Month: August 2015
Today was another beautiful Idaho day. The mountains to the East looked hazy from a mixture of smoke from the Soda Springs fires, as well as dust from harvest. I love this time of year, watching the combines comb the fields like giant locusts, devouring everything in their paths. In the evenings as the sun sets, it looks like someone painted a large red circle in the sky, and meadow larks call to each other from fence posts.
Our first appointment today was with Dr Kelly, a neurosurgeon. He’s a straight shooter, no nonsense – say it like it is kind of guy. It’s refreshing and brutal all wrapped up in one awful package. He showed us images from last nights MRI, and even though I am no radiologist, it was easy for me to see that the many images before us were bad news.
Screen after screen showed tumor after tumor. One right up by his eye, some to the left, some to the right, one large one pressing down hard on his motor skills area of the brain, it went on and on…
He then said to us that there’s no other way to put it but to say there are far too many tumors and too large a size of tumors to operate on him, and that they are large enough to where they won’t respond to radiation. He then told us that Jan has about a month to live and that if it were him, he wouldn’t waste time on any sort of treatment but rather go and enjoy the time he has left. I turned to Jan with teary eyes to see a tear running down his cheek. My heart aches. Danny reached over and took my hand and kissed my head, as we continued to listen to the doctors continued insights and advice.
We left his office and walked out to where Mommy and Aunty Liz were walking and broke the news to them. I heard the same heart wrenching sobs from her as she hugged Jan tightly with her cheek against his chest, as I heard from her a couple nights ago as she wept at Daddy’s grave. My sweet beautiful mother, oh how her heart is breaking. I want to take all her pain away and handle it all myself. Our lives will never be the same again. We will eventually move on and have many joyful experiences, but there will always be an irreplaceable void in our lives to join the already existing void left from losing Daddy last week.
Yesterday an appointment had been scheduled for us to meet with the radiation oncologist this afternoon, and even though we didn’t really see the use, we went to that appointment. Dr Todd sang a different tune to Dr Kelly. He told us that though this cancer is not one that can be cured, he can buy Jan more time with radiation treatment. That depending on how he reacts to radiation, he can extend Jan’s remaining time from 1 month to maybe 6 to 8 months. Side effects could include increased headaches and fatigue.
The choice is now Jan’s to make. We love him so much and support him completely in any decision he makes. We will be by his side and love him and care for him, and complete every last item that we can on his bucket list! It’s going to wild. Full of continued laughs, teasing and beautiful memories, along with tear filled pillows at night. I am so grateful that I am healthy and strong and can take care of him, and I am grateful for an incredibly amazing husband and family to be by my side through this.
Ready to fight
Our morning started with a phone call from the oncologists office, asking that we come to Jan’s appointment at 10:30am rather that 6pm. We all got ready and Danny and I took him in for the appointment.
When we arrived at the Cancer Center, my heart sunk as I remembered that not very long ago I was there with my Dad. Little did I know that I’d be back so soon…only this time with my sweet brother.
Dr Adams came in to the room and told us so many things, and we asked so many questions. Each answer he gave was another sharp kick to the gut of my already emotionally battered body, and when I asked the question, ‘how long does he have to live?’ and the answer was, ‘well, if untreated…about 1 month,’ I felt like it drew the last breath out of me.
So here are the cards we have been dealt: The cancer tumors in his brain have got to go because they are severe, damaging and deadly. An MRI was done tonight to determine if they are operable or not, and we should have those results soon. Either way he will need radiation and immunotherapy. Chemo will not help what he has. If they can operate on his brain they will do that ASAP and start radiation a week later. If they can’t operate they will start radiation immediately. Radiation will be administered 10 work days in a row, then a week rest and testing, followed by another 10 work days of radiation etc etc. With treatment, Jan has 5 months to 2 years to live. Tomorrow morning bright and early we will meet with the Neurosurgeon and tomorrow afternoon with the radiation oncologist. On Thursday we meet with his diabetes doctor and he’ll have a 2 hour long PET scan of his head and body so we can see where all his cancer has spread to. On Monday we’ll be back in the oncologists office once again.
