Home is not where

This long road began at Ft. Belvoir hospital, with the emegency removal of a ruptured and cancerous appendix and surrounding tissues.  Here, Jeff takes a stroll with Drew and Matt while recuperating from his first-ever of what would turn out to be many, many surgeries.  September, 2007

It started at Ft. Belvoir hospital, with a ruptured and cancerous appendix.
Here, Jeff gets some fresh air with our sons while recuperating from his first-ever surgery.
We didn’t know then that there would be many, many more.   September, 2012

“Home is not where, it is whom.” -Christianne Dettmann

As most readers have figured out by now, I’m no longer posting two weeks in advance, but taking it day by day as I am able.  Since my days are mostly spent in hospitals lately, I have a bit of a one-track mind.  In any case, this quote seemed appropriate for this week.  For the first time in many years, in fact, so many I can’t remember exactly how many, Jeff and I have been able to spend some part of Thanksgiving and our shared birthday with both of our sons.  Not in our home, but as Dettman says, home can be anywhere.  I hope this finds you feeling at home wherever you may be today!

One year ago today:

Bounty enough


  1. It’s a blessing – to be able to get adjusted with the surroundings and feel comfortable there. During times like this the hospital becomes our home and soon we’ll build a friendly relationship with the staff. Jeff and your boys look great. Wish you happiness and peace!

    • Thank you Bindu. I have been so thankful for these great hospitals. It’s easy to get grouchy under the stress and sometimes I’m not as gracious with the staff as I should be, but for the most part I have to say that I’m quite happy with the quality of care Jeff has gotten over the past 15 months. As our country struggles on to resolve the many challenges facing us with respect to health care reform here, I’ve become aware of just how complex the issue is, and how fortunate we are to have access to this level of care. My heart really goes out to the many people we know who have had various difficulties with access to health care, whether it be due to lack of funding, lack of providers or other difficulties. I don’t think a day passes that we do not give thanks for the mercy of having medical care available to Jeff. Thanks for being with us here! Your visits brighten my day.

  2. Julia, that is so true. Home is being with the ones you love. I am so thankful that Jeff is doing as well as he is and that the four of you were together for Thanksgiving and birthdays. Praise God for his abundant goodness. We love you and pray for you all daily.

    • Hi Janice, it’s nice to see you here. Jeff is doing much better today. He had me sit him up to give him a sponge bath and shampoo cap, and he’s sitting in a chair with his leg crossed, looking almost normal :-). Dr. H was just in and we are now at the “you really had us worried there at first, but you are looking good now” stage. It’s always a good sign when they admit how scared they were two days ago :-). Jeff just asked for the TV remote so that’s another good sign! Thanks for your prayers, please keep them going up!

  3. Home is whom indeed. Happy thanksgiving, happy birthday!

    • Thank you! I am always happy to see your smiling face here. Thanks for being with us through this journey.

  4. Barb Seibel

    So true it’s the people not the places. Praying for continued progress for Jeff. Glad to hear of move from ICU.

    • Yes, we’re seeing some pretty remarkable progress today. Dr. H wants him to start walking; we plan to try that later. Thanks for being here today!

      • That is great news, Julia!

        • Yes, we are very happy and hoping the positive news will continue.

  5. Larry

    We are enjoying that picture this morning. He looked so good after his 1st surgery. Just like then, his recovery will be made better by having his immediate family there beside him. The butterfly is so happy to hear that he is sitting up this morning. We continue to pray for all of you and know God’s hand and spirit surrounds you all this day and every day.

    • Thank you, Larry! Jeff is feeling better tonight and actually watching a bit of football. I am getting happier and happier, as you can well imagine. 🙂

      • More good news!

        • And Jeff just ate some Jello this morning. Hooray! 🙂

          • Hooray for eating!!!

