Friday, February 10, 2012

How We Told Spencer

Most moments in time pass us by with little or no thought given to their passage.  We go forward crossing items off our to-do lists and wonder where the time went.    It's not that we try to make time slip by quickly, more than we are just busy living life.  At least for me, most of the time I have to remind myself to pause and savor life's moments as they come. 

Then there are those moments in time which are forever emblazoned into our memories.   For better or worse, they are there in our brains never to be forgotten.    Getting a scholarship to BYU, getting proposed to, marrying my sweetheart, having babies, buying our first house....these are the moments we're happy to remember.  Then there are those horrible moments we wish we could forget.  Up until  a month ago, those horrible moments for us have been of the shared kind, like the day in college where we gathered in the Marriott Center and a man claiming to have a bomb terrorized Howard W. Hunter and all 20,000 of us that were there that day.  And the events of September 11th traumatized millions of Americans, including us.

Then there's our January 2012 and suddenly we had our very own moments emblazoned with infamy into our memories.  I'm not really sure if anyone else cares about about these in-depth recountings, but they're healing for me to write, so I hope you'll forgive my indulgence in retelling it in detail. 


When the pediatrician called us on that Tuesday afternoon, I had just finished making dinner, the younger kids were playing, Glen was at work, and Spencer was hanging out with a friend.  I took the call in our bedroom where the hubbub of after-school life would not interrupt me as we talked.   I remember the doctor saying that the blood test results had arrived and that there were some abnormalities.  She bantered on about she'd spent all afternoon on the phone discussing Spencer's case with other doctors.  I probably should have been alarmed at that point, but I still just assumed she  was going to tell me it was a minor abnormality (like mono or anemia or something) and that she was discussing with other doctors what tests to perform next.   After a minute or so of the conversation though, she asked me if I was sitting down.   That was the moment when my heart sank in a realization that this wasn't going to be a minor thing she told me.  I started crying before she even said the words. 

Our kids had been Dr. B's patients for over a decade, but it wasn't until that moment when I realized the depth of the compassion she had for her patients.  Although I'm sure she would've preferred to end the uncomfortable conversation as quickly as possible after sharing the news, instead she sat there and consoled me, a sobbing mother that had just learned her family's lives had been unalterably changed.  I've heard enough stories of doctors who insensitively share bad news or who pawn the job onto others, to understand that her compassion was a gift to me that day.

When the conversation ended,  I sat there, phone still in hand, shell shocked and my first coherent thought was that I needed Glen by my side.  I knew he was having a busy day at work, so I sent him a quick text, "Bad news.  Come home."  When he did not answer,  I gathered my wits and called him, after which he came home as quickly as the Metro schedule would allow him.   In the meantime the kids, especially Cami, were starting to grow alarmed at my obvious distress.  Feeling rather alone at that point and not knowing how to comfort them without telling them something, I decided to go ahead and tell them that Spencer was sick and that we would be taking him to the hospital that night. 

By the time Glen got home, I was restless and nervous, but much less emotional.   We immediately discussed practical concerns, like calling my sister AnnaLisa to come over to watch the kids and who, if anyone else, we should call that night.  It didn't take long, though,  before the topic turned to how on earth we should tell Spencer about it.  He still wasn't home and we debated whether to call him or not.  In the end we decided to let him enjoy what we recognized would be his last moments of normalcy, and let him come home on his own.  It was probably about 30-minutes after Glen's arrival that Spencer came in the door.  He came home in a great mood--light-hearted and joking around--which honestly made it seem like an even harder task than it already was. 

We'd instructed the kids to keep their distance, so we could tell him in our own way.    And for a few minutes we sort of shadowed him as he wandered around the house, hoping for a good inroad for bringing it up.  Finally he asked if the doctor had called about his blood tests yet.   We took this as our cue and summoned him to our room for a talk. 

On the way to our room he jokingly asked, "What? Do I have cancer or something?"

