started sending Angels to give her comfort and to make a special promise to our children.
The story that follows is an amazing one that is both heart-wrenching and inspirational.
I call it:
GOD WOULD NEVER DESTROY THE FAITH OF A CHILD
My wife, Candy, had battled cancer for almost 8 years. What started out as a small lump she felt while watching television one night turned into a battle for life unlike anything either of us were prepared for. Candy was 32 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. We didn't know anything about it, how to fight it, or what it would do emotionally to our young family.
We had three kids. Ross was 9, Angela was 6, and Brandon was just 18 months old. Our family was a typical little American family. I was a teacher/coach at Carlsbad High School in Carlsbad, New Mexico and Candy was a third grade teacher. The kids were involved in the things most kids are involved in at that age. Ross was on soccer and basketball teams and Angela was a budding soccer star and participated on a cheerleading team. Brandon enjoyed his daily stay at his babysitters house because of all the kids he got to play with.
Candy was my high school sweetheart. We had met in our senior years and dated for 4 years before getting married. Life was good to us. We were truly in love and, most of all, loved our little family.
Our normal life came to an official end the day the doctor informed Candy that the biopsy of the mass they took just a week earlier was malignant. We knew absolutely nothing about what breast cancer could do and how hard it would be to fight. We listened to the doctor and assumed that he would do what was best for Candy. We didn't do much research. It was all left up to the doctor.
The doctor decided that Candy needed to undergo a mastectomy and then six months of chemotherapy. Candy took a leave from her teaching job to do this. At first, she thought it was a mistake to quit because the treatments had little effect on her. By the third month, I would just about have to carry her out of the doctor's office after a treatment. The 6 months came to an end and test results revealed no cancer in Candy's body. The fact that they had found no malignant lymph nodes gave the doctors reason to believe that Candy's prognosis for complete recovery was good. They were wrong.
On her three year anniversary of being cancer free, the doctor found a lump in Candy's neck. The next 4 years were the hardest 4 years of our lives together. When Candy's cancer returned, it came back with a vengeance. She would undergo treatments and then it would return. She even underwent a long and lengthy bone marrow transplant during this time. Candy had to live away from home for over 6 months during the transplant. Her treatments were in Albuquerque and that was almost 300 miles away from Carlsbad.
From the time that Candy was diagnosed until the day she died, we made over 250 trips to distant medical care. Our kids had to be left with grandparents, brothers, cousins, and friends most of those times. Our "normal" family life had ended the day Candy found out she had cancer. There were times that the two of us would head off to Albuquerque for a checkup and we would have to stay for a week because of complications.The cancer could not take Candy's beautiful outlook on life away from her, but it cut deep into her soul every time we had to be away from the kids for more than a day or two and, when she had to be gone for six months, her loneliness for the kids took a toll on her that I thought might make her fight even more difficult. The opposite actually occurred.
Candy left a diary. In it, she wrote of her desire to beat this disease so that her kids would have their Mom on all their important dates; high school graduation, weddings, birth of their children, etc. She told me of the times when she would go to bed at night, during her bone marrow transplant, and wonder if she would be alive the next morning. She said that there were times when she knew she could give up and die, but she fought because of the kids.
The most difficult day for me was during the initial stages of her bone marrow transplant. Candy was given extremely high doses of chemotherapy in order to kill off all her white blood cells. After doing this for months, they would reintroduce good cells with the hope that she would be cured. Early in the chemotherapy stage, Candy begged her doctor to let her go home for the weekend. It was Brandon's birthday and she wanted to be there for his birthday party. The doctor resisted because Candy had high levels of fluid building up in her lungs and she felt that it might be too dangerous to let her go home.
During that night it seemed almost miraculous when Candy's breathing returned to normal. The next morning the doctor checked and found no fluid in her lungs. Candy asked for permission to go home. The doctor reluctantly allowed her to go, but just for the weekend.
