Sunday, August 20, 2017

Rallying Together

Wow. I am SO sorry I left y'all with such a cliffhanger and then disappeared for a few weeks (& thank you to everyone who has reached out to check on me. It really means so much). Life has been an absolute whirlwind since my last update...

A short version of a very long and hard to give update: Dad is now at the end of his cancer journey. A few weeks ago we brought him home from the hospital with the care of my amazingly strong mom and hospice. The chemo treatments were no longer effective and it had become clear that his quality of life was going to continue to suffer a great deal if he continued to put himself through the rigors of chemo that ultimately had very little chance of prolonging his life. Dad was experiencing a ton of pain, discomfort and unfortunate side effects. So our focus has now shifted from managing treatment protocols to managing quality-of-life for as long as the Lord will let us keep him on this side of heaven.

But damn, it's been hard. Really hard. Coming to grips with the reality and consequences of discontinuing chemo is still taking me time to absorb. It's especially hard being 9 hours away instead of by his bedside 24/7. Almost every single night I lay awake terrified that tomorrow will be his last day...and I'm not there. We recently spent about 10 days at home with him but ultimately had to return to Charlotte to catch up on work, run our household and tend to our very sick dog who is also dying of cancer.

So the question I get most of all -- how am I doing? Honestly? Really f*cking terrible the first few weeks after returning home (which explains my blog absence and hibernation from life). Now I have good days and bad. Some days I can keep my thoughts distracted and power through. And other days I feel like my insides have completely evaporated and I'm just this fragile shell of a human trying to make it through lunchtime without a panic attack, an ugly meltdown or getting physically ill. It feels nearly impossible to do normal things at times like write a grocery list, run a meeting, make dinner, go out for date night, fold laundry, drink wine with my best girlfriends, blog about mascara, etc. without internally wanting to scream and cry. I constantly feel guilty living my life when I know my dad's life is being cut too short -- he isn't even 60 years old. But I push through with smiles and accept hugs because I know dad wants me to. 
 
Because we don't know how much time we have, Dad has held me tight and said goodbye to me every single day that I've spent with him. With each conversation he emphasizes that his last wishes are that he be celebrated and not grieved. And because we can rest knowing that Dad's destiny is sealed in heaven we have agreed to fulfill his wishes, to the end, whenever it comes. I'm completely confident that God in his infinite wisdom and perfect love is lovingly administering his grace to us, even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. So with smiles, prayers for strength and lots and lots and lots and lots of booze, our family has rallied together to make the most of our time, which brings me to a few pictures I will forever cherish from our last two trips home...
My absolute favorite day was the day we took dad to the beach -- against hospice orders and totally worth it. We decided to visit New Smyrna Beach so we could drive along the beach and pull up right next to the ocean. Most of you already know this, but Dad is an incredibly talented surfer so the ocean brings him instant happiness and watching all his grandbabies roll in the sand and jump in the waves was exactly what he needed. We had anticipated only staying for a few minutes but dad surprised us all and made it a few hours. 
 
It was also during this trip that Matt failed to use sunscreen and suffered the worst back sunburn I've ever seen and I also had my wheelchair pushing privileges revoked when I got brave and tried to push dad closer to the ocean and got him stuck in the sand. Oops.
Another day we visited the Orlando Sea Aquarium. The kids had an absolute blast. Their faces lit up with so much excitement as we saw sharks, sea turtles, sting rays, jelly fish and an octopus!
 
We also spent a lot of time at home so dad could rest when the kids would wear him out. And the kiddos saw every opportunity to jump into bed with him for Disney movie marathons...
And lots and lots of outside fun...
 
Uncle Ryan was a champ for blowing up the alligator pool on the back porch.
 
Snack break.
On Saturday we of course had our Sandroni Saturday Steak Night. Dad has been training Ian up on his secret recipe and grilling techniques.
After the kids went to bed, Dad pulled out his finest scotch and we played rounds and rounds of 31 while pretending that it isn't weird that there's a hospital bed in the middle of our living room. 
 
 On Sunday we rolled Dad up to church.
 
Lots of memories have been made during our time at home and we are anxiously counting down until our next trip to Florida.
 
Photobucket

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50 comments:

  1. Been thinking of you sweet girl and your entire family. Such precious photos, but that one of Caroline crying with her fingers crossed puts a lump in my throat every time.

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  2. You have been on my mind so much the past few weeks. Nothing will make you feel better right now because I believe this is one of the hardest things a person can go through in this life. I dread the time when my mother will reach that phase in her current battle with stage 4 brain cancer. But I've learned a lot about myself these past few months since her shocking diagnosis. I am coming to terms with the fact that while life can be beautiful it's impossible and unrealistic to avoid heartache and suffering. I will be praying for you that God holds you close and prepares you for this difficult trial.

