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The Beauty of Strength

Today’s story is very near and dear to my heart and it has been very hard for me to write. I apologize in advance if I ramble on a little…

This is my beautiful friend Ann, and she possesses a strength that I have seen in very few other people. Simply put she is amazing.

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Eric and I have an ongoing debate about Ann… it’s whether she’s our little sister or our oldest daughter. No matter which way you look at it, she’s part of our family.

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Ella will tell you, she’s her best friend, next to Tehya, of course.

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Tehya won’t tell you much yet… but her smile and laughter speak volumes about what she thinks.

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Now a little history… I first met Ann at Camp Goodtimes in the summer of 2001. I was one of her counselors and we bonded over ice cream and a love of books. She was at the tail end of her treatment for Leukemia, and was doing great. Just before her 15th birthday, the cancer came back. It was during this time that our friendship really grew. She was in Vancouver for treatments, but all her friends were back home in Kamloops. I was happy to take her out for ice cream or stop by for a visit at Ronald McDonald house to watch a movie, just hang out and be her friend. After lots of Chemo and a bone marrow transplant… the cancer was gone.

A few years later, I watched her graduate from high school. I sat with her family and was so proud to watch her walk across that stage. She “approved” of Eric and was there to see us get married. We were with her when she applied for and received one of the Terry Fox Scholarships. She moved to Vancouver to work on her bachelors of science at SFU. She was one of the first people we told that we were expecting. It was at one of our monthly dinners. Life was good.

Then in the spring of 2009, Ann was diagnosed with Lymphoma. It was just before Ella was born and I still remember the call as clear as day. I got off the phone and had a good cry. It just wasn’t fair. But being the amazing person she is, Ann beat the odds and kicked cancer to the curb again. As soon as her energy returned, she completed her bachelor of science degree. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life, so she just took some time. She looked after Ella for us one day a week, and trained to become a lifeguard and got a job at the pool. She talked about the fact she wanted to travel to Australia… so we encouraged her.

This past September, the day after we celebrated Tehya’s birthday, she boarded a plane and started her adventure. She was loving her time in Australia, meeting new people and generally doing what most 25 year olds should be doing. Then on January 15th, she found a lump. Several weeks and lots of tests later, the results were back. Lymphoma. It was February 7th. She left the hospital and walked into a travel agency to book her flight home. She landed on the 11th and went straight to the hospital to meet with her doctor. With nothing happening for the next week, she headed home to Kamloops to spend some time with her family, arriving back to us on the 17th. The tests are mostly done and treatment is due to start soon.

As Ann’s friend, I know she’s amazingly strong and can beat cancer again. As Ella’s mom, I’m struggling. Eric and I told Ella right away, as we know that she the kind of kid that needs time to process the information. She asks a lot of really HARD questions. They range from, “How do you die?” to “Is Ann feeling better now?” I know that she doesn’t fully understand what’s happening, but we’ll keep doing our best to give her as much information as we think she can handle. To answer the hard questions and to be honest when we just don’t know. It is a learning experience for all of us. One I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

We took the photographs I shared today on the weekend. To me, they are a celebration of our friendships. They are a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. They capture the love, happiness and joy that we share. They are something to hang onto when the road ahead looks so rough. Cancer can rob someone of so much, but only of what they are willing to relinquish.

To my dear sweet Ann, I know you can beat this. You are one of the strongest people I have ever met. When you’re in the middle of your treatment and having a low moment, I hope you’ll be able to look back at these photos and see our love shining through to you. Encouraging you. Lifting you up. Rooting for you. We will be here for you through the good and bad times ahead. You can do this and when it’s over, I look forward to celebrating with you.

To everyone who’s read this far, I ask one favour of you. Give those nearest and dearest to you an extra hug tonight. Hold them close and tell them that you love them. Life is never certain but you can choose to live a life full of love and without regret.

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12 Responses to The Beauty of Strength

  1. kim riley says:

    Katrina, thank you for sharing this. I hope to meet Ann someday and will keep her and all of you in my prayers. You are all truly blessed to have each other. Hugs and much love.

  2. Pam Brownsey says:

    Wonderfully written Katrina and so appropriate for today which would have been our sister Linda’s birthday. She lost her fight in 1990 at only 38 yrs. Wishing you all great strength at this difficult time. We will be thinking fondly of Ann whom we have met a couple of times. See you Sunday. Xoxo

  3. Claud says:

    Dear Katrina,
    With strength and grace you wrote this post, with that same strength and grace you will help three amazing ladies(Tehya, Ella and Ann) and your pretty great husband weather the good times and the rough times. Thank you for reminding us of the everyday important reasons to take photos! Also the every day important reasons to show each other love-because we can! Be proud of yourself, you are equally amazing! Xoxo

  4. xanthoula says:

    Katrina, this is such a beautiful and eloquently written piece. It really shows just how strong and amazing a woman you are, and what an equally strong and incredible “human bean” Ann is. Thank you also for sharing the photos of you, Ann, and your beautiful family–the love is obvious in each and every picture. You are both in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. Cynthia Yoshida says:

    Your words about Ann are beautiful. There is so much to love about her. When you see her, please let her know that I am thinking of her and sending her strength and love.

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