“Ma, can you show me around?” Ian asked as daybreak arrived.
Grimacing in pain, Ian slowly sat up in bed. I pushed the wheelchair as close as I could to the large king-sized bed. Taking hold of him under booth arms, I moved him onto the wheelchair. I then pushed him very carefully over the sliding-door track so as not to put any more pressure onto his aching neck.
We exited the room onto the grounds of the naturopathic treatment center where we were scheduled to stay for the next 14 days. I wheeled him through the property that featured lush trees, hammocks and a mostly empty lava pond. He soaked in the beauty for about five minutes but suddenly said, “Let’s go back.”
I knew the pain and pressure on his spine had caught up with him. I rushed him back into the room. As I transferred him back into bed, he sweetly thanked me for taking him outside. “I just wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to be stuck in this bed forever,” he added with a small smile.
The very hard truth is that Ian would not leave that bed again under his own power, as paralysis continued to take over.
When we arrived at the treatment center the day before, Ian was too exhausted from the plane ride over to notice the beautiful surroundings. As soon as we arrived, he was placed into a large, quaint room with ample space for us to stay by his side.
My heart surged with hope for the first time in weeks. We made it to the Big Island. The center was beautiful and very unlike the harsh hospitals Ian had come to know all too well that year.
The two naturopathic doctors arrived to introduce themselves. The center’s founding doctor was a child of the 60s with long gray hair. She was smart and attentive. The attending doctor was a much younger, very serious, smart and kind man. They had already reviewed Ian’s medical records, including his 8-month cancer journey, and recent blood work results. They made an immediate assessment of his current cognitive and physical health.
Aware of the stress and tension that we were all under, the founding doctor turned to me and said “Mom, sing a song that you used to sing to Ian as a child!”
The only song that came to mind was You Are My Sunshine, so I began. It was a terrible choice.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray, you never know dear, how much I love you, so please don’t take my sunshine away…
I nearly choked on the words as I sang them.
The doctors jumped into action. In addition to starting the cancer-fighting protocols that very afternoon, they added an additional one to help protect Ian’s brain, as they feared that the cancer would spread there next. It was truly overwhelming to have doctors dedicated to Ian’s well-being round-the-clock. The care and attention Ian received at the center was more than we dreamed possible.
On that first afternoon, looking us straight in the eyes, the doctor said, “Ian is fighting very hard. Something is making him hang on…”
That something was someone.
At an earlier time, when Ian’s health was improving and his heart was full of hope for the future, he made the big decision to ask Lei to be his wife. He purchased an engagement ring and planned to give it to her when he was well enough to travel with her to a neighbor island, where he undoubtedly would have popped the question in some romantic manner.
As we packed for the treatment center, Ian asked me to pack the ring.
Though the circumstances were a million miles away from what he had longed for, Ian did ask Lei to become his wife while on the Big Island. It was a true gift that Ian was able to express his profound love for Lei at that time.
She said yes.
They didn’t know what the future held for them. They were two people deeply in love, 100% committed to one another, living in the moments that they had together and fighting an epic battle for life.
Each day, Lei was by Ian’s side as he received advanced intravenous protocols, special meals and juices, a slew of vitamins and therapies. We took turns watching over Ian and assisting any way we could. At times, Ian was literally flanked with love. Lei on one side and me on the other.
These were hard days, but there were beautiful moments and gifts from God. It was in these days – relieved from the massive duties of cooking, juicing and hospice care – that I was able to spend quiet moments with Ian to tell him everything that was in my heart … to tell him how much we loved him and how proud we were of him.
When the sun set, it was very dark and quiet in the small community of Kapoho. Evenings became a very special time for our family.
The little paperback Gospel of John, given to me by a health store employee the night before we departed, became a light in the darkness.
Each evening, Dave, Zach, Lei and I gathered around Ian’s bed and read the Gospel of John. Although Ian was becoming less and less vocal, he listened intently to the readings. One night, we read through John Chapter 3, God’s story of salvation. When we finished, a faint smile came across Ian’s face and he whispered, “that’s good,” as he quietly drifted off to sleep.
By the second week at the center, despite heroic efforts by the doctors, Ian loss more ground to paralysis. Soon, he could only move his head. Yet, he remained committed to the protocols and did everything within his power to keep eating and drinking. His mind was still strong. His morning vitals showed that his body was still strong enough to continue treatment. Each night, as a family, we continued to read the good news and pray.
In between treatments, Ian would dose off. Soon, he began speaking about random dreams.
On one occasion, when Dave was sitting bedside, Ian blurted out, “50,000 points”. Dave asked, “what’s 50,000 points?” Ian replied, “Kelly (Slater) has 50,000 points,” referencing the heated World Surf League race for the crown. Dave commented, “Oh, Kelly has 50,000 points, but who’s going to win this year?” Ian replied without skipping a beat, “John John.” Indeed, John John Florence would go on to win the 2016 Title.
At one point during the planned 2-week stay, Zach returned briefly to work on Oahu. Each day, he texted me to ask how Ian was doing. I would relay any little glimmer of hope that I could find.
Gosh, it seems like he moved his head a little more today.
Wow, the doctors have hiked Ian up to the maximum dosage of this or that protocol, and he seems to be tolerating it very well.
You see, hope is very hard to kill.
But when Zach returned a few days later, he sat next to Ian and looked in on him as he slept. The look on his face jolted me back to reality.
Ian was slipping away.
Uncle Pat, on the Big Island for work, paid a visit. I saw the same look of anguish on his face.
Towards the end of our stay, Lei was quietly resting next to Ian as he went in and out of consciousness. Then, he said to Lei…
“The landscape is so beautiful and there are so many three-year-old’s running around…”
Lei was certain that Ian was seeing a glimpse of heaven.
Wanting to be sure, I later asked Lei if maybe Ian was describing the garden at the treatment center, but she assured me that was not it. And, for sure, there were no children running around the property.
It appears that heaven began to reveal itself to Ian on that day.
A check of Ian’s vitals revealed that, indeed, they were plummeting. The doctors, who had done everything they possibly could in those ten days, told us what we dreaded to hear: They could no longer continue the treatments in Ian’s weakening state.
A quick phone call with Ian’s oncologist, a family meeting and the decision was made.
It was time to return to Oahu, while Ian could still survive the flight home…
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8 (KJV)