Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays Cheryl my love…..

It is hard to believe it was only last year that we were spending time with the family here in Las Vegas and your condition was stable. You were hanging out with the cousins and joking around, playing with our daughter Cevan, . To me, it seems like 16 months has been 16 years and I can’t imagine any period of my life’s existence seem that long of a span in such a short interval (I am not sure if that makes sense). I guess its analogous to the months have seemed like years.

We spent Thanksgiving with my sister Gina & Davis, Cevan, Tatai, Al & my mom, and your father and step mom in Vegas. We also went to cousin Debbie & Bong’s house with many of the other cousin’s there and Cevan played with the other kids. We were joking about that close cousin of yours (you know who you are) who was already married and didn’t tell any of us.. How we were all pressuring them to get engaged when they eloped far before that…. Such a good actor and actress.. they should get an Oscar for that performance ;) We also went to Bong & Debbie’s again for the Manny Pacquiao fight and spent time with all the Vegas side of the family. Our daughter is growing up so fast but she is definitely a tough little girl. She has a new nickname “baby Pacquiao or baby Pac” since she likes to beat up everyone (slap, scratch, and pinch). The Guamanians / Chamorros call it magodie ( I don’t know the right spelling but something pronounced like that). Its how she shows her affection…. We took her to Opportunity Village which is this spectacular setup that looks like the North Pole came to Vegas. Cevan was so enamored with all the ostentatious displays, toys, santa, lights, etc.. We couldn’t even get a picture of her looking straight at the camera and she was saying “oh wow” the whole time. I watched all the young parents with their babies and children… I have never been a jealous person but for once in my life I was. The thoughts started coming across my mind that they got to share the joys together and captivate that experience… side by side… but I know deep down that you were watching us from heaven Cheryl.

I know it’s always the holidays that are always the most difficult.. Especially when its so close to the loss of a loved one. It seems like every song on the radio reminds me of you and even Christmas songs. I receive a lot of praise from your family for all the devotion to you and they know that I did it all for you and our daughter. I just wish you had more time in this world to see her grow up. You know that I am working so hard doing so many things to make you proud.

I guess I have to share so more stories so I will. I remember the time when we took your nephew Darius (Juniors son) with your father and step mother to the Boomers miniature golf place in San Diego. You were so embarrassed because it was one of the first impressions on your father and I was like a big kid racing Darius, rock climbing, playing video games, etc.. with him. I remember you telling your father that your man is a kid at heart. I remember the times we played drinking scrabble and you would get so intoxicated that it became blatantly obvious when you were making up words. I challenged you ever chance I got to and we would bust up laughing because you were such a bad liar!!! I remember when we used to argue about things and than you would sit on the bed and rub the spot next to you like you were “warming it up for me to lay next to you”. We would start laughing because we didn’t even know what we were arguing about. I remember the day of our first date vividly. I opened the door when you arrived and my heart sunk.. I was so stunned and awestricken.. you had this effervescent glow that there are no words to describe. I have met thousands of people in my life but never felt so nervous to make the right impression. You were the most beautiful person I have ever met in my life. I tried to play it off all casual but my heart was racing. There are so many more stories to share but wanted to say Happy Holidays from your husband and daughter!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Speech From the Funeral Service in San Diego

There was a few requests to post the speech from the funeral service on Saturday in San Diego. I think it has been iterated in different parts of this blog but here it goes:

On behalf of my wife and our family we would like to thank all of you for coming to celebrate the life of Cheryl. I had the opportunity to talk to many of you who may have felt their faith challenged to see such a young, beautiful, intelligent, and spiritual 35 year old woman pass away right at the beginning of her life in a marriage and motherhood. I struggled with that for some time but realized that God has a purpose in life for everyone. I believe my purpose was to be next to her side thru not just the hardships and sorrows but the happiness and joy as well..I believe that she was given the ability to experience so many things with her limited time in this world. Cheryl once told me that she had accomplished so much and felt like she lived a very full life She told me that she had the chance to experience meeting her love of her life and getting married, giving birth to a child, and most importantly touching every single one of your lives and sharing so many memories.. She often told me and her family and friends not to worry. She will be OK. I took Cheryl to the best doctors and hospitals and the best treatments with modern medicine. One of the hardest things for me to deal with is the time she told the doctors in the hospital not to worry her husband will make her better. She wanted me to promise to her that I will do everything I can to give more days to be with us. But when the time came for her to understand it will be “her time” and accept that she will be in a better place.. Her gift to me is not only all the fond memories, our daughter and a new family, but the strength to endure such a difficult time. There were times when I was holding on by the very strings of that strength but was restored by faith and her influence on me. She made me a better man.

