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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Roller Coaster

We've all heard the worn-out phrase, "Life is a roller coaster." It's an analogy well used, and there has been no other time in my life, perhaps, that I have heard the phrase as much as I have lately. The social worker at the hospital describes the cancer journey in terms of the roller coaster comparison, other cancer spouses I talk with shake their heads and say, "it's just such an emotional roller coaster," the words have rolled off of my tongue as I sometimes struggle to explain the current status of Trevor's tumor over the past four months to others, "it's a roller coaster."

I know there has been a big gap in blog posts following my last update. It's been one of those "down times" and I've been holding on too tightly to the ride to release my white-knuckle grip and find the words to explain the continuum of change the past months have brought.

If you remember the previous post ended with a bucket list teaser about getting on a plane...which we did in order to fly to

New York!
My amazing mother, stepdad and grandparents saw the "Visit the Statue of Liberty" item on Trevor's bucket list and turned his dream into reality by making arrangements to see Lady Liberty on the 4th of July and watch the incredible NY firework show from a boat in the New York harbor that night. It is a trip that deserves a more extensive post, and will always be a very special time and memory for us.

After coming home we spent some time at the beach in California with the Linderman family, soaking up more fun and sun and time together.

Our next big bucket list trip came at the first of August--climbing the Grand Teton in Teton National Park. I was lucky enough to tag along with Trevor and his childhood buddies--who put this trip together for him.

It was on our way home from climbing The Grand that things started to get a bit concerning. As we were driving back from Idaho late on a Sunday night Trevor suddenly stopped the car, pulling to the side of the freeway and said, "Something isn't right." He began to have seizures. Our dear friends, Josh and Bryce had ridden up to the adventure with us, and, by some tender mercy, were in the car. Josh was able to help with Ivie, and Bryce got out of the car with Trevor. These seizures were strange, not the sort we have experienced in the past. Trevor never lost consciousness--but could not control the muscles on the right side of his body. We debated what to do, Josh called all of the hospitals along our route on I-15 and visited with the folks in their ERs. After learning that most hospitals up until SLC didn't have on-call neurologists working at night we decided to simply head home. The seizures continued until the next morning. We called Trev's doctors at the Huntsman and they moved his MRI up and prescribed an anti-seizure med to begin taking immediately.

Meanwhile, Trevor continued to click off bucketlist items, hiking King's Peak--the highest peak in Utah, with our buddy Josh.

There were more seizures.
Please note - this is NOT a copy of Trev's MRI,
 just a google image I snatched of a brain tumor in the motor cortex of the brain. 
The next MRI revealed what we had feared--the cancer had spread to a new area in Trevor's brain, the motor cortex. While the new tumor was more condensed then the previous cancer spots we had been watching, it was nestled in an area that had a high risk of paralysis if removed surgically.
This meant a few different things for us.

  1. The tumor was no longer responding to the chemotherapy we had been using since January
  2. The cancer is aggressive to have such major growth in only two months. 
  3. As long as the tumor is present in the motor cortex of Trevor's brain it may continue to cause seizures.We continue to deal with the recurring seizures, and the impact they have in our daily life and Trevor's work.
  4. Trevor cannot drive until he has been seizure free for 90 days. 

We visited with our oncology team and the brain surgeon. We decided that we would not try surgery yet, but instead try a new kind of chemotherapy and begin infusion therapy treatments as well. Trevor's little sister, Hillary, moved in with us and has been indispensable help in driving Trevor to and from work and often taking him to SLC on Fridays to do the infusion therapy treatments.  We started  the new chemo right away....and we planned another bucketlist trip.

This time we spent ten beautiful days in Washington DC with Trevor's parents. Another very special trip we will always remember.

After coming home we spent a weekend deer hunting and camping. And then this week we visited the doctor again.

And suddenly our roller coaster seems to be cruising upwards. Trevor's scans look great. Even with the caveat that one of the drugs Trevor is currently taking can make scans look deceptively good, they still look great. The tumor in the motor cortex seems to have shrunk significantly--which may be why we haven't had any seizures in the past two weeks, whereas we were having one to two seizure episodes per week prior to that. We again find ourselves feeling hopeful, and my freak-out meter dials down a little from where it was at in September.

We are relieved. We are grateful. We are mindful that it can all change again. And we are continuing to learn to soak up every second of life we are allotted.

Because that is the thing about the roller coaster analogy that never quite adds up. The comparison is supposed to signify that ups and downs of life, implying that the downs are the rough patches we all find ourselves in.

But the downs are where you really feel alive--the wind rushing around you, the sound of the railed track furiously clicking beneath your car, the feeling of your stomach floating upward in your chest, the thrill and reassurance of squeezing the hand of the person next to you or simply letting the air fly through your fanned out fingers as you raise your hands high above your head. In the downward rush of the ride you are fully present, acutely aware of every sensation, every gasp of air that hurtles into your lungs or exits your body in a delighted scream. It is thrilling, terrifying, exhilarating, joyful and frightening all at once.  It is life in the moment.

We continue to learn to live in our moment.

And right now that moment is beautiful.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


The opening lines to one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems roll so easily off of the tongue...

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -"

I don't know that I would always describe myself as an overtly hopeful person. 

I'd like to think that I am hopeful. And in the easy situations I am. I hope my kids will be healthy and happy, and they probably will be. I hope the garden will grow, and so far the tomatoes don't look too terrible. I hope that I can find a pair of colored jeans that will look somewhat decent on my booty, and there are a lot of great jeans out there and my booty still isn't half bad, so the odds are in my favor. 

It's the big things where hope can be a little harder for me to find. I hope they like me. I hope they accept me. I hope we can be friends. I hope I can do X, Y, Z.

I hope Trevor and I live to be old and gray together. I hope my kids have their father in their life in this world at least until they reach adulthood. I hope his disease has minimal impact on our lives. I hope that I can move through each day without thinking the words, "I'm going to lose him" a thousand times on repeat.

I struggle with hope in those big departments because I struggle with trust. And the thought of losing Trevor in some untimely tragic way often becomes devastating to me because he is one of my very close, intimate relationships that is marked by absolute, pure trust. 

It's always been easier for me to run away from a situation or withdraw from a relationship where I perceive that I might be hurt before any actual hurting can occur. Silly as it sounds, there is something in my make-up that would very much make sure I can hurt myself by pulling away before someone else can hurt me. Once my trust in something or someone feels violated, it is hard for me to ever step back into what I now see as a line of fire. 