We got home and Brandon was so happy to see his mom that he wouldn't leave her side and she was literally "in Heaven on Earth". Friday and early Saturday was like a normal day, the normal days we were used to before all of this started so many years before. Brandon's birthday was probably the highlight of Candy's life at the time. I saw tears of joy fall down her face as Brandon made a wish and blew out his candles. He told her that his wish was that she would be healed. Candy promised Brandon that she would be healed. I wasn't sure that was the best thing to tell him. She told me that she knew what she was doing. I thought the kids needed to be prepared for the worst if it ever happened. Candy said she was preparing them. Little did I know that she was preparing them in the best possible way. In fact, she was preparing me too. She told me that she knew she would be healed and that she would have to undergo more difficult days ahead in order to make it happen.
|Candy in 1992,|
three years after
|Candy and Brandon|
Within hours of her telling me that, those difficult days began. Without warning, Candy's breathing became laborious. I called the doctor. She told me that the fluid must have built back up. She ordered some medicine and oxygen for Candy and told me to watch closely during the night. We would have to return to Albuquerque the next day.
The medicine took its toll on Candy immediately. The medicine made her sleepy. She refused to go to bed and opted to sit in her wheelchair at the dining room table. I was in the back of the house doing something, but needed to go back into the kitchen to get something. When I walked into the kitchen I noticed Candy sitting, asleep, in her wheelchair. Brandon was sitting next to her caressing her arm and assuring her that she would be okay and that he loved her and would always love her. He told her he would find a cure for her if nobody else would. He was only 7 years old. He never knew his Mom to be anything but sick. He kept telling her, "I love you Mom, I love you Mom, I love you Mom." I walked out back and cried. I still cry today when I think of that bittersweet journey home so Candy could be with Brandon on his birthday.
Candy had taken a leave of absence during the last six months of the school year when she underwent the bone marrow transplant. She finished the transplant and then, immediately, underwent ten weeks of intensive radiation. The treatments ended one week before the next school year, but Candy returned to work. Candy had taught through her most trying ordeals with cancer. She would go to work when most people would want to crawl under the covers and stay there. Her co-workers said she never complained and always had such an optimistic attitude. To this day, I still have some of her ex-students tell me she was the best teacher they ever had.
Candy had a little more than a year of good health after the bone marrow transplant. She would even tell friends that she thought she might be cured. She had become a long distance runner, she was back at work, and her motherly instincts hit new highs. I would get peeved because she seemed to baby the kids a bit too much, but when I would talk to her about it, she would tell me that she had been away from the kids for such a long time and she wanted to enjoy it the best way she knew how to. Looking back, I can understand how a person's attitude about "not sweating the little things" can change when faced with a big thing. Back then, I just knew I would be left with three kids who had been "somewhat pampered" during Candy's last few years. I thought it would make my life harder after she left. What a selfish thing to think.
As the cancer treatments, the traveling, the expenses, the constant fights with our insurance company, and the emotional upheaval that cancer can cause to a family, I started to pull away from God. I got angrier and angrier toward him. We had such a beautiful life before all this happened. My kids had to depend on grandparents, and brothers, and cousins to help raise them while Candy and I would spend most of our time away. Candy was about halfway through the 1996-97 school year when she suddenly started having difficulty breathing when she ran. A return trip to Albuquerque revealed to us that she had pneumonia. The doctors treated it, took tests, and told her she was still clean of any signs of cancer. I know today that her body was about to break down and take us on a ordeal unlike any we had ever imagined.
One month after the pneumonia scare, Candy told me she was struggling to breath even sitting in her class at school. She complained of chest pains and horrible headaches. I called her doctor. We were told to go to our local emergency room. After hours of waiting, a doctor informed us that Candy had pneumonia again. He took x-rays and sent all of the reports up to Albuquerque. We figured Candy would have to stay in the hospital for a few days but that she would be okay once again. It was a way of life for us. Get sick, get well, get sick, get well. At the time, I'm not sure we really gave a lot of thought to the fact that one time she would get sick, then die.
