Dustin's Letter

Dear Mark

I want to share the story of a family facing a difficult cancer diagnosis. 

Dustin and Marie had experienced a recent house fire which forced them to move their family to a small trailer in need of renovations.  Dustin typically worked long hours as a mechanic.  He would then come home and put longer hours into remodeling their home. One day, Dustin unexpectedly started having seizures. After a visit to the emergency room, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Brain surgery was subsequently scheduled.

I met Dustin and Marie after that surgery when they began the arduous treatment of daily whole brain radiation and chemotherapy. While still healing from the brain surgery, I sat with Dustin who expressed fear for what was ahead for him and his family.  His greatest concern was how he would be able to continue supporting his family and remain an involved and active dad.  Dustin attempted to continue working after surgery but it proved too difficult.

Now Marie’s salary as a restaurant manager is their sole source of support. Dustin and Marie have two small boys at home.  Dustin (junior) is 2-years-old and Daniel is one-year-old. They are typical boys – very active and love to be outside.  When I asked the couple about the two boys and what impact they are feeling, Dustin told me that after his surgery because of his shaved head and large scar, the boys were fearful to hug on him and play with him as they did before. At first, they were not even sure that was Daddy.  This has been one of the most difficult parts for Dustin.  He was not expecting this reaction. Now, life is different for them at home because Daddy has limitations unlike before.  He can’t play with them the same, and they have to be carefully of his healing process. The changes have been hard for the little ones as they don’t understand it all.

I asked them to think about what they would like for the holidays. They enjoy spending time at a nearby park and packing picnics for the boys who love trucks, balls, blocks, and need enrichment toys.  They have family support close by to help keep the boys while mom works but would love a nice evening out as a couple.

When I asked what Mom and Dad would like, they just wistfully looked at each other and I could tell their greatest wish is for the family to be cancer free, have Dustin regain his strength, and feel productive again ---just not be sick. While we can’t take away this pain for them, maybe we can add some holiday cheer.  Thank you for sharing this letter about a family who faces huge challenges this holiday season.  Anything your listeners can do to make the holidays brighter would be greatly appreciated.

Wishing you and your listeners a very happy holiday season!

Mary Hebing
Social Worker
Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute
at Memorial University Medical Center

Photo: Getty Images

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