Posts filed under ‘health’

Feb 3rd -Helpless- Chris Ritchey

Heart of Thorns- artwork Chris Ritchey

Another February , and  the beginning of the  scream , the weeks of feeling totally  useless and helpless . Walking in two worlds – trying to  remain calm, positive  and supportive for the journey  thrust upon your young life.  All the while my  chest  collapsing, jaw clenching to  stop the tears and terror I was feeling from showing.  The weeks and months after you  passed   trying to  stop from going mad,  running from the “black dog” of Churchill fame.

The emotional incontinence – staying close to  home  – not wanting to  drive  incase the sight of a young man in black  Ford 150 truck  would split my  reality.  I learned how to  hide, how to  suppress the emotional nightmare with tricks of the grief-stricken. We, who  have lost our son or our daughter  learn lessons no  one should have to  learn.

The nights  when the dying days visit –  the  mind tools kicking in  to temper the  ferocity  of memory so sleep can come.  Turning a corner , one would think, but like the damned cancer it is there lying quietly , building upon itself.  I thought I  was managing quite well in the last few months  and then- not cancer- but once again wanting and trying to  get your Nana  through a situation caused by  bureaucrats. Weeks and months of fighting , trying to  make sense of a situation beyond my  control . Holding on,  trying to  be the Loraine I  once was …. A bureaucratic wall was thrown up

I couldn’t get through , your Nana’s physical and emotional well-being  compromised by an officious, pseudo-listener  “gatekeeper” . After months of dealing with  her ilk  and they,  not knowing or caring how this situation was causing such distress to   a 98-year-old woman- as the phone was hung up – and I  sat stunned – bewildered  not knowing where to  turn next.


BFA project
Chris Ritchey

And then it happened – the trigger- those feelings  of the dying days were unleashed , not in waves but  with a flood- overwhelming  logic – nothing could stop the torrent- hours  and hours of raw emotion, tears that just wouldn’t  cease, the sobs that wracked  were back – brought forth  from their hiding place. Worried faces of family  , concern , the questions  upon  furrowed brows.

Then just as “anger ”  at  the cretins  of your bride’s family  kept me upright in those days of   total despair and surrender… anger once again surged through the dark and made me strong enough to  continue- to  fight back against  the ignorance  – the   “people” inflicting pain  upon those I love.

Your Nana survived the bureaucrats, thanks to help  from those that did and do  listen .  And I  realized once more  the wound has not healed- the scar is still only  surface deep and it waits…… because there is nothing I  can do – even in anger- to  see you  walk through a doorway  once more , hear your voice laugh with you  and enjoy  you  being you………


February 3, 2018 at 1:28 pm Leave a comment

Jan 3rd- Broken Heart Syndrome- Chris Ritchey

This past week has seen Carrie Fisher die and a day later her mother Debbie Reynolds die of what is being called a broken heart.
There has been much too-ing and fro-ing as to whether you can die of a broken heart or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy,


also known as transient apical ballooning syndrome, apical ballooning cardiomyopathy, stress-induced cardiomyopathy, broken-heart-syndrome and simply stress cardiomyopathy, is a type of non-ischemic cardiomyopathy in which there is a sudden temporary weakening of the myocardium (the muscle of the heart). Because this weakening can be triggered by emotional stress, such as the death of a loved one, the condition is also known as broken heart syndrome. It has also been reported in cases of partial drowning. The presence of a trigger such as emotional or physical has been reported in 33% to 100% of the cases.

Just a month and a half after you passed I wrote a post

And I have felt the pain in my chest, it is like a tight band , a crushing and tightening , it interferes with breathing, as if something has stopped my lungs from filling with air, holding ones breath too long underwater is a similar sensation . Just when you think you will drown in the pain and grief you surface , an explosion of tears and sobs pulling you back from the depths, a relief but also knowing that you have also lost an opportunity to be released from the slow suffocation of sorrow that has become your world.

heart hostage
And here I am “living with a broken heart”. How is that possible? Maybe my physical heart was strong, maybe because of my daughter and grandchildren acting as some sort of emotional relief valve – I am still here. If you had told me that would be the case in those first months after you passed I would have said ” not possible this gutting pain of losing you would kill me” . Every day I amazed another day has passed, week, month year and I am still walking upright .

