Friday, February 26, 2016

The Husband's Perspective by Mike Bingham

Anger. Shock. Hysteria. Fear. Repeat.

That's the emotions constant during the weeks since my wife's diagnosis. Usually in that exact order. The one thing I still hold close to me is hope. Hope is stronger than everything else we face and it is the reason I can smile, laugh and look her in the eye and say that "everything is going to be OK" and not feel like I'm full of shit.

For those of you that followed the blog the first time, you may remember I would occasionally post to share the perspective of the spouse. Since this all started, I wanted to post something, but in all honesty I didn't know what to write. The first time Melissa was diagnosed, I was so confident she would beat the disease that it only seemed like a difficult time in our life, the beginning of our marriage, that would test our commitment, patience and love. After all, she was 29, me 28 and we had our whole lives ahead of us. I KNEW she would be OK. I knew she would survive. I knew we would have a family and grow old together.

This time is different. So very different. Not because I don't believe in her, but because we have two young boys, 3 years and 2 months old, who need their mom. This time is different because they started our first meeting with "prognosis" and "statistics" and "life expectancy." This my wife. This is the mother of my kids. This is my soulmate. She is my universe. I don't know me without her. We have been so intertwined for the last decade that I don't remember life without her. All I know is that I wouldn't be close to the man I am today without her. She believed in me when almost nobody else did, pushing me in my career, to finish college and to realize my potential. In reality, almost everything I've ever accomplished as an  adult is a reflection of her, whether through inspiration or because of my desire to give her and my kids a better life. She is the reason I care. She is the reason I want to be a better person every day. She has helped me through my own health problems and provided me with strength when I didn't have any left. She's essentially carried. Me for the last two years. As her husband, I just wish I knew what to do. How to handle this best. What to say in the moment. What to do about work. What to say to my kids. When to try and help and when to shut up and let her feel. I just want to be what she has been to me for the last 11 years, a reason to live, a reason to fight back.

Through this difficult time, it's also reminded me how important friends and family truly can be. Melissa mentioned before about my "layers" and how I can be guarded. That I'm not the most trusting person and that I'm often skeptical of others intentions. While this is still true to a degree, a big part of that has been removed because of the confidence she has instilled me. I fell in love with her and for the first time in my life I completely let my guard down and let someone have complete access to my emotions. She had the ability to crush me. She hasn't. She also had the ability to make me whole. She has. My relationship with her has made me a better man. I care more about everyone, including myself. I love now. I understand what that means and how important it is to us as human beings.

The thought of losing her is unbearable. So much so that I mostly choose to ignore the possibility. Or at least I've tried to, losing a lot of sleep, weight and tears in the process. It hurts most when I look into my kids eyes and see their mom, and for a brief second have the sinking feeling that they might not get to know her like I know her. The only relief in that moment is that I know they are in fact a part of her, and will be just like her in many different, wonderful ways. That's such a blessing in a shit storm of uncertainty.

In this situation, I would imagine most spouses feel powerless. I'm no exception. Other than attending every appointment, holding her hand, asking questions and reassuring her that everything will be OK. The truth is, and she already knows this, is that neither one of us know if that will be true regarding her health, however we both know we wouldn't change a thing about what brought us to these moments. There is no place I'd rather be than by her side, regardless of the setting or circumstance.

I love Melissa so much. She is the most caring, tolerant and selfless person I've ever met. It's not even close. She always puts others before herself and has continued to do so during the most difficult periods of her life. I don't have to tell that to anybody who knows her well. They've seen it in action and that has been apparent by the outpouring of support. People who haven't seen or spoken to her in 15, 20 years have reached out to offer support, often mentioning her kindness and the impression she left. Guess what? I was somehow lucky enough to marry this woman and I'm thankful for that everyday.

Thank you so much to all of you who have provided support through this difficult time. I cannot express how thankful and lucky we are to have this kind of network behind us during such a difficult time. I would like to thank my mother in law, Marilou for dropping her life and staying with us to help. I want to thank my mom for her constant support. I want to thank my best friend Nic and my sister in law Maria for being someone to lean on and for their time and energy helping with the kids. I want to say thank you to our aunts and uncles for everything they have done.  I want to say thank you to all of my colleagues at Apple, Melissa's colleagues at Deloitte and our former colleagues from previous jobs who have provided unbelievable help. People are truly amazing and we are so incredibly fortunate in so many ways.