That night, I got a call at home. It was Candy's oncologist from Albuquerque. She told me that Candy was in trouble and that we needed to get to Albuquerque as fast as possible. I told her I could have her there the next morning. The doctor was afraid that Candy did not have that long. She told me an airplane would be waiting for her in an hour. Within the hour, Candy and I were in the air. We had to leave our kids with some friends until one of our parents could come to Carlsbad to take care of them. I did not fully understand the severity of Candy's problem until the next day. Candy almost died on the plane, but they kept me up in the flight cabin and would not let me in the rear of the plane. I did not know there were any complications going on.
When we got to Albuquerque, an ambulance was waiting to take us to the hospital. The doctor was waiting. Candy was whisked off to the operating room. The doctor pulled me off to another room and told me she thought the cancer was around the lining of Candy's heart and that they had to relieve the pressure or she would die.
The operation took a long time. It was near midnight when the surgeon came out and told me Candy was resting and would be fine, for now. He didn't tell me the whole story. I had to hear that from Candy.
This is the point where, I believe, Angels entered the picture.
The next seven months would change my life forever. I believe Candy's sole reason for staying alive that night was to change my life and the life of our kids. If she had died that night, I think I would still be bitter toward God. The next glorious seven months would bring me closer to Him and eventually drive me to tell this story in the hopes that it will change someone else's life too.
You see, Candy told me the next morning that she died on that operating table the night before. She said that she encountered an Angel and told the Angel that she had unfinished business. The next thing she knew, she was waking up in the recovery room.
I was skeptical. I figured it was the drugs, but things started happening over the next seven months that convinced me that she did encounter a Messenger of God that night and that by allowing her to live for a few months more, God's message would eventually be carried out by the one person who hated Him the most, me.
Within hours of Candy relating her experience to me, her oncologist entered the room. She told Candy that most people would never have made it through her ordeal. She said it was miraculous for her to pull through. She described how the cancer had attacked the lining of her heart and had squeezed the heart until she shouldn't have been able to breathe. Before she left, the doctor asked Candy if she had been living right because she figured the only way Candy was alive that day was by the Grace of God. Candy told her that she had a Guardian Angel. Little did we know at the time that she really did have an Angel on her side.
The next few days in Albuquerque brought the realization to me that my time with Candy was short. I had a few private meetings with Candy's oncologist and was told that the cancer was spreading all over her body and there wasn't much that would keep it at bay. The hardest thing to hear was that the doctor didn't think Candy would be alive come Christmas. She told me to enjoy the time I had left with her and to make sure that Candy had a chance to enjoy her children. Although there would be many more treatments, I knew they were just delaying the inevitable.
The drive home was particularly tough for me. Candy seemed to be at peace though. She talked a lot about her visit from the Angel. She told me that she was no longer afraid to die because the Angel told her I would forever be blessed and our kids would be okay. She told me that it would seem like only a matter of hours to her before I joined her. She said that a day in Heaven was like a thousand years on Earth. She said she did the math and if I lived 40 or 50 more years, it would seem like an hour or so before we were reunited.
Secretly, I got more mad at God. I couldn't understand how He could do this. I had grown up with Candy and now I would have to live the rest of my life without her. She was in such horrible physical pain, yet she seemed to accept it. I could not.
Candy was now on oxygen 24 hours a day. She had to have it in order to stay alive. We got her portable bottles of oxygen so she could go places. She still wanted to take the kids to school, go to their school functions, take them places after school, and all the things most moms do. I was seething mad. God was surely punishing us I thought. Today, I realize He was merely leading us in His way.
The Summer of 1997 came and we decided to go on vacation. Candy's doctor told her she could be away for no more than 2 weeks, so we went to South Padre Island, Texas. It was the greatest vacation we ever had. In fact, since we were at sea level, Candy didn't even need her oxygen. Except for the fact that she had no hair, everything seemed normal for 2 weeks.
Then the real anguish began. Within hours of returning home, Candy realized that she couldn't focus her eyes very well. We quickly returned to Albuquerque and a scan of her body revealed that the cancer had made its way into her brain. Radiation treatments were begun immediately.
