Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lehi, Utah (That's Where I Come From!!!)

Rodeo Grounds in Lehi, Utah 2005

I can't help but feel nostalgic this week. It's Round-Up Week in Lehi, Utah.

 As a kid growing up in a small town this was one of my favorite weeks of the summer. For as long as I can remember until I was 17 every year it went something like this:

Monday - Picnic In The Park
Tuesday - Free Swim at the the outdoor pool
Wednesday - dinner at Wines Park followed by Cowboy Poetry
Thursday - Horse Parade with the 1st night of the Lehi Round-Up Rodeo
Friday - Lehi Miniature Parade followed by the rodeo
Saturday - parade, fair, last night of the rodeo, and then at last the Dirt Dance

All of these grand adventures for the Neel household. 

We loved our town. When I look back now it was a great place to grow up. It was a place where kids were safe and summers meant freedom. We could ride our bikes all the way across town to the swimming pool, stop at the Snow Shack in front of Cash's Western Auto for a Tiger's Blood snow cone,  and make it back home in time for dinner without incident. The only instruction Mom ever gave was, "Be careful crossing State Street." 

Wherever you went, whatever you were involved in, people knew your name, and if they didn't know your name they would ask, "Who are your parents?" After you stated the names of your parents this was usually followed with, "Ah,yes. I know where you belong."  I remember going to the rodeo with Grandpa Black and I thought he was famous because everyone would stop him to say hi and shake his hand. He knew the whole town and they knew him. The community was small and tight-knit.

Looking back I miss the town that put on that celebration, miss the people from that small community. 

I miss...

 eating hamburgers with Dad and Grandpa Neel at the Lehi Cafe. 
jumping off the high dive at the Lehi Swimming Pool (you knew you were brave if you could do that).
swimming at Saratoga (when it was a small resort, not a town).
my Grandma Black's old house where you never knew who was going to stop by for a visit.
grocery shopping with Grandma Joyce at Price Brothers Market.
buying penny candy at the drugstore (the little chocolates shaped like footballs were my favorites).
going to the Broadcaster for french fries (in my young mind only the coolest of the cool went there).
Mom taking us on Sunday drives through the country roads between the ballpark and the river
I could go on and on...

I know, Lehi is alive and well, some might say thriving in it's new identity as modern urban sprawl, but the small town that I grew up is nearly gone, it disappears a little more every year with the deaths of local businesses and good ol' Lehi folks. Earlier this year I heard that Kohler's (the local grocery store that has been around almost my entire life) was selling their building to Gold's Gym. I don't know when or if they will really turn it into a gym, but it's just depressing. When I think about all the times through out my life that I have stopped and visited with a neighbor, a family member, a friend from high school, or an old-timer it makes me sad to think that this place where everyone knew your name and where you belonged will be lost. 

Main Street Lehi, Utah 2005

This week is a reminder of all the things that we have lost in the name of progress and yet when I saw the
plastic flags decorating 500 West by the rodeo grounds I couldn't help feel that same excitement I did as a kid. Round-Up Week is here!!!

To everyone in Lehi, have a great Round-Up!!!

To everyone who grew up in Lehi, Utah remember where you came from and where you belong. This one is for you:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Good Things: Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson

Heaven is Here by Stephanie (NieNie) Nielson

I was introduced to Stephanie Nielson's story just about a year ago when I went to a ladies' night event at the hospital in American Fork that Dayna (my sister) invited us (my mom and I) to. Stephanie had a great a life, it was hugely interrupted when she and her husband were in a plane crash in 2008. Burned oever 80% of her body, Stephanie had to relearn to walk, use her hands, and do other things that we take for granted every day.

  There was not a dry eye in the room, eer I mean the tent, when we heard her speak. She talked about all these little moments of motherhood that are easy to take for granted; doing up the buttons on her daughters jacket, reading to her children, being recognized by her youngest. It was beautiful to hear a mom talking about these little moments that meant so much to her. My mom was especially teared up as Stephanie talked about her experiences with her children. I thought that she must be thinking of her own children and her memories of raising us or maybe of her own mother. 

