Archive for October, 2012

Pomegranates and Kiwis

   I went to the grocery store a few days ago to fill the completely bare cupboards in our house.  My family will all tell you that I don’t go until there is barely a morsel of food left in the house to eat.  Grocery shopping is pretty high on my list of  least favorite things to do.  I procrastinate that chore until the very last moment.  When I finally went a few days ago, I noticed that pomegranates are back on the produce shelves and looking red and delicious.  I felt a pang of sadness so real I thought I was going to break down and cry in the produce department.  It brought back the biggest flood of memories and images of Tyler that I felt actual physical pain in my chest. 

   Last Fall, when the doctors told us that chemotherapy was doing nothing to Tyler’s tumors and it was probably best to discontinue treatment and let the cancer run its course, I began my search to ‘cure’ Tyler on my own.  I am sure those reading this have varying opinions on this, but if you have a loved-one with cancer, you know that desperation.  I spent hours and hours on the internet (usually in the middle of the night) searching ‘natural’ cures for cancer.  I met with countless doctors and specialists in alternative medicine, who had some success with alternative cancer treatments.  We even took Tyler out of the country for treatment there.  I bought so many herbs, vitamins, drinks, and ‘you-name-it’ - trying to shrink the tumors.  We tried going vegetarian, raw foods, juicing, and every other diet out there that claimed to help with cancer.  After a while, with Tyler’s nausea and weight loss, we decided that no diet was going to work if he couldn’t eat – we were eventually happy if we could get anything down him, even if it was an ‘Otter Pop’ – something with absolutely no nutritional value at all! 

   One theory was that pomegranates and kiwis were  great food in cancer treatment.  They are so high in antioxidants and other disease fighting ingredients that they have been shown to prevent some diseases and ailments.  Tyler loved both – I think for three or four months we had at least two pomegranates a day.  Imagine how fun they were to peel and extract the seeds from!  I did learn a faster way to do it though – thanks to the internet!  In my mind’s eye, I could almost see his cancer disappearing as he ate all those pomegranates and kiwis.  I would run to the store anytime, day or night, if we were out and he felt like he could eat one and I would be so pleased when he could keep it down and it satisfied his hunger for a bit.  Pomegranates aren’t in season for more than a few months sadly, and about February, they became harder and harder to find.  I would buy the juice for him, but it just wasn’t the same.  

   Looking back, I know that the things that we did couldn’t cure the cancer, but I also feel like they didn’t hurt either.  They may have helped keep him here for the extra time that doctors didn’t believe he had – who knows?  I also wonder what would have happened if we had never done chemotherapy on him either – that was what ravaged his GI track and took away his hearing.  But then, if we hadn’t done it and still lost him, we would have regretted that decision also.  It never helps to have ‘what if’s’. 

   I just know that I can’t look at those two fruits without remembering Tyler savoring those pomegranate seeds and me peeling them every day with satisfaction, sure I was doing something that was helping him to get better.  The pain is still pretty fresh – probably even more so than the month after his death.  I don’t think five minutes ever goes by that he doesn’t come into my mind.   Our family longs for the day when we can be with him again.

   We are slowly learning how to focus on living life here the best we can and moving forward without Tyler here on this earth.  We know he is near us when he can be.  We have had some very special experiences where we know that Tyler is here with us - tender mercies from a loving Heavenly Father who is helping us to know that He is aware of us and our pain and gives us small moments to feel Tyler close.

   One such tender moment was the talk in General Conference by Elder Shane Bowen.  For me, he said so many things I felt but could not put into words.  I was grateful that he was so candid about sacred feelings and helped every parent who has lost a child validate what they feel also.   I was also so grateful for his powerful testimony of the plan of happiness for each of us, and that FAMILIES CAN BE TOGETHER FOREVER.  I am so grateful for all of my children and grandchildren, and that knowledge is what helps me to keep pressing forward with as much faith as I can muster. 

