Thursday, October 23, 2014

Telling the Family

August 23rd was a little bit of an emotional but very spiritual day for me.  It was the day we told our kids and our families about this life changing situation that was about to ROCK our world.  Telling our kids was a little tricky. Shaun and I had to come to an agreement on what to say to them.  Shaun wasn't sure how much to say because he was worried about scaring them and making them worry-- and while I could totally understand his concerns and agreed, I felt like this was an ideal time for them to learn about faith and see the power of prayer and fasting in action and even come to know the Savior more. I know those are a lot of big words for our young children but I remembered many faith promoting experiences as a young child and I know how receptive these little ones are to the spirit.  Not to mention Bryant is about to turn 12 and get the priesthood.  

So we just kinda combined both our feelings and sat them down for a little family talk before bed.  These situations with young kids are always less than ideal. I think Mason had gone to bed early for some reason and so we drug him out of bed and Lincoln was on a crazy high wanting to run all over the place but that’s how it goes with kids, right?  We had already shared a little with them when Shaun had given me a blessing (before my biopsy) but at that time it was just, “Mom's having a little surgery on her neck to see what is causing these little lumps in her neck. So we are going to pray for her, the doctors, and the baby to be safe tomorrow during her surgery.  It’s not a big deal everything is going to be fine."   Today Bryant and Mason were very aware that there was more going on than a little surgery.  Shaun explained to them that the doctors had done some tests on the lump they took out of my neck and found out that my body is a little sick.  He told them that some of the cells in my body that are supposed to die aren’t, and they are making these lumps in my neck and chest and the lumps are making me sick.  Then he told them my sickness is called cancer.  

Bryant knew for sure what cancer was.  Last year a good friend of mine in our stake named Shannon Sevison had passed away from cancer and I had shed a few tears and shared with the family a lot about her struggle with cancer.  He also knew of a few other family members and friends whose lives had been taken from cancer so I could see the fear come into his eyes.  Mason also had that nervous look on his face, maybe not knowing exactly how bad cancer is but knowing this was serious.  James who is 7, I think was feeling the fear in the air but seemed confused and was just waiting for us to tell him what to think.  Shaun reminded the boys of the blessing I had received and the promises I had been given.  He told them that we were going to get through this and I would be fine we just needed to remember Mom in our prayers everyday and really help out at home.  He told them I still needed to have more tests done so the doctors would know the best way to help me get better. And we were all going to need to pitch in and help. 

After Shaun finished talking Bryant said, “I know what cancer is and it’s not good.”  I told him he’s right-- it’s not good but we have to have faith Heavenly Father will bless us and pray hard and fast. I also told him that we caught it really early and that makes getting rid of it a lot easier.  Everyone seemed to be ok and the second Shaun said I would get better and be fine James was checked out and fine.  He trusted his dad and that was that.  Oh to have the faith of a child again.  We had family prayer and everyone gave hugs and kisses and they all went to bed.  

I went up and talked to Bryant and Mason for a bit to make sure they were ok.  I asked how they were doing and Bryant said, “Well, you have cancer.” Kinda like, how do you think we're doing?  I told them it seems really scary but I feel really good about all of this and that there must be something Heavenly Father wants us to learn from this experience.  I told them I knew I could get better and I was going to do everything I could to show Heavenly Father that.  I told them Dad would be fasting the next day if they wanted to join him they could.  They said yes and I told them good night.  I left their room that night pleading to my Heavenly Father that He would answer all our prayers and let me stay here and raise these amazing young men of mine.   

