Dear Shine On Foundation,
Words cannot properly express the utmost gratitude and love my family and I have for you. During a very dark time in our lives, we had restored hope and joy towards and opportunity in taking a family adventure of a lifetime.
My Story began in December, 2018 when I noticed an unusual thickening in my right breast. A few days prior to this, our 19 month old son (at the time) weaned himself from breast feeding abruptly, so I assumed the thickened breast area had more to do with plugged ducts and breast milk than anything concerning. Since having our son, I have had multiple cysts and was used to monitor ultra sounds every 6 months, so honestly I was not too concerned about this new found area. However, I knew that an appointment with my GP should be made.
Fast forward to January, 2019, and after an ultra sound and an unusually long wait in the exam room, I was asked to keep my gown on for further testing with my first and that day (although I didn’t know it yet) last mammogram. Pictures of my tests showed the new area I had found concerning to the Radiologist. A biopsy days later confirmed one of my worst fears. I had invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer, and a later biopsy of my lymph node confirmed it had spread and was classified by my Medical Oncologist as Stage 3.
I was devastated, terrified and overcome with sadness and anxiety. This was all lessened when I was told by a new friend, Liz Senft in my online support group Breast Friends about your Foundation.
I hesitated to apply for quite a while until I just needed something else to think about and focus on that was not related to chemo side effects, surgery options and the state of my health crisis.
A dream came true the day Blair called me to say that my application had been reviewed and a dream vacation was on my horizon.
For months, my husband and I talked about Caribbean Cruises, activities, drinks and foods we would try. My parents, sister and brother in law decided they would come too which led us all to message and talk often about the adventures we would have and what fun our toddler boys would have together.
Less and less we spoke of cancer and more and more we spoke of a dream Caribbean Cruise. What a gift of extreme joy, distraction and love you have given us. We will forever be grateful for your unbelievable gift.
All you do for mothers and families does not go unnoticed!
Thank you Shine On!
Hi, my name is Shane. Even though I personally have never had Cancer, I would like to express how the Shine On Foundation has helped me, from my point of view, as a passenger, through our family’s tumultuous journey over the past year. Please go read Tegan’s story from her own personal written words, as my story here is just a support to hers, and to show the gratitude I have towards the support provided by the Shine On Foundation.
Before I start discussing my wife and how we came across the Shine On Foundation, I want to give you a little information about me, just to help you understand where my view of our situation is coming from. I have a genetic and chronic condition that leaves me in daily pain. It began to show itself and develop, mildly at first, in my mid 20’s and slowly became full blown and quite severe over the next 15 years. I had crutches next to my bed as I didn’t know, morning to morning, if I would be able to get out of bed and be able to walk that day or not. The medications I have been taking are strong, as they are also given to people with cancer to help treat their symptoms. It has only been these last few years that I have had access to extremely costly medications, and finally alleviating 90-95% of my decades old, constant daily pain. I met my wife and we started dating before I had any idea that I had a genetic condition (passed down to me on both my biological mother and father’s family genealogy). She has remained next to me, always strong and supportive, as my pain and other physical ailments grew and impacted our daily lives. As I became depressed and gained significant weight as I used unhealthy foods as a coping mechanism. And still, now that I have physical relief, with support to making me healthier again, with preparing salads and healthier options daily, and getting us back into the gym, just as a few examples. So now you understand why I wanted to tell you about me, so I could really tell you about her. Her character, her strength, her resolve, and her love.
My wife Tegan was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer in 2019. Her diagnosis hit our family hard as we were finally beginning to see some tranquility in our lives. We had just got through almost 2 decades of my ailments and struggled recouping from me pausing my medications for a few months so we could be able to conceive our first-born son, Kole. I was feeling comfortable in skin once again and we have an amazing new boy, then wham, Cancer. In the past year, Tegan went through a long cycle of Chemotherapy, then an initial 10 hour surgery, followed by a second 3 hour emergency surgery due to complications only 9 hours later. Two surgeries back to back took a lot out of her and it took significant time to recover from them. Then came the radiation treatments and the recovery from them. Now, Tegan is waiting for her next surgery, which is supposed to happen in April, but has been pushed back a bit as we are living in a Covid-19 world right now.
I have to stop here and thank all of Tegan’s surgeon’s, doctors, nurses, and all the rest of her amazing medical team in all stages of her treatment. They all have done such a truly wonderful job and we can’t thank them enough. Both mine and Tegan’s parents who have been nothing short of miraculous, with both financial and emotional support. Tegan’s parents temporarily moved back to our city and rented a place for several months to help with her surgical recovery and the constant energy and attention that a very active 2 year old brings. The support given by Tegan’s sister and her family, and my sister and brother and their families. Also, to all of mine and Tegan’s extended family, and friends so close they are our family too. Aunt’s, Uncles, Cousins, first class friends, and everyone else that came together for her and have shown nothing but love. There are truly no words that can be as generous and giving, so Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.
