For those following the podcast, or even just watched the trailer, my family has been in the world of childhood cancer for over seven and a half years now. This journey has taught me many things over the years, and there's probably numerous things I wish I could go back and tell myself before the journey began. However, I can't but hopefully this will help others in the future that embark on this type of journey. When I started thinking about this concept, several things came to my mind, but one thing kept on popping up in my thoughts, and looking back, I feel like knowing this would have done wonders for me.
Society has painted this picture of what a dad should be to their family. A dad is one who is looked at as the protector, the provider, the strong one, always in control and for my whole tenure as a father, I tried to live up to those standards as a father. These standards, though, are something that if I could go back and tell myself anything, I would tell me to forget most of them. Particulary, I would forget the standard of always being the strong one of the family. Well, I don't necessarily think you have to completely forget it, as much as I think you just have to alter it, because in the world of Childhood Cancer, living by the version of those standards society sets, will almost ruin you, mentally and physically in this world. Let's take a look at this to give you a better understanding of what I mean.
My opinion on this topic, some may agree with, but some may not. When we first found out our son had cancer, I was determined I was going to be strong for my family and nothing was going to break me. It was a struggle from the very start, because honestly I was fighting to do something that I should have never been trying to do from the start. I have learned over the years that being strong doesn't mean you don't display emotions, or that you don't breakdown in front of people. No, for me, I actually believe now that being strong is doing just that and for all you dads out there, by grasping that and letting those things happen, actually do more good for your family than not doing it. I have learned that it’s okay to be upset, and honestly its okay for you to be upset in front of your wife and kids. I think it shows your kids, especially, that it is okay to feel a certain way and it doesn't mean you are any more less of a person. I found out the hard way, trying to constantly put on a front, is more exhausting than its worth and does more damage to you in the long run. I can remember my wife telling me multiple times she wishes she would just see me cry one time, or express my pain and sorrow in front of her. I didn't understand it at the time but I do now. This may come to you as shocking, but guess what dads? We are human, and it is okay to be human. Society can't set the standards of how you are suppose to be, because society isn't the one going through what you are going through. Over the last couple of years, I have accepted the fact that I am broken, which a journey through the world of Childhood Cancer will do that to you, and I don't think there is anyway around it. My acceptance of that, though, has done wonders, and even after seven years of watching my family battle, I believe that accepting that fact, has strengthen me more now, and allowed me to be more of the father/husband my family needs during this time. I can remember a conversation my wife and I had a while back, and in that conversation I realized that we were both tired, mentally more than anything. I honestly think, I was more drained from the first couple of years of putting on that front. Dads of children who have cancer, and those that will be in the future, tell yourself now, and say it out loud if that's what you need to do to make yourself understand it. The strongest I have felt during this whole time is when I come to the realization its okay to have moments that I am not.
Corey Johnson, a father of a child with cancer, spoke with me about this topic and this is what he felt he would tell himself if he could go back:
"There is not a one size fits all approach. You will meet many people, along your path that had different plans, treatments, and results. Each person's journey is as unique as the inidividual's themselves. There is no reason to look at other situations and apply them to yours. As hard as it is to say, just enjoy the moments in the journey you get to spend with your family. Take advantage of the time and dedicate focus on love within your relationships. See those around you and give them the most care and attention that you can. Be more patient, kinder and more caring."