May 13, 2012

I Wear Grey for My Mom

Tonight, in honor of my Mom, on this special day, I'm sharing her story.  It's not DIY related, but she is a part of who I am to my core.  This is a VERY long post and could be a bit difficult for some to read.  My hope is that someone can find inspiration and hope from reading about my Mom's journey and her outlook.  She had amazing faith, and I find it only fitting to share her story today on Mother's Day.  Her story is a very public story, per her request, with hopes that someone is touched.  These were email updates that were sent to hundreds of friends and family throughout her battle with cancer. To continue her legacy, I would love to write a book one day about my Mom, her faith, and her journey; a book of hope and inspiration.  I love you Mom!!

 
Cindy Stockton
May 8, 1959 – June 8, 2010

 (Nov. 2010)
(Nov.  2010)
Background

Mom was amazing…completely amazing!  She and my dad raised our family of four girls in a Christian home and they set Godly examples in everything they did.  She home-schooled us and had a private Christian pre-school.  She got up at the crack of dawn to exercise.  She loved cooking, crafts, scrapbooking, sewing, and most of all, quilting.  She and my dad had a relationship that was perfect.  They truly were God’s gift to each other and treated each other like it.  Mom loved to care for elderly people.  Her house was the cleanest most organized house you can imagine.  She was truly superwoman.  Most importantly, she was a simple woman with amazing faith.

Around August 2009, Mom starting having difficulty formulating the correct word for some things.  She might be trying to say "car", but the word "car" wouldn't come out.  She could tell us "you drive it", "it has four wheels", etc, but the right word just wouldn't come out.  At first it wasn't a big deal, in fact, we even laughed about it, but then it seemed to be happening more often.  Then she would be reading and wouldn't always be able to finish what she was reading or comprehend something she just read.

Then, one day in September (2009), at her private Christian pre-school, Gingerbread, she was reading a book to her students, and then in the middle of it, just couldn't read it anymore.  She couldn't make out the words.  My sister happened to be there, so she had my sister finish reading it.  She went home that night and took the book with her.  She sat down with my dad and showed him how she couldn't read it anymore and she just knew something wasn't right. 

She would refer to a Rascal Flatts song that had the lyrics "I woke up this morning and something just wasn't right", and she would say that's how she felt.  So the next day she called her doctor, a family friend of ours, and made an appointment.  She went that morning to the appointment thinking maybe she had a stroke.  The doctor let her know that was not the case.  So she thought maybe it was Alzheimer’s, which the doctor immediately ruled out.  Not sure exactly what was going on, they scheduled an emergency MRI that afternoon in a town 30 minutes away.  My mom was fine at this point and felt great, so she drove herself to the appointment and even got a pedicure first, because she said in the back of her mind she thought that she might have to go to the hospital, and if she did, she wanted pretty toes! :)

They did the MRI and sent her home with some scans.  She went over that evening to the doctor’s house to take the scans, but the doctor (our family friend) had already received a call from the radiologist and was on her way over to our house to talk with my mom and dad.  At the time, the doctor told my mom that she had a brain tumor and they were scheduling an emergency surgery for tumor removal.  At that point, my parents simply thought it was no big deal...my mom would have the surgery, take the tumor out, and everything would be fine.

It wasn't until the surgery took place and the surgeon met with all us of afterwards that we found out the extent of the cancer.  It was a stage four brain cancer, called Glioblastoma.  She was given 9-12 months to live with treatment, and 6-9 months without treatment.  She chose to not do treatment, which was a wonderful decision, because she actually felt REALLY good throughout most of her journey.  She would have been much sicker and not enjoyed her time most likely if she had chose treatment. 
(Mom at the hospital just a few minutes before she went into surgery, September 2009)

Below are the email updates we sent out to a quickly expanding reader list.  Please feel free to share with anyone as it is a wonderful testimony of faith and perseverance.



Update 1 - January 22, 2010

Hello Friends!

So many of you have called, sent cards, asked about mom, asked for updates, etc (which mom greatly appreciates), so we wanted to send out a quick update.  Obviously, some of you talk to mom every day and for others, it might have been September, so we're going to give an update dating back to mid December, which was when we had a follow-up MRI to the emergency surgery in September, which took place when the tumor was discovered.

On Dec. 16, we had a follow-up MRI, which showed that her cancer is still there and the tumor is still growing.  Dec. 16 was approximately 10 weeks after her surgery in Norman, and the tumor had grown back to about half of the size it was for the surgery.  Not a good sign.  However, the doctors had expected it to grow a little faster, so the fact that it was slightly slower than they thought was good.

Amazingly enough, God continues to give her strength...nothing seems to get her down at all.  We had a consultation with her doctor who performed the original surgery just to see if a second surgery was an option.  She was particularly interested in the surgery as a symptom treatment than more of a cancer treatment.  She regained so much after her original surgery in terms of reading, words, communication, etc., and those symptoms had begun to develop again.  So, she was really hoping that a second surgery might, once again, restore some of that.

Unfortunately, this is not an option for multiple reasons.  Primarily, the tumor "fingers" are spreading very quickly and all of the damaged cells and tissue will not even show up on a scan.  If the doctor was to go in and remove anything he did originally and even go another inch all the way around it, there would be no possible way to get everything without it being fatal.  As he describes it, it is like taking a large wad of gum and tangling it your hair (except for its cancer tangled in the brain).  Also, because of the growth and spreading, her recovery would not be nearly as good as it was before (in a medical opinion).  Lastly, even if they went in and resected all infected areas that would show up on a scan, they would most likely not even be able to get 80% of the cancer.  This type and stage of cancer are just so aggressive that it grows so much faster than you can treat or remove.

Basically we take it hour by hour.  Sometimes she has great days and sometimes she has a few more symptoms.  Mainly headaches...she has a headache that is constant, so that has become the new "normal", but then sometimes she will have headaches near her ears, or behind one or both eyes, or in the middle of her eyes, that she says she can only describe as feeling like a migraine. 

Her number comprehension is usually fairly good, but she is unable to read for the most part.  When she can read something, it takes so much of her focus to read it, that she can't comprehend it.  She can't cook any longer following a recipe because of the reading/comprehension, but she's still trying to do what she can in the kitchen...her favorite spot!

As far as up and doing things...she is as energetic as ever.  She's sleeping in a little more in the mornings, but nothing overly serious.  She is quilting like crazy and doing all kinds of projects/crafts with Jordyn and Avery (Holly's girls).  She is beyond organized...if you can imagine that.  She has the next three years worth of birthday, wedding, anniversary, and Christmas gifts, purchased, wrapped, and tagged...including grandkids that have yet to even be conceived and weddings that aren't even in the works yet (I think that is her hint for Hannah and I).
(Noni with Avery & Jordyn)

She says she strongly feels like she will make it through April to see Hilary's new baby (Aiden-the first boy on my dad's side in 55 years)!  She has a peace about everything and talks a lot about heaven and her excitement for going there.  God is preparing her for sure...because some of the things she says and the way she feels are certainly not human nature.  I would be terrified, but she is completely at peace.  She still feels extremely comfortable and confident in her decision not to do treatment.  She hasn't been sick any and has felt so good for the most part.  The only medication she is on right now is her steroid for swelling and ibuprofen for headaches.

The main things that we see day to day as far as progression of symptoms are just word confusion and comprehension problems, and of course, the headaches.  Sometimes she'll have a period of about an hour or so where she can't get any words to come out right and then it's like it just gets better and she can talk and everything makes sense.  We have yet to see the weakness on the right side of her body like the doctors expect.  And she certainly hasn't got extremely tired yet, as they mentioned would be a symptom as things progressed.

Mom's prayer, and our prayer, continues to be for God's will to unfold in this situation, whether that be healing or not.  That certainly doesn't mean it makes it easy to accept this, but Mom sets the tone, and her attitude is so encouraging and uplifting.  Mom still feels strongly that God, for an unknown reason, is going to get more glory from her sickness, than from a miracle healing.  There have been a couple of salvations from her story and her testimony that we know of, so she has been so encouraged by this.  Obviously, we don't know His plan, but are trusting in it nonetheless.  We are enjoying every single day that we have together and are making the most of every moment.

As usual...nothing is off limits to talk about in our household, so please feel free to let us know if you have questions, would like more details, or if something we've passed along is confusing.

She loves having visitors and phone calls!  Please keep her in your prayers.  We would love to hear from any of you and hope that the New Year is bringing you much joy!

