Rebecca was amazing to sit down and write out a blog post to share how Glioblastoma has affected her life. I almost typed “her story” but there is no way to put “your story” into one blog post. I know she has so much more to share. I’ve cried so many tears over people I’ve never even met since Mike was diagnosed with Glioblastoma and Dustin and Rebecca made a huge impact on me. As I look through these photos, the tears are flowing again. Rebecca, thank you so much for taking the time to share. I know others need to hear your voice and to know they aren’t alone.
In Rebecca’s words…
“As I sit here with tears welling up in my eyes as I watch my baby boy graduate from kindergarten, my heart is so full of emotions. The moment is bittersweet. He’s grown up so much in the last few years and he’s looking and acting more and more like his daddy each day. His daddy should be here though. Dustin should be here proudly watching his son walk across the stage from Kindergarten to first grade, but he’s not. GBM took this all away from him. GBM robbed Dustin of all the experiences and proud moments of fatherhood, and GBM robbed Michael of a normal childhood growing up with his daddy proudly looking on. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 5 years now since Dustin succumbed to that horrible beast. As you can see, the havoc it wreaked on our little family continues on to this day and will for our lifetime ahead. The pain and wounds may ease a little with time but the scars remain embedded in us forever. In what are supposed to be happy, beautiful moments in life like our son’s kindergarten graduation, these wounds reopen and become fresh scars that weep. The most memorable happy moments in life are also now some of the most bittersweet.
Becoming a widow from GBM at the age of 29 gives you a whole new perspective on life that most people never receive until late in life. I would never wish the GBM nightmare we went through on my own worst enemy, but I do wish others could have the perspective I have now.
When Dustin was diagnosed in late November of 2012, our son Michael was only 8 months old at the time. Dustin passed away just 8 months later, barely getting to see Michael complete his first year of life. The amount of suffering Dustin endured was immeasurable. I can only liken it to Jesus’ suffering on the cross. The tumors, the surgeries, the endless chemo and radiation treatments, the grueling hours of physical therapy, and the side effects from the countless medications all took their toll on him. He fought so hard to no avail, and to think he was a healthy elite athlete prior to GBM entering his life. In fact, he had run an ultramarathon (74 miles in 24 hours!!) just 2 months prior to his diagnosis. He was the epitome of excellent health and only 28 years young. GBM shows no mercy and knows no boundaries. It can send the healthiest, youngest and full of life people into heaven way before their time. Dustin wanted so badly for it to be in God’s plan for him to survive through this nightmare. To beat the beast. To watch his son grow up one day. We’ll never understand why it wasn’t. Dustin’s suffering touched so many lives though, and to this day I still receive messages from strangers telling me how much his suffering and story changed their lives. I like to think God used Dustin’s suffering to help others who needed to be woken up to Christ in their own lives. This is the peace I hold onto in making sense of it all.
I’m a changed person from this horrific journey we were forced to partake in. I have learned so much about myself and about life. Life is so short. In an instant life can change forever. You gotta live in the moment and have no regrets. It’s sooo important not to take a single day we’re given for granted, because tomorrow is never promised. In an instant GBM came in and plucked my husband, our home, our jobs, our life as we knew it. It left me widowed with a 16 month old baby to care for and no direction to go. I felt like a stranger in my own life. How could I possibly go on without my other half – the person I loved more than anything and who loved me more than anything, who when anything and everything went wrong in life, was always there to help lift me up. How?? How would I do this? Life seemed impossible now. When Dustin died I felt like I died with him. Or maybe it was because I wanted to die too. My heart literally felt like it was ripped out of my chest and was bleeding my tears. I now understand how people can die from a broken heart. Dustin and I had shared almost half our lives together. How could this be it? How could I be expected to do this alone now? And how could I possibly raise our precious baby Michael all by myself?? WHY?? Why did this have to be this way?? Life is so unfair sometimes.
I could’ve given up. I could’ve allowed GBM to indirectly take my life too. I’ll admit it, I wanted to give up. Grief can make you crazy and make you do crazy things. I probably hit my lowest of lows at that time, but hey, wouldn’t you too? But something kept me going. If it weren’t for my baby Michael, I wouldn’t have had a reason to get up in the mornings. He played a big role in my saving grace. But the biggest role was played by the big man upstairs.