It's a flaw, and I'm working on it, but I will work on it for the duration of my lifetime because hope is a big one, and it's especially big for me. President Dieter F. Uchdorft shared these beautiful words in 2008:
Hope is one leg of a three-legged stool, together with faith and charity. These three stabilize our lives regardless of the rough or uneven surfaces we might encounter at the time. The scriptures are clear and certain about the importance of hope. The Apostle Paul taught that the scriptures were written to the end that we “might have hope.” 1
Hope has the power to fill our lives with happiness. 2 Its absence—when this desire of our heart is delayed—can make “the heart sick.” 3
Hope is a gift of the Spirit. 4 It is a hope that through the Atonement ofJesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection, we shall be raised unto life eternal and this because of our faith in the Savior. 5 This kind of hope is both a principle of promise as well as a commandment, 6 and, as with all commandments, we have the responsibility to make it an active part of our lives and overcome the temptation to lose hope. Hope in our Heavenly Father’s merciful plan of happiness leads to peace, 7 mercy, 8 rejoicing, 9and gladness. 10 The hope of salvation is like a protective helmet; 11 it is the foundation of our faith 12 and an anchor to our souls. 13
Moroni in his solitude—even after having witnessed the complete destruction of his people—believed in hope. In the twilight of the Nephite nation, Moroni wrote that without hope we cannot receive an inheritance in the kingdom of God. 14
His entire address is fabulous, and you can read it in full here.  

One of the hardest things for me regarding Trevor's health situation is trying to constantly walk in hope. And I will admit that at Trevor's appointment a few months ago when we were told not to expect any positive change in Trevor's scans and the state of the tumor growth, that our new goal was to simply keep it where it was at, that my default setting was to make myself accept the disease's progression, reconcile that progression means moving more closely towards a finale, and to start moving pieces in my life around accordingly. I have been very busy the past three months making my peace with these perceptions.

For me, that peace comes in big and little things and sometimes the striving towards it becomes burdensome in and of itself--there is a beautiful article written by a woman with a husband in much more physically challenging stages of a brain tumor than where Trevor and I are at--she describes living with that constant voice in your head reminding you that your husband is sick like this: 
I watch, powerless, loving him, longing for a miracle, praying for healing, hoping with all my heart that he will walk normally again, or maybe regain use of his right hand. Or be told that he has won the battle. And a battle it is. Personality traits seem exaggerated. He, more casual. I, more obsessive. I gasp with his minor missteps, terrified he’ll fall. And he falls plenty, no matter how careful he is or how often I gasp. I cry so often and unexpectedly that I’ve stopped wearing mascara. With love also comes arguing. Most couples disagree or get grouchy with each other. Sure, he has cancer, but does he have to rule the channel changer? It’s hard to be angry with someone who has a brain tumor. We are constantly reworking the nuances of our relationship. He frequently needs help, but doesn’t want it. I get that. But it’s frustrating to watch him struggle with zipping his coat, knowing he’ll ask for help anyway. Or to stand in the freezing cold as he slowly maneuvers into and out of the car. I feel so deeply sorry for him, and at the same time internal conflicts abound as I recall past times when he drove and I could relax or read the paper and sip coffee. Selfish thoughts, perhaps. It’s hard to be selfless and loving 24/7. Guilt has become my default setting. 
 But, as we learned at our appointments yesterday, sometimes tumors change their minds (will I ever be able to remember this?). After telling us to expect no positive change, yesterday Trevor's tumor team told us that they thought his scans actually look better.

To try and best simplify the technicalities--it can be clearly seen in the MRI slices that the "flares" (areas of the brain taking up MRI dye) which indicate cancer growth were actually smaller than they were three months ago. Which potentially indicates that the chemotherapy is working very well.

Trevor's doctors are pretty conservative, and I don't think they would dole out false hope flippantly. 

Still. It is hard for me to trust. To hope that the cancer pockets really did shrink. To hope that it is really working. To hope that Trevor might just beat this thing back again after all.  

I’m still all over the place. Filled with love for him. Annoyed as hell with him. Trying to live in uncertainty. Grateful. Scared. I don’t want to lose him.

The mixed emotions that come with cancer pile up. But so do the blessings, something I never understood about cancer. People who have been merely acquaintances now sincerely whisper, “How is he?” Friends drop off food. A neighbor mows and edges our lawn every week and refuses payment (and we have a lot of lawn).  Family and even Facebook friends offer love and prayers and fastings. My mother spends hours on the phone with me, weathering my emotional roller coaster states. The teenager up the street sits with the kids and I during sacrament meeting when Trevor is feeling too sick to come. We get cards in the mail from folks we haven't seen since college. Co-workers, past and present, send care packages. The neighbor across the street brings Trevor a pair of leather chaps for his bike. Another neighbor runs over eggs to a sister in law who comes to tend kids and makes cookies only to discover I am out of nearly every staple that should be in a pantry or fridge. Friends come from St. George to visit and help me run a household I am virtually now running by myself because most of Trevor's energy is spent working in the day.  A phenomenal photographer we don't even know offers to take our family pictures at no charge. I am only scratching the surface--there have been more acts--big and little, too many to name.

Just when I think I will crumble, these human angels--you human angels--pick me up. And I know you lift Trevor as well.

The essence of cancer simply is that it is inherently unpredictable.

In January when Trevor's tumor started to grow again there was new grief, new disbelief, new decisions, after we had been lulled into thinking he had won this battle seven years ago. 

Then yesterday we learned things might be better than we all thought.  Now all those who love him will stand by him again. I will do my best push away fear and anxiety, and hope--ever so cautiously--once again, for a miracle.

Until then? We’ll hug, laugh, cry, and maybe argue about the way he leaves his jeans on the closet floor....and we will keep checking off that bucket list....which is why we are getting on a plane one week from today. :)  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Knocking Off the Bucket List

Our everyday wonderfuls continue to be wonderful.

Some of the highlights include stealing Daddy's car from work to wash and detail it as a surprise. Leaving love letters under Daddy and Ivie's pillows. A night out to the theater with Grandma and Grandpa Great and Nana. A night at the movies with Toothless the Dragon, Uncle Jade, Aunt Hillary and Ivie's new little friend, Millie. A crazy quilt shop hop adventure that took us all over the valley. A smashing party for our little man who turned one! (This event gets it's own post tomorrow or so). Cooking one of Dad's favorite dinners and lots of snuggles, hugs and soft conversations.

