Friday, April 29, 2016

Lisa's obituary

Lisa Foster Calderwood passed away peacefully at her home in Midway, Utah on April 25th at the young age of 34 after a four year battle with brain cancer. Heaven got a little brighter as Lisa returned to her heavenly home. Lisa had an infectious, vibrant personality and made friends wherever she was. She was always smiling and so happy. She was incredibly beautiful both inside and out. She lived life to the fullest and was always up for an adventure. Even while battling cancer she ran a full marathon and did a 100 mile bike race.

There is a quote that Lisa loved that describes her very well. "When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live. So live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you." –Stuart Scott

Lisa lived these words to the fullest. She beat cancer. Three separate times she beat cancer by never giving up and by living life to the fullest. While many other people ask “why me?” or become bitter and angry about their trials, she held her head high, pressed onward, and continued to live with a smile on her face despite the heavy challenges that come with brain tumors. She leaned heavily on her faith in God and used that as a source of strength and comfort, even in her darkest hours.

Lisa loved to dance. She started clogging as a little girl and fell in love with it. She continued dancing all the way up until shortly before her death. Clogging opened up wonderful doors for her throughout her life. She made many friends who became her clogging family. She was a part of the folk dance team at Ricks College and toured Eastern Europe with her team. She also won a gold medal for dancing at the Junior National Olympics. While attending BYU she owned her own dance studio in Springville. When her husband was accepted to dental school in Maryland, she was sad to sell her studio but was lucky enough to find Teelin Irish Dance studio out there where she could continue teaching and making lifelong friends.

Lisa was a very smart and witty individual. She got her associates degree from BYU-Idaho (the first graduating class after the change from Ricks College) and then proceeded to get her bachelor’s degree from BYU. She was also very crafty and a talented seamstress. She had her own ETSY business where she would sew hooded animal towels for kids. She would often give these as gifts to friends and family. They were very popular and kept her busy throughout the years selling them at Swiss Days and on her website.
Lisa and her husband Cody had a fairy tale type of story when they met in the summer of 2002 in Chicago, Illinois. It was love at first sight. He was instantly attracted to her beautiful red hair and was smitten. After an exciting and joyous courtship, they married on April 25, 2003 in the Salt Lake temple for time and all eternity.

Her four children were the love of her life. Their playful, energetic personalities kept her on her toes as a stay at home mom, and what an amazing mom she was. Her children adored her and loved to be active outdoors with her while water skiing, camping, snow skiing, biking, hiking and rock climbing. The memories she created with her family are precious and will bring us joy for years to come.

Lisa is survived by her husband Cody Michael Calderwood, four children Tucker, Aubrey, Cole and Blake, her parents Ken and Susan Foster, and siblings Kevin, Heather (Pelfrey) and Spencer, along with many nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Update on Lisa

She's had a pretty significant downward spiral in the past week. She really struggles to move around now and can't do stairs anymore, so we just keep her in our bedroom all day and take food to her when she gets hungry. Her hospice nurse says that the end is really near and she thinks that two weeks, at the most, is when she'll pass away.

She had a massive accident Tuesday afternoon in the bed while she was sleeping, even though we have to keep her in depends 24/7. I was at work and was told about this when I got home. My mom was there at the house taking care of her. One of my wife's neighbor friends stopped by just to say hi and as she entered the room the smell of poop about knocked her back. She went down to get my mom and the two of them proceeded to take her to the bathroom, take off her soiled clothes, bathe her, wash the sheets and her clothes, and shampooed the carpets. That's about the third time Lisa has had an accident that bad in the past few weeks. The two previous times it was in the middle of the night though, so no one else was around to be bothered with it and I did all the clean up by myself. I felt bad my mom and neighbor had to deal with that, and I am grateful for their help. It's not an easy task.

