The Sorrow and Joy of our Engagement

So I was going to write my annual Christmas letter for family and friends here, but there are other more important things to say and a limit on time right now.  Thanks for understanding 🙂

“God is never late, He’s never early, He’s always right on on time.”  A friend of mine used to tell me that, and I am now more fully grasping the meaning. At 34-years-old, God has now sent me the incredible man that I am to share the rest of my life with!  On Christmas day, Mike Martinez asked me to marry him, as my Mom sat near me “bawling like a baby.”

Mike & Lisa

Mike & Lisa are engaged!

A lot of people get engaged on or around Christmas though, so what makes this so special? Well, for those of you who may not know, my Mom is suffering with Terminal Bone Cancer. Diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer about four years ago, they did a Lumpectomy and a lot of treatment at that time.  Seemingly doing so well, we were all devastated to suddenly learn this past May that she had Stage 4 Bone Cancer, already in 6 places.

Mom is so strong in her faith and in her will to live.  Many people find her an inspiration and courageous, including me.  But she will just tell you, “It’s just me, I’m just doing what I have to do.”  My parents have been married for over 40 yrs, and my Dad is suffering so deeply right now.  It’s beautiful to see him love and serve my Mom, yet so painful to see what he has built his whole life around now begin to prepare for her “journey home” first.

My fiancée, Mike, and I drove here to Florida, planning to be here until New Years; but I now see God’s wisdom in so many things that I have been going through in the past year and a half.  Right before we got here, Mom had a Pet Scan, and after my Dad told her how she has declined since we saw her at Thanksgiving, her Oncologist had to frankly tell her, “It will be downhill from here.”

I never imagined we would be discussing my wedding plans and at the same time seeing what Mom wants as far as funeral arrangements, but then again, much of life is not how we plan.  I am learning to become more grateful for the present moment, that she is here now. How fortunate that my sweet Mom has come to know and love Mike even in a short time.

It’s all very fresh, but I soon will be moving in with my parents to help them:  They need it, and I know it’s where God wants me.  I am abundantly blessed to have a supportive Boss and a best-friend roommate, who’ll put everything that needs to be on hold and do whatever to support us.  Yet Mike, working IT for Corporate America, has a Boss who “doesn’t want that for his team” and said that it’s not “his family”.  He feels called to be here just as much as I do.  My selfless fiancée still wants to go to his Boss’ Boss now to ask – please join us in prayer for things to fall into place.  I know that God will line everything up, because He  is faithful, and this is what we are called to do.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we’d begin our marriage in a Retirement Village of all places, but we don’t want to be anywhere else… Perhaps we will work backwards from here 🙂

I thank you all in advance for your love, prayers, and support.  It has been a swirl of activity and emotion since we’ve arrived – Mom had to be taken into the Doctors office the day after Christmas because we now know that she was having an allergic reaction to the medication.  We are so humbled and grateful that a loving “team” of friends and family have already begun offering their services in helping us plan a Florida wedding as quick as we can.  It will be a special time for some of our very close family and friends to share in the joyful time intermingled with sorrow. Hopefully in Orlando, we are beginning the process of setting that date everyone is asking about…there are just a few things that need to fall into place first!!!

The gift of Mom

Mom is our gift!

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18 thoughts on “The Sorrow and Joy of our Engagement

  1. Michele Diguette says:

    May God Bless your engagement. I can’t wait to meet Mike. Love and prayers for your mom and dad.

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  2. nan boroyevich says:

    Dearest Lisa,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this challenging time. I feel we’re on the same path…my mom is in the same exact situation, with Lymphoma. They do the PET scan today to decide whether to pursue further chemo. I have a feeling they won’t. Cherish every moment, talk to her all you can…tell her everything you want to tell her. The time may come sooner than you think where it may be difficult to have a conversation. It has with us.

    As for your engagement, congratulations! He sounds like a wonderful man. What a blessing that he is so supportive in this time of need. He’s an angel! As soon as you’re married, he can file for FMLA leave (same leave you use for maternity). He can get up to 12 weeks unpaid to take care of an immediate family member…that includes your mom! As long as he’s worked there over 1 year full time, he’s eligible. They have to hold your job until you return from leave, and they can’t forbid you from taking it. It’s an option to think about.

    If you haven’t already, explore hospice/full time home health care to help your dad…mine is really getting worn down taking care of my mom, even though we’re pitching in during nights/days when we can.

