Often times we as humans try to avoid hard things, especially when we start going into very personal areas that we would just as soon forget, or hope we never have to face. As is evident by some of Michelle's posts, she was not one to hold back, and she was willing to talk about the trials of her life, because she believed that facing the past and learning from it was better than sweeping it under the rug. So when it came time to face mortality, she didn't hold back from facing the questions of "what now" and "what next."
There are things, in my opinion, every couple needs to talk about. You need to talk about your dreams, what you want for your future, and how you hope to accomplish it together with the one you love. You need to openly communicate how your significant other could better support you, find out how to support them in their endeavors, or how to help them overcome their challenges. You need to talk about what to do when it all goes terribly, terribly wrong, when all your hopes and dreams are obliterated before your eyes. I am grateful that while Michelle and I talked about some things prior to her diagnosis, we had the time to discuss it all before she passed. Some of you will not have that time. For some it will be in the blink of an eye and your spouse, your significant other, your partner, the person you planned to build a life with, will be left alone picking up the pieces of what is left from your passing. Perhaps something will occur that leaves you sick. Even if you believe you will recover, do not deny them the knowledge of what to do if you don't. Do not leave them without a safety net; do not leave them with questions for which they are unable to find answers. Do not pile on more then they will already be faced with, and don’t leave them shackled and unable to move forward.
Michelle and I got to talk about all of it, our hopes and fears for the future. The hope that she would live a long and happy life free of cancer, that her treatments would work, that miracles would take place, that she could hold on till scientific breakthroughs could be made. But we also talked about what to do if it all went wrong, how she wanted us to handle things if the cancer spread and started shutting down organs, and if she suffered seizures and was left in a deteriorated state. If she was on life support, how hard were we willing to fight, and at what point would the loss of quality of life make it so that the agony of treatments was not worth it? At what point does she stay at home, and when does she go into a care facility? If it all ended tomorrow, what did she see for me and the kids? Do we stay here or should we go somewhere else? What does she want the kids to know, and how should I move forward?
You have to start having these conversations, because you don't know when your end will come. But it doesn't mean that it is written in stone; you can change your mind about anything at any time. Just be honest about how you feel at that moment so that the one that loves you knows. What you will also find is that by keeping it all in and not sharing it, you have refused to lay it on the table where it can be thought about, discussed, and analyzed. We selfishly hold onto our fears, thinking that we are sparing each other difficult discussions, but what we are doing is denying the ones that love us the chance to more intimately know us, for our fears are hidden in the deepest recesses of who we are. You might find that as you reflect openly upon what you want that perhaps it is not what your spouse will need, and you will grow to put their needs ahead of yours, you will become selfless in your desire to give them the insight and freedom they will need to make decisions without you.
Michelle was adamant about not wanting a funeral. I had to convince her to let me hold one for the people that loved her so that they could grieve and share their condolences; she changed her mind and allowed me to do what I felt was best.
She said she didn't want to pass at home, but in the end she changed her mind and was able to be with us until the end.
She wanted me to stay right where I am, at least until our youngest daughter graduates high school so that she can be on the drill team like her older sister, so she can continue to dance at her studio, and so that the kids can stay close to the friends and church members that can help them remember their mother. I am holding to that desire and have no plans to leave the home we built together.
But one of the most important decisions she made, and one that went through a huge evolution, requires a bit of a lesson to explain. We'll call this LDS Marriage 101.
LDS MArriage 101
So Michelle and I are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our beliefs were a driving force in our marriage. It was our shared faith in Jesus Christ and in His restored gospel that helped us to weather countless storms, including her cancer battle, if you aren’t aware of the many other battles go read our joint blog entry about Mawage. Now an LDS marriage has some unique traits. You see when Michelle was a young woman she went to the open house at the San Diego Temple, and it was at that moment that she knew that someday she would get sealed in that temple.
An LDS marriage or sealing is different from other marriages in that it is not "till death do us part," but rather it is for "time and all eternity." This is why we refer to ourselves as eternal companions. You see we make a covenant between ourselves and God that if we are worthy we can be together eternally. Now on July 6, 1999, Michelle and I entered this magnificent house of the Lord and together entered into that covenant. It is for this reason that though she has left this mortal life, I still feel a deep connection to her and continue to communicate with her and ask for her guidance, and why I have felt her presence guiding me forward.
So what does this have to do with talking out everything? Well you may not like it, but depending on your age there is a good chance that if you leave your spouse behind, they will at some point desire to have someone in their life and to not be lonely. Michelle knew this and at the beginning of her battle, was very open with me. Initially she said that she didn't necessarily like the idea of me remarrying, but that she knew I would need a companion and that the children would need a mother figure. She wanted them to have someone that would show them love, and with whom I could give them a daily example of how to care for someone, so that they would know what a healthy relationship looked like as they went out to find their own. She discussed with me her fear for the younger ones that their memories of seeing Mommy and Daddy interacting would not be as fresh in their minds as she wanted them to be. But she also did not want to be forgotten, and so we talked about the fact that anyone that came after her would have to be strong enough to have her pictures on the walls and to allow open talks about Michelle. One thing she did not want was me getting sealed to another woman—you see we are able to expand that partnership to include someone else, but she didn't like the idea. Fair enough, she gave me twenty-two amazing years, so honoring these wishes was the least I could do.
Six months later we discussed it again, and this time she said she no longer had reservations about me remarrying as long as she was remembered by her children. She still voiced her desire that I not get sealed, which implied that if the time came I should look for a widow who had her own eternal companion, but she did open up the door that if I couldn't find a widow after much searching, a sealing could be an option, even though she didn't like the idea. After that I didn't think too much about it. She supported me moving forward and had some restrictions; again it seemed a fair compromise.
But six months before she passed, out of the blue, she looked me in the eyes, pointed her finger at me and said, "If you find someone that isn't sealed, you get sealed to her. She'll need it, you'll need it, and Heavenly Father will explain it all to me and take care of any reservations that I have."
Unless you share our faith, you have no idea what that means. My wife opened up the door for there to be another person in our partnership. She opened the door to have someone that would be on equal footing to her. She knew what a blessing it was to be sealed, how that could strengthen a marriage, and she gave me the option to extend that blessing to someone else. This is why I added “Be Selfless” to this entry’s title. You have every right to share with the person you love the desires that you have for them and the fears of the things that you would rather they avoid. But once you start talking, you might discover that what you want may place restrictions upon how they are able to live their lives. It is worse to have no answers, then to have answers with some strings attached. They will be accepting of some restrictions, but to be selfless in your hopes and dreams for them will bring you closer together in the time that you have—be it a day or fifty years.
I debated sharing this deep and intimate point, but I feel it exemplifies the level of selflessness that Michelle achieved, that we can all achieve, when we put the ones we love ahead of ourselves. I don’t know what will be hardest for you to discuss. I don’t know what keeps you up at night worrying about how the ones you love will move forward, or how they will remember you. I just know that in that moment, I knew she loved me so deeply that she was willing to exercise faith that her Father would take away her fears and her concerns.
After this talk it became easy for her to discuss what kind of person she wanted for her successor. We even got duped into watching a Netflix movie where the lead female character has cancer, and prior to her passing, takes out a wanted ad and starts interviewing for her replacement. At the end of that movie, and after a ridiculous amount of tears, I had to turn to her and tell her, "Don't you dare." To which she promised not to let her type A personality drive her to do such a thing now, but that she planned to get to work on it ASAP when the time came. She started to share with me what she knew I was going to need in a wife, which was much different from her. She knows me better than anyone and she made it a priority to think about my future as I worried about her present. Some of our talks bordered on what most people would probably call morbid, but we knew that in the end, we would have no regrets. We would know each other completely.
