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I think I’ve said before that despite the large groups of people who surround us, sometimes grief feels incredibly lonely.  One of the realizations I’ve made this past week, when emotionally and mentally I’ve regressed so intensely, is that there never seems to be a good time to cry.  All these people come in and out of our house and they bring hugs and kind words and delicious foods and generosity and beautiful friendships, but no one ever comes in and just cries.  I guess it’s human nature to want to avoid being sad in front of one another, but I feel like crying all of the time and it’s difficult to find the right “time” to do it.  You can’t do it when you’re out walking on the street… you shouldn’t really do it when you have company… it upsets Stella if you cry in front of her.  The only safe spaces left are at night when the darkness blankets my room and I fall asleep with hot tears pooling at my neck, or behind my dad’s house on a small swing that lies hidden from site.  It’s an incredibly strange feeling when company is here and everyone is sitting around chatting about their office politics, while I’m staring at Stella’s full rosy lips and swallowing a lump in my throat containing pure grief and silent screams.  It makes me wonder how anyone can be around the little redhead sitting in the middle of the room, smiling, sleeping or staring solemnly at the company, and not burst into tears.  

This is the saddest thing in the world, but no one wants to cry with me.  I understand it on some level, but sometimes it makes me feel as though no one else is sad, or they are able to push it out of their minds.  I am jealous.  I wish I could also ignore the grief, but to me it’s palatable in the air we breathe day in and day out within the white walls of our house.  

I wonder if the issue is that we live in such a superficial culture that often seems uncomfortable with true depths of feelings, in particular grief.  I feel there is a certain amount of intolerance of acute sorrow and intense mental anguish that makes up the bulk of my life right now.  Sorrow is something to be medicated, as I’m doing right now, or something to be divided into five recognizable stages that I can read about, label and rate my growth with.  Grief is too complex an emotion to be ignored, pushed away, or forgotten about.  I have been grieving my daughter since June 24th and have learned that for me to grieve is to let sorrow and tears invade my soul so that it permeates my pores like a heavy perfume.  I am always stunned that no one else can see and smell the sadness that is so obvious to me.

I reflected once again on the realm of sorrow and the fear of sadness in society when I attended a Hallowe’en party this afternoon.  It was thrown by some of my closest friends and consisted of the group of moms and dads we’ve been hanging out with since Stella’s birth.  You could not ask for a better group of parents and their beautiful children to be your friends, truly these people are exceptional human beings, each and every one of them.  I haven’t seen most of my friends since Stella’s diagnosis.  At first we were too busy cottaging and travelling, and then as Stella has declined we got too busy sitting on the couch and trying to offer her the comfort of predictability and quiet.  But I miss my friends and their children, even though I feel sad about no longer “fitting in” with their toddler club and can no longer hold my own in conversations about potty training and daycare politics.  However, with a new baby as my shield, I thought if I dropped by the party with Sam, it would allow me to see everyone and also have an excuse to leave if it was too much for me.

I left Stella at home with Aimee and Auntie Juju and set off on the 10 minute walk with Sam snuggled into my baby carrier.  The closer I got to the house, the more I started to think this may be a mistake.  I wasn’t sure if I was really up for seeing everyone in a big party-like setting.  I started to feel like turning and running back to the safety of holding Stella on the couch, but I kept telling myself that if I wanted to still be friends with this group of people, I had to just show up at something.  Show that I’m still standing, that I remember how great they are, and that there will be life after Stella.  But once I got to the house, I totally lost it.  In the throes of an anxiety attack, I sat myself down on their front lawn and hid behind a tree, sobbing into Sam’s little head.  I missed Stella.  I wanted her to be there.  After a few minutes I took a few gulping breaths, wiped my eyes and gave myself a pep talk.  My brain told me to run, but my stubbornness marched up to the front door.  I don’t know what made me do it, but I suddenly felt like I had something to prove.  Before I could change my mind, a friend swung open the door and immediately enveloped me in a huge hug.  I didn’t even have time to be nervous, I just hustled in the door, thew Sam at the first pair of free arms I caught sight of, and received hug after hug from my friends who each looked me in the eye and told me it was good to see me.  I was okay for the first few minutes, but as toddlers and babies began filing into the room dressed in cute Hallowe’en costumes, I got a twinge in the pit of my stomach.  Stella should have been there.  Last year, Stella was there, with these same people, with these same friends laughing and eating and running around.  I began to feel suffocated by the memories sucker punching me in the gut.  I only stayed at the party for 30 minutes, and although everyone made me feel more than welcome and gushed appropriately about Sam, only one adult (our hosts), at the party asked me about Stella.  No one else asked how she was feeling, what she was up to, how she gets along with Sam.  No one said her name out loud to me except 2-year old Ava, who charmingly asked me where she was.  As I visited and ate the party food and took in the swirls of conversations and activity, I brought Stella up a few times… but no one else did.  So many times in the 30 minutes I was there, I was on the verge of tears, but it wasn’t the right time to cry.  As always, I tried to focus on living in the moment and just enjoying the warmth of being with my friends.  I did it, but it was hard. 

