One of the things that I have never talked about is when I told my son that I had cancer. I think that was the hardest conversation I had at the time it was happening, more so than telling my parents and friends.
When my doctor diagnosed me with breast cancer, I called my ex-wife to tell her the results. We both broke down crying because we knew that our son, Vincent, would suffer knowing that I had cancer. As I write this, I am tearing up.
I told my ex-wife that she would have to tell our son. I couldn’t. Not yet. I know that was a lot for her to take on, but I just couldn’t do it. I was heartbroken because society has taught us that the word cancer means death. At least that is what I thought at the time. I didn’t know any better. I really thought I was going to die. I was uneducated.
I was with my son one day at my parents’ place, and we took a walk. I asked him if he had any questions about my cancer. He thought for a second, and then he asked. I wasn’t prepared for the question. He said, “Dad, will you be around to see me grow up?”
That broke me. But I told him that I would be around to see him grow up, because I know I am a fighter and God has a plan for me. I am not done yet and I will be around for him. I knew from that day on that I had to fight the cancer.
I decided to use everything I had inside of me to make sure I would WIN! I had to. While I can’t describe in detail the entire talk with my son because it is too difficult, I can say that I was amazed at how he took it. He became my greatest cheerleader. I love you, Vincent!
I also had to tell him that I would not be able to see him while I was going through chemo. This is because he lived two hours away and I would be too weak to drive. But he understood. He said he knew what I was going through because he was watching the television show Parenthood, and a character on the show was on the breast cancer journey. It was a pretty smart thing for an 8-year-old to say. I was amazed.
In 2014, I was asked to be part of a documentary called Pink and Blue: Colors of Hereditary Cancer, by Alan Blassberg. What is great about this is that my son was part of it, too. That will be captured on film for life. The experience will always be part of us, and I cherished it. I recommend you watch this amazing film – not because I am in it with my son, but to learn about others who have faced this battle. It is inspiring and educational.
The years went by and I am now in remission. But I still worry about not being there for Vincent in the future. Still, I realize that I cannot control that, as it is up to the Big Guy upstairs. I try to enjoy the time I have with my son every time I see him. I tell him to chase his dreams and do something that he loves. Be a good guy. Enjoy life. Believe and have faith. Never settle. And don’t ever give up.
Instead of lying face down in the fight against cancer, come out swinging. Beat it down. Battle it with all of your strength, faith, positivity and humor. You will win! You will win! You will win!
My name is Steve Del Gardo. Father/Son/Survivor/Warrior of Life. Read my story at: www.protectthepecs.org.
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