Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

November 2, 2013

'Parents of the Year'

WILLIAMSBURG— It’s been six years since doctors detected an aggressive cancer in John VanDusen’s saliva gland on the right side of his face.

The grim diagnosis not only tested his family’s faith, but helped shape its future.

“There were times when John would call and the chemo was making him sick and the kids would stop and pray for him,” said his wife, Karen. “Then he slept really good that night. He was gone three months without us. I don’t know what they did before cell phones.”

Early on, doctors decided to attack John’s cancer with an arsenal of radiation and chemo, but it meant a long stay at the Detroit Karmanos Cancer Hospital.

The struggle inspired Melody VanDusen, the couple’s daughter, to write about the faith that kept her family strong during that time in a winning “Parents of the Year” essay submitted to Lake Superior State University. Her first place award means John and Karen VanDusen will be honored during the university’s Nov. 8-10 homecoming weekend.

“We’re invited to sit in the president’s box and watch the hockey game and sometime during the game we’ll go on the ice and be awarded the plaque and be introduced as Melody’s parents and she’ll go with us,” Karen said.

Melody, now 25, was attending Northwestern Michigan College at the time of her father’s treatment; her younger brother was in high school. John often reminded her that faith in God would pull them through, she wrote.

“To this day, my father still stands as a reminder of the power of positive thinking and faith in God above,” she wrote.

Her mother had her own challenges, she wrote. Toward the end of the 2009-10 school year, she learned her job was getting cut, forcing her into a tough decision. She would either have to find new work or learn how to drive a school bus.

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