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

My Last First

Dear Leland,

Ahhh, Babe…you certainly weren’t kidding when you said this “is going to be hard”. 

You know, we never discussed your funeral arrangements.  Not once were you ever concerned with who spoke, what picture to use, what would be written or where we would gather.  It strikes me as odd now, as we had talked about many things I would have to do without you.  As always your main concern was family and the rest didn’t matter.   People don’t understand that YOU took nothing tangible with you to Heaven.  You took our memories, our love, but not one trinket, final request or demand.  It was a very good reminder for me as we went through your things and as I journeyed this year.  Only our love carried into Heaven. 

The day after you passed I had my first widow chore.  I didn’t realize they wouldn’t cremate you without me coming down to the office and filling out paper work.  Sounds stupid, but there really isn’t a widow manual on how to finalize dead people chores.  I sat down with a man named Bill. He looked at me curiously, but whipped out death certificate, social security and cremation paperwork with ease. I kept my emotions under control till I saw the finalized death certificate and read the words, “cardiorespiratory failure”.  In the smallest voice I asked him, “what does that mean?” 

It was then Bill and I started to have a moment.  He said widows “like me” don’t usually come alone.  I didn’t even think to take anyone as our closest family had just been tortured watching your last breaths.  I put my chin up, made decisions, and it felt good.  I felt like for the first time in 515 days that I controlled something.  Behind Bill was a wall of boxes for ashes….each with a large cost sticker attached.  When he left the room to print our paperwork I started yelling at you. (sorry BTW) I yelled, “IM NOT GETTING THE $15 BOX YA CHEAP ASS”. 

Moments later Bill came back and I picked out the box I liked.  Realizing sadly…we no longer made decisions together. 

Either Bill heard me yelling at you or picked up on our story…as he engraved your box labels and military symbols for free.  At the end of our conversation he asked if he could do anything else.  I put my chin up (theme for the year) and told him I wanted your Hickman line removed from you before cremation.   He stuttered a bit.  I think he thought it was like a heart valve and was explaining that it would be difficult to be removed.  I regrouped my thoughts and made a last attempt to explain.  I said, “Lee’s spirit is free of cancer….and I want his body to be free of it as well”. 

Bill and I finalized when I would pick you up (in the box) and I was momentarily excited. “I can take him home?”….it was such a weird thought that you would be at home and in NO pain.  I agreed to pick you up on Friday and Bill rose and told me, “I am going directly to Lee and removing his line after I leave you”.   I was so happy you wouldn’t have it on your chest.   It seemed like honoring your body was as priceless as honoring you in life. 

Friday when I picked you up I put you in the passenger seat and chuckled.  You couldn’t tell me to use my blinker, stop at stop signs and/or slow down.   It’s so much more apparent how much we laughed together.  I thought maybe humor was how I coped….but humor was a part of how we loved.  We laughed at so much.  I miss laughing with you. 

I don’t think I ever gave you enough credit for your strength.  Looking back now, you were in pain…..so much pain and you just kept moving. We didn’t focus on the cancer…we just kept moving.  That’s how this year went for Bug and I.   I didn’t mean to push your memories to the corners of my mind, but some days I couldn’t face them head on.  I needed to compartmentalize them and take them in pieces.  It's been a lot of picking up pieces.

I‘m sorry I didn’t clean the kitchen floor this year.  We had to bleach so many things during cancer that I didn’t want to even smell bleach. I thought you’d find it ‘not so funny’ when I ran the vacuum over it.  I just don’t clean like you did.  I also, apparently don’t water grass like you.  Leah chastised me and said, “grass isn’t supposed to be yellow”.  I had to bite my lip at that one.   If I’m being perfectly honest, I probably will apologize for this again next year…..

Speaking of Bug….that lil gal is a lot like you.  She has balance and athleticism that is ALL yours.  She learned to swim, kayak, paddleboard, roller-skate,ride a horse and ski…..none of which she showed a fear for.   On the ‘not so funny’ end of things,she is missing you.  You come updaily, nightly, constantly…..you’re always on her mind.  She misses you BIG MUCH.  She misses all the time you shared with her.  She has started kissing boys (UG)…and one boy in particular (double UG UG-since I can't throat punch a 5 year old).  I asked her WHAT KIND of kissing….hoping for an Eskimo kiss, a butterfly kiss….but my butt crunched when she said, “boy-girl kiss Mama!” I made her a deal that she could go to his birthday if she promised ONLY cheek kisses from here on out.  Not sure you would’ve agreed to that.

I think you would’ve been proud of me in front of the BBQ.  Cleaning the P trap.  Driving the PASS!  Adventuring. Raking the leaves.  Rocking Bug in the big chair.  Yeah.  I think you probably watched all year as the proud moments happened.

