Ken McHugh's wish for his 4 Kids
In 2010 my four children were 13, 11, 9 and 8 years old. They were and are my world. Nothing makes me happier than to see them happy. Anyone who knows me knows this is true. I have always worried about their future. It's just who I am. I have always done everything possible to make sure they have had a happy and secure life. Then, one horrible day in April of 2010 our world shattered. I was told I had Pancreas Cancer. I was told to prepare to die; that I had a maximum of two years of life left. The most horrible and emotional thing my wife and I have ever had to do was to tell our children I was dying. To tell them I wouldn't see them all turn into teenagers, wouldn't see them graduate high school, get married- that I wouldn't walk any of my three beautiful daughters down the aisle or get to hold and spoil any of their children, my grandchildren. I had to tell them, simply put, that I wouldn't be growing old as so many people are blessed to do, but that I would be soon dying. We wept. We talked. We wept. And we prepared for my death.
We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. It was difficult. The kids did presentations in their classrooms. My wife, coincidently a teacher, and I went to the schools to inform them of the difficulties our kids would now be facing. We even went into one of my daughter's classrooms to watch her give a presentation about her Daddy and his cancer diagnosis and ended up sitting in a circle with her 5th grade class answering so many questions. It was quite a touching moment for all of us.
At some point we felt somewhat prepared for what was to be. We then focused on enjoying our family as much as we could. We have always been honest with the kids about my disease and my condition. It's not easy telling them each time the doctor tells me I'm worse off than the last visit but, truth be told, we do consider ourselves blessed- Not many people even survive the full text book 2 year timeline and yet, here I am, writing this 5 years after my diagnosis. It truly is a miracle that I'm still alive. But, in all honesty, the miracle is slowly fading. My body, after so many hospital stays due to major surgeries and complications, is now slowly shutting down. Chemo has only made me ill and bedridden and, sadly, not done much to the tumors recently. My body doesn't absorb nutrient very well since I had the Whipple operation in 2010 and I there isn't much left to the physical me. I take ritalin just to stay awake during the day because the chemo is robbing me of all my strength. It's a true struggle to enjoy the remaining days I have with my family because my body just isnt cooperating much lately and is basically failing me.
I woke to an email in August 2015 from my oncologist that basically said I'm at the end and I should go off chemo to improve my quality of life and do my best to enjoy what I have left of it.
.... in May 2015 I was able to see my oldest daughter and my only son go to their first Prom
... on June 12, 2015 I watched my oldest daughter graduate High School
... on June 24, 2015 I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary with my wife
... on August 18,2015 I watched my oldest daughter move into her college dorm- I wasn't able to make the trip with them, because I was too weak to withstand the car ride. In fact, the next morning I was admitted to the hospital.
I am blessed to have been with my family for these events, but I will miss these events for my three other children. I wish it wasn't so, but I've accepted it, as hard as it is to do. I pray to make it see my son graduate High School with high honors this coming June, but I'm not sure my body will allow it.
And now for the reason I'm writing this: I worry about their college education funds. I haven't been able to work the last 5 years. I'm on disability. My children are all intelligent and motivated students. My son wants to apply to ivy league schools, but came to me and said he wasn't going to because he doesn't want to burden us with the cost. My heart broke. He is the epitome of an ivy league student. This is where I feel I have failed as a father and provider- my ability to educate my children to the full extent they deserve and are capable of. I am thankful for all that we do have and we are certainly more fortunate and luckier than many other families in a similar situation, but I still dream of helping my children get into great schools and begin amazing careers for themselves.
As I prepare to leave this world, I, most importantly, want to leave my children with good memories of a father who loved them dearly. I also wish for a way to reduce the burden on my wife as she faces a new reality and I hope to be able to let them know they can pursue an education and future without the fear of not having enough money.
I feel guilty to even dare to ask for any help and only my wife knows I'm doing this. I think of others and how they have it much worse than we do and I feel I don't deserve more. Then I think of my children and I have to try for them- this is not for me. There is no other option, no other way. My medical expenses are increasing each day. There are times I just think it would be less of a burden on my wife, my children, on everyone, if I just stopped taking the medicine and allowed myself to die quicker. It certainly would reduce the expenses- but with each milestone I'm granted to be a part of in my children's lives, the greater my will to live grows. It's the moments when I sit thinking of the money and the burden I've become that I contemplate whether death wouldn't be easier on everyone.
So, I humbly ask you, if you can help me help my children to afford an education they are deserving of. I would be forever grateful. My wife would be forever thankful. And I can guarentee that my children would be grateful and would not waste one second of their chance at an education of their favored university. They have high aspirations and I know each of them will succeed. The oldest just started at Penn State and is double majoring in Asian Studies/ Political Science and double minoring in German/French and left the possibility of a third minor in Chinese open. My son wants to study either Marine Biology or Medicine. The third is still deciding exactly what field she would like to study but favors history like me and the youngest wants to study science at Columbia. She sees herself in a lab working to cure diseases and, honestly, I think she will.
