Local hero U.S. Army Spc. Braden Long

I’m honoring veterans this week.

I took this photo in 2007 and it’s one of my all-time favorites. Airman Bill Long stands in salute as a mournful “Taps” sounds from a single trumpet at the graveside services for Long’s brother, Spc. Braden Joseph Long Sunday afternoon, Aug. 19, at Cedarlawn Memorial Park in Sherman.

Salute to Spc Braden Long

Spc. Long was killed in battle in Iraq Aug. 4, 2007. In the background of the picture is an honor-guard detail from the Sherman Police Department, also standing in salute and further back is part of the Patriot Guard line surrounding the grave site holding U.S. flags. Members of the Sherman Fire Department were also present to honor Sherman’s fallen warrior.

The story of Spc. Braden Joseph Long, by Joyce Godwin appeared in the Herald Democrat Aug. 20, 2007.

A 2005 graduate of Sherman High School, he is remembered for his infectious smile, love of cars, love for his family and the intense desire to serve his country.

Spc. Long died of injuries sustained when his Humvee came under grenade attack in Baghdad just three days shy of his 20th birthday. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.

During his short military career, Spc. Long earned the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Badge, Iraqi Campaign Medal and Global War on Terrorism Medal. He served as a gunner.

Chaplain Ken Sorenson told mourners at Faith Church of Sherman that one of the outstanding features of Spc. Long was his smile. His father added in a later telephone interview that his son’s smile was always there. Sorenson used the letters in ‘smile’ to describe Spc. Long to family and friends who flocked to his funeral. ‘S’ was for Specialist, Braden’s army rank. ‘M’ was for military. He said Spc. Long wanted to join the military since he was a little boy. ‘I’ was for his intelligence in choosing a supportive wife like Teresa and for choosing the Army. ‘L’ stood for likeable. Sorenson said Spc. Long was an incredibly loving person. “I can see why Teresa would fall in love with him,” Sorenson said.

Lastly, ‘E’ stood for excellence. He described Spc. Long as determined to do the right thing. He would always fulfill his commitments.

Sorenson referred to the scripture Romans 5:7-8. “Christ died for us. There is something about a man who is willing to die for those he doesn’t even know…day after day, a willingness to sacrifice his all for people who didn’t know him, much like his Savior did 2,000 years ago,” he said.

Later in the service, Sorenson said, “Freedom is never free and his (Spc. Long’s) death serves as a reminder of the cost.”

Following the final prayer, the slow cadence of marching military began to echo across the auditorium and grew louder as the military honor guard advanced through the church isle to retrieve Spc. Long’s casket.

Mourners poured from the church and the unmistakable roar of motorcycle engines could be heard as the Patriot Guard prepared to escort Spc. Long and his family to Cedarlawn Memorial Park for the final farewell. This was the third part of the Guard’s mission for Spc. Long.

The Patriot Guard escorted Spc. Graden Long from the time he arrived at the Grayson County Airport to his final resting place at Cedarlawn Park in Sherman. Seen here, the flag bearers formed a wall around the graveside and mourners to protect them from possible intruders/disrupters.

The Patriot Guard escorted Spc. Graden Long from the time he arrived at the Grayson County Airport to his final resting place at Cedarlawn Park in Sherman. Seen here, the flag bearers formed a wall around the graveside and mourners to protect them from possible intruders/disrupters.

Riders met the plane bearing Spc. Long’s casket at Grayson County Airport the Thursday, Aug. 16, and escorted him to Waldo Funeral Home in Sherman. Then the Guard stood in a protective formation around the funeral home during the family’s visitation Friday.

With flags unfurled in the wind, the motorcycles escorted Spc. Long and his family and friends to Cedarlawn.

As the procession passed each police sentry at various intersections on the procession route through Sherman, the officer sentry boarded his unit with lights flashing and joined the end of the procession until there were 10 cruisers bringing up the rear.

Sherman firefighters also honored the fallen hero with a giant U.S. flag suspended between two ladder trucks for the procession to pass under as it turned into Cedarlawn from Texoma Parkway. From that point, the procession stretched west on FM 691 all the way to U.S. Highway 75.

A U.S. Army representative presents the purple heart to Spc. Braden Long's mother at the close of his funeral at the raveside service for Spc. Braden Joseph Long  Aug. 19, 2007, at Cedarlawn Memorial Park in Sherman.

A U.S. Army representative presents the purple heart to Spc. Braden Long’s mother at the close of his funeral at the raveside service for Spc. Braden Joseph Long Aug. 19, 2007, at Cedarlawn Memorial Park in Sherman.