As I walked away from the party, I wondered if this is what it will feel like when Stella is dead.  Will it be as though she never existed?  Will I be the only one who still sees her spirit parading amongst the other children?  Will her name only be whispered in my absence?  Just as I rounded the corner to go home, my friend Jean called from the front porch, “how’s Stella today?”.  I almost fell to my knees with relief that someone remembered her.  

I couldn’t cry this morning with Stella on the couch.  I couldn’t cry when our friends visited this afternoon.  But on the way home from that party, silent, grief-filled tears poured down my face.  The only other sound I heard on that walk home was leaves crunching under my boots, and the soft wails of my hungry 10-day old.  It’s likely that when they got home, many of my friends cried for me.  But today, only Sam cried with me.

Our Family of Four

 Baby Snuggles, Xavier and Sam

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Hope and Heartache

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Hi everyone,


Thanks so much for all your caring and offers to help.  I thought I’d post a quick update to let you all know what’s been going on in the Bruner-Methven household.


It’s hectic.  It’s loud.  It’s fun.  It’s overwhelming. It’s full of love. It’s full of tears.


First of all, Stella ended up to be a stellar big sister/big cousin.  She is obsessed with holding Sam as well as Xavier and the four of us have spent many happy hours on the couch snuggling under blankets, just a pile of warm bodies and love, while wind and rain pelt the windows behind us.


Aimee is recovering pretty well.  We’ve been lucky enough to have a steady stream of family and friends volunteering to come over 24/7 and help us out.  We have one person designated to take Sam for the night, feed and snuggle him, and a second person designated to help me with Stella’s night time medication and assist with transporting Aimee and getting her meeds as well.  It’s been a delicate balance trying to ensure we have enough help, but also enough quiet time as a family to create some nice memories.  Any worries I might have had about Sam being born into a sad household have been obliterated by the huge outpouring of love and affection he has been surrounded with since the moment of his birth.  I was terrified that having a newborn in the house would be triggering to me and that I wouldn’t be able to hold him or bond with him.  I think Sam and I have a long way to go before we get as close as Stella and I are, but that will come in time.  The important thing is that I am able to appreciate him for being himself, and don’t find myself comparing Sam to Stella as I feared, or looking to him to fill the hole that Stella’s illness has created into my heart.  Sam is different.  He is a new beginning and comes free of the baggage I have with Stella, a tiny bundle of innocence and hope for our future.


It turns out my sister also injured her pelvis during delivery as well (I would say, what are the odds, but I am throwing my hands up regarding the universe at the moment), so she’s also been bed-bound for the last five days.  It’s been hard on Stella because she’s used to seeing Auntie Heather everyday, and has been missing her terribly.  A few days ago Stella asked to go over to visit and it was so successful she has been splitting her time between Auntie’s house with Xavier, and our house with Sam.  With both babies she is extremely affectionate, giving them lots of hugs and kisses.  It’s pretty incredible to see her immediate connection with the boys and her want and need to smother them with love.  She says, “I love you very much” to both of them—something we repeat to her often, but that she doesn’t usually say back to anyone.


