When Airdronian Cindy O'hara's husband Patrick, went to get a scan done last October to see if the colon cancer he had been diagnosed with last February was in remission, the family was fully prepared for some good news; after all, O'hara's husband had had the recommended surgery and six months of intensive radiation and chemotherapy. The news that the family received would forever change their lives.
"[The doctor] gave us news that it turned from simple colon cancer to stage four metastatic: palliative care, in the end, is what it means," she said. "That took us for a loop because that means my husband who is 48 years old, still has a 15-year-old at home and a nine-year-old at home and two older children with grandchildren. [He] is not going to be here."
O'hara a lifelong Airdrie resident, has been involved in the Airdrie BMX community for years. Her children rode for many years, while her husband has coached the riders and also sits on the board of Airdrie BMX. She said that it was through her connections to the community and the friends she has made through the sport that have offered their most ardent support.
One of those connections that O'hara had made through the tight-knit BMX community was Sue Mitschke. Mitschke decided to start a gofundme fundraiser for the family, especially since Patrick was unable to work during December due to his worsening health condition. O'hara said that her friend's willingness to help is what the BMX community in Airdrie and Alberta is ultimately about.
"It's an amazing sport. It's an amazing family and support system and they're amazing people," she said. "It's what our community is like. That's what Airdrie is about. It always has been it brings me back. I've been here for 25 years, and I'll stay here."
While O'hara's support system has rallied around her, she continues to grapple with the news that her husband, whom she said she fell in love with at first sight, maybe gone too soon.
"I'm here to support him and love him and get him through. We have amazing family support. Everybody is here for us," O'hara said. "Our kids- our 15-year-old knows exactly what's going on, but our nine-year-old doesn't. He just knows that daddy still has to have this yucky medicine because it's still in his body. Jackson is too young to know everything yet."
The Initial diagnosis of colon cancer was a shock to the family, considering that Parick presented with stomach pain and had no family history of colon cancer. O'hara assumed it may have been an ulcer, but never did she suspect a cancer diagnosis. Though she is incredibly stoic and composed, she said that for those who are on the same path as her family, it is not admitting defeat when tears begin.
"It's okay to cry, it's okay to scream and yell, it's okay to be angry because this isn't fair. Nobody asked for this. I am angry. I'm devastated."
O'hara said that her husband has lost nearly 45 pounds since he received the diagnosis, but despite this, he has done his best to provide for his family. She noted that her husband has also had bouts of intense emotion, especially since learning of the gofundme.
"He'd be sitting here bawling right now. He's a very emotional man, very connected to me, to his children, to his friends, [and] to the community," she said. "He didn't know about gofundme till [yesterday] and he completely broke down and he'll continue to break down because he's amazed at the support that is out there in our city."
According to the National Library for Medicine, 50 per cent percent of all colorectal cancer patients die from metastatic disease. The overall 5-year survival for patients with stage IV colorectal cancer is less than 10 per cent. Regardless of the time Patrick has left, O'hara said that every day is a new day with her husband, and that is something she cherishes.
"We've been together for 18 years. It's been nothing but perfect. My whole entire 18 years with this man. When we got this diagnosis, at the end of October, [we decided] that we're going to start our lives all over again today and it's going to be a brand-new life," O'hara said. "We're going to make it the best that we can and create as many memories as we can because we don't know what tomorrow is and we can't relive yesterday."
O'hara said that her life now is about today and about involving everyone in her life because that is where she draws her strength from.
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