I don’t know what you need to talk about, and in the end, maybe your spouse won’t heed every word you say. I still have the couch she made me promise to get rid of; it seemed like a funny last request that I get rid of a piece of furniture, but she made sure to leave that one hanging over my head. Thanks, Shelly, now I can’t go into my family room without remembering that promise, and I’ll have to make plans to replace the stupid thing at some point. But whatever you have to discuss, discuss it.
Understand you’ve had an impact in their lives; you will live on in them. They are not going to move on without you, they will carry you with them. But you can enable them to move forward, one step at a time. If you give them this gift, their love for you will remain, and believe it or not, it might even grow. At this point it has been almost six months since Michelle returned home, and I can honestly say without any reservation that I love her more deeply today. I thought standing beside her till the end that I had hit my limit, that the degree to which I loved her in that moment was the highest level I would reach. I was so wrong. The depth to which love can go is infinite. So open all the doors. Put it all out on the table. Deny the one you love nothing. If you get fifty more years, then you will have fifty years with no walls between you. If it ends tomorrow, all doors will be opened to a love that burns eternal.
So what's your dance break at the end of this post, well I had to consult Michelle's phone because I was at a bit of a loss. This one suddenly appeared at the top of a list and you know what it seems fitting while being fun, I'll take that as a sign.
Grief is a personal thing, and sometimes finding ways to deal with it can be hard. I was blessed to have been informed about a group, related to my church, for widows and widowers that I joined shortly after Michelle passed. There I have been able to talk with people who share the experience of losing the person that we all thought we were going to spend the entirety of this mortal life with. None of us planned on being alone at this stage of our lives. For some it was a sudden occurrence for others like myself it was a slower process which gave us some warning. Regardless we all share a bond and being a part of that group has propelled me far further along my path of reconciling my grief then I expected to be at this time. I attended my first widow and widowers conference in Idaho only 5 weeks after Michelle passed, I honestly questioned if I was ready for such an event, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed. While there I got a lot of direction, not just from people who have been walking this road well before me, but also from Michelle and from my Heavenly Father.
One of the great lessons I have learned is that crying is not a bad thing. Trying to hold back emotions can work against you and leave you stuck. The release of those emotions can generate energy that can then be channeled to work for your benefit. And tears are not a weakness, having a full on breakdown might be exactly what you need to take you where you need to be, perhaps to your knees asking for assistance. My continued tears are a gift to my wife, a sign that I remember and celebrate her, that she still means the world to me and that her absence is felt.
In January I was blessed with the opportunity to actually give a short presentation on how I was using music to facilitate my grief at another conference I attended. So I thought I might share it here. This is a cut down version since the usually process can span upwards of an hour and a half listening to complete songs not just snippets. It was an experience doing this before a small audience live as I went from cracking open the doors, to letting out the flood, to riding the wave to standing again on solid ground in about fifteen minutes, complete with lip syncing to the songs (perhaps some day I'll do this again live and record it). In the meantime grab a tissue and enjoy.
Grief through Music
Guiding Grief With Music
Cameron Kaley – January 2019
I’m going to take you for a little ride through how music has propelled me forward in handling the loss of my wife 4 months ago. Music has helped me to hold onto memories, it has helped me unlock the sadness and let the tears flow when I feel stuck. I can use it to facilitate a full-on breakdown that lasts 30 minutes and then slowly pull myself out of it to continue on with my day, rather than just lying in a funk for hours on end. I have a list of song snippets to share with you, to give you a glimpse into my mind. So please listen closely as you join me in letting music guide my grief.
There are dozens of songs that I have compiled into a playlist that I started after my wife passed. It started as an attempt to not forget those songs that meant so much to us while she was here. But then there are songs like that one that came after her passing and remind me that so long as I hold onto my memories of her, she will remain close to me.
Other songs have been a part of my life for the past 22 years back to where we met when I was 17 and she was still 16 in the summer of 1996.
I will always see that snarky 16-year-old girl making faces at me as she sang that song and many others. She knew how to tease me like no one else. It seems weird that that was our song, but she introduced me to the gospel and then left me in the hands of the missionaries to find my own way. Still that summer we had many a discussion about God.
Fast forward 2 years and we were married, and this was the first song we danced to as husband and wife.
Now in our 20 years of marriage we had our fair share of differences, she was a classical ballerina who liked top 40 and I was a heavy metal, rock and roller. I found many a song that might not have been her taste, but I associated those songs with her none the less
I have songs from the 80s, the 90s and today that remind me of her and how much she meant to me. Some that remind me of my short comings as a husband and things that I don’t want to repeat in the future, some that remind me of the trials that we overcame together.
One of those trials took place in March of 2016 as I faced being laid off and out of work for 2 months. And now looking back on that time a song that she always loved has taken on new meaning to me in retrospect.
You see I lost my job but ended up getting a new one that allowed me to work from home, which seemed cool at the time, but months later in September of 2016 that trial of losing my job ended up being one of the greatest blessing of my life as my wife received her cancer diagnosis and we began a 2 year battle, where I was able to be by her side every day, now that I worked from home
That right there is the start, where when my emotions seem like they are stuck behind a damn I can trigger them, I can have the controlled grief session when I need to get it all out, before I start to put myself back together.
For 2 years she battled. But in May of 2018 the doctors announced the cancer had spread to her brain and that there were now 13 large tumors, 2 of which were hemorrhaging severely. She immediately started 15 rounds of full brain radiation and lost all freedom to go where she pleased as she was a major seizure risk. But in June, at the dance recital for the girls that she taught, and unbeknownst to me, this strong woman that had just lost all her hair due to radiation took the stage and danced a final solo to this song
She danced, and she left it all out on that stage, proving that through the trials she faced that fighting spirit could not be dimmed. Weeks later she would suffer her first and only seizure, but it would be the catalyst to leave her weakened and facing the final days of her mortality. As she lay there one night this song came up randomly on her phone
That song has helped me find peace as I opened myself to the guiding light of our Savior who helped me find peace while I tried to understand the path that I would have to tread without her physically by my side.
It was a slow decline over 2 months, but again I was by her side through it all. And on the evening of September 11th I resolved to let her know that she could return home. Early in the morning of September 12th she returned to her Father, as she passed peacefully from this world. I was given the strength to give her eulogy and together her friends, and the community upon which she had had such an impact sang together this song.
I was again reminded how great the gospel of Jesus Christ is that I will see her again, for she was a faithful servant that fulfilled her mandate in this life. And with this knowledge and these songs behind me I can prepare myself to emerge from my grief to not move on but move forward. To hold my head up high as she did when she took the stage that one last time. She was an inspiration to me while she was alive, and I look forward to that day when I will again see her in the flesh.
I will not forget her, I will regularly shed a tear for her, both in sadness for the things that will not be, as well as for the joy that she brought into my life, that I never could have imagined at 17 years old. And I will continue to find new songs that remind me of the past and give me hope for the future. And nothing is off the table because sometimes I need to cry, and sometimes I need a good 2 tone ska beat to get me up and moving as I simultaneously remember her and dance my way forward as I know she would want me to
Her life was a celebration of how to go out with dignity and joy. And I am grateful that through music I can remember the past, grieve for what was lost, and find joy in the journey.
The music plays on
So did you make it through? That's a taste of the music I use, I have an ever expanding playlist dedicated to Michelle. Some songs that make me laugh, some make me cry, some fill me with the resolve to hold my head high and seize the day. That list will continue to expand as the years go on and I will continue to use it to remember the good times and in doing so I will picture Michelle with a smile on her face dancing her way through life and through the eternities.
So you've already gotten a good deal of music on this post but what the heck, here is the last song I added to the playlist. How did I not know about this band sooner? I have no idea but man I know we would have loved them together, guess we still get to.
One of the great things about living in this day and age is the way in which things get captured. What a blessing it is to have pictures, video and audio so easily recorded for us to then reflect on later. I have realized that Michelle was most often the one taking the pictures, so there aren't nearly as many pictures of her as there are of the rest of us, but gratefully there are a good deal of them.
