Tag Archives: Austin Whittom

A WOW Letter-This is WHY I do what I do!!!

Mar 27, 2014
I got this letter today, and I spent the rest of the day all sniffy and emotional. When you start a blog, you never realize how many people it will touch and in how many ways. I was WOWed when this Mama took my quotes and stuck them together…how powerful! Its very rare that I am speechless. This was one of those times. I rarely look back at what I write. Thank you for putting it all together for me. WOW And I thank you too! XOX*******************************************************************************

Dear Emily, I am also a “Cancer Mama” as you call them. What a shitty club to be part of. And I’m a hoarder of information. I spend my sleepless nights trolling the internet for bits of information I can write in my book. It can be anything from inspiration quotes to cancer facts to germ fighting recipes. And then one night, I followed your pin to your blog. It was a life changing moment reading your posts, shifting through your story, following your adventures. I laughed with you, I cried with you, then I laughed again. But most importantly I took the good bits. I started scribbling them down, then I moved on to cutting and pasting, stealing good tidbits of info. I ended up sharing your blog with everyone I know, including all the “Cancer Mamas” here and now have bookmarked your blog. I check it everyday, hoping for a new post, wondering what you will come up with next. And as usual, I’m surprised every time. Congrats on building an amazing go-to place for Cancer families. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your soul. You are doing an amazing job. I wanted to share with you what connected with me the most. Here are the quotes I “stole”:

Ahem, Attention, Attention please. I, Mama Emma will now share my secrets as to how to “deal” with Cancer…Um, yeah, I have no idea.

Then cancer hits us and rocks my little boat. I’m suddenly clutching the sides and trying not to be thrown overboard.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Children’s Hospitals filled with sick children. Please wash your hands.

And the sad part? I didn’t spend my money on booze or drugs or tattoos or vacations or fast cars. I spent my money on Cancer. Fucking cancer. What a complete waste of money. A waste of my money and my time and my health and my sanity. Fuck Cancer…

Dear Cancer, Because of you, our family grew stronger as you grew weaker. Because of you we have gained the friendship and kinship of other cancer families that I consider as close as family. Because of you, I don’t take anything for granted. Because of you, I wake up each morning thankful for the day I had yesterday with my child and looking forward to the day I will have today. Because of you I will never be the girl, daughter, wife, mother that i was before. There is no “going back to normal”, there is a new normal now. Its stronger, bigger and badder than Cancer.

I’ve put my whole life on hold to dance with Cancer.

Yes, I said a “family with Cancer”, because really, when one member has Cancer, it affects the family unit as a whole. One member suffers, all the members suffer. We work as a group, as a team, with one goal. KICKING CANCER’S BUTT!

Hold their hand through the most terrible, stressful, awful time of their lives. Their baby is sick, their marriage is rocky, their finances are in the ditch.

Another issue would be the tube itself, being there. Your child will get stared at, babies will try to yank at it, children will ask about it. Some cancer parents would get upset. But just like any other medical disability, instead of getting insulted, or awkward, turn the situation into a learning experience.

And they were wrestling on the camp cot, you know, like tigers do, and “somehow” Griffin’s feeding tube got pulled out. Off to the camp medical office we go. We decide that we are not going to put it back in, Griffin will have to struggle through the last couple of days of camp without it. Fast forward a couple of hours, we are back in the medical office, now his leg needle has “somehow” came out as well. With our heads hung low, we have to explain that a “tiger did it”. Griffin thought this was WAY too funny and giggled himself silly as we had to explain the story to the camp medical staff, the camp director, and also the nurses and doctors as we had to attend the hospital to get everything put back in!!! hahaha LOVE IT! Tiger wrestles is the best kind of wrestling! teehee!

