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Through the Seasons: A Caregiver’s Story

Read Time: 3 minutes
Story and photos: Ed Kleiner

From time to time, Huntsman Cancer Institute invites guest commentary from our community. The views reflected in these commentaries are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Huntsman Cancer Institute.

It was that time of year when the grape leaves had to be pruned

to allow the morning sun in to bathe the clusters

while also shading them from the afternoon sun.

Our farm was demanding; get up with the sun and run until it sets.

That all changed.

Linda’s friends all came to see her off, say goodbye, say good luck, but she wasn’t there.

—Ed Kleiner

We knew that something wasn’t right, yet we went out. It was June 4, 2023, and we were going to celebrate our 34th anniversary a day early.  We arrived home that evening and she couldn’t walk into the house, let alone her bedroom or bathroom.

The following evening, she was in Reno, Nevada, having pins inserted into her upper vertebrae. The diagnosis was acute myeloma and it had been eating away at her bones for several months. She was teetering on an abyss—incontinence, paralysis, possibly death. After surgery and a referral from our doctor and a good friend, Huntsman Cancer Institute became our new home.

Mountainside in summer and fall
Two shots of the Salt Lake valley, showing summer and fall foliage

Our visits to Utah began in the summer. Mountain wildflowers bloomed on the hills above the hospital. By fall, those hills had turned gold and red as the Gambel oaks and maples dried up and dropped their leaves. Meadows, once green with promise, crunched dry and brown under my boots. We were still making trips to Huntsman Cancer Institute as a blanket of snow and frigid temperatures fell over the valley.

As a caregiver, I had lots of time on my hands, but I wanted to be there whenever she was awake. We had meals together. In the intensive care unit, Linda was well cared for by a charming, diverse team that worked with a feverish discipline.

I went from walking five miles a day on our farm to hanging out in the hospital, typically finding comfortable couches and chairs with fantastic views of the Salt Lake Valley and the Wasatch Front. The best views were in her rooms on the 4th and 5th floors of the Kathryn F. Kirk Center (Cancer Hospital North). Through the fall, we watched the construction of a huge sundial on the roof of the new parking garage, and the most beautiful sunsets, sunrises, rain storms, and snow falls. Occasionally, fog would wash the city skyline, creating a white oblivion.

Red flowers growing in the mountains
View of the Salt Lake Valley from the mountains
Foothills behind Huntsman Cancer Institute covered in green trees
Purple flowers on mountain

While Linda slept, I decided to go exploring early each morning for about two to three hours. I discovered the Bonneville trail behind the hospital and made many trips into the canyons. Summer wildflowers exploded across the hillsides, dominated by lupines, arrowleaf, paintbrush, and sweetvetch. These same trails intersected with the Red Butte Gardens and the Natural History Museum to the south, which I visited often.

As Linda became mobile, she made it to the gardens where she could take a variety of easy walking pathways. We both walked the City Creek Canyon bottom in the shade of a riparian forest.

So now, we have a new life; waiting, dreaming, hoping for a time when her health improves to a point that we can take on more travel, being healthy and happy together. Our leftover dreams are on hold.

Huntsman Cancer Institute buildings and skybridge forming a window to look out at Salt Lake valley

Cancer touches all of us.