Anger. Shock. Hysteria. Fear. Repeat. The exception being that I am filled with gratitude and appreciation for those who love and support us. I know this would be impossibly difficult without you. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Being Radiant

Yesterday marked the beginning to the treatment journey. Week one, day one of radiation. The first rads session was a bit long as they needed to scan and x-ray me before they dole out the treatment. Overall the appointment was an hour and fifteen. They techs were super patient with me as I hesitantly walked into the room, was taken aback by the machine and tucked myself under Mike's arm as the tech handed me tissues. They always seem to have those readily available no matter where we are in the hospital.

Mike asked me earlier in the morning if I had any nerves about treatment. Until he asked me, I wasn't aware that I did have nerves about it. And then when we walked into the treatment room I realized how much nervousness I had about it. I didn't know the tears would come but they did. Later, when we got home, my entire upper back, shoulders and neck were so sore. I was holding so much tension in my body during treatment and I didn't even realize it. I was drained later that night. Today, I'm going to do my best to get myself to relax so I don't repeat the tension - as best I can with my upper body strapped down to a table under a mesh plastic mask:

As far as the radiation itself, it isn't something you can feel. Instead, it's a gradual process that cumulates its effect. Toward the middle to end of treatment is when I'm supposed to start feeling any side effects - fatigue, sore throat, tender skin like a sun burn. I'm also supposed to stay out of the sun as much as possible so as to protect the treated skin. If you know me, you know I love sitting in the sunshine. Our home right now has these great big, amazing windows that let in so much sunlight. As I type this, I'm sitting on our couch in the morning sunshine and Nicholas is fast asleep in the swing. The warmth is such a good feeling.

Today is week one, day two of radiation treatment. I've got 3-4 weeks total in my plan. I'm hopeful/optimistic/expectant of really good results. As far as my attitude and general outlook on life now - it's getting better. Slowly I'm finding my natural optimism again - my natural happy spirit - my self. It's not easy, but things are still new. Sometimes I wonder if it's denial - if going about my daily activities and "regular" life duties is faking it ... that by living my life I'm denying truth. But Mike reminded me yesterday as we were waiting for our car ... that this isn't our life now, it's just a part of our life. The rest of our life also exists. I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful for so many things now - more intensely so than I've ever been.

I read an article that discussed how people dealing with metastatic disease develop an intense ability to exist in the present. Ordinary experiences people typically take for granted are heightened experiences for people living with this. It rang very true for me. Every kiss I give Mike or my mom or my boys is a moment longer, if not more, than it used to be. Every "I love you" carries more love and sentiment than before. Every time I have to discipline Cam (which happens a lot right now as a 3 yr old) makes me feel that much more guilty. Listening to the birds sing, taking a breath of fresh air, feeling the sun on my skin ... listening to and watching a volunteer pianist play beautiful music in the lobby of the hospital - reading card upon card upon card and message after message sent by loving and amazing family and friends - touches my soul and makes me shed tears of awe and true gratitude for the life I've been given.

Friday, February 19, 2016

One breath ... one movement.

One breath, one movement. One step at a time. One day at a time. One moment at a time. That's all I can do right now. If I think too far into the future, I get overwhelmed with the fear of the unknown. There's too much to consider all at one time - too much to worry about - too much that I fear ... too much to hope for. It used to be so easy to dream about the future, to dream about vacations, about the new places we could live. I'm a dreamer by nature. And I feel like that part of me has been stunted ... dramatically. Now, any thought I have of vacations or moving or "the future" is anchored by "will my treatment allow it?" or "will I be able to do 'X' and not get sick?" ... or ...

Learning to live in the moment - the true present - is hard. Really hard. But it's all I can do to keep my sanity. I think about my mom leaving and it triggers a spike in anxiety. I'm never anxious and the thought of my mom not being here scares me to pieces. I worry about how we're supposed to manage everything on our own - when just a few weeks ago I was so incredibly excited to find our rhythm as a new family of four (five, when you count our puppy Haley). We were just starting to find our stride. Everything is easier when mom is here.

