As I look back 15 years ago, on that sunny day in May 2005, on what we now call “D-Day,” it’s hard to think about it. Joy and I don’t discuss it. It’s actually a blur, and most of the history surrounding that day is a blur as well. What I do remember is that when Connor was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma, our world changed in an instant. Our “normal” changed. Our family dynamic changed. Everything changed. We tried not to not let cancer be a shadow over our family, but there it was.
As we progressed through the regiment of chemotherapy, radiation, pills, platelet and blood transfusions, two bone marrow transplants, and multiple long surgeries, the shadow continued to grow. The one thing that I was always conscious of was that we could not allow this shadow to overtake our family. We needed to continue to live life day-to-day, because each day was, and still is, a gift. So we made things very simple. Our focus was faith, family, and friends. We “slimmed down” our lives, our calendars, and lived one day at a time, therefore not allowing cancer to overshadow our family.
As a father and husband, I made the decision to keep life simple based on some very somber statistics about childhood cancer’s disruption to families and marriages. The week of Connor’s diagnoses, the doctor warned us of the high divorce rate, which was a staggering 90%. Joy and I had to make a conscientious effort to hold on to our marriage, our family, our faith, and our friends, and that’s what got us through this.
As treatment progressed, Connor got better at times and at other times, he got worse. We beat the three-month mark of a terminal diagnosis and extended his life almost four and a half years longer. I look back and I see a family that drew closer to the Lord and closer to each other. What a true blessing.
J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of Rings, has a great quote, “In the end, the shadow was only a small and passing thing, There was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach”.
And that’s how I looked at it. We were walking through the shadow of death and our old normal was being left behind. As we moved through this shadow, this dark canyon, the only thing that surrounded my family were the millions of prayers and the thousands of people pushing us through the shadow, leaving their loving fingerprints on us as we passed through.
Today, I can reflect on Connor’s legacy and the incredible impact TeamConnor has made by raising almost $4M for pediatric cancer research. We look at TeamConnor as one of our own children. In fact, we adopted two children, a brother and sister, a few years after Connor passed. So really his legacy is three new members to our family; two by adoption and one by adaptation. Adapting is how we created TeamConnor, as his wish was that no other child would ever have to face cancer like he did, without much hope for survival. We want Connor’s legacy to live beyond us by helping fund pediatric cancer research, and hopefully removing the shadow from other people’s lives before it ever reaches them.
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