 I finally got around to reading Stephanie's book a few weeks ago. I have to to tell you that I loved every page of it. Stephanie's story is a testimony of hope, love, and faith. I loved it so much that I sent her an email. Kind of dorky, I know. But I just felt so inspired by her book that I had to let her know. I just wanted to thank her for her example and her willingness to share her story and testimony of the gospel with others.
I know that she probably gets hundreds if not thousands of emails everyday, but I hope that she sees mine and maybe responds. I am sure it won't happen, but a girl can dream, can't she?

If you are looking for something to read during these hot summer days I strongly recommend Heaven is Here. You should be able to find it anywhere that books are sold. I got mine at Target. If you want to, you can even borrow mine.

Thanks for reading.

You can learn more about Stephanie Nielson on her blog at:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Celebrating The Men In My Life

I wanted to take a moment to celebrate and recognize the amazing men in my life. 

My Dad

Here we are at a family reunion in 1980. I love that we have almost the same hair in this picture. It makes me laugh a little. I love my dad. Dad taught us to work hard, play harder, and to give everything that we did our best effort. 

My Grandpa Black

Grandpa and Mom in the 1950s. I have to tell you that I am absolutely in love with this photo. 
My grandpa taught me that family is important. He also taught me that a person's life circumstances do not have to define who they are. You can choose who you want to be. Other words of wisdom from Grandpa:
Real cowboys don't wear Wranglers, they wear Levi's.
Real cowboys don't wear boots, they wear tennis shoes.
Real cowboys don't wear cowboy hats.

My Grandpa Neel

Grandpa with his mother and Aunt Echo (age 1) 
As my memory of my grandpa fades a few things still stand out in my mind. Grandpa could get along and talk to anyone. Saint or sinner he didn't care. He loved vegetable gardens. Give him a fresh tomato and some radishes and he was dining like a king. He took great pride in eating something that he had grown.  

My Husband James (The Father of My Future Children)

I love this guy to pieces. He teaches me something new everyday. For example, yesterday he taught me, "If it is green it doesn't go down the machine(meaning the garbage disposal)." I can't wait to see him our kids (and, no I am not making any kind of an announcement here).

Randy (the father-in-law) Wyatt

Here is the father-in-law with his precious boys, The cute one in blue shirt grew up to be my husband. Randy has of course taught my husband many things. He is the most nurturing man that I know and I am glad my husband was raised by such a great a father.


Granddad is my husband's grandpa. Here he is reading James (my husband) a book. The book is You're Elected Charlie Brown. I can't help but wonder if this isn't where my husband's interest politics began. Granddad married us in the Salt Lake Temple back in 2009. He gave us lots of advice on that day. I just hope that as the years pass by we remember it all.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cancer...It's What We Do Here, Day 3 (continued)

After our conversation with Dr. Fafinski it was time go back and see Mom.

She was resting in a hospital bed while the "I don't care juice" that they gave her during the procedure wore off. She was the last patient that day so the room was quiet. The doctors and nurses started to go home for the day. One nurse stayed behind to make sure that Mom was good to go home and to give us detailed instructions on caring for the bile drain.

Mom shared with me what happened after they took her behind the doors to the restricted area. Mom told me that when the nurses started preparing her for the procedure one nurse lifted up her gown to and noticed the large scar from Mom's gall-bladder removal gone wrong surgery (the surgeons told us that her scar was only four to six inches long at the time of her surgery. They lied. It was more like ten inches long). The nurse reacted, "Oh honey, you have been through a lot already haven't you?" She continued, "You cancer patients amaze me, cancer patients are the strongest and bravest."The nurses gave my mom what they called "I don't care juice" and started the procedure.

Mom felt Dr. Fafinski stabbing at her liver trying to find a place to insert the drain. She said as she felt the pain she thought about the Atonement and how Christ not only suffered for our sins but felt all of our pain as well. As she focused on this the pain subsided, there was now only a little discomfort. The nurse noticed the discomfort on Mom's face, "Let's give you some more I don't care juice."

Through out our time at Huntsman we had kind of been making fun of the nurses because on the first day we were there one of the nurses very vocally expressed her concern with getting her lunch for two hours and then when she finally did go to lunch she announced that she was off in an hour. Mom made sure that I knew said once they got behind the doors the nurses were amazing.