I believe the anger kept me upright, an anger at the despicable behavior at your death and afterwards . For some people faith keeps them going but I know for me it was the combination of anger at “that” family, as well as the need to be there for my daughter and mother has continued to keep me on the planet. I also believe because I can write on this blog pouring out my heart has provided a relief valve of sorts.

What happens should I let go of the anger will my heart finally break; the anger stays because what was done I cannot undo………..

I love you Chris, with all the pieces of my broken heart.

January 2, 2017 at 10:19 pm 2 comments

Oct. 3rd – the episode – Chris Ritchey

So many October 3rds have come and gone in real time but not in my time . The anniversary of those last photos of you with your family before heading back to MD Anderson and Texas for the trial of SGN 35 to save your life. The head and shoulders shot taken that day – apparently used at the funeral home.

Friday , your dad, was undergoing a procedure. I was once again in a hospital- and I so hate hospitals – I gear myself to go – I put on an armor of self-protection- walk through the pitfalls of triggers – knowing where they are in those places.

I prepared myself as I drove to the appointment for the laughter of those individuals working in these places as they go about their working day, white coats and scrubs , the sound of rubber soles squeaking on polished tiles, the smells, the sights of those who lay in various positions hooked up to life sustaining fluids that drip silently into their veins, the alarms going off when they don’t , those sitting in wheelchairs and those who wait in chairs that provide no comfort, the sound of curtains being drawn around a patients bed, the calls for doctors and needs over the speakers, technicians scurrying with vials of blood in handy little carrying cases,

All routine every day happenings in any hospital but for me a minefield. I have managed in this recent bout of illness and emergency rooms with your dad. I have walked myself through each day each diagnosis, each “episode” ( meaning) “a finite period in which someone is affected by a specified illness”. A throw away word which has much more meaning to some than others.

“Oh he had an episode” during the night……………..

I took a book with me to try to read , that didn’t work , I read the words but did not comprehend , my brain too busy trying to control, block and filter out unwanted sights, sounds and thoughts. I sat and waited.

The procedure was taking longer than they had said. My mind started racing and my blocking mechanism to such thoughts kicked in to hold down the doubts and thoughts which started to form.


A rushing of movement, a curtain being pulled once more across the entrance to the lab corridor, people flying past yet at the same time controlled, disturbing the air where I sat, carts arriving , staff with an intense look to their faces heeding the call. Then nothing just quiet efficiency from those that remained, no more laughter a deadly seriousness entered the area like a spectre waiting to gather in all hope.

I watched the curtain across the corridor, willing it to open , waiting for your dad to reappear from the place behind – nothing and then another “Code Blue Cath Lab” call— more people going through and behind the curtain.

Chris Ritchey  BFA- CIA

Chris Ritchey BFA- CIA

A nurse walked by and looked at me –

are you alright-


came the answer forced from my throat. She wasn’t to know I was no longer in St. John’s Westshore but in a waiting room all alone on a Thanksgiving Day at the Cleveland Clinic and another CODE BLUE continually ringing through the hall the Code Blue being called to your bedside.

White Coat of Death by  Chris Ritchey

White Coat of Death by Chris Ritchey

The armor crumbled, the blocking wall fell slow motion like into so much dust, intentions to stay in the present ripped away – leaving the raw and exposed wound of a scar of grief that never fully heals. I was undone and collapsed like the wall once again in two worlds…………

Although not involved with our case, the nurse checked and it wasn’t your dad. Some other loved one was sending shock waves of terror to their family .

The nurse came back held my hand – “I couldn’t help but notice your eyes – they were so full of fear…..”

I didn’t explain that the woman she had helped and was talking to was just a mere shell – the rest of her was elsewhere still trying to breathe………..

