Breakfast with Lincoln, Gettysburg Ghosts, Back Surgery
By Carole Hemingway Dawn broke over a sultry morning this past June on the day I was to meet Abraham Lincoln. We were in Harrisburg, Pa., a colonial city first settled in 1712 which became the Pennsylvania state capital a hundred years later. I was in Harrisburg with Cooper Wingert, a dazzling Pennsylvania author of 10 Civil War books, and neither of us wanted to be late. The character actor who played Lincoln, with his prose and articulation, painted verbal landscapes of the daily life back during the Civil War. As I listened, I wanted nothing more than to just sit back and inhale it all in. The next day, Larry Acker, a weatherman friend, client, and direct descendant of the farmers who owned the land where the Civil War’s Battle of Antietam was fought, joined us. When Old Abe finished, I wanted to rush to Gettysburg; the home of the grassy hills where I deeply experience solemnity, and the sites of the Triangular Field, an unmarked corner of Gettysburg reputedly so haunted Park Rangers and Tourist Guides refuse to take visitors there. Of course that’s where we went first. As we strolled the Triangular Field at Gettysburg, we seemingly stepped back in time and heard actual cannon fire. It must be reenactors, we thought, but it wasn’t. You see, Gettysburg is a highly-controlled national park and when we later checked, we learned that no fireworks or reenactors had been permitted that day. None of us wanted to leave these sacred and humbling grounds, but a birthday party awaited me at the historical Dobbin House, and we were late. Birthdays; they are mile-markers in advance, parties when they happen, and Historical retrospect to who we were ‘last year’ and want to be ‘now that we are older’ when they are over. Former Gettysburg Mayor Bill Troxell and his wife, Honey, were there, as was former Harrisburg Mayor Steve Reed. Civil War author, Cooper Wingert and Larry Acker were in attendance, as were my very good friends Sharon and Craig Caba. Craig is a historian of national renown and licensed appraiser with Antiques Road Show connections. A surprise guest was International Patriarch Sir Patrick Atkinson of the Atkinson Center and North Dakota’s God’s Child Project. For the next three hours, history once again became the contemporary as everyone engaged easy conversation about our collectively common interests in antiques, books, and the weavings of our cultural fibers. This was such a special night but throughout it all I also hid a not-too-quiet painful secret. Twenty-five years ago I had a near-death car crash in Santa Barbara, Calif. which has since given me constant back pain. During my birthday party at this historical Gettysburg Inn where runaway slaves once hid in secret chambers, I was surrounded by some of the nation’s brightest minds, yet the pain in my back was intolerable and preventing me from enjoying these people I loved. After my birthday party, I went to Philadelphia, where I underwent back surgery. I am still in pain, a quiet agony that rages within, hindering my ability to do what I love most…travel, write and be with my friends. But I am not resigned, I am determined to find the solution, and get back my quality of life. Maybe it’s time I leave my coastal home of Maine and make my way down to Gettysburg. The history, the powerful strength of Abraham Lincoln’s leadership, my other-world experiences on the battlefield, and my loving friends there. Together these work wonders for me. Happiness requires that we mix the old and the new, the known and unexpected. We search for our place in the world and strive to keep pace as it turns. Yes, maybe it is time for this change. I am confident I will write and publish at least a dozen books, and maybe a screenplay or two, over the next 20 years. As for love, I’m like silverware rattling in a drawer when it’s abruptly opened. I am ready to receive and give love again. I was born on a dairy farm in Bear Creek, Pa., which is about 152 miles from Gettysburg and since birth have been on a very long journey. Now, I think, I am heading home. Carole's birthday party Carole in the Triangular Field, the most haunted place on the battlefield in Gettysburg Carole and Patrick Atkinson Carole walking down the same steps as General Robert E. Lee, as he surrendered at the Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865 Carole Hemingway Carole Hemingway is an internationally regarded author, speaker, and historical researcher. She currently livesalong the coast of Maine where she is writing a book about Gettysburg, and waiting to publish another book about her father, Ernest.
Healing Through Art
By Jody Kerzman There is something therapeutic about art. No one knows that better than Lydia Richez-Bowman. After a brief career in nursing, Lydia focused on being an artist; she was involved in art organizations in California and North Dakota. In October 2014, her dream came true, when with her husband’s support, Lydia opened her own art gallery in downtown Bismarck: ART Gallerie on Main “The little French Gallerie.” “I am just crazy about art,” she says with a twinkle in her eye. She is also enthusiastic about helping others. So when the phone rang in April 2015, Lydia jumped at the chance to combine her two passions. “I got a call from the Bismarck Cancer Center. They were wondering if I would be interested in teaching a class for cancer patients and survivors,” recalls Lydia. “Would I? I had been wanting to do this for years, but there had never been funding or space for such a thing. Now there was both and I jumped at the chance.” Lydia had about a month and a half to prepare for her first class. She did her homework; she wanted her class to be exactly what her students needed. “I had worked with kids and had done adult art classes, but nothing like this. I wanted to keep it simple, but not too simple,” she explains. “I wanted to challenge them, but not so much that they would be frustrated.” After looking at what other hospitals and cancer centers were doing around the country, she came up with a plan and offered her first healing art class in May 2015. “I’ll never forget that first phone call I received from a cancer patient who wanted to take my class,” recalls Lydia. “Her voice was raspy and strained. I could hardly understand her, and I struggled to hold my tears back. I wasn’t sure I could do this. But I knew I couldn’t cry in front of my students either. “I received more calls, and that’s when Nurse Lydia came out. I set a barrier, and allowed myself to only go in so deep. I couldn’t get wrapped up in their pain.” Because it was a pain Lydia knew all too well. She fought her own cancer battle 16 years ago. “I had breast cancer. I had surgery, chemo, radiation, tamoxifen. I had it all. And I understand the fear.” Perhaps it is that understanding that has made Lydia’s healing art classes so healing. It is something she has felt called to do since her diagnosis in 2000. “My cancer was a blessing. It made me look at my life in a new way,” Lydia explains. “Anything that hurts me is a lesson and a blessing. There is a reason I have experienced certain things in my life. When I got done with my cancer battle I felt like I was supposed to do something.” Lydia’s Healing Arts Workshops have grown; she now offers them one Thursday and one Saturday a month. She has as many as 12 patients in each class. Lydia’s classes are the only healing art classes offered in North Dakota. They are free of charge to cancer patients, survivors, and caretakers “We have lost a few. Cancer is a horrible disease. But I have my regulars, my survivors. I have one who is a 12 year survivor. They just love coming. And then we also have those who are still fighting their cancer, those who are just getting done with treatment, and those who are long term survivors. Their art often reflects where they are in their battle. There is power in art. There is great support here. It is sort of a support group for them. We cry, we create, we laugh, we are a lifeline.” Lydia says it is a lifeline which has come full circle for her; art was her therapy during her own cancer fight. Now she says, the Healing Arts Workshops are her way of giving back. “Painting was my therapy during my cancer treatments,” says Lydia. “I created a series of paintings of seven women. I’m now working on a book based on those paintings. I learned a lot about myself. I feel gifted and I am so lucky to share that gift with people.” To learn more about Lydia’s Healing Arts Workshop, as well as other classes she teaches, call 701-425-8439 or check out her website.