I thank you for reading my long-winded story and thank you for any donation. I wish you all health and happiness and many happy moments with your loved ones.
-Ken, along with my wife, Tammy, and children, Samantha, Dylan, Julia, and Kathryn
“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”
― Nelson Mandela
Ken, 47, passed away peacefully on December 19, 2015 at his home in Chester Springs, Pa after a long and courageous 5 year 8 month battle with Pancreas Cancer . He fought with every ounce of his strength while he continued to be the most caring, supportive, loving, strong and dedicated husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and friend. He is already greatly missed. His sincerest and most selfless wish was for his children and me not to feel burdened by his illness and passing and that they continue to pursue their educational and life goals. He therefore requested, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to his children's educational fund. www.gofundme.com/kenmchugh
Mass will be held at St. Philip and James Church in Exton, PA at 10:30 am on Monday, December 28, 2015. Visitation at the church will begin at 9:30. All are welcome.
Therapy session with my daughter this week revealed to me that this is going to be harder than I even imagined. I find myself thinking about the future and then I just shut the thoughts down. If you've met me, you've probably not got impressions of the struggles I face every day. I, unfortunately, learned at a young age to put my feelings in a drawer and lock them up for a day. I am extremely good at putting on my "outside" face and showing the world my positive side. People tell me I do not exude negativity or depressing energy, but rather that I am friendly, energetic, determined, engaged, and always smiling.
Always smiling. Makes you think of the seasonally appropriate word "Joy," doesn't it?
This brings me back to the therapy session:
My daughter brought up that very word. Everyone is talking about being joyous. It feels like the word is everywhere you look- in every song you hear- in every Christmas card you read - in every TV commercial.... The world is joyous for the month of December.
But at the same time she has heard people say they don't think her Dad will make it to Christmas or that they hope he will make it until Christmas since he loves the holiday so much. And yet, the world is joyous for the month of December.
"People are joyfully counting down the days until Christmas and I feel like it is the countdown of my dad's life. I can't be joyous."
How do you convince a 15 year old Daddy's Girl to live in the moment and be joyful while she is watching her Dad die?
I am still in a "miserable" physical condition, but not getting worse and actually working as hard as I can to build up energy with my own physical therapy approach. My new focus is creating the family menus and cooking dinner as often as I can. I have always loved food and the feeling a good meal brings when the family all sits together at the table. A few family members even say I am not too bad at it either! Looks like it helped me gain a little bit of weight too. It appears that I am on a positive swing and I am loving it. The shadows still creep in and there are sometimes rushes to panic attacks, but when I can think back about a good day where the family spent quality time together, I can rage up against it and send it back where it came from.
My survival technique has been very helpful to me: concentrate on planning the meals and cooking as much as I can from my walker, spreading the task out to an all day activity to match my energy level and planning all the Christmas decoration layout in our new home. Christmas is my favorite time of year! I will do all I can to make this the most magical and meaningful Christmas for my family that I possibly can. I can already see it coming alive in my mind's eye and it is going to be awesome.
The original idea of the educational fund on gofundme has become so much more and has touched us in so many unexpected ways- all of which comes back to the single idea that people are good. We have experienced it from all over the world. I never expected that me opening up to the world after having always been a very private person would have such a positive effect -even on my physical situation.
Our son, delivering consistent very good grades, is already working hard on college applications focused on institutions with either marine biology or pre-med- all according to his dreams. Our third child has now participated in personal counseling for about a month and is slowly becoming more confident in facing the future. Our oldest at Penn State, getting top grades in all her classes, has been approved for a transfer to the main campus to pursue Asian Studies/ Political Science- also her dream. Our youngest, a true genius, is sometimes a bit tired from her exhausting 13 hour school days, but is performing fantastically with a 4.0 average at midterm. If that is not commitment and determination, I do not know what is. The fund has helped inspire the kids to pick up their heads and plow forward.
Thank you all again and may you all receive blessings and good fortune that lead to a brighter day.
Oh, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
Sadly, so many have recounted losing a loved one. Regardless of whether it was sudden or or a long term illness like this horrible pancreas cancer, the truth WE have ALL discovered is that despite thinking or feeling as if we are prepared, we are never truly ready for the actual moment. All we can do is do those little things now that in the future will help us look back and deal perhaps a little bit better with the grieving and sense of loss.
Just as many have written to say that they have a letter or note from a departed loved one and it is such a tremendous comfort to have as those who have sadly written to say they do not have this and long for it. Many have also written to thank me for reminding them how important it is to those they will leave behind and they are now determined to accomplish this despite how hard it is to do. The most moving aer the messages from healthy father's confessing that our story has inspired them to be better fathers to their children. It moves my soul and brings tears to my eyes.
The idea is not new and I have seen many others do something similar, but I think that somehow it was the right time in the world for such a message to be spread around. I am grateful to those who got the ball rolling, from a dear old friend from college who is a PR genius to, of course, Team CMMD who actually made all of this happen. Otherwise, without them and their effort, the "Family Wedding" would have remained as a wish of mine. So, thanks to them for not only touching our lives but being able to touch the lives of so many people around the world. We are forever grateful.
