Monday, June 15, 2015

Chemo Complete

So, for over a year now this chemo has been taking up residence at our house.  5 days a month for 12 months.  Originally the Dr. told Scott that he'd do 6-12 rounds of chemo, depending on if he could handle it.  Not only did he do all twelve rounds, but managed to be on the max dosage he could for most rounds.  And Scott handled all twelve rounds with courage and strength.  It was exhausting.  It was nauseating.  It was hard.  But he did it.  And I'm so happy to say that chemo won't be a part of our lives anymore.  Hopefully for a long time.  SO thankful for this medicine, but glad to be parting ways for now.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

He Lives!

Well, it's been a year.  I know, it's been a while since I've written an update on Scott and how life with cancer is going.  The truth is that for quite a while things have pretty much stayed the same.  Even though limbo is not my favorite place to be, nothing bad has happened, and for that I am thankful.

Since my last update, Scott has had multiple MRIs, all of which have come back clean.  We are so thankful that he hasn't had any regrowth or cause for concern with those.  He has continued taking the chemo once a month, and he only 3 rounds left.  We are SO excited for him to be done with chemo, and can't wait to celebrate when it's over.  Though Scott has handled the chemo extremely well, the last couple rounds he has been experiencing some nausea and the exhaustion is still a tough battle the week he is taking it.

Scott has still been making improvements with the language deficits from his brain surgery last year. While he has made huge strides of improvements, it is still difficult for him to read, and he still has word finding difficulty from time to time.  It's been a very slow process for him to regain those skills, but I am so incredibly proud of him.  When I reflect over the past year, I really feel so inspired by Scott.  I don't think I mentioned this previously, but when Scott woke up from his surgery last year, he could barely even say a word.  The nurses continued to ask Scott questions the first couple days after his surgery to try to get him talking, and he couldn't even tell them Lydia's name that first day.  I can't even begin to express how thankful I am for his progress over the past year and that he is where he is today.  To go from not being able to talk at all to reading, writing, and speaking almost normally is amazing to me.  And I've got to say, as difficult as it has been to watch the person I love the most go through something like this, it has been one of the most humbling and inspiring things I have ever witnessed.  The fails, the successes, the hard work, and determination through the slow progress have left me so inspired by the man I married.  He's a keeper.

Back in December, Scott and I decided that it would be best for him to quit his PhD.  It was not an easy decision to make, but we feel that it is the right one for now.  It was hard to let go of all the hard work Scott had put into his schooling and the goal he had of completing it.  However, cancer has changed our perspective on a lot of things.  We decided we wanted to stay in Utah (if possible) close to our families, close to Huntsman, and hopefully find Scott a low(er) stress job than that of a PhD. Also, Scott has lost a year of working towards his PhD.  It would take a couple more years to finish it at this point, and he is going to run out of funding in August.

Because of this decision, in January I went back to work 20 hours a week in my office, and Scott has been staying on for 20 hours a week in his lab, still working for Dr. Smith. It's been an adjustment not to be at home with the kids full time, but it's been a good balance for me.  Again, we have been so blessed to have understanding bosses who have allowed us flexibility with our situation.  Scott has also started looking around at jobs and companies he would like to work for.  He's applied and interviewed for a few, but no offers yet.  He's not sure he's quite ready to take on a job while he's still working through his aphasia, but I think it's great that he's researching and putting himself out there. We don't know how timing will work out, but hopefully Scott can get to a place this year where he's comfortable with starting a job and have a little more stability.  So we wait, and hope.