And then, tonight, this:
He does look handsome on a bike 
When Trev first sat down and began to write out his bucket list he only penned three items before emotions ran high and "things got too real" and he needed a break. We've added to the list since then, But in that initial top three was "ride a motorcycle for awhile."

I am not a huge fan of motorcycles. They scare me. The wrecks they are in scare me. Trev has mentioned wanting one off and on through the years, and always we have both come to the same conclusion--it's not a risk worth taking.

But, when you have a stinking group of cells in your head that are intent on killing you, it seems like maybe life is worth taking a few more risks.
I told Trevor if he really wanted one then now was the time to get one while he was still healthy enough to enjoy it because we don't really know how long we have, or when his disease will continue to progress.

So, he came home with this baby tonight.
If I'm being honest, the thought of him riding a motorcycle still stirs up fear in my gut. I've snapped pictures, cheered and even sat on the thing myself tonight--all the while pushing aside the anxiety I have about the safety, the price tag, the million things that could go wrong in a second.

There will be a time and place for those worries. But tonight, we are just knocking this one off the bucket list and deciding to take the risks that promise to reveal some more really wonderful parts of this life.
The kids wanted to sit on the bike too

Maybe this little bean has a future in Biker Babe modeling.

We have another bucket list adventure in the works that I am DYING to tell you all about....but I'm holding onto the secret just a little bit longer - so keep checking back :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Everyday Kind of Wonderful

We've all heard the cliche a million times.

It landed Tim McGraw a #1 slot on the Country Top BillBoard charts for seven weeks straight in 2004 with the song, "Live Like You Were Dying."

It won Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson acclaimed fame for their roles in The Bucketlist in 2007.

It's captured in Mel Gibson's poignant words in the epic Braveheart as: "Every man dies, not every man really lives."

It's printed as "Carpe Diem" across a thousand bumper stickers and t-shirts.

And in the most poetic of words, some I've been thinking about a great deal lately, writer Stephen Vincent Benet describes it like this: "Life is lost not by dying. Life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day in all the thousand small, uncaring ways."

But I will be the first to admit that despite its prevalence, it is a sentiment I have rarely taken to heart. Even through Trevor's first two battles with his brain tumor I just saw those episodes as bumps in the road to the two of us growing old and feeble and gray together...

and while we still desperately hope and pray that we do, we also know that we might not.

Really, nobody has any guarantees. None of us know when our own expiration dates will suddenly roll around. We take for granted that another breath will follow our last, that our to-do lists can wait til tomorrow, that there is always going to be more time.

But the recent turn in our lives has given us pause to think. Over the weekend while the baby slept and Ivie visited cousins and grandparents in Idaho, Trevor and I watched a show that centered around the friendship of two individuals. One had recently found out that he suffers from an inoperable tumor and has five months to live. He opts not to do any treatments, much to the dismay of his friend, and instead wants to spend his time doing the things he has always wanted to do, rather than being sick from chemo and radiation. The friend eventually accepts his wishes and the two take off on a motorcycle trip across South America. The subject matter hit a little close to home, and we began to talk about what we wanted out of however many days, years or (God willing) decades we may have together.

Trevor said, "I think what I want to do with my time is mostly just this, be normal. Go to work. Come home  and do it all again as long as I can."

"Are you sure?" I pressed, "Wouldn't you like to do something magical or wonderful? Take some kind of trip or skydive or something crazy?"

"I think our life is pretty wonderful." came his quiet response.

I've been thinking about his words. Sometimes I get so busy looking at the dust on the windowsills, the boxes still yet to be unpacked, the piles in the garage, the dry spots in the lawn, the weeds in the flower beds, the unsorted emails, the pile of single socks that have lost their mates in the laundry that I don't see the magical and the wonderful.

But I want to see it. I want to live my life a little more thoughtfully, and make things a little more wonderful everyday for my family.

To that end, I decided that everyday I would find or create some sort of fun, magical, wonderful, surprising, silly, spiritual or sentimental simple moment for our family.

We started today.
Ivie painted the sign we hung on the front door to greet Trevor when he came home from work.
 There was a Nerf gun lying beneath it. 
This is hardly an original idea, it has been floating around Pinterest in various pins for awhile now. In fact, I pinned it months ago. I'm not even sure where the original idea came from, so I can't give someone else their due credit. It's been one of those things I was going to get around to doing when the house was finally all organized, when the laundry was done, when the windows were washed...when...when...when...

It was something we did today.
This is Ivie's "war face"

Double Guns

It was fun.
It was silly.
It was wild.
It was wonderful.

He's cute, but he makes for lousy backup...
Here is to finding the everyday wonderful in all the rest of they days we have. Here is to living like we are dying. Here is to speaking more softly, forgiving more quickly,  laughing more deeply and loving like there really might be no tomorrow.

And here is to checking off some of the bigger items on Trev's "bucket list" mixed in with our everyday wonderfulness. He took his motorcycle permit test at the DMV this morning. I'm thinking that no matter how things turn out there is some leather and chrome and exhaust in the near future....stay tuned :)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Our New Normal

I know it has been a very long time since my last post. I appreciate the patience of those who have been wondering what the latest with Trevor is, and the understanding for missed phone calls and unreturned emails or Facebook messages.

A great deal has happened since my last post, and all of it is life changing--some for the better, some for the worse. When you live with a chronic and life altering disease like cancer there are often times where words are inadequate to express all that happens, the emotions and thoughts that roller coaster from highs and lows.

As I write this post it is National Cancer Survivors Day (at least according to FB, so that makes it true, right? :) ). And in many ways this is a post about survival. It is a post about recognizing that life is a series of naturally occurring and spontaneous changes. It is a post about letting reality be reality, and about letting life flow forward in whatever way it likes as we embrace every moment.


Let's begin with Trevor's health. In April we met with Trevor's oncology team at The Huntsman. Trevor's folks, his little brother and one of his little sisters were in tow and, as always, the amazing family support we feel everyday was an indescribable blessing. At this appointment Trevor had an MRI scan and we were able to speak further with the doctors to gain a more clear understanding of where things are at. It was a conversation that granted more insight and knowledge about what to expect as we move through this experience, and we have all been processing the information in our own way over the past month.

The good news is that Trevor's scan showed no additional growth in the cancer cells in the left hemisphere of his brain. What this indicates so far is that the tumor cells seem to be positively responding to the chemotherapy treatments.

