What would Edyn do?

On this first day of school, my niece’s 15th birthday, a week from the 2-year mark in this dedicated month, I sit here in my office, tears streaming down my face, just wanting my girl back.We were a happy family that loved being together, laughing, dancing, travelling, living life to the fullest and then our 11-year-old daughter Edyn was diagnosed with a GBM, a glioblastoma multiforme. This is an incurable brain tumour typically found in adults, extremely uncommon in children and in that instant our lives changed forever. How do we take that step out of the consultation room toward Edyn and her younger brother Simon? How, and what, do we tell them? At that moment Michael and I made a pact that this wasn’t going to tear us apart, that the four of us were and always will be a team. The next step was the first step of the rest of our lives.

(L-R) Edyn, Michael (dad), Simon and Kristyn (mom)

Initially, we told Edyn and Simon that there was a mass in her brain that was causing the pain and double vision she had been experiencing over the past 3 weeks. Edyn would have to have surgery to remove the majority of the tumour to release the pressure. That was all we knew at that point, so we said no more. We didn’t know what type of tumour it was; we didn’t have any other facts to share other than that this was the start of Edyn’s journey. At that time, Edyn didn’t ask for more information, she just wanted to take steps toward to feeling better.

Thirty-six hours later, Edyn was prepped and transported for surgery. Outside the operating theatre, the surgical team reviewed their surgical prep list. Once the team was satisfied with the preparations, the head neurosurgeon asked Edyn if she had any questions. To the team’s surprise Edyn replied, “Let’s just do this.” She gave Michael and I a kiss, we shared our love and off she went. It was the longest 9 hours of our lives. Once in the recovery room, the head paediatrician in the PICU checked on Edyn as she was waking up from the anaesthetic. The doctor knew everything had gone well when she asked Edyn how she was doing. Edyn answered with an abrupt, “I feel like s*@#!”

At the hospital lab

The next stage of the journey was about to start. Life in intensive care with your child is a moment-to-moment experience. “With big problems come big complications,” one nurse told me. Edyn had a bit of a roller coaster ride over the next couple of weeks before her health stabilized and she could come home for a visit. The first visit home was Christmas day. Simon and I went to the hospital first thing that morning with a picnic breakfast and a suitcase full of gifts to celebrate with Edyn and Michael. When we finished our mini-celebration, we bundled Edyn up and took her home for a few hours in between medication doses. It was so great to have her home, all four of us together. We spent the next week making these daily visits until Edyn could be fully discharged on her 12th birthday. Oh did we celebrate that day!

Next, we focused on Edyn getting back to school. We all agreed that it was the best for her. Edyn wanted to be a regular kid, doing regular things. She didn’t want a pity party or to play “the cancer card.” After a bit of coaching from the oncology social work team; the school and Edyn’s class were as ready for her return as we were. The idea was to try to start the day with everyone else and come home when she had had enough. Even though Edyn began an intensive 6-week radiation and chemotherapy program at the same time, she managed to attend school almost every day until the end of the school year. Once the 6-week treatment program was complete there was a 2-week break before the regular chemo schedule started. We had already booked a trip to Hawaii, which happened to fall within these 2 weeks, so off we went. More than anything Edyn wanted to surf. It was an amazing time together, a holiday we all cherish. Over the next months there were trips to Fernie, Lake O’Hara, New York City, Ontario to visit family, camp for Edyn and cottage time.

Living life fully after diagnosis, lots of snowboarding, hiking and travelling with loved ones

We returned to Calgary in mid-August. It was clear at this time that Edyn’s health was in decline. We all wanted to believe it was just another phase in the battle, but within a week we were moved into the Rotary Flames House, which was the beginning of our last month together. The care for our whole family was so amazing that we didn’t have anything to do other than be together. We continued to live life as we knew it as best we could. As Edyn slipped further away the three of us joined forces even stronger. Peacefully, on September 13, in my arms, the four of us said goodbye to our life as we knew it.

Edyn and Mom at the Banff Music Festival

Edyn was wise beyond her years. There was a calm about her, sometimes so calm that it seemed like nothing was urgent. Edyn taught us to live in the moment, to be present. Even throughout her cancer journey Edyn accepted all that had to be done to help her: the surgery, the countless pokes (needles), the specialized medical teams that would take up the mornings examining her, living in-hospital for a month, radiation, chemotherapy and so much more.

Although I am convinced Edyn knew more than anyone what was happening to her, she didn’t feel sorry for herself. She never gave up and never felt like a victim. At a family dinner one night she quietly told her Nana that she accepted her fate.

Precious time at home

Every day with Edyn was filled with joy and laughter. Our house was a happy place filled with joy, whether it was making her brother laugh; dancing around the house; posting goofy videos or simply loving life. Edyn recognized the good in everyone she met and stood up for those who needed help. Edyn knew how to treat people kindly and she had incredible empathy. There was a lightness to life with Edyn. I’ve never met anyone who was so comfortable in her own skin, so real. In her much too short life, Edyn touched so many people so deeply.

Most of our network lives far away so we do things that everyone can participate in on social media or with themselves at home. One of the first events in Edyn’s name was the Shave Your Lid for a Kid® at Bishop Pinkham School. It was one of the biggest shave events in Kids Cancer Care history. We participate in an annual fundraising walk for the camp Edyn went to for kids with cancer; we plan silly activities to honour Edyn’s birthday; we have planted numerous trees in her honour; we light a candle and look to the stars on September 13. We continue to support the research fund we have in Edyn’s name at ACH throughout the year to recognize special occasions. Most importantly, we have infused #wwed (what would Edyn do) into our daily lives. In difficult moments #wwed helps us focus on the positive and brings us back to the present.

Students from Bishop Pinkham School came out in droves to honour Edyn by shaving their heads and raising funds for Kids Cancer Care and raised a record-breaking $92,000, which was later topped up to $100,000 by an anonymous donor


So here we are 2 years after Edyn’s death and we manage to keep moving forward. We are managing our life filled with grief and sadness. We do find the joy and laughter more and more. Our life will never be the same but we are eternally grateful and feel privileged for having had Edyn in our lives. Her energy is all around, her presence almost tangible at times. It’s healing. The memories become more valuable than ever. I cherish the visits from butterflies and the sightings of rainbows and the stream of green traffic lights when we have to get to soccer practice. When I’m sitting on the dock, watching the loon family, feeling the warmth of the late summer sun on my face, squinting from the reflections on the water, I know Edyn is holding my hand. In these things I find peace. In our love for one another we three find peace.

–Kristyn, Edyn’s Mom

L-R Simon, Michael (dad) and Kristyn (mom): “In our love for one another we three find peace”-Kristyn

Edyn’s photo gallery