Mike and Nancy Haddock had four boys spread across 16 years: Jason, Travis, Brett, and Justin. Jason and Travis were a little over a year apart, I was a surprise and Justin was an “extra” surprise. Jason was diagnosed with leukemia early on in his brief life, and later developed a brain tumor as a result of the treatment. The world I grew up in was bleak; six months after I was born, cancer took Jason. This is a little known fact for anyone that has known my family less than 30 years. Most people would never guess a tragedy of that magnitude weighing on my parents and my brother. We tend to be a happy and humorous group, and that sense of humor has gotten us through some incredibly tough times in life.
And we’ve had no shortage of tough times.
A few years ago, my family and I were sitting in the emergency room at Henry Mayo. Dad had been complaining about chest pains, and for someone that has had two and a half heart attacks, a stroke, cancer, and a myriad of other health issues, we tend to take his health seriously. We have a rather odd way of dealing with stress in my family; by cracking jokes, and making light of the situation we’re in.
At the time, I was a few months clear of my divorce, and the inevitability of dating again was looming. Mom, being what I assume is a typical mother, remarked that the nurses keeping an eye on Dad were cute, and that I should talk to them. Dad chimed in suggesting I play the “worried about my father angle” to strike up a conversation and garner sympathy points with the women. The conversation turned into about thirty minutes of riffing on me and my awkwardness with women; we were literally in tears from laughing. The other people in the emergency room probably thought we had lost our minds.
This is how my family deals with stress, and with pain. It’s how we’ve always dealt with it, making light of the situation doesn’t detract from the seriousness of it, it just allows us to process it and manage it in our own bizarre way. The method has worked rather well, I’d say.
Shortly after my nephew Austin was born, he developed a tumor on his jaw (hyper-melanotic neuroectodermal tumor of mandible of infancy, for those keeping score). He’s had ancillary treatments over the years to deal with the issues related to the surgery that removed the initial tumor. In 2015, his parents Travis and Megan had run the obstacle course with medical insurance only to hit a dead end. Austin needed more treatment, and they needed to find twelve-thousand dollars to pay for it, because the insurance company told them to pound sand. We started a fundraiser and got my mom to dress up as an “Evel Knievel” type character we called “Stunt Granny.” A couple dumb videos later, with help from news stories on SCVNews, KHTS, and ABC7, we had exceeded our goal. Austin was able to get the treatment he needed, and he’s doing well (though more treatments are looming for the poor kid).
Getting my mom to do something stupid was our way of dealing with the gravity of the situation, and the stress therein. I have no idea how “ordinary” families cope with a twelve-thousand dollar medical bill, but we managed just fine. If you watch the “outtakes” video, you can see we’re having way too much fun with the whole idea.
My extended family has had a cancer and disease rate that is statistically improbable. Though all the pain, tragedy, and stress, there has been one constant: no matter what, my family has been there. We’ve managed to pull through everything life has thrown at us. I live my life unafraid of what the future holds, because I know that whatever happens, the greatest family anyone could ask for will be right there with me; making stupid jokes and laughing our way through it.