Pressures

I feel pressure. And, it’s not the type of pressure that most people deal with on a daily bases. I don’t have to meet any deadlines or chase after a young whippersnapper or anything like that. But, I do feel pressure to be getting healthier and doing better. The pressure builds every time I notice the sadness in my husband’s eyes as they search for the slightest bit of improvement. Or in the longing for optimism I hear when my friends ask me how I am doing. Or in the hushed toned good-byes when I talk with my family. Because, I wish I could be doing better and getting healthier for them, I do. But, the reality is that I’m not sure if I am doing much better. We all hope for my balance, my tremors, my speech, my ability to converse to get better but I not too sure they are. I am also finding it difficult to remember things the way I once did, which makes me anxious and creates even more pressure within. And I long to release this pressure but I not sure how. I try to share with my family and friends how I am doing but it’s too difficult. I also try and talk with my husband but he has a hard enough job taking care of me.

But, I’m not going to blame them. I also don’t like talking about it because it just makes the reality that much more clear. And I don’t want to face that reality yet. I’ve beaten the odds, 5% to live 5 years, and I’m grateful for it. I’ve made the most of this time doing and see things I wasn’t guaranteed to. And, the reality is that my big dreams of wild adventures have to be tempered, which is another huge weight I’m caring on my shoulders. This need to alter my desires for life just adds even more pressure to my life.

But I did get some release recently. January 19, Jon and I celebrated our fourth anniversary together. The day started with a visit from Juan Carlos, my kind physical therapist, so I got in some much needed exercise. I know that the physical therapy won’t improve anything, but the work reminds me of my days getting ready for a big soccer match. Next, Jon took me to see a movie. Since we are getting close to the Academy Awards season, I try to watch all the movies I can. Last, we both got all dressed up and went down into the Centro of Santiago for a nice dinner out. All this made my life almost feel normal for a while, and that normalcy helped take away some of the pressure.

And, I’m happy to say, my parents are buying their tickets to come down and spend time with me. I’ve missed my family greatly and it will be wonderful to have them around again. Hopefully, with them being here some of this pressure will go away and I’ll be okay with where I am in life.

 

 

 

In Loving Memory of Elizabeth Swift Timms

It’s Ali here, Elizabeth’s sister. Our family wanted to share with all her followers her obituary. Thank you for supporting her through her journey. We miss her so much and she will be forever in our hearts.

OBITUARY:

Elizabeth Swift Timms, 36, died on April 23 in Santiago, Chile after a six- year battle with metastatic breast cancer. She was born in Providence, RI, to David Euan and Sara Deidrick Timms and lived in Asheville, NC, before moving to Oak Ridge North, TX at age seven. She was a pioneer graduate of the John Cooper School in The Woodlands, TX where her parents were founding faculty members, and a 2003 graduate of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA where she majored in History and Spanish. She is pre-deceased by paternal grandparents, Sidney and Helena Eireen Timms of Reading, England, and her maternal grandfather, Elgin G. Deidrick, Sr. of Houston TX. Survivors include her husband, Jon Krumtinger of Towanda, IL and Santiago, Chile; maternal grandmother, Anne Melone Deidrick of Houston; sister Alison and husband Dustin Mitchell of Portland, OR; uncles Elgin Deidrick, Jr. of Houston and John Deidrick of Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and aunt Nancy and husband Steven Kosub of San Antonio; cousins Katherine and husband McCaleb Marshall of Houston, and Nathan Kosub and wife Elizabeth Oliphant of Albuquerque, NM.

Elizabeth, known by her friends as Eli, pursued a career in education, teaching history at Episcopal High School in Bellaire, TX and the Chadwick School in Los Palos Verdes, CA before heading overseas to teach in international schools with her husband, Jon, in Dalian, China, and Santiago, Chile. She and her husband were seasoned travelers who have visited all the continents except for Antarctica. Elizabeth was an accomplished pianist and chef and played collegiate soccer and participated in musical theater at Claremont Mckenna. She also enjoyed camping and reading.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, May 19th, at 2 PM at Pines Presbyterian Church, 12751 Kimberley, Houston, TX 77024. Elizabeth requested that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Metastatic Breast Cancer Research organization, Metavivor at metavivor.org

The Remarkable Fortune of Knowing and Exceptional Person

Preface: Eli is continuing to progress with her cancer. Life is starting to get very difficult for her but we have been pretty successful managing what needs to be managed. As part of this process I’ve decided to try to be a little like Eli as I try to figure out what this crazy world has given me.

The Remarkable Fortune of Knowing an Exceptional Person

An undeniable compulsion to share our unique experiences with life drives civilization. Through the grace of this obligation, the myriad forms of individual expression emerged. A writer reveals their language, the chef shares their palate, and an athlete demonstrates the incredible potential of the human body.

