Monday, October 7, 2019

Mama Bear's Spot, Billboards and So Many Things, Oh, My!

I’ve got the fire back in my belly, and it’s burning. 

I've felt as  if I’ve been living under the weight of a heavy fog for about ten years. Jillian has been gone almost 7. She was first diagnosed with Melanoma in 2009. I’m not saying there haven’t been spectacular days when the fog had lifted, because there have been many. But I can tell you that I’ve been stalked by that Fog’s wispy tendrils for a very long time. I could feel it. I could sense them swirling around my legs, just waiting to grab me and pull me under. It has been an everyday battle to outrun those far-reaching tendrils. And it’s a frightening thing. Grief is messy. Sticky. Foggy.

Two years ago, my life took a different turn. I made a choice, followed a new path, and started on a journey to wellness and healing. That choice has allowed me find my way through the Fog.

I am starting a new blog and website called, Mama Bears Spot. I will be sharing the continuation of my journey from that space if you’d like to follow me, and I certainly hope you do. “Jillian’s Journey with Melanoma, A Mother’s Story”, just didn’t feel like the place to do that. I will continue to link the two, but I need to keep Jillian’s space a separate place.

 I am not near finished creating the new site, but I am going to begin blogging there. It will also be a place holder for some of the things I will be participating in coming up. A place for inspiration, health, fitness.

 Since Mama Bear’s Spot is in its beginning stages, it will continue to evolve. Just like me. Just like you, if you are on a similar journey through the Fog. Either way, I’d like to travel this road together. I believe we can learn together, share together. Inspire one another.  Laugh and cry together. A safe Spot for any, and all things.

 I just signed up for the Amway Riverbank Run (25K) and have set up a team within the website. It’s called “Team Jillian Hayes Foundation, Melanoma Awareness”. You can join any race; it is not limited to the 25K. I’ll figure out all the logistics later and decide if I’ll do fundraising, but for now it’s something I’m planning to do in memory of Jillian and in honor of all those currently battling the Cancer that knows no boundaries. I’d love it if you would join me.

The Riverbank Run is in May, which happens to be Melanoma Awareness Month. Registration is now open for the May 9, 2020 race. I’ve taken the below description right from their website. It’s a pretty big deal.

Amway River Bank Run presented by Fifth Third Bank with Spectrum Health, the Official Health Partner on Saturday, May 9, 2020 in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, there is something for everyone!   Plus, the pre-race Sports & Fitness Expo, Friday, May 8, 2020 - showcasing health and wellness vendors, product sampling, beer garden and the last chance register for the race at DeVos Place.   After the race on Saturday (or beginning at 7:30am), meet up with fans, friends and family to kick back at the Finish Fest on Calder Plaza with the food, beverages, music, live race broadcast and watch 25Ker's finish on the big screen.   

Featuring the largest 25K road race in the country, the event is also the site of the USA 25 km Open Championships. More than 15,000 people are expected to participate on event day including a 5K Run, 10K Run, 25K Handcycle race, 25K Wheelchair race, 25K race and a 5K Community Walk.


If you’ve read this far I’d like to tell you about the next Billboard I'm planning. I have already secured the dates, May 4, 2020 through May 31, 2020 at two locations. Jillian’s friend Greg has agreed to do the creative again. This billboard will get a lot of visibility due to the race and I am so excited.

If you are currently battling melanoma, or if you have a loved one that is no longer with us, I would love to have have you included on this latest billboard. 


 What I need from you is specific.

·       An email sent to which will include:
·       A high-resolution photo with the person’s name.

·       If you want to be included on the Mama Bear’s Spot webpage, I plan to add a space for photos which should include the person’s name, stage, and a brief description of their story. If that person is no longer here, include their birth date, their parting date, as well as a brief description if you wish to share.

·       I won’t be able to accept anything unless it comes through email, so please don’t sent me private messages. If you can donate towards the billboards, I would be most grateful. All donations go directly to paying for the billboard. There is a "Donate" button at the top of the blog. Thank you!

I am so thankful to feel the fire and the desire to tackle this project once again, grateful for the desire to try something new, and truly blessed to have your support.

