Cancer and What Not to Say

When Ryan was going through his cancer treatment including surgery and chemo, we had many people say many things to us. We also had some people we expected to hear from and didn’t hear anything. What meant the most to us? What did we wish people would stop saying?

What Not to Say:

  1. The worst was when people didn’t say anything at all, and didn’t reach out at all. They would purposely avoid us, people we thought were close family and friends and we wouldn’t receive a phone call, text or personal message – those were the hardest to take. We would ask “Do they know?” and yes, they knew. I get it. These are the ones that were so afraid to say the wrong thing, they thought it was better to say nothing at all. They were wrong. Anything is better than nothing at all.
  2. “If you need anything, just let me know.” It’s an empty promise because we would never call on someone to fulfill a vague promise. If you want to help, be specific and offer something you can follow through on. A meal, help with the kids, a shoulder to cry on, someone to pray with.
  3. “You’re so brave/strong.” Please stop saying this. We are not brave. We are not strong. We were faced with a situation that we had zero control over and we did what was expected of us. I wasn’t brave or strong as I continued to function by feeding the kids, running the household and going to work full-time. I sometimes felt like a complete coward escaping to work every day where I didn’t have to stare sickness and death in the face. And feeling so helpless that one more piece of bad news would send me spiraling out of control. And if I did? If I completely lost it and decided to hide under the covers and not deal with it all? That wasn’t a choice. You just keep going. One foot in front of the other, doing what is expected of you. It’s not strength or bravery, it’s auto-pilot and God’s direction alone. And Ryan? He sure didn’t feel brave or strong as he was poked with IV’s and needles daily and then lay on the couch or slept in bed feeling like the living dead day after day. But he stuck out his arm, took the chemo and then dealt with the side effects. What was the alternative? Lay down and cry and just let the cancer take over? Not much of a choice.
  4. “You’ll be fine.” Really? Right now I don’t feel very fine and I don’t see the feeling of “fine” in the near future. I’m leaving it in the hands of an Almighty God and know that He will take care of me. But please don’t say I’ll be fine or everything will be alright.
ryan-sick

“Brave” and “strong”

Instead,What To Say:

  1. Ah – here’s the tricky part. Sometimes, nothing at all. Sometimes a hug or a quick side squeeze while you fight the tears yourself is enough.  But something to show that you’re thinking and praying for us. Sometimes, that was more than enough.
  2. “I’m dropping off dinner for you tonight. What time is good for you?” Specific promises with very specific deliverables were well-received. Knowing you wouldn’t take no for an answer took the burden off us to think of the perfect way for you to help.
  3. “We love you.” That meant a lot to us. To know that you care and you will be there for us as we face this new world of unknowns.
  4. “We are praying for you.” When this is heartfelt and truthful, it means the world to us. That you are acting as intercessors on our behalf between this world and the King of the World, what more can we really ask for?

 

Cancer, a Lifelong Diagnosis

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Our lives changed drastically this past summer with Ryan’s diagnosis of testicular cancer, followed by surgery and chemo. Our lives would never return to life without cancer. Don’t misunderstand me; Ryan is doing fairly well these days. His last appointment was good, but not the “great” we were really hoping for. We were hoping to hear his doctor say that he was cancer-free, in remission, and the mass in his abdomen was gone. But she didn’t – because it isn’t gone. Yes, it’s reduced in size from 9 cm to 4 cm, but that’s still a mass and it’s still there. She is optimistic that the mass remaining is just dead cells and tissue remaining from the larger mass that once was there, but only close monitoring and follow-up appointments will confirm or deny that. In the meantime, she wants Ryan to live as if he’s cancer free. Return to work. Get involved with regular activities again. Think positively.

But the fact is, our family will never be cancer free. It’s entered our lives and will always be around in some way or another. Like this week, we’ve all been fighting coughs and colds and unfortunately Ryan has caught it too. He’s had a fever and bad cough on and off for the last 3 days. He’s currently at the ER. The fact is, his chemo treatment did a number on his lungs and he technically still has a 4 cm possibly cancerous mass in his belly. We have to be cautious.

One other thing that has changed is how sensitive I am to discussions surrounding cancer and how much I want to help those going through it. Being that gift-giving is my love language, I take this very seriously and want to find the “perfect” way to help. But it’s not always that simple.

