If anyone had told us that we could NOT take Ian out of the hospital to bring him home or take him for intensive naturopathic treatment…well, I just can’t even fathom what measures we would have taken to keep our “hope” alive. The doctors had given up on our 23-year-old son Ian just as they had given up on Alfie. But, are they God? Are they his parents, fiancé, brother, grandma, grandpa, aunty, uncle, cousin or best friend? Whether a hospital/doctor/government ends up being right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. It’s NOT their place to make that call…it’s just not.
We were blessed to have doctors that supported our decisions, even when they did not agree with some of them. They thought it was too risky to fly Ian to the Big Island for intensive naturopathic treatment and determined it would be fruitless. But, Ian’s mind was strong. He WANTED to go. He was not ready to give up. As his family, we would have moved mountains to give him every last fighting chance. What did we have to lose?
What did Alfie have to lose?
I will never see those two weeks spent on the Big Island giving Ian his “Hail Mary” as a waste of time. NEVER. In fact, given the circumstances, it was the best of times.
What was the alternative? Think about it.
We have lost so much. But, Ian died with dignity…making choices as HE saw fit through the end of his life. This was OUR FAMILY.
No one had the right to tell us when to “give up”.
My heart is shattered for these parents.
I feared the hedge would die.
One day, in the middle of the chaos, I dared to dream that the hedge would make it.
I imagined how we would later tell the story of the dying hedge in our front yard as a metaphor of how you faced down your near-death experience with cancer, but you came back with vigor to live out the rest of your days with renewed focus and perspective.
We would explain how the dry branches appeared beyond resuscitation. It was that pesky, destructive white fly that snuck in under the radar and spread relentlessly beneath the abundant beautiful green leaves and orange hibiscus blossoms. Continue reading “The Hedge”
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.
Continue reading “What Else Can We Do?”
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.
Continue reading “Our Little Yellow Flower”
The voice over the car radio promotes a Champagne Brunch. The word Champagne sticks. And, it festers. Champagne. Champagne. Champagne Ponds…on the Big Island. Where we took turns swimming to literally keep our sanity while you lay nearby in bed at the naturopathic treatment center – fighting for your life. Fighting for the chance to one day swim in the Champagne Ponds. Our salty tears forever mixed into the Champagne Pond.
Champagne Brunch. I change the channel on the car radio.
I walk by the television and hear World Surf League commentators analyzing the pro-surfers in the line-up. I didn’t even know the contest was “on”. Our lives once revolved around WSL events – like other families’ lives might revolve around baseball or football. And, when John John hit the line-up, it was time to stop the presses. Drop what you’re doing. An adrenaline rush for JJ’s #1 fan. You paced the living room floor and yelled at the TV if the judges didn’t get it right.
I hear the WSL commentators, but I have to keep walking.
I run into the store. Just looking for one thing. A quick in and out. There she is struggling with the zipper on a piece of luggage. Two young sons hover nearby. Actually, they hover right over her. Perhaps trying to be helpful. Perhaps not. She’s engrossed with the suitcase. The boys are being mischievous. Just little boy stuff. She’s oblivious to their wonderful presence. Just caught up in her task. I wish she’d notice how adorable they are. How wonderful. How precious. She continues to struggle with the zipper.
I turn my gaze away from the woman I don’t know; the woman I can’t stop thinking about for hours.
Continue reading “Grief Stalks Me”
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.
Continue reading “Old and New Friends”
One year ago today, we got the best news possible. The doctors said that Ian’s first evaluations were “remarkable.” The cancer cells were no longer visible on the MRI. It felt like a miracle, and words can’t express how overjoyed we were with the news. I can remember Ian’s large, slow-motion fist pump when we got the news over the speaker of my cell phone! The doc advised that he’d have to continue the 10-month chemo treatment plan to be sure we killed every last cell of the aggressive cancer.
While our prayers were not answered the way we wanted them to be last year, I remind myself this morning that our prayers were likely answered about a dozen years before that…
Below is a post that I made on my personal Facebook page a few months ago (before I started this blog) where I shared about the gift of time that I believe Ian was given.
This post and many of my early FB posts were written directly to Ian…
This is one of my favorite pictures of you. It’s just so … you! You were on a Big Island trip with your classmates – maybe in the 5th or 6th grade. Your extra-large looking forearm makes me think of that funny episode of the King of Queens where Doug and Carrie get that portrait and Carrie’s arm looks enormous and Doug has rabbit-sized front teeth. That was one of your favorite episodes of that sitcom. You would laugh and laugh and laugh, nearly jolting out of your seat.
You had a very sweet childhood filled with lots of laughter. But, at around the age of 10 or 11 we had a quite a scare when a quickly growing lump on the front of your right thigh appeared out of nowhere. It doubled in size in about a month and the doctor decided to have it removed, although he expressed no serious concerns about it initially.
Continue reading “Thankful for the years…”