About this wacky widow

I started this blog after a 3 month hiatus in writing. On Nov 12, 2010, my husband, lover, friend, and roommate of 25 years died after a 14 month endurance race with Glioblastoma, a relatively common, and almost always terminal, brain cancer. His story, from shortly after diagnosis until death can be found at:  www.caringbridge.org/visit/jimlafortune

I wrote Jim’s caring bridge blog to keep family, friends and students of Jim’s informed. They wanted to know how he was doing, what type of help we needed, and what sorts of things we were doing to see if we could be the 1 in 1 million chance of surviving the beast. I also wrote it because it forced me to take pretty complex information (it WAS brain surgery after all!) and simplify it into a format that junior high school students could understand. Most importantly, it also allowed me a way to communicate that information to my brain-damaged husband in a way that was not “in your face” personal. Our day-to-day life could be more focused on the living, and less about the nastiness of the cancer. In the end, it was a way for me to process his death, and I hoped it could be a road map for others facing a similar situation. When Jim was diagnosed, I looked, but couldn’t find anything similar.

I am writing now mostly to help myself navigate the complex emotional minefield of new widowhood. Most of my posts begin as 6 pages of stream of consciousness (the kind that runs through your head when you are awake at 2 am), and then get reduced to something that is fit to be shared. I am again simplifying complex information; not for junior high students, or a brain-damaged lover, but for me. Again, I looked, and I could not find anything similar. Perhaps it will be a road map for others…if so, that is a blessing.

Thanks for reading.




17 Responses to About this wacky widow

  1. Stacia says:


    I was a friend of Jim’s from college; we were geology majors at UVM and graduated the same year. I was so saddened to read of his death in the alumni magazine yesterday. Please e-mail me if you’d like; I have a few photos that I could send to you. There is more that I want to say, but not here.

    Best wishes,

  2. Eric says:

    I am not sure if you catch the incoming messages on this page, but I figured I’d share this quick story about what just happened minutes ago. For you and whoever else may read it.

    Sitting here with one headphone plugged into my left ear, listening to folk music online at Montana Radio Cafe. For some reason I drifted off to think about a conversation at a bar in Nashville four nights ago with another traveler.
    Over a late burger and a glass of wine, I go to speaking with the woman next to me at Merchants Bar, who told me about her 39 yr old brother-in-law recently dying of a heart attack. I then shared the sad story of my dear friend, Jim, as a 3-minute summary of the 14 month battle. It was the first time I have said anything about that loss to a complete stranger, and it just came out naturally at the time. I was in a bit of a daze afterward, and I remember her asking if I was OK…then the conversation wound its way back to music, family and travel schedules. Another late night dinner on the road.

    Jump back to this afternoon. I am listening to music while doing some work. Something makes me think of that conversation in that bar in Nashville…more specifically my thoughts were on the exact moments when I was talking about Jim. Just as my mind started to depart that thought, “A Better Man” by Keb ‘Mo’ started playing on Montana Radio Cafe. The only time in my life I have ever heard that song was at Jim’s final celebration at the East Side Marketplace last November. This time I recognized it on the first note. I had chills the entire time the song played.

    Jim was dropping in to say ‘hello’ today. He was supporting me in being ‘a better man.’ Without turning this too much on myself, I have had some down days lately and I feel like a could be doing better. I suddenly have more of a fire burning in my belly, and have more of a drive to be better and do better.

    Thanks, Jim…I needed that!


    • wackywidow says:

      Thanks Eric,

      This is the best birthday present I got today! Weird stuff like this happens to me, too….not as often as I would like, but it is there. I bought an i-pod doc for the kitchen, and I have Jim’s i-pod on there. I have not added anything new, or taken anything off, and I really only listen as I am making dinner. Last night, Rachel M came over for food, and when she walked through the door, “I shot your dog” came on. Now….what the heck is THAT supposed to mean?


      • Eric says:

        Today is really your birthday! Wow, that is too weird!! I had no idea, and yet I felt compelled to send you my little story.

        Happy Birthday!


  3. Joseph Erhard-Hudson says:

    Today (3/24/11) you were the top google and bing hits for “wacky widow”, even ahead of the 91-year-old woman who lived for years with the embalmed bodies of her husband and sister (and is fighting to get them back after the authorities confiscated them).

