Learning to fly on her own

Janet Fanaki is the creator of RESILIENT PEOPLE, a website that profiles the resilience of EXTRAordinary people around the world. If you know someone who should be on the site, please contact [email protected]

kids travel on their own, Isobel Fanaki, European adventure
Janet Fanaki's daughter Isobel leaves Pearson International Airport for Europe

by Janet Fanaki, Creator RESILIENT PEOPLE

My baby, my first born, the one who trained me to be a parent.  She’s left on her first solo flight.

As many times as I have encouraged her to take advantage of these opportunities, I couldn’t deny the mixed feelings I had while leaving her at the airport.

Albeit on a school credit trip, with many others studying the same marine biology course, but she is not travelling with us.  

I reflected on the story that fellow mom Alana Salsberg contributed to RESILIENT PEOPLE on letting go.  As she put it, “This is what I wanted: happy, excited, confident, resilient kids who have become happy, excited, confident, resilient young adults.”

I know that she’ll be okay because she’s already been tested in ways that I did not plan nor would have wanted her to be.

Back in 2016 her dad was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most aggressive brain cancer. 

Isobel was entering her final year of high school.  A year that would be filled in the first few months alone with campus tours, heavy assignments and exams, applications and the nervous anticipation of rejections and acceptances.  

Not to mention the normal highs and lows of being 17 years old.

At the time our son was starting Grade 9 and this brought its own set of excitement and nerves for all of us.

I don’t even remember when or how I told our children about my husband’s diagnosis.  

Some things I clearly remember like breaking down in tears, over the phone, in the middle of a shopping mall as he told me that the initial scan results weren’t good. 

And dropping them off at home so I could pack an overnight bag for him for the hospital, not knowing what lay ahead.

I remember calling him from the car to say I was on my way, hearing him say that the cancer was terminal, and the sound of our convulsing sobs.

And after meeting with the neurosurgeon, listening to the grim statistics, I remember holding my husband tight and telling him “now that we know what we’ve got in front of us, we’ll get the best team around us and deal with it.”

But I don’t remember telling the kids.

What I do remember is being in the car with them and talking about his condition.  What stands out the most for me from that conversation was saying, “The best thing the two of you can do is to stay focused in school and keep doing your best.”

Maybe I felt that they needed a purpose in this crazy experience – something to do to help us. Because if their schooling slipped, that would be another major thing to deal with – and I couldn’t risk that happening.

They both lived up to their end of the bargain.  Isobel rocked Grade 12 and received acceptances from several top-ranked universities.  Now she’s entering her third year and beginning to experience the world on her own.

I wouldn’t begin to take any amount of credit for what she or her brother have achieved in the face of watching their father battle through this horrible disease.  I give thanks to their schools, friends, our family and their own determination for the support that has sustained us all.

From seeing him come home with dozens of staples in the side of his scalp after a full craniotomy, to endless days of exhaustion and the look of worry across his face. 

He has never given up the pride that he feels in both of his kids and feeling grateful to still be here witnessing it all.

He has surpassed the grim numbers and over these last three years we have had some of the most memorable family holidays, work experiences and celebrations.  

And now she is continuing her path in life as a strong and resilient young woman.  Armed with the idea that anything in life can happen but it’s how you deal with it that counts.

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