Most days our life exists of taking care of our children as all families do each day. However, our family has the additional journey of cancer that affects “850 children per year in Canada” (http://www.cmaj.ca/content/180/4/422.full). This statistic is hard to fathom, but researchers indicate that children still are affected less compared to adults. No child should suffer this disease and no family should suffer all the dimensions of this disease. The question of balance does come to my mind a lot as I think of the many roles I play each day in my life as a wife, mother, my family roles (sister/in-law, daughter/in-law), friend, and social worker. I want to know that I have done the best that I can in every role in my life, but this disease has caused me to realize that my expectations of balance has to be lowered in order that I show my children that life is what you make it. I know with this journey that it is hard to maintain consistency in all my roles, and I have learned that all that matters is I do the best that I can in my circumstances. We have choices to be positive, happy and to see our blessings no matter what our journey may be.
Balance is a thought that all parents at some point during the life of parenthood question. These areas include: balancing work versus family, independent needs versus needs as a couple, time spent with your children versus time as a couple, time spent with immediate families versus spending time with your own family, etc.… I am sure there are so many to add to this list that most families have to consider. At this stage of my life the most significant balancing act that I face is the balance between feelings of overwhelmed, fear, and sadness versus creating happy, cherished and blessed moments. My balance at the end of the day is to have more positive memories than the negative moments that are inevitable in this journey. How can I create life of blessings in my family that surpasses what cancer does to a family?
I have been asked how do I walk this journey everyday. I don’t walk this journey everyday on my own. I walk it knowing that my Father in heaven whom loves my family is holding us close wanting to carry my fears, sadness and worry in his arms.
Psalms 34:17-19 states “The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous face many troubles, but the LORD rescues them from each and every one.”
I do not understand the “why” of cancer in children and have cried and have been angry at God many times during this journey when I have heard and seen my son cry out in pain. BUT, I do know that in this journey only good will come one day that will glorify God. I trust in God that one-day we will look back knowing that I believed, was faithful, and see all that God is doing in my life and my family’s life. I don’t know what is to come for the future, but I know one thing for sure that I cannot walk this journey alone. I am only strong because my faith in God causes me to be strong and peaceful. All credit goes to our heavenly Father above. I do not have the words to describe the peace and strength that has been provided when I am obedient to his word, faithful and seek him in all that I do. I certainly have my days when this load gets heavy and I fail, but I am soon reminded that I don’t have to carry this load. I am human with many weaknesses and faults that only through God can I surpass these frailties.
There are days that I have to make hard decisions and it hurts every part of my being. Today, my youngest daughter woke to the flu. My son also had to go to the hospital to receive an injection of chemo in his leg. This aspect of his protocol is the worse part for my son. There have been too many days in the past that I had to be away from my daughters when they were sick so I could be with my son at the hospital. My son places all his trust and strength in me, and when I am not there he cries in fear and more pain that my heart breaks. I made the decision today with the knowledge that this journey is long that I need to encourage my son to lean on his daddy as he does with me. Gabriel’s dad had to be the one to attend today and without me. I wanted to stay home to take care of my daughter. I wish that I could take care of Gabriel, Simone and Yasmine all at the same time. I had to make a hard decision that hurt so much today. Cancer ravages so much in my family’s life that leaves me feeling tired and always searching God. I know it is good to search, but it is in those times that this weight of this journey surfaces and it takes all my strength to sit and pray. There are days I don’t want to pray because I am certain it is because anger overtakes. However, I still subscribe to what I shared above even in all my weaknesses. Some days it is really hard, and I sit in the quietness in my room waiting on God.
My son left today armed with a cozy shirt of mine that I just wore, his dad’s iPad to Skype me as he was getting his injection, and all my love in the “huggie wuggies” (my son’s words) I gave him before he left. The hardest part was when I could not give him “huggie wuggies” as I heard and watched as he received his injection. I know video skyping him today was helpful, but was not the same for him or for myself. I am glad at least we were able to do that. I was blessed to be able to snuggle with my youngest daughter when she was sick, and did the best I could to help my son. All I can do is try my best, love, listen, encourage, teach, and support my children the best way I know how during and after this journey ends.
Gabriel has completed two phases of his protocol. He has just completed the first week of the next phase of his protocol, which will last 41 days. The first month we will be in outpatient every other day. Gabriel’s chemo is given through his port-a-cathe, and he will have to undergo 10 more leg injections. Every Friday we will be at the hospital for almost 12 hours, so he can receive six different types of chemo and one steroid. In addition, this chemo will bottom out his immune system to defeat the cancer and to make sure it does not return. Gabriel will undergo radiation later in his protocol and at the end of the 41-day cycle may be when his transplant may occur. At this stage, we have not heard anything about finding a donor. They begin a computer generated search Locally, Provincially, Nationally, and then Internationally. I am certain we would have heard if there was a match by now if it was Provincially and, even Nationally. There are many parts of this protocol that are uncertain based upon many different outcomes and facets for my son. We just take it day-by-day, and sometimes week-by-week.
I am so thankful to Jacob’s Story (www.jacobsstory.ca) for taking the lead to support us through fundraisers and by organizing a food schedule through food tidings. I am so thankful and humbled by the gracious support of everyone who has made or will be making us a meal. Coming home to a meal after a long day makes me feel blessed and honoured that everyone is doing this for our family.
We want to say thank you to all those that have supported us with gift cards to help us financially. In November, we thought everything was going well with our son and decided to become a part of an opportunity to partner and purchase a commercial property for our businesses rather then throwing money away in two rentals. One week after we gained ownership of this property we were given the news that our son’s cancer returned. I was working 15 hours a week, and my husband was working a full week. Now, we have the responsibility of 1.5 properties. Now, I work 6 hours a week and my husband takes one day off at work and is home early other days to help with the hospital schedule. It was a sad realization that our life changed in a matter of moments in so many ways that we had to determine a plan. This small summary of our circumstances is what caused me to reach out. Jacob Story responded and will be helping ease some of this burden through fundraisers and the continued schedule of meals. I just wanted to express my gratitude to everyone. When Gabriel was diagnosed in 2009, we did not reach out. We isolated ourselves, and it made this journey hard. This time…I realized I could not do this again in isolation. It is the hardest thing for me to do was to ask for help. Thank you so much to everyone for responding.
Thank you to all my friends and family that have provided support through gift cards, cards and gifts to bring us a smile. I hope you all know how grateful I am for your generosity. I hope one day that I can give as many people that I see a hug and a personal thank you for your amazing support.
Thank you to Kyra, my best friend, for coming to spend the day with me at the hospital. Your act of kindness touched me as you unselfishly gave up a day of work to come help me and to make my children smile. Thank you to my family for being here to help and support us. We love seeing you at home and at the hospital, and this time is precious to us.
PLEASE PRAY FOR THE FOLLOWING:
1. To help Mike and I grow together and not let this journey cause tension.
2. Guidance and wisdom when the time comes when Mike and I have to make a decision concerning chemo or transplant.
3. Health of our daughters
4. Healing for Gabriel
We love you all, and thank you from the depths of my heart.