We received the authorization paperwork we’ve been waiting for in the mail yesterday. PTL! It’s a relief to finally have it but it does feel a little anti-climatic…particularly, I think, because UCLA still can’t see us until November 9th.
Unfortunately, the momentum we initially felt with Cedars Sinai has faded too. They needed to review my MRI images and medical notes before they’d set an appointment… we’re waiting to hear back from them. Rolf and I would still like to go to Cedars as the more input we can get at this point, the better but it doesn’t look like we’ll be heading to the hills anytime soon. It’s disappointing.
So, we sit and wait. We’re good at that. It’s unfortunate this step in the journey has taken so long and it’s unfortunate Rolf and I are left feeling wiped out by the process but we’re positioned, now, to move forward. On a practical level, I guess our prayers are shifting from the acquisition of the authorization to a smooth 2nd opinion process, quick answers and OPTIONS! It would really be nice to have some options. 🙂
A big part of establishing a framework on which to manage the many moving parts of this new health journey for me is to approach it holistically from a physical, mental AND spiritual perspective. As we wait for the medical consults to come into play, we’ve started to address the other areas as well…mental health through grief/hospice counseling and, for me, spiritual health through spiritual direction.
I met with a friend this week who is also a spiritual director…a person trained to come alongside, listen & ask questions to help guide a client in his or her reflection and spiritual growth. I mentioned before that I feel God is calling me to focus on “heart and family” during this time of waiting for the 2nd opinion and exploring the spiritual elements of the journey I’m on is foundational to that. Because it feels like my whole being has been consumed with physical battles the past few weeks, it feels really good to spend time listening to God in a structured way with a friend.
At one point in the session, my friend asked me if I felt forgotten…I thought for a minute and told her I can honestly say “no” because even in the midst of all the layers of heartbreak, I can see God’s fingerprints. She asked for an example and I shared this story…
When Rudy became unresponsive the morning he died and we raced him to the local hospital in Guymon, OK, I remember looking up at one point and saying out loud “Oh my god, we’re in the middle of nowhere. What can they do for Rudy here?”. Looking back on it, I feel bad for judging the small town because the ER team there did a great job and I recognized that even in the midst of the chaos but God chose to take it a step further…fast forward a couple of hours…after Rudy was declared dead, the hospital staff left the room and gave our family some time together alone with Rudy. After awhile, the staff began to filter back in to offer their condolences and finalize official business. At some point, we had a conversation with the ER doctor that went something like this:
ER Doc – “So, you folks are from Santa Barbara?”
Trish – “Yeah, well a small town just north of Santa Barbara.”
ER Doc – “Goleta?”
Trish – “YES! How do you know Goleta?”
ER Doc – “I live in Santa Barbara”
Trish – “Wait. You do? Where?”
ER Doc – “Up in the hills by the Santa Barbara Bowl.”
Trish – “But if you live in Santa Barbara, what are you doing in Guymon, OK?”
ER Doc – “I fly out once a month for a week-long shift here in the ER.”
Trish – “You mean to tell me that we just happened to pull through town during the one week this month that a doctor from Santa Barbara is on duty here in Guymon, OK?
As we drove away from the hospital that morning, I was not only at peace with the care Rudy received but I was doubly at peace knowing that Rudy was in the care of an ER doctor that could have just as easily been serving us at Cottage Hospital had we been home when this happened! One of many fingerprints that day.
I had no problem identifying the many evidences of God’s presence as it relates to Rudy and our grief over losing him but it was harder for me to identify God’s fingerprints in my situation…that is, until I got into my car.
Here’s a little back story…Rolf, Olivia and I made a quick trip up to the Bay Area last weekend and I enjoyed catching up with a good friend who shared her enthusiasm for some spiritual formation study she is doing and how impactful a book about Julian of Norwich was to her. Julian of Norwich was a British Christian philosopher and theologian who lived in the 13th and 14th centuries, was known to have suffered great pain and loss but whose primary message remained one of hope and trust in God. My friend thought maybe I would be comforted by her story…fast forward to my spiritual direction session 3 days later…at the end of the session, my friend facilitating the hour asked if I would be interested in using Anglican Prayer Beads (much like a rosary) to help me focus in prayer (as I confess this has been difficult for me to do with all the thoughts swirling around in my head). I told her I’d love to try it, took the packet of beads and I went on my way. When I got home, I opened the little pamphlet that came with the prayer beads and read the recommended prayers and to my surprise, one of the four prayers was titled “Prayer of Julian of Norwich”!!! There she was again intersecting my journey again…within just a couple of days! You can bet I stopped and took a closer look at Julian of Norwich! 🙂 Another reminder that God is present, He knows my heart, He knows my needs and He is guiding.