A very close and wise friend once told me when Cheryl was hospitalized in her late stages that you will always be fighting a battle. It may be hospitals, medical insurance company, fear of the future, and brain cancer now. But if she makes that transition to heaven you will be fighting to preserve her memory because she will always live on through you, your daughter, and everyone who has ever known her. Cheryl was always more worried about others and did want them to worry about her because she didn’t want them to feel pain and sadness The final gift that she wanted to bestow to every one of you is not to worry, don’t feel that pain for her loss or regrets because she will eternally live with you in spirit and her love will be carried in her hearts. Thank you for sharing the celebration of life of my dear wife Cheryl.

Some Stories Shared by Family and Friends

Dear all who read this,

Please feel free to write any story you would to share about Cheryl by posting a comment. It can be even a short story so please don't be shy. Also, there is a feature to follow these postings and be updated whenever people put messages here. I have attached a few stories sent via email to me after she passed.


Posted by Dione Hagemann

I first met Cheryl when I was accepting applications for a cocktail server. She came in just to fill out an application. I remember interviewing her and was very impressed with her attitude, not to mention her being attractive but also having a bubbly personality. Needless to say I hired her and my only regret is that she didn’t work with us longer. But someone with the looks, personality and intelligence that Cheryl had is not going to be a waitress for long. I knew she was destined for bigger and better things. It isn’t often you find someone with the whole package. She was not conceited about herself at all. She had so much going for her. I just wanted to let you know that she touched a lot of hearts here. I feel fortunate to have met someone like Cheryl in my lifetime. She wasn’t just another employee but we became friends also. I would always try to give her advice because I knew she was someone that had a lot going for her. She worked at John Dominis at a time when everyone had fun together. I hope you and your daughter find the strength to carry on. It is tragic that your daughter will not grow up with her mother. But I know you will make sure Cheryl’s spirit lives on.

Sincerely yours,

Randy Kong
She worked with me at John Dominis. I remember when she started, she was still in school a driving her Miss Hawaii car. She was somewhat embarrassed by that and didn't want to make a big deal about it. She was practical, smart and funny, we shared many laughs together. Even after she left JD's she kept in touch. She will be greatly missed. She may be gone but she'll never be forgotten. Please take care.

Aloha, Bobbie Maurer
John Dominis

Im a friend of Cheryls from Hawaiian Airlines. (Im Plain Jane on her Myspace) We haven't been in touch in a while and I have so many people on the Myspace page I dont check it anymore...Her old roommate (from flying in LA a while back) just told me the sad news. Im so sorry. I hope you are hanging in there. I wish I had something I could say or do for you all.

Cheryl was so kind to me- I had no car in LA and she always let me use her little truck when she left town. I used to stay over with the girls (in Redondo) a lot too. We had some great times walking together on the Boardwalk as well. Some great talks then too! She was so lovely in every way- caring, thoughtful, fun and took great care of me in LA. So I just wanted to share that with you.

If you are planning anything here, please let me know- and/or please keep in touch. Thanks.
Sending you all my Love and Aloha...

I have known Cheryl since kindergarten and she was sweet as ever. We remained friends in grade school at August Ahrens Elementary and hung out after school. We were practically neighbors as she lived down the street back then and I would let her ride my bike. Of course, she would ding my bike terribly, but we were friends true and true. I am going to miss her. I remember her smile, incessant talking and laughter! She loved her brother very much as she would talk about "Junior." I remember him too. I used to call her mom "Auntie" as she was friends with my mother.

Shirley Salcedo
Childhood friend of Cheryl's

Monday, November 17, 2008

How Cheryl and I met...