The nurse that stayed with us while the "I don't care juice" wore off was an older woman named Judy. She told my Grandma that she had been a nurse for over 30 years. I could tell that Mom completely trusted her after the tine they shared behind the restricted area doors. Judy walked us through changing the bandages, cleaning the small incision sight, and emptying the drain. I took notes and focused on every word she said so that I would remember everything when we got home. When we were done Judy started to collect supplies for us as we started to get mom ready for the trip home.

 Mom was sitting on the edge of the hospital bed as we prepared her to leave. She help the bag connected to the tube that went into her liver and she started to cry. "I don't want to do this." she said. I tried to comfort and calm her down. "Let me just have a moment," she said as I tried to tell her everything would be okay that she and all of us could do this. I thought to myself if anyone deserved to have a moment it was her so I let her get everything out. Judy came back said something to Mom that I couldn't hear. It seemed to calm her down.

When she was calm enough to get up Judy helped her to the bathroom. Judy left her alone for a few minutes and continued to gather supplies for us. Mom started crying again. We could hear mom sobbing through the walls. Nurse Judy went back in. Soon they both emerged from the bathroom. Mom again settled down. We put her in a wheelchair and headed back downstairs.

Dad went to get the car. The rest of us sat in the lobby. Mom said with tears in her eyes, "Jon Huntsman is a great man." I agreed and teared up as well.

Leaving that day we were so thankful that Jon Huntsman had a vision for the Huntsman Cancer Institute and that his execution of that vision helped Mom and many others like her have more time, a better quality of life, in some cases a cure, but above all things hope.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cancer...It's What We Do Here, Day 3

 After two other days of getting no where with the Biliary Drainage procedure Mom needed, we found ourselves at the Huntsman Cancer Institute once again on the morning of March 13th.

I went up early with my parents for what we hoped would finally be a successful day at Huntsman.
When we got there Dad pulled up to the lobby entrance and I ran inside to get a wheelchair. We got Mom loaded in the chair and we headed inside.

Me, being the brilliant person that I am, thought that we could get the wheelchair through the revolving door. After a few steps we got stuck! I had to knock and push with all my might to get to the other side. At the time I was thinking, "Oh, my poor mother, she is so sick and her I am pushing and knocking her around. It must be miserable for her." Now, it makes me laugh. I wish I had the security tape of us stuck in the revolving door. I bet it was hilarious.

We did make it to the 3rd floor in one piece. As soon as the nurse got there she came out to get us.  We took Mom back and got her changed into a hospital gown and got her settled into a bed. The nurses put in an IV and took some blood to send to the lab. As soon as the results were back they would start pumping FFP (Frozen Fresh Plasma)into Mom's body in order to get her blood clotting agents to a safe level.

Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Wayne came a little while later. When they arrived Uncle Wayne gave Mom a blessing. Dad and Grandpa came back out to the waiting area in tears telling us how beautiful the blessing was. When I asked Mom what he said she responded, "He told me everything that I have been praying for."

The results were back and they started the FFP (Frozen Fresh Plasma). Then after each bag they would draw more blood and send it to the lab to see if the blood clotting agents were at a safe level. Finally after 4 or 5 bags of FFP she was ready! I was in the waiting area when my family came out to tell me that it was time. I ran back to say good luck but Mom was already walking through the doors to the procedure room surrounded by nurses. I went back to the waiting area full of hope and apprehension.

While we waited I half expected Dr. Fafinski to come out and tell us that she had died during the procedure. I kept praying, "Please Heavenly Father, not yet. Don't take her yet." When I saw Dr. Fafinski come out the door into the waiting area I thought I was going to throw up. He told that they were able to get the drain in and that we would be able to take Mom home after she had a little recovery time and we got the instructions on how to take care of the drain from the nurse.

Dr. Fafinski was asking Dad some questions about Mom's case. He told us that he was going to collaborate with another doctor there to see if there was anything else that we could do to increase Mom's liver function.  He told us that there were medications to help and that they could also possibly put stints in her bile ducts so that her bile could drain internally.

