One year ago today, on August 5, 2016, (Friday) Lei and I hoisted Ian into my car and drove him to the nearby clinic. His health was deteriorating rapidly. It was an unexpected turn of events after receiving glowing evaluations just two months prior, following three months of chemo and radiation.
However this week, Ian suffered a severe headache, he could barely eat and his legs grew weaker and weaker by the moment. He clutched Lei’s shoulders and coerced each wobbly step out of his reluctant legs. While at the clinic, Ian suddenly lost his ability to speak for a few minutes.
Something was very, very wrong.
From the clinic, we were transported by ambulance to the hospital where more tests would be run. I was convinced that chemo toxicity was killing Ian.
But I was wrong…
On the next day, Saturday, August 6, 2016, as the sun was slowly setting in the sky and the world darkened outside the hospital window, we were told that the cancer had spread into Ian’s spinal cord, an area that cannot be penetrated by chemotherapy. There was nothing more that the oncologists could do.
In the hallway, Dave asked the hard question. How long? The doctor’s answer was a stunning “days to weeks.”
We asked what we should expect. The doctor explained that while everyone is different, it was likely that Ian, equipped with a morphine pain pump, would simply sleep more and more until the end.
There are no words to describe how we felt at the moment – so, forgive me, I won’t even try.
Back in the room, I put my arms around Ian and gently reminded him that he is a child of God and that his final destination was always heaven. His response: “I know I’m going to heaven, Mom. But, what else can we do? There must be something else we can try.” His 22 year old heart was not ready to let go…
The next 24-hours were very dark.
Lei’s dad came to get her, and they gathered as a family to deal with the crisis. Zach returned to the hospital after leaving for a short break to find out the horrible news. We would not leave the hospital for many days, sleeping on the hospital room floor surrounding Ian’s bed. Our prayers were weak and feeble.
On Sunday morning, we made impossibly difficult calls to family. Within hours, all arrived, along with our pastor. Ian slept through most of the visits. The shades were drawn and the room was dark, in part to help ease Ian’s headache. We asked for prayers from everyone and anyone. Ian couldn’t eat and it certainly appeared that the doctor’s words would prove to be true. Ian would grow weaker and weaker in the coming days.
The room felt like a dark prison with no air.
On Monday morning, Dave and I decided that if these were going to be Ian’s last days on earth with us, this was NOT how it was going to end. We told Zach our thought and he looked at us in amazement. That was exactly his thought on that morning.
We opened the shades in the room to let a bit of sunshine in and ordered Ian a very light breakfast, in case he wanted to try to eat. We forced our temperament to change. Ian was here TODAY and we were going to make the best of it … whatever that might look like. For all the love and joy he brought into our lives over the years, we would somehow bring love and joy to his final days.
I posted on Facebook and asked that everyone please pray for Ian daily, to put him on their prayer lists and add him to their church prayer requests. We’re so thankful that so many did. Some friends from church prayed and fasted. The doctors performed some palliative treatments. We needed a miracle.
In my own prayers, I begged God with all my heart to give Ian more time on this earth with us.
Through prayer and determination that shocked the doctors, Ian forced himself to eat and began to gain strength. With his family, friends, and God at his side, Ian’s grit and resolve rose up within him.
What happened in the next few days, the next few weeks and ultimately in the two more months that Ian lived was astonishing and overwhelming.
He was inspired, and he inspired.
He grew closer to God.
He undertook naturopathic treatment.
There was a surge in health.
There was a 23rd Birthday.
There was an engagement.
He fought like a warrior to his last breath on earth … his first in heaven.
In those two final months of life, in a profound way that many will never experience, Ian was given a gift of God to know just how much his family and friends treasured him.
In the coming weeks, I will chronicle the God-moments from Ian’s final two-month journey on Earth.
In this way, I hope we will forever remember the vivid beauty, as we slowly release the pain…
It’s what we must do.