I’m looking forward to sharing the next chapter with you!

 Oh. And Melanoma? Mama Bear has a long memory.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

"Growing Old Ain't for Sissies".....

It's been quite awhile since I've been blogging. I plan to begin again, so hang on Lucy.

I will be 60 in November, and I have absolutely no idea how that happened. I don't feel 60. I don't act 60. My mom is 60! ( +26).

I look back over those years as if they are chapters in a book. The last chapter was rough. I lost my dad, and three months later, Jillian at 23. And then the divorce and a new home, not by choice. And grief. So much grieving filled that chapter.

This chapter is filled with hope and joy. I ran my first half and my first full marathon this year with my son, Josh. At 59. I over-trained. And paid for it. My dad used to say, "Growing old ain't for sissies". Maybe that's true, given the aches and pains running has blessed me with. Because it IS a blessing. I am able to run. I am able to walk. I find joy in my children and their mates. My precious grandchildren. My pups. Either way, I'll fight growing old every step, every stride of the way, and I'll embrace what this world has to show me. Because I choose to. And I'll try not to be a sissy about it.

Yesterday was the first real run since my 25K in May. I train by myself, but never alone. Jillian is with me on every run.

Our story isn't finished. Running has saved my life and has prepared me for this next chapter.
We are badass, wrinklies! The best chapters are yet to come.

~ Peace and Love...

Friday, December 29, 2017

On This Day.....

I woke up at 4:30 that morning. It didn’t seem strange to be up that early, I hadn’t been sleeping soundly for weeks. I headed for the dining room to check on Jillian and Steve.  Her bed had been moved downstairs, making getting around more manageable with Jillian’s wheelchair.

Oh…..Steve and I made quite the team! We had a routine that worked very well for us. I would stand behind the wheelchair to hold it steady, Steve would wrap his arms around Jillian’s chest, lift her up, while I’d quickly pull the wheelchair out of the way. He would then pivot her to the couch, or where ever we needed to go., and as Steve gently lowered  her down, I would lift her legs and get her into a comfortable position. Whew! We made it. And this went on throughout the day.

At night we used a monitor so I could hear Steve if he needed help during the night. Looking back, I really am amazed at how well we worked together. Jillian made it easy. She never complained.

Jillian’s breathing had changed the past couple of days. Slower, less breaths in between. It was frightening in a way. Unsettling. Maybe because I was hoping for that miracle.  But any change meant change.

I made myself a cup of coffee and walked outside to sit on the stairs of the back deck. It had snowed the night before. I sat down on the step, not feeling the cold through my pants.  It was so quiet.  Just sitting. Listening. Praying.

I heard the owl that morning, I knew there was some meaning behind the haunting call it made, but I didn’t know what it meant. But I do know there was some significance in hearing the owl during the weeks prior to that early December morning. When the owl was silent, I went back inside.

As if in slow motion, with no real thought, I drew a bath for myself. I wasn’t cold. I’m not sure why I felt the need to take a bath so early that morning.

After I was finished getting dressed and ready for the day, I headed back to the dining room and sat with Jillian. I listened to her breathing. It was different. I knew this morning was different.

I kissed her chubby cheek. I caressed her face. I ran my fingers through her hair. I held her hand and memorized every single detail. She had beautiful hands, long strong fingers. Beautiful, memorable hands. I couldn’t stop touching her. I wanted to fuse my life into hers.  My precious daughter- I would gladly have given my own life for hers. But it didn’t work out that way.

Jillian’s last breaths are forever branded into my soul. I hear them when I lay my head down at night. Five years later, I hear her last breaths. She has fused her life into mine.

So, as I look back and remember that last morning, Jillian’s last day on earth, I contemplate what I’ve learned since that day:
  • Grief has no rules, no boundary’s, and will last a lifetime.
  • You are not alone. But in the end, you do grieve alone. You do it your own way. And that’s perfect for you.
  • Do the work. If you have a Jillian day, embrace it.
  • Never listen to what others try and tell you when it comes to how you should be feeling, when you should be feeling or what you should be doing. It’s not about them. It’s about you.