A new normal has begun, which includes giving him shots and oral meds all through the day and night, standing close by to catch him when he falls, and spending lots of time teasing and loving him as we travel back and forth to appointments. I know he would do the same for me. Jan is the most amazing brother any sister could ever ask for. He has loved and supported me through my uglies as well as my good times, never judging or becoming impatient. He has just loved me. I will dedicate my strength and love to him as we journey through this adventure together.
What I will be praying for is for new advances to be made in treating and curing this awful disease, so that Jan’s 2 years will turn into 20 years, then thirty and forty. I want to grow old with him so that I can smack him with my cane when he teases me… and just for fun when he doesn’t.
Diagnosis Day #2
Danny is feeling so much better today. He can actually swallow, his wonderful voice is back and he’s not sounding like he’s about to cough up a lung. I am so grateful for the steroid treatment he received in the ER that has brought this healing about.
My sister, Bernadine, came over and spent some time here before leaving for Oregon for the second wedding. She absolutely amazes me with her knowledge of herbs and medicinal plants. She walked around the yard picking weeds and who knows what, and kept bringing them to me saying, ‘this is blah blah blah and you use it for this….’. I of course had to taste everything she handed me, and some of it was quite disgusting while others were quite pleasant. If ever you’re stranded in the middle of no where, hope that she is with you, because you won’t starve and she’ll cure what ales you! A few years ago she told me that for every plant that does you harm in the wild, within 3 feet of it, grows the antidote. On a camping trip with our kids (we had 16 between the two of us), her and I went for a walk to test the theory. We found a big bush of stinging nettle, and grabbed a handful of leaves and both proceeded to rub the leaves all up and down our arms. Within seconds we had red bumps that were more itchy than any jelly fish I’ve ever been stung by! It was great motivation to find the antidote, and we began searching frantically for anything at all within 3 ft. We rubbed so many things over our itchiness which seemed to worsen and multiply by the second, and nothing worked. Finally we ripped up the stinging nettle plant, grabbed the roots and crushed them up, cursing the plant as we did, and rubbed the crushed roots up and down our arms, and Bob’s your Uncle! We’d found the cure. What a relief.
She brought her two big beautiful dogs over and we decided that the one Hunter is petting in the photo should be his in Disney’s ‘101 Dalmatians’ movie, where all the owners look like their dogs. In this case, the dog is tall like Hunter and has long hair. So cute.
On Friday when I took my brother, Jan, in for his biopsy, it was to have biopsies done on one of the tumors in his armpit. About a month ago he went into the ER due to sever headaches, dizziness and weakness on his left side, and a CT scan was done, and 7 cancerous brain tumors were found. The question was, where have they metastasized from? A couple years ago he had a skin cancer removed from his back.
The doctor, who had the personality of a dead fish, left a huge gouge in his back that resembled something a gorilla would make with a blunt machete. His scar is thick and about 4 inches long. It appears that this is where his cancer has grown from, and today we heard back on the biopsies and he has been diagnosed with Melanoma. We have no idea how far it’s progressed or what stage it’s at at this point, but have an appointment set with an oncologist tomorrow night. I do know that treatment for melanoma has progressed much over the last few years and am going to pray hard that his is treatable. I love Jan so much, and I cannot bare the thought of losing him too.
Trip to the ER
Last night was a long night for Danny and I – especially Danny. His throat continued to swell shut and became extremely painful and congested, leaving him coughing profusely and unable to swallow. We recognize these as part of the prerequisites that lead him to being so ill and hospitalized with Epiglottitis like he was in March, so I talked him into letting me take him to the ER.
I made sure Jan was all medicated and explained to my Mom what meds he’d need at what times, and took Danny in.