I've altered my diet. Sugar scares me and "white" carbs scare me as well. I'm trying desperately not to develop an unhealthy relationship with food because of this. There are so many articles about how one thing is great for me and another article about the same thing is bad for me - that it fuels my cancer. It makes me scared of everything. I love sugar. I love coffee. I love potatoes and pasta and bread ... oh bread. But I ate them in moderation. Sometimes I'd binge here and there on sweets but I tried to limit those occasions. I've decided that the best diet for me right now is to up my veggie intake as much as possible, rely on fruits for my sweets and that hormone free, cage free, no antibiotic eggs and chicken are OK. Fish and seafood are OK. Some grains are OK so long as they're whole grains and in limited amounts. I don't know if this is a good "cancer diet" or not ... but for now, it's what I got. It's what I can do.

I'm relatively sure I'm going to do the hormone suppression (a shot in the stomach once a month to shut down my ovaries and a pill to block estrogen from my adrenal gland and fat tissue) as well as a newly released drug (Ibrance) that is supposed to have really great results. It's been on the market for a little over a year, so long term effects are unknown. Oh and a bone strengthening agent ... another shot. 2 shots, 2 pills ... every month until ... who knows. The Ibrance drug is taken in a cycle of 3 weeks on, 1 week off. It's considered targeted therapy. It knocks your white blood cell count down, and potentially your red blood cell count too. It's just a matter of "how far down" that's the concern. Having to be on something that has this as one of its side effects will heighten my risk for colds and flus and any other icky bug. I have a toddler who touches everything and sneezes and coughs directly in my face. Oh yeah ... and I also have a trach - a direct opening to my lungs ... so that's an issue all its own as well. Please don't look at me weird if you see me in face masks and latex gloves all the time.

I say "relatively sure" that this is the route I'm going to go because I don't think I will ever be 100% sure any choice is the "right" choice.

"When" all this starts is up in the air at the moment. I'm currently working to transfer my care to an oncologist who specializes in treating young women. I'm assuming once that happens, she'll start me on the hormone therapy. The Ibrance will have to wait until after I finish radiation. Radiation starts on 2/25 and goes for 3-4 weeks, 5 days a week. Again, Ibrance is too new so they don't know how it will react to radiation, so they don't combine the two just yet.

I'm worried the hormone therapy will change who I am. Mike says he'll be on his best behavior as I adjust to the decline. I don't want him to have to be. I want him to be free to be him ... but I understand what he means. I'm scared I'm going to turn into someone different than who I am today. My former oncologist in Colorado said I've always been a ray of sunshine. What if I lose that feature of myself? What if I'm mean to Cam? What if I can't handle Nicholas' cries? What if I become someone my husband can't stand but tolerates because he knows the true me is in there somewhere, even if she doesn't come out as much as she used to? What if I'm not good at my job any more because I'm snippy with people or forgetful or something else? What if, what if, what if.

We've had a non-stop stream of family and friends visiting and staying with us since the news broke. It's been amazing. It's been a very much welcome distraction as well as so helpful and so good to see everyone. Tomorrow my sister heads back to VA and Mike's best friend, Nicholas' namesake, heads back to his life as well. For a while it will just be the six of us, since my mom is still here indefinitely (and selfishly I say, thankfully). It's so much easier to stay in the now when so much is going on. It's when it's quiet ... when things slow down that I catch myself ... thinking. Thankfully they're both planning trips back again this year ... I look forward to that.

It's been so nice this week not having appointment after appointment. Celebrating Cam's 3rd birthday on Monday was amazing. For a day I could almost forget this is even happening. I say almost because the trach and the neck brace are a constant reminder. I only had a radiation simulation appointment and couple more scans on Tuesday. During the simulation, they aligned me on the table, marked me with sharpie, and stretched a plastic form over my face to make a mold that prevents me from moving during radiation that literally hardened in place as it took shape. It was snapped down to the table. "For Nicholas, for Cam" was all I kept saying in my head as I waited for them to finish. I have to wear that form during each radiation session. A sharp contrast to Monday.

When I was practicing yoga a lot, the vinyasa strengthened me - one movement, one breath ... it got me through the flow when I was too tired, or my muscles were too sore or my motivation just wasn't there. Knowing that it was just one movement, one breath at a time was all that I needed to do to make it through ... to pace myself. I've just got to pace myself. What's truly important has been crystalized and very easy to define now. I've just got to pace myself with what's important ... and keep breathing.

