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Leland’s Story

Lee injured his back on July 20, 2012 and has been working with a Chiropractor, Family Dr., and an Occupational Dr.  We had an MRI on July 31 which showed a bulging disc in L5.  We went back for a follow up appointment Aug 3rd and were told to go directly to an ER.  Lee was pale, had numbness in his feet and into his face and left hand.  The ER did a blood tests and more scans.  The blood draw revealed his platlets were at 14,000 and a normal counts are in the 150,000 range.  We have been admitted to the Oncology unit and have begun the treatments for accute Leukemia. 

February 20, 2013 Lee had a successful unrelated 9/10 match at University of Washington.  With less than 10% gvhd we went home with nothing more than new marrow and a small viral skin rash.  By May 31, 2013 we were home and in remission. 

September 19, 2013 we found leukemia had returned.  Lee's blood counts became low for two weeks and were our first sign of bad news.  7 months of peace and now we are back in the fight of our lives, starting at square one. 

October 2013 we started a trial treatment which made our skin fall off and made us have help breathing....but we achieved remission.  Dec 15, 2013 we took a Donor Lymphocyte Infusion (DLI) in hopes to stave off cancer to the one year mark (Feb 2014) to get into a 2nd bone marrow transplant. 

January 2014 cancer returned for the third and final time.  We returned home for our final family moments and Lee went to rest in Heaven January 28, 2014. 



(written at the onset of cancer) Lee turned 36 in June 2012.  We have been married 3 years and have known each other 4.  He went to school at Rogers High School and served in the Army.  He served overseas in Kuwait and El Salvador before 9/11.  After serving in the military he came home to his family and started working for the City of Spokane.  He has been with the City for 10 plus years and is a Crew Leader of a Wastewater Construction Team.  He has a lot of pride in his work and of his crew.  This year he tested first on the District Supervisor Test and the Inspector Test--he was beyond elated. 

Lee enjoys raquet ball and the occassional beer and wings with his buddies, fishing, mountain biking, hunting but his main time is with his baby girl Leah.  They do everything together.  Lee is the type of Father who is apart of each task..hair, clothes, bath time, bed time, reading, school, and Leah loves to play with him.  "Chase me Dada" is one of her favorite sayings.  We love to take trips to the park, camp and fish together.  Froyo is also a favorite family night out...(frozen yogurt).   Last year we went to Yellowstone and this year we camped at Porqupine Bay. 

Lee has 3 brothers, Perry, Robbie, and Chad.  They are the closest set of brothers I have ever seen.  They kid and slap and get together on every holiday and birthday.  Lee also has three sisters, Tiffany, Julie & Jenny.  These three ladies are also really close with Lee and he is very soft towards his sisters.  We have attended Church at Lifecenter since we were married and this is where Leah was Dedicated.  Lee is a gentle soul and the type of person whom everyone likes to be around.  He enjoys gardening and taking care of the yard.  His dog is a little 11 pound yorkie named Bella, and they are quite the pair.  

I have to say, Lee has prepared our family well for alot of things-structure, finances, and routines.  We have health insurance, a good home, we don't live outside our means and thanks to Lee have food stocked and minimal bills.  He is a financial savy person and has always guided us to be smart and prepared.  I think he worries about medical bills, but he is getting the care he needs and that is the number one priority.   Lastly I will say, ...Lee is my best friend in the entire world.  He has been an incredible husband from day one.  I love that he prays with me & Leah...bedtime, dinner time, anytime. 

He prepared us all for this journey. 

Latest Journal Update

YES!....I'll be COURAGEOUS! ...(maybe)

I went to a Marilyn Manson concert when I was in college. I remember wearing cute khaki pants with big pockets, white tennis shoes, with a baby pink and white striped shirt. I looked like a spice girl. I wasn’t a fan but more of a person that comes from the place of YES. Theatrically it was a type of entertainment I had never seen before. He came out looming over the crowd on giant circus looking stilts....lights flashing everywhere. He made the audience wait…and wait….and wait…. until he boomed forward…… the crowd on the floor rushed forward in a heartbeat. I was on the floor of a rock concert, smooched so tightly into the crowd that I was breathing hair.
IT. WAS. AWESOME.

This little piece of me (the YES part) served me well in my first year as a widow. I know this sounds stupid…but I knew after death that I would be asked in a thousand loving ways:

How are YOU?
How……are…..you?
Hooooooooow R U?
Howwwww arrrrreeeeee yoooooooooo?