Knitted Knockers: A Labor of Love
By Jody Kerzman Arlyce Malarkey has always been a crafty lady. Knitting, sewing, painting. You name it, she’s made it. She has a college degree in textiles and design, spent 30 years working at Hancock Fabrics, and a few more years in the sewing department at Missouri Slope Lutheran Care Center. Now, even in retirement, sewing and knitting occupy most of Arlyce’s spare time. For the past 10 months, Arlyce has been focused on knitting. It started when a co-worker at Missouri Slope asked her about knitting a prosthesis for another co-worker. “I had never done anything like that before. It didn’t work the first time,” she laughs. Her failed attempt led her to the Knitted Knockers website, where she found step by step instructions on how to knit a prosthesis. This time, she succeeded. She’s been knitting ever since. The handmade breast prostheses called Knitted Knockers are given free to women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures to the breast. Knitted Knockers are soft, comfortable, and when placed in a regular bra, take the shape and feel of a real breast. Arlyce uses 100% cotton yarn, which means they are hand washable. Knitted Knockers are filled with fiberfill and can be adjusted to fill the gap for breasts that are uneven and easily adapted for those going through reconstruction by simply removing some of the stuffing. “We overstuff them and we don’t tie them shut. That way the women can adjust them the way they like when they get them,” explains Arlyce. “All they have to do is pull the string to close the prosthesis.” They are a far cry from traditional breast prosthetics. “My mom had breast cancer when I was in college,” remembers Arlyce. “She wore a silicone prosthetic and she was always so uncomfortable.” Traditional breast prosthetics are usually expensive, heavy, sweaty, and uncomfortable. They typically require special bras or camisoles with pockets and can’t be worn until weeks after surgery. Arlyce’s mom fought cancer for 28 years; it spread beyond her breast and eventually took her life. It’s one reason Arlyce is so passionate about helping cancer victims with her knitting. “Breast cancer is very much on my mind at all times,” says Arlyce. “My sister and I have both been vigilant in our checkups, and we have both had lumps removed, but thankfully they have all been benign. “ She knows not everyone is so lucky, and if she can bring a smile to someone’s face simply by using her knitting skills, Arlyce is happy to do so. She works closely with the Bismarck Cancer Center, making sure they have enough Knitted Knockers on hand in a variety of sizes. Arlyce knitted her first pair in December 2015. Since then, she has received $250 seed money through a Thrivent Action Team from Thrivent Financial to purchase yarn and needles, and has recruited two other knitters to help: longtime friend Davonna Browning and her daughter-in-law, Brandi Malarkey. Together, the three of them have knitted 98 sets of Knitted Knockers for breast cancer survivors. “Brandi lives in Fargo, so we have been donating to the Roger Maris Cancer Center as well,” says Arlyce. “Brandi is a much better knitter than I am. She knits socks with five needles and knits very fast.” Brandi is equally motivated to help others, because her life has also been touched by cancer. “Brandi’s dad died of cancer,” says Arlyce. “She would take her knitting with her and knit while she sat at her dad’s treatments. “Knitted Knockers are very much a labor of love for all of us,” explains Arlyce. “I’ve always sewed and knitted. I like helping people and this is something I can do in memory of my mom. I hear through the cancer center how thankful people are. That makes it worth it for me.” Arlyce has added her own, special, crafty touch to each set of Knitted Knockers she makes. She sews what she calls a “Knocker Locker” for each set. It’s a fabric bag with a ribbon closure. It’s Arlyce’s special touch, and a part of the project that even her husband helps with. “I am in charge of putting the ribbons in the Knocker Lockers,” says Mike with a smile. “She does good work. And she knits all the time. Even when we’re driving. I drive, and she knits. And she can still hold a conversation,” he laughs. “I know when she’s counting her stitches not to ask her a question though. I learned that the hard way!” But Arlyce does love talking about and answering questions about Knitted Knockers. If you’ve got questions, email her at email@example.com. Click here to learn more about Knitted Knockers. And to see more photos of Arlyce, Mike, and all Arlene’s knitting projects, click here for a gallery by Photos by Jacy.