The bad news is that right now this is the best we can hope for. Every other time we have walked down this road there has been a way to eliminate, even if just temporarily, the tumor cells. It has been a matter of cutting them out and then moving forward. But that is not an option anymore, and all of the implications of what this means can be heavy. We used to go to Trevor's check-ups every six months and hope to see a clear scan--and it is taking some time to accept that our new normal is to now just look for no additional growth. Our old baseline of "no cancer activity" has shifted to "no additional cancer activity." This is the next step in the evolution of this disease, and our new goal is to keep the cancer from spreading as long as possible. How long that may be is hard to say. Right now, the best thing we know to do is continue chemotherapy treatments, with gradually increasing dosage amounts, each month for up to two years as long as Trevor's body can handle it. What we hope this accomplishes is that the toxicity of the chemo keeps the cancer in check for as long as possible. And in the meantime, like millions of others impacted by these kinds of health conditions, we continue to watch and hope for scientific advancements that can offer additional possible treatments. And, of course, we hope that Trevor's remission years are long and plentiful.

But, it isn't going away. It brings us one step closer to the way cancer can conclude, and we are also trying to be aware of that reality.

There are moments when the fear of that reality are too much for me and I call my mother crying or go to the store because I am not a public cry-er, and putting myself in the middle of a bunch of people is always a sure way for me to pull it together.

Trevor and I are talking more about the various ways his health might split and how to best prepare ourselves and our family for those possibilities. We are writing and checking off bucket lists, making financial preparations and trying to find that fine line of living in the moment while still behaving responsibly for the future.

Trevor continues to feel healthy, and still hasn't shown any physical symptoms of the tumor's progression--all of which are really good signs.  At this time, he wants to continue to work, establish our home in Pleasant Grove and just live like there is nothing growing in his head. The same characteristics that drive those goals are some of the things that most draw my impulsive nature to Trevor's steadfastness. He has always been my anchor, my sense of security. After our last meeting with the doctors I was ready to sell our house, cash out our stock portfolios and drive an RV around the country  seeing and doing as much as possible while living on bread and peanut butter and counting on the kids to figure out how to pay for their own college funds.
Liam loves watching Hershel (the hamster) run in his wheels

Working brings to mention another shift in our lives, another part of our new normal. For the past five years Trevor worked for Overactdev Technology Partners. An incredible company that has been like family to us. It's an organization run by excellent people and the knowledge and experience and friendships Trevor gained there are priceless. Several months ago an opportunity fell into our laps and it was something Trevor wanted to chase and follow. He is now working for Vivint Solar as a manager in their CAD Design department. The new career adventure has been exciting and demanding. Trevor enjoys the people he works with and the challenges of improving operations and process at a company that is experiencing phenomenal growth.

Of course, the other way this change impacts our new normal is that we will now be living more full time in Pleasant Grove. This is one of the changes I have the most mixed feelings about. I strongly feel this is the best place for my family to be right now, and the proximity to Trevor's doctors is a huge advantage. But, I miss St. George and the incredible friends we have there. We plan to be back in St. George at least monthly, and know that it will always be among the places we feel most at home. Even from up here though, we continue to feel the sustaining support of those St. George friendships.

And we continue to make friends and acquaintances here.  Our neighbors are lovely and our LDS ward is welcoming. There are so many things to do with kids up here, and I've been enjoying the museums and community events with the kids. We are also discovering hiking paths and parks. Ivie is planning to start preschool in the fall and is currently enjoying gymnastics. She is also beginning violin lessons, and is so excited to be able to play along with her dad on his cello. Trev is planning to attend her weekly lessons with her, and I'm excited for the two of them to have that time together.

Ivie on the balance beam at gymnastics
Liam is growing and growing. I cannot believe that in just one week he will be a year old! Sometimes I feel like in the craziness of the past year that I have missed too much of his growing up, that I haven't paid enough attention to the sweet baby bits of him that are all too quickly turning into toddler. He is a lovely soul. He is incredibly happy and easy going--more so than even Ivie was as a baby. He is content and quick to smile and has an absolutely infectious laugh. He is his sister's shadow, his mama's boy and his daddy's teasing accomplice. We love him.

Little Big Guy
Ivie at her preschool graduation in St. George. 
I am having fun--mostly, anyway--putting our new place together. Trevor has never been particularly handy, and knowing that there will likely be time when he will no longer be able to fix things around the house, I've been on a crash course in power tools and projects. I think it makes me feel more in control of things to feel more self-sufficient, and Trev is patient with all my tinkering as of late. I am also looking forward to a great girls getaway to West Yellowstone in a few weeks with some of my best friends. I am planning to run a half marathon there, but am very nervous about a knee injury I've been battling. My friends may have to drag my body across the finish line.

Our hearts are full and our feelings--while often tender--are sincere and open, and I am continually grateful that we share the kind of closeness that enables us to discuss the parts of this journey that are scary, funny, painful and fulfilling.

Trevor's next scan will be on June 22nd, and we hope we continue to see the same kind of positive chemotherapy reactions we have experienced thus far.

Meanwhile, I have been more consciously aware of our time together, and have been thinking of ways to make it as wonderful as it can be, some of the details of which I'll share here soon. Until then, thank you for reading and praying and hoping and being with us. We love you all.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

14 points

After religiously watching Trev's diet the past couple days and making the poor man drink a thick green smoothie every time he turned around, Trev's blood work results came back in today with a gain of 14 points on the platelet count. Hooray! 122 is still low, but not so low that it will preclude him from the 5 day chemo schedule yet.

We did it!

I'm sure that the positive climb in numbers is due to all the kale, prayers, greens and good vibes. We plan to keep it coming on all counts as Trev will start his second round of chemo tomorrow night.

Plus--to pull us through this next round of chemo we have a pretty fantastic Spring Break to look forward to. But more on that later, for now I'm going to make up another green smoothie and bake a batch of kale chips.

A little miracle...

I was talking with a dear friend on the phone the other day. This gal knows me inside and out and our brains click the same way, so only Brynn could ask, "So, how are you really? I know your blog and FB posts are perky and positive and blah, blah, blah. Are you really there, or are you telling yourself you are there?"

The truth is that the answer is a little bit of both. I do truly believe that being happy is the most helpful way to be. And, really, when I look at Trevor, the one actually going through the brunt of this thing, who is so positive, and so forgiving and so long-suffering, it makes it seem absolutely ridiculous to for me to have any melting down moments.