….and following the question I’d see the sad furrowed brows on faces. …….over….and over….and over……HOW. ARE. YOU.

Ever wondered why widows NEVER tell the truth to that question? Here’s why:

“Oh wallowing in self-doubt trying on Lee’s t-shirts, smelling old tubes of his deodorant, cringing at the idea that my chubby ass has to date again”

“Wondering if I should match.com or Tinder to get my first REAL hug...”

“About to pull my hair out if I hear “MAMA MAMA MAMA MAMA” one more time”

“The thingy-mabobber in the basement…the one that puts out heat…it needs a new whatchey-ma-call-it and it sent me into tears in HOME freakin’ DEPO, CAUSE I HATE MAN CHORES”

I have to curb the answers. The ole, I'M FINE properly came from my lips and I embraced the hugs that follow….but those quotes are the real deal.

What kind of widow keeps the deodorant stick? I’m sure everyone has their ‘thing’…when Lee lost his skin he also lost his smell…..and I don’t mean his nose. I mean that smell you associate with a person when you hug them. Pheromones…or some science-y answer? Well…after the skin went Lee never got his back….so when I would smell him I would be smelling straight deodorant….and here I am …a year later with a dead guy deodorant collection. Who’d of thought? I can hear Lee, “YOU took down the $800 bear rug and kept my memory close with a tube I stuck in my armpits?”

A widow in grief share said she never moved her late husbands’ pillow. I on the other hand threw out every single pillow upstairs because I couldn’t recall which one was under Lee’s head when he died. Each widow is so different, yet so familiar. Last week I had one that asked, “What was your husband’s name?”…..I let the cat out of the bag and informed her HE still has a name. The word ‘was’ kicks me in the stomach…and I had to remember, not all widows are caught up in words.

SO, as I take this opportunity to think about my place of YES, I wonder….what is my YES going to be this year? Last year I learned so many new things about Bug and I….we learned to ask for help, we adventured more than we should have, tore apart the house…and, yes…that is a very real widow thing.

I started in the bedroom. I needed a piece of the world that was mine….I needed sleep to come back and hadn’t the foggiest idea of how to get there. The walls are painted light yellow and there are two windows…I covered the windows with long white curtains….I changed the bed spread into a bright teal and had two yellow pillows for a pop of color. I closed my eyes and thought about a place which brought me comfort and the ocean became my focus. A starfish print went up on one wall and an ole refurbished table went in the corner….my place of sleep, my place of dreams, my escape became a bedroom of tides….sand…..and calm. The one thing that remained of Lee was the shoe shelf. I asked for a shoe shelf when Bug was little…and same day he went to the store and bought a shelf with iron holders for my favorite shoes. It made me smile…..and still does.

I wanted to recount last year as things or places I had gone…and not one where I focused solely on loss. We had lost enough….why would we settle for losing time on top of losing Lee? As I reflected on last year, I realized Bug and I had done it….we have a FIRST last year that we rocked out!!! (pat pat pat)

I am proud of last year…..and my energy is bursting for this year. This year seems lighter….it feels like the ‘I CAN’ just got bigger…..and in a way I have to strive harder. Life isn’t about a day or a year….it’s about keeping it all in freaking perspective. What happened to Lee….to my Baby Bug and to me…will never go away but I also feel as if that perspective has lifted us to brighter places in life.

On the opposite side of the spectrum…there are things I need courage with….mmmm (horrible at letting this stuff out)…..

#1. Kindergarten. I need to enroll Leah in kindergarten. Registration opened in March and I haven’t had the courage to do it. (WHAT???) Ummmmm. Yeah. It’s a milestone I want Lee here for….our baby is growing up…..and I wanted that hand holding moment for all of us. I’m sure if he was here and I wasn’t he’d be writing about not being able to have the bra and tampon talk….but school for Leah was a big focus for him. I guess I just envision that first day of school incomplete without him in the picture….and I’m not ready for it…..

