Following are excerpts from Andrea's journal. I'll continue to add entries as I have time.
Then when we thought we finally had some wonderful news—a baby on the way—that proved to be untrue. I went in to the doctor but never really felt quite right. Thankfully, I have my doctor from two years ago who knew my history of the molar pregnancy. He has been on this diligently and discovered that I have two tumors in my lungs that are diagnosed as gestational trophoblastic disease. . . .
I then had to have some CT scans done of my chest, abdomen, and pelvic which was pretty frightening or could have been had I not been blessed again. This time the scriptures guided me (with the help of the Holy Spirit). I read in John 14:27 that morning which says, “let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid.” That meant a lot to me. Later that night for our family scripture read, we were at that very scripture. As I waited and then had the CT scan those words kept coming to me and I felt peace.
Our next obstacle was the day after the
. . . I have seen so much love in the last few weeks. Caleen phoned me just minutes after the doctor had called. I am always amazed at her intuition with me. When I told her she said only positive, wonderful spiritual advice and then promised to fast and ask my friends in our Sugarhouse ward to fast and pray for me. After I talked with her, Dorothy Saley (R.S. pres. in Sugarhouse and surrogate grandmother to me) phoned. Dorothy said, “Andrea, I love you! I’m going to put your name in the temple this morning. Never give up.” She has always been so dear to me. What a blessing to have moved and made so many friends. I feel very fortunate.
I just heard that the methotrexate isn’t controlling the trophoblastic tissue in my lungs. Tomorrow I will find out what the next step is. I was so positive going in to the blood tests that I’m shocked and upset right now. I still believe that I will be healed and I think that I knew in my heart that I was going to need chemotherapy before this was all over. There is virtue in patience and gaining experience. I have learned already that I want to live. My heart aches to live and be able to better myself and do righteous and good things. I believe that Heavenly Father wanted me to see how precious and valuable this Earthly life is and how to trust Him. I know that He is watching out for me. I really do know this.
So, today I learn to once again give my cares and sorrows to my Savior and let Him heal me. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27.
Sitting in the doctor’s office yesterday and listening to all that was in store for me including a chest tube / catheter to avoid numerous IV’s was overwhelming and numbing. I went into the bathroom and asked myself how I would be able to do this. The question was answered once again that Heavenly Father has given us a Savior to carry our burdens and make them light. I didn’t know what strength I would have to help me go in and get the Hickman (chest tube) put in; the thought of pain alarmed me. What a blessing it turned out to be. The nurse was so funny and the doctor was a Harvard man so we spent the procedure talking about
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Thankfully, Heavenly Father is helping me learn self-control and control over my thoughts. I don’t even feel like a victim which I have been prone to do in the past. There really are choices to make in any situation and thinking positively is one of them. I love D&C 68:6 which reads, “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and be not afraid, for I the Lord am with you and will stand by you. And ye shall bear record that I am Jesus Christ, son of the living God, and that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.” I love the idea that not only avoid fear, but actually be of good cheer. I also love that as we do this and learn that Jesus is standing by us, then we will be prepared to bear our testimonies to His truth. I know this because I see His presence everywhere. He is answering the desires of my heart while refining me. How blessed I feel and how able I am to face the next few months knowing that I can choose to be of good cheer and have the Savior at my side.
I’ve had so many opportunities to profess God’s hand in my life this past month. Again I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to share good cheer and a hope in our Savior. He has not forgotten me. My burdens have been made easy to bear just like King Limhi’s Nephites and Alma the elder and the Nephites in the wilderness. Don’t pray to have no tribulations; pray to bear them well.
People have been so good to me. I’m very grateful to know how loved and cared for I am. It seems almost unreal that I should be blessed so much.
Today I was able to go to church and bear my testimony to my ward. How wonderful to testify of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. I couldn’t stay home when I wanted so badly to show my gratitude to Heavenly Father. It did wipe me out and we ended up going home after sacrament meeting. Still, I’m grateful we went. I have felt so much love and support that it almost seems like I’m cheating. I keep thinking, or rather people keep noting how happy I am and how they could never be so strong. I promise you that God is giving me strength and joy. I am just feeling the pleasure that He is choosing to give me. God’s grace is overwhelming and abundant and there if we let Him love us. I may never fully understand how come I got this opportunity to feel His tremendous love, but actually, as I wrote that I know why. I needed Him and He loves me. Heavenly Father loves each of us. That is life’s theme. Jesus is our Savior for that very reason—love.