But I had a few of those moments on Sunday...okay, maybe like an entire day of those moments.

I woke up from an intense nightmare and it just set the tone for a long, hard, grouchy 24 hours. Of course, because I was irritable, the kids were irritating; because I was stressed, everyone was stressful. Sometimes I forget just how crucial my role is in setting the daily, momentary and even eternal tone in our family.

So we all went to bed early and I vowed Monday would be better.

Monday also marked the beginning of our dietary switch. We really eat pretty healthy to begin with--I'm particular about buying meat from local farmers, and as much locally grown produce as possible. Most of the preserved fruits and veggies we eat are things myself or my family has put up. BUT we really like milk, butter, bread and the big S--sugar.

So thinking about everything being completely non-processed and sugar free was still a little overwhelming.

As I stood in front of my fridge just before lunch time trying to think of what I could possibly throw together that Trev could eat, but that the kids would still eat I began to feel a little frustration creeping back in.

Then the door bell rang.

When you grow up in the country no one ever just drops by without calling first. Houses are simply too far apart. However, I am slowly learning that this is entirely normal when you live in town and maybe one of these days I will see the the value in getting myself and my kiddos dressed and put together before noon. However, that day wasn't Monday, so I slunk over to my door in my grungy clothes with my crazy hair as my kids continued to run and crawl all over the front room in their jammies. When I opened the door there was a simply beautiful lady there.

The little jammy clad monkey
The big pajama clad monkey
She introduced herself as a member of our Pleasant Grove ward, and said she'd heard about our dietary change and in her arms she held a beautiful bag with all the ingredients (already measured out and everything) for what she said was one of her family's Paleo meals. She was gracious and kind and smart and funny and an absolute miracle.

It seems like a small thing, but through that visit I felt so much human and divine love and support. It was a humbling moment, as if my Heavenly Father was just gently reminding me that he sees me and hears the prayers and the cries of my heart.

And the reminder didn't stop there...

In fact, another beautiful set of neighbors unexpectedly brought by dinner--and everything in it passed our dietary test, then another couple stopped by with strawberry shortcake--which Trev couldn't eat but the kids and I cheated with while he enjoyed just some plain berries.

I wish I could say that I will always smile my way through this trial that my husband faces. I wish I could always handle with grace the burden of watching the man I love with all of my heart hurt and ache and know that I am entirely unable to make this thing go away or help him. But on those dark days I need to remember that my testimony of faith and human goodness isn't centered and sustained only when things are going perfectly in my life. My testimony lives in the love of the Lord and the love of my neighbors--and what an incredible blessing, a miracle even, for my family to walk in that love daily.

Friday, February 28, 2014

108 and Counting....

Many of you know that Trevor's first blood work appointment was yesterday. We so appreciate all the prayers and texts and phone calls. We continue to be overwhelmed by the sweet support we have received.

When we came back to Pleasant Grove this week we discovered a "box of sunshine" on our porch. You cannot mention the name "Miss Lindsay" around our house without Ivie immediately looking for a beach towel and her swimming suit. Lindsay is our darling swim teacher - and pretty much a celebrity in our kiddo's world. She is a beautiful girl, and I've rarely encountered another more genuine, sweet soul. So I wasn't surprised that this sweet lady and put together an incredibly thoughtful package that made very single one of us smile--and made me cry a bit as well. The box was full of "sunshine" in the form of lots of yellow treats, bubbles for the kids, fingernail polish for me and Burt's Bees chapstick. It contained clothes for the kids, puzzles and books for the grown-ups and simply a whole lot of love. What a sweet, sweet lift for the week.
Ivie sporting her "sunshine" outfit from Miss Lindsay
Miss Lindsay also sent us this spectacular book - which we have been devouring. I love Jeffrey R. Holland, and this collection is simply lovely. 
We also have been enjoying more sibling love this week. Trev's brother and sister (Hillary and J) came. We so enjoy having them in our home--they are incredibly helpful with the kids and the general running of this place. Hillary has dishes done and my kitchen clean before I can even turn around and sweet Justin has snuggled Liam and watched an unimaginable number of showings of Shrek (Ivie's current favorite). Justin and Hillary were sweet to go to SLC for Trev's lab and bloodwork appointments to I didn't have to chase around babysitters. 

And here is the news they brought back:

Let me begin with saying that everything right now is in an acceptable range for Trevor to continue the current chemo schedule we are really hoping to stay on (5 days of high dose chemo, 20 days off). This schedule pretty much knocks our main guy out for a week to ten days, but then he feels mostly normal on the off days--this gives us the most functionality and a family to do fun things like hike, bike and play. So overall, this is a POSITIVE report.
Enjoyed ourselves some biking in sunny St. George this past week. 

Angel bike riding babies

Does life get any lovelier? 
It's also just an easier mental task to only take those nasty pills for five days instead of for 20 days and only have 5 off (last time we did the cancer thing Trev's body couldn't sustain the high dose schedule, resulting in smaller doses of chemo every day. This means Trev feels consta-sick and doesn't really ever get a break). 

However- Trev's blood platelets are just barely in range. His level before beginning the chemo dose was 170, and yesterday it was 108. If it drops below 100 the platelet levels become too dangerous and we will have to adjust the chemo schedule. If you are further interested in the reasons for this, check out the colored text section below about the role platelets play in sustaining our bodies and how chemotherapy impacts them. 

Platelets are clotting mechanisms in our blood produced by bone marrow. Our bodies produce platelets at a fast rate and this is the reason they are so easily impacted by chemotherapy. Most types of chemotherapy target fast-growing cells in the body--because usually the fastest growing cells are cancer cells. Because platelets are rapidly created in our bodies they are inadvertently often targeted for animation by they chemotherapy compounds. Without enough platelets blood is unable to clot, presenting serious health risks. 

Trevor's white blood counts were also a little higher than the doctors like to see, but we are hopeful that this is because his immune system was trying to kick it up a notch to fight off the cold he got nailed with last week.

Trevor's liver is also showing signs of "irritation." This is something that we will continue to watch.

So, while those things all sound concerning, things are still positive. However, before Trevor begins his next chemo cycle on March 6th they want to do lab work again to further consider the chemo dosage. 

