Melanie Beard Kau 1965-2011

December 21, 2011 marked the peaceful passing of Melanie Beard Kau after an eighteen month battle with cancer.  Despite the challenges associated with her illness, she remained loving, patient, and filled with gratitude. She fulfilled her earthly mission surrounded by family, having touched many by her strong faith and courageous example.

Melanie was born on February 24, 1965 in Murray, Utah to Melvin and Margaret Beard.  She was raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and graduated from Upper Dublin High School in 1983. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Fashion Merchandising in 1987.

On September 5, 1987 she married her childhood sweetheart Jonathan Kau in the Salt Lake Temple. Her legacy includes four exceptional children and 24 memorable years as a devoted wife, mother, sister, and friend.  She encouraged her family’s involvement in art, sports, music, and church and could be relied upon for her laughter and enthusiasm.  She was an avid runner and derived great pleasure from the rigors of a race or freedom of an open trail.  She was beautiful, outgoing, energetic, unpretentious, and developed her own classy sense of style.  She will continue as a role model of modesty and virtue to her daughters and the young women she loved to serve.

She is survived by her husband Jonathan and four children, Keala, Kalani, Kai, and Kawena; sisters Chalice (Jim) Carpenter, Phoenix, AZ; Kim (Tim) Pannell, Provo, UT; DeLite (Carl) Clegg, Netcong, NJ; Collette (Carter) Tobin , Williston, ND; Michelle (Richard) Maxwell, Phoenix, AZ; Heidi (Adam) Barrett, Litchfield Park, AZ; and brothers Joseph Beard (Melissa), Phoenix, AZ; Todd Beard (Vicki), Tropic, UT; and Aaron Beard, Cedar City, UT. She is preceded in death by her parents Melvin and Margaret who were sure to welcome her in a heavenly reunion.

The family wishes to thank the many neighbors and friends who were so attentive to Melanie’s care and comfort, as well as the professionals at Integrative Medical Associates, Intermountain Healthcare, Utah Valley Cancer Center, and Alpine Home Care & Hospice.

There will be a viewing from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 28 at the Berg Mortuary, 185 East Center Street, Provo, and again from 9:30-10:30 a.m., Thursday, December 29, 2011 at the Edgemont Stake Center, 303 West 3700 North, Provo.  Funeral Services will start at 11:00am.  Interment: East Lawn Cemetery.

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A Gift of Love

We thought we would have Melanie for at least two more months, but unfortunately she did not make it two weeks. Melanie passed away peacefully on Wednesday morning, December 21. She was surrounded by her family and sent onward with tearful expressions of gratitude for a life well lived and faith in eternal families.

Although our grief would seem to cast a shadow over the upcoming holiday, I have determined that this Christmas will be richer and deeper because of Melanie’s example and gift of love. She remained steadfast in her testimony of Christ and taught me daily to see, feel, and share His love for us.

Thank you for loving Melanie and providing hope and encouragement during her sojourn of suffering. She was valiant to the end and through it our family has been stretched transformed. We know that Melanie’s extended life was a gift, as was the adversity that framed the last 18 months. Through it all, we are humbled and know it is through family relationships that we experience the greatest joy and accomplish what is most important in life.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good “fight”.

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A Time for Courage

For any of you still out there who have endured many weeks of “radio silence”, here is the latest update on Melanie’s condition. Sorry about the extended absence. This blog was a way for Melanie to document the course of her personal journey and make meaning of her experience. I have not been able to maintain it with the same consistency or level of introspection.  Nevertheless, thank you for your continued interest in our family’s welfare and unfailing support through this time of adversity.

We learned on Friday that the cancer has progressed in Melanie’s liver. Although the cancer in the lungs and bones has remained stable, in insidious and inexorable fashion, new cancer lesions have developed on both the left and right lobes of her liver. As a result, Melanie’s condition is now more serious and it is unlikely that further treatment will be able to resolve the spread of metastatic disease in her liver.

We are now transitioning to hospice care to attend to Melanie’s needs and comfort. It is a great blessing that she is not experiencing pain or nausea and remains loving and alert. At this point there is no time frame for the future and we do not know what to fully anticipate with regard to changes in her health. Thus, it is a time for courage for our family, as well as a time for reflection and gratitude for a beautiful life.

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Changes with Fall

With the coming of the fall season have also come some changes in Melanie’s routine and support. She spent a few days in the hospital on September 12-14 due to her being undernourished and dehydrated. As noted in previous posts, she continues to have difficulties swallowing which effects her ability to take in and keep down solid food and liquids. It was determined that a feeding tube would be the best option to make sure she was receiving proper calorie and nutrition intake.

The nose tube was pretty miserable. Nothing like have a tube irritating the back of your throat when you have a sensitive gag reflex to begin with. She actually had to have 3 different tubes inserted over a 4 day period. The first one slipped out when she leaned forward in the hospital. The second one become clogged with medication and had to be removed because her husband did not flush the line with enough water (I am learning how to be a better home medical assistant). The third time was part of the surgical procedure to have a more permanent stomach tube/port “installed.” The nose line allowed them to puff up the stomach with air and have a way to feed her until the stomach tube was “operational.” The stomach tube has turned out to be a workable option and Melanie is now taking in about 1500 calories a day via a “Fibersource” formula.

