Friday, March 27, 2015

Post Script: Empty Spaces

I'm a liar.

A big fat liar!

But I have some more words that had to come out!

The day after I posted my last blog post, one of our
cancer friends, a local "superhero" Dov, passed away
from cancer.

The lives Dov touched in his 7 1/2 year battle (against
every odd conceivable) with terminal colon are 

He was a a light on dark days, humor in sad moments
and he gave selflessly of himself from start to finish in 
his battle.

Making people smile and laugh and feel comfortable
in one of life's hardest circumstance.  He had a gift
which he freely shared with all those around him.

When I read the news on Facebook, my heart broke
open a little all over again--tears came and I 
could only think of those he had left behind.

I now knew the journey they must take and it
tore at my heart.

A wife and children and relatives and friends who

Just like Kyle left all those people who 
adored HIM,  Dov was now leaving people who's world
would change in a heartbeat.

Life without....them.

Later that night Olivia and I were laying in bed
and she was telling me about atoms and what she 
had learned in school that day.

She said, "Mom did you know an atom is 99% empty
space?  And that empty space can bend and move
and push things apart...."

When she said that it struck me forcefully that
Kyle, and Dov, and so many others have left this
huge empty space in our hearts and lives.

We are all learning to adjust and learning how
to live with the empty spaces they once filled.

It's a process.

We have to bend and reshape our lives to fit
into new configurations, shapes that are new to 
us, and ways of living that feel foreign and strange.

That same day at work an old co-worker messaged
me and said something about how NOT ONLY am I
grieving the death of my spouse, but I am also
learning to live a WHOLE NEW LIFE as a single 
working mom.

I am trying to fill a whole bunch of empty spaces
in my life with all the roles Kyle once filled.

Only now I'm doing it myself.

Those are some HUGE changes.

She got it, nailed it.

As I read post after post about Dov and his goodness
something broke apart inside of me--in a good way--
and I thought to myself...

There is no way I cannot honor Kyle and Dov, these
people that gave everything to us in the form of
humor and love and goodness, and give up.

I cannot NOT live for the rest of my life.

I MUST live and find joy and happiness for THEM.

For all they gave and sacrificed as they traveled their
journeys from birth to death--filling SO MANY 
empty spaces every single day for all of us.

I choose to find that hope and happiness and joy
in my life.

I choose to get up even when the days are hard.

I choose to love and accept and give and learn and grow.

I choose to try and try again and again and again.

I choose to honor these people who were heroes to me.

A husband I loved, and a friend who loved everyone
he met.

One of Dov's favorite saying was to "Carpe Diem" 
....although he said it much more colorfully and 
I second his choice of words.  (but will spare you them here)
(to give you a hint, he mostly wore F Cancer shirts to 

Friends, let us choose to live, and choose to love!

That's what I've got for today in honor of Dov.

Dov speaking at Kyle's fundraiser last year!
You can see Kyle's green Cancer Kicks (shoes) in the lower left corner!

Kyle and Dov dressed up this Thanksgiving passing out treats
to the patients and staff at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.  This
was literally 4 weeks before Kyle died and was STILL helping 
other people.  If you only knew what was going on this picture
under his costume.  These men were good good good souls.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Ending of Sorts,,,

Today is the 3 month mark since Kyle died.

It's crazy to me the way time has warped in and out 
of itself.  

Bending and folding and moving forward, carrying us 
with it every single day.

For this entire journey I've used this blog
as a platform for my feelings, Kyle's story,
and a journal of sorts.

It has been cathartic and therapeutic.

I have touched people and offended people 
all in the same post.

(That takes great talent I'll have you know!)

In the past few days I have felt like his journey,
while it will continue to unfold forever in a million
different ways in the ripples and imprints his children 
will have on the world, is done.

The story of the evil cancer, and all that came 
to pass because of it, has finished.

The story now unfolds in a new way for all of us.

It is about new challenges and fresh starts
and beginning again in so many different ways.

In many ways big parts of my "old life", the life
before cancer, are gone--forever now.

It makes me sad and crushes my heart some days.
It makes me curious to see what the future holds
on other days.

We are all changed people because of this journey
we took, through no choice of our own.

Mostly, and in the biggest way, I feel like myself
and my children are the most changed.  

