Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Bitter Pill

Throughout my teaching career, I would occasionally have parents who would call with complaints.  They would range from "You're not treating my child fairly," to "The concert last night was terrible."  As I take my profession very personally, these comments would hurt me deeply.  I made a vow to never become one of "those parents" when my children were the same age.

My son is now in high school--a big step for any adolescent.  While he's been largely successful, we've had to work together to learn different study techniques, and most importantly--how to manage his time.  He tends to get impatient with himself and gets frustrated easily, and so the majority of my time with him is reassuring him that if he works hard, things will work out for the best.  He's been pretty busy with sports since school started, first with football and now with wrestling.  He starts his day at 6:15 with early-morning Seminary and doesn't get home until 5:30.  It's a long day for anyone, let alone a fourteen year-old boy.

My frustration has been with wrestling.  He has been wrestling for the past four years, and has been pretty successful.  His dad and I have given him every opportunity to develop his talent--we've taken him to wrestling camps every summer and to off-season tournaments.  Because of his successes, I thought for sure that he would be participating on the varsity wrestling team this year.

His coach thinks otherwise, and has put him on the freshmen team.  He's undefeated thus far, and has won four out of his five matches by pin.  I don't know that many of his matches have been much of a challenge for him.  On the one hand, I'm glad that he's having successes, but on the other hand, he needs to be challenged.

Yesterday he stayed home sick.  He does this at least a couple of times a month...he comes in to my room and says he feels like he's going to puke and feels dizzy.  In my opinion, this is one of the toughest things about being a mom--do you send them to school or keep them home?  Could he have gone to school and been okay?  He stayed home, slept and did some homework.  When his dad left to go to wrestling practice, Ian stayed home, saying he still wasn't feeling well.

When Gordon came home from practice yesterday, he said that the head coach said that if you weren't well enough to practice the day before a meet, you couldn't wrestle.  This means Ian can't wrestle in the big rivalry dual today.  He was going to be able to wrestle on the varsity team for the first time today.  I have a hard time understanding how this is fair.  It would be one thing if he stayed home from practice just because he didn't feel like going, but he was sick.  Gordon is siding with the head coach, saying that Ian needs to learn how to tough it out, and that not feeling 100% is not a good enough reason to not follow through with your commitments. 

While I understand all of this, it's still hard for me to watch my son hurt.  I want to protect him from everything, and I know I can't.  I want him to have everything he deserves, no matter what the cost.  I love him so much, and know he is capable of so much.  I know that this is an important life lesson for him, and I hope more than anything he will learn from it.  I know it's better that he learn this lesson early on.  I only hope that he does.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

About that...

So, I thought I'd write more often.

But then school started for me in October, and I haven't had a second to spare.  I felt compelled to write tonight, though.  So I'm sacrificing sleep for my blog.  See how good I am?

I was officially accepted to my graduate program (Educational Psychology) in mid-August.  By this time, all of the classes that area offered for the entire semester were full.  Thus, I was forced to take all 9 credit hours in 8 weeks time.  It's been hectic, but I have LOVED every minute.  I feel a new sense of purpose and it feels good to be doing something productive again.  My brain has gone soft over the past couple of years, and it feels good to flex my "smarticles" (as Courtnie calls them) again.  I'm doing pretty well.  I'm really shooting for an A in all three classes, and I should be able to do it...if I stop second-guessing my answers on my Applied Behavior Management exams!  I would have earned a 94 today if I hadn't gone back and changed answers...why do I do that?  I ended up getting an 84.  Ugh!

The class I'm enjoying the most is my Adolescent Psychology class.  The instructor gives us a lot of supplemental assignments and information, and I have found all of it so interesting.  Yesterday I watched a documentary on teenage suicide and suicide prevention.  A program was implemented at a school in New Jersey that had experienced a rash of teen suicides.  I wrote a paper on my reaction to the documentary and the plan they implemented, and really thought a lot about the despair suicidal teens feel.

As a family, we attended the BYU vs. NAU game at our local events center.  It was fun to see everyone--one of the members of our ward said that he'd never seen so many Mormons gathered together on one place.  I joked that we should just have our Stake Conference after the game.  BYU smashed NAU, and it really wasn't much of a game, but it was fun to be together.

While we were at the game, I got an automated phone call from our high school.  The principal said that one of the students that attends the high school had passed away yesterday, and that counselors would be available to help at school today.  Pretty vague. 

Through the magic of Facebook, Ian and I were able to figure out that a sophomore had committed suicide Tuesday night.  The timing of this suicide, coupled with my recent paper and learning more about what teen suicide hit me hard.  I've never known anyone so young that has committed suicide.  I immediately started wondering what would have caused him to feel that there was no other option.  Was he bullied?  Was he having family problems?  And most importantly...could this have been prevented? 

According to my textbook, 70% of teens have thought about suicide, and 40% have attempted suicide.  This is an amazing statistic.  I understand the despair that we all feel from time to time, but I just can't fathom what could have made this sixteen year-old feel that there was no other option.  I have thought about this most of the day today.  I drove to Phoenix for another blood test and felt so badly that I started to cry.  My own thoughts and worries left as I thought about his friends and family and the grief they must be going through today.  Life is hard.

I thought I had some good news at the beginning of November when my hepatologist called me to say that my Hepatitis B viral count was now down to 160.  He said that he would let the committee know that he's cleared me to proceed with the transplant.  I was expecting to receive good news the following Tuesday when the committee met.  No such luck.  They want me to be at ZERO before they will even schedule the transplant.  While I understand their rationale, it's still incredibly frustrating.  Michelle and I want so badly to get this over with.  It would be nice to have it over with by the end of the year.  I had another lab test done today, so hopefully I'm where I need to be.

The wait continues...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Up All Night

Some nights I have a difficult time falling asleep.  I've been told that this is common in dialysis patients.  Some nights I'm eventually able to fall asleep, and others nights I take a couple of Benadryl to help.  (Of course, then I'm left with what I love to call a "Benadryl hangover" the next day...)

Last night was one of those nights.  It was about 1:30 and I was flipping through the channels on TV in my bedroom.  I turned to CMT and this video was starting.  I really like Martina McBride, so I stopped and watched.  It is so amazing how music and lyrics like this can bring people in similar situations together.  Even though this song is specifically about cancer, I think it applies to anyone who has a strong support system.

You need to take a few minutes right now and watch it.  (You may need Kleenex handy.)

I have been so fortunate to have the BEST support system around as I have struggled the last two years.  I shared the sentiments of the women in the video who say that no one has ever made me feel like a burden...especially Gordon.  He never complains when he has to do more than his fair share of the housework, clean up my puke bucket, or listen to me whine.  He has been given the strength to get through this, and to help me get through it as well.  I don't know how I got so lucky, but I am grateful every day of my life.

Dr. Vargas called yesterday and said I'm not a mutant after all.  My Hep B virus strain is not drug resistant, which--in the long run--is good news.  I'm going to start taking two different anti-viral meds and we're hoping that will kick the virus' butt.  I know I've said this a million times before, but I'm SOOOO ready!  The more I've thought about it, the better I feel that, although a set back is hard, it will be better to make sure all is completely well before I get the kidney from Michelle.  I would feel so terrible to waste it because I was impatient.

At Courtnie's school, they are required to memorize a poem and recite it to the class each quarter.  The teacher selects the poem, and some of them have been quite interesting.  Courtnie is doing her recitation today with the poem, "Pancake Collector."  It's a cute one, and she's loved memorizing it.  She was getting ready this morning and went into my bathroom for a while.  When she came out, she had curled her hair for the first time on her own.  It looked great!  I don't think I did as good a job my first time using a curling iron.  What a cutie!  I love her so much.

We're going to Utah this weekend for Tyler's baptism.  I need to start getting things ready, but Ben Hur is on TV, so I'm not.  Oh well...maybe tomorrow. :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I'm Baaaack!

