| Hospital stays & birthdays |

 

A few days late, but still an update nonetheless—This month: Health insurance woes, hospital stays, birthdays and how we are dealing with it all. ❤

:::::

I sit at my mother’s bedside reflecting on the events of the past month… my mom celebrates a birthday in just two short days. On November 9th, she turns 66 years old. I feel a mix of emotions. I am thankful we get to spend a birthday together—this was—this seemed impossible when she was diagnosed in December. But I am saddened because minutes ago,

 

I had to cancel two big birthday dinners planned to celebrate my mom…because the side effects of her medications have caused her to be very confused and disoriented.

 

Much has happened in the past month.

Two stays at the hospital due to uncontrollable pain (My 23rd birthday was that week!), two nightmare visits to the ER, some more radiation, a change in my mom’s chemo treatment, some more radiation… Insurance woes.. deadlines.. and some more confusion.

What a month it has been.

I wish I could write this blog tied up with a nice bow, saying that all the current issues on the table are solved and the answers are within reach—but no, that’s not where things are right now.

 

Last week, I was under the crushing weight of life’s worries and I hit my breaking point.

I asked God, “Where is this peace beyond understanding? Does it really exist?” .. and like a child reaching out a hand for help—He answered me in a big way—there was this peace, this joy—I couldn’t explain.

 

Things were still hard. But that was okay.

I relinquished control of what I wanted. And I was still okay.

I knew things were still going to be alright.

I was even…joyful—of all things!

 

I felt a joyful expectation of what God would do next.
It was unexplainable peace beyond understanding–

 

Now, I write this to remember, lest I forget, lest I let this peace slip by as I am so tempted to be gripped by the anxieties of this life.

 

Things have become even more difficult today: The threat of my mom’s insurance coverage being lost. More confusion. Friends close by whose suffering and uncertainty are even greater than mine. New burdens I shoulder so others don’t have to go through it alone—oh, my heart is so heavy.

 

Oh, my heart is heavy, but our God is near.

 

I pray that we all continue to set our eyes on Jesus— our true hope, our peace in the storm, our anchor in uncertainty—Oh, that He would draw closer than ever before!

 

 

:::::

— my favorite picture of us these days: My mom and I hanging out at the symphony for her birthday last year. My favorite because, it reminds me that since I enjoy her so much, that even if she wasn’t my mom…I would choose her as my friend any day ❤

IMG_1246

Advertisements

September 2017 part 2: “Hey, I’m with you”

August was the longest month ever it seems.

Last two weeks of August were dark and deep. Like this heavy cloud was above our home and the thickness just couldn’t seem to let up. Looking back, I don’t even really remember what the month consisted of except that it was really sad.

The fog started to clear a bit for me, and it began with a fun day. I had a lovely respite sharing one of my very favorite places (Symphony!) with a dear mentor & friend. She and I sang along to a well-beloved musical’s score and shared laughs and turkey wraps from her favorite sandwich joint.

We talked about our week, about how the kids were back at school and swapped chicken marinade recipes. I say “swapping” nonchalantly, but there was actually no swapping (hah, in my food network dreams) more like just her telling me that there’s no way a naïve cook like me can mess up a simple chicken marinade.

Oh, my little tank running on empty was filled, not only by the music but by the sweet company and conversation. I had a feeling that my people back home needed a similar change of environment and needed to share laughs and everyday conversations and time with their some of our loved ones, who were just a state-line crossing away.

IMG_0117

Sometimes it’s not the deep or moving words that help the most, many times it’s just a hug from others who say “hey, this is messy and sticky- but we’re with you.”

That’s exactly what God did, when you think about it. He sent Jesus,  and in some places in the Bible, He’s called Immanuel, which translates to “God with us.” Jesus came to be with us, in our mess, in our trenches and we He plants Himself and says He’s never leaving.

So soon after, my little clan of three plus one (mom, dad, me and our ever loyal and sweet-looking but fierce bichon-poodle mix, Henry) packed our bags for a last-minute escape to Arizona, where the 2/3 of the Enverga daughters and their people do life. It used to be where I did life at GCU too.

