The Billings Outpost

Cancer scare makes life more precious

By SHARIE PYKE - For The Outpost

May 7, 2013: a day that will live in infamy. Well, not really. But I’ll never forget it.

The phone rang that morning at about 8:15. I’m a night owl, so I usually skip those early calls. But this time I struggled out of bed, read “Billings Clinic” on the caller ID, and answered the phone.

It was my dermatologist, Dr. Reck, calling to tell me that the small lesion that he had snipped off my head 10 days earlier was lymphoma and that his nurse would be calling back shortly with an appointment with an oncologist.

Lymphoma. Cancer. The Big C. Something that happens to other people. Right? This time, wrong. I was booked in with an oncologist that same afternoon.

“How are you?” Dr. Muslimani asked as he entered the exam room. How am I? Well, Duh! Why do medical people ask you that? Would I be there if I were fine?

“Scared,” I said, which was the truth.

“Don’t be scared.” He then explained to me that I had a rare form of lymphoma that he’d only seen once before at a big teaching hospital back East. When I find a piece of 19th century porcelain at a secondhand store, rare is good. But who wants a rare cancer? But, lucky for me, the doctor had seen this before.

He then outlined The Plan. If the cancer had not moved from my scalp to other places in my body, it was not only treatable but curable. I’d have a cat scan, then a bone marrow biopsy, and then, if it was “so far, so good,” I would have radiation treatments.

And so began my journey of discovery. May felt more like a month of months rather than just 31 days. It was a time of faith and questions. We all know that we’re born, we live and we die. Was this how my life would end? Was it better to know for sure, ahead of time or to just fall asleep and not wake up? And always with cancer, “Why me?”

On May 9, two days after my diagnosis, and on my 65th birthday, my father died. Are coincidences God’s way of remaining anonymous? One friend said that my dad had given me a birthday gift.

So just what kind of a gift was this? Lymphoma and my father’s death within 72 hours? The angels should be floating down from the Great White Throne with instructions and explanations.

My father’s funeral was on May 17, just 10 days later. I arranged with Smith Funeral Chapels to have a private time with dad the day before. I had a very small floral token that I placed in his hands. Then I sang to him, prayed and read my Bible.

“See you soon, Dad,” I whispered. Truly, our few years on earth, in comparison to eternity, are nothing.

But then I realized that with this weird lymphoma, our reunion might, indeed, be soon. Or sooner than I would have thought just 10 days earlier. Looking at my father in his casket, I was facing my own mortality. But at the same time I could feel his presence with me. The body in the casket was not my father. A great sense of peace came over me, a peace that had nothing to do with the results of my medical tests.

Still, cancer is cancer. Many obituaries include the phrase, “A courageous battle with cancer.” It always makes me think of Dylan Thomas’s poem. “Do not go gently into that good night ... Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Would I be waging a courageous battle with cancer?

And are you only courageous if you die? If you live on without the drama of a hard-fought decline and death, are you still considered courageous?

My older grandson, Trey, has often commented on how many people I know in Billings. “Every time we go out to eat, Grandma, you see someone, and they’re always somebody different.”

But if I know a lot of people, so does God. Every day, one or two friends or acquaintances would call me or cross my path.

“I just felt the Lord wanted me to call you,” said a friend the day of my dad’s funeral. She had not known until then that my father was gone. I thank everyone for the kindness, caring and prayers.

I have now safely passed both the CT Scan and the bone marrow biopsy and have begun radiation treatment on the site of that first lesion on my scalp. Dr. Goulet, my radiation oncologist, explained to me that I may have permanent hair loss in that area. For me, it was a no-brainer. I signed in three places to give my OK.

But Dr. Goulet said that people actually decline treatment for that reason. I imagine their obituary: “died of cancer, but their hair was beautiful; not a strand out of place.” What’s a small bald spot in exchange for, in my case, a 95 percent recovery rate?

And the Clinic cancer center even has a wig boutique. Maybe I’ll end up with a collection of hair pieces in different colors.