   If you have a few minutes, this talk is well worth the time.  Click here to listen.  And if you have time, go get a few pomegranates while they’re in season!

True Warriors

   I said I would post soon about our latest Giving Tree – the story will both break and warm your heart.  I belong to a blog with a special group of women who are all mothers of cancer-fighting cuties.  Even though my cancer fighter is not here, I still like to get on the blog occasionally and see how these sweet children, most of whom I have never met – only read about – are doing.  It’s crazy, because I love each of these kids, know them by name, and worry about them each time their mother posts about an upcoming scan, an emergency admit because of a fever, an unexplained pain etc.  I try to get off the blog, because it sometimes puts me in such a sad mood, but I feel such a connection to these kids.

  A few weeks ago, I read about a sweet little boy from Wyoming who has been fighting leukemia and is in treatment at Primary Children’s Medical Center.  His name is Hunter, and his mother was here with him, while his father was back home in Wyoming taking care of his big brother, Buster.  Hunter’s mother unexpectedly passed away of a heart attack on September 18th while in Salt Lake with him.  When I read about her, my heart was broken for this amazing boy and the pain and confusion he must have been feeling.  My mind was on him constantly the next few weeks.  Only three weeks later, I read on the blog that Hunter’s cancer had returned, even after a bone marrow transplant, and there was nothing more the doctors could do to save his life.  They were suggesting to Hunter’s father that he take him home and live out the time he had left in the love and company of friends and family.  My heart was broken.  I knew that conversation – I knew those words.  But Hunter had lost his mother just three weeks earlier, and his father had just buried his wife and was now facing doing the same thing with his son. 

   I called Tiffany, another amazing mother of a cancer-fighting warrior, Tristan.  I have watched Tristan for months and have loved this boy and his spirit from afar, only meeting him a few months ago.  Tristan is another one of my heroes – smiling through things that most kids, or adults for that matter, will never experience.  Tristan lost his leg a few months ago to Ewing Sarcoma.  The first time I read about Tristan, it was with a picture of him insisting on walking, not riding the gurney to the operating room.  Tristan would make this last walk on that leg himself.  I was smitten – this boy had a spirit like Tyler!

   Tristan wanted to help Hunter and his family, so Tiffany and I began the workings of the Giving Tree for him.  People came out of the woodwork to help this boy and his family.  Tristan and Tiffany raised over $1000 themselves for the tree, and we on our side were able to contribute and raise over $450.  Read these sweet words Hunter himself (age 9) wrote on his blog when he learned there was nothing more medically the doctors could do for him:

It hurt me to know that I may not live to be old and experience what my dad and mom did.  I was scared until I had a really good talk with my dad.  I know that my mom will be there to get me, but not until I have had my fun here first.  I have so many things I want to do with my brother and my dad. Dad is going to take me fishing this weekend if the weather is good. I haven’t been fishing for a very long time and I can’t wait.   I know that my Heavenly Father has a plan for me but I hope he will grant me some extra time to do all the things I want to do.

   This boy is nine years old – yet has the wisdom of a grown man.  One thing I see as I meet all these fighters, is the same strength and wisdom.  I have to wonder if they are given glimpses, or maybe just the blessing of peace, knowing that they have completed their mission, just as it was planned to be.  Please keep Hunter, his brother Buster, and his father in your thoughts and prayers.  They need the blessing of strength and comfort to get through what the upcoming future holds for them all. 

