideas:
"Living on a very tight budget? - We used to share a malt, or shake, or just a drink when we could only afford one. Those were college days. We'd count our extra cash and find that's all we had and we'd go out for one of something and share it. I'm sure Allen always gave me the most because he knew how much I enjoyed it. Those are fond memories for me. Just being with him is a date for me. I love it when he wants to accompany me somewhere so I don't have to go alone, especially now that I'm going through my treatments. He worries I'll get sleepy driving or wear myself out so he adjusts his schedule to be with me whenever he can."