Lives touch us. Inspire us. Change us.
We all have a story...

CAMERON FLANNIGAN

CAMERON FLANNIGAN

Our story begins in spring of 2008. Cameron was eighteen and loved to play soccer. He began to complain about a pain in his upper left leg and buttock. I paid little attention, since I was convinced that he had hurt his leg playing soccer. Off and on over the next six months Cam would complain. Eventually I noticed that he was beginning to limp. By late 2008, Cam was occasionally taking Advil and going to bed because the pain was so bad. In December, I dragged him to his GP. She sent Cam for x-rays and nothing showed up. In Jan. 2009, our family went on a trip to Disney World. We were staying 3 nights and then going on the cruise for 4 nights. While on the cruise, Cam was in so much pain, he spent several days and nights sleeping. Kev and I were fighting. Neither one of us knew how to help him, and couldn't at the moment.

When we got home, I took Cam to the chiropractor, and the physiotherapist, since I was convinced that he had pulled his sciatic nerve. By April 2009, when he wasn't any better, we were back at the GP. That was the beginning of the battery of tests; MRI's, bone scans, etc. etc. In late May the GP phoned us and said she wanted to see Cam, Kev and I. We knew that could not be good. She laid out several scenarios, one of which was cancer. She arranged for Cam to see Dr. Ferguson out of Mt Sinai, the next week. We live near London, but Dr. Ferguson comes to a clinic in London once a month. He agreed with the GP's suspicions.

That night Cam had to tell his siblings that he had cancer. Several times Cam told me that it was the hardest thing he had ever done. Logan immediately ran to hold Cam, crying hysterically, but the two girls sat in silence with tears streaming down their faces. As if I wasn't hurting enough already, this scene just about did me in. The doctors had told us that this cancer was treatable and curable. I hung onto these words, and refused to think otherwise. The following week we were in Toronto for a biopsy to confirm that Cam had Ewing's Sarcoma. He started his first round of chemo in July 2009. After five rounds of chemo we found ourselves in Toronto for a surgery. The plan was to remove most of the left side of his pelvis and put in some kind of fancy device. We thought that we would be in Toronto for a few weeks of recovery and then home. Both Kev and I were with Cam. Cam's siblings had people running in and out taking care of them and making their lives as normal as possible. I started to keep a journal. It gave me something to do. Cam commented that he felt I was documenting the end of his life. I still believed that he needed to go through this inconvenience, but then everything would work out. Total denial! Well one surgery turned into six and a couple of weeks turned into seven. By the time we left Toronto, Cam was completely drained and had no motivation. Both Kev and I did our best to nurse him, meet his needs, support his healing and keep it together. Cam was so happy to get home. We set up a bed in the living room, so he didn't need to deal with stairs.During the next few months, Cam had physio and several doctor's appointments. By the middle of summer, he was driving again and taking himself to his appointments. Kev and I were back at work, and life was starting to get back to normal.

In Aug 2010, Cam was having pain in his other leg. An MRI confirmed that he was full of cancer, and there was nothing else they could do. Chemo and radiation could be done to ease his pain. Our family was again devastated. I believe that Kev and Cam felt that with the initial diagnosis, Cam would die. I never did until this moment. I completely fell apart. I walked off the job and did not go back for ten months. I tried to convince Cam to start chemo again. He made it through half of one round, and he then decided to call it quits. I was freaking out. Without chemo, he had no chance. I could not cope with the no-chance scenario. I cried so much I wonder how I made it through. My best friend, Melanie, kept me functioning. Meals showed up, rides for the kids showed up and money was raised. Melanie is also a nurse, so she also fielded the medical end, since I could not. She went to the doctor's appointments and organized home care. She also kept me from killing several doctors and nurses. She was also the middle man between Cam and I. I tried to get Cam to see my point of view, but he stood strong that chemo was not going to happen. We spent the next four months completely around Cam. We ate our meals in the living room, and played many card games. Family and friends were at the house daily. Cam loved family. Only once in the entire time he was sick did he ask us to leave the room or be quiet, and my family is quite loud.

Cam passed away on Sunday December 26th, 2010. Kevin and I and my youngest sister were at his side. It is at this point when I learned about The Ewings Cancer Foundation. My oldest sister found the foundation on line, since I wanted to ask that any money being donated go to the foundation. Tina Pernica from the Foundation contacted me a few weeks later. We talked and cried as we told each other our stories. She assured me that all my emotions were normal. Several times over the next year we spoke. Today I spoke with Tina. She encouraged me to write Cam's story.

It has been 2 years, 2 months and 28 days, since Cam died. I feel so angry, frustrated, and sad. I want to scream when someone tells me that they survived or know someone who survived cancer. Why did they get to live and my baby did not? Why do bad people get to live and my son who never hurt anyone did not? I am angry that life goes on without him. Kori is off at university and Cam never made it to post- secondary education. Nyan and Logan are in high school and Cam is not there to help them. I am grateful that Cam and I had a wonderful relationship. He talked to me about everything. We did not always agree, but we could always discuss issues. I have not regretted once that I should have said this or that to him. I am angry that we can't continue to grow our relationship throughout his life. Cam will always be 20. He will never grow older and everyone else is. I am having trouble with this fact. I know that when Kori reaches one day older than Cam was, I will be hysterical.

As I sit here today and reflect about the last two years of Cam's life, I realize how strong he was. His last thoughts were about family. He did not want to create more pain for us. I frequently thought at the time that he breezed through chemo and did not seem to be in any pain. I know now that he hid any pain he was in from me. He was trying to protect me. Three days before he died, three young women, who were friends of Cam, came to see him. I was told months later that Cam asked them to sit at the end of his bed, because he could not turn his head to talk to them. I knew none of this. I also heard, from my sister, that she heard Cam express his concern that Kev and I might get divorced because of him. Kevin assured Cam that we have been through so much that nothing could break us up. I am not the same person I was four years ago. I am supposed to protect my children from pain and suffering, and I failed

with Cam. I know that I was always there for him and that he loved me very much. I hope it is enough to keep me going through all the years ahead. Cam will always be my first born. He will always be special to me. Cam has brought me so much joy and pain, both before and after he was sick. I hope the foundation can help to find a cure, so no other families need to go through this pain. I know that at any time I can call Tina and cry on her shoulder. Knowing that other mothers understand how I feel is important to me. I may not always reach out, but knowing that I can is comforting. Let's hope that that we will soon find a cure for this horrible disease that takes our children.

-Judy Flannigan