He has what?!

2015-08-16  IMG_0285Naive: At 10 years old, most children think that their parents are immortal. We live in a fantasy world where death might exist but it’s so far removed from us that it never even crosses our minds. So one winter afternoon when my parents sat my sister (she was 8 years old at the time) and I down to talk, my first thought automatically was “oh no what did I do this time.”

My dad proceeded to tell us that he had cancer and would be beginning chemotherapy that week. My mind started to spin, “don’t people die from cancer?”, “there’s no way MY dad can die”, etc.

The Explanation: Now at this point, my parents could have “silverlined it” as Brene Brown said. They could have sworn he would be fine, explained nothing or even sent us to live with our grandparents, but they didn’t. They were honest, open and empathetic. They lay out what the next 9 months of our lives would look like, told us what to expect and even what could happen.

Most people were shocked that my sister and I knew so much, they couldn’t believe that my parents had shared everything with such young young children. My parents knew what they were doing though. By explaining everything to us, they brought my sister and I into the fight and allowed us to share in this tough but meaningful journey.

That week my sister and I helped my dad shave his head, we sat with him through his first chemo session and we rubbed his back at night when he felt sick. We were so scared but we got to be scared together, with our parents, and that made it OK.

Our parents also set new boundaries: no screaming and running through the house, no fighting and no giving up. My sister and I learned to settle our own disagreements, we tried to help clean and cook, and we realized that there was so much more to life than just our own needs and wants.

Grateful: Not only did my parents level with us and maintain an honest, open dialogue throughout this whole time, but they worked as hard as they could to make it a positive experience. A time in our lives where hopefully we would have some good memories.

My dad let us put temporary tattoos all over his now bald head and then bring him into our classes for show and tell. At one point, he was in the hospital for 2 weeks straight and we got to eat chocolate pudding or Gushers every time we visited him (a big treat back then). Our grandparents even came out to visit and brought us a dog, which we had been begging for for years. None of these things were meant to distract us from what was really happening or sugarcoat stuff though, they were just meant to help bring joy to us at a time when it was difficult to find.
My dad has now been in remission for 11 years and is healthier than I ever! This experience brought my family closer together and gave us a new appreciation for what we took for granted. Whenever I look back on that year I remember the sadness and the fear, but I also remember the happiness and the laughter we found in the little things. I know the way my parents treated us and the things they did are the only reason I can manage to even write about this today. I am forever grateful that they chose empathy over sympathy and allowed themselves to be vulnerable with us.



5 thoughts on “He has what?!

  1. Sammy,

    It is great to hear your Dad is doing better, after so many years too! I unfortunately lost my Grandmother this year to breast cancer. This was hard to deal with, especially on my Mom. But in the end, this tragedy has only brought us closer. It is nice that your parents didn’t try to sugarcoat anything and kept you guys in the loop. Cancer is a terrible disease and we will hopefully see treatments advance in our lifetime.


  2. Sammy,
    I am beyond happy to hear that your dad is in remission and thank you so much for sharing this story! I can only imagine how scary that would have been being sat down at 8 years old being told that sort of information. It sounds like you were very brave and handled everything really well. I also think it’s really inspiring that you look back at those hard years and are appreciative of being able to find the laughter in little things. We need more optimistic people like you in this world!


  3. Sammy,
    I am so glad to hear that your dad is doing well and healthier than ever! I cannot imagine how difficult that time must have been for you and your family. It seems like your parents handled this situation with great empathy and the best way that they could have. In times like these, silver lining and sugar coating cannot make things better, so I understand why you were told everything at such a young age. I am very impressed by your optimism and bravery. Again, I am so happy your dad is okay!


  4. Sammy,
    I am so happy to hear that your dad is doing better! It’s great that your parents were so honest with you about your fathers journey and that you were all so supportive of one another during this difficult time. I think its awesome that you were able to make so many great memories while maintaing a positive attitude during such a rough time. Thanks for sharing!


  5. Hi Sammy,
    It is great news to hear that your dad is in remission! I went through a similar situation with my father and it really helped, even at a young age, to know the details. Sugarcoating the situation would not help anything! Its amazing to see how strong you were through the process. I laughed at the tattoo part, my dad never let me do that!


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