As dads everywhere are celebrated this Father's Day, St. Jude dads are doing a little celebrating of their own — they're spending time with their children while they receive lifesaving care at St. Jude.
Marcus, Ricardo and Gustavo never thought that they would arrive in Memphis, Tenn. (where St. Jude is located) to help their children live. They had hopes and dreams for their futures, and cancer couldn't be farther from those plans. Despite the long, uncertain days in this new place, they've found a second home at the hospital that is working to save their children's lives. Read their stories below.
Marcus, father of Kennan, 15 years old, acute lymphoblastic leukemia
Before I became a St. Jude dad, I thought I could protect my kids from anything; however, when the danger comes from within your child’s body, you feel completely helpless. At first I felt guilty, like her cancer was something that was my fault for not being able to prevent.
Family is the glue that holds us together during these times of trouble. We have all played a big role in this life-changing event: Gia and I as caregivers and balancing two households, one at home and one in Memphis. Carter for his lifesaving marrow donation to his sister. Kennan for staying positive and knowing that she will beat this disease. I hope that my kids remember how we learned to trust in each other, our family, our friends and God during this time.
Ricardo, father of Azalea, 4 years old, rhabdomyosarcoma
Azalea is my first born, and she means everything to me. Going to work, getting up in the morning, I do it with Azalea at the forefront of my mind. Azalea is my heart. St. Jude is a second home. St. Jude has given me a chance to look forward to our first father-daughter dance or going to the beach, the simple stuff that we take for granted. As a father, St. Jude gave me back all of that. I thought I had lost it when I heard the news that Azalea had cancer. I didn’t know what to expect.
All I was seeing was darkness, and St. Jude brought me back to life and said, 'Okay, you’re going to be able to do all of these things. You’re going to be able to take her to the beach and have fun, and enjoy her as a child, and watch her grow up.' I look forward to watching Azalea growing up as a normal child — going to church, going to school, going to the beach. I’m looking forward to her being a wonderful child and me being the best dad I can be.
Gustavo, father of Victoria, 11 years old, meningioma
Becoming a St. Jude dad has been a feeling of mixed emotions. While I feel blessed and grateful that we are in St. Jude, which I feel is the best hospital for a child experiencing such a terrible disease as cancer or brain tumor like in the case of my daughter Victoria, it is also something I would never wish for any dad to ever have to feel and go through.
The feeling of hopelessness and inability to take care of your child and protect her is a feeling of emptiness and pain that I will never forget, but St. Jude has given me the hope to believe. Family is everything to me that I live for. Nothing is more important than my family. Being a father is great, but being a dad of three amazing kids is a wonderful joy I cherish. Family is unconditional love.