Yesterday when I got her up to take her to the bathroom she could barely make it from the bed to the bathroom. You can see that her body is shutting down now. The tumor is just so big that her brain can't handle it anymore. I sat her down on the toilet and took off her pants and depends. As I was taking them off she looked at me and had her first moment of clarity in over a week. She is normally in just one big fog, like a hard core heroine junkie that is just very unaware of any of their surroundings. She looked at me and said, "I'm worthless" and then got really sad. I tried to convince her that it was no big deal, that I loved her, and she was doing awesome, but she kept repeating that over and over again for about 30 seconds. Then she forgot all about it and was back to her "normal" unaware self. It was heart breaking to see her aware of her situation. Most of the time she's completely unaware of how bad things are. When people ask her how she's doing she always responds, "I'm doing great!" And says it with a smile. And she means it. In her mind, she's in great shape and isn't battling cancer.

She's starting to not recognize people, and that unfortunately includes the kids. They will go to give her a hug sometimes and she will push them away and say, "What are you doing? Don't touch me." That's been hard on the kids. She spends most of her day just sitting in the recliner in our room quietly looking out the window or staring at a wall. On Monday she had some family members come by to visit her and she wasn't very talkative with them and didn't really interact much. When I came home from work she smiled and said hi to me. The friend that had been sitting with her that day said that was the first time she saw Lisa smile all day. That made me so happy that not only does she still recognize me, but that she still loves me and that I can make her smile.

I am so ready for her to pass away and gain relief from all of this. Two weeks ago for fast Sunday, that was my prayer and the focus of my fast. That if it be the Lord's will, that she can pass away peacefully sooner rather than later. The only thing that makes a decision like that possible and bearable is our belief in the after life and the resurrection. I believe that she will be much better off and more productive on the other side of the vail than she is here. I hate to lose my sweetheart at such a young age and be without her, but the reality is that she has been "gone" the past 3 months. The woman you see right now is not Lisa. It is not my wife, and not the mother to our 4 kids that they knew. I just hope that these memories aren't what dominate their memories for years to come. I hope our kids remember how fun, kind, loving and outgoing she was. It's still so sad that she is going to pass away at the age of 34.

I've said this before, but I don't know how anyone could ever approach or tackle a challenge of this magnitude without an eternal perspective. I know it's unfair to compare my situation to the Savior's when he was in Gethsemane, but there have been multiple times that I have turned to God in a pleading prayer essentially asking him to take this cup from me. I feel so unqualified to handle it all. It's made me so painfully aware of my shortcomings and of how weak, impatient and feeble I am by myself. Thankfully I don't have to shoulder this burden by myself though. I can say definitively that I have felt the sustaining power of the Lord throughout this trial. While listening to conference talks a couple weeks ago, although I didn't get any specific questions answered, I felt my Heavenly Father's love for me as the Spirit warmed my soul. It was more than just a happy feeling when one hears a motivational talk. It was distinct and was the type of comfort that only comes from the Holy Ghost.

Throughout the past few months as I've asked for relief for my wife and for me, the impression I consistently got was, "Hang in there just a little longer." Although not the answer I was looking for, I've tried to be patient and not lose steam. This Monday we will complete our 13th anniversary. It's going to be an exceptionally hard day for me. I try so hard to focus on the good times we had. On what a great wife she has been. On how we have honored our temple covenants and will be together again, but I unfortunately drift back to feeling sorry for myself far too often. I have probably cried at least once a day over the past couple of months. More than my previous 37 years combined. I know that the purpose of this life is to grow stronger and gain experience to become more like our Father in Heaven. And just like weight lifting, there is no way to get stronger without pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone. We need to do hard things to become stronger. But even though I understand that, it doesn't make it easier when you are in the middle of it. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Quick day trip to Moab and back