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I even think that losing my hair will be all right. What a fun opportunity—albeit out of necessity—to experiment with short and no hair. I may uncover some incredible new me!
[H]ow do I repay all of the prayers and fasts and good deeds gone unnoticed? Heavenly Father will reward everyone who has come to my side. That much I know.
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Jesus understands our hurts, our fears, our triumphs and knows how to comfort us. Let Him!
The R.S. presidency met tonight at my house. We had such a wonderful time reminding each other how valuable we are. I love meeting and feeling good and uplifted. I feel so strongly that I am in the best calling for me right now.
It is such a peaceful evening right now. The kids are in bed and Alan is getting ready quietly somewhere. I’m reminded how glorious my life is.
It’s still daytime but my heart is so full of the Spirit that I just had to write my thoughts down. Heavenly Father keeps blessing me in so many unexpected ways that I’m nearing the unbearable joy the scriptures refer to:
Ainsley wrote a response to my email yesterday saying that she wants to come visit. What a wonderful gift from God that is. Renewing old friendships and perhaps sharing the Savior’s love is such a treat for me.
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Always remember this day and what lies ahead—eternity in everything we do. Man I love life!
When I came home, we checked the mail and found a package from Cami and Mark. She bought me some candy and inspirational tapes and then lent me some of her famous hats. I will love being able to wear a bit of Cami if I lose my hair. That was very thoughtful and really meant a lot to me.
Alan was very kind tonight. He’s done so much for me this past month. I’m starting to take his kindness for granted and I really mustn’t do that.
Cheri and Mom sent the greatest care packages that arrived today. Mom included a video for the kids, a book and two warm fleece jacket shirts. Cheri sent three wonderful hats and a great pair of pajamas. I’m so grateful for their thoughtfulness.
I began losing my hair. The shock is not too bad. . . . I must admit that despite my strength and positive attitude, I feel sad and scared mostly of the reactions of others. That is why I need to do this; to worry only about what God feels and no one else. This will be a bit more refining for me. What a blessing that I can go through all of this with Heavenly Father and Jesus to comfort me. I can’t imagine how anyone faces an experience like this alone.
In the waiting room, there was the sweetest little baby maybe a month to two months old. She was so sweet stretching as her mom tried to change positions; it was an exhibit of how much I love babies. The sadness has hit tonight that we are beyond babies.
I need to serve more and extend myself in every way possible right now because service allows me to change my focus. Charity and love are the answer.
Tonight I see more clearly. My heart is changing through all of my treatments and struggles. I’m becoming purer and more submissive. I feel differently—my hardened heart is finally softening. All of this because I’ve been tried and tested for longer than a week.
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Also, I was seeking for a sign—a miracle. Even though it wasn’t for anyone else, I wanted a miracle for me. Elder Oaks reminds us that testimonies are not firmly planted by signs and miracles, but by the assurances of the Holy Ghost. My miracle is occuring—my heart is turning to God! What a great gift! I hadn’t realized how truly far I had strayed (until tonight) and how much closer I’ve returned.
September 4, 2001
Alan said something that has stayed with me: I mentioned that I had been prepared to bear my testimony to the nurses and doctors to let them know that God is healing me and that perhaps this is an opportunity to share the gospel; Alan then said that if all of this is part of a great miracle that may change lives spiritually then “it is a privilege to be a part of it.” That idea really made me think; if I could step out of all of this with eternal perspective and could see that someone would draw closer to Heavenly Father would I be a part of that plan? I would. Then I thought of my patriarchal blessing which says that I promised many in the spirit world that I would teach them the gospel here on Earth and that they would find me so that I would be able to keep that promise. What if this is one of those opportunities? I certainly can see myself signing up for cancer if it meant that someone I loved would find the gospel.
It is difficult but necessary to understand that God is in control. We either let Him lead us or we fight His will making our lives more difficult. In the end, God’s will succeeds, so why fight it? It helps if we can remember that there is a divine mission—a goal for everyone and we each have individual roles to play in this mission. I want to do my part.
The sun is shining through the clouds. The children are playing in the living room (probably eating candy). Life goes on for all of us. Each day the sun rises and we must get up out of bed and put our feet on the floor. I pray for the strength and courage to do that.