Julian of Norwich is best known for “Revelations of Divine Love” which she wrote in response to an encounter she had with Jesus on what was thought to be her deathbed but from which she recovered. My friend was right. I am encouraged by what little I know of her story so far and many of her questions for Jesus mirror my questions for Jesus. I am particularly challenged by this quote: “It is God’s will that we accept His promises and His comfortings as broadly and powerfully as we can receive them and He also wills that we accept our waiting and our distress as lightly as we can take them and pay no attention to them. For the more lightly we take them and the less value we place on them for the sake of love the less pain shall we have in experiencing them and the more favor and regard will we have because of them.” -Julian of Norwich Hmmmmmm…
The beautiful thing about taking small steps to draw closer to God is that God meets us in those moments, takes the reins so to speak, and begins to pull us in because, I believe, He is just as eager for us to draw nearer to Him as we are eager to experience His nearness…He loves us that much and more.
And really important for me to remember today…He loves me that much and more.
I really miss posting pictures of Rudy…he provided us with endless photo opportunities. I’m not taking as many pictures these days but here are some fun glimpses into recent goings on in the life of the Geyling family.
It has been a month since my initial ALS diagnosis. We have no approved authorization in hand. The ALS clinic at UCLA can’t see me until November 9th (that is, if we get the correct authorization by then). The ALS clinic at Cedars Sinai has been very receptive to our calls and is willing to work with us asap. We’ve decided to pay out of pocket and pursue getting the help we need ourselves at Cedars Sinai. 😦
I’m tempted to unleash all my rage and frustration in this post over the futility of our efforts the past 4 weeks…wasted energy, wasted brain cells, wasted tears…but I’ll show some self control and simply say, please pray for breakthrough. Ultimately, we still need the elusive authorization to get me into my network of providers for the long haul (Cedars Sinai is not in our insurance network), I’m still desperate for direction on what I should be doing and, I know it sounds dramatic, but it feels like my hour glass is emptying and time. is. awastin’!
I appreciate the advice people have forwarded my way and know that I’m filing it all to sift through once my diagnosis is confirmed but I haven’t acted on anything yet. Right now, the internet information out there is overwhelming and confusing to me because I have no framework on which to hang the many, seemingly unrelated variables. It’s kind of like being given a huge bag of puzzle pieces without the picture. I could spend hours studying each piece and, in time, start to make some connections between them but I don’t have the mental energy to do that. I’m waiting for an outline of the bigger picture at least (i.e. 2nd opinion and consult) before I can start to make sense of the particulars. There is much to manage, for sure, and I’m taking it all very seriously but the mountain of information out there is starting to feel insurmountable and that’s a dangerous place for me right now. Your love and prayers are our comfort indeed! 🙂
On a completely different note, we got the multi-thousand dollar physician bill for the day Rudy died in the mail today. I’ve been wondering why we hadn’t gotten any bills for that day and assumed the agencies in Guymon, OK were just waiting for the insurance payout before billing us our portion. Instead, the bill in total came today. Which means? You guessed it, another string of calls to the billing office and insurance companies involved tomorrow. Not a huge financial stress as it will get sorted out. in time. after multiple calls. But the emotional pain is deep as I read the itemized bill…”Patient Name: Clinton R. Geyling”, “Date of service: July 25, 2017”, “Description of Services/Procedures: Emergency Evaluation & Management Services, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Cardioversion, External, Elective” All just letters filling in a form to the people generating the statements but it represents a moment in time that completely transformed my life…the life of my family. I miss our boy tonight…a lot. ‘Kinda looking forward to a day when my eyes don’t sting. ‘Kinda feeling like a hot mess.