            I’ll withhold comments about Jello. 😉

            • Alys, I spoke too soon. Back off food now until they figure out what’s wrong. They think he may have a chyle leak, which would mean extremely restricted dietary intake, and likely IV nourishment only for at least a week. But right now they are worried about wound infection. As soon as they can clear a spot for surgery they’re taking him back in to clean things out and put him back on a wound vac. Two steps forward, one step back…

              • Oh, Julia. I’m so sorry to hear things took a step back. You must be staying at the hospital most of the time now. Is Matt with you there too or is he back home?

                Gentle hugs, my dear. So much to carry.

                • Hi Alys, Matt is with us now, quietly enjoying his DVD player with headphones as Jeff sleeps. I had to take my sister to BWI this morning for her flight back. By last night Jeff was doing MUCH better and this morning I could tell Dr. M was pleased with his progress. Jeff has been able to keep such a good attitude this time. Despite having twice the cutting and tubes everywhere and no end of things to get used to, he says it’s been MUCH easier than it was in May. I guess everything is relative! Thanks for the hugs! 🙂 Back at you!

  6. MaryAnn

    What immense joy & praise to God I am feeling! How marvelous you must feel to have Jeff sitting up AND to start walking today! Thank you so much for taking the time to keep us informed. I was praying for my Dentons when I awoke. We all know God’s Hand is tangible in this journey. praising Him for the doctors & all the health providers.

    • Same here, Mary Ann. God’s hand is made tangible by the efforts of the people who bless others with their skill, diligence, sacrifice of time and effort, and compassion. I join you in feeling grateful for all the people who are making this road an easier one to travel for us.

  7. Carolyn

    I just read what you wrote about Jeff. Prayers are being answered and I’m happy that he feels like watching some TV. Now he just has to start healing, praying that the worst is over. Hope that the hospital stay will not be to long and he can be at home with you and Matt. Glad you had both boys with you last week. You all take care and love and hugs to all. God Bless my friends.

    • Blessings to you too, Carolyn! I hope we can see each other at some point before our 5-year celebration, but in the meantime, it is so nice to be back in touch with you here. Take care of yourself. We love you.

  8. sam

    Belated birthday greetings to each of you. So encouraged by all of the progress that Jeff has made and for all of the answered prayers. We join you with gratitude for all of the great health care that Jeff has and pray for his continued recovery and for you as you stand faithfully by his side throughout this journey, and for Drew and Matt.

    • Thank you sam, we continue to need those prayers but it is so exciting to see them being answered in such an obvious and happy way. Today the surgeon who did this recent liver resection (as well as the first one in May) told Jeff that it’s rare for them to do a second resection because very few people who need a second resection survive and do well enough to get through another one. We feel so thankful for this chance at long term survival, and we appreciate your prayers so much!

  9. Thinking of you and yours as I read this and hoping comfort is near as it appears. I don’t “know” you but still send you care.

    • Thanks very much Cynthia, I sometimes feel of the people whose work I’ve read, and who read mine, that we know each other maybe better than some of the folks we see in everyday life! In any case, I do sense your care for us and I appreciate it deeply. It took me awhile to realize it, but I’ve always enjoyed connecting to people as much or more through writing and reading as I do in other ways. I’m so happy to have you visit us here!

  10. Nice to see these genuine smiles in spite of the circumstances. True joy can not be defeated by hardship. Blessings to you and yours.

    • Thanks Tony, you know whereof you speak! I appreciate your visits here.

      • Flowers for Algernon. (In other words, thinking of you both on your birthdays)

        • Thanks Eric, Carla told me about the flowers. I asked her to take a photo of them to send to us here but I’m not sure she has any way of sending them from her iPhone. If I run back home anytime in the next few days I can bring them back here so Jeff can see them. I appreciate your remembering our shared birthday.

  11. Connie Reed

    So sorry to hear that your home is at the hospital right now. Doug and I have had an ongoing joke between us the past 20 years during my parents illnesses and then Doug’s
    ongoing illness, that it would not be the holidays unless we were spending them in the hospital! Our prayers are with Jeff that he will gain more and more strength each day and that you all will soon be back home.