Of course, it could be me! I like to think that I have not changed, but that would be a lie. I HAVE changed! (I hope for the better!) I’ve lost my innocence for sure. I’ve faced my child’s mortality and of course pondered my own. I’ve buried chemo buddies, I’ve watched children waste away to nothing. I’ve watched cancer rip families apart, tear apart marriages and drain every cent a family has. I’ve watched child take medicine that poisons thier bodies to the point of death, meds that take thier hair, sight, hearing, mobility, and watched thier parents give it to them. I’ve put on a lead bib as my baby gets radiated, over and over and over again. I’m not the same person. I’ve seen the dark side of life. But because I’ve seen the dark side, I hang on tight the bright!

I’m here, my heart hurting for my fellow Cancer Mama. I’m here to represent all us Mamas out there. I’m here to respect and say good bye to the littlest cancer warrior I’ve ever met. I’m here, I’m present and I always will be.

I hope we can blaze a trail of friendship and understanding for new cancer families coming in behind us! Do not be afraid to love your fellow cancer kids and supporters! You will be thankful that you did! Thank you fellow Cancer Parents for opening your hearts to me, to us.  Thank you for putting your heart on the line and your heart on your sleeve. I understand the risk you take opening your soul to others. I understand and I’m thankful.

Once your life is ripped for you and you work HARD to but the pieces back together, you savour every moment you’ve got left.

Put altogether we get these amazing “words of wisdom” which I recently read at a cancer support group. Again, everyone laughed, everyone cried, and everyone laughed again.

Thank you from the deepest depths of my soul. Thank you for letting me out, for giving me permission to enjoy the blessings as well as the ugliness of cancer. Thank you for opening my eyes and letting me see the light as you see it. I look forward to your next post! (no pressure or anything! Hahaha)

Your fellow Cancer Mama from BC

Let us Talk about Loss

© Joseph Cortes
Early Walk © Joseph Cortes

When it comes to Cancer Kids, we must talk about the loss we all feel when we lose one. It hurts the whole community. I can only talk from an outsider’s point of view. Our son Griffin is still with us, but we have gone to a lot of funerals of his Cancer Buddies over the years. Yes, they are not my children, but it still hurts, almost like they ARE my kids. And I have a loss of innocence. I have survivors guilt. Why did my child live and theirs did not??? So I share with you my thoughts on child death:

Words of Advice From a Cancer Mama

When speaking to a recently grieved parent, please do not say things like, “It was his time”. We are talking about a child here. This was not his time. No parent should have to bury a child. A child that dies? Its not his time. Cancer stole his time…

Other things to avoid? Talk like, “God has a plan” or “God only gives you as much as you can handle”. When a parent loses a child, its a very trying time for them and they could be questioning their faith. Phrases like these do not help. I would HATE any God that did that too me, no matter the religion.

I know you are trying to relate, but please refrain from comparing a parent’s loss of a child to a dog or a Grandma. They are not the same. And it can hurt, a lot if you think that they are. This loss is a hole, their child has been ripped from them after a long hard journey. Be their safe place to fall, be a shoulder to cry on, be the supportive hand to hold. Do not be the jerk who thought that Fluffy’s passing was the same as a child. It can be insulting and hurtful.

Please DO ask if the parent would like to hear a story about your favourite moment with their child. (Some parents will not want to hear anything, others will love it, so its always best to ask) Tell a funny or touching story, how you will be remembering their child. Or tell them a story about what reminds you of their kid. Maybe every time you see a penny on the ground, or a cloud shaped like a dog, the colour lime green or whatever. It lets that parent know that you a are thinking of their child all the time and that they are still alive in your heart.

Do dedicate something for the family. A bench or tree in your favourite park, a song on the radio, anything to touch their hearts. I love to see people walking/raising money in honour of these little ones we have lost. The more money we can raise, the closer we will get to a cure. Let the family know what you are doing to honour their family.