I've made a resolution to blog more often, and I'm starting today.  Hopefully this resolution will last longer than all of my New Year's resolutions! :)

Truth is...I haven't written lately because I've been feeling pretty sorry for myself.  I have gone through several weeks where I've just cried for no particular reason.  A couple of weeks ago, I showed up early for dialysis (thinking I could get in early) and ended up waiting for about an hour.  During that time, I watched some of the other dialysis patients come and go.  All of them looked so sick.  One lady--just a little older than me--sat waiting for her ride for quite a while.  After waiting for about 30 minutes, she ended up crying because she was in so much pain.  She called her husband, and he wouldn't come and pick her up, so they had to call and ambulance to come and take her to the hospital. 

For some reason, this really affected me. By the time I got into my dialysis room (aka, "The Fishbowl"--I have to go into a "special room" that is isolated from the rest of the patients so I don't accidentally infect them with my Hep B germs) I was pretty distraught.  I just started sobbing.  I recalled the scene from the movie, "As Good As It Gets" where Jack Nicholson comes out of his psychiatrist's office, looks at the patients waiting in the lobby, and asks, "What if this is as good as it gets?" 

That thought has been on my mind quite a bit over the last couple of weeks...hence the pity party.  A couple of weeks ago I found out that instead of the Hep B virus count going down, like it's supposed to on this medicine, it is--in fact--going UP.  Dr. Vargas is baffled, and ordered a lab test to determine what is up with the virus.  He said I may have a strain that has mutated and has become drug-resistant.  If this is the case, my current viral count may be as good as we're going to get and we can proceed with the transplant.  This is risky, as the immuno-suppressant drugs I'll take after transplant could allow the virus to rapidly multiply and kill my liver.  Either way, I'm not living the life I want to live right now, and why prolong this if it's not going to get better.  With a healthy kidney, I can take a combination of drugs and hopefully kill off the virus.

I've been waiting on the results for two and a half weeks now.  I was supposed to get the results last week, but Dr. Vargas was out of town.  Ugh!  I should hear tomorrow.  I know that both of us would like a resolution to this issue.  As Gordon told me a while back, "It would seem that your life is not destined to be easy."  He was kidding, but that's the understatement of the year!

Ian and Gordon have been busy with football.  They practice every day until 6:00 and their games are usually on Wednesdays.  It's been fun to watch Ian improve.  He played quite a bit the last game, playing both offense and defense and kicking.  It's like a switch has gone off in his head and he has decided that tackling someone can be fun.  He enjoys playing on the defense, as it gives him a chance to tackle people more often.  I'm glad he's starting to feel successful, as he didn't feel that way at the beginning of the season.

Courtnie has been playing soccer for about a month now.  She's never really played an organized sport before, and it has been interesting to watch her grow.  She seems to enjoy it, even though her team has played four games and has yet to score even one goal.  I'm glad that she's getting some exercise and is making new friends.  She's also taking piano lessons, and is doing very well.  She is always happy to practice and wants to do well at her lessons.  (It doesn't hurt that her piano teacher is awesome!)

The last two days have been awesome.  I love watching General Conference and hearing the words of our church leaders.  It started early--with the first talk by Elder Richard G. Scott.  He talked of the importance of using the scriptures in our daily lives:

"To memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship," he said. "It is like discovering a new individual who can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort and be a source of motivation for needed change."

As individuals ponder the scriptures, they are able to find direction and form a foundation of support. Scriptures provide an incredibly large resource of willing friends who can help, Elder Scott said.

"Pondering a passage of scripture can be a key to unlock revelation and the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Ghost," he said. "Scripture can calm an agitated soul, giving peace, hope and a restoration of confidence in one's ability to overcome the challenges of life. They have potent power to heal emotional challenges when there is faith in the Savior. They can accelerate physical healing."

I have experienced this first-hand recently.  In our Gospel Doctrine class a couple of weeks ago, we were reading in 2nd Corinthians, chapter 1.  It reads:

3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

I sat there reading and re-reading that passage for the majority of the class.  Not only is my suffering for my own good, but it is also essential.  We all must suffer so that we can have empathy for others' suffering.  Perhaps the reason I have been through this trial is so that I can help others.  I also took comfort in the fact that Christ knows me, knows my sufferings, and that I will someday find consolation and salvation because of my suffering.

I loved Elder Carl Cook's talk on the counsel President Monson gave him.  As Elder Cook looked down in discouragement, the prophet told him, pointing heaven-ward, that it is "always better to look up." 

Gordon had to work Saturday night, so I took Ian to the Priesthood session.  When I picked him up, he and I talked about the subjects that influenced him the most.  He said that several of the leaders talked about being prepared for whatever the Lord needs you to do.  Whether it is answering a question about the Church, or being asked to give a blessing, if you aren't spiritually ready, you won't be able to fulfill that responsibility.  I'm so proud of my son.  He is my spiritual hero.

I loved Sister Dalton's talk to fathers about raising daughters.  I thought often of my dad, who was always a listening ear and and one of my biggest cheerleaders.  Sister Dalton said that the greatest way a father can love his daughter is to love her mother.  This will teach her that the right man will always treat her with love and respect.  I wept as I thought of the way my loving husband has treated me for the last twenty years.  He has treated me like a queen in every sense of the word.  I tell Courtnie often that I hope she can find someone as wonderful as her dad.

President Monson is a wonderful storyteller.  I loved watching his facial expressions as he told the story of the five dollar bill and the answer to a young boy's prayer.  I can imagine being next to him as he tells stories.  His expressions remind me a lot of my Grandpa Cobabe, who was also a great storyteller and a wonderful man.  I'm so grateful that the Lord has given us a prophet who is not only a great leader, but is personable and kind. 

Above all, I'm grateful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ permeate everything that I do and everything that I am.  I am grateful for the hope it provides to me and my family of a true "happily ever after."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Because It's Been a While...

One of my friends on Facebook (who happened to be one of my college roommates) nudged me the other day and told me that it was time to update my blog.

To be honest, I just haven't felt like it.  I received bad news once again on August 15, and between that and school starting without me, it's been rough. 

My viral count dropped from 1,300 to 720, but still not good enough.  I'm really tired of getting bad news followed by the phrase, "You're getting closer!"  Ugh!

Meanwhile, a few things have happened that have kept me going:

1.  At the end of July, I finally got a calling in our new ward.  I was called to be the Relief Society secretary.  This is a good fit for me, as it's not too demanding, but will keep me busy and involved.  I'm grateful to have something to do.

Our bishop called me the week before school started and asked if I'd be able to help a single mom who just moved here from Missouri.  She came to Prescott Valley with her three children and literally the clothes on their back and what they could fit in suitcases.  They took a Greyhound bus and are living with her mom.  She doesn't have a car and didn't have a job.  Her marriage fell apart after 20 years, and it sounds like she's had a rough life.  Of her entire family, she's the only one who attends church and is the only one to graduate from high school.

I was able to take her to buy clothes and school supplies.  While we shopped, she told me of her life's troubles and about her faith that things would turn around.  I was so impressed by her dedication to attending church, even if she had to walk every time. 

Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money, and often received help from others.  It felt really good to be in a position that I could reciprocate that help.  Talking to her also made me realize that even though I am having health issues right now, I am truly blessed.  I came home with a happy heart and felt like things were looking up.  I was feeling pretty sorry for myself prior to this experience.  When talking to my mom, she told me to look for someone to help and that would help eliminate the "wallowing in pity."  I'm grateful that our bishop was inspired to ask me to help.

2.  The following Sunday, I was called to be the Stake Primary Music Leader.  I'm so excited for this calling.  During the 20 years Gordon and I have been married, I think I've been in the Primary 15 of those years.  I love the children, and music is such an important part of teaching the Gospel. 

3.  I've registered and enrolled in 9 credit hours of graduate courses in Human Relations/Educational Psychology.  Working towards a Master's degree is something I've been needing to do for a while, and I thought I might as well be productive in this year I'm off work.  The good news is that I don't start until October 24, and I'm doing all of the classwork online.  I'm REALLY hoping that I'll be post-transplant by then and can focus on the work.