We were introduced by a mutual friend Tammy after Cheryl moved from Hawaii to Southern California. Tammy would suggest that I get in contact with Cheryl and eventually I asked for her email address to see how things develop. We started off with lengthy emails learning all about each other and it progressed to telephone conversations. I remember spending up to 8-10 hours on the phone with her daily and keep her up till the late hours of the night. We both held different work schedules since I worked until later at night and she started early in the morning but we managed. We eventually got to the first date part “with no expectations”. She flew up to my house in Northern California and we both immediately felt the attraction towards each other. It was hard to avoid the fact that I already sensed that I met the one to have a future with.

Cheryl had everything you can want in a woman… Intelligence, Beauty (inside and out), Family Oriented, Caring, Honest, Dedicated, Spiritual, Modesty, and I can go on and on. I had no doubts about her in my life and my intuition told me that our relationship will evolve. Eventually, her trips to visit went from day trips to week trips to several weeks.. I would visit her down south and met her brother and friends. A joke that her brother and I share is that the first time we met we went deep sea fishing at 5 am. We both said what happens if we don’t like each other we are going to be stuck on a boat together all day!! But things worked out. It became to the point that she would make excuses to be with me and rationalize in her own way against the advice of her close friends (saying we were spending too much time together). For those of you cousins / friends reading this, don’t forget I have her love journal written in her own handwriting ;) Eventually we made the decision to live together and she moved up to live with me in Northern California.

Some of her most valued things I did for her in our relationship is one time I gave her series of small gifts consisting of everything she liked. To her, it showed that I payed attention to the details. I also wrote her the first poem she ever received. She loved the creative things that I would do like make her cards, create a treasure hunt for her birthday, and some spontaneous surprises we shared… Eventually, I proposed to her and we were engaged. We decided to get a brand new home together and moved near the central valley. We planned our weddings in San Diego and Las Vegas (long story) and planned for starting our family immediately to follow the wedding. We were married on February 18th, 2007 (four months before Cheryl was diagnosed with brain cancer) and again a few days later in Las Vegas. Cheryl and I had our many differences, heated arguments, etc.. that made us so passionate in our relationship. It drove us crazy in love and unconditionally in love… We both knew that no matter what we were devoted to each other and will never leave each other’s side through all the most difficult times.

There are many gifts that Cheryl has bestowed on me. One of the most influential is the strength and courage to endure the most difficult times. I have changed as a person and even my family notices that I have changed. I fought so many battles to keep the disease at bay and pushed the ultimate thresholds of tolerance, patience, etc.. It also gave me a sense of vitality and to always treasure every moment in your life because you never know what will happen next. Those snapshots and glimpses of cherished memories will always be treasured and never taken for granted … One of my parting gifts that I want to give back to Cheryl is immortality.. because her memories will forever be instilled within us and perpetuated through the stories we share. Now, hopefully we can share those stories with all the lives she has touched.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Some things to know about Cheryl..

How do you capture someone’s life in a few paragraphs? I guess I will do my best to highlight what I know about Cheryl. After Cheryl became ill, she told me in confidence that she wholeheartedly felt that she lived a full life. She met the love of her life and got married, experience having a child, travel, live life full of laughter joy and sorrow, and surround her life with loving family and friends.

Cheryl was born in Honolulu Hawaii at the Tripler Hospital to mother Rebecca and father Kenneth. She was followed by a younger sibling Kenneth Fernandez Jr. “Junior”. She lived between Hawaii and Southern California primarily in San Diego as well as Northern California (SF Bay Area). She attended elementary school at August Ahrens Elementary, middle school at Montgomery Junior, Southwest High School, and graduated from the University of Hawaii with a degree in Political Science. Cheryl was a very bright and intelligent woman and graduated with honors from high school with a full ride eligibility to UCLA but decided to go to UH. She was in ROTC in high school, travelled as a flight attendant with Hawaiian Airlines, won several beauty pageant contests and runner up for Miss Hawaii. She held various jobs from working as a server at John Dominis, teller at Bank of America, sales at Paradise Beverage and Southern Wine and Spirits, Sheraton in hospitality sales, and eventually her career finally was at the Hawaii Visitor and Convention Bureau where her job was to entice companies to hold their incentives programs in the state of Hawaii which promoted tourism. She was so dedicated and loved her career. She was extremely business savvy and a natural salesperson who can organize spectacular events for her clients. The funny thing is that we were both successful salespeople and always tried to teach other different sales methodologies.

