The ‘C’ Word

MS2
My family.

No, not that C word, I’m talking about the dreaded C word, CANCER! It was June last year when I heard the following four dreaded words leave my father’s mouth, “Girls, I have cancer.”

It was a normal Friday afternoon for myself and my three sisters. We just got home from our shopping trip in Victoria Square and headed straight up to my room to do the usual fashion show that consists of showing each other our latest purchases from that day (I know typical girls). Mum and dad were away to get “their heads showered” which is understandable as there is only so much ’girl chat’ dad can keep up with in a day. They arrived home shortly after us which is when we were called downstairs for ‘a talk’. I don’t know about you, but when we ALL get called downstairs it’s normally because someone has done something wrong. Immediately we all start asking the question “Oh for goodness sake what have we done this time? who hasn’t emptied the dishwasher?”

Anyway, downstairs we went, and sat nervously on the sofa awaiting our lecture (I was really hoping it wasn’t going to be as long as a lecture in uni). After what felt like a decade of silence, mum finally says “Girls, your dad and I have something to tell you?” Uh oh, what on earth could this be about? ‘they’re getting a divorce’, ‘Mum’s pregnant’? (I was really hoping it wasn’t this one, three sisters stealing my clothes is enough, never mind four sisters doing it) ‘they’ve won the lottery’ (that would have been nice, no more university fees for me) all thoughts I had but never once could I have predicted or prepared for why we were really sat here together.

And that’s when it did, when you don’t predict it, The C word! A word I never thought I would hear, I never thought it would happen to our family. “Girls, I have cancer.” A ‘normal’ day for us quickly turned into a not so normal day. After we all had a quick cry together, due to the initial shock of the news we wanted to get the facts and find out the prognosis. Thankfully, mum went to the hospital with dad and was able to give us this information, dad was also there but as a typical man he was able to retain about 2% of what he was told.

Dad went to get his tonsils privately removed as he was complaining of having a sore throat for over a month. During this operation the doctor found a cancerous growth, one that they couldn’t remove there and then as it was too far on. He was told he would have to endure radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but the prognosis was good (I don’t know if it’s just me, but the words radiotherapy and chemotherapy are scary). Dad was already at stage 3 which was a shock as he obviously didn’t expect anything was wrong bar having tonsillitis. So, here is where I plea that if you feel like something is wrong, even a small thing like a throat infection please get it looked at as it really can be a matter of life or death.

Our family was very matter of fact about the situation and to receive any form of sympathy is very rare (unless of course you break a nail – that’s MAJOR). Therefore, once we got all the facts, we took a very matter of fact approach and instead of dwelling on the negative news, we all remained very positive. Dad was also able to retain a positive mental attitude throughout the duration of his treatment which again encouraged us girls to be positive about the situation. However, I do think this backfired on him as he really didn’t receive any sympathy from us at all, actually if anything it got worse for him. Even when he had to be admitted to hospital and fed through a tube, we all made light of the situation and he was still the brunt of all our jokes.

I guess my life lesson to you from this situation is that no matter how hard you think it is, how hard you think it is going to be or how hard the news seems at first, you can get through it! It’s true what they say, and as cliché as it is, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ even if you can’t see it at first. I promise you that eventually it will come through. Throughout this difficult time, as a family we relied on each other for support, and although at times it was tough, we all stuck together and as a whole it brought us closer together and strengthened our already strong family bond. I know this may not be the case for you but there is always someone willing to listen and help you through tough times.

Dad’s personal catch phrase is “Living the dream”. Anyone who asks him how he is, the response is always “Living the dream” (I mean how could he not, he has four beautiful daughters and according to my mum a beautiful wife). Together as a family, I’m glad that he is still able to live the dream and to live it with us makes it that bit better.

The photo on the left: Now you can put a face to the name, this is ‘Dad’ when he finally completed his radiotherapy and chemotherapy. 

The photo on the right: My family (Minus Lucy – getting us all together is a very rare occasion) at Dad’s abseil for cancer. Yes, this was the one-time mum didn’t pick out his clothes and he did wear the costume the rest of the day.

Molly Stevenson is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Instagram – @molly_stevensonn; Facebook – Molly Stevenson; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/molly-stevenson-4bb39115b/