4.  Ian is doing a great job getting up for seminary every morning.  He works hard at football from 2-6, then comes home and does homework before getting to bed.  Some days I know he's really tired, but he gets up at 5 am and is ready to go on time.  He's had some difficult health issues himself...we've tried treating these terrible warts on his fingers for a year or so now and finally gave up and took him to the dermatologist.  He's had three "freezing" treatments, and we're making progress, but each visit is so painful for him.  He's also been battling an ingrown toenail for about six weeks, and it eventually became pretty infected.  We took him to his pediatrician who sent us to a podiatrist.  It's looking 100% better, but the podiatrist told us it may come back.  We'll keep an eye on it.  It's been fun to be a football mom...we decorated the lockers before their first game this past Wednesday, and I enjoy being Gordon's cheerleader for a change. 

5.  Courtnie has started the fifth grade off well.  She's running for class representative on the student council at her school, and will find out on Monday how she did.  She's also started piano again and will be playing soccer for the first time starting next month.  She continues to be her goofy, silly self and makes me smile every day.

6.  The new band director at BMHS asked me to write the drill for the third song.  I agreed, and hope I can do a good job.  If it works out, maybe I can put myself out there as a drill writer.  I paid someone else $1000 to write our show last year...If I can write a few of those each year, it would help.  I'm not sure what next year will hold for me.  I can't anticipate any band director openings, so I'm not sure what I'll be doing.  I really don't want to sub for the rest of my life! :)

I've been reading The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.  It has made me really evaluate how I act towards others and how I feel in general.  One of the "rules" she makes for herself is, "Act how you want to feel."  I never feel great, but I have found that when I smile and am happy, I tend to forget how lousy I feel.  It's something I'm going to try and work harder at, and I know it will help.  It hasn't been easy this week, as I've felt so incredibly lousy, but I'm starting to feel human again and am anxious to put her suggestions to work.

A couple of silly experiences with Ian:

1.  We were eating dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings last Friday.  The kids went and played a game that gave them a bouncy ball as a prize.  Ian and Courtnie were rolling it across the table, and that led to bouncing it across the table.  Ian remembered the "bounce the ball in the cup" challenge from the TV show "Minute to Win It."  He swears he didn't mean to do it, but with one bounce the ball ended up in Gordon's water cup.  We all laughed so hard...well, all of us but Gordon.

2.  The next night Ian loaded the dishwasher and started it up.  He then came in to my room and we were chatting, as we like to do just before bed.  After about 20 minutes, he went to bed, and on the way noticed that there was white foam all over our kitchen floor.  He had put dish washing detergent in BOTH cups of the dishwasher, along with the dishwasher tablet we use.  He thought we would be so proud of him for making the dishes extra clean.  Instead, Ian and I spent the next hour cleaning up soap bubbles that kept pouring out of the dishwasher.  After it ran a complete cycle, the bubbles subsided, and we were able to go to bed.  Ian was desperately sorry, but I thought it was a great bonding moment, and now he knows the difference between "dish washing" and "dishwasher" soap. :)

So, we're still playing the waiting game.  I get tested again on September 9, and should find out results on the 12th or 13th.  I continue to be hopeful.  After the last disappointing news, I told Gordon that if I could just understand WHY I must continue to wait, I would be okay.  I just don't get it, and don't know if I ever will.  I just have to continue to pray for strength to endure and the faith to accept what comes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Girl Who Cried "Transplant"

There once was a girl who lived in a small town.  This town was pretty boring, and most days were pretty uneventful.  This girl had been dealing with health problems for the majority of her life, including some major circulation problems as a result of the radiation treatments she had as a child.  She tried and tried to have them resolved in a non-invasive way, to no avail. 

Her vascular surgeon suggested that she have a major operation to correct this issue.  She would have an artificial graft put into her abdomen that would bypass her damaged aorta.  This was done in December 2009.  Two days after her surgery, her surgeon informed her that her kidneys had shut down and she would need to start dialysis.  He assured her that this happened on occasion, and often times the problem would resolve itself after a couple of weeks of dialysis treatments.  When she began treatments on December 25, 2009, she also was informed that she had Hepatitis B, which she would find out later causes some other complications.

After being released from the hospital in Phoenix, she began dialysis treatments in Phoenix three times a week.  These treatments made her very sick.  She ended up in the hospital several times over the next year or so...often times to deal with extreme dehydration and high blood pressure.  She even had a couple of seizures as a result of the extreme blood pressure.  (Her highest was 190/120.)  She lost 50 pounds, (something she needed to do anyway, but not THAT way!) and was very weak.  She was given several priesthood blessings, including one from her bishop that promised her that she would be restored to health.

After about six months of treatments, her nephrologist asked her if she wanted to be worked up for a kidney transplant.  She decided to proceed with the testing at Mayo Clinic and was approved to be a transplant candidate in July 2010.  Her brother and sister both offered to donate a kidney to her, and it was decided (by means of "Rock, Paper, Scissors") that her sister Michelle would get worked up first.

Meanwhile, the girl had been taking anti-viral medications to get rid of the Hepatitis B virus.  The medicine made her very sick, and she doubted that it was working at all.  It took five months, but the virus was finally undetectable and she was good to go for transplant.

Michelle came to Mayo Clinic and went through all kinds of testing.  The girl stayed with her sister the entire time, and was so grateful that she was willing to go through this for her.  Her sister was approved as a match, and the transplant was scheduled for November 19, 2010.  The girl went in to Mayo for her pre-surgery testing, which included a CT scan of her kidneys, as she had had kidney cancer in 2008, and they wanted to make sure she was cancer-free.  While her kidneys were deemed cancer-free, they discovered that her aorta and bypass graft were once again blocked, and would need to be repaired before the transplant could occur.

The girl was devastated.  She felt she had gone through the entire last year of dialysis and being so sick for nothing.  The surgery that started this whole thing was a failure.  The vascular surgeon at Mayo agreed to do a stent procedure on November 18, so that the transplant could occur as planned on November 19.

The stent procedure was successful, and she was in ICU recovering and making necessary preparations for the next day's surgery when she woke up with severe pains in her right leg.  The surgeon came in around 3:00 a.m. and took one look at the bottom of her feet (which were black and blue) and said that she had what is called "trash foot."  It turns out that all of the crud that was blocking my aorta came loose when the stent was placed, and it sent all of it--the plaque, clots, and other materials--down my leg and to my feet.  They would need to do emergency surgery to "roto-rooter" the artery in her leg.  The surgeon also told her that the transplant could not take place.  She called her husband, cried so hard, and told him to tell her sister that everything was off. 

She ended up staying in the hospital for several days while they monitored her circulation for any other blood clots.  They told her that the transplant would need to be postponed for at least three months to give her arteries time to heal and grow stronger.  Meanwhile, she was given Coumadin and Plavix to thin her blood and avoid any dangerous clots.

In February, she saw the surgeon again and was cleared for transplant.  The transplant was rescheduled, and plane tickets were bought.  When she went in for her pre-surgery tests (again) she was told that they would do another Hepatitis B check, just to be sure.  When she was called and told that her levels were higher than they'd ever been, she was confused.  She was under the impression that once the virus was undetectable, she was good.  She didn't realize that she'd need to be on these meds for the rest of her life.  So, the transplant was postponed yet again.

March, April, May and June came and went.  Surgery dates scheduled, hopes were high, only to be dashed time and time again.  She was beginning to wonder what she had done wrong, why she was being punished, and what she could do better.  Fast Sunday in June was a special day.  Her whole family, and a lot of friends fasted for her and that the transplant could finally take place.  She felt completely at peace, and felt confident that the surgery would take place on June 14.  This was also her final chance for the transplant if she wanted to return to teaching in August.  She went for her pre-surgery testing AGAIN and was so confident that all would be well.  When she was called on June 11 and told that her level was still at 10,000, she was--once again--devastated.

