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The Message of the Daffodils
By Carolyn Allen

Note from Carolyn: The response to my article of March 8, 2010 “A Lost and Found Story” about Judy Jensen, who lost 70 pounds, was overwhelming.  Many of you have expressed a desire to get in touch with her.  She has agreed to do a teleconference call with me where you will be able to call in and have your questions answered and hear her talk in person.  The date and time of this call will be mid-April, and details will be in my next article to be published on April 5 or 6, 2010.  We would appreciate it if you would mail your questions to me:  Carolyn@MyWeightLossFriend.com

As a follow-up article to her story, I am currently researching and consulting with special Senior Service Missionaries who are assigned to the LDS Addiction Recovery Program.   I will have some important things in my next article that I hope will make a difference to you.  Look for this article on April 5 or 6, 2010.  In the meantime … here’s a story that I hope will make healthy living a happy priority for you this spring …

‘If the sight of the blue sky fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the field has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand,then  rejoice for your soul is alive.”  Eleanora Duse, Italian actress

daffodils 

Our first daffodils bloomed last week!  This is more important than you may realize for me and my neighbors, because we live – believe it or not – on Daffodil Court!  Even before we moved into our home 15 years ago, daffodils were always my favorite.  Their happy faces with the little cups open to receive every drop of sunshine delight me no end, and I carry the vision of them in my heart all year.  When we moved into our home, in late August of 1995, I was very sure that the next spring there would be hundreds and hundreds of daffodils in our own yard and in all the homes on our lovely little cul de sac. In fact, I was so positive that someone else would have done the planting that I didn’t even consider putting any new ones in that fall.  With an address like Daffodil Court, what else would you expect?

Well, spring came that first year in our home and much to my dismay, there were no daffodilsl   Not even one!  It was such a surprise, and a genuine disappointment after the months of looking forward to them.  (For those of you who may not be familiar with daffodil bulbs, they must be planted in the fall – even as late as December here in Virginia.  Once planted they return every spring, year after year)  

Vowing that such would never be the case again, the following fall, I bought several bags of daffodils to plant.  However, I dawdled and procrastinated the simple task of getting them into the ground.  October turned into November, November into December … then December into January, when they might still have had a small chance if I had planted them on a warm-ish kind of day.  But at the end of February, I threw out the shriveled brown remains.  Once again, there were no daffodils on Daffodil Court when spring arrived. I missed not having them even more that year, since there was no excuse and it was my very own fault.

That fall, I did manage to get a bag or two planted.  And when they came up, so fresh and darling, I renewed my promise to myself that someday my yard – if not the whole street – would be filled with daffodils.

During this same time, the first two years here on Daffodil Court, I had a precious neighbor named Sherri.  Though she and her husband had no children, they were the center of many good times.  She was more tickled with my daffodils than anyone, since their house was directly across from ours, with our front doors facing each other.  She was a hoot, with a laugh and a funny story for everything, along with a gentle kindness and generosity that drew everyone close to her.

From that first year we lived here, at dusk — when the weather was nice, she’d open the inner door, so that the evening light spilled into her foyer through the storm door.  She often also lit a charming little lamp that was on a table in the foyer.  When I told her how warm and welcoming it was from my view across the street, she began to open her door and turn on the lamp almost every evening, just for me. 

Soon Bob and I got a pretty new storm door.  I also got a table and lamp, so that I could reciprocate.  When our doors were opened in the evening, and the golden lamplight spilled out and shone across the way, it was our way of saying to each other “I know you’re busy, but my door and heart are always open for you.”

Every moment, every neighbor, child and flower meant something to Sherri, and it wasn’t hard to know why.  She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer just a week or so before we moved in. 

 

A lower abdominal pain that had been bothering her for about a year was dismissed several times by a military doctor as “stress” due to her husband’s upcoming retirement from 20 years of military service.  As soon as her husband was settled in a new civilian job, she went to a new doctor.  They quickly performed some tests and the next day, they removed a cancerous tumor the size of a large grapefruit.  She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in a very advanced state.  (For more details about diagnosing ovarian cancer with a simple blood test and more facts every woman should know, please be sure to read the information at the bottom of this article.)

While Sherri and her husband could have gone back and sued the military doctors for brushing her symptoms off, they chose to forgive and move forward, using every ounce of energy and every thought for positive celebrations of life.  They went to the beach as often as possible.  Her husband, a skilled craftsman, remodeled her kitchen with handmade cupboards from wood that they both chose together.  He removed a large section of grass in a side yard so Sherri could plant a small  vegetable and flower garden she’d been dreaming of for years.

Though there were periods of sickness that slowed her down, she was very active and happy.  Sherri gave gifts to everyone she could think of, painted gift boxes for her nieces, and threw dinner parties for friends and the neighborhood ladies, where we ate from her prettiest dishes.  She often sat on her front porch in the late afternoon so she could watch and chat with all the mothers and children who were outside playing. 