I cannot speak for any extended family, nor will
I.  It is not my place to say for them how they
have or have not been changed, although I would 
imagine many of them feel the same.

Or maybe not?
I do not know.

I have spoken often lately with my CC wives, 
who are all now widows.  
This cancer has stolen so many young lives,
so many young fathers, and left us widows and 

Orphans in a way.  Left alone to flounder
at sea until we find new footings to stand on.
Fresh courage to move ahead and patience with
ourselves to move through the process, which
is long and arduous. 

So many of us have said that the people around us do
not know how to deal with cancer and death and we
have been left by the wayside in many ways.

Lives carry on.

Including our lives.

Yet, it will be with new friends and new relationships
and new jobs and new lives--literally.

For there is no going back to what we once had.

There are only memories and ghosts of memories.

I told my friend today that it's been 3 of the 
longest months of my life and yet in those 
3 (also very short) months I cannot remember
what Kyle's laugh sounds like anymore.

I have tried and tried and I cannot find it anywhere 
in my memory.

Maybe it will return, but for now it's gone.

And as I move forward there are so many things I am
afraid of forgetting.  So to remember I talk about him.

Please always let me talk about him.

No matter where my path leads, Kyle will always be
a part of my life and my heart and my children and 
what we are made of.  The very DNA of our family.

And so today, I am bidding this blog a fond farewell.

It is quite literally a part of my soul.
The very most vulnerable part.

It is my heart ripped open and bleeding on page 
after page of my life.

It is the expression of my love for the dearest man
in my life.

It is the bitter heartache and tears of a bullet
train of death speeding toward me for 2 straight years.

It is honest and raw and the only way I knew how to 
do this.

Forgive me for not knowing any other way.

I will probably find some obscure place to keep 
typing where no one can see anymore.

I am not sure my heart can be this brittle and broken,
and find a way to heal, unless I can let out my truth.

All of my truth--and not everyone needs to, or wants
to hear that truth.

Because while there is plenty of good, there is also
still great great deep and abiding sadness my soul
must work through to heal.

And so I bid adieu to these pages that have so kindly
hosted my words.

And I bid goodbye to all those who have read and 
commented for both good and bad.  I am so grateful
for friendships forged and people "met" and
news and information that could be shared because
of what I wrote.

I may update every now and again and we pass through
some milestone that deserves to be honored, but until
then this is an ending of sorts.

As I begin this journey of the "other side".

The side without Kyle.  And cancer.
And cholangio-freakin-carcinoma.

A journey of healing and trying to find light
and life and laughter and joy again in my life
without him.

A journey in his honor.

Because we promised we would ...

find joy
and happiness
and live the life he could not finish living.

And that's what I've got for today.

Kyle last spring in the red rocks of
Southern Utah (MOAB/ARCHES National Park).
This was the dearest place to his hearts.

And Kyle loved Edward Abbey, so I will 
leave you all with this quote:

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome
and dangerous, leading to the most amazing views."

Go seize the day people and find some amazing views
in your life to honor this wonderful soul!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Girlfriends, Dinner and Texting

Last night for the first time since Kyle died
I ventured out with some girlfriends.

Not my family.

Not my "babysitters."

But girls who are friends in a little group.

Usually this feels daunting and exhausting 
and overwhelming to me.

I can't explain it, and unless you've experienced
it--the grief--you just won't get it.

The grief is that heavy wet blanket that takes
all your time and energy.  Just to function.
And get out of bed. And live.  There's no room
or time or energy left over for anything else.

And going out and smiling and laughing with
other human beings after 8 hours of work?  
Usually that's too much for me right now.

But THIS week?  It was a good week.  I had an entire
7 day stretch void of weeping.

Yes, there was sadness tugging at my heart still--that's
still there, but the aching, longing heartache was
held at bay this week.

I enjoyed the reprieve from pain for a spell.

I know there will be more valleys to come, more
tears and sadness in waves--but for this time I enjoyed
the "lightness" that came to me this week.

It felt good.

My friends told me last night how much they cared
and thought about me and asked how they could do this

I said that WE, the people going through this, JUST
need to know we're loved and thought about.

As I've said before there truly is nothing anyone can
say to make this better, or easier.

