Category Archives: One thing I have learned…

Thankful to give yet another update…

Thankful to give yet another update…

Who would have thought God would grant 8 years, 9 months and 22 days of beautiful life to a pancreatic cancer patient? Well that just goes to show you that miracles DO happen! I am so thankful and beyond blessed.

I also know how how blessed i am to have a support group that surrounds me with love, hugs and prayers every step of the way. And, that He sent me my Joseph, TommyZ and my beautiful children and family and close friends to encourage and give me a hug when I need one. There are many out there fighting this battle each day alone. (So many prayers we send for them.)

Well, our hope for success with immunotherapy has not happened. The MRI and CT scans revealed yesterday that we need to look at other options. But, praise God…I have options!

As you know, in October 2019 I decided to take a break from chemotherapy. The difficult drugs, Gemzar and Abraxane that had brought me into remission left me feeling the terrible effects of 18 months of infusions. I needed a break. So we stopped. And thankfully for three years I was able to live a full and happy life thinking I would never take chemo again.

They say “never say never.” Well, how true a statement that is! Soon I will begin the chemo infusions that my body responded to so well before. Hopefully they will do their magic once again and stop the slow and steady growth of the cells that threaten to steal my life.

So many beautiful things have happened in my life since that diagnosis. And thanks to the medical discoveries that continue I am feeling pretty good. In March we will see our oldest granddaughter walk down the aisle with the love of her life. Tommy and I will celebrate our 40th year of marriage in August! Jude, my little carrot sent from God will turn 9! Jude and the other four grandchildren born since my diagnosis run through the house almost daily bringing me such joy. And, we all manage to visit the farm regularly. How beautiful is all of that?

As I embark on a rough road ahead, I am grateful for all of you. I am grateful to have my Lord holding my hand along the way and leading me to the next decision with confidence.

Humbled by your love and prayers and grateful for the strength He provides to take the next step.



For eight years I have been working on my memoire. When I was feeling up to it, I would write never having any expectations for a book, Maybe it would be a kind of history I could share with family. Maybe it would just end up in my trash.

As time went on I felt a sense of healing when I recounted uncomfortable memories from my past. And, as I transferred my pain onto the written page I began to see even more clearly how God had been weaving my life’s story.

What once seemed like a series of very rough patches prepared me for what was to come. Much of it might be shocking. A friend who edited the book said I took my clothes off and ran naked down the street! But, the many, many wonderful people I met along the way are important pieces of this story. (You know who you are!)The pain I had endured was transformed into abundant blessing. The love I received was greater than anything I could have ever dreamed of.

Soon, this book will go to press. It will be available on Amazon. If you choose to purchase it, the proceeds will go to research to help us discover an early detection of pancreatic cancer. Maybe it will save lives. Expecting to publish late February.

More importantly, my truth will clearly reveal how having a relationship with Jesus Christ will change your life forever and give you peace and comfort as you live out your own trials and pain. If you are searching for something missing in your life, maybe this book will lead you to what I discovered.

We all have a story, a testimony that we live each and every day. We can choose how that story ends, happily ever after or not. I believe we are all woven into unique pieces of fabric if we just place our trust in the one who is walking beside us every step of the way it will float through the air toward heaven and be beautiful to behold.



We arrived Sunday to brisk temperatures excited to get the farm ready for family that would begin to arrive on Tuesday. We would enjoy our second Thanksgiving with our family in our very special place and we couldn’t wait to smell the turkey and fixings fill the house.

Since my last post I have had four infusions of immunotherapy and my MRI and scans two weeks ago were thankfully…stable! We are good until January unless another bought with pancreatitis rears it’s nasty head. One of my friends described me as a Whack-A-Mole and I couldn’t agree more.

Today, before the craziness ensues I wanted to share our gratitude to everyone and our wishes for you to have a wonderful Thanksgiving, wherever you might be. Please know that we pray for all of you and your families. We can never express how much we appreciate the cards, the words of encouragement, the visits and the well wishes and more.

Enjoy this week together and be sure to give thanks to the one who makes it all possible.

Expect the unexpected

Expect the unexpected

My shower was quick but I allowed the warm water to stream down slowly rinsing the suds from my hair. Just two appointments today, a routine blood workup, probably a couple of vials for Guardant for the cancer study and then the usual Complete Blood Count and Extended Metabolic/Electrolyte panel. Then consult with my oncologist Dr. Hani Babiker to discuss the results of Friday’s CT and MRI. Tommy and I should be eating breakfast by 10:30AM. Tomorrow was the big day, an Electrocardiogram and then our first meeting with Dr. Stauffer, the surgeon who would perform my “out of the box” surgery to remove my tumor and clean up some other questionable’s deep within my stomach area on August 17th, just nine days from today.

The bloodwork results came in in record time and as I reviewed the results in my portal only one value stood out….white blood cell count was 4.1. It had never been that high before. In fact, three weeks ago it was 1.2 and below the mid range. Oh well, everything else looked ok to me.

Dr. Babiker entered the room and after hello’s were exchanged he pulled his chair close to the sofa where Tommy and I sat. He told me he was sorry I had been feeling weak and tired. (Tommy had shared this information with him via text a few days before.) And, I am also sorry to tell you this is most likely the result of the spreading cancer. He referred to the CT and MRI reports as showing no reduction in the size of the tumor in my pancreas and even a slight growth of the lung tumors, but more concerning was the addition of more leisons on and near the liver.

He shared that surgery was no longer an option.

This news took both of us by complete surprise. He further explained it would be a difficult surgery that would require five to six weeks of healing for a healthy person. There was no way to know how far the cancer had spread and to endure this kind of surgery and then not have a good outcome, it just would not be wise.

He was thinking aloud as he offered options of chemotherapy and immunotherapy and even attempt to create a vaccine from my own cells to fight off the cancer. But, that would take time. I didn’t have to decide today, but I would need to decide soon.

As I write this I am filled with disappointment, but, also gratitude. As my Joseph sat beside me and tried to verbally confirm what we were both hearing the doctor say, his voice quivered. He needed to understand precisely what was happening so he could report to our children the complete and utter reality. I am thankful to have walked beside this godly man for 39 of my years on the earth.

He walked me to my car and hugged me before I got into the car. It was certainly not the news we expected today yet we both know God is in complete control. We drove directly to church and prayed, cried and laughed as we sat in the empty church we both agreed was the place we had always come to celebrate, to mourn, to seek answers and to praise.

No matter what is ahead we can handle it because we believe in a God who has shown us repeatedly miracle after miracle and grace upon grace with each new day.

Today I pray for discernment. For God to guide me to make the best decision. I pray for an answer.

This man…

This man…

Happy Father’s Day to this gem! What an amazing man you are. Your love of God, LIFE and love itself are just amazing examples of how to live your best life on earth. You are a loving son, brother, husband, father, uncle, poppa, entrepreneur, and friend to countless others. Never a day goes by that you don’t thank God for the blessings He has showered us with. You make others want to be better. You make us all laugh and are constantly on the search for the next family adventure. The love that you show to all of us who know you is your hallmark. We hope you feel the love this Father’s Day and every day. I am so fortunate God placed you in my life as my best friend, soulmate, caregiver and traveler on this journey called life. We love you to the moon.

The value of friendship

The value of friendship

Spring Break 2022 – Z Family Farm

We moved to Ponte Vedra Beach in May 1993 when Lindsay and Louis were seven and six. They enrolled at Ponte Vedra Palm Valley (PVPV) first and second grades. Lindsay met Whitney that year and they are friends to this day. A couple of years later, Sammie moved to PVB and met the girls and they too are friends to this day. A couple of years later, they all met Audrey and remain close friends to this day. The girls shared graduation parties, jobs, bridal showers and bachelorette parties, weddings, baby showers, babies and all of the birthdays in between.

The girls have laughed, loved, cried and partied together for twenty-nine years. Every talent show, basketball championship, first date, heartbreak, engagement, illness of a family member, wedding and birth was shared. A strong bond grew from these life experiences and a deep love and respect for each other.

This spring break, we had the opportunity to share our little slice of heaven with the girls, some of the husbands, some of the mothers and all of the children. What a time we had. We shared memories and created even more. But, the most important thing we all took away from the weekend was how important these friendships are in our lives.

I pray YOU will embrace the ones in your life who have stuck with you through all of life’s ups and downs.

And then there were three

And then there were three

It has been quite the learning experience since we purchased our farm in Western North Carolina’s Cane Creek Valley. Neither Tommy or I had much experience with animals other than domestic dogs or fish. The dreams of our “Biggest Little Farm” being home to sweet farm animals has taught us what farm life really is all about.

Our beautiful farm with thirty-two acres, seven pastures, an open barn with four stalls, a goat barn and pen and two chicken coops enticed us to offer a forever home to any and all types. But, we knew we needed to start slowly. We wanted to find the perfect caretaker to watch over our flock and provide the time for daily chores of feeding mucking stalls and protecting what have become our mountain pets.