On Halloween night about a month prior to Dustin’s diagnosis, we took little Michael to a trunk or treat Halloween event at a local church. There we received a tiny fortune cookie and in it was a Bible verse. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” was written on that tiny little piece of paper. There was no way of foreseeing what would happen in the coming months and little did I know the role that little fortune cookie would play in my life shortly thereafter and for the rest of my life. I took a photo and hung the fortune on the fridge that night not really even knowing why. It just resonated with me for some reason.
(This verse actually is from Proverbs 3:5)
The day Dustin was diagnosed I bawled my eyes out staring at that same little piece of paper. Somehow I knew God put it there just for me. I took it off the fridge and placed it in my wallet where I still have it to this day. It became, and still is, my lifeline to God. Throughout Dustin’s GBM battle I held onto that Bible verse with every ounce of faith I had. I nearly screamed in helpless frustration on a daily basis. A few times I yelled at God for making us suffer this way, begging for his mercy. The mercy I was looking for never came, but instead He kept directing me back to that bible verse and amazingly it strengthened me. One night as I wept next to Dustin’s hospital bed, I remember feeling that I had lost all sense of control. I realized that I was powerless over everything and I couldn’t fix Dustin or the situation. It was the most awful feeling I had ever had up until that point. I remember yelling and pounding my fists on the chair at God to give me something, anything. I suddenly realized He already had. He gave me that verse — Trust in the Lord with all your heart. I suddenly realized I wasn’t completely powerless. God gave me the strength and power to turn it all over to Him and place all my worries, fears, anxieties, all of it to Him. In doing so, I realized there was one thing I COULD control and that was my attitude. I could be resentful, angry, miserable, and sad, OR I could give it all to God and be hopeful and focus on the positives, however little they might’ve been. From that day on, I promised myself and the Lord that I would place my trust in Him and let Him take care of the rest. My burden was immediately lifted. It’s amazing the power God has in your life if you let Him in.
It’s all about casting your cares on the Lord. Without God in my life, I know for certain I would not have been able to withstand the storms that GBM threw at my family, and I know for certain I would not still be here today. I couldn’t have trudged through hell without God carrying me through. He gave me light in my darkness, and I chose to see it. After Dustin died I decided to take Michael around the country running races while pushing him in the stroller to raise money and awareness for brain cancer in Dustin’s memory. We checked a few things off his bucket list too. I wanted to keep Dustin’s spirit alive and I ran with Dustin’s running shoes in the bottom of the stroller so he could be with us the entire way. I ran and still do, because I can. I owe it to Dustin, Michael, and to myself.
I’ll never understand why GBM took Dustin away from all of us so soon and what the purpose was in God’s plan. But I do know that when you trust in the Lord and give it all to Him, he will lead you wherever you are supposed to be. We all have a purpose.
It’s been almost 2 years now since I married Jeff, a wonderful loving man whom God brought into mine and Michael’s life with a purpose. Michael is now a big brother to his little sister Kaia Grace, whom he adores.
Because I trusted the Lord, I was able to open my heart to love and be loved again. Out of the ashes, God has created something beautiful. The heartache of losing Dustin will never end, and I will deal with this heartache as long as I live. It certainly hasn’t nor will it ever be easy. But the beauty of it all is God gives us endless capacities to love and be loved. As I watched Michael, who is now 6 years old graduating from Kindergarten, I can’t help but smile too amongst my showers of tears. Although his angel daddy Dustin is not here physically to witness this memorable milestone in Michael’s life, not only is he always protecting and watching over him from the heavens but he’s so very proud of him. Additionally, Michael is blessed with a second daddy to love him and be loved by him. His earthly daddy Jeff will be there as a father to catch him when he falls, and help guide him through the good, the bad, and beautiful moments of life. I couldn’t be more grateful. It isn’t the ideal life or scenario, and certainly not what I had imagined for our life, but nonetheless I choose to be thankful instead of bitter for every chapter in my book of life, and I’m grateful for all the blessings He’s bestowed on us. The scars of losing Dustin will always run deep, for once you’ve loved and been loved by someone, that love always remains. However, I know for certainty that he is ultimately in the place we all want to be in the end — with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ — and someday God will reunite us all again. Until then though, we must trust in the Lord with all our hearts and continue to live life to the fullest each and every day, no matter how tough it may be.”