    • Connie, I am so happy to be back in touch with you here! We really appreciate your prayers. It’s funny how hospitals can become so familiar as to seem like a second home. I know you have referred to Doug’s illness but I either can’t remember or never knew exactly what is/was going on with him – I will need to go back and read through my FB messages from you since everything is a blur to me right now. I hope he is OK now? When you have time, let me know. I did connect with Carol on FB and she looks so beautiful, also I saw your photo on FB which is equally beautiful. I would have known you two anywhere even though it’s been 40 years or more since I saw you last. Thanks for thinking of us! I believe our prayers are being answered.

      • Connie Reed

        Hi Julia!
        I am so glad we have reconnected again also! To make a long story short, 15 years ago, Doug thought he was getting the flu and within 24 hours was paralyzed from the chest down. He has what is called acute transverse myelitis (you can google to find out all about it). He spent the next year at The Shepherd Center in Atlanta relearning how to walk etc. It is something that will never go away, he will have to live with all the symptoms the rest of his life. The worst symptom being chronic body pain. However, he has always had a great attitude and believes that the power of prayer has got him to where he is today!

        • Connie, I too am so excited to be back in touch with you. I surely hated to read about what Doug has been through. Isn’t it amazing how quickly life can change forever? Yes, prayer is how we survive such times. I admire those who find ways to live with chronic pain – I’m a real wimp when it comes to enduring physical pain for very long. Even during my appendicitis, a relatively minor thing in the big picture, I can remember just wanting to die. Attitude is so important. Now when I think of you guys I will send up prayers for you. I think the ongoing challenges are harder to deal with than the crisis times. It’s the daily grind of life that wears us down.

          On a happier note – was Louise Johnson your grandmother? I seem to remember she was, but I may be confused. If so, that must be where your mother got her amazing talents. Sis. Johnson did Eric and Sherry’s wedding reception, I believe. I remember being very impressed with how beautifully she pulled everything together. Long before we knew about Martha Stewart, people such as her and your mother were setting a good example for us!

  12. Debbie

    You and your family have been in my prayers this week and I will continue to pray . You have defeated despair for all who visit here. Blessings to you all and hope this next week brings major healing and peace.

    • Debbie, thanks so much. It makes me so happy to think that anyone else may have been cheered or encouraged by what I’ve written. Your prayers are so helpful. At this point I think Jeff’s biggest obstacles will be psychological. He is in a lot of pain right now as all the anesthesia leaves his body. But I have heard the doctors use the word “cure” used more than once in recent days, not as an assurance, but as their goal. That’s something we didn’t hear a year ago, and we are so thankful.

  13. Sheila

    Julia, what a glorious Sunday morning to read your words and the many comments. God is GOOD! It is so encouraging that day by day Jeff is gaining strength and recovering. The magnitude of “Cancer is gone!” Is overwhelming. My heart is filled with JOY for your Denton family. Happy Birthday to both you and Jeff, belated!
    Waking with a prayer, Sheila

    • Thanks Sheila. The oncologist was just in, reminding us that there are still those lesion in the lungs to consider – and they plan to start Jeff BACK on chemo in about 4-6 weeks (probably a similar regimen as he had before) but the good part is he was using the word “cure” which is music in our ears. The lung lesion are relatively small and have remained stable, so right now they are the less-pressing concern. Right now getting the strength back is our priority, and Jeff is a real trooper when it comes to that. Keep the prayers going up! We’ll keep you posted.

  14. OH I feel terrible. I forgot in the midst of everything to say Happy Birthday!!! Praying all is well. Love you and Happy Belated Birthday!!

    • Thank you Amy. Not to worry – this is far from a typical year, any way you look at it!

  15. Maggie Clure

    Julia, just wanted to let you know, my prayers continue for Jeff, you and Matt! I have been reading some of your comments and so happy to know Jeff is better! Will definitely keep praying!! I know it must be so difficult for you, having to stay at the hospital so much and the stress of uncertainty of the situation! Keep your faith, My Dear…Remember, our God is a great and wonderful God and He is definitely still in the miracle making business!! Hugs!

