Cancer, it’s a family disease
Joseph has seen how his illness has introduced a layer of anxiety, apprehension and fear on each member of his family. Even though he couldn’t have prevented the cancer diagnosis, he feels a tremendous amount of guilt about imposing cancer on his family. He is very grateful for his wife Maria–she has sacrificed and done everything possible to care for Joseph and to support their children as they move through this ordeal.
Their children have adjusted to this new normal in different ways. His daughter Amelia went through a period of tantrums early on. When the family started going to Facing Cancer Together activities, Amelia was in a group with other kids her age where they talked about cancer, what it is and how it makes her daddy feel tired and sick. She learned that she did not cause her daddy’s cancer and that many of the changes that were happening in her family were happening in other families too. Joseph and Maria feel she takes great comfort in this fact.
Their oldest, Mark, reluctantly attended a Teen Outreach activity. He was determined not to participate and he certainly didn’t want to talk about his dad’s cancer with kids he didn’t know. After spending some time with the other teens, he realized that he wasn’t tht only teen who had a parent with cancer. He was now part of a group where everyone was facing some of the same struggles and fears about their parent’s cancer diagnosis. None of Mark’s friends had a parent with cancer, but these kids were just like him, living and dealing with cancer.
Joseph was most worried about his middle child, Nick. Just two days after Joseph’s diagnosis, Nick turned 13. Deep down, Nick was afraid that his father would not survive. He was afraid that if he talked about his feelings he would be a “baby” yet the very fact of not talking about it was compounding the fear and anxiety he already felt.
Joseph had little energy to be the dad that Nick needed now. He worried that Nick’s refusal to talk about his feelings would lead to bigger behavioral, emotional and academic problems.
Several times throughout the hockey season, Angel Foundation receives a donation of tickets from the Minnesota Wild. When Maria received an email from Angel Foundation saying tickets were available for an upcoming Wild game, Maria responded immediately that they would like to attend. Entertainment had been taken entirely out of the budget as money was so tight with Joseph not working and the costs of treatment mounting. The family needed a break from the stress and the opportunity to see a Wild game was a welcome diversion.
The night of the game, Joseph and his family were seated with other families they had met through Facing Cancer Together activities. Mark saw a few of the teens he had come to know and between periods they cruised the Xcel Center. Amelia recognized some of her friends too and Maria and Joseph appreciated the opportunity to re-connect with other parents in a fun environment.
Nick ended up seated next to a boy, Aaron, who was about the same age. They were both excited about the game and had a great time cheering on their team. Then Aaron asked Nick which one of his parents had cancer and Nick pointed to his dad. Aaron shared that his dad had cancer too but wasn’t able to be at the game as he had chemo the day before. They talked a little about what it’s like to live with a dad who has cancer and just that brief conversation with someone who “gets it” lifted a huge burden off Nick.
After the hockey game, Maria sent a message of thans to Angel Foundation and the Minnesota Wild:
“There is a sense of relief in talking with others who can truly understand what our life is like with the difficulties, the uncertainties and the frustrations…We have been empowered through education and by having fun, laughing and crying with others. I can’t imagine our lives now without Angel Foundation.”