Sunday, April 25, 2010

Your Support System

When the hospice staff first came to our house, they told us of all the people in their network to whom we would have access whenever we needed support. I think I shocked them when I told them that all we would need would be the nurses and aides because we already had a significant support system in place. It saddened me when they told me that not everyone has that though. Apparently there are some who are practically alone in their suffering. It makes me think that each of us needs to be more aware of those around us who are hurting.

Our support system consisted of God (the Bible and prayer) first, each other, immediate family, extended family, fellow Christians, other friends and medical personnel. Each one provided something unique that held us up through our ordeal. There was not a single day that we ever felt we were alone in our battle. True, no one could take Shannon's illness on themselves and no one could bear my pain, but in their own way, every person who prayed for us, sent us cards and emails, called us, came by to see us or did something "hands on" to help us contributed to the strength that we were able to maintain through it all. No gesture was insignificant in our minds.

You will need a support system in order to battle cancer. You probably already have one in place but don't realize it. If you don't know how to build one, let me tell you how I watched Shannon's grow over the 31+ years that I knew her. She was a servant who gave of herself, expecting nothing in return. Even when she needed the support, she expressed that she felt unworthy of all the attention. Jesus told His apostles, "but whosever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant." (Matthew 20:26-27). I myself benefited from Shannon's understanding of that principle as I enjoyed the overflow of the support that was being extended to her.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Lesson Learned From the Hospital

Let's face it, no one likes the idea of having to stay in the hospital. Between the unfamiliar food, the strange bed and a host of other inconveniences, a hospital stay is a far cry from home. Having said that, I'd like to remind you that said hospital stays are often necessary when other care is not sufficient. The hospital staff is there to help you. They know you would rather be home. Their task is to try to get you home, as soon as possible, but in better health than when you were admitted. As aggravating and disruptive as a stay in the hospital can be to both the patient and the patient's family, it nonetheless could be a lifesaver.

My biggest trouble with hospital stays in the beginning of Shannon's illness was the anticipation of being able to leave, only to be told that we had to postpone her release for one reason or another. Hopes would be built up and then dashed. It was only after the events of March 17 that I learned that just being able to be with Shannon was more important than my desire to be home. That was the day that we were getting ready to check out and she suddenly lost a great deal of blood and passed out. Had this occurred at home I don't think I could have helped her. Thankfully, two nurses were there at her side to revive her.

I'm pretty slow and hard-headed sometimes but this lesson came quickly that day: Be thankful that you are with your spouse, no matter where you are. You may not want to be in the hospital, but if that's where he or she needs to be to get the medical help they require, just be glad that you can be near them. In your "hatred" of the hospital and your complaining and your impatient desire to go home, you may find yourself wasting precious moments with your beloved.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Seeing Shannon

Even though I can no longer physically look at Shannon, I can still see her through a multitude of sources.
  • Above all, I see her in our children, Whitney, Elise, Andrew and Adam. Each of them carries one or more traits that I loved in Shannon. From time to time they may even display a Shannon-like quirk or two and that brings a smile to my face. With a heightened appreciation for what my children gleaned from their mother's teaching and example, I don't think I'll ever look at any of them in the same light again.
  • Just since this past Monday, we have received 11 new orders for her Zippers book and back issues of her newsletter at While Shannon's writings helped countless numbers of people learn the art of sewing, they also helped her family financially. The great effort that she always put into her work continues to help support her family, even after her passing.
  • Every day this week I've received numerous cards, emails and other communications from people who have been kind enough to share their stories of how Shannon touched their lives. Sometimes we're hesitant to say anything to an individual regarding their loved one who has died out of fear that we'll make that person sad. I'm not sure if this is true across the board, but in my case at least, I welcome the memories, especially shared by those whom I have never met. Each story gives me a new reason to rejoice over Shannon's life.
As all of this relates to couples dealing with cancer, it's a reminder that every day, whether we realize it or not, we have an impact on someone's life. Whether you're sitting in a recliner in the chemo room, lying in a hospital bed or just engaging in your daily routine, your attitude can help you handle your disease and lift others' spirits as well both today and well into the future.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thank You

