I’ve been a single dad to Cerys and Rhys for nine years now, and juggling my job in the army with caring for the two of them has always kept me busy.
When Cerys was diagnosed with bone cancer three years ago at 13, we faced a whole new set of challenges and it really did become very hard to cope.
Cerys became so ill that at one point I thought I’d lose her. She needed me nearby and I barely left her side. In total, I stayed with her on the unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital for 180 nights.
It meant leaving Rhys to be cared for by friends and family a lot of the time. The guilt I felt leaving him was huge as I knew he needed me too. It was like being split in two.
I watched other parents on the unit act as a relay team. When one became tired or overwhelmed and needed a break, they would be able to pass the baton on to the other parent. But for me it was like running continually on a treadmill.
I’m thankful that Julie, the Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support Co-ordinator on the unit, has been such an amazing support to both Cerys and me throughout all of this.
You’re in an impossible situation and you can only do the best you can
She’s also been somebody to talk to when things have been tough, and she’s linked me up with other parents and organisations who have been a big help.
When Cerys was really ill, Julie was able to sit with her and hold her hand so that I could grab 30 minutes to have a shower or get some fresh air.
I’m not sure we’d have all got through all this without Julie and the Teenage Cancer Trust Nurses on the unit.
The unit has a space for young people where they can mix and chat with other patients, and it sounds like a small thing, but most hospital wards don’t and it makes such a difference.
Julie was able to use it to run coffee mornings for parents. Meeting people with children further down the line in treatment who could give advice based on their own experiences of things was fantastic.
Now that Cerys’s cancer treatment is finally over, I help other parents however I can.
My advice to parents is to accept help wherever you can. To be honest, I found that tough to begin with but we wouldn’t have got through all of this without it.
And try not to feel too guilty about having to spend more time with one child. You’re in an impossible situation and you can only do the best you can.
I’m really proud of Cerys and Rhys and the way that they’ve coped with his all and it’s bought us closer together as a family. The impact of cancer doesn’t magically go away after the disease does, and Cerys still faces a lot of health challenges, but she’s really positive about the future and I feel so lucky to still have her here with us.