The Hardest Question to Answer……

Alex, Jake, and EmmyI remember writing this after my son Alex was diagnosed with cancer in 2011

“How’s Alex doing?”

It’s the same question over and over when some sees me or and my wife Nancy. We appreciate the thought and sentiment behind the question. People genuinely care about our son. Over time it just gets to the point when you don’t want to answer the question anymore. It’s the same generic answer every time….”He’s doing fine.”  What else could we answer or should we answer.  Sure we could answer could answer with…His hair fell out, he has sores in his mouth, he’s tired, he’s weak, or he’s been throwing up. Those are the real life answers; those are the things that happen when someone is battling cancer with chemotherapy. Some people want to hear those answers…we were very reluctant to give them. When we gave those answers, we would get sympathy. To be honest…we didn’t want someone to tell us how sorry they felt for us and Alex going through what our family was going through. We already knew.  More than anything we appreciated their support in the fight, the prayers for healing, the positive vibes, and thoughts to give us strength. We wouldn’t be where we are today without everyone being there for us.

We had our own “How’s Alex Doing?” questions. Those questions were for the doctors. Those questions were the hardest to ask and even harder to wait for the answers.  Yes I said wait…because that’s what you do…WAIT.  I hated waiting, I wanted answers…NOW!  It’s our 12 year old son we were asking about. Understandably getting the right answers takes time…tests take time, lab results take time, getting a diagnosis takes time.  Waiting for a diagnosis was the longest time of our life. I think half my hair went gray in the three weeks we waited from the first time we heard our son had a form a cancer to the diagnosis of Large B Cell Lymphoma of the Bone. But finally we had answer!

All that did was bring more questions. A ton more questions…We just hoped the doctors had the answers.

  • Q. Now what?
  • A. We fix him!
  • Q. Chemotherapy or radiation?
  • A. Chemotherapy…aggressive chemotherapy
  • Q. How soon?
  • A. Right away!
  • Q. How long will it last
  • A. Six rounds of 96 hours of infused chemotherapy at a time
  • Q. How will you the therapy will work?
  • A. We don’t…time will tell.

All those questions make the question of “How’s Alex doing?” seem so trivial…but so much easier to answer. The difference between our questions and everyone else’s…we needed answers, everyone else wanted answers. It’s frustrating waiting for answers…whether you want to hear them or not. The longer we waited for answers them more our, or at least my mind wandered to the “What if?” questions, and honestly that’s really not a place you want your mind to wander to. I really started to get a feeling for the Tom Petty song “Waiting is the Hardest Part”…it played over and over in my head.

Thankfully all our questions were answered….in due time, when they could be answered with decisive answers. Persistence does pay off, If there’s something my wife and I learned in the year we fought the good fight against our sons cancer, and something we could pass on to others, it’s never stop asking questions. Question everything and everybody…from the doctors and nurses in the oncology clinic to the doctors and nurses in the hospital.

It could actually save a life!


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