Etched In Stone

The 4th of July has once again come and gone. It has always been one of my favorite holidays. When I was little, I went to an elementary school that drove patriotism hard. Every day began with the class standing, with our hands over our heart and reciting the pledge of allegiance in unison in both English and French. I am not quite sure what speaking the pledge of allegiance in French has to do with being a proud American, but I can still recite it, nonetheless. “Je promet une allégeance au drapeau des États-Unis d’Amérique….” See, I am such a patriot. But, I digress. I have studied the beginnings of America and have read up on our founding fathers. I recognize the sacrifices that have been made for me and my children. My dad was a soldier in the Vietnam war. I really am proud to be an American, whole heartedly. 

When Steve and I first got married, his hero was Pat Tillman. He was amazed that someone in the NFL would give up a million dollar contract in order to sacrifice and fight for our country. In this day and age, it is extremely uncommon to see someone forego fame and fortune in order to serve. So needless to say, Pat Tillman quickly became a hero to both of us. So much so for Steve that he wanted to name our first born Tillman. While I appreciated the meaning and hero behind the name, I just couldn’t jump on board with that idea. When we were pregnant with Wes, Steve once again tried to push for the name Tillman, and I shot it down again. Finally, when we were pregnant with the triplets, Steve convinced me it was time. So we agreed on the plan to give baby B, Heath, the middle name of Tillman.  The problem I soon realized was that our sweet baby C needed a strong middle name as well.


Hayes needed a patriotic middle name to match his brother, so we brainstormed. But, nothing felt right. How can you top Tillman…one of Steve’s greatest heroes?! One night, near the end of my pregnancy, Steve took me on a date to the movie American Sniper. I cried through the entire thing. It was beautiful and powerful and the story of Chris Kyle truly moved me. As the credits rolled at the end, I remember so clearly, leaning over to Steve, wiping the tears from my cheek and whispering, “Hayes’ middle name needs to be Kyle.” It was like the stars had aligned and it all made sense. Both our boys would be named after men that were true heroes.


It is incredibly inspiring to me that Hayes was named after such a legend. So fitting. We obviously had no idea at the time that Hayes was going to change the world, but how perfect that one hero be named after another hero…both of their names etched in stone, forever.  Hayes Kyle Tate, my own little 20 month legend.

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A Dad’s Perspective – Guest Post


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.

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