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Faces of Blue: Linda Vieyra

My name is Linda Vieyra and my husband Carlos Vieyra was diagnosed with Stage IIIa colorectal cancer in October 2011. He was only 32 years old when diagnosed. My husband and I have shared over 15 years of life together, and 7 years ago, we were blessed with our son, John. We never imagined that we would be so involved in the Colon Cancer Coalition, but here we are, helping raise awareness to find a cure.

The ending of 2011 was a rough time for our family, and as much as I prayed to God to help me understand this, I felt that my family was already defeated in a battle we had yet to begin. I went through days, weeks and months of asking questions: Why Carlos? Why my family? What did we do in life to deserve this? I could not fathom the thought that my husband was going to spend his 33rd birthday receiving his 1st chemotherapy treatment. How was I supposed to tell John that Daddy could not eat Birthday cake? The thought of raising our son without my husband around constantly ran through my mind. Could I be a single mother? How would John react to not having his Daddy around? I found myself in desperate need of reassurance every minute of the day. I needed to hear someone tell me, “It’s going to be okay.” The only person I believed when I heard those words was my husband, the one person who was battling this horrible disease.

At the time, our son John was 5 years old. We had just returned from an awesome family vacation in Hawaii, he was in love with airplanes and began his whole “I want to become a pilot” phase. One month after my son began Kindergarten, my husband went through surgery and was hospitalized for over 7 days. I remember having a parent conference with my son’s teacher the day of Carlos’ surgery, and explaining to her the situation my family was in. As the tears rolled down my cheek, I noticed tears in my son’s teacher’s eyes as well. Ironically enough, my son’s Kindergarten teacher understood, as she had a brother who was a pilot and unfortunately passed away from colon cancer at a very young age. I truly believe that my son’s teacher was placed in our lives at that exact time for a reason. Every morning upon taking my son to school, I was asked how my husband was doing. He became very active in participating in my son’s classroom when he was feeling good, and it warmed my heart knowing that my son’s teacher cared enough to motivate my husband into participating and volunteering. My son attends Catholic school and the faith she had in my husband’s battle provided me with the hope that everything was really going to be okay.  Mrs. Garalde if you Faces of Blue: Linda Vieyraare reading this, I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart for your caring and nurturing ways during the most difficult time of our life and for continuing to remain an active part in our son’s life.

As a first time parent and a first time caregiver, I did not know how I was going to deal with ensuring my husband’s health, maintaining our home, financially managing our bills and attempting to keep my son’s life as normal as possible. I never understood the term “you just make it work” until I had no choice but to make things work. Somehow everything managed to fall into place. My son was aware that his Daddy was sick and he understood that they “cut Daddy open to take out a monster in his butt.” With all of the wonderful support we received from family, friends and especially my son’s school, we were able to make his kindergarten experience and his life as normal as possible.

Now, 3 years after diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and receiving the good news that my husband was officially in remission, the rebuilding of our lives has not been easy. We have had our ups and downs and really low times, but overall, it’s been a learning experience on life in general. We have learned to appreciate everything life has to offer and to NEVER complain about what we don’t have. We also learned it takes more strength to provide others with a positive outlook than to portray yourself as a victim of this cruel disease. Yes, my husband was a victim of this disease, but this disease made him discover a new strength within himself. My husband has his health, my son has his father and I have my husband. That is what makes us rich in life.  The phrase “Get Your Rear in Gear” is a lifestyle to my family. It means getting checked regularly, being aware of your body and signs it gives you when something is wrong. It means living a long, healthy life.

We’ve learned that everyday you have to think of life as a blessing. Of course, fear creeps up every once in a while, like when my husband has to go in for his bi-annual CT scan. Life is a journey and sometimes we tend to get lost along the way.  Our goal is to think positively and stay positive. Like my husband says, this set back is a set-up for a great come back, whether it be eternal life in the hands of the good Lord or enjoying more years with your loved ones here on earth. Keep fighting, keep the hope and most of all keep your faith.”

Faces of Blue: Linda VieyraI recently asked my son if he remembered when his Daddy was in the hospital and he started telling me how he felt and what he remembered. I asked him to write his feelings on paper and this is what he wrote.

John writes:
“I remember my Dad at the hospital with the big cut on his stomach. I am happy the monster was taken out of his butt and he is all better. I remember Grandma and Grandpa taking me to school and we prayed to God every night for Daddy. I always prayed for Dad at school and I always asked God and the Angels to watch Daddy and not take him from me. I love my Dad. I love when we play soccer, baseball and tag together. I have the best Dad in the world. I never want my Dad to be in the hospital because I was scared. I cried because I missed my Dad. I don’t want to see Mommy sad because Daddy is sick. I love my Mom and Dad so much. I will pray for all the sick people in the world.”

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