How We Found Out Our Son Had Cancer...Again

This is story of how we discovered our son had cancer...for the second time.

teenage boy leaning on crutches

It was a Monday. He was home from school as he always is on Mondays. He wasn't feeling like himself. He was sleepy and lethargic after having a full night's rest. I thought perhaps he might be coming down with a cold.

We watched a movie in the morning, had lunch, and then watched a TV show. When the show was over, he stood up from the couch. And that's when it happened.

The First Symptom

He took a few steps and was just standing in the middle of the room, facing away from me. He started swaying and I asked him if he was okay. No response. I asked him again, "Luke, are you okay?" He stumbled backwards, fell on his bottom, looked up and said "No." I gulped back the intense fear that was rising inside of me. I knelt down, grabbed my phone, put 911 on dial and was waiting to press send. Those were some of the most heart-stopping seconds of my entire life. He quickly came around and by that time was shaking and scared, not sure of what had happened.  Neither was I. Although he has had dizziness in the past, it was never this bad. For the rest of the day, Luke rested in his room and was dizzy every time he tried to get up.

The following morning he felt good enough to go to school. On the way however, he was grimacing and trying to stretch his right leg out. I asked him what was wrong. I could see he was trying to work through the pain. He said his right leg ached and that it had been hurting for two weeks. Luke has a pretty high tolerance for pain so when he said that it had been hurting for two weeks, coupled with dizziness and near black out, I knew something wasn't right.

We drove right past his school and straight to the doctor's office.

The Primary Care Doctor

Because we had arrived before the pediatrician even opened, we were able to get in right away. His doctor did a thorough exam. She noted that his right leg was a little swollen and he should have an x-ray taken to make sure it wasn't broken or fractured. Luke had just run 7 miles on his leg that previous weekend and could rotate his ankle and wiggle his toes. That's when it started to dawn on me that this might be more than a running injury.

We've had so many false alarms before...a spot on his shoulder in 2017 that was a ganglion cyst, an enlarged spleen, prolonged low white blood cell counts for all of 2016...that we have learned to roll with the punches. It could be cancer, or it could be nothing.

While we were home and waiting for the results of the x-ray, Luke had another episode of near black-out and I called the nurse hotline to ask when I should take him to the E.R...they referred me back to his pediatrician for instructions. So I waited for the pediatrician to call back.

teenage boy laying in hospital bed

Later in the afternoon, I got the call that no parent ever wants to receive. "There is a new lesion on your son's tibia bone. You need to take him to the E.R. right now so they can draw blood work."

I had pulled over to the side of the road just after getting Luke a frappuccino from Starbucks when I received the call on my cell phone. Luke was in the car next to me. Having seen the way his ankle area was swollen, even with movement, I knew this was probably a recurrence of his osteosarcoma from late 2014. After speaking with the doctor, we immediately headed down to the children's hospital. Luke received bloodwork and a review of the x-ray from the on call oncologist. Thankfully, Luke was in good spirits. Aside from some mild bone pain, he was feeling okay. We were even joking around in the exam room.  Doctors found a 7cm tumor that started in the soft tissue and grew out of his right tibia bone, wrapping its way around the bone and causing significant deterioration. He wasn't allowed to walk on it for the first several weeks of treatment. After the trip to the emergency room, later that evening, we took Luke out to a fun dinner and just enjoyed being together.

teenage boy leaning on crutches


Something most people don't know is that each cancer type has its own chemotherapy protocol with differences in medicines, dosages, and time in and out of the hospital. Some cancer treatments require chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiation. In 2014, Luke's oncologist began treatment with a biopsy surgery, then chemotherapy, then another surgery, then chemotherapy again. Treatment spanned a period of about 10 months with much of that time receiving in-patient care at the children's hospital. Further testing revealed a nodule on his right lung and microscopic disease in his sinus. Osteosarcoma is not staged like other cancers. Staging a tumor is a way to describe a tumor's location in the body, its behavior, unique characteristics, etc.  For Osteosarcoma, there are no stages like 1,2,3 or 4.  There is only localized, metastatic, and recurrent. Metastatic osteosarcoma means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. So Luke's cancer diagnosis is Metastatic Osteosarcoma  Treatment would be different this time, and yet similar.

