Why the Redwood Forest slideshow?

Judy had always loved trees, and in 2008 we spent some time among the California Redwoods. Some of the ingredients in Judy's chemo cocktail were derived from trees (not Redwoods but Yews). We always knew that Judy loved the trees, and the trees got their chance to repay her affection.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Three weeks later ...

For the past three weeks, I have been intending to write this post but simply could not get myself to do so. The memories are so acute, the wound still has no signs of scabs, the pain is just so real.

Little time goes by that I don't think of Judy, in some way. It is still so unfathomable that she is gone forever. Surely, so convince me my emotions, she will just come around the corner in the empty hallway. That ringing phone at 6:30 p.m, that must be she telling me she is going to be late from work, again, because of an unexpected crisis. The sound of the door to the dining room that I left slightly ajar when I went to sit in the yard, that must be Judy coming out with a mojito for me, right?

Those are my emotions whispering. My intellect, however, tells me loud and clear that all this will never happen. Never, never, never again. And that is what is so hard to deal with. The finality of it all. Oh, how I h-a-t-e it!

Three weeks ago tomorrow, we had Judy's beautiful service and her unforgettable Celebration of Life in the park. I was humbled by the huge number of friends who showed up—some of whom had started the long drive to Lubbock in the early wee hours. Others flew in to not only pay their last respects but also support me. Dear friends, I cannot tell you how much this meant to me. I had no idea how many people Judy had affected in her life, and I had no idea of the profound impact that she had on so many of them. Actually, I do not think that Judy herself ever had any idea. She would have been embarrassed and would have wanted to brush the attention aside, but, knowing her, privately she would have been proud to have had a positive impact on not just one but so many.

If anything, these past few weeks have shown me even more how, well, good it is to be a good person. Judy was a good person. She lived a good life. She did good deeds. She was "good" incarnate, indeed.

I believe all of us who knew Judy have learned immensely from all this, in various ways. She touched us all, and in that sense her life continues even in her death. In her own way she made sure that we'd be better ourselves because she taught us so well in ways we can't forget. What a truly remarkable human being Judy was.

This blog will stay open to serve as an inspiration to those who may seek it. In the weeks to come I will add more photos and other mementos to celebrate Judy's time with us, but I do not think there will be too many more posts like this. If anything, I hope you will guide others to this blog, people who might benefit from some of the material that can be found here. I may add a small area that allows you to keep up with my future path, if you so choose—or maybe I'll start a blog for myself or use Facebook or some such tool. We'll see. No hurry now. The healing needs to start, and that will take time, lots of time.

Thank you for partaking in our long and arduous journey. Judy and I love you all.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Farewell to Judy

Dearest friends around the world,

This morning at 7:50, Judy finished the valiant fight that she had fought for the past two years. I was at her side—holding her hand and telling her how much I loved her and thanking her for everything she had brought into my life—when her breathing became lighter and lighter and she finally slipped away. The sun had just risen over the horizon and touched the room.

Judy's last few days in the hospital had been filled with her fiercely fighting the cancer. It was not a pretty battle, and I don't intend to belabor the issue. Those of you who saw her in those last few days know how hard she fought, how much resistance she put up, how exhausted she must have been. The nurses kept telling me that they could not believe her strength, physically and spiritually. Well, those of you who had the great fortune to know her and be touched by her know what a tough little package she was.

When Dr. Phillips told me about her failing kidneys and liver on Tuesday afternoon, it became clear that nothing was going to stop the inevitable, and it was easy to decide to not try to prolong her agony but make her as comfortable as possible. Nevertheless, her tremors and fight continued as never was a quitter.

On my request, Tuesday night our friend Andy Y. offered Judy and about 15 of our closest friends communion, something that I felt was important for Judy at this final juncture of her life. Even though she could no longer speak, all of us saw how much comfort she drew from this act. All of us witnessed how she accepted that the fight was over. The speed of her final path seems to be testimony that with that acceptance came a way for her to let go and leave us.

Judy was always worried about others, and she was worried about how I would fare. Well, I don't know about the future, but today I was OK. I did not feel the haze and helplessness that I experienced when we were given the first diagnosis of cancer two years ago. Her final ten hours with us gave me closure, too, and even though I shed hard, hard tears in our last private moments in the same room this morning, I felt surprisingly at peace with everything that had happened.

I would like to ask all those of you who have traveled with us on this long journey to do something for yourselves and for all of us—and many of you may believe for Judy as well: Would you please share how Judy affected you and your life through who she was? We will be having a Celebration of Her Life this Saturday, October 2, at 12:00 noon in Chas. A Guy park (87th Street and Memphis Avenue) here in Lubbock, and we would like to share your comments with all of our friends who we hope will show up. Please send your comments to Liza who has graciously taken over the task of compiling it all. Her e-mail is l.muse@sbcglobal.net. Please send whatever fits into an e-mail!

We will have a memorial service at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning at Judy's church, St. Paul's on the Plains Episcopal, 1510 Ave. X. With the celebration at noon everybody should be able to slip into attire fitting for the kind of get-together that our archetypal party-lady Judy would have been at the forefront of organizing. There will be food, and there will be neutral plastic cups if you'd like to bring your own beverage. Bring your kids, because Judy loved them as you know.

And finally, since so many of our friends have already asked: Please do not send any flowers. Judy enjoyed them, but she enjoyed even more feeding the homeless on Thursday mornings at her church. So, if you would like to support that ongoing effort (and I know they were always short on funds), please feel free to direct any donations in her memory to St. Paul's Neighbor-to-Neighbor Ministry, c/o St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1510 Avenue X, Lubbock, TX 79401.