We try to attach a video clip here. Give it a try and let us know if it works. Everything Team CMMD did surpassed how I thought the event would turn out short of actually being there for the real thing. It all looks so genuine and I believe you can tell that even though the backdrop of the story is my coming death from pancreas cancer, the day was filled with love and joy between a family when everyone comes together and stands together as one.
Walking out at the end of the ceremony, even though i had to be held up, I felt, no matter what, our family was invincible and that how we have lived and loved until now will support us and make us strong enough to do the same in the future. What a great feeling! They will be just fine without me! Everything will be okay!
I don't know if this is helpful or not, but I was at my mother's bedside when she passed from this same horrible disease. She could actually see friends and family that had already crossed over. Near the end, she was heavily medicated. Since her dx, this was the first time she was free of pain. There were some stressful moments where I witnessed things that certainly felt scary, but honestly? My mother was FINE. It was more about me not being knowledgeable of the whole process. When my mother died, it was SO peaceful. I won't hog your whole comment section, but my mother has announced her presence in really specific ways. Often, takes time to "feel" your person. That's really normal. Prayers to everyone of you. This is all just inherently unfair.
Your in my prayers and thoughts! It's so sad that we lose the good people in this lifetime.. I am a single mom of 3 and a grandma of 2 at the age of 36! I know how tough life is... I lost my son 15 years ago and it's left me empty for years! I don't have much money but I will donate what I can and if I ever win the lottery soon I'll make sure they get through college:)
RIP Ken, It was a privilege to know you! May you fly w the angles, always...
sorry it posted twice, i dont know why! :)
I found this article for you, maybe it can help? http://www.wakingtimes.com/2015/12/03/the-over-the-counter-cancer-cure-youre-not-supposed-to-know-about/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=PostShare&utm_campaign=TMU
Brought to tears once again! What a beautiful moment for each of you to have for the rest of your lives
No one should ever say that they know what you are going through because every situation is different. But we share some similarities. I lost my father to Pancreatic Cancer 2 months ago at the age of 59 after a 2 year battle. He was a graduate of St. Joseph's Prep Class of 1973 and I am a 2007 graduate. Know that the thoughts and prayers of hundreds if not thousands of Preppers are with you during this time for We are Men for and With Others. Please call upon Ken's Prep Brothers for anything you may need. To your wife, son, and daughters I know that while your husband/father is sick the entire family feels the pain and suffering. I know that my sister, my mom and I's relationship grew stronger as we battled Pancreatic Cancer with my father as a team. Hold on to your faith and may God's Peace find you during this difficult time. Below is a Poem that I read almost on a daily basis as my father battled this disease. I hope it can bring you strength and courage. Cancer is so limited... It cannot cripple love. It cannot shatter hope. It cannot corrode faith. It cannot eat away peace. It cannot destroy confidence. It cannot kill friendship. It cannot shut out memories. It cannot silence courage. It cannot reduce eternal life. It cannot quench the Spirit. +AMDG+
Hey Ken, I feel for you and your family. Definitely in my prayers. Although financial assistance is great, what I want to tell you will save your soul. This verse is pretty much a cliche in this world, but it has the power to tell you about the state of your soul. John 3:16-18 -> For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son If you haven't already in your life, Call upon the Lord Jesus Christ today, he can heal your cancer, but even more so, He can redeem your soul, and you will never die. We are all destined to die one day, but there is so much more that awaits us when we trust in Christ. There is a promise of hope. And i want you to know that Hope Ken. Pray, theres no formula to pray, no saints, no secret method... just talk to Jesus and ask him to reveal himself to you in these final moments of life. Praying for you & your family.
I am in tears as I type this. I cannot empathize with yoir fear, your sadness relating to the unknown of WHEN? As a "daddy's girl" at heart I know how important you are to your beautiful family. I wish I had the honor to meet you, even as a stranger. Every day, look in the mirror and smile because you have lived an amazing life, touched many lives. Please remember to smile every day. Love, Marissa.
Praying for you all! Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. I recommend to you the following songs "God Will Make a Way" by various "The Great Divide" by Point of Grace And "Call on Jesus" by Nicole C. Mullen God bless you and give you strength!
My parents both died of cancer, one of sarcoma and the other of liver cancer but it is a heartbreaking experience to lose one you love. I pray that you will recover from it somehow.
My ♥ Is with you & your family . Its so not fair that they cant find a cure !! :O( . I will send Special Prayers , To you & your Family , & pray - everyone will hold their head high , & know that ** YOU LOVED THEM VERY MUCH & it isn't your choice to leave them , BUT - You will Continue to be in their Hearts ♥ ♥ God bless you , Sir
Sending loving thoughts and prayers to you, Ken, and your beautiful family. You, and they, are in good hands. Blessings.....