A young woman in our close-knit community was diagnosed with leukemia this past week. She has a young family and supportive husband who I happened to grow up with and our families vacationed together when I was a kid (seriously, T., you want to know stories? I’ve got them!). But no two cancer journeys are the same so while I try to help and reach out, I feel as helpless as I’m sure others around us felt in the thick of Ryan’s treatment.

And for a boy in our church community who is facing Stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma. His mom and I have been communicating quite regularly via email. My heart absolutely broke the first time I heard the news of L.’s cancer and for his parents as they go through this.

I find myself praying like I’ve never prayed before. For comfort and strength to their families, for relief and not too many side effects, for these brutal treatments that they are undergoing to truly cure. So. many. prayers.

I find myself feeling quite helpless – but knowing that is the way it’s supposed to be. I can’t help them. From a practical perspective, yes, I am here to offer support, encouragement and maybe some knowledge about cancer treatment and side effects. But I can’t heal them. Only our Almighty Father has that capability.

So I will continue to pray. And if they need me for something else along the way, I’m here.

If you are looking of practical ways to help cancer patients, please consider blood donation, as well as stem cell donation. If you are between the ages of 18 and 35, you could help save a life with stem cell donation! For more information: click here

And please, join me in praying for them and other cancer patients.

Women: where are we going wrong?

Women: What are your goals in life? To be comfortable? To be happy? To make sure your children are happy and comfortable? To do what is expected of you? To follow the “norm” in the circles you grew up by finding a nice man who grew up similar to you; get married; your husband works hard so you can buy a house preferably close to your parents or siblings; have some kids; after a few years thanks to your husband’s long hours and hard work buy a bigger house or remodel the one you’re in so you’re more comfortable and it looks pretty? All the while telling ourselves that we’re doing okay – that we’re raising good kids, we go to Church, have a hard-working husband, and for the most part, we are happy?

I belong to a number of online communities, one of which is a group of women from all over the world with our commonalities being we are all moms, and we attend the same church denomination. Most of the questions are typical mom or wife related: “We’re redoing our kitchen. Which tile do you like better?” or “Any recommendations for a good book for our next Bible study session?” Or one of my least favourite “This is a picture of my son’s rash. What do you think it is?” (Seriously, not a fan of those rash questions but I guess they’re better than the baby poop questions…)

Recently I conducted a survey of 100 women from our group and the results while not shocking, still took me by surprise. “How do you rank your roles in life?” Christian first won with 57%. Which should be a good thing, right? But that also means that almost half of the women believed that their primary role in life was as mother or wife.

Where are we going wrong where almost half of the women in our churches believe that their PRIMARY and FIRST role on this earth is as mother or wife? NOT daughter of the One True King? We know the commandments and we know that our God is a jealous God – we hear it off the pulpit each week. So why do we think that God will  be okay with coming last in our lives instead of first?

Another surprising result was the question about personal devotions. The top response to “How often do you read your Bible?” was over 58% won with those who read the Bible in church on Sunday + around the mealtime table with their families at home + attend a women’s Bible study group.

Only 11% answered that they also conduct personal devotions.

11%. 11% take the time to read the Bible on their own daily, try to ponder it, pray on it, and apply it to their daily lives.

And trust me, I get it. When I had my priorities messed up, it was because I didn’t know my Bible and my God the way He wanted me to. Sure, I went to church on Sundays and participated in weekly women’s study groups. But I never grasped the Word of God until I held it and studied it on a daily basis on my own. Meditated on it. Researched it. Became so entrenched in it, that I had to share and talk about it with anyone who would listen.

Once we as women start doing this, EVERYTHING will change. Your view of God will change and He will become first in your life. You will know God in a way that will leave you wondering how you survived up to this point without this depth in your relationship. Your marriage will change. Your role as mother will change. The grace of God will seep into every aspect of your daily living as you spend time with your Creator and no longer take Him for granted.

You may argue with me that you get your “fill” of God through sermons twice on Sunday, family readings at the table and participating in a weekly women’s Bible study group. These are all necessary parts of growing in Christ. But how can we say we have a personal relationship with Him if we are not meeting Him daily? That would be like saying you have a best friend that you talk about with others, hear other people talk about, have read a lot of books about – but never talk directly to. Never sit face to face and tell this person your thoughts, worries, and ask this person for help. Never sit and listen to that person give the advice and love that we desperately need in order for a relationship to even exist in the first place.

