2017 Reflections…

The first of July, Ken, our son-in-love, and I were in Costa Rica to help Howard move back to the U.S. Howard had been working hard to liquidate our “stuff”, 2 cars, furniture, kitchen equipment, bedding. You all know, the usual “stuff”. This was our 2nd time around at downsizing. We were pros after our May 2012 move.

I had already moved back to Colorado in October 2016. In this same month, Howard was playing tennis with a friend, and fell while trying to make a lateral move. We didn’t think it was serious enough for me to turn around and return to Atenas. After his fall, Howard traveled to Colorado to enjoy Christmas with family. He even felt good enough, so we vacationed in Estes Park with Chevy. Haunted hotel and all. As the holidays progressed, it was evident Howard’s pain was increasing. But he pushed through the pain, and we had a nice family Christmas.

Upon returning to Atenas in December, he learned he needed hip surgery, but not a total hip replacement. The doctor repaired the labrum tear in January 2017. I flew down to assist him, because he was required to be on crutches for 6 weeks. In March, he made his decision to return to the U.S. The necessary downsizing in Costa Rica seemed like an easy thing to do.

… Regressing back to 2012-2013

We had already accomplished the big downsizing in 2012, the year we moved to CR. We/he were pros at it. We, in a sense, became minimalists, except for our 2 vehicles. An SUV that seated 7, and a small Nissan sedan. In 2012, we thought we “needed” the 7-seater, so our entire family could go on adventures. It seems like another lifetime ago, 2012, when Martine, Ken, Chevy, Jai, Howard Storm, Cloud and I moved to this little enchanted, foreign country. Costa Rica, as we learned, was not so easy or a sustainable lifestyle for the younger generation. The kids stayed a little over a year. They left the summer of 2013. Oh, how my heart broke when I watched their Delta jet heading north to return to the U.S. (From our hillside pool, we could watch most flights coming and going, San Jose Airport.)

Martine and family returned to Colorado, and Jai moved to Maui. Right before Jai moved, we lost my 18-year old cat, Storm, in a vicious encounter with an unknown, unseen, animal late one night. Storm was returning to our main house, from a sleepover with Jai, who at the time was living in our casita. How can one person, I, move forward, in a positive fashion, with so much loss that occurred within 2 months? These setbacks were deeper and darker than I had ever experienced. Love, friends, yoga, swimming, and my new best friend, Surrender, got me through it all. Deep down I wanted to grieve gracefully, and grace seemed much easier with my new best friend, Surrender, by my side.

… Back to this year

Howard’s biggest hurdle in the downsizing department were the 2 cars. He advertised on local forums. After many bites, and a money scam where we lost a couple thousand dollars, he still had 2 vehicles to sell. A bit discouraged, feeling victimized by another gringo, and embarrassed by the money scam, he remained motivated to return to Colorado to be with family. By May 2017, his health and recovery were not where we thought it should be. We rationalized it by saying we don’t heal as fast as we age. He pushed through the pain, and remained focused to be back in Colorado by August. As June approached, with 2 vehicles still parked in his yard and very minimal furnishings in his house, I was adjusting to the idea that his August return vision was no longer realistic. “Hi, Surrender. It’s nice to see you again.”

The end of June, Howard had a sneezing attack. As a result, he was in severe pain from, what he later learned was, a hernia. He pushed through it that day. That evening, he lowered himself into bed, but it was more of like a flop. The flop brought on more pain. He was literally paralyzed in bed for hours, writhing in pain that was a 10.

His phone was out of reach. His 5-inch thick doors were locked and bolted. There had been a rash of burglaries in his neighborhood, so he thought it would be best to lock the gate, lock and bolt all doors. As he laid in bed with his 10, he remembered the double bolted doors. He panicked. No one would be able to get to him.