Eli drew heavily on these three forms of expression while she shared her experience with those who loved her, knew her, and found strength without them ever even meeting my remarkable wife. A perfectionist, often to a fault, Eli chose to disclose her impressions on life with illness though a series of creative acts. Her habit of filtering the world through a lens of ingenious beauty changed me forever.

After living for years with Eli, and watching her work on countless blog posts, I saw a pattern emerge: Every time she finished polishing a piece and published it, her spirits lightened. Her attitude improved starting with each final keystroke, and this sense of accomplishment meant some kind of reset to her emotional clock. I share my written thoughts today in hope of finding a similar feeling.

I must start by saying that Eli was not perfect. This is a strange way to start a blog about a person, but her blemishes are just as important as her bright spots. No marriage or person is without flaw but what was flawless, what was perfect, was how we loved each other. Love, I find, is the easiest place to start and it’s what we had the most off. We are very different people and we have opposite dispositions to many things, but in those dispositions we each found something we both lacked.

I always felt a bit of jealousy for how Eli let the world pull on her emotions. The depth of feelings she would have far surpassed what I could ever feel. Lying in bed we would stare into each other’s eyes, she would start to tear up and blubber out a heartfelt, “I love you so much.” All I could ever muster up was a gentile smile and a simple, “Too.” The spelling of this little adverb evolved into our way of saying, “I love you,” because I kept spelling too as to. She never had any tolerance for my questionable command of my native language.

I’ve always been guarded with my emotions, keeping as even-keeled as possible. Whether I did this out of some kind of fear or a desire to stay more permanently happy, I don’t know. But, what I do know now is that all of the pain is worth all of the love one can share. Share as much as you can. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!

Love and experiences are two of the three things that really matter to me. Life is visceral, and you gain little without a fearless commitment to contacting the unknown. Our fear, complacency, or indulging in the bliss of ignorance often stops us from truly coming into contact with the extraordinary fullness of the world. These things never slowed Eli in the slightest. This urgent need to leave her comfort zone attracted me immediately. Awed me by her knowledge of the globe, I couldn’t help but fall in line and join this quest to savor all.

The third thing that matters to me is that we take the time to appreciate what’s been given to us in this world. Only a few people outside of my family transformed the way I choose to live my life. These friends, mentors, teachers, and coaches communicated ideas in ways I never imagined before, and decided to always remember. I know their names, recall the dates, and have the distinct feeling of knowing life was one way before them, and altered ever since. This is not to say that I always understood that I had brushed up against an extraordinary person at the time. As time goes by, all I can do is consider my outstanding good luck for having met so many of these people. And, to continue to put you on a pedestal, you belong on the top of that list.

You touched so many people in this extraordinary capacity, and I am grateful without measure for our time together. I am proud to always call you my wife, my friend, my “Love Bug”. You’ve made my world develop in so many different ways, and I thank you for being in it. I wish we had more time to share in this Earth’s bounties, but I promise you that I’ll continue to try to be like you. I’ll be brave and open. I’ll eat great food and host many parties. I’ll live my life for the both of us.

Thank You, Thank You, A Million Times Thank You!

 

 

 

 

It’s That Time

Dear Everyone,

Unfortunately the time has come for me to write my this blog. Last week, on Tuesday, I went into the hospital to get an MRI on my brain. For about seven weeks things were becoming more and more difficult for me and Jon was worried. We met with our neurologist the week prior and he suggested that it would be a good idea to get the MRI and Dr. M agreed. I wasn’t really in a rush to get it but over that weekend I started to get confused easily and was starting to have some pain. So, Jon asked the doctors if they could hurry up the MRI and he scheduled it for Wednesday. On Tuesday, the clinic called and said they had a bed for me today and to get your butt here. So, we packed up and made our way to the hospital. We checked in and later that day we got our scan, but to get it they had to put me to sleep otherwise my tremors would ruin the image. At 7:30 in the evening I arrived back to my room happier than I’ve been in a long time. Jon told me that I ripped out my IV proclaiming that I’m done with the hospital, while blood squirted out of the wound. Julio, the fireman, was waiting for me outside the door, and there was a bunch of kids in the bathroom playing. Whatever they gave me was GREAT!!! I don’t know if Jon enjoyed it much, but at least I made him laugh.

On Wednesday, Dr. M came to see us in the late morning and told us the bad news. The cancer is growing and there are no more medical options available to me. At this point the goal is to make me as comfortable as possible. So, I got some new pills to help with my pain and they work most of the time. I still get really bad spells of pain but for most of the day I’m doing okay. I have problem using the toilet now so I have to be on a special diet that sucks. I hate being told I can’t eat something.

