Team Blakeway – Surviving the Storm

Team Blakeway – Surviving the Storm

Glennon Doyle, one of my favourite authors, suggests writing from your scars and not your wounds. Simply put, she suggests that writing from a place of pain is too much for others to handle and leads to readers ‘feeling sorry for you’, whereas writing from your scars helps others as you have moved through your pain and are able to write from a place of reflection.

I hate to detour from great advice, but I’ve decided to write in the midst of pain. Why? Because I am not the only one struggling right now. We are experiencing a global pandemic and living with pain has become a shared experience. The stress contagion is high in our community and I know few people who are not dealing with heavy emotions in one way or another. I write publicly because I know I am not alone, and perhaps my feelings and emotions will relate to yours. Or perhaps a time will come when these words will help you move through a difficult space. Regardless, I write as an outlet of comfort, and a reminder to myself that brighter days are ahead.  

So.. what pain am I referring to? An all too familiar pain. The pain of watching a family member suffer. The pain of missing life as we know it.  Four years ago, our oldest son Jaden became quite ill. After a month of unexplained symptoms, we ended up in emergency at BC Children’s hoping for answers. To be honest, we were hoping for a prescription that would fix him so we could return to our regular routines. I remember feeling irritated by the seven hour wait, thinking that would be the longest part of our journey. I truly wasn’t prepared for the nurse to tell us our son had a disease without a cure.

2017 was the beginning of our battle with Crohn’s disease. As parents it was heartbreaking to watch our child suffer knowing there was little we could do to help him get through. Instead, we had to put our faith in the medical system and hope his team of doctors could help him heal and work towards remission. Night after night my husband and I would say ‘I wish it was me instead of him.’  We began ‘Team Jaden’ and focussed our efforts on fundraising to help find a cure. Our friends and family rallied with us and as Jaden’s health started to improve, so did our fundraising efforts. Since 2017 Team Jaden has helped raise over $10 000 for Crohn’s research (thank you friends and family!).  

Luckily, with outstanding care from BC Children’s Hospital, Jaden is doing well. Every seven weeks he receives a day long infusion of a biologic drug that lowers inflammation in his body and allows him to thrive. Besides this minor inconvenience, Jaden has few side effects and lives a happy, healthy, life. As a family, we thought we had worked through our hardest days. When we had wished it was us instead of him, we had no idea that wish would come true.

On December 20, 2020 my husband Shawn went to emergency with stomach pain. It was 7:30 AM on a Sunday morning and our kids were asleep. He figured if he could get in early, he would be prescribed the right type of pain killer and get home in time for a mid-morning hike with our dogs. He suspected the pain was merely the result of a pulled muscle from working out.  For those of you that don’t know Shawn, there is nothing he loves more than being active.  After recovering from two spinal surgeries Shawn was back in great health and working out daily with long term goals of completing an Iron Man and the 5 Peaks running series. He was excited to begin a new assignment within the RCMP working with youth as a school liaison officer. Life was on track minus a sudden onset of stomach pain. Like we had with Jaden, we expected the doctor to hand Shawn a prescription so we could get on with our busy lives. 

A few hours later the plan of hiking with the dogs faded away and Shawn was admitted to the hospital. By Christmas he had undergone a series of tests and procedures and received the same diagnosis as our son: Crohn’s Disease. Like Jaden, Shawn’s disease was labelled as ‘severe’.

We are now eight weeks into this journey and we do not have a happy ending yet. We are in the thick of it. Biopsies are inconclusive and there is too much inflammation and scar tissue for clear imaging. Surgery is likely but that is on hold until drugs take effect and swelling is reduced. There is a 30% chance his body will not respond to the drugs he is on, though it will take months before we know if there is progress. Shawn lives in chronic pain, is unable to sleep, unable to work, unable to exercise and unable to function for more than a few hours a day. The road to recovery is still long.  It is heartbreaking to see someone you love suffer.

Despite this we have hope. We have watched our son fight this disease with strength and courage. We have witnessed the amazing transformation that can happen once the right drugs are found.  We are grateful to live in Canada with an amazing medical system that covers incredibly expensive treatment. For now, we live with the pain, and we find ways to manage. 

Self-care has moved from an indulgence to a necessity and we make effort to get outside, to walk, to rest and to practice gratitude.  Our lives have slowed down (though with a pandemic we are not missing much). We turn to yoga, meditation, journaling and support of friends and family to move through the pain and manage mental wellness. (Other moments are less graceful. I cry, Shawn gets quiet and I order a surplus of things we don’t need from Amazon.)

As a dad, Shawn now looks up to Jaden as his hero – his role model who endured this pain ahead of him and navigated treatment with strength and grace.  As a family we continue to learn about this disease, and we will continue to fundraise to find a cure.  Team Jaden is now Team Blakeway as we have just registered for our 5th year of the Gutsy Walk. We will dream of the day when a cure is found for this lifelong disease. https://crohnsandcolitiscanada.akaraisin.com/ui/GutsyWalk2021/p/e4f76406ae034c698c76980304492491 Donations and/or participation are gratefully appreciated.

For now, we acknowledge that it’s ok to not be ok. These days are long, but they are not forever. In the words of the great Maya Angelou, every storm runs out of rain. 

