Save Our Dad

Save Our Dad Update: It Starts

8/23/2016 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

Erik and his dad, Den
Grandpa Den starts chemo today. We're very nervous since he's still not very strong and only one lung works, but compared to how he was just a few weeks ago, his chances are MUCH better than they were. You can even see in this picture that his color is better and he's gained a little weight! (You can read more about Den's situation here.)

Den's birthday is this week, but after the chemo starts. Since he won't be up to being around people then, we invited family over on Sunday to celebrate and his friends threw him a huge BBQ bash at the senior center. I managed to hold off crying, instead just trying to focus on enjoying being with family, until Erik's cousin asked about the cancer and treatment.

This just isn't fair! Of all the people in the world, Den is the most gentle, kind, and thoughtful person I've met. In only the last week or so, I've gotten to know him a lot better and he amazes me even more. With all he's been through in his life, anyone else would have turned hard and bitter, even before the cancer. Why does a man who has already suffered so much, worked so hard, and dedicated his life to serving others have to go through this? If only we'd known sooner, maybe we could have caught the cancer earlier...

We also found out that, to save on medical costs, he hasn't been taking all of his medicine. He doesn't want to be a burden on anyone. When I mentioned us possibly moving in to help him, he never once mentioned how he'd have to put up with our 2 cats, incessantly barking dog, and loud kids after being used to peace and quiet or how we haven't been great housekeepers (his house is usually extremely clean). He's never once complained about all the boxes filling his house while we slowly unpack (read about our move here). He's only been worried about how it would affect our lives. Instead of complaining when he sees the kids leave a mess or the dog drag a granola bar wrapper out of the trash, he tries to slowly bend down and pick it up before we stop him and take care of it ourselves (he's really not supposed to do that!)

We spent last night recording him tell us a few stories from his life. How he grew up working on a farm, his mother was a nurse in San Francisco, working in pool halls, and how he's never again used a gun after seeing his friend killed in a hunting accident. I wish we'd done this sooner. Den's always been so quiet and reserved, we hardly know anything about his life.

But I know somehow Heavenly Father will make everything all right. He's promised us that in this life or the next that everything will be made fair. What will God give to a man who has served and loved so faithfully and selflessly? I can only imagine the wonders and treasures that will someday await this man in heaven (hopefully years and years from now). I love reading the words of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's recent talk. It's helped me realize this and also that even though these last few weeks have been difficult, we've been so very blessed to be able to enjoy our time with Den. I hope we have much more time with him.

Den just left for the hospital. I'll spend the rest of the day praying and sanitizing the house for his return. To beat the lymphoma, he'll have several months of chemo and a long recovery ahead of him. If you can, please take a moment to pray for Denzel Watkins today.


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    Save Our Dad

    Update: Save Our Dad

    8/19/2016 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

    Grandpa Den petting Daisy

    After a month of frantic house hunting, packing, cleaning, etc. (if you missed all that fun, read about it here), our family is finally back together in California, and just in time too! My father-in-law's "not doing well" is actually cancer. He has B-cell Lymphoma which has spread to his back, but we're told that if you have to have cancer, this is the kind you want because it's treatable. He starts chemo in a few days. This type of cancer has better than a 50% - 5 year survival rate (which is encouraging, especially when they'd originally told us it was terminal).
    Grandpa Den

    Den is one of the coolest grandpas you'll ever meet. He's a been a comic book fan since forever, so the kids love talking Captain America and Green Lantern with him. He's an amazing card and pool player and something of a legend at the local senior center. He's been schooling the newbies at cribbage, pinochle, pool, and more for so long that they've nicknamed him The Godfather (and made/featured this portrait of him at the senior center).

    We are so happy with how much better Grandpa Den's already doing after just one month of Erik taking care of him. His spirits are high and he's already gained five pounds! It's a good thing too. Chemotherapy will be very hard on him, especially with how weak he is already, and the nausea will make it very difficult to eat. We're also working on turning his room into a germ-free bubble since the medicine will cause his immune system will crash.

    We want to say thank you so much to everyone for their support in helping us get here. We really could not have done it without your prayers, encouragement, and generous donations via GoFundMe. The next few months will be critical, so any additional support you can offer will help immensely! There are many more hurdles to jump (medical costs, left over moving expenses, etc., not to mention the physical and mental stress and exhaustion we're all going through, and the hardest part hasn't even started!) If you could take a moment and pray for our family, we would appreciate it.

    Our Journey from Utah to California

    Our daughter and her cousin during our last meal in Provo (at Cafe Rio)
    Packing up and moving is always hard, but since Erik needed to stay in CA with his father, the kids and I had to do it by ourselves. We weren't alone, though! So many friends and family members pitched in and helped. When it was finally decided we would move into my father-in-law's house, we had to move fast. School was starting in a week, and we needed to have the kids there for it.
    The boys playing Legos on the train
    While so many things went amazingly well, some things went comically awry. With my health problems, me driving the moving truck or even just a car with the kids was out of the question. But, as it turned out, taking the train (which the kids LOVED) was the best and most cost effective option. We were even able to get a moving truck (and even find a driver who would even transport our cats!)