We continue to feel the power of prayer and hope and meditation from all those thinking of us. As we move forward we invite you to join us in praying and hoping for these specific things:
  • Trev's doctors will be blessed with knowledge and be able to recommend the best treatment course for Trevor--and that they will be further blessed for their kindness in the sustaining work that they do for so many. 
  • Trevor's platelet levels can rise so that his body can better tolerate the high chemo dosing. 
  • The Temador chemotherapy will prove effective (we will find this out after the second round in March) and a more aggressive kind of chemo will not be needed at this time.
  • That we can all continue to find joy in every day. 
On my end, I've been doing some research on how to support low platelet levels and there is a body of interesting research that suggests in as many as 40% of patients eliminating all sugar and processed food from a diet can help encourage higher platelet counts. 

I figure, why not? It's healthier for everyone anyway - so I'm purging our house of junk (sending home the candy stashes with Hillary and J). However, this sort of diet is new to me and my sweet tooth. If any readers out there practice these sorts of dietary measures will you share your best secrets of success with me? I'm also looking for tips on macrobiotic diets and recipes that can maximize the use of fresh veggies that are rich in Vitamin K and calcium (kale, collards, etc.). Please, please, if you have knowledge in these areas I'd love to buy you a sugar-processed free lunch and hear all about it. :) 

Valentines Love

Sometimes I have to remind myself that long before this blog was ever a source for updating friends and family about Trev's cancer treatment progression that it was a place to share the love and adventures of our little family.

So, for a minute - before I have to type out another cancer update - let's step back and do some of that family oohing and ahhing. And what better subjects to ooh and ahh over than these cute, Valentine's faces?

We had a lovely Valentine's day. We spent the holiday in St. George this year, and were lucky enough to enjoy the company of my dad, stepmom and little sibs. My brother, Clark, had a soccer tournament in STG, so we spent Valentines and the ensuing President's Day weekend in the sunny south.

The day was pretty simple, homemade cards and treats. Then with one minute to spare until midnight Trevor surprised me with a gorgeous and unexpected string of black pearls. They are simply beautiful.

I've always loved pearls, and wanted to own my own real strand. I have a cherished faux strand that belonged to my great-grandmother, and one of my favorite childhood memories is of her teaching me how to tell the difference between real and fake pearls by sliding them across your teethe (fake pearls will feel smooth, while real pearls have a distinctive grain).

Trevor is a wonderful man, but not an overly romantic fellow, and very rarely invests in jewelry--but he has exquisite taste when he does and I am beyond spoiled.

I've happily sported my new necklace several times, and have been interested in reading the "care literature" that accompanied my gift. I had no idea how high maintenance a high-quality strand of real pearls can be. It is recommended that pearls are washed after each wearing, restrung once a year and kept only in a velvet lined box or bag. All efforts to keep the pearls from rubbing against one another should be taken and they should never be left out in direct sunlight for an extended period of time.

I've come to really love the ritual of caring for this necklace, and it must be my literary theory background that hunts for a metaphor in everything--but I really can't help but think that in so many ways the care and keeping of precious pearls is akin to the care and keeping of a precious love. I am so grateful to share such deep and sacred feelings for my incredible husband. He is, and always has been, my best friend and quiet companion. Of the six billion plus people on this planet, he knows me better than anyone else--he sees my "real" side and carefully cares for me, helping me find a shine and a luster and a happiness I never knew could be so rich and so deep.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

One Down!!!

First round of chemo is done!


Trev took his last dose last night. Now he will have 20+ days of no chemo pills. At the end of the month we will meet with doctors again to assess the impact that the chemo has had on Trevor's body and the tumor cells in his brain and then decide the best way to proceed from there.

We are crossing our fingers that the tumor will show favorable reaction to this chemotherapy schedule and that Trev's body will be able to handle the high-dose five day schedule so that he might have a little reprieve in the 20 off days. Feel free to cross your fingers and hit your knees with us. :)

Trev has been pretty sick this week - because he takes his pills at night he is sick through most of the night and through the early part of the morning. His eating as been pretty minimal--but thanks to his angel mother and my darling friend Devri, the couple of hours in each day that he feels like eating have been full of good food. Last time we walked down this road Trev lost nearly 60 pounds, so we are trying to keep every ounce we can on him.

Despite all the hard things about this week, we've also had some really lovely highlights--which deserve some big T-H-A-N-K-Y-O-U-S.

  • Again, we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of emails and texts on Thursday. THANK YOU! 
  • Some very kind, very generous friends sent Trevor a little white package to open after he took his first dose of chemo. Inside was an i-pad mini. We were absolutely blown away by their kindness and intuitiveness. Aside from the time that Trevor is up working in the day he has pretty much been in bed and that i-pad has been a very blessed distraction. I'd call them out by name, but am
    not sure how they'd feel about that. So, THANK YOU to you guys who know who you are. 
  • Trevor got to enjoy the new office chair that my Mom and Dan and my grandparents gave him for his birthday! He loves it and is excited to have a more supportive/comfortable chair to use when he works from home during his sickest days. THANK YOU! 
  • Trevor was also excited to see that Grandpa Ivie had come over and hung up his deer mount down our stairwell. It is the perfect place for it and one big project we can cross off our list. Plus, since Grandma was here to tend the babies I got to go for a much needed run with this pretty girl.  THANK YOU. 
  • Thursday night I slipped out for a bit to go to dinner with some ladies in the PG ward--my darling neighbor's daughter babysat for free and everyone was very kind when learning about Trevor. THANK YOU! 
  • Friday Ivie convinced me we should build a snowman while Liam napped. It did my heart and spirit so much good to play in the snow with my best girl. THANK YOU my darling daughter for being my sunshine. 
  • On Friday I found out that one of our dear old college friends was running a PR event for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Provo. I called up grandma and grandpa Ivie and we made plans to go with the kids. I thought Trev would appreciate the quiet, but he refused to be left behind. We enjoyed the opening ceremonies on the jumbo screens and Ivie loved the kids crafts, games, treats and most especially getting her face painted with this lovely unicorn. Liam--of course--loved the chaos and people watching. he is the most social little kid and he was so content in Grandma Great's arms to just walk around and see everyone, plus I"m pretty sure she was sneaking him bites of brownie and sips of sprite. THANK YOU Di for the great event and THANK YOU to the Ivie's for coming! 
  • We received a lovely card in the mail with encouraging words from our Grandma Gwen. She put into words exactly what I think of Trevor: "I don't know of a man I admire more. He has earned two bachelor degrees, two masters degrees, started a business, helps run a company, married a wonderful woman, had two beautiful children, and bought a home. He has never let his illness stop his progress." THANK YOU!
  • Friday also brought Trevor's parents. Our sweet Linderman Mom came with a cooler full of food and was a whirlwind of cooking/cleaning/washing and folding my laundry/tending my kiddos. Because chemo wipes Trev completely out I'm kind of left to handle the home and parenting bits by myself, and her support was so overwhelmingly appreciated. Dad Linderman and I also had a ball shopping and working on some home-improvement projects. We painted and sanded doors, added wire hanger kits to the back of all the pictures I am hanging so far (since we both decided this a better way to hang things) and hung up bathroom fixtures. THANK YOU!
  • Saturday our sweet neighbors here dropped by a plate of cinnamon rolls--which were pretty much amazing. THANK YOU!
  • Sunday I spoke in church and received a lot of support. THANK YOU! 
  • Monday Trevor enjoyed lunch with his boss. THANK YOU!
  • Monday my darling friend Devri brought by some amazing soup. It is soul-food kind of soup and exactly what we needed. THANK YOU! 
  • Tuesday Trevor met a good friend for lunch. THANK YOU Evan! 
Even though a lot of these things happened here in PG, I am also so touched by the care and concern that have flooded our direction from our St. George family. I've received so many wonderful texts and FB message from my girlfriends there. Even though I've been bad at returning them between family and being pretty generally exhausted (I'm up most of the night with Trevor) I hope you each can know how much you mean to me! From friends just sending me notes to tell me they love me, to friends trying to figure out how to break into my house in STG to clean and bleach the walls, to friends helping me know what's happening in our community there since I've been gone for so long. THANK YOU.

