Thursday, May 31, 2012

Words By Me, My Dad and Bruce Springsteen

Last week our family went to Vancouver for a PET/CT Scan my oncologist ordered about a month ago. 

We decided to make a trip out of it. I could've gone alone, but Faith was not going to miss out on being supportive and support was welcomed. 

We stayed two nights at my brother Jason and sister-in-law Colleen's home. (Side note, while there Colleen reached her goal raising $2,500 for cancer research

Myrtle LOVED being there, she LOVES her cousins and aunty and uncle. Perhaps the happiest she has ever been is is being there. Especially being with her cousin Kathryn and the dog. 

When I arrived in Vancouver at the BC Cancer Agency I went into a private room, and was injected with a radioactive sugar thru an IV.  Cancer feeds on sugar and since it's radioactive the PET/CT Scan is able to see if there is any cancer anywhere. 

I had to lie still for 45 minutes, I couldn't even read. I was allowed to listen to music so I put on some Josh Groban and like most people I fell asleep within a song or two. 

After my snooze I went into the PET/CT Scan room and lied down for another 45 minutes as the PET/CT machine did its business. 

On Monday my oncologist, Dr. Wai, called to give me the results of the scan. Fortunately Myrtle was napping and Faith was there listening on speaker. Cancer was showing in the same spot on my hip, luckily nowhere else. Today (Thursday May 31st) she is meeting with her colleagues to figure a course of action and I will get a call tomorrow regarding it. 

Our first response was nervous laughter. Disbelief. Faith and I hugged, wept. I called my parents, my brothers and then my in-laws. 

Myrtle slept through it all. How I envy her innocence. Just blissfully happy and content when she woke up. 

That night I got an email from my Dad. I read it and read it again to Faith and to my friend Mori when he visited. 

Dear Ruban,

In my writing course a few months ago, we were given the assignment to write about an incident this last year that was life changing – here is what I wrote.  I wanted to share this with you so you would know the love I feel for you and my desire to lighten your burden …

Dad Can Fix Anything
By Ron Rebalkin

            When I was a young boy, our family had very little money and as things go, stuff breaks. We could not afford to buy new things so there was always the need to have something fixed. Being the oldest boy, the task fell upon my shoulders to see if I could fix or at least get it to start or last awhile longer. I had the innate ability to figure out a way to repair most broken appliances, tables, chairs, lawnmowers and various mechanical pieces of equipment on the farm. Anything electrical should be left to professionals! This gift, blessing, or a curse sometimes, has been with me ever since.

            In most households with children, possessions break. Dad, my racetrack won’t work. Can you fix it? I usually corrected the problem and got the cars back on the track running around in circles. Dad, my drawer came out. Can you fix it? I did. Dad, my tire on my bike is flat. Can you fix it? My chain came off too. Can you fix it? My Cub Kar’s wheels won’t turn properly, can you fix them? A little powdered graphite fixed that problem.  My zipper is stuck. Can you fix it? Hey Dad, I need to move, can you help me put stuff back together after the move? Oh, I am moving to Calgary, could you haul my stuff there? Thought about that one for a few minutes. Drove to Calgary with the van packed to the roof. The vacuum cleaner wouldn’t work. I fixed it. Taps dripped. Fixed them too.  The washer leaked and dryer wouldn’t dry. I fixed them.

            As the boys got older, the problems were bigger and more diverse. Dad, I think the clutch is gone in my car. Can you fix it? I did.  Hey Dad, I am putting in new hardwood flooring, can you come over and help me fix the areas I had trouble with? Of course son. Painting homes, fixing their appliances, putting together Ikea furniture without any screws, nuts or bolts left over, installing blinds, door locks, broken dishwashers, leaky car windows and on and on the list goes. My father-in-law would call and ask if I could fix the lights as they had all gone out in the basement. Fixed that one easily, I just flipped the breaker.

Being able to fix things gives me a feeling of worth, sometimes even a purpose. I feel valued. I am Mister Fix It.

            Almost one year ago, my youngest son slipped at work landing on his hip and hurt it quite badly. He had many trips to the physiotherapist but the pain was still there and his hip was more tender than ever. Our family doctor sent him in for a MRI to see what the problem was. A few days later our son called and asked his mom and I to come over as soon as possible as he needed to talk to us. We went over right away. As we entered his home and saw him we knew something was wrong.

            He told us about the visit he had with the Family Doctor and that the Doctor had referred him to a specialist where he was told about the findings in the MRI. Our son was diagnosed with Singular Bone Plasmacytoma, which is a cancer that causes tumors to grow on the soft tissue and in the bone. He had a tumor the size of a kiwi on his hip bone, which was causing all the pain. I just sat there and held our five month old granddaughter feeling as if I was watching a movie and this was not real. It was real alright. Our son went through many more tests here in Victoria and Vancouver confirming the initial diagnosis. Over the past year he has had many radiation treatments, tests of all sorts and still the diagnosis for the future is open ended. It may not be able to be fixed.

            I have gone through so many emotions and feelings over the last year and it has taken a tremendous toll on me and my family. I feel absolutely helpless. I feel there is nothing I can do. I feel useless. I feel inept and try to act as if all is well with the world although I know it is not. I fix things and have all my life. This is one thing I can’t fix.

            A tremendous amount of solace came to my mind today. I thought of our Saviour hanging and dying on the cross alone without His Father removing the bitter cup – “fixing things” for his beloved Son.  In my heart I heard the quiet comforting whisper, a reminder to me, “Son, Dads can’t fix everything.” …

Who knew my Dad could write so well? Instead of asking for permission, Dad I hope you'll forgive me for sharing. 

I was feeling a little uneasy about the diagnosis. I've asked a few bazillion or so people to add me in their prayers. I don't think all will actually pray, but I know some will and I KNOW some have. How? It's hard to explain, I feel very comforted, at ease. Emotions are near the surface, understandably, but fear is being kept at bay and I feel confident about my future. 

I'm reminded of a chorus from a Bruce Springsteen song:

May your strength give us strength

May your faith give us faith

May your hope give us hope

May your love give us love

What ever tomorrow or whatever any day brings it is always onward and upward. 

My little family can use your strength, your faith, your hope, your love. 


  1. Thank you for keeping us up to date. Your dad's essay is moving. I have been keeping you in my prayers and will continue to. This will pass, I know it will!
    love to you and the family
    corrina, leif and offspring

  2. Sob. Beautiful story, sweet father.

  3. Beautifully written, thank you for sharing. You and your whole family are always in my thoughts and prayers. Wishing I could do something useful to help.

  4. ohhh, Ruban, u are amazing, we are all fasting for you and your sweet family, thank-you for sharing and for your incredible courage and fortitude, I thank your sweet family for being so amazing and for Faith and your baby, God truly does have a plan, you are taking His hand and following Him thru the valley of the shadow of death, and yet you fear not...God bless you Brother...Love the Sala's

  5. i will be forever grateful for your attitude ruban. your thoughts have touched me deeply. i am grateful that i can count you and faith as not only friends but family. we love you, pray for you and appreciate the deeply spiritual experience you are sharing with us. can't wait to hug you both and give myrtle a kiss. (sorry only she gets kisses. well, ok maybe faith too!) looking forward to hanging out.