But while a picture may be worth a thousand words, sometimes what you really want is to hear your loved one again. You want to hear the way they sounded, to hear them relay a story in their own words rather then trying to rely on your memory. It's also fun to hear how they interpreted an experience differently from you. Luckily Michelle, having the magnetic personality that she had, attracted the attention of people and as a result there just happens to be recordings of her sharing her insights and life stories. So while the last post was her in motion, this is her in her own words.
First she did a podcast related to being a Young Women's leader for our church. At the time she didn't share this one too widely because it touched on some fairly sensitive material, and she really didn't know how it might affect some people. She also didn't want people coming up to her with the "I had no idea you went through all that." or the simple "I'm so sorry". She didn't want sympathy for something she had gone through, what she wanted was for people to learn from her experiences and so it was enough to leave it somewhere where those people would find it. That being said I feel ok now sharing it with a wider audience. Be aware she touches on some heavy things, but thus pretty well confirms that she was tough and fearless before cancer came knocking.
Below is the audio and here is the original link
Now for the slightly lighter side. Michelle did this one unexpectedly while we were on vacation in Utah. Here we get to hear about her passion for dance and how she has held her head high in the face of being sick. Honestly I'd forgotten about this one until the podcasters husband shared it on her cancer support page. I will be eternally grateful for getting to hear her voice again, and to have a little reminder of an inside joke we shared.
So now here is my part. I'd hoped to write up my eulogy to Michelle, but the truth is I ad libbed the majority of it and only had sparse notes. I'm grateful to Michelle and I's friend Candida who unbeknownst to me recorded the eulogy and then shared it with me. Y'all can now hear me speak about the woman that shaped me over the course of 22 years. I wondered how I was going to go on without my other half, but the truth is she hasn't left me. I came to her 22 years ago full of holes and she didn't just temporarily fill in the gaps, she fundamentally transformed me (which I might get to in a future post). But in the meantime here you go my eulogy to the woman that gave me a life that was more than I ever imagined, complete with pictures.
My music to remember her by
So if you just listened to the eulogy you now know, if you didn't before, that we were opposites in many ways. One of those ways was our taste in music. Sometime we crossed over to the others side, there were a fair number of Metallica songs I could get her to listen to, and every once in a while I was able to embrace some of hers. Just wait for the next post on music, be forewarned I'm gonna get you crying. But even though we may not have crossed paths often on our musical tastes I still have an entire collection of songs that I associate with her for various reasons. So I apologize, I'm not sure how well you can dance to this one, but it holds some special meaning. Back on August 3rd Michelle was at home under hospice care, I'd boughten tickets months before for Coheed and Cambria, a band me and the older children enjoy. She was encouraging that I go and it ended up being a much needed chance to blow off steam with everything we had going on. There are a number of Coheed songs I associate with Michelle, but this one hits especially hard, again wait for next post. If you've read some of the other entries, especially our marriage one, you know we faced our challenges, and I was far from the perfect husband at times, but I learned a lot of lessons on 22 years, and I like to think that by the end we were each two halves of something phenomenal. I recorded this one live, so if you listen carefully you might even get to hear that horrible off key voice I talked about above. For those that aren't acquainted with the song, don't worry I'll post the lyrics below, but suffice it to say I was shedding some tears by end of the portion I've marked in bold.
Here to mars
Been a long while since I've loved you or anything
How the times have changed
Distorted, a figure set in trend, emotionless
And the words lose all their means
(Goodbye, lost and long forgotten)
Discouraged might be the term you choose when you look
Looking for an excuse
My company has gone mute
Since listening isn't my strongest suit
I'm leaving you with this here, okay?
Over and out there
Honey, it's in the stars
And you're my everything from here to Mars
And every word I say I truly mean
Dear darling, I hope I'm being clear
'Cause there's no one like you on earth
That can be my universe
Understood, give me a second chance
I know I could be your better half
It's in the stars
And you're my everything from here to Mars
And every word I say I truly mean
Dear darling, I hope I'm being clear
'Cause there's no one like you on earth
That can be my universe
Pardon me, I think I'm going
Out of my head and into the worst
A world without your verse
A world without you hurts
Please, I'm sorry
I will never let you go
I will never let you go
I will never let you go
It's in the stars
And you're my everything from here to Mars
And every word I say I truly mean
Dear darling, I hope I'm being clear
'Cause there's no one like you on earth
That can be my burning star
And you're my everything from here to Mars
And every word I, every word I mean
Dear darling, I hope I'm being clean
'Cause there's no one like you on Earth
That can be my universe
Songwriters: Claudio Sanchez
This is Cameron, Michelle's husband. The reason I'm writing this is because after a number of months I am now prepared to pick up where my beloved wife left off. Unfortunately the reason nothing has been posted here in some time is because on September 12, 2018 Michelle Kaley returned to be with her Heavenly Father. I am eternally grateful for the time that I was given with this choice daughter of God, and for the man that she helped mold me into. I plan to remember her and share with the world that even in death she lives on and continues to play a hand in the affairs of those she loved.
It seems fitting that this page should continue as a means to memorialize her life as well as to inspire people to see that life goes on. With that in mind it seems that I should first get everyone caught up on where life stands before I can share my own story of not moving on, but rather moving forward, knowing that my wife continues to walk with me.
So where have we been? Michelle last shared what she was grateful for, and the outpouring of support that we received. It was about a month later that she suffered her first and only seizure. To make a long story short she recovered somewhat from that but was mostly confined to the home for the last 2 months while she was able to visit with friends and family. Her pain was well managed and on September 11th 2018 I was able to have a final discussion with her to let her know that it was ok for her to go. At that point she had not eaten in a number of days and had not communicated with us either. But as I talked with her, her eyes opened ever so slightly letting me know that she was there and listening. She passed that night and I know of assurity that she went peacefully.
I have always likened our journey to the way I feel about air travel, when the turbulence comes I do not freak out, I find calm because there is absolutely nothing I can do other then try to calm those around me. I await the results of the trouble to see if we crash in the water, on land, or if the pilot regains control and the ride smoothes out. I prepared myself for a crash, another seizure, something tragic, in the end the Lord took back control and landed us safely, although not at the destination that we had envisioned when we started our journey initially.
But I know God looked after his daughter, because while I already started as man of faith in this whole journey, I experienced too many things to the point that the effort to write them off as coincidence became far greater then to recognize them as the tender mercies of a Heavenly Father. When 3-5 times a day, everyday for weeks you are receiving calls, visits, texts that answer questions or problems that had come to your mind only an hour before, and which you had not yet verbalized, you know that angles are being dispatched to carry your needs and questions to those that are open to receive those calls and respond as God's hands on this Earth.
There are things that Michelle left behind and I look forward to sharing those messages beginning with her final performances. She was able to share one, but I would like to share it again with the professional video. In this she decided to surprise me as I sat innocently in the audience on June 4th, I was not prepared for her to perform this piece and as a result the tears flowed freely.
Two days later she did it to me again, as I prepared to watch my eldest daughter's pointe dance, Michelle came out, not on her feet, but on her toes and performed her farewell dance. Again my tears flowed at yet another unexpected performance. She proved that there is no limit to how high you can hold your head up as you face the storms of life.
But you know what she wasn't the only one that could pull off a surprise. While I may not be a dancer, I spent over two decades being influenced by one to the point that when I hear music I can't help but see movement. We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on June 13th and just before that we attended a performance by a local dance group, The Dance Project. I am grateful for their time and commitment as they were able to bring to life a dance to a song of my choosing and with some of my meager choreographic input, and this became my final gift to my wife.
Later after her passing The Dance Project had another performance and there memorialized Michelle by recreating her final solo. I am grateful for the chance to have attended. I know that while I myself have two left feet, dance will continue to be a part of my life forever as a way to remember my eternal companion whom I have no doubt is dancing her way about her new job of watching over her family from the other side of the veil.
