Prior to May of 2011, if someone asked me who I was, I would have a responded that I was a lawyer, identifying myself by my line of work. Sometimes it takes a life event to re-evaluate how you label yourself and to acknowledge publicly what really matters in life.
It was during that month of May that I returned home from an overseas church trip to find my son, Anthony, weakening by the day with a persistent fever. My son was just two and a half years old then. Within a few days, we found ourselves at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where my son was diagnosed with leukemia (ALL). He was admitted to the hospital for over a week and at that point was very sick. My wife, Antoinette, and I would rotate nights at the hospital so one of us could also be at home with our daughter, Laura, who was seven years old at the time.
Spending so much time at the hospital was an eye-opener for me. You quickly learned which children had good prognoses and which ones did not. Even in that setting with my own very sick son, I had a sense of how fortunate we were not to have a worse diagnosis/prognosis for my son. Over the last two years, my son has had more chemotherapy treatments that I can count and has been stuck and prodded more times than I would ever want to remember. Like so many other cancer kids, he had lost his hair for a period of time as well.
All throughout his treatment, my son has been a fighter, even routinely fighting with the nurses. I’m pretty sure that when the nurse at the front desk would welcome us by saying “Anthony is here!”, she was alerting her fellow nurses to get ready for a rough morning. At the hospital, we saw first-hand why charities are important. From holiday toys to the children to raising money for families so they could stay in New York for their children’s cancer treatment, charitable giving helps on so many different levels.
Jumping forward to the present, my son is now four years old and only has a few more months of treatm
ent. He is the image of health and strength. I thank God for bringing him through this trial. This experience has made me much more compassionate and sensitive to children in need and has made me a better father in the process. When you come through a trial like my son’s, you start thinking of how you can make a difference, how can you be on the front lines to help children going through their own trials, whether it be illness, poverty, hunger, or not knowing the love of a father. This was the seed that led to the founding of Five Fathers. We know we will not be able to help all children in need but we promise to do what we can to bring hope and happiness to those children who need and deserve help and to do it with the love a father.
Today, I find value in labeling myself differently: Christian, husband, son, brother, friend, and yes, of course, father. Please help us in our efforts.