Heather Smalling, on behalf of
The Stockton Family


Update 2 - February 22, 2010

Hello again Friends and Family,

Our apologies in not getting an update out to you sooner than this.  Where does the time go?  Originally, I was hoping to send out an update a week after the last one, but here we are a few weeks later!  So sorry!

Let me first say that you are receiving this email either by request, referral, forward, or the simple fact that you were in one of our families address books.  Please let me know if for any reason you would like to be removed from this email group.  No offense taken whatsoever.  Also, if you know of anyone who would like to be added, please let me know by responding to this email.  We are happy to add anyone to this list.

I have to admit that sitting down to actually write these updates is harder than I originally thought.  I honestly don't know if it's just hard to see what's going on in writing, or just trying to figure out where to start.  I just don't want to write the wrong things, so I am praying that God gives me the words, because I don't want to make things come across any better or worse than they actually are...my intent (per Mom's request and our family's thoughts) is to be as accurate and detailed as possible, without "scaring" anyone or making “too light” of the situation.

That being said, I will try to fill in where we last left off.  Unfortunately, things are not as good as they last were.  For a couple of weeks, mom had good days for the most part.  She was continuing to have her "normal" headache daily, and she did lose what bit of reading she was able to do.  There was more confusion of speaking and comprehending words.  But, she felt good, which has been our priority from day one.

The weekend before last (2/19/10), she woke up with a much stronger headache than she had previously experienced.  She didn't have an appetite and just wanted to lie down.  As the day progressed, so did her headache, the pain, and nauseness.  Then, during early afternoon on that Friday, she began to get sick.  Once she got sick, we couldn't keep any liquids or foods down her in order give her pain medicine.  We were at a loss as to how to control the sickness in order to control the pain.  She was in bed, trying to get some rest, but the headache pain and the sickness continued through the night. She also lost pretty much all comprehension.  No word that we said made sense to her and not many words that she spoke made sense to us.  In fact, there were times that she didn't know who we even were.  It was so very difficult to watch her in the much pain and feel so helpless as to how to make it better.  She was having such intense pain that she was just telling us she didn't want to go on if this was how it would be.

Her doctor was hoping that by morning she would be feeling better, and unfortunately she did not, so we made our first visit to the hospital (other than for the original surgery).  Word spread fast, and we are thankful for the phone calls and the visitors that stopped by to check on her...she/we have so many wonderful friends! 

Once they started an IV and were able to get her some liquids, nutrients, and medicine that way, she started feeling much better.  Originally, there were a few thoughts from the doctors as to what was going on.  They didn't know if she was sick from the pain, or if she had a virus.  There was even concern that she may have had a stroke or seizure which was coupled with everything.  Fortunately, once she was able to get medicine and get hydrated, she felt MUCH better and was able to get back home shortly.

Her doctors could not determine for sure what caused this episode, but felt like there would be more, we just wouldn't know when or how often.  In dealing with this, it's hard to educate ourselves, because there isn't much information to go off of, in regards to symptoms, etc.  Since we are dealing with something as unique as the brain, everyone is going to be a little different in terms of symptoms and progression.  Because of the very slightest change in the location of the tumor/cancer and pressure from one patient to the next, the symptoms and the pain can change drastically and there isn't really much way to predict this.  There are just so many nerves and vessels that it is basically impossible to have a "textbook example" of how this will play out.

After the episode and the hospital visit, mom did feel much better, but didn't fully regain everything.  She was back to her energetic self, but we noticed a little bit more confusion in her talking and comprehension.  Generally she knows the concept of what she's trying to say when telling a story, but sometimes just mixes it up.  For example, she confuses he/she, her/him, and the likes.  And she has trouble saying the right words for objects.

Our family (obviously not doctors) best described it as the effects a mini-stroke would have on someone.  For instance, mom has an episode and gets better, but it's not quite back to the level she was before. 

So the week following the first episode, she had a couple good days and a couple of bad days.  She felt good for the most part but was having a little bit heavier headaches that seemed to last longer than the headaches she had been having the last few months.  Then, this past Friday morning, she got sick again, but then felt good so she ate something.  She had a good day for the rest of that day, but just felt really tired.  Then she woke up on Saturday morning and it was basically a replay of the weekend before.  Fortunately, we were able to keep her at home this time.  Her doctor is working with us to try to get the best combination of medicines to combat the nauseness and the pain.  After having a couple of these episodes, it has definitely been determined that the pain is what is causing her to be sick.  It's just such a significant pain that it makes her physically sick.  So, she is now on a couple of different nausea and pain medicines, along with her steroid for swelling.

Today, she is feeling much better.  In fact, she's not feeling sick at all...just tired.  She doesn't have much of an appetite at the moment but is eating a little to take the medicine. 

As much as possible, she is trying to keep up with daily activities and enjoying special activities with friends and family.  As long as she feels like it, we want her to get to do everything she wants to.  She is trying to teach herself not to over-do it (but that's not really possible for her...she is like the energizer bunny!).  She went shopping a couple times, enjoyed time with her friends at a quilting retreat, is quilting in her own little quilting room, rearranging the furniture in the house, and much more!

During the times that she is not having what we are now calling "an episode", her conversations with us have been really good.  She keeps telling us that she knows God is preparing a quilting room for her in heaven so she can quilt all she wants.  She continues to tell us how incredibly blessed she is to have been given the time she has.  A few years ago, her mom passed away shortly after having a car wreck, due to internal injuries.  Mom tells us constantly that she can't imagine something like that happening to her and is just so thankful that she has had time to prepare and we as a family have had time to talk about things.  She loves the fact that she has got to accomplish so many different things since she found out about the illness.

On another note, so many of you have asked how Dad is doing.  I'm going to share a little bit of what he's been doing, but just know that Mom wanted this shared.  For as long as anyone can remember, mom always said that when she goes to be with Jesus, she wanted her earthly body to be buried in the country in a wooden box with quilts around her.  Well probably about eight years ago, she told dad that she felt like God was telling her to have him build her casket or "box", as she calls it.  He laughed a little and said, I don't think we need to talk about that or anything and kind of shrugged it off.  It's always been a bit of joke between the two of them that mom wanted him to build her "box" and she would just use it as storage until she needed it and he would laugh back and tell her they weren't going to need that.  Well, it shouldn't be a surprise to us, but the second sentence out of mom's mouth after the doctor discussed her diagnosis with her in the hospital was..."Well, Ricky, I guess you're going to have to build my box now". 

At the time, it was one of the hardest things possible for dad to hear or even consider.  But, he wouldn't have even imagined doing anything else since he knew that was her wish...so, he started it a few months ago and has slowly worked on it over time.  Sometimes it was hard and sometimes he separated himself from it and just told himself it was a wood-working project.  Although it has been one of the most difficult things for him, somehow it has also been a sort of healing for him and for all of us.  Mom says that she knows it sounds morbid to share all of this, but it has opened up the door for her to talk to people and tell them that she knows it will only be an earthly body in there.  So even though it's hard, it has provided healing and an opportunity to share our testimony.  It has also been a way for us to talk with Mom's grandbaby's, Jordyn and Avery, to help them further understand what's going on and try to prepare them.

So, while Dad is certainly hurting, he is coping and doing well.  He knows who is in control of the situation and is trusting in God's will through this all.  His main concern, as is all of ours, is pain management.  We want mom as comfortable as possible when she's hurting and we want her to fully enjoy herself when she's feeling good!

Please know that as we talk about what this cancer will result in based on medical facts, which is death, we know we serve an awesome God.  We know that we serve a God more than capable of healing and miracles.  We have seen miracles.  We also know that death is part of this earthly life and that God's plan is not always what we, as humans, would want.  So, again, while we fully believe that God can heal Mom, we further believe in his will and his plan.  Not that any of this is easy in any way, but we know he is preparing us and if He does take her to heaven He will help us heal until the time see each other again.  It would probably be easier to be angry, depressed, and frustrated, but we have to daily make a conscious decision that it wouldn't do us any good.  We want to enjoy every day that we have and laugh and make more great memories to forever cherish.  Mom continues to set the tone for this family...and that tone is one of peace, joy, love and laughter.  Certainly we have times of sadness and crying, but that does not take away our joy and especially our laughter and happy moments.

We last updated saying that we are taking this hour by hour, but a great friend of ours said that "all you can do is take it minute by minute".  This would probably be much more accurate.  While there is some sickness and hurting one minute, the next minute there might not be any pain, and she just feels good.  So, we'll continue to press on and take things minute by minute.