I began to see how much my faith is growing and how important that is when seeking Heavenly Father’s help. I guess that I should explain how I feel like I’ve walked through another “room” (another phase) of faith; I’ve improved. I genuinely want only God’s will and will do all I can to keep that desire. I know He can do anything . . . and will if it is best. So, this morning I began also to be grateful for my faith. Then the tears began to flow because I saw how this year has made me a better person and how I am truly changing. My heart was so full of love and gratitude to Heavenly Father; He loves me enough to help me change. I came very close this morning to feeling once again that “my joy was full.” It’s a marvelous feeling to have so much joy that your physical body becomes unable to bear the emotion.
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I began to see that I am learning how to enjoy life. . . . How awful that I have spent a lifetime bemoaning life and only seeing the negative. I’m excited to see how beautiful life is. So I began thanking Heavenly Father for this realization this morning. He has wanted me all along to reach this point. There may be more yet to learn, but this morning I knew that I had been meant to reach this point. I just knew so clearly as if I had read it in a text book.
Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to bear my testimony. I spoke of gratitude and how being grateful leads to pure joy. I took the opportunity to thank the ward members for all of their acts of service. They truly have served us well.
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I feel pretty emotional today. There are so many bad habits that I have to overcome. I feel frustrated that I’m not more in control of my emotions; I let myself be bad and found excuses for my behavior. I need to remember that I will change “line upon line” and to find strength in my continual efforts to improve. The atonement is for this very purpose—to allow us the opportunity to begin fresh each time as long as our hearts are sincere and dedicated. I do want so desperately to be better.
I feel sad tonight and I’m not sure why since the past while I have felt such peace and joy from my Father in Heaven. Maybe this is a reminder that I must constantly seek my Savior’s help since the adversary desires to “sift [me] as wheat.” How real the battle between good and evil has been in my life. I look forward to the day when I have some rest.
Today is a wonderfully rainy day. Sometimes I love these stormy days because I feel so safe and warm inside. Days like this also encourage thoughtfulness; it's wonderful to just look out the window and ponder the great questions of the day. I also love cleaning so that I can sit in a comfortable home as I think. I'm excited to clean the house this morning. Everyone is gone so I can have the surprise of a clean house when they come home. I hope to be fast enough to have time to make cookies for everyone as well. Little things like this mean so much to us.
I am finding peace in repenting and obeying God's commandments. I am determined to live worthy of the Spirit. Gratitude is also such an important role. It is hard to feel peace if you don't feel grateful.
We're still preparing for Char's b-day. I'm excited for her and hope that she enjoys her "golden" birthday.
I am almost finnished reading the Old Testament. It has been wonderful and eye-opening. I never appreciated how great a prophet and man Daniel was. I fell in love with Esther again. What wonderful examples. What a treat to learn of more righteous men and women. I really do love the scriptures.
Today is Mother's Day. It's a beautiful, sunny day. Char is sick today. Yesterday she had a fever of 103 and was pretty miserable. Thankfully, she didn't get sick until Saturday, the day after her birthday party. Her gold b-day was a great one. We had a wonderful party--Amazing Race and water fight w/ tractor. Then one of her friends stayed the night.
Bryn also spent the night at a friend's house--his first time. He was a trooper.
By the way, we gave
Alan and Kendal and Bryn went to church while Char and I stayed home. I've really enjoyed being able to take care of her. Being a mom is such a wonderful gift. I'm so grateful to have another day with my dear family.
Thursday, May 16, 2002
Andrea wasn't writing in her journal often at this point, so I'll fill in some blanks. Andrea’s HCG count was reported at 397. She was sad and didn’t want to go to
From my journal: "The kids had their last day of school today. Andrea picked them up and went shopping for shoes in town. Tonight they’re sleeping in
From my journal: "Andrea was gone all day at Young Women’s meetings, visiting with Amy, and shopping. She grilled on the barbecue for the third day in a row."
Not much to offer here. I spent the afternoon home teaching and then played cards with
Last Thursday my HCG was 397. Dr. Laurie pretty much has given up and wants me to go to SLC for a bone marrow transplant and heavy chemo. The decision I face now is whether to go to camp now or to leave for SLC this week. (Camp being YW Girls Camp.) On paper it seems like such an easy answer—go to SLC as soon as possible. For some reason I can’t let go of the idea of going to camp. I’m praying to know what I should do. Really, I want to only do Heavenly Father’s will; I just absolutely need to know it.