Dad asked, "And you would do those things, even though she has cancer?" We were of course thrilled to hear that he cared enough to help Mom.

Dr. Fafinski responded with another question, "What is the name on the building?"

Dad answered, "Huntsman Cancer..."

As soon as Dad said cancer Dr. Fafinski interrupted, "That's right,'s what we do here."

In that moment there was hope.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cancer...It's What We Do Here, Day 2

One of the girls that I grew up with in the Lehi 3rd Ward was at Huntsman a few days ago. After removing part of her kidney and a tumor she is cancer free and will not have to do any chemo or radiation treatment. I am so happy for her and her family. What amazing news! I am so grateful that my friend was able to get the help that she so desperately needed. So grateful that Huntsman Cancer Institute is in our own backyard. As I said a few days ago, they do amazing things there.

 And now for Day 2 of our Huntsman experience...

Huntsman Cancer Institute at 2000 Circle of Hope Drive Salt Lake City, Utah


On March 12th we loaded Mom up early and headed once again to Huntsman. They told us to be there early so we left Lehi around 6:00am. When we got to Huntsman all was quiet we pulled up to the lobby entrance to get Mom out. Mom and I started our walk to the elevators to go to Interventional Radiology on the 3rd floor. The building was quiet, calm, and peaceful that early in the morning. The reception desk wasn't open yet so we sat in the waiting area in the same spot we sat in the day before.

Shortly after 7:00am when the reception window opened something amazing happened. Patients and their caregivers came from all directions and lined up at the window. At one point I counted ten people in line waiting to check in and this was happening at reception desks throughout the building. All these people were here for the same reasons we were. They were hoping for a good day, a better quality of life, and in some cases a cure.

To see all these people lining up for care was an incredible experience that I will never forget. I watched many cancer patients and there caregivers walk down from the elevators to the reception desk and waiting area. While I witnessed all these brave patients and their compassionate caregivers I had the distinct  impression that angels walked the halls at Huntsman Cancer Institute. I truly believe that they do.

(Inside the lobby at Huntsman. This is the 2nd or 3rd floor)

So they called Mom back and got her settled and then we waited, and waited, and waited. We waited so long we felt ignored. There were five of us there to support Mom that day (me, Dad, Grandma Black, Grandpa Black, and my Uncle Wayne) so we would take turns going back to the area they had her in. At some point during the wait my Grandpa came out to get me and Dad. We hurried through the doors and down the hallway to my Mom's bedside. This is when we met Dr. Fafinski.

Dr. Fafinski was right out of an episode of Grey's Anatomy (and you know I love my Grey's Anatomy). He was everything you expect a world-class doctor to be. Handsome, confident (even a little bit cocky), with a dash a self-importance. He was the attending, the man in charge; the other doctors we had been talking to were mere residents. He came to tell us that due to the late start and Mom's allergy to the blue dye that they needed to inject her with to do a CT scan they would not be doing the procedure today. Not again! We waited while they decided whether to admit my mother for an overnight stay or not. Also Dr. Fafinski had not received any of the images from the previous CT scan (dome during Mom's stay at Timpanogas Regional Hospital) or the MRI that as done a few days before.

The next few hours were full of phone calls to Marlene (the oncologist's nurse). Where were the images? What releases did Mom need to sign to get the images? Could they get the images to Huntsman ASAP? There were also questions about getting her admitted to the hospital because Dr. Bott didn't have the authority to admit her to Hunstman. While Dad was on the phone with nurse Marlene, Dr. Fafinski was giving the nurses orders.

Dad was doing the best he could with the oncologist's office, but at some point Dr. Fafinski called them himself. He told Marlene exactly what he needed and also told her that he wanted to talk to Dr. Bott.
He told us he wanted to talk to Dr. Bott about this case. He said to Mom, "I want to know more about your case other than the fact that you have a giant turmor." I knew that this was Dr. Fafinski's way of saying that he cared. Although the day had been an absolute train wreck I knew we were good hands now.

So once again we were sent home, this time beat down and frustrated. But we weren't ready to give up yet.

To Be Continued...

You can learn more about Dr. Fafinski here: