A few ways cancer impacts my younger sons

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Lawson & Ashton posing with me in their baseball uniforms.

I love being a dad. That is one of the main reasons I call this blog Dad Against Cancer. I want to defeat this cancer in part so I can continue to spend time with my sons. In this post I will share a few ways my cancer experience has impacted my two youngest sons.

I should note I have three sons. My oldest son Dustin recently turned 21 and is off to college. I will handle the impact of my cancer on him in a future post.

My two younger sons are Lawson, age 13, and Ashton, age 11. Before going on I should note what kind of dad I have been up to this point. When the boys were young I really didn’t spend a lot of time with them. I was working in the IT field and worked long hours which included a lot of traveled. The worse was probably when we lived in the Minneapolis area and I was doing consulting. On a typical day I would leave for a job before the boys woke up and would arrive home late into the evening. I would then spend time working on homework to complete my degree and go to bed. Even when I got a job as a Network Engineer instead of consulting I would work massive hours and was always working from home in the evenings when I wasn’t focused on school. I wasn’t necessarily a bad dad, I was just focused on trying to make life better for the boys and definitely didn’t spend as much time with them as I would have liked.

About seven years ago we moved back to South Dakota. It was then I left the IT field and focused on growing my wife’s business. I also slowed down my lifestyle to spend more time with the boys. I volunteered to be a coach in sports such as soccer. During the summer I would take the boys to all of their summer rec sports. It was also during this time-period I started to blog about politics. The boys would travel all over with me to cover political events. My boys can not only tell you who many of our elected politicians are in South Dakota, but where they met them. As the years went on I spent more and more time with them.

Fast forward to a year ago. Ashton started to have a problem where his muscles would not work properly and on some days could not get out of bed. It was at that time I started to work from home completely. During the last year I have spent a lot of time driving him to St Paul to get tested for various muscular and neurological disorders. At the same time Lawson would get jealous of the time I spent with Ashton, so I would make sure I found ways to make it to his basketball games or encourage his love of playing the drums and guitar. I was really starting to be the dad I always wanted to be.

When this summer came about my health really started to falter. My breathing problems were getting quite bad, but I tried to hide it from everyone. I especially tried to hide it from the boys, although I know they knew something was wrong. This previous summer I was able to travel all over with the boys as they traveled for baseball. Ashton played Midgets baseball and Lawson fell at the age where he could play both Midgets baseball and Teeners baseball. It was a great summer! I went with them to every baseball practice and game that I could. I think I only missed two practices and one game for each kid.

The summer was not all roses however. Traveling to all of these practices and games took its toll on me. As my breathing continued to degrade I would spend more time at home sitting at the computer. It wasn’t that I wanted to sit at the computer. I simply didn’t have the energy to do anything else. Plus the pain I was feeling only felt better if I was sitting in a forward-leaning position. My youngest boys knew something was wrong. I can think of multiple times during the month of August, after baseball was done, when the boys would ask if I was OK and if I had to go to the hospital. I always played it off as me just being old and tired and would make a joke. As time went on they weren’t laughing at as many jokes. They knew something was wrong, even if I wouldn’t admit it to them.

On August 27 the doctor called to let me know I had cancer.  My wife and I sat the boys down and let them know I had cancer and tried to explain it to them somewhat. A website I found had some tips for giving the news to kids. I’m not sure they understood yet what we were telling them.

September 11 is when I began my first round of chemo. Prior to chemo my wife and I discussed some changes with the boys that would have to happen around the house. The whole house had to be cleaned, everyone would have to take new steps to keep germs away from me, nobody could use my bathroom in the few days following chemo, and the boys would have to stay away from me if they were sick. There were other changes as well, but I think this gives the idea that the boys were majorly impacted by my going on chemo. They stepped up well. Both boys helped to clean and sanitize the house. When the boys get in the house from school or come upstairs from the lower level they immediately sanitize their hands. Just this week both boys had a stomach virus and Ashton had strep. Both boys stayed away from for days to ensure I wouldn’t get sick. I’ve been so proud of how they have handled themselves.

But it should also be noted they have told both my wife and myself some things which trouble them. Part of cancer or chemo causes something called “chemo brain”. My thoughts will sometime fog up and I find myself forgetting a lot of things. This is quite frustrating and I will sometimes just snap at the wife or boys for no reason. I have also had the same conversations with the wife and boys multiple times without remembering the previous conversations. This has left the boys quite confused and they have let my wife know about their confusion. Due to this brain fog the boys have become reluctant to ask me anything. They can’t know for sure if I will remember what is said or they will wonder if I will snap for no reason. It really is putting a strain on the dad-son relationship. I have also noticed they will sometimes just look at me with a worried look.

The boys know how to google things. And I know at least one of them has googled the heck out of cancer. Of course most of the things that come up on a google search about cancer are bad. I am quite sure the boys have read a lot of bad things about cancer prognosis. I won’t forget one of my sons asking if I was going to die after he had gotten done reading something on the internet. He wasn’t crying, but you could tell he wanted to. I just hugged him and said I would do everything to fight the cancer so I could continue to watch him and his brothers grow. He said he would do anything he could to help keep me around. I didn’t cry at the time. But now as I write this and remember the moment I have tears running down my face… Perhaps this is a good place to stop blogging for today.

My boys have definitly been impacted by my cancer diagnosis. As I continue to fight against my cancer I hope to find ways to overcome some of the negative impacts. Maybe this post will help give others insight into a few ways the relationship between a parent and kids can be impacted by a cancer diagnosis. No matter what I plan to keep fighting against my cancer and be there for my boys as long as I can!

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