A peek behind the mask…

Kayla’s radiation mask

Yesterday was another whirlwind day in a string of already surreal experiences.

First stop: a radiology consult where we learned more than I care to know about photons & protons & the like.  I have a whole new appreciation for Brainiacs after dealing with all these brilliant docs the past couple of months – makes CompSc seem downright mundane :)   We discussed a specific plan for Kayla which will include 6 weeks of daily radiation.

Next stop: Casting & molding Kayla’s head.  OK this was bizarre.  First she lays her head & shoulders in a substance that hardens and forms a mold to keep her upper body from moving.  Secondly, they contour this heavy, wet plastic mesh over her face and within 10 minutes it hardens to form a perfect mask.

They warn that this can cause claustrophobia, but in typical Kayla fashion she simply held my hand and championed thru the whole procedure.   After they removed the mask,  I asked how she was doing and her glib response was “I realized how much I like to talk because I kept wanting to join in your conversations”  I guess it’s kind of like the dentist that keeps asking you questions after they’ve got your mouth pried open…oops :)

Third: Simulation and set up with a CT Scan.  From here, there are approximately 7 – 1o days of detailed and very complex procedures they run to prepare for the daily radiation therapy.

Fourth: Let’s throw in an oncology visit just to examine how chemotherapy will fit into the whole procedure.

As Kayla put it, ‘what a way to spend your last day of Christmas vacation!’

After all the challenging appointments & shocking news we’ve received since September, I was not looking forward to this day.  However, I intentionally approached it with my new VisionQuest model.  To know it wasn’t necessarily going to be easy but to ground myself for whatever would present itself on my path.  I did a lot of meditating before and reached out to prayer warriors to surround us with courage, strength, peace & wise decision making.

Behind the mask – a face of courage, wisdom & beauty (with a hint of sassiness :)

And then I met the day one moment at a time – facing both the hard stuff and seeking goodness & wisdom when it may arise.  And goodness we met.  Just as we have been surrounded by absolute angels at ACH throughout this whole experience, today was no different.  We were welcomed by a radiation tech who specializes in working with pediatric radiation patients and she offered up special gifts for Kayla like a scrapbook of her journey & the ability to customize her mask to make this experience more enjoyable. Those little personal human touches make all the difference – at no point was Kayla treated like a number & for that I am truly grateful.

In a bizarre way, we had a really good day together.  Bonding & connecting….often giggling about silly things like ideas on how to decorate her mask, the attractive hospital attire or simply imitating Nina Blackwood the 80s DJ from SiriusXM Satellite radio (total inside joke but SO funny!)

On some levels, we’ve been stripped bare on this journey.  In my unmasked state, I admit this is a crazy hard VisionQuest we are on.   And yet from that place of humble surrender & vulnerability, I feel so connected…

  • to this powerful young woman I journey side by side with
  • to my amazing son that so often reminds us the gift of living in the moment
  • to myself as I daily deepen my relationship with ME and am able to tap into the inner strength & wisdom that we all carry
  • to my community that chooses to walk beside us with SO MANY gifts of love & support
  • to our Creator who knows how our little VisionQuest somehow maps into the bigger quantum picture.

The doctor asked how is it that Kayla is doing so well.  Great question!  I truly believe it is because she/we choose to live Carpe Diem style (insert gangnam dance here).  When it’s a hard day we break it down moment by moment, be real with the darkness and then savour all the beautiful, sweet moments within it.

As for me, I don’t have to remove any mask to share how incredibly proud I am of my amazing brave, beautiful, brilliant, funny girl.  Kayla, as much as I dislike that this is our path, you inspire me everyday with the life you lead and it is a genuine honor to journey with you.  xo


About Shannon Duke

I'm Shannon Duke and I’ve combined my business skills with the wisdom that literally saved my life and have built a system that redefines success. Today I am passionate about helping you achieve life-fulfilling and life-enhancing success in both your business & personal life. Read My Story


  1. You are both really AMAZING ladies.

  2. Thank you for sharing your brillance and darkness (all at the same time) with us. And as horrible as it all is – it’s been an honor to journey with you. You and your beautiful children are truly the most inspiring humans and have cause me to reflect much more intentionally on each day.

    Power on my friends, there is power in prayer and community and sharing your Vision. Thank you.

    For Shannon’s friends who would like to know more about the Carpe Diem Fund and how to contribute to support our dear friends in their journey, please message me and I will send you the information. http://[email protected]

  3. I pray you keep your strength as positive as it was yesterday and that the day soon arrives when all of this journey is very far from you. XO

  4. Chad Cieslik says:

    I’m amazed at the strength and positive attitude the two of you possess.