One of my favorite memories of the trip was when us three sisters gathered together in the living room and recounted stories of how mom worked to bring the best out in us—some things we couldn’t quite understand, but at least we were all laughing about it now. Mom provided commentary, and answered our dying questions like—“Why did you make us all eat oatmeal every day?!”  “Did you really send 10-year-old Maui to the supermarket?” “What were you thinking letting me wear those ugly shoes?”

To which she responded:

Yes, because my parents did that with me and it [oatmeal] helps with constipation.
Yes, she was so shy- it brought her out of her bubble.
Yes, Deb- you were so hyper and those shoes protected your toes.

Mom, what were you thinking?

I was trying to hone your character.

What about my feelings?!

Your feelings don’t hone your character.

… said like a true Asian mom.

Later in the week, I made a quick visit to my old stomping grounds, GCU. It was the place I called home for a single semester before our world turned upside down.

I found my friends moving into new apartments, entering nursing programs, hanging new pictures, unpacking their boxes… I thought being back would make me sad, but as much as I missed campus and everything it stood for–I just knew I didn’t belong there anymore.

IMG_0072

My forever school bestie, Ruthie and I got to catch up as she started her very first week of nursing school! She and I tackled the first semester at a new university together, both as pre-nursing students. We were the friends each of our moms back home were praying we would find. We had so much fun being together (we even have a whole video of our very fun semester), we had even planned to coordinate our future RN work schedule and get our future kids into the same homeschool co-op (naturally, since we were both homeschooled).

This was so us. We dreamed about our future like it was as easy as planning our weekly movie nights and downtown outings or organizing our shared Spotify playlist.

Oh if only things could be always as easy as that! Even though I entered September wishing for no more cloudy days, I realized that the cloudy days only make the sunny ones much brighter. That sounds like a line, and it probably is, but it has truth behind it.

As Christians, we realize this: Jesus didn’t promise us a trial-free life, or blissful days on earth with no trouble. In fact, he guarantees trouble, because of the fallen state of this world. But He says that we don’t have to go through it alone because He’s right there with us. He’s overcome it all, and we can overcome through His working in us. Oh, for grace to trust Him to be enough!

My clan has been back home in our breezy San Diego for awhile now, and there have absolutely been cloudy days- some days of uncertainty, fear and sadness and pain. Though, there have been moments of great joy and growth all the same. I can’t fathom or seem to explain it, but God uses the hard things- the hurt- to get to a place in my own heart, that only He can work on and get to. Fears and insecurities are exposed in times of crisis, and trying to plunge the hurt on my own can be maddening because it never seems to stop. We weren’t meant to fill that void- Only Jesus can.

And he so willingly jumps in my trenches, the hard places where the real work is done and says- “Hey I’m with you.”

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

 

September 2017: “People Keep Telling Me I’m Tough…”

When my mom spends a day at the doctors, we usually fill the entire day with back-to-back labs, appointments and IV treatments. There’s usually some down time in-between all of these, so we spend some time waiting. I bring my books and my laptop. She’s good with her phone.

I think her oncologist knows our family by the number of things we carry with us into the office.

you know it’s bad when the medical assistant says, “I’ll grab an extra seat for your things”

On an average day, we’ll have at least 5 bags. I’m not even kidding. 2 purses, snack bag (because food = priorities), emergency bag (clothes and things of the sort), a cooler (with mom’s favorite juice, yogurt and lunch.. yes, food again). I used to fight mom about how ridiculous it was to bring everything because we don’t even use half the things (“Why can’t we leave the emergency bag in the car? Why are you carrying bricks in your purse?”). But, alas, I realized that having these things with us made her feel safe and secure. That’s fine by me.

