By Joe Claerhout, ProAg Area Claims Supervisor
Story Number One
These are the life and times of Suzie and my battle with cancer. I’m hoping I can help people facing this disease by seeing what we did wrong and right. This is also a tribute to my wife.
I am going to start by recalling the farm years from the fall of 1972 to 1999. Suzy and I met on a blind date arranged by one of my best friends. Although it wasn’t really a blind date to me, because I had checked her out at a football game, she was a cheerleader when I saw her. When I saw her I wanted to date her. She was beautiful. We were married in the fall of 1974. These years were full of good and bad times, the bad was the flood 1986 and my cancer in 1997. These things were hard on her, I know, as she was also working on the farm and raising our family. She never once said she was unhappy. Looking back at those days and the long hours I worked I wish I could have a do-over, I would have paid more attention to my kids and wife. So what I would like to pass on is thank God for every minute you have with your spouse and treat them well as if you never know when you may lose them.
These are the years from 1999 to current, these were some of the best years of our life even with our cancers, and we were transitioning from the greenhouse and farm to a bike shop, full-time crop insurance, and the race track. Through these years I had much more time to spend with her. We were great partner’s working together and it showed. She played a huge part the track’s great success. People thought it was me but it was us. The race track and crop insurance years were wonderful. We made so many friends out there along with people that worked for us and helped the track grow. They have really become my family. She also ran her antique shop during this time also as you can see she was a busy girl. Any endeavor she did she wanted perfect. She was incredible.
The cancer years weren’t all bad either as I will show you in this article. We sold the track in 2011 and the next two years were wonderful, as we spent a lot of time together. My cancer showed up in 1997 on my face as my Mom said one day a mole looks different. It was removed and was melanoma which in those days all that could be done was to cut it out and hope they got all. I am sure Suzy was worried but she never showed it.
In 2013 my cancer returned on my pancreas and I had surgery to remove the mass in the spring of 2014. I thought I was having a stroke but my MRI showed two tumors. This required many trips to Ann Arbor in the years prior to 1996. We became closer than ever, just talking during the trips. Again even though I know she was worried she never showed it.
From 2013 to 2016 I worked and had not too many side effects. 2014 was the year I had radiation, full brain and gamma knife, which would come back in 2016 as necrosis. It affected my right side like a stroke. I learned this spring from a doctor that they hardly do full brain anymore due to what happened to me. Too much radiation I guess, so if someone wants to give you full brain radiation ask a lot of questions or get another opinion.
2016 was a nightmare! My narcosis left me a wreck. It took about six months to gain enough strength to take care of myself. All that time Suzy and my daughter took care of me. During that summer Suzy’s cancer returned with a vengeance. Her first cancer was about eight years ago, she had a lumpectomy with radiation and 5 years of tomixonfin. Her tumor was tiny and they thought the treatment was enough to cure her. I don’t know what the protocol would be today. But I think in Suzy case I wish she would have had a mastectomy and chemo. She was so strong, and I doubt it would not have knocked her down. My advice now would be chemo and mastectomy. At least that would have been all we could do.
Suzy’s cancer returned in the summer of 2016 right at the time when she and my daughter were taking care of me. My condition was getting better and hers was getting worse. She told me later she didn’t know if she would make Christmas I really did not know how much pain she was in as she kept to herself. Again, always thinking of me. We then tried RSO medical marijuana. Of all the alternative medicine, I think this one had a great cancer-fighting capability. Unfortunately, we had the wrong dose and she got sick. We used the info off the internet. Later in Phoenix, I found a clinic that specialized in medical treatment with marijuana. The doctor said what we used was way too strong and could actually make your cancer worse. He gave the correct dose but it was too late. He also said this dose would have a good chance to cure or manage it within three months, also where it has shown to help chemo work and reduce side effects I highly recommend to talk to these people if you are considering this treatment. United Patents Group in California. I also recommend Euro Med in Phoenix. Many of the alternate cancer centers work with patients that traditional medicine has given up on.
There is no doubt in my mind without the back issue they could have helped her. We left for Arizona the end of February. Suzy was very sick a few weeks there and she was better and for the next two months showed great progress until her back started to hurt and got worse. About that time I started to get sick and started to lose some right side function. At this point, I could not take care or her. My daughter Kristi came out to help and was there until we left. Susy was taking so many pain meds she had no idea what was happening to me. Thank God Kristi was there!
