A Beacon of Joy

Meg possessed infectious exuberance, which touched people throughout her life. (photo credit: Garrett and Joan Born)

Meg’s Story

by her parents,
Gaye and David Reynolds-Gooch

Soon after hearing Meg had an advanced stage of neuroendocrine carcinoma, Meg surprised us by commenting, “It could be so much worse.” As a nurse on the medical unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital, she was accustomed to working with kids with very serious chronic conditions.

Very early on we learned the power of connection and strength that comes from extended family and friends uniting to offer support and grounding amidst an incredible health challenge. Cards and calls, gift certificates for Whole Foods, delivered dinners, gifts and pictures to make Meg laugh, pampering, volunteers to drive Meg to appointments, friends to house us while having appointments in other cities were among the many ways people showed their love and connectedness.

#TeamMeg socks, designed by a friend, became a tangible symbol of support; they caught on at the Sunday Fun Day party Meg’s best friend created in Meg’s honor. Over 150 family and friends bought tickets to the event that raised money to defer costs and provide fun money for Meg so she could live boldly at a time when she couldn’t keep up her full-time work hours during 15 months of chemotherapy.

In the summer of 2014, Team Meg held a fundraiser, where the socks made their debut. (photo credit: Garrett and Joan Born)

Even Seahawks’ quarterback, Russell Wilson, who dedicates his day off to bring cheer to patients at Seattle Children’s, met Nurse Meg one day on his rounds and rocked her socks on his social media posts.

Team Meg socks were also fitting as Meg, a long-distance runner, had trained for the Crater Lake marathon before her diagnosis was made. Not wanting cancer to get in the way, she ran a mile for every round of chemo over the first 15 months of having cancer and continued distance running until the last two months of her life. An inspiration to all, friends pulled on their socks to run alongside Meg. Meg’s joy while running encouraged others to run and run farther; most of us had trouble keeping her pace. Meg literally ran through her cancer tests, treatments, procedures with strength, courage, determination—and endorphins! Running kept Meg grounded, calm and strong, joyful and humorous. Meg and sister Kate always took a long run while waiting for results of her most recent scan. Meg’s last long run was in her home state of Minnesota after completing one round of aggressive chemo as the slow-growing cancer became fast growing. When that didn’t stop the growth, she completed one round of immunotherapy. Meg was racing the clock needing more time than her body gave her to see if it would be effective.

Meg’s caregivers: best friend Tammy, partner Ryan, and older sister Kate, show off the #TeamMeg socks (photo courtesy of Gaye and David Reynolds-Gooch)

Meg landed in the hospital for five days and during that time and afterwards, her sister, boyfriend, and best friend provided around-the-clock care keeping Meg’s spirits up and attending to her every need. Each took three months’ leave from their respective work to be by Meg’s side. The hospice nurse claimed she had never seen such a devoted group of family and friend caregivers.

Having been diagnosed with what Meg’s Neuroendocrine Oncologist called a most complex case, Meg quickly learned how to research, interview, and select the best oncologists and other specialists to help her manage her disease and be a full-partner in navigating evolving treatment options such as PRRT, which Meg had in July – December 2016 in Basel, Switzerland. The Annual NET Research Foundation conferences at UCSF and Stanford, as well as this website, helped Meg research treatment options, find specialists, and stay on the cutting edge for support and new knowledge. It was Meg that asked us to request that memorials go to the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation.

Wanting to be remembered as a Beacon of Joy, Meg acknowledged that she knew we would be sad and need to grieve, but that joy would come flooding back.  While we still cry and grieve at normal and odd moments, we find it impossible to tell a Meg story without a smile and laughter. While she must have had moments of fear, sadness—she lived her life after the cancer diagnosis as she had since birth: with cheeky humor, exuberance, adventure, and joy. She thanked us the day before she died: “You have given me a wonderful life.” We could only respond: “You have made our life wonderful; we love you.”

Meg was called a baby whisperer for her ability to soothe newborns as a nurse at a children’s hospital. Here she is pictured with the babies of her three high school friends. (photo courtesy of Gaye and David Reynolds-Gooch)

A month after Meg died, her nursing director invited the family to visit Seattle Children’s, walk the floors where she had worked, snuggled babies. What a gift it was to hear stories about how she interacted with patients, families, other medical staff.  Meg was a knowledgeable, focused and kind caregiver; her supervisor told us she gave the most challenging situations to Meg for her ability to calm patients and parents and diffuse stress among the medical staff in critical situations. Meg gave helpful, straightforward advice; her laugh was infectious.

Meg’s family. Left to Right: Ryan, Meg, Christopher, Kate, David, and Gaye. (photo credit: Garrett and Joan Born)

Living on Puget Sound we find that our grief ebbs and flows like the tide around us. Waves continue to knock us over sometimes multiple times each day.  They say all the firsts are tough and indeed they are, but we can’t imagine never not missing Meg. At Meg’s Celebration of Life this last September, we experienced again the amazing power of connection with family and friends from all walks of our lives intimately woven together by the profound loss.  Even those who did not know her were inspired by the stories of Meg’s positive, generous spirit, her sense of humor, and ability to squeeze so much life into her 31+years. Nurse Meg took care of us all and is forever in our hearts—forever running alongside encouraging us to dream bigger and live stronger—and find and inspire laughter and joy each day.