I live on the Great Lakes, so I know just what a treasure the area is. That's how I found Ladygardener1. She is the owner of Great Lakes Living, a cubit where you can learn all about the Lakes, their sights, attractions and good food. But life for Ladygardener1 has not been easy in recent years. Let's begin, as Chris talks about her battle with cancer.
Nancy: Hello, Chris. I am very happy to have you as a guest today.
Chris: Nancy, I am greatly honored that you have considered me. I don't know if you are aware of my situation but I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and have been fighting it since it metastasized to the bone and then liver. I am a fighter, and believe that my fight will inspire people to be fighters too. I have been doing chemo every three weeks so this has been a struggle.
Nancy: Yes, I am aware of your battle with cancer. That's why I am equally honored that you have agreed to share your story with our readers.
Chris: At the end of 2005, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and before the year was up had my first chemo, then surgery and radiation. Things were going well for about a year and a half, when we found out the cancer had metastasized to the bone, so back into chemo. It later metastasized to the liver, and I have been fighting it ever since, trying to find the chemo that will stabilize the cancer cells.
I have a wonderful Doctor. I travel to Ohio for treatments, which is about an hour and a half away. The University Hospital has a great cancer team and I believe that I am still here because of them. I continue to garden as much as I can, and I have loved my job as a dental office manager in a small private office. My boss let me come in when I could. I have not been to back to work since January. Even though I am retired now, my co-workers and boss are always checking in on me.
We can’t change the cancer issue so we are dealing with it in a matter of fact way. I know it will take my life one day. I had a scare when my daughter was in high school, but it turned out to be nothing but a cyst. All I could think of was her being without a mother during an important time of her life and I wanted her to be self-reliant. Now I know I have done my job and she is happy and married to a wonderful husband. She is an RN and I am very proud of both of them. I guess you can say I’m at peace.
In a joint effort, two other cubit members (Critterologist and Haighr) and I have opened up the Circles of Support Cubit for those dealing with breast cancer, and their family and friends.
Nancy: I've seen how your cubit is growing, and I hope our readers will take a look at it. I have, and I've learned a lot from it. Your expressions of comfort to one another is inspiring. Tell me something more about yourself, okay?
Chris: I was born in Pittsburgh PA In 1949. I was raised like an only child, since my brother and sister were 18 and 14 years older than I, and had their own lives and family to attend to. We were not well-off but mom knew how to stretch a dollar and save up for hard times. Dad had a bad habit of quitting his job every Spring when he would rather be outside growing a large vegetable garden and fixing up the yard and other jobs that could be done in the summer months.
With dad in the vegetable garden and mom attending her flower beds, I developed a love of plants and gardening. Mom also taught me to sew, cook and can, and to save. We enjoyed going to the zoo, library and museums, often packing a bag lunch to save money. She never drove so we would take public transportation, sometimes transferring from one streetcar or bus to another.
After high school, I went to work at Allegheny General Hospital in the Cardiac Lab doing clean up and sterilization. I worked my way up to assisting with the patients and working with the doctors and nurses. It was an exciting time, as Doctor Christian Barnard was doing the first heart transplant, and everyone was buzzing about whether our hospital would be the first in our area to perform the operation.
When I was 21, my mom passed away suddenly of a stroke and cerebral hemorrhage. I stayed in my dad’s house for about a year, then moved out of the house to an apartment that was close to my sister. At age 23, I was introduced to my husband, who lived up near Erie. He would drive to Pittsburgh on Saturday mornings, we would spend the day together and he would drive back at night. Our phone bills were very high, LOL. We got married by a Justice of the Peace and I moved to his home town.
A year later we had our daughter, and I brought with me all the skills mom had taught me. I sewed her whole layette set and taught myself to knit and crochet. We bought a house that we could afford and did the renovations ourselves. We are still living in it today and have made a lot of improvements over the years.
When my daughter was 11 years old, my husband's job was threatened with a layoff due to downsizing. So as a safety net, I looked into going to a trade school and entered into a dental assisting program. I landed a job the next year and worked hard. I stayed in the field and worked through three dental offices, progressing from assisting to the business office. I loved the small private office, and found myself doing it all. The last office was a dream to work in and we are still like family and close friends.