Francis Chan says, “God literally determines whether or not you take another breath. “He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Could anything be more important than meeting with the One who decides if you live through this day? Could anything be better? How can we not make time to be with the Maker of time?” (Francis Chan – Desiring God)

Another question on the survey was about goals in life. Many had answers such as “To be a godly wife and mother first…” and “To lead my children to God…” Women, how are we going to do this when we don’t know our God the way He wants us to? When we are not studying Him and growing in Him daily? When we are not teaching our children how to know God and have a relationship with Him and by leading as an example?

On an airplane, we are warned that if there is an emergency, we need to put on our oxygen mask before helping our kids or others who need us. Ladies, it’s time to put on our oxygen masks. How are we going to lead our little ones to put God first if we aren’t putting Him first?

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So where are going wrong? Why do so many women in our churches strive for “content” and “comfortable” living? Why aren’t we as women spending more time in our Bibles and having meaningful, heartfelt talks with God? Why do we think it is okay to put God so far down on our list of priorities, when He should be the priority?

It’s time to throw off the excuses of “life is busy” and “I don’t get enough sleep”. Your Father is waiting to reveal Himself to You. Why are we making Him wait?

If you don’t know where to start (like I was a few years ago), ask a friend who you trust and you know does regular devotions, or do some research. When I didn’t know where to start, I first used a daily devotional, and then moved onto the “SOAP” method. Don’t start out with goals like “I’m going to read the entire Bible this year” or “I’ll read  a chapter a day.” Start small. But make it count. Live in it. Breathe it in. Ask questions to those you trust if you don’t understand what you’re reading. But dive in.

He’s waiting for you.

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Round 3 – Here we go!

Today marks the start of Round 3 of Ryan’s chemo treatment – the final round! We are in nervous anticipation of what is to come this week. Ryan is weaker than when he started the last two rounds, so we are treading carefully this week. We honestly just don’t know what to expect, so we are hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

As usual, his round starts off with “ugly chemo week” where he has to have treatments every day Monday through Friday for approximately 4-5 hours per day. He has prescriptions that he takes twice daily for the side effects, but they have side effects of their own (and then he takes more prescriptions for those). Ryan complained this morning that he took his pills and within minutes he already started feeling the effects. He says the pills are worse than the chemo, but we both know the chemo would be so much worse than the pills if he didn’t take them. Cancer really is brutal, no matter how far medical miracles have come today.

This Saturday was a bit crazy with our church hosting a pancake breakfast, the girls both had birthday parties to attend, and Meagan had gymnastics. Plus I decided to start some early Christmas shopping and picked up an item from craigslist for Noah – which was about 30 minutes away.

But that evening, we asked Linda to watch the kids and we headed out for a final date night while Ryan is on chemo. We know he won’t be up for another night out for at least 3 weeks. It was a bit celebratory, and we tried to avoid talking about sickness, chemo and the week to come. It was an enjoyable evening out and the food was fantastic. We really didn’t know where to go and then we saw this big shiny building, so we decided, why not? I mean really, who could resist a big sparkly restaurant?

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When we returned home, we discovered Meagan was up to her usual antics and tried to fool Linda into changing her bedtime. This girl keeps us on our toes!

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Sunday was church in the morning, followed by an unscheduled communal lunch due to the leftovers from the pancake breakfast. It was a great morning/afternoon of friends and fellowship. But it completely drained Ryan. He was tired and desperately needed some quiet time. We first stopped on our way home to have his blood work done, which has now become part of our Sunday routine. Every week. This is necessary to make sure Ryan is holding up well enough to sustain his chemo treatments, before he receives treatment every Monday.

Which brings us to today. The start of our last “ugly chemo week”.

At the risk of sounding redundant, we are so thankful for all of you. From prayers, meals, baking, helping with our kids, being there to listen and sometimes just to pick us up and help us refocus, giving us goals and future plans to look forward to, financial assistance, cleaning assistance, an encouraging word – and from some sources we never would expect! From family, friends, strangers – seriously, we are completely overwhelmed.