    The boys enjoying the observation car of the train



    But moving day was.....interesting... We weren't able to get everything packed before the time the movers (friends from our church, I couldn't believe how many people showed up to help!) arrived. It started pouring rain while they were loading the truck, and the power went out. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry as everyone wandered around, lighting up my house with their cell phones, and looking for things to move. Our wonderful neighbor, Charlene, invited everyone into her home, across the hall from ours, for pizza and drinks (chocolate milk, Hawaiian Punch, lemonade, and water), which we enjoyed by lantern light.

    Breakfast on the train
    Then came the big problem: the moving truck was too small. We had to start picking and choosing which boxes could fit and what to leave behind. In the end, my incredible friend, Christina, was able to arrange the truck's load to fit a lot more than we'd thought possible, but we still had to leave things behind (the boy's beds, the entertainment center and tv, shelves, chairs, cabinets, and other things). I'll admit, I shut myself into a nearly empty room and cried, trying to figure out what to do. Later, we realized we hadn't even gotten to our shed, which was full. Christina the wizard was able to get some of the most important things to fit, and Erik's brother will be bringing us the rest of the boxes a bit at a time when visits.

    The kids and I boarding Amtrak's California Zephyr
     We spent our last day in Provo frantically cleaning, packing up what we could, and trying to give away or sell the rest, before boarding our train late that night.

    Lots of tears as we said goodbye to my sister and Erik's brother, my sister-in-law, and nieces
    I left feeling that so much had been left undone, which it was, but I did my best. Really, it was more than I should have been able to do, for which I am thankful. I pushed myself past all sane limits and have been paying for it. But the price is worth it. Being back with my husband and seeing Den actually eating and smiling, even joking with the kids.... He's always been a quiet person, but in this short time, we've grown closer to him than ever before. My kids are getting to know and love the grandfather I thought would always just be a distant name and a face to them.

    I am so grateful that we were able to come live with him and that we get to care for him during his illness, and humbled by all the strength, love, compassion, and kindness we have been shown. May God bless you all for everything you've done for our family during this crisis!

    *Read the next update here.


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      my battle for better health,

      My Battle For Better Health: California Bound or Broken?

      8/08/2016 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

      This have never been more true
      My house is in shambles and I literally could barely walk when I woke up yesterday. Thank goodness for the Sabbath Day. I've never been so grateful for a day of rest or needed it more! Preparations for the move are stressful but there's progress. Not sure if it's enough progress, but I'm hoping it's enough to get us out of here on time. Between prepping for the moving sale and trying to sell/give away more than half of our possessions, packing, cleaning, kids having massive temper tantrums and/or throwing up, trying to sell my van within the next three days, and not seeing my husband or puppy for a month now, my mind and body are a wreck.


      A month ago, even though our trip to California to visit family was not what we'd expected (we found out that my father-in-law has cancer and decided me needed to come live with him. Read about it here.), I came back from the trip exhausted but doing a LOT better mentally. I'm not sure if it was the change in elevation (studies have shown that a lower elevation and more oxygen to the brain can help with depression) or just the change and prospects of a new start, but I returned mentally recharged.

      That didn't last as long as I hoped. The stress that I mentioned before, especially with my physical limitations and having to rely on the help of others, has been difficult.



      I've had lots of support from family and friends and was able to hire some nice ladies to come help clean and pack, but there are still things that only I can do (like deciding what to take with us). One of the hardest parts has been that my youngest has not been dealing with any of this well. His therapist is having him tested for Autism (which seems obvious now when I look back on the signs). He is extremely obsessive and anxious, very rigid thinking, and change or any kind, whether it's a variance from the daily routine to chicken nuggets instead of chicken sandwiches for dinner sets off a massive fit. We're talking screaming, hitting, pouting, hiding, running away, and saying that he wished he was dead or better off dead. You can probably imagine what a change like moving out of state, when he has no memory of living anyplace else, is doing to him....

      My youngest and his "mildly grumpy" look
      While writing this just now, I asked him if he was ready for his appointment (testing this morning with the therapist) but his shoes are missing. I asked him brother to help him look (another pair or eyes, you know?) and my youngest got really upset. He started yelling, about how I didn't trust him and slapped my arm. After his time out, I explained that it's not a matter of trust but that sometimes we all miss things, even grown ups, and it never hurts to have help. He still didn't believe me. I found his shoes a few minutes later, exactly where both he and his brother had already looked.

      My youngest, still not that thrilled. I think it was because they gave him the "wrong" Lego set for his birthday (which was still a Lego set he wanted, by the way, but not the one he expected to get)
      I am so thankful for all the love and support I've had! A lot of people don't understand depression, and at times I don't quite get it myself.


      I've pushed myself past limits lately and made things worse, but at times I've proven that I can do more than I believed I could. I'm hoping this move will be all we need it to be. We've already seen some huge improvements in Erik, who stayed behind to care for his father.

      A special thank you to Jennifer M. Boyle, who keeps leaving me encouraging messages like this:

      *Read next update here.

      My goals

      I want to have energy to spend time and actually do activities with my family.
      I want to be able to be physically active. I’m not saying I plan on running marathons, but being able to exercise and do basic housecleaning on a daily basis would be nice.
      I want my mind to feel less foggy all the time so I can do my job well and enjoy being in the profession I love.
      I want to be healthy and be at a healthy weight.
      I want my life back! I will look for the best in my life and realize what I truly have, always striving to make it better.
      I will accept myself as I am.

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