Saturday, February 6, 2016

Tristan's Courage

I'd like to share the story of Tristan's photo, which we call "Tristan's Courage".  Tristan was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma the first time when he was 10 years old. We watched Tristan and his family endure over a year of hell. He was given adult dosages of the harshest chemotherapy. During the first few months he couldn't catch a break. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  It was a horrible year. 

Tristan lost the lower part of his leg. As parents and adults, we knew the amputation would literally save his life. Can you imagine giving the surgeons the OK to take your son's lower leg? Sadly, some of you know all about decisions like that. But did Tristan understand that an amputation would save him? I wonder about it sometimes, especially when I see this priceless photo.

One of the bravest moments I have ever witnessed was the walk Tristan made to the operating room. His last walk with both of his legs. He didn't look back. I know he was terrified. Even now there are times when he mourns for the loss of his limb. And yet he took that unimaginable walk. That is courage at its finest.

I carry this picture with me always. I have shown it to people so many times, because his courage is inspiring.  I asked Tristan if I could borrow some of his courage, and it worked. I was getting a knee replacement later that year. I showed every single person that I came in contact with at the hospital his picture, and told them about my favorite Superhero. And every time I told his story, we cried together. I thought of Tristan when they asked me to stand up for the first time. I looked at Tristan's picture when it seemed like the pain medicine was not coming fast enough. And I thought of that picture during physical therapy, when I wanted to quit. 

I wish all of you could meet him in person. He and his older brother, Tanner, are extraordinary boys. Tristan is a wise old soul with a great sense of humor and a beautiful, tender heart.
He survived that battle, but not without battle scars. He lost fellow superheroes along the way. We still miss them. He lost the innocence of an 11-year-old boy. He had to learn to walk again on a prosthetic leg. We all rejoiced when we saw him walk on his new leg for the first time. 

One of my favorite memories was when Tristan was getting better, and suddenly there was a shadow of hair growing on his head. I think everybody wanted to touch that precious peach fuzz. It was a miracle when Tristan started smiling without pain in his eyes.

I believe the second time around it is even harder to face Ewings Sarcoma. Tristan remembers the lowest of low points. He knows it's going to get much worse before it gets better. Please pray for Tristan and his family as they fight their second battle with cancer. And if you get the chance, show people this photo, and tell Tristan's story. It's a real life story of a true Superhero.

Pray for Tristan #tristanstrong's photo.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Middle School Mile

One day I was taking pictures of Tristan and his friends playing basketball. Later, I started editing the photos, and saw that sometimes Tristan's prosthetic leg landed in a slightly different direction. I realized that as he was jumping and keeping up with the rest of the boys, the prosthetic leg had been moving around. I couldn't imagine how Tristan could play that well with his foot landing in different positions. I wouldn't have even noticed it if I hadn't been editing his photos. 


When I told Tiffany, she said, "Yeah, Tristan keeps wearing them out." I was astonished. "Which reminds me," Tiffany said. "I need to tell you about the Middle School Mile." 

A few days before I took the pictures, Tristan came home limping. When Tiffany asked him if he was in pain, he shrugged. Tiffany could tell that he was discouraged, and sat down to find out what was wrong. 

Tristan told her that he had just run a mile at school. All of the students had to run a mile that day. Now this is the part of the story that always makes me cry. Tristan could have told his teacher that he couldn't run a mile. He could have left school early. He could have brought a note from his mom,excusing him from class. Instead, Tristan ran the mile. He later said "Mom, it took me seven minutes to run a mile in gym. I'm slow." 

When all of the other kids in class had finished the mile, Tristan was half-way done. Everyone watched as Tristan finished the run. Can you imagine the courage that it must have taken for him to even attempt to run a mile in a prosthetic leg that moved each time it hit the ground, and was a little too short? Keep in mind that Tristan wore out the first prosthetic leg in less than a month. He was pushing himself hard enough to wear out nine legs, it was obvious he was working them as hard as he could. 

I'm sure he was very aware of the other students as he made his way around the track. But Tristan did not quit. "All men have fears, but those who face their fears with dignity have courage as well." (Thomas S. Monson) Tristan is the bravest person I know.  

The Middle School Mile will always be a reminder of Tristan's courage, perseverance, and grace. I asked him once if I could borrow some of his courage, and he said an enthusiastic yes. I took a favorite picture of him with me, and every time I felt fear or pain, I thought of the toughest kid I know. I remembered how he has handled every hurtle with dignity. He has suffered more in his short life than most people do in a lifetime. He will always be my favorite Superhero.