When Christie asked me to write about how her breast cancer and my prostate cancer affected my life I was at a loss for words. Hearing your only daughter tell you "I have Breast Cancer" is devastating. I thought about Joshua and Micah, my precious grandsons, - how hard this was on them - scared of their Mommy dying.
Of course the good news about it was how God worked everything out for our return from West Virginia. I had planned to retire in July of 2006. However, I felt the need to return sooner. Patty and I decided to retire at the end of January 2006. We arrived home the night before Christie found out she had breast cancer. As I walked through this ordeal with Christie I realized how strong she was. Also, I found her faith in our Lord Jesus becoming stronger as well.
Again , I really don’t like to talk about my problems but I’ve been asked to share this by my daughter. It has been so hard having my baby with cancer but then I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. This was not what Christie or my beloved Patty needed at this time. But I drew strength from seeing my wife and my daughter walk beside me through this journey we were all sharing together.
Oh! It was hard on me –my whole life changed, both as a father and with my own diagnosis, my own life changed. I wanted to be both strong for my daughter, my grandsons and my wife. As an old Airborne Soldier "this cancer", my own beast, left me feeling like only half the man I used to be. Just as my own daughter was finishing her chemo for breast cancer I was undergoing surgery for my prostate cancer. Then just as we thought I was OK I was told I needed radiation. Hearing I needed radiation was a low blow. I needed to work so I was unable to take time off, especially since I had taken 4 weeks off following my surgery to recover. So I went five days a week for seven weeks of radiation treatments. I was so tired. It was really exhausting. I work 12/13 hours shifts so my body had a rough time getting back on track. I'm in remission now. I still take medication and I see my doctor very 3-4 months for blood work and a checkup. It was really hard on all of us. My pride was hurt I guess because I felt my manhood had been taken from me. However I think back at how many of my "Brothers in Arms" have had it so much worse then I have and those we left behind who never had the joy and blessing of being with their loved ones as I have.
I can't even begin to explain how this journey has changed me. I am blessed to have my family by my side but to be honest it has been painful to watch then endure so much pain. Each time I would drive by a playground and see the "rocking horse" I thought back (I have tears in my eyes as I write this) to our precious baby rocking away, laughing and just having such a good time. I remember her pretty little bald head and the bonnets my wife, Patty, tied around her head. My sweet baby had no hair until she was two years old. Patty even used to put Christie in wigs, again with a bonnet tied around her head. How could I have ever imagined then 32 years later I would be watching Christie tie bandanna's around her own bald head? How could we, at that time as we watched her rock on the playground horse, know the sad times we would have ahead of us?
There is also one thing that weighs very heavy on me. I feel responsible for Christie’s diabetes and her cancer. I have talked to other Vietnam Veterans affected from Agent Orange and their children who have the same health problems. This, of course, has hurt me because I never wanted to cause her any harm.
I do praise God for how strong she has become through all of this though. I am so proud of her. Bottom line is I love and respect Christie so very much for her courage, strength, determination and positive outlook on life.
Christie and Patty have handled both of our cancers so bravely, as have Joshua and Micah. I am blessed and praise God for their strength. Having cancer (X2) in the family is hard but it brings home what is really important. It is the strength of God and of family which makes us whole. If we have these, we have everything. After all, life is fleeting ; therefore, we need to take each day as a blessing. When I flew over the Golden Gate Bridge on my return from Vietnam,( The whole flight back to the states was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, but once we made it to the other side of the bridge our cheers were contagious. We were home. ) that is what I thought of ("each day from now on is a blessing") and it seems even so much more so today.
---- Bob Dowling