When A Child Gets Sick #Care #Caregiver #Family
When a child becomes seriously ill, the entire family faces changes, challenges and new responsibilities. Such disruptions become even more complicated when the diagnosis is cancer. Yet I have observed remarkable gifts that arise when both parents and the entire family share in the caregiving.
Tony, an active fifteen- year-old, had his eye on a football career. Already a talented athlete, he played quarterback on his freshman team. That was until he developed persistent leg pain. After an initial visit to his family doctor, Tony’s parents made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. A variety of tests and scans showed that the problem was osteosarcoma, bone cancer.
A child with osteosarcoma needs ongoing care. This could include appointments with oncologists, physical and occupational therapists, and even dietitians. His care required a primary point person to keep track of the details. That person would be his father Joe, a self-employed restaurant owner. Joe could manage his work schedule more easily than Tony’s mother, Marie, an elementary school teacher.
The following months of treatment and surgery were far from easy. Some days Tony slept a lot. Other days he had trouble eating. Yet he and his dad also found time and energy to attend high school and college football games, and even a Green Bay Packer game. They fished a little on Gunflint Lake, and Joe brought home a few of his restaurant recipes to help perk up Tony’s appetite. On low energy days, the twosome just hung out together, or watched a movie.
Joe and Tony’s lengthy cancer journey turned out to be a rare opportunity. It created a time and space for a father and young son to know one another—to explore frequently missed parenting and friendship opportunities. None of this erased the difficulty of Tony’s surgeries and treatment. However, it certainly shaped his recovery and his future in priceless ways.