Being a Dad With Cancer During the Holidays

I recently needed to shave the beard I’ve had for 10 years. My six-year-old daughter looked up at me and said, “Daddy, do you want some of my hair to fill in your beard?”

Being a dad with cancer isn’t easy. Being a dad with cancer during the festive holiday season when your kids just want to play and celebrate really isn’t easy.

I’ve been battling cancer for about five years and I’m currently dealing with my third recurrence. In some previous years, I’ve been in the middle of chemo when the holiday season came around. For anyone else in this situation, I highly suggest seeing if you can schedule your chemo recovery weeks around the actual days you want to spend with your loved ones. My medical oncology team at Roswell was amazing at making these accommodations.

But, even during the weeks you are off chemo, you still don’t feel great. My oldest daughter knows the general concept of my cancer and she understands that when I take my medicine I don’t feel well. It’s kind of heartbreaking though because she’ll innocently say things like, “Daddy has been in bed all week!” It feels like I’m letting her down. It stings.

I still do everything in my power to make the holidays special for my family, no matter how I’m feeling. All I can do is put my best face forward and try to be strong for the kids. I’m grateful to have a lot of family around who can help pick up the slack and keep things going. I lean on them all the time, but especially during the holidays.

This year has brought an extra challenging situation. Unfortunately, after six rounds of chemo, my tumor grew 20-25%. I was frustrated. My doctors advised that we needed to schedule an intensive surgery as quick as possible. It was scheduled for two days before Thanksgiving. I initially thought this would be okay because my wife and I do a Friendsgiving with all our friends before the actual holiday. But, when my daughter found out, she got upset that daddy wasn’t going to be there for Thanksgiving. I put a request in with Dr. Skitzki’s team and they were able to push it back until the week after. I’m so grateful for the little things like this that make such a huge difference.

Christmas is coming up, and I will be about a month out of surgery. I’ll be beaten up a little bit, and sitting more than normal. I won’t be down on the ground helping the kids open their presents. But I will be there, and that’s what matters most.

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Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.