A month after Chris died in 2016, Chad, Shane, and I drove to our favorite family vacation spot, a Christian family dude ranch in Estes Park, called Wind River Ranch. We visited there 3 different summers when the boys were younger. The boys had rated it a perfect “10” while they rated Disney World only a “7.” We all found this to be a place to seek and find God and enjoy family time in a relaxed Christian atmosphere.
Chad and Shane wanted to pay a special final tribute to their dad and his fight of "cancer on two wheels."
As Chris fought over the years, his body was less able to handle riding his bike, even though he desperately wanted to continue. Eventually, his bike stood in the garage, unused. Their desire was that their dad, though absent in body, would be able to roll out with them for one last ride. So exactly one week after he passed, down to the minute (Saturday at 7 a.m. and his usual ride time), Chad and Shane rolled for a lap around the neighborhood with his bike, each carrying one of his favorite jerseys.
The following are excerpts from Chris’ graveside service, performed by our friend Tom Wohlgamuth, that brought great comfort to me. I pray they will give comfort to others who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
When you're dealing with cancer--especially lung cancer--you never know when you may need to make a sudden exit due to a coughing spell or, to put it delicately, "intestinal issues." When Chris went to church, he began sitting in the spot closest to the exit door for such an emergency. The greeter assigned to our section, dear ol' George, began putting a "Reserved" sign on the back of the seats for Chris and me.
As a way to remember and honor the legacy of their father, Chad and Shane reserved Chris' regular seat in church at his funeral.
Three years ago today, Chris went home with the Lord. In remembrance, here’s part of his eulogy:
Chris knew that this was his temporary home. We can’t celebrate his life without talking about what was most important to him, and that was his faith. When Chris was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in July 2010, no one understood why he would have gotten that particular type of cancer since he had never smoked in his entire life. He could only come up with one reason: He accepted the diagnosis as part of God’s plan to use him to reach others as he witnessed for Christ. Chris also helped pave the way for successful treatments to be used on other lung cancer patients. He took part in 4 clinical trials, 2 of which were FDA approved while he was in the trials due to the success the treatments were achieving. Chris said he was willing to be a guinea pig if it helped someone else beat lung cancer.
As we near the third anniversary of Chris' death, I've decided to share another special part of his life with you.
Chris’ last month was very humbling for a man who had always been strong and took good care of his family. (In return, it was my privilege and honor to be his caregiver and be by his side throughout this 6-year journey.) He was in almost constant back pain because of the changes in his torso due to a collapsed lung and 5 fractured vertebrae that had been repaired. He walked lopsided with one shoulder noticeably lower than the other due to his collapsed lung. He also lost 2 inches in height. If you could see him now, he’s walking streets of gold. He’s standing tall and whole!
In 2010, Chris told our older son, Chad, “Go for it and chase your dream. I have no doubt you’ll make it.” (see my previous blog): Chasing a Dream
Chad reached one dream last year—his first time to race in the Tour de France. Today he reached another dream: to win an Individual Time Trial (ITT) in a WorldTour—a Grand Tour—the Giro d’Italia (Italy’s version of the Tour de France for those who aren’t familiar with the cycling world).
My younger son, Shane, was nicknamed “Baby Haga” by his cycling teammates—not because he’s my “baby,” but because he’s Chad’s baby brother. They were both on the same elite Austin-based Super Squadra team. The nickname stuck. So here’s Baby Haga’s blog in honor of Mother’s Day 2014, that still brings me to tears.
Back in 2012, Chad wrote a blog to honor my birthday and Mother’s Day. I thought today would be an appropriate day to share what wonderful boys I have. (Shane’s blog dedicated to me will be next.) For those who get to spend Mother’s Day with your children, count yourselves lucky. I have still not been able to spend Mother’s Day with Chad since he originally wrote this blog. This year, Chad is “across the big pond” in Italy—racing the Giro d’Italia (Italy’s version of the Tour de France for those who are non-cycling fans.)
