Friday, November 22, 2013

v38 Fast Enough

"She's at the bottom," the nurse said about me. I thought how ironic it was that she said that considering how I felt.

I missed my Mom.

She was telling another nurse that my signature was at the bottom of their sign in sheet. Yet, it was fitting for today.

I had every intention of staying at my Mom's group today, but something about the Christmas holiday idea table just brought back one too many memories about going shopping for Christmas decorations with my Mom for many, many years. I had to leave before bursting into tears outside.

I went to the front office of my church where a woman I knew had lost her Mom too. I thought she would have some words of encouragement for me, which she did. It was comforting to get a hug from a woman who knew what it was like to not have her Mom with her at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I could tell my first holidays without her were not going to be easy.

After my tears dried, a man came into the church office to ask about a funeral. I thought about our friends who lost their Mom suddenly, and the fact that her funeral was happening at that very moment. He was our friend's Dad.

Through a series of events, I ended up driving him to the funeral at the right church. I hugged our friends, and told them I couldn't stay, but told them I was praying for them.

When I hugged the man who lost his Mom unexpectedly nine days before mine went to heaven, I thought about how our common experience brought us close for a moment in time.

Kids who wouldn't see their Grandma again.

Cookies that wouldn't be baked.

Advice that wouldn't be given.

Conversations silenced.

Closeness ceased.

Hurting hearts.

"Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?"

Ah, even something as awful and trying as death could never take away the relationship that was shared and the memories replayed. Nor could it squelch the hope that we have in heaven!

Our believing family members are not gone forever, we will see them again. It is just a matter of time.

Come quickly, heaven!

As I sat in my Endocrinologist's office, waiting for thyroid check-up appointment, I thought about how sick Ryan was when I left him today.

I hadn't seen him that sick in a very, very long time.

I felt so reluctant to leave him at home, alone, while I went to a silly doctor appointment. I don't have a thyroid anymore, and know I need to get my levels checked regularly, but never should have scheduled a doctor appointment in Orange County while Ryan was on chemo.

I thought the chemo routine was going to be so much easier now that Ryan felt better with the two removed medications from his IV. I was wrong, yet again.

This chemo thing is tough, even if sometimes he feels "better."

He only has one more day on his pump, then he is done for the next two weeks. We can celebrate with some turkey and gratitude on Thursday with Ryan's family, and rockets with my Dad joining all of us on Saturday.

We need something fun to look forward to. This month has been tough.

Oh, heaven come quickly! Jesus come back!

Soon, soon...

It all cannot happen fast enough for me.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

v37 and v38 Finally, Maintenance Chemo

"I'm taking away the Oxaliplatin, Dr.'s orders!" Dr. Lim said to Ryan, in a stern voice. Yet as Ryan looked down from the fear of coming off yet another of his chemo drugs, Dr. Lim turned and winked at me.

I couldn't believe my ears. On the one hand I was excited for the new turn of events in Ryan's treatment two weeks ago, but on the other I was gravely concerned for my Mom's health.

I was stunned when Ryan got in the car after he was done with his 37th infusion of chemo.

"If I feel this good, I plan to go to work tomorrow," he said, with a smile on his face. I couldn't wait to tell my Mom how much better it was going for Ryan because she was so concerned about him.

I am glad I got to.

Ryan did go to work the next day, but that's when things started to go downhill for my Mom, and I knew in my whole being that she was dying that day.

Clearly, the Lord has perfect timing because He knew that my Mom needed to know that things were looking up in my life about my husband before she could let go and say goodbye to this world.


Today, Ryan got up as though he were going to work. I made his lunch while he hung out with my Dad (who is staying with us for a week), and the baby before leaving for City of Hope.

I still couldn't believe it - he was going to go to his 38th round of chemo for the first time since this whole journey began almost two years ago, completely on his own. We agreed that if he was ever to go on Maintenance Chemo, that he would go to the hospital alone because it meant he felt well enough to drive.

