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Thankful for Family and Community | Teri's GAP Post Part 2

"We cycled through so many emotions — fear of the unknown, grief over the loss of the way of life as we knew it and all our future plans. But, we eventually landed on trust in God and his goodness. He is ultimately in control and holding us together." - Teri Edillon

While I do feel like I've spent more time this month in the "acceptance" stage of grief than the other stages, words from Teri's unfinished post still resonate with me as I navigate through my own emotions and wrestle with the uncertainty of my future.

Thankful for Family and Community

First, I have to admit that I was feeling quite anxious after posting that last entry on relationships. While there is more to say on the topic, I did feel a lot of relief and gratitude thanks to all of your encouragement in public (the comments section) and in private.

Since last Saturday, I had the privilege of hosting my cousins Neal, Salina, and their children from Canada. I was really touched that they altered their vacation plans upon learning about Teri's passing and chose to spend time with me, not knowing what to expect. It was a cherished opportunity to reconnect, share home-cooked, healthy meals, and have fun without any stress of being a good host. Although their departure saddens me, Mayo and I look forward to visiting them in the near future.

Similar to attending Man Camp, It comes as no surprise that their stay with me has reminded me of the the ups and downs of my relationship with Teri. I guess moving forward, this will likely become an underlying theme of my posts here on CaringBridge: embracing my "new normal" and sharing the ways in which Teri continues to impact my life. I really feel that Teri is long from being forgotten thanks to all of you. I am deeply grateful that so many have joined me on this journey of remembrance. Here are a few stories that I thought about this week that I wanted to share:

March 2018 Palm Springs Trip - Embracing Authenticity

As I made the solitary drive on Saturday to Palm Springs Airport to pick up my cousins, memories of Teri and I celebrating my 34th birthday in Palm Springs resurfaced. We planned the typical tourist activities, including shopping at Cabazon, riding the Aerial tramway, and exploring the trails.

While we captured photos of us happy during the trip, it presented its own set of challenges. We had known each other for only about a year at the time. She was wrapping up her chemotherapy and it played an emotional and physical toll on her, on top of all the flying back and forth. My birthday weekend had a lot of arguments over our itinerary, challenging my belief that I should get everything my way on my birthday. She also didn't seem to buy into the idea that I should get a whole month to celebrate. Anyways, Teri's presence brought a new perspective into my life.

Additionally, that trip marked a significant milestone as Teri chose to embrace her true self by venturing out in public without a wig or hat. To me, she was very cute with or without hair, and I didn't understand why it should be a concern to anyone else. This memory is significant to me because I've been more sensitive to people making decisions because they're trying to please others (their parents, family, co-workers, friends, etc.) instead of doing what's really best for them. I'll say it again: life is too short to care too much about what others think (including family).

July 2018 Canada Trip - The "need" for a new mountain bike

As I shared with my cousins about previous vacations to Canada with Teri, I was reminded of how much fun we had together with family. Teri loved to camp and do hikes that got both of us out of our comfort zones. The photos made me want to travel and figure out where I should go next. I am open to ideas and tagging along with people if there's an opportunity.

While sharing, I stumbled upon a photo of a Yeti mountain bike I really wanted to purchase at the local bike shop. This impulse turned out to be a sore spot of the that trip. My selfish desire to buy a bike while on vacation led to several disagreements, as I lacked the financial means to make the purchase. We were also in the middle of planning a wedding. Like all my other brilliant ideas I have, this bike seemed to be a "good deal" so I kept arguing my case, also trying to sell her that my current bike was not safe because it was "old." Eventually, I let it all go since I didn't want to cause a scene with my cousins. Weeks later, the desire for a new mountain bike went away, leaving the purchase unrealized to this day.

I guess this is this is a reminder for me is to wait and seek wise counsel when it comes to making big purchases and decisions, especially when I'm on vacation.

Daily Routines with Teri and Mayo

My cousin Neason stepped up admirably in caring for Mayo. He embraced 6AM walks throughout the week, always patiently waiting for me to get ready. He also liked sleeping on the couch, my favorite place to sleep when I'm on a trip. While Mayo and I had many walks with others since Teri passed away, this was the first time having a daily morning routine with someone else.

I recall many of my "anxiety-filled" morning walks Teri, often starting later than planned and jeopardizing my timely arrival for my morning bike ride. I felt like she had an innate understanding of my anxious state and responded in various ways:

  1. Trying to help: "Erwin, take a deep breath; everything will be okay. Just let your friend know that you may be a few minutes late."

  2. Calling me out or expressing frustration: "Erwin, you're stretching yourself too thin. Stop trying to do too much every day. Maybe you should skip on the bike ride."

  3. Granting a free pass: "Okay, you don't have to walk today; just ensure you come home from work on time. Have fun!"

Salina shared that Neason became teary-eyed at the airport today, missing Mayo dearly. I totally understand. I empathize with his emotions every time I'm apart from Mayo and owe a debt of gratitude to Teri for adopting Mayo in the first place.

While my cousins were here, I was most thankful for another opportunity on Tuesday afternoon to do an extended sharing time with them about my relationship with Teri using all my favorite photos. One of the topics that I shared about is how Teri's cancer came back. Here's her story that she didn't get to finish posting here on Caring Bridge:


How I found out my cancer came back

Teri Edillon, written on March 7, 2023

In January 2023, I started developing a cough which I attributed to allergies. However, the coughing became somewhat violent and then lead to a pain in my side that appeared only when I was coughing. A trip to urgent care put me on antibiotics and an inhaler. However, the weekend before we were set to travel to Israel, the pain in my side became more persistent and I was no longer just coughing but having difficulties breathing. So, we went to the ER thinking that maybe it's a fractured rib from all the coughing. We did not even suspect cancer. So, our hearts broke when we learn that the cancer has returned. We cycled through so many emotions — fear of the unknown, grief over the loss of the way of life as we knew it and all our future plans. But, we eventually landed on trust in God and his goodness. He is ultimately in control and holding us together.

We had initially decided not to go to Israel after learning about the cancer diagnosis. We cancelled our flights to Israel but wasn't able to get a refund for the tour. However, later that week, we met with my new oncologist (we decided to continue our treatment with Hoag Hospital and with Dr. Tiffany Beck and her team) to go over the biopsy results. And after that appointment, we decided to go to Israel. Erwin found a flight leaving in 6 hours and we went ahead and booked it. I was feeling physically better at this point which is also part of our consideration when deciding whether to go on the trip. The biopsy result confirmed the cancer and Dr. Beck went over her treatment plan which involves chemotherapy. We both just knew this is a trip we wanted to do before we started treatment. And we are so grateful to have had the opportunity to go and spend some time together to disconnect, be away, and enjoy a different culture and wrestle with the history of our God in His holy land.

Erwin and I came back from the trip and met with another oncologist at City of Hope. He is a friend of Erwin's dad and we're so grateful he was able to make room for us. He confirmed that he would do the same treatment as Dr. Beck. He told us to go ahead and start chemo with Hoag and he would follow along with my progress and offer follow ups and second opinions as needed.

Reading these words from her brings me a lot of mixed emotions. In a way I feel comforted that we took the time to get a second opinion about her treatment plan. I feel thankful that we made the last minute decision to go to Israel. I also feel a bit resentful and back in the "anger" phase of grief because everything escalated downhill after her first chemotherapy treatment. Perhaps she would still be alive if we chose palliative care? Only God knows. I have a lot to say about this topic and my experiences with her during the last few months before she passed away, so more more to come in the future. Thanks for reading, time to walk Mayo.

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