Team Wheatley

Team Wheatley

Everyday Hero: Taylor Wheatley fighting cancer so other kids won’t have to

I am the father of a cancer survivor and the husband of a cancer survivor

I am the daughter of a cancer survivor and a cancer survivor myself

Our ride is dedicated to those living with and beyond cancer

We should start by telling you that we are not “cyclists”.  We are passionate volunteers with one clear goal – to end childhood cancer.  This September marks the third-time Taylor and Dean will cycle from Vancouver to Halifax as part of the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride to help raise millions of dollars on behalf of charities that improve the quality of life for children, and their families, living with and beyond cancer.

Since our first ride in 2013 and up until we embark on our third ride this September, there will have been 6,000 new children in Canada diagnosed with this disease and tragically 1 in 5 will die.  2 out of 3 survivors are living with long-term effects. AND ONLY 4% OF CANCER FUNDRAISING HELPS CHILDREN WITH CANCER.

Statistics are very important, they tell us we are making a difference but they do not tell an individual story.  When Taylor was diagnosed leukemia, Dean asked the doctor what Taylor’s chances were, his response summed up the harsh reality of cancer “The number isn’t 20% or 80%.  It’s 0 or 100.  She will live or die.  There is no in between”.  There is no “nice” way to put statistics, is there?  However that is why you are reading this! Because with your help we can change that.  We HAVE and WILL change the statistics.

Taylor has worked at the Alberta Children’s Hospital as a Registered Nurse in pediatric oncology and currently works in hematology, bone marrow transplant, oncology for adults.  Time and time again, she is blessed to be present in a patient and families darkest moments and though her own personal experience with cancer is able to provide some light during a very dark time.

It takes a true champion to battle this disease with tears, laughter and courage.  In our family, Taylor and her mother are both survivors living beyond cancer.  Each day on the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride a dedication is read about a child who has had cancer; that is the child we ride for each day – sometimes in memory of the child and sometimes a child living beyond cancer.  The following is a dedication that Dean wrote for Taylor on the last morning of their 17 days across Canada. This dedication describes why we are riding again

Taylors Dedication

“This is not a dedication about cancer – this is a dedication about living with and beyond cancer.  Today I would like to end our journey on a note of hope.  Today’s dedication is to Taylor – our Taylor.

Taylor’s journey with cancer. On June 12, 1995 Taylor was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, she was 5. It was a Monday. I was in Bermuda, Linnea was to join me the next day for some adult time.  Several weeks prior to the trip Taylor had been complaining of sore legs then sore arms.  The week before our trip the complaints were more often and the pain more intense. She was scheduled to see the doctor the Monday before Linnea was to leave. I called late Monday evening to see how the doctor appointment went; this call turned out to be the worst conversation I have ever had!

How did Tay’s appointment go? She has Leukemia. That’s cancer isn’t it? Yes. Our journey with disease begins.

Chemo started immediately. Needles. Lumbar punctures. Hair loss. Puking. IV poles and pumps.  Hospitals, doctors, nurses. Long words that meant nothing. All the wonderful shit that comes with cancer we were full on with. We settled into a routine over the next 2 ½ years, when Tay was in the hospital my wife was there during the day, I did the night shift. Tay was responding well but the treatments started to affect her liver.  Next a liver biopsy, it went well. That night Tay adopted a second barber pole hung with post-operative stuff. I woke at 12:30am to go to the washroom, looked at my daughter and thought she looked funny. I turned on the light.  She was blue. I pressed the emergency button, the nurse came immediately took one look at her, pushed me aside and yelled that Taylor is coding. She was intubated and taken to the ICU – this is the most scared I have been in my entire life.  After 10 days in ICU she was released back to Q cluster – the cancer ward. Cancer was a very scary experience but nothing compared to almost losing my daughter.

So in December 1997 after enduring chemo and hospital stays for 2 ½ years, or 29 months and 9 days, or 910 days and 242 pokes (the dreaded needles), Taylor had her farewell to cancer party; cancer is now out of our lives.  Not so quick.  In November 2001 Taylor’s mom was diagnosed with stage 4 Ovarian cancer.  Linnea faced the same challenges as her daughter and though unable to complete her treatment regime she also beat cancer. FYC we won – twice.

Cancer has not defined Taylor! Cancer has given her a tremendous opportunity; an opportunity to change the lives of others. As we have heard many times on our journey, she grew up quick.  Her maturity beyond her years has opened many incredible opportunities for her, all of which she has embraced.  She has volunteered her time since the age of 8 and as every year goes by she takes on more opportunity to help others. 

When Tay was in and out of the hospital she identified with the nurses and wanted to be one since the age of 7.  Well she did not back down from that goal, since graduating nursing school in 2013 she has been working at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and on unit 57; Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant where she is treating cancer patients.  The response from the doctors, nurses and patients has been incredible – why?  Because she gets it.  She understands the impact of cancer on the patient and their families, she identifies with their struggles and patients are immediately drawn to her especially when they know she is a survivor.  You have found your calling and many patients will benefit from your understanding and compassion.  Yesterday in Moncton summed it all up for me and many others – watching you with Chloe was incredible, you focused on her and her only, not because you have to, because you want to.

This ride has been on Tay’s radar for 4 years – “Dad when I graduate in 2013 I am going to do the National Ride”.  I have to say the first time I heard that I smirked.  She had no bike and had never biked, aside from the bikes children have.  Well 4 years later I no longer have the smirk on my face in fact it’s a big simile accompanied with my sore ass.  Taylor is the face of this ride, a childhood cancer survivor living with and beyond cancer.  This is your mission and you have excelled. 

Taylor to say I am proud is an understatement, I am honored to participate in this ride with you, I am honored to be your father.  You embody the spirit of this ride, the spirit of this cause – you are a survivor not only living with and beyond cancer – you are thriving. I love you, we all love you.”

This year Taylor and Dean will ride with the same purpose, to make a difference in this horrible experience for other families, so that maybe one day they will never have to hear the words “your child has cancer”.

We are still trying, we have not given up hope and have accomplished a lot – please donate as your support moves us closer to finding a cure.

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