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My Son Has Cancer: When Your Son’s Doctor Says “Leukemia”

I Hate Cancer: Stress And Cancer

By Frank Miozzi, father

How can I possibly communicate how my child’s diagnosis with leukemia changed my life? I’m certain this attempt won’t convey the devastation I felt in being unable to “protect” Vince from the misery he endured during treatment. Why must he suffer so? Why couldn’t I take this burden away from him? Why did I feel so insufficient? These things all stripped the joy from my life.

I told myself—persevere, stay positive for him, my wife, and the other children—but the cancer was relentless. The bad news seemed to come again and again, and I didn’t want the toll to show. I didn’t want my wife to have something else to worry about. The other kids had it hard enough, but I didn’t want to tell them I didn’t have the energy for them.

The guilt compounded the stress. I felt I was letting my son down. Why couldn’t I fix this? I felt I was letting my wife down. Why couldn’t I comfort her more? I felt I was letting my other kids down. Why did things have to be so different? I felt I was letting my friends down. “You’ve changed,” they’d say. They didn’t get it; co-workers didn’t get it. Work didn’t matter, but it did. I had to continue to provide for my family.

It seemed impossible to do enough or say the right things, but I told myself to keep trying. Persevere, persevere, but it just wasn’t possible to do it all. I had to sever some relationships—there just wasn’t time for them anymore. I missed them though, which brought on more guilt.

My Son Has Leukemia

The relentless treatment for leukemia went on for years, and no one can prepare for that. I lived with fear all of the time. Will he live through tomorrow? Is he truly feeling better or just being strong? Will he tell me what he’s feeling or hide it from me? Will I see the signs if he starts to give up the fight? Will I miss the signs that my wife or kids can’t bear it any longer?

I pushed on. The days passed, and they’d tell us the cancer was gone, but couldn’t say for how long. I didn’t dare return to life as normal. Normal didn’t exist anymore. I couldn’t afford to let my guard down again, but I still had to get my family past this.

There were a few joyful moments, like when my kids played happily together, but questions followed those, too. Will there be more? How many? I hated that the cancer seemed ever-present, even in the joy.

Yes, cancer changed our life forever. But, I had to make the best of it— for Vince, for my wife, for the other kids, but the fact remains— I hate cancer.


My Son Has Cancer

By Katy Miozzi

Childhood Cancer: these two words don’t ever belong together.

Within minutes of hearing that my child had cancer, the disbelief began. How could my smart, athletic, always healthy, altar boy, church choir singer, friend to everyone, kind brother, and respectful son have cancer? Talk about life not being fair. Aren’t there some bad boys out there who deserve something like this more than my boy? No way was I going to let cancer take him from me.

The treatment for boys with Vince’s type of leukemia is a 3-1/2 year treatment plan. Honestly, it’s barbaric. The drugs are horrible and produce many difficult side effects. From the onset, chemotherapy didn’t agree with Vince, and brought issues like the inability to eat or drink, blood clots, stroke, and bone loss. He still deals with liver damage, portal hypertension, and chronically low blood platelets from the chemo.

Adults know that the desire to fight a cancer diagnosis is not always enough. The willingness to fight cancer with mental toughness, tenacity, spirit, and will doesn’t always win. One of my saddest moments was when Vince realized this. Childhood was over. I don’t know another cancer parent who wouldn’t change places with their child in a heartbeat. The indignity of cancer is not for children, but Vince had to learn it all the same.

Living With Cancer

Cancer is beyond difficult on family life. Vince is our oldest of five children. We couldn’t pack up our other four kids and put them on a shelf until Vince was well. They needed love and nurturing; they still needed our attention. And they needed their brother. They were frightened for Vince and could see we were too. We always tried to talk to them as honestly as possible about issues with Vince and his treatment.

Parents have little time for themselves, much less their relationship, while their child is in treatment. Frank and I tried to support each other and face each day as a team, although we spent most of our rare together time at the hospital. The stress of medical expenses and insurance issues for three plus years of treatment requires a whole separate article, but suffice it to say that our marriage and family remain intact because we wanted it to. We took turns holding hands, holding things together, and holding each other up. Sometimes it was Frank, me, or one of our kids keeping it real to hold us together. Sometimes, it was Vince.

Getting Through Cancer

Despite the harsh reality of a cancer diagnosis at 13, Vince didn’t leave himself much time for self-pity. He was all about kicking cancer and taking his life back. Vince has always been a goal setter, so he set a plan to get through treatment each day. When he suffered a setback, he’d calmly step back, re-group, and set a new goal for his plan. Sure, he reacted to disappointment, but he always landed with a new plan to face his treatment and get well. I have watched him selflessly share his story with others to offer them hope, support, and friendship. I’ve never witnessed Vince complain or ask, “Why me?”

Vince prioritized school when he was well enough, and he will graduate on time with his class of 2015 in May. He’s worked hard physically and emotionally and knows what he needs to do to be healthy. He’s kept up with his old friends and made new ones. Last week, Vince turned 18. We’re so proud of the man he’s become. Vince doesn’t look back or wallow in the unfairness of his past. Every day, he wakes up and moves forward. So, to keep up with him, I do too.

The Miozzi Family

Click here to read the rest of the Miozzi family’s perspectives.

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