Emotionally, it has been a very difficult time for me.  Having two births so close to an imminent death feels unnatural and has thrown me off balance.  Aimee, as always, seems to be faring much better than me despite her physical difficulties.  For me, it feels like a huge sigh just got let out of my body, and now I’m not sure which way to go anymore.  We were hoping for so long and so strongly that Stella would get to meet Sam, that now it’s happened there is a bit of a “down” feeling—like after the buildup of Christmas, there is this feeling of, “now what do we have to aim for or look forward to”??  As much as I’ve been working at living in the moment, more and more I find myself dreading the future and feeling “ripped off” that this moment, when we became a family of four, was supposed to be the culmination of our dreams to have two children and instead it is a reminder of all we have to lose.  I have found myself feeling depressed much of the time.  Depression for me is like carrying around a fifty pound weight on my chest all the time.  It makes me feel tired and grumpy.  I have moments of pure happiness, but they are tarnished by the tears that come all too easily nowadays.


The only time I really feel safe is when Stella is seated on my lap and her warm weight grounds me while Dora The Explorer drones on endlessly in the background. It often feels like I’m watching my life from someone else’s body.  When people remark how strong we are being, I want to laugh wildly and crazily at them.  I don’t feel strong.  I barely feel human.  I can’t even predict the next hour for our family, let alone the next week.  It’s a terrifying feeling, like falling out of a plane with no parachute and just hurtling through the air with your eyes closed, no idea when you will hit the ground.


But today, against the odds, here we are.  A family of four for the time being.  Laughing, loving, crying, mourning, waiting, watching, LIVING.


Couch Snuggles




Uncle Tristan takes Sam for his first walk


Sam and Xavier



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Just The Facts

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Just the facts

We are exhausted.  I want to update the website, but I’m afraid I don’t have it in me to delve into all the complex emotions vibrating through our lives, so I decided to write a post with “just the facts” of the last few days.

I apologize in advance that the order of the facts may be a bit skewed, we are working on very little sleep and emotions are at an all-time high so I will do my best…


The first fact is that, our perfect son was born on October 20th at 6:05am.  As planned, Aimee went in for a scheduled induction the morning of October 19th at 7:30am and laboured well all day and night (with epidural).  Then, almost suddenly, our son was born! I actually think we might have set a record for the amount of people in a birthing room at Toronto East General Hospital…there was Aimee and I and our “best-midwife-in-the-whole-world” Christie, an Ob-Gyn, a nurse, Aimee’s mom, dad, stepmom, sister, sister-in-law, best friend plus my dad.  It was a circle of love, excitement and emotion.  Truly a beautiful moment in our lives.

October 20th at 6:05am: Samson John Bruner-Methven: 7lbs 7oz


At 3:30am on October 20th, my phone rang.  It was my (pregnant) sister Heather calling to check-in on Aimee’s progress.  I told her Aimee was 7cm dilated and would probably be pushing in a couple of hours.  She laughed and said she was also on her way into the hospital—her water just broke!  I just started to laugh hysterically.  We had been joking for months that it would be absolutely insane if Heather and Aimee both went into labour the same day…so, of course, they did!  Heather ended up labouring in room J15 and Aimee was in J13 so it was hilarious with all of us going back and forth between the rooms.  Heather’s son was born 20 hours after ours.

October 21st at 3:39am: Xavier Daniel Pellet-Methven: 9llbs 10oz (ouch!)


Stella named her brother.  We had another name picked out, but way back before Stella ever got diagnosed with a fatal brain tumour, she had been a fan of the book series Stella and Sam.  In the books, Stella is a mischievous redhead just like our own girl, and Sam is her younger brother.  When we told her we were going to have a baby, she insisted from that day on that Stella had a brother named Sam.  When in the space of a few weeks we got the news about Stella’s brain cancer, and the ultrasound confirming a boy, we decided he was destined to be a Sam.  When we realized our initials (S=Stella A=Aimee M=Mishi) spelt his name, we never doubted the choice once.  We can’t wait to tell Sam how his big sister named him.

The change to Samson (but he will be known as “Sam”) was a last-minute decision three hours after he was born when we decided a longer, more elegant first name would flow a bit better…plus Samson was a strong man in the Bible, and we figure our son is going to have to be super-strong to get through the emotional turmoil that is consuming our life at the moment.


