Dream A Little Dream Of Me
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In Memory of Judith Harriet Knudsen
December 22, 1942 - August 2, 2013

This information regarding Judy's battle with vaginal melanoma/ovarian cancer was provided to me by her loving husband, Paul Knudsen. It is published with Paul's permission, who has provided me with all the details herein.


Judy and I knew each other for nearly 60 years and were married 27 years this June 14th, my birthday, our anniversary. We did that so she wouldn't forget my birthday and I wouldn't forget our wedding day.

So, how do I say... so long for a while, to the person who was my partner, my wife, my lover, my very best friend, when deep down inside, I know she’s gone forever. Judy will never return here, to stand by my side, to hold my hand and share our love or another smile... ever again. Heaven is so far out of my means of understanding that I can never fully grasp the concept of, “Well, she’s in a better place” or whatever concept I try to wrap my mind around, to ease the pain of my loss. We are only human and my hurt is really self pity. I feel sad for what was taken from me. It is my faith that keeps me lifted up when the strength of my soul mate is gone.

The fact is I may never fully resolve this loss in my heart. It will just slowly be softened by good memories of our life together, to the point where those special songs no longer cause tears to flow and emotions to choke back words and I won’t wonder for a moment, is she near? I will know she is watching over the two of us here and we will share new adventures together, only this time in spirit.

Judy was diagnosed with a rare form of vaginal melanoma cancer in December of 2011 and had it all removed. All she wanted was four more years so she could be here for Granddaughter Megan’s graduation from high school. They had made plans of shopping for dresses for home coming and the Prom. It would be the most exciting of times for them, the next four years of raising a young girl into a young woman and getting her off to college.

One year later those hopes began to fade. The cancer had returned with a vengeance. It was found in six new locations from the brain to the hip bone along with other complications. We just couldn’t put out the fires fast enough. After two and a half straight months in hospitals, several surgeries and physical rehab for muscle loss, we decided together, after much hugging, tears, and loving, that we were nearing the end of our special journey together. The radiation and chemotherapy had done little to improve her condition. She was given less than two weeks to live. I felt so absolutely crushed and helpless. There was not a single thing I could do to save my Judy. She was moved into hospice care where she softly passed away 12 days later, the morning of Friday August 2nd 2013. The last thing I could do for her was build a resting place until I can return her to our lake home in South Dakota, where we first met…all those years ago.

Judy’s Last Year

Judy’s first encounter with cancer was in January of 2012 when it was discovered she had vaginal melanoma. There were only 600 known incidences of it occurring on record. The medical books only contained a couple paragraphs concerning it. Surgery was performed and every female related organ was removed and sewn closed. They had clean margins, they were good to go.

Six months later a PET scan was given and all looked great. Judy was happy as she wanted to have four good years, enough to see our granddaughter Megan graduate High School.

In February of 2013 another PET scan, the one year follow up burst the bubble on those wishes. Her body lit up like a Christmas tree. New cancers were found in the brain, thyroid, lungs, lymph nodes, liver, upper intestine, and right hip bone. All were Melanoma. We began a search for a plan of attack. Do we deal with the individual sites one at a time or a full scale kill everything approach. It was decided that a regimen of five pin point radiation exposures for the lesion in the brain and a new infusion material called Yervoy for the rest of the body. Both began on May 21, 2013. The Yervoy is a series of four infusions given three weeks apart. It’s most common side effect is tiredness followed by colitis, inflamed liver, toxic epidermal necrolysis, inflammation of the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands and inflammation of the eyes and nerves.

During the time before the next infusion, Judy began to be increasingly weak, thought to be from that side effect of the Yervoy. She was taken back to the oncologist a couple times and was given hydration and once for blood as her blood count dropped to 7.6 . Judy was also having headaches that seemed to somewhat controlled by steroids that were given for swelling in the brain from the radiation. After a couple weeks of no great improvement in strength or in the headaches, we went into emergency at John C. Lincoln – Deer Valley. They found her blood count to be 5.9. They gave her 4 pints of blood and checked her into the hospital. After a couple of scans of the body it was determined that the mass on the upper intestine was the source of the blood loss. Blood that had been previously found in her stools and blamed on hemorrhoids. That had to be corrected to stop the blood loss. The next day surgery was planned to remove the mass. First however they wanted an angiogram to see if the heart would be able to take the surgery. They found a 95% blockage of an artery on the left Ventricle. This required a double stent to repair. That was obviously the reason for the heaviness she had been feeling in her arms and chest.

A few days after the stents were in place they went into the upper belly to repair the bleeding mass. What was found was a grapefruit size mass that had entangled in the upper intestine and also attached to the lower bowl. A double resection was required and performed.

While that was starting to heal, the headaches continued to increase in intensity. An MRI located a new 35mm size mass along with the original irradiated lesion. The brain was swelling and being repositioned in the skull as fluid was building up, a very dangerous condition.

