Jay, who has lived in the Waukesha area for over 20 years, is an active volunteer who has served on numerous local boards and committees. He's married to Colleen with three kids having gone through the Waukesha schools. He is the VP of a local distribution company.
(Note: On September 5th, 2008, I was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Tongue Cancer - Stage 4. Following is 3'rd blog on my journey)
My three children ages 19, 21, and 23 needed to be informed that I had cancer, but they also needed to hear some balance including our plan of attack to work towards a high cure rate. As parents, we all know the universal challenge of "selective hearing" with our kids. Ask them face-to-face to do a chore, and you might get an acknowledging grunt. Whisper to your wife from 2 rooms away that you are thinking of a Mexico Vacation, and the kids will immediately yell which weeks work best for their schedule...
Our oldest was home, and the 2 younger are away at UW LaCrosse. How awful...how emotionally gut-wrenching to have to break news like this over a phone, but to wait would have only forestalled the inevitable. We arranged a speaker-phone conversation for Monday when Kelly, our oldest, would be back from a long weekend getaway. I rehearsed, rehearsed, and dreaded the call. I really had no "spin" - it would be "just the facts", with emphasis on the probability of a cure. This mental rehearsal also became the basis for how Colleen and I would communicate this to others moving forward. The only benefit to having to wait for Monday was that I was still grappling with my personal desire to let people know while allaying their concerns. The plan became obvious - Tell the full truth. My business sense took over - People just "know" when you believe what you are telling them, and they also can tell when a "snow-job" is being attempted.
We called - I spoke calmly - the kid's reactions were as varied as their personalities - and my heart sank. One "too" quiet and two softly crying. One angry and another in denial. And one became withdrawn from the conversation...My hopes for some meaningful discourse on the subject - gone! But was I really surprised? I'm their "Dad", and by their definition - I am to be strong, in-charge, invulnerable, and funny. Instead - they heard "Cancer...wounded and concerned". But over the next days and weeks they dealt with this taboo subject in their individualized ways. They needed to see Colleen and I were continuing normal living (OK - Add about a few dozen doctors appointments in there). ...And it was right there - they were absorbing subtle cues from us! Our positive "Let's get on with the "Cure" approach was rubbing off and paying dividends with the younger Walts. That is gratifying and the best news I could have received.
And the "These are the facts" approach to conveying the message of cancer continues with my friends, associates, family, and others. All I ask is:
"During our conversation you will hear the word Cancer - please... please also hear the words Treatment and Cure!"