Man I love Utah. It is such an awesome state with incredibly diverse terrain. I love that I live up in the mountains with pine trees and aspens and can drive just a few hours and be in the beautiful red rock country of southern Utah. I've traveled to some beautiful places around the world, but it's hard to beat the wonders we have here close to home.
I've been going to Moab multiples times a year for 20 years (excluding my mission years and when I lived in Maryland for dental school). Every year for the past 7 years we take the kids to Moab for their spring break. Our kids love it down there. The rock climbing, hiking, biking, four wheeling, catching lizards, and just plain rolling in the dirt. We try to make it down there a few times a year. I had this whole week of work scheduled off months ago, but with Lisa's failing health I knew there was no way we were going to be able to go down there. The kids were devastated but understood, so we've just spent the week at home trying to enjoy being with Lisa. We missed going last year too because Lisa was in surgery for her second brain tumor. So this was the second spring break in a row they missed going down there.
I've been stir crazy though this week. I haven't been on a vacation in so long and was itching to get down to southern Utah, so last night I decided last minute that we were going to make a lightning fast run down to Moab today to squeeze in one quick mountain bike ride for the kids. Lisa does pretty well travelling in the car if there isn't too much noise (thankfully our kids are awesome road trippers). I think part of it is the fact that she's contained in her seat and can't wander off anywhere and get in trouble, and there isn't a lot to confuse her.
We left right after breakfast yesterday morning and pulled into Moab around lunch time. We met up with some friends at their campsite and ate lunch with them. Their teenage kids volunteered to sit with Lisa while I took all of my kids on a trail ride with our friends. The kids loved it. When we were done, we loaded everyone back up in my truck and headed back home. 4 hours of driving to get there. 2 and a half hours there, 4 hours back home. Totally worth it to get the kids out.
Lisa did pretty well physically, but mentally she was in la-la land and really out of it. She doesn't talk much anymore, which is strange and not normal for her during a four hour road trip. But she did manage to say something every now and then, which was usually completely unrelated to anything going on and would make us laugh. For example, the kids were quietly enjoying the scenery at one point and Lisa hadn't said anything for over an hour when she suddenly spoke up and said, "We can figure this out. Your dad is a really smart guy. He'll figure it out." Why thank you honey! I am a really smart guy.
Sadly, this might be our last family photo. Definitely the last of many we've taken in Moab over the years.

Here's my little crew with their bikes.

On a side note, I used to be a more dedicated mountain biker. I loved to ride several times a week and go on some gnarly, long rides in Moab. Since I've had kids, that has totally changed. While on vacation, I don't want to leave the entire family for several hours while doing an intense ride. Now I just slow down, find some easier routes, and go with my kids. It's totally different than when I was a young single guy, but still a ton of fun. Watching your kids push themselves and finish a challenging (for them) trail is pretty cool. Blake (who is 5 years old) was so proud of himself today. I just wish we could have spent the whole week down there.
Who's that studly guy in the back? Someone better call a verterinarian because his pythons are sick!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Musings from Cody

