The cold hard truth about the fight against childhood cancer is that when a child gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer. Looking back, I can’t begin to explain how amazing it is that we made it through. We are wounded and heart broken, forever changed, but we have lived to tell our experiences. I am always told how strong I am, but honestly, I couldn’t have made it through without Steve. To so many of the dad’s fighting for their children, I know it feels like they have been forgotten. They don’t get enough support for the pain they also experience. Steve is a warrior and he experienced the cancer fight in a different way than I did. Here is Steve’s perspective….Hayes’ cancer journey through Steve’s eyes! I am so proud of him and forever honored he is mine.
A Dad’s job is to solve the issue, take away the pain. For the first time in my life I was unable to do that for one of my kids. In fact, for the first time in my life I was unable to just fix it. I feel like I have always been able to succeed at whatever I have put my mind to. Whether it was with sports, with my career, or parenting, I have had the ability to overcome any obstacle. But not cancer. I felt helpless when I sat with Hayes. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I would sit and watch him go through the pain of the side effects, with fevers of over 103 degrees and my hands were completely tied. I couldn’t just take it away. Hayes and I shared some incredible moments together, some of which I have never shared with any of my children. I think Hayes understood that I craved the need to help him, but he also sensed that I was doing everything in my power to help him.
Life was exhausting. I stayed home with the kids while Savanna stayed overnight at the hospital. Those were loneliest nights of my life sleeping in my bed by myself without my wife and one of my children. I usually couldn’t sleep until around 1:00 am. I had nobody to talk to or decompress with, so falling asleep was always so hard for me. I would wake up at 6:00 am so that I could shower and get dressed before the babies woke up. They typically woke up around 6:45. I would get them up, change their clothes and feed them while the older 3 kids got ready for school. I made sure the kids were ready, dressed and fed before 8:15 am. My Mom would come over to watch the babies at 8:30 while I left for the office. My drives consisted of a lot of tears during my 10 minute commute. They were tears of complete exhaustion, both physical exhaustion and mental exhaustion. I would then have appointments til around 3:45 and head straight to the hospital to be with Hayes. I craved those moments of hanging out with Hayes until around 10:00 at night. When I was in the room with Hayes nothing else mattered. It was my own little world with just me and him. This is where we bonded. We talked, we played, we laughed. We laughed a lot. I would feed him fries and roast beef sandwiches while we watched his favorite television shows on repeat. Despite barely being able to keep my eyes opened from my full schedule, these were the best days of my life and I miss them. I miss those days. I crave those days.
I still find myself finding things to do at home after work so that I can fill that void. It’s amazing how slow 4 hours goes by after I get home from the office. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I was up at the hospital with Hayes. I know that sounds weird, but I miss that daily grind. In some ways, that daily grind kept my mind occupied. It allowed me to concentrate and admittedly, even though I was in basic survival mode, it kept me fighting. It allowed me to feel as though I was “solving” the problem, despite not being able to take his cancer away. It was the only way I could feel “accomplished” as a Dad, because the guilt of not being able to solve the problem was extremely heavy.
I have now had to re-route my fight to keeping Hayes legacy alive and honoring him. I have also had to learn to occupy my mind and energy through the various kid’s activities, coaching football, writing my book, and running my usual 2 miles every morning.