As parents, we move through life looking forward to seeing our children accomplish different milestones. We think that we have all the time in the world to see them grow up, get married, and have kids. But what happens if we suddenly learn that we don’t have that luxury of time?
This was what Scott Riddle experienced exactly three weeks ago. A happy, healthy, and hard working dad of three, the 35-year-old’s life was overturned when he received heartbreaking news: He was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer.
Faced with the prospect that he might not be able to see his young kids -- aged 5, 3 and a few months old baby -- grow up, Riddle turned to blogging platform Medium to pour his thoughts and feelings. The post, “I’m 35 and I may suddenly have lost the rest of my life. I’m panicking, just a bit,” has since gone viral, and strangers have been commenting to give him praise and support.
Riddle’s heartfelt piece reminds us of our role as parents and of the reasons why we are here:
1. Mom and dad have to take care of themselves first so they can do the same for their children. Riddle shares that he’s “never been seriously sick in his adult life,” and yet he finds himself undergoing radio therapy and chemotherapy to fight the disease. As parents, our children’s health and safety are a priority, but we should also not forget about our well-being. Riddle says in his post, “I feel like I have so many messages to deliver to the blissful masses from my now precarious vantage point, from the importance of early precautionary doctor visits to the merits of life insurance.”
2. We have to stop sweating the small stuff. Riddle is a planner, and “before this diagnosis, I’d been thinking of my first 35 years -- aside from being a ton of fun and travel -- as preparation. I felt like I was building a platform that I could then use in my second act to make a real contribution, to 'make my mark,' and to build a real legacy for my kids. Perhaps that was a mistake on my part, because I may have no time to do that now.” While laying out your plans is fun and exciting, there will also come a time when you have to stop and just start seizing the day. Sometimes it's as simple as listening patiently to your child as he tells you the exciting things that happened to him on his way home from school.
3. But our responsibility as parents also means imagining a future where we're not there for our kids. After hearing the diagnosis, Riddle was compelled to think of the implications of his illness. “I need to be pragmatic and prepared for a scenario where the treatment is unsuccessful, and I’m told one day that I have X months to live…I need to [be financially ready], [have] a mechanism to ensure my children remember me, legal authority for my wife over our assets, etc.” When faced with tough challenges, we step up and prepare because no matter what, we need to ensure that our family is well taken care of when we are gone.
4. We continue to fight and go on for our children, no matter what. A cancer diagnosis is overwhelming, and it’s easy to fall into a pit of hopelessness. But because he is a dad, Riddle knows he had to fight the disease for the sake of his children. “I must believe I can beat this cancer to get through the next six months,” he says in his post.
5. Stop assuming you have a full lifetime to do whatever it is you dream of doing. Riddle didn’t expect the outpouring support from his blog post, but he wishes for this message to resonate with the readers. “It sounds ridiculously cliched, and you never think it will happen to you, but life really can be taken from you at any time, so live it with that reality in mind.”
Don’t take the life that has been given to you for granted. Hug your kids and live your life to the fullest!