Oh Man: Duane Aman: In Memory of Agnes
By Marci Narum It’s not unusual for a vehicle to be the object of a man’s desire and affection. But this is a different kind of love story involving a man and his car. Duane Aman is finally driving his dream car—a 2015 red Chevy Camaro super sport convertible, perfect for summer nights and autumn days in North Dakota. There is just one thing missing: his wife, Agnes. “We were going to buy one of these cars in 2012 but she was diagnosed with cancer,” Duane says. Duane put his dream on hold because having Agnes was more important to him than any sporty car. “She was a good fighter. She fought all that time. It was hard to see her do that, but she fought with interest in trying to win. She was a very good woman.” Agnes was a registered nurse and worked for Sanford Health for 49 years. She died August 22, 2015 at age 74. All the while Agnes was fighting cancer, Duane drove her to her treatments at the hospital and appointments at the Bismarck Cancer Center. After getting her home and settled each day, he would go back to the center to offer his help, giving rides to other patients who didn’t have transportation or were unable to drive because of their illness. That was four-and-a-half years ago. Duane says he promised Agnes that he would keep giving rides as long as he was able. “A lot of people come in from out of town or they can’t walk very far. Even if it’s a short distance I’ll go pick them up.” Bismarck Cancer Center marketing director, Sara Kelsch says Duane volunteers several times a week. “Unfortunately, we have several patients in the Bismarck-Mandan area who need transportation to and from treatment,” Sara explains. When the center started a volunteer program a little over a year ago, Sara says Duane was quick to jump in. “Not only does it provide a needed service to our patients, Duane is the biggest sweetheart. And of course, patients are thrilled to ride in his convertible when the weather permits. He’s won over the hearts of everyone at the cancer center. We’re happy to have him be part of us.” Agnes was part of Duane’s life for more than 50 years. They were married in 1962 after dating for four years. He recalls the first time he met her: “She worked at a café in Wishek. She was walking home one day and I asked her if she wanted a ride home. She took me up on it.” So it seems this man’s love story is right back where it began, and it seems to have no end. “On her death bed she said, ‘You go buy yourself the car. Just be careful.’ The car is in memory of her.” To see more photos of Duane, click here for a gallery by Photos by Jacy.
Community Contributor: Bucks for Bras
By Jody Kerzman It seems everyone has been touched by breast cancer, whether you’ve fought it yourself, or watched a friend, neighbor, co-worker, or family member battle the disease. Perhaps no one knows this better than Brad Erickson, manager of Bismarck’s Borrowed Bucks Roadhouse. “My wife, Cammy, had breast cancer 20 years ago,” remembers Brad. “She found a little lump, so she went to the doctor. The doctor told her to wait three months and come back. So she did. And when she went back three months later, they did a biopsy. It came back positive. “She was only 36-years-old and we had three young kids and I remember being so scared,” says Brad. “She found it early though, she was only a stage one or two and she beat it. It was a scary time, but we had a happy ending.” Cammy did 36 cancer treatments in 18 days and has been cancer free since. Now, Brad is reliving the breast cancer scare. This time, it’s his mom fighting the disease. Doris Erickson was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in January. Brad has been with her during her treatments, and that’s given him a renewed sense of purpose for his annual event, “Bucks for Bras.” Jody Kezman visited with Brad about the event, which he says is his way of giving back Give us a little history about Bucks for Bras. This is the sixth year we’ve held Bucks for Bras. We started in 2010, and it’s grown like crazy since then. I got the idea from Fargo and from my own life. My wife had breast cancer 20 years ago. I couldn’t do anything to show my support and to raise money for those fighting this awful disease then, but I can now. This event has grown tremendously since 2010. That first year we raised $4,300. In 2015, we raised more than $45,000. How does “Bucks for Bras” raise that money? It’s a benefit auction that highlights the talents of area artists through the glamorization of the brassiere. The bras are donated and adorned with materials such as gemstones, feathers, fur, and tinker toys, just to name a few. “Bucks for Bras” attendees have the opportunity to bid on these one-of-a-kind wearable pieces, as well as other non-wearable works of art. We also have a silent auction, vendors, a 50-50 raffle, and a best bra contest where you pay $1 for each vote. One year my mom and my sister in law made a quilt that ended up selling for $805 in the silent auction. People are so supportive of this cause. Who do you help? All the money we raise from Bucks for Bras stays local and helps provide financial support for those fighting breast cancer in the Bismarck/Mandan area. Last year “Bucks for Bras” donated more than $45,185 to the American Cancer Society and the Bismarck Cancer Center Foundation to support those in our area fighting cancer. In the past four years, Bucks for Bras has donated $120,495 to these two organizations. Our goal this year is $50,000. How can people help? There are a few ways people can help with this event. First, we always need people to serve on the committee. The committee puts in a lot of hours, and it’s all volunteer. Donate your old bras! We hang a bra garland on the outside of the building each year, from late September until the event in October. Last year we had 1,192 bras in our bra garland. We have a contest each year to guess how many bras are in our bra garland. Create an artistic wearable bra for auction. Donate an item or service for the silent auction. Obviously you can help by attending the event on October 19. Tickets are available for $15 in advance at Borrowed Bucks, the Bismarck Cancer Center, and the American Cancer Society. You can also purchase tickets at the door for $20. Click here to learn more about Bucks for Bras. You can also like them on Facebook. Click here for more pictures of Brad, taken by Photo by Jacy.
Coping With Cancer: Legacy Teacher Fights Back
By Renae Hoffmann Walker You have three weeks to live. That’s what Kristine Montgomery was told in the middle of the night after she felt pain in her stomach and went to the emergency room alone. “After I had a CAT scan, the doctors came in and told me I had stage four cancer and only three weeks to live,” recalls Kristine. “They told me to get my daughters here (from Fargo) as soon as possible. I was all by myself; I didn’t know what to do. It was really, really scary and the pain kept getting worse and worse so I was sent to Mayo in an ambulance. I don’t remember much; I was on so many pain meds. I started to die in the ambulance and my kidneys stopped, so I had to have dialysis at Mayo. Then they drained the fluid from my stomach. “My mom flew in (from Las Vegas) and they put up the CAT scan and said it didn’t look good. But when the doctor got in there, she did an amazing job. She did so much and cut so well; she cut the lining in my stomach because cancer grabs onto the lining and spreads fast. I had a tumor the size of a football in my stomach but the cancer hadn’t spread. It turned out to be stage two ovarian cancer. She was shocked too.” Kristine admits she had noticed that her stomach was getting bigger, but discounted it as middle age spread, even though the extra “weight” was only in her middle. At one time she recalled a biography she’d read about Gilda Radner from Saturday Night Live. Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989. Like Kristine, she too had noticed her pants didn’t fit, but she wasn’t gaining weight anywhere else. Kristine even did some online research, but she didn’t go to the doctor. “Ovarian cancer is a silent cancer; it likes to travel so you don’t know where it hides,” explains Kristine. “No one in my family has had it, but my daughters are now going to go through genetic testing.” Kristine decided to do this article for two reasons: to inspire women to take care of their bodies and to thank all of the people who have and continue to help her through her cancer journey. “I would say to all women, regardless of their age, go in and get checked. It’s your health and the sooner you catch something the better,” she says. “Also, when help is offered, take it. Use their strength because you will be weak.” Kristine was diagnosed in January 2016. She had her last chemo treatment in July and will have a checkup this month. She was gone from her job as a teacher at Legacy High School until May, when she returned part time. Co-worker Donna Carter came and held her hand when she was alone in the ER in Bismarck that fateful night. Her mother, grown daughters, Teresa and Abby, friends, and family stayed with her and helped during her recovery at home. When she returned to work, Kristine says she was stunned by the outpouring of support. “When I was diagnosed, Legacy decided to sell t-shirts that said ‘I think the world of you’ because I teach Global Studies,” she says. “When I came back, we had an academic pep rally and I was supposed to talk about the SADD club I advise. Everyone was wearing their shirts and the kids stood up and cheered for me—it was overwhelming.” Kristine laughs as she recalls stories of gangly 14-year-old boys not being afraid to give her a hug, about her former Simle student and LHS department chair, Matt Thorton, doing research on female cancers, about Tom Bushaw hawking t-shirts in his loud voice, and about going bald. “It is really sad, but I’m starting to get over it!” Kristine is a native of Fort Yates and has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. Her hobbies are reading and watching old black and white films on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). But her passion is teaching. “I haven’t had a behavior problem in my classroom for so long—I can’t remember. I show them respect, I model that, and they give it back. If one student gets out of line another usually takes care of it,” she says with pride. “When people talk negatively about kids, I wish they could see them like I do. They are such good people and I’m so proud of them. I always tell them we are in this life together; we are a village. One of my students, KayDee Wescom, made me a blanket and sent texts to see how I was doing. She lost her mother to cancer a few months before I was diagnosed. That must have been very hard for her and yet she reached out.” KayDee’s mom, Myla Wescom taught special education for 19 years at Bismarck High, Solheim, and Murphy. On Sunday, October 2, there will be another walk/run to benefit the Bismarck High Key Club and the Team Myla Paying It Forward Foundation, which was created in her honor. BPS students and staff can write letters to the foundation to request help with cancer treatments. Kristine was a recipient of Team Myla funds and is grateful to Robin Nein, BHS students and staff, and the Paying It Forward Foundation. She is also grateful to her team of female professionals at Mayo Clinic, and she is excited that they have sent off parts of her giant tumor to various research facilities for testing. “It makes me feel good to know that it’s being used for something positive, like research, after all of this.” To see more photos of Kristine teaching, click here for a gallery by Photos by Jacy. Renae Hoffmann Walker Renae Hoffmann Walker is a Bismarck native and has enjoyed many years as Community Relations Director at Bismarck Public Schools. She and her husband Dwayne are river rats, empty nesters, and seasoned travelers.
Cover Story: Family Ties
“Breast cancer changes you, and the change can be beautiful.” -Jane Cook, breast cancer survivor The women you’re about to meet have all had their lives changed by breast cancer. Their stories are different, yet similar. All of them are fighters; some have fought the ugly disease head on, others have taken steps to make sure they never have to. It’s in their genes, both breast cancer and that fighting spirit. Their stories will inspire you, make you want to call your mom or sister, and hug your daughter. Because if there is one thing these women all know for sure, it’s that life is precious and should never be taken for granted. Breast cancer has changed them. It has made them stronger and more beautiful than they were before. Sarah and Michelle By Jody Kerzman Sisters have a special connection, but perhaps no sisters have a connection quite like Sarah Krikorian and Michelle Waldner. Both women are wives and mothers, both are raising young daughters, both have had hysterectomies and double mastectomies. Sarah is 39. Michelle is 34. “I had a total hysterectomy and entered menopause at age 32,” says Sarah. “Two years later I had a double mastectomy.” “I had a total hysterectomy at age 30,” says Michelle. “I had a double mastectomy at age 32.” The sisters opted for these major medical procedures after watching their mom die of breast and ovarian cancer. Sarah went through genetic testing, and when she tested positive for the BRAC gene, she scheduled her procedures. It took Michelle a little longer to do the testing. “I knew the results of the genetic testing wouldn’t change my decisions on doing the surgeries,” says Michelle, whose mammograms and breast MRIs were always producing new scares. Their mom, Joyce Fetch, battled cancer for 11 years. It was a car accident that led to her original breast cancer diagnosis. “She was rear ended and had really bad neck problems,” remembers Sarah. “She finally had a breast reduction, hoping that would help with her neck pain. That’s when they found a one centimeter lump in her left breast.” She immediately had a mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Joyce knew breast cancer can run in the family, and she was worried about her daughters and her granddaughters. Joyce’s mom died of breast and ovarian cancer when she was in her 40s, so Joyce wasn’t surprised when she tested positive for the BRAC 2 gene. But her fight was far from over. Five years to the day of her breast cancer diagnosis, Joyce was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. She was given a 10 percent chance of survival. Joyce fought for six years. She passed away August 22, 2010. By October 2010, Sarah was going through genetic testing. When she learned she also carried the BRAC 2 gene, she scheduled her surgeries. For Michelle, the decision wasn’t as easy. Her hysterectomy was due to medical issues, not a cancer scare. But shortly after that, Michelle was diagnosed with dense breast disease. “I kept finding lumps and spots. I was constantly having mammograms and MRIs,” says Michelle. “I had so much anxiety going into all my appointments that finally I just said ‘Take them off. I can’t handle this anymore.’ The unknown was driving me crazy.” She soon decided to have genetic testing too. “After I found out I had the gene I was way less stressed. I knew what I had to do,” says Sarah. “My kids won’t watch me die.” Sarah has three daughters; Michelle has two young daughters; And their older brother, Jason, has three daughters. “Mom called the girls her ‘crazy eights,’” says Sarah. “She would have loved to see them grow up. There is some guilt; I used to feel guilty that I didn’t do the testing sooner. I thought I should have just stayed single and never had kids. What did I do to my girls?” “We had an amazing mom,” remembers Michelle with a smile. “Sure there is some guilt, but we could never have not had kids. She taught us how to be moms. We had a loving mom for the length we had her. We had her as an amazing role model.” Which is why Michelle and Sarah are determined to help others, including their daughters. It’s what their mom would have wanted. “I need to show my girls that I am not embarrassed. That I fought for something,” Sarah says. “My scars are my battle scars for them. I did it for them, so I would be around to see them grow up.” Before her surgeries, doctors told Sarah she had a 97 percent chance of getting cancer. Now, her chances are just three percent. “That’s because of what I did. I did that,” says Sarah. “I changed those chances. We are survivors of a cancer we never had. We are pre-vivors.” Their advice to others, Michelle says, comes straight from their own mom. “Mom always told us you know your body best. She knew if something wasn’t right. If you feel something isn’t right chances are it is not. Always get things checked. It is better to be safe than sorry.” “Do the testing,” says Sarah. “It’s your life, and you only get one shot at it.” “But wait until you’re ready,” adds Michelle. “That is why I waited until after my surgeries to get tested. The result is a life changing answer. Just make sure you are ready. Know your options and have a great support team.” For Michelle and Sarah, that support team included their husbands, their families, each other, and their older brother, Jason. But while Jason was a source of strength for his sisters, he knew he was at risk too. Because of his family history, and because men can get breast cancer too, Jason recently had his first mammogram. He happily reported his results to his sisters: his doctor gave him a clean bill of health, something this family knows never to take for granted. Click here to see a full gallery of images of Sarah and Michelle taken by Photos by Jacy. Tara Lacher By Marci Narum You just never know. You never really know once you start something…where it might lead. Tara Lacher understands that now. Ten years ago she started her own non-profit organization, My Pink Scarf, Inc., knitting and giving scarves to any woman diagnosed with cancer. Tara says at the time three family members were being treated for cancer. “I wanted to make a difference in their lives or just make a day better for them,” Tara says. Since starting My Pink Scarf in October 2006, Tara has given away more than 9,000 scarves to women in 35 states and 14 countries. More than 1,000 women are on a waiting list to receive one. Her next scarf is headed to Greece. “I knew that I could touch people’s lives by knitting. This whole thing started by one scarf. And here we are today. Who would have guessed it would have taken the turns and twists and be what it is today?” Because you just never know. She had done all that knitting. Weaving together many thousands of miles of yarn to create scarves. But Tara discovered a string she needed to pull on. And when she did, things began to unravel…in a wonderful way. Diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2007, Tara spent a lot of time seeing doctors. At every appointment she was asked the same questions over and over about her health and medical history. Tara grew tired of never having the answers. Because she just never knew. She had been adopted as an infant. “I have always wondered because I have two daughters. We know that there is a possibility that cancer runs in our family because I had it. I wanted to find out if my daughters should be pre-screened and be aware of anything.” So Tara pulled on the string. With some patience and the help of a social worker, Tara discovered who her biological mother was. By then, in 2012, it was too late. Delores had died a year earlier. A short time later the social worker found two other family members, her mother’s sisters. Florence lives in Sidney, Montana and Loretta in Bismarck. Now Tara could stop pulling on that string. She had the answers she needed. She learned that three biological family members had breast cancer, including her two aunts. “They were so glad to meet me. It was truly an inspirational meeting. They are wonderful ladies. I remind them of their sister, so it’s bittersweet for them. I gave each of them a scarf and they are very touched by what I’m doing.” And now Tara knows. “I would never have dreamed of finding my biological family but I’m eternally grateful because now my kids know going forward medically, so they can get screened.” Click here to see a full gallery of images of Tara taken by Photos by Jacy. Jan Lund By Marci Narum Jan Lund still gets emotional when talking about her fight with breast cancer. Her daughter Sarah Lund wipes away tears as she recalls the experience too. It started nearly ten years ago, when Sarah was planning her wedding. Her then-fiancé’s mother had recurring breast cancer at the same time. It was terminal. “We were very close and it was difficult having both of them going through it at the same time,” Sarah says, her eyes welling with tears. “We had just gotten engaged. I was in Salt Lake with my then soon-to-be mother-in-law for her treatment and my mom found out about hers when we were out of town.” “In March of 2007 I noticed some swelling in my right breast,” Jan explains. “I thought it was an infection or reaction to changing laundry soap or a lacey bra so I ignored it.” But the swelling and breast pain didn’t go away and they didn’t get better. So Jan had it checked out. The inflammation was misdiagnosed twice—first, as a breast infection, and later as a cyst and fungus. Jan finally underwent a surgical biopsy in mid-June. That’s when her cancer was correctly diagnosed and her oncologist confirmed it was Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a rare and very aggressive form of cancer not detected by a mammogram or ultrasound. Jan says she was ready to write her obituary. The odds were not in her favor. “I had a 40 percent survival rate in 2007,” Jan says. But she also had Sarah, whose recent experiences had taught her about breast cancer, its forms, and its stages. “When I was told there were four stages, mine was stage 3b,” Jan says. “Sarah said, ‘Mom that just means it’s in your skin.’” Jan admits she was angry. She liked being in control. But being diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer made her feel suddenly not in control. Jan was determined to keep her diagnosis quiet and avoid all the pink ribbons and publicity of breast cancer awareness. It was Sarah who helped her connect with the Relay for Life, because of her former and late mother-in-law’s involvement with it. Jan is now the local chair for the fundraising event and she shares freely about her experience with