[ Anglais] Lung Cancer Expert Turned Cancer Survivor: Coping With Family Challenges After a Cancer Diagnosis

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Topics include: Patient Stories

Dr. David Carbone, single father, and cancer survivor shares his story of being left with four children while fighting cancer, his wife couldn’t handle his diagnosis so she left. Dr. Carbone shares his biggest fear about who would take care of his children if something were to happen to him. There were moments where his kids were taken back by his appearance because the cancer and treatment changed him. Soon, they began to work together as a family, and it all started with a shaved head and butterflies.

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Andrew Schorr:

So when you were diagnosed, you have four children, and your wife couldn’t handle it, right?

Dr. Carbone:       

Right.  

Andrew Schorr:                  

Okay. So and I’m sure, in your patient population, you’ve seen spouses and families where it’s hard to take.

Is there any advice you’d give to the patient on how to move on? I mean, how did you move on? 

Dr. Carbone:       

So everybody’s journey is different. But when I was diagnosed, and my wife left me, I was a single parent taking care of four kids and trying to work. And I was the sole supporter of the family of the group. And I had kids ranging from 7 years old to early teens.

And so I wasn’t so much afraid about what would happen to me. But I was afraid about what would happen with them. And we haven’t really talked about it, but how do you communicate to children who really have no idea what’s going on?  The oldest child I think was really the only one who got it and was genuinely afraid that they’d be left alone.  And my youngest kids just were afraid of me, because I was starting to look weird.

My hair was starting to fall out, and they thought oh, what’s going on here? Is it contagious or something? So I like to talk about a little story with my youngest daughters almost didn’t want to talk to me, because they were afraid. But when my hair started falling out, I needed someone to shave my head and just get it off. And so I asked my daughter, Beatrice, to shave my head.

And she reluctantly agreed. And she starts shaving. And then I hear this giggling. And then my littlest daughter is looking around the corner. And then they both come in, and they’re all shaving my head. And Beatrice is a very artistic kid. So when they were done, she ran out and got her colored markers, and she drew all over my head butterflies and flowers and stuff.

And so that was really a turning point in their interactions with me. They became somebody who could help me in the process. And though they didn’t understand what was going on, at least they realized this was their dad still and that they could help me out in certain ways. And so, again, my biggest fear was that I was the sole support for the family and that I had to survive for their sake.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on December 16, 2015