Monday, December 19, 2011

A Bump In The Road

Things were going well in my life.  I picked Tashi up from the airport on Aug. 20th as she was going to attend BYU this year.  Stephen also is attending BYU so that is fun.    I liked being her mother for a few days.  She is such a great gal.  I felt young for a bit there.

On the 22nd while I had Tashi at my house, Lexi and Bear came through on their way back to school in Virginia.  They will both be attending Southern Virginia University again this year and they are both on scholarship which is good.
Lexi and Bear

The phone rang just as they drove up.  It was Nancy, Paul's wife calling with news no one ever wants to hear.  She had found a lump in her breast a week or so before but she and the doctor both felt it was due to her breast feeding their 8 month old baby.  She had an ultrasound just to be sure.  On ultrasound it looked like cancer so a biopsy was done.  The results                                 were back, and indeed, it was cancer.

What a bombshell.  I had had enough experience with cancer, I thought, to last a life time--my son in law Scott died at age 25 of Ewing's Sarcoma, I had had breast cancer, I had just lost a spouse to Neuroendocrine carcinoma and now my 35 year old daughter in law was facing breast cancer.  It seemed like too much to bear to watch this little family have to struggle through this.  Nancy had lost her father in May.  Their children had lost two grandfathers and had their mother diagnosed with cancer in four months.  That is a lot!

I had planned to travel to Salt Lake in the morning anyway with Tashi, Lexi and Bear.  The four of us went to a community play to celebrate my birthday which was the next day.  The play was 'Nunscense' and it was not at all what I needed.  I felt it was too sacreligious and I did not enjoy it so we left at half time and went home.

For my birthday the next morning, Tashi had decorated the kitchen and made a nice breakfast for me.  I so appreciated her trying to make my birthday a as good as possible.  We all headed north in two vehicles and stopped first in Highland where my Mom was living with my brother Don and his wife.  I visited for just a few minutes and left the three young people to visit with Mom and I left to drive up to Paul's.  They had doctor appointments and tests scheduled for the rest of the day.  For the second year in a row, I spent my birthday in the shadow of cancer.  Last year I spent the entire day with Dave at the hospital and at the doctors office getting him diagnosed.  This birthday I spent tending the kids so Paul and Nancy could have a similar experience.  That evening when they got home, I left to have dinner with Dave's Mom and sister and her husband, along with my three grandchildren who were still in town.

Tashi and I stayed the night at my Mom's empty house and the next morning I took her back to school at BYU for registration.

I stayed up in Salt Lake with Paul's family for about a week so they could take care of all thing that have to be done with this diagnosis--more tests, more scans, central lines put in, consults with other doctors--oncologists, surgeons, etc.  It was an emotional roller coaster for all of us but especially for Nancy.  I felt such pain for her.

Since that time I have spent the week of chemo, which was every three weeks initially, up with Paul and Nancy so I can care for the kids and keep things running.  This has been a privilege for me and I am so grateful I have been available to do this.  I had a trip planned to Hawaii in late October and we decided to not cancel that.  John and Traci are eager to help and they have wonderful neighbors whoa re bringing in meals every night during the chemo weeks and also offering all kinds of help with the kids.

Labor Day weekend I went up to the condo with John and Taci and family.  We had a great time fishing and just hanging out--enjoying the peace.

Lyndee, Emily and Sam

Traci and Owen

I had been asked rather late to help with the Arts Festival again by coordinating the Living History.  That became much more difficult to do.  Julie had sent me fabric to make a costume but instead I borrowed one and was able to fulfill my duties as the timing worked out.   The Festival was on the 10th and 11th.

The next week was the Challis family picnic in Murray and Nancy was able to attend with her family.  Mom was able to come also which was nice as she has been having quite a struggle, both with her angina and with the multi-infarct dementia.

In early Oct. I went to the condo for General Conference and found that very therapeutic.  I took hundreds of photos of the turning leaves which were stunningly beautiful.   I watched the movie 17 Miracles and cried myself silly but I felt close to Dave and enjoyed the solitude and absence of the pressure my house gives me right now with all the fruit and vegetables to pick, bottle and freeze.

Challis and Nancy came up on Sunday to join me and we watched conference, took a nature walk to see the leaves and we watched 17 Miracles--I really wanted to see it again.  We had a great visit.