Life has been far from dull these last 5 months, and there is much more to come. Michelle said she was going to get to work on some things and I can tell you will assurity that she did.
I suppose this now means that I am in charge of your 30 second dance break, haha, I'll try to go easy on y'all. Did I mention we were opposites? You might find my musical taste a little different, I guess we'll see. I mentioned using this one to her, so at least I know it isn't too far from something she might have chosen herself
When Alexia and Devan where little guys I remember one morning in particular... we were headed out the door and it was taking forever! For those of you with kids you know what I mean, no one can find their shoes, someone pooped their pants right as we were walking out the door.....As I laid them down to change them real quick I remember feeling so frustrated about this comedy of errors. I was a pro at changing diapers so it didn't take long and we were on our way. As we pulled out of the neighborhood and headed up the street we came upon a very serious accident that had clearly just happened. The thought came to me loud and clear..."Do you see why I had to slow you down today! I had to protect you and your babies! I had to keep you safe!"
That moment humbled me so much, it also taught me that when it seems like something so bad and frustrating is going on it just might be moving you in a different direction.
So now on to the brain scan.....
Let me explain a few things first. I only finished Brain radiation 3 weeks ago. Radiation continues to work on the body for 4-6 weeks post your last treatment. Meaning the side effects continue and in some cases get worse. But this is also why they don't do scans until 6 weeks after in-order to get more accurate results. So why did I get one at 3 weeks? Because I have great Doctors that know how badly I wanted to go on my daughters Senior trip that we had been planning and paying for for over a year. The deal was if there was no swelling or hemorrhaging I would be clear to fly over seas to Paris and Barcelona! At their advice we set up for my amazing best friend to come on the trip with me for added support. We just had to wait for the green light.
First thing this morning I went in for my Brain MRI. Then by 10:30 I was headed in to see the Amazing Dr. Herman! He came in and explained that all 13 tumors were still there and unchanged, there were some that appeared bigger but that could be due to inflammation. Not too discouraging because I was only 3 weeks out. Now the good news... no signs of any new brain tumors! And the not so great news there is a lot of swelling in my left front temporal lobe and hemorrhaging. There it was, no Europe. While I continued to talk with the Dr. I realized that Cameron was behind me crying. (He knew this had always been a dream of mine and he was so sad to see this happen) When I turned to console him the Dr. said to me, "You knew didn't you?" Yes I did. This whole time I have fought, I did all the treatments, I bought a new suitcase and clothes for Europe! But since Saturday I have not been doing good. I tried to chalk it up to just finishing Radiation on my lungs. But soon it was clear that some of this was definitely my brain. My legs and arms seem to weigh 500lbs. I constantly feel like someone is pushing me to the right. Head aches, extreme pressure in my brain. The list goes on. But the thing is about 3 days ago that same voice that said "Do you see why I had to slow you down" came back with "I'm so sorry but your not going to Europe, it's not safe for you" Yet again I was being both prepared and protected.
I was immediately put back on the steroids for the next 6 weeks and then re-scan for the MRI to see if the radiation did anything to the tumors. Keytruda has been put on hold again so long as my brain is swollen.
Although I am sad, I know this is for the best. I called Alexia during her lay over in Florida to let her know the news. She was very understanding. This is a school trip that she will have friends and chaperones on so she will still be able to go.
Thank you all for your prayers! Don't think for one second they are not being answered! Remember it is always His will be done, not ours. We have no way of knowing how we are being protected, and what amazing things are being prepared for us!
Since I am currently spending so much time in bed I thought it would be fun to do some ask Michelle Blogs. You can ask me anything! If you want to be Anonymous you can directly comment to this blog post as anonymous. Or you can reply on the Instagram or Facebook posts with your questions. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!
PS. I have to give some shout outs to some Incredible People that made my anniversary Super Magical....I'm sure there might be more but here is who I know about: Dream team member Becky Forse, Landon's Swim team Mom Janis Page, The Archer Hotel here in Austin, Lush, Paul Martins, and Mad Mikes Cakes here in Austin (What that man can do with cake is unreal!) Do me a favor and if you can go support those businesses! The generosity from them has been amazing!
And Now for your Dance Party! Enjoy!
Mawage. mawage is wot bwings us togeder today. mawage that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dream. and wuv, twue wuv, will fowow you foweva. So treasure your wuv. ~ The Princess Bride
Michelle mentioned that she wanted to write our wedding anniversary blog together, after all this marriage has involved both of us. In full disclosure she wanted to make it clear that there was nothing she would say without my knowledge and support, we tell each other everything. FYI that means if you have ever told her a secret it means I know it too. The blue is me and the black is Michelle. It's not that I don't have a lot to say it's just that she thought of things first and anything I thought to add ended up being redundant.
On this day 20 years ago I married the Love of my Life. Notice I call him the Love of life, not the perfect man. Because the truth is he wasn't, which was a really good thing because I was far from being a perfect woman! It meant we could learn and grow together through and because of the Love that we had for each other. So all my friends out there looking for the perfect person to marry STOP! You are doing it wrong, instead you need to be looking for the person who inspires you to be a better version of you, who will go through life with you, willing to grow, improve who they are, and above all else someone who will cherish and protect the Love that you have for one another at all times.
Seemed way too easy in some respects. In a sense it felt like we were playing house and it was ridiculously fun! We had a blast those first few years. Were there challenges, of course! When those challenges arrived we developed a habit of saying "Are you sure about this, Eternity is a really long time" Which was our way of saying does this "issue" really matter with the eternal perspective. We did however face some really big trials in those first few years to. Ones that would instantly cause us to question "are we going to make it?"
These years were hard! Not gonna lie! Having babies back to back, moving to a new city away from family, postpartum depression, kids with LOTS of medical needs, multiple miscarriages, including a midterm loss, I will never forget our trip to Disneyland after the baby died. Yes, two grown adults went to Disneyland without kids! Because sometime you need a little break from the real world and why not the happiest place on earth!?! It delivered for sure, along with sticking my feet in my beloved Pacific ocean in Huntington Beach.
It was probably a lot easier on me because I got to go be with adults all day. It could be tiring to come home from a stressful day at the office and have to jump in to help make dinner or clean up a kid created disaster, but at least I had some more variety to my daily routine and was not stuck trying to figure out how to keep two, then three, toddlers occupied. Juggle the countless doctor and therapy appointments.
But at least I had Dance! Even though it was with more kiddos, teaching and dancing got me through some really tough days!
The second middle.....
We almost didn't survive this...almost.
This is when we made the big move to Texas. Which left her alone in Colorado for 2 months caring for 3 children, trying to sell a house, while I primarily just had to go to work and do some house hunting. There were so many good changes moving to Texas for my family especially my son Devan! But it threw our marriage into chaos. Year 7 was rough, all the way through year 12. We each take responsibility for the events that took place during those years. Each are proof that in a marriage there are times when one person is strong and the other is not. Carrying the weight of the marriage on your shoulders can really take a toll. Satan is powerful and will find ways to make you see every negative flaw in your spouse! The two most important lessons I took from these years were 1. Communication is KEY to a successful marriage (Thank you marriage counseling, that was the best thing for us!) In order for us to communicate we had to form our own unified language instead of insisting that the other do it our way. 2. Thinking about your needs, what you want, what makes you happy, is a fast track to a miserable marriage. The last thing you need in your marriage is selfishness. I'm not saying your needs don't matter but what I am saying is when you focus on serving the one you love watch how quickly that comes back to you! Win Win!
The 2nd Honeymoon....
When Landon was born we were in pure bliss! Life was so good! The kids were all doing really well! That's not to say there weren't still challenges, (we were about to have 2 teenagers) but because of all the work Cameron and I had done we were better equipped to handle them. We were making sure that our marriage was the priority. We realized that in the end the kids would leave and it would just be us for eternity. One of the best things we did during this time was make sure to take trips, just the 2 of us. Including a very epic second Honeymoon! I highly suggest that!!
