(Note: This article was recently published in Elephant Journal. Please click on the link below to access the full article)
In late September 2005, my sixteen-year-old son, Nick, sat down next to me on the couch and told me that he thought he had testicular cancer.
Knowing that Nick had a streak of hypochondriac in him, I was convinced he was being overly dramatic about some swelling in his groin.
I was wrong.
Nick was diagnosed with pre-cursor B cell lymphoma and put on a two-year protocol of chemotherapy. In a single, mind-numbing moment, our family’s priorities, conversations and just about everything else in our daily lives shifted to a single-minded focus on the survival of our child.
Our family went from one who barely used aspirin and Benadryl to one that had chemo drugs on the dinner table. It was a world no one wanted to enter and, yet, there we were—unwilling travelers on a bus ride in Hell.
Parenting a child through a life threatening illness is both scary and exhausting. Paradoxically, it is also a petri dish for rapid personal growth. The lessons that it taught me were often adopted reluctantly, with teeth gritted in resistance to their wisdom. But ultimately, what I learned changed me then and continues to guide my life today.
Here is what those years on the bus showed me: