Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Three Weeks

We are three weeks since Susan departed for her new home.  We have cried many tears and also laughed and smiled many times.  Tan keeps us amused and busy, his little mouth does not stop now and I asked Paul the age old question tonight "is there an echo in here."   There will be many opportunities for posts and musings later, but I wanted to publish a photo memorial that Huy put together.  He used many of the photos that we cherish and I think you will appreciate this tribute.
http://youtu.be/dP43PumoxnE

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

SUSAN R. COMEAU-NGUYEN
4/8/71  - 11/27/2012

Susan R. Comeau-Nguyen, age 41,  peacefully slipped into eternal life on November 27, 2012.   She bravely fought a three year battle with cancer with faith, courage, and determination to overcome.  She died at home, surrounded by her family who with joy and tears released her into the arms of God.   We are thankful that Susan can now R.I.P - “Rejoice in Paradise” for eternity. 
Susan was born in Fairfield, Maine, on April 8, 1971 to Paul and Rebecca Comeau.  She attended schools in Maine and Texas, and graduated from Belfast (Maine) Area High School in 1989.   After a time of traveling and working, she found herself in Colorado Springs where she graduated from the University of Colorado Springs with a Masters in Community Counseling.  She established a counseling practice in which she applied her talents and compassion assisting people to overcome the fears and sorrows that held them back.  She took particular satisfaction in mastering Spanish and being able to assist clients who spoke that language.   Susan was an alumna of Pathways Core Training and derived much satisfaction from that program and the people she encountered through that experience.  Right up until her final moments, she was actively working by arranging for immigration paperwork and soliciting Christmas presents for a disadvantaged family.  She was a constant advocate for the disenfranchised, the victim, and the hurting.  Along the way, she enjoyed living or traveling to Iceland, Germany, Spain, Mexico, and home to Maine as often as possible.  Susan had a thirst for life, a positive attitude, and an unstoppable joy of living that rubbed off on everyone who came in contact with her.  
Susan is survived by her husband, Huy Nguyen of Colorado Springs, and her beloved son, Tan Michael Paul Nguyen, age 3.  She is also survived by her parents of Colorado Springs and Florida;  sister, Tracey Rich and husband Joe, and soon-to-be-born niece Rebecca Ann of Auburn, Maine; her brother, Scott Comeau of Manchester, New Hampshire;  maternal grandparents, Paul and Lucille Audet of Sidney, Maine;  maternal aunts and uncles, and many cousins.  She was predeceased by her grandmother, Elaine Comeau, and beloved uncle, Michael Comeau.  It would be impossible to list the innumerable people that considered Susan a true and constant friend.  Susan was a self-avowed “people collector” and once that relationship was established, it remained for life.  One of the “blessings” of her cancer diagnosis and treatments, she said, were the many new friends that came into her life.  She was a friend, confidant, and counselor to many and her wisdom and love will be missed. 

The family would like to extend our appreciation to Dr. Carmen Matei and her associates, as well as the entire staff of Rocky Mountain Cancer Center for their caring and compassionate expertise.   
In keeping with Susan’s wishes and in lieu of flowers, accounts have been established with several Microloan foundations in Susan’s name.  Microloans are small loans given to selected entrepreneurs in impoverished nations to assist them in financing their plan for ending the cycle of poverty and having a better life.  When the small loans are repaid, the funds are then loaned to others.  In this way, Susan’s legacy of helping will live on indefinitely all over the world and help hard-working people achieve freedom from hunger and want.  Memorial gifts may be directed to Rebecca Comeau, 4801 Daybreak Circle S, Colorado Springs, 80917, these funds will be applied to the “Susan R. Comeau-Nguyen Freedom Fund” through Kiva or Zidisha.  For more information on the impact of microloans, please see www.Zidisha.org.

Susan asked that no services be held.  Instead, friends and family are encouraged to spend an hour or more ‘paying it forward’ and doing an extravagantly generous act of kindness or service either intentional or random  for someone in need, whether stranger or friend.  Please let us know how these acts blessed someone so we can detail the results on Susan’s blog and inspire others to live and give sacrificially as Susan did.  The blog address is www.ourjourneytogether-susan.blogspot.com. 

 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Greatest Gift



One of the side effects of our living in Colorado and so far from my natural family in Maine was their inability to help us.  Oh, we got the calls and cards and gifts by mail, but the eye contact, hugs, and arms around the shoulders were not possible.  We were struggling alone and they knew it.

We played the balancing act of trying to keep them informed but truthfully, it was hard for them to perceive just how disabled Susan was because her posts, blogs, and phone calls were always so positive.  She was absolutely going to beat this and live to a ripe, old age and wouldn't ever consider the alternatives.  And that was the message she delivered.