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  3. Praying for y'all.Reading your posts took me back to when we went through this with my mom.A friend told me that walking someone you love to Jesus is the hardest thing you will ever do but also one of the most meaningful things you will ever do.When I heard those words,Walking my mom to Jesus,it changed how I looked at the dying process.It became sweeter to walk her to Jesus and not just her dying.Still incredibly painful and so hard to do,but it was an honor to do that.So from the looks of things,you are doing a great job walking your dad to Jesus too.Again,it doesn't make the sorrow and deep pain go away,but hopefully it brings you some comfort.Continued prayers for y'all. - Joy(Bobby's sister)

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    1. That is such a beautiful way to think of it, thank you for sharing it.

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  4. Oh Christina, my heart is aching for you all and I tear up immediately reading this and seeing these pics of precious family moments. I am so, so sorry your family is going through this and I can't imagine how hard it is to try to enjoy these moments, esp for your dad and your kids, while you're hurting so. Prayers your way, and virtual hugs, sweet friend. xo (and Thomas has CURLS! Whaaa?!)

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  5. Thinking of you and your family. I love that your dad is doing the things he loves and is surrounded by the people he loves.

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  6. Praying for you and your family. We just went through this journey with my dad and lost him on Easter Sunday. I know how incredibly hard it is to keep things as normal as possible for your kids while going through something so painful. I live away from my parents too, and I understand how hard it is to leave each time. Prayers and hugs to you.

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  7. We don't know each other in "real life" but I've followed your journey and have always been praying for you. The short truth of it is: it just isn't fair. I feel that pain for you. My dad passed when he was 40 and I know that feeling of guilt that you feel for all of the things you still get to see, do, taste, experience, feel...while someone you love so completely doesn't. Know that you're not alone during these most difficult times and that it's a-ok to break down. You are still so strong.

    I love the photos from the beach - you can see the joy radiating from your dad! My best wishes and thoughts are with you. Here's a virtual squeeze.

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  8. My heart is breaking for you. I will be praying for your whole family.

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  9. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

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  10. Praying for you.

    That's all I've got.

    I've been down this road twice, and there's not much I can say except that you're in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs.

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  11. I know I don't know you or your family but please believe me when I say I am thinking about you every day. Sending you all so much love xx

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  12. Prayers for you. Celebrate his life that he has lived and know he will be surfing in Heaven. It's really tough to watch them go through this. Have peace knowing he is saved and that your kids got to meet him and that you have so many memories with him.

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  13. Sending so much prayer to you. I lost my mother to cancer two years ago and it was and has been the hardest time of my life. I wouldn't wish this type of pain on anyway. Praying that God gives you some peace during this difficult time.

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  14. Continued prayers to your family. Losing a parent is so so so hard. Love that you guys made such great memories with each other (and I may have cried a little bit at the steak photo).

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  15. So glad you all have had such special memories together during your trips down! I know it must be hard not being there but your time is that much more meaningful and intentional. Loved seeing you this weekend! Prayers friend.

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  16. Thinking and praying for you and your family often <3

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  17. Christina, you are so brave. Continued prayers for you, your family, and Charlie <3

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  18. Nice that you all have been able to spend quality time together. Such a hard road you are traveling and sad to hear about your dog too. Hang in there. You have my prayers. 💜😔

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  19. I have been thinking about you and your family tons. You are all in my prayers, I love your dads out take on everything and I know it's such a blessing to get to spend this sweet time with him. You're all in my prayers. oxox

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  20. Sending love, strength and prayers your way. What fun and precious memories you made with your time in Florida. Praying especially for you and your families continued faith in God through all of this and for Him to send you all comfort and peace.

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  21. Dear Christina, Obviously I don't know you but I feel like I do. I originally found your blog while googling PBM (which I had in June) and continue to follow you and your sweet family because I love your posts and my 3 "babies" are almost all grown and flown. This post has touched my heart and I share your tears as I read it. I lost my dad to cancer almost 9 years ago. I am holding you close in my thoughts and my prayers...it is so hard. I love the memories you are making and I love that you got more than just a few minutes at the beach and I love the card game with scotch and wine and you can just feel the love through that photo. There is something very special about the end of life with those we love. Wishing you peace and comfort for your sweet dad. xxoo

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  22. b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l! What a wonderful time with family. Thinking of you all a lot lately and sending love! xo

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  23. Praying for you. What a gift for him to get out with the babies and live life even though there is not much of it left for him.

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  24. Praying for you and your sweet family. I'm tearing up reading your post both for your family's loss but also that you have the beautiful memories to hold tight to during the rough days ahead.

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  25. I've been praying for your sweet family. Having been through what you are going through I'm not going to sugar coat it. It's going to be some rough days ahead but rejoice in the time you are together. Harder days are ahead but the Lord will be always be at your side even when you think he isn't. Crying helps get it out so don't try to hold it in. And yes some days it feels like the world can't possibly go on but it will and it shall, even laughter will come back. For those work days I once was told you can't drink water and cry at the same time. I used that tip during work meetings on the hardest of days. My heart goes out to you and your family.

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  26. I have been thinking about you a lot lately and I just want you to know that you are in my prayers. I know that there's nothing that I can say or do to make you feel any better, but I just wanted to let you know that you are loved. I think it completely sucks that you are having to go through this. Nobody should ever have to watch one of their family members leave this world this way. Continued prayers for you and your entire family, my friend.

