We Rise by Lifting Others

When I began this blog it was with the intent of sharing my own story but it was also important to me to share the stories of others who walk this cancer journey alongside me.  I am one of thousands if not millions fighting each day.  My dream was to create a 360 degree view of cancer and have not just cancer patients contribute but also their families, friends and anyone else who felt the need to share their experience.  I envisioned a place where we could connect and feel supported by one another.  Having a community to lift you up when times are tough is very important.  Cancer can feel lonely but I have learned that I am not the only one experiencing these emotions and I am by no means alone.  My goal is to share some of the good fortune I have been given and for whatever reason I feel strongly attached to Will and Suzanna’s story.

I have never met the Ketcheson family in person but we share a similar network of friends.  I am originally from Belleville and so is Will (BJ).  He was a well accomplished hockey player who eventually was drafted by the Florida Panthers.  I am a washed up want-to-be athlete who had a difficult time throwing a baseball to first base!   However, our stories (post childhood) are very similar.  We were both diagnosed with cancer in our 30′s and both have two young children.  The most amazing commonality we share is that we both have courageous wives who have gone to bat for us time and time again.

I have been writing a lot about cancer and the affects it has on our financial well being.  We have been impacted heavily by cancer when it comes to our personal finances.  The Ketcheson family share these financial stresses and are feeling it right now.  These are the types of families we strive to help.  They embody the mission of Ten Percent and I feel connected to do so in whatever way I can.

Here is their story;


I should introduce myself properly. This is Suzanna Ketcheson, of the Facebook page BJ’s Battle. BJ is my husband, I call him Will. (It’s a long story!) and I write the posts and updates for BJ’s Battle.

Mark and I ‘met’ through Facebook as Friends of a Friend. I say ‘met’ because we have never been introduced face to face. We have chatted countless times online, but never in person. Mark messages my husband Will, I with Mark, and I follow Mark’s wife blogs and receive her emails. This isn’t any ordinary friendship. I’m sure Mark would agree that we have an underlying bond. Honestly, I feel like he’s my brother. I’m an only child so I don’t know what it’s really like to have a brother – but I think it’s fair to say Mark is my brother. We are siblings of circumstance. In fact our stories are very similar. Different cancers, but both Stage 4, both “incurable”. We both have very young families, and are all 30-something. As you know, Mark has Skin Cancer. My husband Will has Lung Cancer. I am only familiar with my husband’s specific type of lung cancer, and his specific treatments and doctors. Having said that, I think Skin and Lung cancer are similar as in they seem to be the only cancers where people tend to ‘blame’ the patient for getting it. “oh, skin cancer, a sun-bather are ya?” or “oh, lung cancer, how long has he smoked?” These may seem like ridiculously rude questions, and I agree, but they are real questions by real people! Just to clear the air, my husband is a Non Smoker. I have never asked Mark if he used to Sun Bathe, because A) it’s none of my business and B) even if he was, does that mean he deserves the cancer diagnosis he’s received? My answer is a strong No. Smoker or Non, sunbather, or shade diva – no one is ready for the Cancer Diagnosis.

Our daughter Ellie was not yet 2 years old. Our son Ryder was exactly 6 weeks old to the day when my family’s life was turned upside-down. I described it as a whirl-wind as Will was getting a precautionary MRI for waves of dizziness he’d had for several months. We thought Vertigo. Turns out there were 2 tumors in Will’s brain. They called them Lesions at the time. One tumor was in the front of the brain, the other on the back of his brain, specifically on the top of his spinal cord. It was the cause of all the dizziness, as well as other seemingly minor symptoms he’d been having. When I went to pick Will up in the hospital with our two Babies, he was in tears. “I have 2 lesions on my brain,” he said. Completely confused I replied “Like, from hockey?” My husband was an avid hockey player in his day, and continued to play recreationally – so I was thinking lesions, as in a gash or blow to the head. “No, like tumors. Cancer.” he corrected me. That was it: Cancer. The word echoed in my mind over and over. Cancer. Cancer? Shielding my 1 year old from Mama’s tears I grabbed by husband and melted into him – our life was forever changed.

My husband was ambulanced to Kingston Hospital, where he stayed for two full weeks undergoing numerous tests, scans, and a biopsy. When we left the hospital, treatment plan in hand, we were told to Go Home and “get your affairs in order”. I am glad my mommy-brain allowed me to not grasp the full meaning of those words in that exact moment.

It has been over 2 years since Will’s diagnosis. It seems like yesterday, and forever-ago all in the same thought. Our son is the perfect measure of Will’s Battle, and Ryder is almost two and a half now. Since the hospital, we discovered that Will’s cancer originated in his lungs, progressed to his brain in two spots, and a few spots in his bone as well. Most recently, we believe it to have moved to his Lymph’s in his groin area. He’s currently undergoing scans and tests including a biopsy to confirm. Writing this all down in sequence – it sounds really terrible, but I have to say all n’ all we manage very well. My husband’s spirits are often high and he doesn’t look sick in any way.

Mark asked me last week if I would consider writing for him. I would never turn Mark down! and I love to write. I’m often long-winded so I’ll apologize in advance. I haven’t even got On Subject yet. Part 1, Introduction. Part 2, Get to the Point Suzanna.