    • Thank you, Maggie. You know, the hospital hours are long but I enjoy just being with Jeff, especially watching him doing better each day. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I have faith and confidence in the prayers, warm thoughts and kind words of so many that will sustain us through this. Thanks for being here with us!

  16. merry

    Julia, good evening. I’m so pleased to read your report of Jeff’s progress. Happy belated birthdays to you both. I have my “merry little snowman” on my desk, keeping you in my prayers. Blessings…

    • Hi Merry, Jeff is sleeping now, having just ate some yogurt and a little oatmeal – his first food in more than a week! Each day brings new reasons to rejoice. I’m so glad you like the snowman! My sister gave me a candle topper sort of like it, which changing colors, and I love it.

  17. this post writing discipline surely gives you comfort. thanks for the updates, even though i am late /tardy reading them!
    sending you my love, lisa

    • Yes, posting something daily gives a sort of rhythm to my life. When one spends days and weeks in a hospital setting, the internal calendar tends to get confused and one day runs into another since the place never really sleeps. I can’t keep track of what day of the week it is, and I have to look at the computer screen to know the date. So the daily posts do help give a kind of structure. I appreciate your making the time to be here at all, with all that you have going on…you are never tardy, anytime at all is fine. You’re always right on time whenever you can come by! Thanks so much for being with us this past year, and for adding beauty to our lives through your blog.

  18. Such a handsome lot you are surrounded by 😀 I’ve been going thru my email all haphazardly, LOL Now I’m back at thanksgiving. Thanks for your wishes on this day, I gave extra thanks for our health this year with Jeff’s situation in mind. I know it can all change in a heartbeat.

    • Thanks Kelly, I continue to be all the more thankful for my health lately. Recently I’ve been especially aware of how fortunate I am that I’ve been physically able to climb all these stairs and walk these long hallways while here. I see so many who are learning to walk on artificial limbs. Last night I saw a young man waiting on the elevator whose legs had been amputated very high up on his body – there was literally nothing left of them. He was lying stomach-down on a sort of motorized cart and raised up on his elbows, pressing the elevator button. He appeared to be moving about totally independently. Of course I did not want to stare but I had to admire his seeming adaptability to what must have seemed a catastrophic loss. As you say, it can happen to any of us without any advance warning. We know that intellectually, but it’s hard to really believe it sometimes.

  19. I’m really glad to hear you’re feeling healthy Julia. It must be a big strain on your own health too when you’re advocating for both Matt and Jeff’s health issues 7/24. By the looks of the photo’s you’ve shared with us here, you always seem to be in great shape.

    There was a news item on our National Nightly News about four soldiers who’ve served our country in Afghanistan committing suicide in just the past 2 weeks. None of the stories are related. They’re men who have so much trauma from their tours oversea’s, they see no hope in their future. The story went on to report the shortfall in support in Canada for returning soldiers. The lack of financial support for important programs, both breaks my heart and makes me mad given we are also dealing with a Senate scandal over fraudulent expenditure claims. It’s awesome that the young man in the elevator seems to have had both important consoling and rehab to be able to manage so well, Bravo USA!