My amazing family, Camden turns 3

Thursday, February 11, 2016

E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g has changed

So much to process. So much information. So many feelings. I now know the true meaning of information overload ... and it's paralyzing. So much has changed. Everything has changed.

The initial "read" of the PET CT said no other major organs are involved. This was not entirely true. My onc passed this on to my neuro oncologist to tell me when we in for our consult on my C3 - to reassure me. What the PET CT really showed is that yes, it's in my bones ... but I've also got small spots on my liver and lung as well as in a sub-mammary lymph node on the right side and of course my cricoid cartilage. In my bones, it's my C3, my pelvis and my left femur. I feel riddled with "spots" ...

The last few doctors appointments have been with the radiation oncology team and a check-in with my oncologist. The plan right now is to radiate my C3, my cricoid and my left pelvis. The C3 to protect my spinal cord, the cricoid to protect my airway and my left pelvis because I'm feeling nerve pain when I sit on hard surfaces or put most of my weight on that side. I originally thought this pain in my hips was also associated with pregnancy ... It seems physical pregnancy woes and breast cancer symptoms are easily mixed up. Or just that one doesn't even fathom a breast cancer recurrence during pregnancy.

I'm OK I think with radiation. The efficacy is supposed to be good against preventing a recurrence in the same place. I'm a bit nervous about radiation to the cricoid purely because of the nature of the tissue there - being so soft. But my rads onc assures me that they treat this area commonly and results should be good. I'm also a bit nervous about radiation to my C3. I'm wondering about how strong it will be after the fact. The potential for needing a fusion surgery isn't off the table. It all depends on how my vertebrae scars and repairs itself. I'm praying it recovers well and is strong again after treatment. I'm actually praying that everything that's radiated recovers very well and heals and repairs itself. In the end, I'm just praying for everything ... everything to be better ... for time.

The appointment with my oncologist covered treatment after rads. His recommendation is to do anti-hormone therapy as the next step. Lupron for ovarian suppression and an aromatase inhibitor to suppress the adrenal gland production and fat tissue stores of estrogen. The treatment intends to starve the cancer of estrogen to shrink and kill them.

We've also met with a shaman and discussed alternative healing methods. Healing through diet and minerals and supplements. Healing through leveraging your body's own ability to cleanse itself. The conversation with the shaman was intense. It requires switching over to a complete raw food diet and making other big changes including what products we use as well as incorporating cannabis oil to fight back.

With all of this information I don't know which way to move. I would prefer an integrative approach - leveraging all tools available to combat this with everything I have. But I don't know how to do that. I don't know how to reconcile that with my own personal stance on everything as well. I'm not opposed to switching my diet over to a raw food diet. Sure. I can do that. I don't eat terrible now, but switching would require I let go of some of my favorites ... like coffee ... and ice cream. Sigh. But you do what you must, and I will.

But I don't know if I agree with the hormone suppression. I understand the approach - remove the hormones that feeds the tumor. I get it. But to me I believe that an increase in estrogen was my problem, not just the existence of estrogen. That the increased level of hormones from being on birth control for a few consecutive years led to my first diagnosis and then two pregnancies in three years rekindled a fire ... this is what I believe to be the cause of my cancer. Am I trading one problem for potentially another by suppressing my hormones and putting myself into menopause early? I don't know. Do I have time to "experiment" with completing rads but delaying hormone suppression to try alternative medicine to see if that makes a difference? I don't know.

I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. This is where I'm at. I don't know which is the "right" move. I don't know how to move. I'm scared of everything I put in my body now. A simple question like "what do you want for breakfast" leaves me speechless because I don't know if eggs and wheat are my enemy or if fruits and their natural sugars are my enemy or if the coffee I have will create a better environment for the tumors to thrive. I don't know how much time I have. I don't know if I have time to "wait and see" what else might work. I feel like I tried chemo the first time and it essentially failed me because I have a recurrence. But I don't know if it failed me. Who's to say this wouldn't have come back sooner if I didn't do chemo.

So many unknowns. So much information to process. So many questions. No answers. In the midst of all of this I still have to remember that I have a regular life - my life - the life I'm fighting so hard to be in. I don't know how to integrate these two things together. I don't know if I should pull Cam from daycare and spend every moment I can with him. If I'm supposed to stop everything and wrap my arms around everything I love and not let go. I want to freeze everything ... to preserve it so I have it forever. So I'M in it forever. But I know that's not possible. I know that's not best. I know I need to learn how to integrate this knew life with my current life and keep on living. But all the unknowns around how to do that, what that entails, what that new life looks like, how long I have in this new life ... it's paralyzing. It's terrifying.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

S words ...