Inside the funeral tent, the awards earned by Spc. Long were each presented to his wife, Teresa, his mother, Melanie Thrasher, and his father.

When a mournful “Taps” sounded out from a single trumpet, military and police alike raise their hands in salute. Then Airman Bill Long, Spc. Long’s older brother who was sitting with the family, stood slowly, turned toward the ceremony and raised his salute. Airman Long, served as escort for his brother’s final return to Sherman. He was his mother’s support along with her husband, Bobby Thrasher, throughout the services.

Hours after the funeral, Spc. Long’s father described their son as a normal teen while he was growing up. “But then, when you look back, you see a teen that almost never caused trouble,” William Long said. “He was focused in wanting to go into the Army and that’s what he did. He was a fantastic kid and a wonderful husband for his wife, and we are really going to miss him.”

William Long commented on the military honors during his son’s service. “The amount of people that showed up was way beyond our expectations,” he added. “We knew the Patriot Guard was coming but we didn’t know how many there would be.”

Sparky Cox of Sherman served as one of the Ride Captains for the Patriot Guard along with Mike Grove of Bells and Gary Winters of Sherman. Cox reported there were 129 motorcycles and several cars carrying Patriot Guard members who came from as far away as Waurika, Okla to the north and Fort Worth and Garland to the South.

William Long said his son was doing what he wanted. “He wanted to join and signed up and enlisted right after his 17th birthday, but couldn’t go in for basic training until eight months later,” William Long said. “He was unbelievably proud to wear the uniform and his whole family was very proud of him.”

Spc. Long was sworn into the Army Oct. 2, 2004. He left for basic training June 28, 2005  at Fort Knox, Ky. He was deployed to Iraq Feb 8, 2007.

He is the fourth military personnel, and the fifth over all, from the Texoma area to die while serving in support of the war against terrorism.

If you know a veteran, get him or her to tell their story. They all have one worth hearing and remembering.  #tellaveteransstory #thankavet #honorveterans

WWII Navy Pilot gets Navy Cross

WWII Navy pilot

Lt. John Tarwater as seen during World War II in one of the many varied planes he flew as a carrier pilot.

one story about a WWII Navy pilot for Veterans Day

Mrs. Tarwater wasn’t happy in 1941 when her son John said he was going to leave school to join the military. After all, he was in college on a basketball scholarship and headed for a good career in his chosen sport. He was the only son of a farming family and that would keep him safe from any military draft, but Tarwater wanted to go.

WWII U.S. Navy Pilot

Lt. John Tarwater in his aviator gear during World War II. This photo appears on the website that describes Tarwater’s efforts in earning his prestigious Navy Cross April 17, 1945.

He said the bombing at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, made him mad, and he was determined to go in spite of his mother’s objections. He entered the recruiting office and saw a Navy representative on the left and an Army rep on his right. He said the Navy guy was the first one he reached.

Four years later, Tarwater earned the Navy Cross (the Navy’s highest honor), the Distinguished Flying Cross several times and a chest full of others. He was a pilot assigned to the USS Lexington and later to the USS Yorktown aircraft carriers. Dodging enemy flak and kamikaze pilots was a daily event for him. But before all that started, he was just a farm boy from Kansas who attended a one-room school from the age of 7, with no greater aspirations than playing basketball.

When his Navy career began, Tarwater was anxious to get to the South Pacific to make his statement, but first came training. He gained a spot in a V-5 program where the Navy selected the best and brightest to attend college for a while and then attend flight training. A couple of days before Christmas in 1943, Tarwater received his shiny new wings that designated him as a Naval Aviator but he wasn’t sent to the South Pacific. No, his mission was to fly new Douglas Avenger TBMs and F-6Fs from the New York plant to San Francisco.

But ferrying planes across the country was not what young Tarwater had in mind for his role in the war. He wanted to be in the South Pacific. He said he found a sympathetic ear in San Francisco after landing one of his new Douglas planes. He said he told the exec there that he could be doing much more than ferrying planes and before long, he was assigned to a flying combat group being formed in Pasco, Wash. From there, the group would catch a troop ship and go to Maui Naval Air Station in Hawaii. In December, they boarded ships for Ponam Island in the Admiralty Islands.

By February 1945, Tarwater found himself included in the Admiral Marc Michner Carrier Group 58. He described how it was on board the USS Lexington on Feb. 16 as pilots and crew readied for a bombing attack on a Japanese aircraft factory 80 miles north of Tokyo. This was the day he earned the first of several Distinguished Flying Cross awards.