The next week I went and stayed with the grandkids while Nancy had chemo and then left when Paul got home because I had a reunion at Bear Lake with returned missionary couples that had served in Chile.  We had a great time.  I stayed Monday night and Tuesday night and left early on Wed.  Nancy had been feeling pretty good on the day of chemo and on Tuesday so we felt it would be okay.  I called on my way back to Salt Lake and they were all sick and Nancy was very sick from the chemo--probably because she had a virus also.  I felt badly that I had abandoned them.

I had a reunion with high school friends in Salt Lake that weekend.  What fun that was.  These reunions have been so good for me--I get so much strength from family and friends and I am making great memories.  Memories are especially important right now for me.

I took my trip to Hawaii for Mic's birthday the last week of Oct.  I got there before Halloween and was able to help Mic sew costumes for the kids--Hannah was Jamsmin and Eliza was Little Miss Muffet.  The baby was the spider that sat down beside her--so cute.  We had so much fun with parties and just spending time together.
Carving pumpkins with Mic and Hannah

At the ward party
Eliza scared by the big spider

When I got home from Hawaii, I had a reunion of the St. Marks Hospital School of Nursing class of 1967.    We spent the entire day together eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, getting a guided tour of both the old St. Mark's on 3rd West and the new St. Marks on 3900 South in SLC, and just visiting.  It was absolutely wonderful!

The next week I started working in the office at the Manti Temple as a volunteer.   I love it!  The biggest problem was going to be driving in the winter at night.  I got called to be the first counselor in the stake Relief Society when I returned from my trip and it just so happened that the president and her husband and sister go to the temple on Tuesday afternoon at just the same time as my shift and I was invited to drive with them.  What a blessing this is for me.

On the week that Nancy had chemo, the week of Thanksgiving, Paul met me in Nephi with the kids after my shift at the temple so I drove alone that day.  Thanksgiving was great.  John provided another large turkey but it was only about 35 pounds and not 50 pounds like before.  We still had the problem with the oven catching on fire from the drippings but no harm was done and the turkey was delicious.  All the Utah families came except Paul and Nancy.  She was too ill but their kids were there staying with me.  The kids spent hours on Rip Sticks and skate boards trying to outdo each other.  when the weather got too cold, they moved into the garage and continued with the fun.  The next day we took Dave's truck and went into the mountains and Paul and Nancy's kids picked out a tree to cut and use for Christmas.  Saturday night was the annual tree lighting in Fillmore.  John's family and Paul's kids attended with me.  I was glad to have family to go with.  It had been a perfect holiday weekend.

Moving forward

Easter eating
Caleb, James, Emily and Lyndee  My Utah kids all came at Easter and helped in the yard and had a good time with each other.  Caleb, Jake, Emily and Lyndee surprised me and went the extra mile with their yard work--all for free!.
All the Utah kids came for Easter and we had a great time.

The boys tore off the front porch which was falling apart.  It was much more work than expected.  Finally they rented a power tool which took it off quickly.  I had a new porch poured the next week.  It took 8 months to get the railings made and put up.  I should have had my boys do it.

John and Paul
John and Jordan survey the work

Luke blows out his candles

James and Jordan

Everyone came again in May for Mother's Day and we celebrated Luke's birthday.  Having company over the holidays really helped and I got through all the holidays without problems.  Memorial Day found me in Nauvoo and that was good also.  The boys were at my house putting in sidewalks in the back of the yard and around the barn.  They got flowers and put on Dave's grave.  I am so blessed to have the kids I do.  They're wonderful!

I went to Nauvoo the end of May and was able to attend
Tashi'sgraduation and be there for Gracie's 4th birthday as well as being there for Lexi and Bear's wedding and Jordan receiving his endowment in the Nauvoo Temple.  Great times!  Paul and family and Jill and family came out in time for the wedding and we had so much fun with the doin's in Nauvoo as well as with the Stouts.  It was a wonderful.

Gracie with the little dog I gave her

birthday morning 

Tashi, Lexi and Bear leave the temple

Lexi honored me by wearing my wedding dress.  She looked lovely.  The reception was held in the Nauvoo House and I was able to help sew new curtains for Emma Smith's parlor which was quite a treat.