Please don’t read any of this as criticism or a bitch session…I really mean it to be a quick glimpse into the life of us right now…for the purpose of prayer to inspire fresh vision for what has become a stale process! I’m desperate for all things FRESH (and maybe an insurance employee who is super motivated, an independent thinker, a keen observer AND who is empowered to seal the deal on this authorization). I thirst tonight for tangible expressions of God’s power in my life…and eyes to see those expressions! I’m definitely feeling like the lame man whose friends went to the extreme effort of hoisting him through a roof to get him to Jesus who was surrounded by a great crowd of people and otherwise unreachable (Mark 2:1-12). I need to be brought to the feet of Jesus by the faith of my friends! Thank you friends for stretching your faith on our family’s behalf!! I have some more thoughts on that subject but I’ll save them for another day. 😉
I’m getting asked this question a lot these days. I don’t mind being asked but it has a complicated answer. So, how am I doing? Here’s the multi-layered answer…
As it relates to my 2nd opinion authorization, I’m discouraged and frustrated. It has gone far beyond bureaucratic BS and has become a truly twisted mess. I’m not sure how the process got so out of hand but there are now 3 different entities and multiple personnel working on it. As a result, there is still no approved authorization in hand or date on the calendar. I’m having a hard time connecting with UCLA as well. Unfortunately, the process is only serving to feed my fear and build up some pretty unrealistic expectations for what the 2nd opinion can offer us. I feel like I’m in a “no win” situation, literally, at every turn and my optimism is dwindling.
Physically? My body is fatigued but I’m not in any pain. The weakness in my left leg is causing me to limp. I navigate our home okay but feel self-conscience when I’m out and about. My speech is changing…I’m not sure how noticeable it is, but I’m noticing the change in my ability to form words and project. When I’m emotional, I can hardly articulate words at all. It’s very strange to be thinking the words I want to say but unable to say them correctly. I also have subtle twitches, just underneath the skin, all over my body all the time which is a constant reminder that my body is in a process. Right now the symptoms I’m experiencing are more annoying than debilitating but they certainly are adding to my fatigue and anxiety.
Emotionally? I’m struggling. Home is both the most physically comfortable and the most emotionally difficult place for me to be. I’m grieving and my home is a constant reminder of what I’ve lost and what I’m potentially losing. My mind just can’t process it. Right now the closest I can come to describing where I’m at emotionally is profoundly disappointed. Apathy is beginning to blanket my attitude toward everything. To be totally honest, there isn’t much I “want” to do. When organizing my day, I find myself choosing between the things I don’t want to do the least. My grief over losing Rudy is still so raw and “healing” in the grief process seems impossible because I have very little vision for my future. It’s like trying to treat a festering emotional wound with a salt shaker. I’m just really, really sad…all the time…with no relief.
Spiritually? Hopeful. I know this sounds contradictory to what I shared above but there is hope because God is near and I know that our current situation is just as much a spiritual journey as it is a physical one. One of my all time favorite quotes is from Betsie ten Boom – sister to Corrie ten Boom – who said (my paraphrase) there is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still. I know I can’t compare my experience to the brutality of Nazi Germany but life is brutal for our family right now and I feel like the pit is going to get deeper before life becomes less brutal. It’s the simple truths of God to which I’m clinging right now and they are putting a spotlight on my hope that is ever present whether I feel it or not.
Thank you, dear army of friends, for your prayers. Please continue! Love to you all.
Today would have been Rudy’s 9th Birthday and it’s very likely we would have done something really fun after church today…something he enjoyed like bowling perhaps. We had so much fun celebrating birthdays and we loved how Rudy would wish everybody a “Happy Day Day” on their birthdays. I can’t tell you how much it sucks that we’re not celebrating with him. It’s a pain that cannot be described.
Today is even harder than I anticipated. I have been consumed with details of my own diagnosis for the past two weeks and haven’t had head space to grieve my boy. To be honest, I feel robbed of my grieving process and today snuck up on me. If the whole ALS thing hadn’t surfaced, I would have planned something significant to mark this day…I would have taken the time to honor him and memorialize him in a creative way. Instead, life has been turned upside down, again, and my heart isn’t in it. I’m not ready to face a birthday without our boy…I’m not ready to face much.
I wish I knew where to go with this…with the thousands of thoughts that are filling my mind. I’m finding it almost impossible to harness any coherent thought. I ping pong from feeling hopeful to devastated to peaceful to in despair in a matter of a few minutes. I feel physically strong one second and unable to catch my breath the next. I can be engaged in a friendly conversation with a friend at a XC meet and then suddenly feel completely overwhelmed by the blue skies and happy people around me. My lifeboat is taking on water and I’m too weary to care.
I’m feeling pretty powerless today. The insurance authorization process has been a slow one so we don’t have the 2nd opinion appointment on the calendar yet. We did get word on Friday that authorization approval was finally granted by Blue Shield which is a relief. Once we get the paperwork, we’ll call down to UCLA and make the appointment. Please pray there is an open slot waiting just for me asap.
I wish I could say there is some joy in remembering Rudy today…I wish I could say I’m making progress in my grief…but I can’t. Today the mud has hardened and life is at a standstill. Today the grief is unbearable.