The thing that DOES help is just to know someone is 
thinking about you and cares.

One of my friends has been going through her own
hard time.

She said the greatest invention EVER was the text
and I have to agree.

A text.

Who knew that some little words on a phone could
mean so much?

"I'm thinking about you."

"How are you today?"

"I love you"


She said those things are life savors and I have to agree.

Some days the grief is too heavy and talking on 
the phone or in person?  It is way too much for us
on this end.

But a short message flashed across our phones
can be easily answered (or ignored if that is the case).

And then we know people care.
And it fills us with joy.

I'm so grateful for the texters who are consistent in 
my life.

I always gush and thank them--but the gushing is from
the heart--just the reaching out through the airwaves
from YOU to ME?   Well, it means the world.

So thank you.

Thank you to girlfriends who talked and listened.

And hallelujah for one good week.

7 days in a row.

I'll take it!

It may be 7 bad days next week...but for now...I will
cheer the 7 good ones I've had!

That's what I've got for today.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

How I Feel....

"How are you feeling Dorien?"

Not many people really ever ask me that anymore.

I think people are afraid to ask honestly.

They may not know how to deal with the raw sadness
of HIS death and MY heart.

It's like this giant elephant in the room
that people are trying their best to avoid.

If they don't ask me, they don't have to deal with it.

They don't know what to say when I'm honest
(because sadly, I am almost always honest) with them.

It makes people uncomfortable.

I think some people just wish I were "over it already."

And so I find they often ask OTHER people, 
"How's Dorien doing?"

That way the answer is not as raw and they don't
have to look at the pain in my eyes.

A few people ask ME still, but not many.

It hasn't even been 3 months since Kyle died.

(Not even 3 is that possible?
It feels like enormous, unimaginable amounts of
time have passed by me....)

And I often wonder myself,  "How DO you feel Dorien?"

The emotions that come are like the swell of ocean
waves. They come expected and in intervals, and then
unexpectedly a huge wave sneaks in among the
swells and knocks my feet out from under me.

The art of carrying a family on ones shoulders
alone, without a husband, is well, daunting.

Raising children during the best of times is a 
challenge...raising children, ages 11-21, after 
the death of their daddy?


I feel crushed most days at the responsibilities.

I have had to take things in very small increments.

Usually a day at a time is all I can do.

The tick of the clock rounding through 24 hours...
and then starting again.

When a bad day hits me and knocks me down, the only
thing that keeps me going is knowing that almost always,
and so far without exception, a new day comes.

And with a new day, usually I am more grounded and
can begin again.

Some days I feel strong, like I WILL make it 
through this--to whatever end "through" is.

Some days I feel weak, like the smallest of children
could push me, and my fragile heart, to the ground
with one finger, gently tipping me over.

Poke. And down I fall.

And then they would leave me there, possibly forever, 
walking away laughing and pointing at me and my 
inability to rise again.

This grief I expected.
Even prepared for.

The loneliness I did not.
Could not have ever imagined it.

I have spoken of this at great length already.

I could never have imagined the loneliness
that comes with the death of a spouse.

My other half.

My best friend.

My comrade in arms.



I look at other couples and their easy, comfortable 
ways and I'm sad.  And I'm envious.  And I miss
the simplicity that came from having Him in my
life for 27 years.

How does one replace that?

Or replicate it?

Can you ever?

Was this it? 
My one chance at happiness and friendship and love?

You can't help but wonder how the future will
play out.

I keep hearing story after story after story of
people never getting past the sad and lonely and
still in a major depression years, and even decades

"Faking it" for the good of...

The good of WHAT?  I'm not sure.

I do NOT want to be that.

I do NOT want that to be my "end".

But maybe it's not a choice.

Or maybe it is?

It's still too fresh to know.

I often wonder if I will be the crazy lady that
pushes a cat around in her baby stroller...talking
lovingly to it.

Maybe we shouldn't judge that lady so harshly.

Maybe she lost someone she loved and is sad still.

And lonely.

And the cat helps her fill that hole in her heart.

I have good days, even really good days.

I've heard people say they feel guilty for smiling and 
laughing again after a loved one dies.

