September 07, 2016

This Might Have Been the Dumbest Thing I Have EVER Done!

Last year I ran the AF Cancer Run with my friend Sue. My first half marathon and I was so proud of myself. Sue and I signed up to do it again this year.  Not long after I registered, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma.  My whole world changed. Sue said she was going to run it for me. I was so touched and gave up any thought of running.   
But then.......
I was feeling pretty good and wanted to run for two of my family members that were fighting cancer with me. My thought was, "What if I can't do it again?" I didn't really train.  I had two surgeries and started my immunotherapy treatment.  One day I decided to try. I brought it up to my husband. I know he thought I was crazy but he never said so. He told me I could walk if I was tired and the race goes right by my house. I could stop if I needed too. 

It was a very emotional day. I was so nervous. "What if my body couldn't do it?" I DID IT!! A cancer diagnosis, two surgeries, and hardly any training.  I was only 4 minutes slower than last year. My daughter, Morgan, met me at mile nine and finished the race with me, my sister and her family were mid race cheering me on, and Ryanne was waiting at the finish line.  I get teary eyed just writing it down. I had a strength that I didn't know I had. I felt love and support from so many. I couldn't walk for the next 3 days but I did it!!

Sue and I at the start. I wouldn't see her again until the finish.

A few miles in 

The Finish


This sign was out during the race. I couldn't agree more. Cancer sucks and is so scary. I HATE IT!!!

 My sign honoring my fellow cancer family members. Sadly, "Stewart" passed away not too long after the race. He was a great guy. I felt him with me every step of this race.  Terry and I continue our race together. I know "Stewart" is still fighting with me.

So happy to see Sue at the finish line. 

I was totally unprepared physically and I literally could not walk for days after the race. However, this day I said "screw you" to cancer and my body did what everyone including me thought it couldn't.  


July 31, 2016

Brian "Stewart"

When I found out I had Stage 3 Melanoma, I was a little devasted. My Uncle Brian "Stewart" had found out that he had Stage 4 Lung Cancer not long before I got my diagnosis.  I talked to one of my aunts that lives close to Stewart. She told me that "Stewart" had said that we would fight together. Maybe I didn't realize the significance that statement would have. I felt a bond to him. He had to know how I was feeling. He had been there. When I did the Cancer Half I carried his name with me. I guess it isn't surprising to anyone that when I found out he had passed away, I was so sad. He was truly one of the kindest men I had ever met. Sometimes I feel like there aren't many good men like "Stewart" around anymore. I loved him and his passing was hard for me to swallow. 

Aside from knowing that cancer literally eats your body, knowing that his family was feeling so similar to how I felt when my mom passed was too much.  It is so awesome to be able to spend your last minutes together, but it is hard. Watching someone you love be unable to get comfortable, or knowing they are in pain because their face is scrunched up and you can tell they are hurting. My heart ached for the whole family as they cared for their father and husband.

I decided I wanted to go and Kate was feeling the same so we decided to deliver flowers to my aunt CoraLu in person. It was so nice to visit and be able to love them and let them know we were there for whatever they needed. I hope that they felt our love.

Here are some of the cute pictures from the Celebration of Brian Stewarts life. 

When Kate and I got to Aunt Cora's house, she sat down and said, "I have bad news. Your father might be coming."  Kate and I in unison said, " We're fine. We can be adults." I believed my statement to be true. However, I worried all night that he would make a scene and ruin the funeral for my aunt and cousins. I got up the next day prepared to push my worry aside and celebrate "Stewart." 

It turned out that my father didn't come. I did hear that he drove by but he didn't do any of the things that I had envisioned in my head.  I was so grateful for that. Brian Stewart was  so loved by neighbors, friends, family etc. I watched that room get so crowded and hold a steady flow of people that Stewart had touched at some point in his life. 

Stewart was a great man. I didn't see him often but when I did he was fatherly and loved me. I am a  better person because I knew Stewart. And I am grateful everyday for his cute family. I have loved getting to know all the crazy kids.

Until we meet again...

May 31, 2016

Missing Mom

I'm sure it has something to do with Memorial Day being yesterday and my cancer treatment today,  I am missing my mom terribly.  I never wrote anything down the week my mom died. I never wanted to revisit the craziness of that time. Now, feelings are fading and I am wanting to put on paper the events of that week. I want my children to be able to read about the last few days I spent with my mother. I want them to know how much I counted on them and how many things fell into place during such a hard time.

I only wish I had written down sooner.

DEC 12, 2014

I got a text from my sister Kate. "Did Mom leave you a message? I couldn't understand what she was saying/"

The second I saw it, I knew she had had a stroke. (It is one of the symptoms.) I was still in my pajamas. Emmie just happened to be home from school that day so she stayed with Hazel. I put slippers on and walked out the door.

