Rhys on learning how to talk to his daughters

Friday 30 April 2021

Maggie's Edinburgh

When Rhys was diagnosed with cancer, he found the dynamics of having cancer and looking after his children particularly difficult. Regular phone calls with the Edinburgh centre helped Rhys through a tough time.

When I was told I had cancer I was scared I wouldn’t be there for my daughters.

At the same time I was facing other challenges, not least the fact that my relationship with my wife had started to fall apart.

I was moving out of the family home, trying to find somewhere else to live, and going through a divorce. Added to that, I was juggling the split of parental responsibilities.

I had complications arising from my treatment, and really severe side effects which only affect about 10% of people who have immunotherapy.

I ended up being hospitalised. I went from making plans for looking after the kids, to being isolated by myself on a hospital ward.

This all overlapped with the pandemic and there was a period when I was thinking the absolute worst.

Being a dad with cancer

I was quarantined in the hospital by myself for 48 hours before the coronavirus tests came back clear.

I was isolated, alone, and not very well at a time when I was supposed to be looking after my children.

My confidence was shattered by the diagnosis. And I had lots of mental chatter about not being able to be a good dad if I wasn’t up to certain tasks.

With schools closed as well, I found the dynamics of having cancer and looking after kids particularly difficult. 

As a father, I felt like I was supposed to be the strong one – the provider. If I wasn’t able to be that person for my daughters, then who was I?

Phone calls with Maggie’s 

It was the situation at home that led me to reach out to Maggie’s.

During the very first conversation I had, I just felt this level of empathy; they understood that this was a really hard situation to be in.

I felt recognised, almost like I’d been given permission to feel the way I was feeling.

After that, I started weekly phone calls with Andy, the Centre Head in Edinburgh.

They were short but frequent. We covered everything, from my relationship issues to the fact that I was still doing my MBA project at the time and the stresses related to that.

Andy also answered my questions about cancer and helped me to understand my treatment.

Talking to my children

I leaned on Maggie's to help me work out how best to communicate the fact that I've got cancer to my daughters.

How to juggle their questions like, “are you going to die?” Because kids just ask these things. I’ve found that, for me at least, it’s healthier to be open with your children about your diagnosis.

They don't need to know the detail, but at the same time they can understand it, that their dad’s had to go to hospital to get some special medicine for his cancer. 

Maggie's understand the dynamics; they’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people in this situation before. They helped me to get through a really difficult year.

I feel very lucky to have that support. My hope is that anyone in a similar situation can receive the same help I have. I don’t know where I’d be without it. 

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Your donations mean people like Rhys can get the support they need  – donate to Maggie's.

Here with you

If you, your family or friends need support during this time, please call us on 0300 123 180, email enquiries@maggies.org or book a time to visit us.

If you're already visiting the hospital, just come in.

This story was originally published in Making Maggie's May 2021 edition. 

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