So… here we are at the elevator, I hit the elevator button “up” with my elbow to take us to the third floor. My arms are filled with bags, as mom holds onto to my elbow for stability. (What stability? I think I am about ready to tip over with our things–)

Laboratory. We sit and wait. Doc appointment #1. Then, some more waiting. IV treatment next…. Doc appointment #2…

During the waiting, I power on my computer and stare at a blank blog page. I need to write something to follow up the post on mom’s cancer. But what about?

Mom sets down her iPhone and I set aside my books— we try to brainstorm on what to write about next. I ask her questions on her perspective of her illness, treatment and daily life, in an effort to come up with some new topic. We talked about faith, we talked about family… it was neat practice to recall the events of the past few months.

Then it hit us, Why not write about this? Can’t we share our conversation?

So, here my friends, is an edited, impromptu interview/conversation of a few of the things we talked about that day.


Debbie: Okay. Let’s talk about things. You were originally diagnosed in December.

Teresa: Yes— we’ve come a long way, it was in my brain and eye then, radiation took care of that. I take morphine daily, there is always pain in my body and I can’t drive anymore because of the medications [she takes]. I am a lot weaker and my eyesight is not the same. I keep hearing the word “terminal” a lot but I’m not ready to be labeled that. I don’t want to die with this illness.

Debbie: How about treatments and care? They’ve been working well because we are now in September, which is more time than we ever thought we would get when we got the news in December. 

Teresa: We are really fortunate and blessed to have insurance and care. We go to Scripps [in San Diego] and right now I am on Gefitinib, it is a chemo tablet that I take once a day. My cancer cells respond to that to “freeze” where my illness is, the doctors say. For topical pain, I use CBD cream and oil which really really helps the pain. I also use those sublingual CBD drops. It is very good for healing.

Debbie: How are you feeling about all this?

Teresa: I’m just so very tired of being tired. I cry. A lot of times I am tired of fighting…. I want to be here with you and dad. With my daughters. I don’t want to die with this illness. I know God has the power to heal me. But I know I should want God’s will for my life, and I am learning to be ok with whatever He wants. It is hard. Waking up with pain is hard.

Grabe ka lisod. Grabe. [She says this in Cebuano; translation: This is so very very hard]

Debbie: We’ve been talking a lot about our faith. We are Christians, obviously. But will you talk a little more about how integral our faith is to our lives? 

Teresa: Without Jesus in our lives, I can’t imagine my life. I always say, without Jesus, without Him, where else would I go? Jesus died for our sins, He went to the cross, so I could experience eternal life and a life with Him apart of it. 40 years walking with Christ and I cannot imagine it any other way.

Debbie: We’ve had a lot of support, from our faith community, like prayers, from loved ones. Plus, a few kindred spirits get to be apart of our everyday lives via text and phone calls. How does this encourage you? 

Teresa: Knowing that others are praying for me really comforts me. Also knowing that others have gone through medical experiences like me, helps me feel that I am not alone. I’m surprised by who God is using and how he is using them to minister to me. You’ve learned who your true friends are through this too, Deb. 

Debbie: Yes that’s true. It’s been an eye-opener for me. I’ve been hurt, but I’ve also been so very blessed by who has stuck around even if my life wasn’t fun. A crisis reveals your truest friends. I am thankful to know who they are. I am surprised by it! But the truth is, my greatest comfort is Jesus- He is the best, my closest friend ever. He heals my heart and never gives up on me. 

Debbie: So, mom, what can people keep you in prayer for? 

Teresa: I believe the trauma from all the change left me with depression. That’s what people call it. I never used to believe in depression- It comes and it goes— I feel like giving up and I am just used to crying everyday—

Debbie: … but you always come back. It just, the fight. It is so very hard. I’ve noticed the fight to get out of your darkness gets longer it seems. 

Teresa: Yes. It is a thin line to trust God and be still and then to be filled with fear and panic. So I suppose prayer for that. The physical pain also affects the depression and it is very hard to distinguish the two sometimes. 

(Here she flips and asks me a question, instead!)

Teresa: How about you, Deb? It [my depression] affects you? Are you depressed too? You had to stop school and your life all for me.

