I am Leah and I have Bipolar Disorder. To make life even more interesting, my husband, Dan, has Stage IV Cancer. He was diagnosed at 37 and has  been in ongoing treatment for 4.5 years! We also have a healthy and rambunctious 7 year old. So follow along as we try to manage our life together and strive for love, gratitude, and joy.

Besties - Weeks 1 & 2

Allyson, Leah, and Buffy - Circa 1986 The friends I have had for 27 years are the ones that got me through the first 2 weeks of Dan's diagnosis. I have been a little numb and tired the last week, so I thought it would be fun to share some old photos that make me smile...

When Dan and I started dating, one of the things that we discovered that we had in common was that we were both very loyal and had maintained many friendships since childhood. That quality was one of the many that made me fall in love with him. Dan's oldest friend is Cathy McNulty, from preschool, and mine is also from that very early age; I met Allyson when I was 4. My mother baby-sat Allyson while her parents worked and then we ended up in the same kindergarten class. I have many memories of early childhood spent with Allyson, playing, taking baths together, sleepovers, etc. We had a lot of fun and were extremely creative with quirky imaginations. We also both had blankies and to this day still have our blankies! So we are blanky sisters.

Permed & teaching Allyson piano.

Life took Allyson and I on different paths and we didn't spend a great deal of time together in high school and college, but we certainly kept in touch by phone and mail and supported each other. When we both found ourselves living in Chicago in 2001, we had a chance to have a lot of fun together again. And if anyone gave Dan a heck of a time proving he was good enough for me, it was Allyson. She was so stubborn and protective of me! (But he won her over in a matter of minutes. LOL.)

After Dan's diagnosis, Allyson was immediately on a plane from Colorado to take over after Hattie left. That's the way it went. One bestie arrived and when they left, another arrived. If there was a gap, someone was on the phone with me (usually Megan, who was coordinating visitors and relaying info--but more about Megan in another post). Hattie arrived within 48 hours of finding out Dan's diagnosis, along with my sister, and all I remember from those early days was that Rachel was able to stay at the hospital one night with Dan so that I could be home with Raine. I was fine while Raine was with me, but once he went to bed...I was incapable of most things. I couldn't even make a list of what I needed to do the following day. I couldn't organize my thoughts. I couldn't eat. But I wasn't alone; she was there. She watched me try to eat a few bites of stew. She let me cry. She let me stare at things. She just let me be. And when she could, she made me laugh. And she drove me everywhere. I could have driven, but it was easier to let someone else do it. It was more relaxing. Except she drove like a bat out of hell. Poor Hattie (who is a native Chicago driver) was ready to strangle all of these Oregonian drivers.


I met Hattie in the 3rd grade. She was in the same class as Allyson, but not my class. I don't remember the moment we met, but I know that we were drawn to each other and I thought she was really funny. By 4th grade, we were inseparable. We had a lot of play dates and did a lot of talking and laughing. I remember she was very encouraging about my drawing and creative abilities. She was a natural with music. She could sing and I thought that was so cool. Eventually we played saxophone together in band, all through middle school and high school. Music was a huge part of our lives. I have never listened to more music with anyone else than Hattie. And that includes Dan. Hattie and I ended up college roommates at Goshen and we lived together again in 2003 in Chicago while Dan and I dated. She was there the night that Dan proposed to me.

Both Hattie and Allyson have visited us in Oregon many times before, and we have some great memories here. We took Allyson "glamping" out near the coast (The girl doesn't camp. We enticed her with fresh caught crab, microbrews, a cozy tent, a baguette, and dinner side dishes packed up from Whole Foods). Which is basically most of our memories with my friends visiting us--eating, drinking, and being merry. Walks in nature. My girlfriends meeting Raine. Hattie's first time to visit after Raine was born, she spent the whole day with him while we were at work, including a little swim in our pool. It was so sweet. And when Sarah visited Raine as a baby, we jokingly called her his "Bestie" because she wouldn't put Raine down. And he snuggled up to her just fine. When Sarah arrived after Allyson left last month, Raine ran right into Sarah's arms and hugged her even though he hadn't seen her in nearly two years.



I also met Sarah when I was in 3rd grade. She was two years older than me so we ran into each other while out riding our bikes in the neighborhood. She had just moved in a few houses down the street from me. I attached myself to that exciting, glamorous 5th grader and never let go! I modeled myself after Sarah for years. (Hmmm...Maybe I never stopped?) I wanted to be like her and she treated me like the little sister she never had. She taught me anything and everything, just as a big sister would. She also shared her amazing closet of clothing with me. It didn't really get any better than that for a shy teeny bopper like me. Even though she was older than me, and moved onto new life phases ahead of me, we always kept in touch, and she still made time for me. I would learn later in life that Dan attended ISU at the same time she did, as well as my bestie, Megan. They all lived near each other. Small world.

Sarah has a connection to Dan and I that is very special. She shares an intuitive, empathetic spirit like me, and for better or worse, it puts her in touch with what we are experiencing and feeling even in moments when we aren't together. She spent a week with me while Dan was doing radiation and I don't know if there was a single second where we stopped talking. Even when we were eating, I am pretty sure we were talking with our mouths full. For a brief moment in time, months before Dan's diagnosis, Sarah and her husband considered moving to Oregon. I honestly thought that the stars in the heavens were aligning and somehow they would actually move and they'd end up right down the street from us. We texted excitedly about all the things we do together again...We were giddy at the idea of repeating our childhood activities as adults. My heart was so full. My anticipation was so great. Now I don't know where I will be in a few years.



For ten years, another bestie has lived just a few hours away near Tacoma, Washington. We met in the 1st grade and I never would have dreamed we would grow up and as adults live with our families in the Pacific Northwest! April and I had an affection for one another as 1st graders but by 5th grade, we had become kindred spirits. We spent a weekend together for a band/choir event and then became inseparable. As with all of my besties, we were creative and goofy. April's sense of humor and improvisation was like gold. Her spirit is so full of pure strength but so utterly delightful. She is a gem. Everyone who meets her loves her. I was no different. April drove down with her youngest daughter, Faith, 1 week after Dan's diagnosis and shared the kitchen with Allyson and Dan's cousin Kevin. Allyson was preparing the evening dinner, Kevin was in the middle of a 48 hour process of making tamales, and April cooked up and big batch of chicken noodle soup for me. I had a cold and she came with her ingredients and sack full of soothing teas. She finished my THREE PERSON cancer binder project: Lorri bought the binder, Rachel wrote down categories, and April made all of the dividers for those categories and organized the pile of paperwork and pamphlets that came home with us from the hospital. April also has her own successful business selling LuLaRoe, so she was able to help me attend to my inventory and encouraged me to take my leave of absence. She contacted people, wrote emails for me, and helped me feel less alone in my business decisions.


It is very easy to feel alone. But I am not. Now is that kind of moment that you practiced as a kid at a camp or for team training---you stand high, with your team behind you and you hold your breath and fall backwards. They catch you and it teaches you that you can count on everyone. I've fallen and they've caught me; they will keep catching me, over and over again. It isn't necessary to say Thank You because I would do the same for them, and I will someday when they need me. And they know that.

But still, thank you, Hattie.

Thank you, Allyson.

Thank you, April.

Thank you, Sarah.

Monday, October 27, 2014

One Week In Photos 10/14 - 10/21