  5. Cheryl Boyko says:

    I marvel at your strength and commitment to this entire process. You both demonstrate such strength, faith and love. I am in awe!!

    Lots of love and prayers for you all!

    Cheryl & Bob

  6. I am amazed at the strength you both possess. Love the mask and can’t wait to see how Kayla decorates it! Warrior-like I’m sure!

  7. The word “Abundance” comes to mind as I absorb this recent message. Shannon, you and Kayla, have an abundance of reality, truth, love, connection, fun, perspective, soulfulness and strength. It has inspired me to take each moment of everyday to a new level of awareness and celebration.
    My God continue to bless you all on your journey.
    All my love, Carin

  8. Mardi Gras is coming up.. Those masks are super cool.. We are having a Mardi Gras party so I was reading more about masks ,since we are having a mascarade evening. Tell Kayla Mardi Gras starts the Christian season of lent. I know you had a coming of age party, and often these are held in this season too.
    But what I learned was about the colors of Mardi Gras and the colors of the Mask.. Very ironic as I was reading about this today at the rink around 5:45 am.. Purple means JUSTICE. Gold -POWER, Green FAITH

  9. This mask idea may have to be a new craft idea for my Positive Thought patterns class. I can’t believe the inspiration that you pass on to me, even from a distance.
    Miss you and sending abundant positive thoughts.
    Love Sandra

  10. Diana Izzotti says:

    Beautiful girl. Look how serene Kayla is in her mask – like a Greek goddess. What an inspiration she is! And you Shannon – Sharing your love for you children and your highs and lows on this journey with us all – you are a marvel!
    Joy and love to all three of you. xx

  11. Cindy Schaber says:

    Strength, Beauty and Courage are the words I have for both of you 2 incredible women. Both of you so courageous in your choice of thoughts and to be able to break it down. You both continue to teach in inspire so much in this gift of life. Kayla is a courageous and amazing young woman as the Radiologist said and she would know. Continued healing prayers I will continue to send up for both of you through this journey. XOXO

  12. Andrea Palmer says:

    My wishes continue for you to have as much strength, safety, ease and wellbeing in this ordeal, as is humanly possible. You are two beautiful awe-inspiring warrior women on a quest like no other. I think the warrior mask is an perfect idea! May everything negative tremble at the sight of you and vanish forever! Much love, every day!

    • Kayla and Shannon – so amazing the two of you! May you continue with the divine beauty, strength, courage, grace and love that you both are graced with. You inspire us all to to live our lives and soldier on. May God be with you. xo

  13. You girls are absolutely amazing. I read of each step you take and can’t help but be blessed and inspired. Our prayers are with you. May God continue to be your hope strength and healer.

  14. Because of what I am learning from both of you, I now greet each day with the words “thank you” as my feet hit the ground. I continue to pray for your healing and feel the power of the combined positive energy being sent your way. Warriors you are.
    Love and friendship,

  15. Michelle Richardson says:

    Thanks so much for the update. Wow, you all get more and more inspiring at every turn. Thinking of all of you, sending lots of love & healing energy, and in perpetual awe of your honesty and Carpe Diem living. Shine on, indeed!! oxo P.S. Shannon, it would be great to receive an update on how things are going with your own healing journey. xoxox

  16. Heidi Gedlaman says:

    My goodness, how I love you.

  17. Oh Sweet Buddha Angel,

    I have been with you in spirit completely and fully these past days …. all the days before, but even more vividly since Tuesday. In my minds eye I see you symbolically contemplating beneath your personal Bodhi Tree …. a marvelous tree that represents your journey to infinity. This bodhi tree I see you sitting beneath is rooted in the ground …. with branches reaching up toward the heavens. Those branches represent freedom, ultimate liberation, and the transcendence of boundaries. I thank-you for teaching me what transcendence really means Shannon.

    I love you unconditionally and my gratitude cannot be measured..

    Love, M

  18. Dear Kayla,
    I remember making my mask for radiation – it is a bit surreal!! But you did handled the whole experience like the goddess that you are!! A decidedly alternative Godess to boot!! You do continue to amaze me with your wisdom beyond your years!! Both you and your Godess mom have made me grateful all over again for this moment right now! When I read how you are both navigating the dark moments and embracing what is good in each moment, I felt the weight of the world just lift off of my shoulders! How you continue to shoulder your journey and enlighten everyone around you is a gift that amazes me and just keeps on giving. You continue to be in our daily prayers – Keelan is adamant that no meal is started without first sending light to you two beautiful ladies and Tyler.

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