    • That is so sad about the soldiers. Gloria, Jeff’s aunt who is a good friend of mine, has been a psychotherapist for over 40 years. She works extensively with returning soldiers and their families, since her practice is close to a military base. I am thankful that we have much better support for our war veterans than we did during the Vietnam era and earlier. (I think that’s why Jeff is so touched by the sad story of Ira Hayes, a Pima native American who died shortly after his service in World War II.) Still, suicide is a scary thing that’s often very hard to prevent. In my own experience and that of a close friend who unfortunately did not survive her suicidal period, I think what often happens is that people appear to others to be doing well, and by the time anyone notices they are struggling and barely together, it’s too late. Part of the problem lies with our being too insensitive, too caught up in our own lives, and thus having a deep need to tell ourselves others are doing fine (that lets us off the hook in terms of being inconvenienced by trying to help them). I have seen this for years in the community of people with disabilities. The non-disabled world loves the warm-fuzzy “happy ending” stories so they can tell themselves that all is well and they can go their merry way, ignoring the loneliness and stark everyday needs around them. I realize that sounds cynical and negative (something I am meant to be avoiding on this blog) but I say it to point out how important it is for us to keep shining the light, which serves a dual purpose. Light brings cheer and hope, but also it brings illumination that reveals things for what they are. Thanks so much for your caring spirit! Your presence here is a continual comfort to me.

      BTW, we are having a taste of your world today – it’s snowing fast and furiously here in Bethesda – it’s beautiful! But Matt and I are waiting to take the shuttle to see Jeff today. It’s a short walk that’s fun in good weather, but I don’t want to risk either of us falling and there are some pretty steep hills between here and there.

      • Oh no, so sorry to hear about your friend. You’re right, it’s much more convenient to think someones just having an ‘off’ day. Then there’s this Canadian thing about not being too invasive, silliness really. Especially when a friend is hurting. I have regrets about this very thing with an acquaintance at work. I was leaving the building for a run one noon hour and passed him in a quiet spot, he was standing there smoking. I was surprised because I didn’t even know he smoked and often used to see him running too. I stopped to say hello and asked him if he was still running. He was obviously down about it, held up his cigarette and said “nope”. I could tell something was up. I said he should email me if he decided to get back to it and we could head out together. I never heard from him and he actually took his life a couple of weeks later. It still haunts me. Why didn’t I take time to find out if I could do anything? All I can do about it now is be more proactive, take a moment and ask, “is there anything I can do?” Most of all, “follow up promptly”. Some people don’t know ‘HOW’ to ask for help.

        I wish I could adopt your enthusiasm for snow flurries, LOL. You are a “teacup half full” kind of girl. I love that about you. Stay warm and safe! Happy Sunday!

        • It’s such a fine line to walk; not wanting to be intrusive, yet wanting to help. It’s so hard to be available to people without making a pest of oneself. One reason I wanted to start this blog was to have a non-threatening place where people could go when they felt down. It’s so true that some of us – perhaps most of us – have a very hard time asking for help. Jeff is like that; he doesn’t want to bother people. I have no such reluctance, but in my case, I am adverse to ask for help because over the years, the few times I’ve asked people for some form of help with Matt, by far almost all have said “no” (always giving some reason or excuse, of course) and I learned that I’d rather not know of their unwillingness to help us, than ask and risk being turned down. It hurts more to be outright denied help than to keep silent and tell ourselves that people care and just don’t know what to do or how to show it.

          The snow is turning to sleet, judging by the sound of it outside. I was hoping to get a photo of it to post tomorrow, but I won’t be back at Fisher House until WAY after dark tonight. I’ll take my camera back with me tonight in case there’s anything to shoot tomorrow morning. It would be nice to do a post about Fisher House. It’s a great organization and provides a much-needed service to military families with loved ones in the hospital.

          Time to refill my 100% empty teacup – one great thing about being out on the ward (and not in the ICU) is that they have coffee and tea freely available 24/7 – a nice solace during the long hours!

  20. Connie Reed

    Yes she was my grandmother. I had forgotten about her doing Eric and Sherry’s wedding. You are bringing back alot of old memories I had forgotten about. My Mom was truly a talented woman. I miss her so much!! So happy to hear that Jeff is progressing more each day! The Power of Prayer!!!

    • Connie, isn’t it nice to prowl around in the “attic” of our memory and find things we had forgotten, but which are still there to be discovered! You Mom as with all people who give of themselves on this earth will always be with us even when they are gone from our sight. Yes, prayer is more powerful than we imagine even when we see its results again and again! Thanks so much for visiting us here.

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