I am now a cancer survivor. I was the too-smart girl with the glasses who didn’t go to the senior prom, not a clique that I enjoyed. We cancer survivors belong to another special club that I would also have preferred to skip.

There are many platitudes about the superiority of the spirit over the body. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma invaded my world and has made me revalue what days and years I may still have. I intend to cherish every moment I have between now and lights out.

My Aunt June, an eight-year survivor of ovarian cancer who has since died, told me that she started every day with this verse: “This is the day which the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24). My grandmother taught her, and then she taught me. I think of my aunt every morning as I say it myself. Today is the only day we truly have.

I will walk proudly around the West High track on July 12 at the Relay for Life with my fellows. You are a cancer survivor if you are alive. If you can walk. If a friend can push you in a wheelchair.

I look forward to receiving my survivor’s T-shirt, for me as significant an award as an Olympic gold medal or a Purple Heart. To join us at Relay for Life, call the American Cancer Society at 256-7150.


Last Updated on Thursday, 20 June 2013 11:31

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Glendive senior honored

An 84-year-old Glendive man has been honored as the Montana winner of the Home Instead Senior Care network’s Salute to Senior Service award, a news release said.

Bus Morris is being recognized for his dedicated community service, including his work at the Eastern Montana Veterans’ Home.

He has been volunteering there since the home opened in 1996 and now spends close to eight hours a day, seven days a week helping the residents. Early each morning he delivers newspapers, a task that would otherwise get put off until late in the morning.

In a given week, he runs errands for residents, has coffee and toast with them, serves as an escort for community outings and acts as a translator for individuals with communication challenges.

As one of 50 state winners, Morris earned $500 for his charity of choice – donated by Home Instead Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network and contest sponsor.

Morris also will have a spot on the Salute to Senior Service Wall of Fame on where his nomination story has been posted. As a state winner, Morris now will be considered for the national Salute to Senior Service award.

The Salute to Senior Service program was launched last year by the Home Instead Senior Care network to honor seniors’ commitments to their causes and communities.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 June 2013 11:30

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Reenactments mark battle’s anniversary

Hardin Chamber of Commerce

HARDIN – In the United States, there are few battles more famous or controversial than the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Fought on the plains of present-day Montana (then a territory) on June 25 and 26, 1876, the battle saw Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors, led by dual legends Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, clashing with Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the U.S. Army Seventh Cavalry.

Nicknamed Custer’s Last Stand, this famous battle comes to life every year on a plain six miles west of Hardin, Montana. Now in its 24th year, this reenactment features more than 300 reenactors on foot and horseback.

“This is open-air theater at its best,” says Bill Joseph, chairman of the Custer’s Last Stand Reenactment and a former portrayer of Sitting Bull. “We give people a taste of what it was like on that day and during that time in history. In addition to the Indian warriors and cavalrymen, we have people who portray settlers, we have an Indian village with tipis, and there is a fort set up.”

Also this weekend, a reenactment is held on the Real Bird Ranch near the Little Bighorn Battlefield. The reenactment takes place at 1 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

The reenactment script for the Hardin reenactment is based on the notes of Crow Tribal historian Joe Medicine Crow, whose grandfather, White Man Runs Him, was Custer’s Indian scout. Medicine Crow, who lives south of nearby Lodge Grass and turns 100 on Oct. 27, 2013, used his grandfather’s passed-down accounts to craft the story through the eyes of his forefathers.

He has also attended the reenactment since it began, singing “Son of the Morning Star,” a Native American warrior song, to all those engaging in the battle.

“Each performance begins with the cavalry riding in military formation from the west, and the Indian warriors riding in from the east,” says Joseph. “They meet in front of the grandstands while Lee Greenwood’s ‘Proud to Be An American’ plays over the PA system. After the battle, the scene is repeated. It’s very powerful and it gives many people chills.”

Joseph says seeing the battle reenactment provides a deeper understanding of America in the 1870s, and especially of Native Americans as they dealt with the wars, treaties, relocations and other difficulties resulting from America’s westward expansion.

He says people travel from around the United States and the world to experience the annual event.

