Canopy {Anna Turner}

Six years ago this month, my eldest/oldest/elder/older daughter…

Okay sidenote – the #1 grammar correction I receive on a regular basis is my use of “eldest/elder daughter” or “oldest/older daughter.” When I use “eldest/er,” someone suggests I should use “oldest/er”. When I use “oldest/er,” someone suggests I used “eldest/er.” I consulted the internet grammar gods and a few English teachers….the general consensus is I can use either to describe the daughter in our family that was born 2 years before the other daughter. There is also a ton of debate regarding this topic on the grammar boards of the internet gods. Let’s be honest – I’m doing good just posting these days. Please give me grace on my grammar mistakes – grammar is only one of my many shortcomings!  I guess I could go back to using nicknames for my kids or their ages. I’m going to go with older and will be sticking with it because I’m exhausted trying to figure out which one will make the least amount of people cringe. Grace…I need lots of grace!

Okay, back to the point of this post.

Six years ago this month, my older daughter broke her leg. Actually, she fractured her femur and it was a HUGE fracture. She ended up in traction in the hospital for over three weeks. At the time, she was a few months shy of her second birthday. I am still not sure how we made it so many weeks with an almost 2 year old, who was stuck on her back.

The entire duration of her stay she was on the pediatric oncology floor since she was there for a longer stay and wasn’t contagious. As we walked the halls we got to see other patients….little patients battling really big battles.

I thought of those patients and their families daily. I knew soon we’d leave and head back to our normal routine at home. In a few months it would be as if we were never there. Her stay in the hospital was long enough that I saw some kids leave and come back for chemo treatments. Little heads should be bald because of a bad haircut not because of a battle with cancer. Cancer sucks. I remember seeing one door with a “Transplant” sign taped to it. Thinking about the family on the other side of that door shattered my heart.

I couldn’t help but push my girl around the floor and wonder why we had it so good. There I was with a little girl singing If You’re Happy and You Know It while waving at nurses…other moms were praying their child would receive a much needed transplant or hoping that that round of chemo would work.


Six years later – I can’t keep her feet on the ground.Canopy-12During those three weeks, I left the hospital for a total of 30 minutes. Thankfully, many friends and family stopped by and changed up the pace of our days. I vividly remember the day my friend Anna stopped by my daughter’s room. Anna and I talked about the other patients on the floor – specifically the children battling cancer. Anna and I grieved for the parents and children on the floor. We could not imagine what life was like for the patients and their parents.

A couple weeks later Anna, who has three boys, received the news that her youngest son had a brain tumor.

A brain tumor.

The life neither of us could imagine was all the sudden Anna’s reality.

Over the next year of treatments and surgeries, Anna journaled. She filled 6 full 3-ring binders with journal entries, notes, and letters.  I’ve watched over the years as Anna has taken a deeply personal and heartbreaking experience and turned it into something to help other families. She recently published Canopy: A 366 Days For parents of critically ill children using the content of those binders. It is the book no one wants to write, but if you are a parent in that situation, I imagine you’d be grateful to be reminded you are not alone…to hear a voice that understands and has walked the road that stretches out in front of you.

Gabe, Anna’s youngest son, is now 5 years post-treatment, NED (No Evidence of Disease). Today, I am celebrating the life of a little boy I love and a woman I admire and respect.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetAnna is not on social media. I can’t link to her blog or her Instagram account – they don’t exist. Neither does her Facebook fan page or Twitter account. She is a woman full of grace and dignity, who lives quietly serving those around her. She didn’t write this book for accolades. She didn’t write it to gain a following. She doesn’t have aspirations to make the NYT Bestseller list. She quietly published a book to help parents, who like her, find themselves in a life centered in a medical world that could be defined by fear, worry and despair. She wrote it to offer hope.

My desire is that none of you know someone who could use Canopy. However, I also know the reality of critical childhood illnesses and that, unfortunately, many of you are already thinking of another parent who could use this book.

If you would like more information on Canopy, it is currently available on Amazon.


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  • Jenny B. - Wow. I remember when Firecracker broke her leg. My middle is her same age, and I remember trying to / trying not to imagine him in her situation. Now, my youngest is almost 2, and I can imagine again how very difficult that would be. I think of all that you guys have been through, and I’m just amazed. I am guessing you don’t feel amazing, but you truly are. I know it is because of the Lord working through you. Thank you for sharing about your friend, Anna, and her book. I was so thankful to read that Gabe is now healthy. Wow.

