Sundays with Mike

KMA Senior Anchor/News Reporter Mike Peterson

(Shenandoah) -- We interrupt our regularly-scheduled blog to bring you this news bulletin: broadcast journalists are human.

We deal a lot in news bulletins--breaking stories that are of vital interest, and are a departure from the usual routine. Well, lately, this reporter has had one bulletin after another in his own life. And now, it's time to write about it.

This blog is not intended to evoke sympathy. After all, there are thousands of people who are coping with tragedies in their lives--including the victims of the floods of 2019. Fact is, I really don't like writing about myself. I would much rather do a blog on "Saturday morning television--1973," or another, uh, classic "Mikenac the Magnificent" blog. And, I've held off about writing about developments in my personal life for the longest time. I've always felt that the news was more interesting than anything in my life. But, men and women in the news business are subject to the same human frailties as the general public. And, over the past several months, me and my family have coped with one program interruption after another.

Some of you may know about a serious health challenge facing my daughter Anna. At age 19, Anna should be enjoying her first semester in college. Instead, she is at home recovering from cancer surgery.

It was April when we first noticed a lump on Anna's right hand. It started growing in size in May, when Anna graduated from Shenandoah High School. In July, our worst fears were confirmed: Anna was diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma of the hand. As a result, Anna underwent a month of radiation therapy at Shenandoah Medical Center's Oncology Department five times a week for an entire month, as well as chemotherapy at the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha once a week for a month.

October brought a mixed bag to Anna's situation. A catscan in early October indicated the cancer had not spread to her lungs--something my wife and I were relieved about. But, an MRI revealed the tumor had grown bigger than expected. Surgery at Clarkson Hospital in Omaha took place the following week. As of this writing, we await test results determining the success of Anna's hand surgery. In the meantime, Anna and our entire family continue to cope with the aftermath of her surgery--and that recovery has been painful at times. I would write more about it, but I wanted to spare you, the reader, some of the details--things that I'm not exactly comfortable in writing about.

As if my daughter's situation wasn't enough, life handed my family another late-breaking news bulletin the next two weeks: my father's passing.

For the past month, my dad's health had steadily deteriorated. Two weekends ago, Dad entered the hospital in Fremont, then eventually a hospice, where he spent his final days. At 5:20 p.m. on October 25th, I received a phonecall from one of my brothers that Dad had passed away.

Funeral services for Dad took place Friday at the First Baptist Church in Fremont, with burial of the cremains in the Memorial Cemetery. Since Dad was a Marine, he was buried with full military honors. He would have been proud.

I would write more about Dad in this blog. But, if you don't mind, I'll save it for another Sunday. The point of this blog is that everyone must deal with "news bulletins"--interruptions in our regular lives. The key is how you cope with it.

Understand this: Sandy Hansen and Spencer Williams do a better job of addressing life issues in their "Double X Factor" segments every Monday through Friday on KMA (shamless plug).

But, many of you may wonder how I've been coping with a) Anna's illness, and b) my father's passing.

Don't get me wrong--I've done more than my share of grieving in recent weeks. But, one way I've coped goes back to something I learned from Astronaut Peggy Whitson. Back in February, 2003, I interviewed Whitson five days after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Near the end of the interview, I asked her how she's coped with the loss of the seven-member Columbia crew--all of whom were good friends.

Whitson's reply: "You stay busy."

Peggy Whitson's answer stuck with me all these years. It's helped me cope with many other tragedies--including my mom's passing in 2010. It's not that you don't care, it's that you need a routine to keep your mind from wallowing in self pity, and from becoming non-functioning. Fortunately, there's been plenty of things going on at KMA that has kept me from turning into a heap of Jell-O over the past few months, most notably our coverage of Super Vote I--Tuesday's general elections (another shameless plug).

Perhaps the biggest factor in coping has been the tremendous support our family has received over the past few months--particularly with Anna's ordeal. A few lines at the end of a blog doesn't do justice to the people in Shenandoah and surrounding communities who have come to our side. They include the congregation of the Shenandoah United Methodist Church--many of whom provided Anna a care package. The teachers at Shenandoah High School providing meals. Those who have served as caregivers for Anna on days when my wife and I must work. And, of course, the doctors and nurses at SMC, Nebraska Medicine, the Buffett Cancer Center and Clarkson Hospital, as well as the home health nurses.

And, what can I say about the support I've received from my co-workers at KMA, who have allowed to take time off when I needed it the past month? I really don't know what I would do without those folks.

These are very difficult times at the Peterson residence. But thanks to all of the support, somehow, we'll get through this. As Anna herself has said many time, "It's going to be okay."

We now return to our regularly-scheduled programming.

Mike Peterson is senior news anchor/reporter at KMA. The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of this station, its management or its ownership.

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