Yesterday, Amy, Kendal and I went to visit some of the inactive young women in the ward. It was so similar to being missionaries. I really felt Heavenly Father blessed me with my desire to serve a mission. I loved it.
Then, last night Susan Gill phoned to tell me that she may be dying. Her body is shutting down and the doctors can’t seem to find the problem. I first met Susan as her visiting teacher. I knew right away that she is definitely one of the friends I promised in Heaven to find and teach the gospel. I feel it so clearly. My heart ached for her last night because I feel as though I’ve failed her. . . . I have tried but what could I have done more? I have loved her and shared my testimony. Maybe there is more to the picture than I see.
From my journal:
I looked through our insurance plan last night before bed and learned that none of the bone marrow transplant costs would be insured, including the chemotherapy. Andrea called the insurance company and they confirmed that. The girl Andrea talked to cried because, even though she said it nicely, Andrea said something to the effect that the insurance company would just let her die then.
Andrea feels great, though. She likes the idea that maybe doing all she can do to be healed will not include the bone marrow transplant. I gave her another blessing today, but I was not inspired to say anything new or specific. I feel the same – maybe more surgeries and chemotherapy can do the job. After all, I’ve never felt that the medical treatment was going to heal her; God will do it. And he surely doesn’t need a bone marrow transplant to make that happen.
The problem is, I think we probably can do the bone marrow transplant. But it would require asking for money from everyone we know, going in debt, maybe getting some money from a national charity, etc. I hope God doesn’t require that of us. But we’ll do it if necessary.
We all spent the evening at Brett & Tia Chipman's house helping them move. We had a great time with them and others in the ward. Tia somehow coaxed Andrea into posing for a photo with our family; she rarely would let anyone take a photo of her during her illness. That was the last photo of our family together. At the funeral, Brett & Tia gave me a framed print of the photo that every day reminds me both of those last wonderful weeks with Andrea and of the Chipmans, who have always been so kind to us.
Stephanie Claflin spent the night with us. We stayed up until playing games. Brett & Tia Chipman came to our house at 2:00 in the morning with a bunch of stuff to store at our place, and they stayed the night with us before leaving for
Saturday, May 25, 2002
Stef really likes sticky rice and mango, a favorite Thai dessert that Andrea and I would often make when she visited. At some point she was going on about how much she could eat, and we ended up in a contest to see who could eat more sticky rice and mango. The epic battle was held on this day at our house. With everyone cheering, and trying not to be disgusted, Stef and I each ate 4 1/2 cups and saved our bloated lives by agreeing to call it a draw.
At a time when I know that I should be recording all of my thoughts and emotions, I’m neglecting my journal. Most of the time, it’s from laziness—being too tired to write.
The bishop announced yesterday that the ward will have another fast for me next Sunday. The really incredible difference is that we will meet at the church at on Saturday to being the fast and will end it after church Sunday. I feel that this can be a very spiritual experience if we want it to be. I’m excited for the blessings that await everyone who participates.
I emailed my friends and asked them, if they wanted to, to fast as well. I included Megan (Becker) Reynolds because she and I had an incredible experience fasting my senior year and I know that she could feel the Spirit and benefit from this.
The kids are sleeping in the tent again tonight. Last night was the first of the summer for them. Today was actually a hot day (in the 80’s) and we had our first tick spotting. Kendal and Charlotte were down by the coulee and Char found one on her back. Here we go again.
Tomorrow I go in to the cancer center to talk to Dr. Laurie and maybe give blood. We’ll see.
My journal entry from these dates are nearly useless. I was working almost non-stop trying to finish building
Saturday, June 1, 2002
What a remarkable experience to see so many people (around 60) show up to share in a fast for me. I am deeply humbled. In fact, five of my young women were there (Kendal, Becca, BriAnn, Beth & Stephanie). The bishop shared some wonderful scriptures about praying for and fasting for one another. It was beautiful. How do you express such gratitude. I am so excited because I know that everyone there will be blessed for participating. In fact, I’m certain that Heavenly Father will bless everyone fasting for me. That is how I tolerate so much kindness.