Fortunately we found Danny. Born and raised in this small mountain town, he owns horses and works for other neighbors attending to their properties and animals on a daily basis. He is a great fixer and can tackle any job that might arise. And, if he doesn’t know how to fix it chances are pretty good he has a cousin who can.

We started out with seven Lavender Orpington chickens recommended by our niece who has a small farm in the Eastern North Carolina coastal town of Wilmington. She searched Craigs’ List and found a breeder just twenty miles from us. Upon visiting the breeder we purchased seven six week old unsexed chicks. (The seventh chick lived just two days.) And then there were six.

It was fun preparing the chicken coop to meet Brie’s specifications. Her Dad and brother helped us with repairs while I visited the local feed and seed to find chicken pellets and bedding she said would provide the proper nutrition and make their new home comfortable.

It would be another four and a half months before the chickens would attain sexual maturity and begin to lay eggs. Our hope was that at least one of the fluffy lilac feathered birds would be a rooster, but it was too early to be sure. It ended up all six were hens.

Most of the summer was spent watching those six chickens grow and embrace their surroundings. When we added two goats to the adjacent goat pen and barn they all seemed to live in harmony. When the grandchildren visited, especially the five youngest age seven to just months old, they were intrigued by these gentle birds. They would rush out of bed mornings to let out the chickens so they could roam free range on our fenced land.

Pets need names we agreed. But it was impossible to tell them apart and the names the children tried to attach to them didn’t seem to stick except for one name…”Karen”. There was one Lavender who was always lagging behind or on her own agenda picking at bugs and seeds as the rest of the flock quickly waddled back to the coop each afternoon when I called them to return for the night. Typical to her name, Karen was the exception.

As they matured we were thrilled to see the small brown eggs they produced. Each afternoon we would collect one, then two then four or five of the most delicious eggs on the planet. The kids learned how to gently wash the clear dry membrane from the shells and place the eggs in cartons in the refrigerator to await breakfast the next day. If the membrane was not washed clean, the eggs could be kept on the kitchen counter indefinitely. It was a personal choice.

By late fall the golden and fire-red leaves had fallen and the mountain took on a completely different appearance as winter approached, the first signs of the seasons and the circle of life at the farm. Birds of prey began to soar and dart through the sky. Red-Tailed Hawk were famous for attacking chickens, but our neighbor felt our chickens were too plump for the hawks to carry away. So we just admired the beauty of these large birds visiting our home.

Until one day in late December…all six chickens would visit our main house searching the gardens for bugs and seeds. I would always reward them with a treat of dried mealworms when they tapped on my kitchen door windows. They expected a treat from their adopted mother.

One afternoon all six chickens had made their daily visit. I was talking to Tom on the phone when I looked out past the deck to see a large Lavender laying on the grass very still! As I frantically ran to it’s aid I heard the cry of the hawk as he observed me from a nearby maple tree. I ran to the house to grab my phone to take a picture. When I returned, the hawk was back perched on the chickens back. After videoing for a few seconds, I flung my arms at the predator and he flew back into the tree.

The other five chickens were gathered under the evergreens in a nearby garden. They looked like statues as they huddled to protect one another. After removing their fallen sister, I attempted to entice the group back to the safety of their coop. Once inside they remained for three days. Now there were five.

Tommy and I spent most of January at our home in Florida as Danny cared and protected the animals in our absence. Each day I would have him report on all of the animals but mainly wanted to know if any more chickens had been attacked. Regretfully, one day he reported that one more Lavender had been lost to a predator. Now there were four.

When I returned to the farm in late February, I was sad to see the remaining flock. They seemed as sad as me. They had changed their routine, never to return to the main house and staying in the thicket adjacent to the chicken coop. But, one late afternoon as I was walking down to put the chickens to bed, I heard squawking. I noticed the goats and the donkeys gathering and looking toward the coop. As I ran toward the noise I found the injured half-dead beauty laying close to the fence. While I knew I couldn’t help her, I searched the coop to see where the other three were hiding. As I peered in the dark coop I didn’t see any signs of the others.

I ran along the fence calling the ladies and ruffling the bag of dried worms that always brought them running for a treat. Nothing! Finally huddled like a statue along the fence I found one lonely chicken. I managed to entice her back to the coop where once reunited, the two others hiding behind their food bin began to make soft sounds. And then there were three.

What we have learned in this short ten months of farm ownership is what nature provides is there for the survival of many others…all of them having a unique purpose.