He said he was “freezing” aboard the carrier having sailed from two degrees below the equator where the temperature was 100 degrees and the humidity to match. They were now just a couple of hundred miles south of Tokyo where it was winter. They were “about to make history with the first strikes on the Japanese mainland since Jimmy Doolittle’s famous Tokyo raids in 1942.” Tarwater said he couldn’t sleep in his bunk and at 2 a.m. He finally gave up and headed to the “ready room” in search of hot coffee. When he arrived he discovered there were others just as restless.

They were to launch at 5 a.m. in their TBM Avengers laden with four 500-pound bombs headed 80 miles north of Tokyo to bomb the Nakajima aircraft plant. Everyone knew it was a dangerous mission, and the normally boisterous pilots were unusually serious on that morning.

Tarwater said he remembers the weather being overcast that morning as he and the Torpedo Squadron 9 flight arrived over the target area. “Flying instruments in formation with wing tips just a few feet apart is not for the faint of heart,” Tarwater said. “We started our letdown and broke out at about 1,000 feet, and the Japanese had a greeting committee waiting.”

Tarwater’s citation states, “As pilot of a carrier-based torpedo bomber, he pressed his attach through intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire to score direct hits on the target, causing extensive damage. During the attack, two planes in the formation were crippled, and the entire flight thereby was forced to proceed at reduced speed under constant attack by enemy fighters. In the resulting air battle, fought across 80 miles of the Japanese homeland, his courage under fire and superior airmanship were at all times in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

By the following April, Tarwater was aboard the USS Yorktown because the Lexington was taken in for minor repairs. He described the activities of April 17, the day he earned the Navy Cross. “The Yorktown’s smoke-filled ready room quieted as the skipper on that morning emphasized that a remnant of the Japanese fleet was still out there and he intended to find and sink them,” he said. There were no bombs on this mission. The torpedo was the ordinance of choice.”

Tarwater said they climbed through overcast skies and were skimming along the tops of lily white clouds in loose formation. “The skipper signaled for a penetration descent and down we went,” he said. “Breaking out at the bottom of the overcast, a huge ship filled my windscreen.” He said he was surprised with the enormity of the target but he fired and hit it dead center.

U.S. Navy Cross

Lt. John Tarwater’s Navy Cross earned during World War II on April 17, 1945.

His Navy Cross citation states, “Flying by instruments through a heavy overcast, he broke through the clouds only to be caught in a cone of intense anti-aircraft fire. Notwithstanding, he pressed home his attack to point-blank range and scored one of the five direct hits which caused the vessel to roll over and sink a minute later. While retiring, his plan was subjected to continued and intense anti-aircraft fire from the cruiser and an escorting destroyer, but, by superior airmanship, he brought his plane and crew through unscathed. His skill, daring and utter disregard for personal safety were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

By the end of World War II, Lt. Tarwater had earned 13 medals and a large number of ribbons and logged more than 2,760 flight hours and 164 carrier landings.

But his service to the Navy wasn’t finished. He was stationed at San Diego where he continued flying as the player-coach of San Diego Flyers basketball team. “We played the Globe Trotters and the famous Goose Tatum,” he said.

U.S.. Navy WWII Veteran

John Tarwater at his home in Bonham tells his remarkable story of life as a Navy pilot in World War II.

Currently, John Tarwater lives on a quiet property adjacent to Lake Bonham. He’s retired from a successful career in the newspaper business and served eight years as a member of the Silver-Haired Legislature of Texas during which time he was named the 2003 Fannin County Senior Citizen of the Year.

He’s recuperating from a stroke he suffered less than two years ago and said he gets really good care from his son, Douglas Tarwater. “I’m in a program that allows veterans to stay in the home,” he said. “A nurse comes every two weeks and a doctor comes by once a month to see me. The nurse is on call for anytime I need something. They treat me super.”

If you know a veteran, get him or her to tell their story. They all have one worth hearing and remembering.  #tellaveteransstory #thankavet #honorveterans

This story by Joyce Godwin appeared in the Herald Democrat November 10, 2013.

By Lynette George and Joyce Godwin

Published in the Herald Democrat July 7, 2013

It is no respecter of persons. It preys on people of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles. It often arrives as a thief in the night and can destroy the lives of its victims, their families and loved ones. It’s name — cancer.

In decades past, a diagnosis of almost any type of cancer was a death sentence for most of its victims. Today, due to breakthroughs in early diagnosis and treatment options, more than ever, cancer victims are now cancer survivors. However, the road to recovery is still a long and harrowing journey, filled with pain at times, questions and fears.

Starting this Sunday and continuing on Sunday, July 14, several local cancer survivors and patients will share portions of their own journey through cancer. They hope their stories will give others battling the disease encouragement, inspiration and motivation to continue the fight. Below, Bill Godwin of Van Alstyne and Carla Roberts of Denison talk about their experiences.