Cheryl loved her family above and beyond everything and accepted all the challenging times as she grew into adulthood. She had cousins that she thought of as sisters and valued their advice. She had aunt’s that were like the other mothers and played additional female role models in her life. She loved her brother dearly through all the trials and tribulations growing up together. She was extremely spiritual and a dedicated member of Christianity. At one time, she was the president of a Filipino United Methodist Organization in her younger years and comes from a family lineage of devoted Christians.

For those who knew her well, they knew about her certain personality traits like the fact that she was overly organized, meticulous, and even to the point of OCD / anal retentive behavioral patterns. She had to have everything organized a certain way and had a method to her madness. I love every bit of it.. Sometimes the unique idiosyncrasies in others are what make them special. She LOVED DOGS.. In fact, I believe she loved them more than people. She always needed to stop if a dog was running in the streets to help them find their home. She couldn’t bare to watch any form of cruelty on dogs or animals. She would treat them like children and would spoil them incessantly. S

he loved cooking and everything associated with it. She would be glued to watching the Food Network and knew every chef by name, style of their cuisine, and pretty much how to make their recipes. I think she has seen every episode of the Iron Chef and we used to debate on who would win. Ironically, I am the farthest thing from a chef or culinary artist. One of her valued treasures is her recipe book that if she could of put it in a safe she would. She was also a wine enthusiast and taught me how to appreciate the different palates and art of tasting. A significant part of our wedding registry were Riedel glasses since they were one of the best for wines and we had a large cabinet full of every wine accessory to serve a large party..

Some of Cheryl's favorite flowers were lillies and tulips. She loved plants and home and gardening. My most important job when she was travelling for work was to water the plants!!! Some of her favorite musicians are Jack Johnson (I took her to see him live in concert in Berkeley, Coldplay (we were eating at a restaurant in San Francisco right next to them and didn't even know it. The unfortunate thing is that they happened to be in concert the same day as Jack Johnson in San Jose), 10,000 maniacs (I believe she saw them in concert with Tammy but not sure), Cecilio and Kapono, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Ka'au Crater Boys, Bob Marley, Hawaiian Style Band, etc..

She was an excellent conversationalist and was stimulated by intellectual discussions. She told me that she was attracted to brainiacs since she was secretly a geek in disguise. She loved to travel and got to go places like Europe, Tahiti, Philippines, all over the U.S., etc.. She practiced Bikram yoga and was extremely and healthy and fit. I remember I attempted to try it once in its 105+ degree temperature and could not comprehend how she could do it. She was dedicated and even had video tutorials in case she missed the classes. She had a competitive streak and we would have our own hybrid games like drinking Scrabble, quid pro quo, and other games involving a challenge.

Once our daughter came into our world, she was an instinctual mother and was dedicated to her upbringing. She always worried about the baby and every morning would wake up at 6 a.m. to be with her when Cevan woke up. No matter how ill she felt she would always want to get up and feed the baby, change her, and take care of her as her mother. She told me that I will be a wonderful father and to promise to always smother our daughter with love. Cheryl you would be so proud.. I am taking good care of our daughter and took her immediately to the pediatrician to transfer her medical records, make sure her immunizations were on track, requested to test to make sure she doesn’t have allergies, childproofed the house, spending so much quality time with her (reading her stories and playing), and plan on signing up for parenting classes to stimulate activities with other toddlers. Our daughter will be raised in your image and I pray that she becomes like her mother when she grows up.

Always with us dear wife..

There are so many things I want to say my dear love. First of all it has been so difficult without you. Sometimes I feel in denial that you have passed and talk about my wife as if you are right by my side. I feel my heart is broken and I have lost the other half of me. I found that “diary” that you always treasured and never knew what was in it. When I was moving things I found it in your drawer and didn’t know it was a love diary that documented everything since we first met. You had all the dates from our first email, first time I said we have a future, first phone call, etc.. you were so organized it blew my mind.. We both knew that we found the perfect “one” from early in our courtship and if the concept of soul mates existed we found each other.. maybe we will meet again in another time. I learned so many things that you never shared with me and it is now one of the most priceless gifts in your departure. Every night, our daughter kisses your picture, prays together, and kisses your picture in the morning when she gets up. She will always know who her mother is because there is no one in this world who can replace you.

