Brain cancer: ibis, award, infusion, snowstorm

Driving over the mountains for Richard’s brain cancer treatment is always interesting in winter, but by May, I expect the weather to have settled down. Not necessarily so, I learned this trip.

We left Tuesday noon in a chill wind, and stopped briefly to ogle a flock of migrating white-faced ibis feeding in a hayfield before we climbed the first mountain pass. From a distance, white-faced ibis look black, like crows but with long legs, elongated necks, and down-curved bills. (They’re named for the thin white line encircling the base of their bill, something you can see only up close, on personal acquaintance.)


In yesterday’s sunlight, their plumage dazzled with iridescent color: chocolate brown with a hint of cinnamon and magenta, and blue-green wings. They were probing the wet soil with those characteristic curving bills for invertebrates, soil-dwelling insect larvae, land snails, pill bugs–their appetite for such “pests” makes them every farmer’s friend.

From there, the wind blew us most of the way to Denver across brown and parched mountain ridges. In the city, we headed for the annual awards banquet of the Colorado Authors League, the state’s oldest writers group. (It was founded 80 years ago, in 1931, when, as radio personality and author Irene Rawlings, the keynote speaker noted, hardback books cost twenty-five cents. Yet people still bought them–even with Depression-era unemployment headed to 25 percent.)


When the awards ceremony began, I was engrossed in talking about how to recognize and nurture the unique gifts each of us bring to this life with one of my favorite Colorado writers, Page Lambert. I knew my WildLives CD was a finalist in the essay category, but it was up against some beautiful work, so I was stunned when I heard my name. The judges called the work “well-written and gently melodic,” saying “[It] draws in the listener and evokes delightful images while exploring a facet of the world around us. Magic.” What a beautiful accolade!

The CAL award is especially poignant coming so close to Mother’s Day, since the CD project, a compilation of 28 favorite commentaries from my long-running “WildLives” radio show, began as a gift for my mom when she was in hospice care, bedridden, and wanted to my voice for company and comfort.


Thanks to my colleagues in Colorado Authors League for the support, to musician (and neighbor) David Tipton, who composed and played the music on his Chapman Stick, and also produced the CD, and to artist (and neighbor) Sherrie York for the great cover design. And to Mom, for the love and inspiration…

The next morning we woke to pouring rain, chill temperatures, and a low cloud ceiling, a prescription for snow in the mountains. But it was infusion day, so I ignored the weather–until later. 

The first order of business was Richard’s consult with his oncologist. We arrived bearing a box of heritage tomato, basil, and oriental eggplant starts I had saved for her from our indoor “farm.” Her delighted smile when she saw the greenery was priceless. Richard’s bloodwork looked good, so off we went to the infusion center, where he was ushered to a comfy recliner in a room with a few other patients, and hooked up with an IV.

Over the next three hours, he got a bag of saline to bump up his sodium levels and flush his kidneys, a bag of dexamethzone (the steroid he takes to relieve his brain swelling), a bag of an anti-nausea drug, and for the final 90 minutes, a bag of Avastin, the chemo we hope will give his body the help it needs to shrink his glioblastoma into inactivity.

All went smoothly, so at a bit before noon, we headed back out into the cold rain, and set off to do our city errands, including tending to my dad’s new iMac, after which we headed home over the mountains. And that’s when the trip turned interesting, because it was indeed snowing uphill.


A lot. At Conifer, the snow blanket looked to be about eight inches deep with more falling.

Steamingroad Southparksnow

Fortunately, it wasn’t sticking on the highway, and the traffic was light, so we chugged home at a safe speed, admiring the gift of white and wet soaking the drought-dusty forest and high grassland. 


We arrived home at last in the quiet dusk. We inhaled the fragrance of spring rain awakening our garden and saw fresh white snow on the peaks above town.

So here we are, tired but feeling good–and appreciating all over again the gift of each day. That’s a fine place to be.