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.
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.
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!
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.
Seeing Chris so weak during radiation was scary. Formerly robust and full of vitality, he became skin and bones, sleeping a lot, and looking like “death warmed over.” I struggled to keep a strong front, holding a tsunami of emotions in. Occasionally, billowy waves crashed over me, destroying my façade.
Many mornings I’d have a smile on my face as I kissed Chris good-bye before I went to work. But as soon as I got in my car, tears started flowing, and I cried all the way to the office. My client and his wife, Jay and Lou Ann, were so compassionate. Having worked with them for eleven years in their home-based office, we’d become close friends. Seeing me walk in the door with a shiny red nose and bloodshot eyes, they knew I was having a rough morning and let me cry on their shoulders while they comforted me.
Back in November 2015, Chad reflected on life as a professional cyclist while his dad was battling cancer. He also shared his perspective on some life lessons (used with his permission):
My younger son, Shane, was Chad’s shadow. Whatever Chad did, Shane did. Their lives always seemed to be intertwined as best buddies. After Shane graduated from college and was unhappy with his chosen career path, he decided to try his brother’s dream career. Shane, too, became a professional bicyclist, before he quickly realized that was Chad’s dream—not his. Here are excerpts from what Shane wrote in 2014 (shared with his permission):
My older son, Chad, just finished racing his first Tour de France, and his professional cycling team, Team Sunweb, helped Tom Dumoulin place second overall. As proud and excited as I am for him and for them, Chad will be the first to tell you that there is more to life than just sports. Below are excerpts from a blog that he wrote about a life-changing experience he had in 2013 (shared with his permission):
Well, yesterday was quite the exciting day. Chad officially became a bike racer in the eyes of the American public as he entered his first stage of the Tour de France. Although he has seven Grand Tours already under his belt, because the general public in America has never heard of those races, those tours don't count.
At our monthly Cancer Encouragement Group in 2013, Paul Guffey, a cancer survivor and talented musician, played the guitar and sang a soft, tranquil song that he wrote. I found myself wiping away tears; it made my heart swell so much with emotion that I couldn’t contain it. The song helped me realize that my love for the Lord had continued and grown despite the storms in life we were experiencing. He was giving me the strength to carry on through each day. With Paul’s permission, I will share the lyrics with you and pray that it will touch your heart, too.
In April 2011, Chris and I were asked to be guest panelists at a Relay for Life session in Denison, Texas, to share how cancer touched our lives in ways we never expected. Here are some of the questions I was asked, along with my answers:
What do you wish you had known from the beginning of the diagnosis?
Welcome to my blog! This is a place where I will provide caregiver tips, resources for cancer information and financial help, and suggestions to assist those who are going through a devastating medical diagnosis. I might include excerpts from our books and some “outtakes” that didn’t make it into my book. You may suggest in the “Comments” section other topics you’d like me to cover in this blog related to caregiving or cancer.