Dear 2021 – We Are Counting on You

Dear 2021 – We Are Counting on You

Dear 2021,

I am writing to let you know we have high hopes for you. We apologize in advance if we seem a tag disgruntled. Your predecessor, 2020, was not well liked by many. We tried to be encouraging and supportive but unfortunately, 2020 just didn’t get any better so we decided to say goodbye. We welcome you, 2021, and we are counting on you to lift our spirits. Please renew our faith as your year unfolds. In case you are wondering what we are looking for, I have outlined some of our hopes:

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10 Simple Strategies to Promote Wellbeing

10 Simple Strategies to Promote Wellbeing

I’m worried about you. I’m worried about all of us. As winter sets in and the days get darker, COVID-19 numbers continue to rise in our community and around the world. As this happens, our collective stress level also rises, impacting our wellbeing. We are all grieving. Some of us are grieving the loss of freedom to live carefree, or the loss of a lifestyle we took for granted. We are grieving the loss of personal connections with friends and family. For some, grief is more substantial, grieving the loss of a loved one.

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The Silver Lining of COVID-19

The Silver Lining of COVID-19

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Good morning and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

As I woke up this morning, I couldn’t help but smile at all the good in the world despite COVID-19.  I’m amazed at the acts of kindness, humanitarian efforts, and creativity that surrounds us as we all adjust to our new normal.

This has me thinking back to lessons we learned in History classes, and I can’t help but wonder if part of the stories were left untold.  When we learned about dark times such as the Great Depression or World War I and II, we only read about what went wrong. I know people died or that people suffered, so somehow, I just assumed everyone was collectively miserable.  I never stopped to think that during those difficult times people also helped their neighbors, laughed together, or experienced happiness. Continue reading

My Mom’s Journey with COVID-19. Please Stay Home.

A few days ago, I wrote a blog post entitled ‘This is Not My Story – This is OUR Story‘ and I encouraged people to see how we are in this together and need to respond by thinking of others first.  The post was not about me, or my family – it was about us as a collective, and the difference we can make together.

This post is much more personal.  With my mom’s permission, I am sharing her journey.  I do so not for empathy (though your positive vibes are more than welcome), but so that the story of COVID-19 becomes more personal for you.  It is my belief that stories are what connect us.  Stories inspire us, lift us up, help us heal. Through story, we begin to make sense of these crazy times, and we begin to understand why our actions matter.

My mom is a healthy, happy, and social woman. Continue reading

This is Not My Story. This is OUR Story. COVID-19 in Canada.

When we acquire knowledge, we learn.  Sometimes this happens when we explore something new and seek information.  Other times, learning happens when our experiences shift our perception and challenge our pre-existing beliefs.  As adults, there are times where we stop in our tracks and realize our previous thinking was wrong.

This is one of those times.  Like many Canadians, I am watching press conferences and reading news stories as COVID-19 spreads worldwide.  Just weeks ago, when the disease had little impact in Canada, I jumped on the bandwagon and laughed at memes of people over-reacting and clearing grocery shelves, hoarding a huge supply of essential items like toilet paper.  I assumed the panic associated with this disease was largely due to media hype and hysteria.

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Dear Students…

Dear Students…

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Dear Students,

School starts tomorrow. This brings about a mix of emotion as some of you are excited to return and see your teachers and classmates, while others may feel anxious about a new year.  You are probably wondering who your teacher will be, who will be in your class, and whether or not you will have a great year.

While you are getting ready for your first day, we, as a staff, are getting ready to greet you.  Your teachers have been in decorating classrooms, secretaries have been organizing everything you need for a smooth start up and we have been planning ways to help you have a great year. Continue reading

Rear View Reflections: Looking Back at 2018

Rear View Reflections: Looking Back at 2018

It’s New Year’s Day and social media streams are full of proclamations about the coming year and resolutions moving forward.  It’s an annual day of goal setting – making New Years resolutions for a healthier and happier self.

While I am a big fan of setting goals, I also enjoy the art of reflection – and learning from days passed before setting a plan for moving forward.  Sometimes we can learn much about ourselves by looking in the rear view mirror.  Looking back, 2018 has been a year full of learning.  Here are a few reflections I am taking Continue reading

Dear New Teacher… You Can Do This!

Dear New Teacher… You Can Do This!

Teaching is a tough job.  Every good educator has days where they feel defeated – yet there are also many moments that make teaching an incredibly rewarding career.

Each year, when we get to host student teachers, I invite the staff to write words of wisdom. It’s interesting to see how advice changes over time.  This year, the themes include connections, joy and self care.

Here is some great advice from the staff at Laity View Elementary, encouraging student teachers and new teachers as they embark on an exciting career path: Continue reading

This is Inclusion: Laity View Love

This is Inclusion: Laity View Love

One of my best friends has Autism.  When we met in 1988, he was in a segregated classroom with small chunks of time spent in mainstream classes.  Over the past 30 years, as our friendship has grown, I have witnessed a variety of reactions from the community choosing to include or exclude Steven.

Let me start by sharing how we met.  In 1988, I was in grade 8 at Dr. Charles Best Secondary in Coquitlam.  Like many high schools, my friends and I had claimed ‘our table’ in the cafeteria, and day in and day out we sat in the same space.  The first table passed the lunch line was reserved for kids with special needs.  As I made my way from the cafeteria line to ‘my table’, Steven shouted out “Hey – what’s your name? Come sit with me!”   In that moment, I made one of the best decisions I have ever made and Continue reading