The liver specialist increased her dose again, and she was tested on July 12.  This time her count was at 1,300...a huge improvement, but not where it needs to be.  (It needs to be at zero.)  She feels so silly, and doesn't even know how to respond to her sister when she calls to tell her the bad news.  She's just numb.

She will get tested again on August 12, and is so hopeful that things will be good.  If the count went from 10,000 to 1,300 in one month, surely it can go down to zero in another month.  But, as one of her nurses told her, "Well, it is YOU!"  Who knows.

She is sure people are tired of hearing that the date is so close.  She is sure people just don't even know what to say anymore.  She feels very much like the boy who cried wolf, just to get the attention of his small town. 

She goes through times in her life where she is fine.  She is grateful for the opportunity she has to go to dialysis, for she knows it keeps her alive.  She is so grateful for her sweet husband and amazing children who have stood by her and taken care of her through all of this.  She is grateful for all of her family who pray for her and love her.  She is able to keep going and keeps her chin up, even though things are tough.

She also goes through times where she gets down.  She wonders if the transplant is ever going to happen.  She can't stand sitting in the chair at dialysis for one more minute.  She counts down the minutes until she can go home.  She dreads the thought of going, smelling the bleach/vinegar smell, and the headache that will follow treatment. 

She is sure that there is a reason for all of this.  She just wishes she knew what it was.  Band camp started last week, and she is so sad that that part of her life is over.  Someday she will understand.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Finding Peace

I crave peace.  I want peace in my home, I want to drive peacefully, work peacefully, be at peace in social situations, and to be at peace with myself. 

Over the past couple of weeks, as the date for my transplant approaches, I have found myself in a state of panic.  I was worried about so many many "what if" scenarios.  It was driving me crazy.  I'd think about the future and become so scared that I'd actually start to cry.  I think I was driving my husband insane.  He would hold me and tell me that everything was going to be okay.  He's been my rock.

Yesterday a lot of people I know--and many I don't know--fasted and prayed that my lab test would come back with a result that will finally allow me to have the transplant.  My sister Michelle called me and told me that just about everyone in her ward was fasting for us.  She told me that it was one of the first times in her life that she actually knew what it felt like to "feel" people praying for us.  I'm so grateful.

I felt at peace all day yesterday.  Going without food and water for a day is difficult for anyone, but we did it.  Ian and Courtnie joined us, too.  I hope that they learned that they can do hard things, especially when you are doing them for someone you love.

This morning I woke up and felt so good.  "Peace" is hardly the word to describe it, but it's the best word I have.  I had this overwhelming feeling that everything is going to be okay--come what may.  My worries are gone, and I have turned my worries over to the Lord.  As I laid in bed thinking of the future, John 14:27 came to my mind:

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you:
not as the world giveth, give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

I felt my Saviors love for me so strongly.  I know that He knows my troubles, and I know that He has experienced the pain that I am going through--both physically and emotionally.  I am so grateful that He has taken me by the hand and is guiding me through this time.  I hope that I can live worthy of His love. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I Wish...

My cousin Eric passed away yesterday.  He was only nine months older than me.  He died suffering from severe liver and kidney failure.  I can't imagine...

Eric and I were kids together.  I have some fun photos of he and I playing in the back yard at my aunt's house in Idaho Falls.  Some of them wouldn't be appropriate to show to anyone! :)  I guess they didn't make swimming suits for babies back then! 

Eric was always the cool cousin.  His mom was (and still is) very beautiful and stylish, and Eric was always dressed in the coolest clothes.  He had a very funny and outgoing personality and ALWAYS had a goofy grin on his face.

When I broke up with my boyfriend my junior year of high school, Eric came to Utah and took me to our Homecoming dance.  He was a good sport about it, and it was really fun...

I've spent the last little while thinking about the last time I saw him, and I think it was that date.  He hasn't been to either of our grandparent's funerals and I've wondered why. 

It turns out that he's been battling some pretty vicious demons.  I had no idea.  I wish I had known--not that I could have done much about it, but so that he could have had someone else praying for his recovery.  I wish I knew what set him on this course of self-destruction, and I wish I could have been more helpful.  I love him, and miss him as a part of my life.

This event has got me thinking a lot about choices.  If you've read my blog at all, you know I'm a big proponent of choice in every aspect of life.  Each of us comes to earth with a certain amount of potential, and it's up to us how we choose to develop it.  What sets people off down the wrong path?  Is it friends?  Outside influences?  Or do we have complete control over every aspect of our life? 

I believe 100% in the concept of agency--that every choice we make in life has a consequence, be it good or bad.  I wish Eric had made better choices.  I hope that he's making them now and has the opportunity to right the wrongs in his earthly life. I have to believe that we all get second chances.

An Email to Gram


Gordon asked me to email you with exactly what my issues are regarding my (hopeful) upcoming transplant. I'm very worried about it, and am so grateful for those who would like to fast on my behalf tomorrow. It means a lot to me, and I know that our Heavenly Father will hear our prayers.

As most of you know, I had cancer as a child. This was during the late 1970s before they started testing blood more carefully for viruses. During the course of my treatments, I had a lot of blood transfusions, and I'm fairly certain that's where I picked up the lovely hepatitis B virus. I didn't know I had this until I started dialysis when my kidneys shut down in December of 2009.

When I started my evaluations for a kidney transplant at Mayo Clinic, I met with a hepatologist (liver doctor), who told me that I could take medications to suppress the virus so that it would be undetectable. I did this for a few months, and was finally cleared for transplant last November. I thought that once I was cleared, I wouldn't have to take the meds anymore, so I stopped.

Since then, I've had other complications, but was cleared again for transplant in February. They tested my hepB level again at that time and the viral count was higher than it had ever been. This set me back yet again, as if I were to have the transplant with my viral count at a detectable level, the anti-rejection drugs I'll have to take for the rest of my life would have let the virus multiply and destroy my liver. I've been on the anti-viral meds again since February, and while the count is trending downward, it still isn't good enough. It started at almost a million in February, was at 500,000 in March, 1800 in April, and was at 1000 on May 10. The hepatologist wants it at ZERO before he'll clear me for transplant.

My transplant is currently scheduled for June 14, and I will have my count tested again on June 7. If I want to go back to work teaching band at the end of July, I absolutely HAVE to have the transplant done on the 14th. I've been told by my district office, that if I don't have the surgery in June, they will find someone else to fill my position. I love teaching, and so desperately want to get back to work! I also want to feel good and be a better wife and mother. Of equal importance to me is to have this done so that my sister (who is my donor) can get on with her life...we've been in limbo for so long!

Anyway--a long explanation as to why we're fasting tomorrow. I have had the power of fasting and prayer work in my life before, and I know it can work again. I need the lab test on Tuesday to come back with a positive result so that this transplant can finally happen.

Love you all. Thanks so much for all of your prayers, faith and love.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Soul Surfer

While Ian is gone on our stake's pioneer trek, Courtnie and I have been enjoying some "girl time."  Yesterday we went to see the movie "Soul Surfer," a movie she's been wanting to see for a while. 

The movie had a lot of references to religion and Jesus Christ, which made for a great discussion with Courtnie afterwards.  One of the Biblical references that was used was Philippians 4:13, which says, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

The girl in the movie was a championship surfer who was training for the national championships when she was attacked by a shark and had her arm amputated at the shoulder.  She had to learn to do everything over again, and felt sorry for herself at times.  Her father (also a surfer) kept telling her that she shouldn't give up, and quoted the above scripture.

A little while after her accident, her church youth group went to Thailand right after the tsunami in 2004.  This helped her to put her trial into perspective as she saw the devastation around her. 

I have 12 days left until my scheduled transplant.  I'm still not where I need to be with my viral level, and I'm so scared that this will mean another postponement.  In February, my count was near one million, a month later it was cut in half, at the beginning of May it was at 1800, and on May 20 it was at 1000.  It needs to be at zero for the doctor to clear me for surgery.  I'm having another lab drawn on June 7, and if it's close we can draw it again on May 10, but that's it.