And now here we are 20 years of marriage later! It has been everything a marriage should be.... full of Love, heartache, hard work, laughter, pain, joy, uncertainty,Forgiveness and Faith lots of Faith!
The "Experts" will say...We should have gotten a divorce, multiple times. But which time should we have not forgiven each other, which time should we not have shown compassion, mercy, understanding, which time should we have forgotten the sacred promises we made to each other when we got married for Time and all Eternity?
An Autistic Child
The loss of a Baby
just to name a few
But what we have found is that a Marriage was never meant to be between 2 people. A relationship between two people is called a partnership, it can be very strong and powerful and can last a lifetime! But a Marriage is between 3 people, it involves God and is meant to last an Eternity. Involving God in our marriage is the only way I can answer how we made it through all those trials. If at anytime 1 of the 3 was not willing to put in the effort that still left us with 2 people fighting for the marriage.
People wonder how we are keeping such a positive attitude when faced with our current situation, and all I can say is that an Eternal Perspective makes all the difference. Instead of getting beaten down by the problem that is right in front of you, you can see beyond it, and know that there is a plan and that this is not the end. Believing that while you may not physically be together, your relationship continues to grow and progress, it helps you see the light through the darkness.
L=Looking for the good and
O= Overlooking the bad by
V= Valuing each other's worth and
E= Empathizing, or putting ourselves in each other's situations, "Walking in another's shoes"
We love to have things in our bedroom that reminds us each day what our purpose is. The Love scripture hangs directly in front of our glass shower. So every day as you prepare yourself for the day you can't help but be reminded of what LOVE is!
The Vow art is something I made for Cameron for Valentines one year. It hangs directly above our bed as daily reminder to each other.
Here is a short list of some of our favorite books and movies that have helped us:
The Power of a Praying Wife - Stormie Omartian
Between Husband and Wife - Stephen E. Lamb M.D., Douglas E. Brinley
Solutions for Families - Paula Noble Fellingham
The Divine Connection - Loyed Newell
Dads Who Stay and Fight - Greg Trimble
The Love Dare - Stephen and Alex Kendrick with Laurence Kimbrough
The Movie "Fireproof" goes with the Love Dare
we also loved "War Room"
And repeated watching of The Princess Bride, I mean for the love of Pete they fight their way through the fire swamp and he comes back from being mostly dead. Also "As you wish" seems like a good lesson on the afore mentioned selflessness.
Now for your 30 sec dance party.....
This one is a special one! I did get permission to share this...
In 2006 a very special song was released. My sweet Husband hated this song.... well challenge accepted, I would find a way to make him love it! So was born the "Sexy Back Rule" which is when ever Justin Timberlakes "Sexy Back" is heard no matter the place or time Cameron must do a little sexy dance. After which I thank him for bringing Sexy Back! Many people are aware of this Law, my kids, my friends, many of my dancers (the older ones), even my radiation team! It doesn't matter where I am.....the car, the store, work, if it comes on I must call him and say "Babe, guess what!?!?! To which he rolls his eyes and says "Really right now?" This is when I will pump up the music, Yep your bringing sexy back! I will make him go get the kids so they can vouch that yes Daddy is shaking his booty! Its been 12 years and it's still going strong! Now you know and can carry the tradition on for me!
The Joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives - Russel m. Nelson
NO More Dead Gold Fish!! Now that is something to rejoice about!
Ok, I should explain....during radiation when it hits my sensory nerves it causes my brain to smell an overwhelming smell of dead gold fish in a bowl. Its was awful, I tried essential oils, and gum to block the smell but because it was in my brain there was not much I could do. But we are done, finito, I have been Gold Fish free for one glorious week!
I was given the option to take this week off from treatment and seized the day! My lung radiation treatments will begin on June 4th. It was decided I would do 10 rounds at a lower dose because the tumor is close to my heart and stomach so a more gentle approach will be better.
"Miracles Happen when the children of God "work together" Guided by the Spirit to reach out to others in need." - Reyna Aburto
I want to share some of the Miracles that you all have been responsible for whether directly through your actions or by your prayers. You need to know how powerful you all have been!
First one of my favorites...
It is almost impossible to surprise me, I don't know how but I always seem to find out surprises. Well for the first time I was surprised BIG time with one of the BEST Surprises of my life. A little back story:
Almost 4 years ago I was teaching a Ballet class in studio 2. We were at the ballet barre when this magical being walked into the studio, she was so tiny and wearing the fiercest outfit complete with sunglasses. She did not just walk into the studio, she strutted! I actually walked out of my class, I had to meet her! It was instant love! Our souls connected, like we had been waiting for each other! That was just the start, I met her Mother, instant connect, met her little brother, felt as if I had known him, met her Father, same thing! Needless to say I can't express how special this family is to me! Last summer they had to make a move to Atlanta, it was devastating to have them go but I knew in my heart it was the right move for them. They came for a visit in the fall, we have written letters, face-timed, texted etc. It has been hard, but I have still felt them so close. Now fast forward to me attending the last Dance competition of the season in Dallas. We arrived at the Hotel really late, I think around 11:30pm. We pulled up and I could see one of the parents of my Mini dancers (Ages 6-8) And I was mad that the kids might still be up, but turns out she was just there to capture the surprise, all the babies were asleep! Those babies had to compete in the morning and should not be up! We walked in and I saw 2 signs with 2 tiny pairs of feet underneath them. I couldn't read the sign very well but I made out the word ATLANTA!!! I lost it, the ugly cry right then and there!!! My special family had driven all the way from Atlanta to be with us for the weekend! Those days were like Heaven on Earth! BEST Surprise EVER!!!!
If you want to learn more about this amazing family check them out on Trendablekids on Insta and Facebook! Their amazing mother is the designer behind their amazing couture!
My white party.....
For this one of the members of my Dream team, remember the magical Unicorn that is Kate Karren, the one who organized all of my cancer support from the beginning....well she has not stopped / slowed down in the slightest. After she helped me plan out my Life Celebration (FYI I am not having a funeral my life is to be celebrated!) Which you all are invited to, date TBA ;) Kate decided that I needed a preview, so she set to work. Walking into that room filled with Beautiful humans all dressed in white! So many, I am still finding out who was there, it is incredible! The performances were something I will always treasure, the LOVE that was felt was the greatest gift I could have ever received!
Here is a link to the 360 degree video of the event.
The dance community...
I have always known that I was a part of something special being a dancer but this has been unbelievable! My own studio has done soooo much, Dance-a-thons, master classes, Silent Auctions, T-shirt sales, epic bake sales, the list goes on and on how they have raised money for my family and supported us in so many ways!! But studios across the country, they have raised money, sent gifts, flowers, beautiful cards of love and support! I even got an edible arrangement from one of the competitions we attend, it sounds silly but I have always wanted to get one of those, I was ecstatic! Then last night another HUGE Surprise...as many of you know I am a Hope story for Dancers Against Cancer. An incredible organization that helps dancers, teachers, and and their families fight cancer both financially and emotionally. They have been amazing, it has been an absolute honor to be apart of the DAC family! Over this journey the Executive administrator of DAC, Michelle Colon Tijerina have become quite close. Last night she flew into surprise me with a VERY generous financial assistance for my treatments. But the best part was seeing her and getting to hug and love on her!!!! I love my DAC family!
Friends, family, community.....
The outpouring of support and help has been unbelievable! From the bracelets and t-shirts that the dream team did, to the Kendra Scott fundraiser, gift card tree, special gifts from the heart, cards, flowers, the GoFundMe, the amazing meals brought in, the service and labor that went into getting my home ready for the graduation party, all of this was never anything I would ask for but so humbled and full of gratitude for these tremendous blessings!!
