Dear Dojo Members and Families,
I am writing this open letter to explain some recent events in my life and to ask for your cooperation and understanding. I typically keep my personal life to myself, but I have had several absences from the dojo over the past few months due to some circumstances beyond my control but which directly affect me and my family. I feel that I owe it to all of you, my valued members, to explain what is happening.
In November 2011, my brother-in-law John was found to have a brain tumor. John was my only sister Nicola’s husband. On January 3, 2012, doctors performed brain surgery on John and removed the brain tumor. It was found to be malignant, and he was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer. He began a series of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments which unfortunately were not successful. By June of last year the tumor had grown back and was twice the size. He was told to get his affairs in order.
I went to visit John and my sister Nicola in October to say my “goodbyes” during his last weeks. While I was there, the two of them were thrilled to learn that Nicola was pregnant through an in-vitro fertilization procedure. A couple of weeks later we were told that Nicola was expecting twins. She and John were both overjoyed. It was a sign of hope during a time of despair. On November 4, 2012, John Mansfield lost his valiant battle against brain cancer. We were all of course devastated but knew it was coming. He was 35 years old.
As if that was not enough, the next part of the story belongs to the type of stuff that you couldn’t make up if you tried. For the past year Nicola has been having some trouble with her hearing in her left ear and then later some facial numbness. Several tests revealed nothing…until this January when an MRI scan unbelievably found that she had a brain tumor of her own. The good news is that hers is benign; it is called an acoustic neuroma. Her tumor was just over an inch in size – a large tumor.
It was hoped that her surgery could be postponed until after the birth of the twins in early June. That was not to be as last weekend, the weekend of February 9 and 10, she was having significant headaches, dizziness and pain in her ear. The doctor ordered her into hospital immediately. On Thursday, February 14, 2013 (yes, Valentine’s Day) my sister Nicola underwent a seven hour surgery to remove the tumor.
The doctor was able to remove about 95% of the tumor, and the babies were kept safe throughout the surgery. Nicola is doing as well as can be expected. She is suffering from facial palsy on one side of her face and is having trouble closing one of her eyes. She is also experiencing some headaches that should ease in the coming weeks.
We both lost our mother to Multiple Myeloma just over ten years ago after a seven year battle that defied all odds, and our father is in a home for late stage Alzheimer’s. This makes me her only blood relative with any ability to help. She, of course, has many good friends who are extremely supportive, but it is once again necessary for me to make the trip to England, as she will be released from hospital and will need 24/7 care for the first week of being home.
I leave for England this Thursday February 21st and will come back on Sunday March 3rd. I am asking for everyone’s support and understanding over the coming weeks, as several lessons will be taught by Sensei Andrew, Sensei Brandon, my wife Erin, and other assistant instructors. Testing is coming up soon in March, so the instructors and assistants will cover testing material in class. I have postponed testing from the first week of March until the second week to give students one more week to prepare. Additionally, students need to take an initiative of their own to prepare adequately. It is always hard for me to miss class, as I take my position as Chief Instructor very seriously, but at the same time I am very thankful to have talented and competent assistant instructors to help me when needed.
Our hope as a family is to be able to all go to England this summer once the babies have been born, as Nicola will be requiring radiation at that time to complete the final stage of her brain tumor treatment. Obviously, with the challenges of her medical condition, and having to care for two newborns as a single mother, she is going to need our support both physically and emotionally. Naturally, it is very expensive to fly in the month of June, when the babies are due, presenting a financial challenge of its own.
In the meantime, I ask for your understanding during this difficult time. I also ask for your continued support for our dojo and for what we are trying to achieve with all of our students.
Thank you in advance.
Seishin Shotokan Karate