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.

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Sandra

Oh, Gaye and Dave,
I will keep this on paper and in my heart for the amazing young woman we know as Meg and for her loving family. Thank you, thank you for sharing her with us.
Love and warm hugs for you all at this first Christmas without her physical presence but with her eternal spirit always,
Sandra

Mark

Wonderful tribute, Gaye! Just looking at the pictures makes me miss her all over again.

Jill

This is a beautiful tribute to her life and journey. You express the struggles and challenges so clearly yet keep Meg’s strength at the heart of it all.
I hope it is therapeutic for you to share it because it certainly helps me.
Bless you all.

Barbara

Gaye and David,
Tears drip as I read your beautifully written account of your larger than life beauty, Meg. I will be giving to Meg’s charity this Christmas. And, I will be holding each of one of you close through this holiday.
I’ll share this with Shauna, Meg and Ali tomorrow. Warm filled love, Barb

Gaye and Dave…

Firstly I want to convey my most heartfelt condolences for your immense loss.

I was touched deeply by your daughters story. She truly was an angel here on Earth and now as she is your forever angel in heaven.

My heart goes out to you and your family. Meg was an amazing human being and while I did not know her or of her prior to this newsfeed, her life and story touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing her with all of us…

Sincerely, Greta Stifel, Ct

Jamie

Gaye, this is such a beautiful tribute to Meg and I have joy in knowing Meg through your words and love. I never met Meg, but can only thank her for the love she has given all of those babies and comfort to parents during a difficult time. Thank you for sharing her story, her courage, her love and joy with me here….. sending you so much love, warmth and healing thoughts during the moments of sadness, grief and tears. Much love, Jamie

Martha

Gaye and Dave –

Tears came to my eyes as I read this warm tribute to Meg and a life well lived. Love her always.

Ian

Gaye and David, I had the pleasure of meeting Meg during our volunteer training at the Shanti program back in April of 2012. She was an absolute joy to have in the class. We were friends on Facebook so I kept up with her progress as best as I could. I could only hope to have her strength and courage in such difficult moments. I now live in Discovery Park and run the trails nearly every day. I know that she loved running the park and her memory will creep in from time to time. All the best, Ian

A Beacon of Joy