Unconditionally Conditional

Christmas village with watermark




Johns Latest and Greatest Disclaimer:

John is a dad, John is a man and as we all know men sometimes say things to make us upset. Dads say things at times to make us angry.  John is a dad who lost his youngest daughter to Cancer, John is a man who is broken and missing a piece of his heart for the rest of his life.  This also may lead to things that make us want to do a few things:  1.  Realize John is in pain and doing the best he can for his family, himself and an organization formed with the sole purpose of helping others.  OR : 2.  Scream:  “ I’m taking my ball and going home John!!!!!!!!”    I only ask this: Remember my thoughts and opinions in NO WAY represent the thoughts and opinions of The Get Well Gabby Foundation.   Be angry with me!  Stop talking to me,  however don’t stop your support for a not for profit foundation with the mission of helping other children get well.  SO, if you want to take your ball and go home:  Do it now…. I’m 40 have a bad back, make a moaning sound when I have to bend over and pick things up and I would rather take a nap than play ball with you anyway.







Bizzarro World…….

Katie (my daughter) has said some rough things to Carolynn and I lately.  She has told us she hates us, She has told us we are horrible parents, she has ignored us and gone out her way at times to demonstrate just how angry she is.  You know what I’m going to do…. I’m going to stop talking to her!!! Yeah that will teach her.  That will show her she can’t hurt my feelings without repercussions.. That’s right I’ll show her that this 40-year-old man will not be embarrassed in public by her!! This 40-year-old man will not let her talk to me like that!   Wait forget that.. I know what I’ll do.. I’m going to make sure I tell all the people that Katie and I know jointly that she is disrespectful, that will work, I’m going to tell them all that Katie has lost it, doesn’t appreciate anything, and needs to be taught a lesson.  I will also fabricate ideas about Katie and spread these “lies” around. This is going to be perfect!!  I will make sure that even though Katie has suffered a loss worse than most people can possible comprehend that she knows hurting my feelings is worse. That’s right!!! John: 1 Katie 0.  And one day she will come around and realize that even though she suffered the loss of her sister, even though at the age 7 she saw her little sister live in a hospital for over a month, go through brain surgeries, enemas, Chemo, radiation, constant vomiting, slip into a coma, wonder if she will wake up again, rush her home by ambulance, and take her last breath while holding her hand, I’m going to show her she can’t embarrass me! She needs to remember all the things I did for her during this time, I need to point it out and make sure she never forgets!  Yeah that’s just what I’ll do.


WAIT!!!! That’s absolutely Friggin Nutso!!! You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to take a breath and remind myself that Katie is my child, I’m going to remind myself that Katie is 10 going on 35 due to the horrible events she has experienced.

I’m going to remind myself that I chose to have Katie; I chose to put someone else’s life in front of mine.  And yes my feelings might be hurt but who the F@5k cares.  They are just feelings, I’ll get over it. You know why?  Because I love my Children Unconditionally!  And what does that mean exactly?  Unconditionally…. without conditions… I help a second grade class of children who speak English as a second language and I bet I can even teach them what that means.  However on this journey we have been on since Gabby has gotten sick the great mystery is the collapse of all the relationships my family has gone through.  Friends and family members…  gone haven’t spoken to some in well over a year.


Yes, I exaggerated my point in the first paragraph, but remove Katie from it and put your neighbor, your co-worker, or anyone else into this scenario.  Is it any less silly?  Probably not.  When we tell our story the one thing that most people are amazed at is the lack of relationship we still have with family members and past friends.   I haven’t talked to my sister in well over a year, have no real desire to talk to my brother or his wife any longer, speak to my mother sporadically.   Carolynn rarely speaks to her brothers and has a strained relationship with her parents.  We have lost friends and supporters since this all started. For the last year I kept asking myself:  what did I do?  Can a few words have been that bad, a few actions absolutely destroyed these relationships?  We lost our daughter, we lost our sister and then we lost everyone else.  But why?  How did this happen?  At first I thought it was just us, but the more families I speak to like ours it appears it’s common.  They have lost a child then they lose the rest of their family and friends.   Last week it became clearer, I realized why? Or at least I think I have.  Do you want to know about the amazing epiphany I had?