My sister Eve had mentioned to me that when we were at the end and needed help, she would take a week vacation and come to Colorado.  And then, we got an idea.  She had some time, I had some Southwest credits and found a reasonable flight from Boston.  We discussed if it was too soon? Should she wait and come later when Susan was at the very end and help was more needed? But she and Joe decided that it was best to come while Susan was still pretty good and could enjoy a visit.  So it was done and Evie was coming to Colorado on Saturday, November 17th (Thanksgiving Week) and leaving a week later on Nov 24th.   She had a long day getting from Burnham to Boston, then a long flight and then the drive from Denver to Colorado Springs.  Terri, our upstairs neighbor insisted on picking her up and Evie dragged through the door about 11pm.  She was exhausted but with us safe and sound.

Evie was brainstorming what to do while with us, how to make her time count.  We discussed that Susan was deep
ly into reminiscing and story telling.  She wanted to hear about the lives of those she loved and hear their stories.  So we did a good bit of that and Evie bought some arts and crafts do do with us. She brought the beginnings of a wall quilt with painted hand prints; a book for Tan, and fresh energy.  Mostly Evie brought strength, stability, perspective, and support to our exhausted and sad little family,  She did errands with me, lots of dishes; and organized my cupboards and closets with an admonition to keep them that way,  Her experience in lifting and turning disabled persons was enormously helpful as Susan was so helpless at that point and everything we did was difficult. Even meeting her physical needs and tasks so simple as changing the bed were complicated.  Evie pitched in with cheerfulness and as I said before, fresh energy,  We did get out to the Garden of the Gods and Glen Eyrie for part of an afternoon.  I was happy to show Evie part of the beauty of the region.  It was a good week.

Thanksgiving was an adventure but not especially in the good sense.  We got the dinner cooking and we all decided that Susan would get dressed and up and out of bed for part of the day.  That took unbelievable amount of effort and when we got her out to the living room she wanted to eat.  Then. So weI fixed her a plate and she did the best she could.  We got dinner on the table for us and just sat down to eat when she needed to go back to bed. Then. So, we left our dinner and got her to bed and brought our plates into the bedroom to be with her.  It was all good.

Friday, we got a visit from the Hospice physician who spent some time reviewing Susan's records and did a physical assessment.  He frankly felt that she was in reasonable condition.  We were managing her well, keeping her nourished and hydrated and meeting all of her physical needs as well as we could.  Evie and I sat in the living room with him and he stated that if all went well, we could hope she would be with us through Christmas. We accepted that word with just that - hope.  But it wasn't to be.

Evie left on the next day, Saturday.  Headed back to Maine in another long, exhausting travel day, Terri insisted on driving her back to the Denver airport and in exchange for that effort, I made her a chocolate meringue pie.  Evie mentioned to Terri something to the effect that leaving like that (knowing she would never see Susan again) was one of the most difficult thing she had ever done. It was truly bittersweet for each of us.

Evie thoughts were prophetic as Susan died only three days later yet even then we were blindsided by how swiftly it happened at the end.  I was stunned at how timely her visit was and how important it was that she listened to that little voice and made the trip when she did.  I was likewise stunned at how her trip, travel and time bolstered us and in no small way gave us a shot of courage just when we needed it most.  Evie's presence at our darkest and saddest time was the greatest gift I have ever received.  I will always be grateful for my loving and giving sister,



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Party Time - October 20, 2012

During the fight of our lives, one of the facts that Susan took great satisfaction in was that she had beaten all of the dire predictions.  In truth, the predictions about life expectancy or prognosis were shielded from us.  Dr. Matai and her team simply didn’t go there, ever.  I think I can understand this (I could be wrong) but I believe they don’t like to give false hope – or squelch true hope.  Much is written about how patients with truly serious disease can beat it and how the power of prayer, ferocious will to live, and an unstoppable positive spirit can be as or more beneficial than the toxic poisons they pump in. 

So, coming up on the third anniversary of the weekend that changed our lives, Susan announced that it was party time!   A celebration was in order to commemorate three years of living with and thus beating the cancer that had changed our lives.  And so, Susan being Susan, she took control and planned a party!!