Tristan and his brother getting ready to deliver the tree to Hunter

Sweet Hunter and Buster and the Giving Tree

The Giving Tree Update

Since the ‘Giving Tree’ fundraiser, we have been busy getting trees ready and have delivered five more trees since my last ‘Giving Tree’ post!  This has been such a tender opportunity for me – seeing these sweet people struggle with cancer hurts my heart so much, especially when I understand the pain and uncertainty they feel.  But, seeing a glimmer of hope and maybe a few minutes of forgetting the sorrow to feel others love for them helps fill an empty place in my heart.  I have had several people tell me that they wonder if it is a good thing for me to be involved in – that it is like rubbing salt in a fresh wound.  I have thought about this a lot the last few weeks.  I have come to the conclusion that yes, while this hurts and brings back many painful memories, I do know that this is what Tyler expects us to do.  He would want us to continue serving and helping others feel happiness and hope.  In some measure, that is when I feel closest to Tyler…I cannot say I have seen him or heard him, but I have had some tender mercies and feelings where I know he is near and please with what is happening.  That is a pretty big return for me!

I want you to meet these amazing cancer warriors that we have learned to love the last few weeks – this post is full of pictures, but I hope you will feel their valiant spirits and strength through this post.  Please remember each of them in your prayers.

Brandy is a true hero in so many ways.  Brandy and her husband had been  married only a couple of years when he was electrocuted while sailing.  He was pronounced dead at the scene. Through excellent medical care and his strong will to live, he was brought back to life and was in intensive care for months.  The electricity caused severe nerve damage and pain and “split” open both his arms and legs. Through Nolan’s years of recuperation, Brandy was his uncomplaining help-meet.  She pushed him in the wheel chair, took care of him, and provided for the family.  Gone were both their dreams of Nolan becoming a Jet Fighter Pilot with the air force.  They now have two young girls who are both kind and optimistic, just like their parents.  A few months ago, Brandy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.  She has responded with such faith, stating that she learned long ago that Heavenly Father is truly in control, so just have peace and do your best and He will control the outcome.

Brandy and her family!

 

Sweet Lexe is fighting a hard battle with leukemia.  She has been very, very sick and in ICU literally fighting for her life.  She was not able to attend the event where the giving tree was presented, but her dad, Mark was there to accept it and take it to her.  I have to share the story of how this tree came to fruition.  The Anything for a Friend organization held an amazing fundraiser for Porter, who just lost his leg, due to Ewing Sarcoma.  Sweet Porter wanted to share his blessing and help someone else like he was being helped.  He helped to raise additional money for the Giving Tree by emailing his neighbors and friends and having them donate gift cards and cash to add to Lexe’s tree.  He presented this tree to Lexe’s father at his own fundraiser.

 

Porter and his family presenting Lexe's tree

The next tree was especially dear to my heart.  Braeden has been diagnosed with Medullblastoma, a brain tumor.  Braeden reminded me so much of Tyler.   He is an athlete – loves and excels at many sports – and has that ‘swagger’ that Tyler had.  I see the same fighting spirit in Braeden that I experienced with Tyler.  Braeden told me that he had received a FaceBook message from Tyler right before Tyler passed away.  He sent me that message – it read,

That is so precious to me.  Braeden was in the hospital when he received the message – when he came home on Monday, before he had a chance to respond, he learned Tyler had passed away. It’s been a while since I felt that close to Tyler like I did when I drove home from Braeden’s house.  What a gift to me!  These sweet families all helped to add generous amounts to this tree and we had a great time decorating his tree before delivering it:

Taylor, Parsons, Armenderiz, and Kohl families decorating the tree!

Braeden and his family

This next tree was an exciting, touching experience for me as well.  My wonderful brother and his family, who live in Virginia, have loved and supported Tyler and our family through our cancer journey, praying, fasting, and supporting us from across the country.  They have shared Tyler’s message and this blog with their friends and neighbors there, and we have felt love and care from many back in Virginia!  Ron and Debbie wanted to get involved in the Giving Tree experience as well, and knew of another warrior, Brian Collister, a boy from their local high school. Brian is 18 and has rare T-cell lymphoma. There are only 50 cases diagnosed annually in the world so there are no specialists. It is a super rare type of cancer and to make things more difficult he has a rare blood type. The school did a search trying to help them find a bone marrow donor.  They did a nationwide search, found a donor for his transplant and he is doing well (relatively). He has been at Sloan Kettering Hospital since May 18th recovering and is slated to come home soon! He is staying in Hope Lodge which requires a 24/7 caregiver. His mother cannot provide it because she has MS so relatives have been trading off.

Debbie, in typical ‘Debbie’ fashion, took it upon herself to do a giving tree – and so much more!  The two high schools in the area played their rivalry game a few weekends ago.  Debbie figured this was the perfect night for the fundraiser, being as both schools knew of Brian and his plight.  Check out these pictures from the game!  My heart was so touched when I saw these amazing kids serving and raising money for Brian.  They raised $3400 for this great family!

My awesome brother Ron posing with my favorite shirt - "Cancer does indeed suck!"

 

Love this...

 

My darling niece, Camry, posing with the Mascot at the football game!

Warrior Brian - with friends, family, and the Giving Tree (Virginia Style!)

The last tree to date is still in the works…just thought I’d add a sneak peak of my new amazing friend Tristan, who is a cancer cutie himself, actively fighting Ewing Sarcoma.  Tristan lost his leg a few months ago, but still felt a strong need to help Hunter, whose story will break your heart.  Here’s Tristan preparing the tree – it is scheduled to be delivered tonight.  I will post Hunter’s story and his amazing strength and courage in my next post…

 

Getting ready to deliver the tree to Hunter

Thank you for helping make these possible!

Happy Birthday Tyler

Next Monday, October 15th, would have been Tyler’s 16th birthday.  He couldn’t wait to turn 16.  He and his friends had big plans for high school, their 16th birthdays, dating, going to dances, and driving.  I remember several times Tyler telling me how he and Braden were going to go to Homecoming if it was after their birthdays and how much fun it would be.  He could not wait to be in high school.  He had so many friends already there and couldn’t wait to wear ‘regular’ clothes instead of a uniform!

The first day of school, I just didn’t think I could bear being here while kids were going to school, and watching kids wait for the bus – just knowing that Ty was looking forward to this day so much.  Erika and I decided to ‘disappear’ and go to Salt Lake for the day, where we could forget that it was the first day of school.  We went to Primary Children’s Hospital and took F2TF shirts to be passed out to kids.  Then, we went to Cheesecake Factory for lunch, our favorite place to eat!

I don’t expect that next Monday will be any easier of a day for us.  We have been trying to decide how we can make this day special, instead of feeling worse that Tyler isn’t here with us on such an important day.  Tyler would not want anyone to be sad, or feeling sorry for themselves this day.  He would be happiest, I am sure, if we were doing something here to try and make the world a better place to live.

So, for Tyler’s 16th birthday, we are going to have a ‘party’ for Tyler and bring gifts – gifts of our heart.  We would like you to join in this day with our family.  We will have a wrapped giftbox at his grave that morning.  We would like anyone who would  like to participate with us to come down and add your gift to Tyler as well.  If there is something in your life that you would like to change, or a way you can change your attitude to make yourself, your family, and the world a better place, write it down on the paper there, and put it in Tyler’s gift box.  I would love to fill his birthday with the things that he cares about now.  He would want each of us to work to become the person we are capable of becoming – giving up something that may be holding us back from what we could be.  We won’t open the box – this will be between you personally and Tyler – your gift just to him.

If you don’t live around here and cannot get to his grave, we still invite you to give him this gift, and make this change in your own lives.  After listening to the LDS General Conference this weekend, I know of plenty of things I would like to change in my life to help to make me a better person.  I have plenty that I can offer to Tyler for his birthday.  And although I am heartbroken that I won’t be able to watch him drive, go to his first school dance, bless the sacrament, and do all those things 16-year-old boys do, I will try to make him proud of his family and prepare to see his amazing smile when we meet again.  I would love for everyone else he loved to make the same effort for him.  Thanks for loving him and our family through this past year and a half.

We love and miss you Ty Ty