• Patient and doctor taking pulse for blog by DC widow writer Marjorie Brimley Hale
    Things That Suck


    When I was a kid and somewhat sick from a cold or other bug, my dad would take a look at me and if I wasn’t actively throwing up or profusely sweating, he’d send me to school. I always hated it – why didn’t I get to stay home like every other kid? “You’ll live,” he often said when I whined about something that wasn’t life-threatening. That’s the thing about growing up with a parent who is a medical professional – you cannot be wimpy about illness. They’ve seen worse. I’m not sure I was a less-whiny kid about my minor illnesses, but as I grew up, I knew that…

  • Orange flowers for blog by DC widow writer Marjorie Brimley
    Things That Suck

    The Room at the Hospital

    I had to get a mammogram the other day. I might be a young widow, but I’m not that young, and I was already months behind on my check-up due to the pandemic. I’m never behind – I am deeply fearful of cancer – so I donned my mask and went to the appointment. As usual, the initial mammogram was inconclusive. Something is almost always a bit strange with my body, and I usually have to get the follow-up testing. The doctor told me they could do it immediately, but I’d need to change rooms and wait just a bit for the technician to do the procedure. She brought me…

  • Daughter of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley poses by river
    Things That Suck

    Dear Insurance Company

    Dear Insurance Company, I read the letter that came last night. I saw the six single-spaced pages of documentation that was clearly written by a lawyer with my daughter’s name automatically inserted into the form. I can see the word “denied” at least four times in the first few paragraphs. I understand what you are saying. I spoke to the people on your end. I know that the woman who answered the phone is just doing her job. I appreciated that when I told her I was a single mom who couldn’t pay (many) tens of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket, she put me on hold to try and find an…

  • Father and child of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley walk to school
    Family & Friends

    Grandpa Tom Returns

    We counted down the days.  Tommy, unable to understand the days of the week, would simply ask, “is it tomorrow?” every day.  We cleaned the house and Claire made a cake.  We were so excited, and when he finally walked in the door after a summer away, all three kids screamed at the same time: “GRANDPA TOM!!!” My dad was laughing.  He was tan, a result of daily rounds of golf back in Oregon, and his white hair stuck out at the sides.  He set down his bags and picked up each kid before giving me a hug.  “We’re really glad you’re here,” I said, in the biggest understatement of…

  • Stethoscope used by doctor of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley
    Family & Friends

    Heroic Work

    I met Reed, the man who would become one of Shawn’s cancer doctors, minutes after we first came to NIH. The days before we met him were a blur of horror: I had driven Shawn to the local ER and watched him curl up in pain, hours later Shawn had been admitted to that same local hospital and gotten a colonoscopy, and immediately after the operation we learned that Shawn had stage IV cancer. Then we sat in that local hospital from Friday until Monday and never saw an oncologist. It was one of the worst weekends of my life. Our friends showed up, including our pediatric oncologist friend Jason…

  • Shawn and Marjorie Brimley at their wedding before moving to DC
    Things That Suck

    One Year Later

    There was a nurse who sat with me, that I remember. I can’t really recall what she looked like, but I remember what it felt to have her arms wrapped around me as I sat on the floor of the emergency room, unable to stand. “I know what this means,” I kept saying over and over. “My husband has spots on his liver. I know what this means.” She didn’t try and tell me my fears were misplaced. She knew what it meant too. But she sat with me on that disgusting floor. Eventually, she took me somewhere to pull myself together. I called one of my friends. I can’t…