We are so thankful for the wonderful, uplifting, and encouraging friends that we have.  All of the concern, letters, visits, calls, cards, notes, thoughts, prayers, and more that Mom and our family have received are so incredibly appreciated.  We are thankful for a great doctors as well, who are going above and beyond to provide exceptional care and are doing everything they can to take care of her and control the pain.

I took a break in writing just now to check on Mom, as she was resting.  She was awake and asked that I please tell each of you that she loves you and you are a blessing to her life, so I am passing that on!

As always...we welcome calls, visits, and any questions you might have.

Heather Smalling,
on behalf of the Stockton Family


Update 3 - March 7, 2010

To All of our Wonderful Friends and Family,

Yay!!!  I am sooooo happy to begin this update by saying that we have had two good weeks in a row now!  Mom has been feeling really well for the past 12-13 days, and for that, we are so thankful!

After her last couple of "episodes" of sickness and heavy pain, it seems that we (by we, I also mean our wonderful doctors and pharmacists) may have, at least for the time, been able to come up with the right combination of medicines to keep the pain under control, which is then in turn, keeping her from hurting so bad, that it makes her physically sick.

Mom still wakes up each morning somewhere between 3:00 am and 6:00 am with a bit of a headache.  She then takes a heavier pain medicine than she previously was, and for the most part, it is keeping the headaches from progressing.  Sometimes throughout the day, she'll take another pain pill, but generally, it's just in the mornings.  Through research that we have seen, it is fairly common for patients with this type of tumor to have heavier headaches in the morning, but there isn't much that really explains why.  She is also continuing to take her steroid for swelling, and if needed, we now have a nausea medicine that she can just rub into her wrists, which is great when she can't keep food down.

While she isn't in much pain, she is getting a little more tired, and at some times, a little more hyper.  It's so hard to determine if some of that is due to the medicine, or simply progression of the cancer.  But, nonetheless, mom says she would much rather be that way than be hurting, and we wholeheartedly agree!  She usually takes a morning and an afternoon rest.  During the day, she feels a little shaky and her vision has been getting a little worse (a little blurry and hard to focus).  Then, usually in the evenings, she starts feeling a little calmer and the shakiness subsides and her eyes seem to focus a bit better.  Because of all this, she is getting to quilt less than she would like, but does still try to fit it in during every good moment.

I think the hardest thing for mom now is knowing what to do with her time-she's never been one for sitting still.  Since she can't read or cook anymore, and her quilting ability is a bit more limited, she sometimes feels a little bit frustrated not knowing exactly what to do, so she tries to do a bit of everything. 

We have now started calling her a "mouse".  Jorydn and Avery have a book called "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie".  I can't help but tell you how the book plays out..."If you give a mouse a cookie, chances are he'll want a glass of milk to go with it.  When you give him the milk, he'll probably need a straw.  When he's finished he wants to look in the mirror to make sure he doesn't have a milk mustache.  When he looks in the mirror he will notice his hair needs a trim, and then he'll need some scissors.  When he's finished trimming, he'll want to sweep up.  Then, he'll get carried away and sweep every room in the house.  Then he'll want to take a nap and have you read him a story.  As he looks at the pictures in the story, he'll get so excited he'll want to draw a picture of his own.  He'll want to hang the picture on the fridge, and as he stands back to look at it, it will remind him that he's thirsty, and he'll ask for a glass of milk.  And, chances are if he asks for a glass of milk, he's going want a cookie to go with it." :)

While I did leave out some parts, this is how we can best describe mom these days.  For instance, she woke up the other morning and was going to eat a bite so that we could give her the medicine she needed.  As she looked in the fridge for something to eat, she started cleaning it out.  Then while she was cleaning, she started unloading the dishwasher, and then she pulled everything out from one of her cabinets to rearrange it.  She then tried to do laundry and organize the pantry...all the while, we're following her around asking her if she intends to eat something like she started out doing.  This all happened in about a ten minute period! :)  She jumps all over the place and tries to do about 100 things at once.  But, hey, that's nothing new...that's always been our mom.  That's how she got everything done while we were growing up!  And, although it is sometimes hard to keep up with her and get everything done that she needs/wants us to do, we wouldn't have it any other way.  We sure love our little "mouse"!

Mom has been able to give her testimony at a couple of churches recently, but it has become too hard for her to get the right words out for what she is trying to say, so unfortunately, she probably won't be able to share her hope and her joy with large groups like that anymore.  Last week, during the same service she gave her testimony, we also got to see mom's niece be baptized.  Mom's niece was saved a couple of months ago after talking with mom.  She came over one day and told mom that she knew if something happened, she wouldn't be going to the same place mom would be and she couldn't imagine not seeing her again.  She asked what she needed to do to go to heaven, and then accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior, as a result.  If any of you talk to mom for long, you'll hear her say that if her sickness was for no other reason than to win this soul for the kingdom of heaven, then it was all worth it!  Wow, how amazing!!!

For those of you who have asked what you can do, I would continue to say come and visit.  It seems to be great for mom to have visitors...it keeps her spirits high and it also lets her sit and rest while she talks, shares, and reminisces.  As the spring approaches, she is also hoping to get some flowers planted in her flower garden.  I know that she would love to have some of you with a green thumb by her side as she tries to do this.

We are continuing to enjoy each and every day and fill those days with as much laughter and memory making as possible!

Lastly, I wanted let you know that we are taking orders for shirts in honor of mom.  I have attached the logo for you to see.  The shirts will read "I Wear Grey for Mrs. Cindy. Support Brain Cancer Awareness". 



The Grey ribbon represents brain cancer awareness, like the more common pink ribbon represents breast cancer awareness.  We are selling the shirts for $10.  Although all details are not yet worked out, the profits (approximately $5 from each shirt sale) from shirts sales will either be donated to a charity in mom's name or used to purchase some type of children's toy equipment or bench, etc. for the local 'Elephant Walk Park'.  She wants something semi-local if possible and something that deals with children.  So, while we are in early stages of working out the logistics, we are taking shirt orders.  The first order will be placed on this coming Tuesday and we will have the shirts in about a week or less.  Once we have have another order of at least 30 shirts, we will place have the next run printed.  We will be able to ship shirts, but don't yet have the exact cost.  If this is something you are interested in, please email me back (h.smalling@yahoo.com) or call us (home: 580-326-7181, cell:  801-725-0255). The shirts come in white, black, and grey.  They are a 100% cotton unisex shirt that is pre-shrunk.  On the black shirts, the logo will appear in grey as you see in the attached logo.  On white or grey shirts, the writing will be inverted and the text will be black. 

We also have hooded sweatshirts available for $20.  They also come in white, black, or grey.  They are a 50% cotton/ 50 % polyester fleece, unisex sweatshirt.  Sizes for both t-shirts and sweatshirts are Small, Medium, Large, XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL, and 5XL.  You can choose to have the logo printed in a full logo on the front or as a smaller upper left chest logo.

These also come in a youth shirt ($10), which is 100% cotton jersey, pre-shrunk.  Also available in white, black, or grey.  Sizes for this run XS, Small, Med, Lg, and XL.

Again, just contact us if you would like to order or if you have any questions.  Payments will not be necessary until arrival of the shirts. 

Blessings,

Heather Smalling
on behalf of the Stockton Family
Ricky, Cindy, Heather, Holly, Hilary, Hannah, and families


Update 4 - March 29, 2010

Hello to our email update family!

It's update time again.  I have put off writing this...just isn't my most favorite thing to do--if you can imagine.  (It's not that I don't want you all updated, because I do.  It's just awkward trying to communicate everything appropriately.)  But, then I saw a written word of wisdom from my grand-paw:  'procrastination is the thief of time'.  So, no more procrastinating...time to share the good and the not-so-good news with you all.  I'll update and then cover a couple of logistics...email list, shirt orders, etc.

First of all, let's start with a big YIPPEE, WOO-HOO, HALLELUJAH, or whatever word you would use for excited.  Mom is still continuing to feel great!  It's amazing that someone can feel good with all that's going on, but she does.  She has not been in ANY pain whatsoever for a few weeks now...basically since she got sick, which was about 6 weeks ago.  What a blessing!  To be honest, she hasn't even been resting all that much.  She might lie down here and there for an hour or so every now and then, but not really all that often.  Pretty amazing, considering that all of her doctors said she should be feeling really tired.

The last few weeks Mom has felt so good, she has felt like getting out and doing things, going places, etc.  She got to go with Hannah and Holly to take Jordyn and Avery ice-skating in Frisco (and no, she did NOT attempt to wow us with her skills on the ice for those wondering).  Hilary had her baby shower at church and mom was able to complete an entire gift basket for her and attend the shower.  She's gone walking a couple of times with friends and family, had a great visit with one of her dearest friends from Dallas for a weekend (lots of laughing and staying up late!), went out to eat with some quilting friends, went to a quilting group get-together at a quilt store, and much more.  Basically, I can barely keep up with her! 