The Dream team and Round Rock High School stepped up big time on this one. Alexia's graduation class was HUGE, graduation was 3 hours! But the school went above and beyond to make sure that my family and I were in a very comfortable suite and had everything we needed for me to be able to attend. Shout out to the BEST principal I have ever come across Matt Groff! Then the dream team put on the most INCREDIBLE Wedding, I mean graduation party, I have ever seen!! Every detail was perfection, they managed to make it absolutely perfect for Alexia! The best part was watching her enjoy every minute of it!
Since May 4th it has been a steady stream of re-connections and my heart exploding with joy over being with my favorite Humans! From old high school friends, to my entire family coming for graduation, and currently my childhood through adulthood besties are here, The love and the laughs have been Non-stop!
So about a month ago I decided I wanted to do a dance to a song from Pink that has been very special to me throughout treatments. I wasn't sure when I would perform but I knew it was something I needed to do. As each day went by I got weaker and weaker. There were days I needed assistance to walk. I was so dizzy and disoriented I could not balance. The days slipped by and I was not sure I would regain any strength to dance. But still I was determined. I decided I would do it as a surprise at our end of year show for the dance company. Which also happened to fall on the same day I started the new rounds of Lung radiation. Due to the side effects of treatment I was completely unable to choreograph anything or even really attempt to dance to see if I even could. As I have mentioned before my body is numb, I don't feel my muscles. I feel them shake and I know that they are weak. But I went forward with faith! I walked on that stage having no clue what I was about to do, in dance we call that improv. Improv is raw, exposing, vulnerable, and powerful! The music started and I started moving, somethings worked out, some didn't. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't get my body to leap. I have taught dancers how to leap for 27 years, it is one of my favorite things to do because it feels like flying! As I saw the video for the first time the perfectionist Ballerina in me was horrified, but then I realized this was a representation of my parallel world that I am living in. Heaven - I should not be able to dance at all but my spirit is so strong and was able to take over my body so that I could feel the joy of dancing again. Earth - My body is just a shell at this point, weak and unable to execute the movements, the failed leaps show that right now its going through something really hard, and it is not giving up!
How am I........
For those whose hearts are breaking over this please know mine is not! My journey has been so Epic, this ending has been the most incredible gift from God! Life does not end with death, I do not feel like my journey is ending at all! I have complete peace, and I am NOT, I repeat, I am NOT suffering in the slightest! I urge you that if you are in pain, if you are struggling with anything no matter how small, reach out and reach up! God will hear you, He will send Angels both in heaven and here on earth to attend to you! He loves you, I love you! Remember to find the Joy today, its out there, I promise!
30 Sec. Dance Party Enjoy!
"Cause you never think that the last time is the last time. You think there will be more. You think you have forever, but you don't" - Greys Anatomy
From Day 1 you stole the show! Impossible not to notice the full head of hair on this brand new baby! So much so that you convinced the nurses to give you your first hair cut and pony tails hours within being born. You had a secret way of making everyone want to play with you. My poor Mother would have to cover my head with diaper clothes in order to get her errands done because of you. She could not go anywhere with out people needing to see you, touch you, tell her how you made them feel. Your powers were so strong that my own Grandmother repeatedly kidnapped me while my Mother slept to take me to the salon for a "Color Match" To wake up and find your baby missing over and over again!!
I was not given a choice of whether to be introverted or not, my "Bubble" was forced to be open at all times. Thankfully I was sent to the right Mother. Who instilled in me from day one...Smile, sincerely say "Thank You" let them experience it, Do not be rude, not matter what! This of course led me into a life of being open and connecting with everyone around me....I love your Hair!, Wow is that your real color?, Can I touch it?, Is it hot?, Is that really all your hair?, Is it heavy? How does it grow so fast?, It seems like it glowing, does anyone in your family have that color? Did any of your kids get that color? You must be Irish! You know what they say about Red Heads......on and on...some of it I really didn't need to hear. Men especially liked to forget their filters when talking about you starting when I was a child, not ok!
I hated looking different, I wanted to blend in, I wanted to look like my friends, there was so much of you, I wanted the cute sassy bob cuts that all my friends would get for the summers! But no you had to have so much attention that you even had yourself written into my Acting contract with my agent! You had to be all the way down my back! Really....so excessive! I remember when I was 5, Mom handed me the brush and said its your job now, you need to do your own hair from now on. I sobbed and sobbed, how was I ever going to get you into pony tails, braids, buns....But we got to work, you and I. The cramps in my biceps and shoulders from trying to twist, pull, pin, tuck, and work you into different styles. The amount of rubber-bands that have snapped on my hands and arms just trying to get you in, I can still feel the sting.
You did make the prettiest softest ringlets though, you did well in childhood, puberty though uhhhh, ok I know we didn't get along, straight perm after strait perm, dye job after dye job. Which I know you found hilarious every time I forked out the $6 dollars for yet another bottle of dye "Permanent" that would wash completely out the next day! There was no stopping you! You refused to be altered. That is until I found Robbie in 2003! He had the power, it may have taken the entire day but he managed to get those Blonde Highlights in you! I loved them, or did I? I thought I did until with the day someone asked the daily question "Is that your real color" I froze, my heart stopped, I had to say "No I have highlights" I was not prepared for how that would make me feel! I was sorry, so sorry that I had done that to you, it felt different, straw like and dead, as if I had just scarred you, I was sorry. Ok, no more dye, no more highlights, you win. We experienced the age of Aquanet, LA Looks, DEP gel, l'oreal studio line, herbal essence, the wall of front bang (Curl it spray, singe it, tease, lift it, more spray), foam curlers, rag curls, steam curls, crimping irons, the actual Iron when my sister Elizabeth and I would lay our heads on the board and try to straighten smooth our hair, hot rollers, curling irons in every size, the glorious flat/straight iron!, the curling wand, and the infamous Rat tail! I developed a technique around 8th grade to get the softest smoothest straight hair. After washing my hair I would blow dry it as straight as I could. Then gather it all into a pony tail at the base of my head, then take an ace bandage and wrap the entire pony tail as tight as I could to the tip. And then proceed to sleep with it like that. It looked like a giant rat tail but in the morning I would unwrap it and my hair would be so smooth and straight , no frizz or bumps and it would last for days! You inspired me to want to learn about everyone's different type of hair! I was blessed to have 3 sisters with very different hair stemming from different ethnicity. I loved the challenge! I loved doing hair for school dances and performances!
Babies came and you changed again, the curls that were so easy to depend on started get straighter, some stayed strong and true while others didn't, I started to refer to you as stupid hair because you didn't seem to know if you wanted to be curly or straight and were just creating more work for me to do. I started cutting you off, donating you to locks of love, over and over again. Cameron really prefers you long, but you grow so fast that I could chop 10-15 inches off you and it would be back within the year. Then I learned some information about locks of love that hurt my heart. So I sought out a different organization. One that made free wigs for children with Alopecia! So I would go in to have you cut and deliver you to a very special woman that would package you up and send you to Australia to be made into a special wig for very special little girls! You did save me lots of money! I only went to the salon 1 or twice a year to have you cut, no money spent on processing or up keep. Although with how much of you there was I definitely have made quite the investment in shampoo and conditioner ;) I would like to page Homage to the very special Women in my life that I trusted my hair to whole heatedly over the years...Irma Laura, Brandilyn Ferguson, Kiran Whittaker, and now all the beloved ladies at Blonde Faith Salon including Kaela Beutler and Michelle McGowan! You are all so special to me, thank you for all the love and time you put in not only into my hair but to me! I love you ladies!