I am so keenly aware of my many flaws. In fact, I am so grateful to Nephi for sharing his feelings in 2 Nephi 4. He even refers to himself as a “wretched man.” I love understanding that he, too, struggled with his imperfections and it bothered him. I also love that instead of giving in to despair, Nephi reminds us that Christ is our Savior not ourselves. He testifies of Christ and how believing in Him will heal our souls. I feel very flawed. I am bothered that I give in so easily to sin. I know, however, that only through the atonement and my diligent effort will I be saved.
I hope for a miracle. I know that my Savior can heal me. Bishop Johnson gave a beautiful prayer asking for the very desires of my heart. He is a good man. We have been blessed by his service.
That is the last time Andrea wrote in her journal. A beautiful ending to a long and inspirational journal she kept in many volumes over the years since junior high school. I've written daily entries since 9th grade, and wrote for several years before that as well, but her journal makes so much of mine seem so meaningless. I wish I had recorded my faith and testimony and feelings as frequently and eloquently as she did throughout her life.
The rest of the account has to be mine.
Andrea's last testimony meeting was happy and spiritual. Andrea and I both spoke during the meeting. Many have told me how much her testimony inspired them. Right after the church meetings ended, Andrea began suffering severe headaches and had to spend some time in the restroom being sick before we left the church.
We ate dinner with the Claflins at their new house. Her head continued to hurt through much of the afternoon, so she sat down as we talked and looked at photo albums and played some games without her. Later she felt well enough to play too; I didn't record it in my journal, but I remember we played Malarky with her, and we got to enjoy her delightful laugh a lot. Stephanie proposed that we spend the night there, which we decided to do. But one of the kids didn't behave well after Andrea had warned them we would have to leave, so we left for home at . Except for Kendal, who stayed the night.
How's this for a strangely oblivious journal entry? I guess Andrea's cancer adventures were so familiar that I didn't have anything to report this day:
I ran the cultivator through the garden this morning to prepare for planting seeds, then learned that Andrea had already planted on Friday. So I probably ruined the seeds. Maybe I’ll plant some more in the next day or two.
From my journal:
Andrea went to the doctor today because of the headaches she’s had since Saturday evening. They first did a CT scan, which the technicians cut short because they saw a tumor in her brain. She talked to Dr. Laurie and did an MRI, which showed a small tumor in her brain down low in her neck. Andrea is concerned, of course, but taking it better than other such discoveries over the past year and a half. I’m feeling optimistic because this is a way God could answer my prayers that she be healed without a bone marrow transplant. Dr. Laurie says they would probably perform brain surgery if it hasn’t spread too much. But a massive chemotherapy dose is possible as well. He’ll meet with us about the MRI tomorrow, so we’ll know more about the suggested course of action in the next couple of days.
The brief account from my journal:
Andrea and I met with Dr. Laurie together this morning. They found three other small spots in her brain besides the tumor detected by the CT scan yesterday. So surgery is unlikely, he said. He didn’t talk much about treatment alternatives because he just wants us to go to
Which is what we’re going to do. He called Dr. Glenn and she called us this afternoon and asked if we could be there to meet with her Friday at . Since that phone call we’ve been hurriedly packing and cleaning. Amy and Stephanie came to our house and helped clean after dinner.
I didn't record it in my journal, but Andrea and I stopped at Menard's after talking to Dr. Laurie. I had planned to return some things there while we were in town, but after talking to Dr. Laurie, I figured we should just go home. Andrea still wanted to stop at Menard's, though, so we did. She returned the stuff while I bought a few other things. Our two errands in that town were a strange contrast between the dramatic and the ordinary.
That night as we were cleaning, Bishop Johnson and his wife Laree came to our house to visit as well. Andrea asked him to give her a blessing and he did. We were up very late cleaning and preparing, despite the plan for an early departure the next morning. But now it seems like we didn't stay up late enough--those were precious minutes.
Thursday, June 6, 2002
We dropped Kendal off at the Claflins this morning, then went to Altru to pick up Andrea’s file to take to
We stopped at the Super Buffet in
The sun set just after
A couple more comments. When we got in the van to drive away from the house, Andrea commented that this might be the last time she would see the house. I was quite sad as we left, knowing that could be. Even though we were still hopeful, you can't help but be aware of the possibility when you have a time bomb in your brain.