Air Evac was called to fly Judy to John C Lincoln – North Mountain where the neurosurgeons were waiting. They had her headed for surgery by the time I arrived 15 minutes later.

They went in to the back of the skull and found a blood clot that was probably caused by the blood thinners used for the previous surgery a few days ago. The excess fluid was drained, the clot removed and a plate was put in to cover the opening. Two days later, another scan reviled that there was more fluid buildup. They put a hole on the top of the skull and placed a drain tube in it.

Two more days pass and it is still no good. They go in again and this time, remove the radiated lesion which is now swelling and causing other problems. That was the solution. Within a few days the swelling has begun to diminish. All but a switch of hair in back has been cut off and the head is marked up with surgical ink for cut marks and scan guides.

After two weeks in ICU, living on a liquid food drip and no exercise, she is transferred to HealthSouth for recovery and physical rehabilitation on June 24th. Her muscle tone is almost gone, she needed to regain her ability to turn over in bed, to get out of bed, to walk, go to the bathroom and everything else that not being able to move your own weight prevents. From lack of eating solid food her stomach shrunk, now eating is a difficult process. Not being able to finish a small child’s portion to then being able to keep it down. Nausea from food not tasting good and feeling filled up on two bites is a cause for her low levels of nourishment just adds to that weakness. Meds are provided to control the two symptoms but the energy is still low. Even the simplest of physical re-habilitation is very tiring. It is felt that it will be a couple more weeks before she has strength to go home. Until then I move her by wheel chair as she is unable to walk over 100 feet with a walker. Judy was released to go home on July 12th.

Again, she returned to Emergency with a resting heart rate 138 on July 19th. That was the last day that Judy would be living at home. The doctors discovered that the pancreas was putting out something in the blood that said she had Pancreatitis and a body scan showed another new mass in the abdomen. They brought the heart rate down to around 80, but in a serious discussion with the doctor he indicated she would have a couple weeks to a month to live considering all that was going wrong. Arraignments were made with Hospice of The Valley to take her in and care for her during her last days. Judy arrived on the 22nd.

As they are a non-profit organization they have to follow guidelines set out by Medicare as far as health of those in residence. By the 25th it was determined that she was not failing quickly enough and didn’t require the pain killers and meds that would indicate she would pass on soon.

They made arrangements for her to return home and be cared for there by having a adjustable bed moved In on Friday, scheduling nursing care for three times a week and a Doctor visit once a month. I would do all the other care she needed beyond that. Our bedroom was emptied of our king size bed and night stands, I bought a new smaller full size bed and bedding to replace the king that was moved out. The plan they had was to watch her health over the week end and make a fresh determination on Monday the 29th. I had to be ready for either event. During my visit on Sunday the 28th I was told that over the week end Judy’s health had failed enough that she could now remain in the hospice and I could put the bedroom back the way it was and they would pick up the hospital bed on Tuesday the 30th…sometime. Thanks to our wonderful friends, this was accomplished, and Judy had company, all at the same time.

At the end of the day, while I was alone with Judy, she asked about the bed and why it was taken back. She said, “Am I not going home? Tell me the truth”, which I did. I said no, you are going to stay here. Isn’t that what you wanted? Judy had been concerned that it would be a burden on both Megan and me. She agreed, that is what she wanted. She then asked, “Is it terminal?” I paused a moment and sadly said yes. Her next question was about the time frame to which I replied, a week. That being said, we held each other close for a long time and shed many tears for each other and spoke only of the good times we had shared. Judy’s only complaint she had during the following days were that she saw too many ghosts walking the hallways when her door was open. At 10:27, on Friday morning, August 2nd, 2013, Angels came and took her to the Lord.

Judy's remains were cremated and her ashes placed in the box you will see below. It's red oak with early american finish, her favorite. We discussed how the ashes were to be spread at our South Dakota lake home. They will be lofted by a tethered weather balloon about 500 feet up. The ashes will be dispursed over the property by an explosion on the 4th of July. She smiled, and thought that going out with a bang was appropriate. I promised that I would cut the lawn first.... She asked why and I replied that I didn't want to mow her up before she was rained in. I did however keep out some of the ashes so I will always have her near. Our granddaughter Megan asked what part I kept out. I replied that it was "the brain, because I need all the help I can get raising you." That brought a big smile from Megan.

I Love and miss her.

Her loving Husband, Paul.

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  • Bloating, a feeling of fullness, gas
  • Frequent or urgent urination
  • Nausea, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea
  • Menstrual disorders, pain during intercourse
  • Fatigue, backaches

  • Take action if any symptoms last more than 2-3 weeks.
    Ask for a combination pelvic/rectal exam, CA125 blood test, & a transvaginal sonogram.

    Music is by Henry Mancini and is used for entertainment purposes only.

    Photography on this web page is by Paul Knudsen, Professional Photographer and has copyright.

    Please send email to Ray Clark at: rayclark07"at"gmail.com

    Created on: 9/1/2013

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