The Living Without Series

This is a series of posts that I wrote back in 2006 on living with less stuff. Check them out: liv011Living #2liv031liv04

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The Chicken Doctor


The Architect


Clay and April’s Most Amazing Summer Ever!

Hello Friends,

I apologize for the long recess I’ve taken from Coal Creek Farm.  I’ve got a hand full of drafts that I wrote, but I just can’t seem to finish any of them when I start writing about Clay.  Clay read this post and said, “It does seem that you’ll write about anything, but the cancer.”  It’s just too hard, I can’t do it yet.

Clay is well.  He is recovering and the cancer is gone.  We are so thankful.  I still feel pretty numb about all of it.  It feels like years have passed since we first found out he had cancer, it is such a weird feeling.

So,  would you like to join me in a little summer show and tell?  It’s about cancer, but not really.

Summer 2013

IMG_1350This was two weeks into treatment for Clay.  We were celebrating my dad’s 70th birthday.  Clay still had energy and his wicked sense of humor.

IMG_1365This was later in July.  Isaac went to camp for the first time.  He clung to me in fear and dread.  I had to peel him off me.  He was so miserable.  He cried, moaned, wailed, and said, “I love you so much, don’t leave me!  I’m just a tiny baby, you can’t do this!”  Don’t let his smile fool you, he was an absolute mess of snot and tears.  Clay took this photo and then we went straight to the hospital, which was our daily routine for seven weeks.

IMG_1353That is the true color of Clay and I.  He’s pink, I’m yellow.  It’s weird.  I look like the sick one here.  I want to write about what it’s like to watch the person you love more than yourself suffer, but every time I think about it, I sob…deeply.  I’m not sure how long it will take me to get past that feeling.  Consider this my hug to all of you who know what I mean and if you lost your loved one, I am still hugging you.



IMG_1381My summer looked a lot like this.  I was a single parent to our four amazing kids.  I can’t say enough great things about them.  We all linked arms and marched along with life.  Nobody complained about what they needed.  My older two kids really showed their true character and did a great job of taking care of their little brothers when I was taking care of their dad.

IMG_1420Ellen stepped in and became my running partner for the half marathon training.   I would call her up and she would drop everything to go run with me.  Many times those runs didn’t happen until late at night when Clay was sleeping and I felt okay to leave.  Several times I had to hug her and tell her how much it meant to me to have her by my side.  She would stop to walk when I needed to and never complained that I was too slow. This is a girl who had just finished a year of college level track training.  She was in such great shape and she pulled the reigns back to lope along with her old mom.  Her level of compassion, patience and love for her parents is beyond what I’d ever expect.  Again, if I think about what she did…I sob, blah!  I wish I could sell a manual on how to raise this great of a kid, cuz I would be a billionaire.  But, this child it truly a gift to me from God.  It’s true.

IMG_1429The love I held in my heart for him before he got sick is just a small dent in comparison to the trench that has been dug deep into my being for him now.  I’ve known this man for 25 years of my life.  I’ve lived with him longer than any other person.  I hope I never have to live without him.




We had unexpected appointments like getting his hearing checked on days when I was spray painting drawer pulls.


And an unexpected accident.  Ellen was t-boned in an intersection while driving to work.  That was a long day. And a lot of phone calls and a lot of searching for a new/used truck.


We had family come and love on Clay.  This is his father praying and anointing him with oil.  It’s nice to have a priest in the family.


Clay’s work sent love in the form of a Vitamix so we could blend up food for him. My fridge and pantry were the healthiest place in town.


I grew a pretty nice garden.  I sold veggies at a small farmer’s market until Clay’s treatment schedule got too heavy and I had to stop.  It was a great experience and I’ll do it again this year.

IMG_1558Every single morning Monday through Friday he went to the hospital.  Then we would have about two hours to run any kind of errands before he would get too sick and need to go home to crash.  And then we would do it all again the next day and the next day and the next day….

IMG_1568We sent Seth to public school to finish his Senior year.  I can barely remember enrolling him, but I know we did it sometime during the summer.  This was his first day and he’s doing great this year.  He’s growing up really fast.  I can’t believe he will be done with high school.  MY BABY SETHY BOY!

IMG_1606At the end of Clay’s treatment, when he was really sick.  I was running with Ellen late at night and pretty much body slammed myself on the road.  It was not pretty.  I thought for sure I had broken my ankle and I cried not because it hurt like Hell, but because I thought I wasn’t going to get to run the half marathon.  And it hurt like Hell.

IMG_1622But, it wasn’t broken, just badly sprained and I recovered in time to run the race.  When I got home that night Clay woke up and saw that I had hurt myself.  He had to cut the dangling skin off my knee….shudder….and wrap my ankle.  He took good care of me even thought he was sick.  It was pretty sweet to see him trying to make me feel better.  I felt really stupid.  I’ll spare you from the gory pictures.


In September we accompanied Clay on his first business trip back to St. Louis.  I worried that he might over do it.  I took my two little boys along with us and let them have some fun.  I was feeling a little guilty that I hadn’t taken them anywhere all summer, so we toured around St. Louis and had a great time.  This picture is at The City Museum.  Isaac obviously is holding an L up because he Loves me.



IMG_1663This is the view from Clay’s office building.  That’s Busch Stadium, it is an amazing view!  And seeing my husband standing there post treatment with his two little boys staring longingly at the home of the Cardinals is the most beautiful view I could have.