Depths of Despair by  Chris Ritchey

Depths of Despair by Chris Ritchey

October 3, 2016 at 12:42 pm 5 comments

The Shadow Knew – the canine life savers

The rescuers
We haven’t had many dogs in this old house, truth be told I am somewhat afraid of dogs, always have been. SHEENA came to us as a pup. Some cretin threw soap into the original fish pond killing all the fish . It was then I decided- time for a dog. Excitedly my two children accompanied me to the Rescue Shelter. Among the animals was a fairly large litter of mixed Shepherd and Labrador breed, they were tumbling and rough housing all over each other, nipping and yelping with joy and play.

Each of my children had their favorite. I noticed in the “getting to know” area a little two-year old being introduced to one of the pups. The little girl was pulling the pup’s ears, tail , screaming with delight and this pup just let her and was so calm .

“That is the pup ” I want

thought I . I so hoped this family didn’t take this pup and they didn’t but we did and for 13 years she was the best dog anyone could’ve wanted .

Sheena’s intelligence amazed me and there was a knowing look in her eyes you could see her very soul in those eyes . She remained patient with her family even when my mum’s little Tetley would visit. Although she had her ways of showing displeasure sheena

MISTY was the designer dog ( Silver Lab), she was ten months old when she joined the family.

Misty  lake
My daughter was trying to find a home for her as her family had to relocate without her. Stopping off here to visit on her way to show her to a prospective family ( I always wondered if this was by design as well) my son fell in love.
Trying poor Sheena’s patience once again Misty entered our lives.

Oh what a dog! She was more like Dino on the Flintstones except when it came to my son, a word or look from him and she became the world’s best trained animal. It was heartbreaking when Sheena succumbed to age and illness and poor Misty wandered the house looking for her friend. Life took a terrible turn and my son also succumbed to Cancer and left us, leaving Misty Morn to a house of grief.
chris dad misty

It was Misty that pulled and demanded my husband leave his chair to look after her, it was Misty who insisted on walks, who didn’t leave him. Misty who spent hours sitting with him in the garden at all hours of the day , a nuzzle for comfort, her soft silky fur comforting to his hand, Misty who slept at his feet.
During this horrendous time of grief TETLEY
came to live here, in a house where laughter is now seldom heard, my mum having to give up her home and independence through no fault of hers –

Misty was not as patient as Sheena when it came to Tetley but they managed .

It was Misty who stopped the choking of grief in the night. But her heart too was broken and although she was only 5 it bled out. Oh! there is a technical term but she was Chris’ dog and her true master was no longer there to throw the balls, take her swimming or for runs. I think she stayed long enough to see us through, but once again we felt we had failed our son. We had gone to the Emergency Vet with Misty knowing something was not right And the consensus was she had to leave.
For two days I watched as grief and undeserved guilt once more took its terrible toll. My daughter said:

“We have to get Dad a dog to get him through and give him something to hold onto “

And so an internet search, a call to “Luv my Shepherd Pups” and the breeder Denise Cieslik. There was one pup available – the runt-. Nikki , Gavin and I went to be introduced.

Love at first sight , well except for Tetley –

This pup of life and love needed a name- there was great debate, none suggested suited everyone. Her name changed periodically through the ensuring days. I watched as this little bundle of energy, who seemed to know right from the outset that she was here to rescue my husband from his profound grief and bring life back into this house; she shadowed his every move and hence SHADOW , the name seemed to fit.

She has her ways and personality , she will bring the shoe of the person she wants to take notice of her to them , meets family with someone’s shoe or another gift when she likes you. She gives the mailman a heart attack if I have forgotten to close the main door before he arrives and barks around the property every morning to let the neighbors know she is on guard, her tail held high like waving a furry flag. No-one better enter the alley without her OK and she talks to every dog in the neighborhood. She definitely does not know her place- she reigns supreme .


She is my husband’s dog, it is for him she pines when goes out, for him she waits and it was his life she saved.

It has been hot here in Ohio, terrible damning days of unrelenting sun. The property next door needed a lot of work and to that end the summer days were spent getting it in order.
One July night, I was exhausted from daily life and routine and went to bed early , my husband downstairs with Shadow. It was 2:30 in the morning when I was rudely awakened by Shadow pawing at me and licking my face , not something she usually does unless there are fireworks or thunder. I told her

go away- downstairs

. I am selfish when I am asleep as there aren’t many such nights since my son passed.

