Our Story of Hope

Our Story of Hope

Our story began on September 29, 2011. My husband had left for a fishing trip to Nelson, BC, and my son and I were discussing the recent changes we had seen in my husband; not being able to keep track of things, shuffling his feet, and some behavioural changes. Then the phone rang and our journey and rollercoaster ride began. A 5cm lesion was found in the right temporal lobe of my husband’s brain. The next day he was airlifted from Trail, BC to the Calgary Foothills Hospital and he underwent a craniotomy on October 1st.

My husband was a very active person and was always outdoors. He was a fly fishing guide and ski instructor and it was very important to him from the very beginning that he would be able to continue these activities. After his first surgery and 6 weeks of radiation and chemotherapy my husband was back on the slopes, helmet on, and skiing as he had before.

In the Summer and Fall he was back on the river guiding clients on the beautiful Alberta rivers he so loved. His goal was to keep as active as possible and this helped him immensely throughout his journey, it enabled him to maintain a sense of normalcy, and more importantly allowed him to surround himself with the incredibly therapeutic effects that nature and the outdoors provide. Each time we went in for his monthly visits the team were amazed at how well he was doing, always upbeat and optimistic. He did not focus on what he couldn’t do, but rather what he was still able to, and continued to get so much enjoyment and peace out of activities, which had always meant a great deal to him.

We realized at the onset that, as a family, we had to work as a team in order to cope with our new reality. Our son was the person to keep our minds off the frustrating times by providing good humour and stories. While our daughter had researched the available options thus helping us make educated healthcare decisions. I had the role as caregiver/logistics person; taking notes during appointments, driving into Calgary, and after his surgeries administering his medication and giving him his daily injection of anticoagulant. My husband’s role –the fighter.

We were also very fortunate to have an extended support team; all of the friends and community members who called, visited, and offered to drive him to his appointments, to the incredible healthcare team at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Foothills Hospital and at the Avastin clinic. Words can’t describe what The Tom Baker meant to us, professionally they answered all our questions, and guided us along the way. Sometimes iit was a good visit –“Hurray, the Avastin is working – the tumour has regressed”, to other times “we think you need another surgery”. Regardless we always left hopeful due to the staff’s compassionate care, which was critical in his journey. My husband referred to his compassionate nurses and oncologist as his “angels”, which spoke highly of their significance in his life, since he was not a religious man.

In total, Peter had 3 craniotomies, six weeks of radiation, Temozolomide, Etoposide, Avastin, and Lomustine. Peter also developed a pulmonary embolism, and was receiving daily injections of Tinzaparin. In November 2013 we were given the news that no more treatment options were available and we were being handed over to the local palliative unit. Peter passed away at home on my birthday – on a beautiful January day surrounded by myself, son and daughter.

From the beginning, the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada had been (and still is) an important resource for our family. It started with their handbook which was given to us after his first surgery and then continued with their online information. The information we have received from this organization has been outstanding.

In addition to the medical journey, Peter, my daughter and myself embarked on more personal causes. Two weeks after his first surgery Peter decided that he wanted to get other cancer patients and survivors out to the mountains for a day of skiing. Instinctively he knew that being in the fresh air in the mountains would be as valuable as the treatments in the clinic. He approached Wellspring Canada, Young Adults Cancer Canada and Lake Louise Ski Area and they all joined in.

This year will be the fourth year and we look forward to continuing it for many years to come. My daughter, who was a first year student in the UBC Nursing Program when my husband was first diagnosed, became the Charity Coordinator for her class and raised funds for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Since then she is also sitting on the BC Cancer Agency Brain Tumour Patient Family Advisory Council, rode in the 2014 BC Ride to Conquer Cancer where she raised money for cancer research, is facilitator for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada's Virtual Support Groups and is presently working as an oncology /homecare nurse.

My role has been telling our story, letting others know that even though it’s an overwhelming journey with pain and sorrow, there has also been an incredible amount of love and support. It changed all of our lives. We miss Peter, but feel his presence every day and hope that in our small way we can use our experiences to help others venturing along a similar journey.

Of course, being diagnosed with a brain tumour was terrible news, however, my husband and our family were able to appreciate the ways that it altered our lives. We learned about what was truly important; we learned about love within a family, we learned about our appreciation for many individuals in the health care system and organizations dedicated to people living with cancer, we learned about community and the solace of friendship, we learned about the calming and reassuring escape that our passions can provide us, and we learned that in order to endure this journey that we need to take it one day at a time, and remember that we are never alone.

Hope is a state of mind, it’s an attitude, but it dictates how we perceive a situation, hope is constantly shifting in its outcome, but our journey was one that was entirely dependent on it, and it made all the difference for us.

Thank you to the Anderson family for sharing your story of hope, perseverance and love.

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