Thank You

Today is diagnosis day.

I thought maybe a good way to acknowledge it would be to write a letter to “four years ago me.” Something to encourage Past Me and let me know it will be alright. Maybe warn me of the scary things to come. Perhaps something like a locker room pep talk.

The problem is, when I quiet my mind to think about what to write, I can’t.

Taking all of cancer and trying to condense it to write something to Past Me causes my mind and my heart to stop.

There’s a reason I wasn’t privy to the whole plan on that first day: I am not strong enough. Heck, I’m still not strong enough and it’s over!

I think what I would do for Past Me is sit quietly. I would want to see that I can eventually be quiet again. Because, on diagnosis day, that seemed an impossible feat. I was either sobbing, or trying to swallow down the raging ocean of crippling fear and uncertainty in order to look strong and calm in front of Joel. There was no quiet.

I would want to show Past Me this:

I would want Past Me to see the joy, love, and laughter that still happens… even with cancer.

This is why we celebrate Cancerversary. We could choose to hate today, for obvious and understandable reasons. But we don’t. We choose to focus on the beauty that began on diagnosis day.

When you’re falling, it is a basic human reflex to reach out and grab hold of something. And it was no different on that first morning.

Before I showered, before Willy had brought the boys home from school so we could head to the hospital, before I took my next drink of water, I instinctively reached out to keep from falling into this black hole that had appeared in front of me. I remember sitting in front of the computer, hands trembling, head spinning, and posting this:

Friends and family, please pray. Joel’s bloodwork implies leukemia. We are taking him to Providence today. This is our worst nightmare, please pray it is a post-viral fluke.

What came after posting a desperate mom’s ramblings changed us forever.

Prayers from caring people around the world; Words of encouragement from friends and family; Meals from church friends and school families; Pictures of heads shaved in support of Joel from all over the country; Fundraisers and thousands of dollars given to us without a second thought; The Alaska State Troopers making Joel’s dream come true; Friends giving my boys a respite from the hospital by opening their homes and giving of their time; Gifts. So many gifts; Cards and notes from kids Joel had never met; Monthly gift boxes of childhood fun, from a loving woman we had never met in person; Gas money from Pastor Jim every time he hugged Willy with the hug he needed so badly; Messages from my best friends in the lonely evening hours to remind me I am not alone; Prayers for my dog– my dog— who was dying of heart failure, that she would hold on to be my companion when I needed her most.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.     Psalm 27:13

That was all of you. When we reached out, you grabbed hold and wouldn’t let us fall. You were the hands and feet that showed us the goodness of God.

And that is what I would want Past Me to know. I would want Past Me to remember that there is a purpose, a good purpose, for everything. And that God is going to show us how very deeply and personally we are loved, as we walk through this storm.

So, thank you. Thank you that on Cancerversary, we can look back and choose to focus on the beauty of cancer.



  1. Chris Rankin

    This brings tears to my eyes! What a strong and loving family you are! I can’t imagine what you have all been through, but know just reading your blog gives us all strength and priorities of what life is about! Happy Cancerversary!??

  2. Sherry Chevalier

    I cried tears of sadness that any family has to endure the trials of cancer, muchless childhood cancer. I cried tears of sadness knowing there was a Past Me but tears of joy also knowing it is a Past. I cried tears of happiness knowing I was just a small part in bringing a little joy into your lives when things were so tough for you and your family. I look forward to hearing posts about the “Now Me , the Future Me and Most of all “The Future We”. God Bless Your Family and bringing you into mine. .

  3. Lola

    I’m so glad you have come to the other side of that battle. I think of your family often and am thankful for the outcome you have experienced. It looked like you all did it with nothing but grace from over here in Internet world.

  4. We just received our own Leukemia diagnosis on 2/16/17. My 17 month old son was limping, and blood work ended up coming back with preB cell ALL (low risk, thankfully!). We are taking things day by day and leaning into the Lord. A friend had posted your blog on my FB page. I know I won’t be able to read your whole journey, or ever meet you–but I know we are sisters in arms on a few different levels. Thank you for your encouraging writing–being faithful to write your journey for “such a time as this.”

    • Adrianne Shelton

      That was Joel’s big symptom, too. God’s got this. And know that when you have nothing inside and no words to pray for your situation, others are carrying you 🙂 We will certainly be praying for your family.

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