Billy with family

Joyce Godwin/Herald Democrat
In this photo, three of Bill Godwin’s grandchildren and his daughter stop for the camera the night before he reported to Baylor Medical in Dallas for surgery in September to remove a cancerous tumor. From left are Langston, 3, Godwin holding Brantley, 2 months, Jamie Roubinek holding Riverson, 2.

Bill Godwin

A bout with pneumonia lasting much longer than it should have is what led to last year’s grim discovery for Bill Godwin of Van Alstyne. Dr. George Nieburg of Sherman said he took one look at Godwin’s mis-shaped tonsil and knew he needed to see a specialist. That turned out to be Dr. W.F. Looney, who conducted a biopsy.

The results were positive for squamous cell carcinoma, and Godwin began a journey with which he was all too familiar.

“Your head is swimming with news and information to process when this happens,” Godwin said. “It’s overwhelming for anybody. Since I have done this before, I knew what I was in for and I guess that’s what made me start looking at alternative methods to fighting my disease.”

Fifteen years ago, Godwin was diagnosed with carcinogenic melanoma. Surgeries followed, and then it was a year-long treatment of high doses of interferon. The side effects were much the same as chemotherapy. For the first 30 days he received 40 million daily units of interferon. His therapy decreased to 20-million-unit injections three times weekly for the next 11 months.

This time, following Godwin’s visit with an oncologist, he was sent to a surgeon in Dallas, and within a couple of weeks the affected tonsil and surrounding soft tissue was removed through robotic surgery.

Enter Alternative Medical Center of Rowlett and Dr. Ray Hammon and a different approach to the fight against cancer. It turned out to be a good fit for Godwin and the “something different” he was looking for.


Joyce Godwin/Herald Democrat
Bill Godwin, dressed in the Baylor Medical Center hospital gown, listens to doctor’s instructions and explanations as he prepares for surgery in September at Baylor, Dallas.

Instead of chemotherapy, Godwin gets high doses of Vitamin C along with a number of other ingredients designed to defeat Godwin’s cancer. His cells were tested early in his treatment to determine what works best on him, and his therapy protocol is made just for him.

“Cancer is still the second largest killer in the U.S. behind heart disease,” Hammon said, “and the patients who take charge of their own care are the ones who do well. The patient is my boss. You have what you need because you are paying the bills.”

Hammon said what his clinic is doing is state of the art — the future of medicine. “One day, what we do will be the standard of care.” It’s tailor made for each patient and doesn’t follow protocols designed for groups of people.

Hammon also works with the patients’ oncologist, surgeon or other medical provider. He wants his patients to have all the information they need to make good, informed decisions.

For Godwin, his treatments seem to be doing what he needs. Each test to measure progress has shown improvement. He knows he still has a long way to go but says he’s going to stick with the alternative method. “I’m not sick all the time, my body seem to be tolerating my treatments and I feel good,” he said.

Godwin was recommended by doctors to have one more surgery to remove lymph nodes,  but so far he has refused. “I know I’m rolling the dice on this, but this is the way I want to go,” he said about refusing further surgery at this time. He added, “That doesn’t mean I won’t do it later, but for now, I’m going to let my treatments with Dr. Hammon run their course.”

Carla Roberts

Carla Roberts and Amber Roberts of Denison share an easy, good-natured banter mixed with generous amounts of laughter. Their smiling faces simultaneously grow somber at varying points as they address the topic of their interview. Their camaraderie is not that of just a parent and child, but of warriors strengthened in a very personal battle – Carla Roberts’ fight against breast cancer.

Statistics from the North Texas Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure show that breast cancer is significant in north Texas. The affiliate also notes that regardless of ethnicity, all women in the north Texas area exhibit higher invasive breast cancer incidence rates than the state average. The breast cancer mortality rate of 23.7 percent in Grayson County is higher than in any other north Texas counties per the Texas Cancer Registry report of 2011. The 2008 U.S. Census reports Grayson County as having the highest percentage of uninsured residents, the lowest median household income ($46,993) and the highest rate of poverty (14.4%).

Carla, age 53, says she knew there was problem in one of her breasts, but lack of insurance and money concerns stopped her from checking it right away.

“We didn’t have insurance, so I didn’t go for regular check-ups … It was in February of 2010. I knew a lump was there and the breast started changing rapidly. It was a visual change … My younger sister had been diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer three years beforehand, so I pretty well knew what mine was, and I had an uncle who had breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy” says Roberts. “I finally had to tell my husband, Bruce, and that was the hard part.”

A family friend introduced Carla to local oncologist, Dr. Linda Castillo.

