Fathering Through Cancer
Psychologist Sigmund Freud said, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”
But what happens when a father cannot protect?
Most fathers would go to the ends of the earth to prevent harm from coming to their children. But in the wake of a cancer diagnosis, dad is often unable to protect and must helplessly watch treatment unfold. How does a loving father cope with this?
To give you a sense, we spoke to three dads who have been at their child’s bedside through the heartache of cancer treatment.
Here’s what they said:
What was the hardest thing about watching your child go through treatment?
Andrew: Watching the emotional and physical misery the chemo caused was the hardest thing. I never really understood or knew how much it affected a person emotionally and physically until cancer entered my home.
Dustin: The hardest part is the feeling of helplessness as I watched Clayton suffer from the needles, surgeries, and getting sick after chemo. And there was nothing I could do but hold him down and try to comfort him.
Brandt: Watching your child endure physical pain and suffering and not knowing when or if it will end is obviously excruciating. But I honestly think the toughest part for me was seeing her fight the mental aspects; how this disease stole her childhood and made her grow up faster than it should. Peyton was snatched right out of life as a teenager, separated from family and friends, and forced to watch life go on without her: the pep rallies, homecoming dances, lacrosse games, sweet 16 birthday parties, spring break, holidays, etc… missing all of that was brutal.
What is the hardest part of leading your entire family through childhood cancer?
Andrew: Trying to manage the emotions that come with such a scary diagnosis – things like confusion, fear, and loneliness – which the entire family experiences, including myself.
Dustin: Trying to make the right decisions for my family and trying to make sure everyone in the family had a piece of my time.
Brandt: Parenting is hard enough as it is, but factor in fears along with our family being torn apart geographically for months at a time during hospital stays and it sometimes gets overwhelming. As positive as I’ve been through this, it’s really hard not to be anxious about the scars our family could have.
This keeps me up at night:
Andrew: The unknown of what tomorrow will be for Mike… If the doctors will tell us the cancer has returned.
Dustin: Wondering if the cancer is all gone. If it comes back, how would we handle it again?
Brandt: The fear of the cancer coming back.
Finish this sentence, “Sometimes, I just want to___”
Andrew: close my eyes and go to sleep, and wake up to find that this was all a nightmare, and that cancer never visited our lives.
Dustin: take it all on me and away from him.
Brandt: stop a complete stranger walking with his children and tell him, “you should hug them a little tighter tonight… you just never know if you will have that opportunity again.”
How has cancer changed you and how you father?
Andrew: Mostly it has made me appreciate the little things that I once took for granted. Cancer has made me express my love to my family more as a father, to be more patient with my boys, and give more of my time to my family and have more of a “work-life” balance.
Dustin: Cancer has made me realize that quality time is precious and we never know just how fast our life can change. There is nothing more important than making memories and spending quality time with my family. Also, I don’t get so upset over the small things… I take them for what they are.
Brandt: I think this has helped me be a better father and really focus on the here and now with my kids and the time I have with them. I’ve also learned to be very content with my circumstances. This is not the path I would have chosen for my child or my family or even me, but I do know that God has a master plan and that this is part of it.