What Else Can We Do?

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.

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We Feel You…

Facebook Post:  March 23, 2017

You bought this longboard very shortly after we got the news about the cancer and the challenging treatment plan you faced. One of the first questions you asked the doctor was if you could still surf. The doctor said there would be times when you probably wouldn’t be up to it because you might be too weak. He said, though, that it would be a good idea to stay active.

Well, that’s all you needed to hear and you made sure that the doctor repeated that statement with me in the room! I told the doctor he should probably define “active.” We all laughed, somehow, on that dreadful day.

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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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LIVE!

I understand that some level of grief will likely be a part of my life for – well, forever. So, I do what I can to find a way to move forward as best as I can.

I’ve joined a variety of grief support groups, which have been helpful. I’ve started this blog as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions. And, I’ve connected on a one-to-one basis with others who walk this same painful journey.

Recently, though, I received good counsel from a highly unlikely source:  me.  Rather, the other me … the Sherrie of years ago, the mom before she lost one of her sons to cancer at the age of just 23.

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Where I Go…in My Mind

One Sunday, Ian and I listened to our pastor speak on the subject of “Being a friend of God.” Ian was probably about 12 years old at the time. The pastor expounded on a related scripture verse and provided examples of what it means to be a friend. He explained that a friend is someone who wants the best for you. Someone who sees the good in you. Someone who loves you, despite your shortcomings. Someone who understands your moods, quirks and peculiarities. In a nutshell, when you’re with a true friend, you can totally be yourself.

It was at that moment that Ian turned to me and said, “Just like you and me, Mom.”

Some things just stick with you for life, and I will never forget those words.

I felt the same way. There was just something “easy” about our relationship, even during this preteen stage in life. He knew that I did not expect him to conform to society’s expectations nor behave any other way than his natural happy-go-lucky, cheerful and sometimes goofy little self. I utterly loved everything about him. It was true. He could always be himself around me.

So, when I ponder the fact that God considers himself a friend, the way Ian and I were (are) friends, then I know that I am truly blessed. To be a friend of God means that I can be myself and it is enough for God. He will love me just the way I am, despite my shortcomings.

And, he still loves me when I’m broken.

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The Message

It had been 3 agonizing, mind-numbing months since Ian passed away when I decided I needed to do something outside of myself – something that allowed me to replace a bit of his kindness in the world. I searched for a community service outlet to honor Ian’s memory and then joined a group of volunteers that delivers meals to homes of the aged and ailing.

Training was provided in the form of a ride-along with an experienced volunteer. When we visited the last home on what would be my weekly Friday route, my trainer told me that this elderly recipient had no family left. Neighbors checked in on Marilyn routinely and she got this vital meal service but she was otherwise on her own. Marilyn is 96 years old.

On the following Friday, I managed to make it through my delivery route without getting lost. Not bad for the first time. When I pulled up to my final stop, Marilyn’s house, my trainer’s words rang in my ears…she has no family. My heart broke and I temporarily forgot about my own heartbreak. Emotions from Ian’s passing were still so raw at that time. In fact, driving to my route earlier that same morning, I looked hard into the clear blue sky and searched the clouds for some type of sign from God…from Ian. Nothing.  As I drove down the freeway, I cried out to God that I desperately needed a sign that Ian was with him and that he was okay. Continue reading “The Message”