He went into shock and was able to swing his legs to the side of the bed, raise himself up, and as he lifted himself from his low-lying bed, he fell to the floor and caught his fall with his left hand. Can one’s pain level go higher than a 10? Miraculously, he was able to get himself to the bathroom, take a pain reliever, unbolt the doors and find his phone. He called a friend.

Every pothole and movement of the car was excruciating as his friend drove him to CIMA, the world class hospital in Escazu. The orthopedic surgeon visited him and, after X-rays, it was concluded he had a hernia and broken thumb. Both surgeries occurred that night. One room, 2 surgeons working on him simultaneously.

I asked him if he wanted me to get on the next plane. “Not yet”, he said. “Let’s wait and see.” The next day, lying in his hospital bed, he was resting after the surgeries and the previous night’s ordeal. But something was not right. Had he injured his left hip during the fall, the one where he had the labrum tear repair? The orthopedic surgeon ordered more tests. Another MRI showed a broken hip. He went back to the operating room for a total hip replacement. 3 surgeries within 24 hours.

From the MRI and during surgery, it was discovered something was wrong. Very wrong. His recently repaired hip bone was, as the doctor described, like Swiss cheese. How could this be? They were just “in there” in January. Howard didn’t wait for me to ask. He called me to say, “come quick”. I want you here. I may have cancer.

I was on the plane the next day. My “angel neighbor” took me to the airport for my 6:00 AM flight. As you can imagine, that was the longest, hardest flight in my life. It just didn’t move fast enough. I landed in San Jose, and took a red taxi to the Courtyard Avenida Escazu, an easy walk to the hospital. After re-familiarizing myself with the area and climate, I felt empowered. I can do this! I made it to Escazu and walked to the hospital. For many reasons, the rest of that day is a blur.

Cancer was confirmed. More tests. The result, Stage IV adenocarcinoma, non-smoker lung cancer. I remember thinking, this is a living, fully awake, nightmare! “Hello again, Surrender.”

I don’t know how, or if, we could have accomplished everything that needed to be accomplished with lightening speed without Ken and friends. And, Howard’s physical therapist, Andres. Andres advertised our vehicles on a local Tico site. The smaller vehicle sold within days. We sorted, gave away more “stuff”. We hired our lawyer to help with bank accounts and gave him the authority to sell our SUV on our behalf. We made our flight arrangements for Howard and me. We returned the last week of July. Ken would remain there by himself for complete closure. As it turned out, Andres and Ken sold the SUV within a day of Ken’s return. Ken returned the first week in August.

We have the best son-in-love, friends and family in the whole wide world.

During our 5 years in Costa Rica, we created many long stories that I hope to share in the future. Upon our return, the next adventure started taking shape. The initiation into the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center pipeline was not for the faint of heart.

With Grace and Surrender, here we are. I wish for you and us the happiest of New Years. I love you. And I am grateful for your Love and support. Until next time, I picture you in my mind, with Love, Light and Peace.

2 thoughts on “Surrender

  1. Judi, what a beautifully written piece about the journey you, your famil and Howard have been on these last years. The love and courage of both of you shines through in your insightful, reflective words. It is always difficult living with illness and seperation. I lost my Mom this year, and can relate to the emotions you are going through. Both you and Howard are amazing people and Dina and I are glad we became friends with you and often talk about the fun times we spent together. I know Dina has lots of unforgetable memories of you and her working on the Chili Cookoff Committee that will alwalys be with her.
    We wish you nothing but Love and Friendship and you go forward on this road of challangers, with it’s up’s and down’s. But know this, you have many people lining this road with you, cheering you on. The Finish Line is within reach, all you have to do is break through the tape and enjoy the view from the top of the mountains !
    Sending our Love,

    Your friends ,
    Tom and Dina


    1. Your message means so much to me. Thank you for your kind words. We agree that the Costa Rica adventure was so rich because of the people. We made, and still have, incredible friends from around the world. My heart remains full because of all the support we have on our trek. Much love to you and Dina.


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