To The Mountaintop

We have been through some hard and confusing times. Most of you know that. And we are sorry we have not been able to return all the concerned calls and letters.

Up until May 9, we thought things were on track to some degree with Ellen’s treatment. Ellen was taking her weekly chemotherapy. Each week she would have a couple of days where she was down and weak and tired as a side effect of the medications. But she would have the rest of the days to build strength, and keep fit, and prepare for the struggle ahead.

We got on a routine of a morning walk and an afternoon walk. Ellen’s walks were up and down, over mountains, three or four miles. Luke started running on one of the two daily outings. And Ellen was walking fast and hard. We both felt good, and were sleeping beautifully at night. And we have much enjoyed spending this tome together in the beautiful outdoors. It also makes the dogs happy.

Luke has lost 25 pounds in the last three months. He needed to do get more fit to support Ellen in whatever may lie ahead. It also helps a lot in trying to stay more relaxed, and bringing restful sleep. And quite frankly it  was necessary to keep up with Ellen.

Ellen has also lost a lot of weight but in her case it is a bit of a concern as she needs to keep up her strength and her body reserves, and to be frank, did not have the extra weight to lose that Luke did.

So we went out for one of these lovely walks on the morning of May 9. And when we got home, Ellen took her mid-day nap. And when she woke up, she was in considerable pain. The pain got worse. And she developed abdominal swelling. And through the night the pain got considerably worse.

Early the next morning we went to the Emergency Room, where they gave Ellen a variety of tests, and tried to evaluate what was going on. And they gave her some medications, and some pain pills, and sent her home. And through the night the pain got considerably worse.

Early the next morning we went to the Emergency Room, where they gave Ellen more tests, and tried to evaluate what was going on. She had a fever. She was very weak. And they gave her new medications, and  pain pills, and sent her home. And through the night the pain got considerably worse.

So we went to the Emergency Room, where they gave Ellen more tests, and decided she needed to be in the hospital. She had a higher fever. She was weaker. She had more swelling and increased pain, even through all the pain pills. She was unable to eat. Indeed she went 14 days without solid food, mainly nourished by intravenous solutions. Because she was retaining so much fluid she was still gaining weight, even without eating.

Ultimately Ellen had a video conference with her wonderful doctors, Dr. Anil Sood at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and Dr. Paulette Blanchet here at Gunnison Valley Hospital.

They decided to change Ellen’s chemotherapy regime once again. This is not what cancer patients like to hear. They want to be told that the medication is working, and getting rid of the cancer, and all of the side effects and discomfort of chemotherapy is resulting in real progress. And this is the fourth chemotherapy regime for Ellen.

The earlier ones have had some good effects. But not enough.

The new regime is a daily chemotherapy agent which, thankfully, is a pill that can be self-administered at home. There are a bunch of other medications to control side effects and deal with Ellen’s pain and appetite and other issues. But it is not a daily trip to the hospital.

When Ellen came home from the hospital, she was feeling pretty bad. The pain and the swelling were still there. She still could not eat. Above all, she was terribly weak. And her digestive system had stopped functioning.

It was a challenge for us to move ahead. Ellen needed a great deal of help and support and was barely able to get out of bed.

And because we are so concerned that Ellen not get infected by the coronavirus, we have excluded everyone from our house. Which means that Luke has had to do all the cooking and cleaning and household chores and really a lot of other things.

Marketa,  our lovely sister, has done most all our shopping, and taken the dogs for long walks. Ellen’s friend Claudia Valenzuela cleaned the house while Ellen was at the hospital. Luke’s work colleagues have stepped up and taken over a good deal of his professional obligations.  Thank you, Kristi Disney, Jessica Young and many others. Really, so many people have done so much for us. This community has been there when we needed them.

So Ellen’s first few days at home were tough. She was still not eating. She slept most of the time. And she was weak.

So she started by little walks around the house. And then walking to the mailbox and back. And then a little farther each day. And even these little walks made her so very tired.

After about ten days home from the hospital,  Ellen made it all the way to the animal sanctuary, where she is friends with the burros.  And she started eating. Her doctor suggested moving from three big meals to multiple little meals. And this has really worked for her. There are days where as her appetite improved she has been eating 10-12 meals. Her digestive functions have returned and she is eating with gusto.

