A Smile to Remember

The hospital bed in the middle of our living room was surrounded by sofas that served as seating for those who came to say goodbye. Hospice workers came and went, addressing Ian’s “comfort” needs that changed drastically with each passing day.

Pastor Glenn arrived on Monday to pray with us, again. This time, he gently told Ian that while we continue to pray for a miracle, it was time to consider that God was preparing a place for him.

But, Ian was not ready…

Even Jesus asked God to “let this cup pass from me” before going to the cross.

Pastor Glenn later reassured us that even if Ian wasn’t ready to leave, God had him – his child – by the hand and would not let go.

Six days after returning home from our Hail Mary attempt at the naturopathic treatment center, the good Lord dispatched his Angels for our precious Ian.

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A Glimpse of Heaven

“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.

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Forever 23

We huddled around and watched intently as Dustin, Ian’s extraordinary hospice nurse, disconnected the tube that snaked out of the port in Ian’s chest. With clean, gloved hands, he meticulously wiped both ends with antiseptic wipes.

“Next, insert the needle into the vial to draw out the dose of Dex into the syringe,” Dustin instructed and demonstrated in a deliberate and patient manner.  “Then point the needle up and push gently to remove any air.”

This was the most important crash course we would ever take in our lives. Dave, Zach, Lei and I were suddenly intimately involved in not only loving and supporting Ian, but trying to sustain his very life. Now, together with hospice nurses who visited daily, WE were Ian’s new medical team.

Ian’s surgically installed port, once used for the administration of chemotherapy, was now called into duty for other purposes. A split line delivered self-administered pain medications through one side, while the other side was available for ongoing daily doses of Dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory medication prescribed to help keep swelling down in his central nervous system. It was our job to administer Dex intravenously four times a day.

But, Dexamethasone soon became a dirty little word.

Among its many harsh side effects was insomnia. Ian knew that if his body had any chance of fighting, rest was critical. Determined to control what he could with his now precarious, precious life, Ian determined to forsake western medicine that unfortunately failed to eradicate the cancer. He requested that the doctors wean him off of Dex and all pain meds.

Ian had made up his mind. He would keep fighting, but he would do what felt right to him now … no matter the outcome.

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They Came

I stretched out on a piece of furniture with my eyes closed in a waiting room just down the hall from Ian’s hospital room. From the TV mounted just above my head, I could hear the NBC commentator calling what must have been an exciting swimming event at the Rio Summer Olympics. Our family had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Summer Olympics, a beloved event in the Coronas household.

But now, I didn’t care.

Today, it was simply meaningless.

Surrounded by family members who came (daily) with food, hugs and disbelief, I tried to rest my fatigued body and soul — if even just for a moment.

We were gathered down the hall because Ian’s room was full.  Family and friends came. It seems like they all came…long-time family friends, friends from Maryknoll School, University of Hawaii, T&C Surf, Xerox Hawaii, prayer warriors from church, and, of course, friends from the downhill skate community.

I worried that Ian might be overtaxed by all the visitors. The struggle was absolutely real, as he fought major bouts of nausea and clung to his pink hospital-provided container – just in case. His legs continued to malfunction and a walker was required for a trip to the bathroom located 10 feet away. Still, it appeared that the visits were helping Ian’s spirits. He was touched by each and every family member, friend, and co-worker who came to visit.

Ian was resting quietly on Monday afternoon when world-renowned Big-Wave Rider Aaron Gold and Joel Centeio, one of Hawaii’s most beloved pro surfers, walked into the room. It took just a second to register. Then, Ian’s face lit up. No introductions were required. Ian knew these guys. He maneuvered his bed position and soon they were talking surf – big surf, small surf, surf around the world. And, they were talking about God.

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Our Little Yellow Flower

Dave was walking a bit ahead of me as Rosie pulled him quickly towards the park she enjoyed so much. He was a good 20 to 30 feet ahead, and this provided an opportunity for the emotions that were simmering inside me to explode like a mishandled pressure cooker.

“Why, Lord? Why Ian?” I cried out. Questions I asked often in those very early days.

“Lord help me,” I cried out audibly, but not loud enough for Dave to hear. I wiped away tears that surged and receded violently like tsunami waves.

Rosie stopped to sniff around and soon we were walking as a group again. I’m sure Dave didn’t notice my sad condition because happiness was altogether elusive back then.

We reached the center of the large open field as my thoughts swirled. I had a severe ache inside my soul. I missed our boy so much I thought I might die. As tears began to well up in my eyes again, I diverted them towards the ground hoping to spare Dave the trauma.

When I looked down, at my feet was a little yellow flower. I plucked it from the earth. This was not just any little yellow flower.

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Loving God by Serving Others

Pictured above are: (left to right) Matt, Ian throwing double shakas, Mr. McGivern, Justin and Jake. Also participating in the 2010 Majuro Mission were Cyndi, Danielle, Jan and Quinn. 

This post is dedicated to Ian’s Maryknoll School 2010 Mission Trip compadres and the good people of Majuro.

YOKWEH YOKWEH! Hhaha i was going to try not to use internet on the FIRST DAY up here but since ou wanted me to mom, I will:) The trip was good everything went well and im typing this on an old very laggy computer in the school so sorry about the mistyping hhaa. Anyway its pretty trippy how different it is up here…its super hot and hard to stay not sticky for more than a minute. The room we stayed in the school last night had rats running around and roaches jumping and flying into big holes in the tile, but other than that it was pretty good fun! Haha…plus brushing my teeth and washing my face off this morning was a challenge without any running water and using only my bottle for water hah but it’s a good wake up call to use less water when im at home in the mornings! I’m staying with Matt at the principal’s house for the majority of the time…but one of us might get another host later in the trip. Well hope things are good at home and I miss all of you guys! Ill try to catch up on sleep tonight, despite the stray dogs running around barking at each other all night around here haha bye love you guys! Talk again soon -Ian

It was Ian’s senior-year mission trip to a tiny island in the Marshall Islands called Majuro, where eight Maryknoll School students taught summer classes at the local high school. The living conditions were rough by anyone’s standards. Icy rain water catchment showers, stray dogs and, as Ian described them, radio-active sized critters crawling around his head at night.

When Ian applied for the privilege to participate that year, he had to address his ability to adapt to unfamiliar and potentially difficult situations. He didn’t lie when he said that he believed he was up to whatever situation arose, but I don’t think any of them could have been completely prepared for the reality of life on this tiny atoll. And, while they did a lot of preparations to be ready for the trip, there was a fair amount of culture shock upon their arrival there.

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Old and New Friends

The Gift of Lorna and Keene

Ian had been diagnosed with a rare cancer a few months before I got a text from my old college friend, Lorna. We had also worked together for several years at the phone company but had lost touch for many years – decades, actually. A mutual friend, however, had heard that Ian was undergoing chemo and radiation treatment and suggested that Lorna contact me since her son, Keene, had recently battled cancer as well.

It was truly good to hear from Lorna after so many years. We texted back and forth, but when I realized that Keene didn’t win his battle, my heart dropped and it broke. Cautiously, I asked Lorna what kind of cancer her son had. A rare cancer she told me: rhabdomyosarcoma.

That’s what our son had.  

I then asked which of the two types of rhabdo – embryonal or alveolar? Lorna said it was alveolar, which is the deadlier of the two.

That’s what our son had.

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