5-6 weeks ago I couldn’t read or respond to almost anything written. Texts, cards, emails, voicemails, communication through special apps went unread and unresponded to for weeks. I apologize for all the messages that slipped through the cracks of that time. After docs found leukemia had infiltrated my brain, and that it caused nerve problems, I could no longer open my left eye, hence the lack in response. It was too hard to focus. Radiation was scheduled with the intent to reverse the damage, both to my eye, drooping face, and other parts of my left side. Unfortunately the week of radiation brought no changes, during or shortly after (which is what they had predicted), Docs had told me prior to the radiation that it was designed to help with the nerve damage, but not cure the disease. And so, for the first time, with his head in his hands, I heard one of my oncologists tell me — we have nothing left for you.
I must have been in a strange form of shock because I don’t remember a lot of this time period. I just knew they were sending me home to die, and as I began realizing it, I couldn’t seem to say more than 2 words to anyone without losing it. I was told I had weeks, not months to live.
So we went home. There were balloons, signs, decorations outside, and a hospital bed all set up inside with more decor and love. I felt so loved, but still somewhat in shock. Luckily I was able to sleep that night. I woke up and things were better. People started visiting, and I remember crying a lot. I think I was confused, but knew deep down it was okay. If all I knew was that Heavenly Father had a plan, and that the Savior was real, I could survive another day. But it was hard to feel at peace all the time.
Fast forward several weeks. While glancing at my phone once, I noticed I could read it. I tried reading texts, responding, checking voicemails and other messages. Sure enough, I could do it! I realized that my good right eye, unbeknownst to me, had become a “stronger” eye in the last few weeks. It was working
double time so I could see finer things with clearer vision. Wow. What a champ!
It was at this time that I realized other things had changed too. Well, I guess the first thing to mention was that I WAS STILL ALIVE, and doing remarkably well. I went to a movie with my family and felt good about that, went out to eat… again…and again… and again. My appetite and digestive habits were all good. I was connecting with lots of people, I was working on projects with people. My bishop in Hyde Park extended a calling to work with the Young Women. I was living! All the while, of course there had been thoughts of a possible miracle, an unexpected cure, or a healing through God’s power. But it was difficult to put all my eggs in that basket given the fact that I was sent home to die, and probably should have been gone before New Year’s. I thought of miracles wrought by God in the past, with prophets and the many, many miracles Christ performed while on Earth. I knew He could do it. I knew He had the power, even today, and even with me. Thus began the perplexing discussions with so many about faith, God’s will, what we should pray for and more. My family and I prayed to know what to do and how to recognize God’s will. We fasted. I was even able to attend the temple for a cousin’s first endowment (first time going through the temple), and felt that was a miracle to be able to go.
Somehow through this perplexing process, I realized that the Lord, in His mercy, had allowed me to work quickly through (because I couldn’t have done it on my own) the typical grief process. As I got up to live my life each day, I began realizing I was at peace and acceptance with the idea of passing on. But I was also at peace with a miracle that would allow me to stay – even it meant work, possible suffering, and a hard road ahead. Instead of picking one option and praying solely for that, I decided I would just walk the path — The Gospel Path, the Straight and Narrow, whatever you’d like to call it. I decided that as I walked this path, whatever God wanted for me would be waiting on that path, as long as I moved forward seeking to live my best.
So I did. Each day became a celebration of life, of people, and finding joy in simple things. As weird as it might sound, I’ve had the privilege of helping plan things regarding my funeral, written my will, signed important “end of life” documents, etc. I’ve learned so much more about the Spirit World, and how incredible it is. And yet, my body seems intent on trying to blaze it’s own trail by evading doctor’s predictions. Although I have had some pains here and there, I am by no means in “constant” pain, I’m not on hospice. I get tired, but I take naps. I’m not on oxygen all the time – only at night. One day I noticed my left arm (that previously couldn’t reach above my elbow), was now suddenly lifting above my head. Through the means of the right resources, I now sleep consistently. (True miracles involved there) A massage therapist worked on a terrible bruise (I get lots of those with low platelets) in a way I didn’t think was that special, but miraculously helped alleviate pain and provided healing that I know wasn’t there before. (I am fast becoming a regular there…) And just 2 days ago I woke up and my left eye was trying to open. It now can, only partway, and not totally focused with the other one, but hey – it opened, on it’s own!
So what is next? GREAT QUESTION! Could I still pass away within days to weeks? Yes, I could. Could something happen, if it be God’s will, to allow me to stay and accomplish other missions on earth? Yes, it could.
Bottom line? None of us have our future nailed down, but if you’re on the gospel path, and you’re adding drops to your bucket a little at a time – your reservoir of faith will grow and be ready for any perplexing (favorite word of this blog, ha!) situation, In my situation, I may stay, or I may go. But it’s a win, win. I am at complete peace with either option. Either option at some point will be waiting for me along the path and I won’t be afraid to pick it up and go with it. It’s because of this whole process. This time, believe it or not, has become precious. I have connected and loved and laughed and cried with some of the best people God put on Earth. Lesson learned: PEOPLE MATTER. I’ve been lifted by way of sincere prayers, sweeter and sweeter visits, priesthood blessings, celebrating through food, entertainment, attempts to serve, shopping, and even going to the IV lab (where the nurses are as sweet as the free Diet Coke). Lesson learned: FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO, NOT ON WHAT YOU CAN’T.
Dear friends and family, I think you all know this stuff. But I think it’s important lastly, knowing however long or short I have, that I simply share what I know..
I know the Plan of Salvation is real. There is a lot of greatness waiting for us should we pass on. I know God is a God of miracles, and if He wants to provide a miracle of any kind, He can if He wills it. I know life is short and the best we can do with our time is come to know God through prayer and study. I know as we come to really know God and gain a sense of His love for us, we will look to others. We won’t just want to help and love them because we pity them, or because we feel obligated to do some service – we’ll love them up – to where they’re our real friends. Grief can be sweet. Especially because of where it ends up. Jesus Christ lives. Because He lives, there will be no eternal losses – only wins. He is at work today. He’s invited me to join Him. He’s invited you. It really doesn’t matter if it’s from this side or the other – with Him, we win.