Rudy’s school installed a bench in his memory outside his special ed classroom on Thursday…’grateful for such a sweet tribute on such a painful day. ‘Grateful, too, for everyone who reached out to us this week through texts, emails, phone messages, cards and flowers. Your love continues to buoy us. Please continue to pray.
When Rolf and I dropped Max off at Point Loma last month, we were happy to be a part of the two-day new student orientation festivities but, I admit, it was hard to embrace all the parent seminars and “meet ‘n greets” as we were still pretty raw in the wake of Rudy’s passing. Ironically, we weren’t that emotional about dropping our big boy off at college…we were just so excited for Max. He was so ready to be there and he jumped into the college scene enthusiastically with both feet. It was really fun to watch. So, it made for some awkward interactions with folks when waves of grief hit us at the most random times…like over a plate of pulled pork! We got sympathetic looks from other parents and Rolf and I just wanted to jump onto the table and yell “we’re not crying because we’re dropping off our son at college!! There’s a bigger story here!!”. It was weird. We had this strong compulsion to fill in the blanks because we felt a little disingenuous as well as misunderstood. We had this need for complete strangers to know the whole truth.
We find ourselves in a similar situation this month. Life is getting more complicated for our family and as we sit dumbfounded and in shock, we feel the need to say “Our grief is not just about Rudy. There’s a bigger story here!”.
I was diagnosed with ALS a week ago today. I have been feeling “off” for several months but it wasn’t until Rudy passed away that my symptoms came into focus. Without the added stability of pushing Rudy’s wheelchair, I noticed a more pronounced limp in my left leg. And because I no longer needed to use elevators and ramps, I attempted to climb stairs and found I couldn’t do so without pulling myself up with the hand rail. There is no pain, just weakness in my limbs and subtle changes in my speech. I saw the neurologist (who was Rudy’s neurologist too!) a week after Rudy’s funeral and submitted to a series of tests that culminated in a MRI a week ago last Thursday that did not show a pinched nerve or obstruction of any kind. Dr. C is 95% sure it’s ALS but, of course, is recommending we seek a second opinion and we are doing so at UCLA pending insurance approval.
Rolf and I have decided to share our situation publicly before confirmation of the diagnosis for two reasons. First, my symptoms are becoming more pronounced and people are beginning to ask what’s wrong. Second, we would rather have our friends and family praying from the get go. We are starting this next phase of our journey already worn down and fragile, the weight is crushing and if we’re going to do this “well”, we need our community. How that will look, I’m not sure yet but if Rudy taught us anything, it was to live life one day at a time and we will figure this out as it unfolds. What we are asking from our loved ones at this point is for prayer…prayer for mercy, prayer for wisdom, prayer for healing (emotional/physical), you name it, we need it. Once we have our second opinion, we hope to have a better sense of where we are and what our practical needs will be.
My greatest concern right now is for Rolf and the kids. Rolf and I told the kids on Monday. The MOHD squad headed south on Tuesday, picked up Wilson in LA and joined Max in San Diego for the day. It was a hard day but it was good to be together. We had a candid conversation that ended with Max initiating prayer and I walked away so grateful for my family’s strength of spirit and faith. That being said, we are all being forced to carry an intense burden ON TOP of our grief and I want to insulate my family from it all with every fiber of my being…but I can’t. Once again, we find ourselves in a hard space to comprehend that is totally out of our control…and we miss our little boy.
Dr. C encouraged us to go home and “go about our business”. I intend to do just that. I have decided to not do any research on the disease or on local resources or do any specific planning for the future until the 2nd opinion. I feel strongly that I am to take this time to focus on heart and family. Rolf, Olivia and I will begin specific counseling later this week. I have already begun taking the one drug that is available to me right now. I appreciate the loving advise from family and friends who have personal or professional experience with this disease but ask that you hold off sharing it with us until after the 2nd opinion. I’m feeling the need to pace myself and not jump into an ocean of confusing information until it’s confirmed this is the path we’re on. For now what we need more than anything is your prayer and emotional support.
(No real comfortable segue into these pictures but I love my family’s ability to embrace moments of joy in the midst of hard life stuff…)
We will update as soon as we have new information. Thank you dear ones!
