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My Muse - Diana Marie (Sewell) Abbott

Now that I am a “writer,” I can have a “muse” and my muse is Diana Marie Abbott (nee Sewell).  A muse is a “person or spirit that gives a writer, painter, etc. ideas and the desire to create.”  In ancient Greek religion and mythology, the Muses are the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts.  

This feels appropriate in so many ways.  Those that know Diana know that she is a fan of science fiction, the supernatural, and the ethereal (and dare I say, the occult?).  In fact, it was she that first told me (jokingly) many, many years ago, that she was named for Diana… Artemis – the goddess of the hunt and in Greek mythology – the goddess of domestic animals.  I can tell you without hesitation that she is the goddess of our three domestic animals – Toby, Ellie and Coco.  

It is also appropriate because she truly has been my muse – encouraging me to begin writing as long as 25 years ago, even to the point of suggesting that I pursue it as a career.  I never viewed that as an option for a variety of reasons, but she has never stopped encouraging me to give it a try.  So here we are.  

I first saw her in 1977, in Mr. Gamble’s ninth grade algebra class at Holmes High School in Covington, Kentucky.  The class probably had 30 to 35 students and she sat far enough away from me that I did not interact with her, and I was certainly too shy to go out of my way to introduce myself to her.  We managed to make it through the entire semester without meeting.  My sophomore year came and went, and I was not in any of her classes, so our interactions were limited to passing each other in the hallway between “bells.”  Holmes had close to 3,000 students in total, across grades 7-12, and it was spread out across a large campus, so there weren’t many opportunities for socializing while marching on to the next class.

Ahhh, but our junior year!  I returned from summer break to find Diana seated directly behind me in “home room.”  I don’t even know if schools still have “home room” but at the time, it was this slightly odd meet up spot to start the day where you and your classmates said the Pledge of Allegiance, listened to announcements, killed a bit of time, and then would head out for your first class when the first bell rang.  

I was smitten with her, so I did what pretty much any 16-going-old-going-on-eight-years-old would do, which was to irritate her and make jokes and random observations that she did not find amusing at the time.  She had gorgeous, long brown hair and thanks to my endless pestering, she was able to master the “eye roll” at a fairly young age.

I was successful at acting like a fool throughout the school year without ever asking her out (whatever that means when you are 16 years old).  During the summer break, one of my buddies – who knew that I was crazy about her – finally baited me into mustering up the courage to go to her house and ask her out.  His logic was “you’ll never know if you don’t ask” and “what is the worst thing she can do?” (to which I said… “uhh, Carl - have you ever heard of rejection?”).  He drove me to her house, and I was a nervous wreck.  She answered the door, and I made some initial awkward conversation and finally just came right out with it, fully expecting her to say “no.”  She said “yes,” and I was absolutely dumbfounded.  We made a date for the following Friday night, and we have been inseparable since that day – for the last 45 years.  

We often say that we not only grew up together, but that we have done everything together.  There is one big exception… we never had children.  Over the years, many people have asked us why we did not have children.  For me, this was never an easy decision, but the answer from my perspective is one that might cause the reader to now roll your eyes.  Diana was, and always has been, so perfect for me that I never wanted to change what we had or risk our relationship in any way.  

I always had a concern about children bringing too much pressure to bear on a relationship and having it detract from ours, even fearing that excess pressure could result in our marriage not lasting (we’ve all seen it happen before).  I don’t think Diana ever worried about that to the degree that I did, but she respected my feelings, and I think felt the same way but to a lesser degree.  If either of us had pushed the other one to have children, the other would have readily and happily agreed, and it would have been great.

We have often said that we have done everything together, and we have.  “Peas and carrots,” as Forrest Gump would say.  Some people have mistakenly assumed that we did not have children because we wanted to selfishly pursue a life of travel, fancy dinners out, nice cars and the like.  If that was the case, we would have never dedicated ourselves to taking in (now) eight rescue dogs over the years.  

We’ve had “fear biters,” dogs with separation anxiety, puppy mill abuse cases, unsocialized, untrained, and not-house-trained dogs over the last 30 years.  We have taken in misfit dogs and turned them into sweet and loyal companions.  We have turned down dinners so we can get home and feed them and “not leave them too long” and if necessary, taken separate vacations so that the dogs never had to go to kennel.  We have spent thousands and thousands of dollars caring for them, and we have tearfully and jointly made the final, hard decision to say goodbye to our beloved dogs – five times.  I know for certain that we would have managed children just fine and ironically enough, we are now 61 years old and are still not “empty nesters” thanks to our dogs.  

When I say we have pretty much done everything together, that also extends to cancer.  Diana was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in January 2015 at the age of 52, a mere 16 months after I began treatment for my own cancer.  Although I knew by then that my case was incurable, I was nonetheless physically recovered from the surgery and salvage radiation, and I was feeling good from a physical perspective.  Her diagnosis was devastating to me as, quite honestly, I would much rather “go first” than spend one day without her.

Her treatment regimen was brutal, beginning with the dreaded ACT chemo cocktail – Adriamycin, Cytoxin and Taxol – followed by radiation and a lumpectomy to remove whatever was left of the tumor at that point.  I watched her turn various shades of gray, lose her hair, eyebrows, fingernails, and toenails, but never her sense of humor.  She used it as an opportunity to purchase about two dozen wigs and went to work each day as a different “personality” – sometimes as a blonde, other days as a red head, some days with short hair, and other days with long hair.  Hats were optional, but she wore them often.  She went to Tuscany with our group of eight friends during chemo when I know she did not feel well enough to do it, because life goes on, and she did not want to disappoint any of our friends.        

She was a warrior throughout.  The only time I saw her cry was when chemotherapy took her immune system down and she developed shingles.  She was in so… much… pain, and I felt so **** helpless.  I am happy to report that nine years later, her scans are clean, and she is showing “no evidence of disease.”  We also work together – successfully, I might add – at Cincinnati Cancer Advisors.  We are very blessed.    

When I say that we have gone through pretty much everything together, I mean pretty much everything.  A good number of men (most, in fact) with advanced prostate cancer will go through “male menopause” from the androgen deprivation therapy that they will eventually go on to try to control the pace of their disease progression and mitigate its spread.  Trust me… a marriage has not been truly tested until (a) you’ve worked together at the same company in a direct reporting relationship (I get to wear the pants at work) and (b) both partners are going through menopause… again, at the same time.  

It is a cliché for sure, but she is my rock.  My everything in life.  My muse.

Until next time,



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