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What My Brother’s Cancer Fight Has Taught Me About Living Life

July 30, 2019

Yesterday really, really sucked.

Ricky (my brother in law) has been in a cancer fight with brain cancer (AKA a scary word: glioblastoma), battling for his life since last Thanksgiving. This whole experience has been surreal and traumatic for our family, to say the least. Ricky went from being Randy’s big brother, this badass submariner for the Navy who we only saw once every few years … to being Randy’s best friend who we see as often as we can because we know at this point, we need to be present with him as much as humanly possible.

We uprooted our life in Colorado to move down to the South because we wanted to be closer to him and my sister, Lynette, and our nieces and nephew. We wanted a simpler life for our family. We wanted more time together. We wanted to stress less and love more.

Glioblastomas are a death sentence, for lack of a better term; it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

And let me tell you: Ricky has been fighting. He’s done the radiation, he’s done the chemo, he’s even done some experimental treatments. When we were originally in Hawaii getting his initial diagnosis, we weren’t even sure if he’d make it through surgery. Then we weren’t sure he’d walk or talk again. Then we weren’t sure he’d live until Christmas. Then we weren’t sure if he’d be able to leave Hawaii.

And now here we are, just about 8 months later in this cancer fight and Ricky is walking, talking and living his best life possible at his Florida home with his wife and 3 kids. And best yet – he is feeling good for the most part!

Cancer Fight Has Taught Me About Living Life

But yesterday was a tough battle day. Ricky went in for a new scan and check up, to see what’s going on and the news was not what we wanted to hear. It’s not really my news to share, but, yesterday afternoon was really rough. I cried, I felt sick, I punched something … Randy and I couldn’t even call each other because I knew we’d both lose it if we heard each other’s voice so we stuck to texting.

When Randy got home, we laid in bed together and he told me he had talked to Ricky on the drive home from work and I will tell you this – Ricky’s reaction to his situation really lifted my spirits.

Randy asked Ricky how he’s able to keep his faith and feel okay about what’s going on, and Ricky said:

“Dude, I’m happy – I get to go to heaven, and that’s awesome.”

So, here we are, the whole family is angry and grieving and absolutely reeling from his cancer fight and here’s Ricky, having the audacity to feel joyful.

And in that moment when he shared that bit of the conversation with me, Randy and I both burst out laughing about Ricky’s reaction and positivity – not in a make-fun-of-him-yeah-right-way but in a way that literally brought joy to us both. Ricky’s right, he’s going to heaven and that is awesome.

Ricky’s cancer fight is not over, but already – it’s taught me so much about this life we’re living.

Lessons I’ve learned (so far, and counting) from this cancer fight:

  • I can choose how I react to things.
  • I can choose joy over fear.
  • My time on earth is not guaranteed for any length.
  • Spending time with loved ones is the best thing we can do.
  • Faith means believing, even when you cannot see or feel it.
  • Call your loved ones, write to them, take the photos, make the memories.
  • It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be sad. But it is NOT okay to stop living life based on fears.
  • Stop saying yes to things that you need to say no to.
  • Live debt free to alleviate additional, unnecessary stress (Ricky bought his family’s property in cash, which I think is totally amazing!).
  • Find joy and gratitude in the little things (as well as the big).


I mean – y’all: these kinds of lessons keep pouring in, every single day. I knew when we were first told that Ricky had cancer and that it would be devastatingly terminal, that this would be a defining moment in our family’s history – but I had absolutely no idea how transformative it would truly be for me, Randy and our kids.

If you’ve been friends with me or followed me for a long time, you’ll know this about me: I feel everything intensely and in the past, I’ve never really, truly opened up about my life or the things going on in it because I didn’t want to be a burden on anyone, or be embarrassed. I’ve prided myself on standing on my own two feet, and not asking for help. I thought it would make me appear weak or less-than, and I didn’t know if my proud heart could stand that. And I know people are facing their own battles, and I didn’t want to impose on their lives.

But now, here I am – laying my heart out on my blog, for thousands of people to see, and I’m asking for your help. I’m asking for your prayers, because our family needs it. I’m asking for you to take just a few seconds to feel joyful about something – ANYTHING – in your life, that brings a smile to your face. It could be as simple as the delicious cup of coffee in your hands right now, but just feel that joy and radiate that our way.

And in that moment, send that feeling to your loved ones – send them a text or a funny meme, post something on social media about it, do whatever you can to share that feeling.

The world needs more joy and light in it.



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  1. […] radiation treatment. I should not need chemo at all, which is a big blessing because after watching Ricky go through chemo last year, that’s nothing I want anything to do […]

  2. […] sight unseen, to a small town in Georgia so that we could spend whatever time we had left with Ricky, and so that we could be here for Lynette as she becomes a widow and a single mom to their three […]

Heyyyy ... I'm Ashley Durham and I'm a luxury wedding photographer in Phoenix, but I travel all over Arizona and the desert southwest to hang out with the most incredible people. I am obsessed with puppies, extra hot coffee, sunrise and firmly believe that love conquers all.

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