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Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Storm

A friend of mine asked the cancer moms for notes to send to someone she knows whose child was recently diagnosed with the same cancer as Matthew. I put my note together, and then decided that this is something I'd like to have on my blog. Maybe a stranger will stumble across it in a time of need, or maybe it will just be good to remember later in life that this was how I felt now. Either way, I really liked the way it turned out, so without further ado:

Dear family, I know that I'm a stranger, and it may be strange to receive such personal words from me, but I'm writing them anyway, in hopes that they will help you.

My son, Matthew, was diagnosed with Pre-B ALL at the age of 3 1/2. He's 5 now, and we're still plugging away at treatment. At first, things were really hard, and I won't lie, they still sometimes are. But just like in weight training, when you do hard things, they get less hard. Trust me on this: you can do hard things.

People will tell you you're strong, and that might feel frustrating because you'll feel tired and worn down. Just bear in mind, you're doing what any loving parents would do, given your set of circumstances. People will admire you for doing it, and that's okay. They could never understand, unless they had been here themselves, so try and remember that those comments usually come from a place of respect for you, even if you feel like they are misguided.

I have a good friend who went through treatment for Ovarian Cancer at the same time as Matthew's heaviest treatments. One day, she told me that she just wanted to be done so that her life could go back to normal. The thing is, it never will. Everything changes, even after treatment. You will view the world through different eyes. My friend didn't like hearing that at the time, but later said that it helped her to look forward with faith that she would be able to make something special out of her life as a survivor. A cancer survivor is defined as anyone living past their diagnosis, so your daughter already is one. Cling to that. She is a survivor and a fighter. I'll never forget the first time someone called my son a survivor. It's a powerful word.

I want to end with this. One of my favorite quotes talks about a storm. I view cancer as a storm, and I wholeheartedly believe it has something to teach us. Through the trials we endure during this time, we will emerge as stronger, more courageous people. And at some point, after the storm ends, we will find a place of peace and calm.

"And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about.”

― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Even though you don't know me, please know that my heart goes out to you. This year will be hard, but every day, your family will grow stronger.

~Wendy Burr. Mother of Matthew Burr - cancer survivor, and warrior.


  1. Wendy! You are such a great person. Matthew is very lucky to have such a strong family so full of faith and love. I love what you do. You are a soldier...keep on. Xoxo.

  2. A beautiful letter. I know I'd appreciate it if it were needed in my life x

  3. Hi,

    I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?