Next, we called our families to tell them the big news.  Shaun’s parents were a little prepared because they had been here earlier and knew how we were feeling about things.  They had some big leads for us to start with on our quest for the right treatment and knew a lady in their town who had whipped stage 4 ovarian cancer with Vitamin C treatments.  This was super exciting to me...every success story I hear gives me a little more faith and a little more hope.
     At 9 pm we had a conference call with all my siblings.  It’s always a little crazy to get 20 people on one phone call and have any order at all, especially when it comes to the Merrill Permann family who all love to talk (except Ladd and Shaun).  However this call was very different; I couldn't get anyone to say anything at the beginning. No one really laughed at my jokes I was trying to crack. It was painful.  It’s a little weird to hear myself say, “I have cancer,” and tonight was no exception.  I let Shaun take the lead because it didn’t take long for the tears to come.... having all of these brothers and sisters who I love so much on the phone and feeling such love and faith from them.  I am sure that most of them knew what was coming because a lot of them already knew about the biopsy and were waiting to hear back. And why would I call a family meeting to tell them I have a swollen lymph node?   

Anyway Shaun told them all that we knew so far and let them know we were feeling really good about everything and had a lot of faith it was all going to work out.  SILENCE…there was not a peep  for what seemed like hours.  Gradually they each began to speak and say really nice things about me that could bring pride into my life if I concentrated on them too much ;)  They shared moments of trials in their lives and how each trial had turned into huge blessings.  
My brother Todd told me to just have faith in Heavenly Father’s will.  He talked about sitting in a hospital room looking at his own very sick child and wondering if she would make it.  All he could do in those moments was trust God.  Kirk talked about when Brook (their daughter who has down syndrome) was born and some of the feelings he and Amanda struggled with. But what an amazing blessing she will receive after her physical trial is over.  I was so strengthened by this knowing that my trial had a purpose and if I endured it well it would bring me closer to my Heavenly Father.  
Rock said each one of us needed to look at our lives and see if we had any “weapons of war” (pride, things we need to forgive, envy, malice) and get rid of them.  He said we can pray for the windows of heaven to open, but the scriptures say the Lord is bound only when we do what He says-- and if we do not what He says we have no promise.  He was saying, “Let’s not just ask the Lord to pour out his blessings on Tenille. Let’s live our lives so that the Lord is bound by his promise to bless her.”  I immediately began thinking, “What weapons of war am I carrying around?”  What changes do I need to make in my life so that I ensure the Lord’s blessings?  

This made me think of my patriarchal blessing, where I am told to always remember this scripture in D&C 130:20-21: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated--and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”  I wanted--no I needed--every blessing I could get from God at this time.  Even/especially if His plan for me is to leave this earth.  Which of God’s laws am I not following? How can I become more obedient, more worthy?  I realized (with a little excitement) I was being forced in a sense to wake up and look inside myself and ask as Alma, “Have I spiritually been born of God today?”  I could feel the beginnings of my own change of heart and was so grateful for the reminder.

    Paul talked about ways our family had been prepared for this and different strengths and talents each family member had that could help me whip this disease.  He expressed his feelings that we all need to start making life changes and participate in this journey of healing with Tenille.  

    I don’t think any of the girls could talk because we are all bawl babies, but a member from each family offered love, service, and encouragement.  Dad and Mom both talked after everyone was done.  Mom expressed love and faith in each one of us and the Savior and said she would be here to help at a moment’s notice whatever time of day or night I needed her.  How grateful I am to have her as my mother.  Dad talked about the many times in our lives when our family had pulled together and fasted and prayed for miracles and they had come.  He had no doubt that if we all pooled our faith, energy, and talents I would get through this.  He expressed love for me and the family and his complete faith in my coming through on top.  I was blessed as a young girl to witness many miracles in response to faith, fasting, and prayer and I loved my Dad today once again as he rallied his children together for another miracle.
This was a such a wonderful experience and I realized how blessed I am to have this eternal family who loves me and is willing to sacrifice for me. Shaun and I both felt a renewed faith and hope when this call had ended. I was reminded how blessed I am to have the gospel of Jesus Christ and know about the promised blessings and power that is available to me as I follow Him.  


  1. Thanks for sharing, Tenille. Such a powerful story. Praying for you and your family.

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  3. Tenille,

    Thanks for sharing these beautiful words. Thank you for being a great example of trusting in the Lord.