1000 families project tasha and talyn

1,000 Families Project: Tasha and Talyn

In 2010, Tasha’s husband and Talyn’s dad, Ryan, passed away after a lengthy battle with an incurable brain tumour. Almost five years later the loss still stings—but the lessons live on.

“Maybe if we can get the heaven guys some new medicine and it works, they can give our daddy back?”

In 2010, my husband Ryan passed away from brain cancer after a 12-year battle with the “beast” that took up residence inside his head.

In his last year, Ryan decided to use a treatment option that, while not a cure, was able to extend his life—and quality of life—for as long as possible. This meant our son, Talyn, was old enough to have real memories of him. In fact, Ryan passed away exactly one month before Talyn turned five, and I know for certain that it had a huge influence in helping our little boy grow into the thoughtful, respectful and caring little man he now is at almost 10.

But while I would never trade those memories for anything, the reality is that remembering his awesome dad has made it that much harder for Talyn to accept that Ryan is gone.

At first, Talyn spent a long time trying to figure out how we could get his Daddy back. I endured countless heart-wrenching conversations and had to continue to tell him that it just wasn’t possible.
Undeterred, the conversation then shifted—if he couldn’t come to us, how we could get to him? More terrible conversations ensued about what we’d need to do and questions about why I couldn’t have died instead so he could still have his Daddy. After this phase, we had about a year of challenging parenting moments where I quickly realized that being both the “bad cop” and the “good cop” really made me the “bad cop” all the time in Talyn’s eyes.

Today, it still stings. As Talyn enters each new year of his life without his dad, he experiences that gap differently. Now trying out hockey for the first time, I can tell you there aren’t many moms in the change rooms. But we somehow make it all work. In some ways this experience made him grow up a lot quicker than most and ask questions about things that most 10-year-olds don’t have to think about.

Through it all, I’ve learned that even though we don’t have family that lives nearby, the phrase “it takes a village” is absolutely true. Some key friends really leaned in and helped to fill the giant gap that Ryan left behind—or at least some of it. Things like teaching Talyn how to ride a bike, taking him to the skating rink to help him ice skate or teaching him how to play Warlords, one of Ryan’s favourite video games.

I know that as Talyn continues to grow, we’ll continue to face challenges along the way. But I also know that we have made it this far, and with the support of friends and family, we’ll continue to make it through and be stronger for it in the end.

If you’re facing a similar situation, know that you’re not alone. Those of us that have walked in similar shoes can’t make it go away, but we want to remind you that you’re stronger than you think you are and are sending you all of our strength, too.

This is #1000families post number 68. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.

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Tasha Westerman

About Tasha Westerman

Tasha Westerman lives in Calgary with her son Talyn. In his final days, Ryan chronicled his story, which became the book Stop, Drop and Smile. Proceeds from Ryan’s e-book will go to Give A Mile, a not-for-profit that crowd-funds travel points to enable people to visit terminally ill family and friends. View all posts by

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