A Thanksgiving Wish

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada. Its often a day when I will reflect on the amazing things that I am actually grateful that Diabetes brought into our lives–most importantly, the wonderful friends and new family it created. 

This year is going to be different however.  This year, I am not going to talk about diabetes at all. I am going to talk about friends–one particular friend actually. I don’t remember when exactly we met. My mother worked for her parents and she was most likely there one day when I stopped in for coffee.  I haven’t kept in close contact over the years but she remained good friends with my mom and Mom always kept me apprised of what was going on in her life…and what a life it has been!

Cindy has battled cancer for over twenty years, been divorced and lost her oldest daughter in a tragic car accident.  She has been happily remarried, adopted lovely young girl with her husband, and won many of her constant battles with cancer.  Her determination and her humbleness is inspiring. 

My mom called me one day and said “I heard from Cindy today. Its not good. The doctors have washed their hands of her treatment and said they will make her comfortable but there is nothing else they can do.”  Despite the dire prognosis, Cindy and her husband did not give up.  They found Dr. Castillo’s stem cell therapy in San Diego and Tijuana and she began this new treatment.  

To date, the treatments have been effective in shrinking the cancer in one lung and halting growth in the other.  Because of the controversial nature of this radical therapy, Cindy and her family are having to cover all of the costs themselves. Treatments cost over $100,000 and debt in their household is growing at an alarming rate.  Cindy’s husband is a dentist but with Cindy’s poor health and a young daughter to take care of, he is only able to work part-time for a few places like https://www.authoritydental.org/dental-implants, his skills are in demand however he is just too busy to focus on dentistry at the moment. Obviously Cindy is no longer to contribute much financially at all.   

Their dedication and Cindy’s incredible courage has led many of their family and friends to do all that they can to help.  Word of Cindy’s plight has been featured in Calgary newspapers and on the radio. It has moved complete strangers to fund-raise on her behalf. It has led me to dedicate this Thanksgiving post to her.  

Cindy and I have resumed our contact and she recently asked me when I was going to visit her.  My eyes teared up and I was glad this question came over a text.  I replied that I had been travelling a lot this year but hopefully my trip would come soon.  I quietly prayed that she would have many more years in which I really could visit.  

In another conversation, we discussed her then upcoming fundraiser and the fact that I would do what little I could to spread the word and hopefully generate more donations for her.  She simply replied “Everyone has been so kind.”  Without a thought I stated the obvious “You deserve it!”  There was a pause before she replied, “Thank you for saying that.”  Again, tears came to my eyes.  She has been through so much, given so much to others and yet seemed shocked to see that people were so willing to help her and her family. 

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for all of you and I am grateful that Cindy is here with us.  I am grateful that she has this holiday to spend with her family–her mother, siblings, her husband, her son, and her youngest daughter.  I am grateful for ability to provide a small donation towards her last attempt to beat cancer–and with the financial resources Cindy is confident that she will do just that! “It is a long battle,” she notes “but it will be won.” 

My wish for this Thanksgiving holiday is that Cindy is able to see this battle won–for her, for her family. Please, if you can, help her to win this battle. In the diabetes community we know that living should not be about money and sadly, once again it is–in the most extreme case.  Please consider sending even $5 to help this family.  I have over 1000 followers between here, on Face book, and on Twitter.  If each person sent Cindy’s family $5 that would be $5000 towards her continued treatment.  $5000 towards her seeing another Thanksgiving with her family.  Please, help me to help her. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all!    

Donations can be made via PayPal to email: iamaveghead@live.ca or

Mail Cheques or Money orders to:
Cindy Smith
Suite 1114-70 Shawville Blvd SE
Calgary, AB Canada T2Y 2Z3

A Tribute to an amazing school…an amazing family

Its not often that you really think of a school as a family but in so many ways, my son’s school was just that–part of our family. It all started back in 1998.  My oldest son’s aunt desperately wanted me to enroll him in a French as a first language school.  I was a little skeptical to say the least. I am as English as they come.  My French is limited to high school and knowing how to conjugate the verb etre. I wished I had learned more but my own insecurities kept me from going any further. 