Even though the love and support was overwhelming, the day to day living with the realization of Cancer and the life altering and devastating effects it can have on a person and a family constantly remained both in Tegan’s and my mind. When Tegan got to the stage of beginning Chemotherapy, the fear and doubt started creeping in more and more, so Tegan began to reach out more and more to therapy groups and others going through her same experience. It was then when Tegan was encouraged by a new friend and support, Liz Senft, to explore the support of the Shine On Foundation. I remember when she brought the Shine On Foundation application to me and said she was going to apply for it. I told her not to bother – the Foundation would never choose us. I honestly did not believe we were worthy enough to an organization like this and I didn’t want Tegan to gain more doubt and insecurity from being rejected – I felt it was just safer not to apply and just be thankful for what we actually did have in our lives. But she insisted and went ahead and applied to the Shine On Foundation, and to our (mostly my) surprise, we were granted a life altering experience we could have only ever dreamed of. When the Shine On Foundation approval came in, an instantaneous joy and hope filled our family. It was a shot of life and rejuvenation that Tegan and myself truly needed. Cancer is a monumental factor in someone’s life, and without another major event happening with your family, cancer is all you gravitate to – basically all that you think and talk about to fill all the down time. Now, with this new major event awarded to us, we finally had something other than cancer to talk about, and now to dream about.
Our evening talks started to shift from what are we going to do, to what CAN we do. Our evenings began to include internet and YouTube searches on family vacations and like most families with children, we gravitated to Walt Disney World. We didn’t realize it at the time, but now looking back a year ago, this was the moment the purpose of the Shine On Foundation truly took shape for us. The Shine On Foundation quietly took our pessimism away and brought us hope and excitement for the future. It has always been a dream of mine, and Tegan too, to go to Walt Disney World, so of course we chose this adventure for the Shine On Foundation to support us on. As we continually watched videos and dreamt it was us there in the park, we learned there was a constant to all the Walt Disney World YouTube videos – the amount of walking and physical exertion needed was significant. Tegan decided it was best to delay the trip, until her Chemotherapy and first surgery was completed, to give her time to recover and recoup the energy that would be required to spend days in the theme park. Unfortunately for us, but very understandably, the Shine On Foundation has a time limit when you can use the inspirational gift they provide, so the door to this chapter closed for us, but thankfully, only briefly. This is solely because the Shine On Foundation wants to be able to help as many people and families as possible, which I really commend them on.
After the time allowed had passed and our family trip ended before it even began, Tegan was in communication with Blair from the Shine On Foundation, and he encouraged her to apply again when Tegan had the ability to make a dream trip a reality. So, when she was recovering after her surgery’s she did, and the Shine On Foundation, being the outstanding organization they are, honored Tegan’s first approval for a second time and our dream had life once more, just as we did. Such a weight was lifted from our minds, again. We really considered the physical toll that certain adventures would take on Tegan this time around, and Tegan decided a cruise would be the answer. We set a date of March 2020, and this time frame was acceptable to the Shine On Foundation, so the inspiration was set and we began to research and plan. We were going to spend one day in the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, Tegan’s birthday, before the cruise. Birthday pictures in front of Cinderella Castle and fireworks, what an amazing and enchanting experience that would be. The first reason Tegan chose a cruise this time around, is because she could spend the time resting, relaxing and reflecting if she needs to, or find a little more excitement and adventure if the winds took her that way. The second reason Tegan chose a cruise is because it was much more cost effective than a full week at Walt Disney World. For our family, the Shine On Foundation support would have been far more than enough for a Disney experience, but park tickets, on site hotels, food, etc. would have been too costly for Tegan’s parents and sisters family who wanted to pay for the same trip to join Tegan and our family, to be by our sides on this journey of celebration. As the room, food and entertainment for a full week is all rolled into one affordable package on a cruise, we were so blessed they would be able to join us during this time.
Tegan and myself have always dreamed about going on a cruise, but we never had any money remotely close to put into something like this, so we had never looked at one, or even watched a cruise video before. Now, our new normal became watching cruise bloggers on YouTube showing all the different options and experiences they have, instead of Tegan just laying around recovering, with only upcoming radiation treatments on our minds. With a significant amount of distraction time spent, we finally felt we had enough knowledge in what we were looking for, and we booked a cruise, all made possible because of the Shine On Foundations support. We spent the next few months continually talking about and visualizing this dream and had nothing but hope looking forward. The radiation treatments and subsequent recovery, as tough as it was, seemed to melt away to the background as our dream was getting closer day by day to becoming reality. But suddenly, once again, our Shine On Foundation miracle was abruptly halted, as we all entered the new world of Covid-19.
We would have returned from our Shine On Foundation experience a few weeks ago now, but unfortunately it never was to be. It is April 2020 now, and we are endlessly hopeful that we will still have an opportunity to experience our Shine On Foundation gift at some point in the future, but even though we haven’t, I personally am eternally thankful for the Shine On Foundation. This is because, from my point of view, even though the trip never happened, the Shine On Foundation did exactly what it set out to do for us – to lighten the burden of cancer day to day, to ease the depression when it tried to sneak in, and to give hope where it wasn’t even known to be needed. I felt the need so strongly to express to the Shine On Foundation how they helped myself, alongside my wife, even though I wasn’t the person with cancer in our family. Every day, from next to next, going through Tegan’s Chemotherapy, Surgeries, radiation and recoveries, has been made lighter because of the Shine On Foundation. And moving into the future, with Tegan’s next surgery and recovery, that Shine On light will remain to be there for us, especially when some of those days get dark.
Thank you Shine On Foundation. You truly made, and continue to make, a significant and positive impact on myself, and all of our family. Your giving and thoughtfulness of others is honestly inspiring and life changing to so many families.
With sincerest thanks,