Saturday, October 14, 2017

Until We Meet Again

Dear Kendra,

I'm so happy that we met during the Summer of 2014, after my initial diagnosis of OVC and while I was in remission.  We both worked as travelers in the small Martha's Vineyard ER.  You worked nights and I typically worked until 10pm, so you would often help out my nurse when we were busy and trying to wrap things up in our last 3 hours.  Also in this little ER from MVY was CJ our secretary.  CJ had been having treatment for OVC for several years and would come to work after treatments, working evenings with you.  I never could figure out why she didn't have many side effects from the chemo treatments. 

On my first day back in the MVY ER, Summer of 2015, you quickly found me to inform me that you had been diagnosed with Stage 1 OVC in February.  I was completely shocked; now there were 3 of us in this tiny ER diagnosed with OVC.  On my 3rd day back to work that Summer, I learned my remission had ended and I had a recurrence.  You comforted me many times that summer, telling me that I was strong and that I could beat this blasted disease.  The delicious desserts you brought to work allowed me to taste so much sweetness, even though the chemo restricted everything else.  I loved that you bought us each a teal bracelet, which I continue to wear.  Even though I spent several days that Summer having chemo, we made plenty of time on our days off to enjoy the beach. 
In April you called to tell me your remission had also ended and you had a recurrence.  I was sick to hear this, as I have continued to live with this disease.  Being Stage 1, you should have been in the 90% who never had to deal with this disease again. 

I can't quite put into words how I felt to get this news, but it was as if I was your older sister with the experience telling you what to expect and encouraging you as you went through surgery and started chemo.  I was devastated that you had to go through what I've been going through and felt some kind of protection for you, wishing you didn't have to experience losing your hair, having chemo side effects and the infamous scar that spanned the height of your abdomen.  

Even though I live on the West Coast and you were in NC, over the past 6 months we have had weekly, if not daily contact with each other.  I remember after having a phone conversation early into your diagnosis, thinking that maybe the reason I had to go through what I was going through was to be able to coach you through it.  You told me often that I helped you a lot over the past 6 months, but you are the one who has helped me.  Until you have a disease like we have, you never really know what it's like, but we understood the battle that we were facing. We knew exactly what it was like to live with a disease that potentially could take our lives, even though we were about not letting it stop us from having adventures, dreams, living and loving our lives.   You exemplified this quote I recently heard, "A critical question to ponder is “Where do we place our faith?” Is our faith focused on simply wanting to be relieved of pain and suffering, or is it firmly centered on God the Father and His holy plan and in Jesus the Christ and His Atonement? Faith in the Father and the Son allows us to understand and accept Their will as we prepare for eternity." Donald Hallstrom

In June, I was so excited to see you as it had been since August of 2015 that we had seen each other, even though we had tried to get together when you passed through Phoenix, but I was out of town and also when I went to Hawaii, but you had left a few weeks before I arrived.  And every time I visited NC, you were off on another assignment away from home.  June 22 was a very happy day and we hugged like we hadn't seen each other in forever, which we hadn't.  I got to meet your amazing parents, who I think were as excited to meet me as I was to meet them!  Your parents were a little reluctant to let you go as it was the first time you had driven since your surgery, but you and I headed off for an adventure together with several other OVC survivors at a retreat in Boone.  We talked all the way there; it was as if there had been no time between our visits.  We both needed this retreat; a time to relax, have fun and enjoy the beauty around us.

As roommates, we didn't sleep much.  The beds were hard and we each had a hard time sleeping.  You would get up and then I would and then you would and then I would.  Needless to say, by the time we went home we needed a vacation from our vacation or just a good nights sleep.  We had such a great time though, a weekend that I will always treasure.  We will always be part of the Teal Rose Society!  

There was a time in August when you called telling me how you were not happy one bit with how things were going at Duke.  You especially were ticked when the attending was talking to you in front of the intern about being a DNR.  You informed her that you knew that this was a deadly disease, but you did want to be a full code. 

Labor Day weekend, we were both in the hospital.  And even shared pictures of us both with NG tubes, one of the worst things ever to be experienced.   (I'll keep those pictures between us).  Your ever contagious smile, was even shining in that photo.

