Saturday, December 31, 2011

Okay, Here We Come 2012

I'm hanging low today. Still recovering from 20+ stitches after a cancer surgery. Thinking of the events of 2011 and being melancholy. I'm only here to write this because of a 13 year old girl who died trying to save her 4 year old cousin from a drunk driver. On May 12, 2011, I received her pancreas. I wouldn't have lived much longer without the transplant. I also received a heart in 2005. Her family is grieving as they move into 2012. I'm going to ignore the passage of a numeric date and instead wake up to a new day and a new opportunity to be filled with life and joy.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review: The Promise of Deer Run by Elain Marie Cooper

Nathaniel, one of the troops at West Point, New York in 1783, wakens from a difficult night's sleep like many others interrupted by serving in America's war with England. The cheers of victory as news of the triumphant end to a battle for independence from England's reign, left Nathaniel standing, reluctant to join the celebrations. His thoughts were of a war of personal tragedy that occurred alongside the three years he served.

Once he was freed from his service, the looming pain of his stalled life at home surfaced. A lovely woman, the return to family and community, guilt, loss, marriage, and the harsh conditions of life on the farmland, all become ingredients for this deeply moving novel.

Throughout Cooper's book, the delicate details and historical accuracy bring you into the homes, trials, and lives of the characters and when reconciliation and restoration join the ending of the story, it's as if your own tears will need to be wiped away at the endurance of love and faith.

I committed to this review weeks ago, but personal tragedy of my own caused my reading to occur tonight. I am better readied for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season after reading this exquisite book. What warmth Cooper's story brought to my own broken heart as I cuddled with the last few pages.

Buy a copy for yourself to break away from the stress of this time, and buy several for friends and family to offer them the same comfort I received from this wonderful read.

Cindy Valenti Scinto

The Promise of Deer Run
Elaine Marie Cooper
Finalist: 2011 Nest Generation Indie Book Awards
Honorable Mention: 2011 Los ANgeles Book Festival
Best Romantic Moment:, February 2011

Elaine Marie Cooper grew up in Massachusetts but now lives in the Midwest with her husband, her three dogs and one huge cat. She has two married sons and triplet grandchildren who are now one years old. The Promise of Deer Run is dedicated to the triplets and to veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Elaine has been a magazine freelance writer for many years, and is a regular contributor to a blog on the Midwest called The Barn Door and a blog on Christian living called Reflections In Hindsight. She is the author of The Road to Deer Run and the sequel, The Promise of Deer Run. Prior to becoming an author, Elaine worked as a registered nurse.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

On Your Knees!


Our worship team had a quarterly meeting this week. Someone brought up the idea of allowing people to feel free to sit during the worship time. We always invite people to stand for the worship but for some people, standing may be physically difficult or they may be exhausted from a tough night before. Other people may prefer to worship while sitting or still others may feel condemned or judged if they sit--like they've been disrespectful to the Lord.

I went to church with my dad every Sunday, along with my eleven siblings. Our traditional denomination required kneeling, sitting, and standing at different places during the mass. There were benches to kneel on, but as my dad aged, it became painful for him to bend his arthritic knees. Still, he was dedicated to his faith and to the institution that ministered to him.

One Sunday, I watched my dad slowly kneel down, his hands holding the pew in front of him tightly. When he tried to stand per the commanded ritual, his faced grimaced with pain and his knuckles whitened at his tightened grip on the pew. The suffocating temperature in the sanctuary added to his effort, causing beads of sweat to stream down his face.

"Dad, why do you kneel if it is so hard to and hurts you so bad?" My question was from a child's heart breaking over her dad's painful dedication.

"Because that's what we have to do in church," he grunted through labored breaths.

I looked around at the unaffected congregation. The mass continued, people carried on their sacrificial acts, children fidgeted, and the priests performed their tasks methodically. I was angry that such a place, such a God would want my dad to be in pain every Sunday.

My dad passed away when my first son was born. But before he died, he came out to visit and we talked much about the traditional faith we grew up in and the freedom I learned to accept from Jesus. I attended a different church now and his inquisitiveness was tempered with fear I'd lost my reverence of God--the same God we both loved and worshipped.

"Dad, it matters if we both believe in Jesus and have accepted that he is truly the one we've let into our hearts and lives as our God and savior. The name on the church and the methods of it's mass or service don't change this one truth."

He was at peace with my answer. And although he met Jesus and personally accepted his salvation during our visit, he still attended the same church until he passed away, and knelt down tortuously at every Sunday mass.

Sit, stand, kneel ... as I explore these thoughts on accepting people around us the way God made them and loving each other with the heart and eyes of Jesus, I simply want to extend grace and mercy.

On your knees? What really would Jesus expect?
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:15-18 NIV1984)

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Monday, September 5, 2011

WalMart Miracle


I'm not quite sure what all these messages and happenings are about, but I'm encountering a lot of appointments arranged by God and facilitated by my talkativeness.

Yesterday, John and I met at WalMart to pick up some groceries after church. We had separate cars. As we were checking out, I noticed a table in front of the eye center with a sign for flu shots. I pointed to it, showing John the sign.

"John, last year I waited too long and almost didn't get one. Let me see if they take our insurance."

"Go check it out. I'll finish here and bring the groceries home." He continued to transfer the sacks into our cart.

I made my way to the table and asked the RN if they took my insurance. She checked and told me they did and there was no cost to me.

Of course I started chatting and making jokes even as she tried to ask me all the required medical questions.

"Have you ever passed out?"

"Does dying in the ER count?" She looked up as the color quickly drained from her colorful cheeks.

"I'm sorry--have to kid around. I answer these questions all the time. I promise I won't die here."

We giggled and I continued to share my medical history, of course recounting my miraculous shenanigans and recent pancreas transplant. She was astounded and took in all that I blurted out in spit-fire phrases, never glancing away.