I do not.  I don't quite understand that guilt
personally.  I find that I seem to cherish life,
and friendships, and mountain views, and sunrises,
and small joyful moments now more than ever.

I think that Kyle would wish for more good days 
then bad anyway--and so when laughter and lightness
comes, I seize them and let them surround me.

I have bad days, really bad days.

Days when the tears won't stop.

Days when my heart very literally feels as if it
is falling apart inside my chest.  




Days when the grief and longing and loneliness
are flattening me from the inside out.

I long for the carefree life that others seem to
have.  For easy moments of time that are not riddled 
with that aching sadness inside my soul.

I long for days not filled with one challenge or
another.  I long for simpler times with no stress.

I fear the thing I long for may not exist.

At least not now, for me.

And so I will continue to take one day at a time.
24 hour increments of time.

I will continue to gaze longingly, and a bit sadly, at
couples who shop, and dine, and just get to be

Don't judge me.

I will continue to work and clean and study and
fold laundry and help my children through each

I will continue to try and find, and embrace,
the good days when they come.

I will laugh when the moment strikes.

And I will weep with equal fervor when those
feelings swell inside my heart.

I really miss him.

That's how I feel today.


Edited to Add:

The point of this post is NOT to make anyone

feel guilty nor is it pointing fingers at ANYONE.

It is simply stating how *I* Dorien feel.

Just wanted to add that in case anyone worries.
This is just my heart spilled open in ink.
Plain and simple.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

4, 5, 6

Two years ago this week, all of our lives changed

My kids asked me how I could remember the dates.

In turn I asked them, "How could I not?"

We went from barely giving cancer a sideways
glance to being fully immersed in a diagnosis
and chemo within one week, two years ago.

On March 4, after weeks and weeks of coughing and
vomiting and night sweats and weight loss Kyle
had a full physical with his doctor (after a series
of many other doctor visits and failed "guesses"
at what was wrong).

All the while the pit in my stomach grew and grew.

This was not "my Kyle."

"My Kyle" never ever ever ever got sick and stayed
sick--it just didn't happen.

During that physical he told his doctor more or
less "you had better do something to look inside
my body, my wife is about ready to have a nervous

The very next day, on March 5, after pulling a few 
strings, Kyle was scheduled for his first ever CT scan.

This scan revealed a large growth in his liver and 
a few nodules in his lungs.

Growths and nodules....we would soon learn 
more about all of this than we ever dreamed.

This was a man who's entire medical file before this
time consisted of a hospital stay for his birth
and perhaps one other page for a kidney stone.  

He was just never sick.


His doctor pulled a few more strings and scheduled
a liver biopsy the very next day on March 6.

I will never forget that day....the doctor doing the
biopsy on Kyle, this big 44 year old healthy guy 
was pretty sure it would be "nothing serious".

As he started the procedure, Kyle said the doctors
whole demeanor changed and he went from not worried
to extremely concerned based on the "density" of 
the mass.

A few short hours later it was confirmed.

Kyle had cancer.
In his liver.

We still had not heard of the word



Those three days changed everything as we knew.


March 4 and 5 and 6.

I remember walking around LDS hospital with
tears streaming down my face, everything a blur,
thinking "my husband has cancer. my husband 
has cancer. my husband has cancer."

In that time, Kyle would go from a working healthy
dad to a fighter of cancer and stay at home dad.

I would go from a stay at home mom, who got to go to the
gym every morning for an hour and half, volunteer
at my kids schools, have lunch with friends and 
do 'stay at home' mom things, to a full time employee,
a full time student, and a caregiver to my husband.

I honestly could never in a million years have
predicted how much change we would see over the 
course of a few short years.

I am honestly surprised most days that I have not had
the "nervous breakdown" I always threaten to have.

I guess it could still be on the horizon.

Our lives indeed changed, more than we could have
EVER EVER guessed in our wildest dreams.

We are not the same people who started this journey
2 years ago this week.

One of us is no longer here.

Five of us must carry on.
(as well as countless others who carry the loss
of Kyle in their hearts.)

This journey has come with the highest of highs
and the lowest of lows.  It has moved in, and around,
and through our lives and with it, the cancer, brought
so much goodness in spite of the heartache and 

I stand with Kyle, who believed that the world was 
more good than bad.   The world is definitely more
good than bad.  Cancer has shown me that if 
it has shown me nothing else.