But what I hate the most is doing this, telling my friends that I’m not going to live much longer. It breaks my heart having to tell you and hearing the pain in your voices as you search for the words in response. But take comfort, I’m getting ready for the end. I’ve fought for almost six years and made the most out of my time. Jon and I ventured all over the world, I spent time with my family, and lived as best I could. I regret not having children with Jon and, frankly, not seeing everything this world has to offer. I wish I could see all my friends have their babies, especially my dearest friend Randi. I wish I could host one more party with all of my friends. I wish I could cook another meal with my mother, but alas, there is no more time for these things. All the time I have now is to say good-bye and wish you all happiness and peace. May you all spend your life as I did exploring the world, seeking new experiences, helping others and eating great food and drinking even better wine.

So the only thing I have left to say to you know is GOOD-BYE AND I LOVE YOU!

 

 

A Merry Cancer Christmas!

This Christmas holiday I’m feeling a bit like Scrooge. It’s been a very difficult couple of months and I just can’t quite seem to find my usual holiday spirit. Starting about three weeks ago Jon decided that it was time for him to go back to work and leave me at home to be hovered over, I mean watched, by a caregiver. Four months ago Jon was able to go to work and I’d busy my self watching a string of Netflix shows or, the greatest TV channel ever invented, HGTV. But, now, Jon say’s I can’t be home alone, so despite my opinion I’m being fussed over by Yessica, our caregiver.

Though I still think Jon is being mother hen, I have had some major changes occur. My cancer treatment over the past five years, but mostly the past two years, has taken a toll on me and continues to pile on its nasty side effects even as it shrinks my cancer. Now, according to the doctors, I more resemble a Parkinson’s patient with both resting and moving tremors. And Dr. M thinks many of these conditions won’t ever be improving.

The dogs are happy because food likes to fly off my fork more than it likes to go into my mouth. My kindle has a propensity to hit me face or make a mad dash for the floor. And, my bed shakes like the ones in an hourly motel room. On top of all this, my short-term memory seems to be failing me as evidenced by my rereading of this paragraph a hundred times. Plus, I have a knack for falling, due to the cancer in my cerebellum. My legs are covered with so many bruises that I look like a weird half human / Dalmatian breed. So thank you cancer treatment for your lovely Christmas presents.

With all these changes to the quality of my life, I can’t help feeling like this might be my last Christmas. And I miss my family! I miss our traditions. I wish I could see my father put on the “simpy” crown from his Christmas cracker. Or watch Elgin open the last present since he always seems to win the dice game. I would love to sit next to my mom and sister and play Christmas carols on the piano. But, most of all, I just want to spend another day with them watching everyone happily open their presents and feasting on another of Sara’s famous meals. Alas, this Christmas we will be here in Santiago hosting another orphan’s Christmas party filled with desserts, Christmas crackers (one tradition must live on), and, my favorite holiday game, white elephant gift exchange. Hopefully, this holiday extravaganza will ease my Christmas blues.

 So in the words of the Cratchets family, played formerly by Dad, Ali, and I, Tiny Tim would say, “God Bless us everyone!”

 

Mexico City Part Two : The Earthquake

Not two minutes before the big earthquake a few days ago, we had just finished a fabulous Street Food Tour run by a competent young chef working for the Eat Mexico Company. Most people don’t care enough to listen to the broken voice of the cancer girl in the wheelchair, but he took me seriously. I learned so much on the tour, ate some delicious food, and felt respected. The young chef had just finished his food tour and loaded us in a cab when the earthquake hit, two hours after everyone in Mexico had their mandatory Earthquake drill and had spilled out of their schools and offices to practice staying safe, a tradition they had kept since the Mexico’s deadliest earthquake of 1985.  The taxi driver carefully backed out into the lane while trying to safely deliver us to our hotel. As the taxi backed up the earthquake intensified. Now I’ve been through much bigger earthquakes in Santiago but due to the modern, earthquake-proof buildings, and the subductive fault lines found in the Andes, the terremoto in Mexico felt quite powerful and dangerous. Since Mexico City is built on a lake, the earthquake just grew bigger and bigger until we were just jumping around in the cab. Eventually the cabbie skillfully backed the car into the middle of the road, while Jon and I  watched the electrical wires to make sure no live wires fell on our taxi. Mom was scouring the buildings ahead of us and above us and noticed that a building, later identified as a school, was swaying ten feet in every direction. Mom promptly shoots, “That buildings going to collapse!”