A young eyeglass technician walked over. "Did I hear you say you had a pancreas transplant?"

"Yes, only three months ago."

"My father is only 43 years old and he's dying from a damaged pancreas. No one can help him. He's almost dead now. Do you think those doctors in Chicago can help him?" His face was also intent on my story, but his motive was a desperate try at finding a way to save his dad.

I shared names and phone numbers for the pancreas program in Chicago. After we talked a bit and I told him about my encounters with God and the books I've written, he walked over, cautiously, and whispered, "Are you a Christian?"

"Yes, I am." The RN wasn't affected and she may not have been a Christian, but the young man was astonished and took that long breath in and exhaled, realizing God may have provided a miracle.

We talked a bit more. He had to get back to work, but we exchanged phone numbers. I told him I would check on his progress and we both agreed this was a God moment. I hope and pray he can get some help for his dad. They are already in debt for his health care and have no more money or credit to get to Chicago. He worried the lack of money and insurance would stop a chance at saving his dad.

"Don't worry about the money. Just concentrate on reaching someone in Chicago to help your dad. Obviously, God placed us in each others path for a reason." I held his arm and squeezed it lightly to affirm my confidence in God.

My chattiness once again allowed God to work in a big way. There are a lot of Bible verses that mention talkativeness and the folly of one quick to speak. And plenty of verses that mention the error of sinful chatter like lies and gossip. As I study this subject, I'm finding there is no where the Bible mentions not to speak or be talkative about good things, and God certainly used me once again to allow a miracle.

Jesus is my hero. I love that he overturned the tables at the temple when the he found a market. He wasn't concerned about making a ruckus. He wanted to get his point across.
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. (Mark 11: 15-16 NIV1984)
And John the Baptist--Jesus' forerunner, he was quite the character. Eating wild honey and locusts out in the desert and known as "The voice of one crying out in the desert." (John 1) Have you ever heard a man yelling in the desert to get people's attention? I like John.

In Proverbs, and dare I indicate in any way, I, myself might compare to wisdom, but even she proclaims freely what the Lord wants to convey:
Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. (Proverbs 8:6-7 NIV1984)

Are you chatty? Talkative? Do you chat incessantly in love and with the other person's (people's) good will in mind? Or do you ramble on with gossip, slandering, and bad news? Which is it? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mary, Do You Know?


"Terry, do you know that lady who just walked by?" I asked as I stared at the petite figure of an Asian woman as she walked to the back row of the sanctuary. Her delicate features were diminished by her pale complexion.

"No, I've never seen her." Terry returned to her conversation.

I sat in my regular spot against the back wall of the church with the ushers. It was necessary for me to stay far away from contact with germs, being a transplant patient, and that meant far away from the congregation.

"Terry, I'm going to sit with her. She looks new and she looks lonely. I'm going to take a chance today." I continued to stare at the woman now seated in a row by herself.

"Don't do it," Terry chided. "It's too soon after your pancreas transplant."

I grabbed my purse and Bible and mumbled how the Lord would protect me as I made my way to her row. I never do thisact foolishly about my immune compromised state and say the Lord told me to. But I knew he wanted me to.

Already into the worship service, I placed my stuff on the chair next to the woman and began to sing. It was hard to participate with my usual gusto. I could sing and sing loud and well, but the prior week had blown the wind from my joy. After worship, there were a few minutes for meet and greet.

I turned to the woman next to me. "Hi, I'm Cindy. Are you new here?" Most of the time people thought I was new from all the Sunday's I lost to hospitals and travel.

"I'm Mary. This is my third time here." She smiled at me and her pallid tone brightened. "Do you come here often?"

"Actually I've been at this church for years, but lately I've been gone a lot because of health problems. I had a pancreas transplant three months ago in Chicago." Mary perked up.

"Oh, I have pancreatitis and if I eat fatty foods I get real sick. I'm an alcoholic you know. Tried all the programs but keep falling back into temptation." She continued to tell me how she had a fiance who was a diabetic and also an alcoholic and they both were Christians but hadn't been in church for years. I could see their failing health had her concerned and she indicated she needed to find God's will for her life and to seek his help with drinking.

Pastor came up and the teaching began. The scripture was based out of James chapter 1, the entire chapter, and was centered around temptationso relevant for Mary and me. She was seeking help with her addiction and I with a recent conflict. During the final comments, Pastor Steve shared about resisting temptation by weighing everything; is it Jesus or Satan offering the desire placed before us? He admonished us to "assign a name and a face to our choices."

The Lord spoke to me and I looked down at my hand. "Write the name Satan on your pointer finger so when you go to pick up the temptation you will be forced to examine whether it is I, or the enemy offering it to you." His example was clear in my thoughts. I showed my finger, after I wrote Satan on it, to Mary and told her what I heard from the Lord.

I also shared what he wanted me to tell her. I took her by her shoulders, her small frame trembling. "Mary, this is for you too today. Please don't get angry, and I know you don't even know me, but I have to share what Jesus wants to convey to you. You must forgive yourself now, today. I'm not saying to stop attending the programs you have tried, but today, realize he loves you and forgave you a long time ago. Now go from here and simply stop drinking. I mean it, just stop." Oh, how I had that what-did-I-just-do feeling in my gut. But I also had the peace of being obedient when the Lord has me share something personal and impacting—something I would never do on my own.

Mary grabbed her pen. She took my hand and fixed it by adding "NO Satan. YES Jesus." Then she looked deeply into my teary eyes and said, "You are right. And I needed to hear that today." I gave her my phone number to call me if she needed someone to talk to.
You never know. You never know what a conversation with a stranger will bring. Talk to people. That's what National Back to Church Sunday is all about. I can certainly talk and I'm not shybut I'm also a good listener. And Mary knew I was interested in her. Reveal your heart to someone new in your church. Invite a neighbor or someone you don't think will respond. You never know.