My husband Paul works full time, and is a volunteer fireman as well. My daughter lives a distance away, is married and has no children. My husband and I try to get up to their boat, docked two and a half hours away in Sandusky, Ohio, as often as we can for weekends during the summer. Very relaxing for the both of us. It has two double beds and the table and bench area can be made into another bed. Sometimes we just stay at the marina, or go to Kelly’s Island or Put-in-Bay for a night.
I have had pets most of my life, including the two I have right now, Mary Chris and Penny. They are Brussels Griffons. They are retired show dogs. I don't like saying this but it is true; when breeders need to thin out the number of dogs they have, and they reach the point where they should no longer be bred, they are adopted out to spend the rest of their lives as pets. My groomer found me these two.
I continue to garden, visit with my friends on cubits, read mysteries and enjoy watching travel, cooking, Discovery, History Channel and Fox News on TV.
Nancy: So you have always been a gardener. Did owning your own home provide you with room to grow many things? These photos are lovely.
Chris: The clay soil, proved to be more of a problem then I knew how to handle. With a young family with car payments and a mortgage, and a savings to build up, there was less to spend on improving the soil, but I never gave up. I did improve the soil by composting, and for one of my birthdays I asked for a chipper/shredder. My husband runs it at least twice a year, shredding leaves and branches and plant clipping.
Nancy: You mentioned you enjoy watching travel and cooking on TV. So does that mean you like to cook? Bake? Have you joined some of the cooking cubits?
Chris: I love to bake. Dad was a baker and I wanted to be able to bake the really good baked goods from scratch, like the ones he made. He used real eggs, milk and butter, not the mixes like they use today. I like to cook tasty recipes. Sometimes I'll get ideas from shows like "30 Minute Meals" with Rachael Ray and make my own up. I enjoy Gordon Ramsey's shows, where he goes into a restaurant, shows the problems and remakes the restaurant. Also Iron Chef and cooking challenge shows. When you are at home, sitting in front of the TV because you can't do much else, you can learn a lot. I sometimes check into the cooking cubits, but mostly if I'm looking for something special, I'll go to Food.com to find a recipe.
Nancy: And about travel, have you done any? If you won an all expense paid trip to anywhere in the world, where would you go, and why?
Chris: We started taking summer vacations after my husband got really ill one year and realized that we needed to enjoy ourselves and make family memories. Our first vacation was to Disney World when it was just the Magic Kingdom. I have lost track of how many times we've vacationed there. We have traveled to Canada many times. My daughter was in a Canadian Drum and Bugle Corp for two summers when she was in High School, so we sometimes would meet up with them to see the shows. My daughter has planned some group vacations with her long time girl friend and us, renting a house on the Outer Banks, and this year we are renting a house in Pigeon Forge, TN.
I've always wanted to visit Ireland. I am 2nd generation Irish on my mom's side. Mom always had a happy and carefree side to her that I attributed to the Irish blood. I wouldn't go there to find relatives, just to soak up the culture and drink a few Guinness. LOL!
Nancy: You have a very nice and well organized cubit named Great Lakes Living.
Chris: Living near the Great Lakes, I started it as a gardening site as the weather is so changeable. Winters can be long and hard and the gardening season can be cut short. Later I decided to expand it out to more than gardening, opening it up to Travel and Vacationing around the Great Lakes.
Nancy: I think you're an exceptional person, Chris. You seem to have always made the best of your situation. I applaud you on your will to beat this cancer, and on your success at remaining active and with a positive attitude throughout the ordeal! Chris, thanks so very much for your candor.
Chris would love to have you visit her and her cubits, and you're welcome to leave her a message here too. As always, rest your mouse over the photos to see a description, and click on them to enlarge them. And of course, come back next week for another fine interview with Sharon's guest.
(Note: Sadly, Chris lost her fight with cancer on September 9, 2011. She will be fondly remembered by a great many friends. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/erietimesnews/obituary.aspx?n=christine-ann-first&pid=153628498 )