The Super Buffet in
Friday, June 7, 2002
We left Idaho Falls at 9:15 this morning and made it to the Huntsman Cancer Institute’s reception desk at 12:58 for Andrea’s 1:00 appointment with Dr. Martha Glenn. We first met with Shelly, a physician assistant, who did a medical history and exam. We talked to Dr. Glenn for awhile. She said it is a “tough situation,” but mentioned several possible approaches: high-dose chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and an experimental drug. She said a colleague named Carol at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in
She had no opinion about surgery, since she isn’t a neurosurgeon. She is going to present Andrea’s case to them at their meeting Wednesday. She mentioned an experimental drug at Sloan-Kettering, but said there is no data on it and she therefore has no idea whether it would have any benefit at all. She explained the difference between targeted radiation therapy and whole brain radiation therapy. But she didn’t seem to have an opinion on whether it would be worth a try. I don’t understand that. It seems to me that we ought to at least try it, since it is a standard cancer-fighting weapon. Especially because chemotherapy is generally not as effective when the cancer is in the brain.
So Andrea has a CT scan of the rest of her body on Tuesday. Then she’ll meet with Dr. Glenn again next Friday. Hopefully then we can make a decision about how to proceed. It will be interesting to see how it goes. Andrea is feeling very good. We’re both just curious to see when and how God’s hand will be revealed.
Andrea and I went to the
I miss the
I did elders quorum work during the afternoon, as well as the budget. In the evening I watched the first half of “Joan of Arc” on TV.
I now frequently think of what it would be like if Andrea died. But I don’t really feel that it is any more likely than I ever have since she was first diagnosed. I guess it’s just the proximity to death. That is, from the unbeliever’s perspective, she could die very soon if treatments didn’t work. I’m not sure whether it betrays a lack of faith, but it doesn’t feel that way. I try to stop the thoughts anyway.
Monday, June 10, 2002
The office of Dr. Watson, a radiation therapist, called today and said that Dr. Glenn referred us to him. So Andrea is going to meet with him Wednesday afternoon and is scheduled for a radiation treatment. It sounds like Dr. Glenn decided that we should proceed with radiotherapy. Andrea and I feel good about it, so she’ll proceed as they advise. I’m glad to have some action sooner than next week.
We ate dinner with Mark & Sue Ross and their family. After dinner we talked for awhile and had family home evening together. We shared favorite scriptures. It was a fun evening and Andrea seemed to enjoy it. Andrea talked about several scriptures, including D&C 68:6: "Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come."
I did various computer things this morning. After lunch we dropped Charlotte and Bryn off with John Jones. We visited with him for a bit. Then we went to the Center for Advanced Medical Technologies, where Andrea had a CT scan of her body to see if there is any cancer outside of her brain. She has had a little cough now and then, so she suspects she has a lung tumor as well.
We picked the kids up and visited with Melissa for a bit. We picked up Thai food at
Today was good. We met with Dr. Gordon Watson, the radiation oncologist, Dr. Marie Davis, a resident, and various others this afternoon at the
Since there may be other smaller bits of cancer in her brain, he is going to do whole brain therapy, which I was hoping would be the recommendation. Usually they would do it over two weeks, but that’s because usually the patients don’t have long to live anyway, so the adverse effects of that intensity are not as big a deal. But since Andrea is likely to be healed entirely, he said, they’ll do it over four weeks, to minimize the adverse effects such as impairment of balance and walking.
The treatment usually doesn’t cause nausea and is quite brief, about 15 minutes a day. But she will be tired and she’ll lose her hair. She’ll go every weekday for the next four weeks.
Andrea wrote this in an e-mail to Amy:
Steph probably has already told you but I really like my radiation oncologist and feel like we were led to him; he doesn't seem the least bit uncertain that the radiation is going to work. I will go for 4 weeks straight of radiation and then it's a chance that I will sleep for 2 more weeks like 18 hours a day. It looks like we'll be here the entire summer. I'm hoping that all will go well and we can do the follow up there in
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I'm really grateful for living in
This was a waiting day. We were staying at Martha & Tom's house, and on this day Steve & Cheri and their kids, and Jennifer, arrived to stay there as well. I didn't record much about the day's events in my journal.
