Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
This was great food for thought for me.
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Friday, March 18, 2011
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011
It took us a bit of time to get through our college years, but boy! was it ever a wonderful journey! Brad graduated with a degree in Jazz Music Composition then spent the summer SCUBA diving. In Utah. I know – hard to wrap your mind around that, isn’t it … diving in Utah. He got certification upon certification and by the end of the summer was a legit, PADI Dive Instructor. Trevor had just turned 5 and Halloween night after trick-or-treating we gathered as a family of 3 and made the decision to accept the job offer on Guam. I was due to deliver our 2nd child in December and we committed to be in Guam the first of January. I’m a pretty protective mom, so Brooke was 10 months old before I agreed to leave the kids with a sitter. This first date with Brad in nearly a year was on a warm, tropical night – on board the Sea Odyssey. Brad had worked for the company as a dive guide and Japanese-speaking dive instructor and was excited to take me out for the company dive party. Problem was – I didn’t dive. I never understood the draw. I stuck on a mask and regulator at a lake in Utah once, poked my head in and saw pretty much nothing. So there was never a burning desire to dive for me. But we did spend a few afternoons as a family on the beach once we were on Guam and I donned a mask and snorkel and saw that there really is a whole new world under the sea. It was gorgeous. Yes! I could learn to love visits under the water! So this night out, Brad asked me if I would please dive with him. Everyone would be diving, and it would be good for him with the company if I dove too. Plus, he had been trying to talk me into diving since we arrived in the tropics. It was a typically warm, muggy night – made comfortable by the ocean breeze. Everyone but the captain was in the water and Brad was helping me climb into the gear. Strapping my tank onto the BC, Brad went over the steps again: “Use your right hand to cover your mask and regulator, and cover your weight belt with your left hand. I’ve checked your tank and the air is turned all the way on. Now when you do the giant stride off the boat, look straight ahead and really make it a giant stride. It’s safer that way, I’ll be right there. You won’t go too far down before floating back up to the top. I’ll be right there – and we’ll go down together.” I understood what he was saying, but it was dark. And deep. And did I say it was dark? One big splash and Brad was in the water – I stood alone on the deck, just 3 feet above the surface. I knew I couldn’t make Brad beg to get me to jump in – the captain was the owner of the company and it just wouldn’t look good. So I scooched to the edge of the deck, focused straight ahead on nothing, covered my mask and regulator with my right hand and my weight belt with my left, thought “Brad wouldn’t ask me to do anything that would make me die”, then stretched my leg straight out in a perfect giant stride, held my breath, and plunged. Deep. Well, it felt deep. I think I even closed my eyes. So I wasn’t sure that I had even surfaced when I heard Brad trying to get my attention. “I’m going to let the air out of your BC and we’ll go down together. Keep your eyes on me as we go down and give me the ok sign whenever I ask you for it. If you absolutely have to come up, don’t shoot to the top – just give me the signal and we’ll go up. Ready?” I don’t remember telling him I was ready, but I do remember breathing out of my regulator and feeling relief that he really did turn on the air. Down we went, and I focused on Brad’s eyes and popping my ears and tried to ignore the vast blackness around me. Brad held my hand through the entire dive – his other hand holding the flashlight. He would aim the flashlight in different directions, but I just focused on Brad. We were only minutes into the dive when I motioned for us to go up. Wordlessly Brad communicated that I was ok and that we should continue. I kept thinking that as long as Brad had my hand, I was fine. He would keep me safe. Eventually I was so insistent that Brad took me to the surface. Brad has always been so in tune with directions and distance. He knew if we surfaced there we would have quite a swim back to the boat, but he acquiesced anyway. When we broke through the surface he inflated my BC and had me lie on my back. As Brad towed me back to the boat he talked about all the magnificent things “we” saw. Fish of all kinds, eels, shellfish that only come out at night, and on and on. I wondered where he had been! I didn’t see a thing – only Brad’s eyes and the blackness all around me.
I had plunged into the dark. And with that plunge I broke through my fears: My fear of leaving the kids, my fear of darkness, my fear of being blanketed in water. And what a blessing that plunge into the darkness was! Just 2 days later I left the kids with a friend and spent the day on the water with Brad and diving tourists.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
I hadn't seen Brad in 3 weeks ... And I hadn't traveled out of state for SO long.