Stoma. Secretions. Suction. Sutures. Saline. Sterile. Supplies. These are the words that colored my world while I was in the hospital from the tracheostomy ... words that I couldn't say. The size of the trach they put in, which was the standard size tube, was too big for the size of my trachea which made it so I couldn't speak. Unable to push air up past the trach and over my vocal cords forced me to be locked in my mind for 5 days. Do you know how much you have to say when you suddenly aren't able to say anything?! Thank goodness for the Notes app on my phone ... and for the invention of texting. You don't realize how dependent you are on your ability to speak until you truly can't. My phone would ring from various offices of Stanford calling to schedule appointments and all I could do was look helplessly as it went to voicemail. Cam lost interest in watching me wave and blow kisses at him on FaceTime pretty quick. I had lots of one-way conversations with my mom and just watched as she handled Nicholas ... unable to tell her the phone is sideways and I'm really just looking at half of her and half of the ceiling and that I can't even see the baby. Mike or one of the nurses had to call and order my meals for me 3 times a day after I pointed to what I wanted on the menu. And I am now ever so grateful for the ability to speak.

The hole they put in my throat is called a stoma - and it matures very much like the hole of an ear piercing. It keeps itself open for a certain amount of time. Secretions are what come out of the stoma and what you find underneath the trach plate and have to clean pretty regularly. The trach plate is sutured down onto your throat in four places to keep it steady while the stoma matures. Suctioning is what you have to do at least three times day to remove any secretions that make their way into the inner cannula of the trach so you don't get a mucus plug and potentially suffocate (another S word). Saline is what you use to clean and suction and you have to try your hardest to keep the whole process sterile. And this why my bathroom is now overflowing with a suction machine, suction catheters and a whole host of other medical supplies.

On day 6 at 6:30 am, my wonderful resident ENT doc was making his rounds and came in to downsize my trach. The process was painless but causes coughing purely because of the nature of the place they're working on and it was in that coughing fit that I finally heard my voice again. After they finished, I cleaned up the residual secretions, popped on the Passy-Muir valve and called Mike and Cam on FaceTime. I was finally able to vocalize good morning.

If you haven't heard of the Passy-Muir valve before this (like me), I encourage you to look into it. It is an incredible story and an incredible little invention. My biggest fear after the procedure was that I would be tied to a humidification machine. The air taken in through the trach goes straight to your lungs and loses any humidification and cleaning that it would get if it passed through your nose and mouth. Thus, the potential for drying out your lungs is a very real possibility ... as is a bug flying into your trach. Initially, since the trach I started with was too big, we were unsure if I'd be able to even use the PMV, let alone not be tied to a humidification machine. So for 5 days, I wrote lengthy emails to my ENT team, outlining how they needed to recall this procedure was preventative and that they needed to approach it from that angle and figure out a way for me to maintain my ability to speak and to be active - not tied to a machine. I have two small kids and it's incredibly important that I can do both. The PMV, combined with the smaller trach, achieved this. And I'm so grateful. I'm able to be up and around all day without the humidification machine, and just utilize the humidification machine at night, since you're not supposed to sleep with the PMV. It is a huge weight off my shoulders to be able to do this.

The humidification machine uses a trach mask, tubing and sterile water to deliver a bubble of humidification right to your trach site. It also sounds like an old hotel AC unit. This sucker hums ... loudly. So, as if I didn't have enough to get used to while sleeping - a trach and a neck brace - I now have to learn to sleep (another applicable S word) with the sound of a generator running in the background. And before you ask, yes - I've researched if quieter machines exist and am looking into how I can get my hands on one. It's on my list.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Let me introduce you to my soul mate

"The thing about meeting your other half is you're walking around, you think you're happy, you think you're whole, then you realize you ain't shit without her. Then you can't go back to being just a half 'cause you know what it's like to be whole." - Simon Green, Guess Who

Mike and I saw Guess Who on our first date. At the time, I didn't know how true these lines would be for us ... for me. At 24 years old, you honestly think you're whole. You've made it through young adulthood and then again through that early 20's phase when things have (hopefully) started to settle down and you feel like yes ... I'm starting to understand what my adult life is going to be like. At least that's where I was at with it at 24. I had moved away from home, determined to start my life in a new state - on my own two feet. Fast forward through a messy first year "on my own," working one really bad full-time job and slinging chicken wings and beer on the weekends to make ends meet - and that's how I started to feel like I knew what it meant to be my own person - what it meant to be the adult version of me. And then I met Mike.

