For years I lived in a blissful ignorance about daddy's cancer

My parents' world imploded – but for years I lived in blissful ignorance of my father's rare form of sinus cancer

  • Eve Simmon's father Jeff was diagnosed with sinus cancer when she was seven
  • Secret operations occurred regularly during the six-year Jeff's disease
  • Fifteen years after his death, she asked her mother why they kept it a secret
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I was a frightened child, even before Dad & # 39; s cancer struck (photo: Eve Simmons)

I was a frightened child, even before Dad & # 39; s cancer struck (photo: Eve Simmons)

What will become of the children of cancer victims?

Well, I should know. My father Jeff was diagnosed as a rare form of sinus cancer when I was seven.

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One night, when I was nine, an ambulance – flashing sirens and such – was called to our house.

The chemotherapy treatment he had received caused a large blood clot in his brain, which increased the risk of stroke or sudden death.

He underwent a night of invasive testing and was given drip-fed medication in the hospital before coming home with my mother, Michele, in the early hours.

Not that I had known. My brother Sam, then nine years old, and I enjoyed a great evening at a neighbor's house, playing football and yawning at takeaway pizza. These secret operations occurred regularly during Dad's six-year illness, I would later learn.

Honesty, my parents were told, was the best policy. But they did not follow this rule.

So while my mother and father's world imploded, Sam and I enjoyed a blissful early childhood. We were taken away by relatives to the coast and were happy with food packages sent by family friends.

My father Jeff was diagnosed with rare disease at the age of seven (photo: Eva as a baby with her father Jeff)

My father Jeff was diagnosed with rare disease at the age of seven (photo: Eva as a baby with her father Jeff)

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My father Jeff was diagnosed with rare disease at the age of seven (photo: Eva as a baby with her father Jeff)

We felt happy that our father was at home every night and enjoyed helping us with homework. We knew little that his unbridled illness prohibited him from doing much else.

Fifteen years after his death I asked my mother: why the secrets?

"We wanted to protect your youth as much as possible," she says.

"We didn't know what was going to happen and if we had told you then, you'll wait six years for your father to die."

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Only when Dad lost his hair, three years after his diagnosis, did Mama mention the word cancer. And even then, as a nine-year-old, it went over my head.

Only much later, when I was 12, they were forced to explain the situation. Mama calmly explained that Dad had deteriorated and extended family gathered to help. He died in a hospice four days before my 13th birthday.

I thought I had remained relatively intact. But almost ten years later I developed an anxiety-related eating disorder. My mother thinks the two can be linked. She says: "The underlying feeling of fear turned out to have a negative effect.

"I thought you were like a pressure cooker and one day all emotions would accumulate and burst in you."

But I don't agree with that. After all, I was a frightened child, even before Dad's cancer struck. And despite the tragedy of losing him, I feel happy for a joyful and carefree childhood, filled with unconditional love.

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There is no correct answer when it comes to dealing with cancer. As simple as it sounds, love is really your best defense.

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