Let me begin by saying that I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love that has been shown since Shannon's passing on Sunday night. My amazement is not over how many people are commenting on the great impact Shannon had on their lives. That doesn't surprise me a bit. She made a positive mark on the heart of every one she met. What's astounding is how her love and concern for others has motivated them to offer their love and concern for a family they have never met. From around the globe people are letting us know how much Shannon meant to them and how they are thinking of us. I never would have experienced this had it not been for how deeply Shannon was able to touch people's lives.

I do want to remind everyone that cancer is not an automatic death sentence. Countless numbers of men and women recover from it. Keep this in mind because a proper attitude can be one of your greatest allies in your battle against this disease.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


This evening at 8:59 p.m. Eastern time, Shannon went home to be with the Lord. She was not in any pain and was surrounded by loved ones. As you would expect of her if you knew her, her final words were those of encouragement, telling us how much she loved us and how happy her life had been.

Shannon's life was one well-lived. With faith in God and love for others, she touched so many people across the globe. It was my blessed privilege to be her husband since December 30, 1979. I can't begin to imagine what my life would have been without her. She made my time here so joyful. There wasn't any challenge that we weren't able to overcome together, including this one.

The title of this site is "A Couple Conquers Cancer." As a faithful Christian, Shannon conquered it. It robbed her of her physical strength, but never of her determination. It stole her mobility, but not her heart. It even deprived her of her beautiful hair, but it did not touch her dignity. The Bible says in I Corinthians 15:57, "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." This evening, Shannon became the victor and nothing harmful will ever bother her again (Revelation 21:4).

We are planning a memorial service for Shannon on Saturday, May 1 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time at the building of the Cartersville church of Christ, 1319 Joe Frank Harris Parkway, Cartersville, GA. We invite all to come. In lieu of flowers, we are requesting that donations be made to the Memphis School of Preaching in Shannon's name. We will have information about this at the memorial service.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to each of you for the support you've given and for frequenting this website. I plan to leave it up and may add more to it as the days go by. If you feel it might be of help to others who are in the battle we've been in, please share it with them. May God continue to bless you as you do His will.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Celebrate the Simple Pleasures

By her actions, Shannon is reminding me on a daily basis of the importance of the little things in life. She was so excited the other day because the swelling in her feet had gone down and she could move her toes. Today it was biscuits, gravy and sausage from Ross's Diner that brightened her morning. You ought to see her light up when she gets a piece of fresh fruit. For so many months during the chemotherapy she wasn't allowed to have it and now with every bite it seems as though she's tasting it for the first time.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His audience to "behold the fowls of the air" and "consider the lilies of the field" to learn a lesson about God's care for His people (Matthew 6:26,28). These are just simple, every day things, but like so many other facets of God's creation, they can elicit joy and appreciation in the hearts of those who are willing to slow down for a moment or two and take a look at them.

Shannon has had another good day today and continues to share her smiles.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Talk About Priceless

Remember the "priceless" credit card commercials? Glancing over at Shannon to discover that she has been gazing at me and smiling; catching that gleam in her eye that makes my heart melt; sharing a look that only those who have ever truly been in love can understand - now that's priceless.

She's had another good day today, eating well, resting well and enjoying occasional, brief visits. I'm glad we decided to come home and I'm thankful for our friends and family who have helped make this time so pleasurable. They're the best.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Going Against the Grain

As expected, Shannon is sleeping more. We seem to have the right mix of medications going so when she's awake she is alert. She's having some pain but we're able to lessen it before it gets too severe.