For those who “wish they could do more” or “are sorry they haven’t done anything”, please don’t. Your prayers, kind words and empathetic ears are sometimes all that we need. We appreciate the fact that you say ANYTHING to let us know you care, instead of nothing at all. I know it’s hard when you’re trying to think of the “perfect” thing to say, but there really is no perfect thing. We have yet to hear someone say the “wrong” thing. Anything means you care. And we greatly appreciate you for caring.

Halfway There…

Today marks the halfway mark of Ryan’s 9 weeks of chemotherapy – we are 4 1/2 weeks in. From here on, there is less remaining than what we have already experienced (if all goes according to plan).

Which should be a good thing. Which should give us cause for celebration.

But I don’t want to celebrate. Every day is a battle. Every day is hard. Every day is challenging. And ever day is oh so draining. It’s like running a marathon and we’ve reached the halfway mark and instead of that surge of energy and sense of accomplishment that will push us to the finish line, all I can think is “Seriously? We’re only halfway there? We have to do this for another 4.5 weeks?”

This past week was a tough one. Ryan struggled with his 5 days of chemo which I’ve named “ugly chemo week”. During ugly chemo week, Ryan has chemo for 4-5 hours a day, Monday to Friday. This round, he was proactive about taking heartburn medication before the side effects started, in the hopes to overcome it before it overcame him. Still by the end of the week, he was sick and very, very tired. The cumulative effect of 4 weeks of chemo have now overtaken him and there are some symptoms that he just can’t seem to fight off anymore. Fatigue is number one, followed by heartburn and nausea, tinnitus and just a general feeling of being unwell. Add that to living in a house with 3 kids aged 10 and under, with a 2-year-old waking up during the night due to a cold of his own, it makes for a difficult household. By Saturday, we were all tired, grumpy and pretty miserable.

This weekend was Thanksgiving. And we do have so much to give thanks for. We are thankful for friends and family who have all stepped up in a big way with prayers, meals, treats for the kids, helping take care of the kids, the volunteers who help with driving Ryan to and from the hospital, the cleaning service arranged by family and a close friend, and assistance in so many ways from the practical to the financial. And we are thankful that no matter how hard this journey is that we are on, we have a Father who is there for us and will see us through, carry us through, and be there every step of the way, even if we are uncertain where the next step of the journey will lead us.

So yes, we are so grateful and so thankful. And we will keep trudging on with one foot in front of the other as we look forward to crossing off milestones, the next one being the completion of round 2 of chemo, with 1 more round to go.

And I wish I could verbalize and tell you what we need but, to be honest, we’re in survival mode and are just trying to make it through the day. One day at a time. We have so many offers and well meaning words of “if you need anything, just let me know”. But it’s hard to really ask when the situation presents itself. What do we need? We just don’t know.

We just need to get through this.

And we will. But the “in between” is tough. Seeing Ryan lose hair, weight, colour in his face – it’s tough. Also watching him struggle to remember things or keep his quick wit as his mind becomes foggy from “chemo brain” is tough. Not knowing or being able to plan for a month from now, two months from now, is tough. Will Ryan go back to landscaping? Will he be able to start university courses in January – and will we even be able to afford it now as our income has dropped and our savings are diminishing?

I asked Ryan the other day if I could get him something. A glass of water? A snack? And he replied “A trip to the Caribbean”. OK – not exactly the answer I thought he would give. And not exactly in the budget.

But it would be nice to have a finish line to look forward to. A tangible, real goal to strive towards.

And we will probably do something to celebrate once this is all said and done. Even if it’s just a night out, with some of the stress now behind us, as we try to plan our next step in this life.

And in the meantime, we’ll continue to look to Him, our Father, as He shelters us under His wings and carries us through this.

We will keep moving forward in this unplanned journey. We remain thankful to all of you for your continued love and support as we continue to put one foot in front of the other, sometimes when we can’t even see the path in front of us. But we know there is a Light guiding our way, even if we can’t see the next step. We will hold onto His hand and walk forward in faith.

 

Beginning Cycle 2

Yesterday, Ryan began Cycle 2 (of 3) of his chemotherapy treatments. Cycle 1 included a lot of firsts for us, not knowing what to expect or how Ryan would react to the drugs. The first week was definitely the worst with 4 hours of treatment Monday-Friday and by Friday, he was done. Physically, he was weak and sick. Emotionally, he didn’t want to go back.

