Grief sucks

December 21, 2014 in Lymphoma by Reta Reed

Friday night I was going through the text messages on my phone. At 2 am, for some dumb reason. I had all the messages transferred from Jeff’s phone so my phone is LOADED! I came across beautiful messages of love, sadness, inspiration, grief, and support from all the beautiful ARFCOMers, and Texas Hunting Forum and Godlike Production buddies. There are too many messages to count. Each of them special and perfect. I can’t tell you, each of you, how much those messages meant to Jeff and still mean so much to me. Of course the messages brought me to tears, but the one stupid message that really did me in was a text message from him to me that was oddly all by itself: “Get taco bell”. It was December 3rd, the day before he went to hospice. We had just been given the news that there was no more chemo. No more treatment. The tumor had practically exploded in his belly. I was driving home to get some things for Jeff and a change of clothes and things for myself so I could return to the hospital for the night. I was driving El Blanco, the little white Elantra we bought when we traded in Jeff’s truck. My phone wasn’t paired with the bluetooth in the car (first world problems, eh?), so I had to look at my phone to call my daughter to see if I needed to pick her up from her friend’s house. It was just after the call connected that I rear-ended the car in front of me, so my daughter heard a few choice expletives. There wasn’t a whole lot of damage to the car in front of me and, as luck would have it, there was a policeman one car behind me who saw the whole thing. He facilitated the exchange of information and advised me not to drive since the hood was a little crumpled and he didn’t want it to fly up while driving. I told him I didn’t have far to go and drove on. A friend of ours stayed with Jeff while I made the mad dash home so I called her to let her know I had just had an accident, not to tell Jeff, and would be a little later than I planned. Jeff subsequently changed his mind on his last meal to beef and cheddar sandwiches from Arby’s.  He ordered three. I knew he’d maybe eat only one but I ordered them anyway.

I spent the next day in my jammies with Jeff. I greeted hospice coordinators, the chaplain, grief counselors, friends, and doctors in my pajamas. Jeff’s spirits were up. He was happy to see his friends from Masco. He was pretty drugged and drifted in and out of sleep, but he was happy when he opened his eyes. That was really his last coherent day.

So yesterday I got up, went to Home Depot and bought paint. I finished painting in my bedroom and got the baseboards done on three walls. (Slight miscalculation on materials and I’ll have to move my heavy bed again to get to the fourth wall, but it still looks kickass.) And I feel better. The tears still come a bit easy today, but I’m better.

We made it

December 8, 2014 in Lymphoma by Reta Reed

One year ago today, I said goodbye to my husband and friend, father of our beautiful son, mother and mother-in-law tormenter, and friend to everyone he met. This past year has been a bit of a blur, though I know I’ve done a lot – managed to keep the house and kids going, work is going well, my health is ever stable, even my love life is perking up. And yet, there’s still a hole that will be forever empty, walled off, protected. The box that’s put away, only rarely opened.

I remember every second of this day last year. I remember waking up in Jeff’s hospice room, getting up, showering, making cocoa, meeting Jeff’s dad, brother and aunt, talking with friends. Jeff hadn’t been responding to anyone since shortly after admission to hospice, so he was quiet. It was icy and I was kind of stranded there, not that I wanted to leave. That evening our sweet friend, James, and I were sitting and talking by Jeff’s bed, the TV on for noise and distraction. I looked over at Jeff and didn’t see the rise of his chest. He was too still. Too quiet. He left us at 5:47pm. There was a lot of crying and hugging, confusion, numbness and pain. I lay in the bed next to Jeff, tracing his lifeless hands, so wishing he’d squeeze my hand one last time.

What do you do after you lose your husband? You pack up your things and go home. You hug your kids. You lean on your friends and family. You attempt to reboot your life. I wouldn’t say I’m moving “on”, but moving forward. Moving on implies forgetting, getting over something. Moving forward means cherishing memories, even painful ones, but continuing to live a life with grace.

You only realize your true strength when being strong is the only choice you have.