The rest of the Summer and the early Fall meant lots of trips to Albuquerque and lots of time away from the family. It was heartbreaking to realize that our children weren't going to see much more of their mom. For that reason, in September, we returned home from Albuquerque with Candy's decision to never go back. She decided to meet her doctor in a town closer to our home. The problem was that the doctor only came there once a month and Candy was needing once a week visits. An oncology nurse in Ruidoso administered the weekly doses of chemotherapy drugs and we would be back home before the kids got home from school.
One trip to Ruidoso had an effect on me that will forever stay in my heart. The only thing was, the conversation we had didn't completely sink in until Candy was gone. We were about halfway to Ruidoso on a desolate highway. Candy had been asleep most of the trip. Suddenly, she woke up and reached over and touched my arm. She said that she didn't feel like she was dying. She said that it was more like "crossing over." She explained that she had received numerous visits from Angels preparing her for Heaven. I listened but I refused to accept anything she said as being real. I was just too mad at God to think that He could give her any comfort at a time when it hurt her to just walk. But, I listened and didn't really respond.
Candy told me that our son was in Heaven waiting for her to hold him. I almost stopped the car when she said this. You see, our first child was miscarried. We never even knew if it was a boy or girl, so when she said our son was waiting in Heaven for her, I was shocked. I asked her how she knew it was a boy. She told me her Angel let her see him. She said he was still a baby and that she couldn't wait to hold him when she got there. Since her death, I have read a book that gives biblical evidence that stories like hers actually do happen. It is called "I Will Hold You in Heaven." It just makes all of this more amazing for me now.
You have to understand something. Candy was not on any drugs at the time. She had learned to endure her pain without pain pills. The only drugs she was receiving were her chemotherapy drugs and they didn't cause hallucinations.
I began to take notice of the things she would talk about. She never really said a lot, but she would occasionally tell me more about the Angels. I actually began to think that God might be trying to give her comfort, but I was still mad that He was doing this to Candy and to my kids.
One day in early November, Candy excitedly told me that an Angel appeared to her while I was in town. He took her to Heaven she said. She told me about colors that she couldn't begin to describe. She said they were unlike anything we have on Earth. She told me how everyone was happy. She smiled when she told me that there was never any sadness there. Tears ran from her eyes when she told me that it wouldn't be long before her pain was gone and she was healthy once again.
I listened, told her I loved her, and went outside. I cried a thousand tears and told God that I would do anything if He would spare her life. I knew He wouldn't and that made me even more angry.
Just a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, Candy fell one night as she walked into the living room and she never walked again. X-rays revealed that the cancer was pressing on her spinal cord. Radiation treatments were begun in order to keep it from breaking her bones.
I began carrying her wherever she needed to go. She was confined to a wheelchair. I had to help her dress, clean, go to the bathroom, everything. She was losing her dignity and I knew it was eating her up emotionally, but she would never let anyone else but me see it.
The day before Thanksgiving, we were in the bedroom. The kids were home because of the holiday. Our parents were on the way for a visit. Candy gave me a long, hard stare. She told me she had something to say that she knew I wouldn't like. She told me it was time. She said she couldn't go on any longer. She told me that she would be gone within the next 24 hours. Although I objected, I could see it in her eyes. The fight in her was gone. I had watched her fight this horrible disease for almost eight years. She had a determination that no Olympic athlete could display. She was my hero through this whole ordeal, but on this day, I could see that her fight was over.
I asked her what she wanted me to do. She told me to bring each of the kids in so she could talk to them. Her conversations with them was the hardest thing I have ever had to listen to. She was so calm and her love for each of them was so very evident. The kids had a hard time accepting it, but she calmed them in the way only Candy could.
Our youngest son told her he loved her and that he didn't want her to go away. He told her if she would just try to live a little longer that maybe she would be healed. He reminded her that she told him once that she thought she would be healed. Candy patted his head and told him that she finally was going to be healed, but it was going to take a trip to Heaven for her healing to take place.
Brandon asked her how he would know that she was healed. She told him to look into the sky just after she died. She told him that an Angel sent from God had promised her that a special star would shine down and he would know that she was healed, happy, and in Heaven. Brandon accepted this and left.