The beauty, the miraculous purpose of each animal has touched our hearts. But the true lesson, all Gods creatures big and small are all part of the circle of life.

Today I saw the first sign that spring is coming. I saw a red-breasted Robin. There is always hope.

Hebrews 1:10-12  “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”

A little slice of heaven

A little slice of heaven
A little slice of heaven

Whenever I think of it the song that plays during the marketing video created by the previous owner loops through my mind. We finally found our legacy property to be enjoyed for generations after a three year search in the beautiful mountains that surround Asheville. It had to be special. It truly is a little slice of heaven.

We dreamed of having a place for our large family to gather or even just visit to escape the heat of the Florida summers or to enjoy the winter season with an occasional snowfall and of course to enjoy farm animals or relax by the fire along the creek. And God led us to this amazing place. Something for everyone to enjoy as our forever getaway.

This month we celebrated my seven year survival from Pancreatic Cancer. There are no numbers that support this miracle. We give God the complete glory for this . I know He sees the desires of our heart. He is capable of not just answering our dreams but He is capable of complete healing.

We found a place to relax and discover more of God’s masterful creation on earth. All the while creating memories with family and friends.

While there will always be bumps in the road, we cherish each new sunrise with hope knowing today is not the day. And, we will make the best of it.

A Mother’s Guilt

A Mother’s Guilt

Have you ever felt you just don’t measure up as a Mother? Believe me, I am pretty sure we all feel less than perfect when it comes to being the most influential person in your child’s life, the biggest responsibility we are given. After all, as they say, kids don’t come with an instruction booklet. We are all thrust into this land called motherhood with little experience.

Louis was always a sensitive and sweet boy. He was quick to hug and kiss and always brought a smile to our faces with his dance moves and his love for entertaining all of us. His heart was pure and his spirit was gentle.

When he was around ten years old his Father decided he needed a little toughening up. He registered Louis for Pop Warner Football, a sport Louis had never shown an interest for.

At the time I was working in a management position, a very rewarding but requiring position, with a large financial services company. My work schedule was demanding. Fortunately Tom’s job as a manufacturers rep allowed him flexibility so he was available for our two smallest children. He was a hands on Dad able to pick up the slack when I had to be at the office.

We had bought a small pair of cleats and the equipment required to join the little league football team hoping to muster interest from our gentle little guy. And, the day finally arrived when he was to report to his coach and team. Unfortunately Tom had an appointment he could not reschedule so he dropped Louis off at the practice field with some encouraging words and a big hug and watched as Louis slowly made his way to the group of players assembled around the coaches.

My cell phone rang while I was at work and I picked up the call from an unfamiliar number.

“Is this Louis’s Mother?” she asked.

“Yes, I am Louis’s Mom, is he all right?” I replied.

“Well, he is but he seems a little upset at the moment. He has been sitting on a curb in the parking lot crying.” she said.

I felt my heart fall suddenly deep to my stomach. There is no worse feeling than to know your child is upset and you are a twenty minute car ride from him.

“I’m on my way, can you stay until I get there?” I replied.

The kind lady agreed and I grabbed my purse and ran to my car.

When I reached the field, I could see Louis still sitting on the curb wiping the tears away from his freckled cheeks as this angel of a Mom sat next to him, soothing him as best she could.

“I don’t want to play football.” Louis pleaded through the tears. “They want me to hit and be rough.”

That day ended Louis’ football career. But, as God would have it, he took up the game of golf, which he was perfectly suited for. And he loved it and was highly competitive.

When I reflect over the years of raising our children, there are many mistakes we have made. But, we have honed and sharpened our parenting skills over the years. And while we still make mistakes, the good far outweighs the bad.

God gives us charge over these little mini-humans and leads us along the way. If we raise them in faith and love, praying for them and providing a solid foundation, the little mistakes serve as lessons that strengthen them right along with us, as parents.

Today, Louis is the proud father of two little children and one on the way. He and his wife are figuring it all out too, just as we did and our parents before us.

Don’t be so tough on yourselves. Use each lesson as a tool to grow your skills. The rewards are greater than any other gift you are given.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Month…Podcast

November is Pancreatic Cancer Month…Podcast

In 2019 Leslie Bishop, Field Development – Boston Scientific< Inc. produced a podcast to be used during windshield time by employees designed to give a patients perspective on a pancreas cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Here is the first of two podcasts: while Dying_ Judy’s Story.mp3?dl=0

In 2020, Leslie revisited me to provide an update on my PC journey as a 6 .5 year survival.