Waiting in hope, Trish
P.S. I have a Bible app on my phone that gives me a random verse a day…I was struck by the appropriateness of last week’s line-up. Given the fact I can barely focus on anything, let alone reading, I appreciate God meeting me where I’m at…
Our girl turned 15 years old last week. I remember the day she was born vividly. I remember how thrilled we were to have a girl…and we weren’t the only ones! When we got settled in the labor and delivery room at UCLA on September 9, 2002, an adorable nurse came bouncing in and said with a clap of her hands “So, what are we having today?” to which I replied “We don’t know, we like to be surprised and we have two boys at home who can’t wait to find out too.”…”WAIT! You already have two boys and you don’t know what this baby is??”…the anticipation in the whole room heightened at that point. Rolf took a picture of me holding Olivia just moments after she was born and that same nurse was captured in the background of the snapshot with a big smile and tears streaming down her face. Ha Ha! It was hard for even the nurse to NOT get caught up in our joy over Olivia’s arrival. 🙂 I knew that day that Olivia would be a special addition to our family…but I certainly could not have imagined the many ways her “specialness” would be demonstrated in her young life so far. The courage, poise and transparency she displayed at Rudy’s funeral standing alone at the podium sharing stories about her little brother was a perfect snapshot of how Olivia navigated life with Rudy too. Her young spirit continues to be tested and she continues to emerge with a beauty and strength of faith that inspires and amazes us. I am so grateful for our girl.
Rolf, Olivia and I had our first counseling session and I’m grateful for the opportunity we’re having to do it together. I’m sure as our journey through grief continues, there may be times we seek individual counseling but, for now, it feels right to be together. I think it’s good for Olivia to watch Rolf and I process our grief openly and I think it’s good for Rolf and I to not only hear where her heart is at but to hear what’s being spoken into her life as well (not in a smothering, controlling way but as quiet observers with a big picture perspective). A significant observation pointed out to Olivia by the counselor in our first session was that Rudy taught her her capacity to love (and, as a side note, how important that will be as the boys start to come around). The side note was shared with a smile but it did get me thinking. It’s true. I do believe Rudy revealed to all of us our capacity to love and I pray this has a lasting impact on the big sibs for sure. They have learned through their experience with Rudy to love unselfishly and deeply (and also what a valuable gift that is to give) and this will serve them well as they mature in their understanding of love, maybe meet the loves of their lives and, God willing, have children of their own someday.
But I also believe that part of understanding our capacity to love is recognizing that we are, at the same time, lovable. Being people of faith and trusting in the unconditional love of God, Rolf and I purposed to teach our kids from day one that they are loved by God for no other reason than simply who they were created to be. From the very moment they were conceived and came into being, (before they could do anything to deserve it) they were loved by God and, therefore, are lovable. As parents, we try to demonstrate that kind of love to our kids but we’re human and we do it clumsily. Rudy, however, was great at it and I would often say to the big sibs “How does it feel to be so completely adored?”. As Rolf shared at the funeral, Rudy didn’t love with his mind as much as he loved with his heart and his soul and he had special ways of communicating his love that were more often than not directed toward his big sibs. Rudy adored his three siblings because of who they were at their core…”core to core love” is the only kind of love Rudy knew how to express and in doing so, we all learned how deeply we could love another.
Of course, with a deep capacity to love comes a deep capacity to hurt which is where we are now. There are lessons to be learned in the pain of grief but it’s hard to see them now…those lessons will come into focus someday down the line. For now, though, my prayer is that we all recognize that as we confront the pain we’re carving out an even greater capacity to love and, I pray, we find comfort in the fact that core to core love doesn’t end no matter the distance.
Warning: I know post mortem photographs are uncomfortable for a lot of people so I’ll post the following picture far below so you need to scroll down if you want to see it. I know it’s sensitive and and I know it’s sacred which is why I’m sharing it. Sometimes, to avoid discomfort is to miss a beautiful moment…in this case, a picture of what one’s deep capacity to love looks like. This picture was taken in the SB mortuary…it was the first time the big sibs saw Rudy after he was taken away from the ER in Oklahoma the morning he died. It was a difficult outing…I don’t think any of them wanted to be there particularly but Rolf and I felt it was important they see Rudy once before his viewing a couple of days later. It was hard but they did it…they pushed through their fear and their discomfort and took full advantage of the opportunity. Olivia made Rudy a friendship bracelet and when I asked her if she wanted to give it to the mortician to put on him, she said she wanted to do it herself. So, with Wilson’s help gently lifting Rudy’s arm so she could easily wrap it around Rudy’s wrist and with Max watching close behind, all three partnered in one last expression of love toward Rudy. It was magnificent. A moment I’ll never forget.
Please keep praying for us friends. It sounds so selfish (and so needy) but we need God’s restorative power now more than ever…Rolf and I, especially, continue to battle lack of sleep, numbness, inability to focus. All to be expected, I know, but nonetheless challenging to navigate. Thank you!!!