Soon she was back again this time more insistent, I listened for thunder, fireworks nothing-

Go away Shadow go find Ritch

– she did .
However, he next thing I knew was she was literally thumping me with my husband’s shoe insistent once more I get up with her.

Grumbling, thinking he had fallen asleep in the chair and she wanted out I got up and went downstairs. Well he had fallen- but not asleep – he was stretched out- collapsed on the floor . Whilst I took in the sight before me, Shadow immediately went to him lay beside him and wouldn’t move – she stayed there whilst the rescue squad was called , it took two of us to get her outside – she wouldn’t leave him and the paramedics were leery of such an animal. Shadow barked and barked, waking the whole neighborhood as they put him on the gurney for the ambulance she tried jumping over the fence to follow . My mother told me she cried and whined the whole morning, pacing and off her food.

Had Shadow not woken me my husband would’ve died it was that serious! He passed out from severe dehydration and ended up with a condition called Rhabdomyolysis

He was in hospital and rehab for two weeks. The condition causing a heart attack, pneumonia . Had Shadow not been so insistent in bringing me downstairs grief would once again visited this home.

In all their ways these dogs , including Tetley who brought comfort, companionship and love to my mum before he too passed this summer, give us their everything and unconditional love. Shadow though, is truly a rescue dog because she has rescued this family from so much and we owe her so much

September 13, 2016 at 4:13 pm 5 comments

August 3rd- Alarming- Chris Ritchey

Photo by  Chris Ritchey  July  12-2007

Photo by Chris Ritchey July 12-2007

It has been a month since I last wrote on this blog- July has come and gone- I dread July because bad things always seem to happen. Your grandfather died unexpectedly in July , ill-health news over the years has been diagnosed in July, and the engagement I wished had never happened – on the anniversary of the day your grandfather died. You weren’t to know that day held that significance as you had champagne and roses sent to the top of the Lorain Lighthouse with the “will you marry me” .

photo Angela  by  Chris Ritchey

photo Angela by Chris Ritchey

It was also the day and weekend I was introduced to avarice and selfishness of the “incoming family” . A cold shiver ran over me that day – harbinger of things to come. I couldn’t believe your “bride to be” and her ” aunts” spent the day and next day touting the engagement ring around to local jewelers to see its monetary worth.

You had paid six thousand for that ring and I ended up having it professionally evaluated by an independent jeweler just to reassure you and the “family” it was worth what you paid for it. You got what you paid for and in fact was worth two thousand more . But what kind of a “bride” does that ? I remember saying to you –

I don’t understand the ring was a symbol of love and not money, I was pleased with a little diamond because it was given in love..

…… but the cold shiver was a warning of what was yet to come.
This July has been no different- little Tetley had to be put to sleep . He didn’t suffer and was running around until the very last.

Artwork Chris Ritchey  Face Book page

Artwork Chris Ritchey Face Book page

Then all hell broke loose and once again ambulances, ICU’s waiting in uncomfortable chairs, watching clocks that didn’t seem to move. The machines, the IV’ fluids, every beep of the monitor, oxygen levels, breathing counts, heart rates, every foot fall of the nurses, the chairs, the smells another two weeks of memories flooding in from the dying days of you , the alarms, doctor’s faces, the looks- you know those looks, this is not good. The tests, the scans the results. The drives to and from the hospital four and five times a day, all those emotions invading my new world of worry- pushing them away in order to deal with the latest health crisis, crippling once again. Walking once again in the early morning across the hospital parking lot- holding ones’ breath hoping the news overnight was positive , crisis in the middle of the night , waiting for the damned phone NOT to ring in the early hours, no sleep, running on empty.
But your Nana picking up the slack at home- 97 years old- and I would come home to a meal, a clean house, my bed made and a cup of tea. Too tired to answer the many phone calls wanting an update.
So went July- and with it another part of me, a another slice of strength and tolerance …….. August…….. your birthday …… and the cycle continues ….. the past became the present and the future counted in days and the time between remains blurred in the moment

August 3, 2016 at 10:19 am 4 comments

All things relative – September 3rd- Chris Ritchey


Life continues to be in an upheaval , what with concrete chunks through windows, downspouts of retribution being the “breaking news” as Nikki stated to me as I breakfasted with her.