I sure wish we’d of had more years. 

I wish Bug would’ve had more years with you.  I would literally rip appendages off my body if I could trade more time for her. 

I keep thinking about that last day.  Those last moments.  I didn’t realize your body would have such a hard time shutting down.  I didn’t realize how relieved I would be when you didn’t have to struggle anymore.  In the year that has followed I have selfishly wanted some of those moments, even the bad ones back.  As I finish the last first I also realize I have one more thing to say. 

I am proud of you.  I was proud of you in life.  I was proud of you in death.   You really left Bug and I with a deep understand of love, respect and honor.   Thank you for showing us how to live. 


Love you long time GI,

Mrs. Lee

16 people hearted this



Lynn Schafer
By Lynn Schafer
No one ever wants to travel the path you and 'Bug' have traveled, Becka, but you have given us the total picture of that journey, the good, the bad, the ugly. I pray that you will find this year easier, and that the good memories will replace the sad ones for both of you.
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mike carlile
Thank you Rebekah again for sharing what is on your heart and mind as you look back at this last year since Leland left this world and left us all full of grief and sorrow after losing such a wonderful man to cancer. They say time heals all wounds and I guess there is some measure of truth in that but for me it seems that time nearly comes to a standstill some days and weeks as we try to work through sorrow and grief. I will never forget the wonderful smile on Leland's face as he shared his last energy and days with his two princesses at Disneyland even knowing his days were numbered. From the amount of courage, strength, and love displayed in that smile I wrongly assumed that Leland had several months of fight left in him and would have at least a few months to say his goodbyes to those he loved. Obviously God had other plans for his dear soul. That smile is a constant source of inspiration to me when life starts to get tough & discouraging as I think how courageous and faithful Leland remained through such a lopsided battle. My struggles and battles seem to disolve when I think how trivial they really are in comparison with the battle that the two of you fought so bravely together right down to the last hour. Our hearts and prayers will continue to go out to you and Leah again this year and every year to come for God to continue to help ease your pain and lighten your sorrows as time goes on and to daily remind you that Leland is anxiously awaiting that one fine day when all is restored and we all realize God's promise that nothing sown here in love is lost but is held for eternity in his loving hands. Keep on keeping on sister and may God's love and grace help and guide you through this coming year and may you feel his comfort and blessings in your life as you continue to sort life out and find the direction you need to go from here. God bless you and yours Mrs. Lee. In love,
Mike & Paula Carlile
1 person hearted this
Nicole Snider
By Nicole Snider
I am in awe of your strenght and courage in sharing your and Leland's story. I too have been trying to come up with something comforting to say, words just won't do. I love your honesty and openness. Know that you and Leah are always in my heart, thoughts, and prayers. Hope we can spend some time together this year. Please keep writing, I love you girl!
1 person hearted this
Traci Updegrove
By Traci Updegrove
I’m sitting here for many minutes trying to find the words to help ease your pain. I use to be good at "comfort words". Being part of the widow club I can’t seem to find the words any more. I’d rather give you a hug and talk about all your happy memories of Leland. You have put one foot in front of the other and you’ve done it well, my friend. I didn’t know Leland, but I know he is up there and so very very proud of everything you have accomplished for you and Leah this year. That’s all we can do sometimes, just try to make them proud. And sometimes, yelling at them works too! :) (I’ve done that a few times myself) Hugs and Prayers to you both and to all of Leland's family and friends on this day to remember someone who touched so many lives. God Bless.
1 person hearted this
bethany hardesty
By bethany hardesty
That was a beautiful letter. As I sit here bawling, I know Leland is smiling down on the two of you and is so Very proud of you!!! God bless you and know we are all praying for you and Bug. <3
1 person hearted this
Terrie Roberts
By Terrie
Aw, sweetie, you bring back so many memories for me, and I wish I could shoulder this burden for you, but it is something we have to get through. There is no time limit on grief, no "to be completed" date where you're supposed to be "over it". It really is one day at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time. We never "get over it", but it does get easier to cope with. You and Leah are always in my prayers for peace and comfort, and good memories. Love you,
1 person hearted this
jess m
By jess m
That was really beautiful.
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john jacobsen
By John Jacobsen
God bless you. Prayingfor you and Leah.
1 person hearted this
Madonna Giacona
By Madonna Toney
God bless you and Leah through this "time"...having lost my dad and brother in a tragic car accident-27 years ago, I have learned that time does not heal! We just learn a new way of life-without them! God bless you! Always praying for u and Leah!
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Carl Hogman
Well done, "daughter". As always, we pray for you, bug, and Lee each night. Can't say if/when any of this will get "easier". I have no experience in that, for which I am grateful. Just know we are always with you in spirit and love. Carl & Sandie
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