I, on the other hand, was puzzled and a little angry that she would tell Brandon a story like that. I knew Candy's time was limited on Earth, but I had to ask her how she could tell Brandon such a story. She told me that an Angel had visited her and told her that this would happen. Again, I countered. I told her that a number of things could happen where a star would not shine. I said she might die in the daytime. She said she was going to die on Thanksgiving night. I said it might be cloudy when she died. She said it wouldn't be.
Finally, she touched my arm and said these words that I will never forget. She said, "Bruce, God would never destroy the faith of a child. Don't worry, I was promised. It will happen just as I told him."
The rest of that day and the next day, Thanksgiving Day, is now pretty much a blur to me. The house was full of relatives and close friends. Candy started to slip away in the early morning hours. It looked like she might die before noon. I started to wonder what I would say to Brandon.
The nurses came and by noon Candy was pretty much incoherent. She would touch the kids and smile, but she could no longer respond or talk to any one. The nurse told me Candy would die very soon. I guess Candy heard the nurse tell me that because she pointed her finger at me as if to say, "I told you I would die at night, don't worry."
Candy struggled to stay alive, but night time came. I was relieved. I spent almost all my time with her as she started to slip away. At one point, I went outside. The kids were out on our patio. I told them they needed to go say goodbye to their Mom. Her time was almost over. As they went into the house, I looked up at the sky. There were no stars. The sky was full of mushroom clouds. They were big and they looked like they were boiling and growing bigger as I looked at them.
As I walked into the house, all I could think of was what I would say to Brandon, but I could hear her say, "Bruce, God would never destroy the faith of a child. Don't worry, I was promised. It will happen just as I told him." I decided to have some faith that she was right. I owed it to her, but it nagged at me none the less.
Candy passed away about 8:15 that night. Everyone gave her their last respects, the funeral home was called, and Brandon announced that he wanted to see Mom's star. He wanted to see for himself that she was okay now. He wanted to see God's promise that she was in Heaven and was finally healthy. I dreaded this, but I went along with it.
I grabbed him in my arms and told Ross and Angela to follow me out to the front porch. A few others went out with us. As we looked up into the sky, it was full of the huge clouds I had seen just minutes before. I was about to say something to Brandon when a small clearing in the clouds appeared and, shining down at us, was Candy's Star. One star. That's it. One star. Her star, just like she said it would.
Candy was right. God would never destroy the faith of a child, and while He was at it, He restored mine.
Within an hour, the sky was clear and shining down on us were more stars than I had ever seen. I believe those stars were the Angels rejoicing that the faith of a child was kept just as promised and the faith of a skeptic had been restored.
My e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you if this story had any kind of impact on you.
Notice: I am in the process of updating this information. Please give me until tonight, March 15th to finish.
I really believe that God is asking me to tell this story to as many people as possible. It has been my experience over the last few years that people want a relationship with God, but sometimes need a gentle push that a story like this one will give them in order to get them closer to Him. Please feel free to send this page link to your friends. It will be 15 years on November 27, 2012 since Candy died. I am proud of the way our three kids grew up and I am sure that she is too.
Ross, 36, was a teacher at Las Cruces, New Mexico but he quit his job to work on obtaining his Doctorate Degree. He is only about 3 semesters from finishing. He is married to Betty, a fantastic mom, who has to have a special talent to be able to raise 3 boys and deal with a husband who is just a big kid too. She has also returned to college to work on a degree in Hospitality. They have a son, David, who is 10 years old and is a very bright boy who will always be among the top performers in his class. They also have a 7 year old boy named William. It is amazing how much William resembles Candy when you look at her childhood pictures. Will likes to laugh and loves being around family. Bruce turned 2 years old on November 2nd. You can't beat a name like Bruce Bussell, can you? He is a very curious little boy with a great personality. Ross is driven to succeed. He has done it completely against many odds that stacked up against him. I think that drive comes from the drive he watched his mom live her life with during her fight with cancer.