Dear friends, I hope you will be able to join us on Saturday. Nothing would make me more happy than to share my sorrow and my joy, my tears and my laughter with you at both the service and our celebration of the one that we all loved: my beloved friend, partner, buddy, and wife, JuJu.

In love,


Monday, September 27, 2010

Judy continues her hospital stay

I wish I could give you better news, but that's unfortunately not the case. Judy remains hospitalized, and her current condition is worrisome. Late last week, Judy started to become confused and anxious, and the truth of the matter right now is that she doesn't respond very well. She sleeps very lightly for a few minutes at a time, then wakes up and looks around for a few seconds, and then sleeps again. Only occasionally does she respond to verbal stimuli. She says a few words, but not much makes sense. She is having a tough time with severe leg cramping that sets in when she gets agitated. A CT scan of the brain has not shown any abnormalities or any spreading of the cancer, so we have to assume that this is an aftereffect of some of the massive drugs that she was given last week.

Whether it was my coming back to her last night from Augusta or whether it is a natural improvement, last night was Judy's best in several. She was much calmer and less agitated than before. One of us has to be constantly at her side to prevent her from removing her tubes or getting out of bed. Lorane and I took shifts last night staying with her.

I have talked to Dr. Phillips and Dr. Howell, and both hope that Judy will make a turn for the better in the next few days. I am very worried. Actually, I am devastated by how fast things went so far south. Right now, all I can do is support her and hope that she will pull through. She is still fighting, and as long as she is, so will I.

I will try to update when we see new developments.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday morning update

Just briefly: Judy spent a better night than the past few, and it appears as if the antibiotics are finally starting to kick in as her fever seems to be much, much better. Dr. Phillips is putting her some other pain meds that we hope will avoid some of her tremors and other side effects. Candice is with her right now. Things are looking a bit better than they have over the past few days.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Time for an update

Apologies, but the past 2 1/2 days since coming back from Syracuse have been unpleasant and not conducive to updating the blog. I've been scrambling for good news. Here it is:

That's the beautiful birthday "cake" that our dear Martha cooked up for Judy. Isn't it pretty? Even now, close to a week after her b'day, the flowers are in the best shape.

Otherwise, there isn't much good stuff to report. Judy has been hit big and hard: A blood infection; what appears to be a urinary tract infection; and what we hope is c. difficile, a rather nasty bacterial infection that is treatable, while its impostor is worse news. Our hopes lie with Alan's black magic as far as cooking up the most effective antibiotics cocktails is concerned.

Judy is having a rough go at it. Ever the fighter, she cons the nurses (hell, even Alan!) into allowing her to indulge in a tiny piece of Popsicle. You should see the glee in her eyes and the pleasure on her face when she sucks on that precious little bit of taste.

I hope to see Dr. Phillips in the morning and get a better idea of where we stand. For those of you who like to press your thumbs (as most Germans do in a situation like this), this is a good time to exercise your digits; if you put more credence into the power of prayer, Judy will know that you are with her; and if you subscribe to neither, well, think about how nice it will be when she comes home and resumes spreading love and more love by being the JudyAustin we all know.


Here This was the beautiful birthday

Friday, September 17, 2010

No way to spend your 55th birthday

Well, folks, instead of bringing you hoped-for happy news I have to tell you that Judy had to check herself in to Covenant once again tonight. On the eve of her 55th birthday, Dr. Phillips decided that her continuing abdominal cramps and vomiting indicate another partial obstruction of the bowel, and that means back to the hospital. I had left yesterday for Syracuse, and Judy was supposed to be in Palo Duro tomorrow for the TMBRA race—alas, Amarillo got hit big time by remnants of whatver the last hurricane was called, and the race was canceled. And now she's at Covenant, back on the 5th floor. Damn!

I just got off the phone with Alan, who will look in on her tonight in his capacity as attending ID physician. If it weren't for having him (and Martha) as close friends as well as professional sounding boards, I don't know how my head would be able to handle all this.

Once I know more about the expected treatment, etc. I'll post more info. In the meantime, Happy Birthday to my dear Judy tomorrow!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Slowly and, we hope, surely ...

Well, I'd be lying if I were to say that it was a great week. After getting home Monday evening and a wonderful reunion with Judy, things took another turn for the worse when cramps and nausea made Judy's life damn miserable on Tuesday and Wednesday. She said that the pain was as bad as any since coming back from the hospital, and all I could do was just be there. We have no idea what was/still is wrong. On Wednesday she had an X-ray taken and blood work done: nada. Thankfully, Thursday the tide turned and she started to feel better, and today there were just occasional cramps and no vomiting. You need to understand that she didn't eat anything for the better part of a week, and I am worried about that, obviously. Coaxing her into trying a bite of water melon or the like is just not much fun when you know it's going to be brought back up in a retching fit of nausea.

This cancer thing is just not much fun anymore, and I think it is time to quit. I think, Judy concurs.

As you can see from the pic, times have changed a tiny bit. Today (Friday) Judy felt the best since I've come back from Canada. Susan and the girls came by, and the giggles were big during the Popsicle session. Later, Judy and I went to the mall and bought a few blouses and some pants for Judy to wear at work, reflecting the new physical realities. We walked back after Susan had dropped us off at Dillards. Judy was pleasantly tuckered afterward.

That's where we are right now. Let's hope that things continue to look up.