Her vision and word problems remain as the only significant symptoms that we've currently been seeing, other than original and ongoing things, such as not really being able to read and cook--both things that she misses terribly.  I think I told you earlier, that she can't really quilt anymore because of the vision problems.  She sees okay, but things get blurry and she has a hard time focusing, which makes it difficult.  However, there are a couple of times that her vision has been clear enough in the last couple of days that she has attempted getting back into an old hobby of scrapbooking.  She isn't able to do the journaling and read the stickers but she has been able to get things laid out and put together with just a little help.  In fact, she was scrapbooking away last night until 12:30!!!  I finally went to bed and told her she was on her own! :)  Then, of course, she popped up at about 5:45 this morning with all kinds of energy.  She can still clean for the most part, so cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, mopping, and dusting have become our Monday routine.  Oh, my mom! :)  Gotta love her and all her energy!!

We've also started videotaping mom the last few weeks and just having some chats with her on the video camera.  We've captured all kinds of happy and sad moments, but have had lots of fun with this little "project".

Truthfully, over the last few weeks, we have almost gotten lulled into a sense of false security.  We have adjusted to mom's current symptoms, but we haven't really seen much progression of the symptoms.  In essence, the last six weeks have become our new normal...almost as if there isn't anything really wrong.  In fact, in talking with mom, other than some word problems, you wouldn't really think that something could possibly be going on--especially a terminal illness.

Unfortunately, reality kind slammed us in the face this past Wednesday.  Mom was scheduled for her MRI, which she's been having every three months since the initial discovery of the tumor.  Mom, Dad, and one of our doctors went in for the MRI and the results were shocking, to say the least.  The tumor had grown almost 400% since the last MRI.  Let me back up try to repaint the overall picture in the beginning.  In September 2009 when the original tumor was discovered and removed, it was described in size by the doctor as a "hen's egg size".  We were told that at the time the surgery was conducted, it was estimated that the tumor had most likely been growing for about 6 months.  Following surgery, another MRI was conducted, but it was very difficult to determine what was tumor/cancerous cells, what was blood from the surgery, and what was swelling on the brain.  The next MRI was December 16, and the tumor had regrown to about the size of a golf ball.  Three months later (which was last Wednesday) brought us to this most recent MRI, where the tumor has now grown to the approximate size of a tennis ball...pretty rapid growth for a three month period.

There are a few things associated with this, that we feel are certainly worth mentioning to all of you who have shown interest in walking through this journey with us.  At this point, we are mainly working with just a couple of doctors, who have provided exceptional care, advice, and support.  Since mom isn't doing treatment, fortunately there is not a tremendous need for daily doctor involvement other than medication management, and of course explanation of the medical side of things in 'normal people language', as we call it.  Obviously, this could change at any time, but we are thankful that Mom hasn't really had to be in and out of doctors’ offices and hospitals constantly.  We are extremely fortunate that our doctors are also our friends and are willing to go above and beyond as demonstrated on numerous occasions.

Looking at the MRI results, the radiologist and doctors were very surprised by what they saw.  They each thought that based on the results-size, location, growth rate, and more that Mom should have been experiencing many more symptoms than she has been.  In fact, they each seemed to think that she shouldn't really be functioning very well.  The tumor has grown so much that it has shifted the good portion of brain off from the center line.  What we are told this means is that basically there are ventricles in the brain that should be lined up in the center, and when they shift, they are being compressed, which is where some of the symptoms, like the vision complication, are originated.  As the tumor grows, it will continue to cause the shift to the right of the brain.  Once the brain can't go any further to the right, it will then begin to take its own route to move (basically, it will start squishing, for lack of better words, wherever it can't find space, of which will be very limited).  Depending on the where things move could also affect future symptoms.

Another issue with the tumor in regards to growth rate is that we are now looking at exponential growth.  The bigger the tumor gets, the faster it grows.  The cancerous cells multiply at a very fast rate and the more of them there are, the quicker this happens, so the growth from here out is expected to be very quick.  In fact, we were also told that you could take an MRI daily and visually be able to see the growth, which indicates how quickly it will take place.

Bleeding on the brain is also an issue of concern at this point.  The radiologist was surprised that with the size of the tumor, there was not yet bleeding on the brain.  With tumors this size, bleeding is very common.  What happens is that there is a circle of arteries in the brain, which also have what's called "trippers" on them.  As the tumor grows and shifts, and puts pressure on certain areas, these veins and arteries are pressed to a breaking point.  Without doubt the some trippers have been hit, but they don't produce enough blood with just a few of them to show up on an MRI or to cause much problem.  The main arteries (I think there are 6 of them, but I could be remembering wrong) are the major concern.  If one of these arteries were to break, it would cause significant bleeding on the brain that would likely cause an almost comatose result.  Even if a comatose state wasn't reached, it would be likely that mom would not really know people or have much clue as to what was going on.

From our primary doctor, we were told that it is "by the grace of God" that we have not seen more symptoms or experienced some of these mentioned problems.  When even a doctor tells you this, you can't help but take a step back and give praise to the God of the universe.  I almost laugh a little as I type this, because God has been so much in control of this entire situation that I can't help but feel humiliated for the times that I have forgotten to trust Him or give Him glory.  Obviously, He has mom held so gently in His hands that He is protecting her and holding her up in only a way that He can.

Unfortunately, the outcome based on these medical results brought us back to a reality that we had almost forgotten about for a few weeks.  The opinion of multiple doctors is that we should expect and prepare ourselves for some significant changes within the next couple of weeks to month.  While this is hard to hear, it is something that we have tried the best we can as humans to prepare for.  We are told that seizures, heavy sleeping, blood clots, and swelling, are all very real possibilities in the near future.  The human brain can only withstand so much pressure and shifting without changes in a person’s body, actions, personalities and more.

Not that we could possibly know or attempt to guess God's time frame for this situation, but there are many things that have happened in the last year that we could call a coincidence, but really it's just God handling things His way.  Hilary and Corey expecting a baby, with a due date of April 22, is just one of those things where the timing and medical facts seem to coincide.  Since September when most of this really began, mom has continuously said that she WILL see that baby and she will hold on for the baby.  Hilary's doctors have told her that it is unlikely that she will make it all the way to her due date.  It's amazing when a doctor can look at the situation and say what we are all thinking but haven't verbalized to him...that possibly mom is holding on to see baby Aiden, and then will feel at peace to let go.

Obviously, that last one is a hard sentence to write.  And, as I mentioned earlier, we are not trying to put a time frame on things, it's just that your mind can't help but start spinning and trying to the pieces of the puzzle together each time you're given a new piece of information.

From the beginning as you all know, we have prayed for God's will in this situation.  We are and will continue praying just that.  We know that He does all things for His glory and are continuing to hold on to that promise.  Heaven comes up often around our house during conversation, and I don't know of anyone who could possibly be more excited about Heaven than my Mom.  She tells us, with tears of sadness and tears of joy streaming down her face that she can't wait to get there.  She is sad about the earthly family that she is leaving behind, but she has such a joy about her heavenly home.  We have said it over and over, and I'll say it again....if you need some encouragement and uplifting about anything, come spend five minutes with my mom!  Enough said!  Seriously, I cannot emphasize enough how much we are enjoying our time together.  We cry everyday about something, but there is so much more laughter than anything.  Our family dynamics are such that something ALWAYS keeps us laughing and enjoying the moments.  So, that's just what we're doing...enjoying each and every moment.  It would be awfully sad to look back over this time and not have any great memories to relish.  Mom's view, along with ours, is that we are all going 'home' sometime...this is just our temporary home until God calls us to be with him forever in a place far better than this.

Alright, on to something of a lighter in topic...some logistical info.  As always, please let us know if you would like to be removed from this mailing list or if you know of anyone who would like to be added.  Feel free to respond with any comments or questions.  We read each and every one of your comments to mom.