My 2 most memorable hair stories:
When I was 16 my Mom went out of town for the birth of my first Neice! My 13 year old little sis went to a friends house for the weekend. While there they proceeded to dye and cut their hair. When she came home she freaked out that Mom and Dad were going to KILL her.....well I couldn't let that happen so I suggested thy cut my hair too that way I could take some of the focus off her. I had been thinking about getting it cut anyways. Now why on Gods green earth I thought I should let a 12 and 13 year old cut my hair is way beyond me!!! I asked them to cut it just below my shoulders for bun and ponytail purposes. The friend began to cut.....lets just say it started at my right shoulder and ended at my left jaw bone!!!! Remember I had curly hair.....I was hysterical!!!! I called my best friends Mom, Linda (My 2nd Mom) she immediately got me hair appointment and raced over to get me. All the while my sister and her friend were hiding under the bed crying. The salon fixed it the best they could but I would definitely need a straight perm when my Mom got home. That night my swing dancing partner and I where doing a special performance at a big dance and then teaching them some swing dancing. While practicing a new stunt before we went on I was dropped on my head from 6 feet up into concrete. It didn't goes so well and I awoke later in the hospital to a lovely concussion, and all kinds of neck injuries. Needless to say that helped to pull all attention off the hair and my sister was saved!
Then there was the time Kiran introduced me to invisitabs (hair extension that could be keratin taped into your hair. So I got bright fuchsia!! I loved it, I went back for more! Having all that bright pop of fun woven throughout my hair was the most fun I have ever had with my hair!
You handled Caner treatments like a champ! You lost some of your vibrancy and about 1/3 of you fell out but since I had enough of you to cover 4 heads people really couldn't tell. And Kiran new just how to cut you and help you look healthy. You were not a fan of the first round of radiation so Kaela chopped you off. I was panicked because Kiran had just moved to Florida but God made sure to remind me that I had special friends at Blonde Faith through teaching dance. I would get the occasional white hair but super rare. Cameron and I would talk about when we thought my hair would actually go white. He seemed excited for it and thought it was going to be very sexy. I never envisioned that I would ever leave this life with out you. You are such a huge part of me! When you are never told you have a beautiful smile, or pretty eyes, when 98% of compliments ever given to you in life are about your hair and suddenly you are having to face that it will be completely gone it definitely does an ego check. When the time came the faux hawk was so fun! It spoke to my inner rebel and fierceness. But when it all started abandoning ship the fear set it, not so much of what will I look like but how will it make people feel. I didn't want to scare anyone, especially my dancers! I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about hats, scarves, wigs etc. I am honestly most comfortable just aux natural, feeling the breeze. Who knows maybe I'll try out some wigs. I think I have Aubrey's old Hanna Montana wig around here somewhere. But until we meet again hair, thank you for all that you have been for me in this lifetime, you really played a leading role in my journey! I miss you, and I love you!
Please enjoy the following video made by my friend, neighbor and Sister, Becky Forse.
Hair deserves a dance party too! This one will be a little mash up and a little longer then 30 sec ;)
It's so hard to believe it has only been one week! One week since I was literary fired from my life! God knows how fiercely independent I am, I have never been good at asking for help. Although I have been given plenty of opportunities to learn this lesson I stubbornly refused. So when the time came I was given no choice, all was taken away from me. But in all of His love and compassion it was made ever so clear that my PERFECT Support team had already been assembled. In every aspect of my life, especially in the care of my children, and my work, the perfect people were put into place. There has not been a single need that has not been met in the past week. So much service, love, sacrifice has been rendered by all of you on behalf of myself and my family!
While radiation is an effective treatment for having 13 tumors in your brain there are some not so fun side effects. For one your ability to recall words is extremely hampered making it difficult to formulate what you want to say, thankfully there are people that will take the time to help you get out the words that used to come so easily. This particular difficulty is the result of inflammation, which means my body is doing exactly what it needs to do to fight this disease, but it also means that I can't start my immunotherapy, Keytruda, because that would only increase the inflammation, so that will have wait a little while. Another side effect is the need to take lots of new medications morning, noon and night, so my husband has lovingly added alarms to his phone so he knows when to harass me like I'm 5. With the swelling has come loss of muscle strength, balance, and control. My speech has changed, (think Rain Man-ish) or as some have pointed out to me, I sound like a Disney Princess. The words don't come out right, but inside my Spirit is still 100% intact, my thoughts are the same as before. I have always been a big "Communicator" shall we say.... so I am having to learn to be patient with myself. There are other side effects but let me sum it up to say "It feels like when you are very first coming out of Anesthesia or sedation. Super loopy, tired, week, but happy! I am not in Pain, I am numb for the most part. The Lord is blessing me through all of your prayers like crazy! There has been so much Beauty and Happiness that the pain, hurt, or sadness are only small and fleeting!
I was blessed that my loving family and friends did not try to stop me from attending the last dance convention/competition of the season. I was able to talk with some of my Angel babies (A very magical group of 6-8 year olds I direct at the dance studio) they were sharing how their week had been, the times they had broken down in tears, stories of "Ms. Michelle" pictures being carried in backpacks to help them get through school, how Happy they felt that we were getting to have this special weekend together! When I shared how incredibly happy I was and that this had been the best day ever one girl asked 'What was the worst part this week?" Truth, absolute because there is no point in lying to 6 year olds! I turned to them and said, I had some sad moments this week, some times where I didn't feel good, and I really missed all of them but there were SOOOO many good and Happy things that happened this week that the good things just stood out more!
I want to list out some of the things that kept me from focusing on the 'Why Me" and "Not Fair " aspect of this situation.
The Dream team - a group made up of people that I trust my whole life and heart to that jumped in feet first no questions asked and got everything, and I do mean Everything, done this week. From shuttling me to Doctors appointments, getting children taken care of, fed, and happy, planning an entire Graduation Party, along with a whole slew of fundraisers, my Husbands Birthday, planning Epic surprises, I watched one of them spoon feed my child FroYo while we were out on a Mani Pedi date! One of them held my hand the entire time my hair was being lovingly shaved off my head. Another one dropped everything to help care for another child that managed to get coated in Poison oak this week,the list goes on and on.
The Flowers, the emails, texts, voicemails, the hundreds who have reached out with beautiful words, memories, love, support! Some of the most beautiful letters I received this week are from teenagers. These have been so raw, powerful and heartfelt! I feel so honored and privileged to have read their beautiful words!
It has been such a gift from hearing from so many wonderful people that have been in my life over the years. Please know that with each message my heart was overjoyed to hear from you. Time has never mattered to me in relationships, it was more about the connections. I place all of those special connections in my heart for an eternity so it doesn't matter if that moment happened when I was 5 or 35. You will always be important and loved by me. For those that may be concerned that there is hurt or pain between us, let me assure you that is not how my heart works. I have been through way too much in my life to know what judging and being unforgiving can do to you. It is a choice that I made long ago. Is it always easy, no. Are there times I have had to build some protective barriers yes, but the lessons I learned in how to take them back down have helped me to grow in so may ways! I have a strong testimony in how making mistakes, wrong choices, hurting others and then being given the opportunity to do better, make amends, and grow have been some of the most cherished experiences of my life.
*** It has been almost another week since I started this post....my body was not able to cooperate with me adding to the blog. I am still in awe every day of what God is doing in my life! Since I am able to get some words out tonight I am going to add some of what has happened this week.
Emotionally - Still on a Roller Coaster, but mostly a very big Spiritual High! I have been so blessed with some of the most amazing conversations this week. I have been off the Xanax all week as I realized it was only making me feel even more loopy. And that when and if the tears come I need to let them, it is healing for all.
Physically - Weak, numb, yada yada..... BUT I have realized what being a dancer has done for me....Muscle Memory! I tell my body to do something now and it just does it!!! It is so amazing to experience. I like my new short hair, it has already started to fall out so I will probably be working the easy breezy bald look soon enough.
Medically - 6 more rounds of full Brain radiation left.....I am definitely counting down! I had my PET Scan today to check to see if the cancer has invaded my other organs, for the most part great news! The only new cancer that showed up today is in my lungs (I had a feeling it was there anyways) So when I finish Brain radiation next week we will immediately start Lung radiation. The Doctor is Hopeful that I can start my Keytruda infusions in a week or 2!