But he made it. We made it.

The next two weeks were manageable as he only had treatments every Monday and only for an hour per visit as opposed to the four hours he was “used to”. By the end of the cycle, his hair was falling out in chunks, but he was feeling fairly well. We even had a date night on Saturday, complete with a visit to the hairdresser (aren’t we romantic?).

hairdresser-ryan

And this is after. Good thing he has a nice shaped head, right? Now he complains his head is cold all the time.

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I also began “Sober October” this month. For the month of October, I won’t consume any alcohol, unless I have a Hall Pass, to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society. It’s a great cause, and a great reason to stay away from my Chardonnay. Except on Hall Pass days, which friends can purchase for special occasions like Thanksgiving or date nights. Click here to add your donation or learn more: Teresa’s Sober October Page

Overall, we are still doing well, thanks to all the support we have. Meals, baked goods, prayers, weekly cleaning service, and even a money transfer have poured in, helping alleviate the stress before it overtakes us. Thank you, all. We couldn’t do this without you.

Thankful

We are at the end of week 1 of Ryan’s chemotherapy. It has been an exhausting week and in my entire life, I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful that it is Friday. Finally.

Tomorrow, there will be no alarm at 6AM to try to get the kids on the bus at 7AM. Tonight, I’m not running around packing lunches and laying out outfits for the morning. Instead, I’m sipping a glass of wine and reflecting on the week. Week 1. Done. 8 to go.

Ryan is weak and tired. He has heartburn and isn’t feeling well the last couple of days. He sleeps or rests. A lot. 5 days of being hooked up to an IV for 4 hours a day with horrific drugs being poured into you will take a toll on a man.

I’m doing the best I can. We are staying in normal routine as much as possible. The kids’ clothes may not always match and their lunches may not be overly healthy – but we’re getting by.

Thanks to God and thanks to so many people.

thankful

You are all amazing. We have support and encouragement everywhere we turn. There is an army of people praying for us daily. We have family, friends and volunteers driving Ryan to and from his treatments and helping him pass the time every day. We have AMAZING meals being brought to us. True labours of love.

On that note – seriously Adryon – if this whole RMT thing doesn’t work out for you, you should cater for a living.

We have had so many people step up in such big ways that may seem small to them, but they are huge to us. The changing of the bus route so we don’t have to worry about the kids walking home if Ryan is unable to get off the couch that day. Prayers. Hugs (sorry – if I scare people but I’ve now become a hugger. Never thought THAT would happen). Meals. Baking. Visits. Phone calls. Text messages. Emails. Family that is arranging for our house to be cleaned so it’s one less thing to worry about (or apologize for as you enter our home).

People who clear their schedules so we could have family photos done before Ryan became sick. We love you, Karin 

family

You. All. Are. Amazing. Thank you. You expect nothing in return, and you pour love on us. We love you all.

Cancer Lives Here

The last couple weeks have been filled with more information, more doctor appointments, and the start of chemo for Ryan. I’ve received a lot of messages, emails, telephone calls and visits and the number one question is, “how are you doing?” I used to lie and try to sound chipper and respond with “Good!” but I stopped that pretty quickly because it felt so … well, fake. I definitely wasn’t feeling “good” …. not to mention, it’s grammatically incorrect to respond with “Good”.

Last Friday was a scary day for me. Ryan had his appointment with his oncologist to go over the pathology and MRI results. I was fully expecting bad news and wondering how we were going to cope with it, and where we would go next. I was expecting the doctor to say they had missed it in the first tests, but the cancer had spread to vital organs. Or further up the lymph nodes. There was a spot on his lung. So many scenarios were playing through my head that I really didn’t know how to respond at first when the doctor said, “It’s good news. It’s seminoma. And it hasn’t spread, other than the abdomen.” This suddenly increased Ryan’s prognosis from “moderate” to “good”. This meant 9 weeks of chemotherapy, most likely no further surgery, and we would hopefully be on the road to “normal” life by January.

After that appointment, we had a short lunch followed by “chemo teach”. Where they go over every possible, horrific, scary side effect chemo patients have ever experienced. And then finish with “but you may experience none of these. Or one. Or two. But not all.” Not a class I ever envisioned myself attending, but it was enlightening nonetheless.