These past 2+ months have been really, really hard. The previous four years with Lisa's brain tumors were difficult, but definitely manageable. These past 10 weeks have been incredibly challenging for me. Yesterday was another prime example of how tiring it is on me. Here's just a few examples of what yesterday was like, and to be honest it's become the norm. From the moment my wife wakes up, I have to help her with almost everything. I have to help her to get out of bed. Then I lead her into the bathroom where I give her all of her pills, one at a time and make sure she swallows them. Yesterday I gave her a bath. That is a difficult task. After the bath I took her downstairs and gave her breakfast. I made french toast for the family. During breakfast I had to play mediator between my wife and the kids. She has it in her mind that the kids are out to get her and often gets in fights with them about ridiculous things. Yesterday she was yelling at them because she thought they were trying to steal her breakfast. They weren't, but I had to smooth it all over anyway. The poor kids have been losing their patience and are starting to fight back with her more, so I have to really work to keep the peace in those moments.Throughout the day she tends to get bored really easily and then wanders around. I ask her what I can get her or what I can do for her and then she gets annoyed that she can't be independent and usually gives me a nonsensical answer like, "I'm just going to finish watching this game and then go to the bathroom downstairs." Well, we weren't watching a game and we were already downstairs. When I try to explain stuff like that to her, she gets irritated with me and is convinced that I'm an idiot. If I turn my back on her for a minute, she's usually getting into trouble and messing something up. Yesterday I was trying to help my son with his bike and when I came back in the house I found Lisa standing by the stove pouring the sloppy joe mix I made for dinner all over the apple pie we were going to have for desert. Unfortunately she ruined the pie. When I asked her what she was doing, she said she was just following the instructions and did exactly as she should.In the evening she felt like laying down in her bed. She gets tired really easily throughout the day. She takes a nap for a couple hours after lunch and then usually goes to bed around 8. Well she went to bed a little earlier while I was watching the priesthood session. I took her upstairs and changed her into her pajamas during one of the hymns. When I came back up after priesthood session to check on her she was standing in the corner of the room patting down the wall, like she was searching for something. She didn't have her glasses on though so was blind as a bat and couldn't see anything. I asked her where her glasses were and she said that someone came in to her room and took them. Nobody had, but she wouldn't believe me on that. After about 15 minutes of searching I found them.Then to top the day off, at 3:00 in the morning I woke up to her having another accident in bed. She had a bowel movement and I was an idiot and didn't put her in her depends last night because she had about a week straight with no incidents. So I proceeded to take her into the bathroom, strip all of her clothes and the sheets on our bed to throw them in the wash. Gave her another bath, dressed her again, and put new sheets on the bed. Sigh. It's tiring.Ok, now that you've made it through my "brief" description of a typical day in my life, let me share with you some of my thoughts I've had. I know this sounds terrible, but I am so ready for my wife to pass away. I love her like crazy and I know I'm going to ache when she is finally dead, but wow. I'm exhausted all the time. I'm tired of being tired all the time. I wrestled in junior high and high school and have been leaning heavily on some lessons I learned through those years. Wrestling is very difficult and very tiring. You learn that you can always dig deeper and that you can always give a little more. You never quit, no matter what. Well, I've been relying on those lessons lately. I have no idea how much longer my wife has to live, and many times I feel like my tank is on empty and I've reached the limit. But, I just dig a little deeper and keep on going. My prayers lately have been that the Lord will give me the strength to bare up my burdens and to endure this well.I have asked myself and the Lord many times the past few weeks why my wife is being allowed to live. Mentally she is gone. Physically she is still doing great. It's quite the curse for her at the moment to have her physical abilities yet be so limited mentally. I'm convinced that she can do much more good on the other side of the veil than she is doing here. Then I realize that the reason she is still here is probably for me because my wife is unaware of just how bad she is. In fact, she thinks she's doing great. In a way that is a blessing. I think with how independent her spirit is that she would be going crazy seeing how limited she is, but thankfully she is unaware. The Lord is probably using this as an opportunity to shape me and mold me, not her. I know it has stretched me far beyond my comfort zone. The Lord also knows that I'm not a super patient individual, and this whole situation has really, really pushed me to the limit. If I'm not physically taking care of my wife and am somewhere else like at work, then I'm constantly worrying for her. So there is a huge emotional and physical toll associated with all of this. I have been made painfully aware of my limitations. I'm not nearly as strong and awesome as I like to think I am. It turns out I'm just an average guy trying his best and falling far short. This whole situation has "compelled" me to become very humble and turn to the Lord for constant help. The hymn "I need thee every hour" is quite literal for me at this moment in time. Yesterday's talk by Elder Uchtdorf about eternal marriages really helped me and gave me some peace and comfort. My wife and I have had an amazing marriage of 13 years. She was a wonderful mother and a fantastic wife. I'm grateful for our temple covenants that both she and I made and have honored. It helps give me hope for the future one day that we can be reunited and she will have all of her mental faculties back and will have her personality back too. I already miss my wife.Anyway, I have no idea if she has one more week left, or another month left. But I have decided in the past few days that it doesn't matter anymore. I'm going to stop stressing and worrying about it. I'm going to put it in the Lord's hands and do His will to the best of my ability. I'm going to choose to be happy and positive and I am going to pray for the Lord's strength and support, and then dig a little deeper for the energy to carry on. I don't remember who said it at conference yesterday, but I heard one of them say with regards to the challenges that we face in life that there are two ways to go in this life. We can either go our own way to happiness, or we can go the way the Lord has chosen for us and gain even greater happiness. I am putting my faith in God's way, that it will be better in the long run than any path I could envision.