Having walked this scary and uncertain path before when Luke was much younger, we knew the stakes. We knew the length of the battle and we knew how hard it would be. But we were and still are, not without hope. We have so much hope.

To read more about our son's first cancer diagnosis, visit our post on How We Discovered Our Son Had Cancer

You might also like more posts from our family's cancer journey.


Christmas Eve In The Hospital - A Dad's Perspective

The alarm on my phone goes off early.

I don’t remember the exact time, but I pressed snooze like I always do. 5 minutes later, it goes off again...again once more...snooze. After another 5 minutes, I dismiss the alarm and I am up.

Today is different then most Mondays. Usually I would be getting up early for work, but today I was getting up early to take my family to the hospital for Luke's surgery to remove the mass that has been growing near his skull. We know that mass is malignant (cancer) and so they need to remove most of it. At this point, I think I was in denial. Or at least not fully aware of what was about to happen. 

I just knew this was the next step. Just get up and get your family down to Rady’s Children’s Hospital. So that is what I did.

Christmas was fast approaching, only three days remaining. And with Christmas in mind, that is what gave me hope. I knew Luke would have surgery the next day Tuesday the 23rd, but I figured that would give Luke plenty of time for recovery and we would be home for Christmas. Possibly Christmas Eve, so with that as my hope and my motivation for a positive attitude, I was ready for whatever came our way.    

Monday at the hospital was all tests. MRI, CT scan, blood test, and a couple more that I can’t remember, but I know Luke had to go through it. So our family hung out in the hospital waiting for the next day's surgery. 

And that is when we started to make jokes.

To laugh at this unfortunate situation partly because my side of the family tends to laugh or make fun of the uncomfortable/nervous situations that we face. But also cause I knew we couldn’t let this crappy thing called cancer get us down, especially so close to Christmas.

That day was a bunch of waiting. We waited for the tests, we waited for the results of the tests, we just waited. 

Finally, the day of the surgery came. Most of our family was there. Both sides. The surgery was long. They were able to remove most of it. Since they already knew it was cancer, I figured they knew exactly what kind of cancer, but I guess they could not tell that from the first biopsy. Again, something I was not aware of. I thought once they determined it was cancerous, they knew exactly what type of cancer. 

Maybe I just didn’t realize how many types of cancer there actually are. But we were about to become very familiar with our son’s cancer called Osteosarcoma. That was part of what they were doing with this surgery. They were removing most of it to determine what kind of cancer he had to make the best decision on what treatment to give him moving forward. It's called resection and staging.

We woke up the next day in the hospital, thankful that the surgery was a success and they got most of the mass.

According to his ENT Doctor, she said she got everything she could see.  So I was really looking forward to going home and spending Christmas with family. But those plans quickly changed. Sometime in the morning, Luke's oncologist walks into our hospital room and pulls Michelle and I aside to talk. I figured this was normal, the Doctor just wanted to go over the details of surgery. Maybe she would tell us what they found or maybe talk about things to be aware of moving forward. But that is not what she did. 

In mere seconds, I was crushed. 

Luke's doctor explains that they still do not know exactly what type of cancer Luke has, but our best chance to beat it was to start chemotherapy now. I was trying to hold back tears, she kept talking about the 4 types of cancer he most likely had. She talked about the possibility of radiation. She said we could be part of a clinical trial or do the recommended treatment for his cancer. We chose the recommended treatment for his cancer, even though they did not even know the exact cancer he had yet. 

Bottom line, he had to start chemotherapy on Christmas Eve and my positive attitude was gone.

I don’t know what other people saw as they looked at me, fortunately all eyes were on Luke, but I was not in good spirits. It took all day for me to accept the fact that this was happening, I was going to spend Christmas Eve with my son and wife in the hospital. Our family would be split apart because my daughter would not be able to stay with us once Luke started treatment.

