Ashleigh's cancer killing warriors

$21,505 of $28,000 goal

Raised by 140 people in 3 months
Created November 5, 2018
Bev Peterson
on behalf of Ashleigh And Jordan Dueck
Hello, my friends and family.

Our family has recently entered a new season of challenges, and I want to share with you what is happening.

The last few weeks have been filled with medical appointments, and I have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. At this point, it is unclear how far the cancer has spread, but we do know it has spread to some of the surrounding lymph nodes.

I am in the middle of several meetings with a medical team, and they will set out a treatment plan. If it is still localized, I will be having chemotherapy and radiation, followed by surgery, and then more chemo.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of difficulties in this new reality, especially as we try to navigate this with three kids and a baby. One thing we have learned from our previous seasons of medical troubles is that we can do hard things, especially because we have such an amazing community of support, both near and far.

I don’t have answers for what the future is going to contain, but I do know I want to walk bravely into this new wilderness. I want to remain awake to my loved ones, my self, and all that is within this space—even when that means being awake in the darkness. The One Who is Love is in the darkness, too.

If you are someone who prays, I ask you to pray that I will live these days well.

We also ask you to hold in your hearts and your prayers,

- our three little girls who have already had to go through times of stress and a sense of instability, and who are wary of and discouraged by the upcoming hospital stay and appointments I will have

- Skandar, as I try to figure out how to best care for his little baby self in this time

- effective and timely medical appointments and treatments

- practical needs to be met in the coming days (such as child care, house cleaning, pet care, meals, snow removal)

- financial needs, as Jordan will be working less and we will be trying to manage unforeseen costs

As I step into this wilderness with Jordan and our children, I am heartened by knowing our people.

So many of you have consistently shown up for us in the past, and I am incredibly grateful that we have you.

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by ashleighdueck
My body.

As some of you are aware, my body has been through some difficult times already. There came a point where people began remarking: "Of course, this happened to you. If it's extreme/random/unlikely, it's going to happen to Ashleigh."

Now, this looks harsh written out. At first it didn't feel harsh; it felt true. And the people who say this do not mean to be hurtful AT ALL. In fact, I think they are trying to offer a kind of witnessing. They are not wanting to dismiss that, in some lights, I've had more than my "fair share." {Although there is no "fair share" in reality.}

And I can't blame them. I have lived with an attitude toward my body that ranges from resignation to infuriation. When I was 11-12, I developed a mysterious infection that turned out to be a kind of pneumonia transmitted by cats.… The year I was 18, I had a series of concussions from skiing and sports that culminated in a camping concussion and resulted in an extremely difficult head injury. I had to put off university for a year because I couldn't make simple decisions or make sense of a computer screen. {Thankfully, my brain fully healed with the exception of number retention: a VERY minor although often humbling blip to live with.}… Just before Jordan and I got married, I developed mono: a totally typical thing for a college student living with how many?—four?—other young women in a two bed apartment and not getting ANY sleep. BUT. Wait for it. My liver and my spleen swelled up to such extraordinary sizes that my stomach collapsed, and all sorts of specialists paraded through my room to poke and prod and look at my "most unusual case." Our wedding was postponed and we took a wheelchair on our honeymoon.… Each of my pregnancies has involved HG, to increasing extents.… My second trimester with Nienna was complete bedrest because there was a growth which made losing our baby the likely scenario (thank God, she is now a thriving eight year old! I have not had to experience that searing, unbelievable loss.)… During my pregnancy with Cressida, I developed kidney stones. Again, not uncommon during pregnancy. But mine blocked my ureter, causing my left kidney to rupture, and I was close to being septic. {Don't do that. It's really hellish.}… When I was at the end of my second trimester with Skandar, I had an appendectomy, which, amazingly, is not super uncommon…

Neither is cancer. Cancer is very, very, very common. We are all living so close to it.

However, I am part of a new cohort of otherwise healthy men and women in their twenties and thirties developing colorectal cancer. I fit none of the risk factors. In the past, the profile of someone with my type of cancer and stage would be at least a couple decades older than myself—until recently, when people like me began showing up in higher numbers, raising many questions in the medical community.

ANYHOW. Now that you have a litany of my strange medical issues, you can see why someone might say, "Of course this is happening to Ashleigh."

