Sunday, August 5, 2012

Update and D&C 84:88

Hello everybody,

It has been a while since we have given a real concrete update on our dad's progress so I figured I would fill you all in on the last week's happenings.

Ryan already posted about our visit to the oncologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. We had a very similar meeting with our Radiation Oncologist this past week. They took the first MRI since Dad's surgery and said it looked just as they expected. His scar is healing up well and the date for treatment is set.

Evening of August 8th - first dose of Temodar (chemotherapy pill)
August 9th - first radiation visit

Treatment will go as follows...radiation and chemotherapy daily for one month. Break for about a month. 5 days of chemotherapy. Break for about a get the picture.

The doctor's have said that treatment is fairly straightforward. We will start with the regiment that I listed above and as time progresses we will take further action when needed. Their hope is to keep the cancer cells that are still in the brain subdued for as long as possible. The slower they can keep the growth the better (and we are all crossing our fingers for a STOP in any growth!). They have molded a mask that will go over the top of my dad's head that will be used during radiation treatments to fasten him to a table and keep him in the exact same position so they can pinpoint direct spots to target and affect as little else possible. They are aiming for the tumor site and about a 1 inch perimeter around that point. It should only take about 15 minutes each day and we will be able to go to the facility up in Daybreak, which is just a couple minutes away from our house in South Jordan. The chemotherapy is in the form of a pill and will be taken daily.

A major question that I have been asked frequently is what are the side effects of treatment?

Here is where the good news comes in.

There are very few! Of course this depends from person to person, but all of the doctors have told us that the majority of people react very well to the treatments my dad will be undergoing. Everyone has heard the horror stories of cancer loss, nausea, fatigue, etc. Well doctors have told us that with the chemotherapy pill Temodar there are virtually no side effects. No hair loss. No nausea. And very little fatigue. It is a very specific treatment that will target very specific cells in his brain. Radiation may have a few more side loss in the spots where they send the beam, and maybe a little fatigue...enough to make my dad want to take a nap in the middle of the day...but uh, I think we can handle that! Wanting a nap during the day is a better alternative to basically anything. Radiation may also cause his brain to swell again, but he will be taking steroids to help manage the swelling and hopefully avoid any symptoms that could be caused by it. We feel positive about treatments and confident in our doctors that will be keeping a very close eye on our dad.

As a side note: my dad went back to work this week! On Wednesday and Friday he went back in to FlexTech, checked his emails, and got back to filling people's orders for a few hours. He seems to be progressing exponentially. It has been easier and easier for him to communicate what is on his mind and he is back to a fairly regular routine (he mowed the lawn on Saturday, went grocery shopping, drove...with some help). It really is miraculous how well he is doing. We are all feeling very positive about it.

Checking out at Harmon's after we perused the local Farmer's Market ...they didn't have everything we needed for Lindsey's desserts haha

Warning to those who want to keep reading: the rest of the post is just some of my personal thoughts. Kind of a lot of them too. Read at your own risk.

"And...I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angles round about you to bear you up."
-Doctrine and Covenants 84:88

This scripture has been a recurring theme in my life since our "opportunity" began. Written in notes and letters addressed to my family and my father, given in electronic messages, repeated and shared often in person, it just seems to be something that God wants me to remember. And feel more than anything. I hope I can appropriately convey all of the feelings and thoughts that have been going around in my head for the past week. (Excuse me if there is any confusion or if this gets too long for you...I seem to have a way with dragging things out :)) And so it begins...

"And...I will go before your face."

It has been 22 years of preparation that have lead up to this point in my life. I say that with the fact in mind that it has been much much longer than that. The things my parents and other predecessors have done, the ways the "stars aligned", or more appropriately, that God aligned those stars to allow me the blessing to be who I am, where I am today. Not to mention the innumerable amount of time that we spent with God before we came to this earth preparing for the experiences and opportunities that we would face here, where He taught us, loved us unconditionally, and helped us develop the traits and characteristics that we would need. Obviously I can't even begin to describe or fathom all the things that God has done to "go before my face", but that is exactly what I feel He has done...for all of his children (meaning ALL of us)...that is, to go before our faces, to walk the path that each of us would one day tread and to put into place all things necessary so that He would be able to be there for us in anything and everything. I know that is what He has done for me. He knew I would be forced to bend, but He has not allowed me to break as I continue to try to trust Him. He has placed markers and support along my path specific to my needs to give me comfort and relief.  I would just like to share a few of those blessings that God has given me to show me that He truly is on my right hand and on my left, in my heart, sending angels to surround and bear me up.