Lastly, we are still taking orders for shirts in honor of mom.  Thank you so much to each and every one of you who have already ordered your shirts and are "Wearing Grey for Mrs. Cindy".  The shirt logo is still attached for you to see.  The shirts read "I Wear Grey for Mrs. Cindy. Support Brain Cancer Awareness".  The Grey ribbon represents brain cancer awareness, whereas the more common pink ribbon represents breast cancer awareness.  T-shirts are $10 each and hoodies are $20.  I met with the Choctaw County Coaltion a couple of weeks ago to hash out some details of the shirt profits (approximately $5-$6 from each shirt sale).  The shirt profits will be used to purchase children's toy equipment for the local 'Elephant Walk Park', with a plaque indicated the purchase was made in mom's honor.  A huge shout out to William's Sporting Goods (WSG) in Paris, TX, who has so generously provided the shirt printing at no cost to us!  THANK YOU WSG!  We can ship shirts if you are willing to pay for shipping (shipped the most economical way).  If you are interested in a shirt please email me back (h.smalling@yahoo.com) or call us (home: 580-326-7181, cell:  801-725-0255). The shirts come in white, black, and grey.  They are a 100% cotton unisex shirt that is pre-shrunk.  On the black and white shirts, the logo will appear in grey as you see in the attached logo.  On the grey shirts, the writing will be inverted and the logo will be black.  Sizes are Small-4XL.  We can also get youth sizes on the t-shirts. The smallest is youth small (6-8).  Also available in youth sizes:  medium (8-10), large (10-12).

We also have hooded sweatshirts available for $20.  They also come in white, black, or grey.  They are a 50% cotton/ 50 % polyester fleece, unisex sweatshirt.  Sizes for both t-shirts and sweatshirts are Small, Medium, Large, XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL, and 5XL.  You can choose to have the logo printed in a full logo on the front or as a smaller upper left chest logo.

As always--thanks for bearing with me as you read my short little email, errr, should I say novel! :)  If anyone wants to write these for me and make them shorter feel free.  LOL.   I try to tell myself the next one will shorter each time, but that never works out!

Come by and visit or call anytime!!  Our house is ALWAYS open!!

Much love from the Stockton Family,

Heather Smalling
on behalf of the Stockton Family
Ricky, Cindy, Heather, Holly, Hilary, Hannah and families


Update 5 - May 2, 2010

Hello again to our update family and friends,

Once again, I sit down here at the computer with lots to say, but little motivation to actually say it....argh!  Can't we just talk about something fun like the yummy pie crust crackers that I'm going to make mom for her upcoming birthday, or the fact that the sun came out yesterday, or that Army Wives comes on tonight? :)  I guess not...I guess I better get back to updating you--the reason you actually receive and read these emails.

To say that the last few weeks have been easy would be stretching the truth.  The truth is that the reality of this situation continues to set further in with each of us daily.  Fortunately, and most importantly, you should know that Mom is still feeling exceptionally well...she is still pain-free.  I would say that in the last month, she may have had four or five small headaches, and even those have been in the last week or two.  The headaches have been very small and have dissipated very quickly.  Mom is still taking a daily pain pill and daily steroids.  So far, this regiment (or God as we prefer to say) seems to be keeping the pain subsided.  The steroids have caused a significant amount of swelling to mom's body, especially her face.

At this point, vision and word confusion remain the significant symptoms.  I was almost tempted to start this email saying that there hadn't been much change in Mom's symptoms over the last month, but then as we looked at the month as a whole, that just wasn't the case.  And, the last few days have presented some further progression of symptoms as well.  It's just that the every day-to-day progression is not always extremely visible, so it's like we have time to adjust and then get used to it, in a sense.

Over the last few weeks, Mom has had a bit of personality change...not tremendous, but the change is there nonetheless.  She gets angrier and mad a lot more and a lot easier than we have ever seen.  Not necessarily mad at God or at the situation, but little things seem to irritate her more than we have ever seen.  We have to be careful with our words now, because it's hard for her to differentiate a joke or something serious.  This is hard for us, because we are such a sarcastic, joking family, and our intentions are certainly not to upset her in any way.  I wished I could say that we have all remained calm through the confusion, but we haven't.  We're human and we've all had some difficulty with all of the changes and the stress that it's created.  We've failed, we've yelled, we've got upset, but we recognize this and make every attempt not to let it happen again.  Fortunately, we've got a lot of love in our family and because of that we overcome the imperfections in each other.

The vision and words have slowly deteriorated, but over the last 3-4 days these have gotten much worse.  She has had a great week though, because she is getting to enjoy Hilary's baby so much.  Aiden Ryan was born on April 21.  Mom has absolutely loved every minute of him.  She got to be in the room as he was born and was thrilled that God allowed her witness such a beautiful miracle!  She has not stopped talking about how wonderful it was to be there with Hilary as baby Aiden entered the world! 

(Noni with Aiden, April 2010)

However, with Aiden's arrival, also comes reality.  The reality is still that Mom should not be functioning as she is.  It is simply amazing how God has brought her through this so far with such little pain and with such great joy and peace.  Her outlook remains inspirational.

Because of the word problems--problems getting the right words out and difficulty in comprehension of words--we have had less "intense" conversations than we were used to having a month ago.  Until recently, mom set the tone of what we talked about and she wanted to talk about EVERYTHING, which we did.  This was good for all of us, because everyone expressed what they were feeling, and how we as a family were doing, and what to expect, and so much more.  But with the comprehension difficulty increasing in the last month, our deep conversations with Mom decreased.  We have them with each other; we just can't talk about as much with Mom.  Simply put, she just couldn't have a deep conversation.  All of our talks and communication with her have been very "surface level" and very much "in the moment".  So, death has not been as heavily discussed in the past month. 

A couple of nights ago, however, Mom was with Dad and I and emotions hit her pretty heavy.  She said that she could recognize significant change over the last few days in her vision and speech/comprehension.  She told us that she thought she wouldn't be with us much longer.  She just kept telling us that she feels like it's getting close because of how she is feeling.  In the midst of this, she reassured us that she is not fearful of death.  She is not scared, she is not worried, and she does not have doubts.  She has sadness for what she feels we will have to go through.  She kept saying how wonderful her life has been, and although it's hard to imagine something better, she knows Heaven will be a thousand times better than her best day here on earth.  It almost seemed as if she was saying goodbye that night.  The way she communicated with us both verbally, and with body language were not as we had been used to.  But, we made it through the night, and are still looking forward to the moments together at the beginning of every morning.

Also, over the last month, Mom has not rested during the day ANY.  And by that, I mean, absolutely NONE.  She has not laid down for one single nap in probably at least four weeks.  And yet, they (medical team) tell us that tiredness should be the most common symptom.  However, once Mom lets herself lay down at night, she falls asleep extremely fast.  In fact, until Aiden arrived, she didn't even sit down during the day, but she has been happy to sit down to hold him.  But when she does finally sit down, we notice how heavy her eyes are and how difficult it is to hold them open. 

Then today, she indicated to us that she doesn't want to sleep during the day, because she doesn't want to leave us during the daytime.  She wants to pass peacefully at night during her sleep.  We feel like letting her do what she feels like she wants to as much as possible.  Lately, she's been "shuffling".  She moves something from one room to another and then back to the original.  She takes photos out of albums or envelopes and puts them in other albums. She reorganizes something she organized last week.  We try to understand that it is simply because she needs something to do. She doesn't know how to relax...she's never took a break in life for as long as I can remember, and now is not any different.  We don't want to slow her down, but it does sometimes get difficult.  Since she can't do everything now, we have to do it, but she wants to make sure we do it the right way - her way! :)  So, we make every effort to do that.  It does get hard because she doesn't always realize that she can't do everything.  Then, during the times that she does realize, it makes her frustrated.  She has so much she wants to do, but just can't. 

A couple of friends have taken her out to eat in the last few weeks.  She has had many friends come by and visit, which she loves.  Other friends have traveled from out of town to see her...bringing fruit for her to enjoy, planting her flower beds so that she can enjoy the beauty, taking her for a pedicure, and so much more.  Some of you have made a meal or dropped off a dessert, or brought by a fun lunch---we cannot thank you all enough for everything you have done! 

Most of mom's time is spent at the house now, but she does periodically like to get out.  Most importantly, she loves spending time with the people she cherishes--friends and family.  She is constantly running across something and saying "this would be perfect for so-and-so".  She is a giver.  She is giving things away to everyone; just another example of her selflessness.  So, if you haven't got something from her yet...rest assured, you most likely will! :)

For those wondering, Dad is doing well.  A little stressed, as we all are, but handling things exceptionally well.  He completed Mom's "box" recently and the funeral home is storing it for us.  Mom was thrilled to get to see it and is so thankful that he was able to do this for her.  I don't think there's anything he could have done that would have meant more to her.  Dad is currently working nights as they are on an outage at work.  Once that is over, he is hoping to take a couple weeks off of work to just spend here.

