Monday, December 17, 2012

December 16, 2012 Happy Birthday Cindy

The Conference Center was filled to capacity.  Just moments before, the streets outside were like a favorite Christmas Carol.  City sidewalks, busy sidewalks,  dressed in holiday style.   In the air there was definitely a feeling of Christmas.  Sharon and Ted, Cindy's brother from Alaska, are down for a visit.  Sharon is a self described "nice Catholic girl, from in Minnesota", and is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's biggest fan.  That being said we are all extremely grateful and lucky to have a good friend who gave us tickets to the Choir's Christmas Concert on Friday night.  It was a lovely evening with many touching moments.  One of those was when acclaimed tenor Alfie Boe sang "Bring Him Home" from the musical Les Miserables.  He sang the song as it should always be sung, with the emotion and anguish of a desperate, heartfelt prayer.  And though I am very familiar with this music and lyric, hearing it this time brought a different meaning to me.  I looked down on Cindy and Reed, who were sitting in the row in front of us.  "God on high, hear my prayer.  In my need, You have always been there. ... Let her rest, Heaven blest.,  ...  You can take, You can give.  Let her live."   These are the pleadings of my heart.  I do not have the ability or talent to state the feelings so beautifully as in the song.  I can only add my loud and enthusiastic "Amen".  When Mr. Boe finished his "prayer" the crowd of nearly 22,000 were on their feet.  Because I had changed, in my mind and personal prayers, the characters in the song from "Marius" to Cindy, I am certain that the entire crowd was also adding their "amen" to my prayer. It couldn't hurt to have 22,000 praying for you, right?

Other prayers were then recalled.  Hezekiah had prayed to the Lord for longer life.  The Lord heard his pleadings and granted him 15 more years on earth.  Mary of Bethany and her sister Martha received comfort for their sorrow when the Savior raised their brother Lazarus from the dead.  I do not have the power or faith of Hezekiah, nor the daily human interaction with the Savior like Mary and Martha, but my desires are the same.  This finite mind of mine is limited and selfish.  I want Cindy to linger longer here on earth.  I want her to be healthy and out of pain.  I want the cancer to go away.  Her grand kids need to know her like I do.  Her family needs her here. Reed needs her.  I need her.

When my mom passed away last August, a friend offered condolences and taught me that perhaps we have it all wrong.  When a new baby is born we rejoice and celebrate and shower her with gifts and love and cuddles and welcome her with open arms.  But just maybe in heaven they are a little sad because that beautiful soul must now face the challenges and struggles, along with the joy of course, that comes with being human and obtaining a body.  When that soul then leaves this earth, those of us remaining here mourn the loss.  We are sad and lonely, but in heaven the angels rejoice and celebrate and love and cuddle and welcome her with open arms. I believe in heaven and  know these principals to be true.  This life is a short time and there is so much more beyond that awaits our arrival.  But no matter how hard I try I cannot see eternity.  And so I continually plead with the Lord, much like the character Val Jean did for Marius, to let her live!

Three weeks ago Cindy started a new Chemo regime.  The previous treatment was not working and causing horrific side effects.  The tumors in her liver, kidneys, spleen and lungs have grown a bit but are not out of control.  The new chemo is delivered intravenously.  She was taking 8 horse sized pills a day, she now receives a treatment every 3 weeks.  After the 3rd to about the 8th day of treatment are the roughest so far.  But once she makes it through she seems to gain some strength and vitality.  The drugs will affect her blood counts and she is very susceptible to infections.  Not the best time of year for that, but she keeps her sanitizer handy and has taken to blowing kisses instead of giving hugs.  Visits and calls from family and friends are wonderful and welcomed.  Notes, emails, facebook posts and phone calls brighten her days.  If you visit or call and she is tired, she will let you know.

 Huntsman Cancer Institute Chemo Treatment

One of our challenges is to try and fatten her up.  I feel like the crooked old witch from Hansel and Gretel at times offering her high calorie sweets and such.  But those don't taste good to her.  She despises milk drinks so Ensure is not a great option either.  So we try to come up with savory, tasty food without the sugar to tempt her taste buds.  She continues to melt away but is trying hard to get calories in her.  If only I could give her some of mine!  We would both be better off.