First of all, the menu.  She vetoed my offer of cooking and said that we were all taking the day off.  She googled the menu at Texas Roadhouse and promptly ordered pulled pork; cornbread, beans, salads and all of her favorite sides.  Next, the guest list; all of the folks and family who had stood by her through all of these days.  Jimmy, Marilyn, Terri, Chris, Jan and Roger were invited and those who could joined Paul and I, Huy and Tan and enjoyed the victorious afternoon.  It didn’t matter that the disease was probably winning.  It didn’t seem important that Susan sat in her wheelchair for the party.  On this Saturday afternoon in October 2012, we declared victory and celebrated.  We celebrated loss and gain, new friends, new perspectives, deeper faith, appreciation for family and friends, a wonder child, laughter and joy, but mostly, we celebrated Susan!!   

Everyone should throw themselves a party from time to time!!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

People Collecting

My son Tan is a friendly three year old who loves people.  So much so, he is quick to hug, stroke or touch others as he hasn't learned "boundaries" yet.  He refers to his groups as his "people," as if he does in fact own them, and in his way he does.  He operates in this community, as much as the rest of us.  He teaches me so much about interacting with our community and I like to remind myself to be sure my boundaries don't become excuses to with hold loving touches from those who need them.

One thing you may not know about me is that I am an avid craigslister.  I am commonly greeted with questions about my purchases or sales.  People suspect I love a bargain, who doesn't?  I think though, that I got hooked by the amazing people, I was given the gift, of meeting on that day for that reason.

I purchased a gift today on craigslist and the owner brought it to me.  Your not gonna get a lot offers from sellers to deliver on a $10 purchase so this was special.   The world is full of kind and generous people you can find them everywhere.

One day, Dad and I were chasing down an electrolux vacuum, when we met Morris.  He gave us a tour of his home and related the history of  it and local things.  Longest sale of a vacuum on record.  Just kidding.  It was the most fun any of the three of us had in awhile and we all said so.  Have you ever wanted to check out those bungalows downtown?  I had an appointment, so we had to leave sooner than we wanted, so sadly we made unkept promises to return and left.  I just have to reiterate it was hands down...most fun purchase of all time and the treat was meeting Morris.

Susan

Friday, September 14, 2012

Happy Birthday

Every now and again you meet someone who is so special you know they are your life to stay.  I didn't know this about JP at first but I knew I wanted it so.  I fell in love with JP and her entire family.  They are close knit, like my own family, but they are loud and funny and full of life.

Today, I would like to wish her a Happy Birthday.  You are a wonderful friend.  I appreciate your generosity, your concern and your ever listening ear.  You are a kind woman who has seen your share of sorrow.  I pray that God will reward you with quiet, happy days from this point on.

I pray you will be a part of my life for a long, happy time.  I sincerely love you from the bottom of my heart.

video provided to gift you with a smile...He loves you too!

Susan
It is only when you despair of all ordinary means, it is only when you can convince it that it must help you or you perish, that the seed of life in you stirs itself to provide a new resource.                                 Robert Collier

Saturday, September 8, 2012

When Bad News Arrives


It seems that in this life there are to be tests, trials and tribulations.  I know you are having yours, just as I am having mine.  It is how we handle them that defines us as people, in my opinion.  I think I have given readers and friends the misconception that I handle things well, better than most, but I don't.

When I first receive bad news, I like to reserve a day or two for sulking. I find it helpful to mope, cry, vent, and get it out as thoroughly as possible.  Next, I go into problem solving or acceptance mode.  Finally, I return to a more public life and work on keeping my attitude focused on the positive.

It is true, that I feel a great peace in my spirit.  I attribute this to my prayer life, faith, and my belief in Heaven.  I am complimented often on my attitude and my ever present smile.  Please know that these are accomplished with a fair amount of maintenance.  It does not come naturally. 

Susan

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Homesick

Today must have been a nice day in Maine because my relatives were at camp on China Lake and pictures were posted on Face book.  The lake was as smooth as glass and they were taking the boat out.  The kids were swimming and the adults were visiting and I would have loved to be there.

As I remain home bound and bed bound, I think a lot about where I would like to go and what I would do.  Sometimes. I invite my mother and we plan a whole day.  I have a steady supply of visitors who come to cheer me.  I am so grateful for that, so much better to visit live and in person.  I am going to love "in person", whenever I can, once I am on my feet.  I wince, when I remember how many times I promised to stop by, call or meet someone for lunch but didn't.

If you have an opportunity to see your extended family take advantage.  Family relationships are fragile and can get lost or damaged easily.  I recently missed out on seeing cousins I haven't seen since I was a teenager.  We grow up and spread out, go to college, move to dream locations and then we are broke and don't come home for awhile.  I hope to change this for me and my son.  I need to get back on my feet and get home more often.  I cannot walk at the moment but this gives me motivation to do my daily excercising to facilitate this so I can.

God Bless You All!!