(photo from Alaska Marine Highway System)
To leave Sitka one must either ferry or fly ... It's pricey, so was an exciting, major event for our family for any of us to leave. So the night before I left, my kids all had a blast picking out clothes for me. I remember being so happy that they found something to be excited about, but so incredibly fatigued that if I had to try on even one more thing I thought I might just collapse. Really, truly. Brad and I met up at baggage claim in Seattle and went directly to the Neurology Offices adjoining the hospital.
(photo from Virginia Mason Medical Center)
The verbal assessment was similar to what occurred in Sitka - I found it funny that they asked, at both places, "are you tired?" ... My response: "of course I'm tired, I'm a mother of 5".
(picture from google images)
I honestly thought that every mother experienced fatigue the way I had. When I look back on that now and remember that very unique tiredness, I am surprised that in itself didn't send me to the doctor. It is an indescribable fatigue. Anyway, even in the amount of time I was sitting in the doctor's office, my symptoms increased. He admitted me to the hospital with plans for further testing the next day. I felt such relief when I climbed into the hospital bed and could at last rest!
I don't know how Brad slept that night, but I was too tired to be scared. When the doc came in for a morning visit and to let us know of the schedule for the day, we quizzed him about what the possibilities were. A tumor on my spine, MS, some other nerve disorder ... I don't know why, but I suspected it was a tumor and all I would need was a day of surgery. Blood tests, neurological tests, strength tests - then finally an MRI. If you've never had an MRI, but find yourself needing one, don't be fooled when they say "it might be a little noisy". OH MY WORD ... I'm not easily frightened, but the noise scared the tar out of me! One moment it sounds like you're in a war zone, the next it sounds like you're at the wrong end of a jack hammer ... It is AWFUL. So when they offer you head phones with your choice of music, take it - but don't expect to really hear the music.
(photo from threepeb.com)
That afternoon the doctor came in, sat down, and said "you have lesions on your brain and on your spine consistent with Multiple Sclerosis" ... And thus our journey began.
(part 4 coming tomorrow)
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Saturday, March 5, 2011
Mid-July Trevor’s mission call came. He would be serving in the Russia Samara mission and was scheduled to enter the Mission Training Center in October. The timing was perfect – he would be able to finish out tour season as a kayaking guide and save enough money to support himself for the next two years.
Brad was away on a boat delivery on July 24th. That morning a friend was over and her 2-year-old little girl started following after a dog near our yard. I stood up from the lawn chair to run after her and my legs refused my orders. They wouldn’t run. That night there was a big potluck party at our church. Always the kid, I climbed into a potato sack with the intent of showing those kids a thing or two. Again, my legs refused my orders and as the crowd cheered and kids hopped along, I climbed out of the sack, now truly concerned.
I believe in the power of prayer. I also believe in Priesthood blessings. I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (you might better know us as “Mormons”) We believe the Priesthood is the power to act in the name of God, and that holders of the Priesthood can bestow blessings of healing from God on anyone who requests this – members and non-members alike. I asked my son and the local missionaries if they would give me a blessing while we were at the church. We entered a classroom, which became a sacred place as hands were placed on my head and the blessing pronounced. The blessing offered comfort as well as advice. Among other things, I was told that this illness was temporary; that through this experience of mine, other people’s faith would grow; that I would be able to know that Heavenly Father is in charge; that I should share my experience and through sharing it, faith would grow; that I would be able to see this not as a stumbling block, but as an opportunity for growth and learning. One thing that really stood out was that even though I was suffering, this was not all about me. In retrospect, I cannot tell you how many times I reflected on those words and found comfort in them, as well as the ability to be joyful through the experience. For some reason, it seems that the things life throws us are easier to deal with when we know we’re doing it for someone else. It was this Priesthood blessing that sustained me through the next few days of diagnosis, the next few weeks of increasing symptoms, and the next three years of pain and hardship.
I arranged for rides home for the kids and drove myself over to the community hospital. I love Sitka. It’s a town of just under 9,000 and is just like a gigantic family.
... to be continued ~ part 3 tomorrow ...
Three years earlier our family got into local television.