He looks adorable in a hospital gown!!! They took a CT scan of his throat and drew blood, as well as gave him a vile tasting steroid to drink. Before we knew it he had ripped right through his hospital gown as his muscles bulged even beyond the massive size they already are! At that point I knew it was true…he really is The Hulk!
The CT scan came back showing no Epiglottitis yet and the doc said the steroid would help immensely and also to remain on the antibiotics he’s taking. We are so grateful that we caught it in time and that we were able to come home and not have to take up residence in a hospital room again. I got Danny home and back in bed, and went to check on my other patient. He was lying down and wide awake so I asked him if he’d like to go sit by Daddy’s grave for a while.
We sat for some time, hand in hand, and listened to a recording of Daddy’s voice that I have on my phone. We both cried and sat in silence. Neither of us needed to say anything because we both knew and understood completely what the other was feeling. A short while later we heard footsteps and turned to see our beautiful mother coming down the dirt road toward us. She was already filled with overwhelming grief and I went to her and helped her to us. We sat down in the dirt and I held her while she sobbed. The gut wrenching cries of a wife who so desperately misses the love of her life, her best friend and dearest Sweetheart. My heart ached for her as she sobbed in my arms and I knew there was absolutely nothing I could say that would make the pain go away – for either of us. We sat there as the sun slowly lowered in the sky, casting a warm golden glow over the earth around us, and we knew it was finally time to go back home.
This morning when we awoke, Danny had no voice and had a very sore throat. It started a couple of days ago and because of his prior bout with Epiglottitis, we have to get him on antibiotics immediately. Yesterday I got him some and hopefully they will take effect soon. I spent my day taking care of Danny and Jan, while everyone else went to the wedding. This is where I needed to be and wanted to be…taking care of my sweet boys. I’m getting really good at giving Jan his shots, and have several alarms set on my phone – day and night, that keep me on schedule with giving him his oral meds too. I love taking care of them.
When it was time, we carefully loaded the heavy wedding cake into the car onto my lap, and Danny, Jan and I drove to where the reception was to be held. Joseph and Jori looked wonderful and we got the cake set up in one piece.
They loved it.
We sat and conversed with the many people there and enjoyed the happy atmosphere. I got to hold my beautiful little great niece for quite a while, and enjoyed it thoroughly.
The drive home was beautiful as we watched the colors in the sky change the deeper the sun sank below the horizon.
I am grateful for the close of another day. I miss my creatures in Panama, and can’t wait to see them, but am so glad that I am here right now. Mommy is doing so well and is so strong, but I know that having us here is great comfort to her. Life is good, and families are such a priceless gift.
Two weddings and a funeral
Before Daddy passed away he told us that he was planning on dying this week by Tuesday, and that he wanted his funeral on Thursday so that all focus could be off the funeral and on the two family weddings – one being tomorrow and one next Friday. Of course as organized as our Dad is, that’s exactly what’s transpired. Today much preparation went into my nephews wedding for tomorrow. My Mom is the most amazing wedding cake maker. She creates realistic flowers out of fondant and forms beautiful works of art for couples to enjoy and admire. Just as in this case, she is usually handed a picture, and then she creates it.
On this particular cake, my brother and I formed the rose petals and my Mom took them and created the roses. She is quite an artist!!
Today I took my brother in to the hospital for an ultrasound guided biopsy to be done on a mass in his armpit. We will know results on Monday. I am so grateful that he and I are so close, and that he allows me to take care of him. I love him so much. On our way home we saw this beautiful huge flag.
It was the biggest American flag I have ever seen and instantly made me think of my Dad. Like him, I am proud to be an American and am so grateful for the freedom and opportunities this country has provided for me and my family. We love Africa, and it will always be a place we are proud to be from, but we are so very grateful to be here.
Daddy’s last ride
When I awoke this morning, I walked outside and breathed in the fresh country air, looked up at the beautiful blue sky and listened to a bird sing its morning song. What an absolutely gorgeous day! It felt like the kind of day Daddy would want to pack up a picnic and head into the mountains for a drive.