Angela, 33, is a super runner. She has been training for a half marathon, but has decided to up the distance to a marathon. She can currently run about 8 minute miles for mile after mile. She is a great mom to Andrew, a very good athlete who is now 12. He played football this past year for a team that made it to the Las Cruces Youth Football Super Bowl. Angela is married to a military man, Bryan, who is a Master Sergeant in the Army National Guard in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Brooke, a sweet little girl was born on Candy's birthday, May 23rd and is 6. What a special day her birth was! Angela was the only girl grandchild in my brother's and my family and Brooke has to put up with the boys the same way Angela did. She is all-girl too but is tough as nails under it all. Bailey is on her way. Her due date is March 10, 2013 and we are all anxious to meet her. Angela is a nurse and actually once worked for the same home health care agency in Carlsbad that took care of Candy. In fact, her boss was the nurse who was with us the night that Candy died. I see so much of Candy in Angela. Candy had a way of making others think that they were the most important person in the world. She deeply cared about people and when she asked how your day was going, she actually cared what your response was. Angela is exactly like Candy and I believe this legacy her mom left inside of her is why she became a nurse. She is not just a good nurse. She is a great one.
Brandon, 24, works in the IT Department at New Mexico State University- Carlsbad. He is an extremely talented road cyclist who has won a couple of large races this past year. Brandon is married to his first love, Claire. She is a student at New Mexico State and works for the City of Carlsbad too. Add to that that she is a wonderful person and you can see how lucky Brandon is to have her in his life. I worried about the future for all of my kids after Candy died, but I guess I worried most about Brandon because he was the youngest and he never knew his mom to be anything but ill. Looking back, I guess what he actually saw was her strength and the compassion she had for others. Brandon has that same compassion. Her legacy lives in him just as it does in his brother and sister. He has become such a wonderful young man and the faith that Candy talked about God not wanting to destroy will live inside of him forever. What more could a dad want for his child?
I am married to a wonderful Christian woman, Lea Ann, and we have a son, Nicholas, who is one of the most special little kids in the world. Nicholas, 15, has Down syndrome and is also Autistic. We moved to Lubbock, Texas after my retirement from the Carlsbad, New Mexico Schools in 2006. Nicholas plays on the Reds in the Lubbock Challenger Baseball League and is involved in Special Olympics bowling, bocce ball, basketball, and athletics(running). He loves Big Time Rush and Spongebob. In fact, I can sing every BTR song and recite every episode of Spongebob since these are always on in our house and cars. You won't find many kids as wrapped up in his family the way Nicholas is. He constantly talks about all of them and he really lights up when he gets to see them. Nicholas is in the 8th grade at Irons Middle School.
Lea Ann is teaching Kindergarten at Roy Roberts Elementary here in Lubbock and she loves it. She is one of the most caring people I have ever met. I often think of how blessed I am to have had these two amazing and wonderful women in my life. I thought I was finished teaching but somehow ended up teaching special education at Idalou Middle School and I love it. I am positive this will be my last teaching job as I plan on retiring once and for all very soon . I love the staff at Idalou Middle School. Texas rates schools from Exemplary down to Academically Unacceptable. I don't care where Idalou Middle School is listed by Texas. It is one of the only truly Exemplary schools I have ever taught at. The teachers truly do make a difference with all of the kids and not just the ones who can pass a test. By the way, my students are the best. I would not want to teach any others.
How did Candy touch my life? I think this story pretty much sums it up, don't you?
We think of Candy often with fond memories and we rest in the knowledge that some day we will all be reunited.
May God Bless You As Richly As He Has Me,
P.S. - Some people have asked me how they can help with this ministry. Let's try to get this story e-mailed to as many people as we can around the world. It has been read by over 40,000 people since I posted it. I have had people from all over the world contact me and tell me of the impact it left on them. One lady from Iraq told me that it was the reason she finally gave her life to Jesus. Candy's influence continues to work even this many years after her death, but more people could use the inspiration so I hope you will send it to five people and ask them to send it to five, etc. But, most importantly, pray that this story will be used as an instrument of God to get people to open up to Him and to the eternal life He offers.