Written by Tim Irvine
In 2017, Tim Irvine’s life was as peaceful as could be expected, with three small children to keep him and his wife busy. Their kids, aged three, five, and seven, were all healthy. Tim had recently decided to leave his teaching and farming career behind, and the whole family had excitedly moved to a new community, where he could serve as a pastor for the church.
Then, out of nowhere, the unexpected came. Tim was slurring his words and stumbling, his movements awkward. He started losing feeling on his left side. His wife wanted to take him to the ER, but Tim thought the symptoms would pass and went back to work. Unconvinced and still very concerned, his wife trusted her gut instincts and packed the family’s bags for an extended stay in Regina. She insisted on making the three-hour drive to get him to the ER that night.
Tim recalls, “I really thought it was all unnecessary until the CT scan revealed a mass on my brain.” Weeks later, pathology revealed that the mass was a grade 3 glioma – a type of tumour that emerges in the cells surrounding and supporting the neuron network of the brain.
The next year was a blur of medical procedures and appointments. Tim got a craniotomy (brain surgery that requires removal of bone), 36 rounds of radiation, and a year of chemotherapy – but eventually made his return to work. It was not meant to be, though. With diminished capacity and recurrent symptoms, he realized he needed extended rest. “Our home church in Regina offered us their ministry house to live in,” he explains. “So, we packed the van full, making sure we took the piano. We came home.”
Though Tim’s wife found work, there still wasn’t much room for music lessons in this new lifestyle. “Without the same income, we didn’t think our kids could continue piano lessons,” Tim says. At one point, their previous instructor encouraged them to apply to Creative Kids and ask for a grant to help keep their kids’ music dreams alive. Thinking it was a long shot with little chance of success, they sent in the application anyway.
“I remember the day when the letter came,” Tim remembers. “It said that all three kids received full funding. I dropped to my knees in thanksgiving and tears of praise. It was like a gift from heaven.”
After all they had lost and endured, this funding would ensure that their children wouldn’t lose this outlet, too.
A new challenge arose when COVID lockdowns brought a halt to in-person lessons. Like so many other people in the arts, the instructor changed tactics and continued teaching virtually. “Mrs. Val brought music into our home in such a dreary season. She laughed with the kids and gave them a connection during isolation.”
Now, it’s been five years since the first diagnosis, and Tim is stable but no longer works. Thanks to Creative Kids, their children have not lost the music that is so important to them, even after all this time. “Each year, we apply to Creative Kids and wonder if it’s over. To our astonishment, this gift keeps giving. Continuing to be recipients has been just as overwhelming as the first day we opened that letter.”
Today, with three kids still in lessons, the sound of music from their little fingers fills the Irvine home. “We have come through the darkness together, and often rejoice with our kids through music singing songs of praise.”