Tuesday, June 23, 2009


In 2007 we received a call from my parents. May of 2008 would be their 50th wedding anniversary, and they decided to give us a gift. They said the most important thing to them was family, and all they wanted was to be with us. They were treating the entire family to a 7 day Caribbean cruise. How cool is that?

Then, soon after that phone call, our lives changed when Tyler was diagnosed. The single focus of the entire family became healing Tyler. The trip was set aside, and we all went to war against this cancer. The support from our entire family was incredible.

Within hours of the diagnosis, my parents had me connected two important people. The first was the Standford doctor who developed the American version of the most aggressive treatment protocol for Burkitt's Lymphoma. The second was a doctor who became one of four incredible medical advocates we used as we received conflicting advice on treatments. Through them we quickly learned that options are almost never as black and white as they are often presented.

A few weeks after Tyler's diagnosis, I was asked to speak at some fund-raisers for Children's hospital. Afterwards the organizer commented that I always used Tyler's name when talking about things like strength and courage, but never used his name in a sentence with cancer. He said when focusing on cancer I switched to the plural, speaking of "our" scans, "our" options, "we" need, "our" prognosis, "we" received. I had never thought about it before. I was not even aware I was doing it, but I believe it is true. Cancer is truly a disease of the entire family. Tyler absolutely was on the front lines, but the entire family was in the war. This is true of ever family we have meet in the hospitals. All for one and one for all. Cancer is a disease of the entire family.

After we put together the treatment road map, I picked a date for remission and a new date for the celebration cruise. But the cancer turned out to be more advanced that originally thought, and we had several set backs. We missed the the dates. But Tyler continued to fight, and the prayers continued to come in. Finally we achieved remission. And then, although the docs don't like the word "cured", Tyler was officially considered cancer-free on the 12th of this month. On the 14th we joined my parents, my sister and friend, and my cousin and family, all on the long awaited cruise. We just got back. The best vacation ever!

My parents said the highlight of the trip was when a healthy and strong Tyler walked into their cabin, and escorted them arm-in-arm to a surprise vow renewal ceremony in the chapel. My highlight was my favorite activity in the world...SCUBA diving with my four sons. It is now almost impossible to recall the image of Tyler in the hospital. Now all I see is him diving in the Caribbean, zip-lining through the Belize jungles, chasing wild monkeys in Honduras, and karaoke singing on the ship. The best vacation ever.

I know there is still a war going on. I really wanted to attend the big CureSearch event in Washington DC this week, but it overlapped with the cruise. And a lot of our friends are still deep in the fight. Racheal Tippie is doing great at a new hospital, new doctor, and new treatment. Mason McLeod is fighting hard. Joe Friend is getting some good news for St. Judes, Matthew Barr has his golf outing coming up. Zac Mason's fight is facing very difficult challenges. Justin Hutchins is in a lot of pain. Brayden Bueter, Alex Pothast, Christina O'Bryan, Clayton Booth, Ty Ulmer, and so many others. Please continue to keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

But this war does have victories. It does have miracles. Tyler is one of many. Always fight to win. Always refuse to lose. And celebrate every single day. My parents celebrated 50 years together. I do not know how many of us will be here 50 years from today. I do not know how many days any of us have. But this I do know. I have looked into the eyes of children as they fought for more days. For reasons I do not know, days were taken from them but given to us. Let's make sure we earn the days we were so freely given. Take nothing for granted. Celebrate them. Enjoy them. Live a life worth living.


Believe it or not, I keep the running schedule on the boat. Even the 7 miler (28 laps on the ship deck). The training schedule required some hills, but I did skip that. Unless you are on the Titanic, hills are a little hard on a boat. I did try the treadmill with the elevation thing, but almost fell off with the boat swaying.

I still have a lot of weight to lose, but that goal was missed on the ship. The good news is that I did not gain any.

But now the docs say I can't run for a week. I have an infection in my leg from the trip. He thinks it's a bug bite. I thought it was the stingray that bit me. He latched on and wouldn't let go. The dive guide called it a Grand Cayman Hickey--no extra charge. I think it's the only thing I got on that island at no extra charge.


deyerles said...

It was an awesome celebration for many reasons. It was wonderful seeing Tyler looking so healthy and happy. I have some great pictures of him with the monkeys and iguanas and under the palm tree on West bay beach. I have so many great pictures to share of everyone. These memories will last forever.


MJ/Angel_Wings said...

Hi Tyler and Family I am so thankful you had such a wonderful time on the cruise. Please know that I am thinking about you and keeping you close in prayer

Anonymous said...

Hi Alfriend Family,
This is Olivia Mallett's mom. I just read about your trip and it sounded wonderful. Also the latest test results was truly something to celebrate!
Take care
Patti Mallett