Susan

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Wheelchair

My wheel chair was stolen out of the hospital while I was having a procedure done.  It was not a hospital chair, but a loaner from a dear friend.  When we got ready to leave, we were horrified at this discovery, as were the hospital staff who promised to find it and return it to us.

Life is full of ups and downs, and I suppose that this wheelchair symbolizes that for me.  I never wanted to be a forty year old woman in a wheelchair but I can't get around without it so I am grateful for it. I am working with a Physical Therapist to recover my leg strength and walk unassisted again.  I am making progress and hope to put this one away again real soon.

Sometimes, it is not how you get there but the journey itself that is important.  Every once and awhile, it is how you get there.  I can assure you that God didn't let us suffer long with the heavy hospital wheelchair.  He provided us with a similar used transport chair and then returned the original back to us. I have been incredibly supported by so many people, which is represented, by the way the chair holds me physically and carries me to where I need to go as I recover.

Other times, or, and also, it is the journey.  I am learning about friendship, health, navigating the medical health system, communication, patience and so on and so forth.  You may call me amazing for having a good attitude in times of crisis but I will continue to shrug you off.  I have to focus on the tasks at hand.  I don't want to waste any energy on something that will detract from my success and my outcome.  For now, whether I be working physically, spiritually, or otherwise, I am working on learning what I am meant to learn. So, that I may proceed on to what may be a more pleasant aspect of this journey and I will try to maintain a good attitutude.  There are plenty of bad attitude days as well. 

This is the wheelchair that was taken and returned.  I had the photo taken in the flower garden my upstairs neighbor planted for me to cheer my window.

Susan

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Secondary Diagnosis

On May 3, I had a Doctors appointment and learned I have leptomengial disease, which means my cancer has spread to my brain.  I had a heads up on May 1 because I had a MRI and Dr. Matei  called me a couple hours following my procedure.  When I did finally see her she told me that to diagnosis this kind of cancer was hard to do and that the prognosis is very poor.  2-4 months with out treatment and with treatment possibly up to a year.

Sadly, the most devastating thing she said was that I was retiring that day,  I had clients scheduled and would have to cancel them.  How do you cancel a whole caseload without warning?  I'm s,orry so and so  I wont be seeing you today or ever again.  Although what came next was also upsetting she sent me to Penrose hospital for a spinal tap collection of fluid and intrathecal spinal tap chemortherapy which has now turned to 7 procedures.

I am now receiving the intrathecal chemotherapy directly into my brain through my Ommaya at Rocky Mountain Cancer Center.  I had surgery on May 30 to place the Ommaya port in my head.

Susan

Thursday, May 31, 2012

My delicious morning



Coffee is a beautiful ritual to tell yourself ...I love you. To hear it brewing, smell it and anticipate it are so much fun. My favorite part is preparing the blonde and sweetness aspect and stirring it all in...such an event. Then sipping til it cools just til perfect. And if you could see the view I have from my hospital bed of the city and mountains you would be jealous of me. Garden of the Gods is perfectly framed in the window. I'm having a lovely morning.

Cheers!

Susan

Thursday, May 24, 2012

St Patrick's Breastplate Prayer

 I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever.

By power of faith, Christ's incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;

I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet 'well done' in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors' faith, Apostles' word,

The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.


I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.


I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,

The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.


Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.


Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,
Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,

Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.


I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dear family and friends,
 
this week we reached a milestone in Susan’s battle with breast cancer. She was diagnosed with Leptomeningeal carcinoma which started as involvement of the lining of the spinal cord and brain and has now spread to the brain itself.
 
The symptoms are numerous and include problems with balance, dizziness, loss of sensation in her feet and hands, and on and on. The treatment includes both direct chemo injected into her spinal canal and radiation to the whole brain daily last week and this week. The treatments themselves are difficult and have many side effects.
 
Her prognosis for survival has been shortened although we still affirm that God will have the last word on this. The escalation of her disease has now required that she close her private counseling practice and retire. Susan has been an effective and compassionate practitioner and has enabled scores of patients to move forward again in their lives in a constructive and positive way. She will still be available by phone and email to some degree and we are thankful for that.
 
We are hunkering down for battle and covet your prayers and concern. On a more practical matter, many have asked what they can do, or expressed that they want to help. I asked Susan’s permission to post this so here is the long and short of it for those of you who are sincere in your offer. Susan has some credit card and other debt that she has been struggling to pay off. She has gotten behind due to her inability to work and is starting to get those collection phone calls. We have started a fund to settle these debts and take this load off her shoulders. To put it plainly, instead of sending the $4.99 Hallmark card, send her the $4.99 instead, with a little handwritten note of care and encouragement.
 