    Feel free to call me if you want to talk…we’re sharing the same shoes!
    469-223-6598

    Lots of prayers and a big fat hug!
    nan (from choir)

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    • Lisa says:

      Thank you so much, Nan. I’m so sorry to hear of what you are going through as well, it looks as though we are going through parallel journeys indeed. I am offering up for your family right now. Please keep me posted as you are able. I will put your phone number in my contacts and certainly may need to talk – I know you will understand.

      Thanks also for your advice. We looked up the FMLA – a *very* good tidbit to know! We are doing things right now to get them situated, and then we’ll keep our eyes forward about what next.

      Love and prayers and a big fat hug right back at you,
      Lisa

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  3. Madeline says:

    Lisa, you were, and still are, a ray of sunshine in our lives and I hurt for you altho I, like you, know that God’s will can be painful until we see the entire picture. (Can we remember Mary at the foot of the Cross?) I am excited that you found a good man and I hope to meet him soon. As a mom, I’m happy that your Mom has a chance to meet the man who will take care of her little girl–I would want to know that, should I be in her place and Michelle would be single. And I hurt for your Dad–I’ve walked that road. This July would be my 42nd anniversary with Glenn. My husband, Jasper, would be celebrating his 44th. Our prayers are with you and your family. We love you.

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    • Lisa says:

      Thank you so much, Ms. Madeline! What a beautiful image to share at this time, as you have suffered your own Calvary with Mr. Glenn. I hope you get a chance to meet Mike soon too, and I hope to meet Mr. Jaspar as well 🙂 Is your address still the Lawrence St one? Love you too, and the family, Happy New Year!

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  4. Pat Howay - choir friend says:

    Lisa and Mike – Congratulations on your engagement! What joy you both must feel and peace, too. I will pray. Please keep us posted. We treasure you, Lisa.
    Pat Howay…love the photos!

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    • Lisa says:

      Thank you for sharing in our joy and for your prayers, Pat. Sending love back to you and the choir family — Happy New Year!

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  5. John O'Donnell says:

    Dear Lisa,

    First of all, let me extend my best wishes for your upcoming nuptuals. Mike is a very fortunate man.

    They say that unsolicited advice is worth what you pay for it. However, in the hope that you may find even a small part of what I say of value, I will offer some. I hope I do not offend you in the process, for that is not my intention.

    I base my advice on my experiences with both of my parents’ deaths, and the fact that while employed at Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, I worked very closely with the Hospice Program, and because of my personal experiences, became a great believer in their services.

    I was called out of a high school class to rush to the hospital becuase my mother was having emergency surgery for colon cancer. Mom underwent several surgeries in the following 8 years. When I was 26, I was de facto the eldest child because my older brother was in Viet-Nam. The surgeon’s assistant took me aside and told me, in effect, that the fight was nearly over, and suggested that I contact relatives.

    I found myself calling the relatives and prefacing my statement with something like “I don’t believe it, but the doctor thinks. . .. ” So my first suggestion is that denial is something you want to get over.

    You may find yourself in a role-reversal position. My dad was always a rock, but he, like your father, had trouble coping with what was going on. You may find yourself in the position of supporting hime and even encouraging him to make decisions.

    Mom was in the hospital for 6 weeks dying from liver cancer, which is probably one of the worse deaths because it is kind of a sine wave. She was okay, almost normal, for a few days, would decline into a coma which had the effect of restoring strength, and she would come out of the coma and be okay for a few days. However, terrible as it was, the six weeks has some positive things. In the vernacular of today, my mother and I had issues, and this period gave us an opportunity to resolve them.

    I know that bone cancer is extremely painful and they will probably give your Mom a morphine pump to deal with it. It will let her deal with the pain but at the cost of lucidity.

    You need to pace yourself. It sounds like your Dad is, figuratively speaking, throwing himself on his sword in an effort to support your Mom. Fortunately, you have Mike to support you, but you will need to almost mother your Dad.

    I cannot say enough good things about hospice. My mother’s death predated the existence of hospice programs. At the boards request, I got heavily involved with the program at Spohn. The major mistake that is made with regard to hospice is that people wait too late to get them involved. There is a tendency to think that one should wait until the end is near. At that stage, there is very little that hospice can to to support you. Hospice should be involved as soon as it is determined that a patient is terminal. One of the heart-breaking observations my mother made when she was dying in a cold hospital room, is something to the effect that she would never go “home” again. Hospice supports the patient returning to here home environment. However, they also allow for the patient to be admitted to the hospital for a few days a month, so that the family can have a break. Third party reimbursers are only too glad to pay for hospice. Occasionally, there is a question about patients who survive longer than expected. We had a patient that survived for two years. The physician merely had to re-certify every six months. I would strongly recommend that you involve hospice. I would try for a Catholic-run one if it is available. Your family needs support.