    I guess that makes you pretty darned wacky. 🙂

  4. Donna says:

    I think of you and Jim often. You shared so much with us during his illness and continue to do so with this blog and I appreciate your candor. Quite often you sum up feelings I share but wasn’t able to isolate; you have an amazing talent for this. I love the birthday story above. A couple of years ago I needed to euthanize our cat, it was way before when I thought he should go (he was 7 years old) and just was something horrible I had to do myself. As terrible as the experience was it’s nothing compared to your recent journey. But something beautiful happened afterward. I had been avoiding my mail box as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to afford the vet bill, and would have to pool any birthday money someone might have mailed me toward that expense. I waited until my birthday, which was 9 days after taking the cat to the vet for the last time, and finally looked in the mailbox. Among the birthday cards from my dear mom and Aunt (with the checks they had thoughtfully sent to help toward the vet bills) was a small envelope. In the envelope was a small clay paw print the vet had made after I left that horrible day. I still feel so guilty that I couldn’t afford to get him cremated and scatter his ashes but it meant so much that the vet had sent me a small keepsake, and I received it on my birthday. We wander through this world and have to remember it’s the small gifts that make it so worthwhile. Blessings to you and your sweet family.

  5. Lisa O says:

    My hubby of 22 yrs married/28yrs togetherness also died…nov 30,2010. I was searching the web and found your site. Glad you are processing on a similar timeline as me. It is a big deal. I pray you keep dancing and finding life! It does take a long time to train a man. I like your musings… Lisa O.

    • wackywidow says:

      Glad you found this and that you are finding it helpful. When I started, it was out of frustration that there seemed so little to help, and I desperately wanted a roadmap. Now, I realize (and actually kinda like!) that there is no map, and there are so many of us…..keep dancing…we…are….so…alive!

      • Lisa O says:

        Hi Kathie,
        I want you to know how much I have enjoyed your blog posts and resonate with much of your stuff. Also, I want to see about getting a box of those origami birds sent to my good pal who is in stage 4 cancer? And…last but not least… I will be in your area all next week with my daughter’s college tour and am wondering if you want to meet up for a coffee or something? I would love to meet you in person and compare notes.
        Best to you…
        Lisa O

  6. Mary Heller says:

    I met you once during the Nov. fundraiser for Jim. Went over there briefly away from Rick’s bedside to just let you know I was here for you in any way you needed. My husband, best friend, father of our daughter Brittany Mattox, and roommate of 17 years, Rick Mattox, died of grade 4 glioblastoma in the temporal lobe Jan. 15th, 2010 in Moscow, ID. We had lived here for 5 years by then, but because of his condition fighting it and my 70 hr/wk job at the UI, had no time to really socialize and meet others much. I just now have read your entries. Discovered them through Jasper’s newspaper article about building the cranes as a link from the Women’s Center. Just a beautiful idea. Your entire site has brought tears to my eyes and then some as you may know how that goes. I run, swim and dance everyday. My 22 years of being in the Dance Education, Choreographic and Performance profession has allowed that outlet here and there, but especially now that Rick has passed, I have time to fit it in every day.

    Roadmap. Well, I am used to having none in my profession, or life. You receive tools, train for years, hone your craft, and carve out a career for yourself. I am a self starter, and so I start again. Not easy, but I am used to it. Again, dance teaches me once again how to live life well. Don’t know any other profession that does this as thoroughly. I am grateful for this calling for one does not decide to be a dancer, it chooses you.

    Cancer is so stupid, it actually tries to live by taking you over as a host, then dies anyway because it is killing the host. As Rick used to say, “life isn’t for everyone”. We both grieved trough tons of morbid humor. NOTHING was sacred or untouched by it. I LOVE the “are you really ok” sign. I will be using the response to when people ask me how I am in the check out line, etc. as I never want to lie, but always love to joke too.

    Please know I have thought of you and your family often. I can relate as they say. Each of us grieves differently. I for one am healing, but will always be allowing the grief to come and go as it does when we are human. Rick insisted on me to move on, live a great life whatever that meant to me. Easier said than done, but I hear him sometimes screaming at me to just do it too. I do not work at the UI anymore due to them needing the line to be rotational now. This gave me a choice to stay in Moscow or move back home to Chicago to teach BeMoved®, an adult fitness dance class, and what I call “healing” class, for those that used to dance pro, or have never and always wanted to. I choose Moscow. I have made amazing friends here, Brit has started UI here, and I can also teach BeMoved and work on research here better than in Chicago because there is no traffic and not a ton of crime. I want to serve the community with BeMoved because it actually does help relieve stress on so many levels in so many physiological ways, and brings us closer together just in the act of dancing together in unison to uplifting music on a regular basis. This week is Rat Pack, next is Bollywood. Warm ups and cool downs are always the same therapeutic movement and uplifting music.

