Thursday, 28 June 2012

A Journey of Courage Continues

I went back to have a look at some of my old blog posts and accidently deleted the first one. It was called,’ A Journey of Courage Begins’ and it was posted on Sept, 2 2011. I started this blog (ALS with Courage) with the intention of inspiring others by writing about Mike’s courage in the face of a terminal illness. Since that first blog post, I have continued to observe and write about Mike’s courage and determination as the effects of ALS have gained more ground in Mike’s life.

What I have learned so far is that ALS can take away the use of your arms and legs and it can impair your speech, but it can’t take away who you are on the inside. Mike is still cheeky and funny and really smart. He is extremely determined and very positive and as we sat with the ALS team today at GF Strong and talked about feeding tubes, hospital beds and home care options, I was reminded of his amazing courage.
Here is that first blog post called, The Journey of Courage Begins:

Courage is not a word I would have used to describe my husband Mike up until recently. Not that he has ever given me any reason to believe he isn’t courageous, but there are just so many other words I would have used first to describe him… funny, smart, handsome, silly, positive, hardworking, loving, generous, kind, trustworthy to name a few. Even though, “courage” isn’t in the top ten, he has displayed courage many times throughout our 23 years of marriage, like the time he decided to go back to school to become a nurse. He was one credit away from receiving his degree in Political Science with a minor in History and decided nursing was what he wanted to do. Actually, he felt he was being called into nursing. He didn’t necessarily want to go in that direction. But Mike obeyed the call and with two small children still in diapers, back to square one he went. He juggled the books in the day and a job at night and found time in between to help me raise the kids. Now that took some courage.
Dictionary.com says: courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain etc. without fear; bravery. Word Reference.com says that courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. Yup, courage, that’s it! As of March 7, 2011, Mike became a poster boy for “courage”.

It sounds crazy, but at the time, we were hoping it was M.S. or Parkinson’s, but on that cool spring day, Mike was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Later that day Mike said, “Everyone in history has died…that’s a fact. It’s such a good thing to know where you are going.” In shock, he was finding comfort knowing that if the diagnosis is right, and ALS takes his life, he has a home in Heaven.
We read from the book of James – “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12. And so Mike began his journey of courage….and hope.


Sunday, 24 June 2012

We Like Mike

This morning, Mike and I stayed in bed a little longer than we usually do. We had the opportunity to sleep in and even though waking up at 8:00am wouldn’t necessarily be considered sleeping in, it felt good to just lay there for a while. At about 9:00, Erin quietly knocked on our bedroom door and asked if she could come in. We told her to come in and she joined us on the bed beside Mike.

Once in a while, Erin joins us in our room on a weekend morning for a little visit before we all get up and start the day. Mike and I really enjoy it. Erin rubs Mike’s head or shoulders or neck and does most of the talking. Erin has always had a lot to say, but she doesn’t talk a lot for the sake of talking, she has very clever ideas, legitimate concerns, and bright and witty comments about a host of topics. Today she told us about some of the experiences of the last few days of her teaching practicum. She shared how she was going to miss her students and how great the teachers were that she worked with.  She told us about the surprise party they had for her and the presents and cards she received.
When Mike was diagnosed with ALS in March of 2011, our children of course took it really hard. Erin being the oldest and the most expressive, took the news the hardest (outwardly) and became proactive about the cause right away. She learned of the annual ALS Walk at Mill Lake in Abbotsford, B.C. that took place in June. Erin entered a team she called Team “I Like Mike” and started inviting people to join the team and began raising money for the cause right away.

Erin speaks of Mill Lake often. She talks about how it was her favourite place to go with her dad while she attended the University of the Fraser Valley. Mike would meet Erin after work and they would run a few laps around the lake, or they would walk the path and talk about current events, or the courses Erin was taking that they shared an interest in.

Last week, Team “I Like Mike” entered the Walk for ALS at Mill Lake for the second year. There was a great turn out considering the weather (rain).  Friends and family came from all over, including some of Mike’s family from Toronto (his mum and dad, his sister Aileen and husband Ross, and sister Pat and husband Gary). Our team raised $4000 and $74,000 was raised overall for ALS.  The funds raised go to research and support for the people with ALS in B.C.
Maybe next year, we will be walking to celebrate the cure!


Mike with sister Aileen, dad and mum, brother-in-law Gary, sister Pat and brother-in-law Ross


                                     Me and Mike with Nathan and Leah, Erin and Madison

                                                                  The Team

Friday, 15 June 2012

Come to Me

I have been very busy lately and Mike and I haven’t been spending as much time reading Scripture and praying together and that’s probably why I have been feeling a little anxious and pretty exhausted. Yesterday, when I finally sat down with Mike to spend some time in devotion to the Lord, this is what we read in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers:

The questions that truly matter in life, are remarkably few, and they are all answered by these words – “Come to Me.” Our Lord’s words are not, “Do this, or don’t do that,” but – “Come to me.” Oswald Chambers is basing his teaching on Matthew 11:28, which says; “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Oswald goes on to say: The attitude necessary for you to come to Him is one where your will has made the determination to let go of everything and deliberately commit it all to Him.
A few weeks ago at church, the Pastor asked everyone to write down a need, or needs that they wanted prayer for on the blank cards that were handed out. All the cards were put into a large glass jar at the front of the church and a few people prayed over the jar of cards, asking the Lord to meet all the needs. The need I wrote down on my card was, ‘rest’ (Mike wasn’t there, so I wrote down ‘healing’ for him).