For Thanksgiving the Gardner's all went to Arizona for an Adams Family Reunion.  I believe they had dinner with over 150 people.  All 12 living siblings were together, and Larry was there in spirit I'm sure of it.  It was a historic event.

LeGrand, Mike, David, Ted, Cindy, Tony, Ed, Don, Phyllis, Jim, Steve, Janet, Bonnie
(Did I get  you all right?)

Christmas will be here next week.  Ali and her family are here.  We are anxiously awaiting the birth of her second child and Cindy's fourth grandchild.  Hurry up little fellow.  We can't wait to meet you.  Deven arrives Friday.  Jason, Erica and the kids come Sunday.  Today we celebrated Cindy's birthday.  How lucky we are to have her in our lives.  She is kind and good and joyful and faithful and we all want to be like her when we grow up!  There is much goodness to celebrate.  We shall do so with grateful, humble hearts.  Prayers and pleadings will continue to be offered up, as well as thanksgiving for the bounteous blessing we have.  In the famous words of Tiny Tim, "God Bless us Every One!"  May we all remember to Take Joy in His birth and more importantly in His Atonement and Love. Merry Christmas one and all.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Epoch of Belief

Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities" is a favorite read of mine.  The opening paragraph is just one sentence.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

As I reflect upon this past year, Dickens words come forefront to my mind.  Among those I love, we have experienced major surgeries, epic wind storms, loss, illness and death.  But we have also seen success, service, gain, healing and birth.  I don't have to try very hard to realize that with each of the "bad" came "good".  I seem to recall somewhere we have been taught that there must needs be opposition in all things!  :).  I do appreciate all the good in my life.  I acknowledge and give thanks to my Lord for all things. 

Of all that has happened, however, there are two things which remain deep aches in my heart.  I hate that Cindy's cancer has returned.  I hate that she does not feel well.  I hate that she must go through radiation and chemo and weight loss and hair loss. I hate that Reed and the kids are suffering and hurt.  I hate Cancer!  I realize that "hate" is a strong word, but it is honestly how I feel.  I am angry and sad and at times want to scream and shout and cry until I have nothing left inside me.
Yet when I express these sentiments to Cindy, instead of her joining in my anger, she expresses love.  There is sorrow, but her love and faith overrule.  So, I think about her faith and know that I too have faith.  And while I hate what is happening to her I do have faith in healing.  I pray each night for the miracle of healing.  Heck, I pray day and night for the miracle of healing.  I want the miracle.  I have faith the Lord will provide.  With that said - I am ignoring any nay sayers - myself included and moving forward with the belief and faith that all will be well and Cindy will be here, healthy and well, for a good long time.

Now for the update: 
Radiation has been completed on both the brain and the lung.  The latest scan of Cindy's brain shows a remarkable response.  Most of the lesions have melted away and of the few that still show they are very small and with time will also finish dying.  (Dying is a good word here!)  Another brain scan will be performed the first of December to see if any tumors remain.

Cindy and Reed also decided to go forward and have the tumor in her lung radiated.  It was a large lesion and although it was not hurting her to breath it was still there and getting rid of it seemed to be the best option.  Yay!  A scan on that portion of her body will be done if a few more weeks to measure the size.  I am expecting that tumor will be melted away as well.

Additional lesions have been discovered in her spleen, liver and kidneys.  These organs can not be radiated at this time so chemotherapy will be given.  Cindy actually started chemotherapy in August.  Was on it for three weeks and then off until the first of October.  She has now been back on chemo.  It is a two weeks on, one week off cycle.  It is nasty stuff and makes her tired and nauseated, and red faced, and burning feet and hands with blisters.  Towards the end of the cycle walking is extremely painful, but she walks anyway.  She is amazing.  She is strong.  And though the cancer she has is aggressive and mean, her system also responds very well to treatment!  It is now a matter of finding the right medication that will keep the cancer at bay and yet keep Cindy functioning better.  There are many wonderful drugs and treatments out there.  I know we will find the right one.

We are now entering the flu season.  Because of the chemo treatment, the ability for cancer patients to fight bugs is really low.  We ask that everyone keep this in mind.  If you or a family member is sick, please keep your distance.  Chemo makes people tired, so instead of long visits drop a note, email or phone message.  A white basket sits on the Gardner's porch.  This is a spot to drop by love notes, gifts or pick me ups.  Cindy's generous, kind heart will turn no one away from her door so let's not tempt her.  If you are prompted to stop by and she doesn't answer her door just leave a note.  She will get it and feel of your love.

