Saturday, January 8, 2011

The gift

Yesterday a wise friend told me that life was God's gift to us, and what we did with our lives was our gift back to Him. Pondering this... So much to do. So little time. For all of us. What a lovely gift I've been given.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I was thinking about the things I did during the holiday season this year, and also thinking about the things I did not do. To be quite honest, I did not do a lot of baking this year or party attending, traveling, card writing, gift buying, or mall shopping. I did just a little bit. Enough that I didn't stress myself out, and more importantly that I wouldn't be worn out and in pain. I am still learning where to put pressure on my right leg and hip. It is still going to be a long road ahead until I am walking normally and able to bend and move without pain, a little bit of assistance, and perhaps without even thinking.

Looking back, I really enjoyed having this more simplified holiday time of year. Maybe I will try to incorporate that concept every year. I became more aware of things around me, and people around me. I felt very grateful for the things that I have been blessed with and wanted to somehow share a little in some way. One of my new personal ministries is going to be to make a difference in at least one person's life each Christmastime. The goal is to do this year-round, but don't worry I've only just begun! If I live for 5 more Christmases or 35 more Christmases, I really want to make an impact somehow and in someway. People matter more than things. And my new personal quest is to try my best to simplify my time and energy during the holidays so that I can focus on doing those things... those things that matter and are most important.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christ is Christmas

Christmas is really next week? Where has the year gone? I'm not terribly sad to see 2010 come to an end, but looking back over the year I can see the things I have learned and the miracles which have occurred. I will always remember 2010 for those experiences.

I really don't want anything for myself for Christmas this year except continued improving health. Onward and forward! However if I could have one Christmas wish it would be to find treatments and cures for cancer in 2011. There are so many bright and truly gifted people in this world. I've thought about the many scientists, medical professionals, researchers, advocates who have given so much of their time and lives, biologists, and more... I would like to take all of their knowledge, manpower, time that has been spent on projects and research, studies, trials, drugs and information about them, and all of the reports and findings of the last century or more on what has worked and what hasn't. Then I would like to have a central location for everything, so that anyone can have access to it for the sole purpose of ridding our world of this awful plague. No more pride, or greed, or long and arduous red tape to be required to go through. Everyone would have one common goal, and the clock would just be ticking to get it done.

I can only dream about that. Or maybe I should be saying that I can only keep praying for that.

I really don't want anything for Christmas though. However I had a nice memory remembering back when I was a child and I would start making my Christmas list in about June. It was always a very creative time for me, and the piece of paper had to look perfect once it was ready to hang on the closet door in my parents kitchen. I spent a great deal of energy looking through the Sunday ads and putting things on my list that I probably didn't even want that badly. Making the list was the fun part for me. I am glad that somewhere along the way, I learned what the true meaning of Christmas was all about. It is about family, about traditions, it's about laughter and love, it is about giving and receiving, children and grandparents, it is about peace and all of the things that Christ our Savior made possible for us because He lived, and died and He will come again.

Christ is Christmas.

Gabbitas Thanksgiving

As we were assembled together last month as a family, I asked everyone what they were thankful for. So in honor of our Gabbitas Thanksgiving, here is what people said.

Dad: Pie
Mom: Jesus Christ
Natalie: Good music
Alen: Good paying job
Jared: His kids
Sharolyn: Family
Jordan: Turkey
Spencer: Killer deals on black Friday
Jocelyn: Sunshine
Amberly: Nice teachers
Karsen: Life
Mitchel: His house
Brynleigh: Santa
James: Earth
Gentry: Pets

I can only assume that Sterling, Stephanie and TJ would say they were thankful for good weather. They get winters in Arizona! We can all be jealous of the warmth on bitter cold days here in Utah. But they were missed at Thanksgiving this year.

I have so much to be grateful for that I plan to make more days into days of Thanksgiving. I want to show gratitude for the things that I have and show love and kindness to as many people as I can reach. It all starts with one. Just open up and try it. I promise that it doesn't hurt. Give someone a sincere compliment, a hug, a wink, a smile, words of encouragement, a lift that will take their spirits up to a better place where they can take their life into a new direction. You could be the changing force in their life. You could mean the difference.

And you can start now.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy 89th birthday!

I just got off the phone with my Grandmother who just turned 89 years old today. When she picked up the phone to say hello, the voice on the other end sounded very sleepy. I was tempted to just hang up for fear that she was just about to find out who the inconsiderate culprit was who was calling her up at 9 pm on a Wednesday night. It turns out that she had just gotten in bed, but had not fallen asleep yet. We had a nice talk about family, our health, and reaching milestones. There was no hiding the joy and excitement in her voice about reaching her 89th birthday. She even said that she never thought she would live to be so old!