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  27. My heart hurts for you and your family. I am so glad you are able to spend the extra time with your dad. Sending so many prayers your way.

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  28. All I can say is I'm praying for you. There are no words when someone you love is slipping away and that helplessness washes over you and you feel like your drowning. I'm praying for your family everyday!

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  29. Christina, I have been reading your blog now for 5 years, so I feel like we are old friends at this point. My heart breaks for you and your family. I have prayed for you many times since your last post.Like others have said, there is nothing that any of us can say to make this any better, but you and your loved ones are on my heart. I am so, so sorry that all of you are going through this, but I am also glad to see these sweet memories being made. I am 9 hours away from my family, too, and it's hard enough being away from day to day life...I can't imagine how hard this has been. I pray for peace and comfort for your dad and strength for all of you.

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  30. Christina, I love reading your blog and hearing about your family's adventures. Just wanted to say I am so sorry and have been thinking about all of you. Your father sounds like an amazing man and I'm so glad you have been able to spend time together recently. Sending love from a reader in Los Angeles.

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  31. So so sorry to read about this. I'm so thankful that you were able to have a great visit home and hoping that you'll get down there again. What precious memories you all got to make on that visit! Everyone looks so glad to be together and savoring all the sweet moments!

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  32. I have followed your blog for a long time, but never commented. However, you and your family have been in my thoughts and prayers. Sometimes, I know, there are few words of hope that can be said. I realize this is one of those times. In my family we are going through almost the same scenario - the last chemo protocol hasn't worked, it is time for Hospice, and we are heartbroken. I just want you to know that you are not alone, you have your family, friends, and folks you have never even met - all pulling for you. How wonderful that you could take your dad to enjoy a special day at the beach, a place that has such meaning for him. I guess those precious moments and the love we have for each other is what keeps us going. I hope you can find strength and comfort in the positives that show up each day. Sending hugs and prayers.

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  33. Christina, I've not posted before, but I wanted you to know that I've been thinking of your dad, you, and your family quite a lot since your last post. I'm glad you had such a wonderful visit and I hope you're able to go again soon. I had the opposite happen to my dad - he died instantly from a massive heart attack two weeks after his 49th birthday. It was obviously a complete shock and we didn't have a chance to say goodbye. I often envied those who had a chance for final goodbyes until I got older and understood that watching a loved one suffer the ravages of illness is not easy either. I'm praying for your dad and the rest of your family.

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  34. I am so sorry you are going thru this. I have been there, and nothing makes it any easier. But do know your dad knows where he is going, and that is a blessing.

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  35. You guys are constantly on my mind and in my prayers. You are amazing and unbelievably strong. I know your dad is SO proud of you!

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  36. I am looking at those pictures and so happy that he is strong enough to get out and enjoy time with you all. What a massive blessing. So many times the plug is pulled on treatments at a point where the patient cannot enjoy the remainder of life here. Those photos will be treasured one day but until then I hope his days can be filled with so much incredible joy. xo

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  37. I have been thinking about you since your last post - I am so sorry for what you are going through, I have tears reading this. How awesome to get your Dad out and do some really fun stuff, I know you will remember that always. hugs!

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  38. All the prayers and thoughts for you and your family. You're going through so much - it's got to be overwhelming. And poor charlie ... Idk if you have mentioned that before, but honestly I had to re-read that sentence to catch it. As if I wasn't in tears over this post anyways...

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  39. Thank you for the update. My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family in this difficult time. Savor each second and enjoy the memories you are building together. Hugs.

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  40. I'm so sorry. My father battled Stage 4 cancer and severe depression when I had a 1 year old and was pregnant with my second child. It was the one of the most difficult experiences in my life. My father eventually recovered, but I am able to take myself right back to the anguish I felt in those times. I am so, so sorry for what you and your family are going through. Praying for you and thanking God for your family's faith and testimony in the midst of this trial.

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  41. My heart goes out to you. I've watched loved ones die from cancer but I'm still so fortunate to have my parents. I can't imagine your grief and pain right now. Your family remains in my prayers.

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  42. I have been thinking of your family and sending you lots of love. You are an inspiration and your family is just awesome... a testament to you dad, and your mom, I'm sure :) my heart breaks for you for all you are having to endure right now ... cancer just sucks so much.

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  43. When I saw on IG that y'all were in Florida I was worried that this post may be coming. Please know I've been praying for you & your family & I'll continue to do so.

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  44. I am sitting here just crying tears of sadness for you. Here we are - 2 years after mom's cancer diagnosis - and she's still cancer free - praise God. And here y'all are - about to lose your daddy. Life isn't fair. Cancer sucks. Too many people suffer from it. Know that so many people who don't even know you are praying for you and your family, and keeping you close in our thoughts constantly.

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  45. You are in my thoughts and prayers sweet friend, and so grateful that you get these moments with your Dad before he becomes a real angel. x

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  46. Thinking of you all and praying for your entire family Christina.

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