You wake up one morning, and your child is graduating high school.
I can only imagine looking in the mirror and seeing a familiar reflection of myself, weathered and aged by raising a child to that point of life. For my friend Mark DeHoog, this was his most recent fathering experience, watching his son Ethan graduate co-valedictorian of his class in Smithers, BC.
Mark wrote recently, “I remember how tentative I was about this whole ‘ Fathering thing,’ lots of questions and fears about being a good dad, and hundreds of thoughts about ‘not being ready’. Something shifted in me the moment Ethan breathed his first breath in that delivery room. On that day, October 18, 2000, our son was born, but at that moment my world suddenly shifted and inside my tentative, not ready, not sure if I can do this heart - a Father was born too. It’s unexplainable, I suddenly woke up to what was in front of me, all the questions and apprehensions no longer mattered - I was ready for this, even though I had no idea what to do but in my heart everything moved to ‘I got this!’
On June 23rd, 2018, Ethan DeHoog graduated, a chapter in fathering had completed for Mark and he shared the video with others online (you know, as parents do these days) with pride. Ethan spoke the words at the lectern with poise, his speech complete with his memories of secondary school and he regaled the audience with his passion for theatre, and a profound message to fellow graduates delivered with a maturity well beyond his years, Ethan’s message,
“Chase down the piece of the life you want to live that gives you purpose, no matter what you want that to be because you cannot afford to let it pass.”
He nailed it - the kid absolutely nailed it. Most of us can only reach that point of reflection after decades of trial and error, and this kid gets it as he’s finishing high school!
I hope you’ve made it this far in reading because here is where things get ridiculous.
My friend Mark posts on Facebook three days later on June 26th, 2018 that “Ethan is being medivac’d to children’s hospital in Vancouver with a cancer of some kind.”
Now, I know Mark because in 2017, the RCMP in Terrace, BC invited me to visit a number of communities as part of a Youth Summit for School District 82 and 54 where the summit efforts to educate kids about health and wellness, healthy relationships, addictions, issues surrounding social media, and abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol.
Mark took the lead in the community of Smithers, arranged a venue, he raised funds, got people behind the effort to engage the community - it’s what he does, and people around the town of Smithers know him for these efforts and so much more - watch him talk about Smithers HERE. Mark drove me for hours from point-to-point, I left his vehicle feeling connected to a human who would never ask more of others than he knew they were capable of, and he would help them reach their fullest potential - Mark is a guy who would find a way to make things happen and never expect anything in return.
Mark has his birthday on June 27th - four days after his son graduated high school, hours after finding out the same son has cancer, and on his birthday, Mark found out that his son Ethan has B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia - which has a good success rate for full remission.
Treatment began in Vancouver, an aggressive 30 day chemotherapy schedule - the hard part is the entire family has had to prepare themselves for the next 10 months of treatment (not all in hospital but mostly in Vancouver - far from Smithers) and three years of monthly follow up procedures.
Here’s the part you have to think about, Mark wrote on his birthday, “We are in good spirits but have waves at times of sadness. Ethan is a champ! - At about 2:00 am he looked across the room and said 'Happy Birthday Dad - I went through a lot to get you a trip to Vancouver for your birthday and here’s your gift ... cancer!'”
That’s quite an outlook to have. I mean, Ethan is meeting his Dad, his Mother Kim, and brother Aidan where we should all be in life - strong, filled with humour and positivity, making the jokes that he’s fully entitled to make considering his past couple of weeks. I asked Mark to pose a question to Ethan about his diagnosis and how he’s moving forward, Ethan replied with; “I am learning a lot about meds, and what they’re designed for, I get a lot of encouragement, but I am just living my life like I always have except now I have cancer.”
This family not only contributes to one another with love and care but connects to British Columbia with love and care - their story is one where they will come together and people will help along the way, which is why you do not have to donate to their GoFund Me campaign to help with upcoming costs, travel, and support for Ethan but I ask that you do because in the words of Mark,
“We don’t get to choose some things that hit us - but we do get to choose how we respond. Ethan chooses to respond with courage and positivity, and that is where we will meet him.”
The DeHoog family share a value that love is the fuel that changes the world and they pour that fuel into every situation that they face. Their oldest son has cancer, this is the situation that they have in front of them today and for many days ahead. Kim, Aidan, and Mark will do everything they can to be there for Ethan, I firmly believe that this kid will impress us all in British Columbia - let’s just help him get through cancer so he can continue to show us what he’s got in his future.
Please donate what you can to the GoFundMe campaign HERE.
- Jesse Miller