Dear friends have reached out to me today, remembering Jeff. I miss his devilish smile, the snort when he laughed, the creak and click of his bare feet when he walked, his outrage at some political happening, his soft-hearted tears shed for any suffering child, his wicked sense of humor, his bravery, his friendship, his hugs, his warmth, and the image of him greeting neighbors in his boxers and button-down shirt. He was unique, to say the least.

Thanksgiving 2014

November 27, 2014 in Lymphoma by Reta Reed

I like to think I’m thankful every day, not just on Thanksgiving, but in the spirit I’ll jot down my thanks. I’m thankful for:

  • the passage of time. I wouldn’t say it heals all wounds, but it allows one to experience moments and people that make the wounds and scars fade just the slightest.
  • my mom. She is so selfless. She has always been there for me and the kids. And she makes me laugh.
  • my Washington mom and dad. Always supportive, caring, and quirky 🙂  Just my style.
  • my beautiful kids. They are what gets me up in the morning, they are the reason for the giggles during the day, and their hugs help me sleep at night. They also worry me, frustrate me, confuse me, and anger me sometimes. I love them just the same.
  • my friends, old and new. I’m quite an introvert, but trying to get myself out of my comfort zone a bit and be with people. It’s helping.
  • my health. Knock wood – no issues, yet. Need to get back to the gym.
  • my job. I work with some awesome people. My job has allowed me to keep our home, keep us cool/warm with the seasons, keep food on the table, clothes on our backs and butts, transportation in the driveway, and the added benefit of being able to share it all with others. My (our) work family has helped me cope and helped me keep going.
  • our country. Our country is run by people and people are imperfect. All we can ask is that we do our best.
  • a sense of humor. I wouldn’t be here without it.
  • our freaky cats. They add some excitement when they bring in still-living mice, moths, geckos, bunnies, birds… Their snuggles take the edges off any rough day.


November 23, 2014 in Lymphoma by Reta Reed

Okay, I’m over my rather frenetic state from the previous post. I’m betting that’s a cyclical thing, dammit. But I’m chill for now.

As one might guess, the approaching holidays are met with a wide array of emotions. They’re full of anxiety even for people who haven’t lost a loved one. It’s certainly different when someone is palpably missing. I find myself still reflecting on last year. This time last year Jeff had been home only a couple days after being in ICU for nine days and the oncology floor for another eight, discharged just in time to have his bone marrow transplant evaluation in Dallas. He was home for Thanksgiving, and we were thankful. He was miserable, but he was glad to be home. This time last year, we were still hopeful. I feel terrible that his days weren’t spent doing better things. I feel terrible that I couldn’t share his rekindled faith. I feel terrible that we didn’t have more meaningful talks about the possibilities. I guess we weren’t ready. We were still hopeful.

I generally enjoy the holidays and just spoiling the kids. I even enjoy the potluck lunches at work. In his rounds to all our offices, Jeff would often come home with baked goodies and presents that coworkers and doctors’ wives had shared. He was so loved by everyone. We would occasionally hit the Black Friday sales and those were always a fun adventure. It was like a hunt for Jeff. He loved a good deal.

But Jeff didn’t really get into the holidays. He disliked the traffic, crowds, shopping, and decorating. So he mostly left it to the kids and me. I wish he had participated more. Oh, he helped with things if I asked him, but there was no joy. I think he appreciated that I made efforts and he was happy to let us buzz around with enough holiday spirit for all of us. He did manage to get me something for Christmas each year and it was always a very thoughtful gift. He liked watching the kids open their presents, sitting in his usual spot at the end of the couch, laptop in his lap. Always multitasking. I miss seeing him there. More often than not, he was in his boxers (maybe sweats if it was cold enough) and button-down shirt.

Thanksgiving is not a big event in our house. We just don’t have much family around so, we keep it low-key. I hope to make this Christmas better than last year’s daze. I plan to put the lights outside (the weather is perfect today) and put the little tree up upstairs, among other things that didn’t get done last year. Lights and silly things make me happy. I’ll do some baking for friends and neighbors. You won’t catch me caroling though! So, I’ll make myself busy and distracted and trying to soak up every bit of holiday spirit.