I had a chance to take the kids to several venues while I was there in Nauvoo.   This is Mia and Noah at the pioneer games.
Mia and Noah

Benji with oxen in Nauvoo

The whole gang

Gracie looking not happy about being a pioneer

Benji and James pet the horses that pulled us on the carriage ride

Lincoln's memorial in Springfield
Paul and kids at the top of the arch in St. Louis
This Planter's Peanut truck was at our hotel in Chicago

Paul and family, Jill and family and I at Winter Quarters, Nebraska

Challis and family at the Fourth of July parade in Fillmore

My mother and Zachary at Paul's on the 4th
Geneal and her sister Lola at Lola's 95th birthday
Mom and Jordan before he leaves for Croatia

I took Aleah, Lyndee and Emily camping on July 7th up our canyon.  We prepared the camp sites, built a fire, played game,  made tin foil dinners and had a good time eating them.  John and family came up late that night and joined us.
Making tin foil dinners with Aleah, Lyndee and Emily
Eating the tin foil dinners
James showed up with a unique summer hair do
Cute Ana at the campout

My summer had been full of wonderful activities surrounded by family.  This was just what I needed.  What a blessing family is.  I feel like I am making the adjustment to single life.   I have fabulous friends in Fillmore who keep very good tabs on me and let me know I am loved.  I am okay with living here for now.  It is home.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Keeping an Eternal Perspective

Acceptance that the disease cannot be slowed has changed our focus.  We are about through with doctor appointments and now we are focusing on Dave's comfort.  His pain has increased rather dramatically recently but fortunately, it is not constant.  We have some good medications to control the pain and other symptoms,  Now we are addressing more directly the issue of his impending death.  Many more family and friends have visited or sent flowers or notes of love and concern.  What a joy and comfort that all brings to us both.  It just makes our hearts happy.

Doug and Amy with their dogs and Dave
On March 5th we had a great visit with Dave's only brother Doug and his wife Amy.  They brought a yummy lunch and visited for a couple of hours.  We were so happy to have had that chance to just sit and visit with them.  We see them at family functions but it is different when people come here and there are no other distractions.

March 6th was our annual Stake Choir Festival.  Each ward prepares a special number and then there is one number that we all sing together.  There are over 200 voices and it is thrilling.  This year the theme was on family and that was particularly tender for us.  We had a very big day with a practice in the morning, church, visitors in the afternoon and the festival.  It was a difficult day for Dave due to pain and fatigue but he wanted very badly to participate.  Afterwards we visited with many dear friends that we had not seen since returning home.  The hugs and kisses were strengthening.  Dave was choir director in our ward for 11 years a number of years ago and he loved that calling so much.  It is not likely that he will be able to participate in the ward choir any longer and that is a sorrow for him.  His heart loves music.

We had three family birthdays between the 7th and 10 of March.  Benji turned 6 and Owen turned the big 1 year old.  We were not able to visit either of them on their birthdays but we did later.  My mother turned 87 on the 10th.  We had arranged to have a dinner at the Golden Corral with all her children and their spouses.  However, from the 9-12th she was not doing well at all so we changed our plans and moved to her home.  Dave and I picked up enough takeout from the Chinese Gourmet to feed the 12 of us and we had a nice visit. We felt badly that Mom was not feeling better.

On the way up to Murray, we stopped in Murray for an appointment with Dr. Rich's Nurse Practioner.   Then we met our daughter Jill and four of her kids at a park there in Provo and she took about 78 photo shots of Dave and I with her nice camera.  We had had the more formal shots at Christmastime when we got the family photos but we wanted some warm and playful photos of Dave and I.  She did a great job and Dave tolerated the busy day quite well.

Geneal, Dave, Sunee, Lola and Stewart
On the 12th we had a wonderful visit from Dave's 94 year old Aunt Lola Folkman, her son Stewart, his wife Sunni and Dave's Mom.  They had so much fun talking about old times and the laughter was therapeutic.  We hated to see them go.  Dave's Mom stayed with us for several more days until we went up north again.  She and Dave were able to spend some special time together.

The next day, Sunday, Dave gave the Gospel Doctrine lesson.  It was a little bit of a struggle for him but he did a great job.  I had the impression that this would be his last teaching opportunity and it appears that this is correct.

Dave, Kathy, Geneal and Helen 
John's 8 year old son James had called and ask if his grandpa could go with him to the Grandparents Day at their school on the 15th.  Dave could not tell that cute little guy 'no'.  This then was the day to take Grandma Smith back home.  On the way up we stopped and picked up little Benji in Woodland Hills since we had not seen him for his birthday.  We had the privilege of having him for the rest of the day.  He had a great visit with his great-grandmother on the way up.