I called up the school and was worried because rumors were abound that the school would be closing. My call was answered by the principal and my concerns were quickly put to rest.  My son completed their preschool program and as we headed into kindergarten, I again had questions. I am an English speaking girl as I said.  My children’s father comes from a French background as did most of the community we were living in but what if my kids decided that they wanted to go to English post-secondary schools? Would they be able to function? Again my concerns were alleviated and I was shown that the “French” students often performed better than their English counterparts in English programming. 

I began to feel that I had opened doors for my children and not closed them and so I began to relax.  I got to know more of the staff through a variety of activities and soon was involved with helping out in a variety of ways. Just as I was relaxing, a blow hit our family–my youngest son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and given twelve hours to live.  The school had been worried about him earlier.  He had looked pale when we had gone to various events throughout the late fall and early winter.  They were there with support and kind words when we returned from the hospital with our new pal “diabetes” in tow. 

As my youngest son grew, he too went to this school.  They worked to ensure that he fit in.  They supported me as we fought for accommodations and help to make the lives of the staff and my son easier and safer.  When my youngest was in kindergarten, we asked some of the staff to support us in a walk we were doing as a family for the Canadian Diabetes Association.  They generously opened their wallets to us. The next year however things were very different. This time they refused to support us.  They wanted to do their own walk! Would I arrange it? 

Well as you know, the Ecole Notre Du Cap Diabetes Walk became an annual event.  I quickly labelled them “the little school with the big heart”.  A student body that was never more than 50 students each year raised well over $1000.  By 2010, with the $2214 they had raised in June, this little school with the incredible heart has raised close to $20,000.  The thought of their generosity and how it sustained year after year despite the changing of students and some staff still brings tears to my eyes.   

This year I once again watched students show up on walk day donning t-shirts that they had been given years before.  They were showing their support. It wasn’t about raising enough to get a t-shirt or whatever other trinkets companies like Medtronic and Stutt’s Pharmacy provided.  It was walking for my son, for their grandparent, for a loved one, for people with diabetes in their area.  I was honored to roll their coins and total their pledge sheets. I was proud to hand them their prizes and their “Thank you” certificates from the Diabetes Hope Foundation. It was my pleasure to send on the cheque with this year’s donation. 

This was a walk done by friends. No–it was a walk done by family.  As the school year came to a close, so did our time at Ecole Notre Dame du Cap.  We moved out of the community that my children had called home all of their lives. We are lucky to still be in an area where my son can continue in the same French as a first language program but leaving our family behind has been hard.  We will see them again as they come to our new area and we return to theirs.  No matter what the distance between us, they will always be with us.  As I have read many times and have learned over the past few months more and more, some friends come into your life for a little while and fill a purpose but some friends come into your life and forever leave a print on your heart.  Ecole Notre Dame du Cap, its staff and its students have definitely left a print on our heart. They have shown us generosity, kindness, and love while providing my children with a wonderful and well rounded education. 


Diabetes Walk for Hope…Part one

First let me appologize. My blogging has been pretty spotty lately.  June is always a terrible month for me. I am super busy with commitments for my childrens’ schools.  This June we have had the added pressure of a move and an uncertain moving date so my life has been thrown into an even greater state of chaos than normal. 

Admidst the chaos however, there is always a bit of consistency.  That conisistency is the incredible flood of emotions that always takes place during and after my son’s school annual diabetes walk. 

For those who don’t know, my children go to very small schools. My child with Type 1 diabetes has about 50 students in his school from kindergarten to grade 8.  Each year these students go out and raise money with one thought in mind…diabetes. For some this means that they are walking for a family member and for others it means that they are walking for my child.  No matter who is their inspiration, their efforts reduce me to tears every year. 