God bless you all for your continued support and prayer,
 
Becky Comeau
 
 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Suffering

Guest Blog Written By Jo

Susan’s Christmas post on this blog was an honest cry from a brave and faithful woman who was suffering.  I know that she’s had many difficult days since that post.  How do we come to grips with suffering, our own and others’?

 Like Susan and Becky and many of you, I am blessed to have been raised by parents of a courageous faith.  Amazing friends who bear witness to their trust in God surround me. I have been with many in their suffering—family, friends and precious patients in my hospice career.  Faith and suffering are hardly strangers to each other.

 I have just come from my regular visit with my great friend (since we were 18) Mac.  Godfather to my son, Mac was a healthy, vigorous pillar of his church when for reasons we will never know, he suffered a massive stroke three years ago.  Today, as other days, I wiped food from his face, rearranged his paralyzed limbs and combed his hair. We talk about old times, but he is easily tearful and confused.  He is in pain. He will never be able to leave a nursing facility.

 I went from the nursing home to meet up with his wife, my college roommate and still my best friend, Jane, in the home where she and Mac raised my godchild; Jane usually takes a break from the visit schedule that is her life when she knows I am at the facility. While she got ready for us to go out and grab a bite, I pondered a photograph on her wall that I took during one of our many combined family vacations.  We were on the North Carolina Outer Banks, and the picture shows an outdoor shower stall at our rented house near the beach.  You can see two sets of feet that face each other, just visible at the bottom of the stall.  Mac and Jane.  The caption I had inscribed on that framed picture was “Whither thou goest, I will go.” It was funny at the time.  Now, during our dinner, I listened to Jane’s struggles as I do most every day -- how those words from the Book of Ruth are now lived out in her life.

 I have no answer for why people suffer. I cared for my parents through excruciating suffering. (I remember wanting to bite the head off a chaplain intern who preached in the hospital chapel, where my dad was dying of brain cancer, that “if you aren’t getting better, your faith is lacking.”)  I saw two of my children through mental illness—one of them suicidal and hospitalized off and on for years—as a result of childhood sex abuse.  I have held, and listened to, the prayers of my brothers and sisters in faith as part of my church’s prayer ministry.  I am about to check in on another great friend who last week heard the diagnosis of malignant melanoma.  It’s a mystery, all this pain. But here’s what I believe.

 Suffering is part of our human condition, be it physical, emotional or spiritual.  I don’t know why some get more or less, better or worse.  But I know that God does not will it, and I believe God cries for us.  Sometimes, in prayer, I think I can almost hear God crying.

 Many people share their “wisdom” on suffering: I read that “suffering is God’s megaphone to a deaf world.” What an awful thing to say.  A god who slams us, his children, with pain and suffering to get our attention is not the God of love I know and worship. We are not guaranteed earthly safety, clarity, or no pain.  We are promised, with a love that outlasts everything, that we are never alone. (You and I are part of that promise when we choose to be present for others.)

 I believe in an incarnate, fully human Jesus that was far more than a lovely painting.  He was oppressed and afflicted, “a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.”  Like you and Susan and Mac and me. There is no difficult place we can be where Jesus has not been.

 I do believe in miracles and have seen them.  I don’t know why some people get them and some people don’t.  If I really understood, then they wouldn’t be miracles.  But I know that miracles come in all sizes and shapes, and sometimes we don’t recognize them.

 We do not suffer to learn a lesson, but we can sometimes learn something new because of it.  Viktor Frankl was a concentration camp survivor who struggled to make sense of what happened to his family, became a noted psychologist and author. “Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning,” observed Frankl. And that meaning is not why it happened, it is what we might do with it.  My daughter found meaning from her years of profound illness by becoming an amazing ICU nurse-specialist, intimately present for the most frightened and most ill.  I found meaning in my losses by dedicating my work to improving care of the very sick.  Susan has found meaning in continuing her counseling to ease the pain of others, even as she experiences her own pain.  And she endures to be a Mom.

It’s all a mystery that I hold up to God every day. And even though I can’t be clear on the answer, I know I am heard, and I know the answer is there but out of my sight. I choose to take comfort in the belief that all will be well through God’s love.

I claim that all will be well with Susan.

Jo

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Well Wishes From A Dear Friend

Dear Susan,
You are on my heart, love you. Ride out your storm, you been in this storm, it seems like forever and your night of confusion has been oh so long .you ship has lost anchor, and the storms have you drifting, on this morning come ride out the storm, God's right there with you, though may not feel him, but you are not alone hold on to Jesus .

AR