cancer. She offers support and encouragement to individuals and groups who ask her to speak. “I did 12 weeks of chemotherapy, had a bilateral mastectomy, and then more chemo because the cancer was still there. Then I had six-and-a-half weeks of radiation and a year-and-a-half later, reconstructive surgery.” Jan’s eyes fill with tears as she thinks about June 2017. It will mark her ten-year survivorship anniversary. “Ten years is magic,” she says. “The takeaway of this is for women to be aware of their bodies, what’s normal for them and what’s not. My symptoms in hindsight, were just screaming. Why did I not listen that first day? And I swear, my symptoms were overnight. It’s that quick with Inflammatory Breast Cancer.” Click here to see a full gallery of images of Jan and Sarah taken by Photos by Jacy. Gert’s Girls By Marci Narum If you believe laughter is the best medicine, a dose of “Gert’s Girls”—JoAnne Skalsky, Sandi Blohm, Patti Schatz, Susi Horner, and Kristi Meuchel—might be just what the doctor ordered. To see these five women together, one might guess they were old college friends; laughing, teasing, and hugging after spending years apart. But they are more than friends. Gert’s Girls are sisters. Thick as they come. “They are always like this,” says Patti’s daughter, Amber Schatz, giggling at the group’s antics as the Inspired Woman photographer tries to get them to settle in for a photo. “My birthday is coming up and I’m going to be 60,” says Susi. “But that’s not going to be printed, is it?” The sisters laugh hysterically. Humor is part of who these women are. They say it’s also been critical to their healing. Breast cancer has touched Gert’s Girls many times. Susi was diagnosed at age 38 and had a bilateral mastectomy. Patti was 44 when she got the news. She had a partial mastectomy followed by 24 weeks of chemo and six weeks of radiation. Both of them have been cancer-free for years. But their sister, Sandi found out late last year that she has breast cancer. She recently finished her treatment. “Talk about having nice resources,” says Sandi. “Two sisters who have been through it already.” These sisters also watched their mother go through it. Gert Pulver had breast cancer twice, plus renal cancer, and her mother died of breast cancer. Could it be something genetic? They have all wondered. “When Mom got breast cancer she talked about how guilty she felt,” Susi says. “She knew it wasn’t reasonable to feel that way, but she still felt guilty that her daughters were ending up with the same disease she had.” Cancer research and testing has come a long way since Gert’s first diagnosis in 1988, but there is no evidence of a genetic link among her daughters. Three of the women have had genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, which increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and account for about 20 to 25 percent of hereditary breast cancers. Their tests were all negative. “My oncologist was shocked,” Patti says. “He couldn’t believe it.” Even so, the family history of breast cancer among these sisters has made them diligent with their own daughters—14 between all of them—making sure they are screened early and educated. “That’s why I had the genetic testing done, Kristi says. “I felt like for myself whatever will be, I’ll deal with it. But for my daughters, I wanted them to have the information. If they were at a higher risk I wanted them to know so they could make their choices.” Amber says, “I did start getting tested for breast cancer annually. I get an MRI every year and my doctor recently recommended I speak with a genetics counselor.” Genetic testing may not hold the answer to why breast cancer seems to run in their family, but Gert’s Girls do seem to have the solution for coping. And it doesn’t take genetic testing to prove its positive result. “No matter what’s going on we can always keep a sense of humor,” Kristi says. That just might be something they did get from their mother. Susi recalls taking Gert to a doctor’s appointment. Her mom was 71. “She told the doctor, ‘sometimes when I get up in the morning the first thing I do is throw up. Then I feel fine for a while. I eat something and I gotta I throw up again.’” Susi continues, “She looked at him and she said, ‘you know what I think? I think I might be pregnant.’” Gert’s Girls are laughing hysterically again. “That was Mom,” Susi says. Sisters. Humor. Good medicine. Click here for a full gallery of images of the five sisters taken by Photos by Jacy. Lisa Guenther By Marci Narum Lisa Guenther will mark her fifth year as a breast cancer survivor this month. “I was told that you are considered a survivor from the day you are diagnosed. Because you survived the news that you have breast cancer,” Lisa says. The news, the cancer, and the treatment were brutal for Lisa. It started after a routine mammogram. Follow up tests revealed that Lisa’s breast cancer was estrogen-receptor- and progesterone-receptor-positive, which meant the cancer was likely to spread. She also tested positive for the HER2 gene, commonly referred to as the “demon cell.” It meant the cancer would grow quickly and had a high rate of recurrence. Lisa would be facing heavy treatments of chemotherapy. “Chemo started on January 4, 2012 and continued all the way through December 28. I did six big treatments and I continued with Herceptin for the remainder of the year every three weeks. I had my ovaries out in May in between chemo and radiation. It was a tough year.” Lisa was 43. She says God, friends, and family helped her get through those long, difficult days. “I have six siblings. They each took a weekend to be with me and take care of me for four days after the treatment. The toughest one was my fifth chemo. I was in the hospital for ten days and my sister Jackie stayed with me. I couldn’t have done it without all of them. My kids were 15 and 12 at the time.” Lisa recalls one of her hardest days. It was shortly after starting chemo. “You lose your hair anywhere from 15 to 20 days after your first chemo treatment. It was a Saturday morning. I hopped into the shower and my hair started coming out in globs. I handed it out to my husband because I didn’t want it to go down the drain. And I cried and cried and cried and cried. And then I took my clipper and shaved it off myself. That was one of the toughest days. But I got through it.” Any woman would struggle with the reality of losing her hair. For Lisa, it was not only a personal loss, but a professional one too. As a hairstylist for 22 years, she wondered what her clients would think, having a bald hairstylist. She chose to embrace it with humor. And then Lisa found purpose in it. “I had a very powerful dream one night of what was supposed to come out of all of this,” Lisa explains. “I woke up and it was clear: wigs. “I had some clients get cancer. They asked me if I could help fit their wigs. I’ve been doing wigs off and on for people ever since.” Lisa gets referrals for wig fittings from the Bismarck Cancer Center and Mid Dakota clinic. She also volunteers for the American Cancer Society as the director of the Look Good Feel Better program. Lisa teaches the class about four times a year at the Bismarck Cancer Center. “We talk about the skin changes that come with having chemo treatments. It’s a two hour period when women can be together and realize they aren’t the only ones going through it.” Lisa says it’s also important to remember though, that every breast cancer diagnosis is unique. “No two people are alike and have the same treatment. It doesn’t matter if your cancer is small on a big breast or big on a small breast. Every breast cancer diagnosis is unique and personal. It doesn’t discriminate.” Lisa says she feels blessed and grateful to be cancer-free after five years. It means the recurrence of cancer for her drops 85 percent. “I’ll be celebrating my five-year mark with my husband in Arizona. I’m treating myself. You can’t NOT celebrate a five year cancer diagnosis.” Click here for a full gallery of images of Lisa by Photos by Jacy.