To all the family and friends who read this I have received so many emails and questions about what happened to Cheryl. On behalf of Cheryl and I, we want you to know that Cheryl didn’t want you to worry about her or feel any pain or anguish. For those who knew her well, she always thought of others first even above herself. I remember in the hospital she would ask us if we were hungry and if we wanted for her to cook something when she couldn’t even get out of the bed. I know she wants to communicate to all of you not to take the news as a measure of closeness but to help preserve the good times you shared with her. One of her wishes was to use discretion on who were informed and as daunting of a task it was… we had to respect her wishes. This is the best way to tell you all what happened without explaining it individually..

This is 16 months of our battle against brain cancer abbreviated…………. Sorry for being long but I took it from all her documented medical notes that I put in a journal along the way….
Cheryl started having headaches and nausea in her middle stages of pregnancy. We frequently went to our OBGYN appointments and they suspected she had sinus headaches. The unfortunate thing is that many of the symptoms of brain cancer are also masked in pregnancy (headaches, nausea, imbalance of equilibrium, etc..) Early June 2007, we went to visit San Diego to attend her niece Kendal’s birthday party. Cheryl started feeling severely ill with sensitivity to light and complained of extreme headaches. I immediately took her to a local neurologist in Hemet because she was symptomatic of migraine headaches. The neurologist told us to take her to ER immediately and she was admitted to a local facility Hemet Valley Medical Center on June 15th 2007. She was monitored by the maternity department and the neurologist performed a lumbar tap which indicated that her spinal fluid was contaminated. They suspected that she had bacterial meningitis and treated her with antibiotics until an infection specialist assesses her condition. Unfortunately, they were reluctant to perform an MRI because she was pregnant and the contrast / iodine may impact the development of the fetus. After the infection specialist determined she didn’t have meningitis they performed an MRI without contrast to discover a 6.5 cm x 3 cm lesion in the corpus collosum region of her brain (midline splitting the two hemispheres). We had to be transferred to the nearest facility that had a neurosurgery department. They attempted Loma Linda but 2-3 days went by and they couldn’t get her in and kept saying the reason why is that they have not discharged anyone. It was unacceptable and I couldn’t fathom that it would take that long to open beds at Loma Linda so I drove over there and had a discussion with the manager of admissions. I told them that while I was waiting to meet them and I witnessed at least a dozen people discharged and cleared up the misinformation from Hemet Valley Medical Center that she required an isolation bed. She was transferred immediately and the neuro department conducted an MRS (fine layering spectro versus MRI). The imaging indicated that she may have a brain abscess, possible benign brain tumor, and / or chance of brain cancer. They scheduled for a biopsy immediately for July 2nd. We were concerned about the baby and they assured us that NICU / maternity will monitoring her at all times. They performed a biopsy / craniotomy and preliminary pathology results indicated that she had either lymphoma (lower grade of brain cancer) or glioblastoma multiforme (stage IV highly malignant and most lethal form of brain cancer). They performed a partial resect / debulking of the tumor gearing towards suspected lymphoma with radiation and chemo to follow. The surgery went well and Cheryl was in post operation with restricted access.

The next morning I was informed that our daughter’s heart rate was dropping and was there while they performed an emergency C-section. Our daughter Cevan was born two months / 7 ½ months premature on July 3rd at 3 lbs. 2 ounces. On July 5th we received the bad news that pathology came back with GBM IV and they have to perform a second craniotomy or she would have an extremely short prognosis. They performed the second surgery with success and 90% debulking of the tumor mass. Although, we found out afterwards that the anesthesiologist made a “mistake” and accidentally punctured Cheryl’s lungs when administering the central line. I was extremely upset at the hospital for this mistake and told them she has gone through enough already. While Cheryl was in recovery I lived in that hospital going back and forth for 6 weeks between her and our daughter. Cheryl and I had a conversation and I asked her “what do you want to do from here? She asked me where I wanted to go and I told her back to our home in Northern California under the care of UCSF or Stanford. Cheryl wanted to be with her family so we vacated our new home in Northern California and my career transitioned to becoming dedicated to giving her more days in this world to spend with us. She underwent conventional radiation therapy in tandem with a specialized and calibrated proton radiation beams at Loma Linda for 6 weeks. Meanwhile, I had a meeting with the head of the oncology department to talk about her chemotherapy planning. He told me that the conventional approach was 6 weeks radiation and Temador which is the only FDA chemo drug approved for brain cancer. We had a dispute about their method of therapy because I was concerned about only one option for treatment. What happens if it doesn’t work? I informed them that I have done research on clinical trials and experimental therapies. He argued that they are only “experimental” and you take the risk of unknown side effects. I closed our discussion with if the Temador doesn’t work, what do we have to lose?… and told him that we will be transferring her oncology to a “neuro-oncologist”/ specialists from this point.