The unintended side-effect of that attitude is that I began to feel this shame towards my body. I began to feel an unhealthy resignation. Rather than flexibility and adaptability, this kind of observation began to make me feel like giving up.

Child-birth and running were two of the first things that began to help me change my perspective. Not only could I come face-to-face with hard things—I could choose how to engage them, and I could kick ass. Ask my older brothers: there has always been this side to me that just won't give up, even when all the chips are down and it's clear I've lost. {Such as when a boy 4-6 years older than me was sitting on top of me, pounding me, and I'd still be trash-talking.} When I started giving that side of me its voice, I began seeing all these things as things I've overcome and I began to see myself as strong, rather than as weak and shameful and not enough. After Nienna was born, the subsequent health issues each began teaching me and leading me towards a lot of beautiful truths and experiences. Even as they totally tore me down. I am NOT saying I floated blissfully through these events. These beauties are the beauties that come out of engaging with the pain, and letting others join me.

In the first weeks after dropping the bomb "I have stage IV colorectal cancer" on my dear ones, our little family was flooded with so much kindness and support. Some of the first face-to-face encounters that stand out to me include those, who, like my father-in-law, have seen me walk (or army crawl) through health storms before. He hugged me and told me, "You are brave. You can do this. You are one of the strongest women I know." There were other types of first responses that also have really helped and stood out, but, the ones that relate to my strength and courage are the ones that touch on this new thing:

Compassion for my body.

You see, one of the side effects of seeing myself as strong and brave, is that I can look at my body from a position of agency and strength, rather than of resignation and shame.

Our dear friends sent Jordan and I to a day at Thermëa Spa (oh, heaven!), and my sister-in-law provided child care. One of the spectacular gifts of Jordan and I both identifying as Nines on the Enneagram, is that we can really relax together. Towards the end of the day, Jordan asked me how I was doing. I told him that what kept reverberating around my heart and head was, "My poor body," along with other sentences of kindness, compassion, and gentle-heartedness towards this cancerous, toxin-filled body.

Since then, I'm trying to make this a discipline; to have my inner dialogue be filled with compassion for my body. If I can't muster it in my own voice, I hear that of my Jordan, my dear friend Karla, and my dear friend Anna (especially when I want a little attitude with the compassion.)

Why am I writing this? Friends, it took a long time and a lot of struggling to get to a place where I can meet my flawed, hurting, sick, failing body with compassion and kindness. To see myself as having strength beyond the confines of health issues I cannot control. I would ask you to try to see yourself—whatever that struggle—with compassion. It doesn't make the problems go away, but it does help sustain us through the hardship. I hope it can make me look a little more like the God of Love who died for this body of mine.
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Posted on December 21, 2018
The Longest Night Run
Tonight, there are people—actual people—stepping out into the cold, dark winter night and running or walking as a way to join me and my family in our darkness. This is surreal and beautiful and full of meaning for me.

Some of you beautiful people don’t even know me or my family. We sat around our sabbath table tonight, reading your names aloud. My daughter tugged at my sleeve, her blue eyes filled with concern, “Mama, I’m worried. What if this is too much?” Tonight, you taught her how love expands—that when love is given, more love is generated. That love is abundant, and that we can receive it. Tonight, you taught our girls that we do not have to walk in our darkness alone, and that they can join others in their darkness.

It has been a long, hard week. As I tuck in bed with my baby and my husband, I feel peace. I feel cradled by your feet, your breath in the cold, night air, your courage in the dark, and your prayers. Thank you, dear souls, for joining me in this beautiful way.
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Inhabit the Dark
by ashleighdueck
The logging division had allowed our village horse club to use some of their land to build stables on. It was not far out of town, but anything outside of town was already in the dense forested mountains that spread on for an eternity. Even life in town was peppered with wildlife, and it felt natural to co-exist with the wild and untameable. During the winter months in the mountains, daylight is short, and I vividly remember the long walk down the stable-lined dirt road with my father for nighttime feedings. Our stable was at the end of the track, and there was a decent stretch of bush between the penultimate stable and ours. I was certain that stretch was populated with cougars. Or mother bears. Or maybe rabid raccoons. Right there; just inches from us. I remember pleading, "Papa, please don't turn off the lantern." But he would. "It's easier to walk in the dark without a light; your eyes will get used to it."