As her condition worsened the swelling along comprised her treatments and I knew we needed to be home. Through all this, I can’t thank my children and family enough. When I got home I started to feel better. When Suzy got home her condition worsened and she ended up in hospice and I got to speak to her one last time. She told me she was ready to go and would not change a thing, she told me she loved me and to try to kill a buck. She also said think of all the children that die, I got to live a great life. Through all this, she never complained still worried about me.
I think she knew a few months earlier that she wasn’t going to make it. She passed to God a few days later. I hope some of the info helps someone. My story is not quite done yet as God must have something for me to do yet. I just wanted everyone to know Suzy as I knew her, she was my rock and the most incredible person I ever knew.
To all the people out there that suffered a loss like mine, I feel for you and pray for you. God bless everyone that prayed for us. Through this, if anyone wants any info give me a call.
Joe Claerhout’s Story: Story Number Two
I felt I had to write this if only to thank everyone for your comments on Facebook. I never even thought about these comments. I was just trying to help people. They are so beautiful and kind and gave me the strength to get through my loss. I am doing better now but I still have my moments, when I see something that reminds of Suzy. Some people ask me if I need to get rid of her things. I said no even though it’s painful I never want to forget her. Even the time I called her name while waking up from sleeping then realizing she was not there I don’t want to forget.
I now try to remember the good times we had like the time Suzy was opening her Christmas presents from me and was laughing. I said, “What’s so funny?” She said, “This is the same necklace you gave me last year.” We laughed about that for years.
I thought I was done with this portion but I had the most wonderful dream last night. This is unusual for me as all my dreams are typically bad and don’t end I always wake up. This was different in so many ways I was sleeping in the middle of the night when I heard the phone ring it seemed so loud and clear when I answered it the voice was Suzy’s. She said she was calling to let me know she was ok and feeling great. Her voice was unbelievable it was so clear and at peace. I asked her where she was. She said she did not know but it was beautiful. It was in a hospital with no doctors and the nurses were not like nurses here. She also asked them what she was doing there and they said they needed some time fix a couple things before she could leave. She went to say that she spoke to God and ask him to watch over me. She also said she didn’t think she could call again. I ask if she could see me she said she could sometimes but not all the time. She then said goodbye.
I started to analyze this dream and couple things stand out. The phone ring was from an old rotary dial phone, her voice was unbelievable and never did she mention anything about time like days, etc. The other thing about this dream is that it ended. When it did, I was sitting up trying to pray to God to thank Him for the dream. I was so shaken up that I could not remember the words to the Lord’s Prayer, maybe I was still sleeping. I don’t know, maybe this is normal for people to dream like this that are mourning. All I know is I want more dreams like this one. Or was it not a dream and I really spoke to her?
Joe Claerhout’s Story: Story Number Three
I had quite a few requests to continue my story. As many of you know, I was very sick mentally and physically. In Phoenix, I didn’t know if I could make the plane. When I got home, I cried outside. I was so happy even though I was still sick and lost a ton of mobility from radiation neuropathy. I am going to try another treatment in Kentucky if I can make it.
My disease is progressing really fast. I have a hard time walking and last week I could not talk for a day. Suzie would have said that would have been good a few years ago. (LOL) I have come to terms with my disease and look at it as a win/win situation. If I live, I get to spend more time with my family and if I die I get to see God and Suzy and the rest of my family. Either way, I win.
At this point with all my problems, I want to go to heaven. Last week, I went to the hospital three times for various reasons. Along with a bleeding ulcer, our trip to Cleveland was not productive, and to top it off a tooth fell out while eating. I couldn’t help but laugh. I told God that wasn’t funny (not really). God has been very good to us all through our lives. I have learned to trust him with whatever he decides but with a few complaints at first and that is probably normal. I just want to thank you for all your prayers and thoughts.
I did learn a few things about cold lasers in Canada. Although they did not help me they could help a lot of people especially for knees, hips, etc. The walls at the clinic were filled with letters from patients with success stories. Many of them state how the cold laser rebuilt their cartilage with no surgery. The good thing is now the cold laser is becoming more popular in Michigan.
Source: Joe Claerhout, Facebook