Hearing the word cancer changed my life in every way imaginable.
There suddenly became only one focus, staying alive. All plans, jobs, missions, went out the window. Getting healthy was all that existed.
At the same time I hear cancer, sitting by my side, holding my hand and hearing it too are my soon to be wife and our two year old son. In a way, my whole family was diagnosed.
Being the patient, I was tasked with all things cancer and getting better. However, the rest of my life couldn’t just stop; family can’t just stop. What about being a husband? Being a dad? Work, bills, everything else? Basically everything I had going on in life was put on hold, or left to my family to handle. (Even worse was not being able to do any of this, even when I wanted to.)
Raising a child, work and school present enough challenges of their own, adding cancer to the mix created a new complexity. How does one explain cancer to a two year old? One day, I went out the door only to come home a month later using a walker to make it back in. How does one explain why Dad is now sick all the time, his hair is falling out in clumps, and his bones are sticking out like a skeleton’s? Why can’t Dad go outside and play? And worst of all, why Daddy is in the hospital and can’t be home to say “goodnight” every night like before?
How do I tell my fiancée (who I met when I was 12, asked to marry and created a family with) that I need to step back and put our lives all on her for a bit? Every part of life that we both share and have worked toward is now up to her to keep together. If raising a two year old child along with putting food on the table, and keeping roof over everyone’s head isn’t hard enough, cancer brought more challenges. Doctor visits and emergency room trips, medications and surgeries, appointments and side effects of every kind became a random daily juggling act to our family routine.
The greatest challenge of all may have been the uncertainty and the emotional “side effects” that someone diagnosed with cancer endures. There is no schedule. You are never sure if you will make it through the day. You are afraid to plan for the future, because you are not sure if you will be there for it. The family learns a new “normal” which for us was making it work. We didn’t have a choice over our cancer diagnosis, but we chose to stick together through all of the challenges and this rollercoaster of health issues and emotional baggage thrown at us.
My family was diagnosed with cancer, and while it was devastating, beating cancer with my family made us so much stronger.
T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Survivor
One year into remission- December 2017