“Even before having a mammogram, she pretty much looked at me and said, ‘Yes. You have breast cancer,’” recalls Carla.

Amber adds that, at Castillo’s initial diagnosis, which turned out to be correct, her mother became angry. Carla says she wasn’t so much angry as hysterical.

“I was thinking, ‘How are we going to pay for this?’ I didn’t know if I should even pursue treatment because of the money. When you’re providing for your family, a major illness can wipe you out in most cases. I think women in particular want to provide for their families more than themselves.”

Carla was also scared, remembering stories she’d heard about breast cancer. “Having cancer is kind of like being pregnant. Everyone has a different story. If you listen to them all, you’re terrified … My idea on breast cancer was stories I’d heard about my own great-grandmother dying horribly (of breast cancer) and how they could hear her screams across the cornfield.”

A mammogram, biopsy and several weeks later, Roberts was back in Castillo’s office for the verdict. She had HER2-Positive breast cancer which is reported to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer and less responsive to hormone treatment. However, there are effective treatments specifically targeted for the HER2. Castillo first advised Roberts to have a mastectomy, removing the breast.

Having to tell her family was difficult for Carla. Again, she considered not pursuing treatment. Her family disagreed.

“When mom first told me, I panicked,” says Amber. “The first thing out of her mouth was her telling me what was going on and why she shouldn’t get treated. I explained to her that she had a family that cares about her, but everything she said kept going back to the money it would take for treatment.”

Carla says her husband also supported the mastectomy and cancer treatment, even though she was quite emotional with him.

“At one point, Bruce said, ‘I don’t care if they take your breast off’ and I said ‘I don’t care if you care. I care about me,” says Carla.

Carla soon learned the importance of asking for help.

“I give all the credit to the unknown people who called and talked to me. One thing I can say is to open your mouth and ask for help. I can’t name the number of women who talked to me but I’ll never meet and who helped me put the pieces together and get through it,” says Carla. “Susan Hooper (of the local 500 Strong breast cancer support group) got me through the first steps with Susan G. Komen. One of my friends talked to Planned Parenthood and they had a wonderful lady there who helped me to get on Texas Breast and Cervical Cancer Medicaid. I’d never even heard of that … We are staunch supporters of Planned Parenthood and hate that they left Sherman.”

Amber adds, “We owe a lot to Planned Parenthood. Mom wouldn’t have known about that Medicaid program without them.”

Carla was surprised that she could get help, even before being accepted onto the special Medicaid program.

“I’d assumed the doctors and hospitals wouldn’t even take me if I didn’t have any way to pay,” says Carla. “But even the nurses at the hospitals said not to worry about it, just get in there and take my treatments … It is really overwhelming when you think about the cost of being sick in America. It’s very daunting – almost worse than the illness itself. That never occurred to me. You’re not talking $100 when you walk in the door. The very first test they did on me was several thousands of dollars!”

Once approved for Medicaid and receiving strong moral support of strangers, family and friends, Carla opted for treatment, but still had reservations.

“At first, I fought it (the mastectomy) tooth and nail. Nobody wants that (to have a breast removed) … I finally made up my mind to do the surgery, then Dr. Castillo said no, that we should do some chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor. I did about eight different sessions of chemo and I kept thinking, ‘Oh! That’s it.’ Little did I know there’d be about 20 more (chemo sessions) after the surgery.

“The tumor did shrink. You could see if shrinking, so I asked Dr. Castillo if she could save the breast. Not that I was 20 and worried about vanity, it was just terrifying,” says Carla.

A mastectomy was still needed and Roberts went through with it, her family by her side. She and Amber recall the night before surgery.

“We (Carla and Amber) sent the boys home. We got up, walked around the hospital, looked at the babies. We ordered pizza in the middle of the night and played cards. That was one of the greatest gifts Amber gave me — being there that particular night — because reality set in,” says Carla.

After the mastectomy, Carla underwent 20 more sessions of chemotherapy, followed by 35 sessions of radiation which began in the spring of 2011. In addition, she was on special medication to help keep the cancer at bay. Through her treatment, Carla continued to work, except for days here and there, and says she was never really nauseated thanks to nausea medication. She was just extremely tired and her brain wasn’t always as sharp as it had been.

“We call that chemo-brain,” Amber throws in with a big grin.

Losing a breast wasn’t the only trauma that Carla underwent.

“Don’t let anybody fool you. If a woman loses her hair, it’s one of the most traumatic things. It really hits you hard. When I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes, then I felt like a cancer patient because people could see me and say, ‘Oh. A cancer patient.’ It felt like I had a cancer sign over my head.”

