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Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014

Parents of eight children both have cancer, move forward with faith

By Megan Christensen, Deseret News

Published: Tue, July 8 11:45 a.m. MDT

 The Haws family stand in front of the Salt Lake Temple for Brayden and Kasey Haws wedding.

The Haws family stand in front of the Salt Lake Temple for Brayden and Kasey Haws wedding.

( Ivy & Stone Photography)

While raising eight kids, Shane and Amy Haws have doctored more than their share of bumps and bruises.

In the last nine years, the Haws’ children have survived meningitis; a serious head injury; reconstructive surgeries for a cleft palate; autism; and even Stage 4 Hogkin’s lymphoma.

And just when the emergency room couldn’t get more familiar, Amy and Shane each received a cancer diagnosis.

Amy was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer last November.

“When I found out I had cancer, I knew the statistics and prognosis, so I wasn’t even that upset about it,” Amy said. “I was more concerned about my kids and how they’d feel after watching their sister Shailynn go through cancer.”

Although she felt really sick, Amy downplayed her illness for her kids so they wouldn’t be scared.

“(My kids) did pretty good because I knew I was going to be OK,” she said. “I knew I could look them in the face and say I’d be fine.”

But it would be three rounds of chemotherapy, a hysterectomy and a double mastectomy before she would begin to approach fine.

In April, between her hysterectomy and mastectomy, Shane and Amy celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in Las Vegas.

While there, Shane had trouble standing due to dizziness.

“They thought he had vertigo, so they sent him to a physical therapist for a few weeks and it wasn’t getting better, so I took him to the E.R.,” Amy said.

In the emergency room, Shane got an MRI that revealed a 2-inch brain tumor.

After surgery, the doctors determined the worst. He had Stage 4 lung cancer, the same cancer his sister died from in 2013.

In mid-May, they learned that his type of lung cancer was more aggressive than others. It spread to his brain, lymph nodes and adrenal glands.

It was a grim prognosis that meant he’d have to endure Gamma Knife Radiation.

Since radiation, he hasn’t been able to go to work, but in the midst of these great trials, Amy said he carries an amazing positive attitude.

“He keeps saying, ‘I’m going to be fine. I don’t care what the statistics say,’” Amy said. “If attitude is everything, he’ll be just fine."

Amy, however, took the news of Shane’s diagnosis harder than her own.

“It’s one thing to have to stare your own mortality in the face, but to have it be your husband is worse,” she said. “I feel like I’m in a hard spot because I have to face reality and prepare my kids if anything happens.”

But after seeing their daughter Shailynn have such a positive attitude while facing Hogkin’s lymphoma, Amy said it is hard not to do the same, especially when they pay attention to the miracles in their life.

“You want to be angry and you want to be mad at somebody, but with all the positive things that happen it’s hard to deny we’re blessed,” she said. “As hard as it is, we have much more to be grateful for than we do to be angry about.”

One event they are grateful for occurred the week Shane was diagnosed.

Amy was supposed to have her bilateral mastectomy two days before, but it got rescheduled because of an error in the scheduling system.

If she‘d had the surgery, Shane wouldn’t have been able to get into the emergency room when he did, and his health would have quickly declined.

Amy said one of the biggest blessings amidst their family trials is having great neighbors who take care of them when they can’t do it themselves.

Just before Shailynn was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, the Haws’ sold their house. They had to move out quickly, but were having a hard time finding another residence.

At the perfect time, a lady in their neighborhood got married and moved out of her house, freeing the space for the Haws family.

Although they were originally planning to move out of the neighborhood, Haws said they wouldn’t have been as supported through their trials had they left.

“I don’t know how we would have gotten through anything without all of our neighbors. They dropped everything and rallied around us,” Amy said. “My youngest at the time was a year old, but I never had to worry that someone wasn’t with my kids.”

Currently, Amy’s sister runs a Facebook page called “Stand For The Haws Family” where she posts updates about their health and gives information regarding donations to a fund for their family.

The Haws’ neighbors are also fundraising by preparing a golf tournament and bowl-a-thon on Aug. 2 in hopes of easing the burden of medical bills.

Amy said that although it will help financially, she appreciates the service and support they’ve received even more.

“I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, but if you have to go through something like this you just hope that you have the kind of support we do because it’s been everything,” she said. “We’ll come home and somebody will be fixing our air conditioner, or our lawn will be mowed. No matter what happens, we know we can drop everything and there are people watching out for us.”

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Haws’ have leaned on their testimonies for support.

Haws said as she’s lived through the last couple of months, she knows her testimony is all she and her children have to hang on to.

“I don’t know how I’d get through every day if I didn’t believe there is an eternal perspective,” Haws said. “I’ve had to turn everything over and say this isn’t in my hands anymore.”

Amy said the most difficult part of all their trials is watching her kids grow up too fast.

“They missed out on a lot as kids because I was never home,” Amy said. “They don’t know what normal is.”

But the trials have only made the kids stronger.

Shailynn and her husband moved in with the Haws so they can take care of them.

“People might say we’re crazy to have eight kids, but if one of them is down, there’s always someone to come pick them up,” Amy said.

Brayden Haws, the oldest of the eight children, married a girl who lost her mom to colon cancer when she was 16.

“We couldn’t ask for anyone better for my kids to look up to because as much as she went through she sees the positive in everything,” Amy said of her daughter-in-law. “It’s huge for my kids to see someone who’s been through the absolutely worst who is still happy.”

And throughout everything they’ve endured, their family is happy.

“I think we all know we only have so much time and the time we have we shouldn’t sit around and dwell on the negative,” Amy said. “We’ve just stepped back and realized what’s most important is that we have our family. If you don’t have your kids and your family, you don’t really have anything.”

Megan Marsden Christensen writes for the Faith and Family sections. She recently graduated from BYU-Idaho with a bachelor's degree in communication.

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1. LivinLarge
Bountiful, UT,
July 8, 2014

I am inspired by this family and pray they will be cured and remain healthy for many years to come.

2. Mika Patch
Commerce Township, MI,
July 8, 2014

It is such a hart breaking story, but with trials, we grow stronger. I can say I will pray for them, but the best thing is to tell them that there is hope... I have heard numerous stories that super nutrition can help with even stage 4 cancer and many other diseases... I cannot say the company name here because of the compliance, but google 'Superfoods' may be effective treatments for chronic diseases.' Also learn about epigenetics... I believe it may help them deal with what they are going through. Also google extreme nutrition. There is also a book called Killing Cancer Not People. I lost my father to cancer, and I don't want to see any more people suffer. It may be hard to believe, but we have more control over our health than we think. Good nutrition can give our body power to function better and heal on its own. "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates

3. roberto
Moses Lake, WA,
July 8, 2014

Best of luck... I will never complain about my problems. They don't compare to the Haws family. They are an inspiration

4. LovelyDeseret
Gilbert, AZ,
July 9, 2014

This is Job-like. The strength this family must have.

5. Mormonmama0106
Phoenix, AZ,
July 9, 2014

What an inspiring story of faith! My heart goes out to the Haws family but I am also humbled by their strength. As Roberto said, this really puts my own trials into perspective and I realize I have nothing to complain about. God bless the Haws family!