Seriously? Who turns off the light to see better in the dark?

He would hold my hand, and I eventually learned that he was right. Even though those minutes right after you turn the light off can be terrifying, jarring, discombobulating—your eyes do adjust and you find you see more clearly than before.

I would notice things that were hidden when we walked within the circle of the lantern. I would notice the black outline of the evergreens rising tall on either side of us. I would notice the path of night sky that opened above the valley and I would start looking at the sparking stars, rather than searching the bushes for glittering eyes. The noises would change, too. Rather than threatening, they became friendly sounds. Familiar: the creak of old trees, the crunch of snow under our feet, the horses stamping and blowing, my father faintly whistling between his teeth.

During my previous health issues, these memories kept returning, and I began reading about this idea of inhabiting the darkness, rather than rushing past in an attempt to escape it. I have practiced dwelling in darkness. The dangers do exist there—there are hungry beasts alongside the sleepy little critters. But here's the thing; when you turn out the light and let the darkness enfold you, your eyes adjust and you see things more clearly. All of it—the monsters, the beautiful, the familiar, the unfamiliar—all of it is seen more accurately when you learn to walk in the dark. If I refuse to see the darkness, refuse to inhabit where I am, I will miss what is there in my frantic effort to regain control.

If I inhabit the darkness, I can face my enemy. Rather than a vague or vivid but imagined enemy, I can look it squarely in the face and know it.

If I inhabit the darkness, I can discover beautiful things. My senses can become sharpened to the good and joyful and loving that has always been there. I can see the faces of friends who choose to walk with me in the darkness.

The darkness is around me. It does not go away by lighting a lantern. Why not turn the light off, give my eyes time to adjust, and learn to walk in the dark?

It is not an easy thing to do. I wish more than anything this darkness was simply not here; that I could inhabit a sunlit day. But to live today well, I have to see today for what it is. And it's not a sunlit day. It's darkness. And I will learn again to walk in the dark, knowing that Love (God) is there, holding my hand, and helping me to see. Knowing that, somehow, my hand is held by the Light that darkness cannot overcome.

I will not die an unlived life,
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise…

Dawna Markova
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Old Church Bakery
by ashleighdueck
We fell in love with Old Church Bakery when they relocated to Steinbach. When we bought our house a year and a half ago, one of the positives was its proximity to OCB—and the little ones and I have loved making morning walks to buy our bread or special treats.

Here's the thing. They make quality products. They use sourdough and oh, my goodness! The variety of delights they can bake with it!

As a family, another major factor has been the Women of Old Church Bakery. We have loved getting to know these women. Jord and I also have loved that our girls get to buy their bread directly from the artisans who make it, and that these women have taken the time to become part of their village.

Last year, when I was so sick with HG during my pregnancy with Skandar, picking up bread was one of our "life-giving things." Just a five minute interaction can make a difference. For real. Let the Women of Old Church Bakery (WOCB?) inspire us to take seriously the difference small, genuine acts of welcome and kindness can make in another's dark night. My book club read Susan Pinker's, The Village Effect, in which she describes the results of years of research into longevity and quality of life. You know what one of the greatest predictors of overcoming illness, and of attaining longevity? Frequent, regular friendly interactions with others. Not just deep friendship (that's important, too), but a stand-alone significant predictor is whether or not you say hi every morning to that runner you always pass on your way to work, or have a short exchange with the bagger at the grocery store you go to every Wednesday.

So, not only are the WOCB helping me fight cancer by being who they are when we go buy a pastry, they are also putting on a fundraiser for my family. I know. Whose bakery does this?! Ours. Ours does. They offered, and have organized a pizza fundraiser at the bakery on their day off.

Here is how it works.

You pre-purchase tickets from OCB so they know how much pizza to make, and you pick it up this Sunday, Dec. 2, between 12-4. It's $10 a pizza, and I am positive they will be delicious. As Nienna and Eveah are known to say, "You just can't go wrong with Old Church Bakery."

It's a surreal experience to be in the beginning of my worst nightmare, and also have all these beautiful people joining me in beautiful ways. I am thankful from my core for my village; for each one of you who are part of it.
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$21,505 of $28,000 goal

Raised by 140 people in 3 months
Created November 5, 2018
Bev Peterson
on behalf of Ashleigh And Jordan Dueck
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