I am just adding this in to this post: For those who were wondering the causal factors of brain cancer, the answer is that there is no proven cause. It is all theoretical at this point... Scientists and doctors believe that it could be 1.) Genetic predisposition or chromosomal abnormality (missing lines 4 and line 11 in the DNA sequence strain if I recall correctly) which makes you more susceptible to getting the disease. 2.) Exposure to EMF (Electro Magnetic Fields) such as telephone poles, cell phones, etc.. 3.) Exposure to toxicity - pesticides, artificial sugars (aspartame), etc.. The truth is there is no factual or proven cause that links the origin of this disease. A good example is when we are at the hospital we had a neighbor who was a 28 year old male. He was a triathlete who ran several miles a day, healthy diet, no genetic history, no cell phones, etc.. and had the same condition as Cheryl. He passed earlier on this year and our hearts go out to his family. There are ongoing research studies to help find some type of correlation but the cure lies within the cause. The average person afflicted by this disease is 54 male (i can't remember the exact age but around that) although the neurooncologists I spoke with said that it seems like they are seeing younger and younger patients.

I researched every alternative experimental therapy available for GBM IV and contacted every noteworthy brain tumor center in the country. The top neurooncologist and neurosurgeons helped narrow our options to Avastin (FDA approved for lung, colon, and recently breast cancer. It is an angiogenesis inhibitor administered intravenously that restricts blood supply / nutrients to the tumor) and dendritic cell immunotherapy (non-toxic form of treatment utilizing the patient’s own immune system early adolescent cells to target tumor lysate / cells)
These treatments exhibited low risk factors and high success rates in their earlier phases of clinical trials and were attractive since they were non-toxic (opposed to chemo) forms of treatment. As a prerequisite, they just required a frozen tissue sample that was immediately extracted during surgery and placed in a controlled environment. To our dismay, the head of pathology was on vacation and his residents were responsible for archiving the tumor sample. We discovered that they paraphin blocked (waxed slides) the residual tumor vs. freezing the tissue which is standard protocol. Without that sample, it eliminated our eligibility to many clinical trials since they will not have sufficient biomarkers (trace tumor type and efficacy). It dawned on us, whats next? We never gave up and I developed a contingency planning mentality that doesn’t hit any roadblocks since timing is of the essence. After 3 months, Cheryl completed the cycle of radiation and was on Temador but the first MRI showed that her tumor grew back by 50%. (I was so tempted to take the MRI back to that department head of oncology and tell him that he has other people’s lives in his hands and its time to change his perspective) Our last resort was to put a request into our medical insurance to approve an experimental / non FDA approved treatment with the Avastin regimen. It was a 50/50 shot but I already planned for contingencies including contacting the manufacturer of Avastin (Genentech) to qualify for financially assisted programs, insurance appeal process and turnaround time, etc.. since the treatment is ridiculously expensive and can devastate families financial disposition but there is no price on giving my wife more time on this world. Fortunately, we already transferred Cheryl’s care to Cedars Sinai (as many of you know is one of the best facilities in the country) and the clinic handled everything with immediate turnaround and got us approved immediately to start Avastin the following Monday. I have to say that these two neurooncologist doctors gave me a newfound respect for the medical profession for their compassion, devotion, and brilliance in treating the disease. I became very close to one of them and he became like another uncle and I wish every doctor was like them. We drove to Cedars Sinai practically every week for 2-3 days from San Jacinto for anything from her IV Avastin + CPT-11 infusion, neurooncology appointments, and MRI’s. In addition, I started running discussion forums in the brain cancer community on alternative treatments including homeopathic, holistic, and organic dietary protocols as a complimentary regimen to Avastin. I started researching causal factors of brain cancer and theoretical approaches to modify our regimen with a more sophisticated multi-faceted approach. After the first 6 weeks, Cheryl’s tumor shrunk by 80%.... After 3 months it shrunk by 95% with the doctors claiming that this is one of the best responses every seen to the treatment (even the manufacturer of Avastin / Genentech asked for a testimonial). We were so excited and started planning for Cevan’s Christening (baby’s 1st bday) and anticipating that the next MRI will show a clean scan with no tumor.
One month passed and her next MRI showed that the tumor mass stagnated with no changes. The subsequent month she started developing all the side effects to the chemo portion of her treatment (Avastin is coupled with CPT-11 as chemotherapy since Avastin alone is not very effective). We noticed a steady decline in her condition over a 4 week span and were in and out of the hospitals. We went Cedars Sinai where they performed our monthly MRI which showed that the tumor progressed again. I remember the doctors explaining to me that tumors are extremely sophisticated. He provided an analogy that they know when they are being attacked and create a channel with a pump system to pump out the chemo. One of the hardest things to deal with is when the doctors were trying to explain to her that there isn’t much they can do at that point and her response was, “don’t worry doctors.. I know my husband will make me better and take care of me” To this day it hurts to remember that day.