Mark and I were chatting a few days ago and he suggested I make Money or Donations my subject to talk about for Ten Percent. Usually I’m really good at just taking the subject and running with it, but Money is a tricky one for me! My husband and I have been tight lipped about Donations since the beginning and to open up now is a challenge. I’ve never posted about money – unless to say Thank You for donations. It’s not that I don’t know how to talk about money. It’s not that I’m not completely grateful for the funds we received, Will and I just did not feel a “final total” was really necessary. We were interviewed by a few newspapers, and that is usually one of their first questions. We still feel quite conservative about discussing money, but I do think it’s good to open up a bit! Probably for me – just to be more general. Because quite frankly: Cancer is EXPENSIVE. I don’t know how easy of a concept that is for everyone to understand if you haven’t been through something similar – but Mark did a post about it this week so hopefully that helps with understanding.

We have been very blessed by our friends, family, and complete strangers in the donations department. When Will was first diagnosed, our friends held numerous fundraiser events for my husband and our family. We have never talked about exact amounts, but I am here to tell you, we were overwhelmed by peoples kindness, generosity, and love they showed. Those donations kept us afloat. Literally paying our mortgage and bills as Will was not working and I had just gone on maternity leave. Since then, Will has been off two more times, including now, unable to work. And if I’m going to be completely honest – we’re out of money. I’m back from maternity leave of course, working full time, but when there are doctor appointments, I must take time off without pay. We still have regular life to tend to: diapers, daycare, life. Not to mention, travel expenses, eating Whole Foods (as healthy as we can), and just life. Some expenses cancer, other costs are simply life. I know there are a lot of people out there where one spouse loses a job, company downsizing, whatever the circumstances may be. So perhaps that extra stress is relatable. But add medical expenses, travel costs, prescriptions (at times), or any other ‘alternative’ treatments that simply are not covered by any health plan.

Stress is a funny thing – and I don’t mean funny “Haha”. Even now when I feel we have things relatively under control, add in just one more thing: kids whining, bad test results, pizza delivery is late, (just an example – I actually don’t like pizza and we have literally never had it delivered to our house!) whatever that extra little thing is, it just feels like it’s a straw that breaks the camel’s back …except this camel still has to pick itself back up and get those kids’ teeth brushed and pop them into bed (very real life example)! When we had our donations ‘account’ money was not one of those extra straws. Account sitting at zero – straw added.

Asking for help is another not-so-funny thing. Again, it’s the 3rd time we’ve needed to be in a Help Asking situation and only this time am I starting to accept, or even suggest we need help and take it on as an initiative myself. They say it takes a village to raise a child – I’m just starting to realize that perhaps that same village can adopt our ‘cancer family’ too. Raise us back up to a place of healing, a place of dignity and a place of whole-ness. Is that a word?

We are very trusting that things are going to work out for us. Healing, financially, sanity. Everything. Thank you for reading my words. I hope one day Mark invites me back to write! I definitely have lots more to say, including how receiving donations completely changed our view on Everything.

I would invite you, Reader, to follow our links below and follow our journey, “BJ’s Battle” as our friends named it. We’d love a “Like” a “Share” and for you to introduce yourselves to us.

Together We Are Strong.

Suzanna Ketcheson
of Will (BJ) and Suzanna from BJ’s Battle




  1. ☀️Good morning and welcome to the family BJ & Suzanna. Welcome to a new day, a day full of possibility, love, and support. My lil one just came hurling into my bed yelling ” Mommy! Mommy! The sun is up! Let’s go play!” It’s amazing to me the amount of motivation, insight, and happiness we gain from our most innocent little ones. They teach us so much … to put stress aside … to live more … to enjoy the moment … to let ourselves be free…to leave the bed unmade today because there are more important things to do today like dance in the warmth of the sun’s rays and take in a hug that fills you up.

    Make it a great day family!

    • MarkNewman says:

      Thank you for writing that Dora. That is a great and fresh perspective. You and Mark are true examples of a young family who chose to craft the life they wanted to live. You inspire me!

  2. Denise says:

    Thank you Mark for sharing your blog “We Rise by Lifting Others”. This is the first time reading your blog & I love your mission of Ten Percent & your perspective on Cancer. I appreciate your leadership in creating a supportive online community by highlighting all of the different perspectives from the patients living with Cancer, to the family & friends of the person impacted by Cancer. Thank you for sharing your purpose in life in such a vulnerable way.

    Suzanna, you continue to eloquently & honestly describe how you, your husband Will, and two beautiful children navigate the roller coaster ride Cancer has taken you on over the last two and a half years. You share the good times, scary times, uncertain times & tough times – both emotionally & financially. Thank you for shining a spotlight on how expensive Cancer really is & what that looks like for your family.

    Reading Mark & Suzanna’s stories & seeing how they expose their reality & allow themselves to be so vulnerable, makes me pause, reflect & ask myself, “What kind of world do I want to live in & what am I doing to contribute to make that happen?”

    Please, rise by lifting others & remember, together we are strong!

    Love Suzanna’s Denise xoxo

    • MarkNewman says:

      Thank you for reaching out Denise. It is my goal to have people do just that…reflect on how they want to live their life despite what challenges they may or may not be facing. Our stories are only a couple of the many out there navigating this very bumpy road. I would love a world where we rally around these families and help them live a more fulfilled life.

  3. Heather says:

    I went to the same highschool as BJ. I have never met his wife or children. I am so inspired by there story and their authencity. Think about their family often.

    • MarkNewman says:

      They are a beautiful family who exemplify what strength and courage are all about. BJ’s story resonates with me as we are both young men facing some very terrible circumstances. However, we both choose to continue moving forward and are surrounded by amazing families and friends.

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