Debbie: I don’t know. I am for sure not going through anything as difficult as you are, but yes I get sad a lot if that’s what you’re asking. 

I used to think I had to be strong for everyone and that meant hiding my emotions and never addressing them— you are so tough, mom! You would never seem to flinch in hardship when I was growing up —  but I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best thing to do for me. I don’t know. I’m not there yet.

*laughter* I’ve been saying I don’t know a lot these days— I am still figuring things out. 

Teresa: Yes, we really don’t know much about our future or anything for that matter. I wish I could be stronger to help you. Except we know God is faithful. Even if we do not understand, our relationship with Jesus is what we can hold on. 

Debbie: Your passion for telling others about Christ is so very apparent in your life. You are so very disciplined and laser-focused and tough and… strict— I can say that, right? Yes, I can. *laughs* And it is apparent in ALL areas of your life, and I love that you devote that discipline in your walk with Christ. I would not be the person I am today if it were not for that. You taught me to run hard and fast to Jesus. 

Teresa: You know, people keep telling me I’m tough, but I really don’t know what they are talking about. I’m just being myself. I guess I am tough, huh? I am different now, so wobbly and weak. I am just surviving on God’s strength. 

Debbie: You’re still so very brave. You following God out of love and discipline has become such a knee-jerk reaction that you always go back to it. What you said [about strength] reminds me of that verse in Isaiah 40 that talks about renewing our strength like eagles-

“But those who wait on the Lord

Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.”

Teresa: God’s Word is all we have. It is good medicine. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to me when I am overwhelmed though. Has that happened to you? 

Debbie: Oh yes. I hear that is normal. I feel that way too sometimes. Just cling to your one special verse and work through it. You have a special verse for this season you said. That would be a good place to end. Would you like to share it? 

Teresa: Yes, it is Isaiah 41:10. I get so fearful with test results and scans, everything is so uncertain. I get afraid when I feel alone that God reminds me, FEAR NOT.

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”

Debbie: Thanks, mom. I know things aren’t ideal, but you’re doing such a great job in the midst your incredible difficulty. I hope I make you proud!

August 2017: “For Just This Moment, Let’s Stop Trying to Be Perfect”

 

Introduction

Dear family and friends, some of you know of our mom’s recent stage 4 cancer diagnosis. The news came in December of last year and life has been different ever since. God’s continued mercies are ever-present and ever-sure even when life gets pretty foggy.

I, Debbie, with the support of mom and our family, decided to start blogging to track our journey— and to let others who are praying to get a little peek into lives.

We would so covet everyone’s love and continued prayers as time goes on. ❤

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” -Romans 8:28 NKJV

August 2017: “For Just This Moment, Let’s Stop Trying to Be Perfect”

This month marks my mom’s 5th month on her targeted treatment. She hasn’t had radiation this month, which is a nice break. Although, this month, she did break her foot tripping over something. Just a reminder of how fragile her bones are. The potency of her treatment is in question though, as her doctors said this week that her high liver enzymes could mean we need to switch treatments (side effect of the treatment) or that the cancer has metastasized to the liver. More tests and scans will be done to determine what’s next.

We’ve made waves in adjusting to our life. Adjusting to her “new normal” (which is what we’ve coined post-diagnosis life) is hard as she is regaining some of her strength but still needs to respect her limitations. She likes to sweep in our small patio in the mornings and has ambitions of trying to cook again. She cannot stand for that long (yet). I would love for her to be able to cook and see her over the stove again. Not only would it do her good… It would do me good too. I try my best to take her out to do fun things we once did. One fun thing on one day usually means two days after of her having to rest afterward. There are some things that are worth it, and some that are not. We try to find a balance. I’m also trying to get better at sharing how she is doing on social media with concerned family/friends and others who are on a similar journey (ergo, this blog).

Tears are a normal part of life for us. Sometimes my mom cries because things are hard or because of the pain. She believes God will completely heal her without a doubt… we differ on that. I believe that healing is so possible but with her terminal diagnosis, healing in Heaven is most likely in her case. Her faith is incredible—and almost all that I know about God and my faith is because of her. So, it pains me to be on two separate pages. God’s will be done. I have noticed though, that her best days are the days where she accepts that Earth is pretty much a dump compared to the greatness that Heaven brings—and the future that we as Christians have in store.

