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Facing Fatherhood with Cancer

The Council of DadsI just finished reading”The Council of Dads: A Story of Family, Friendship & Learning How to Live” by Bruce Feiler, which means I just finished crying and drying my eyes.

Bruce writes the story of the Lost Year, during which he underwent intensive chemotherapy treatment, invasive surgery to remove a large section of his femur and graft a piece of his fibula to the prosthetic femur they attached, and grueling physical therapy to regain mobility as his bone and muscle recovered. Bruce, in his 40s, was diagnosed with a kind of bone cancer usually seen in teens.

He and his wife also had 3-year-old twin girls. As he wrestled with the possibility of losing his battle with cancer, he thought long and hard about how to provide his girls with father figures. The Council of Dads was his solution. He asked carefully-selected friends to join the council and be pieces of him for his girls as they grew up.

The stories of each friend, how their relationship grew, and how they planned to participate in the lives of his twins are woven through email updates Bruce sent every few months.

I think my favorite vignette is the story he told about the time his leg became the new location of the Civil War. With our extensive experience with multiple specialists in hospital settings, I have been in similar predicaments with our daughter.

“I had two different wounds. The first was the thigh, which was grossly swollen, hard two drains to reduce the swelling, and seventy-five stitches that stretched more than a foot and a half from my hip to my knee. The second was the calf, which had is own drain, was wrapped in a splint to prevent movement, and had thirteen inches of dissolvable stitches.

The ortho team was responsible for the upper wound; the plastics team for the lower; and each side strenuously avoided commenting, inspecting, or even looking at the other wound. But they did continuously blame the other team for keeping me in bed. For a time it seemed as it my leg had become the United States before the Civil War — with my thing the North; my calf the Confederacy; and my knee was the Mason-Dixon Line. The frustrating standoff needed Lincoln to restore the Union.” (from chapter 16)

tlc tour hostThis book is an easy read, and if you have any heart, it’ll get you in the gut in more than one place. Bruce’s idea for the council of dads is genius and gave me many ideas for my children. I recommend it for any parent and anyone diagnosed with a serious illness or condition.

You can connect with Bruce in three ways:

If you’re interested in more reviews of this fine book, check out the TLC Book Tour for The Council of Dads.

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