While driving we got a call from Dave's cousin Kathy Palmer.  She called about another matter but the condition of her mother, Helen Wright, came up.  Kathy has been Helen's caregiver for about two years.  She told us that Helen was failing quickly.  We made a decision to stop in Alpine on the way to Bountiful and Grantsville.  We are so happy that we did.  Dave's Mom had not seen her for a couple of months and there was a joyful reunion.  She was able to talk to us a little and her famous smile was still there.  Three days later she passed away quietly with Kathy holding her hand.

After dropping Mom off in Bountiful, we drove to Grantsville, dropped Benji off with his aunt and uncle and Dave and I went to meet Lyndee and James at their school.  There was a very nice activity at 4 pm for the kids and their grandparents.  They met us and got us refreshments and then they sat and read with us for an hour.  It was precious time.  We were thrilled that Dave had felt well enough to go.  We had a nice dinner with John and the kids afterwards and I helped John prune his fruit trees before we left.  John and Traci have ten new baby goats--how fun is that.

James gives Dave a hug at Grandparents Day

Dave reading with Lyndee at Grandparents Day

Dave had his last scan on the 17th at our hospital to see if the chemo received three weeks before had slowed anything down .  He was doing well enough so I drove back up to Grantsville in the afternoon to see Lyndee perform in Grantsville's Sociable with her violin group.  Then I drove to Murray to stay the night with my Mom.  The next day I took her to get her hair done and do a little shopping.  Then we went to lunch with four of her nieces and all of her daughters plus two of the nieces' daughters.  We had a great time.  We don't often get together and Mom wanted to get together so badly.  Her niece Darlene lives in Montana but spends winters in Arizona so we caught her on her way back to Montana and it worked out great.  Mom did well until the end of the luncheon and she had a little 'spell'and passed out briefly,  We got her on her oxygen and got her home and she perked up after a bit.  These episodes seem to be coming more frequently.  She is also having more angina.  We don't know how long she will be with us.  It is hard to have my Mom and my husband having such problems.   I stayed over to make sure she was doing okay and left for home on Saturday morning.  Dave had done well without me but his pain is certainly escalating in intensity.  He has pain and tingling down both arms from pressure on nerves due to masses in his chest.  He is also having sciatic pain down one leg.  We do not know if that is due to cancer or from his previous lumbar disc problems 10 years ago.  He hasn't been able to sleep in a bed since coming back from Hawaii in mid-February.  He does much better in his favorite recliner in our bedroom.

We had been asked to speak in Flowell ward's Sacrament Meeting in January but we had a conflict so it was rescheduled for March.  We prayed that Dave would feel up to it.  He had been Flowell's High Council representative for about three years and had grown to love the members so much.  Sunday he was a little queasy and had some pain but he made it and gave a very touching talk, straight from the heart.  So many people came up afterwards with tears of love to give us hugs and kisses.  It was a very significant and tender moment for both of us.  The love that that so many in this community have for Dave is so obvious and so touching.  We had received flowers three times in the last week from friends in the community which have brightened out home and reminded us of how much we love this place we chose to live in.

That afternoon, Brent Jackson and his wife Debbie came for a visit.  Brent and Dave were partners for over 20 years.  It was very meaningful for us and I think for the Jacksons also.   They had such a good time visiting that the visit last much longer than anticipated.  

Monday the 21st we saw Dr. Rich again and we knew before he told us that things had worsened.  Dave was feeling tumor growth and seeing new tumors, he is getting nauseous more frequently and we can just tell that the last chemo did not help.  The report bore that out--tumors had continued to grow in spite of the chemo.  Dr. Rich suggested an MRI to see if they could identify whether epidural medications would help the nerve pain he is having.  After the MRI we will go to Hospice.

Monday Dave shared with me the feeling he had that his time was much sorter than the doctor had estimated. He seemed to have a sense of urgency all of a sudden.  Tuesday he sat down and planned out his entire funeral including the musical numbers.  He even printed off the music for piano and violin  for the piece Meditation that he wanted performed.  Then he made an appointment to arrange for a headstone from Denny Brunson.

Wednesday we went and looked over the cemetary and picked out the area we like, went to the city building and bought us two lots.  Now we are working on designing our headstone.  It seems like we are in a dream that we should wake up from soon but reality is beginning to set it.  That being said, we really feel a great sense of peace and calm in all of this.  We know we are in the Lord's hands.

Thursday John and Paul and his family all came down to watch BYU play in the Sweet Sixteen.  We had a great time together but after the game Dave started with pain that increased and increased and required lots of medication to get him comfortable.  He didn't get to deep sleep until 3 am.