I will never be so grateful that I was able to visit you on September 28, even though it was a detour from my travels.  I wasn't about to miss an opportunity to see you if I was on the East Coast.  It was a day that I will never forget.  I had told you for the past few months, that I wanted to come be with you, even if it was to just sit next to your bed and hold your hand.  There was so much peace in your room as we talked and at times sat in silence.  You gave me a good laugh when you told me you didn't like your nurse that day.  I told you to fire her then!  Of anyone, you knew what a great nurse is, because you were an amazing nurse.  When I left you that day, I was for sure it wasn't the last time.   I've been praying every day for 6 months that you would recover, that the doctors would be guided to the treatment that would be best for you and that you and your family would be able to endure this trial.  As I hugged you and we kissed each other's cheek, you whispered in my ear, "I Love You."  And I said the same as tears trickled down my face.

Tuesday I was at Disneyland when I received word that your sweet, caring, loving spirit, left your body to move onto your heavenly home.  Even though on August 25, you sent me a text saying, "I feel like I'm dying," shocked is an understatement of how I felt; I was so hopeful that you would get better, that we would attend other OVC camps together as we had talked about.  I shed several tears as I sat in the park, but then it was as if you whispered to me, "Get your butt up girl and enjoy this place; don't let my passing get in your way of having a good time."  And so I did, with constant thoughts of you and your family in my mind.

Later on Tuesday I also learned of the passing of our friend and co-worker CJ who passed over the weekend.  I'm not going to lie that I feel a little bit of survivors guilt, but I'm so happy that neither of you are alone, but are together in Heaven. 
When I arrived back to my hotel, I cried like I haven't cried since being told my cancer was back.  I cried for your family, for your parents who love you dearly and I  remembered the letter from your dad that you shared with me in Boone and the love that he had for you.  I cried for the adventures you won't be able to take, but I remembered that your life was one huge adventure.  I cried for your many friends who will never be able to enjoy your joyous laughter, but remembered all of the pictures that you posted with your many friends on your adventures.  I cried for the patients who will never be able to have you as their nurse and then remembered the patients who were lucky enough to benefit from your caring touch.  I selfishly cried, because I'll never be able to hug you and laugh with you again, but I remembered the hugs we shared and the memories we've made together.  But I cried even harder because complications from this stupid, silent killer of a disease took you too early, leaving a void that will never be filled again, but I remembered the impact you've had on more lives than you can possibly imagine.

Today I thought of you as I woke, knowing that your body will be layed to rest.  I thought of you as I dressed and how you always looked so elegant, whether it was in a cocktail dress when going out for the evening or just wearing scrubs or active wear, you always looked beautiful.  I prayed for your family at the time I knew your funeral was beginning, since I wasn't able to be there to hug them and cry with them.  Today I've thought of your faith and the love you had for Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father, knowing you've been in their loving embrace now for 5 days.

I selfishly hope that you and CJ will fight for me on the other side, that you will continue to be my cheerleader as I continue to live with this disease that unluckily struck us, but which brought us a relationship that no one else had as we have endured the pain and discomfort that comes along with OVC, but has also strengthened our faith in our Heavenly Father and His love for us His daughters.

I promise that I will never forget you, that I will continue to raise awareness of this disease, even if it is just talking about it to a stranger on an airplane.  I will always remember your birthday, your death date and every Summer I'll remember the 2 incredible Summers we spent making memories with so many friends and co-workers together on the Vineyard.  I know that it wasn't just a coincidence that we met only a few short years ago, but that the Lord's hand was in the details.  I truly believe this quote by Thomas S. Monson,  "There is a guiding hand above all things. Often when things happen, it’s not by accident. One day, when we look back at the seeming coincidences of our lives, we will realize that perhaps they weren’t so coincidental after all."  And this by Ronald Rasband, "The Lord’s hand is guiding you. By “divine design,” He is in the small details of your life as well as the major milestones. As it says in Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; … and he shall direct thy paths."  You my friend were definitely not a coincidence, our paths were directed by the Lord.  Until we meet again...

Love Me
My sister in law painted this picture of the park in Oak Bluffs, where the MVY hospital is located.  It hangs above my bed and to me now represents  Kendra, CJ and me, our OVC trial and our love for the Vineyard!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Lot's of Traveling...Destin Beach, Charlotte, NOLA

Last Thursday I flew to Birmingham, meeting my mom, cousin Alisha and aunt Carol.  My cousin Emilie picked us up and we headed to her house outside of Montgomery for the night.  It was so good to see her kids who I lived with when I was in grad school.  Oh, how I miss those days!