I went over to the church to help my sister set up for the viewing and funeral. We displayed various pictures of our handsome Dad, and also of our family over the years. It has been such a grand adventure thus far.
The Harley brothers arrived with their glass hearse pulled by a beautiful big bike. The people from the Harley Davidson Dealership here in Idaho Falls are so amazing. They are so caring and thoughtful and sent the most beautiful big bouquet in orange and white flowers – Harley colors.
There is such a bond between the riders, and they love my Dad so much. It was so touching to see these big men dressed in leather chaps, braids hanging from thick beards, vests covered in Harley logos and their riding accomplishments, come over to hug us and offer condolences with teary eyes and sweet memories to share. Then they’d stand at the casket and gently lean down and kiss Daddy’s head. Closing the casket was hard to do, as I realized it was the final good bye.
The funeral was wonderful. Jan read the life sketch with Bernadine and I standing at his side, then I spoke, as well as Kjira and Hunter and Bernadine. All the grandchildren sang some of Daddy’s favorite songs.
We walked outside where the grandsons carried the casket and placed it into the glass hearse.
Jan rode Daddy’s bike up front.
Followed by Daddy. Then came Danny. At the last minute I hiked up my dress and jumped on with Danny, high heels and all. I’m sure that put a smile on Daddy’s face! All the riders followed behind and everyone revved their engines with that deep Harley rumble that gives me goosebumps. We all rode down the road, made a loop onto the main road, came past the house, the church where everyone was waiting in their cars and on foot to follow, and down the road into the cemetery.
We had the graveside service and then each placed flowers on the casket before it was lowered down into it’s vault in the earth.
So much love surrounded us all, as we conversed about the wonderful man Daddy is. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from wonderful parents who stand tall in their values and beliefs. Their character based on integrity, faith and love has and continues to touch so many lives. I will strive to live my life in a way that reflects our amazing parents teachings and examples, and i am so grateful for another day of life to do that in.
It’s been a busy day, nonstop day.
This morning we helped clean around the house and then I went with the guys to the funeral home to dress our sweet Dad. I was afraid that seeing him again would be emotional for me, but instead I was filled with peace and overwhelming love and gratitude for him, for his life and all that he has taught me.
The creatures texted me from Panama and were quite put out, saying ‘a bird had had diarrhea all over the boat!’ It made me laugh. Thank goodness it rains so heavily every day!
After that Danny, Jan and I ran into town so Danny could get a haircut while I took Jan to the doctor. Danny picked up the Harley he will be riding in the funeral procession tomorrow.
We hurried home and got ready for the viewing, then went to the funeral home to spend time with daddy before everyone arrived. The room was filled with flowers, including a big orange bouquet from the Harley Davidson store, and a bouquet from the Idaho HOG association, from which a bell was hanging – just like the one the riders hang from their bikes.
Our Dear friends and many of Daddy’s coworkers had sent flowers too. The one we ordered as a family for the casket was bright and beautiful just like we’d requested.
It had the Harley logo in it that belongs to Daddy, ‘Live to ride, ride to live.’
Our time with him was so special and we felt him so close. So many people came to pay their respects, expressing their love and respect for him, telling countless stories of how greatly he has changed their lives for good. I am so proud to be my dad’s daughter. He is my hero.
We had a wonderful day today. All our interactions and efforts were accomplished in a combined effort as a family. I loved every second of it. Danny and my brother and I ran into town to take care of a few things for our Momma, and met up with our sweet Aunt Colleen. She had purchased enough food to feed an army for us to take back to the house. What an Angel she is. We drove back to Firth to unload all the goods, then all piled into my Dad’s big rig and drove over to the funeral home. Once there we sat down with the funeral director and talked about what the next couple of days will entail. We discussed the death certificated and funeral program, and finalized all loose ends. Tomorrow morning the three sons, Jan, Gary and Danny, will go back to the funeral home to dress our Dad’s body. My Mom ironed his clothes beautifully today and got them all ready.