On that same note--I've also heard from all of our UT county friends- just checking in to see if they can help. THANK YOU Sam and Heather L. for your calls. 

I've probably missed someone somewhere because we have received so much support. 

It's funny how just in sitting down and typing out all of these wonderful things how much lighter it makes our burdens feel. There is a sweet hymn called "Count Your Blessings" and the words come to mind right now:

"Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
count your many blessings every doubt will fly,
and you will be singing as the days go by."

Our hearts are singing tonight.

One round of chemo down!

A little PR work....

Even thought Trevor is the one with the academic background in public relations, it seems like I am ultimately the PR person for our family. After word about Trev's current cancer status started to make its way around our Pleasant Grove neighborhood last week, Trevor said that I had better get ahead of it and let everyone know what was going on.

We've always found that this helps everyone feel aware of our situation, limits any misinformation and often forms fast connections among others who face or have faced similar trials.

And the timing was good, since I'd been asked to speak in church here on Sunday.

We had our LDS membership records transferred to the Timpanogas 6th ward a few months ago when it became apparent that we were usually here for the weekends, though we were often still in St. George during the week. We figured that we were already established in our St. George ward, but needed to get to know the area and community here, and being official makes that easier. I wish that we could just have duplicate records in both places since my heart will always belong to both.

I think the talk went well. I'd been asked to speak on the role of free agency in the plan of salvation--so to work a bit about Trevor in there took a few connective step, but I think it came together all right.

Trevor has been thrilled that only I was asked to speak--thinking he dodged a bullet until he realized that this would mean he'd have to wrangle both kids through sacrament by himself after having already taken his chemo doses for three days, so he called in reinforcements. Trev's wonderful parents and my darling grandparents came to support us.

So, here is the talk--it's long, so just hang in if you want to. I was also going to take the time to go through and cite all quotes with proper MLA style--but I'm tired and still need to jot down one more update about Trev for the 'ole blog, so read at your own risk and don't remind me that I was an English professor in a past life.

It occurred to me after Brother ------------- left my home, having just asked me to prepare a sacrament meeting talk for today that in my initial response I might have suggested to him that we follow the apostle Paul’s admonition found in 1st Corinthians, chapter 14, verse 34  where he advises, “Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak.”

When I mentioned this to my husband later, Trevor suggested that it might not be the best choice in our new ward to challenge the bishopric to a scriptural debate.

And choice, after all, is what I’ve been asked to speak about today—more particularly the role agency plays in the great plan of salvation.

Trevor and I recently attended the funeral of a beautiful young women who succumbed to an all too untimely battle with leukemia.  Her passing was sudden and far too abrupt, as indicated by the short spread of the dates on her headstone.

Have you ever spent much time in a cemetery and considered what the most impressive part of a headstone is? Some are sculpted beautifully, some have clever or poetic epitaphs—I always tease Trevor that if I die before him I know he will engrave something like the following on my headstone: “Shoes for sale, call 2130577.”

But regardless of the words or masonry on a headstone, the most important part is really small, it is that little dash between the birth date and the death date. Just that little line.

There is a sweet poem by Linda Ellis that better captures what I mean. The first half of it reads:

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

When we think of the plan of salvation there are many parts of it that we know are certain—particularly those two dates that will be on all of our headstones—according to the plan, each of us on this earth are given a birth date, the opportunity to experience mortal life. And we are each also guaranteed a death date, the time when our toils and our labors and our joys here comes to an end and we return to our Heavenly Father. The way we return to our Heavenly Father depends entirely on how we choose to live and spend our dash, it depends on our agency.

In a 2010 Conference address Elder Robert D. Hales explained the role and meaning of agency in the Plan of Salvation:

Before we came to this earth, Heavenly Father presented His plan of salvation—a plan to come to earth and receive a body, choose to act between good and evil, and progress to become like Him and live with Him forever.
Our agency—our ability to choose and act for ourselves—was an essential element of this plan. Without agency we would be unable to make right choices and progress. Yet with agency we could make wrong choices, commit sin, and lose the opportunity to be with Heavenly Father again. For this reason a Savior would be provided to suffer for our sins and redeem us if we would repent. By His infinite Atonement, He brought about “the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice.” 4

In fact, from the very moment that our Father in Heaven rolled out this plan, we can see a sobering example of just how important our agency is. You all know how the story goes, after presenting this plan Lucifer stepped forward proposing an alternative plan, saying he would lead the children of men. When we read his exact words in Moses chapter 4 verse 1 be sure to notice Lucifer’s use of his agency, “Send me, and I will redeem all mankind, that not even one soul shall be lost; wherefore give me thine honor.” Lucifer used the agency we all exercised in the preexistence to offer this plan—but it is a plan, that in turn, would have denied each of us the opportunity to exercise that same agency.