As I think about the new year ahead of me and the upcoming scans, surgery, and many follow-ups with doctors, I think about the kind of people that cancer affects. Cancer can strike at any age, person, gender, and race. It is not an old person's disease. Young beautiful children get cancer. Smart intelligent young college students get cancer. Youthful looking mothers and fathers get cancer. Those getting on in years get cancer. And yes, the elderly get cancer too. Cancer does not discriminate.

Do I let everything paralyze me with fear, so that I can't live a full life? That would be easy to do since I have developed a number of anxieties over the years, and have faced cancer twice in my life. But the answer is no. We mustn't allow anything to stand in our way of a good life. But I am fairly certain that we should all give ourselves a big huge break! Nobody got to 89 years old without taking it a day at a time.

I am so grateful for my flaws, things that scare me at times, trials I have faced, trials I am facing, and trials I have yet to face, as well as all of the joys, laughter, and happiness this life has given to me. Want to know why? Because it means I'm still alive! I may not live to be as old as my Grandmother, but I'll live as long as God is willing. Meanwhile, I think I may still call people at 9 pm if the thought crosses my mind and it is their birthday, no matter how old they are! We shouldn't ever let kind deeds go undone, or withhold generous thoughts.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cancer sucks

Another article written by my amazing friend Heidi. Yes, she is just that cool. She hates cancer. A lot. Loathes it. In fact, I think she hates it more than I do. And I am okay with that. She has a way of hating it in a very touching, spiritual and beautiful way. It is full of thought, maybe some rage, but definitely thought. She's been given a gift; the ability to write, to connect, to reflect upon real-life struggles, and to share these things.

Read. Hate-on. But keep it in perspective.

And to Heidi, I am certain your dad is tremendously proud of the woman you are and the things you do for others. I am so grateful to call you my friend.

Cancer sucks
by Heidi Toth on Friday, November 5, 2010 at 10:08pm

I have two photos on my desk at work. One is a picture of my two adorable nephews. One is a picture of my dad and me the day I graduated from college.
My dad died of cancer a year after that photo was taken. The two adorable boys will not know this amazing man in this life.
Two hours ago, I was in the home of three adorable children, all 5 and under. Their father has been diagnosed with stage IV melanoma. He will probably not baptize any of them. He will not teach his sons to throw a football or interrogate his daughter's dates. He may not be at his baby's first birthday party or his 9-year wedding anniversary.
I hate cancer. I hate what it does to people's lives, their pasts, presents and futures. Their hopes and goals and bodies. Their optimism. I hate that it has taken from me a relationship that has defined who I am for my entire life. I hate that I don't get to dance with my dad on the day I get married and that I'll never get to introduce Husband-When-He-Comes to the other most important man in my life. I hate that when my children call a man Grandpa, they won't be talking to my dad. I hate how my dad suffered for so long and felt like he was useless. I hated seeing him in pain and not being able to do anything about it. I hate how it has torn up my family, how my brother runs from everything associated with my dad and my sisters never got the last words that they needed. I hate the void that will always, always be there. I hate that life is always too short.
I hate that loving others scares me.
I hate that my mom is alone.
I hate that it has been six years since he's told me he loved me. Or told me he was proud of me. I hate that I wonder sometimes if he would be proud of me. I hate that as a missionary, I never got a letter from him, and that I couldn't call him on Mother's Day and Christmas.
I hate that, with all of our technological strides, we can't seem to beat this disease. One in three people gets cancer. Those are terrible odds. That means one other person in my immediate family is going to get cancer. And it may not be when we're all old. My friend Sharolyn is fighting her second bout of cancer right now. She's 33. (I think. My bad if I just aged you, SG.) Dad was 55 when he died. Leo Teemant just turned 38. Cancer should not be striking these people. It should not be so prevalent.
Our society shouldn't have allowed this to happen. I don't have the answers. I never will, and if I had them, I don't know if I'd like them. Sometimes I just have to have faith in God without knowing why things happen.
Or maybe, a small part of cancer is because of what it does to other people. Maybe I wouldn't have faith in God if my dad's mortality had not caused me to question the existence of life after death. Maybe, had he not been ill for so long, I never would have learned how to truly love and serve another human being.
Maybe my mom and my sister wouldn't be fighting cancer and my nephew would be named after somebody besides his grandfather.
Maybe my life would have less meaning.
And maybe, just maybe, with enough prayers and enough faith, Leo Teemant will get his miracle. Maybe his family doesn't need the same life lessons I do. Maybe what they need to learn is that hundreds of people around them care deeply for them and are going to fight, that they are not in this alone. Maybe we all need to learn that sometimes God really does reach down His hand, touch a frail body, a fragile love or a tenuous life and command it to be whole.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Provo man fighting cancer