I will be leaving this coming week.  Justin finishes training and will be an official Air Force Office of Special Investigations Agent!  We will be traveling from Georgia (where he is currently) to Florida, where we are moving to, and then back to Oklahoma to visit.  Then we'll head back to Utah to move everything from there to Florida...so lots of driving/traveling is in store for us.  We will officially arrive in Florida around June 12th, but will be a little scattered until then.

Holly, Chris, and the girls are still in Paris.  Jordyn and Avery are still attending Gingerbread.  They come over 2-3 days a week for that.  Holly usually spends one or two nights a week at Mom and Dad's to help out.  She is also cleaning at our Grand paw's house during the day a couple days a week.  Chris is still doing electrical work.  They are hoping to start a small home business doing vinyl....signs, lettering, stickers, etc.  They have the equipment and are just working out some logistics.  Jordyn will start Kindergarten this fall and Avery will still attend Gingerbread.

Hilary is still working at Choctaw Electric and Corey is working for the railroad.  They are spending all their time with that precious new baby.  Baby and parents are both doing great.  They have also spent a lot of time remodeling their house.  Many paint jobs, garage clean-outs, pantry installations, tile flooring, and much more.  They are bringing Aiden over as often as possible for Mom to enjoy him.

Hannah is working at Choctaw Electric and has Tuesdays off to spend here at the house helping to get projects done.  She is starting to cook more, but unfortunately, she works until 6:00 at night, so it makes having dinner ready on time a little difficult.  Her boyfriend, Justin, just completed college and is working an internship in McAlester, so we're praying for a job offer for him following that.  This summer Hannah will begin college classes again, but her summer schedule, thankfully, is all on-line.

Paw-Paw (Mom's Dad), and our cousin (who stays with Paw-Paw at night), still come over for dinner every night.  So, just like it used to be--we always have a full house! :) 

However, with everyone having so much going on, I was worried about dinner plans for the family after I left.  Since everyone is always asking what they can do to help...I'm going to throw out a couple of suggestions.  I hate asking for help, but given the situation and my upcoming absence from it, I feel like I should at least let you know what would be helpful.  

God provided an amazing blessing--Mom and Dad's church (First Baptist Church) Sunday School classes (Adult 1 and 2) are going to bring meals over on Monday and Thursday evenings for the next few weeks.  Melissa Tollett is organizing the church meals.  She has placed sign-up sheets in both the Adult 1 and Adult 2 Sunday School rooms.  If you are associated with the church and would like to be involved or have further questions, please contact Melissa at home: 580-326-3424 or by cell:  580-743-2509.

For those of you not associated with the church who would like to be a part of providing a meal, we would more than appreciate it.  I absolutely cannot tell you how much of a relief this would be for everyone.  Our family doesn't eat a lot, but there are about 5-6 people at the house for dinner every night and they eat around 5:30 or so. We certainly don't need meals for every night of the week - we love sandwiches and leftovers, but I think meals would be helpful for them every now and then.  If you would like to do something, please contact us at 580-326-7181 or me by cell at 801-725-0255 and we'll get you on the schedule so we know when to and when not to try to have something together on our end.

Again, I can only hope that I am conveying that this request comes in a very unselfish manner.  If I were going to be here, I wouldn't even suggest asking for this kind of help.  I am hesitant to even put this out there, but I know that it will provide extreme help in the coming weeks as we begin new routines around here.

Also, if anyone wants to come visit, please do!  We don't leave Mom by herself for much time at all.  Although, she wishes we would! :)  If you have a morning that you can stop in and visit, Dad will be sleeping, but Mom would love to chat with you.  You can certainly come by ANYTIME, but I know that mornings is when she'll primarily be by herself a little bit (although as I mentioned Dad will be here, just sleeping in the mornings from working nights).

We are still selling shirts to raise money to purchase playground equipment for the Elephant Walk Park.  Thank you to everyone that has purchased shirts so far.  We have sold over 440 shirts---WOW!!!  If you would like to order an "I Wear Grey for Mrs. Cindy" shirt, just let us know via phone or email!

If you know of anyone who would like to be added to the email update list, please let me know.  Also, if you would like to receive previous updates, we can forward those as well.  And, if you would like to be removed from this list, please notify me.

Also, thank you all for continued prayers and support.  God has been so faithful through this whole situation, and we continue to pray for His will to unfold.  We know that he has plans far greater than we can imagine and we all look for to the day of reuniting in Heaven.

Sincerly,

Heather Smalling,
on behalf of the Stockton Family,
Ricky, Cindy, Heather, Holly, Hilary, Hannah, and families.


 
Update 6 - May 19, 2010

Friends and Family,

This is just going to be a quick update, especially for those of you who haven't heard the changes we've gone through over the last week and half or so.

As we continue to go through the journey of Mom's battle with cancer, we have crossed into new territory with new changes.  Starting about 10 or 11 days ago, we noticed that Mom was beginning to get more and more tired.  She started taking a couple of naps during the day and was going to bed earlier than usual.  Her word confusion/comprehension progressed as did her vision loss. 

Mom's 50th birthday was on Saturday, May 8, and she had a wonderful time celebrating with friends and family.  The celebration lasted all day starting with a visit from her very best friend and ending with Mexican food and desserts from some of her friends, husband, and daughters.  She partied hard! :)  But, she also seemed to be getting tired easier at this point.  Even a couple of days after this she was still able to get out and do a couple of things, including a dinner out with family and friends, supporting other friends through a hard time, going to church on Mother's Day, and most recently-lunch and a pedicure with her Dad and friends.

However, things quickly changed and the tiredness set in even more.  The most significant change is the seizures that began on this past Monday afternoon.  She started with two seizures that completely wiped her out and has had the on-set of a couple of seizures since then, but we have been able to prevent them from moving into a full-blown seizure with medication.

Last night was Gingerbread graduation.  She had been looking forward to it so much.  She is unable to see to do her hair or make-up, but we did it for her and had her fixed up in some brand new clothes ready to go to graduation, when the on-set of another seizure began.  So, unfortunately, we didn't get to make graduation.  However, Mom was truly touched when all of the Gingerbread students and parents came by for a quick visit following the graduation.  Although she was a little groggy while her visitors were here, she remembers it well and was so blessed by it.

Over the last couple of days, new medications have been added to the regiment, so along with the tiredness, she is also taking medications that make her extremely tired as well, but help keep her relaxed.  She is falling asleep doing general things like talking, eating, brushing her teeth etc.  So our days our now filled with watching her rest.  During periods when she can, she tries to talk to us...sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn't.  But she never has any problems telling us that she is okay with going to Heaven and is ready when God calls her home.

She has told us that God didn't give her anything to hold on to after graduation.  And while it's hard to hear, we still have a peace about that.  Even though she is not hurting too much, it is still suffering for her to have to be practically bed-bound, to not be able to see, and to not take as big of a part in daily life.  So, we know this is not what she wants and this is not how she wants to go on.  We trust firmly in the fact that God knows her heart as well and the timing of the entire situation rest in His hands and His plans.

When she does get up, it's mainly a shuffle around the house and she goes to the restroom and eats.  There are times though that she will just pop up and have a conversation with us as if nothing is wrong though.  She doesn't realize she is falling asleep and isn't understanding why she can't move around by herself anymore, but God is giving us all patience as we deal with this and I pray that he gives her strength as we have to step in and take away some of her independence, which is very difficult.

To those of you who have brought and are bringing meals...there are not words adequate enough to thank you.  There is nothing at this point that could possibly be a bigger blessing...THANK YOU SO MUCH.

To those of you who have purchased and wear "I Wear Grey for Mrs. Cindy" shirts, we thank you.  She is so grateful for the support of this cause and we have now sold over 565 shirts....this will allow us to buy even more playground equipment for Mom's cause!

Please continue to call and stop by anytime...Mom still loves seeing her friends and family and I don't think that will ever change.  So, please do not ever feel as if you are bothering...this is what she wants! :)

As you pray, continue to pray for God's will over the situation and continued peace to set-in with everyone involved.  We are constantly reminded of just how temporary our earthly home really is and how important it is to keep our focus on the God who knows the plans for each and every one of us.  Soon, Mom will be ushered into the presence of God where she can meet the Jesus she so boldly serves face-to-face.  I can only imagine what that meeting will be like.  And as I try to picture it, and can only see peace and joy.  Mom looks forward to that day so much now and while we will struggle with her not being here, we know in our hearts that there is a reason.  Although the reasons are not always clear to us, and may never be, we trust that God's plan is without fail and He will use this bring glory to His name.  Faith in this plan is what keeps us going daily.  Faith in the fact that we will see each other again, and what a great reunion it will be!