And if you live in the greater Spokane and Coeur d'Alene area, check out New Life Church's Back to Church Sunday concert on Saturday, September 17th:
Beatles Tribute Band Coming to Spokane - The Beatles’ music, reinvigorated by the Kirkland-based tribute band Creme Tangerine, will be presented in a free concert at New Life Church in the Spokane Valley.

Creme Tangerine doesn't try to dress or do their hair like the Beatles. Instead, the group seeks to be “a really good rock band with Beatles material”. The point here is to deliver nonstop favorite songs so the people can forget their worries for a night.

The Concert is Free!
Bring a Lawn Chair, kick off your shoes, and
have a great time!

With a special Back to Church Sunday service on Sunday, September 18th at 10:00 AM and another Creme Tangerine concert at 1:00 PM. Click HERE for directions to New Life Church.

You Never Know.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011



I'm jittery, talkative, shaky, and nervous. And I found out yesterday that the levels of Prograf, an anti-rejection medicine I take, are dangerously high, causing my hyper state. High enough to be poisoning me and damaging my kidneys. I've been healthy since my pancreas transplant three months ago, but as they say in the transplant world, "You trade one set of problems for another--but you're alive. "The one anti-rejection medicine that can add five years to your life can also be very volatile and poisonous. It has to be checked often. The doctor will make adjustments and things will settle down.

But when this happens and I don't realize it, I can be more hyper and talkative than usual. And I am already ... hyper and talkative. But I'm happy. I love life. I'm interested in everything and I love to discuss matters and make people laugh. That's who I am.
"By the grace of God, I am what I am." (1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV1984)
Paul the apostle said it plainly; I am what I am. And I love that man!

In second grade, I was reprimanded for talking in class and made to face the corner with a dunce cap on. It was art period--my absolutely favorite period. And I was devastated. I'll never forget the shame, but more painful was the first sting of "you're not good enough" treatment. And many other people would add to my life-long ostracization from being too talkative.

Why do we pick on people so badly about who and what they are? Would we wield insults at a quiet person as easily as a loud, talkative one? When we do this, none of us really know what that person lives with or whether they, too, deal with medicine issues. Or, maybe their simply happy.

One of my memories was a train ride into New York City with my sisters. We lived on Long Island and were going to a show in the city. I was thrilled--so exited, and talkative. Once again the ticket taker on the train named me, CHATTERBOX and the fun of it convinced everyone I was bound to always be a nuisance.

I sometimes laugh and tell people I have a motor-mouth. But inside it hurts bad. I don't talk a lot to get attention and I don't need to be the star of life, I'm just who I am. The hurt from constant pickings at my persona will never go away. Even after my pancreas transplant three months ago I was targeted. My after-surgery psych eval noted, "Patient is in a good mood. Happy to be off insulin. Still very hyper."

I was happy. And blessed. Shoot me.

So from here on in, stop making fun of my hyper-happy self. And stop making fun of anyone and who they may be--period.

I am what I am. And I don't want to change. And God wants me to be who I am, too.

If you're a transplant patient, learn more about Prograf by clicking the logo to the left.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

A Promise Is A Promise!


Okay, I'm back. I brought my previous blog to critique group last night and there were great suggestions for me to take and correct. I will when I add these stories to book three, ( but for now, a blog is a blog...

And a promise is a promise. Right? Not in Chicago last week.

I'm really trying to look happy ... really, I am.
After I got dried up and changed and had some lunch, I headed back out to go to my 1:15 PM appointment. I dressed in cooler clothes, had water with me, and stuffed my food logs for the dietician in my purse. I was glad to have time to see everyone and get some questions answered. Better diet to lose more weight? What over the counter meds should I avoid? Can I proceed with different exercise now? What other precautions should I take? Who do I contact to send a letter to my donor family? (Very important and sensitive question.)

I stuck with the bus and arrived at the clinic early. I had my mini laptop with me so I could go over changes for book two while I waited. Once I checked in, I sat in the lobby and was ready for a long delay.

But a nurse called me within five minutes. Wow, that's like, really fast. Oh well, more time to ask questions. I made my way to the hallway leading to the exam rooms. The nurse checking me in weighed me and took my blood pressure and temperature. All was well and I told her I was feeling great. I don't even know who she was. She may have been a post transplant nurse, but she was non-expressive.

I entered the exam room and instead of the surgeon who made me PROMISE to be back in six weeks, another doctor came in. She was tired looking and seemed preoccupied with other issues.

"Where's Dr. Olsen?" I asked.

"He's out of town for another three weeks." She answered as she glanced over my lab results. I sat there shocked.

"But Dr. Olsen made me promise to be here today to see him in particular. I guess seeing you is fine. As long as I was doing good, I don't have to come back for another three or six months." I hardly cared about seeing her, but I was disappointed as I did have some very specific questions for the surgeon.

"Oh, you will have to come back here in three weeks when Dr. Olsen is here. After all, you made a deal with him and you have to hold up to your end of the bargain." She was not interested in how far I traveled and how much money it cost me to be there.

"I'm not coming back in three weeks. I'm here today. I saw you. That has to be good enough."

"Oh no it's not," she reiterated. You made a promise to see the doctor.

"I know, and I'm here now." This became a debate and competition to see who would get the last word in. There was no longer any concern about the issue I had with sharp pain weeks before, my anti-rejection levels, lab work, questions I had for some of the staff. This was a test of wills.

We went back and forth a few times. I gave up on seeing any after-care nurses. There were none around and no one even asked me if I had any concerns. I eventually got into a tug-of-war with the doctor about how long before I came back and she finally agreed to let me schedule September 21. I wanted to wait until October even if I agreed to return. She tried for the beginning of September.

"Well this wasn't a fair deal," I complained.

"I met you half way," she insisted. And after all, you promised to come back.