Comfort Food: Fall Soups
By Pam Vukelic Kids are back in school and windows can be left open all night long. Clearly, fall has arrived, which means it’s time to haul out the stock pot and get some soup simmering on the stove. You don’t need a recipe to make soup, especially if you have a bit of a framework from which to work. Use what ingredients you have on hand, including leftovers, and those you know your family enjoys. So here we go with the framework… Mirepoix: This is a standard flavor-producing mixture used in many chefs’ preparations. The ingredients are onion, carrots, and celery. The proportions typically are 2-1-1. Sauté these ingredients in your preferred fat—vegetable oil, olive oil, butter, or some combination thereof. Keep in mind that butter has a low smoking point and can quite quickly burn. A combination of oil and butter will give you the benefits of both—the flavor of butter and the increased smoking point of the oil. If your soup is Italian, add some garlic. Garlic burns quickly so add it after your mirepoix is partially cooked. I make a big batch of mirepoix and freeze it, uncooked, in two cup batches. Liquid: The most common liquid is chicken broth, which can be purchased ready-to-use or in a concentrated form that you combine with water. You’ll also find beef broth, vegetable broth, and others. Choose low-sodium options for a healthier soup. Meat: Small frozen meatballs (ground beef or turkey), rotisserie chicken, ground meats (beef, Italian sausage, chorizo), stew meat, and ham cubes are all possibilities. Starch: To give your soup body and make it seem more like a meal, add a starch such as rice (one cup raw = three cups cooked), pasta (one cup uncooked = two cups cooked, if small shapes), potatoes, or, of course, spaetzle for knoephla soup. If your choice is pasta, go with a small shape that easily fits in your spoon. Good choices are orzo, small shells, small rings, or broken up ramen noodles. Vegetable: The options here are pretty much endless. Try beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, corn, mini corn cobs, or squash. Seasoning: Depending on the theme of the soup, use basil and Greek oregano (Italian), cumin and Mexican oregano (Mexican), thyme and chervil (French), dill and chives (Scandinavian), or lemon grass and five spice powder (Asian). Add salt and pepper to taste at the end of the process. Many ingredients will add salt and doing it this way allows you to control the end result. Thickener: If you want a cream soup, stir in a roux, slurry, cream (it doesn’t take too much to make quite a difference) or even cream cheese that is allowed to melt. Use milk instead of broth. Another option is to use one cup milk with two tablespoons cornstarch and one tablespoon flour to add thickness. Garnishes: Your soup may benefit from adding texture in the form of a garnish. Try bacon pieces, tortilla strips (packaged to be salad topping), croutons (make your own by slicing and toasting bread sticks), oyster crackers, or crispy rice noodles. A dollop of sour cream or a sprinkle of grated cheese is a nice enrichment. Making a batch of soup has been a Saturday morning ritual at my house for years. I freeze it in individual portion sizes. It’s great to have a stash on hand for evenings when we have no time or energy to cook. And I get enjoyment out of occasionally sharing packages with friends and family! Italian Meatball Soup 1 cup onion, minced ½ cup carrots, shredded ½ cup celery, thinly sliced 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons olive oil 1-2 cloves garlic, minced 2- 32 oz boxes low sodium chicken broth 2 cups small ring pasta, cooked 1- 14 ounce bag turkey meatballs, thawed 1- 15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained 1 – 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes, not drained Season to your liking with basil, oregano, salt and pepper Parmesan cheese, shredded Cooking instructions Sauté the onion, carrots and celery in the butter and olive oil until softened. Add garlic toward the end of the cooking process. Pour in chicken broth. Add all remaining ingredients except the cheese. Cook over medium heat until all ingredients are heated through. Top each serving with a sprinkle of Parmesan. Makes 8 – 1½ cup servings This can be easily modified to suit your taste. Add more beans, leave out the tomatoes, use Italian sausage instead of meatballs, use rice instead of pasta. It easily goes together in less than one hour. Pam Vukelic Pam Vukelic is an online FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) instructor for the Missouri River Educational Consortium. As Grandma to Connor, Elvin, and Claire, she is familiar with the values and joys of reading to children! Pam splits her time between Bismarck and The Villages in Florida.