  • You are not the same person. That’s okay. You will learn to accept this new person and love her/him. And so will everyone else. Be true to your new self.
  • Love on your loved ones.
  • Grab your puppies.
  • Get a chicken.
  • Run.
  • Love wins. It forever wins.
  • And always remember… Psalms 46-10 “Be Still and Know that I am God”.
 In loving memory of our beloved Jillian Marie Hayes Wagner-09/24/1989-12/29/2012

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Smell the Stupid Roses.....

I’ve heard it said many times over the years, “Cancer changes you”. I’ve always believed that statement to be true, but what I didn’t realize was that the changes aren’t always so wonderful.

I’ve often heard people say, “Cancer doesn’t define me”. I wonder, what does that mean? In one fell swoop, hearing the Dr. tell Jillian, “ You have melanoma”, has defined my whole world! It sure has defined me. Nothing is the same. Nothing.

I think about Jillian throughout the day, every single day. I cry sitting at my desk at work some days when a random memory skitters across my heart. Not a sob, just tears running down my face with a lump in my throat. I can usually take the memory, give it a kiss, and safely tuck it away for when I can really examine it. And then I go about my day.

But that underlying sadness is always there. Yes, I have memories. Many, many, wonderful memories. But somehow, it doesn’t feel finished.
The memories are not enough and I want more. There goes that lump again. Damn.

I have very little tolerance for people with their judgement's and grudges these days. That is one of the not so great changes cancer has left in its wake. I just have no patience for that nonsense.  Figure out your stuff and fix it.

If you could take yourself to the ocean, or in my case, Lake Michigan, and just be still. Sit on the beach (with sunscreen of course), and let the sounds and smells seep into your being, lulling you into a sense of peace. Go to the place of wonder where the vastness of our beautiful world reminds you that we are so insignificant and small in comparison. Nature has always done that for me. It brings me to God. In the end, that is the only thing that really works for me. “Be still and know that I Am God”.

I look at my life, the plans I had, and I can hardly believe this is where I am today. It’s almost like I’m reading someone’s story other than my own. This stuff just doesn’t happen, or if it does, most certainly not to me. So surreal. But I am making my own story too, in a sense. It’s not all out of my control. I can control how I live through it, how I react to it. How I grow through it. And I’m okay with all that. I really am okay.

Although cancer has made some negative changes in me, it has given me a new set of eyes that come with a deeper understanding than I’ve ever had before. A deeper appreciation for my children, and their mates. For my grandchildren. For all of my family, and Steve’s family. For my friends. I appreciate all of you, and how you’ve stood by me and loved me when I’m not so loveable.

I love you. Thank you.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

May-Melanoma Awareness Month 2017

I’m a blogger. So I guess I’ll blog.

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. We are on Day 3. For quite some time, I’ve been trying to limit my activity on social media. When Jillian first died, I was a mad woman trying to promote awareness to this horrific disease. Billboards everywhere, TV interviews, calls and emails with people touched in some way by melanoma….I couldn’t stop. I had to share what I knew, I had to keep Jillian’s name alive. I was horrified by the thought that she would be forgotten. I did not want another family to experience the searing grief that we do.

I began to realize that all of this activity was hurting me. I would scroll through Facebook and read the stories. Stories of young children fighting for their lives. KIDS! Stories about young wives and husbands trying to pick up the pieces of their lives after their spouse has died. How do they deal with the aftermath? How can they possibly explain this to their young children? “Daddy is in Heaven, sweetheart”. “Mommy loved you so much, she’ll be watching over you and will always be with you”.  (I want them here with me!)

And then there are the young girls loving their tanning beds, showing off their Golden Glow. Getting their “base” tan. Soon after, having to hold their best friends hand as she explains she now has Melanoma Cancer.

And the photos of the scars. Some of them would literally turn my stomach and make me sick. So much mutilation.

But let’s not forget the people I have known and loved that have died from this disease. The Melanoma community is a tight knit group of individuals. We support each other, we share, we cry and we love. And when one of them dies, we all grieve. It brings back every single moment I experienced with Jillian. AND IT HURTS!!!