When I confirmed the appointment with the scheduler, she said, "I'll make the appointment for September 21, but we don't really know if the doctor will be here on that day."

I grabbed my paperwork and walked out of the office, defeated. I'm not coming back in September. This is out of control. I walked to the back of the hospital campus to catch the bus to the apartment. An older, foreign speaking man tried to peddle some gold jewelry on me.

"I ain't got no money for you. And I don't want no jewelry. Do you think I'd be waiting for the bus if I had money to give you?" He walked to the next person with his hand open. I was foul. I was not in the mood. The disorganized mess from the transplant clinic staff, the doctor insisting I simply return in three weeks, the oppressive heat and humidity, and the constant harassment of city peddlers, caused me to disdain anything in my path.

I had some salad for dinner, called my husband and vented, and tried to sleep so I could be ready for the trip home in the morning. Even that was a disaster. Storms delayed flights and the roof at the airport was leaking badly so that there were basins everywhere you walked. It was a zoo.

Yes, I made it home safely. No, the trip was not productive. Yes, I was aggravated. But I had to let it go. I will not allow the frustration to fester. I will cancel my appointment until this mess gets straightened out. I hope it does.

Author's note: This post is a bummer. A good sign to get off the Chicago topic. 8^) I am doing great and will put this saga to bed.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Soggy in Chicago

Way cool light show through
the O'Hare Airport Tunnel.

Okay, so after a while, I'm going to have to take a break from these Chicago posts. Well, actually, I don't plan on going back unless some things change with the transplant clinic. Oh, I want it known and understood that I absolutely, unequivocally, love and appreciate and love the surgeons who gave me a chance to live free of diabetes and extend my life. They ROCK!

But at the appointment I had on June 10th, a day before I left to come home to Spokane, Washington, I was made to promise cooperation with the requirements set forth by the head surgeon in order to release me to go home. I did.
So on Thursday, July 21st, I traveled out to Chicago, saved money by taking the train from O'Hare to the city, (of which the air conditioning was broken and we were all dying of heat stroke) messed up my connection, and was left at Wall and Randolf St., two miles from the apartment I was staying at. And ... the temperature was 99 with a heat index of 115 degrees.

I was in travel clothes which included my jeans, had a heavy backpack to tow, and once again luggage to pull. I can do this. The exercise will be good after being on a plane. So here I was, roaming the streets of Chicago lugging luggage--again.

After the first mile, I was sweating so bad the water dripping from my face and hair blurred the GPS on my phone. I had to keep stopping to wipe the sweat from my glasses. I came upon a Baskin and Robbins and stopped for a scoop of ice cream and a respite in air-conditioning. I can't make the other mile. What to do now?

My watch displayed 4:50 PM. I called Lenee--the angel a couple of posts back. "It's perfect timing," she announced. I get off work in a few minutes and pick you up and bring you to the apartment. But I can't stay--have to get my daughter to soccer practice."

"That's fine with me. I'll wait on the corner."

Sweaty, armed with a backpack and suitcase, and dressed inclemently in jeans and a long sleeve shirt, I leaned on the corner pole. I'm pathetic.

Lenee arrived and dropped me off. I took a shower and changed into fresh clothes to settle down for the night. The complex had dinner to purchase from area restaurants that came on Tuesday and Thursday. I got pot roast and veges and called John to let him know all was well.

Again I appreciated a free place to stay, but this time was really tough. The apartment brought back scenes of lonely days and nights, the couch a reminder of how many days post surgery I laid on it weak and sick, and the memory of paramedics collecting me onto a stretcher when I had semi-passed out from a 104.5 fever. No worries--only a few days to stay here. I didn't fall asleep until 3:00 AM.

Friday morning, I got up early and had to catch the bus at 8:20 AM. I was exhausted but had to go get blood work for the afternoon appointment. I took the train back so I could stop at Starbucks and get an ice coffee--a large ice coffee. The train conductor announced there was a dangerous storm moving in with hail and dangerous lightening.

We arrived at the Clinton St. Station and I made my way down the gray, dirty steps to the street. I saw the storm getting close but figured I had time to get coffee and walk the four blocks to the apartment. Not. I waited on a short line and by the time I was handed my Venti, Iced Latte, 2% Milk, SF Vanilla, the storm had arrived.

A few buildings shielded me for a while but then the fierce rain pounded my unprotected self. I watched people's umbrellas fly away and did my best to run for the building. Once inside, the extreme air conditioning froze my clothing creating a pocket of cold air between my shirt and me. "I would have made it if I hadn't stopped for Starbucks," I joked out loud to the people standing in the lobby. No one looked at me or smiled. Such fuddy duds.

When I got up to the apartment, I laid my clothes on chairs to dry and took another shower. I had a few hours before leaving for my 1:15 PM appointment.

Next post: Oh why, Oh why, did I fly to the city, oh why, oh why, did I go?

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pulling a New York Look


After my testing the first day, I had to find another hotel. The Marriott was not a friendly place--price wise. A couple I had met at a Christian writer's conference a while back, had offered to help me and give me a place to stay. They did live more than an hour south of the city, but I called them that first day and they said they could come get me by 4:00 PM-ish.

When it was 4:00, I called them to check on where to meet and was disappointed to find out they changed their mind at the last minute. Oh wow ... now what?

This left me with only a few hours to find a hotel at the last minute again. President Obama was still in town. (I think he owes me $100.00 which was the extra charge for the Marriott!) The social services department tried to help me, but the hotels were all expensive. I was left with the housing I rejected the first dark, night, in the dreaded ghetto.

So I booked it for the next three days and trudged to the apartment building with my luggage. I followed my phone's GPS but found myself on an abandoned street in front of the old Cook County Hospital. It's walls were cracked and aged and it's appearance scary like an old murder film. I was cautious and kept looking around me. I saw one guy but didn't want to ask him directions; I looked like a tourist and it was dangerous to let on I was vulnerable. I know--I grew up in New York.

