Today I am going to walk you through the day I got the news that changed my world and how I kept myself going for the days and months to follow.
It was June 2017 when I first got the news of dad’s diagnosis. I somehow remember the day so clearly. I was midway through my final year of school and home for school holidays. These particular holidays were the lead up to my HSC Trial Exams, so most people in Year 12 spent their holidays studying, which is what I had planned to do.
My sister Belle had also returned home from working in North Queensland for the holidays. She had just returned North for her second year as a Governess, so we were all super excited to have her home for the holidays, because at the time we didn’t know we would see her so soon. When she drove off in January, I had said goodbye thinking I may not see her until December. Mum and Dad had spoken of a trip up to see her but I didn’t think I would be able to go as it would be the holidays before my HSC Exams.
I remember waking on June 26th and mum saying:
“I have to take dad to Dubbo for an appointment.
Can you pick up the boys this arvo and bring them down?”
I just assumed we were having dinner in Dubbo to celebrate Belle being home. I never thought that a quick trip to Dubbo would change my world forever.
After I picked up my brothers, Charlie and Ned, from school, we drove to Dubbo to meet Mum, Dad and Belle. We all caught up and filled each other in on what was happening in our lives. For me at the time, my biggest problem felt to be my Exams. We were all laughing and carrying on in true Kennedy style, but I could tell mum and dad were hiding something. So, when mum said “Kid’s, Dad and I have something to tell you”, my heart stopped. I knew my world was about to change. Forever.
Dad had been sick for a while, but we were told it was nothing to worry about, it was nothing major. It went from a hernia, to a bulging disc in his back, and at worst, a possible cracked rib from a fall off a tractor. I remember he spent ANZAC Day 2017 in hospital, yet I never thought it would end up like this.
In what felt like a heartbeat, it was Stage 4 Lung Cancer. His official diagnosis was “non-small cell adenocarcinoma.”
Dad’s cancer was not contained to his lung, it had spread to his brain, lymph glands, rib, adrenal gland, base of his tongue, right thigh and his left hip. We knew his battle wasn’t going to be easy, but like many people said to us “I’ve never met a tougher cowboy”. I knew on that day that cancer had chosen the wrong cowboy to mess with. Dad was holding on for the whole ride.
That night Belle, Charlie, Ned and I all slept together, side by side. We all talked and told ourselves we would be ok, because we had each other. Without these guys by my side though dad’s battle I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would have been.
At the time of dad’s diagnosis, I was lucky enough to have a big circle of friends, all of whom I am still close with. Dad’s diagnosis didn’t sink in until I had to tell them. Up until I told them only family and close friends knew, I hadn’t yet seen or spoken to anyone outside the hotel room we were in, it all still didn’t feel real. But once I sent a message to them all explaining everything and the messages of love and support came flowing back, I knew dad’s battle was now my reality.
I struggled with the news of Dad’s diagnosis, I was quite lost. At times I saw the worst outcome, but I had convinced myself that wasn’t our reality. Dad was too tough to let this beat him, we all were.
I am quite a closed off person as many people would know, I find it challenging to talk about things in my life that I have no control over. Without my family and friends surrounding me, Dad’s battle would have been so much harder. It was the small conversations, not about how I am coping but about how dad is, that made his battle that little bit more bearable for me.
One of my most memorable moments in this particular time was a conversation I had with Belle. We made a promise never to ask “how are you?”, but “how are you today?”. “How are you today?” allows you to take each day at a time. I was never just “fine”, some days were good and some days were bad, and some days I was just numb. I never had to elaborate on why my day was the way it was, but I always knew I could. For anyone that knows someone going through a challenging time, I couldn’t push you to use this particular phrase anymore.
Dad’s diagnosis was the start of another tough battle for our family, but we knew we had the strength in us to get us through. In the next few weeks I will go into more detail about Dad’s treatment and some of the toughest moments our little family had to face.
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