Shannon and Darren’s twins—a boy and a girl—were 9 years old when Shannon’s cancer was diagnosed. Shannon worked in HR management, and Darren was an assistant athletic director at a university. The couple was extremely busy and often didn’t make time to take vacations, let alone eat together as a family. The diagnosis devastated Shannon and Darren, but Darren rallied, making it clear to Shannon that he would support her and do his best to fight alongside her.
Even as the couple became more intentional about being strong for each other, the treatment phase slowed down the couple’s life and changed their priorities as well. Now closer than ever as a couple, Shannon and Darren began placing more value on the quantity and quality of their time spent together as a family.
After Shannon’s initial surgery and treatment, the doctors gave the family good news: Shannon’s cancer had gone into remission. Feeling healthy again, Shannon wanted to be with the twins while they experienced certain joys for the first time, such as skiing and snowmobiling. When Shannon and Darren found out that the cancer had returned, their zest for life increased, deciding that the family should be together as much as possible.
Shannon chose to do one thing without her family, however. She joined a faith-based cancer support group. Darren offered to go to the group with her, but she told him she knew she had his total support already. The time she spent with the group felt sacred. She said the group helped her perspective shift away from anger and disappointment and toward peace.
Darren, desiring to show his love and commitment to her, asked Shannon if they could renew their wedding vows. Shannon agreed, wanting the kids to see how much love they had for one another. The whole family took a 20-mile limousine ride to Emerald Bay in California’s Lake Tahoe and experienced a beautiful ceremony.
Shannon’s next concern was how to proceed with treatment. One day during the car ride to an appointment with her oncologist, Shannon told Darren that she had been praying for a clear sign on whether to keep fighting and be sick or if God had something else for her. Darren and Shannon already had a feeling that the cancer was spreading faster than it could be treated. The oncologist could have been clinical during the appointment, but he chose a more supportive role, which answered Shannon’s prayer for clarity. He gently said it was time to “hug each other and the kids.” So Shannon and Darren changed the plan from fighting the cancer to making Shannon comfortable.
Darren has good advice for all of us: “Please take time [to spend] with your families. Stop sometimes and appreciate one another more than you do already. Set aside some time together for no other reason than to just be together.”
Pastor Ken Wolter has more than eight years experience as a hospital and outpatient oncology and palliative care chaplain. He is the founder of Esperas4Cancer.
If you’re experiencing a family crisis, Focus on the Family has resources and counseling to assist. You can contact us Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain time) at: 855-771-HELP (4357) or [email protected]