I found the building and recognized it from the night before. I had keys this time and after navigating the entrance, took the squeaky, smelly elevator to the third floor. At least I'm safe and can open the windows on the third floor.

Hangin' in the Hood
Once in, the room was clean but barren. The building was old and neighborhood right next to a country prison and the freeway with many abandoned buildings. My footsteps on the tile floor echoed until I opened the window to let some air in. The noise was deafening: sirens, traffic, honking, people yelling, fire trucks, ambulances...non-stop day and night. I kept the windows shut.

There was no where to walk to and get take-out food or groceries. I had some protein bars and the only thing in the snack machine on the ground floor was chips and cookies. Dinner that night was not fit for a diabetic trying to get a pancreas transplant.

The intersection across from the apartment
I was there three days and nights, keeping a chair wedged under the door knob whenever I was in the room with the door locked. Oh, I made it okay. But the environment was not healthy nor safe as I found out on day two.

After my testing on the second day, I found out there was a hospital a mile down the street with a cafeteria. I walked down to see if I could get a salad and some protein for dinner. I got an awesome salad and sadly, the only protein was typically gross hospital meatloaf. But it was better than chips and cookies.

While walking back, a man jumped out from an indented doorway and went to grab me. "Hey sweet sister. What ya' got for me?" And he didn't mean my salad and meatloaf. Two things saved me--A protective angel from God and my New York attitude.

I turned and looked at him with the most threatening New York look I could. And not the fake kind you imitate in the mirror. This look was, "I'm not in the mood and don't mess with me." And it worked. He backed off into his pitiful doorway hiding place and waited for the next victim.

Here's the doorway. The faces
have been blurred to protect the innocent (?)...

I walked the short distance to my apartment, face contorted with anger, and locked myself in my room. The salad was great but the meatloaf ended up in the garbage.

I vowed not to stay in that apartment again. Especially after I learned that POP, POP, POP were gun shots from gang battles nearby!

The next time I was in Chicago for the wait for a pancreas, a taxi cab drove me to my new residence in the city after I was kicked out of an assisted living home and had gone from hotel to hotel. (More later!) I watch the driver's route on my phone's GPS to be sure he's not taking me for a ride. Great to have technology.

When he didn't get off the right exit I started to panic a bit."Why did you pass the exit?"

"Oh, that exit," he pointed to. "I know another way around it. I'm a white cab driver in a white taxi. I don't drive through that neighborhood."

"That's where I stayed last time."

"And you're alive to tell it?"

I sat back against the vinyl seat, a bit disturbed but proud to have survived!

(Since then, everyone I talk to in Chicago is amazed I stayed there! Ha...they don't know the power of a crazed New York Italian!)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stories from the Ghetto, Urrr...I mean City


It's such a pretty city...
Chicago was, well, an interesting city. When I traveled out there in April to have pancreas pre-transplant testing, the hospital provided a housing assistant to help me find affordable "housing." Their motives were sincere--their evaluation of someone like me staying somewhere like that was far from sane. And I had no idea what I was getting into.

The instructions for where to go were vague and I had never been downtown alone. While on the plane, I was thrilled to have WIFI for a sale rate of $5.00 for the flight. A sweet, dear friend from Arizona has a niece in the Chicago area and connected me to her on Facebook. Because I hooked up with her from the plane, we were able to exchange phone numbers and with short notice, she offered to pick me up from the airport and take me to the apartment complex. Thank GOD!

It was 9:30 PM and I was so grateful Lenee was willing to get me. It was out of her way to give me a ride. She had a picture of herself on Facebook and when I reached the luggage area I recognized her. I wanted her to just wait at the curb, which was easier, but she insisted on parking and coming in to get me.

What an amazing woman!

Once she drove me to the location of the "medical district housing," we both realized the area was part of a "ghetto" area in south Chicago. Not to call any area a ghetto, but it was not the right place for a short, stubby, white, Italian woman.

We drove front to back and couldn't figure out how to get in. I finally bypassed a resident coming out of the gated, iron, tall-fenced-with-sharp-pointy-tops, entrance area. I made my way inside, past an old guy sitting up against the wall smoking a but, and found a security guard--on his cell phone behind the counter, crouched down on the floor. I guess he wanted privacy.

"Oh no, ma'am, I ain't got no key." He fumbled to flip shut his cell phone.

"But I was told to come here and check in to room 314."

"I know nothin' about no key or no checkin' and the manager only works in the morning." He stood tall now, wanting to look like he was securing the premises.

I was glad Lenee insisted she wait until I got in. I walked to her car.

"I can't get the security guard to tell me what to do--he has no idea. And I don't like the looks of this place. I think I'd better find a hotel if you don't mind giving me a ride to one." Lenee and I both searched our cell phones for local hotels.

"Good thing I stayed," she assured me. "This is a bad part of town. You can't stay here."

Chicago. Now 10:00 PM on a Tuesday. President Obama was in town and so was the entire world--there was no room at the Inn for me. The only hotel with one room left was a Marriott. Lenee gave me a ride over and I assured her I would be okay. Because President Obama was in town and it was the last room, the Marriot charged me $279.00 for the night, before taxes and fees! BIG OUCH! But I had no other choice.

"I have something for you," she approached me with a gold, shiny box. "I was going to give this to a friend, but I knew I was supposed to give it to you tonight. I looked at the beautiful necklace and the words written on each charm: Faith, Hope, and Love.

We hugged tight and in less than an hour, I had a friend for life and an ANGEL to be with me in Chicago. Lenee saved my life that night. Could you see me lugging my backpack and carry on, late at night, in the well-known ghettos of Chicago? I don't think so.

So the cheap wireless on the flight, a dear friend from 20+ years ago in Arizona, her amazing niece, Facebook, cell phones with GPS, and God's protection, all worked out. 8^)

Never underestimate God or his angels!