So then Jesus Christ, our eldest brother, stepped forward to offer himself as a sacrifice, a savior of the world according to the plan already offered by our father in heaven. In Moses 4:2 watch how he humbly exercises his agency: “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”

Following Lucifer’s rebellion a great spiritual conflict ensued—what we often call The War in Heaven. During this conflict each of Heavenly Father’s sons and daughters –that’s me and you—exercised their agency to choose which side to fight and advocate for. We know that because we are here on the earth today that we all choose to follow Jesus Christ—but a third of our Heavenly siblings did not. And because of their choice to follow Satan they were cast out, denied the chance to receive a mortal body, live on earth and progress. Because of the way they used their agency, they lost their agency.

The same model applies in our lives on this earth today. If we exercise our agency to live according to the principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we will continue to progress, becoming more like our Heavenly Father in preparation for the next stage in our eternal journey beyond this life. But in our mortal journey the opposite is true as well—when we don’t keep the commandments or follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, our opportunities are reduced. Our abilities to act and progress are diminished.

Now, many in our world today simplify this dichotomy of agency, deducing that agency simply means our lives are ours to do what we will. In a 1956 Conference Address Presdient Stephen L. Richards—who was a member of the first presidency spoke to this sentiment saying, “Some think that they have freedom to do what they will. They seem to think that they have freedom to do with their lives as they desire. They ought to be taught the Lord’s words regarding life”…the words he refers to are the ones we find in 1st Corinthians chapter 6, verse 20 “For ye are bought with a price.”  President Joseph Fielding Smith elaborates on this explaining, “We have been bought with a price beyond computation—not with gold or silver or precious stones, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

When we know and remember the price of our agency, we can more easily recognize and remember the responsibility we have to exercise that agency in ways pleasing to our Heavenly Father.

So, up until this point of our discussion today we’ve talked about how we must make the right choices in life by the virtue of our own free will. But I would posit that the real nature of agency is even deeper than that. If agency is the vehicle of our individual progress along the course of the plan of salvation, it really isn’t enough to make the best, or the most right choices that we can…the attitude and intention that motivates our right choices matters just as much—if not more. After all, we know that as we read in Samuel chapter 16, verse seven: “ The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

If we turn back to Christ’s example, we can see this more perfect way of exercising our agency—because we know that our Savior always made the right choices—even when he was at his physically weakest following his fasting of 40 days and 40 nights when he was tempted by Satan over and over again in the Book of Matthew he always made the right choice. The mission of Christ was clear, and he consistently exercised his agency in ways that furthered that mission. But it isn’t just about what he did, it’s how he did it.

It is in Christ’s character that we can see the deeper employment and fullness of using our agency for our eternal progression. Because in all of the “right choices” that Christ made, he made them with humble and selfless love for our Father in Heaven and for us—the embodying of the two greatest commandments—“Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and to love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39).  Christ always exercised his agency with love. As a boy in Jerusalem he deliberately chose to be about his Father’s business. Even after long days of ministering he greeted children and their mothers with love when his apostles would have turned them away. He touched the lepers others feared and lifted the sinners that others shunned. His love and charity are perhaps no where more poignantly present that in his final mortal moments, when his enemies pierced his side with a spear and lifted a rag a vinegar to his mouth when he cried out in thirst—to all of which he simply said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

With this kind of love we don’t use our agency to go home or visiting teaching simply because it is one more right choice to check off our list—we go because we truly find love for the families and individuals we are given stewardship over. We don’t read our scriptures to fulfill a Seminary challenge, we read them because we love the words of our Lord. We don’t wipe little bottoms or read “Goodnight Moon” for the 1000th time because we are parents just trying to make it til bedtime, we gratefully and humbly remember that we have the privilege of raising God’s choice children.  We don’t face the trials this life promises us simply because we are told to endure—we seek to endure them well with love and grace, submitting ourselves to the will of our Eternal Father.

Life deals each of us a hand of cards, a set of circumstances—it promises each of us a dash. How we progress given our circumstances is a choice we must make every moment of every day that the dash which will inevitably appear on our headstones encompasses. 

In 2002 my sweet husband found himself facing circumstances that promised to impact the use of his agency for the rest of his life. Diagnosed with brain cancer Trevor underwent surgery to remove a large tumor from the left frontal lobe of his brain. When he woke up from that surgery, he was unable to move the right side of his body. Over the course of months he had to relearn everything—how to use a spoon, how to walk, how to play cello that he loved—painstakingly working to create new neuropathways to control reflexes as simple as waving his fingers. In 2007, the tumor was back—requiring another surgery, weeks of intense radiation and 14 months of taxing chemotherapy. On January 28th, we learned that Trevor’s cancer has returned more aggressively, and four days ago he stood in our kitchen and swallowed the first dose of chemo pills in what promises to be a difficult year. In my immediate circle of acquaintances I know of no one who could more easily take his life circumstances and choose to be bitter, downtrodden, and apathetic than Trevor. But this is never a choice that he has made. I can honestly say that though all of these events I have never heard him complain. He chooses daily to live in faith of our Heavenly Father’s great plan of salvation, the plan of happiness and not in fear of his adversity. His illness has never hindered his efforts to progress in this life because he knows who he is—a loved son of our Heavenly Parents whose life and eternal progression are so valuable that our Savior willingly by his own agency felt Trevor’s same pains and temptations to provide a way for Trevor to rise above them in the resurrection.

In a 1995 General Conference address Elder M. Russell Ballard teaches  that no matter the choice or trial we face, if we use our agency to live according to God’s plan we will find happiness and hope.

We mortals have a limited view of life from the eternal perspective. But if we know and understand Heavenly Father’s plan, we realize that dealing with adversity is one of the chief ways we are tested. Our faith is the source of inner strength. Through faith we can find peace, comfort, and the courage to endure. As we trust in God and his plan for our happiness hope is born. By focusing on and living the principles of Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness, we can separate ourselves from the wickedness of the world. If we are anchored to the correct understanding of who we are, why we are here on this earth, and where we can go after this mortal life, Satan cannot threaten our happiness through any form of temptation. If we are determined to live by Heavenly Father’s plan, we will use our God-given moral agency to make decisions based on revealed truth and the love of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. 

When we understand the plan of salvation, there is no question about how the dash of our lives must be spent. At the beginning of my talk I shared the first half of Linda Eillis’s poem with you. In closing, I will share the second half:

think of these things long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
​the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before. 

If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

May we all choose to spend our dashes living in love and faith as we progress along the plan of salvation is my sincere prayer and testimony that I leave you all with—in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.