At 5pm tomorrow evening, our family will meet for the evening viewing which begins at 6pm.
One of the arrangements that we finalized today, was to contact the Harley Davidson Dealership to plan my Dad’s last ride. He was at one point, the President of the Idaho HOG Association, and after the funeral his casket will be towed in a glass hearse behind a Harley to the cemetery. Jan will ride my Dad’s Harley to lead the way, with Danny close by on another Harley, then the men and women who are in the Idaho HOG chapters will ride their bikes behind the hearse. It’s going to be quite the sight, and I know Daddy will be there with a proud big grin on his face!
The creatures in Panama are doing beautifully. Our neighbors, Steve and Debbie, went into Bocas with them today and bought them all ice cream, and Lady Di from the sailboat, Cinnamon Girl, brought them dinner. They are being spoiled. They’ve all been so strong in dealing with their Oupa’s death, and have spent time talking about their wonderful memories of him. I am so proud of them, and can’t wait to wrap my arms around them soon again.
This evening I watched the sun set and thought of my amazing parents. I am so grateful for all that they have taught me. The reason why it has been so significant and lasting is because they taught me not only through verbal communication, but through actual example. I have learned, loved and practiced hands on, right by their sides.
Kissing Daddy Goodbye for now…
What a day….
It began at 5am in Panama City when we awoke to catch a cab to the airport. After checking in for flights and enjoying a breakfast of champions at Dunkin Donuts, we flew to Denver. I immediately checked in with family on my sweet Dad’s status. From what they were saying, we knew he was getting close to the end, as all organs had shut down, leaving only his heart to try keep his body going. It made him happy to know that Danny and I were traveling as fast as we could from Panama and my brother, Jan, was traveling as fast as he could from Texas.
It was tough saying goodbye to Aundrea in Denver. We got her to her gate to fly to Salt Lake City, kissed her many times and gave her more hugs than she’d ever wanted. She is such an Angel and we have loved having her with us in Panama. If we had our way, we would never let her go!
Danny and I boarded our final flight, which was to Idaho Falls, and just before taking off, my sister called to say my Dad had just passed away. 3pm exactly. I was so very very sad, and felt terrible that we hadn’t made it in time. I cried in Danny’s arms for a good chunk of the flight and looked out at the billowing clouds below us, thinking of him.
Our good friend, ZoAnn, picked us up at the airport and brought us here to Firth, where my Father’s body lay waiting in his bed, so we could say our last goodbyes. When I walked into my Mom and Dad’s room, I was so overcome with absolute despair, I lay next to my Dad and held him, kissed his face and cried. I held his hands that had held me, and cried some more. I stroked his forehead and spoke quietly to him and felt completely inconsolable. I have never felt such absolute sadness. One does not know what it means to be brokenhearted, until they have lost someone that they have loved so deeply. I lay my head on his chest, wishing to hear his heart beat just one more time, but it never came. My sweet sister and mother, cried with me. After Jan arrived, the funeral home director arrived to take my Dad and I felt panic, realizing this would be the last time I was going to be able to put my arms around him, and touch his face. Watching them take his body sent me spiraling to a deeper level of absolute sadness, and then as a family we all stood in the driveway and watched him drive off for the last time.
At my mother’s request, at that point we all walked down to the cemetery close to the house where Daddy will be buried. As we walked, Bernadine pointed up and said ‘look everyone,’ and we looked and saw a cloud that was shaped much like an Angel with a halo over its head.
It hung proudly in the sky right above the cemetery.
My nephew will be getting married on Saturday, and Daddy requested that his funeral be on Thursday so that it was over a couple days before the wedding so everyone can move forward and embrace that happy occasion. Even in his last wishes he continued to think of everyone but himself. My Father is the most thoughtful, insightful and kind individual I’ve ever known. I love him so much and I am so grateful that i continue to feel him so close.
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