How are we doing?

Well…not too well, to be honest.  So much information this fact has to be split into a Secion A and Section B, Aimee and Mishi category:

Fact #4A (Aimee)

Aimee was a champion pusher during Sam’s delivery.  Unfortunately, because the epidural numbed her completely from the waist down, we were unaware until several hours after Sam’s birth that Aimee had suffered from a separated pelvis.

This injury is completely excruciating for Aimee.  She cannot bear any weight AT ALL and is completely bedridden.  It takes two very strong people to shuffle her slowly to the bathroom, and she is in horrific pain the entire time.  Her pelvic bone has separated so she can’t stand unassisted, sit up straight, breastfeed, change a diaper, etc. The recovery time from this type of injury is estimated to be about 6 weeks.  For the time being, Aimee is completely incapacitated and in pain.  Adding to the turmoil is Aimee’s fear that her injury will outlast Stella and she will miss these next precious weeks with our daughter.  I sit on the couch with Stella and she has to stay in the bedroom lying down, so it is extremely trying for her.

Fact #4B (Mishi)

During the labour and delivery of Sam, I held up emotionally fairly well.  I was able to be present and was genuinely ecstatic when he was born.  A few hours later, however, I experienced a terrible anxiety attack.  I think the total lack of sleep from the night before coupled with not taking my meeds (so I could be alert for delivery) as well as the actual delivery itself, were all contributing factors.  All I know is that I was standing in the hospital room next to Aimee’s bed while she cradled Sam and I suddenly felt my heart turn to ice and my legs give out from under me.  I ran out of the room and experienced an anxiety attack that left me sobbing uncontrollably in the hall of the hospital, curled in a ball while my father cradled me in his arms.  I cannot explain how severe this attack was, except to say that the entire world went black.  I could neither see nor hear anything, and could only feel the most excruciating physical pain you can imagine radiating through my body as I once again faced the reality of Stella dying.  I was clinging to my dad’s shirt for dear life and kept repeating, “please…please…”.  At the moment, I didn’t know what I was begging for, but now I know that I was pleading for my life.  The pain of that moment was so intense and so bleak that all I wanted was to die because to have to live through the loss of our other baby felt too utterly cruel to survive.  It was absolutely terrifying, and now I feel thrown back into the emotional pain and turmoil of those first few days after Stella’s diagnosis, trying to figure out how to survive the pain enough to just wake up in the morning.

These two facts have led to the one big issue which is that neither one of us is capable at all of looking after Sam.  Thankfully we have an incredible support group of friends and family who have stepped in to help. We need a bare minimum of three people sleeping over each night (2 for Aimee, 1 for Sam) and this is all assuming that Stella’s condition doesn’t worsen at all in the next few weeks.


We are still moving forward.  It would be easy to think that the universe is simply cruel for contenting to inflict challenges on our family and testing the love and devotion we all have for each other.  However, we continue to fight to be together and to live our lives as full of love and joy as humanly possible.  It is a very difficult time right now, but we cling to the ultimate knowledge that “this too, shall pass”, and with our community behind us, guided by the principles of making the most of each moment and putting love above all else, we can only continue to get stronger.

Thank-you all so much for your support via this website, for dropping off treats and gifts, for your donations, kind words, wishes, hopes and prayers.  As we move into this next series of challenges, we are buoyed by your faith in us.


Aimee, Mishi, Stella & Sam


Xavier Daniel Methven-Pellett:


Our new family:

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He’s here!

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On behalf of Aimee and Mishi, I am thrilled to announce the arrival of Samson John Bruner-Methven.  Sam was born at 6:05 this morning, weighing 7lbs 7oz .  All are doing great.

