To The Dad of a Child with Cancer

You are appreciated.

I see you. I see you every single day you walk into the hospital. I see the look on your face after you’ve spent an entire day at work and now about to spend the entire evening on a couch 3x too small for you. I see your eyes dim the second you walk onto the oncology unit, but then light up the second you lay eyes on your child. You are appreciated.

I saw your face the day your child’s mother broke into pieces when she heard your child had cancer. I saw you do everything in your power to hold it together, to be strong for your family and to rationalize the future that lay before you. You didn’t fall apart, although we all would understand if you did. I want you to know it’s okay to not be okay. You are appreciated.

The day you received education on the types of chemotherapy your child would be receiving is a day I won’t forget. You asked questions, you took notes, you listened and you continuously comforted your family. I thought it was incredible how much multi-tasking you could do at one time, when I knew your heart must be bursting at the seams with agony. When I mentioned a few side effects, I watched your thoughts start turning. You mentioned that you would shave your head in solidarity, too. I want you to know, you are appreciated.

I saw your face when you were talking about financial logistics with your family and social worker. How could a treatment that is 100% medically necessary to save a child be so expensive? It’s incredibly wrong. You might not have said a word about it, but I saw the fear of the unknown settle on your face. You likely felt the financial burden laying on your shoulders, even if that isn’t the case. I want you to know, you are appreciated.

I saw your face when your child was inconsolable while the team was trying to figure out what to do, in terms of care. Turns out, your sweet one just wanted daddy. I noticed the discomfort on your face when you want/need to be two places at once, but you can’t. You constantly struggle with bills needing to be paid and your boy wanting you by his side. I’m so sorry this is even a decision that has to be made… I want you to know, you are appreciated.

I noticed the quietness that overcame you when you were the only parent there on the weekend because mama needed a break and the siblings needed some normalcy. It was a particularly rough weekend, nausea and vomiting, you would have changed places with your child in a heartbeat and knowing you couldn’t was making you come out of your skin. You did everything in the world to comfort them. I want you to know, you are appreciated.

I saw your expression when you had to help me give your child several oral medications. They went from never even having Tylenol, to now taking steroids, antibiotics, anti-hypertensives and more. It seemed like it was moving so quickly and medication time was easily one of the hardest parts of the day. You adapted so well, even though I know it was bothering you on the inside. I want you to know, you are appreciated.

You’re home as a family for the first time in 10 days. Everyone just got settled into bed and you’re having time on the couch, winding down, trying to take in the new normal. You know you have a long work day tomorrow, but you’ll worry about that then. An hour or so passes and right before you head to bed, you check their temperature, “just in case.” The dreaded 101.4 fever. You call the oncologist, pack up the car and head to the hospital. Work starts in 6 hours, but your child is #1. You don’t even complain. I want you to know, you are appreciated.

I saw the excitement in your face when you were able to take off work to be there for the end of chemo celebration! You were the proudest parent within 100 miles and it showed on every ounce of your body. The longest road, it seemed, but as a family, you conquered the giant. I want you to know, you are appreciated.

I saw the devastation in your eyes when you were called in the middle of the work day to come to the hospital. “The plans have changed” you were told. The treatment options were scarce and some horribly painful decisions had to be made and quick. I want you to know, you are appreciated.

I saw your face and your expressions on the good, the bad and the ugly days. As a society, I feel there is too much pressure on dads to hold it together, often leaving them to grieve on their own. I want you to know, that’s never expected inside an oncology ward. We see you. We value you. We respect you. We want you to know, you are appreciated.

To the Father of a Child with Cancer as Father’s Day is Approaching:

You are appreciated.

Love,

A pediatric oncology nurse who sees you, cares deeply for you and desperately wants you to know, you are appreciated.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

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