Then she’d go inside, and turn on her evening lamp … for me.

During my third spring on Daffodil Court, she was so delighted with the daffodils I had planted that were blooming, we agreed that we should have a Saturday Afternoon Block Party the next fall, to plant daffodils in the whole neighborhood.


 

We did, indeed, have the block party the following November, but without Sherri.  She had died in early October, exactly one week after her 50th birthday, on a rainy and very dreary Wednesday morning.  She had spent the summer in the hospital, then returned to us in early September, to spend her last few weeks at home, here on Daffodil Court. 

Her husband invited me over to say goodbye late on the Sunday afternoon just before she died.  When I entered their home, the little lamp was lit in the foyer.  There was a CD of soft harp music playing.  Her hospital bed in the family room had been placed to enjoy a beautiful late afternoon view of the backyard filled with the beauties of autumn and a fun pile of pumpkins on a patio table.  She was unconscious by then, but it didn’t matter.  She and I had communicated non-verbally for years with just a welcoming light in the doorway to say a multitude of things.  That light was still very much there between us. 

Three days later, shortly after my children had left for school, her wonderful husband called to say that she had passed away, just 30 minutes before.  That fall I had just started working as a Weight Watchers leader, and was already late for my morning meeting.  Even so, I stood in my doorway and watched until the hearse came.

She was gone.   Long before it was time, Sherri was gone!  There would be no more chats by the trash cans on garbage morning – with us in our robes and tennis shoes, no more running back and forth to borrow a can of soup or some onions,  no more visits on her front porch while the kids played.  No more fun neighbor-lady gatherings in her pretty dining room, and most of all, no evening lamp to light the doorway for me.

A month later, all the neighbors gathered on a Saturday afternoon with big bags of daffodil bulbs.  We spent an hour or so putting them around every mailbox, street lamp and curb.  We had such a good time together, talking, laughing and commenting on how much Sherri would have enjoyed it … and why hadn’t we done this last year, or the year before? 

The next spring, they all came up!  Every one!  Happy and full of joy, just like Sherri.  It made us all feel that a bit of her sunshine had returned.  It’s now many years later, and most of those neighbors have moved.  But each year, when all our daffodils come up, those of us who planted them remember Sherri, and bless her name.  The daffodils remind us of her big heart, enormous charm, quick wit, friendly face and countless endearing ways, and her exceptional example of simply making moments count.

On the morning that she died, my heart was so heavy.  How could little old me, talking to people I didn’t even know at a Weight Watchers meeting about eating more vegetables, exercising and drinking more water matter on a morning like this?  I was very grateful for the 30 minutes it took to get there for by the time I did, the message was there for me then, as it is for me now:

Each day matters!  No one knows how many springs there will be to enjoy the daffodils.  No one is promised a fall to plant the bulbs.  Enjoy and make the most of each and every day as it comes, for it is a gift!

“Each day of healthy eating matters in exactly the same way! ”  No one knows how many servings of broccoli and dark leafy green vegetables eaten, or how many brownies passed up it may take to dissolve each pound, but each pound lost may very well bring extra days – or even years! – of peace, health and happiness.  We feel better, love, serve and enjoy life far more when we feel health. This matters!  And it’s a blessing to choose the veggies, and skip the brownies. 

Each day of healthy thinking matters!”  To dwell upon our blessings, strengths and talents, rather than the lack of them opens the windows of heaven and the gates of self-discipline and progress. 

“No one will plant the daffodils for us!”  When we really want something for ourselves, it’s our Heavenly Father’s plan to have us get busy and do it!  There is no one who can exercise or lose weight for us, no matter how much they love us, how much we need it, or how much we wish it would take care of itself … by itself.

Our days upon the earth, as stories like this reveal, may be shorter in number than we think.
It is a message from the daffodils to let the small stuff stay small enough to blow away in a puff of forgiveness or kindness, and to take action soon!

Well, you can probably tell how much I miss Sherri by reading this article, but I can prove how she made a difference in my own life!  How I’d love to have her, and  you, come to my house this spring.  There are pockets and bouquets of daffodils everywhere!  In the front yard, the side yards, and more in the back.  from left to right, front to back, with more and more in pots on the porch.  They are precious reminders of springtime without daffodils .. They are precious reminders to not wait another moment to make the health choices required for ease of movement and comfort in body and clothing, not to mention the freedom of mind and the happy self-confidence that a healthy weight brings every minute of every day.

Grandkids and Daffodils

Happy Spring! Happy Healthy Living! 

(If you enjoyed this story, you can hear the recorded version, with my voice and a harp background, when you buy my book and audio CD at www.MyWeightLossFriend.com  The CD is over 70 minutes of positive affirmation statements, uplifting meditations, and stories like this all enhanced by lovely music.)

More about Ovarian Cancer:

A few years ago, Gilda Radner died of ovarian cancer.  Her symptoms were inconclusive, and she was treated for everything under the sun until it was too late.   This blood test finally identified her illness but alas, too late.  She wrote a book to heighten awareness.  Gene Wilder is her widower. 
 