Friday, June 14, 2002
This morning Andrea and I met with Dr. Glenn at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Like last week, she was pessimistic and discouraging. The CT scan showed a large tumor, maybe an inch in diameter, in her pelvis. She figures it’s in her ovary. There is also a small spot in a bone, but she’s not sure what that is.
Dr. Glenn will consult with Dr. Dodson to consider alternatives for the pelvic tumor: immediate surgery or radiation now and surgery when she’s done with brain radiation. She said that her friend at Sloan-Kettering discouraged a bone marrow transplant because of risk of bleeding from her brain tumors. But I suppose that means when the brain tumors are eliminated by radiation, that she could undergo a bone marrow transplant. Dr. Glenn said that would be to try to “cure” Andrea, and said a little elliptically that other treatments would be merely prolonging her life. That makes no sense to me, because if I understand what I read, choriocarcinoma is so successfully cured by treatments other than high-dosage chemotherapy: 75% are cured even when it has spread to the brain. So it still seems to me that if there are some resistant cells somewhere, that a surgery could remove them and then chemotherapy could finish the job of wiping out any remaining cancer cells.
I wish Dr. Glenn were more optimistic and confident. But we’re not trusting in Dr. Glenn anyway; we’re trusting in God. His promises are sure and he is true and faithful. I can easily see a way that Andrea could be fully healed despite Dr. Glenn’s pessimism, even without God revealing himself so much that even unbelievers would see his hand. And that’s always a possibility too.
But it’s hard for Andrea to be patient and hopeful when more problems keep arising. She is enduring well, but is still sad.
We talked a lot about her feelings. I asked her what she would choose if she knew she could either die right away or spend another couple of years being healed. She said she would rather go ahead and die. She didn't fear or dread that at all; she just felt that there was more for her to do here, and the Lord wanted her to.
I'm surprised that I didn't record in my journal that she began her radiation therapy this day. It was very quick and painless and she was happy about that.
Bryn went with the rest of Andrea’s family to the reunion today.
This evening she and I made Thai food for everyone. Cheri and her kids left from the reunion to
It's so cool to me that this was the last meal Andrea cooked. She loved Thai food and she loved serving others and she loved her family. Perfect. Except for me using a chicken curry recipe that didn't include sugar.
I didn't record in my journal that I played a church softball game in the morning. That was my only softball game of the year. After Andrea died I looked back on this day with regret that I didn't just spend the whole day with her instead of squandering so much of it on softball and the car. But I guess every day would be different if we knew that death was a day and a half away.
We attended church this morning. Andrea again had to leave after sacrament meeting. Steve left for home early this morning; Jenny left this afternoon.
After church the kids and Andrea gave me a few more Father’s Day gifts they had picked up with Martha: a couple of ties and a white shirt. Bryn and Charlotte both made Father’s Day gifts for me in Primary too.
We ate some lunch at the Gibsons’, then went to the Cottontree Inn nearby to visit with Vasases. Bill & Jan, Bill & Becky, and John & Sherri were all there. We had a good visit. Besides talking in the hotel room, the kids, Bill, and Becky swam in the motel pool for a long while. We ate dinner in the hotel room. Andrea ran out of gas around and we left by .
That last meal, dinner in the hotel room, was Kentucky Fried Chicken.
This morning after sometime, Andrea woke me up moaning from pain all over her head. She soon said, “Say goodbye or give me a blessing, because I’m going to die.” I immediately gave her a blessing. I don’t remember what I said, except to affirm God’s promises to her and I think something to the effect that she would find peace through him and Christ. But the pain she had in her head was too much. I gave her some Tylenol, we waited a few minutes and it grew worse. She threw up from the pain. I gave her a dexamethasone, but it was still growing worse. She threw up again. So I called the after-hours number for the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the doctor talked to me about getting narcotics for her. He said we could go the emergency room, but that’s a terrible place to be in pain. So he suggested waiting until morning if possible and getting them from Dr. Watson.
So I hung up the phone and asked Andrea whether we should go to the ER to get some pain medication and she didn’t respond. She had slouched over on her stomach as my phone conversation was ending. I was at the bedside during the phone conversation and heard her say she was getting delerious, and also say that she couldn’t see well. She made some sound as she slouched over just before I got off the phone; I wish I had been able to concentrate on it, but I don’t think it was intelligible. After I hung up I turned her over and she wasn’t breathing. I called her name out a couple of times in the hope of rousing her, quickly gave her another ten-second blessing in which I pleaded more than blessed, then called 911. I ran up the stairs to wake Tom & Martha, and Tom came down and administered CPR and the Heimlich manuever while I talked through it with the 911 operator.