It is Well with My Soul

 120588-620-010hWe have felt pain.

We have feared loss.

We have prayed.

We have cried.

We have pleaded.

We have questioned.

We embraced what was given.

We have praised.

We are blessed, beyond measure.

We are loved.

October 19th, we ran a half marathon.  Just six weeks after Clay had finished his last cancer treatment.  Ellen and I had trained for this run all summer.  We would meet late at night after I knew Clay was asleep and unlikely to need me.  We would run, talk, cry, and maybe reward ourselves with an iced coffee.  Running became therapeutic for us as we watched Clay become weaker and sicker from the treatments.  We were very focused on running and it became something we needed to do.  Just run from it, flee, get away from what was happening.  Run!  Run!  Run!

I never wanted to say he wasn’t going to run with us, but deep down I never thought he would be able to.  His doctors weren’t optimistic that he would be able to run. They told him he needed several months to recover.  He probably wouldn’t have the strength to run.

We logged at least four runs a week, increasing our miles and speed.  There was no way Clay would be able to do this.  The longest run he’d ever completed in the training plan was four miles.  Believe me, there is a big difference between four miles and thirteen miles.  There is a big difference between four miles and five miles!  It’s all miles!!!

Guess what?


He did it.  He didn’t run all 13.1 miles, but he finished.  By mile 10 he was starting to feel the pain and by mile 12 he needed Ellen and I to support him as his knee began to fail.  Together we crossed the finish line.  He did it!

On race day I found myself no longer running from something, but running for someone.  I never thought I would feel such joy watching my husband put one foot in front of the other, running!  Thank God, he was running!


Thank you for praying for our sweet Clay.  Thank you for the kindness you all have shown my family.  Thank you for emailing me and leaving comments to let me know you were thinking of us and praying for us.  Thank you all for showing this goofy Kansas family that love and kindness is alive and well in this world.  It is well with my soul.

He will still run faster than me.

Clay and I are training for a half marathon in October. When we go for a run I’ll start first because I know he’ll pass me. He runs by and then I see him quickly pull ahead, his strides make two of mine. Sometimes it makes me think I can’t run as far as he has, sometimes it makes me determined to go faster and taker longer strides. I don’t like it when he fades away in the distance or turns a corner because then he’s gone…I can’t see him.


He’s not sure if he’ll be able to run the marathon. He might be too weak after the treatments.

My friend Carmen is the one that started the half marathon thing. She wanted to know if I would go watch her and another friend run and hold their stuff. I told her, “No! I’m running it too!” then I told Clay, “Hey, let’s run a half marathon.” I never thought we would do this as a couple. But, it’s the year 2013, we are 43 years old and why not run 13 miles? Totally logical, right? All the threes lining up like that, we must run!

Hopefully, he’ll be able to keep training a bit over the next few months. I worry that he’ll lose too much weight and need a feeding tube. I’m pretty sure he can’t run with a feeding tube.

We started training in April. It still doesn’t seem like I’ll be able to run 13 miles. I run so damn slow.


A week ago we got up and ran together before his surgery. He knew it would be the last time he could run for a while and he wanted to get one more run checked off the training schedule. The app that he uses to see how far he’s run stopped working so he slowed down and ran beside me. I liked having him by my side for a change, but it felt strange. He should be ahead of me. He’s stronger, faster and has mile long strides. Having him beside me made me think that he was not capable of pulling ahead. I choked back fear and tears through the rest of our run. I wanted to stay positive for him.

I’ve been working on getting up this one hill. It’s a little over 1/2 a mile and steep. At first I could only make it a few yards before I had to walk, then slowly I got a little farther up, but was never able to make it to the top. It’s so frustrating, mostly because I talk myself out of it. One time I stopped to walk and was only 25 steps from the top! Who stops when there are only 25 steps left to go?!

The doctor told me this would change us. We would be different. He told me to prepare for the worst.

Two days ago I ran by myself. That damn hill was coming up and I was dreading it. Then I thought, good grief if Clay can face the next few months then I can get my ass up that hill. I think a granny using a walker could have passed me, but I didn’t stop. My legs were on fire, I was breathing heavy but I made it. Now I have no excuses. I will have to keep running up that damn hill.

Clay has cancer. It’s real. He’s recovering from surgery now. His treatments start soon and they are going to be rough.

The doctor told him to hold onto something that he can control because during treatment he’s subservient to doctors, tests, medicine, schedules, treatments and his body. Clay wants to keep training for the marathon.

His cancer is treatable and if all goes well he shouldn’t have anymore surgery or ever meet this disease again in his lifetime.

I will continue to stay on the training schedule. My thoughts are on my husband. When I run now, it’s because I need to…for him. I need to prove than I can do this stupid race because he has to prove that he can survive radiation and chemo and all the horrible side effects.

I hope that he’ll be able to run in October. He might be still recovering, but my guess is that he’ll still be able to run faster than me.


I’m going to ask you all to kindly refrain from asking questions or giving treatment advice. I know I didn’t give all the details. Something in me says I need to protect that part of his illness. I don’t want any doubt to invade what we are doing for him. He is getting great care from awesome doctors and sweet nurses and his family. He is a very loved man and cancer sucks.

Thank you for praying for Clay. You can pray that he will stay strong through treatments, that he won’t lose anymore weight, that the treatments will work, that he will recover fully. You can pray that he will be able to keep running!!!! God is good to us every day.