A stylist at a local salon encouraged Carla to not shave her head immediately like many women do, but cut off a few inches each week so the shock of having no hair wouldn’t be so great. Carla learned to wear hats with bits of hairlike fringe, and other tips she learned from those who’d been through the cancer fire.

“My son got married shortly after I got diagnosed and I was excited … but I also bawled,” says Carla. “I’d wanted to be more involved in the wedding, but just couldn’t. His wedding was the one and only time I wore a wig.”

Recently, Carla went back for a check up and was pronounced cancer-free, a little more than three years after first being diagnosed. Carla and her family can now breath sighs of relief, but Carla says she’s still paranoid.

“If I have a pain of any kind, my mind immediately jumps into thinking it’s the cancer again,” says Carla.

Amber has taken her mother’s cancer battle to heart, trying to take better care of herself and even asking to have a mammogram, though she’s only in her 20s. She says she was frustrated that, even with the family history of cancer, she was unable to get a mammogram due to her young age. She and her mother are both sharing what they’ve learned, imparting the knowledge they’ve gained to others who may be just starting their cancer battles.

“A prime example was one day when I went apartment shopping with my brother. The lady who helped us had classic signs of cancer, so I asked her. She had breast cancer. When I told her about mom, she almost started crying. A few weeks later, I saw her somewhere when I was with my mother. I introduced her and told her my mother was a survivor! It really motivated her.”

Carla beams with pride in her daughter.

“This young lady has really taken it upon herself to talk to other 20-year-olds (about cancer). She’s talked to women her age whose mother or sister or grandmother has breast cancer. She’s talked about how to help or react to the family member and how not to be a baby and run away from the situation. I’m so proud of her. She’s talked so openly to other people about me – good or bad … I go to the cancer support group and Amber goes with me. She has embraced it and tries to help other people … And I feel guilt. I’ll worry the rest of my life that Amber could get breast cancer, even though she’s educated about the disease now.”

In encouraging others, Carla says, “Almost everybody knows somebody with breast cancer. Listen to them for ideas, tips and places to go, but you have to say ‘I need help.’ Other women will call other women and say, ‘I know this lady who has a question about this.’ To this day, people call and ask me things. I think it’s important to impart what little information you know and be supportive. All of them were so positive for me and told me I could do it. I was fortunate because I think a lot of things happened without my involvement. I’m not much of a fighter. I think it’s (her successful battle with cancer) because of the other people who were in play … The worst thing is not to talk about the cancer or not be receptive or listen. Sometimes you just want to rant and rave. You feel like it’s all unfair. Then everything is fine again … Be open to information and ideas. Especially the first four or so months, it’s just mind-boggling , all the thoughts running through your head.”

Amber adds, “The best thing to do (as a family member or friend of a cancer patient) is to let them blow through whatever they need to.”

Carla agrees, suggesting that often, the patient just needs someone with which to vent their anger, frustration, fears, sadness and confusion to. Once that’s done, the patient and their supporters can move on towards healing.

“It’s (cancer) hard in relationships, children and friends because you cling to them. It’s hard for them to understand unless they’ve walked in your shoes. You feel old and deformed with the hair loss. You think you’ll never wear a bathing suit again,” says Carla. “The worst thing is to ignore it. I think a lot of men are like that … I don’t think most men are geared that way and they hate to see their women in pain.”

According to Amber, despite the horrific scare the disease brought to the Roberts family, it also resulted in positive things.

“I think the whole cancer thing made our relationship better. And now, I can look at someone and say that I know what you’re going through because my mom told me everything.”

Both women have one last suggestion for those who become a survivor – have a celebration because life is to be celebrated!

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With the high occurrence of cancer, including breast cancer, in north Texas, a number of programs have been started to help victims and their families battle the deadly disease.

Locally, the 500 Strong program and Women Rock, Inc. are two such groups.

The Texoma Health Foundation’s (THF) 500 Strong project raises funds for the foundation’s breast cancer project. For more than seven years, the project has helped local residents with the cost of treatments and surgeries after being diagnosed with breast cancer. It is the only program in Grayson County that is set up to continue with lifesaving procedures such as chemotherapy, radiation and mastectomies without the patient having to travel to elsewhere for the procedures and treatments. The program works to raise funds for cancer patients, with 100 percent of every donation goes directly to help cover patients’ costs for treatments and for paying other bills when needed. The THF absorbs all administrative and marketing costs.

Besides providing financial assistance, there is a THF survivor support group for women fighting cancer. The group also works to raise awareness of breast cancer in the community. In addition, it oversees the Room for Hope, the brainchild of a local high school student. The Room for Hope provides free wigs, scarves, bras and prosthetics to local cancer victims.