I'll have to admit that I'm blazing some new trails for myself here. In the past, whenever Shannon got sick I knew my job was to make sure she got what she needed so that she would get back to full health. Now, because she is not expected to recover, I can't do anything to help her get better. I can only make her comfortable and try to ease her pain. Initially it was difficult to accept this because one's basic nature is to help an ill loved one recover. Now that I have a better understanding of my role, I realize that by seeing to her comfort, I am helping her as much as I ever have.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Energizer Bunny

Here's your word for the day: Indomitable. Look it up, and if you don't see a picture of Shannon next to the definition then you have a faulty dictionary.

As visitors have come by in the last week, some have talked about items that they are sewing or quilting. As you might have guessed, somewhere in those conversations Shannon has been sharing tips to help those folks complete their projects. The apostle Paul quoted Jesus as saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35). I have to smile as I watch Shannon continuing to give of herself even in her weakened condition.

She's having a good day and has eaten more today than she has in several days. As always, we enjoy these days and are thankful for them.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Appropriate Scriptures

Shannon continues to battle bravely each day but she is getting weaker as the doctors said she would. She has minimal pain but other than the occasional Tylenol to ease her fevers, she takes no pain medication. She speaks openly to me of what is going on inside her and though it's difficult to hear, I know I need to be aware of it so that I can be the most help to her.

Several people who have contacted us have cited the qualities of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 as an appropriate description of Shannon's life. I feel the same way, considering verse 30 to be especially accurate. "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised." In this case I have been triply blessed in that while I found a lady who fears the Lord, I also know her to be charming and beautiful.

Another section of God's Word that comes to mind when I think of Shannon is Acts 9:36-41 where we read of Tabitha, also called Dorcas. Read those verses for yourself, especially verse 39, and see if you don't picture in your mind's eye the countless number of women who could stand around Shannon, holding out garments that she made or that she helped others make.

The Divinely inspired verse that really stands out to me though is the one that I know will apply to her for years after her passing. The apostle Paul wrote of Abel's righteousness, saying, "by it he being dead yet speaketh." (Hebrews 11:4). I am confident that Shannon will live on in the hearts of those she touched through sewing, through her Bible class teaching, through her loyal friendship and through her Christ-like example. Even now she shares smiles with those who see her and talk to her. I believe all who know her will carry a piece of her in their hearts and will benefit greatly as a result.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Enjoying the Moments

Over the 31+ years that we have known each other, Shannon and I have written memories that would fill a library full of books. We've never been ones to sit around and dwell in the past though. Sure, we've taken the pictures and filmed the significant events, but we rarely sit down and relive those memories. I guess it's because we're too busy in the present making more memories.

Interestingly enough, even now we're continuing this pattern. While we've been admiring old family photos and home movies from time to time since coming home, we still spend her waking minutes talking about our family as they are now, our friends, current events and God's faithfulness to us during this time. In short, we seem to be enjoying the moments we have together just as we always have without an overemphasis on the past or the future. Sometimes it's difficult to look into her eyes and not project myself into my future without her, but the effort to save that for my "private time" is well worth it and allows me to get the most out of this time that we have together.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Planning Ahead

Among the difficult tasks I've encountered in the past week is that of preparing for my life without Shannon. Like a lot of people, we've planned for our deaths with wills, insurance, etc., but in the planning stages, death seems so far away. There's a considerable difference between the preparation for and the practical application of the deeds and events surrounding the death of one's spouse. The former is "way off in the distance" (or so we think), while the latter is staring you right in the face.

For over 30 years I've relied on Shannon to help me organize the many facets of our life together. Ironically, I am now relying on her to help me organize my life without her. Whether I'm asking her where something is or how to do something that she had typically done, I'm thankful for her patient answers. I'm also thankful to know that, even though there will be a major void in my life after she's gone, the example she set in life will continue to influence me as I'm sure it will those whose lives she has touched.

Friday, April 9, 2010

When Love Takes Over

When we learned that Shannon's cancer was untreatable we had yet another decision to make. Should we stay in the hospital with 24/7 care or go home with the assistance of hospice? Frankly, to me it was not ever in question that we would go home. Who doesn't want to be home? However, Shannon was concerned that she would be a burden. I imagine that this is not uncommon among those in her situation and that it can become a nagging feeling, despite constant reassurances to the contrary.