A family reunion on the "Adams" side of the family, Cindy's maiden name is Adams, is taking place over Thanksgiving in Arizona.  All are looking forward to the trip.  This past September, Cindy and Reed joined most of Reed's siblings for a cruise of the Northern US and Canadian coast.  It was a lovely get away. After Thanksgiving, Ali and Chloe will be coming home for the holidays and the birth of grandchld number 4.   All the kids and grandkids will be here for Christmas.  We continue with the mantra "Keep Calm and Carry On"! 

How wonderful it is to have good friends, family and neighbors.  How fortunate we are to live in a time of advanced modern medicine.  How good it is to have faith and love and the belief in miracles!
How thankful we are to have a loving Savior.  And though we are going through the "worst of times", we are grateful to have "everything before us".  We shall not accept a "winter of depair" but instead will focus on the "spring of hope".

Saturday, July 21, 2012

rook error

i must beg forgiveness from the Gardner clan.  apparently Cindy is not the reigning rook champion in the Gardner family, nonetheless she is the reigning champion of many other things so that puts her on top in all of our books.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Remember the long, hot days of summer when you were a kid?  Harper Lee describes them best.  "People moved slowly then. They ambled across the square, shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything. A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County." (To Kill a Mockingbird)  While our days are hot, they don't seem to be as long as they used to.  How did it get to be July?! 

It's been over a month since receiving word of Cindy's cancer returning.  While I want the world and time to stop and grieve with us, it seems that the "longest" days of the year are whizzing by.  There is little regard to what I want. 

One of the side effects of either the tumors themselves or the radiation / steroid treatments, is that Cindy is unable to sleep for more than 5 hours at any one given time.  The lack of sleep does not help with her feelings of being "disconnected" and generally foggy in the brain, but it does help address the dilemma of not having enough hours in the day to get everything done that needs to be done.  She finds that evenings and late night hours are her best functioning hours.  She often can be found burning the midnight oil.

This past Wednesday was her last radation treatment for awhile.  Yippee! We won't know for a few more months how well the radiation worked in reducing the tumors.  The swelling and radation activity is still too great to determine the rate of success.  It will quiet down in a month or two at which time another scan will be conducted and I feel positive that the size of the tumors will be drastically reduced.  The fact that she can curl her toes so much is an excellent indication of some success. 

Now that radiation is complete, she can also begin tapering off the steroids.  While these drugs have been good in reducing symptoms and increasing motor skills, they carry other side effects, which are not altogether comfortable.  It will be good to have her body cleared of these.  As expected, her hair has been lost and the neuropathy in her feet and fingertips has returned.  The neuropathy is a result of the last chemo treatments and the Taxol drug.  It's not as bad as it had been a few years ago, but has now flared up again.  What hasn't been lost is Cindy's spirit.  She remains strong, determined, motivated, faithful and at peace. 

Today the entire Reed and Cindy Gardner gang joined the rest of the Gardner Clan for a family reunion at Aspen Grove.  They will be gone for over a week.  What a glorious time to have a reunion!  Cell service is sporadic up in the mountains, so for those who might try to text, call or email Cindy, don't be alarmed if you recieve no answer for about another week and a half.  Know that she is well and spending valuable time with loved ones.  She will also be busy defending her title as champion Rook player.  Notes left on her blog are greatly appreciated.  Cindy also has loved getting cards, letters and text messages.

Chemotherapy will start soon enough, but for now her body will have a bit of time to recover.  For a while she will be in "no hurry", have "nowhere to go", and just spend a few long summer days with family.

Monday, June 18, 2012

In 1939 the Ministry of Information (MOI) department was formed in Great Britain and was responsible for publicity and propaganda during World War II.  By July of 1940,  enemy war bombers and fighter planes filled the skies above England.  The Netherlands, Belgium, and France had already fallen, and the war machine was now aimed at Britain.

To calm fears of an impending invasion, the MOI printed a number of morale boosting posters to serve as a rallying cry to bring out the best in its citizenry. One of them, written in white capital letters on a brilliant red background with King George’s crown at the top, read "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.”   Mercifully the invasion of England never occurred, and the posters saw limited distribution.