  • Maria - “Grace…I need lots of grace!”

    Can’t help but smile, because my last name (and my family’s) is Grace 🙂

  • Glenda - Thank you for this information Ashley. God’s timing is always perfect. We have friends (who coincidentally are also Campbells!) dealing with the very same kind of cancer in their young grandson, and tomorrow is a big day for them. I just ordered the book.

  • Nancy Farmer - Grace….you’ve got it. Grammar is certainly not my strong point but caring is.

  • Byron - A very wonderful Orthodox priest responding to a comment on his blog: “We converts have many failings. Mine are legion.”


    It’s posts like this that remind me amazing parents (such as you and Chris, who raise up amazing kids) usually became amazing by going through immense trials. Blessings!

  • amber - I stopped by for the first time in quite a while:/, & this post made me cry! Gosh I remember when that sweet, rambunctious baby was tied down to a hospital bed. So crazy how time changes things so quickly!
    And thank you for sharing this book. We have a family in our church walking through some just awful, hard, terrible things & hopefully this will offer the tiniest hope to that mama’s weary heart.
    Also. Grammar? Haha! I’m just thankful you still post your faith-filled messages on here! Who cares what’s spelled right or said correctly. It’s all about the heart anyway! 🙂

  • Romina MacGibbon - i am so afraid of Cancer. And even more afraid that my kids can get it. When we become moms, we become so vulnerable for ever. I feel so strong and fragile at the same time. I also remember these photos from six years ago. I wasn’t a mom at that time, and now I see them with another eyes. It must have been so terrible. I never ever want to be in a hospital with my daughter. I don’t feel strong enough to cope with sickness, but when it happens, the strengh comes from within. I admire all the Anna’s out there.
    — Grammar? I’m from Argentina, I try my best! 🙂

  • Debbie H - OH MY – I had no idea this ever happened to Firecracker. I must have started following you soon after this. I cannot imagine this for a two year old, or her parents, or her siblings! You have risen another level for me on the admiration scale, and I’m not sure I thought that was possible.

    I too will order several of these books. There will be a time when I need one on my shelf to share, as I have many clients with small children, and well, the odds just suck. I’m also going to donate one to our Church Library.

    And SERIOUSLY! People comment on your GRAMMAR! hahaha PLEASE. The reference to elder is maybe more “midwest speak” as that was very common language to me always growing up. I am the eldest of 4 children in our family 🙂 Language use has so many regional applications.

    Hugs to you and your aging family! Crazy how they are changing. Especially your eldest! 🙂 Enjoy your upcoming travels! It will be a year to remember, and I will enjoy watching through what you share.

  • Chantel Klassen - Wow, this post just made me realize that I’ve been following you for over 6 years! Seems like a lifetime in the blog world. I remember reading your posts back when Firecracker (your older/oldest/elder/eldest daughter) broke her leg . . . and yes, in a place like that it’s easy to be thankful it was just a break.
    I can’t think of anyone I know that would benefit from Canopy just now but I’m tucking it in the back of my mind for future reference. So good to hear her little guy is doing well now! <3

  • Sapphire - I’m so pleased your friend has written this book. My 5 year old daughter doesn’t have cancer, but does have a serious heart defeat, 3 open heart surgeries later and she will need a heart transplant. the hospital life is a surreal one, and one not really discussed.

  • Seamingly Sarah - What a loving and sad gift for your friend to bring to the world. I am sure it is much needed. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Emily Bartnikowski - I remember those posts — and whenever I talk to my family about something you’ve posted I refer to you as “Firecracker’s mom.” Thank you for letting me know about the book. What a heartbreaking story with a happy ending!

    (And don’t worry about the grammar – English is confusing enough as it is!)

  • Jenny L. - My son who is now 23 broke his femur completely in half on a skateboard ramp at the age of 6. He was in our local hospital and then came home but spent the entire summer in a body cast and went back to school with crutches. We then had to take him over to Nemours Clinic in the central part of Florida and it was in that doctor’s office that I saw lots of kids with problems that didn’t come close to ours. His leg had healed short but the doc said it would improve with age and it did. It will cause him no problems as an adult. I had the same thoughts as you. The doctor was a lovely Christian man who must have been such a blessing to the parents of the children he was seeing. I would see the kids and their parents in the waiting room and my heart would break. It hurt so much when he broke his femur and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for my child to have a permanent condition or a terminal one. So happy to hear that your friend’s story had a happy ending!