If I don't have the surgery on June 14, I won't be recovered in time to start school in August.  The HR director has informed me that if I can't start the school year, he's going to have to find someone else for my position.  This devastated me.  Other than feeling better, the thing I'm most excited about is being able to go back to work.  I miss it so much. 

Putting things into perspective--will it be the end of the world if I don't work next year?  Will I be able to find fulfillment elsewhere?  Would I be able to come back to what I love?

Are there people suffering more than I am?

Am I worrying needlessly?

I'm trying so hard to have faith that things will turn out as I'd like them to, but I've wanted that since last November.  For some reason, things just don't always work out that way. 

I know that Heavenly Father knows the deepest desires of my heart.  I know that He hears my prayers and my pleadings.  I know that He hears the prayers of my family and friends.  It is my continued prayer that He will allow this transplant to go through so that I can get back to my life.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


There was a time in my life when I wondered if the picture above would ever be taken. 

I still remember where I was when my mom told me that I wouldn't be able to bear children.  She said that the oncologists told her that if I had the radiation treatments I needed to save my life, my reproductive system would be damaged or even destroyed.  My parents were heartbroken.  As members of the LDS church, we believe very strongly in families and that they are forever.  We also believe that one of our main responsibilities in this life is to bear children and create families.  We are told that we would find joy and happiness in our posterity.

Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I didn't tell anyone but my closest friends that I even had cancer as a child.  I still felt that stigma that plagued me when I was undergoing treatments.  Many people didn't understand then what cancer was, and some even thought it was contagious.  I was teased and made fun of, and had few friends.

I was always worried that I would start dating a man and fall in love.  He'd ask me to marry him and I'd tell him that we wouldn't be able to have children of our own.  He'd back away and tell me that it was too important, and he'd break up with me.  This was the scenario I'd created in my head...even when I started dating Gordon.  For a while, I even convinced myself that I didn't want children.

Early on, Gordon told me he was adopted.  I hoped that he would be open to my situation and would still love me when I told him.  A few days before he proposed, I told him we'd need to adopt our future children, we both cried and he was so supportive.  I knew then that I had found the person Heavenly Father had sent to me.  He was actually excited about adopting...imagine that!  I felt a sense of peace and gratitude that I hadn't felt since learning of my infertility.

We waited six years for Ian, and another four and a half for Courtnie.  I tell them all of the time that they were worth the wait.  I am grateful every single day for their unselfish birth mothers.  They knew that they weren't ready to have a child yet, and thought of their unborn child first.  They wanted their child to have a mother and a father, to be brought up in the gospel, and be sealed to an eternal family.  I know that they think sometimes that others will think they took the "easy way out," but I can't imagine anything more difficult.  I am just so blessed.  I am also grateful that the birth mothers of both of my children have gone on to lead happy lives, have been married in the temple, and have children of their own now.

Being a mom is the greatest!  It brings me a sense of pride, happiness, joy, and peace I could have never imagined.  As I look at my children, I wonder what they will become and how I can help.  I hope that I am teaching them all that they need to know to become good people.  I want them to be happy and lead productive lives.  Most of all, I want them to love the Savior as I do.  I want them to know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and that if they follow its teachings, they will know true happiness.

This morning, I woke up Courtnie for school and told her to get in the shower.  When I went back into my room, she was "hiding" under my covers.  I pretended she wasn't there and squished her.  We giggled for a bit, and then just laid there, snuggling, for a few minutes.  It felt so good to just be quiet and "listen" to each other.  I hope she knows how much I love her and am so grateful for her.  Sometimes words just aren't enough.

I'm so grateful for a Father in Heaven who knows my needs.  He knew that I'd need these two very special children in my life...especially at this time.  When things are tough and I just don't know if it's all worth it, I think of my children and can't wait for tomorrow.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Atonement Covers All Pain

As I listened to General Conference last month, this talk by Kent F. Richards of the Seventy had the most impact on me.  I cried through the entire talk. I'm so grateful for a Heavenly Father who has given us church leaders who know EXACTLY what we need to hear.  I honestly felt like this talk was written just for me, although I know that many others needed needed it as well.  It has given me a new perspective, and I appreciate it so much:

As a surgeon, I found that a significant portion of my professional time was taken up with the subject of pain. Of necessity I surgically inflicted it almost daily—and much of my effort was then spent trying to control and alleviate pain.

I have pondered about the purpose of pain. None of us is immune from experiencing pain. I have seen people cope with it very differently. Some turn away from God in anger, and others allow their suffering to bring them closer to God.

Like you, I have experienced pain myself. Pain is a gauge of the healing process. It often teaches us patience. Perhaps that is why we use the term patient in referring to the sick.

Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. … It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.”

Similarly, Elder Robert D. Hales has said:

“Pain brings you to a humility that allows you to ponder. It is an experience I am grateful to have endured. …

“I learned that the physical pain and the healing of the body after major surgery are remarkably similar to the spiritual pain and the healing of the soul in the process of repentance.”

Much of our suffering is not necessarily our fault. Unexpected events, contradicting or disappointing circumstances, interrupting illness, and even death surround us and penetrate our mortal experience.  Additionally, we may suffer afflictions because of the actions of others.  Lehi noted that Jacob had “suffered … much sorrow, because of the rudeness of [his] brethren.”  Opposition is part of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. We all encounter enough to bring us to an awareness of our Father’s love and of our need for the Savior’s help.

The Savior is not a silent observer. He Himself knows personally and infinitely the pain we face.

“He suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children.”

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Sometimes in the depth of pain, we are tempted to ask, “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?”  I testify the answer is yes, there is a physician. The Atonement of Jesus Christ covers all these conditions and purposes of mortality.

There is another kind of pain for which we are responsible. Spiritual pain lies deep within our souls and can feel unquenchable, even as being racked with an“inexpressible horror,” as Alma described.  It comes from our sinful actions and lack of repentance. For this pain too there is a cure that is universal and absolute. It is from the Father, through the Son, and it is for each of us who is willing to do all that is necessary to repent. Christ said, “Will ye not now return unto me … and be converted, that I may heal you?” 

Christ Himself taught:

“And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me. …

“Therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me.”

Perhaps His most significant work is in the ongoing labor with each of us individually to lift, to bless, to strengthen, to sustain, to guide, and to forgive us.

As Nephi saw in vision, much of Christ’s mortal ministry was devoted to blessing and healing the sick with all kinds of maladies—physical, emotional, and spiritual. “And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases. … And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God.”

Alma also prophesied that “he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and … he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. …

“That his bowels may be filled with mercy, … that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

Late one night lying in a hospital bed, this time as a patient and not as a physician, I read those verses over and over again. I pondered: “How is it done? For whom? What is required to qualify? Is it like forgiveness of sin? Do we have to earn His love and help?” As I pondered, I came to understand that during His mortal life Christ chose to experience pains and afflictions in order to understand us. Perhaps we also need to experience the depths of mortality in order to understand Him and our eternal purposes.

President Henry B. Eyring taught: “It will comfort us when we must wait in distress for the Savior’s promised relief that He knows, from experience, how to heal and help us. … And faith in that power will give us patience as we pray and work and wait for help. He could have known how to succor us simply by revelation, but He chose to learn by His own personal experience.”

I felt the encircling arms of His love that night.  Tears watered my pillow in gratitude. Later, as I was reading in Matthew about Christ’s mortal ministry, I made another discovery: “When the even was come, they brought unto him many … and he … healed all that were sick.” He healed all that came to Him. None were turned away.

As Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught: “Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a ‘healing’ cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are ‘healed’ by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.”  All that will come may be “clasped in the arms of Jesus.”  All souls can be healed by His power. All pain can be soothed. In Him, we can “find rest unto [our] souls.”  Our mortal circumstances may not immediately change, but our pain, worry, suffering, and fear can be swallowed up in His peace and healing balm.

