Family moving on after cancer ordeal

Heather Latter

Laud Edwards has battled childhood leukemia for the last three-and-a-half years.
But on April 7, the seven-year-old won the battle after completing his last intrathecal chemotherapy treatment in Winnipeg.
His large family—parents, Pam and Gary, and siblings, Cole, Piper, Berea, Jude, Creed (Laud’s identical twin), Jubilee, and Nain—even made the trip together to be with him to mark the momentous occasion.
But as much as it was a time of celebration for the family, Pam Edwards said it actually has been a very difficult process to move forward.
“Everyone sees it as a victory,” she remarked. “And it is, absolutely.
“He deserves the title of victor for everything he went through.
“But in that, we lost stuff,” Edwards admitted, noting the family has spent the past few years in “survival mode.”
“You just push through, you keep doing it, you stay strong for this child,” she stressed.
“And then it gets to his last treatment and it’s now what?”
For instance, Edwards feels she missed bonding with her youngest child who was born after Laud was diagnosed with childhood leukemia in December, 2011.
“I just had to take care of him and it just wasn’t an enjoyable get-to-know-your-baby,” she acknowledged.
They also missed out on a lot of “normal” activities, such as teaching the kids to rides their bikes.
“It just wasn’t the focus,” Edwards conceded. “We’ve got seven-year-olds who don’t know how to ride.
“That is what people are doing but we weren’t doing that.”
Edwards said they have friends who lost children to leukemia and they are very grateful Laud is still with them.
But the cancer experience has affected the family in many ways and makes moving on an experience all its own.
“It’s a whole new thing that we are trying to navigate through,” Edwards remarked. “Having compassion for other families and at the same time learning to move forward.”
She noted its harder to assess the needs of their 10-member family.
“We are not all the same, we didn’t all respond the same to what was going on,” Edwards said. “So assessing people’s needs has been interesting.
“Sometimes it’s an emotional need we didn’t even realize was connected to what was going on.
“Everyone has been changed by this,” she stressed. “You can’t go through something like that and it not affect you.”
While Laud suffered with the physical aspect of treatment, Edwards said his twin brother took the brunt of the emotional suffering.
“They were little but very open to talking about God even at [age] three,” she recalled.
“Creed shut down for a good two years,” she added. “I remember him slowly starting to talk about God, so it’s been good to watch him emotionally reconnect again.”
Before heading to Laud’s final chemotherapy appointment, Edwards said the couple sat their kids around the table and asked them what they remember about this time in their lives.
“There was no sorrow behind anything they said, which was really interesting,” she noted. “They just shared what they remembered.
“I think [Gary and I] are the ones dealing with the heavy grief.”
Edwards even experienced some anger.
“After treatment ended, I had this massive amount of anger that surfaced that I hadn’t really experienced,” she admitted.
“No parent should ever have to watch their kid go through this.
“But I hadn’t really said it before,” she said, reiterating she had just been in “survival mode” and hadn’t address those feelings.
Her husband, Gary, who was the one who took care of Laud the most, also has been very emotional since treatment ended.
“Seeing other kids sick really hits me hard now,” he admitted. “I didn’t really stop to think about it when we were going through this.
“But now when we go to the hospital and I see a little kid there obviously miserable, it’s hard not to tear up,” he added, noting Laud’s medication calender still is hanging up at home.
“It’s just hard to take it down because it’s been there for so long. That was our routine for so long.”
As for Pam Edwards, who is undergoing some counselling to help adjust to the next part of their journey, she doesn’t know if she’s ready yet to be in a support role for other families.
She said people have asked her to talk to others who recently have had a child diagnosed with leukemia.
While she answers “yes,” she warns that those families might not be ready to talk.
“I remember that I wasn’t ready to reach out right away,” she recalled.
“I always say I’m available when they are ready, but you’re putting yourself in another position to know a family who could potentially lose their child.
“And it’s not the easiest place to be, although it’s probably where we’ll always be,” she reasoned.
“Once you’ve walked this road, you are connected with these other families in a way you never would have been.”
Edwards also doesn’t know if she’s ready to support organizations such as “Relay For Life,” either.
“I want to help but I’m not ready to go out and raise money yet,” she explained.
“I’m not there. I don’t know if I’ll ever be there, to be honest.
“It stirs up stuff,” she added. “It’s hard to be in a support role yet and that is what that is most of the time—people supporting people in their journey.
“And I’m not sure we’re there yet to be in a support role for another family or for an organization.”
Edwards just is hoping people will understand her feelings might not be what people expect them to be.
But she stressed Laud and his siblings are resilient.
“Laud will always be a cancer survivor but he doesn’t remember much,” she indicated.
“For him, it might be hardly a memory at all.”
And the youngster is doing well now that he’s in remission.
While the chemotherapy has stunted his growth a little, it’s not likely anyone would know if it wasn’t for him having an identical brother.
“Because he does have an identical twin, we find ourselves comparing them because we could,” Edwards noted.
“He’s about an inch-and-a-half shorter than his brother, Creed, now.”
The twins have been attending the Sunshine Christian Kindergarten at the Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program in Emo this year.
“We did pull him out for his treatments and sometimes he would miss an entire week of school just based on how he was feeling,” Edward said.
“But they love school, and Laud is doing quite well.”
And since treatment ended last month, Edwards indicated he really has been enjoying life.
“I listened to him laugh the other day,” she remarked. “He has always laughed through treatment, but this time it just felt like a normal kid laugh.
“It was so nice to hear him laugh like that.”
Edwards also said she’s not worried about her son’s future health.
“We have a great team,” she enthused. “They will be watching him until he’s 18.”
She also said the statistics for survival and non-recurrence are very encouraging.
“The confidence they have in that protocol is really high,” she remarked, noting Laud will continue to have monthly blood work done here and will travel to Winnipeg every three months.
The family also is looking at going together on a trip since the process was started through “Children’s Wish” for Laud.
“We decided to hold off since he was so young and treatment was going well,” Edwards noted. “Why not wait until he is feeling better and not dealing with chemotherapy, not worried about his [blood cell] counts.
“What he would like to do is take a train ride through the Canadian Rockies—that’s his wish so far.”
And despite moving forward into life after cancer, Edwards wants to remain positive.
“We are going to work through this, but there is a lot of back-and-forth emotions,” she admitted.
“At least I have my child but what does that look like now?”
Edwards said she will be focused on looking at it all from the right perspective—making sure their family has healed, and realizing that it is okay to grieve what they lost during the last few years.
“I don’t know what [the future] is going to look like,” she conceded.
“I just know I can’t stay where I’m at.”