This is the story of another woman with cancer. Her name is Kathy West

As all of you know, I have primary peritoneal cancer.  This cancer has only recently been identified as its OWN type of cancer, but it is essentially ovarian cancer. 

Both types of cancer are diagnosed in the same way, with the “tumor marker” CA-125 blood test, and they are treated in the same way – surgery to remove the primary tumor and then chemotherapy with Taxol and Carboplatin.
 
Having gone through this ordeal, I want to save others from the same fate..  That is why I am sending this message to you and hope you will print it and give it or send it via E-mail to everybody you know. 
 
One thing I have learned is that each of us must take total responsibility for our own health care.  I thought I had done that because I always had an annual physical and PAP smear, did a monthly self-breast exam, went to the dentist at least twice a year, etc.  I even insisted on a sigmoidoscopy and a bone density test last year.  When I had a total hysterectomy in 1993, I thought that I did not have to worry about getting any of the female reproductive organ cancers.


 
 
Little did I know.  I don’t have ovaries (and they were healthy when they were removed), but I have what is essentially ovarian cancer.   Strange, isn’t it?
 
These are just some of the things our doctors never tell us: one out of every 55 women will get ovarian or primary peritoneal cancer.  
 
The “classic” symptoms are an abdomen that rather suddenly enlarges and constipation and/or diarrhea.  
 
I had these classic symptoms and went to the doctor.  Because these symptoms seemed to be “abdominal”, I went to a gastroenterologist.   He ran tests that were designed to determine whether there was a bacteria infection; these tests were negative, and I was diagnosed with “Irritable Bowel Syndrome”.  I guess I would have accepted this diagnosis had it not been for my enlarged abdomen.   I swear to you, it looked like I was 4-5 months pregnant!  I therefore insisted on more tests.
 
They took an X-ray of my abdomen; it was negative.  I was again assured that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome and was encouraged to go on my scheduled month-long trip to  Europe …   I couldn’t wear any of my slacks or shorts because I couldn’t get them buttoned, and I knew something was radically wrong.  I insisted on more tests, and they reluctantly scheduled me for a CT-Scan (just to shut me up, I think). This is what I mean by “taking charge of our own health care.”
 
The CT-Scan showed a lot of fluid in my abdomen (NOT normal). Needless to say, I had to cancel my trip and have five pounds of fluid drawn off at the hospital (not a pleasant experience I assure you), but nothing compared to what was ahead of me. 
 
Tests revealed cancer cells in the fluid.  Finally, finally, finally, the doctor ran a CA-125 blood test, and I was properly diagnosed. 

I had the classic symptoms for ovarian cancer, and yet this simple CA-125 blood test had never been run on me, not as part of my annual physical exam and not when I was symptomatic.   This is an inexpensive and simple blood test!

Be forewarned that doctors might try to talk you out of it, saying, “It isn’t necessary. ”  Believe me, had I known then what I know now, we would have caught my cancer much earlier (before it was a stage 3 cancer).   Insist on the CA-125 blood test; do not take “no” for an answer!
 
The normal range for a CA-125 blood test blood test is between zero and 35.  Mine was 754.  (That’s right, 754!).  If the number is slightly above 35, you can have another done in three or six months and keep a close eye on it, just as women do when they have fibroid tumours or when men have a slightly elevated PSA test (Prostatic Specific Antigens) that helps diagnose prostate cancer. 
 
Having the CA-125 test done annually can alert you early, and that’s the goal in diagnosing any type of cancer – catching it early.
 
Do you know 55 women?  If so, at least one of them will have this very aggressive cancer. Please, go to your doctor and insist on a CA-125 test and have one every year for the rest of your life.. 
 
And forward this message to every woman you know, and tell all of your female family members and friends.  Though the median age for this cancer is 56, (and, guess what, I’m exactly 56), women as young as 22 have it.  Age is no factor.
 
A Note from an RN:
Aafter reading this, I made some calls.  I found that the CA-125 test is an ovarian screening test equivalent to a man’s PSA test prostate screen (which my husband’s doctor automatically gives him in his physical each year and insurance pays for it).   I called the general practitioner’s office about having the test done.  The nurse had never heard of it.  She told me that she doubted that insurance would pay for it.  So I called Prudential Insurance Co, and got the same response. Never heard of it – it won’t be covered.

I explained that it was the same as the PSA test they had paid for my husband for years.  After conferring with whomever they confer with, she told me that the CA-125 would be covered. 

It is $75 in a GP’s office and $125 at the OB-GYN’s. This is a screening test that should be required just like a PAP smear (a PAP smear cannot detect problems with your ovaries).  And you must insist that your insurance company pay for it. 
 
Gene Wilder and Pierce Brosnan (his wife had it, too) are lobbying for women’s health issues, saying that this test should be required in our physicals, just like the PAP and the mammogram.

 

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