Tessie Sylvester, a mom of two boys, Freddy, 5, and Gus, 6, was coping with her husband's tragic death from ALS at the age of 44 when her doctor told her she has cancer. The 36-year-old, who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, told WCCO her doctor said 'It’s cancer and it doesn’t look good.’ In fact, Tessie Sylvester has adenocarcinoma, a type of cancerous tumor that doctors say has metastasized to her liver and lymph nodes.
It had only been hours prior that Sylvester was spending her last moments with her husband, John, a former Minnesota Thunder soccer player. “John and I just kept crying and praying and he kept telling me ‘It’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay,’ ” she told WCCO.
Her husband's battle with ALS is all her boys "have ever known," she tells Parents.com exclusively. "Gus was 1-year-old when John was diagnosed with ALS, Freddy wasn't even born yet," she says. "Once we got John's diagnosis, I went down to working two days a week, so that we could have as much time together as possible. And we always managed to find laughter and happiness, in large part due to our two little boys. The boys always knew that daddy has ALS -- or as they would say, 'Daddy is getting old' -- but they are so sad that they can't be with him anymore."
Of course, Sylvester is devastated at the thought of having to leave her children behind. "I just can't bear to even think about them having to lose me, as well," she says. "That is why I am willing to do whatever I can to fight this for as long as I can. I refuse to believe that they will be without their dad and mom."
In the meantime, she plans to tell her children about her diagnosis tomorrow. "My treatment will start on Tuesday, and there will be no hiding it after that," Sylvester explains. "Telling them is the scariest thing I am facing, to be honest. They saw their dad battle such a terrible disease, and we always tried to tell them, 'It's OK, Daddy will be here tomorrow.' But, of course, that's not how it ended. And they know that now. So, when I tell them I fear that they will immediately think the same fate awaits me. One thing I plan to repeat over and over again is that, 'Mommy is sick, BUT the doctors can help me. ... And the medicine they use might make me seem sick or tired, but that just means it's working, and I will be okay. I will be okay, and I will always be there to hold them and to be their mommy. No matter what."
In the meantime, Sylvester has been turning to a Mary Anne Radmacher quote her godmother gave her when they first got John's ALS diagnosis: "Courage doesn't always roar; sometimes, courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow.'" "This has been my mantra," Sylvester explains. "I keep getting up, I continue to be grateful for the things that I do have, for my boys, and for the love that surrounds me."
Because the mom of two is self-insured and will not be able to work while she gets treatment, her sister Jenny Halverson set up a GoFundMe page. "Please help," Halverson writes. "Donate now. And make it possible for Tessie to get the treatment she needs and to spend as much time as possible with her beloved sons." They also ask that supporters use the hashtag #helpforsylvesters.
Sylvester says she's most heartened by people who have offered their "thoughts, prayers, donations, doctor referrals, positive energy." And for the "comfort and hope" these things have given her, Sylvester says, "I will never be able to thank everyone for what they have already done."