Now, she asks me, amidst tears while gripping my hand for comfort- “Do I still feel like Mom to you?”

And that kind of breaks my heart. She means, do I still feel like the mom you can run to when you have problems you don’t know how to fix or when you need a hug or when you just need a sandwich?

I say to myself, No- you’re not anymore and I’m so sorry you never will but I still love you the same.

I tell her, “I know things have changed a lot, but you will always be my mom.”

In earlier months, I had my friends to depend on and help me sort all these changes. Things are different now and life has pulled us all in different directions and we are not as close we once were. I have to admit: I miss my friends dearly. I miss the support and the laughs we once shared. I could go on and on about how we find who our true friends are in the midst of adversity. But I understand people need to move on and go on with their lives… I guess part of me is hurt that they are no longer apart of my life as they were before. I really do wish they would make more of an effort to be involved.

I keep telling myself, if they aren’t present and God withholds no good thing* from those He loves, then I don’t need anything more than God has given me right now.

My mom in her wisdom said that gratitude was the key to living our new normal well.
She goes on about “perfecting the attitude of gratitude in our situation.” Getting things perfect when I’m still learning what’s going on kind of intimidates me. Mom is a perfectionist so I think the word “perfect” is a motivator for her. I say “why don’t we learn first then we can worry about getting it perfect?” Let’s learn to walk before we run. Let’s give ourselves grace and just take things one day at a time. Isn’t today all we can take care of anyway?

*Psalm 84:11

Perspective.

 

“No height too high

No valley too low

There is no distance that His love will not go…

I look behind me and what has been done

I look before me to what is to come…

No tear drop has fallen, no trial known to man

Slipped through God’s fingers when He stretched out His hand.”

=======================================================
This where I need to stay. God’s unfailing love.

Why do we hope in Him?

Because his hope will not disappoint.

Why should we abide in his unfailing love?

Because his love is unfathomable, indescribable.

What if the answer was not found looking around anxiously and pining for achievement, fulfillment or status?

What if the answer was found by looking to the One who has the best perspective because He has written our stories before the beginning of time?

===============================================
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[image taken from tumblr; quotes taken from sherri youngwood’s song All I Need to Know and Psalm 121]

Potsticker Pity

20140113-204007.jpg

This was originally supposed to be posted before Christmas… But things got busy. (And I may have been not ready to re-live this experience, just yet). Anyway, here it goes.

————————––——————————————————————————–

I work for a really nice couple somewhere in San Diego- I keep the Mrs.’ sweet ol’ mom company, and pretty much hang out with her a few days out of the week. We watch Shirley Temple movies, take long walks, exchange silly stories about our childhood, and talk about good-looking Cary Grant is. And sometimes, when we are feeling a little rebellious, we might go to McDonald’s and order some senior coffees.

Who knew a 19 and a 91 year-old would have so much in common?

Ok, I will admit… Not exactly your typical 19 year-old.
I also have a collection of cat sweaters.
I’m kidding. Really.

What does this all have to do with Potstickers, you ask?
Read on, lovely person.

So, one night, I had to whip up dinner for myself and sweet “Alice” (not her real name). Lemme just tell you- lunch was a hit. I heated some rotisserie chicken, mixed veggies and rice pilaf with almonds (it wasn’t from scratch- but “semi-homemade” as the young ones are calling it these days).

With the freezer door wide open, as I peered into the icy plethora of frozen foods that had the potential of becoming my next masterpiece, I smiled and recalled the earlier success.

I’m pretty sure my eyes twinkled (like in the movies) when I saw the bag of frozen potstickers sitting on the 2nd shelf. “Booyah!” I thought to myself. “Wife material. Right here.”

Disclosure: I’m Asian. And potstickers are an Asian thing, yeah? my little niece loves potstickers and, My sister, her mom, swears by them.