Since being home I've learned some valuable new skills as a caregiver. I've also developed a heightened appreciation for all those men and women who tended to Shannon in the hospital. Whether they were administering medicine, changing sheets or whatever, those who give their lives to serving in medical care are wonderful people. No job that they do is unimportant.

The role that I have now assumed has allowed me to plumb the depths of my love for Shannon and, as I have done so I find that it is as deep as I always felt it was. None of the tasks I now do for her is burdensome in the least. I'm sure the most difficult task will be that of finally letting her go, although I'll never let her out of my heart.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shannon's Turn

Coming home has been bittersweet. While I am thrilled to be back in familiar surroundings and away from the sterile atmosphere of the hospital, I know that this will be the last place on earth I will live. However, doesn't it seem more appropriate to go from the home that has given me joy and pleasure for so many years directly into the home for which I've waited all my life?

I will be leaving one set of loving hands to go to another. I am not afraid, I'm in no pain and I'm thankful to still have a clear enough brain to be able to enjoy my family. I love you all.

Just Another Ordinary, Every Day Love Story - Part 2

I am the world's fastest shopper. When I see what I like, I get it. I've always been that way. So maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that after our first date and six more days of seeing and getting to know Shannon, I asked her to marry me. That's right, it took me a whole week to muster the courage to ask her to be my wife. When people say that you'll "just know" when you find the right one, they are right, at least in my case. A little more than a year later we were married. Shannon was dressed in a beautiful white gown that she had made on the sewing machine I had bought her for her birthday. Not being a person who readily shows his emotions, I nonethless cried throughout the ceremony, not so much out of nervousness as out of gratitude for and amazement at the gift God had given me.

When I say that ours is just another ordinary, every day love story, I mean just that. Our life together has had very little drama. We have never been on the brink of marital collapse. We have both been faithful to each other and to the vows we made in the sight of God. Our children have been outstanding and continue to faithfully serve God as Christians. Basically, if I were to write our story in a book I probably couldn't pay people to take the copies. Our life is just not "Hollywood" enough.

In spite of how mundane our life might appear to some, it has been filled with constant open communication, mutual respect and love for one another and for God. Just as a person is not fully grown on the day of his birth, a marriage is not fully grown right after the "I Do's" are said. To use another metaphor, marriage is a house constantly under construction, never completed until one of the spouses leaves this life.

Now we come to this, the final chapter of our story. Each challenge we've faced, each prayer we've prayed, each Bible verse we've read, each midnight heart-to-heart, each tear and each success we've experienced over 30+ years have made this past year and its many challenges seem, as the apostle Paul said, like a "light affliction." (II Corinthians 4:17). To get to this point we really haven't done anything that any other married couple can't themselves do. Devotion to God and commitment to one another as husband and wife are attainable by all.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Just Another Ordinary, Every Day Love Story - Part 1

For over 30 years I have been married to my best friend. Occasionally someone will comment on the longevity of our relationship and wonder how we've done it. If you'll indulge me a little meandering down memory lane, I'd like to share how Shannon and I got to this point in our lives where, as a single-minded force, we have been able to stare down cancer and conquer it. (Yes, conquer it. Even though it will eventually claim Shannon's life, cancer has not defeated us. If its intention was to discourage us and cause us to grow apart due to the stress and strain it causes, it has failed miserably. We have only become stronger and closer as a result of this.)

When we first met at fine arts camp in Henderson, TN in 1978, we didn't like each other very much. I was the new kid in town and she thought I was a dumb athlete (she always has been good at judging character). She was very sure of herself,  had been a part of that group for a couple of years and held some leadership positions. I thought she was snooty. A week or so later, in my first semester at Freed-Hardeman University, I had pretty much forgotten about her, choosing instead to focus on getting acquainted with other people at the school as well as my new surroundings.