Being Christmas Eve, most people were off work and so we had many people visit us in the hospital. Everyone that visited was amazing and they will always have a special place in our hearts. I believe it was that out pour of love that helped me get through that day. I didn’t have time to think about my crushed feelings. I was constantly surrounded by loving family and friends. Those visitors also kept reminding me that Luke was the patient.

It didn’t matter that I was sad, Luke was the one who had to start a treatment that is designed to kill your body, so the cancer cannot survive. And so it started - the journey that was changing the way we live.

Yes cancer changed our lives forever, but it wasn’t going to change the Sybert family. I knew we had to stay strong for Luke, and I didn’t know what that looked like exactly, but remember I was devastated and barely making it through the day. 

I mentioned earlier that my family jokes and makes fun when faced with uneasy situations, so I think with that background I made a decision the next day to help my family find the fun and joy in this situation, if there was any at all to find. If cancer was going to change the way we live life, it was not going to change us, it was not going to beat us.

I can’t tell you that I prayed a prayer and everything changed. I was praying, but not every moment like the Bible says to. I wasn’t even waking up everyday in prayer, remember I just woke up and got ready for the day. Praying every morning would have been the best thing to do in that situation, but I didn’t. 

I prayed with Michelle after the doctor told us we had to start treatment. Looking back, I feel I should have prayed more. Regardless, after we got through that week in the hospital, something started to happen. 

As we accepted what was happening and with my decision to find the joy,  we started joking around with the nurses. I started to make fun of the hospital room and anything else I thought was funny. Sometimes even making fun at my wife’s expense, (I don’t recommend making fun of your wife-there have been many times since that experience where that did not go so well), but trying to get us in a laughing mood started to help. Luke became more relaxed and he started to laugh and have fun with being in the hospital. But that is where my influence stopped.

Over the next few days and weeks Luke took that positive attitude, that joy of life and laughter to a whole new level. I honestly don’t know how he did it, but he started changing the attitude of my wife and many of our other family members that he came in contact with.  Sure there were many days to come, when he felt so horrible he would cry, but whenever he had any energy he was laughing and having fun. What I was surprised by was how much Luke would grab hold of that laughter and joy and he would out shine all of us in his love for life and his love for God.

Luke first influenced Michelle and I, then his nurses and doctors, then our family members and then the rest of the world that started to read my wife' updates on Facebook and see all her posts and photos. I thank God that Michelle was able to share our son’s journey as it was happening with anyone who wanted to read and stay connected. 

Luke’s story, his journey, is just the beginning of a life that would battle cancer and give others hope.

You can read the first installment of this When I found Out My Son Had Cancer- A Dad's Perspective here. Part 3 is coming soon as well.

You can read more posts about Luke's cancer on the blog.
You can read Michelle's past updates on Luke's Facebook page


Self Care and The Best Facial I've Ever Had

sel-care is never selfish quote

A little more than 6 months ago, I decided that I needed to start taking better care of myself. Since Luke’s cancer diagnosis, I had put my health and well being on the back burner - anything I did that was remotely for myself was out of self preservation, not self care.

I had been in survival mode for a very long time.

It had gotten to the point where I had multiple health issues that I either didn’t know I had (I’m looking at you Hashimoto’s Disease) or I wasn’t dealing with them. Premature Osteoporosis (from my cancer in my 20’s), sleep apnea, severe fatigue, anxiety and ptsd, poor food choices and eating habits (coffee isn't a meal, apparently) to name a few.

Many people confuse self-care with being selfish. Done with more intention and less "escape", self care can be so healing! Self-care is about taking care of your self so that you can take care of others. I love this quote by Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, “Self-care is never selfish, but it may feel that way when you live a frenzied life.” I feel like that has been true for me. Especially as a parent and thinking about the daily needs of others, it can feel like everyone gets care except for us.