So as I reflect on the past two years, my heart aches
for the one I love and miss and a few more tears 
fall from eyes this week in the remembering...yet
I embrace the pain and sadness as tokens of my love
for him.

I find courage in each new day as I think about how
HE would want me to carry on and find joy again.

I honor him in the waking and working and carrying on.

It is not without pain, and heartache and the lonely
thrum of the beat of my heart.

It is not without sadness or tears, but I keep 
moving forward to honor his life, and to honor
the next 40 something years he deserved to have 
on this earth.

And so today, and tomorrow, and the next day?

I remember.

I remember Kyle Nielson who fought the good fight.

Who rarely complained as he did it.
Who made friends where ever he went.
Who battled this evil monster with the courage
of a true superhero, every single day.
He was truly our Superman.

I love you.
I miss you.
F cancer all the way to hell and back for stealing
you from this life.

I love you.

And that's what I've got for today.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


I think a lot of times in life we take things for 

I know I sure did.

And who doesn't really?

We think things will always be the way that
they are, certain that it will never be us
that is given the unbearable burdens that
always go to "other people."

Sometimes WE are the "other people."

Taking things for granted like....

Sitting next to my husband for 20 something
years and not giving it a second thought.

Hearing him breath next to me while he slept.

Reaching over to look at him in church, or at
dinner, or at the movie theater and just
KNOWING he's there.  

Just knowing he's there.  And knowing that's
ALL I need to know.

He has my back, no matter what.

Talking about everything and nothing, anytime.

Having someone who was my other half, always
there for me whenever I needed him to and even
when I didn't want him to be.

Those are the things that sting the most now, it seems.

The little things.

The things that make me crack, the things that
make me sob and physically ache for Kyle's 
physical presence again in my life.

These are the things that hurt to see...
(and don't feel bad, I can't help how I feel,
just remember how lucky YOU are to have it, if you do.)

Watching a spouse reach over with a gentle touch.

Seeing someone lean close to the one they love.

Watching a grandpa play with their grandkids.

Going out to dinner and being "solo".  

It's lonely.

Even when I'm in a crowd of people I love, people
that I KNOW love me and want me there?  
Sometimes it's more than I can bear without him.

It's so lonely---even in that crowd of people
who love me.  I can't explain it, it just is.

And I leave and my heart breaks all over again
at the loneliness without him.

For most people (a lot of people?)
life without Kyle has gone on as before.  

Sure, they're sad maybe if they think about him.
Sure, they may miss him a little...

But it's not the same as it is for me and my family
where the hole is the biggest and hardest to fill.

Now believe me when I say it's not all gloom
and doom's not.

We absolutely laugh and joke and find some joy 
in life already---but there is also deep deep
sadness and heartache that we will be working
through for a long time to come.

I'm not sure what the point of this post
is--other than perhaps to remind people NOT 
to take things for granted in life.

Especially when it comes to the ones you love.
And that love you.

I swear it feels like every time I write it
circles back around to love.

I am truly grateful for the mini "village" of
people who are my pillars. 

I am grateful for family and friends who let
me text and cry and call and whine and release
my emotions when the days are bad.

Thank you for that.  It is a treasure and 
I literally could not survive without you.

I am grateful for my weekend "babysitters" (you 
know who you are) who laugh and cry with me
and provide me a safe space to land over
and over and over and over.  I'm grateful
for heartfelt conversations over dinners
and honest good company that holds me up.

I so blessed to have the children I do.
Even in their struggles and pain, they make
me laugh and remind me not to take myself
too seriously.

They step in when I'm tired and feeling down
and help without too much prodding.

The whole new juggling act between single working
mother raising 4 kids alone going to school and 
cleaning house and running errands and going to
parent-teacher conferences and doctor appointments
and balancing everything all at once alone is
DAUNTING most to those who have helped?

Again a giant thank you.

Please remember to hold those that you love
and little tighter and tell them you care.
Be slower to anger and quicker to forgive.

Remember I'm watching you and wishing that I had
just one more day, or hour, or minute with the
man I loved to tell him, and hold him, and 
touch him, and love him.

That's what I've got for today.