October 20, 2014 in Lymphoma by Reta Reed

Okay, it hasn’t been quite a month since I posted last. I’m just kinda exhausted with everything bouncing around in my brain, so I’ll spew it here:

  • The tattoo is healed, though still a little itchy.
  • I’m still painting (LOTS) in the house.
  • Planning projects for next year – I think I’ll focus on the yard and exterior of the house.
  • Need to replace a rotting piece of trim around the kitchen window.
  • Thinking about taking some college classes.
  • I wonder how Jimmy Johnson is doing. Used to watch NASCAR all the time with Jeff, but just haven’t.
  • Waiting for the fridge or microwave to die.
  • Replaced the garbage disposal. Yay me!
  • Laundry needs to be done (always).
  • Damn toenail polish chipped!
  • Those gumballs are hard. Need to trash ’em.
  • Need to dust.
  • Dating? Me? Blech… blarph… The idea is terrifying. I’m trying to get “out there” and be with people, but it’s hard. Takes a lot of effort. I feel like I’m damaged goods. Toxic. Yet cute 🙂
  • Got a zit that is taking FOREVER to go away!
  • That wine looks good.
  • I should sit up straighter.
  • Need to clean the fridge.
  • Lymphoma sucks.
  • Need a new kitchen trash can. You know they have trash cans with batteries in them?!? It’ll be a cold day in hell before I get a battery-powered trash can. $200.00 Seriously? You put TRASH in it! I just want one with a good ol’ spring-loaded lid. You mash a lever on the front and the lid pops open. Evidently they don’t make a lid like the one I need to replace so I’m looking at complete replacement. In stainless steel. Fingerprint resistant. Slim profile.  Shouldn’t be more than $50, I think, but I can’t commit to one. Stupid huh?
  • Stupid effing giant stupid effing plant ledge. Definitely need to demolish it.
  • I need to fix those encounter note findings for oximetry, 6MWT and Epworth so they don’t mingle.
  • I have a few episodes of Walking Dead DVR’d that I need to watch.
  • Is that a mosquito bite or a spider bite?
  • Remember that time Jeff puked in the hallway at MD Anderson cuz we couldn’t find a bathroom? 🙁
  • Maybe we should go to Galveston again this winter.
  • I’m hating the color of the kitchen cabinets but can’t decide what would be a better color.
  • I’m using the laptop Jeff was always glued to. When I type, the sound of the keys reminds me of him.
  • Not a fan of Windows 8.
  • Can’t wait to get the lighting in the kitchen done.
  • I like my hair today.
  • Stupid zit.


September 28, 2014 in Lymphoma by Reta Reed

I’ve been following the Hayslips’ story for a month now. Seeing his post, seeing his wife join ARFCOM, seeing pictures of their beautiful baby, and all the love surrounding them brought back lots of memories – mostly good ones. I found myself holding my breath though, knowing that he would soon pass and his family’s life would change so drastically. Brandon passed on 9/23/14  and I felt I could exhale, relieved for all of them that the pain of the situation is over. Different pain will follow, but Brandon’s struggle is over. It’s odd feeling close to someone I’ve never met. Their story was just too familiar, I guess. Christina is quite eloquent and seems to have a good head on her shoulders. I’m sure she and her daughter will be fine. They certainly have a great support system and her faith gives her strength.

Speaking of faith, I’ve never really had any. I like to hope that there is something more to this physical body. Some spark, some light, some energy that keeps going even when the ol’ ticker doesn’t. I like to think that Jeff’s spirit is around me. I still talk to him. It gives me some comfort. But that’s the extent of my “faith”. The idea of God, any god, just doesn’t make sense to me. I understand the comfort that people feel when they have faith in God and that there is a plan of some sort. I understand that having someone, a higher power, to lean on can be empowering. It’s just not in me though. I guess I’m a big bang theory kinda gal.

Brandon Hayslip

September 1, 2014 in Lymphoma by Reta Reed

Jeff had many interests, but he loved shooting, hunting, reloading and just talking about firearms. He loved the forum and reached out to his family there in his last two months with us. They rallied around us like the best of families do.