Best Facial Ever

I had had enough. I went to my primary care doctor and asked for help. I wanted to feel better and I wanted to get rid of my sleep apnea machine. Thus began what I lovingly refer to as my "Season of Selfcare".  I started using my sleep apnea machine but wasn't feeling that much better. I talked to an online therapist to help me through my anxiety and ptsd. My primary care doctor encouraged me to try losing weight. I found the perfect program for me, dropping over 30 pounds in 8 months with the help or Arbonne. And I went gluten free, dairy free and sugar free for 30 days and have continued with that lifestyle 80% of the time. I allow for the occasional taste of something with gluten or hidden dairy. I was also diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and got on some medication to help regulate my thyroid.

best facial in san diego

The most recent thing I've implemented into my season of self care is taking care of my skin. My skin has actually been the very last thing on my list, I am ashamed to say. I don't know why I put my skin on the back burner, as it were, but it is what it is. Did you know, your skin is actually the largest organ in your body! Age, stress, genetics, hydration and what we eat all affect our skin. I've developed some hyper pigmentation on my face that has resulted in sort of a mask of age spots and increased signs of aging.

So, when partner HD Beauty The Skincare Boutique in San Diego offered to treat me to a customized luxury facial and sample some of their skincare products for free, I knew this would be the perfect next step towards self care.

Melanie White is the owner and expert esthetician at HD Beauty Skincare Boutique. HD Beauty is a boutique skin care salon that is by appointment only. Melanie took great care of me from the moment I walked through the door. The space is charming and cozy.

HD Beauty Skincare Boutique

I haven't had very many facials in my lifetime. Like I said, my skincare has been last on my self care list for a very long time. My Hashimoto's and lack of hormones from having uterine cancer so many years ago has impacted my skin. I frankly didn't realize how utterly dehydrated my skin was until my HD Beauty Facial was finished. My skin felt amazing!

Here are of my treatments during my facial:

First, she cleansed my skin and swept over it with the a Dermasweep treatment. The Dermasweep sloughs off all the dead skin cells and activates circulation to promote new skin cell growth. Next, she applied a lemon zest enzyme treatment

Next, she performed extractions and analyzed my skin for more customizations I might need during my facial. Next, she gave me a facial massage with oils that were fragrant and blended for my skin type. I almost fell asleep it was so relaxing. Next, I spent some time under the LED photo facial treatment and was given an oxygen mask that brings out the natural vibrancy of your skin. And lastly, she treated me with an exclusive and proprietary skin brightening system that I kept on for the rest of the day.

I kept thinking "my skin feels supple and decadent and replenished."

after facial without makeup
Look! It's me on the internet without make-up!
After my facial was complete, Melanie sent me home with some personalized samples of her skincare line along with instructions for each step. The HD Beauty Skincare line is dermatologist formulated, medical strength, and has clinically proven results.

HD Beauty customized skincare

When she suggested the Salycilic Face and Body wash for me, I was surprised because I didn't think I needed it. But after about a week of using it, I have been very pleased. After a week of her customized skincare plan for me, the products that are my favorite are HD Restore Glowing Serum, The HD Illuminuate Mega-C Creme, and the HD Defend Spf 36.

The HD Restore Glowing Serum is part of my morning routine. It's a replenishing serum that includes glycolipids, vitamin E and F (Omega 6 fatty acids), and an antioxidant that protects against environmental aging.

The HD Illuminate Mega-C Creme is a high dose vitamin C infused moisturizer that tingles a smidge at first but goes on smoothly and honestly, to me, makes my skin feel pillow-y soft. It brightens and evens my skintone, lessening my age spots (hello 40's), and improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. A week in and I feel like I see the evening of the skin tone already. I like that I feel a little more confident going without make up after using this product.

The HD Defend Spf 36 is a light and airy spf for your face that isn't greasy. It is slightly tinted and can be worn under make-up or alone. With a history of cancer, spf is a must for me. I like that this one because it feels weightless and doesn't leave my skin with a film. It contains 5% zinc oxide which protects against both UVA and UVB rays. There is also a chemical free version that I may purchase. I love that she offers both.