I have noted that children are often more naturally accepting of pain and suffering. They quietly endure with humility and meekness. I have felt a beautiful, sweet spirit surrounding these little ones.

Thirteen-year-old Sherrie underwent a 14-hour operation for a tumor on her spinal cord. As she regained consciousness in the intensive care unit, she said: “Daddy, Aunt Cheryl is here, … and … Grandpa Norman … and Grandma Brown … are here. And Daddy, who is that standing beside you? … He looks like you, only taller. … He says he’s your brother, Jimmy.” Her uncle Jimmy had died at age 13 of cystic fibrosis.

“For nearly an hour, Sherrie … described her visitors, all deceased family members. Exhausted, she then fell asleep.”

Later she told her father, “Daddy, all of the children here in the intensive care unit have angels helping them.”
To all of us the Savior said:

“Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.

“Fear not, little children, for you are mine. …

“Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd.”

Our great personal challenge in mortality is to become “a saint through the atonement of Christ.”  The pain you and I experience may be where this process is most measured. In extremity, we can become as children in our hearts, humble ourselves, and “pray and work and wait” patiently for the healing of our bodies and our souls. As Job, after being refined through our trials, we “shall come forth as gold.”

I bear testimony that He is our Redeemer, our Friend, our Advocate, the Great Physician, the Great Healer. In Him we can find peace and solace in and from our pain and our sins if we will but come unto Him with humble hearts. His “grace is sufficient.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

This Blog Post is Brought to You By the Letters "M," "L," and the Number "14"

I grew up on Sesame Street.  My mom will tell you that it's the reason I skipped kindergarten.  My favorite character was Grover.  My favorite book was "The Monster At the End of This Book."  Nothing  ever seemed to go right for him...ever.  His superhero alter-ego always ended up crashing into walls, he couldn't seem to remember anything, and he was the waiter at the restaurant where the guy always had a fly in his soup.

Lately, I've been feeling a little bit like Grover.  A little picked on, a little left out, and nothing seems to go right for me.  My hep B viral count is still too high, so the transplant has been postponed yet again.  (For those of you keeping score at home, this is postponement number four.)  It's going down, but still is detectable, so my med dosage has been doubled again, and I'll have another blood draw on May 10.  Oh, I'm tired of hoping and praying.  I'm ready to do some happy dancing!

So, the new date is June 14.  A pretty significant date in our family.  My sister who is donating the kidney to me gave me something else on June 14, something that means so much to me. 

As I have thought about the number 14, a few other fun facts struck me:
1.  When Michelle told me about June 14, I counted how many dialysis treatments I had left.  14!
2.  In December, I purchased a pack of 50 Tegaderm patches (they cover my dialysis catheter site and make it waterproof.)  I counted how many patches I have left.  I have exactly enough to last the 14 treatments!
3.  Courtnie's birthday is June 14.  (It's also her favorite number!)
4.  Ian is 14.

I'm not really a "sign seeker," but I feel pretty excited about all of these little coincidences.  Once again, trying not to get my hopes up too high, but feeling good.

By the way--if you can figure out what the title of this post is, you win a prize! :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fiddler on the Roof

One of my favorite movies is "Fiddler on the Roof."  I have so many memories of this film, and watching it brings them back so vividly.  I believe I first saw this movie with my mom at the Scera theater in Orem, Utah.  They had a summer movie series and would show older movies on their huge screen.  It was a great experience, and I remember that the movie touched me with it's amazing music, visual appeal, and great symbolism.  I have seen it probably fifty times since then, and know every word to every song by heart.

A couple of weeks ago, it was on television a few times.  I watched it every time it was on.  This time, several of the scenes and lines of dialogue had different meaning to me.  As my children grow older, the song "Sunrise, Sunset" has new meaning.  The song they sing at their Sabbath dinner is a prayer that I offer daily--that my children will grow up in righteousness and will find their eternal soul mate.  When my grandpa passed away on April 13, I thought of the lines in "If I Were a Rich Man," where he sings about studying the scriptures being the sweetest gift of all.

As I laid on the table praying so hard that the phlebotomist would find a vein (on the tenth try!), I thought of the dialogue that Tevye has with God.  This is one of the many things I love about this movie...that he has such an intimate relationship with God, and feels he can speak to him at any time about anything.  As I found out yesterday that my viral count is still to high for me to have a safe transplant, I pictured Tevye at his daughter's wedding as the Russians were destroying the village.  He was looking up at God with a look of intense questioning. 

Two lines of dialogue keep coming to my mind:

"I know, I know.  We are Your chosen people.  But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?"

"Sometimes I think, when it gets too quiet up there, You say to Yourself, "What kind of mischief can I play on my friend Tevye?"

Someone once told me that God must love me a lot to trust me with these trials.  My head knows this, but my heart is having a difficult time understanding this.  I realize that compared to the trials of others, mine are so small, but sometimes they can seem so overwhelming.  I find myself feeling sorry for myself, and when I do, I go into a dark place where I'm not good for anyone.  And then I remember my family, and all is good again.

While I was at my grandma's house this past weekend, I noticed she had NieNie's calendar.  (For those of you who don't know NieNie, here's a link to her blog:  She is a survivor of a terrible plane crash that left 80% of her body burned.  She is an inspiration to me--and to many others.)  Anyway, April's quote was this:
"My heartache, pain, and confusion have led me to a state of mind that all is lost, but then I look into my children's eyes, and see my Savior and know that it is not lost.  It's just the beginning of a big plan for us."

I can't tell you how many times I've wondered if the quality of my life is worth the quantity of my life.  Don't get freaked out--I'm not talking about suicide or anything, but I have wondered if it's all worth it.  And then I hear my son giggle with his sister, or my daughter tells me that I'm the best mom in the world for bringing her trombone to school when she forgot it, and I realize that it IS worth it.  I honestly don't know what I'd do without them, and I know that my Heavenly Father sent them to me at this time for a reason.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


My grandma asked me to play at my grandpa's funeral next week.  I'm so honored.  I know that I received whatever musical gifts I possess from my grandparents. 

So, for the past few days I've really been struggling with knowing what to play.  I've played at my mother's parent's funerals in the past couple of years, and have always known exactly what to play.  In fact, my dad and I disagreed on what to play at my grandma's funeral, but when he heard the song I thought was more appropriate, he agreed.  It turned out that my grandma's son from a previous marriage played the saxophone when he was younger and the song I'd played was the first song he'd ever played for her.

I asked my dad for advice on what I should play, and he told me to play through the pieces I have and grandpa would let me know. 

I played through the arrangements of sacred music I have, and thought I had found the right piece to play.  I've played it before at a stake music's a medley of "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," "Our Savior's Love," and "The Lord is My Shepherd."  I even copied the accompaniment part and sent it off to my cousin who will be playing with me.  After I put the music in the mailbox, I realized that it just wasn't the right one.  It would do, and would have been fine, but it wasn't perfect.

During dialysis on Thursday, the song "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" came into my mind.  I have always loved the melody, and have heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing it several times.  I knew the lyrics, but not well.  I was going on the melody alone.  The song just wouldn't leave my thoughts.

Thursday and Friday I searched and searched for a good arrangement online.  I found several pieces arranged for voice, for piano and other adaptations, but none of them were right.  I finally found a songbook of pieces performed by Jenny Oaks Baker, a LDS violinist.  It had seven sacred pieces, including "Come Thou Fount."  I listened to her perform it on YouTube, and fell in love.

This morning, I realized that I hadn't really read the lyrics, so I looked them up online.  After reading them, I realized that there was a reason this song is the right one.  The lyrics are my grandpa's testimony.

1. Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

2. Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.

3. Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.

4. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.

I can't tell you how grateful I am for inspiration from my grandpa on choosing just the right song to honor him.  As I said before, after reading the lyrics, I KNOW that this is what he wants.  I hope to perform it next Saturday in a manner worthy of his love.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Giant Among Men

My Sweet Grandpa
The title of this blog gets overused.  A lot.  However, in this case, it fits the man I'm going to write about to a "t."