Well, another in the (ARFCOM) family, Brandon Hayslip, has reached out and I want to share his story here. This is from the donation site (

The Hayslip’s journey with the Big ‘C’ started on November 4th, 2010. Brandon had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer at only 29 years old. After an emergency tumor resection surgery on November 6th, and a fairly routine recovery Brandon started testing for some genetic mutations because of the lengthy cancer history, and was informed that he has the MLH1 mutation of Lynch Syndrome. He started Folfox w/ Avastin chemotherapy on December 23rd, 2010 with 12 treatments scheduled every other week.On June 30th, 2011 Brandon was officially in REMISSION.On June 27th 2014, 3 days shy of 3 years cancer free, Brandon and Christina received the devastating news that the cancer has returned, just weeks before the arrival of their first child, Aria Zanne. He initiated chemotherapy again just days after Aria’s birth. Unfortunately, due to adverse side effects to medications Brandon is not responding well to treatment. He is having difficulty with his kidney function and with a blood clot in his neck he is requiring extensive hospitalization and treatment.
On August 9th Brandon had surgery on his abdomen to repair a bowel obstruction. During the surgery, they found 3 tumors, one of which was inoperable. It is involved with major blood vessels and the kidney ureter.

***UPDATED*** Brandon is now home with hospice care, and according to Brandon’s wishes, do our best to transfer to a facility at the end. We need your prayers that God allows us the ability to do our best to meet those wishes, both with timing and finances.
We are incredibly humbled by the outpouring of donations to the GiveForward fundraiser for us. As they have had to make some very difficult decisions, it has truly ministered to their spirits to have that to allow them to do our best to meet Brandon’s wishes. And, as much as it has comforted Christina, it has comforted Brandon so much more. Without life insurance (denied since diagnosed so young) this is truly helping to calm his financial fears for Aria and Christina. So we thank you, not just for Aria and Christina, but especially for ministering to Brandon. 
Brandon and Christina have made an impact on many of our lives. They are always willing to provide encouragement, compassion, or lend a helping hand. After their previous journey, they felt called to launch a cancer ministry to provide for others battling the Big ‘C’.
Despite Brandon’s battle against cancer, Christina’s challenges with Lupus, and the unexplainable timing of the recurrence of cancer, they have never wavered in their faith of God’s plan for their lives. Anyone following their journey has seen them continue to give glory to God while ministering and encouraging others.

To view Brandon’s full journey visit


August 14, 2014 in Lymphoma by Reta Reed

The kids, Mom and I had a wonderful vacation last week in Gulf Shores. We played on the beach, ventured farther into the ocean than I can remember ever going myself in all my life (I was always too afraid SOMETHING would TOUCH me! Heaven forbid!), buried the girls in the sand, marveled at seashells, played with tiny crabs in the night. We got our hearts pumping with ziplining and parasailing. We checked out their modest zoo and had hands-on experiences with a snake, an alligator, and kangaroos. We shopped. We ate. We laughed. We swept and brushed sand off of everything, multiple times, and visited the beach again to track in more sand. The condo on the beach was perfect. Waking up and going to the balcony to sit and watch early-morning beach-goers fish, run, walk, play, was so relaxing. I’m definitely a beach kinda gal. And I LOVE that I didn’t see a single mosquito!

It has only taken about three days to get back in the groove of work and home life. I’ll tell you, walking into my cluttered home after being in the uncluttered condo triggered a bit of anxiety. Oh, I need to… clean that… put that away… fix that… finish that… look at the size of the grasshopper the cats left us! Don’t worry. I calmed down and decided to do none of that, except dispose of the grasshopper. I try not to put too much pressure on myself anymore. If I can live with a little mess and it’s not important, then why not? If it really bothers me, I’ll do something about it, but until then, I tell myself (sometimes out loud) IT’S OKAY. Priorities, y’know?