If you are in the San Diego area, you might want to book an appointment at HD Beauty Skincare Boutique and see what services might benefit you. And if you aren't in the San Diego area, you can schedule a virtual consultation and get customized HD Beauty Skincare plan right from the comfort of your own home  with the ability to have the HD Beauty skincare line delivered right to your door.

Connect with Melanie and the HD Beauty Skincare Boutique team on all the social channels.
HD Beauty on Instagram
HD Beauty on Facebook

I'm looking forward to possibly going back to HD Beauty. I know the full benefit of facials are best with more than one treatment. A luxury facial like the ones given by Melanie at HD Beauty Skincare are an investment and a treat to my skin.

My "Season of Selfcare" isn't over. I'm just adding new layers to what it means to take care of myself every day.

How do you do Self-care? Do you have any tips to share? I would love to read about them! Leave a comment below and tell me all about it!


When I Found Out My Son Had Cancer: A Dad's Perspective

I will never forget that call. It’s the call you think only happens to other people or even only in the movies. But many people get that call everyday, so I shouldn’t have been too shocked or too surprised, I should have been ready, but I wasn’t.

When I found out my son had cancer

It was a Friday, almost always sunny in Southern California. This day wasn’t any different. Work was slow for the moment, which is hit and miss at my company. Some Fridays before the holidays can be crazy busy all day, but this day only had a couple slow moments. I had already been talking with my co-workers, trying to stay optimistic about my son’s recent surgery to biopsy a mass growing in his nose. Michelle remembers them talking about the possibility of the mass being malignant, but I guess I blocked that out. Because, all week my co-workers were trying to encourage me that it was going to be benign. I guess it worked, cause I remember thinking “It is probably benign and I am sure they will call us to confirm that”.

Michelle was the primary contact, but I gave the hospital my number as the 2nd option in case they could not get a hold of my her. Another reason, I was not ready for the call, I figured Michelle would get the call confirming it was benign, then she would call me to give our family that sigh of relief.

That phone call would have been so much better, but that one never came.

My cell phone began to vibrate and I just happened to not have any customers in front of me so I looked down at my phone and saw a number that was familiar, but did not fully recognize. Most of the time, if I don’t recognize the number, I will not pick up. But I thought, “Oh I think this is Rady’s Children’s Hospital for Luke, they must have not been able to get a hold of Michelle.”

So I answered. But again, I wasn’t ready!

One of the things I love about Luke’s doctor was that she did not sugar coat anything, she just told it like it was. I appreciate that, because then we know exactly what is going on and we can deal with it, instead of wondering what the doctor is talking about; Is she trying to say something positive? Was that negative? Do we have to worry? With that first phone call,  maybe it would have been nice to prepare me for what she was going to say.  I don’t know,  because that never happened.

As soon as I answered, the doctor introduced herself,
“This is Doctor Ahn and I am overseeing Luke’s case. His mass is malignant.”

Just like that I went from being relaxed, in a good mood just happy that my son’s mass was being taking care of, to a numb, devastated state of mind. It took everything in me to fight back the tears and the tears eventually won. Even as I am writing this, my eyes are tearing up remembering that moment that would change our family forever.

My son has cancer. I just kept playing that over and over in my head.

How could this happen? He is only 9 years old. And he didn’t do anything. But the truth remained. My son has cancer. Luke has cancer.

I remember she explained what needed to happen. But after she said the mass was malignant most of what she said was just words words words. I had to ask her to repeat the next steps twice just to make sure I was well aware of what we needed to do. I shouldn’t have needed her to repeat herself, but it was all so much. The next step was pretty clear, he was scheduled for another surgery to remove most of the mass and he would need to be admitted to the hospital right away. We were scheduled to go in on Monday, December 22, 2014. I can’t even remember if I finished work that day or not, I am pretty sure they let me go home and so I did. We spent the weekend together, letting everyone in our families know that Luke would be in the hospital on December 22, it sounded like he would have surgery on December 23 and we would be home in time for Christmas Eve.

my 9 year old son has cancer

Luke went through several tests that first day at the hospital. MRI, CAT scans, X-Rays and blood tests and several others I don’t remember. What made his situation unique and a little scary is that the mass was so close to his skull. We would find out over the next several days that he had Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer and that he would have surgery and his first chemo on Christmas Eve.