Do listen to the parents. See what wording they are comfortable using when they are talking about their child. Some people do not like the word “loss”. To quote a Cancer Mama, “I did not ‘lose’ my child, I know exactly where he is! Right were cancer left him!” Some don’t like to refer to them as angels or their fight as a battle and they “lost” the fight. They tried their very hardest, saying they lost their fight makes them sound like losers! Some families refer to them in the present tense, others start talking in the past tense right away. So I would recommend listening closely to how the family is referring to the child and follow their lead. Every family is different, it can be very tricky but its worth it!

Sometimes there are no words

Let that sink in for a minute.  No words. You being there, present, is words enough.  Sometimes silence is worth a thousand meaningless conversations.

Don’t be afraid to smile and even laugh. Yes, this is a horrid time. But its like a roller coaster, their world is crashing in around them, and then someone reminds you of a hilarious story about your cancer kid, you can’t help but to laugh right along.

Please don’t be silent, be vacant or disappear. They are still your friend or family. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Please call, take them for a walk, dip your feet in the sand together, connect, please cook food, please hold a hand or give a hug. Everyone needs a hug sometimes…

Please hug your babies tight tonight, even if they are just in your hearts.


Many thanks to the Cancer Mamas that helped me out on this one. I talked to some of you directly, and then some were just experience. But thank you for sharing your baby with me, even for just a little while. They will live forever in my heart…

A very special RIP to Kerry’s child (name withheld), Rowan, Austin, Matteo, Alivia and Kelsey.



When talking about loss and cancer, together, one would assume we are talking about people, like actual physical people and their souls but I’d like to focus on another type of loss a Cancer Mama can meet along her journey with cancer. Friendships. Yup, its true, when you are in the worst battle of your life. You will be surprised at the people that just dissappear from your life!

At first I took this personally. but then, the more it happened and the more it happened to my fellow Cancer Mamas, the more we realized that it was a common issue! I no longer take it like an insult. People come in and out of our lives many different times, for different reasons. Who knows why but I would like them to know that the door is always open if they ever what to come back!

I tried to think up reasons. Of course, it could be me! I like to think that I have not changed, but that would be a lie. I HAVE changed! (I hope for the better!) I’ve lost my innocence for sure. I’ve faced my child’s mortality and of course pondered my own. I’ve buried chemo buddies, I’ve watched children waste away to nothing. I’ve watched cancer rip families apart, tear apart marriages and drain every cent a family has. I’ve watched child take medicine that poisions thier bodies to the point of death, meds that take thier hair, sight, hearing, mobility, and watched thier parents give it to them. I’ve put on a lead bib as my baby gets radiated, over and over and over again. I’m not the same person. I’ve seen the dark side of life. But because I’ve seen the dark side, I hang on tight the bright! I don’t take my life and my family for granted. I love my friends and family even deeper now. I see the good in people and the amazing organizations that helped us. I love watching kids kick cancer’s butt and watch them walk out of that hospital a victor. There is a new normal for me. And maybe some of my friends cannot handle this change. Is that my fault? Nope. Is it my friends fault? Certainly not. I just have a different focus, I’m on a different path and sometimes friendships cannot follow along. And thats okay. It is a hard reality to accept and that’s okay too.

Cancer is intense. Like seriously intense. Some people cannot handle that. I think a few of my friends just couldn’t handle the stress of cancer. Even though it wasn’t thier child, it wasn’t thier family, it still hurt just like it was. They had to put walls up. We all have these walls, in order to protect our hearts, but we all have different levels and strengths to our walls. Some can let me in, with my cancer baggage and all. But other people already have had assualts on thier heart, thier walls are a little shakey and already crumbling, there are hastily stacking brick on brick thying to keep it together. The added weight of a sick child on top of that? Would cause the walls to break down, that person to break down…and there for, we are no longer speaking. It does hurt me that I’ve lost friends. Of course it does. It takes notches out of my armour. But just like a knight going into battle, I still wear their ribbon daily. I hang onto the good memories and the wonderful advice, laughter and friendship they have given me over the years. They need time to regroup, time to build up thier heart and soul til it is strong again. I will be here when they do. (I hope a certain person reads this, because yes, some of this is about you. Life has given us shitty paths to take, not even a choise on our parts, just the cards we were dealt. I wouldn’t mind playing poker again…my chips are all-in)

