Published: Monday, June 22, 2015 03:51 PM
Written by James Tyson
Having just passed my second Father’s Day as a “cancer dad”, I feel that I am now ready to say something about this experience.
Over the past 15 months my wife has very effectively relayed our family’s ordeal. Her ability to accurately and succinctly portray this rollercoaster ride is incredible. She puts so much of herself into these entries - our emotions, strengths, vulnerabilities and fears – exposed, out there for all to see. As a man this is much more difficult for me to do. Men, in general, play our cards “close to the vest”. Rarely do we lay them all out on the table revealing to everyone what we feel or fear. But here goes.
When Callen was first diagnosed and we were educated on what was to come, we carefully explained to him the need for frequent clinic visits with infusions, transfusions and invasive procedures. Life was going to be different from that point on. This was all scary enough for Katie and me, let alone for a then four year-old boy. After we finished Callen asked me, “Will you be there, too?” Without hesitation I said, “Yes.”
Then, with his chin pointed down and his big blue eyes looking up at me from under his brow, he asked very deliberately “Every single time?” I swallowed hard, bit my lip and fought to hold back the tears. “Every. Single. Time.” I assured him.
I had never felt so helpless. After all, as a father, I have a primal instinct to provide and protect. It may sound archaic, but I cannot deny its presence. All I could do was throw myself prostrate, beg God for mercy and pray for a miracle. I was useless.
Now, over a year into this journey, I’ve come to realize a lot. Recently at a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society benefit one of the speakers quoted a statistic. He said that in 1964 (which, by the way, is when I was 4 year’s old), a child diagnosed with acute leukemia had a 3% chance of survival. The fact that the same child today has a better than 90% survival rate is nothing short of a miracle. So miracles really do happen: just be patient.
I know that you can’t provide your children with everything they need (or think they need). You cannot protect them from all of the evils and uncertainties of this world. But if you can be there for them when they need you -every single time - then you are doing okay as a dad.
P.S. If not for the physicians, nurses and support staff at Virginia Ear, Nose and Throat Associates who have picked up call, covered OR cases and rescheduled patients (often at a moment’s notice), I would not have been able to both be there for my son and keep a roof over our heads. Thank you!