Paying it forward with a thank you
A Forest Park family wants to pay it forward. They want to highlight the kindness they received by showering some light and love onto their Douglas County community. A community, Cortney and Ryan Williams say lifted- up their family of four during some dark days in September.
It started when 15-year-old Cale Williams, a sophomore at Rock Canyon High School, became dehydrated and complained of an acute stomachache.
The pain’s intensity sent him to the ER, exactly the place he needed to be for what he and his family were about to learn and endure.
One of Cale’s kidneys had stopped working and the other one had a cyst. The doctors also found a stone in his appendix. The pain and dehydration he was experiencing was from the kidney problems, but it allowed doctors to discover something grimmer.
Cale was diagnosed with a rare cancer called a PEComa. Doctors discovered a 2-inch diameter, malignant tumor in his abdomen that had attached to one of his organs. He was headed for surgery.
Cale’s week-long hospital stay was scary with a painful recovery, but Cale and his family were not alone.
“We were constantly amazed at the depth of empathy people showed us, like Cale was their own son, and they felt as deeply about what was happening to him as we did,” said Cale’s dad Ryan. “We had reminders every day that no matter the outcome, there would be a community
of loving people in our corner to help us, and to share the experience with us.”
Ryan and Cortney said community is everything. The support they felt literally lit up the room.
“Cale’s sixth day in the hospital was probably the most painful day for him,” said Ryan. He went on to say that on Wednesdays, Cale’s cycle team does a long training ride but a thunderstorm rolled in that Wednesday, and since the team couldn’t ride, they went to the hospital.
“Rather than go home and stay dry, his team came to see him, armed with a basket of mountain bike magazines, socks, a blanket and other small things Coach Scott Schnitzspahn had put together,” added Ryan. The same evening, Cale’s scout leaders Eric Heppe and Teri Farnsworth and their daughter Aspen visited. “The fact that they were there, more than anything they said or did, made a very rough day, manageable. What an amazing reminder that ‘we’re all in this together’!”
Cortney and Ryan say thank you to Boy Scout Troop 316, to the Highlands Ranch Junior Cycling team, to the RCHS theater students and teachers, to the Foundry Church staff and youth group, and to their friends and family who never wavered. They also praise their son, Cale, who showed grit, grace and most importantly, faith.
“Cale’s going to be okay, and I don’t mean just physically, or with respect to the effects of this tumor,” shared Ryan. “We see in him a realization that the strength that was available to him through God’s presence in the hospital is the same strength available to him in the midst of relationship struggles, school stress, and questions about his future.”
The Williams family learned a lot about their own priorities: to argue less over the dishes and to live more in the moment. They also learned that service to others is what makes this life meaningful. This time they were the receivers; next time, they hope to be the givers.
“The adversarial times in which we live make it easy to think we are all very different from those around us, that we have less in common with our neighbors than we actually do,” added Ryan. “This experience has made us understand how wrong that view is. At the end of the day, we live in a community where we all love our kids, want the best for them, and when the opportunities present themselves, will extend that love and care to others.”
Ryan added that it can be a small thing but it matters – even a text to someone to express love and prayers.
“There is no reason we cannot do something like that for someone else every single day, and be a light to someone going through their own challenges.”
Perfectly said. Pay the kindness forward.
By Karen Leigh; photos courtesy of the Williams family