    Warmest regards,

    John O’D.

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    • Lisa says:

      Thank you, John, for sharing your difficult story regarding your parents. I appreciate your advice based on your experience in our time of need. My Mom’s Dr. had already recommended Hospice this past week, and Mom & Dad talked to a nurse who is their friend here. We will be praying and talking to Dr.’s this week, as she would no longer be able to proceed with her current medical staff and the clinical research study with John Hopkins that she is a part of. But I feel that is best for her at this time – we shall see…

      God bless you,
      Lisa

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      • John O'Donnell says:

        Dear Lisa,

        I did not realize that your mother was taking part in a clinical research study. At the risk of jeopardizing our friendship, let me relate two other experiences which may reflect the dilemma you face.

        My late sister-in-law, who was one of the most caring and nururing people I have ever known, and who I loved like a sister had an ongoing battle with sarcoma. In 1990, while working at Spohn, I flew to Detroit on business. I had mentioned it to my brother, and he made a point of telling me to call him when I passed through DFW. When I arrived, he met me at the gate, looking pretty much destroyed. We sat down and he told me that the doctor gave his wife only about 6 months. I suggested he go to M.D. Anderson, and he took my advice.

        The oncologiest at Anderson did a number of tests and concluded, “I don’t have any good reason for doing this, but since the cancer started in the uterus, I am going to take you off your hormone treatments.” It was like a miracle, the tumors shrunk to the point of almost disappearing. My sister lived for almost a decade more and died of something other than cancer.

        My other story relates to my father who died of congestive heart failure at 80. My understanding is that congestive heart failure is at least partially attributable to the poor nutrition he received in the orphanage in his youth.

        In any event, after visiting him at Christmas, in a call to my godson’s father, Tim, who is an ER physician. I mentioned to him about my father and asked his advice on something about Dad. He asked a few questions about Dad.

        Then he said, “John, you need to call your brothers, and tell them to come see your Dad.” I objected saying that he was still living on his own, and seemed to be getting along. Tim reiterated, “John, get in touch with your brothers.”

        Reluctantly, I followed his advice. I am so glad that I did. My conversation with Tim took place around the New Year. My brothers arranged to visit and spend time with him while Dad was still Dad. He went into decline, was hospitalized and passed away in the early part of May. I am grateful to Tim. He gave me, my father, and my brothers a wonderful gift.

        One of the things that I have observed is that in your circumstance, a person tends to hear what he or she wants to hear. When we love someone so much, as you do your mother, we so badly do not want to deal with any bad news that we have a tendency to filter it out. I strongly recommend that you include your fiancee in any conversations that you have with the doctor. Being a little removed from it, he may be able to listen more objectively and ask questions that need to be asked. I suspect there is significance in your doctor’s advice. But then, as in the case of my sister, sometimes doctors can be wrong.

        And may God bless you, Lisa, and your family.

        John O’D.

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  6. Jenn Mitchell Padgett says:

    Lisa – I have tears in my eyes as I type this. I will pray for you and your family daily. You have such a beautiful story and have done an amazing job sharing it. Congratulations on your enagement – may it be filled with joy – And blessings to your mom as she travels home to be with His Amazing Grace.

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  7. Norma says:

    Dear Lisa, you are such an inspiration! How can i dare feel sorry for myself when i see what all you and your family are going through. God has placed you in my life to do just that! I love you dear sister! You and your family hold a special place in my heart. I will continue to pray. Norma

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    • Lisa says:

      Oh, Dear Norma, you certainly have your own set of sufferings with your Sweetheart – what an inspiration y’all have been to me! Thank you for your love, prayers, and encouragement. Happy New Year to you and your family! I hope that it is full of blessings for us all!

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  8. Norma says:

    Hi dear, its me again. I am so sorry to have forgotten to comment on your engagement. It is such awesome news! I love the picture of you and your beau. You look like your lovely mom. I will pray for your wedding day to be especially blessed.
    Love you!
    Norma

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  9. Jan says:

    Dearest Lisa,
    I’m at once so happy for you and Mike, and then on the other hand, I know your heart is breaking, too. I know how deeply you love, and that love mirrors our Father’s love and will carry you through this. Know that we and the rest of your friends and family love you and are praying fervently for you all throughout this time. God bless you and your dear family.
    Jan

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  10. […] shared lows – from my Mom’s battle with Cancer and her passing – and highs, my Engagement and starting out as an Entrepreneur. Wow, how life has changed in these past 4 years, and its […]

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