Anymore Breaking News this morning?

Sounded like something YOU would say and it did bring a smile. As I get older , I realize there really is nothing you can do to stop uncivilized behavior or downright meanness for because we can sake.
Uncle John
It was your Great Uncle John’s 104th birthday this week. Memories returned- letting you drive ( on the wrong side of the road) down the lanes to his cottage when we were on our trip to England for soccer. We went to the pub and introduced you to “real cider” – You thought it like American cider, it wasn’t – as you soon found out , needless to say you did not drive back.

In order to escape my mind and life in Lorain I tuned out of the present and tuned into all things British Acorn TV-
I have been watching a series Lilies

Lilies details the lives of Iris, May and Ruby Moss, three Catholic sisters living with their widowed father and brother in a terraced house in Liverpool in the early 1920s. The story is set in the years immediately after the First World War and, as such, the after effects of that conflict are apparent

Their little two up – two down terraced house with the back “yard” once again brought back the familiar; Nana’s sister , my Auntie Kath, who had the self- same little house- although in Ipswich not Liverpool. I remember playing in such a familiar yard, the step down into the kitchen, my granddad plucking the chicken for Sunday dinner. The program covered the Scarlet Fever epidemic
and once again memory bells went off!


Your Nana had written about her experience with having Scarlet Fever during that epidemic of the late 1920’s. You had designed the cover of that book , written initially for Nikki the only grandchild she had at that time of writing , then adding more for you.

Nana has lived here in this house now for 4 years, thanks to mean mindedness of yet another “in law” relative. Although she never really bounced back from that episode in her life , more fragile than she was , she is still one of the very few to whom I can turn with my demons.

But what a joy it is to have my mother here, her wonderful take on life- so different from my own, caring hands that bring a cup of tea when I am in pieces, for such a tiny person she has the strength of the ages. Maybe it was what her generation had to deal with the poverty, the great depression, World War 2 being bombed three times , I don’t know all I do know is she is a hell of a lot stronger than I ever was or can be. As she helped clear the glass from the window destruction

she said with a smile

I think I will change my address to High Street, Afghanistan.

Can one imagine a little girl not much older than Gavin, being taken from your home by ambulance ( Fever Van) and put into an isolation hospital, no mother or father to visit?

The Fever Van by  Lowry

The Fever Van by Lowry

“The presence of a fever van in the street meant that a child would be forcibly taken from the family, with a strong likelihood of never returning, such was the high mortality of scarlet fever and diphtheria. Moreover, there were more materialistic concerns. The disinfection procedure that followed the removal of the child was likely to have a very destructive effect: ‘The child’s books and toys were to be destroyed, its bedroom disinfected by the application of concentrated solutions of powerful germicides to the floor, bed, walls and furniture. Wallpaper must also be stripped and burned’.5 These procedures caused much disruption and discomfort for the household.

The Isolation Hospital –
Hendon Isolation Hospital was the place Nana, her sister Renee, brothers- Mark and Paisy were taken . The hospital had been built near the Hendon Sewage Works and Johnson Chemical Factory – Hindsight – what were they thinking category!!!
Hospital marked with cross- you can see the proximity to the “sewage farm”

Nana remembers well the sewage farm, the smell coming in the windows but apparently the tomatoes grown in the vicinity of that sewage farm were huge and plentiful( apparently tomato seeds are not easily digested and sprout) and sewage is used even today .

For six weeks she , her sister and brothers stayed in that hospital, no contact with kith or kin or the outside world. Mere children , taken from all that was familiar put into in scratchy hospital shirts and boots. The food she remembered was awful-

“it was like a minced beef – only I am not sure how much beef there was in it- horrible tasting stuff and bread with no butter , the bread fell apart and crumbles

– her young mind turning to poetry wrote :

“There is a place, a barn of a place right in the middle of the sewer and mince and crumbs come out our bums and back into the middle of the sewer”

not bad for an 8-year-old .