And the next day she made it to the animal sanctuary twice.

And then she woke up one morning and said she wanted to climb the big hill near our house. And she did. She made it all the way to the top.


And then she did it again.


OUTSIDE Magazine thinks walking is making a major comeback. And Ellen is doing her bit to contribute to that.

Walking Is Making a Major Comeback

And Ellen kept walking hard last week even when it snowed and froze here last Tuesday.


When Ellen lived in Ethiopia, she was married to a German. It was before German unification. He was a West German.. And at the agricultural university where they lived there were some other faculty who were East Germans. And the East German government did not want them to be talking to West Germans. But they became friends anyway, and one of the East Germans shared a sourdough culture with Ellen.

Ellen has been baking all of her own bread ever since. And it is wonderful, healthy, whole grain bread. And the same sourdough culture.

But she has had to stop doing that the last couple of months as she has not been strong enough to bake.

But look what happened! Thursday, Ellen baked 17 loaves of bread.


We miss seeing all of you in person very much.  We share a deep and abiding faith that we will all be together again, in a better world, with more justice, more peace and less racism.

And we get solace from this song, which Vera Lynn shared with the world in an even more troubled time.



13 Replies to “To The Mountaintop”

  1. Thank you, Luke. I had less than an hour ago said to Susan that I did not like not hearing an update. I came home to what appears to me, in context, pretty good news. The problem? Those 17 loaves of bread. Those lost 25 pounds are liable to find their way back home.


  2. Dear Luke, dear Ellen

    This is the most inspiring story I’ve ever. Ellen, you are so strong. I bow to your resilience. Luke, you are simply amazing. I admire you both and look forward to seeing you next year when we can fly to the US.

    Keep visiting those asses!

    Love, Alison



  3. Thank you for the update. Peg and I think of you each day and have been wishing you some reprieve. Luke, congratulations on becoming more fit and chasing after Ellen is a blessed way to get there. Thank you for sharing the photos and pieces of your life. Please hug one another twice, one for Peg and one from me. Love to you both, Renee, Peg and Emmylou


  4. ¡Excelente Luke! Que bueno!!!

    ¡Y gracias por darnos buenas noticias en estos tiempos! ¡Gracias!

    Un abrazo,

    Maria de los Angeles


  5. Mis queridos amigos, gracias por actualizarnos con información, siempre estoy pensando en ustedes , cómo seguramente todos sus amigos,. Muchas veces tengo ganas de visitarlos , pero con todo esto del virus sé que tenemos que tener mucho cuidado para no exponer a Elencita, espero que pronto cambien las circunstancias para bien tanto para mi amiga , como también con lo de esta epidemia, así podamos verlos y darle un fuerte abrazo. Los quiero mucho, les mando un montón de besitos y abrazos.❤️❤️❤️❤️


  6. Que bueno escuchar de ustedes, especialmente que Ellen está recuperando fuerzas, con fe I esperanza un día de estos podamos bailar y celebrar la cura todos juntitos
    Muchos cariños a los dos


  7. Ellen y Luke: Recién hoy leo su mensaje. Gracias por compartirnos lo que viven y sienten y como viven cada día con esa capacidad extraordinaria de integrar el dolor, la incertidumbre, la impotencia y las señales de vida bella entre ustedes y alrededor de ustedes. Un abrazo desde la distancia!!!!!


  8. Great news. This story is amazing as is Ellen. The power of sour…dough!! Love that song. Mom Marylin used to sing it.
    Keep climbing.
    MR and Denise

    Sent from my iPhone


  9. Mis primos tan queridos: ¡Vaya que lo han tenido muy difícil estas semanas! Lo lamento muchísimo. Ya estaba yo deseando saber de ustedes pero no quiero ser imprudente y llamar. En el descanso está la clave para sobrellevar esta enfermedad.
    Ya saben cuánto los quiero y que desde este rinconcito texano siempre les estoy mandando mucha buena energía.
    En estos tiempos convulsos e inciertos, estoy aquí a su lado.


  10. Thanks for sharing the news. You are both in my thoughts. It’s beautiful to watch you both walk through this labyrinth with love and courage, strength and optimism. It will keep your journey more pleasant no matter where the road is leading. Love, love, love to you both.


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