Emotionally, I feel like we're starting to get to a place where we've accepted this trial, and we're going to do the best we can to live it, brain cancer and all.  It's still hard though, and some days it's a painful reality knowing how fragile life is when you know it really could be taken any time. Even though none of us know what is going to happen or what trials we're going to face, it's nice to be able to feel like you have to power to make all your hopes and dreams come true.  I'm doing my best to stay positive and grounded, but some days I really miss that feeling like we have our whole lives ahead of us, and our potential was limitless.  I always pictured Scott getting a solid job with all his hard work and education, buying a nice home, and having more kids (even though right now I feel maxed out with 2... ha ha).  It's hard not to focus on the obstacles we face when Scott's aphasia has left him with deficits that make it hard to land a job (and fear of being able to keep one), financially buying a home is hard when we don't have the long-term financial stability to take on a mortgage, and 12 rounds of chemo has left us wondering if we'll ever be able to have kids of our own again.  More and more, I feel like I'm learning the power of the Atonement, particularly the hope it brings. Sometimes, your present trials and circumstances can make you feel hopeless, but I know that because of the Savior, there is always hope, and no matter what your circumstances you can be happy and the future can be bright.

There are so many things I am learning through this trial, but lately I've been reflecting a lot on a talk by Elder Bednar, entitled, "That We Might 'Not ...Shrink.'".  When we found out last year that Scott has cancer, there were multiple people who passed this talk along to us, and it taught me some valuable things that I hadn't ever thought about before.  One thing in particular I'm learning more about is faith.  I think so many of us focus on this aspect of faith:

"There are two kinds of faith. One of them functions ordinarily in the life of every soul. It is the kind of faith born by experience; it gives us certainty that a new day will dawn, that spring will come, that growth will take place. It is the kind of faith that relates us with confidence to that which is scheduled to happen. … There is another kind of faith, rare indeed. This is the kind of faith that causes things to happen. It is the kind of faith that is worthy and prepared and unyielding, and it calls forth things that otherwise would not be. It is the kind of faith that moves people. It is the kind of faith that sometimes moves things. … It comes by gradual growth. It is a marvelous, even a transcendent, power, a power as real and as invisible as electricity. Directed and channeled, it has great effect. …"
-Boyd K. Packer

I know I've always focused on this side of faith.  The side that causes things to happen.  There are countless stories and experiences of the power of faith, prayers, fasting, and priesthood blessings that have caused great and amazing things to happen.  But, do we also have the faith that shows so much trust in Heavenly Father, that we submit to his will, and accept when the things we want to happen don't?  

Going back to Elder Bednar's talk, he tells the story of a young couple, where the husband was diagnosed with cancer.  In one instance, Elder Bednar visits the couple and describes his thoughts as he asked them these questions:

  "'...Do you have the faith not to be healed? If it is the will of our Heavenly Father that you are transferred by death in your youth to the spirit world to continue your ministry, do you have the faith to submit to His will and not be healed?'

I frankly was surprised by the questions I felt prompted to ask this particular couple. Frequently in the scriptures, the Savior or His servants exercised the spiritual gift of healing (see 1 Corinthians 12:9;D&C 35:946:20) and perceived that an individual had the faith to be healed (see Acts 14:93 Nephi 17:8D&C 46:19). But as John and Heather and I counseled together and wrestled with these questions, we increasingly understood that if God’s will were for this good young man to be healed, then that blessing could only be received if this valiant couple first had the faith not to be healed. In other words, John and Heather needed to overcome, through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, the “natural man” (Mosiah 3:19) tendency in all of us to demand impatiently and insist incessantly on the blessings we want and believe we deserve."

It's been a year of growing and stretching to places I never thought possible, but I'm still learning to overcome the 'natural man.'  Some days I'm not sure I have the faith strong enough if it turns out God's will is for Scott not to be healed.  But, I'm trying, and my hope is that I'll get there.  Right now, I'm just trying to celebrate each milestone of accomplishment, each inch towards figuring out where we're heading, and just how we're going to get there.  Most importantly, I'm focusing every day on the fact that the Savior lives.  He understands fully and completely the challenges we have faced and will face in the coming months and years.  I'm so thankful for this Easter season, and this time that we celebrate the Savior's resurrection.  The fact that he lives again, and overcame death gives me so much hope and reminds me that the power of the Savior's Atonement is limitless.  Miracles do happen. He lives!