Heather Smalling,
on behalf of the Stockton Family-
Ricky, Cindy, Heather, Holly, Hilary, Hannah and families


Update 7 - June 7, 2010

Hello again to all of our friends and family,

We wanted to send you all another update just so that you will be informed, since you have all been a part of Mom's journey thus far through her battle with cancer.  This email, I'm sure, is going to be my hardest to write since I started, and probably hard to read, so for that and for the difficulty of the information, it will be much shorter than usual.  But, at least you will be informed.

The past couple of weeks have continued to be filled with seizures and tremors.  Mom does seem to be pain free except for a pain in her head just during the tremors, kind of like it is pulsating.  The tremors have generally started in her foot and leg and worked their way up her body into her arms and face.  Now, they seem to be only in the face, primarily in the lips is where we see the effects.  Her look is very distant...her eyes and mouth have changed and have an ashy color to them.  Other than that, she is resting very comfortably.

Mom is now in a hospital bed at her house.  We moved the couch she was staying on and put the bed in it's place to keep as much of a routine for her as possible.  However, she is completely incoherent at this point.  She is in a coma-like state, sleeping nearly 24 hours a day.  At this point, even if you move her, she doesn't wake up.  She has lost all muscle control in her body, she cannot talk or walk anymore, and is unable to really eat or drink.  She is now completely confined to the bed.

Her breathing has become very abnormal, ranging anywhere from 20-29 seconds between breaths.  As hard as it may be for people to read or understand this, we hope that every breath is her last breath.  She is so ready to be with our Heavenly Father and would not want to be like this any longer.  We talked on many occasions about her new "bikini body" she is going to get in heaven...a restored body with no swelling, no headaches, no seizures, no tremors, no suffering, and no tumors.

She is so much at peace with the idea of Heaven.  Our family also has an unexplainable peace (doesn't mean there isn't hurt, sadness, pain, and suffering, but we are trusting God through this) as well.  When mom was still able to talk, she would tell everyone that there was a reason for this all and even if that reason was not revealed to her, she would be okay with it, because she trusted in God's plan and His reasons.

Our hope in sharing mom's journey with you is that there would inspiration, faith renewal, and that Mom's testimony would truly be used as a vessel to bring God glory.  We know that God holds each of us in His hands and we know that our eternity is secure and we will reunite one day on streets of gold!

We have now sold nearly 700 "I Wear Grey for Mrs. Cindy" shirts--AMAZING!  Thank you to everyone who has helped support this effort to raise awareness and raise money for playground equipment for the Elephant Walk in Mom's honor.  We would like to invite you all to join our family and wear your shirts if you have them, to Mom's service once she goes to see Jesus...what a way to honor her!  If you don't have a shirt, Mom's second request was that you wear bright cheerful colors that would celebrate her life as opposed to her death.  She wants everything very casual.

Lastly, a HUGE thank you to everyone who has brought and continues to bring meals...truly an amazing blessing.  You will never know what a difference this has made.  Thank you a hundred times!

Heather Smalling,
on behalf of the Stockton Family,
Ricky, Cindy, Heather, Holly, Hilary, Hannah and Families


Update 8 - June 8, 2010

For those of you who may not have heard, we wanted to let you know that Mom entered the presence of heaven today.  I can only imagine what it was like when she met Jesus face-to-face.  Although it is difficult, there is a great comfort in knowing that Mom's eternity is forever sealed.  It is a joy to know that all of our family and anyone else that knows Jesus as their personal Savior will once again reunite with her.

Mom's life truly was a legacy of faith and love.  She will be missed greatly, but somehow we will find the strength to move forward.

The services will be on Saturday at 10:00 am at First Baptist Church in Hugo, OK.  The family night/visitation will be on Friday night from 6-8 at First Baptist Church in Hugo, OK.  In lieu of flowers, donations will be accepted at First United Bank in Hugo, OK for the "I Wear Grey for Mrs. Cindy" fund.  All funds will be used to purchase playground equipment for the Elephant Walk as a memorial.

Please feel free to join us in wearing your "I Wear Grey for Mrs. Cindy" shirts to her service.  Jeans are completely acceptable as Mom's request was that it be a very informal service.

Thank you all so much for the love, support, prayers, encouragement, meals, visits, cards, phone calls, and so much more over the past eight months.  Our family cannot express with words the difference that it has made!

Sincerely,

Heather Smalling and the Stockton Family


Speech written and read by our family at Mom’s funeral service

We stand here completely amazed and overwhelmed at the number of you who are here today and the number of “I Wear Grey for Mrs. Cindy” shirts that we see before us.  Until the last few months, I don’t think any one of our family truly realized the impact that our Mom has had on so many people.  A simple example of this is the “I Wear Grey” campaign.  When we originally decided to start ordering shirts to sell to raise money for playground equipment at the Elephant Walk, we decided to order about 30.  We thought in our minds, that if we sold 50 shirts, we would be doing good…little did we know or dream that just a few months later we would have sold over 725 shirts in our mom’s honor.

This is only one of millions of stories that speaks wonders about our Mom’s life and her impact on others.  The outpouring of love and support that we have received over the past few months has literally blown us away.  We have not been in need of anything that hasn’t been provided…meals, errands, doctors and medicine, prayers, emotional support, caregiving relief and so much more.  We would be here for days if we tried to thank everyone who deserves it.  The list goes on and on…just know that each of you have blessed our family in a tremendous way.

Now…back to the reason you’re here…”Mrs. Cindy”.  When we try to think of the most appropriate words to describe Mom’s character and her life, the word that stands far above the rest is faith…unwavering faith.  Everything that she did revolved around her faith.  Her faith in God was reflected in her every move…her devotion, friendship, selflessness, and her heart.  She loved her family more than anything.  Our family was recently described as “abnormally close”, and while we laugh at this, we take great pride in knowing that there is an amazing bond that binds our family together.  Our Mom and Dad raised each of us in the way of the Lord.  Their every move left us with nothing to do, but have faith.  They raised a 6-member family on an income that I don’t think one person would be able to survive on. But they did it without complaint as they sacrificed to make sure that we knew the importance of love and devotion.

You can’t hardly start to talk about Mom without talking about Dad.  They truly were one. A quick story about Mom and Dad—when mom had her surgery back in September and was in ICU, we had come in the first morning, and the first thing the nurse said to us was, “I don’t know who Ricky is, but she really loves him”.  He said that all night long she was saying “I love Ricky, Ricky is hot, I have a hot husband”.  So since then, Ricky then became “hot Ricky” around our house!  This coming Wednesday would mark Mom and Dad’s 32nd anniversary.  They had such a great marriage and were a constant and consistent example for us of the way that God designed a marriage to be.  Never in our life was there ever a fight, a hateful word, or anything that would leave room for regret.  They exemplified Christ’s love daily and instilled in us values have shaped our lives and our families lives.

Our Mom had the biggest heart in the world.  She never met a stranger.  She took people in who needed home, she fed families who needed meals, she gave money to people in need, she gave of herself constantly, without expecting anything in return.  She always had words of wisdom and encouragement.  Every morning that we lived at home and left for school, her last words to us were always “Smile, it will make your day go better.  I love you”.  We never wondered if we were loved.  The words “I love you” were spoken all of the time at our house.  Whether it was a phone call, bedtime, because someone was coming or going, or just because, “I love you” were always the words used.  She was so involved in our lives and supported us through every single thing.

Mom could walk in a room and everyone was drawn to her.  People were always amazed by her…the advice she gave, the way she kept her house, her inability to procrastinate, her frugalness, her crafting skills (primarily quilting and scrapbooking), her cooking skills, her patient way with children, her organizational skills, and the list goes on.  There pretty much wasn’t anything she couldn’t (and didn’t) do.  We called her superwoman, which didn’t even seem to do justice.

Children were mom’s main passion.   God created a special place in her heart for children.  Her gift of patience and childhood education were evident when she started homeschooling us when we were three years old.  That gift later moved into Gingerbread pre-school, which Mom owned and taught for the last 17 years.  So many children had part of their foundation shaped by Mrs. Cindy’s teaching skills.  We are continuing to hear story after story from parent’s who say that their children say Mrs. Cindy was their favorite teacher ever.  They have also said that she helped them understand to work with their children in areas of education and upbringing and has left a lasting impact on them and their future.