I stumbled upon a beautiful soul, a blogger named Glennon Doyle Melton ( Her blog is chock-full of painful, yet inspiring essays of her own and other bloggers like her. Women who have dealt with heartache, addiction, loss, and powered through it. I’ve been reading for a couple days, creating a pool of tears on my keyboard. I guess you could say I’m in a sad place at the moment. (How? You just got back from a great vacation.)  I dunno. Reading those essays has helped me feel more connected. I’m not alone. And maybe if I feel EVERYTHING (sadness, grief, guilt, fear, anger…) at ONCE, I’ll use it all up and will be done with it. Ha! I’m not that naïve, but it somehow feels good to cry, to let the hurt in for a bit, and just BE in my humanness. It’s as though I’ve been wound up tight just keeping it together and to relax, to really let go, allows the tears to flow.

And then in comes Cody, my big bruiser of a cat, who purrs, nudges my hand, curls up on my lap and looks up at me with loving half-slit eyes as if to say “Are you done yet? I could really use a scratch behind the ears.”


July 24, 2014 in Lymphoma by Reta Reed

(Okay, I’m getting lazy and just using the date for the title of my posts now. )

I’ve been staying busy, creating more projects for myself. Maybe so many projects that I’m overwhelmed. You know how you get so many things on your plate that you just don’t know where to start, so you wind up not doing anything? I’m not there… yet. After I get the Herringbone wall done, I’ll move on to the tile around the fireplace. My home office is also driving me crazy because I’ve stashed things in there from other rooms. Maybe today I’ll do some tidying up. Or maybe not. I need to color my roots too. I also need to get some actual work done. I guess that takes priority, darnit.

I was sitting on the couch the other night, on the opposite end from where Jeff usually sat, and just stared at his empty spot. I imagined him sitting there, laptop in hand as usual, snickering at something he’d just read or watched on some obscure site. He had a wicked sense of humor. I next imagined him pale and conked out on the couch, feeling miserable after chemo. What is it about my brain that leads me THERE, to THOSE memories, the ones that still tear me apart? Jeff and I may not have been deeply in love, but we deeply cared for each other and it was absolutely heart-wrenching to watch him go through what he went through, and to feel so powerless to help him. He didn’t deserve it. He was supposed to beat lymphoma and be better off, gaining some empathy and education, a new appreciation for the life he had been given. He had visions of his hair growing back in orange, so we were waiting to see if that would  happen. He was supposed to share his story and encourage others, that they too could beat lymphoma. He was supposed to get active with lymphoma causes, organizing fundraising walks (or shooting matches). We could see our lives after lymphoma. Who knew it wasn’t to be?

Some conspiracy theory types say that a cure for cancer was found long ago, but because cancer treatment is such big business the cure has been kept under wraps. You also have your alternative medicine types who say things like baking soda or apple cider vinegar cure cancer. As with any “treatment”, there are often side effects. I’m still confident that the treatments chosen were the best attempts at curing Jeff’s disease. His cancer was just a son-of-a-bitch and his body couldn’t handle the treatment necessary to kill the cancer.

I ran across a couple videos on my phone. It’s nice to hear his voice, even though the videos are silly 🙂 I hope you enjoy them too. One of these is already included on an older blog post, but now they’re both on YouTube:

This time last year

June 15, 2014 in Lymphoma by Reta Reed

Before I get too sappy, let me say Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there! And also to the moms who pull double duty as both mother and father. Raising kids is a wonderful honor, responsibility, challenge, three-ring circus… and I feel blessed to have three awesome little (though one is not so little)  humans to call my own. They sure make life interesting.

Last year for Mother’s Day, Jeff enlisted the help of our dear friend, Ginny, to make sure I had a gift on Mother’s Day because he was too sick to get it himself. Last year was Jeff’s last Father’s Day. Would we have celebrated differently if we had the tiniest clue it would be his last? Hell yes. I’m sure we would have done lots of things differently. We had such high hopes.

So if I’m not thinking about what was going on this time last year, I think about the firsts happening this year. Travis’s first Father’s Day without his father. Many first holidays to come with one less person to celebrate. November and December will be especially hard, but I don’t dread it. I accept it, though I’ll still try to make the best of it. I know that pain accompanies comfort and the pain will pass. For now, it just needs to “be”.