Mothers and Fathers who have lost their children to melanoma, swimming in grief. How does that work? I can safely say, not very well.
Parent's aren't supposed to bury their children.

And then, we have the dear friends that we have grown to know and love. Some we have even met in person. The ones whose melanoma has progressed. We stand by helplessly. We pray for them. I hate it.

It makes me angry when people know the dangers of the sun and tanning beds but they choose to go ahead and risk their lives in spite of the warnings. Even the people who knew Jillian personally. I wonder if they truly understand that they are not only hurting themselves, but they are hurting the ones that love them. The ones that depend on them. Good grief.

I cannot change the world. I can only change me and do what is right for me on this day. This moment. And it is always changing.

For this Melanoma Month of May, 2017, I will pull up my big girl pants and fight for you. I will continue to post information in the hopes that you listen. I will do this in spite of the pain it causes me. We all do in our grassroots community. I’m not alone in this, not by a long shot. We do this for YOU. And for those that love you.

So, when you roll your eyes and move past these incessant melanoma awareness posts in your news feed this month, think about the intentions behind them. Perhaps we might just save a life. Maybe it’ll be yours.

Maybe mine.

~ Peace

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Life Is Good.....

How many times do we think, “Where does the time go? My kids are growing up so fast"? And then we have grand kids….

 Throughout our lives we think we have all the time in the world. “When I get to be 80”, seems like a lifetime away. And before you know it our kids have grown up and left the house. They begin to have children of their own, and our parents are aging. And so are we! But it will be a another lifetime before we get to be that age, too. Won’t it?

Do you ever stop to think that this is how our parents and grandparents might be feeling right now? That they are nearing the end of what is their life. Of who they are, and what they know. That they realize they don’t have much time left and that isn’t really likely they will live another 10 years?

Many cling to their faith, and that is a wonderful, beautiful, essential thing. But they are human. They have fears too.

My prayer today is that I be mindful of the elderly people in my life. That I tell them often just how much I love them and how they continue to make an impact in my life. I want them to know how much they still contribute to my life and the lives of my family.  That they are cherished this Christmas season. And every season.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Through the Eyes of a Child.....

There is nothing like viewing the wonder of Christmas through a child’s eyes.

I was thinking about this last night as I’m snuggling with the pups, my Christmas tree being the only light in the room. It’s still dark, but the small white lights sparkle with a warm glow. I feel safe, warm and content. My thoughts begins to drift….

I know how commercialized Christmas has become. Christmas decorations have been on display in stores since October. Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday….buy, buy, buy. And then, buy some more!

I become annoyed with it all. I don’t want to step foot in a mall. The traffic and parking is horrendous. There are too many people everywhere, and most of them are moving too fast. I don’t want to put up the decorations this year. It’s too much work. It takes too long. Most of the kids will be elsewhere this year….why bother.

And then…..

I had a little helper this year. My sidekick, and precious granddaughter, Charlotte. One by one I haul out the Christmas boxes from the attic. I used to count the trips up and down those stairs (maybe one of the reasons I balked at the idea). But this year it wasn’t so bad. I had help with the boxes (Kaytie), and my walking/running with a wiggly puppy has made me stronger. Thank you, Oakley!

Charlotte and I worked on those decorations all day. She had free reign on where to put the Christmas Village and the Christmas Carolers (what are Carolers, Mimi?)

She helped put together the “Merry Christmas” blocks. She threw angel hair and snow where ever there was an open spot. Including the floor. We listened to “Holiday Station on Pandora- Christmas”. And one point we switched to Kid Bop and did the Whip and Nae Nae.

As I’m reflecting on the wonderful time we had last weekend and the memories that were made, I can’t help but be reminded of the JOY in Christmas. Even through all the commercial bull crap, it still gives us pause.

We don’t need to buy into all the hype and material things. But what I believe is important, is that we take the time to slow down. To be mindful of the blessings in our lives. To take a deep breath and remember that we are all here, and it is our job to connect with one another and to love.

And most of all, to give Praise to our Creator, who makes all things possible. It is my prayer that you are all able to see the Wonder and Magic of Christmas through the eyes of an innocent Child. And rejoice in it.