This year, one performance of the Custer’s Last Stand Reenactment will occur at 2 p.m. each day on Friday, June 21, Saturday, June 22, and Sunday, June 23. Visitors will be able to meet and take photographs with many of the reenactors as well as participate in other Little Big Horn Days events.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 June 2013 11:28

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Williams plays Custer

HARDIN — A familiar face will lead the U.S. 7th Cavalry into battle at this year’s Custer’s Last Stand reenactments at Little Big Horn Days in Hardin (June 19-23). For the seventh straight year, veteran reenactor Rick Williams will portray Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.

Williams began his reenacting career as a dismounted private in Company B, 1st Kentucky Cavalry, reenacting Civil War battles. He eventually volunteered for mounted duty and instantly fell in love with mounted combat, riding at every opportunity.

He first appeared as General Custer at Cridersville, Ohio, in July 2003. “For several years I had reenactors approach me and tell me how much I looked like Custer,” said Williams. “It finally got to the point where I couldn’t ignore it.” Today, he portrays Custer regularly, speaking at Civil War Round Tables, historical interest groups, school programs, reenactments and many other functions.

Much of his focus has been on Custer’s lesser-known Civil War record, but he embraces the role that made Custer a household name. In addition to portraying Custer at Little Bighorn Days, he also appears twice yearly in Custer’s birthplace of New Rumley, Ohio, where he is also a member of the Custer Memorial Association.

Williams’ movie credits include “Gods and Generals” and “Reel Injun.” He has also appeared in numerous short films and documentaries on the History Channel, National Geographic Channel, the Outdoor Channel and Our Ohio. Williams is the author of “The Beginner’s Guide to Civil War Reenacting.”

His research on famous killer Clyde Barrow was published in the United States and Great Britain in November 2003.

He is the father of four and has nine grandchildren.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 June 2013 10:04

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Variety of events planned for weekend

HARDIN – Hardin’s Little Big Horn Days continues through Sunday, June 23. During the annual event, put on by the Hardin Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, the town’s population swells from 3,500 to more than triple that amount as people from around the state, the United States and the world gather to enjoy a celebration of local history and culture.

“Little Big Horn Days is an authentic American West experience,” says Al Sargent, who chairs the event for the Hardin Chamber. “It’s a terrific mix of history, music, art, food and events, and it’s all family-friendly. Everywhere you look there is something to see or do.”

Sargent says the crown jewel of Little Big Horn Days is the Custer’s Last Stand Reenactment.

Other planned events for Little Big Horn Days include a street dance featuring country music band Confederate Railroad, a parade featuring a California-based Lamborghini Club, a demolition derby, parades, a street fair, Native American dance demonstrations, suitcase relay races, historical symposiums and exhibits, and much more.

“We are also going to bring back our military ball, which we reintroduced last year,” Sargent says. “It will be held Thursday night, before the reenactments begin on Friday. We hold it under a large outdoor tent, and people wear period costumes.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 June 2013 10:01

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Sports cars on display

HARDIN — A group of 22 1960s and ’70s vintage Lamborghini sports cars will be in Hardin on Saturday, June 22. They will drive in the Little Big Horn Days Parade at 10 a.m., and then be on display from noon to 3 p.m.

It’s all part of Little Big Horn Days, a four-day celebration of Western culture and history presented annually by the Hardin Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.

“We’re thrilled to have these classic Italian cars on display as part of Little Big Horn Days,” said Al Sargent, chairman of the Little Big Horn Days Committee. “It’s not every day you get to see an auto show like this.”

The Lamborghinis, or “Lambos” for short, are being driven to Hardin by their owners from all over the United States and Canada as part of a touring trip to nearby Billings. The owners are members of an internet forum called the Vintage Lamborghini Garage ( This worldwide group has about 1,100 members (up from six when it started in 2002) and is dedicated to the preservation, restoration and enjoyment of vintage Lamborghinis.

One of the founders of the Vintage Lamborghini Garage is Jack Riddell, a Billings native and 1956 graduate of Senior High School. He currently lives in San Diego, but is making the 1,250 mile trip to Montana to participate in the parade and show. He will be driving his 1967 400 GT 2+2 model, which he calls an “IRA on wheels” due to its stellar appreciation in value over the years.