As I walked through the halls of the school on walk day, the first tears began to swell.  I had been grumbling about the lack of sanity on my part for taking on such an ambtious job in the walk t-shirts for this year. They were very labour intensive and I do not have a lot of spare time at this moment in my life. Someone suggested that this was a waste of my time because the kids would only toss their shirts in the drawer, never to be worn again.  I knew better.  This walk proved it once again. You see each year when our kids walk, you see a variety of walk t-shirts strolling through the halls of the building. They have various walk t-shirts on that they have earned over the past seven years.  It warms my heart to “see” their support. 

They don’t do this for the prizes.  They never know what they will be getting this year.  T-shirts are given out based on how much money they earn and they don’t get their shirts until the last day of school (it helps with students like my own son who forget to get all their money from their sponsors on time).
The tears began to flow for real when I started to open the bags of money and read the sponsor sheets.  We live in an area of high unemployment and retirement.  The school now sees two or three children from one family trying to all collect the same monies. Despite all of that, there were still amazing amounts raised by children from all levels. Kindergarden students who have never been a part of this event raised amazing amounts of money.  Older students walking for their family members sent me to even more tears. 

As I look forward to moving on with my life, I look back at this school and the tears flow like never before.  They have been so very, very good to us in so many ways.  They have been more than a source of education. They have been a family who were there for us every step of the way.  They have made a huge difference in our lives and saying “see you again another day” this Friday will be one of the hardest days I have had in a very long time!  I have been so very blessed to have know the staff and all of the students who have wandered those halls over the past 12 years. 

Gettin’ into the groove…one last time

School year end is always a busy time for any family.  There are final exams for some students.  There is the countdown to no more school lunches and the joy of no more homework fights for a few months.

I am very involved in my youngest son’s school and have been since my oldest child started there…well a few years ago.  The school is very special and works hard to make the school atmosphere very much a family one.  The end of the year therefore becomes exceptionally heck tick.  We have a day at the park when the parents enjoy the sun and then barbeque for the students. There is sports day when I wonder if Liam will sweat off his infusion site or if we have it stuck with enough Mastisol.  There is the year end festival which evolved from a year end concert into a fabulous day of games, food and entertainment.  

The most special of all days, for me, is the Diabetes Walk day.  This day began seven years ago.  We would go to the teachers each year and ask for their support in our fundraising efforts for a diabetes walk in another town.  One year, Liam’s teacher said that she would not sponsor us.  She wondered instead if we would be okay with the school doing its own walk for the cause.  I was overwhelmed and so appreciative. 

We live in a very small, rural area.  It was once known to have the highest rate of unemployment in Canada. I don’t know if we still hold that infamous title but many of the families living here are retired or single income. When the first walk took place, we had less than 50 students from Kindergarten to grade 8.  I thought that if we made $500 we would have done an incredible job.  Some students would get a lot of money and some would have a hard time coming up with $5.  You can imagine my surprise then when the students raised over $1300.  Each year the dollar value grew. 

To date they have raised over $13,000 for diabetes charities.  The number of students has grown slightly.  We now easily have 50 students from Kindergarten to grade 8 and they remain just as generous and dedicated to the cause as they were seven years ago.  

The day has become a full day event.  Students are taken to a local park where they enjoy a treasure hunt before lunch.  At noon they are fed pizzas cooked in an outdoor oven.  After their stomaches are full they begin their walk.  They all know who they are walking for.  Many may not know exactly what the disease means but they can put a face to it.  They also know that the money they have raised has helped people in their community.  The Diabetes Hope Foundation has a program that assists young people to purchase their supplies when no one else will. 

This year is bittersweet for me.  There is still so much work to do but it will be my last year.  We are moving and my son will be changing schools.  We will be leaving the area that we have called home for so many years.  

Before that happens, I will still make sure that t-shirts are ready for students who raise a certain amount of money for the walk.  Sponsors have donated other items to further help show our appreciation.  I have also created a link on the Diabetes advocacy home page so that those who wish to donate can help make this final diabetes walk extra special and help Ecole Notre Dame du Cap continue to help people living with diabetes.