It was one of the saddest moments of our lives, when we had to answer that question affirmatively.   He sat shell shocked for a bit, but mostly had all sorts of practical questions...what about school?  what about playing sports?  what about going on a mission?  what about scuba diving in Florida with his scout troop this summer?    We had to honestly say at that point that we had no idea about any of it.  All we knew is that he needed to go to the hospital that night and that we'd all be figuring those kinds of details out as we went along. 

Looking back, I now think that in a weird sort of way he was actually relieved by the diagnosis.  Not feeling well enough to play sports, especially as pre-season lacrosse training had just begun, was really starting to discourage him.  I truly believe that having an extremely legitimate explanation for his physical weakness, ironically made him feel less weak.   

At the end of that first conversation, he took a deep breath without looking back and has been walking forward with courage and faith ever since.    
We love you Spencer! 

"The courageous faith and action of one person who excels in coping with adversity can be a great blessing to others who are strengthened by the example."
Dallin H. Oaks


K said...

I can't imagine how hard it must've been to tell him. Thanks for sharing such a personal story. It got me all choked up!

Steve-Rosanna said...

Wow! Mom and I had a hard time making it through this-as we both became very emotional. It is so difficult to imagine what was going through his mind as you discussed this with him-and how unimaginably hard it had to be for you and Glen to break the news to him. Your love and courage amaze us. We love you Spencer! You are a rock and we so admire you.

Eliza said...

Hi Lara, I don't think we've met but I'm in the Oakton ward and we have some mutual friends on Facebook. Plus my husband is in the Oakton YM so I had heard about your son's story. Also I think I recognize your younger son from the stake children's choir last summer. Anyway, I just happened on your blog this morning and I am all teary, especially at the photos of your friends and family shaving their heads and the great quotes you end posts with.

I'm a fellow mom although my oldest son is only 5. I like to think that I would exhibit the same kind of courage and strength and love that you are, if or when I have a similar trial. It's probably not that comforting to hear, but you are inspiring lots of people you don't even know! Maybe I'll run into you in the hall sometime at church.

Have a great weekend and all our family's best to your dear son Spencer.


The Busby Family said...

Thank you for sharing this. I can't imagine how hard it must have been. I am glad he was able to come home last week. Good luck in the upcoming weeks, we are praying for you. spencer is so amazing and strong.

Becky Lowe said...

Lara and Glen - you are such an inspiration to us all. God bless you- continue to bless you- as you go through this trial. And dear Spencer is so amazing.

Trisha said...

You wonder if we care about these in-depth recountings?....absolutely. Yes, please know that we are hanging on your every word, gleaning from your spirit what we can take and incorporate into our own lives. I actually had a hard day, and so I sought out your blog knowing that I would feel inspired if I did. Thank you.

I imagine that Spencer will be able to draw upon this experience to serve and lift so many others in the future and to live more in all areas of his life: church, home and sports. But in the meantime, as he goes though this ordeal, please let him know that we love and admire his strength!

We love you Goolds!!

Katie said...

Each one of your posts strengthens my faith. I was especially touched by this Elder Oaks quote. I know you were describing Spencer, but I would say it also perfectly describes his mother.

Thanks again for sharing.

bantcher said...

Thanks for sharing this Lara. You and Glen and Spencer are rocks of faith, courage and determination.


Diane said...

There's a story about a King who wanted a TRUE picture of Peace. One artist painted a perfectly tranquil scene: clear skies, mountain reflected in a perfectly still lake. The next artist painted the same scene, but there were storm clouds and lightning and the water was murkey and wild... but on the side of the mountain was small cave, and inside that cave sat a mother bird, in the middle of the storm, taking care of her babies. The King chose this version of Peace. Lara YOU are that mother Bird.

Peace and Strength,
Diane Miller

Britney said...

Thanks for your wonderful post. I can't imagine what you're going through. Dr B is AMAZING. She was there for me through thick and thin. I sobbed when we had our last visit together. Honestly, there are few things in life that bond you so closely to a person. I told her that she was my angle and we still keep in touch.

I hope you are slowly getting some answers and feeling some peace. Thinking of you...

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