Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Every few weeks, a friend calls or emails and tells me that someone they know has been diagnosed with cancer or a brain tumor. Or someone they know needs help with hospice decisions. And would it be OK if they pass along my contact information?

I always says yes, but I don't always hear back.

I completely understand. When you're in the middle of crisis, there's only so much you can handle. And, let's face it, our story doesn't appear to have the happy ending that people want.


Early in Steve's diagnosis, I visited on the phone with a friend of a friend who had taken the same oral chemotherapy (Temodar) that Steve had been prescribed.

She was refreshingly kind, open and willing to share her experiences.

Her experiences and resources weren't equivalent to ours, though. She suggested that we (1) hire a nanny right away and (2) enlist a private yoga instructor to come to the home and (3) have a swimming pool built so that Steve could jump in whenever he felt too warm.

I listened politely and asked some questions. We employed none of her advice here at our very nice but decidedly middle-class Frisco home that sits on a lot much too tiny for even the smallest swimming pool.

Still, I've always appreciated that she was willing to share.


Today I heard back from a friend of a friend, a mom whose husband has recently died.

I tried to listen more than talk. I tried not to be too bossy. (I'm irrepressibly passionate, though, when it comes to the benefits of grief counseling.) I tried to acknowledge that our family's journey won't be the same as her family's journey.

I've added her family to my too-long prayer list.


Steve didn't have the happy ending that we all desperately wanted. The odds were overwhelmingly against him. Glioblastomas, especially in the brain stem, are cruel. They don't offer much wiggle room for happily ever after.

Our story isn't over yet, though. This is a long journey. I'm thankful for the many joyful moments along the way.

(Photo by Ann Pinson, July 2013)
(Photo by Ann Pinson, July 2013)

Monday, July 1, 2013

19 years

There's no rulebook on how to handle wedding anniversaries when you're a widow.

So each year is different. Sometimes I go to dinner with friends, preferably at a restaurant that (1) wasn't a big Steve & Tyra favorite and (2) wasn't on our list of restaurants we wanted to try.

Sometimes I buy myself a little gift. Last year I bought myself, for the first time, a bottle of Champs-Elysees -- the perfume that Steve always bought for me and that Liz & Holly bought for me when my last Steve bottle ran out.

This year I'm working during the day. Cooper is away for the week, with big adventures at Boy Scout camp. Katie is spending the day with Jim & Betty, wrapping up some grandparent adventures. In the evening, Katie and I will go to dinner -- nothing too fancy.

And I'll reflect on how fortunate I was to marry my best friend, to spend 15 years together, to have two perfect-for-us children. I'll think of the many ways that Steve Damm rescued me.

I'll sing in my head and maybe out loud the lyrics from the song from our first dance, the song that we would dance to in the kitchen in the years that followed.

Was there life before this love
Was there love before this girl I can see
Was there ever love for her before me
And if I look will she 
Look back at me

I'll likely think ahead to next year, 20 years, and wonder what kind of adventure we would have taken to celebrate two decades. Would we have gone to Europe? Finally realized Steve's dream of relaxing on the beaches of Majorca? With or without Cooper and Katie?

Tyra  & Steve, July 2, 1994
I'll stare at a wedding photo and marvel at how young we look. (We were! 22 & 25!) I'll think of how simple my tastes were (and still are). I did my own hair and makeup, as you've probably noticed. We were both less concerned with the actual day and more concerned with, well, spending the rest of our lives together.

I'm certain that more than once I'll get weepy. Tears of sorrow because Steve's life was much, much too short mixed with tears of joy because Cooper, Katie and I have the gift of more days.

Tyra, Cooper & Katie, June 30, 2013, before Cooper leaves for summer camp