I attended an educational seminar today sponsored by MD Anderson at the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas. I had an opportunity to chat briefly with Dr. John Heymach, the oncologist to whom I give credit in my book (His Love Carries Me) for saving Chris’ life in 2010. Dr. Heymach not only changed Chris’ treatment plan from chemo to radiation when he had postobstructive pneumonia, he recognized that Chris fit the profile for having a rare ALK+ gene mutation and sent his lung biopsy tissue to be tested. The results came back positive, and MD Anderson’s clinical trial for ALK+ helped Chris achieve “no evidence of disease” within 12 weeks of starting the trial. Chris never had the opportunity to get his photo taken with Dr. Heymach, so I grabbed the chance when I got it!
In February 2016, Chris and I had the privilege of meeting Danielle James and her husband at a LUNGevity Hope Summit in the Dallas area. Danielle benefited from the drug crizotinib that Chris was in the clinical trial for when it was FDA approved for lung cancer. They shared the same rare gene mutation. She is such an inspiration with what she is doing with her life, I just had to share. This is Danielle’s story (shared with her permission):
My Bible fellowship group recently started sharing stories of our spiritual growth from our early childhood to the present, and something that seemed somewhat insignificant when I was in college now has significance.
. . . DeLayne Haga for His Love Carries Me. Yes, I won the “Henri Award” at the 2018 Christian Literary Awards gala! This is Joy & Company’s “most prestigious award among faith-based writers.” The book won in the “Non-Fiction” category against some strong competition. It was a night to remember with photos on the red carpet and an interview by radio personality/author Donna Patrick.
We had just found out the previous day at MD Anderson Cancer Center (in August 2010) that Chris was considered to have inoperable stage IV lung cancer, which had metastasized to the brain. As reality settled in the next day, I was an emotional wreck, no longer numb from the initial shock of the previous day’s news. But cancer wouldn’t wait for me to gain control of my emotions. It would continue to threaten my husband’s life at a rapid pace. I couldn’t let fear paralyze me. I needed to take action to learn how to best treat it and enhance my husband’s quality of life. I had a job to do as his caregiver, and I planned to give it my best shot. Being part of the team to save his life began with learning as much as I could about what we were facing.
This is a continuation of the previous blog. I hope you will be blessed by watching these videos.
Today’s blog is because of a woman I’ve never met who bought Cancer on Two Wheels and posted a sweet review on Amazon. She has inactive cancer, and a well-meaning friend asked her if it was depressing to read a book about someone who lost his battle against cancer.
Here is part of what she wrote:
These are the websites I found helpful. I do not vouch for their accuracy or endorse products, procedures, services, or medical advice given through these links. Do not substitute my opinion or those found on these websites for those of your personal physician.
Have you ever been puzzled by the “Big Pharma conspiracy theory?” I’ve lost count of the numerous times I heard accusations on social media that there’s a conspiracy between doctors and Big Pharma to hide the cure they’ve found for cancer so they can continue to rake in money through treatments and medications. I find that hard to believe. Doctors and biopharmaceutical employees and their families get cancer and use the same treatments they recommend to the public. If a cure existed yet, they would be using it themselves. But they die from the disease just like anyone else.
I’d like to fill you in on what my husband and I experienced firsthand and put the conspiracy theory to rest.
Although there’s never a good time to have cancer, this is an exciting era with scientific breakthroughs becoming increasingly common that extend the quality of life for survivors. I have hope that a cure for the disease will be found in the near future. Researchers continue to make great strides in understanding the biology behind cancer and developing new ways to deal with it. Treatments that didn’t exist just a few years prior to my husband’s diagnosis saved his life. He achieved “no evidence of disease” three times, and he lived six years instead of just six months.
Our friend Cindy passed away from lung cancer at age 39, and we attended her funeral in Houston on November 1. That day was difficult for both of us. With Cindy’s passing, four of the lung cancer patients we had become friends with and mentors to had died. They didn’t live as long with the diagnosis as Chris had. He had a little bit of survivor’s guilt because he was diagnosed first.
“Why am I still here and they’re not?” he asked.
Cindy’s death strengthened his determination to be a voice for people who can no longer speak for themselves here on earth. He wanted to raise awareness of this despicable disease and get it the attention it deserves.
The media has done a fantastic job of teaching our society that smoking can cause cancer. Now another harmful influence is causing deaths from lung cancer in those who have never smoked due to delayed diagnosis—stigma. People, including many doctors, still think that only smokers get the disease.