Spiritually - Feeling like I am living in a very surreal state. The spirit is so strong! I don't feel I am in charge anymore, I will be sitting in a waiting room, or other public place and BAM I am suddenly talking to a complete stranger about things so incredibly bold! Any sense of awkwardness is gone. We are able to to talk about God so freely and strongly! And all day everyday the miracles are happening!
Thank you all so much for your Love and Support! Everything has touched us so deeply from notes, flowers, meals, Fundraisers, videos, hugs, smiles, and soo much love! We are so Blessed by all of you! I love you all so much!
For tonight's 30 sec. dance party make sure to grab a partner...take a twirl around the Kitchen or maybe head outside to feel the Beauty of Dancing in the Moonlight!
I have always had a Deep and Strong connection to the ocean! I was born literally across the street from Huntington Beach in California! My happiest times almost always involve water. It speaks to my very soul. When I am near it I feel home. One of the things I admire and respect about the ocean is that it is always changing. I remember sitting on my surfboard just one year ago watching the waves roll in waiting for the perfect set to drop in on, There would be waves that I though were perfect, I would start my paddle wait to feel the power of the wave start to lift my board and just as soon as I popped up the wave was gone. While other times waves that seemed so small and trivial would hammer me into the surf and humble me in every way.
Life is like the ocean....sometimes we feel like we can't catch a break, there are no waves to be found, but if you wait, have patience those waves will come. Sometimes the waves sneak up on you and you feel thrust forward in life unprepared. But those are the times you are being taught, so take notes and be ready for the next time! Then there will be those waves where everything lines up just right...those are the times you open your heart and your mind and enjoy the ride!!
Finding out your dying definitely comes in waves. Times when you are at peace, a feeling of stillness and calm. Times when overwhelming waves of sadness and pain take over. Waves where you realize just how epic this is and you have had an amazing ride! Since Friday all of the many different waves in my life have been coming in faster then I could imagine. I know I started this blog out with the beginning of my cancer story and there are still many holes to fill in. I will do my best to fill some of those holes but for now let me catch you up....
Friday morning comes and I drive myself to my appointment. I laid on the table for my 1 hour of Brain Beats, if you've never experienced a brain MRI you can look it up on youtube, lets just say even that does not do the assaulting loud noises justice. But after a time I realized if I try to choreograph to them it goes by much better. But this time I felt I had reached Professional Cancer patient status because I fell asleep! It was glorious, they came in to wake me up when it was all over. When I got to me feet to go change out of those oh so sexy scrubs that's when I noticed the look. The technician gave me the "Oh this poor girl, this is really bad" look I noticed it on everyone's face, the other nurses, the tech taking out my IV. I suddenly had a room full of strangers all looking like they wanted to hug me, say something, but what?
Still pretty pleased with my self that I had fallen asleep I ignored their sad faces and headed home. I got home and relayed my proud cancer moment to my husband and then set straight to work on my giant May to do list (one of the busiest months of the year in the dance world) As I was typing out an email to my Dance company informing them what time to be in Dallas for our last convention my phone rings. I see it's my oncologist and my heart drops....it's too soon
she shouldn't have had time to read my results yet what is going on??? "Michelle, I have your results and I need you to come in right now, you are not to be behind the wheel of a car and your husband needs to be with you. Please leave now!" I hung up and with shaking hands tried to catch my breath to talk to my husband who was on a business call. All I could say was we have to go now, I can't drive, there's more tumors. When we arrived I was whisked right in but there was enough time for me to the see the red puffy eyes of some of my favorite nurses. My doctor came in and said I think you should see this before go over everything. She pulled up my scan on the screen and started to go through it. That couldn't be my scan! Dr. Ashworth there has to be a mix up this isn't my scan!!. That tiny dot that was my scan, not this, I couldn't even count how many there were. And how they could be that size!!! Where was the room for my brain?? My medical background helps me to immediately identify things such as some of the largest tumors on my Cerebellum the part that coordinate muscle activity was now covered in a tumor so large and inflamed that it had started to hemorrhage. The day before I was dancing, the day before I was at a PINK concert singing and dancing my brains out all the while balancing in heels! How is that possible!?! She continued on the scan to show that there were over 13 tumors multiple signs of hemorrhage that she could see and that it appears to also have moved into my bones and was showing up in my skull. I turned to her and said Dr. Ashworth you have always shot me straight I made you promise to tell me when its time to freak out. This is when she lost it my strong super hero of a Doctor had a human moment as she said through her tears "It's time to freak out" Followed by its time to put your affairs in order. "How much time do I have????" I know this a completely ridiculous question because only the Lord knows! But she responded with a couple months. Ok, now I'm pissed! That is not acceptable!!! I have some HUGE things coming up in my life that I do NOT want to miss out on ! I would be having some very strong conversations with God about this! We all hugged and cried and then I was whisked off to the Radiation department downstairs. I went to CT to have my new Spider Man mask made and immediately sent in to radiation for what would be my daily whole brain radiation treatments for the next 3 weeks. I was also put on a whole barrage of new medications. Including an Alzheimer med to help me retain as much memory as possible. I will find out Monday when my new Keytruda infusions will begin. I was so humbled by how amazing the staff is at Texas Oncology when I realized how late everyone stayed after hours to get everything done for me, when I realized they came in on a Saturday morning just for my treatment! They are a special kind of human! The kind that hide not only super hero capes but angel wings under those scrubs and lab coats! The truth is they wanted me to be hospitalized, the Doctors had no idea how I had not had a seizure, stroke, brain aneurysm, or how I was walking and talking but they took it as a good sign that I still have some fight left in me. It just so happens I live in the neighborhood of my doctors and hospital so I was granted the blessing of going home to be with my family, just another of one of the many tender Mercies the Lord has blessed me with!
So how am I doing??
Emotionally - I am a wreck I burst into tears about every 5 minutes but thank you to Xanax I will be ok!
Physically - I'm in a lot of pain. My head is on fire, and under major attack. I have found that my happy place is to wrap my whole head in ice packs and cover it with a beanie down to my chin - it is heavenly! I'm tired, dizzy, achy, nausea's, and weak. BUT I know I can endure this! The Lord has never left my side!!! In these past three days God has sent me angels to lift me up every step of the way!
Spiritually - I am currently under negotiations with the Lord about this whole timeline thing....We will have to wait and see how that goes. But in the mean time my Faith in God and His plan for me has not wavered in the slightest! I could write endless books on all the ways in which He makes His love for us and very presence in our lives known! I know that for some of you this does not make any sense...and if I know anything I know that I can not give you your relationship with God. That is something that only you alone can find. But what I can promise you is that in the mean time He is waiting for you, loving you perfectly just for who you are. He is not waiting for you to be "Good Enough" for him. You already are in His eyes! And when I leave here I promise to send you reminders of just how amazing and loved you are! I want you all to know Him how I know Him, to feel His Love, His Grace, His desire for all of us to come home to be with Him! This was the plan all along...we are given this beautiful gift to come to this earth to receive a body so that we could learn the things that our spirits needed to learn to become more like Him. He sent us His Son to be a Savior, our Example, and our Friend! He sent us the Holy Spirit to help us, guide us and comfort us in any way we need. And why?? So that when we are done on this earth we can have unimaginable blessings! We can be together with the people that we love forever! Death is not the end it is the beginning of the most beautiful Eternity our God has prepared for us! All of the hard times, the pain, the hurt, they were all to make everything else that much sweeter, that much more Love!
There are some waves that take you all the way to shore, they gently let you off onto the soft warm sand as if to say Welcome home, I hope you enjoyed ever second of this epic ride!
And now in Honor of one of the most amazing nights ever here is my girl P!Nk!! Dance it out my friends! This one's for you Cancer...
My name is Michelle Kaley but I have many other names.....Daughter, Sister, Wife of 20 years to my High School Sweetheart, Mom to my 4 Beautiful Children, Ms. Michelle to my hundreds of Students, and as of 2016 Cancer Patient was added to the list.