Last week, my grandpa suffered a pretty severe heart attack.  Luckily, my grandparents had recently moved closer to a great hospital in Provo, Utah and were able to get him there quickly.  They put a stent in his artery, and he was doing well.  So well, in fact, that they discharged him Friday and let him go home.

Early Saturday morning, he suffered a major stroke, and was once again transported to the hospital.  They tried several procedures to clear the blockage, but to no avail.  That evening he had another major stroke that left him paralyzed on one side of his body, and unable to swallow or talk.  My dad and grandma (along with other members of the family, I'm sure) decided that the best course of action to take would be to just keep him comfortable and let nature take it's course.

This has been hard news for me to take, and I've spent a lot of time over the past few days crying for my grandpa.  I love him so much.  When we first found out about the stroke, I told Gordon that I always wanted to marry someone just like my grandpa, and I know--without a doubt--that I did.  My grandpa is physically strong and has been a hard worker his entire life.  He worked in construction and was a plumber with his brothers in Southern California until the early 1980s, when he decided that he wanted to go back to school to become a seminary teacher.  I admired this so much.  He has a tremendous love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and has the most unshakable testimony of anyone I know.

My grandparents were married 63 years ago.  That's pretty amazing, especially by today's standards.  They have nine children and a zillion grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  (I say a "zillion" because I'm not completely sure how many they have...but it's a bunch!)  They have not always had an easy life.  It has been full of heartache, financial difficulties, children who have strayed, and illness, but through it all they have always had a deep and abiding love for each other.  He has always treated my grandma like a queen, and I don't ever recall hearing an unkind word from him towards her.

My sister called me last night around 2:30 a.m. and told me that he'd passed away.  My cousin Brian was with special for Brian.  Brian's dad, Tom  passed away several years ago, and I'm sure that Tom has been waiting patiently for my grandpa to come "home."  I can't think of a more appropriate person to be there when he left this life.

This is going to be a long blog, and it's meant mostly for I apologize in advance, but I wanted to share some memories of my grandpa.  Some are sacred to me, some may be a tad embellished (due to my addled mind), and some are just fun.  I'm sure I'll also add to this list as time goes on.
  • Sometime when I was young (I don't remember when,) my grandparents took me and my Aunt Sarah and Aunt Ruth on a road trip to the Grand Canyon to visit my Aunt Beth, who was working there.  On the way there, I became carsick and the only "receptacle" we had to catch my vomit was a Big Gulp cup.  I vomited and vomited until I filled the entire cup to the brim, and then I managed to stop, which was lucky for all of us!
  • My grandpa gives the best hugs of anyone in the entire world.  You feel like you're enveloped in strength and power.  I can't wait until I can have another hug.
  • When we were living in Southern California, my family was going through some hard times and we lived with my grandparents for a while.  I remember my grandpa coming home with a black and blue hand.  He said he'd been bitten by a black widow spider.  The funny thing to me at the time was that he didn't seem bothered by it at all, whereas I was completely freaked out by it!
  • My grandpa makes the most amazing oatmeal and toast.  We'd have it for breakfast just about every time we stayed at their house.  I can't remember which one would say it, but when the toast got burnt, either grandpa or grandma wouldn't complain--they'd simply say, "I love burnt toast."
  • When my grandparents moved from Garden Grove, CA to Fairview, UT, they were so excited to get away from California.  They bought a 5-acre parcel of land in a development called "Hideaway Valley."  I think the land cost them $5,000.  The first thing they did was invite the family out for a picnic and "shed raising" party.  They built a little shed, which took just a few hours, and that was their first improvement to the land.  My husband, in typical Gordon fashion, climbed on top of the shed and did a little jig. 
  • My grandpa knows more about the scriptures than anyone else I know.  He studied them diligently and knew the origins of words that were difficult to understand and could explain gospel principles so well.  I am sure that he is with other scriptural scholars right now, discussing important points of the gospel.  I can't think of anything he'd rather be doing right now.
  • About eight years ago, my grandparents were called on a mission to serve in Nauvoo, Illinois.  This is an important historical site in our church, as it was where the early members of our church were able to settle and find peace for a while.  Grandpa served as the area plumber and grandma worked in the various visitor sites.  I think at one point, she worked in the gunsmith shop, which is ironic considering I don't think either she or grandpa ever owned a gun.  The highlight of their mission, though, was performing in the musical productions.  My grandparents loved to sing, and I loved to hear them sing.  My grandma's beautiful soprano voice mixed with my grandpa's deep baritone made going to church with them so fun.  I'm positive that I got my love of music from them.
  • When he was a bit younger, my grandpa would wear Hawaiian shirts like the one below.  No one else could "rock" these shirts like grandpa!

  • Last year, when I was just beginning my kidney ordeal, I was at my sister's house in Utah with several members of my family.  I had asked my dad if he could give me a blessing of health, and my grandpa was there and able to assist.  Before the blessing, he told me that when I was sick as a child, he watched me suffer so much that he wondered if it was worth it for me to even go on living.  With tears in his eyes (and mine) he said that he now knew it was worth it when he looks at my loving husband and two amazing children.  That has sustained me throughout the trials I've had the last year and a half.
  • Last month, my brother Josh was married.  At the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, I saw my grandpa for what would be the last time.  With tears in his eyes (again...we Cobabes are criers!) he told me he wasn't even going to ask me how I was doing or when I'd have my transplant because he knew I was tired of answering.  He just hugged me and told me that he loved me and was praying for me.
  • Monday, as I was on my way to dialysis, I called my sister Michelle, who happened to be in grandpa's hospital room at the time. She told me that I could talk to grandpa using her speakerphone.  I wasn't really prepared for this, but I told him that I loved him so much and that I was glad he was at peace.  My dad (who was also there) told me that as I spoke to my grandpa, he was nodding and tears were in his eyes.  My dad said that one of the last things he asked before he was unable to speak was how I was doing, and when I'd be able to get my transplant.  That meant so much to me.  I told grandpa that I think I'm trying to set the world's record for the most tranplant delays.  My dad said that he thinks I was just waiting so that grandpa could be there with Michelle and I in the operating room, watching over us.  I know he'll be there taking care of us like he always has.
Several years ago, my grandpa wrote down his testimony of Jesus Christ, of the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ, and of the family and gave it to each one of us.  It is one of the most precious things I own.  I would like to add my testimony to his that I know that families are forever and that I will see my grandpa again.  I know that when I do, he will wrap me in his arms and tell me how proud he is of me and all that I've accomplished.  I know that he will be able to tell me that it's all been worth it.  I know that he will be there to show me the way, and will introduce me to our Savior.  I know that he is one of the strong and valiant beings and is one of our Father's most chosen spirits.  I am so happy for him that he is home at last.

I love you so much, grandpa.  See you soon!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Power of Music

This month's ward newsletter article:

A few weeks ago, my son came home from a shopping trip with his dad. He had some birthday money and purchased a couple of CDs that he was pretty excited about. After looking at one of the CDs, I asked his dad why he'd let him purchase this particular CD. I had not heard the music on it, but I knew that the language and subject matter was questionable, to say the least. My son assured me that he'd purchased the "clean" version of the CD, which meant that all of the bad language had been taken out.

He became pretty upset when I told him that I didn't want him to listen to that CD. He was mad that I wouldn't let him listen to a CD he had purchased with his own money. His dad and I told him that he had the choice to do what he wanted, but I wanted to let him know how I felt about this particular artist. We looked up the lyrics to one of the songs on the CD, and my husband told him that the song contained just about every swear word he knew. Even though the words were "bleeped" out, our mind still fills in the blank. This particular artist also degrades women and condones a lifestyle that is not becoming a priesthood holder.

Music is a very powerful tool--both for good and for evil. There is a reason why Primary children spend twenty minutes each Sunday learning songs. They contain gospel messages set to music that stay with us our entire lives. We may not remember a particular Sharing Time lesson, but we do remember the songs we learned in Primary.