The children were sectioned in very long open wards similar to the photo shown here ( no source found and believed to be in the public domain)
Her brothers were separated from the girls and were put in the men’s ward. Mark, just two years her senior, found a way to sneak from the men’s isolation ward where there was a large cupboard( storage) housing fruits and vegetables . Mark would appropriate the fruit , sneak in during the nurses break to his little sisters loaded with the fruit which eased their sore little throats. Nana said after the Scarlet Fever rash went away your outer layers of skin would flake off just like having had a bad sunburn. She thinks the taste of that wonderful fruit gave her the love of fruits and vegetables she has today.

” I think all those stolen fruits and raw vegetables Mark smuggled into us each night certainly helped us as Renee and I recuperated much quicker than anyone else on that ward.

I wish you too could’ve been healed and write your own story, but if wishes were horses beggars would ride- so I will write your story….. I love you


September 3, 2015 at 1:08 pm Leave a comment

Paula Tobias-Department of Defense and Ovarian Cancer

This is a guest blog post by my wonderful friend – Paula Tobias- Paula has been fighting her own battle with Ovarian Cancer –

How are the Department of Defense and Ovarian Cancer connected?
Action Centeres
When I read this yesterday I was in one of many daily Pain moments; you know, on the scale of 1 – 10 (10 being the worst) I was a 9. The weather and more importantly the surgery, chemo and subsequent meds, tests, x-rays and PET/CT scans I believe have something to do with the agony dealt with on a daily basis.

Senator John McCain

Senator John McCain

The Department of Defense has funded innovative biomedical research programs for years that impact troop readiness. The Ovarian Cancer Research Program was added in 1997 and has since been funding research primarily aimed at finding an early detection test and better treatments for ovarian cancer.
Finding an early detection test for ovarian cancer is of critical importance to the military. Currently, any active duty military woman with a suspected case of ovarian cancer must receive her treatment in the United States (due to the availability of specialists here), so correctly identifying women that either do or do not have ovarian cancer is of critical importance to the military. Over the last five years alone, over 2,600 military women have had a suspected case of ovarian cancer. “
Senator John McCain will be adding an amendment to a bill in the Senate that would strip many of the research programs run by the Department of Defense, including the $20 million for the Ovarian Cancer Research Program(OCRP). The OCRP funds $20 million in innovative, high-risk, high-reward ovarian cancer research each year.
Senate staffers are calling this the biggest threat to medical research in 20 years.

I immediately called my Senators and left voice mails with my history. It took a lot to maintain composure while doing this and as soon as I was done, Frank (my loving, caring, patient husband) came in from work and surprised me. Well I surprised him with a burst of tears and language a soldier would blush hearing. At the end of that tirade I said, “Do you think the Senator would be asking this if it were his testicles at stake?”

I support all battling their cancer diagnosis, patient or family. I volunteer at my Oncologists office to empathize with those. I try to offer hope and comfort.

• Click here to send your Senator an action alert email that will tell them to oppose the McCain Amendment.
• Call your Senators and tell them to oppose the McCain Amendment

Please help and pass along this information and if we (Frank is still my miracle -13 yr. Pancreatic Cancer Survivor) can help anyone with their Cancer Battle, contact Loraine and she’ll connect us. Paula Tobias

ED NOTE: Whilst looking for the date of the vote I came across the following – it seems McCain’s amendment will not only effect Ovarian Cancer funding but Prostate Cancer funding as well

Senator McCain amendment might kill Prostate Cancer research funding

Again and again and again Senator McCain (R-AZ) has attacked the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), which for PROSTATE CANCER has been among the most productive research vehicles we have to conquer PROSTATE CANCER.

It is beyond my understanding why he has taken up this vendetta. Every year he is our biggest enemy, trying his best to stop the great progress we have made. As usual, he is at it again!

Senator McCain is a major advocate for funding of the Defense Department, but he seems not to understand that the money that flows to the CDMRP does not take one dollar away from our defense budget. The money that flows to the CDMRP is over and above any budget dollar that will go to the Defense Department. So, why the vendetta against the CDMRP, I cannot explain it.

June 17, 2015 at 8:06 pm 3 comments

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