Friday Dave had an MRI.  It was quite the ordeal because he has been unable to lie flat.  He required a lot of medication to get him through it and he was drowsy on the drive home.  Starling away, he kept asking me if I was awake or if I needed to stop and sleep.  He slept until home teachers came ande then watched the news and went to bed for the night.

In the morning he was still sleeping very deeply and I did not disturb him.  He awoke about 11 am and came stumbling down the stairs, barely able to walk and unable to hear.  He seemed confused.  I checked his BP and it was extremely low.  I was frightened and did not know what to do.  I called Brent Jackson who came over and evaluated him and we made the decision to put him on hospice.  This was a good decision.  Soon I had lots of help which I needed desperately.  I was not prepared for this sudden change of events.  All of a sudden, we were very needy.  Dave was restless and confused.  He wanted to get up but was too weak.  Dr. Jackson ordered an IV to flush his kidneys which appeared to not be working well.  This raised his blood pressure.  Medication helped sedate him and make him more comfortable.  The kids were all called and soon started to arrive to help me.  A hospital bed and oxygen also helped and soon I was feeling like I could deal with what was happening--I didn't like it one bit was the fear was gone and reality was setting in.

For 12 days, Dave was in a semi-conscious state.  The children and grandchildren came for moral support and one of my boys stayed with me all the time to help move Dave.  We had some very tender and poignant moments and treasured the last few days we had with him.  Many friends and family came to visit and usually he would recognize them but have difficulty trying to talk with them.  Some of those special visits were from Susie Adams who worked with him at the hospital the entire time he worked, Fawn Hunter and Ella Christiansen who were office staff for many years, Stew and Marge Jacobsen,  students and faculty from CUNORI along with the Brackens, the Brown who replaced us in Chiquimula, the Lyons who served with us as misionaries in Chile, Dr. Grose and his wife, and many more.

This is one of my favorites--Dave kissing Eliza, Mic's second child

Ella and Fawn--long-time employees of Dave's in the clinic

Grandson Jordan, Jill's second boy

son Challis and several grandchildren spend time with Dave

Sunday, April 3rd was General Conference.  My parents, Brian and Gunn and Woody all came down for a visit and had dinner with us. On April 5th he talked with Challis on the phone for Challis's birthday.  For some reason, he was able to speak when the phone was to his ear.  He wished Challis a happy birthday and told him he was trying not to die on his birthday.  What a tender moment that was.  It was obvious that his brain was working but that he just was aphasic.

My Mom and others returned on Wed, his final day.  My sons John and Paul gave him a blessing of release and he returned home to his Heavenly Father about 2 hours later.  His mother and many of the family were here.  I feel sure that his father, whom he has not seen in 47 years, was there to great him with open arms!  What a marvelous day to die on--the birthday of the Savior and the anniversary of His resurrection and the birthday of our church.  I cannot express how much the love and support of family and friends meant to me at this moment.

Going to the funeral home and dressing him with my children was one of the most spiritual times I had during this grieving period.  It was a pleasure to gather memorabilia to display at the funeral and to reminisce about his life and the great memories we had.

There was a viewing on Monday night and we were overwhelmed by the number of visitors--young returned missionaries from Chile, our dear friend Jynnae Whelan and her sister, who tended for us, and friends and relative from everywhere.  They love they brought sustained me and made my heart full to the brim with appreciation for their kind words and love.  Jynnae brought a beautiful plaque with a photo of Dave from when we attended the temple with her for the first time and an original poem she had written.  Dave had had a great impact on her life.

Jynnae Whelen and I

The funeral was held on April 12th.  The children all participated through speaking or prayers, and our good friend Kerry Watson spoke along with our Bishop.  Our ward choir sang a beautiful rendition of  'I Believe in Christ' which was so special and our grandchildren Stephen, Jordan and Tashi sang one of my favorite songs, 'Be Still My Soul'.  That was perfect and so beautifully done accapella.   Everything about the funeral was just what I needed.  I loved every minute of it.

My Mom was able to make it down again.  She was pretty weak that day and needed her oxygen but she came and gave me support.

Me and my Mom

Here are some photos from the cemetery.

All the family including our mothers

Micaela and grandkids

A new life is beginning for me but I have faith that the blessings of peace and comfort that were promised will continue with me on this journey.  I know we will be together again and that he is in a much better place.