Debbie’s Journey

The Uber pulled up to the house and she got out, all smiles and waves. I was working in the garage organizing, once again the household junk we just can’t seem to throw out. As she walked up, she appeared tired from her recent birthday trip to the San Juan Islands with her two adult children. The first time in years, it had been just the three of them without the spouses or grandkids. It was evident she’d had a good time, and all the exercise and training after her hip replacement 6 months earlier had paid off. She wanted to go into her 80’s beating the stereotypes of aging. She is an activist, a community volunteer, a social being with a large circle of friends, an excellent chef and entertainer, a Taylor Swift fan and living independently and fulfilling.

So, what happened?

She was talking to me and sharing her adventures when she froze and couldn’t get the words…any words out of her mouth. She was Debbie – looking chic, fully engaged, and happening and then she wasn’t. I said – you’re freaking me out…are you okay? She came back into the present moment and said: “Something’s wrong.” Then her speech failed her again, her sparkling blue eyes bright, her mouth open but stuck in time, standing there frozen. Finally, the words came..”I need to go to the hospital.” We rushed to get the car keys and headed out. She was back, full on, in the moment, totally cognizant and directing me to the closest hospital – a short and yet long 15 minutes away. By the time we got there, she instructed me to pull up in the ER and drop her off. She got out and checked herself in while I parked.

Together, we gave our versions of what we thought was a stroke happening and they rushed her in. She was able to fully communicate her needs, and even flirted with a young, handsome doctor. He responded with a wry smile and after an examination announced she did not have a stroke. So what? Less than 48 hours earlier she was walking around a small island, dining out and whale watching. As time progressed in the ER and multiple tests were run, it was determined that she had lung cancer that had metastasized into a brain tumor. The tumor was interrupting her speech patterns. POW! Quiet, a few tears and I’m sorry filled the room.

The calls to her family began as did the conversations. Her daughter immediately drove down to be with her from Seattle to Portland, her son and his family zoomed in from Toronto, Canada. They’ve taken shifts to be at appointments, had family moments with the generations, and set up a roadmap for the future.

Had there been signs that had been missed? Not really. She had smoked over 20 years ago, but as a health advocate she was proactive in her wellness regime. The insurance company had refused to take chest x-rays the last 2 years, as she had been cleared and had no symptoms. Debbie was not full of regret or anger. She knew instinctively her time had come and she determined to handle it with grace vs anger or regret.

She began a new chapter of gratefulness and quality time spent with positive moments. Don’t’ get me wrong – there was sadness amongst the multiple emotions and information and decisions coming fast and furious over the following weeks. But it is her attitude of Onwards and Owning how that will look for her and those around her she loves. As I have watched her daily over these past 5 weeks, she has had chemo treatments, a radiation procedure, PET scan, colitis, and a bout in the hospital when she went into a-fib. A new treatment had to be devised to get her back in rhythm – all the time looming that this time it might convert to a stroke.

She has been a ray of sunshine. Her mind bright, her attitude uplifting, her lessons inspiring. She’s beginning to lose her hair and has lost a lot of weight, and yet she finds time every day to share meaningful quotes online, advocate with health professionals for others, bravely asking for help – which has been the hardest part of her journey and learning to accept it. Friends present and from her long beautiful life come by for a visit…sometimes for 15 minutes – others for 5 hours; rekindling bonds and closing this chapter together. She receives each with love and connection.

So, the question becomes…how do you decide to die? For many people that question will create an unconscious physical response, perhaps you’ll emotionally shut down, or become uncomfortable and decide to move on from this article. That’s understandable. We’ve been taught to think about living and this subject can be considered as too sad or depressing. Yes, there are those components, but aren’t those same feelings part of living?

That’s why Debbie’s journey is a powerful example of living. It’s become vogue to “live in the moment”, “live your best life”, “be present and live purposefully.” Debbie is still with us and showing us the way. Her quiet inspiring approach is doing what all the life gurus are expounding on when they say live with purpose. Choice your moments, find your path, enjoy your people.

She is choosing to do all of that…there’s no whining, or petty complaints, inconveniences. Rather choosing to sit outside in the sunshine and talk with friends, laugh with complete joy, speak her mind with truth and compassion. More powerful than those moments are her choice to serve others. She listens with intensity and offering guidance, support, encouragement and vision. As she lay in her hospital bed, and the nurse came in at 1:00 am, and saw that she wasn’t sleeping, he shared his story. His Mom is back home in Tennessee and also has cancer. He asked her advice – yes, even people with a terminal cancer diagnosis want and need to be part of everyday conversations. However, she could have gently closed her eyes and feigned sleep, but she heard him and helped him as a mother would. That’s the point…she is LIVING vs DYING. We don’t have to be scared. It’s the life continuum… only with a more specific timeline.


Provided By Keely Raff

The Art of Downsizing

My work in real estate is about helping people optimize their lives. Sometimes this takes more than knowing the market. When clients are downsizing, my experience with the emotional and logistical aspects of the transition makes for a more seamless move.

When a house holds the memories of a lifetime, and clients feel connected to a neighborhood and a community but need a fresh start in a new place, the transition can be emotional and challenging. I love to be present with my people. It brings me joy to honor the history and life of a client’s home, let the home shine, and support my client in all aspects of the move.

I look forward to hearing your stories and being part of your team as we navigate selling, buying, downsizing, or any other life passage. I have navigated these tricky transitions in both my personal and professional lives. I will bring compassion and expertise to our next project.

How to Stage & Prep Your Home for Sale

• De-Clutter, De-Personalize, De-Mark Your Territory
• Prepare for Inspections
• Repairs to Make Now vs. Later

The best preparation is mental preparation, are you ready? Let’s thoughtfully work towards your goals in a way that is fun and makes life easier. Call me today to do a walk-through of your home, and we will make a plan together that works for you.

Before Staging

Staged for Sale

Before Staging

Staged for Sale

View full Article

Article Provided by:
Megan Barrett, Windermere Realty