Tim and Lois Bird on their Dream trip to Alaska, made possible by the Dream Foundation.
BY NIKKI MEYER
Information submitted by Tia Schweiss
On Monday, February 19, 2018 former Truman resident Lois Bird and her family sat together in a hospital room, waiting for the oncologist to deliver the results of a series of tests she had undergone, include a PET scan, mammogram, ultrasound and MRI of her head. It had been a year and a half since her health had become an issue. The minutes ticked by, feeling like hours, as everyone anxiously wondered Is the cancer back?
It was the summer of 2016 when Lois first started battling constant bronchitis and pneumonia-like symptoms. Despite seeking treatment, she just wasn’t getting better. Finally, doctors decided to do further testing to get to the root of the problem. By that fall, Lois had been diagnosed with Stage 3 Lung cancer.
Lois went through intense rounds of radiation and chemotherapy to attack the cancer in her lung. There were good days and bad days, but she pulled through and doctors watched the cancer shrink. Then, in the summer of 2017 a lump appeared on her upper left shoulder blade. The oncologist determined it was cancer, and they quickly biopsied the spot to remove the threat, believing they had caught it in time.
And yet, little more than six months later, more spots had appeared on her back, and they were back at the hospital. Waiting.
Dr. Thome, her oncologist, entered the room and delivered the news that hit like a ton of bricks. Not only was there cancer, but it had moved from Stage 3 to Stage 4 and had metastasized. In addition to spots on her lungs and back, the tests also found a tumor the size of walnut on the right frontal lobe of her brain. More spots were located in other areas of her brain and throughout her body.
Despite her prognosis, Lois and her family were not about to let cancer win. A few days later, on February 22, she met with Dr. Smith, a radiation oncologist, to discuss her plan of attack. After weighing the different options and their risks, Lois chose to undergo 12 intense rounds of full brain radiation and radiation for the spots on her back. It was a grueling process, both physically and mentally, and at times her family was concerned they were losing her.
On March 13, after her final radiation treatment, Lois proudly marked the end of that journey. The hospital kept a special bell specifically for the occasion, which Lois rang with her family by her side, surrounded by the sounds of applause and support from the staff, family friends and other cancer warriors who had joined her for her celebration.
A week later, Lois and her family met again with Dr. Thome to discuss the options moving forward. In the end, Lois chose to engage in hospice care to live the best life she can in the comfort of her own home. She is now using medical cannabis to help reduce the swelling in her brain and seizures, and to help her be less reliant on opioid pain relievers. Her family feels these choices have been a real blessing to them all, as she is still able to enjoy time with her children, grandchildren, family and friends. This summer she was still able to garden and she does as much as she can independently to help keep her strength up and her mind fresh to continue her fight.
Lois is currently only 56 years young. Seeing the path before her, Lois’ daughters wanted to make sure that their mother was able to live the rest of her life to the fullest. They set out to orchestrate one last vacation for Lois and Tim (a.k.a. T-Bird), her husband, while Lois still had the physical and mental ability to travel.
With the help of the Hospice Team the girls were introduced to the Dream Foundation which serves “terminally-ill adults and their families by providing end-of-life Dreams that offer inspiration, comfort and closure.” (www.dreamfoundation.org/#). With the help of her daughters and hospice team Lois filled out an application for her Dream. The application process involves some financials, but mostly the applicant telling their story and why they should be chosen. Applicants also get to describe two Dream choices.
In August 2018 Lois’ hospice team was thrilled when they got to surprise her with some exciting news for a change. The team gave Lois a gift basket full of items to keep her comfortable on the trip she was about to take to Fairbanks, Alaska.
. The Dream Foundation was making her Dream a reality.
From August 28-31, 2018, Lois and T-Bird stayed in the heart of Fairbanks. They were within walking distance of many of the city’s main attractions, and were able to visit local museums, nature areas, the church were Tim was baptized and, of course, they dined on some fine cuisine. The couple said that lots of sightseeing and spending time together made the trip one they will always remember. That, and the hard work Lois’ hospice team and doctors put in to make sure that Lois could make the trip comfortable. Lois is one of the first hospice patients in our area to become a recipient of the Dream Foundation, and her family is forever grateful.
Lois continues her fight with cancer with a positive mind and strong heart. However, given her age, many benefits are still not available to her. Three years ago she had to give up her job due to her cancer. Lois spent more than 30 years, between Truman Senior Living and Lakeview Methodist Home, helping take care of people in nursing home and hospital settings. Her family is now taking care of her.
Some of her concerns during this battle have been loss of memory, having to rely on others to help her with tasks that she was once able to do independently and preparing for the unknown. She does her best to use her time to her fullest and live in every moment.
Lois’ family says their mom is, “one of the most generous and kind-hearted gals you’ll ever meet. She’s known for her positive attitude and willingness to help others in need.” However, they also note that this battle has taken a toll on their mom and their family both physically and emotionally. Medical bills and every day expenses continue to pile up. On Saturday, November 3, a benefit will be held for Lois at Grace Lutheran Church in Fairmont 4 p.m.-8 p.m. The money raised will go towards Lois’ medical bills and daily expenses. Family and friends will be providing a meal of pulled Pork Sandwiches and sides, and a silent auction. Lois plans to be at the event with family and friends to show her gratitude and thanks to all her supporters.
Lois is the mother of three daughters and one son; Erica (Gordy) Diekmann, Tia (Larry) Schweiss, Amanda (James) Johnson, and Michael Johannsen. She also has nine grandchildren.
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