I wasn't really sure where to go but I was driving to my Mom's house. I called her. She answered the phone and from what I could tell, she thought she was making complete sense. She wasn't. Still no idea where she was. (She should have been at work.) I called my friend Michel. She was calming and told me to start at my mom's. Michel then called Orem Police and sent them to my mom's house as well. The police and I arrived at the same time. I walked in and my mom was sitting on the couch with a sweat shirt and shoes on, like she was all ready to go.

When she saw the EMT walk in behind me, my mom gave me a look of total betrayal. I should be happy that I couldn't understand what she was saying. She would have to go in the ambulance and part of me was relieved. I could never have gotten her down the stairs of her condo. Robin, however, was furious. She wanted us to take her. Kate got to my mom's and we rode together to the hospital. My mom was taken to UVRMC in Provo. As usual, Kate drove.

The next few hours were exhausting. Doctors wanted my mom to stay down. She wanted to sit up. They did scans. Her communication was getting worse. She tried to tell us something and couldn't. She tried to write what she was trying to say but couldn't. Her right arm wouldn't work. In frustration she threw the pen and laid back. That would be one of the last times she tried to speak to us.

The ER Doc finally came in and told us she had suffered a stroke but it had happened long enough before that that there was nothing they could do.  At that point, they had to admit her to the 7th floor and watch her. She would start physical and speech therapy later that day. We would just have to wait and see if her speech came back. Once she was all settled in, Kate and I ran home to shower.

When Kate and I got back to the hospital, it was clear the my mom was going down hill. The weakness in her right side was getting worse and coherently, she wasn't all there.  Mom kept having to go to the bathroom. I finally stopped helping her and had the nurses come because I wanted them to know how bad it was getting. I hate to say the were bad nurses, but they were. Each time she got up to go we noticed her right side getting weaker and weaker. I watched her chew a fish oil vitamin, almost pull the nurse over with her because she had to go potty, and almost choke on a crown the nurses bumped out when they were trying to suction her mouth because she was vomiting. Finally, at about 2 am, they took her for another scan. This time a Doctor came and said that her brain had continued bleeding after the stroke. They admitted her to the ICU and there, she slept. Once in the ICU Kate and I ran home to sleep. We got home around 4:30 am and went back to the hospital first thing in the morning. Neither of us slept well. I remember telling Tim I wasn't sure if she was going to live.

DEC 13,2014

On our way to the hospital Saturday, Kate and I went by my mom's house to grab bills so we could keep her caught up. It was so sad. Obviously she had thought it would be an ordinary day. She got up to go to work and never made it.

Mom was awake when  Kate and I walked into her room.  Her eyes lit up.  She was excited to see us. She had so many tubes in her and she still couldn't talk (she didn't even try to talk), but we knew she was happy when we got there. This was big. She had mostly been out of it the night before. We were still thinking that she was going to recover. She would spend quite some time in a rehab center but certainly she would come home. We missed the Doctor that morning but she was alert and definitely knew us.  A step in the right direction.

Tim and Jaxson came and gave her a blessing. At the time I thought watching that would be one of the hardest things I saw during this time. It wasn't. But hard to believe. I watched as Jaxson and Tim walked into the room. Tim was awesome as always. Jaxson couldn't even look at her. I knew it was only because he loved her and hated seeing her in pain.  It broke my heart as I watched my mom watching him.  I'm not sure I could have handled seeing my Grandmother in the same situation. I knew Jaxson was hurting for her. He held her hand and her eyes bore into him. She looked terrible.  She loved him and hated having him see her like that. We stayed late into the night. We left her for a little while Saturday night to get some sleep. Again, I didn't sleep well.

DECEMBER 14, 2014

I honestly don't remember getting there Sunday morning. I know we went early so we wouldn't miss the Doctor.  It just so happened the the ICU Doc that morning was a man who lived on my street. He had Kate, Jason and I come out to the computer and showed us a scan of my mom's head. The stroke/bleeding had damaged her brain.  Finally, one of us asked what he would do. His words were, "If my wife kept me alive in that condition we would have words in the next life." Wow. That was the first time we realized she wasn't going to make it.  Somehow, the paper work with her DNR did not make it to the ICU staff. She didn't want life saving measures taken but the Dr. suggested that if they put a feeding tube in, they would be able to see if she would improve at all. We were hoping.   When they put the feeding tube in, she was not happy. Kate was her power of attorney and my mom made it very clear that she was furious. The second she gave us "the look," we knew it was wrong. To be honest, we knew before but letting go was so hard.  We walked out and chatted about it. We walked back in and I looked her in the eyes and said, "Do you want me to take you home?" She nodded and unequivocal, "yes." Kate called my sister in Cali and told her to get on her way.  Mom's health deteriorated even with the feeding tube.  Kate and I feared that she wouldn't make it through the night.

