Dream of memories
Terminally ill woman makes memories with family on Maui
Seeing the delight on the faces of Belmi and Gustavo Tepeque as they explored Iao Valley’s Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens with their two young children last week, it would be easy to think the young couple from Santa Barbara, Calif., didn’t have a care in the world.
With a wide, enthusiastic smile, 22-year-old Belmi held hands with daughter Genesis, 4, as they navigated narrow stone bridges and visited colorful pavilions. Decked out in matching dresses, they were in no hurry, just having fun as they let their curiosity guide them.
Trailing behind, carrying their 8-month-old son, Isaiah, Gustavo captured the mother-daughter memory-making with a cellphone attached to a selfie stick. With the rain stopped, the park was coming to life with everything from wandering tourists and a preschool class on a field trip, to a local family cooking a little pig on a spit.
The afternoon visit to Iao is something Belmi hopes to chat about with her daughter someday. While her doctors have given her a terminal diagnosis and she is currently in hospice care, Belmi hopes to see her children grow up.
The day she informed her doctor she would rather be present in her family’s life than go through another round of chemotherapy to treat her stage-four metabolic gastric cancer, she says he responded with a dire warning.
“The doctor said, ‘Your cancer will kill you. It’s going to kill you.’ I wake up and hear that voice. I have a limited time according to them, but I have learned to push through,” she said.
Belmi says good diet, exercise and healthy habits play roles in keeping her going, but believes positivity and faith are the keys.
“I have two choices every time I get up,” she says, “stay on the couch, not do anything and be depressed, or remind myself that I have a big God and pray, then move on with my daily activities. Either you pick yourself up, motivate yourself, be positive and concentrate on what you have faith in, get your spirits up and move along in life, or you keep those thoughts inside and you just get depressed and shut down.
“I’m just trying to be a faithful woman of God. Mother Mary has kept me alive.”
The Tepeques’ trip to Maui was provided by the Dream Foundation, a national organization that serves terminally ill adults and their families by providing end-of-life dreams. Dreamers have a prognosis of one year or less.
The trip was supported by Alaska Airlines; Coconut Condos, a vacation rental agency that has hosted Dream recipients and their families since 2012; Drums of the Pacific, which donated luau tickets; and Trilogy Excursions, which took the family out on a whale-watching excursion.
“I am eternally grateful to come across this amazing opportunity because of the Dream Foundation,” Belmi said. “They have made a huge impact on my life. Through the Dream Foundation, I have experienced an unbelievable feeling that has helped me bloom again.”