Three members of the Welsh family of Warren Grove were diagnosed on the same day
WARREN GROVE - Cancer consumes the Welsh family.
© TC Media - The Guardian
Susan Welsh, second from left, is standing strongly behind her husband Fabian and the couple's two children, Matthew and Jennifer, as her three loved ones all battle cancer. The Warren Grove, P.E.I., family was given the news of all three diagnoses on the same day.
Three of the four members of this Warren Grove, P.E.I., clan were diagnosed on the same day, Sept. 6, 2013, with the same illness â€” a rare genetic thyroid cancer.
As Susan Welsh, the only person spared from the disease, notes, the family was simply going about life when â€œthis just slapped us in the face.â€™â€™
The cancer has slapped her husband Fabian, the coupleâ€™s 21-year-old son Matthew and their 16-year-old daughter Jennifer.
Life now is far from normal. Cancer has redefined how the family lives, how they feel, even how they think.
â€œIt changed everything,â€™â€™ said Susan. â€œI wish the same thing I wished from the start. I wish I could take it and put it inside me.â€™â€™
Susan may not have the cancer but she more than feels the collective weight of this disease striking her two children and her husband.
The strain of having her three family members in peril is crushing. She has taken a break from work, finding the challenge of going about her job while worrying over and carrying for her family to be just too much of a load.
â€œThe three of us are sick, but she is taking it the hardest,â€™â€™ Jennifer said of her mother.
Still, Susan is exhibiting the strength needed to carry her family forward through a monumental ordeal. She is methodical in compiling all the important data and documents dealing with the cancer facing her son, her daughter and her husband. Test results, blood work and the like are carefully collected and stored in a binder.
Susan is on top of all aspects of care and treatment required by her family.
â€œIt if wasnâ€™t for Susan, we would be lost,â€™â€™ said Fabian.
Fabian says all he thinks about while driving a cab trying to support his family is the fact that his son and his daughter are battling cancer.
Like Fabian, Matthew has stage three of this rare form of cancer, just one stage below the top and most dangerous level.
Matthew has just completed a punishing round of external radiation. The five-day-a-week pounding was delivered in 33 treatments. Matthew says after a few weeks his skin started to burn, causing great pain and discomfort.
He needs to wait six to 12 months to learn if the cancer has been killed. However, even if the radiation proves to have been successful, he will need to undergo the unpleasant procedure again sometime down the road.
Fabian is clearly more pained in witnessing the suffering of his son than in battling his own cancer.
How could such a bad hand be delivered to his boy, he asks.
â€œHe hasnâ€™t smoked, he hasnâ€™t drank, he hasnâ€™t done a damn thing wrong in his life,â€™â€™ said Fabian.
Jennifer, who was diagnosed with stage one of thyroid cancer, fortunately is in remission but she and her family know the cancer could return. She has suffered plenty to date.
Like her father and her brother, Jennifer has undergone surgery to remove the thyroid gland and she faces more surgery in the future.
The diagnosis was something the teen simply was not able to wrap her head around. The reality was just not believable that she, her brother and her father all face a battle with a potentially deadly disease.
â€œItâ€™s almost like weâ€™re used to it now,â€™â€™ she added, â€œbut itâ€™s still not real.â€™â€™
Susan says people are floored when she informs them that three members of her family all have cancer.
â€œThey just canâ€™t believe it,â€™â€™ she said.
Lori Barker, executive director of the Canadian Cancer Society, P.E.I. Division, describes as â€œincredibly rareâ€™â€™ having three out of four family members with cancer, including two relatively young members. She says when just one person alone has cancer the emotional burden on an entire family is still immense.
â€œWhen we take that and multiply by three...our hearts go out to the family,â€™â€™ she said. â€œYou are just so heartened to see the community come together.â€™â€™
Support has been steadily flowing to the Welsh family. Spirits are lifted with each gesture, from financial assistance to emotional support.
â€œIf it werenâ€™t for friends, I donâ€™t know,â€™â€™ said Fabian.
Many people are rallying to help the family address the financial burden of their situation. Imagine the costs alone associated with the 30 to 35 trips made to Halifax to date to deal with three ill individuals.
A benefit is set for April 25 at the Murphyâ€™s Community Centre in Charlottetown from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.
To learn more about the benefit or to make a donation, visit www.welshfamilybenefit.com. A trust account has also been established for the family at TD Bank at 695 University Avenue in Charlottetown.
Matthewâ€™s outlook is a good illustration that his family, while certainly welcoming community support, is also determined to make the best of a bad situation as a closeknit, supportive family.
â€œThe way I think of it now is it is just a day to day thing,â€™â€™ he said. â€œYou have to take care of it.â€™â€™
Later, he added: â€œFor me it gives me a different outlook on life. You have to live it to the fullest.â€™â€™