She finally said we could let the kids come.  She tried to talk to them. Lifted her arm even to touch Hazel (who was scared to death and would not let my mom touch her).  Only two kids could come back at a time but Jax stayed with her between visits. He was so strong and talked to her and loved her each time kids swapped in and out.  She laughed and smiled for the girls. Those few minutes were so tender.  Not to mention heart wrenching.

I had been saying I would take her home Tuesday or Wednesday as we had preparations to make. That was complete truth. BUT, there was a side of me that was scared.  I wanted to keep my promise but I was scared.  Scared of taking care of her and scared of watching her die.  As, I was walking her out Morgan looked at me and said, "Mom, get her out of here. She HATES it here."  Which I knew. But when Morgan said it, I was forced into action.

My friend Michel's husband is a Doctor and runs a hospice. They gave me a number and said to call. Reluctantly, I called. She would be there to meet me first thing in the morning.  We ran home to shower while Jason was there and came back to stay with her through the night.

DECEMBER 15, 2014

Cami the hospice nurse met with all four of us kids early Monday morning. She was amazing and I would refer to her until well after my mom's passing as, "my best friend." She was perfect and just what I needed. I was still saying maybe Wednesday, if mom made it. Cami called me on my procrastination. Why? Why would we wait? Really at this point I was just trying to pretend it wasn't happening. Funny that there was no way to deny, but I was going to give it a try.

We went in to the Dr. and said we wanted everything turned off we were going to take her home. This was one of the things I will never forget and will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. Her eyes. My mom was scared to death when they came to turn everything off. She wanted it and I just assumed that she was ready to go. But the terror, I am sure of the unknown, when they starting unhooking her hurt my heart.

My mom was transported to my house in an ambulance. I had called Tim and he and Scott emptied out our dinning room and Hospice came and set the room up with a hospital bed and all the equipment that was needed.  We told extended family what was going on and got her all set up. This was one of those times when I felt so much love for my family.  Everyone chipped in and helped however they could.  Kate's friends  set us up with the best food and so many people came to say good bye to my mom. We were given instructions and medications and a few tips to keep her comfortable. It was so overwhelming. It was also harder than I thought.

A few times I was so overwhelmed with dosing. Cami showed up right at the right time.  I absolutely adored witnessing so many good byes. It was a beautiful day of love and support. A couple of highlights:

               *Morgan read the Littlest Angel and all the grandkids sat with mom and listened.

               *We were supposed to wet her gums and lips to keep them moist. One time we did it with diet coke and the second it hit her tummy she smiled.

               *When she heard her cousin Dave's voice she lit up. There was no doubt that she loved him. I may, or may not have lost it on him. I knew he was the one person who could tell me I had done the right thing.  And, he did.

                *She used to give this little old lady named Elayne a ride to church. They were good friends. Elayne couldn't get over here so she asked if she could say goodbye on the phone. Elayne said said a tearful goodbye. She wished she was going instead of my mom.

                 *It was so good for us kids and our kids to see so many people love my mom and to see her as a friend, cousin, teacher etc. to so many.  For sure one of my favorite memories.

                  *I want to always remember how my little family was during this time. Everyone helped. If I just looked at any of the kids, help was offered.

                   *All of the kids spent time holding Mom's hand and talking to her.

I remember thinking Morgan was crazy for taking pictures while my mom was in our house.  Now I cherish each one.

After everyone left we couldn't get her comfortable. We tried everything. That was the worst part. We  agreed to take shifts since no one had slept the night before. I remember feeling like a failure. I wanted to take her pain but I also didn't want her to go.

December 26, 2014

Hospice came in the early morning hours.  Mom wouldn't wake up and it was confirmed that she was working hard to "go." She didn't leave us until mid-afternoon. We ready the Littlest Angel,  sang a song or two, Hazel finally gave her a hug and then she was gone. As I said, she was in our dining room.  It was so hot in there. I can't even describe the heat. After she was gone, while her body still lay there, the room was so cold. After the funeral home came and took her body, mom's cousin Lexianne was there on the porch. I remember being so happy because I did not like being the adult. I never spoke to her that day. I just saw her and knew that mom was making sure I was watched over.

My mom drove me crazy sometimes.  I hated some of the decisions that she made. I was still mad for some things done/not done in my childhood.  Here's the beautiful thing. In the end we were square. I learned to care for and love her in a way I didn't know I could and she knew it. I am grateful that her last memory of me was my only wanting her to be comfortable.

I have said it before and I will say it again. For what it was, it was good. Everything fell into place. I felt a strength that I didn't know I had as we went through each day.

Miss you Mom