We are now trying to teach the kids that hand washing, although important before, was now extremely important. Enter the house, wash your hands. Do not pass go, do not touch anything – wash your hands. When you wash your hands, sing the alphabet song in full. Slowly. If a friend comes in the house with you, she must wash her hands too. And no, washing her hands at home and then coming over isn’t good enough. Do it again.

I joked with Ryan that we would put a sign on the front door that says “Cancer Lives Here. Please Wash your hands.”

It’s been a hard balance for me, trying to keep life as normal as possible. Because Cancer does live here. It lives in Ryan, it lives in our home, it lives in my every thought, worry, motivation. And I just want it to go away. The faster the better.

So how am I doing? I’m coping. I’m okay. I’m trying to act as normal as possible, but the fact that Cancer has become part of our family never leaves my mind.

We have many requests asking how they can help. We are still unsure on that answer as we are on the beginning steps of our chemo journey. Right now, we have a schedule for meals that you are welcome to sign up for here. As far as what else we will need, we hope that will become more clear as things progress.

Yesterday while sitting with Ryan during his first chemo treatment, I did a lot of reading. That’s what you do when you have four hours to sit there. It’s either that, or just stare at each other which becomes really old really fast. I’m reading a book that I first was going to intentionally skip. The book is “Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst. It’s the fall study session with Proverbs 31 and I had made the conscious decision months ago I wasn’t going to participate due to other commitments in my life. Well, somehow, Someone put it in my heart and mind that I should read this book. And sitting there in that chemo room yesterday, I read this prayer from Lysa. And I felt like it was written for us and our current circumstances. And how did she know I would read and need this right at this exact moment. But Lysa didn’t know. Someone else who directs every step, every moment, and every circumstance in our lives – He knew I would need it.

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Week 1 of our Cancer Journey

Last week Wednesday, our life as we knew it tilted on its axis and changed forever. The word “Cancer” was now in our life. In a big way. My husband, Ryan, was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 38. We have 3 young children, ages 10 and under. We had great plans for our family’s future, starting next month when Ryan planned to return to school full-time to pursue his studies while he worked full-time. This decision had been made by us after a lot of discussion and prayer and we felt that it was the right timing for us.

But. God. He had other plans for our little family.

Right before our world changed, we went on a fabulous family vacation and had a wonderful time bonding like we never had before. All of our other prior family holidays had been with family or friends, but this was just us – just our little, beautiful family. We stayed at a pretty little spot along a private lake with amazing sunsets every night. The girls and Ryan tried their hands at fishing (even Noah was tutored a little), we did some canoeing and swimming, and (because we really don’t camp) had a hot tub to relax in in the evenings. Yeah, we were really roughing it. It was a beautiful time and we will always remember it.

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When we returned home, Ryan had some aches and pains that should have been gone after all our relaxation time and decided he better get checked out. On Wednesday morning, he called me from the hospital with the words that no wife should ever hear: “I have cancer.”

The next couple days were a blur but we busied ourselves with tasks that we knew we needed to face and were intended to keep our minds off all the questions we had playing around in our heads. I found myself hiding when Ryan thought I was busy working, trying just to keep it together so one would see me weak. On Wednesday night, I quietly cried myself to sleep as the reality of it all hit me. On Thursday night, Ryan tried to hug me and I completely dropped my guard that I had so meticulously set up around me and sobbed in his arms as I expressed all my concerns about everything.

I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to see him waste away as he goes through chemo. I don’t want to see him sick. I don’t want the kids to see him sick. I don’t want to manage everything on my own while he becomes weak and unable to help around the house. I don’t want to be left alone if this can’t be fixed.

Slowly and surely throughout this week, we have come to terms with everything and what our future holds for us. We no longer have a 5 year plan. We plan day-to-day. Sometimes even hour-to-hour. Am I afraid? Absolutely. But my kids need me. And so does my husband.

