18 February 2018

4 ways to edit your story

There’s a chapter in Gary’s and my story, titled “The Wilderness Years,” that lasted for more than a decade. A windswept, barren, bleak, heart-throbbing trek through financial reversals, and a live-in parent sinking into dementia, and a terminal cancer diagnosis, and the death of a most beloved husband, friend, life partner.

Most of us would edit some chapters of our stories if we could.


Photo by Andrew Measham on Unsplash


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11 February 2018

If I were to date again

Now that I’m perfectly content and happy and have purpose in this season of widowhood, I’m tentatively, cautiously, hesitantly — maybe — considering male companionship. (My children have given their blessing to dating and remarriage, but my son had one stipulation: “As long as he has a yacht.”)


Photo credit: Unsplash


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4 February 2018

10 things not to say to a widow(er)

In her book, Bittersweet, author Shauna Niequist wrote that people often say the wrong thing when something bad happens:

But there’s something worse than the things people say. It’s much worse, I think, when people say nothing.


Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash


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1 February 2018

Critical conversations every couple should have

A kindly palliative care physician stopped by my husband’s hospital room to help him complete a Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form. “What most concerns you?” he asked my husband.

Gary pointed at me and said, “Leaving her.”


Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash


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28 January 2018

Hospice care: 4 myths and 4 awesome things you may not know

We were at my husband’s final oncology consultation—the one where he said, No more chemoat which point the oncologist said he’d like to make a referral to hospice. I was incredulous. Seriously? Does Gary look like he’s on his last legs?! 

“Up until this point,” the oncologist said to my husband, “all the care has been focused on you.” He pointed at me: “But who’s taking care of her?” My eyes welled up. I’d never considered that thought.


Photo by Conner Baker on Unsplash


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24 January 2018

9 living-well benefits of knitting

You’ll find me with my knitting posse most Monday evenings at Barnes & Noble. Back when my husband, Gary, was fighting cancer, they were part of my cancer caregiver support network. And now in widowhood, they’ve got my back.

My fellow knitters didn’t sign up for either of these extra assignments. But by virtue of showing up every Monday and bringing their exquisite, fuzzy projects and sharing their stories and asking about my week, they’re a significant addition to my support system.



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21 January 2018

Lessons from a turtle release

Someone handed a baby turtle in a small container to me. “Give him a name,” she said. And of course what popped into my head was ‘Gary.’ As in, my husband.


Photo: Campamento Tortugueros Sayulita


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15 January 2018

Should we let disagreeable conditions defer our plans?

Back when my husband, Gary, was living well with late-stage prostate cancer, we joined a cancer-kicking hike/ snowshoe group. As a result, I have movies in living color of so many burbling, adventurous, life-affirming treks in the Cascades near our home in central Oregon.

After Gary died, the strangest thing happened: All the teams, posses, crews of people who supported us through ten years of cancer and caregiving suddenly morphed into widow support groups.

Earlier this week, I joined up with two of my cancer-kicking (widow support) friends, Mike and Bina, and snow-shoed from Mt. Bachelor out to Todd Lake. A cold and gray-shrouded trek.


Looking out across a frozen Todd Lake (Photo: Mike Gibson)


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7 January 2018

How to be a world-changer

My young friend, Charity, is a world-changer. But she doesn’t know it.

Charity is facing the one-year anniversary of the day her husband and young son were swept out to sea by a sneaker wave on the Oregon coast. January 15. But wait until you hear what she’s accomplished, despite dealing with the most horrific experience of her life.


My world-changing friend, Charity


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31 December 2017

Define your purpose; live your reason

Three years ago—back when I was newly widowed, resigning my job, and paring down to move out of state—a bracelet arrived in the mail from one of my beautiful sisters-in-law. The charm dangling from it read: “Embrace the journey.”


Photo by Fineas Anton on Unsplash


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About Me

Hello, my name is Marlys Johnson. I’m a cancer widow, author, speaker and blogger. I love getting outdoors; would rather lace up hiking boots than go shopping. I have a passion for repurposing old junk into cool new stuff. And an even greater passion for showing people how to navigate life’s challenges. Tenaciously. And with heart wide open.

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