Osteosarcoma makes up about 2% of all childhood cancer, so not a very common cancer, but not the most rare either. What really made Luke’s cancer unique, was the location. Almost all Osteosarcoma patients have the growth or mass found in their limbs, legs, arms, feet, hands, places like that.

For doctors to find Osteosarcoma so close to the skull was extremely rare. I believe that was by design. But to be clear, God did not give my son cancer. Let me write that again, “God did not give my son cancer!!! But he allowed it. God is good all the time! And I believe He made sure it was rare. But I will write more about that in future posts.

dad and childhood cancer survivor
When you have cancer, it’s bad news no matter who you are. Cancer sucks! I don’t know why certain people get cancer and others don’t. I don’t know why my son got a non-terminal cancer and other children get terminal cancers. But what I do know is God is in control of all of it. And if you trust in Him, He will give you the strength to get through it, no matter the outcome.

I praise God everyday that our son's cancer was not terminal. I remember thanking God that it wasn’t terminal. My prayer was “God you are so good. I am not sure why we are going through this, but I thank you it is not terminal. Thank you Lord, thank you. Thank you that we get an opportunity to fight this." I know some can’t say that, and I grieve for them.

how I found out son cancer
If you are going through a similar struggle, my hope is that no matter what kind of cancer you or your child might have, you will be encouraged to fight and encouraged to stay positive. And maybe someday you can share your story too.

I want to leave you with this, a simple prayer that I have prayed before and I will pray right now.

“Dear God, thank you giving me the strength to get through Luke’s cancer. Thank you for allowing me to be a source of joy for Luke as he went through it. Lord I would have gladly changed places with Luke, so he did not have to go through it. But thank you for giving him the strength to see your Love in it. I am praying for all the people who will hear our story, who will read this post, who will meet us in person, I hope they see You in all that we do. Don’t let us hide your Love from them as I often do, but let us be the light you intended."

If you are going through a similar struggle, whether you or a loved one are going through cancer, we are available to talk any time. You can find our contact info in the 'About Us' section at the top of our site. If you want to read more about our journey, you might also like:


Chef Battle San Diego Highlights and Photo Recap

Chef Battle San Diego is a local San Diego event that highlights the culinary stylings of four local Southern California and San Diego chefs. They compete for one hour, sautéing, chopping,  and wielding their chef knives like the pros they are. After the competition, guests and attendees get to sample the culinary offerings each chef whipped up.

We had so much fun at the event. Each chef must race to the ingredient table, securing their ingredients for their dish within one minute. The chefs are all local to San Diego.

The Chefs Battling It Out

Chef A.C. of Canape Catering and Toronado SD

Chef Khaddy of Cooking With Khaddy

Chef Stevan Novoa of NV Personal Dining

Chef Mike of Stag Bar & Kitchen and Dori Deli

Chef A.C. made deconstructed California Burrito with a blackberry salsa (and handmade potato crisps) , Chef Mike made delicious vegan tacos plated with leafy greens, Chef Khaddy made a fried noodle dish representative of her filipino culture, and Chef Stevan made a tasty chorizo slider with an avocado dressing.

Chef Mike in action.

 Our Host for the day Samantha Thomas.

Chef Mike's souf chef, firing up the wood chips.

Chef Stevan's chorizo.

Chef A.C. in action!

Chef Mike's plated Vegan Tacos.

Chef Khaddy San Diego

Chef Khaddy's deliciousness...So many flavors!

My choice for winner was definitely Chef A.C.'s deconstructed California Burritos!

Chef Battle San Diego Recap

Chef Battle is a nationwide food battle event that is happening in cities across the U.S. Along with Chef Battle San Diego, there is also Chef Battle Spokane and Chef Battle Chicago as well as it's sister event Say Cheese Fest. To stay updated on any other local chef battle events and festivals in your area, visit Social Power Hour

Chef Batle San Diego Event