Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tristan's Courage

I'd like to tell you about my favorite Superhero, Tristan Chidester. He is ten years old. Tristan is a maniac when it comes to sports. He and his brother, Tanner, used to be two miniatures of Indiana Jones. They could always be seen running through the neighborhood catching bugs, ponies, balls, kids, and flying saucers. Ok, I made up the flying saucers part. But if any kid could catch a flying saucer, it would be Tristan Chidester.

Tristan and Tanner are a year apart, but they are like twins. They mirror each other in unique ways, because they are so opposite in their personalities. I've loved having a camera at hand over the years just to capture the many different crazy-fun things they've done. They have brought me so much joy.

It's funny how you can remember exactly what you were doing when you receive devastating news. Tiffany called to say that they were on their way to Primary Children's Hospital because Tristan had what looked to be a tumor in his foot. And in her voice I heard what she already knew. Tristan had cancer. Being the extraordinary boy that he is, Tristan didn't get your everyday cancer (if there is such a thing?). He was diagnosed with a very rare type of bone cancer. Ewing's Sarcoma. I find it funny how one can hate two little words. But I do hate those words.

Before we knew it, Tristan was getting chemotherapy treatments. And all of a sudden he was thrust in to the world of cancer in the worst way. He could not catch a break. Every worst scenario happened those first few weeks. And yet Tristan fought like a tiger. Tiffany sent pictures of a sweet boy with his thumbs up. Then Tiff had to drop the second bomb. Tristan's leg would have to be amputated below the knee. We had heard it would be a possibility, but suddenly it was a sure thing, and a date was being set. I think all of us fell apart, except for Tristan. I'll never forget being at a birthday party for Chris, Tristan's dad. Rather than moping around, Tristan ran around with the rest of the kids on a foot that I can only imagine had to be in pain. In fact, he was outside playing golf with Chris.

Was Tristan scared? He was terribly frightened, extremely sad at the thought of losing a limb. But Tristan is wise for his young age. He has a way of seeing the big picture. Tristan chose life. There were days before the surgery that he would cry. It was only right that he would mourn. And yet he was still so brave. Tiffany and Chris also showed compassion and courage. They took their beautiful sons on a vacation to Newport Beach and Disneyland before the surgery. They gave their children a much needed break before the next big hurdle, and gave Tristan and Tanner a chance to breathe, bond, and enjoy the healing sounds of the endless waves.

July 4th was the day before Tristan's surgery. Tiffany asked me to take some family pictures. I was afraid. Would they be sad? Could I be cheerful for them? I knew that all of them would be thinking about what was happening the next day. How could they help it? But that little family amazed me once again. We went to the Cove in Herriman with Tristan's Auntie Tineil. I. Had. So. Much. Fun. They weren't depressed or gloomy. Tristan, Tanner, Tiffany and Chris were hugging and loving each other. They were appreciating each other and playing together. It was a magical moment in time that I will never forget.  I love the Chidester Family so much.

I didn't sleep that night. I'm sure most of us who love Tristan did not get much sleep. In fact, I didn't rest until Grandpa Rick called to say the surgery was over and that everything went great. The first person that Tristan asked for was Tanner. Just like twins. Tiffany sent me a picture of Tristan. I saw that picture and burst out bawling. She posted it on Facebook and hundreds of us cried. 

 Why did we cry? Because a ten-year-old boy walked to his surgery. Tiffany said that they were getting him prepared for the amputation, and his lip trembled a little bit. When they came to tell the Chidesters that they were ready for Tristan, Tiffany asked him if he needed a minute. Tristan said no, and that brave boy walked with his head held high, and he didn't look back. I don't know if I've ever seen anything so courageous as that walk. People who don't even know the Chidesters have shared his picture on Facebook. Tristan is teaching so many of us what courage means.

John Wayne said "Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." Tristan saddles up every single day. He goes out to play basketball on crutches. He falls down and picks himself up again. He pulls himself up and down stairs. He endures phantom pains. He endures the pain and sickness from continued chemotherapy. He fights endless fevers while doctors struggle to find out what is causing them, and waits to catch a break again. Last week when I went to visit him, Tristan had just gone to be measured for a prosthetic leg. He can't wait for the real deal. I'm so proud of him. And Tristan has taught me so many things. Patience. Enduring gracefully. Acceptance. Faith. Gratitude. And I'm trying to be brave like Tristan.

Monday I am having a knee-replacement surgery. The surgeon wanted me to lose 20 pounds, and gave me some details from the last surgery to motivate me to lose the weight. Needless to say, I am really scared for the surgery now. I told Tristan I want to borrow some of his courage. The thing is, I'm serious. I'm taking a few things that represent Tristan with me to the hospital. I have a yellow Tristan bracelet, a Team Tristan t-shirt, and the picture of him walking to his surgery. That picture is going to sit in my hospital room to remind me try to be as brave as Tristan.

Tristan, you are my favorite Superhero. I love you.

If you would like to support Team Tristan by purchasing a t-shirt, contact Mindy Sorensen @ 801-598-8826

Regular 'T'
Adult S, M, L, XL $12

XXL & XXXL $15

$10 XS, S, L

XS 2-4
S 4-6
L 8-10

XL (is an Adult Small) $12