“It’s always great to show off our Lambos, and to catch up with each other,” said Riddell. He added that though he hasn’t met some of the group’s members in person, “We chat so much online, I feel like I know them extremely well.”

The Lambo owners also plan to watch the signature event of Little Big Horn Days: the reenactment of Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Little Big Horn Days is an annual multi-day event presented by the Hardin Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture. The centerpiece of the event is three reenactments (June 21, 22 and 23).

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 June 2013 10:00

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Crow Native Days to be celebrated

While thousands celebrate Little Bighorn Days in Hardin this weekend, a concurrent celebration, Crow Native Days, goes on in Crow Agency.

The event was begun during the Clara Nomee administration during the 1990s. It expanded during the Carl Venne administration but retains a goal of helping native children and adults live better lives.

The Ultimate Warrior Challenge, at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, is a key part of the celebration, emphasizing the skills and strengths needed to make powerful warriors.

Here is a schedule of events:


Fun run and walk, 8:30 a.m.; youth rodeo, 9 a.m.; coal summit, 9 a.m.; buffalo feed, 6 p.m.; round dance, 7 p.m.; fireworks, 10 p.m.


Parade, 10 a.m.; veterans program, 11 a.m.; chairman’s reception, noon; reenactment, 1 p.m.; Indian relay, 3 p.m.; powwow, 6 p.m.


Ultimate Warrior competition, 8 a.m.; Indian relay, noon; art show, noon; reenactment, 1 p.m.; arrow tournament, 1 p.m.; powwow, 7 p.m.


Ultimate Warrior competition, 8 a.m.; Indian relay consolation, noon; reenactment, 1 p.m.; arrow tournament, 1 p.m.; powwow, 7 p.m.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 June 2013 09:58

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Wedding wisdom:

Creating the perfect registry

(StatePoint) Just engaged? Before those wedding bells ring, you’re going to do lots of planning in the months ahead. While most of your preparations will only matter on the first day of your marriage, your wedding registry will impact your happily ever after.

Wedding experts say to ensure domestic bliss, make the most of your registry with proper planning, research and free resources.

“Determining what you want and need for your future should be an exciting process,” says Audrey Stavish, wedding and gift registry expert at Bed Bath & Beyond. “An expert consultant can help demystify product details and ensure you don’t miss any categories.”

As you think about registering, Stavish is sharing tips on creating the perfect registry:

• Don’t delay: You’ll likely have multiple occasions that requires gift-giving on the part of friends and family. From the engagement party to the shower to the main event, guests will want giving guidance. So register early.

Opt for a registry that offers convenience and good customer service. A store with locations nationwide and an online ordering system will make it easy for you and your guests.

• Take inventory: Assess what you already have, what you don’t have and what needs replacing. A walk through your home using a registry checklist can help you build a list. Talk to your fiancée and work together.

Also, think about what you need now and in the future – you might be dining for two, but soon you could be hosting a dinner party for 12 and will want dinnerware worthy of the occasion.

• Ask for help: Don’t be shy about seeking advice. Visit a store and talk with an expert consultant who can help with gift selections and offer tips on what you’ll need to enjoy your home.

Be sure to research the items that go on your registry. Touch the towels, hold the flatware — you may need to visit the store multiple times to get it right. If you change your mind, remember it’s always possible to update your registry online at any time.

• Dream big and small: Not all guests will be working with the same budget, so include a range of items at various price points. Guests will appreciate the variety for individual and group gifts. Dream big and include a few big ticket items and gifts that last a lifetime.

• Keep in touch: From save-the-date notifications, personalized announcement cards and registry details, keep in touch with your guests stylishly with a complete, customized wedding stationery ensemble. You can visit and click on “personalized invitations” to visit their online-only stationery store.

• Return Policy: Did you get duplicate gifts or gifts in the wrong color or size? Or maybe you just changed your mind. Check a store’s return policy before registering so you can return or exchange any gift on your list and live hassle-free ever after.