As Mom’s cancer progressed over the last few months, her faith and reliance on God grew even stronger.  She was able to give her testimony at many local churches and bring people in on her journey through some of her updates.  Although we are now sad at the earthly circumstances, we rejoice in the fact that she is now in the presence of the King of Kings.  Mom was ready to go…she was ready to meet Jesus face-to-face.  She wasn’t scared, she wasn’t fearful, she didn’t wonder about the unknown.  She was excited about Heaven and was ready to start eternity.  We are comforted so much by the fact that she was so ready.  We know we will see her again one day and until then, we rest in the fact that she is in the hands of a loving God.


August 2, 2011 
Family and Friends,
It’s been a while since you got any type of update.  Time has flown by so fast.  The last 14 months have been challenging for our family, but we are all doing well.  We are so blessed that we all had such a close relationship with God and with each other to help pull us through.  There is still a lot of healing, but every day we are getting better.  Not a day goes by that any one of us doesn’t think of Mom and her amazing legacy she left behind.  But the pain does get a little easier over time.  The sadness doesn’t go away, but we are learning how to deal with it and how to continually turn it in to good.  Our family has an enormous amount of great memories to cherish and look back upon.  We cannot thank each and every one of you enough for all you have done for us as a family.  But most importantly, your prayers of support, strength, and encouragement have helped us more than words can say.
Because each of you was involved in some way or another through Mom’s journey, we feel it is an honor to keep you updated.  The majority of those reading this email gave some type of financial support over the last couple years, primarily through the sale of the “I Wear Grey for Mrs. Cindy” campaign shirts.  Many of you gave of your financial resources to the “I Wear Grey for Mrs. Cindy” fund at First United Bank in Hugo.  The financial response you gave was overwhelming and humbling.  I am so thrilled to let you all know that we raised a combined total of nearly $8,000 to put towards the purchase of playground equipment in Mom’s honor.
What is even more special and rewarding about this is that Mom got to be involving in selecting this memorial while she was still here with us in person.  To know how touched she was by your generosity makes it so worthwhile.  And to know that we are getting to fulfill her dream is an incredible feeling.  With the help and sponsorship of the Choctaw County Coalition, I am happy to announce that the playground equipment has been purchased.   
We were able to purchase a piece of equipment that totaled around $10,000.  It is set to arrive in approximately 5-6 weeks and will be placed at the Elephant Walk Park in Hugo, OK.  Volunteers are needed to help with installation and set-up.  We will have a company representative on sight to oversee the installation, but volunteers will actually be doing the work.  Dad will be heavily involved in this process.  If you are interested in helping with this, please let me know. 
In October there will be an official ribbon cutting ceremony for the memorial.  Details with the date and time will follow soon and we will have a press release put in the local paper as well.
To help raise the additional money needed for the equipment, the Choctaw County Coalition will be sponsoring a Baked Potato fundraiser on August 16, 2011.  Attached to this email is a flyer with the details of this event.  If you live in the local area and would like to place an order for a baked potato lunch, please call the numbers on the flyer or email me.  Also, if you can help us get the word out locally, that would be fabulous.  Feel free to print, post, and distribute the attached flyer around Hugo and the surrounding area. 
We hope you all know how much of an important role you played in making this happen.  Whether your support was financial or not, we know you all supported us, Mom, and this effort.  For that we thank you.  I will certainly send pictures of the equipment once it is installed so you can see what you were and are a part of!  Thank you again so much for the love and support!
Heather Smalling
On behalf of the Stockton, Smalling, Anthony, Pound, and Mize family and extended family.

October 4, 2010

Wow…there is no way possible for me to thank everyone enough for everything.  I am so excited to tell you that the playground equipment in Mom’s honor is here and installed at the Elephant Walk.  Dad is there put a few finishing touches on it as I write this.  There are a couple small things to be done, but as for now, it is completed.  Here it is a few days ago (it has come even further along since then).  

 
We did not end up having a work day because of how much work Dad and a few others did in a matter of days.  The playground is officially called the “Cindy Stockton Memorial Playground”.  It is a $10,600 piece of equipment.  When we started raising money, we thought we would be thrilled if we sold 30 shirts, but hundreds and hundreds of shirts and other donations later, here we are.

It is such a joy to see Mom’s dream come to fruition and to have you all as a part of it.  We want to invite everyone to a ribbon cutting/dedication ceremony on MONDAY, OCTOBER 10TH AT 4:00 PM at the Elephant Walk in Hugo, Oklahoma.  It will be very short and light refreshments will be provided.

We would like to thank the many businesses who stepped up and helped us with things needed to complete the playground.  Because of the generosity of these sponsors, we saved well over $2,000 in materials needed for installation. 

Choctaw County Coalition
City of Hugo
Catulla-Scott Ranch
Brent Shain & Family
City Drug
Choctaw Electric
Rustin Concrete
Covington Trucking
Martin-Marietta Materials
Francis & Sons Drilling

Again, thank you for the financial and prayerful support provided to turn this dream into reality.  We hope that children and families can enjoy it for many years to come.  If you have any questions or need more information on the dedication, please feel free to email or call (801-725-0255 or 580-326-7181).

Sincerely,

Heather Smalling on behalf of the Stockton Family.


October 10, 2011 – Cindy Stockton Memorial Playground Ribbon Cutting/Dedication Ceremony Speech

On behalf of Cindy Stockton and our family, we are happy and thankful to welcome you all here today.  We are so humbled to be standing here.  It is because of the abundant generosity of each of you and so many other along with community and local business support that this was made possible.

Cindy Stockton lived her life with great faith.  Her faith was unwavering even until the moment our Savior called her home. 

She was admired in this town and community and among friends and family.  Cindy was an amazing wife, mom, grandmother, daughter, friend, and so much more.  Because of the impact she had on so many lives, both before and throughout her battle with brain cancer, the response we have received for this cause has been more than we could have ever expected.

More than anything we wished Mom was still here with us.  But we know that God works all things together for His glory and we are thankful to have made this dream of a playground a reality.

When Mom was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in September of 2009 we had no idea what the future would hold, but we could not have imagined this.  When she lost her battle with cancer in June 2010 we still never imagined we would have something so wonderful to memorialize the legacy of such and incredible woman.

When the “I Wear Grey for Mrs. Cindy” campaign began, our family thought it would be a great feat to sell 2 orders of shirts, which would have been 60 shirts.  At that point, we figured we would just make a very small donation somewhere in Cindy’s honor.  Then as more and more shirts were sold, the vision began to unfold and mom decided that she would love to be honored by putting a bench or very small piece of equipment at a park where kids could use it.

The shirt sales continued and eventually reach nearly 900 sold.  We also partnered with the Choctaw County Coalition to put the equipment here at the Elephant Walk.  When Mom passed away so many of you made financial contributions to this effort.

Many of you also supported the recent baked potato fundraiser for this cause.

All in all, your contributions raised over $10,600 which purchased the playground equipment you see here today.

Once the equipment arrived, our Dad and many other tirelessly put in so many hours to install it.  They diligently worked to complete it and because of the work, support, and donations of the following businesses, the equipment was completed:

Choctaw County Coalition
City of Hugo
Choctaw Electric
Martin-Marietta Materials
Frances & Sons Drilling
City Drug & City Medical
Catula-Scott Ranch
Brent & Mary Shain & Family
Covington Trucking
Rustin Concrete
Victory Life of Hugo

It is with great joy, humbleness, and thankfulness that we present to you the Cindy Stockton Memorial Playground, dedicated October 10, 2011.  Dad, please unveil the rock.

Mrs. Cindy’s grandchildren, Jordyn & Avery Anthony and Aiden Pound will momentarily cut the ribbon finalizing this dedication.

We know Cindy is smiling down from Heaven today, and on her behalf we are honored you joined us.  Our hope is that the playground is enjoyed by children for years to come and that her legacy continues through it.

Please feel free to join us following the ribbon cutting for an open house with cookies and drinks.  Thank you!

Please cut the ribbon.




2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Heather, I found your blog through Tabby Gilbreath. I originally came hunting you down to learn how to "paint". LOL! I have sat here all morning reading the post "I Wear Grey for My Mom" What an honor it is to learn more about your family! I wish I could have known your mom personally but through your writing I feel like I do know her. :) I just wanted to simply say that I believe you are an amazing person with an amazing family and your faith in God is astounding! God is so good! He is Faithful and Ever-Loving! Thank you so much for your time. God bless you!

Tasha Cantrell

Rebecca said...

i clicked on your blog for a furniture project, and now i've just read this entire post, and am crying my eyes out. i have not had to experience anything like this, yet I'm so appreciative for your faith and perspective. i love to hear how people trust in the Lord in such trying times. thank you!