Of course I ignored him on our first meeting and actually didn't give him the time of day until our next chance meeting at my aforementioned chicken wing bar. And even then, I didn't really give him the time of day - I took his number because I didn't have the heart to say "no thanks, not interested" and I didn't ever call. It wasn't actually until the third time that we happened to be thrown together that I finally got the hint from the universe that hey ... I should pay attention. Fate wasn't having it any other way for some reason. Since that third chance meeting, we haven't been apart. It will be eleven years this year. Eleven years dating, 6 years of marriage, 2 amazing kids and 3 dogs. He and I are a love story that one day I hope I can write and share with you. Fate intervening and bringing two destined lovers together to face insurmountable odds that they overcome time and time again to seize their happily ever after. It's the stuff of fairy tales ... the good, classic fairy tales.

As I sit here in the hospital bed wrapping up night 5, I can't help but be eternally grateful for my husband. He's truly amazing. Many people meet him and have a hard time getting through all his layers - all his defenses - but if they would just pause ... just pause for one moment of clarity and really look at the person in front of them - look at him in that moment of interaction - they'd see what I see.

They'd see a man who is really and truly kind in the most genuine sense of the word. A man who is honest-to-goodness just trying to do the best thing for everyone involved, all the while not sacrificing an ounce of his own principles or betraying his own beliefs. Every minor decision becomes major, and every major decision becomes life altering. It's a hard line to walk all the time - but he does it. It gives him crazy anxiety to walk such a line - constantly weighing outcomes against each other ... giving everything a thorough review because the decision deserves it, not because he "has to" ... but he does it because in the end, he truly and honestly only has good intentions in his heart and wants what's best. He is a man of principle and respect. He cherishes honesty but has a hard time trusting whether or not honesty is what he's getting from others. But despite that - he still wants to believe in the inherent good of man, and so he tries ... every day ... to believe and see the good.  

He took me out for a few turns around the water fountains again today close to sunset. He talked out loud to me and I talked back to him in my head ... and in really bad sign language. We talked about us - how we're an old couple already - visiting me in the hospital, taking me for a walk and then back to my hospital bed, ordering me soft foods for dinner and then putting me to bed. He then heads home for the night to cuddle with the dog. We watch Netflix and mindless TV together. We collapse into bed after busy days and he turns out my light and takes my glasses off my face because I've ultimately fallen asleep before he has, despite how hard I tried to stay up and watch a movie with him. He's my foundation. He keeps me grounded and I push him to dream. When I'm too busy taking care of everyone else, he's taking care of me - making sure I'm giving myself some of my own attention and fulfilling my own needs ... making sure I'm staying tethered to me.

I could never go back to being just a half, now that I know what it's like to be whole. I can't say that I know whether or not many or most people truly find their other half in their life - but I genuinely hope that most do. There's something amazing that happens when you know you've found someone who just clicks into place beside you ... you become stronger. Stronger than you ever thought possible.

We got the results from my biopsy back today. In case you were waiting for some "official" confirmation that this is indeed cancer that has spread and not just some weird pregnancy induced growths, it's official - same cancer as last time. But despite the fact that, yes - it's cancer again - we're a little relieved to know that it's the same beast we've battled before, with the same characteristics and not something new and different. While I'm not at all excited to have to learn how to manage daily living with a preventative tracheotomy, I'm a little more optimistic. I've got a solid foundation holding me up through this battle and one of my biggest fans happens to be someone who is truly a part of me.

So my ask tonight is this ... hug on tight to the ones you love. Be present with them in the moments you have with them, as hard as that is these days. Treasure and cherish all the moments you have with them - no matter how big or small ... exciting or lame. Take a moment to just look at them, and really see them, as a person, as they are - without any other clouding expectations or encroaching personal opinions. Try to catch a glimpse of their soul ... and send it your love.