He called me to give me an update about his care. He said that Dr. Lim, his nurse Shavone and his former clinical trial nurse Eloise all sent their condolences about my Mom. They were really sad for our family.

Also, they shared some really, really good news. They found that his white blood counts were up, and that the Neulasta shot could also be taken away. This means he only has to go to the hospital one time every two weeks!

In addition to that good news, they said if he continues to do so well, he could move to once every three weeks - which would definitely be an answer to our prayers!

I am constantly asking to do God's will, and I will sign off with this encouragement from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Legacy of Love

"She had a cardiac event," Rainbow, the paramedic said. "Is she dead?" I asked.

Then the cell phone died.

I called back on the land line, forgoing formalities. Again, I asked, "Is she dead?"

"Yes, she has passed," she said quietly.

I screamed "No" over and over again, crying loudly, immediately, and intensely. Knowing that my mother was dying for the four days before she died did not help my grief and sorrow.

I wanted my Mommy.

I wanted one more hug. I wanted to tell her silly little things about my daughter. I wanted to ask her how she felt because her health was failing and what she looked forward to about spending Christmas together this year. I wanted to do and say so many things that I would no longer be able to because she had died that day. So I had to remind myself:

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want."


The days after my mother died were a flood of memories, some from childhood, others more recent. I realized just how far our strained and tumultuous relationship had come from when I was a bratty and disrespectful teenager until November 11th.

I was grateful that she'd forgiven some of my more heinous crimes against her and that I had learned to really appreciate how much she sacrificed because she was my Mom. This realization struck me most intensely after I gave birth to my own daughter and I spent the past (almost) two years thanking my Mom for so many things I'd spent the years previous to that taking for granted.

I am glad we had that time together. I am grateful for that.

All the grief literature suggests that there are things left unsaid, regrets, apologies and forgiveness that need to be expressed. As I searched my mind, there was not a single thing that I left unsaid. My Mom and I talked a lot, about life in general and the day-to-day nitty gritty events of the daily grind.

We had some very special and connecting conversations over a cup of tea at Starbucks during many of our recent vacations together and I definitely was glad I saw my Mom in a whole new light from the one I saw previous to my relationship with Jesus.

We offered mutual apologies and forgivenesses, especially over the past six months, and it was a new beginning. I was hopeful for the future, but feel like it was cut short.


I learned a lot about her by telling each of her close friends and our family members that she had died that day.

I learned what a legacy of love she left for the lives she touched.

I am not pretending that my mother was always the easiest person to get along with, because she wasn't. However, it was abundantly clear just how much she loved the people closest to her and how much they loved her.


Of all the emotions I was left with after my Mom died, it was regret. One thing I wish I had been able to tell her that I agreed with her that her doctor, nurse and medical care team were doing the best that they could to take care of her. I was always so negative towards people I didn't even know and didn't stop to think that maybe my Mom was right about all of them.

When Dr. Das spent almost an hour with my Dad and I without having an appointment, a few days after she had passed away, I was stunned at the level of love, concern, and care this woman had for my mother. Likewise, I was equally shocked when she arrived at the visitation, as did my Mom's nurse.

No physician has a cure for hypersensitivity pneumonitis. But I now firmly believe her doctor and her care team did the best they could to help my mother fight to live with her failing lungs and ever-increasing oxygen needs. At least I was able to tell her doctor thank you and let her know how much I appreciated what she did for my Mom throughout the past seven years.

If I had to summarize my Mom's legacy and the impression she left on my life, it would be this: 1) God loves you and is with you no matter where you go, 2) appreciate beauty through travel, the arts and music, 3) advocate for those less fortunate than yourself, including those with disabilities, 4) enjoy life up until the end (including going out to lunch with your husband of 47 years instead of dying in a hospital bed), and 5) be okay with who you are, even if some people don't like you for it.

My Mom is in heaven now. May she rest in peace.