P.S. Stella named Sam herself, after the Stella and Sam books.  We thought it was a fitting way to honour her! John is after Aimee’s dad, and as one astute commenter noticed, we also loved the Stella/Sam matching initials and Stella+Aimee+Mishi’s initials=Sam.

welcoming Sam





sam and mishi





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Game Time

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Game Time

Well… here we are, on the even of Aimee’s induction (hopefully).  I say hopefully because there is a chance that Aimee won’t be ready to go tomorrow in which case we need to wait a few days and try again.  The very thought makes my planning brain have high levels of anxiety, so I’m crossing my fingers that the baby drops, everything that’s supposed to happen does, and we will welcome our son sometime Thursday…but if it doesn’t happen as per my plan I know there’s a whole long list of people waiting to say, “I told you so, Mish”.  I know, I know, I’m still trying to control the uncontrollable but old habits die hard, right!?


“Are you ready?” has been the question of the day.  I don’t know, are you ever really ready?  On paper we’re ready.  The hospital bag is packed, the baby’s room is set up, the diapers are unpacked, the clothing is neatly folded in the drawer and the crib sits at the ready.  The only thing missing is a baby.  Emotionally and mentally are we ready?  No idea.  I am wholeheartedly ready to welcome this baby to the world, but I am also terrified and trying to come to terms with the idea that at some point in this journey we will have to watch our first born die while trying to care for our second-born.  I had a moment of profound sadness tonight watching Stella play on the couch with her Aunties and thought about how, in different circumstances, we would be so ecstatic tonight.  We are still excited, but the excitement is tinged with that squeezing hurt that has surrounded my heart since June 24th.  If only… I keep thinking, then I get mad at myself for thinking it.  I thought I was past the wishing and hoping phase of Stella’s illness, but tonight, of all nights, I find myself reliving those terrifying first few hours in the hospital and trying to convince myself that maybe that was another family that those doctors were talking to…maybe they mixed up the MRI results…maybe my daughter is meant to live a long, healthy life.  But my heart knows that truth isn’t real, so I try to just appreciate that today Stella laughed with me and I read her books and she hugged me and said “Tella will be a big sister on Wednesday”.  The words are slow and drawn-out, but I can see the sparkle of excitement in her eye when she says it.


So I decided that despite the mixed feelings and doubts, today is the day to focus on the love and hope that the new baby will bring to our family.  Today is the day to be thankful for everything and everyone that we have.  Today is a day to remember that life is temporary, even for those of us who live to be 100 and the only real certainty we have is to celebrate this day and this moment.  My heart is filled to the brim with love as I see Stella napping peacefully on the couch, Aimee leaning up next to her with her baby belly brushing against Stella’s leg.  This is a magical time, one of excited expectation that I hope to look back on with reverence and happiness for the rest of my life.


Surprisingly, in the last week Stella has had a turn for the better.  If what she had was a temporary illness, or something curable, I would be inclined to think she was on the mend.  Instead, I’m left to ponder why all my wishes, wants and needs keep changing so drastically, why my views of what is quality of life are being shaken to the core and why, quite suddenly, Stella is eating again, laughing again, sitting at her desk and colouring again, asking to go for walks outside again.  Honestly…she had such a great day today I half expected her to hop off the couch and run across the room, turn around with a huge grin and say, “I’m all better Mama!”.  I actually picked her up and held her feet on the floor just to see if she could bear any weight.  She couldn’t, but she did ask to sit on the floor and scooted herself across it with me supporting her back.  It was completely unexpected, and welcomed.  5 weeks ago if you’d told me I would be ecstatic to see my child struggling to push herself across the floor with one leg while I pushed on her back, I probably would have burst into tears of frustration and sadness.  But today it felt like we had just witnessed the impossible, and I hugged and kissed Stella and we twirled around the living room to “Dora” just delighting in each other’s company.  In the face of death, I feel so alive.  In the face of life, I feel the shadow of death.  It’s sweet and bitter, happy and sad, light and dark, but it all somehow mixes together to form a strength that is propelling us forward towards and uncertain but hopeful future.


Aimee is sure that Stella’s rally is because she wants to meet her brother and she wants us to be a family of four…for a little while at least.  I like thinking that.  It makes my mouth tickle with a little smile to think that.


So…ready or not, the next phase is about to begin.  Ready or not.  Ready.  Not.  But willing, able and open to the beauty and pain of what the next days will bring us.

Photo by Silke Fischer


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