The Power of Kindness
By Noreen Keesey This article did not start out being about kindness. I am not even sure how the topic ended up capturing my attention, but I am getting used to following where my thoughts lead without asking too many questions. I chuckle as I write that because some of you know how much I love questions. But, back to the topic at hand. The philosopher Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” On the surface, that seems like pretty easy advice and can perhaps be taken lightly. In the world as we know it, kindness can seem insignificant compared to the problems showing up on TV, radio, and our various social media feeds. There is war, hunger, violence, natural disasters, political turmoil, illness, debilitating human emotions, disease, death, and more. It seems you cannot go a day without evidence of human suffering. With all that going on around us, what can one person do? More than you might think. Do not underestimate the power of kindness, though it may be easy and seem insignificant. Kindness in its simplest form can be a smile, a compliment, or a minute of assistance. A few days ago, a man helped me wrangle a 12-foot section of corrugated plastic into my car. I had not asked for help, but it was apparently clear that I needed it. The gentleman’s assistance took only a few moments, but it made my day. Not only was I grateful right then, but I have thought of his kindness several times over the last days and it gives me a little lift each time. The thing is, the man may have thought his assistance was insignificant, but his kindness made a difference to me. Years ago, my sister was killed in a car crash. At the time of her death, she was on vacation in Florida, my parents were out of the country for a family wedding, and my other sister lived halfway across the country. Friends and strangers offered help in ways that still bring tears to my eyes when I think about them. I cannot possibly list all the ways that people offered comfort and assistance, but the support given to me and my family made our grief more bearable, and when I think of that horrible time I cannot help but to also remember the kindnesses that were extended to us. Research has shown that there are real benefits to being kind to others, but sometimes the person we most need to extend kindness to is ourselves. How often has that voice in your head listed your faults and flaws in a way that you would never speak to another? Our internal critic can be harsh and unforgiving. We can spend so much of our time and energy on taking care of work and family and responsibilities that we end up exhausted, cranky, or overwhelmed. If you find yourself in any of these states, or realize that your inner critic is on a rampage, please do yourself a favor and do something kind for yourself. The benefit of being kind to yourself may be evident, but the impact of kindness offered to others may never be known. I do not have answers for all the challenges that we face, but I do think Plato was on to something. Whenever you can, be kind. It can be cheap, easy, and life changing. Noreen is a leadership coach and trainer who believes deeply in the Army leadership principle: “Know yourself and seek self-improvement.” She enjoys reading, watching movies, and laughing with friends over a good cocktail. She is uncomfortable with small talk and is scared of moths.
Look What She Did: Annette Willis
By Marci Narum Bismarck’s business community has another new kid on the block. But she’s been around the block and can tell you all the highlights, stories, and history of it too. In September Annette Willis launched the Bismarck Tour Company. It offers a variety of tours of Bismarck for groups of ten or more; conventions, reunions, or friends enjoying a night on the town. “When you walk through a community you don’t know the stories,” Annette explains. “You can appreciate the architecture and a busy street full of activity but something happened to create that street. There are people that lived there and stories that happened. Peacock Alley is filled with stories. Bismarck was once called the “Wickedest City in the West.” “I want to make sure those stories don’t get lost. A lot of local people don’t know there are underground tunnels downtown and those tunnels are still running and functioning.” Annette has been giving tours for the Bismarck-Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau for about 18 years. The CVB calls on her when a bus group is in town and requests a tour of the city. She will continue to provide step-on tours through her new business, along with walking tours of downtown Bismarck, ghost tours with Stacy Sturm, and Native American tours led by Dakota Goodhouse. Click here to find out more.
Look What She Did: Erika Gallaway
By Jody Kerzman Art has always been a part of Erika Gallaway’s life, and now, her artwork is larger than life. Erika is one of the artists whose work has transformed a downtown Bismarck alley into a piece of art. Erika’s inspiration for her mural came from a smaller piece she created for an art show. “I used henna powder and acrylic paint together and created a bison on an 8×10 piece of canvas,” says Erika. “I still have that piece.” It’s become her inspiration piece: it inspired her to apply for one of the artist spots for Art Alley, partly because that piece fit the alley’s theme, “Reflections of North Dakota.” “There’s nothing more North Dakotan than the bison,” says Erika, a lifelong North Dakotan and a 2013 graduate of Bismarck High School. “I incorporated the henna tattoo look into my design. The henna designs bring something unrelated to the Bison and represent sort of a culture clash; what’s happening in North Dakota right now.” She made some changes to the original design, and of course made it much bigger. Working in two to four hour shifts, Erika spent about eight days painting her mural. She finished just in time to head back to college at UND, where she is majoring in criminal justice and minoring in psychology. Bismarck AlleyArt is a partnership between the Dakota West Arts Council, a 2016 Leadership Bismarck Mandan Project Team, and the community of Bismarck. Click here to learn more or visit their Facebook page.
Look What She Did: Pink it Forward
By Jody Kerzman “What can I do to help?” It’s a question four North Dakota women heard many, many times while fighting their breast cancer battles. Tammy Svalen-Gimbel was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2011. She wasn’t the first in her family: by the time Tammy was diagnosed, her grandmother, mother, three out of five aunts, and one cousin had all had the disease. “One month after I was diagnosed, my cousin Kristin was also diagnosed with breast cancer,” remembers Tammy. “Two months into my treatment, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time. A month later, my sister, RueAnn, had a mammogram and a spot was found.” After their treatments and double mastectomies the sisters felt the need to give back. A cousin, Deanne Feyereisen-Leier, who had also fought breast cancer and her daughter, Kayla Leier, jumped on board, and their non-profit organization Pink it Forward was born. “We have all be affected by breast cancer. We fought the battle and want to give back,” says RueAnn Svalen-Gallagher. All four women are now cancer free, but they continue to give back in many ways, whether it’s pajamas for mastectomy patients, a blanket to provide warmth and comfort, or treatment kits for those going through treatments, they are constantly helping. To learn more, visit their website.