We couldn’t get her breathing. But four minutes later the paramedics arrived. It took quite awhile, it seemed to me, but they got a pulse and got a respirator tube in of some sort.
They took her to
I waited there for awhile, then saw them wheel Andrea in. Not longer after, two doctors came out, asked some questions, and told me the situation was grim. They were going to do a CT scan to see what they were dealing with. At that point they led me back to Andrea’s room.
Eventually they did the CT scan, though it seemed an awfully long time to me. The doctor showed the scans to me and some of the other family that were there—I think Bill & Jan, Tom & Martha, and Sue Ross. A tumor or tumors in her cerebellum had bled badly throughout a large part of her brain. The swelling was dramatic. She had no brain activity at all, even basic brain stem activity.
So the decision was clear that Andrea was gone and we needed to remove the respirator and drugs that were keeping up her blood pressure. But I got time alone with Andrea and prayed and the Spirit told me that she had already left her body and I should let her body die.
So that’s what I did. We took many hours, though, while various family members came and said goodbye. We talked a lot and cried a lot. I stood by her side holding her hand most of the day, except for making phone calls to the kids at various times. I asked Bryn and Charlotte if they wanted to come see her, but they didn’t. Bryn did want to talk to her on the phone, though, so I put the phone up to her ear and he talked for awhile.
Kendal took the news very hard and cried violently for awhile, but it passed and she was able to calm down. She talked to Andrea for about 6 minutes on the phone and felt very good about it. The Claflins were a great strength to her; she and Amy cried together for a good while and they had a family prayer together. Later in the day, I learned, about 25 people spontaneously gathered at the Claflins' to talk about Andrea and pray together. I love them so much. I wish I could be there with them.
But it was also good being here with family. All the Vasases from yesterday were still around, and they came to visit. Tom & Martha were there, of course, as well as some of their ward members, though they didn’t come to the room to visit. Many from my family came:
Everyone finally had their chance to say goodbye, including many alone with Andrea. I had three times alone with Andrea to talk and pray. I mostly told her how I loved her and talked about particulars that I loved. I asked her if she could maybe tarry and be with the kids for a few days. I said a lot of things that I’m not going to remember now. I prayed to know whether she was still in her body, and the Spirit told me she wasn’t. But the Spirit also told me that she was there and could hear what I said.
Then they removed the breathing tube and stopped the blood pressure drugs. She never breathed on her own, was never responsive in any way, and after maybe 20 minutes her pulse died out. The doctor declared her dead at .
I stayed there with her for another hour. I just stood there admiring her face even as it was, and remembering all the many ways and times I had loved it. I talked to Kendal for a long while on the phone again. She was feeling much better and had prayed and decided to fly out to
Mark Ross did a bunch of calling for me on mortuaries and cemeteries, and I followed his recommendation to use Holbrook Mortuary on 2300 East and somewhere around 33rd South, not far from our old homes. I still don’t know where to bury her though. I think
After all was done at the hospital, at , I returned to the Gibsons’ house. I talked to Bryn and Charlotte and they were very good, faithful, and healthy. We all made some jokes to make it easier. But mostly we talked about ways to include Mom in our lives even though we’re apart. We talked about her still being well and alive, and what a great day she must have had while we were being sad. And eventually we prayed together. Both Charlotte and Bryn teared up several times as they thought about things they would miss. Like a “foofoowumps” story Andrea had been telling the kids in installments at bedtime. I volunteered to continue the saga. Apparently Kendal is called Kennana,
I tried to eat a little bit more – some fruit and potatoes and gravy. Then I went to John & Melissa’s, where everyone was congregated. I saw
Everyone is being very supportive and helpful. I have volunteers to do anything, but I can’t think of much. Kendal and Amy will fly to
My eyes are going buggy from lack of sleep. It’s now. I’m going to sleep upstairs; I don’t like the idea of waking up tonight or in the morning in the bed where I was next to her this morning. I’ll have to tell more tomorrow. What a sad day. But I felt very much that Andrea is happy and well. In fact, I asked the question directly in prayer and the Lord made it known to me that she is. So I’m happy for her.