Debris fell all around us, but we weren’t hit, not even by a leaf. All the students made it out safely and the building stayed in tact, even though there were chunks of stucco and foundation missing, all the way down to the rebar in some places. Although we weren’t right by the epicenter, we were in a neighborhood that was hit pretty badly, la Rosa. We had no idea where we were, but the cabbie left us in a public park and confidently proclaimed that we would be safe here. He was right!   The streets became a sea of humanity as people poured out of buildings to check on loved ones. Since I had lost my phone and both mom and Jon didn’t have their phones on them, communication was a little lacking. Sorry, folks for the unnecessary worry!

Our hotel ceiling played a starring role in the recent Bond movies, and was made of stained glass from Tiffanys, which luckily wasn’t damaged by the earthquake. However, there was damage throughout the building that prevented readmission into the building, even though I had my cancer pills in the hotel. The policemen and firemen were nice enough to go back in and get them for us, since I need the pills to stay alive.   As we looked up, we saw the neighboring Dr. Martens building with some serious foundational cracks in it, We figured then that we weren’t getting back into our hotel and we never did. The Gran Hotel put us up in another hotel, which was just big enough to fit three twin beds in it, one for each of us. The next day we went back to the hotel and again we denied admittance onto the property, so a begrudged staff worker made his way up to our room to pack all of our stuff. By pack I mean jam everything into a bag, smash it shut, and zip it up if possible. Needless to say, items were forgotten.  In the end, I survived an earthquake, lost some personal items and electronics, saw chaos and perseverance, missed some attractions, ate great food, and had an amazing trip with one hell of a story that only the luckiest unlucky girl could tell!

 

 

Mexico City : Part One

Mexico City: Part One

Dieciocho, the week of the eighteenth of September, is Chile’s version of Spring break, and their National Holiday. The sun starts to appear in the sky, making it a little too hot to wear sweaters, the birds begin to sing early in the morning, and Chileans don their huaso outfits, eat empanadas, and dance the cueca, Chile’s national dance. It also marks the beginning of a weeklong exodus from the city to go on vacation to celebrate Chile’s independence from Spain.

We’d heard, from just about everyone that had been, that Mexico City was an absolutely amazing travel destination, and a must-see for anyone living in the Americas. I had booked tickets with LATAM airlines and was looking into their wheelchair policy when the first bit of unluckiness occurred. Unbeknownst to us, anyone with a cancer diagnosis needs to get a doctor’s approval to ride a plane, due to the altitude. So, we talked to one of our newer doctor’s, Dra G. to see her thoughts on our travel plans. After we shared our itinerary the Dra started with a very uncomfortable hemming and hawing that left us both feeling very unconfident in getting approval to go on this trip. Luckily, Dra. MLA, our therapist, talked to Dra G and demanded that we go on this trip. All the doctors who have known me the longest understand and appreciate that a bit of travel always makes me feel better, so our days of worry ended and our final preparations for Mexico City began.

Little did we know that we had also chosen to travel to Mexico City during Mexico’s national holiday. As a result of us getting into town when we did, we got to see a lot of cultural festivities and even take part in a few family games! The unlucky part of the story is that the roads to the center of the city were so crowded no taxi drivers would take us to our hotel in the Zocalo. We had paid extra for our transfer for a handicapped, private truck from the airport and yet no one would take us to the city center due to a belief that it would be impossible to get us within ten blocks of our hotel. They told us to come back in an hour, and when we did, they laughed, and told us they would take us in four, no three, hours.   We were finally taken to our hotel a few hours later after mom had already spent close to 24 hours at the airport. She stayed there overnight in the airport hotel in order to help us with our bags, as Jon had asked her to help out. Of course we experienced hardly any traffic issues on the way to the zocalo, as the taxi drivers had promised.

The next evening we watched the Independence Day festivities from a rooftop bar over-looking the main historic plaza, with mango margaritas in hand. They were, hands down, the best drink we had all vacation and much needed after a long day of walking. We spent the day dawdling around the Zocalo looking into the grand cathedral and the presidential palace to see the Diego Rivera murals, leisurely checking off a few items on Eli’s extensive itinerary.

The following day we journeyed to the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan where the next bit of unluckiness hit. While I watched mom and Jon eagerly sprint up the pyramids trying to get a picture from every possible angle, I tried to take my own photographs with my precious iphone. Unfortunately, the vibrations from the wheelchair jimmied the phone out of my pocket and into some lucky person’s hand. Our guide pushed me back towards the scene of the crime and sympathetically paraded me in front of the vendors as he kindly asked if anyone had seen a pink iphone. When all was said and done, we left Teotihuacan with limited means of communication with family and friends who we were coming to see me, sore legs, and some pretty bad sun burns.