My friend Heidi Toth is a news reporter for the Daily Herald. She recently did a story on a Provo man who has been diagnosed with stage IV melanoma. (below) Apparently there is a Facebook fundraising page setup on behalf of Leo Teemant and his family; just do a search for his name. There is a 5k run to benefit his family starting at Kiwanis Park in Provo on Saturday November 13th. So if you love to run or just want to help, you will need to register quickly!

Running for his life: Provo man fighting cancer
Heidi Toth - Daily Herald | Posted: Sunday, November 7, 2010 12:30 am

Healing. Survival. More time.

Things 38-year-old Leo Teemant wants. Things cancer is trying to take from him.

Things nobody should be taking for granted.

Leo and Amy Teemant seem like a typical couple. They met in a BYU singles ward, the same start as hundreds of other local love stories. She was in school; he worked at Novell. He found out she was a figure skater and got tickets for them to see Michelle Kwan skate during the 2002 Olympics. They were engaged in July of that year.

He was first diagnosed with melanoma a month later, underwent immunotherapy and recovered. He knew there was a chance the melanoma could return, but the odds were in his favor. Leo and Amy got married.

Eight years later, they have three children; the oldest is 5 years, the youngest is 5 months. They saved money through the early years of their marriage so that two years ago Leo could quit his job and go back to school. He graduated in August with a bachelor's degree in math and economics, filling the time between homework assignments with baseball and soccer with his children.

A week after graduation, he went to the doctor to get some eye pain checked out. The doctor came back with the news: He had stage IV melanoma, a cancer that is fairly resistant to treatment and already advanced. He has more than 30 tumors throughout his body.

Now he spends most of his time either getting chemotherapy or recovering from it. The fatigue never goes away. Doctor appointments in Salt Lake suck up entire days. His next treatment is two days before Thanksgiving; Amy doesn't want to go to the family party without him, but he knows he won't be feeling well enough to participate.

Their lives revolve around cancer and treatment. The only books they read are about cancer. The flowers in the front yard died because they are so consumed with cancer that they forgot to water them, day after day.

The odds are no longer in his favor. His doctor gave him nine months to live. Surviving beyond that will be a victory.

Maya and Tyler, the two oldest children, know Dad has cancer and he's getting treatment.

"But we don't talk about ..." Amy trailed off.

"The death part of it," Leo finished.

For them, it's always there. Amy wonders if her husband will be at baby Levi's first birthday party and what else he will miss.

"Is he going to be around for Father's Day?" she asked, tears in her eyes. "Are our kids going to be up in church having to sing without their dad there?"

Leo, while tickling Levi and laughing at the smile on his son's face, wonders how hard it will be for his children to lose their father. The two of them don't mention life without the other.

For now, they focus mostly on the present. The family was on BYU insurance while Leo was in school, and they've extended that, but it's not exactly a Cadillac plan. They're paying quite a bit out of pocket, and since neither is working right now, the financial impact is real.

That was before about 100 friends and neighbors got together and set up a charity 5K and crafts fair, a yard sale and two accounts into which people can donate. The 5K is on Saturday, and the yard sale was a success. The goal is $50,000.

Annalee Clawson, one of the organizers of the 5K and crafts fair, said the ideas to help started small but have ballooned as others volunteered to help. More than 100 people have registered to run and many people have donated through Pledgie and Wells Fargo accounts that friends have set up.

"It was just so shocking, so sudden," she said of Leo's diagnosis. "He had no signs of it. It was just all of a sudden, boom! It hit him."

The Teemants are grateful, both said, for the financial help their friends have coordinated. But the outpouring of support has helped in a different way as well. They don't feel as if their lives are Leo and Amy vs. the cancer anymore. They have friends who can baby-sit, clean their house, mow their yard and make sure their children are fed. They're not alone, and knowing that means more than the dollar signs clicking up on the fundraising website. Their friends have come to their rescue, Leo said. It's humbling.

"We don't feel like there's any way we could repay everybody who's helped us," he said.

To participate in the run or to donate through the Pledgie account, go to Organizers for Utah County's 2011 Relay for Life also will be at the 5K; Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society's largest fundraiser throughout the year. For more information, go to