Satan knows this truth, and uses it to teach his "lessons" as well. The popular songs on the radio today condone violence, promiscuity, drug and alcohol use and living an unclean life. Just like the songs we learn in Primary, the lyrics and messages of these songs stay with us. There is something about messages put to music that tend to stay in our memory a lot longer than words just spoken.

As a musician, I know how powerful music can be. I have been brought to tears by a Mozart aria or Beethoven sonata. Listening to good music can lift our spirits and help us feel better. Some of the moments in my life where I have felt the Spirit the most strongly is when I am really listening to music. I know that it was created by our Heavenly Father for His purposes.

As parents, I encourage you to be involved and aware of what your children are listening to. While music can "soothe the savage beast," it can also bring out the "beast" in your children and set them down the wrong path. I encourage my son to make sure that he is listening to music that would be acceptable if Christ were to walk in the room. If we use that as our standard, we will be sure that we stay true.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Light Bulb

Ian and I watched "Despicable Me" the other day.  He loves that movie, and I love listening to him laugh.  My childrens' laughter is my favorite sound in the whole world. 

Anyway, when Gru gets a great idea, he says--in a deadpan voice--, "Light bulb." 

I just had one of those moments.

I've spent a lot of time over the last 15 months wondering why all of this garbage has been happening to me.  "Why?" is a mantra that I can't seem to put aside. 

I'm a relatively good person.  I try to do what's right, I love my family, I am kind to others (well, unless they annoy me,) so why do I keep getting "blessed" with these trials?  Some people are ill as a result of the choices they make in their lives.  They have no one to blame but themselves for what they are going through.  For me, there seems to be no logical reason why I had cancer as a child and am now dealing with all of these late-term side effects.  I often think that it's just not fair...I had no say in the matter.

This morning, as I woke up, a thought came to me:

I did choose this.

Yep...I chose all of it.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  I know that as a child of God, I had a choice and a say in what would happen to me before I came to earth.  I know that I lived with Him, and we probably discussed my life.  I like to imagine that it would have been similar to the loving talks that my dad and I have.  He probably sat me down and told me that I'd get to come to earth and have wonderful, amazing experiences, but with that would also come some pretty significant trials.  He told me that if I can make it through these trials, I'd be a stronger person for it and that I'd be able to be more compassionate and understanding of others. 

I imagine that I was so anxious to get here that I told Him I'd take whatever came my way.  He promised me that in exchange for the hard times, I'd be blessed in so many other ways...most of them I'll never even fully realize.  In exchange for not being able to have children by myself, He blessed me with two amazing birth mothers who have given me the greatest gift anyone could ever give.  In exchange for being so ill this past year, he has blessed me with a greater love for my husband than I could have ever realized.

While, I'm sure I'll still have days where I ask why this has to happen to me, I'm grateful for this "light bulb" moment.  I know that it came from Someone who loves me very much.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's About Time!!

So, it's snowing, and when it's snowing my satellite doesn't work, so I can't watch TV.  This is probably a good thing.

You see, I've been meaning to write for a while, but for some reason I just don't do it.  Today I have no excuse...

It's been a rough week, but also a week of spiritual enlightenment and some tremendous surprise blessings.

February 1 I went to Mayo Clinic for a CT scan.  This scan would reveal just how well my new stent is doing and would (hopefully) clear me for transplant.  I had the scan, and then had an appointment with the vascular surgeon later in the day to hear the verdict. 

When I saw the surgeon, he didn't have the results, but wanted to get me the news, so he went to go and find the results himself.  When he came back to the room, he was beaming and said he had great news.  Everything looked great, and we could proceed with the transplant.  Gordon and I were so happy.

I called Michelle, and she called Mayo and told them we needed a date right away.  (Somehow, she manages to get answers when I can't...go figure.)  Within a day we had a surgery date of Friday, February 18.  That was so quick!  Last time we had to wait over a month.  We were pretty stoked, to say the least.

Soon, everyone knew and they were all thrilled and excited for me.  I kept saying that I'd be excited when the kidney is in and is working.  I just didn't want to get my hopes up too high, as I'd been let down before and it was more than a little hard.

Thursday, February 10 I went to Mayo again for my pre-surgery visits.  Everyone I met with was so excited for me and was so relieved that it would finally be done.  My nurse case manager even cried as we talked about the journey we'd been on together.  She said she knew I'd be a tough case, but that it would get done.

As I met with the transplant surgeon, he said that he'd need to check my Hepatitis B virus count one more time before surgery.  (Luckily, he was able to use the blood draw I'd had done earlier that morning.)  For some reason, this felt funny to me and I had a feeling it would mean trouble.  No one had checked my count since I'd been cleared for transplant the first time in October 2010.  (This was the first hurdle I had to overcome.) 

For some reason, somewhere along the way in my life I contracted Hepatitis B.  I can't be sure where, as I've been a "good girl" my entire life.  The one theory I have is that I got it from a blood transfusion when I had cancer in the late 1970s.  Three of my six siblings also have it, so I may have given it to them as well.  It's highly contagious and can live in outside the body for weeks. 

I saw a liver specialist when I was first worked up for a transplant at Mayo.  He said we'd need to get the viral count under control before I would be cleared for transplant.  He put me on a medication called Viread, which is an anti-viral medication.  I was on it for three months before my viral count was under control.  I was under the impression that once I was cleared, I wouldn't need to take the med anymore.  Boy, was I wrong. 

The blood test done on February 10 came back with a higher viral count than I'd ever had before.

I was on my way to what I thought was my last dialysis treatment when I got a call from my transplant nephrologist.  He gave me the bad news and I lost it.  (I feel kind of bad for sobbing in his ear, but I couldn't help it.)  I was crying so hard that I had to pull over to the side of the road until I could regain composure.  Through the next couple of phone calls--first from the liver specialist and then from my nurse case manager--I began to understand how dangerous having a transplant when the viral count was so high would be. 

Because I will be on immuno-suppression drugs after transplant, the HepB virus would have had a field day.  It would have taken over and could have potentially sent me into liver failure.  Not pleasant to think about.  The liver specialist apologized profusely, and said that somewhere we must have gotten our wires crossed.  Evidently, I'll be on this medication for the rest of my life, but this was not something I understood at the time.

I'll have a blood draw in three weeks, and then again in six weeks if the count isn't good the first time.  We have a tentative surgery date of April 13 if I have to wait the whole six weeks.  (I'm--of course--hoping for three!)

This week I've had some pretty incredible spiritual experiences.  Some were totally chatting with the medical assistant at my neurologist appointment.  She didn't know me, but looking at my chart, she said she believed I was chosen to have these trials because of who I was before I came here.  Pretty remarkable.  I had lunch with my good friend Gina, who has also had a tough year.  We were able to "compare notes" and realize that we were in the same place emotionally.  I've received cards, flowers and even some cute pajamas from people that love me.  Some relatives I haven't had contact with in several years sent us a card with $500.00 in it.  How did they know we were struggling to pay rent this month? 

There have been times the past 15 months that I've wondered if my Heavenly Father knows I'm here and that I'm struggling.  There have been many, many times when I've asked Him why I have to go through this.  Haven't I been through enough?  When will it be enough?  I spoke with my dad this week, and we just both got angry at the prospect of this never ending. 

I know that the one thing that has sustained me through this trial is my faith.  I am so grateful for the knowledge I have that this WILL end.  I am grateful to know that when this life is over, I will have a perfect body.  I don't even know what if feels like to feel "normal."  How wonderful will that be! 

I am grateful for my family.  I am grateful for a sister who is so willing to give up part of her so that I can be healthy again.  I am grateful for a husband who has been with me, holding my hand every step of the way.  I am grateful for my kids who understand when I don't feel well.  I am grateful for my parents who love me and made the decision to save my life when I was too young to make it for myself.  We all had no idea at the time what life would hold for me, but I'm grateful that they gave me the chance to find out.