The doctors did a final blast of radiation known as salvage therapy to help with palliative treatment (decrease side effects of the tumor to make her comfortable) and still were willing to continue Avastin only (no chemo since she could no longer tolerate it) as a shot in the dark to decrease progression of the tumor. At this time, we were noticing cognitive dysfunctions and increased intracranial pressure caused by the tumor. We were given a short prognosis and I took this opportunity to invite her family and friends to see Cheryl at Cedars Sinai in her best light before any further development of her condition. We cancelled the Christening in San Diego and the family came to the hospital instead I lived at Cedars Sinai for 6 weeks straight 24/7 as well as 4 other hospitals over 5 dispersed months of inpatient hospitalization stays. We were discharged since medical insurance needed an acute reason to retain her at the facility and decided that she required 24 hour skilled nursing supervision due to her frequent infections (she was immuno-deficient or compromised) and constant need to be monitored. After a relentless battle with trying to get her into a skilled nursing facility after several denials, we got her into Devonshire Care Center in Hemet (after second reconsideration) to keep her across the street from a hospital and be close to both her mother and father. I disputed with the insurance and other doctors to keep her off of hospice with the glimmer of hope to continue her treatments and miraculously reverse the disease. The last time she spoke was the third week of August. I told her that her brother had a baby boy and she was so happy. We talked about our daughter and how Cheryl was feeling. Everyday since I waited by her side in hopes that I could just talk to her one last time. Her condition took its course with rapid deceleration and she went back and forth from Hemet Valley Hospital until the morning of Sunday November 2nd (all souls day for the religious). I was informed that her vitals were declining into low levels. As the hours went by, I watched her blood pressure drop, heart rate slow, and breathing decrease into a gradual passing at 9a.m. The charge nurse at the hospital said that she worked for hospice as her prior job and that with all the transitions of life she witnessed she said it was a very peaceful one for Cheryl. She wasn’t in pain or seem like she was suffering at time. She surpassed her time of prognosis given to us and had her extra time to spend with us. I was right by your side my love until your last breath and the last beat of your heart.

On behalf of Cheryl, Cevan, and I we would like to express all our gratitude to our parents, siblings (which includes my frat brothers and best friends), cousins, aunty’s and uncle’s, and dear friends for their support in those difficult times. Just to let you know that we heard all of your prayers, received all your emails and voicemails, kept all your cards, and knew that even though some may have been far away you were always there with us. Cheryl, my love, know that the same devotion that I gave to you will always be there and will be with our daughter as she grows up in this world. I will honor every promise made in those talks we have had about the future. Almost every day I prayed that I can take your place to take away your suffering and if it was possible I would have made that ultimate sacrifice without hesitation. As difficult the hardships, I will do it over and over again just to be by your side. You are now in a better place and in peace with God. For I know that you are smiling down on us from heaven and will be celebrating living your life through all of us…….. for an eternity….