The support group meets the second Monday of each month, 7 p.m., in the THF conference room inside Reba’s Ranch House at 5036 Reba Drive in Denison. For information about the 500 strong program, the support group or the Room for Hope, call 903-624-9831.

THF staff and volunteers note that, at present, there is a large waiting list of women in desperate need of financial assistance in fighting their cancer, so donations are especially needed.

The vision of Women Rock Inc. is to spread breast cancer awareness and education and to increase early detection procedures. A mobile education program is taken throughout north Texas, and its government funds program helps provide screening exams for women that qualify (the under insured and uninsured). In addition, the program provides free transportation for cancer victims to go back and forth to treatments and doctors’ appointments via its pink bus.

To contact Women Rock, Inc., call 903-487-2528.

‘Sister Act’ — A review

“Sister Act,” billed as a divine musical comedy, is playing at the Dallas Music Hall at Fair Park through June 16. Full of lively music and dancing, the production lives up to its great reviews since its start.

Opening night in Dallas seemed to go off smoothly. If there were snafus behind the curtain, no hint was seen of it when the curtain opened. Costumes are beautiful with just the right amount of glitz. Technician crews add the right pizazz to scenes and costumes with creative lighting. It is an overall excellent production. And it’s fun.

Deloris Van Cartier, a girl with a going-nowhere singing career who accidentally witnesses a murder, is forced into hiding in a convent as a nun.

Deloris is played by Ta’Rea, who may be best known for starring as Nala in The Lion King on Broadway and the national tour. “Sister Act” executive producer Whoopi Goldberg said in a recording on the play’s website: “She freaks them (the nuns) out and they freak her out and suddenly it’s a love story.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Director Jerry Zaks is right on when he describes the production as “… funny, funny, smart, funny and then very touching.” He also said in a recording on the “Sister Act” website that composer Alan Menkin “has outdone himself.” The music truly makes you want to get up and dance. A look across the audience revealed a number of bobbing heads in time with the music as the nuns sang and danced their way through this fun production.

Though lively, fun, and sometimes silly, this musical has some depth to its story as well. Deloris quickly becomes a pain in the backside of Mother Superior, played by veteran actor Hollis Resnik, because she’s brought the theater style to the church and the convent. The sisters appear in glitzy and sometimes colored nun habits to dance and sing.

Mother Superior, has a poignant soliloquy that reflects some attitudes found in the church today. In her prayer to God, asking Him to make Deloris go away, she charges that Deloris’ theatricks are bringing in people off the street, drug addicts, gay people and some homeless. The irony, of course, is that the church is supposed to be trying to bring those people and more into the fold.

Mother Superior also delivers some of the funniest lines of the show. When Deloris asks about a smoking section, Mother Superior confirms that there is one “and you’re headed for it.”

Monsignor O’Hara quickly becomes a fan of Deloris because her productions are not only bringing in people, but also donations. He even gets into the shiny wardrobe. At one point when Mother Superior complains that God is not answering her prayers, the monsignor responds to her, “God has answered, you just don’t like the answer.”

There is not enough space to tell all the good things about this musical. But I particularly loved “Sunday Morning Fever.” Following is a sampling of the lyrics: “Spread the news! It’s time to rock the pews! We’ve got the Sunday morning fever! It’s a sound that turns your soul around until it makes you a believer … Girls and boys, come make a joyful noise and do the Sunday morning hustle! Bump that thing in praise of Christ the King until you pull your pelvic muscle!”

The show is fun while it also delivers a message. I hope to see it again before its run in Dallas is completed.

The Music Hall is inside Dallas’ Fair Park at 909 First Avenue. The hall boasts 3,420 seats and serves as home for Broadway musical touring companies, grand opera, ballet and other dance productions, concerts (including live global television broadcasts), national pageants and myriad other large and small public and private functions. It is also home for the Dallas Summer Musicals and has been in operation since 1925.


For information call 214-565-1116 or visit the website at htttp://dallassummermusicals.org.

The Orchid

The Orchid

There was an orchid last year that called my name and reached out and grabbed me when I walked by. You’ve probably seen them at stores around the area. You see them at grocery stores and home improvement stores and in great numbers in a plethera of colors.

I loved it as soon as I saw it. It was royal blue. I’m a sucker for anything, and I mean anything that is royal blue. I bought that orchid. It was a whimsical purchase; the kind I’ve promised myself I would never make again. But did I say it was royal blue?

The orchid and I got home without any trouble. She was beautiful. Guess what I named her — Blue.