Last night, after Mike was all tucked into bed I went back to the books to have another look at the lesson of the day. As I continued to ponder the Matthew scripture – “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest,” I contemplated my need for rest and realised I obviously hadn’t determined to let go of everything and commit it all to Him’. It’s a simple solution to all our big problems and the small ones too…it’s just difficult to do sometimes. I felt convicted as I sat with my Heavenly Father and listened to the words He has spoken to me many times before. I started to pray and ask Him to forgive me for not fully relying on Him all the time. He just had one thing to say in reply; “Come to me.” I dropped everything and let go of everything as well and crawled in beside Mike and found some much needed rest in the arms of my Heavenly Father.  
I am still learning to let go and trust the Lord with all my heart. I am very thankful He is so patient!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Friends Like These

At about ten after twelve last Sunday afternoon, I got a phone call from my friend Debbie. She said, “Are you coming?” I told her I was on my way out the door. I was just helping Mike back from the bathroom and wanted to make sure he had everything he needed because I was going to be gone for a while.

Madison drove me over to where Debbie and a large group of other friends and family were waiting for me. We were at Fabulous Feet dance school and I was just in time to see the first performance. Karen showed me to my seat and Debbie sat beside me and said “This one’s for you.” Three beautiful young women in bright costumes came out and tap danced in perfect unison to the song ‘You Got a Friend in Me’.
About six weeks earlier, Debbie and my other friend, Tammy contacted me and said that they wanted to put on a fundraiser for our family. They were calling it ‘Summer for the Sands’. Shortly after that, Justina, Debbie’s daughter had an invitation out on Facebook with a very impressive program.  

The event started with three dance performances from students of Fabulous Feet. Then there were a number of dance and fitness classes for everyone to choose from. Then a performance by contortionist/dancer, Nathan Knowles, a finalist in Canada’s Got Talent and a few tap numbers by a group called "Taptastics" - three pretty girls and one lucky guy. The entertainment was incredible!
Justina gave a beautiful speech after the last performance…she spoke so well and really touched my heart with her thoughtful words. She reminded me so much of her mom, who I have known for many years and who is one of the kindest, loving, soft hearted and sensitive woman I know. With tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, surrounded by friends, family, including Erin, Nathan, Madison and Leah, and some other people I didn’t even know, I felt like I was dreaming.

Lastly, the draw prizes were drawn. There were so many gifts donated…really great prizes. The event was a huge success! I tried to say thank you to the group at the end, but it was so overwhelming, I was at a loss for words.
When I left, Justina gave me a poster she made with a beautiful flower on it and the words: Summer 4 the Sands. Some of the people that attended the fundraiser signed it. My 12 year old niece wrote a very sweet message and a bible verse that really sums everything up: Isaiah 58:9 – “You will call out, and the Lord will answer. You will cry for help, and He will say, ‘Here am I’.”

Large crowds are a little overwhelming for Mike right now, so he couldn’t make it…as much as he would have loved to have been there. He did though, with a big smile on his face listen to me go on and on about the event, relaying all the details to him. And together every day since then, we have been humbly thanking the Lord for friends like these.

                                                        Tammy, Debbie, me and Justina
        Linda, owner of Fabulous Feet and friend Adele who helped with draw prizes
                  Hip Hop class. Pictured: friend Celeste's daughters Rebecca and Jocelyn
                                                                          Zumba class

Friday, 1 June 2012

Are We There Yet?

The stairs are becoming more and more difficult for Mike. At the end of a long day, we get him off the couch and make our way to the staircase. When we get there, we put his hands on the railing, uncurling each finger and placing them on the hand rail, and then we lift one foot and put it on the first step. At this point, we quite often look at each other and laugh.

After having a good laugh, we look up…way up. Our stairs are no longer the short staircase we have been running up and down for the past seven years. Mike refers to them as the Grouse Grind.
The Grouse Grind Trail is located in North Vancouver, B.C., at the Grouse Mountain ski resort. It is an extremely steep and mountainous trail that begins at the 300-metre-elevation and climbs to 1,100 metres over a distance of approximately 2.9 kilometres. It’s commonly referred to as Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.

The average time it takes to climb the Grind is an hour and a half. Mike and I have hiked it together once. His time was 40 minutes and mine was 43. Mike always wanted to climb the Grind again. He was convinced he could easily shave a few minutes off his time with practice. He says there’s a technique to climbing the steep hill.
Well, there is a technique to climbing our stairs now too; slowly and carefully. I walk right behind him with one hand on the railing holding tight and one on his back, so he knows I’ve got his back. Before taking his first step the other night, Mike said, “How many more steps have we got? Oh, wait, we haven’t started yet.” A few steps up and he says, “What have we got ourselves into?” About half way up, he says, “Are we there yet?”

We climb the stairs together twice a day; once after Mike’s bike ride for a shower and again at the end of the day to go to bed. Once in a while I time how long it takes us to reach the top.  It usually takes between five and six minutes. The five to six minute journey to the upper level allows for some contemplation. I think about Mike’s determination and how I probably would have given up a long time ago. I admire his patience and mental strength and humbly follow one slow step at a time. I examine the grain and the lines in the wood or our beautiful wooden stairs and hand railing. I pray for protection and for the kind of patience Mike has.
My sister, Elanna and her husband Peter have invited us to come and stay in their ground level basement. It has a beautiful guest room, a bathroom, laundry and a large living area. They say it’s ready when we are. But Mike’s not quite ready and with his strong will and determination we will keep climbing those stairs for as long as possible. Plus, he is convinced he can shave a few minutes off his time with more practice.

Mike working up a sweat just thinking about the climb ahead of him.

Keep looking up Mike...you are doing well!