My parents on the other hand, don’t buy frozen ones cause they have preservatives and yada yada yada- they are sort of health nuts, and it gets a little annoying sometimes, but these days- I’m turning into one (Shhh. Don’t tell them).

The bottom line is: heating frozen potstickers was a foreign concept to me.
(Still is)

So I yank out the bag- it read- “ready in 10 minutes!”

“This can’t be that hard”

Cue the scary music.

10 minutes later, I have a huge ball of half-cooked, half-not cooked potstickers on the pan- all soaking butter and 1/2 cup of water. Picture this: uncooked brownish, pinkish meat, oozing out of slimy dough. I felt like it was gonna come alive and jump out of the pan… All Frankenstein-style.

I started to panic, knowing that the people I work for were in the next room (with their cats and dog)- not that they would fire me or anything. I just thought that I was gonna impress them somehow.

While I poked the “evil blob” (I named it, yes) with a fork, trying to relentlessly salvage my wounded pride, I tried to think of the positive side of things.

“If this thing attacks me, at least they’ll hear my screams.”
“Who needs a wife who can cook anyway?”
“My kids will just have to learn”
“At least the dog won’t be hungry tonight”
“One day, I will laugh about this”
“Today is not that day”
“Darn it, should’ve worn the cat sweater.”
“Pride cometh before the fall”
“I wonder if they have cat sweaters that ‘meow'”
“The Asian community should disown me”
“Heck, I’m going to disown me”
“I will never touch a potsticker in my life”

Somewhere among those musings,
the pan turned black.
Something started to smoke.
Someone entered the kitchen.

And I was going crawl under the dining room table.

They held their composure, but I could hear a nervous laugh, here and there- and I’m pretty sure they wondered if the smoke alarms were on.

I mumbled a few stupid things I’m sure about how directions on frozen food packages lie, and how I’m pretty sure it’s a conspiracy started by the government.

But the one thing that I cannot forget was when I thought I seemingly found a loophole out of my misery: “OH look!” I said in jubilation, “it’s expired! It expired a month ago!”

And I was oh so close to adding, “so this mess is not my fault! I am still wife material!”

Then, my false hopes were shot down when the Mrs. responded, by telling me that it’s fine to freeze stuff before the expiration date and she just had some potstickers the night before.

I knew that. I do that at home all the time.

“Shoot me now,” I thought to myself. Right about then, I was ready for “evil blob” to jump out of the pan and kill me.

Actually, The Mr. was kind enough to help me salvage what was left of the bunch of potstickers. And, thus, some of my pride.
Maybe the 2% that remained.

A little part of me likes to think he did that cause he knew I was embarrassed.
But a big part of me knows it’s cause he was afraid I might burn his house down.

Well…The Mrs. did seem a little jumpy that next time I put a pan on the stove.

~fin~

Hello Fall, Where did Summer go?

Yep. Last time I checked in was July… and now it’s October. Crazy. I entered my password wrong quite a few times logging on, and realized that’s been way too long since I’ve “blogged” about everything and anything.

 

Since summer, I’ve wrapped up a NA program, started college and a new job, and had a birthday, got more involved in volunteering; some family has moved away, some friends as well… lots of change.

Last night I was just thinking how if you told my 13 year-old self how grown up I would be at 19, I would’ve gone hiding someplace you could never find me. Responsibility can be scary, man!

Maybe that’s apart of why God doesn’t give us all the details. We would probably faint to hear of all the things He has planned for us- I’m sure some are pretty exciting and amazing, and some are just plain scary if we try to tackle them on our own.

Lately, I heard someone say, “God gives generalities because He wants the daily dependency on Him.”

That reminds me that it’s not all about our life goals, or the “American Dream” (happy, successful, happy) but it’s about getting to know God; Going where He leads us, because we get to learn more about Him and experiencing new life because He gave us new purpose and hope through Jesus.

And once you take that step to follow Him, make sure you hang on tight- ’cause life will be quite a ride!