There are a few things I have learned through the past week. Some I never wanted to learn – learning about oncologists, seminoma and non-seminoma cells, pathology results, chemotherapy, types of cancer vs other types of cancer, how cancer will travel up the lymph nodes – and others I am so thankful to have learned:

  1. I have a God on my side that will sustain me no matter what I am faced with. I am so thankful for the way He has worked in my life to get me to where I am today that I can actually cope with Cancer. A few years ago, He pressed me and pulled me closer to Him through strong adversity. He wanted me to draw closer to Him and He showed me the means to do so. He encouraged me to do daily devotions. I joined online Bible Study groups and He led me to Proverbs 31 Ministries. After years of feeling alone in my struggles, I was suddenly surrounded by an on-line community of women who whispered “me too” when I voiced my faults, fears and doubts. Through all this study, passages became engraved in my mind and on my heart. Throughout the past week, as I sobbed and prayed, I have heard the sweet whispers of Him echoing in my heart with words like, ” … in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33); and “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26); and “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
  2. My husband is stronger than I ever knew. His faith has never wavered. He’s not afraid of tomorrow or next week. And he loves me. And how I love him.
  3. I am not alone in this fight. The amount of messages, texts, Facebook posts, telephone calls, visits – it is overwhelming. From family, to friends who I grew up with, to amazing new friends in my life, to a church community unlike any other, to online friends, even “imaginary friends” (you know who you are 😉 – you are all amazing and I couldn’t do this without you. Thank you all.

Don’t get me wrong. Cancer sucks. Absolutely and whole-heartedly. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. But I know that He is working for my good. Even when I don’t see it.

Heatstroke, Kids and Cars

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Like many of you, I have been shocked and saddened by the huge spike in heatstroke related to cars and children this year. Already, the death toll has surpassed 2015 statistics. For the whole year. And it’s only August 17. That’s staggering and a strong indicator of an issue that needs to be addressed.

Are you one of those people who is quick to judge the parents? I used to be. How can you forget your child? If you would lay down your life for your child, how could you possibly forget your child in a car on a hot day?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how easily I could be one of those parents. Life is crazy. Life is fast-paced. Always trying to focus on the next task, the next destination – our mental check-list in our head is continually moving at a rapid pace as we add extra to-do’s to our already overly insane schedule.

So imagine this. Imagine this is you.

It’s a school day for your 3 kids. It’s a regular, crazy morning as you make sure each child has their backpack, sweaters, shoes on, homework packed, as you  head out the door. You commend your children on co-operating so well this morning as you steer your vehicle towards school to drop off. Traffic happens. Your thoughts wander to what you’re going to feed the family for dinner and how you need to prepare for the upcoming family vacation.

As you near the school, you realize you’re now late. You speed into the school parking lot and the kids fly out the sliding doors of your minivan and slam them behind them. You wave as they are quickly enveloped by the rest of the schoolyard children, take a sip of your coffee, and head out to your next destination. You head to the mall. Thinking about dinner, it would be nice to shop the produce market, butcher and bakery all conveniently located at your nearby shopping centre.

You grab your coffee as you leave your van, lock the doors, and head to the mall. While there, you are distracted by a great sale at your favourite clothing store. And then realize you forgot you are out of soap so maybe you should pick out something nice since it is on sale at the store next door. Eventually you finish your to-do list – 3 hours later.

You head back to your van and are shocked to see it surrounded by police and ambulance vehicles. You scream as you approach, asking “what is going on?” A woman runs at you, pointing her fingers in your face as she yells “how could you do this to your child? How could you leave your child to die?”

You’re confused – you dropped your children off at the school.

But your kindergartner fell asleep on the way to school. You didn’t realize it. In the confusion at drop-off, you thought another blonde-haired child on the playground was your own and you waved good bye.

So now I ask, could it happen to you? What are we doing as a country, or personally, to prevent this from becoming an already growing epidemic?

The thought scares me. I double-check, sometimes triple-check my vehicle when I park my van at the Skytrain station before heading onto the train. What if Meagan had run back in to be “funny” and was hiding in the back? What if I was distracted in the regular morning drop-off rituals and just forgot to drop Noah off at daycare? The possibilities are endless.

So what’s my point? I’m not quite sure. We need to stop condemning these parents and caregivers who really will be serving a life sentence for forgetting their kids in cars on a hot day. We need to be vigilant and overly cautious and double-check our vehicles before exiting.

But I also believe it’s time for car seat and vehicle manufacturers to step up and pay attention. This is a problem. It needs to be addressed. Changes have to be made. Kids have to stop dying.

If you really believe this couldn’t happen to you, please check out Kids and Cars and read a story or two on how it has happened to so many loving, caring parents, such as yourself.