    When the opportunity presents itself, and you want to dance inside, with others, to music that inspires, movements that are all low impact and safe for all days of our body, ha!, then come take. I wold love to dance with you! I am sooo glad you dance on the trails, etc!!!

    See BeMoved-Dance.com for all places/days/times I am doing it. Festival is Fri. 5:30-6:30pm at UI PEB, and Spectrum is Sat. 11am-12noon. Their links on the BeMoved website just don’t bring you to their schedule yet cause they are still getting their schedules finalized.

    Moscow is pretty magical. I know after living all over the country. People here actually do care, but let you keep your business to yourself too. It’s also just amazing to be outside here!

    The book that has gotten me through is Nisargadatta’s “I am That”

    That which is real was never born, nor never dies. My dear women mover in this life, hope to just dance with you sometime. Tis how I communicate the best. AND wouldn’t our deceased get a kick out of watching us do that together ha!

    Of course, if you just want to get together, email me or call – marychoreographer@gmail.com, 208-310-9913. I would love to do that sometime.

    Have always, always kept you in my thoughts.

    Love and Peace fellow traveler in this creative world we all co create every second –

    Mary Heller

    • wackywidow says:

      Hi Mary,

      I remember you well from that November evening, and have thought of you often in the year that has passed since then and now. I had heard, through mutual friends, that Rick had died…but I did not have the spare energy to reach out at the time. As you know only too well, living with someone with brain cancer, is pretty all consuming while the cancer eats away at the person’s brain. And the months to follow…grief is definitely a manic depressive episode, not linear, totally self absorbed (thank goodness THAT is passing!)….and there is no road map. Frustrating…yes, but part of what makes life so fragile and so beautiful. I will come dance with you sometime…but for now I crave the fresh air on one level, and the envelopment of the water on another. For now, it is enough. Love and Peace to you as well.


  7. Mary Heller says:

    I completely understand, and yes, since I must swim and run outside my craving for water and fresh air is similar. Yes, nonlinear days are all I have had since his passing. I am not the same person I was. It changes you. I do not judge it. We are all capable of so many transformations. I let love and passion for others drive it like you do. I figure that is a good choice, ha!

  8. Hi Kathie,
    Betsy shared your blog address with me…when I have some time, I want to read it all. Among my many hats (including fellow blogger) I am the new E.D. of a small nonprofit that supports people in grief and loss. We’ll be creating an updated website and social media platform soon and I would love to invite you to write a blog for us…in a month or two! You can check us out at http://www.winterspring.org.



  9. Kathie. I am the farthest thing on the planet from a biking, hiking, rafting person. I have never been to Idaho. But I was born in the same year and month as you, and, like you, my husband was diagnosed with GBMIV in July. I just spent the better part of the last 4 hours reading evey single entry in your journal. And if I could, I would bike, hike and raft out to you right this second.
    I’m so terrified about what the next year looks like, but thanks to you, a little less so.

  10. Wendy says:

    Hi Kathie, I’m enjoying boppin’ around your blog. Last January my best friend/lover/husband/father or my daughters/ and handyman lost his battle with Glioblastoma. 7 months from diagnosis to death. I’m thinking of starting up a blog as an outlet for my grieving/healing process, and to let others know how I’m doing. I kept a caringbridge journal, and my husband’s friends and family really appreciated being able to know what was going on without feeling like they had to intrude on us to find out. I just read Jessica’s note to you. She’s where I was last year; my husband was diagnosed in July 2011 and by this time of year, the not-knowing-what-was-coming was so stressful! Feel free to share my email with her if she’d like some more support.

  11. 1writeplace says:

    Hi Kathie, Enjoyed touring your site. I am so proud? of the ways you are staying strong, and reaching out when you feel weak. I lost my husband to leukemia 3 & 1/2 yrs ago. Hugs, Patti

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