Friday morning/afternoon we headed to Destin, Beach.  We rented a lovely house close to the beach.  We had dinner at LuLu's, where we were also entertained by a fiddle and guitar player as we watched a horrible BSU game.  After dinner, we walked in the dark to the beach.  The sand was the softest I've ever felt.
Saturday my friend Cassie drove 2 1/2 hours from her home to spend the day with us.  We had such a great time catching up and talking for hours at the beach.  Lauren and Noelle drove from Charlotte and got there for dinner.  We had such a great dinner, which lasted for hours.
Sunday we attended church, sat out on our balcony during a rain storm, laughed a lot, ate caramel popcorn made by Emilie and then said goodbye to Emilie and her girls who also came with us.
Monday we spent the day on the beach.  The water is so clear and the sand is so soft.  We did some shopping on Monday as well.  Tuesday we spent the day at the pool, which was lovely. Each night we ate a delicious dinner out.  Our favorite was the last night at Marina Cafe.  All of the restaurants were on the water, with beautiful views.  
We had such a great time and laughed so much.  It means so much to me that my friends will leave their families to have a girls trip with me.
Our trip back to Montgomery to drop off Alisha and Aunt Carol was very eventful, starting with the fact that we couldn't get the cargo door open for at least 30 minutes; ending with us having to stop several times to use the bathroom...someone had to go really bad, but when they saw a security camera, they thought otherwise, but then they found a church with a small cemetary and took advantage of a little privacy; names withheld and it wasn't me.  I was laughing so hard.

I love what Noelle wrote on FB about our trip, which I share with you:
Amazing couple of days with amazing women. Thankful for you all ❤️ take aways from the past 5 days:
1. Cancer Sucks
2. Some of the best friends come from the most unexpected places. And some are always there regardless of time to help pick up your slack when you're not around.
3. There are not enough places to use the bathroom when traveling from FL to Alabama
4. Not setting an alarm clock is amazing, especially when you have a high schooler!
5. Everyone has a story, a struggle, or a flaw! Embrace them all, be honest and always ask for help.
6. Live life to your fullest potential, follow your dreams, and go on the trip 😊
7. Amazing partners in life are those that push you and want you to do fun things for YOU, not them.... I am 100% positive staying with 3 children that are not biologically yours for 5 days was not on Matts bucket list
8. It's easy to talk to someone for 10 hours straight, especially when they are Lauren Cobb
9. Take the picture.... you never know when it will be the last.....
10. Cancer sucks and I will continue praying for a cure. The pain that is seen and felt is just not fair!Terah Young #yourelivingforever

Thankful to be home but thankful for 5 days with some fantastic women.

Mom and I continued to Charlotte with Noelle and Lauren.  Nick was at Laurens to pick us up and take us to his house.  Thursday mom and I visited my friend Kendra in the hospital.  She has been there for over 40 days and is so ill with vomiting.  I was so sad to see her in this way.  I hope and pray that she will pull out of this and that she will feel better soon.  She has such sweet parents and such an amazing support system.  When I left her she kissed my cheek and told me she loved me.  Oh, how I love this friend of mine.

That evening, we had dinner with Nick, his grandparents and his mom, before going back to Laurens.  It was a whirlwind trip to Charlotte for sure.  Mom flew out Friday morning and after visiting my friend and her cute twins and a visit with my friend Karen on the way to the airport, I flew to NOLA that afternoon for the weekend.
Kirt picked me up from the airport and we headed to the fish market where we got fish for something like $3 a pound, it was crazy cheap.  He made a delicious dinner that evening.  Saturday we went on a nature hike and saw a little alligator. Since it was General Conference weekend and Kirt had a man cold, we spent a lot of time indoors, which I was totally fine with.
Saturday evening we went down to the French Quarter for dinner.  Kirt also did a presentation for NP's on CHF.  He was amazing!  I wish I would have taken more pictures, next time for sure.  Sunday it rained like crazy, which I much enjoyed.  And now I'm on my way to Seattle to see Aubrey for a few days, but am stuck in an airport for now.  Hoping I get there soon.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

We Will All Have Houston's

Today we had a special Stake Conference with the President of the Seventy, L. Whitney Clayton who was visiting from SLC.  It was such a great conference and I had a great seat on the second row.  I felt the spirit so strongly as I listened to the speakers.  Here are a few points that I took away:

President Rodgers our Stake President:
The Saviors gospel can inoculate us from evil.  He gave 4 ways:
Savior-He is the center of our religion.  Our burdens will be erased with the Saviors help.  Reading The Book Of Mormon every day, will help us grow closer to our Savior.  We can overcome challenges as we strengthen our testimony of the Savior.
Holy Ghost- It can draw us to the things we need to do.
Obedience-Always be obedient to the commandments
Temple-As we attend the temple regularly, we will be blessed.