"I will be on your right hand..."

A few months ago I was home for the weekend from college and attending church in the neighborhood I had grown up in. A man who had been a leader throughout my youth stood up to speak to the congregation and shared a simple thought that impacted me deeply. He was speaking about situations in life that don't seem to make any sense. He gave the example of one family losing a child to an illness while another family was spared the same loss miraculously. He did not try to give an answer as to why something like this would happen but stated instead that "one day each of us will sing praises to the fairness of our God". I was overcome with a sense of comfort and assurance as he said those words. I could feel that they were true. They had to be true. God was reaffirming those words in my mind. Yeah, I don't understand the whys behind everything that happens in life, but one day I would understand and I would be eternally grateful to my Father in Heaven for everything that He had allowed me and others to pass through. At the time I didn't really have any need to question that statement. God had always been "fair" (even too much so) to me in my life. As our world has been turned upside down I refer back often to the feelings I had that day. They are a tremendous comfort to me because I know that I felt that they were true then, meaning they are still true now. This situation is difficult, but one day I too will kneel before my Heavenly Father with tears in my eyes and sing praises to his fairness. I understand very little at this time, but one day He will help me to understand better His designs. This is not unfair. This is not punishment. It is just a new step to take in life. It is a new opportunity to turn words into actions and trust in Him. And this is not even the smallest example of all of the similar truths that God has confirmed to me that have now become the handholds that help me stay on my feet as I move forward on my life's journey. This is just one instance out of a whole life's worth of them.

"...and on your left..."

In October 2008, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin gave a talk that changed my life and brings me peace each time I think about it. Come What May and Love It. I would invite all of you to watch a short clip of that talk here. He offers advice from experience of how we can do exactly as the talk is entitled: love everything that comes to us in life. (You can read the full talk here). He explains four simple things that we can do in times of hardship and heartache to become stronger, wiser and happier. I don't feel it necessary to recap the whole talk (the video clip does such an incredible job), but I would like to add a few of my favorite quotes with some personal thought.
  • "How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life."
    • Sean's thought: There is room for realism and optimism in our situation. It is okay to feel sorrow. It's natural. It would be impossible to avoid but that initial sorrow doesn't have to rule our lives. We pray, we joke, we comfort, we cry as we look for the good in our situation and at all the hope and miracles that have occurred.

  • "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. " - Doctrine and Covenants 121: 7-8

  • "The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude."
    • Sean's thought: This is a teaching my mom has repeated to me over and over again throughout this experience. Heavenly Father is giving, not taking. He is only making room for more. And we feel that. Compensation has already taken place. We have all felt those overflowing feelings of comfort and peace. And I feel that He will just continue to give.

  • "The Lord Jesus Christ is our partner, helper, and advocate. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to be successful. If we do our part, He will step in. He who descended below all things will come to our aid. He will comfort and uphold us. He will strengthen us in our weakness and fortify us in our distress. He will make weak things become strong."

"...and my Spirit shall be in your hearts..." 

I had the opportunity between May 2009 and May 2011 to serve as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was the most incredible thing I have ever done but also one of the most difficult.  You have to learn to go outside your comfort zone to serve, teach and talk to people that may or may not understand any word that comes out of your mouth. Missionary work never ends...meaning you are doing it 24/7, 7 days a week. You can receive a lot of rejection and scorn. In this situation it is really easy to get down on yourself, or bitter, or stressed. I did. But with time, LOTS and lots of learning moments, and loads of help from those that were around me, I learned and tried to put in to practice Elder Wirthlin's advice to laugh. I was going to have to live through these experiences anyway. I had volunteered and accepted the assignment. I wasn't going to quit, which meant I wasn't going to escape any of the hardship, but I had the choice to be down and dreary and worried or to laugh and enjoy these crazy moments that I would never have experienced otherwise. Oh man, what a difference that made in my life. It doesn't mean I was insensitive and that I never got upset. Things were still hard. But I was trying to face everything with positivity and it changed my life and my heart. A change Heavenly Father knew would be necessary if I were to be able to face what lie in store in my future. I thank God for helping me to learn this invaluable lesson that has been one of my major coping mechanisms throughout the past month. And I thank my family that have helped me to see the positive and to laugh even amidst the heartache. They make it easy for me to stay positive and to see the hope and the fun that there still is in our lives.

