Janet and I decided to withhold the December 18th diagnosis from everyone until the new year when Jade and Drew’s wedding would be behind us. We did not wish any future memories of that joyous event to include my upcoming battle with cancer. That decision proved to be difficult and sent me into many moments of uncontrollable emotions. But is was the right decision.
Friday night (January 3, 2020), we held a family meeting. Earlier in the day, I sent the following text to Meredith (daughter), Adam (son), Becca (daughter-in-law), Chris (son), Jade (daughter-in-law), Drew (son), Marissa (girlfriend) and Melanie (daughter).
Mom and I have an urgent and time-sensitive health matter to discuss with you. We wish to have a family meeting tonight (Friday) as soon as Adam gets home from work. He gets off at 7:00 and would be home sooner if Mel picked him up.
Meredith, Marissa, Melanie and Adam – please join us in the parlour.
Becca, Chris, Jade and Drew. With all the tech we own, we should be able to pull off a conference call.
I think we only need a ½ hour but this can’t keep so please make whatever adjustments you need so we can have this conversation.
By way of explanation, Becca and Chris were in Minnesota visiting her parents Lisa and Mike. Jade and Drew remained in Toronto after the wedding to wrap things up and spend time with Jade’s parents, Rochelle and Bill. On Thursday night I called Lisa, Mike and Bill (Rochelle was at a show) and advised them of the meeting we planned with the family on Friday. My goal was to give them time to prepare to be support pillars for the children.
On Friday morning, Janet and I met with her mother Betty. As it turned out, two of Janet’s sisters, Dianna and Debbie, were with her mother so we swore them to secrecy until after the upcoming meeting with the children. Janet’s sister Marlene called so we shared our news with her as well. We answered any questions we could and then left to meet with my sister Mona and brother Mike. With each conversation, it became easier to share my diagnosis without getting too emotional.
It was a long afternoon waiting for the children to arrive. I used the time to prepare notes and practice reading them out loud. This may sound over-organized but I expected to become emotional and I wished to make sure I shared everything we knew with my children and needed a written reference. What follows are those notes.
Mom and I have been on an emotional roller coaster after getting some bad news on December 18th. We decided to withhold this from you to ensure your future memories of Christmas and the wedding are totally joyful.
2020 is going in an unexpected direction for me staring with 5 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments in advance of surgery to remove a bottom section of my esophagus and top part of my stomach. I fully intend the outcome to be joining your Mom as a cancer survivor with many loving years ahead.
The last few weeks have been difficult but the one thing I know is that my mantra going forward will be to live every day to the fullest with dignity, courage, humour, grace and faith in God. Becca and Chris – my decision to be baptized was made at the end of Alpha prior to my diagnosis and I expect I’ll need your help to get this on an accelerated timeline.
Your Mom and Brad have been my rocks. I ask that you keep this private until the end of the weekend so I have a chance to meet with a few remaining people who should hear this from me directly. Today I spoke with Mona, Mike, Leslie, my Moosehead seatmate Joel Jacobson and Carol Goddard of BBBS. We spoke with Nanny this morning along with Dianna and Debbie who were there to take her to the doctor. Marlene called so we filled her in but asked these folks to keep this secret until after this conversation with all of you.
Becca and Chris – last night I asked Lisa and Mike to prepare to be your support pillar in Minnesota.
Jade and Drew – last night I asked Bill to fill in Rochelle when she got home from the show and prepare to be your support pillar in Toronto.
During my conversation with Wietse on Christmas Day, I shared with him the challenge that lay ahead and that I won’t be coming to the Netherlands. He has been reaching out almost daily with loving words of support and that has taken the edge off for me especially last week in Toronto.
I’m scheduled for two additional tests this week and on Monday the 13th., Mom and I along with Mona will meet Dr. Allison Wallace who’s a thoracic surgeon at the QEII and is in the lead on my case at this time. She did the upper endoscopy on December 18 and met with your Mom and I at that time to discuss what was clear and evident. I have esophageal cancer. She also commented on how obviously strong and physically fit I am. That combined with my healthy lifestyle and diet will serve me well with what lies ahead.
This will be okay. I will beat this. I love you all.
As I expected, I broke down more than once sharing this script. Janet was my rock throughout. The children asked many questions and we answered to the best of our knowledge.
As mentioned above, Janet and I will meet with Dr. Wallace on Monday, January 13th. We expect to have a lot more information regarding the stage of my cancer, the type of cancer cells, whether it has spread, the treatment plan, and what I can expect during the treatment. We decided to have a family dinner to share what we know with the children afterwards.
I think this conversation with my children and their partners was the most difficult couple of hours of my life. With that said, the emotional relief after was remarkable and I was filled with a sense of calm.
I suspect I will say this many times going forward — I count myself lucky to be surrounded by a loving family and supportive collection of good friends.