Nearly 60 years later, one of the original posters was found in an old English bookstore. Suddenly, the call to "keep calm and carry on” had new life. The message of resilience has since resounded in the hearts of people everywhere. Who's life has not taken unexpected turns? Who hasn’t faced days of disappointment, discouragement, and loss, or had to address seemingly insurmountable challenges?

These five words are a quiet, calm, authoritative voice of reason suggesting we downplay the drama, keep steady, exercise restraint, and rely on the strength within, as well as prayers to our Father above to keep going. 

 While she senses an urgency to accomplish a few tasks, for the most part Cindy has adopted this slogan as her own.  Radiation seems to be taking it's toll and she finds herself tired, nauseated, suffering from the occasional headache and having general feeling of being disconnected.  But none of these symptoms keeps her down.  She is truly AMAZING.

Last weekend two of her sisters came up from Arizona for a much needed visit.  They were able to stay several days and help Cindy with some tasks that sisters can do best.  But most importantly, time was spent hugging, crying, laughing and cheering.  

Ali and Chloe arrived Monday, thanks to the generous support of Ali's husband, Jordan, and mother-in-law, Michelle.  Chloe adds a dose of new life that is desperately needed around here.  We can hardly wait for Stella and Anton to join her on Wednesday!  Of course we are equally excited to welcome Jason and Erica, but there is something special about a grandchild.

This past Thursday 4 of the 9 Adams boys arrived to rally round their baby sister.  For those unaware, Cindy is the youngest of 13 children, 9 boys, 4 girls.  In addition 2 of my own sisters came running.  The other night we all gathered, along with Reedo's sister and brother-in-law, for an Alaskan Salmon bbq.  There was salmon, grilled zucchini, steak, corn on the cob, potatoes. watermelon, salad and chocolate pecan caramel bars.  Yummers.  The boys cooked and we all ate and ate and ate and finally stopped when we were so full we couldn't move.  Her brothers continued to feed her soul.

 They dug up old dirt and set down new soil and then planted flowers, which her sisters had helped her pick out, along her front sidewalk.  Her garden drip system is now working like a charm.    I even benefited and got my front lights, which broke in the December '11 windstorm, reattached to the wall.  A few plumbing items were fixed as well.  LeGrand, Ed and Jim had to return home to Arizona on Monday, but Don, from Alaska, remains and spends his days mostly in the yard and garden.  Cindy's favorite spots.

After Cindy's normal daily radiation treatment Thursday we met with her Radiation Oncologist.  He gave her a little medication to take when she needs it to help with nausea.  Then he asked her to see if she could curl her toes on her left foot.  I wanted to jump out of my seat when I saw her tiny toes bend ever so slightly.  Dr. Harris, who has the most calm demeanor there is, smiled broadly and said "That's good.  That is really good!"  Being able to curl her toes gives a good indication that the radiation treatments are working on shrinking those nasty lesions.  Later that afternoon, Cindy and Reed met with another doctor who will be performing the biopsy on the tumor in her lung.  It was decided that the RFA would not be done on this lesion right now.  Instead, it will be used as a "marker" during chemotherapy treatment. Once it is determined that the right drugs are being used, and the cancer cells begin to be destroyed, they can readdress removing it.

Sunday was bittersweet as Cindy was released from her calling as the Relief Society President for our ward.  She will now be able to put every bit of energy into addressing her "bucket list", as she calls it without feeling the guilt of putting less energy into the needs of the ward.  She of course, will continue her care, concern and contact with all because that is just part of her being; but she will not have the burden of stewardship that the calling demands.

All in all it has been a pretty fantastic week.  Time seems to be flying too quickly. Getting through with the radiation in the next week and a half will be welcomed.  In the meantime, we will keep steady with the mantra:  "Keep Calm and Carry On!"


ps.  fyi Cori gave Cindy a journal to keep a record of her thoughts, feelings, instructions, etc., during her journey.  The cover displays this slogan.  And another friend recently gave her a carry bag with the same poster screen printed on it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength.

