“Daddy, will I ever get tumours?” Patrick, aged 9 years. Last night in the car.
The question didn’t come out of nowhere exactly; Barry was first diagnosed with a grade 4 tumour (glioblastoma multiforme), in September and is awaiting results of a second tumour that was removed a few weeks ago. The children (we also have Richard, 7) have been amazing in how they have dealt with the treatments Barry has undergone. They have witnessed ups and downs (with some sheltering, obviously) and have asked many, relevant questions which we have always tried to answer honestly but at an appropriate level. This last one however, knocked me sideways. My little boy is coming to terms with the fragility of life – something I am only just working through. This is the most difficult situation I have ever had to deal with but putting myself in the shoes of my 9 and 7 year old superstars makes me realise that I’m lucky that such challenges waited until I was an adult.
Barry explained that he had what was known as cancer. A word Patrick has come across but isn’t that familiar with. He told Patrick that unfortunately anyone can get cancer but there are things we can do, such as healthy eating and exercise, to try to minimise the risk. They also discussed things that are scientifically known to cause cancer, such as smoking or excessive sun exposure. Patrick calmly announced that, if he ever does get cancer, he would hate it to be from anything he had done – did I tell you he was 9? I am at once proud that he is capable of this level of thought but, at the same time, my heart sinks a little to think that a 9-year-old, my 9 year old, has to think with such maturity. I wish this wasn’t a part of their lives more than I wish it wasn’t a part of ours. But I hope that they take strength from their Daddy, his constant optimism, his grace and continuing courage as he deals with all this throws at him.
I watched them run into school this morning, excited for their last day of the year. Their faces bright, ready to enjoy the final day of classroom fun with their friends. Both of them delighted that I was going to get them at the end of the day and save them from a last school bus ride. They truly are amazing.