Lenee - My Angel!
Tomorrow--the continued story as I find myself back at the ghetto for the next three days and find myself dodging an all out attack!

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Heart Like Mine - Six Year Anniversary Today

July 13, 2005 - Dr. Icenogle: "You need a heart today but it will be 9 months to a year before we get you one. And you don't have that long."

July 14, 2005 - Dr. Icenogle: "Sign on the dotted line." Me: "For what?" Dr. Icenogle: "You want a heart don't you?"

Six years ago today, I received a life saving--major life saving heart transplant from my angelic donor, Danielle. The story is so amazing and unbelievable. All transplants are miracles, but this on was so beyond medical standards that anyone looking from the outside can tell something very special happened.

Excerpt about Danielle from book one, A Heart Like Mine:
When Danielle was five years old, her dad was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving Charlotte to raise three children on her own. They often had to visit the local food bank to get help with the family’s needs. Danielle was so touched by the acts of kindness, she insisted to her mom that when she grew up she would “help others like they were helping them.” As she grew, she did just that—gave whatever she had if someone she saw needed it. She gave away her coat to a friend and came home in the cold rain without it, her shoes were donated to a friend in need as she walked home barefoot, her lunch was often offered to another classmate who had nothing, and she always asked for extra snacks to hand out to those less fortunate.

As she got older, Danielle explained to her mom that she felt like she was put on the earth to give to those who were in need of help. When she got her driver’s license, she decided to become an organ donor. “Mom, if something were to happen to me,” she said, “why would I want my organs to be buried when someone’s life could be saved or helped by me being a donor?”

No one likes to talk about a subject as sensitive as dying, but it was important to Danielle that her family knew her wishes. Then the tragic day came when, as Charlotte put it, “I lost something very dear to me—my little princess.”

Danielle was an epileptic and had a seizure one day that caused her to slip and fall in the shower. She suffered a concussion and also hit her neck, cutting off blood flow to her brain from her carotid arteries in her neck. After three days in the hospital, all hope was lost that she ever would come back. When Charlotte was notified that the hospital called a code blue on Danielle, the code for eminent death, she was distraught. “Why God?” she asked. “Why are You doing this? Take me instead of her.”

Danielle’s brothers and the rest of her family all struggled with their loss. But Charlotte knew God had a purpose on earth for her daughter—her “princess.” She also knew that if Danielle’s organs had not been donated, there would have been no purpose to her death.

The holidays were always difficult for Charlotte, but after we talked for a few months, she agreed to meet my family and me on Easter weekend—almost three years after losing Danielle. It was an emotional and powerful meeting for both of us, Charlotte finding closure and me getting to know about the person whose heart was keeping me alive.

Charlotte said something only someone so close to the Lord could comprehend: “After getting to know you,” she explained through tears of relief, “I now know that my daughter’s purpose on earth was to be here so when you needed a new heart, she could give you hers.”

How could a mom say something like that after losing her daughter? Danielle was a Christian, and she demonstrated it by her giving and loving lifestyle. And Danielle is still who she is, and I am who I am, but part of me has a piece of Danielle that God holds in high esteem—her heart. I cannot be who I am without Danielle’s heart keeping me alive. “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). This verse is clipped onto the bulletin board in my kitchen, reminding me quite often of who I am in God’s eyes. No matter what I do wrong, whatever pain I suffer, whatever failures I despair over, I am exactly who God made me to be. And it was His plan that Danielle’s life would become part of mine.

I now have an extended family to which I am very connected. Besides the physical connection, there is an emotional connection and a spiritual connection.
This blog isn't a sales pitch. I know the story is about me--but not really just me. So many people and lives have been changed. I was at the doctor today and every time someone new hears my story, they are amazed and blown away at what has happened. Yet I sit here typing, feeling great, and living life!

The story is BIG. If you haven't purchased my first book in the Heart Like Mine Trilogy, you can purchase it from my website, online retailers, or my publisher. The E-book is on sale for $5.99 in preparation for book two being published soon.

My site:
E-book: On Sale: $5.99:

Pre-Order book two:

Danielle, my angel on earth.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Cindy in Chicago - No Mo'


So everyone noticed that Day Ten of Freedom was my last post for quite a while. The next day, I ended up with John in a Chicago taxi at 1:30 AM on my way to the ER with a high fever of 103. I spent five more days in the hospital with everyone trying to figure out what was wrong with me. It was just this mysterious fever that comes sometimes after a pancreas alone transplant. I was sent home on a Saturday since all they were doing was giving me fluid and Tylenol.

Sunday morning, the very next morning, I woke up with a fever of 104.5 Walked out to the kitchen to tell John he needed to get me to the ER and passed out. John had to call 911. I was in another four days before getting discharged. We took the train home and as we walked back to the apartment, I had to stop and hug every other tree!

There is so much more to tell. I've been home in Spokane an entire 4 weeks today and tomorrow will be only 8 weeks since the transplant. I'm finally, for 2 days now, able to stand and move without wanting to pass out. So much to tell. I'm going to start posting again.

For now, I had a great weekend this past July 9-10. Here's some pics. 8^)

A relaxing swim!


Resort style dinner outside on deck: corn crusted Tilapia, vegetables from the market cooked Mediterranean style, fresh cantaloupe, and Timothy's decaf coffee.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Cindy in Chicago - Day Ten of Freedom


Got a phone call from the transplant clinic late yesterday. Seems like there was a communication error and they wanted me to have blood work on Monday. Will have to go this monring. Then I have more labs on Thursday and see the doctor on Friday. I dread the lab--so crowded and hot and stuffy and long waits...but must do. Hope all labs are good. There are tests that can tell if I'm still dehydrated. I keep wondering if my magnesium level is low or some of the hard core antibiotics Im on are zapping me. Only two more days on those.

This is my view from the couch. Finally sunny today.
I like to watch the Citi light at night.
Comes on at 8 and goes off at 11.
I have such a kink on the right side of my neck. Could be low magnesium or just the way I had to lay in hospital. John doing some massage and I keep putting a hot pack on.

Well, more later!

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Cindy in Chicago - Day Nine of Freedom

May 23, 2011

John and I had an AWESOME 29th anniversary today. We took the bus north and had a great dinner at Chilis, shopped at my all time favorite store, Trader Joe's, and we were going to close the day with a dollar McDonalds hot fudge Sunday but were too full. Maybe on Tuesday. Great anniversary!

Both of us want to go home so badly. But I've got at least two more weeks maybe three. The only problem I'm having right now is very low blood pressure. I'm eating good and drinking a lot of water and even protein drinks. Praying it wont be bad enough to re-admit me to the hospital. That would freak me out.

So I am CLAIMING that tomorrow, Tuesday, my blood pressure will ne back up to normal! I do not want anything to stop me from getting better enough to go home.

Anyway, here are some pics from today. And been keeping in touch with our son, Jonathan. He's taking care of things back home. John has been a trooper too. He's antsy to get home. 8^)

At Chili's

My amazing husband!

Oh the joy - Trader Joe's!
A very special 29th anniversary!

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cindy in Chicago - Days Seven and Eight of Freedom

Sunday Night

This weekend was a bit slow going for John and I. Bad weather and I really had to get some strength back. We walked to a few places, watched movies, and checked in at home with our son, Jonathan.

John and I married 15 years, Jackson 1 year,
and our son, Jonathan was 7.
Monday will be more productive. John has an office here in one of the Post Offices to work at and I will actually do my laundry tomorrow. Then...

It's our 29th WEDDING ANNIVERSARY! Monday, May 23, 2011 is 29 years since we got married. John got the raw deal when he promised "in sickness and health." But he has honored and protected me and been the most amazing husband.

We will probably try to find somewhere to take the bus or train or walk to for dinner. I hear the zoo is FREE so we may try to go there. He has to work half the day.

I finally feel better tonight so I guess the tons of water and better amount of food has helped me get strength back.

Storming tonight and there is a tornado watch. Looks cool to watch the lightning from the 38th floor window.

More on Monday. Pics to come! Nite Nite!

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Cindy in Chicago - Day Six of Freedom


Today was appointment day. It was tough. I had become very dehydrated and didn't realize it. Anemic after six days of no food before I could eat. So I was weak and dizzy. Labs were at ten. We took the bus over and the driver was so erratic. Abrupt stops and fast take offs and we were sitting side ways. Two old guys got into a fight. By time we got off our stop, we were so happy to be free.

The lab is not quite the best experience. Always crowded, screaming kids, had to wear my face mask, it was hot and stuffy, and we had to wait quite a while. Once that was over, I thought I couldn't even walk. We went to the cafeteria in the hospital and I got an authentic Chicago hot dog--another okay experience. I favor the NY dirty water dogs! I drank as much as I could but was way down on fluid.

We had two and half hours to kill so John and I walked to a shopping center. But it got to me and we had to make our way back slowly, stopping for me to rest.

We got to the clinic early at 1:00 PM and my appointment was at 1:45. There was an LED TV mounted on the wall with a soap opera on and the volume was SO LOUD--so excruciating loud, it was like torture--like someone tying you to a chair and forcing you to watch the show you hate the worst for hours.

Then, for reasons unknown, EVERYONE got called before me even though John and I were the first ones in the waiting room and first to sign in. And the nurses in the office were in very bad moods so making a comment or complaint would do me in for ever. That seems wrong doesn't it? But John and I have been in dozens of medical facilities. There are times you know the people in charge can make your life miserable and get away with it--over and over. This was one such office.

So the waiting commenced and the blaring TV pounded at our heads. Two and a half hours later, I got called but only to weigh me and do vitals. "Go out and take a seat."

I plopped into the plastic chair once more. At least the soap operas were done for the day and the news was on. Hallelujah.

Then I got called again, finally. The doctor was pleased but I was way too dehydrated and anemic. Had to drink more and start eating more. "When can I go home?"

"Not for two or three weeks. We like to keep people at least four weeks to be sure there is no rejection. I'll see you next Friday. Have labs on Thursday."

I understood his assessment. He's absolutely right to keep me until I am stable.

We headed for the train and made our way back downtown. Stopped at The French Market to get some high quality organic ground beef and cheese to make burgers for dinner--no bread. John and I split one scoop of Espresso Gelato and I had an Irish Cream truffle. It was a good ending to the day.

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Cindy in Chicago - Day Five of Freedom


Weather hasn't been very good here but today is finally sunny. Chilly but sunny. John took me walking downtown Chicago. I wanted to try Chicago Pizza. Have to say, it was okay, but we're used to NY pizza. So we walked down to Giordano's, grabbed a seat at the bar, and ordered a Caprice salad and small thin crust pizza--cheese only. It was a great dinner.

Look how weird--John moved the camera and it slanted the pic!
Then we followed the canal back toward the apartment, took some pics, enjoyed the sights, and the freedom of us being together without me getting sick. I have gone from 24 pills a day to 36, but that will come down a bit in time.

What a feeling to leave to go somewhere, walk about, tour sights, and not have to drag insulin pump supplies, worry if I have candy in case I go low, do I have pump backup supplies and glucogon. We had an awesome day and I walked ONE AND A HALF MILES at a good pace!

What a great day!

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Cindy in Chicago - Day Four of Freedom


Being discharged today. ONLY five days after a pancreas transplant. Unheard of! But the docs see no reason to keep me. Yahooooo.....

We waited out front of the hospital to get a cab. But after a half an hour, I said, "Let's just take the train. I'm fine." That we did. And I slept happily ever after that first night!