The reason they no longer talk to or support us is: Drum Roll Please…………………

Their feelings are hurt!!!!! That’s right folks we hurt peoples feelings. We embarrassed some of them, they felt unappreciated, and they felt that we don’t realize how much they have done for us.  Then I asked myself:  Are you fu@#ing kidding me??  These Jackasses have decided to paint a picture of how hurt they are?   How they need to move on because we don’t appreciate them?  It’s Insane.  Let me explain one thing.  We appreciate EVERYTHING everyone has done for us.  That includes the jackasses and the non-jackasses.  We couldn’t have survived with out the help and support we have received. And will always be grateful.  I will never forget that.  I have thanked people numerous times.  About a year ago I listened to a an individual sit across the table from me at a meeting and explain people only do things to get something in return, a thanks, a t-shirt, something.  He really believed this whole-heartedly.  I don’t want to believe that this is why people do things.  I don’t do things for a shirt, a button, or a pizza party. I do them because they are the right things to do. I help and I love unconditionally.  I’m not going to say I was always like this. And believe me I can still be a major As%h0&e. However when I help my family or a friend in need I do it because they asked, I do it because they need it, I do it because it’s the right thing to do.  I know I’ll have many people read this and say:  What a load of crap. But I can’t think of a time that my family has ever said no to someone in need.  Hell WE lost one of our daughters!!! I cry on a daily basis, go into downward spirals of depression on a monthly basis with each approaching holiday.  I can hide say “ screw you world, I’m done with you”  but no.  I choose to keep clawing my way to the top, my whole family does, we spiral down but yet keep making our way back into the light out of that hole and why do we do this?   Is it to bring Gabby back?  NO of course not, we do it to help your children, to help other kids GET WELL because one of ours didn’t.


So to wrap this all up it comes down to one simple concept and no matter how you try to twist or spin it the facts are the facts.   Carolynn, Maddie, Katie Xander and I lost our daughter and our sister. Every day we wake up and have to deal with that.  Yesterday I was crying in the car on my way to work. Want to know why?  We have a friend that is an amazing photographer. He took some amazing photos of Gabby in the hospital and at home.  In them all she is sick. I started to ask myself why didn’t I get amazing photos like this before Gabby was sick, We are going to get some of these pictures in canvas form, been trying to pick which ones to print for two years. Then I realized each time I look at them; I’m also looking at a picture where she has a tumor deep inside her brain stem. I ask myself is it looking out at me through her amazing blue eyes?  Can I see the change?  From that thought I went into the thought that I would never have any new pictures, which of course led to the thought that I didn’t play with her enough, That I didn’t hug her enough, That I worked too much and didn’t appreciate her, all because I thought there would always be another time to hug and play with her.  But there wasn’t and now it’s to late.


So back from my rant, we lost her and while yes these other people that have cut ties and no longer speak to us may have lost a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin, and a friend I have a hard time believing that they relive it on a daily and hourly basis,  We do. The worst thing that we did to any of them is hurt their feelings due to our pain, they were embarrassed, they didn’t feel appreciated enough.  Here’s what I can say to that.  Want to switch places?  Try walking in my or any of these amazing families shoes. The families who have lost one of these child warriors.   The ones who have no choice, who have no way to escape, the ones who will hurt till they day they die.  Some of these people will hopefully read this and realize that yes the worse that happened to me is my feelings were hurt, and hopefully things can be mended, others will get angry and victimize themselves and cry to the world about how horrible they have been treated.  Maybe find some little Facebook inspirational post to put on their page to cry out how hurt they are, but remember this: the worse that happened is we hurt your feelings while we were and still are in pain. That’s it.  This is a blanket statement, I’m not speaking of any specific people in my family, and I’m not just speaking to my family. I’m speaking to any of our supporters and their families who may be going through this.  If you take one thing from it please take this.  The families that have lost these amazing children have an open wound that can never truly heal, you don’t, so please just take a breath wipe off the dust and realize that there are far worse things than hurt feelings and not feeling appreciated enough, visit a pediatric oncology unit for 5 minutes and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Learn what loving your family and friends unconditionally actually means. Don’t set conditions to your love and friendship, be there when they need you, and have understanding when they are having trouble surviving. Reach out to them and if they don’t respond to you right away, reach out again.  Do it because it’s the right thing to do not because you expect something in return.



Out of all the holidays, all the special days, this one is the worst for me.  Gabby’s Bday, Christmas, Fathers day, etc.  Out of all them this one hurts the most.  The funny thing is it used to be my favorite.   Most likely because I always felt it was a true Daddy and the girls holiday.  Each year we would wake up, stay in pajamas all day, watch the parade, and then watch the dog show. Carolynn would be baking and cooking in the kitchen. The girls and I would sneak in throughout the day to grab anything yummy we could find… We would have snacks and goodies throughout the day. Dinner was always delicious and most times we would stay in our PJ’s to eat it.  The Dallas Game would come on; we would watch it while I dozed off with the girls sitting on my lap or around me.  We would then pack up and go to a Christmas light display called Christmas Village. I have gone pretty much every year since I was a child and we have taken the girls there every year of their lives.  Then we lost Gabby. It was no longer what it was and never will be again, we missed going the first year after we lost Gabby. I took Maddie and Katie there last year, and Carolynn couldn’t bring herself to go.  It was too hard, even while I was there I had to hold back tears, Gabby loved going so much. At the end of the night we would get hot chocolate and soft pretzels and load back into the car for the drive home.  But not anymore because there is an empty chair in the van now.  I can’t look in the rear view mirror without seeing Gabby there falling asleep after an amazing Holiday.