#2. Dating. (UG SIGH BOOOOO) The world is a bit different since the last time I was in the dating pool. Skinny colored jeans have made a comeback and for some hideous reason men are wearing them. Last year dating was one of those things I felt like I needed to try but failed miserably at. I am a terrible dater and add on WIDOW to the discussion and men seem to get scarce. I thought a date included food….phone calls……and butterflies. What’s out there now is text messaging, a latte and me cringing. Do you realize (cause I didn’t at first) I have to get a babysitter every time I get asked to ‘coffee’? That’s steep! How do I know if some ‘coffee’ weirdo is worth $10 an hour? Worse yet, I offered to cook dinner for a date….and….HE BROUGHT HIS LAPTOP. I kept looking at my feet….shuffling back and forth…wondering….which foot I should use when I kicked him out the door? (see…courage needed)….or bail money…..”YES Officer….I did kick him after the throat punch…..but I was aiming for the laptop”

#3. Conversation. I love words, but am running out of the right ones. Leah still asks “why did daddy get cancer?”….or “Mama, we need a cure for cancer” and I am running low on creativeness. I was asked by a date, “What are you most worried about?” and my flippant response is “that I’ll get attached to you and YOU’LL DIE”...I’mean really….how do I courageously answer this stuff and not scare people shitless? “What do you want to do with the rest of your life”….”where do you go from here?”…..”HOW ARE YOU?”.....so many questions.

#4. Grave. Leah has asked to go to the graveside monthly. No extra words needed in this paragraph. Her grief is as relative as mine….and I will be following through with her request….but I’m short on courage here too.

Ok…some of these items I know I can’t tackle in a day….and maybe you and me…or even Lee wouldn’t have the right words for…but for some reason they are all rolling around in my brain and sitting right on my heart.

Good news is the adventures are going to start for summer….Leah is growing and smiling constantly…and me, for all my ups and downs is starting to understand that I am a single widowed mom. You know…last year I could accept the word widow…but the ‘single mom’ was my hang up. SINGLE (vomit) and MOM…..I just thought Leah deserved more than one parent….and never envisioned it all being up to me. The other piece of funny that stares at me….is there isn’t anyone to tell me NO. Not that Lee told me NO much…but he would would’ve said NO to ice cream before dinner….NO to giving something away that you could’ve sold….or NO Leah doesn't need to own 10 sets of lip gloss.....you know….the 'NO' things hubby’s say.

SO…there it is.
ME in a nutshell today.
(Still) a Mrs.
(Still) humor filled.
(Still) missing my Lee.
(Still) searching for words.

Much love,
Mrs. Me

PS. Thank you for (still) listening
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Comments

5 Comments

Carl Hogman
By
Well, we can't offer "advice", too close to you (in heart), and way too much..."but, for the grace of god". I know, we still mourn, still silently ask "why". Still pray for you and bug every night. I think you are doing the "right" thing. Like getting up every morning and taking care of bug, and yourself. It's really the best and only thing you can do. Be patient (somehow), life really will "start" again someday. Sandie and I look forward to seeing you in May. With Love and prayers, Carl & Sandie
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jenny servine
By Jenny S.
You are truly gifted with putting your feelings into words. It is a privilege to be able to follow your story. It is such an inspiration to see you rise above the darkness yet face it with such humility..
Humility in the Bible

a prominent Christian grace (Rom. 12:3; 15:17, 18; 1 Cor. 3:5-7; 2 Cor. 3:5; Phil. 4:11-13). It is a state of mind well pleasing to God (1 Pet. 3:4); it preserves the soul in tranquillity (Ps. 69:32, 33), and makes us patient under trials (Job 1:22). Christ has set us an example of humility (Phil. 2:6-8). We should be led thereto by a remembrance of our sins (Lam. 3:39), and by the thought that it is the way to honour (Prov. 16:18), and that the greatest promises are made to the humble (Ps. 147:6; Isa. 57:15; 66:2; 1 Pet. 5:5). It is a "great paradox in Christianity that it makes humility the avenue to glory."

Thank you for sharing your journey as I know it will help many people including myself with life's trials and tribulations. Lee is so proud of you!
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Scott Wasem
By Audrey
I lose my words after reading your blog. Thanks for writing!
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Christina Johnson
By Christina Johnson
Just last night Norah asked me when she will see her friend from Seattle again. She does that periodically. Please tell Bug "hi" for her.

It is good to hear from you. It always feels a little strange knowing that I should be in your place and I'm not. It reminds me to be grateful for every day.

You are always in my thoughts and prayers.
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Krista Clouse
By
Bekah...well written, as always - honest and vulnerable. You NEED to write. You have a gift with words. Enough preaching. Know that we pray for the two of you often and miss Lee.

So, in regards to Kindergarten, please consider NWC. They are fabulous and if you get Jeanne Bauerle, Bug couldn't be in better hands! They have scholarship and I just know the two of you would love it. They also have before and afterschool daycare. Just a thought. We don't regret one second our children attending there...nor me working there...it's an awesome, nurturing place. If you have any questions, give B or me a ring. Much love, krista
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