"...and mine angles round about you to bear you up."

There are too many of these to count. The special people who have come to our aid to give any support that they can. We thank you and love you all for it. But I believe that for me personally there have been some very specific and special angels put into my path. 16 to be exact. I believe that God has tailored each person's life for them, down to the very tiniest details. He knows us intimately and He knows what we will need to reach our potential or have that chance to try. I have a distinct image in my mind that God knew exactly what he was doing when he allowed me to have a place in this family. He knew I needed 10 angels to grow up with that would surround me with good examples, love and happiness. He prepared my siblings' spouses so that they could be the perfect compliment to each of them. He brought each of their lives together and prepared them  through experience so that each could touch my life in a unique way. He knew that I would need all 16 of them when the news came in that my dad had brain cancer. They really are those angels that are bearing me up. I feel honored beyond words to have the family that I do. Their testimonies and faith strengthen mine. And I hope that one day I will be able to touch their lives, and the lives of all those who are helping buoy us up at this time, in a similar way.  I love you Dad, Mom, Ryan, Katie, Lindsey, Chris, Jeff, Kim, Jordan, Clint, Whitney, Chris, Greg, Lexi, Alex and Dillon. And I love God for sending me to you and you to me. How is that for a love letter?!

I did it. I got out all of the things that are in my head. That scripture was the perfect way to do it. I hope by sharing some of these thoughts publicly I can help someone else who may be in need. I hope not to offend or exclude those people reading this blog who may not be members of the LDS faith. If you have questions, feel free to contact us! (See the contact link!) If nothing else you now have access to a talk that an change any person's life! Please keep us in your prayers. We love and appreciate them. We thank Heavenly Father for all of them offered in our behalf and ask him to bless each of you in return with your own specific needs.




Jennica said...

I posted a comment and it's not on here. Testing, testing....

Seanathon! You are the best! Thanks for sharing your testimony (and so well written, might I add). I feel like I just went to testimony meeting. I can feel the truthfulness of the things that you have shared and they have uplifted me. I love you and all of your 16 angels!!

Todd said...

I enjoyed every word. You have great insight. Thanks for writing and teaching us along the way.

Gayleen Carlton said...

thanks Sean for those words of peace, you have a great spirit and a wonderful testimony. Thanks for sharing.

Terri Park said...

I am so grateful for these updates your family is posting. My heart aches for you guys but I am overwhelmed by your families love and support to each other. You are all an inspiration. I am keeping Ty Park updated as he is very concerned for Alex and your family. My prayers are with your family.

Alexi Bullock Design said...

That is very sweet of you, Sean. You are definitely one of my angels, too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts for us all to read.

Jessica Hall said...

Oh Sean! You have such an amazing testimony. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reminding me of these fabulous Gospel principles.

Rachel said...

When we had Lincoln, we said that we want him to grow up and be a boy like you seanie, and this is why. Love you Seanie!

Mom /(Marcia) said...

You quoted a scripture that I think about repeatedly and that sustains me. It was inspiring to me to read your faith filled thoughts. Your family is in our prayers. ...every day.

Katie said...

Sean, I think I need to save this post and read it every time I have a trial in my life. Thanks for your positive insight. love ya.

Katie said...

Sean, I think I need to save this post and read it every time I have a trial in my life. Thanks for your positive insight. love ya.

Liz said...

Sean, thank you for this. I love that talk, it's time I reread it. I hope things go well in the next few days while your dad is starting treatment!