I love what these social network sites have become.  And yes I have at times felt that all my Facebook friends at one time or another have needed to see a picture of the sushi I’m eating or the trouble my dogs have gotten themselves in and I apologize for the 300 pictures I have probably posted of my kids on the beach, however what I won’t do is post the 30 things I’m thankful for each day in November.   Not because I’m not thankful, actually it’s the exact opposite, I’m not going to broadcast what I’m thankful for just in November because I’m equally thankful for all those things every other day of the year, and while I’m sure you all want play by play of all the things I’m thankful about, I’m going to just let you come up with them on your own.


The Get Well Gabby Foundation

Yes this is a foundation!  I’m still amazed that we have supporters that still don’t know we are.  We have done some amazing things this year.  And by we, I mean the foundation.  The volunteers, the board, all of you have made it possible.  We recently made our second payment to our Pledge of $125,000 to AI DuPont, We ended the summer and the fall with three large foundation events, and we are already planning 2014 events now.  We are planning our first golf outing in April 2014. So anyone that wants to be a volunteer of help in some way please reach out to us. We cannot do it alone! Help us make a difference.

We have the Old Fashioned Christmas event coming up which is almost sold out!   And like last year we are in the middle of our Book drive.  Which is a near and dear to my heart. My family loves to read, we read every night, each night the three girls would bring a pile of books into the living room before bed and we would all read together. Gabby loved books.  The kids in these hospitals have lowered immune systems, they can’t be exposed to the everyday germs we can. So when the hospitals get books the kids keep them rather than spread germs throughout.  So a constant supply of new books is always needed. Last year we raised over 1,800 books that we donated to three different children’s hospitals, I would like to double that this year. Please help us! Unfortunately we are not anywhere close to this goal as of today. You can send new books, gift cards to book stores or monetary donations to the Foundation (please place book drive in the note section on the check). Not only did we supply these books last year but we supplied lunch to each oncology floor of the hospitals we donated to. Just a break in reality for these kids, a good book and a meal for them and the staff that takes care of them.  Please help us if you can. Volunteer, donate, books, gift cards, monetary donations; anything and everything helps!

We are looking to grow our volunteer base in Delaware so If your from the area and want to be involved in the planning of events in the State of Delaware please reach out to us!

We have two new nail polishes created by Piggy Paint out in time for Christmas: Gabby Goo Green named after Gabby and Posey Peppermint named after Gabby dog Posey. With 25% of all sales going to the foundation, a great gift for someone special available on Piggy Paints website along with the Get Well Gabby “Pedi-Cure” set which has two colors named Gabriella and Believe.

We can’t do this without you so donations are always needed, we made a five year pledge to AI DuPont. We have funded a new system that will integrate all childhood cancer data within the entire DuPont hospital system and we are funding the new construction of the Oncology Playroom during the hospital expansion that is set to open in 2014.  We are still fighting and helping those in need, please consider making a donation to The Get Well Gabby Foundation this holiday season. Without you and your support we can’t make a difference.


That’s all…

SO what have we learned today?

  1. There are worse things in the world than hurt feelings.
  2. The words unconditional and conditional mean two different things.
  3. Be thankful everyday of every month not just in November.
  4. John is older now and likes naps.
  5. We appreciate and thank all of our supporters more than words can say.
  6. We here at The Get Well Gabby Foundation are Thankful for all of you!


I started ending Blogs and posts with the word Believe when Gabby first got sick, I make a list of things I want to believe in and hope you all do as well, I have seen others follow in the same fashion and am flattered and proud that they are doing the same. Like a few months ago I’ll end this one in a different way. From all of us at The Get Well Gabby Foundation during this Holiday Season for your children and you we only have one thing for you all……

Unconditional Love



(Gabbys Daddy)




2 thoughts on “Unconditionally Conditional

  1. Awesome post. Thank you for keeping it real and sharing so much. I can’t imagine losing one of my kids to this monster. My daughter loves her Gabby pink toes from piggy paint, and she’ll be getting some new colors this Christmas! God Bless with unconditional love- Kari

  2. John-I have followed Gabby’s story and your blogs since the beginning. At one time in my nursing career, I was a pediatric nurse on a neurosurgery unit. Hearing about Gabby and her fight brought back many memories of the children and families I cared for at that time. My heart breaks for you and your family, in losing Gabby, but So many people are lucky for all the work you continue to do to bring awareness. My hope is that some day, some brilliant researcher WILL find a cure for childhood brain tumors. THANK YOU for sharing your heart and soul with total strangers. You, Gabby, and your family are always in my prayers.