My youngest turning 10 has been an unexpectedly big deal for me in my cancer survivor life.
I was diagnosed with cancer on February 14th, 2011, just a week before my son, William’s, birthday on the 21st. He was only turning 2 back in 2011, and my daughter, Katie, would turn 4 on April 3rd. They were just tiny little things. I adored them both, but I was absolutely terrified thinking for sure that this was it for me, and that I wouldn’t get to see either of them grow up. Debbie and I had finally settled down together after so much sacrifice and being apart for years. We were finally living our dreams, finally had our own home, finally started the family that we had always wanted, and now cancer was threatening to take it all away and it was all so unfair.
As it turned out, I was lucky. Very lucky. I’d actually had pain in my right testicle that tipped me off that something wasn’t right when a lot of people don’t. That let me catch my testicular cancer at just Stage II, and early enough that I had a >95% cure rate. Make no mistake, there’s no such thing as an “easy cancer”. My treatments and surgeries were brutal, and I went through complete hell to get that cure and in the uncertainty of the years after, but what a blessing to still be here and to see these kids of mine grow up just a bit.
My biggest fear through all these years was neither dying nor a life not lived, but rather not being around for my family, and my children never knowing who their father was. In my darkest days of doubt in the years after when I was being savaged by PTSD, I woke up every morning for a month in tears, and I went to bed every night for a month in tears. Do you know what I prayed for? I prayed, “Please God let me live for my children,” over and over and over again. And I lived, and for whatever reason this milestone feels even bigger than turning 40 did, an age I never thought I’d reach.
These kids still have a lot of growing up to do, but it’s been a great honor to have been along with them this far, and it’s a great moment and milestone for me both as a cancer survivor and a father. I pray that I’ll continue to be around for them for many more years to come, but having had 10 years with both just feels special in a way that’s painful to explain, because of all the people I know who never had the opportunity. I know that anything could happen tomorrow, next week, next year, or who knows when that could cut that time short, but no time has been wasted, we’ve had so many great times and adventures together through these years, and neither will ever be able to say that they never knew their father.
My worst fear about cancer will never be realized, and that matters to me more than anything in the world. I can’t think of anything better in this moment, and am just taking it all in. I’m so lucky and blessed.
For William’s 10th birthday, I gathered a collection of our favorite photos of him from the past year. For Katie, I did a special photoshoot of her when she turned 10. You can check out both albums below. You can also checkout William’s 10th birthday blog HERE.
Written in memory of Michael Atkins, Clint Miller, Byard Bridge III, and all of the fathers up in the heavens who could no longer be there for their families due to cancer.