Sometime into the semester the drama department was holding auditions for "The Music Man." I tried out and won a small role. You can probably imagine who the student director was - Shannon. At that point our opinions of each other had not changed, but as days of rehearsals passed, I began to notice something about her. I again saw that self-assurance, but this time in a different light. I saw it even in the face of a bunch of male teenage cast members who sometimes weren't very respectful of their young, female leader. I also saw an interest in and concern for other people. There was something there that I had never really seen before in a young lady and suddenly I wanted to get to know her better.

I asked her out and, thankfully, she agreed to go with me to dinner at The Old Country Store in Jackson, TN and then to Bible class afterwards. It was a memorable evening for me. Does that mean I remember all the details? Well, I recall where we sat but if you ask me what I ate and what she ate, forget about it. Regarding the meal itself, suffice it to say that we ate food, got full, I paid the check and we left. But this person for whom I previously had little regard had now captured my thoughts, and, as I would soon find out, my heart.

More to come...

Monday, April 5, 2010

From Shannon

Despite the disappointment of knowing that medical treatment is no longer effective, I am thankful. I am thankful for the many friends who have expressed their love and concern for me, for my family who has been so supportive through this ordeal and particularly, I am thankful for my husband who has been my strength.

God is good. I know He will take care of me and I know He will take care of those I leave behind.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sometimes the Choices Are Made For You

Yesterday's difficult decision turned into a non-decision today as the doctors informed us that the cancer is now untreatable. While a chemotherapy treatment could still be an option, the scans show that the tumors are growing so rapidly that a treatment would virtually be of no effect and would in fact make Shannon feel worse.

So now we go home to familiar surroundings, hoping to make her comfortable. She's not in pain, just getting weaker. She's also not afraid. This is "the valley of the shadow of death" of which the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 23:4. We both know the Shepherd of this Psalm and right now we are walking beside Him, hand in hand. Soon I'll need to let go but Shannon will continue her walk through the valley, not alone, but in the presence of the One who can safely lead her home.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Making the Hard Choices

Throughout our battle with this illness, we've found ourselves faced with challenging choices. None was more challenging than today. When we learned earlier in the week that our daughter, Whitney and grandson, Daniel would be coming today for a week's visit, we set our hearts on getting home so that we could spend time with them. Based on the fever that just doesn't want to go away, the doctors informed us that they had different plans if we still wanted to try to get a chemotherapy treatment and take advantage of the 20-30% chance they say we have of this treatment working. They felt that the best way to be prepared for the treatment would be for Shannon to be under constant care in the hospital. Home health care would be available if we went home, but of course it would not be available 24/7 like it is in the hospital.

So here we were, on one hand wanting to spend quality time with our family members who had flown half way across the country, and on the other hand wanting to at least get a shot at the treatment that we have not been able to take due to one reason or another for so many months. If the treatment has such a small chance of being effective, would it be best to just go on home and enjoy the family in a more familiar environment? If the treatment has any chance at all of being effective, no matter how slim that chance may be, would it be best to stay in the hospital, sacrificing that week of family time for the hope of having many more weeks of family time in the future?

We opted for the prolonged stay in the hospital. Since the element of risk is evident on all sides, we decided to go the route of doing whatever we can to get to the treatment and hope and pray that the 20-30% chance is enough. Talking things out with one another and with the doctors seems to be key to making the hard choices.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Two Steps Ahead, A Brief Step Back

For the first time since last August, Shannon is breathing without the aid of an oxygen machine or tank. The work that was done in repairing her lungs was apparently successful. The cancer had travelled there through lymph nodes and caused damage. The tumors continue to grow in the lungs but we're hoping to get to another chemotherapy treatment to see if it can help.

We're still in the hospital due to Shannon's persistent fever. It's just a couple or a few degrees over normal, but when we're talking about body temperature that small range can be a huge factor in one's health. Sometimes it's the seemingly tiniest things that can slow you down. More positives than negatives today though.