Courage and Strength, along with Faith, Hope and Love are needed.  I reach down to the bottom of my soul and ask that all may be given to us. 
About a month ago, Cindy started noticing a few things that were not quite right with her body.  Every so often bright lights would flash in front of her eyes, then, slowly her left foot began to bother her. It was just a bit at first.  She wasn't able to keep her flip-flops on, and soon she was unable to curl her toes.  Her left hand would shake occasionally and her speech would slur, but so slightly that Cindy was the only one who noticed.
It was probably just a pinched nerve!  Right!?  That’s what we hoped but logic told us it was something more.  A good friend and neighbor arranged to have the first of many tests run, and ruled out the “pinched” nerve.  Suspecting much more he ordered a CT scan and quietly placed a call to Cindy's Oncologist.  That scan revealed horror. 

A number of lesions were found in her brain.  One is attached to the optical nerve, causing the flashing lights, another is affecting her motor skills in her foot and hand.  There is another which could trigger seizures, although she's had none, but it has prohibited her from being able to drive. The lesions are numerous and significant in size.  The next day a full body scan revealed a tumor in her right lung as well as on the lymph nodes behind.  
The breast cancer, which she fought so valiantly to defeat, has reared its ugly head and spread.
I cannot describe the sorrow that hovers over us.  The cancer is inoperable.  It is incurable.  But the Good Lord has not abandoned us, because it is treatable and there is hope for some time to be granted. 
The first treatment plan will be radiation to her brain.  For nearly three weeks radioactive waves will be directed to the lesions in her brain.  The goal is to shrink those lesions.  They will not go away but it is possible for them to be reduced, for a time, minimizing the impact they have on her body. 

A Radiofrequency Ablation or RFA will be performed on the lesion in her lung.  This is where a beam of radiation is used instead of surgery in order to remove a tumor.  Basically the tumor is heated up enough to burn the cancer cells and destroy them.  This type of treatment works well on lung tumors. The alternative, besides surgery would also include chemotherapy.  But chemotherapy cannot be started until the radiation process is complete.  That delay could allow this already large tumor to continue to grow and inhibit the ability to breath freely, so RFA is a good thing. As with any medical procedure there are risks, but it seems that the benefit will out weigh the risk in this case.
Once radiation is complete then a regimen of chemotherapy using a pill called Xeldoa will begin.  This form of chemotherapy will give Cindy mobility instead of being tethered to an intravenous dosage.  There is much she wants to accomplish and the mobility factor is welcomed.
There is so much more involved, but for now I will keep it simple.  I personally believe in miracles and am praying for one.  More specifically I am praying that the radiation treatments will be effective.  That the lesions will shrink and become “quiet”.  That the side effects will be minimal.  I pray that Cindy and Reed, as well as Jason, Erica, Stella, Anton, Deven, Ali, Jordan, Chloe, and Meg will be granted Courage and Strength.  Please add your prayers, faith, hope and love.

Posted by Libby Hansen

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Garden Is Growing

I know it's kind of sad that Libby has to be the one to announce the birth of our first grandchild on my blog. However sad it is, I am very grateful for Libby - cuz I just don't blog. Just this morning she called to tell me to check Jason and Erica's blog to see the latest pictures of my granddaughter. She's my "keeper of the blogs" and she does a mighty fine job. Writing comes naturally for Libby and Cori - they are the best. I've decided that's why I don't blog more takes me too long to write. So, to keep things short, I will get to the point....

Last Saturday Reedo and I again tilled our garden and prepared it for planting...starting over with new seeds and fresh turned earth. I've always loved kneeling, digging and feeling the dirt in my hands, especially on a warm Spring day to the sound of birds singing. It's therapy for my soul. The potatoes, carrots, beets, swiss chard and lettuce are in the ground and hopefully, if our ground is good and we have the right amount of sunshine and water, they will soon be pushing their way through the dirt. Soon after, some will need thinning so they can grow to their full potential. We will tend and weed and admire their growth. Our favorite summer dinner consists of only what comes out of our garden. Hopefully there will be something good to harvest.

So it is with life..we only harvest what we put into it and what is important is what is right here at home. We will still have plenty of compost, you can be sure, but we will be patient gardeners, nourishing it with as much know how that we have, make that compost productive, weed and water it, pray for sunshine and and hope for a good harvest. Some growing things just have a longer growing season and require a whole lot more maintenance. Like the sweet juicy pineapple - growing season of about 20 months. Zuchinni takes two. I happen to like both.