Aaaaand I talk about cancer…a lot. I’ve been told that it can be “negative”. Take it as you will, but I’m getting the word out. Its on my facebook, twitter and pinterest, EVERY SINGLE DAY. I would imagine it can get a little “much” for people. But there is never enough for me… I talk about it alllll the time. I’m making it my mission to find a cure and raise awareness. I’m not focused only on the doom and gloom, I’m fundraising and going to events, I’m dropping off donations, I’m visiting cancer kids…I’m busy. I don’t have time to dwell on what used to be. And I’m not going to apologize or even feel sad for the friendships I have lost. They were part of my story, they made me stronger and better then before I knew them. And for that I thank them. I will love them til the end of my days. But quite frankly, i don’t have time to worry about the past, or who is talking to who. I’m moving on, I’m rising up, I’m kicking ass. If you want to join me, hop on board! If you’re not, thats okay, maybe i’ll see ya on my way back around!


Today we lost a Baby…

Today we lost a Baby…

Okay, so Austin was not exactly a baby, he was 13 years old, but he was still Jen’s baby and Cancer took him too soon, and I’m upset. I want to stomp my feet, I want to have a temper tantrum, I want to scream at the top of my lungs. But will any of this bring sweet Austin back to us? Nope, so here I am, stuck at work, trying to hold it together so my co-workers don’t think I’m even nuttier than I really am.

Let me introduce Mr Austin. (He is Adam in my other posts) He is a teenager. All the teens in the Chemo clinic sit in a special area that has a big TV and an arcade style video game. This area is off-limits to little kids. Try telling a 2 year old that. This off-limits area is tempting like honey to a bee. All the teens have iphones and ipads and various video games. My techie loving son was desprete to get his sticky little hands on it all. Most of the teens ignored the little kids (I don’t blame them) but Austin did not. Griffin would poke his head inbetween the seats to peer at whatever Austin was watching/gaming. Austin would grin ear to ear and tilt the screen so Griffin could see. They were buddies from that day forward. Austin was not a man of many words, generally quiet. So was Griffin, but they were still great buds!

About halfway through Griffin’s year of treatments, we were on the hospital ward for a routine round of in-treatment chemo for a week. And guess who was our roommate? AUSTIN! Griffin was VERY excited, but poor Austin was having a rough go. The poor kid was throwing up every three minutes. Since we were sharing a room, you can hear everything so we were trying to respect his privacy, but you could not help but to hear the BLAHHHHH of him throwing up, and then the sweetest, weakest little voice would pipe up, “Excuse me” or “Sorry” everytime he threw up! He was apologizing to us! He was in the worst shape of his life, puking up a gut and worried about us?!?!?! Yup, thats Austin for ya!

On Griffin’s LAST chemo hospital stay, Austin was also on the ward, right beside us in a quarentined room. He was flown in by helicopter, he was very weak and small looking in that bed. He had an oxygen mask on, and would lift his head and try to take the mask off to talk to Griffin! Since he was too weak to get up, he wrote a note so his Mum could write a special note on Griffin’s NO MORE CHEMO banner.

Austin was such a kind soul, seriously, its really rare to see that in teens these days. We are so lucky to have met him, even for such a little while. Somedays it just doesn’t seem fair. I cry my tears but now I’m just plain old MAD. Our babies shouldn’t be going through all this grown up stuff. My child shouldn’t have to go to THREE different funerals for his friends this year…its just not fair. But it just makes me want to fight harder, scream louder. Lets find a cure here people. NOt one more baby are we going to loose to this horrid disease. No more.

RIP Austin Whittom. May you be free of pain and at peace. Keep your stick on the Ice!