It was inspired by the animated movie “Rio” which I also love. The lead character is a beautiful ‘royal blue’ parrot named Blue. My grandkids love that movie too and the music, oh my goodness, the music. It makes me get up and dance, and you should see my little boys dance with me. It’s just plain fun. But that is for another story, another time.

Blue the orchid had a tag to tell me how to take care of her. I picked up the tag and what do you think was the first thing I read on that tag? Basically, it said to enjoy the colored flowers while they last because, when they grow back on that plant, the blooms will be white. I bought it because it was blue.

It goes without saying, I felt betrayed. But I cared for my Blue without resentment. Her new home gave her southern exposure and lots of light. I tried to make sure she had water when needed but I know she often got dried out and probably thought I wasn’t going to come back.

Then about a week ago, I noticed Blue had a new look. She had two boughs filled with white orchids.Orchid - white

She is just as beautiful today as she was when she was blue. Who knew orchids could be so easy. I may get another one.

Do you have orchids; have you had a similar experience or learned how to take care of them? I just got lucky. What have you learned?

On another note, tomorrow is my wedding anniversary, and when I came home from work, this was delivered.

Anniv flowers


UPDATE (June 11): I’m amazed that my orchid still looks like that picture. It’s been more than two months and the blooms are still beautiful. Not a one has fallen.

Spring break

After several of our grandchildren visited during spring break, I find my heart to be overjoyed that they were here and overjoyed they are gone.

While I consider these tiny, and not so tiny, souls to be our greatest blessings, I also find they come with challenges.

Our oldest grandson Liam, 11, came on Sunday and by Monday, I was getting emails from our Internet provider that we had exceeded our monthly plan limit for data usage of 5 gigabytes.

When the younger boys get to see their older cousin, they are always climbing all over him and Liam absolutely loves it. They are special together.

When the younger boys get to see their older cousin, they are always climbing all over him and Liam absolutely loves it. They are special together.

Daughter Jamie came with two toddlers and baby Brantley (7 months) to spend a few days with us. Following is a snippit of some of our conversations.

 Me: “Jamie, have you seen my nail polish? I had it right here last night.”

Jamie: “Here it is; I found it in my coffee. And, that’s the third thing I found in my coffee this morning.”

Overheard from my bedroom —

Jamie: “Langston (who will be 4 in June), don’t hit your brother. We don’t hit. Langston, DO NOT HIT YOUR BROTHER.”

Jamie (in her stern mother’s voice): “Riverson (who will be 3 in October), stop throwing money into the dogs’ pen. Riverson, I said stop it. (Pause) Riverson, don’t do that.”

Jamie (in her angry, high-pitched and stern mother’s voice): “Riverson, no, no, no. Stop getting into everything. Stop it.” That was in my bathroom as Jamie was getting out of the shower. He had gotten into my mineral makeup and spread it around the vanity — big mess.

Liam did his best to provide his own version of an amusement park for his younger cousins. Langston looks a little apprehensive in this picture but only moments later he was laughing to the max as his cousin pushed him all over the yard.

Liam did his best to provide his own version of an amusement park for his younger cousins. Langston looks a little apprehensive in this picture but only moments later he was laughing to the max as his cousin pushed him all over the yard.

The boys’ perception of time and time to play seemed to be askew as well. I found them standing in the dark at 6:15 AM ready to play. Are you kidding me? I said, “Boys, the sun isn’t even up. It’s not time to get out of bed.” And when I said, “We have to go back and lay down,” I met strong resistance. With minimal cooperation I finally lost the battle and had to get up with them. Any other time, my instruction to “Go get mommy,” would be taken up with joy. But not that morning. No, they were happy enough to be with MeMe.

 Very few things are in the same place in my house as when the tiny tots arrived this week. They love to touch things, experiment with them and carry them around. For example, I suspect I won’t find the TV remotes for several weeks. But on the bright side of that, at least they weren’t dropped into someone’s coffee.

As I was getting ready for work Thursday and applying my makeup, I found that Riverson hadn’t JUST spread makeup across the vanity. As I used my blush brush to make my cheeks pretty and pink, I discovered Riverson had also used that brush and pink was not the color on my face after using it. My cheeks were dark brown.


Riverson is eating a corn dog. He would carry food around all the time if we let him. He’s watching his brother and cousin play while he holds up the shovel for the sand box.


Capturing memories like this make all the effort worthwhile. See the pure joy on his face. Yep, definitely worth it.

We had lots of fun, all of us together. We went to the Frank Buck Zoo in Gainesville, took the older grandson to a couple of movies and spent quality time outside on the swings, playing baseball, digging in the sand box, riding bikes and making memories.

 We love for them to visit and we love to see them go. I understand now why God designed us to have children when we’re young.