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Cindy in Chicago - Day Three of Freedom


The docs are blown away. I'm eating solid food and was doing well enough to get discharged back to our temporary apartment today. But my fever spiked a bit. Seems like the central line in my neck was wanting to get infected. So I bought myself a full day of IV antibiotics.Having some electrolyte imbalance too. Giving me magnesium.

So I walk the halls and follow the protocol treatments. Funny, I'm walking so fast and doing so good that I'm the hot topic on the floor. Even visitors pass me and say, "Hey, you're the one who walks so fast and is recovering like no pancreas transplant before!"

I do have my friends joining me: My Heartman, Dr. Gumby, Biker Gumby, and Policeman Gumby. They join me for all walks.
Dr. Gumby fell off one time so now he holds on real tight.

Mr. Heartman and Biker Gumby are a bit more adventurous!

Policeman Gumby likes to be on top so he can patrol the area.

And, there have only been 10 pancreas transplants done on a person with a previous heart transplant years before in the past 20 years and actually ever in the US. I retrieved the data from UNOS--United Network of Organ Sharing. So I'm only number 11. Now I need to find out how long each person lived and how they did. Diabetics just don't live long enough to survive a pancreas transplant. These docs here at UIC have never done this before.

Speaking of UIC--the care here is simply amazing. The docs talented, personable, caring, and love to help people. ALL the nurses and other people like the pharmacists, aides, food people, maintenance people, everyone--have been fantastic.

And then there is my husband, John. He caught a flight Thursday night and got here at midnight. He never left my side, creating a makeshift bed out of two chairs. He's the best ever husband. I'm not sure I could be as faithful and long suffering as him. Thank you, honey.

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Cindy in Chicago - Day Two of Freedom


Making great strides. Nose tube out. Liquid diet. Oh, God help me. Why do hospitals serve GREEN jello? I took a few pics. Still not needing pain meds. Prayer and the power of the mind. I have faith in a God much bigger than me and my miniscule health issues. Others in this world are suffering far worse than me right now. I am blessed to have this opportunity to live longer!

So no more diabetes. I feel stable--balanced. I feel free to live although I still suffer with a heart transplant, cancer, skin cancer, and all the other issues. BUT I have a new chance to live much longer than expected.

Average stay in this ICU unit after a pancreas transplant is 7-10 days. I'm bucking to get out soon. 8^)

Oh, and how cool. I'm staying alongside the Walter Payton Liver center. We talk about hm often during Donate Life Today! presentations. Football player extraordinaire, he could not receive a liver transplant in time. Money and fame DO NOT put you ahead of other people. His generosity is helping many in need of a liver transplant.

Are you signed up to be an organ donor? 18 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant. There are more than 110,000 people on the list. NO myths you have heard are true. Check out for information.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cindy in Chicago - Day One of Freedom

The new countdown begins. I received my life saving pancreas transplant on May 12, 2011. Thursday afternoon. Things are fantastic. I'm doing great. Now my posts will update my progress and count UP to go home.

UPDATE: 5-22-2011 - This was posted Sunday, only two days after being in ICU. The first day awake, Friday, was the hardest. I found myself tied down with arm restraints. I was okay with it once the nurses explained some people actually toss around and try to pull out the ventilator and nose tubing. But it was hard.

And nothing is as difficult as being awake with a breathing tube and nose feeding tube in. Pain, choking, nauseous, feeling like a truck ran me over...but I made it. And when I posted the fist few lines above from my iPhone, I was actually disconnected from the ventilator, still have the feeding tube in, but was up and walking.

I only took pain medicine the first day to ease the anxiety of having tubes down my throat and nose, but then only took ES Tylenol and been on it since. NO PAIN MEDS! Pancreatic surgery is on of the most painful I was told. But I believe in moving, getting up, being alert, and not depending on pain meds so your body can start to heal and your mind can work on positive steps forward!

More updates to continue now that I'm back up and running!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cindy in Chicago - Day Twenty

Average wait time at the University of IL: 180 days. Days I've waited on the list: 187
1:30 AM

UPDATE: 1:10 PM. Heading to take a shower. Then to the hospital as quickly as possible. Surgery should be around 9 PM tonight.

I'm doing my all night working thing. Good thing. I just got the CALL! There are two possible pancreas donors. I will know over the next 8-10 hours.

Ode to the Pancreas...

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Cindy in Chicago - Day Nineteen

Average wait time at the University of IL: 180 days. Days I've waited on the list: 186

12:05 AM
It's officially Tuesday high up in my glass enclosed living room. I keep trying to go to sleep early but can't. My mind is officially on overload. Bad habits I have developed.

Yesterday's post was so serious. I remained uninspired the rest of the day. Worked on an editing job, organized, made phone calls for a prescription lost from Walgreens, letter to take care of for fund raising organization, still can't get my Mother's Day card from my son because there's confusion with the mail. So so so...not the hospital or management's fault--patients just don't stay long in this apartment and the mail carrier doesn't know yet I'm here for the duration.
Rev. Dr. Billy Bonthius
Cindy and Christine.
Just two crazy girls in the rainy
town of Maple Valley, Washington
My sweetest friend, Billy, is providing the funds for a great friend to fly out here like around June 7th. Christine will be a great comfort--she's like a sister from home. And we can have some girl time. I'll be recuperating and it will be great to have a friend to help if I get into trouble. She'll be able to stay until I leave. Flying here--no car--so she'll ride the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) with me unless it's a day where Lenee pick's us up.

Thank you, Lenee. I love ya gal!

Well, that's all I have to say for now. I'm lost for content. Scared I may be wandering into mindless bliss--like when you get numb from the constant pressure.

Maybe I just need some sleep.

Even though it's today, I'm hitting the bed to get rest. I thought maybe after I take care of unfinished stuff in the morning I will go sight-see somewhere in the afternoon.


Maybe I'll have some awesome pics.

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