My sister Laura and I feel quite lucky to have organized a wonderful 50th wedding anniversary celebration on June 6th, 2010. Our parents, Larry and Leila Petersen, were married on June 6th, 1960, only hours after Larry graduated from Gallaudet College/University, the only liberal arts college for deaf people in the world. We are lucky not only because they stayed committed to each other for 50 years through celebrations and hardships, but because we were unsure if our mom would make it to June 6th this year. This past year has been their most challenging as Leila was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer in May of 2009. At the age of 73, she was told to expect a six-month decline. However, my mother doesn’t give up that easily. After undergoing chemotherapy for a year, not only was she able to embrace her 120 party guests with energy, she continues to be able to go to the gym and exercise for longer than many of her peers. It was a wonderful gift to be able to see both our parents shine among their college classmates, students, long time friends, family and travelling buddies.
My sister and I created a slideshow for the party. It was quite fun sorting through photos of our parents throughout the years. Through these photos we were able to get a glimpse into their college life where they fell in love. We found photos of college events. We were able to admire their wedding photos. In addition, there were photos of their honeymoon, camping across the country from Washington, D.C. to Seattle. There were even photos of their fishing trips with their cats. Through these images we were able to see time pass and observe the evolution of the people we lovingly refer to as Mom and Dad. We saw them becoming parents, supporting each other through graduate school, travelling around the world, and attending grandkids’ theatrical and sporting events. These photos are clear evidence of their support and love throughout the years.
Their 50th celebration was shared with many of their college classmates who travelled from out of state to attend. It was wonderful watching the college stories unfold with youthful laughter and mischievous smiles. Larry and Leila are stronger together with the support of their family and friends. As they continue to face this cancer together, Leila’s strength in mind and body are a huge asset. We believe she has defied the odds of this cancer through her determination to make it to her 50th wedding anniversary, the support of her oncologist, her naturopathic oncologist, and great resources such as the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
In April of this last year, we were grateful to attend the Pancreatic Cancer Symposium hosted by Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in Seattle. When our paternal grandfather died of pancreatic cancer 15 years ago, community resources in regards to pancreatic cancer was limited. We feel blessed for being a part of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network community! Since our parents are die-hard Mariners fans, we were delighted to attend the Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Mariners game on Aug 29th with relatives and friends. We are doing all we can to support Leila in her brave battle against this disease.
Quickly after their 50th anniversary our parents set some new goals: attending Larry’s 50th class reunion at Gallaudet (Leila made it to her 50th class reunion in October 2009!) and travelling to see polar bears in Canada. They are an inspiration! We are so lucky!