Another fall adjustment has been the use of a disability placard when we take Melanie to the hospital, doctor’s office, or her occasional visit to Costco. While it has been a pleasant and helpful option when taking Melanie out and about, it is also a “reality check” on  her current physical condition and how the disease and treatment have taken a toll. It is a regular reminder of how different life is, but we are grateful for the assistance it provides.

Melanie continues to be in good spirits and deals with her current situation with grace and patience. She continues to enjoy visits from friends and family. Elisha Daines, a dear friend from her teenage years extended her visit to Provo from Wisconsin to spend more time with Melanie. We also enjoyed visits from her sisters Chalice (AZ), Collette & endurance athlete Carter (ND), and Michelle with Gray and Tanner (AZ).

The ongoing support from neighbors and ward members is outstanding and has been a great blessing to our family. You never know what a difference a clean house and clean laundry can make until you realize how you have just been getting by. Also, having people  sitting with Melanie and being there for her is a great comfort and relief. It is amazing what happens when the caring and compassion from so many is put into motion. Not to mention that it has been sustained for over the past 15 months.

While we may not know what the future may hold, we are grateful for all of the help we are receiving along the journey. We anticipate many changes this fall season, and continue to hope for the best.

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Two Doctor Visits

Wednesday Melanie visited Dr. Lloyd at the Utah Valley Eye Center. We were concerned about her filmy eye, blurry vision and uneven pupil dilation. Thankfully, the exam determined that her overall eye health/vision is still very good and that the optic nerve does not appear to have been compromised by previous radiation treatments. However, there has been nerve damage on the right side of her face which affects muscle movement and sensation. As a result, her right eye lid is not closing completely (which Melanie is unaware of because she can’t feel it) and her eye has become overly dry and irritated. We are relieved that it is not more serious and can be taken care of with some gel drops to lubricate and relieve dryness. The uneven pupil dilation is also a nerve issue, but it does not affect her vision. The right side of her face is numb and a little droopy (eye and mouth), but we are told that nerves paths can grow back over time.

On Friday, Melanie visited Dr. Ross at the Utah Valley Pulmonary Clinic. He was very kind to squeeze her into his busy schedule on short notice. Melanie has been experiencing shortness of breath, chest congestion and coughing, which often triggers a gag reflex, which in turn leads to her throwing up. We all get a little nervous when she starts coughing and have had to place plastic bins strategically around the house for quick retrieval. When she eats or drinks everything seems to go down the wrong pipe. Swallowing pills (of which there are about 28 @ day) is a trial because it can trigger a coughing fit. At night when she reclines, her breathing can also become raspy.

For these reasons, her oncologist Dr. Rich recommended she visit with Dr. Ross to see if there was fluid or any other difficulties in the lungs. Thankfully, her lungs are clear and oxygen levels good. As a precaution, Dr. Ross ordered an EKG test to see how her heart was doing and confirm that fluid was not building up around the heart. The results have not been reported to us, but we remain optimistic and hopeful that Melanie is making a slow but steady recovery.

Friends and neighbors have continued to be wonderful with their kind visits and service. We appreciate all the thoughtful gestures and encouraging support.

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Happy 24th Anniversary

We celebrated Jon’s birthday and our 24th wedding anniversary with a candle light “banana split”party on our back patio. Thanks to Kim Pannell for scoopin’ it up and making it such a memorable and “sweet” party.

Love and Ice Cream

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Thoughts on Faith

I am truly amazed & my faith is strengthened as I see the power of the human spirit to overcome, & even thrive in the midst of seemingly insurmountable trials. I see friends and neighbors who struggle daily and are brought through trials by exercising faith.

I love the scripture in Luke 22: 31-32. Jesus is talking to his disciples, but to all of us as well, when He says, “Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat: But, I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: & when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

What a comfort it is to know that our Savior is praying for us. In His Wisdom, He also recognized the power in each of us to pray and care for each other. Our trials can make us stronger and qualify us to perform the second part of this scripture which is to strengthen our brethren (and sisters). This is what I see in our Relief Society. I see my friends and neighbors reach out to each other in times of trial and support and love one another. I am so grateful for the sisters in this ward who constantly strengthen me. My faith is increased, and I know I can make it through difficult trials because of your examples of faith…another tender mercy from the Lord.

The above quote is something that Melanie actually wrote for a ward relief society publication in 2007. It illustrates the gospel foundation that has sustained her throughout her faith-promoting, as well as “faith-requiring” experiences of the past year. The love and support of her fellow sisters and friends that she refers to has also held true and firm. Charity never faileth.

Melanie had forgotten she had even submitted this particular message, until it was brought to her attention recently by Relief Society President, Julie Woffinden. Maybe we should all look back in our journals to see what personal wisdom we can continue to draw from and how our experiences prepare (or foreshadow) us for future opportunities and adversity.

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