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Childhood Cancer – Not Our Family

June 4, 2010


I have been wondering when I would write this piece.  The time is now.  Yesterday, I left work on my bike and rode the half hour to the barn with a broken heart.  My constant stream of tears snotted my nose and blurred my vision.  I had just met the father of a son who has malignant brain cancer.  The son is 21 years old, the age of my daughter Eva.  When I told this wrecked father of my own stepson’s battle with cancer, how he has beat it, he managed to look at me and I understood clearly that his hope for the same conclusion for his son was being tested beyond belief.  We hugged and the pain he felt was too familiar.  The young man’s name is Kevin Williams.  Send him a prayer. 

Cole, Eva, Genavieve, Jack

My stepson Cole Morley was diagnosed with a Ewing Sarcoma when he was 10 years old.  Until that point, our family was the picture of vibrant health.  What a family goes through on that fateful day, the one when you learn that what is wrong with your child is not some normal fixable thing, is like some sort of horrible dream that you know must end soon.  One minute you are waiting to hear the results of a scan to finally determine what simple steps will be taken to fix the problem – and the next minute you are in the car heading up to Stanford to be told that this beautiful child will probably not live.   

Go Sharks!!

Cole is the only child of my husband Tim Morley and Caryn Murray.  I sat, just one heartbeat removed, and witnessed these two people struggle with the reality of the situation.  Cole battled for his life over the next year.  He underwent 13 rounds of inpatient intravenous chemotherapy, 30 days of radiation and had an internal hemipelvectomy (one half of his pelvis removed).  His hands and feet burned off from the inside out and he whittled down to a little stick of a thing, but his heart stayed strong.  

Meanwhile, on the home front, I managed the other 3 children.  As to be expected, an enormous amount of focus needed to be directed to Cole’s treatment, but I was the one who saw how Genavieve, Eva and Jack’s life had turned upside down on that same day.  We were family oriented to the max, doing everything together and then suddenly we were always divided.  I remember that day just before Christmas, when Cole was finally done with treatment and all he wanted for Christmas was to get the port out of his chest.   Tim and I sat on the couch after all the kids were in bed, looked at each other and made the decision to get to know each other again.  We were that different from the people we were the year before.  

After Surgery & Chemo

Cole is one of the lucky ones.  He has survived.  He is thriving.  Yes, he is missing one half of his pelvis, one leg several inches shorter than the other, but he has life.  Genavieve, Eva and Jack have also survived.  Their childhood brought them to a brink that one hopes to never stand near.  They looked down at a different outcome for their brother when they were too young to have to such thoughts.  Our family is not one in which everyone is equal.  How could it be?  Really, I am sure that no family is.  But the cool thing about our family is that we can see it.  It is out in the open.  Cole’s battle with cancer changed each one of us profoundly and I could venture to say that it could be seen as a sacrifice of sorts in that the other 5 of us will have a life that is deeper and richer than it could possibly have been.  I used to wonder if Cole was part of God’s plan, but I don’t wonder anymore, I know.   

Getting healthy

When Cole completed his treatment and walked out into the world, he seeked out and joined a church youth group.  It was a personal mission, done on his own without the parents.  He has grown and thrived in this group, moving from the Jr. High kids, to the small high school group and returning to mentor the younger kids.  Last week, the seniors at Twin Lakes Church were honored by their pastor, Steve Craig (aka Curley).  It was a peak into his life at church and the kids that he has shared his faith with.  If anyone ever wonders about the existence of God, and I am not talking about the existence of religion, but the God that is here for all of us, one just has to know Cole.  After facing death at age 10, the kid knew what he saw and how he got through and he has never looked back.  I thank Cole for this gift of faith, I thank God for bringing this message to me and my family.  With this in my heart, I send love and prayers to the family of Kevin Bradley Williams.  

You can visit with the family of Kevin Bradley Williams on his their blog through this link:

Jack, Genavieve, Eva, Cole


Sweethearts Cole and Kendra

One Comment leave one →
  1. Amanda Lemley permalink
    June 8, 2010 1:24 am

    Oh Julie! What a life-changer and reminder to all of us how precious every day is. I’m sorry you all had to go through that, and I hope all the best for Kevin. It is so weird to get to know you a little through this blog. You are a great writer and I am happy for you that you’ve found this creative way to express yourself. What a beautiful family you have! Not too surprising, I guess..

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