This is your chance to get everything you ever wanted. By using the help of experts and free resources, you can build the perfect registry.


Last Updated on Saturday, 15 June 2013 10:08

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Local artists teach courses in Art Academy

By JANE WHITE - The Billings Outpost

Artists in Billings teaching creative arts classes in Rocky Mountain College’s June 17-21 Summer Art Academy include Susan Germer, a jewelry maker, and Jason Jam, a cartoonist.

Ms. Germer will teach “Jewelry, Art and You,” which provides kids from ages 8-14 with four jewelry projects, while Jam, whose father is an English and art teacher and whose mother is a pre-school teacher, will teach “Drawing Comics” for the third year with Rocky’s academy.

“Comics is a huge mystery for those who want to do it,” he said. “Any book is incomplete - but with hands-on and showing them how you create, it knocks down any wall of impossibility.”

His mother, Jeanie Jam, had a comic strip in the 1970s in the Times Clarion, a newspaper serving Harlowton and Ryegate, where he grew up for part of his life. The strip was called “A Day in A Jam Jar” and focused on family antics, similar to “Family Circus,” he said. Originally from Billings, Mr. Jam returned after about 12 years in Ryegate.

Ms. Germer’s mother was an artist also. 

“I took a lot of inspiration from my mother,” said Germer. “She was a jewelry maker, painter and did a wide variety of other art, too.”

This year is Ms. Germer’s fourth year teaching jewelry making, in which she and the students use many kinds of tools and materials.

“We will be using round- and flat-nosed pliers, wire cutters, found objects and jump rings,” said Germer. “There will also be wire-wrapping, where we encase a beautiful stone or other object in wire.”

Ms. Germer also paints with watercolors and oils, makes cards and sculpts fine jewelry in Precious Silver Clay. 

“I fell in love with beading … I use buttons, wine bottle foil, sticks … it’s getting lost in the process … [sewing with beads] it’s very meditative,” said Germer. “I respect the meditative quality of the process.”

Regarding her young charges at Rocky’s summer academy, she said, “I really enjoy being with the kids … I learn so much from them every year … what their imaginations produce. They have shown me different ways of putting together design components … they always surprise me.”  

Rocky’s Summer Art Academy began 13 years ago thanks to the diligence of Ryniker-Morrison Gallery Director Sally McIntosh. McIntosh said kids come not only from Montana but also from other states.

“Many times they are visiting relatives, and they are able to participate in the Art Academy as well,” she said. “Our Parent-Student Studio Day is June 21. That day is the only day completed student works will be available to see.”

Ms. McIntosh plays a major role in organizing each Artwalk, in which both Ms. Germer and Mr. Jam participate. 

Both Ms. Germer and Mr. Jam are open by appointment and during each Artwalk.

Ms. Germer’s Studio is susang at (406) 671-7176. Mr. Jam’s business is Jason Jam Gallery at (406) 530-4344, website

For information on the Art Academy, call Ms. McIntosh at 259-6563.


Last Updated on Saturday, 15 June 2013 10:04

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Symphony picks members

The Billings Symphony has announced results of auditions for the upcoming season orchestra roster.

Auditions were held Sunday, April 21, at Montana State University Billings with 15 musicians performing.

Selected for the symphony’s 2013-2014 season roster were: Elizabeth Crawford, Great Falls, principal bassoon; Mark Soueidi, Billings, principal trombone; Sandy Stimson, Fort Wayne, Ind., section oboe/English horn; and Mike Nelson, Great Falls, section horn.

In addition, Rosie Weiss, Billings, violin; Taylor Shea, Billings, viola; Maria Fulton, Billings, cello; Rebeca Strong, Billings, cello; and Rich Gonzalez, Laurel, bass; were selected for intern positions with the orchestra.

Substitute musicians chosen for the Symphony’s roster include Dan Brockelbank, Billings, trombone; Vincent Hurtig, Hardin, tuba; and Michelle Maurer, Laurel, flute/piccolo.

Auditions for the Billings Symphony Chorale will be held in August.


Last Updated on Saturday, 15 June 2013 09:38

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