Elder and Sister Grear from the Area Presidency and President L. Whitney Clayton talked about Houston and the floods.  They talked about how so many people were helping those in need.

Elder Grear said:
We can make an impact on other's lives.
As we ask inspired questions our testimonies will be increased.
My favorite quote:  "As we understand the how's, we will be able to understand the why's."  This was referring to our challenges.  We often ask, why we have to experience trials and challenges, but we don't often ask how we can enduring them.  If we understand how to endure them and how we are to learn from them, then we will understand the question of why we must be tested and challenged.

President Clayton expanded on the above quote. 
We live in a day when we need to pick the things we hear.  The Holy Ghost is magnificent in helping us hear the things we need to hear. 
We are doing the best we can, but when we fall short, we can rely on the Savior.
We need to be humble during affluence.
He also said, that we will all have our own Houston's, meaning we will all have hardships and need to rely on the help of others.  But we will also all have the opportunities to help others through their Houston's.  We can find relief from our Houston's by turning to the Lord.  If we hold on, things work out.  It isn't as bad as you sometimes think it is.  It will all work out if you do your best.  The Lord will not forsake us.  He will hear our prayers.  And then he ended with my favorite scripture:  Helamen 5:12  "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."

I'm grateful that in my Houston's and when the winds and the rains come, that I have a steadfast, firm testimony of my Savior.  I know that I couldn't bear my burden's without his help.  The past 4 years have been tough, probably some of the toughest years of my life, but they haven't felt as tough as I know they should be.  I'm grateful for the many people who have helped me and prayed for me during my Houston.  It is my hope that I can be an instrument in helping others through their Houston's. 

As I come to understand how I can endure my trials, I know that I will and have actually seen a little of the why's.
Tonight I had dinner with my cousins, aunt and uncle.  We even spent some time in the backyard, commenting that it was so nice that it has finally cooled off (it was in the high 90's).  But at least it isn't over 100.  Even more exciting I saw that in the coming week we will have 80's!  Fall is on her way!

 Aunt Leslie had me run out to give the kids a dum dum lollipop; it's a Grandpa Young tradition!.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Montana-Camp Mak(e) A Dream

Last week was such a great week!  I had a layover in SLC on my way to Montana so of course I had lunch with my siblings that could get away from work!
My dear friend Teresa was waiting for me with open arms and a whole slew of smoke when I arrived in Montana.  Oh, my it was so wonderful to finally meet her in person, since we have been emailing for several years.  She invited me into her beautifully decorated home, fed me delicious food including blueberry crisp that was to die for as we talked and talked and talked!
From Teresa's I spent 4 days with 65 women at Camp Mak(e)-A-Dream, all of which have been treated for ovarian cancer.  Some have been in remission for many years, some have had recurrences and are continuing treatment, while a few others were finished with treatment and have chosen hospice.  Most of the women were over 50, but there were a handful or two of us in our younger years.  Sadly the wild fires brought some awful smoke, which prevented us from enjoying the ropes course. 
The first day we came together we sat in a circle and told a little about ourselves.  And on the last day we sat in this same circle and gave advice to each other. The chef was amazing!  All of our meals were mostly healthy and delicious.  Our cabins were super nice, even though the beds were kind of hard.  Lucky me, I got my own room, which I was happy about.

The retreat included rock climbing which was much harder than I expected, zip-lining which I can now check off my bucket list and several classes where we talked about different aspects of having OVC.  I spent a lot of time finding some hidden painting talent that I never knew I had in the Art Barn, which had more supplies than one could ever imagine.  There I also forged some wonderful friendships. 
We had a Time Travel theme night which was totally awesome. 
And on the last night we had dress up night, art show and an auction.  The sunset on our last night was absolutely breathtaking. 
 
This was a great time for me to re-assess where I am in my life.  I came away with answers to the questions that have been on my mind and many new friendships with some amazingly, inspiring women from age 24-81!  Until next year...