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How being a parent to a child with cancer changes your life

What is it like to have your child diagnosed with cancer? Monica McGuiness and Aaron Rodriguez spent two years traveling 80 miles to a hospital so that their 8-year-old son could receive treatment. McGuiness and Rodriguez share their Brief but Spectacular take on childhood cancer and how they coped.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Next, our weekly Brief But Spectacular series, where we people talk about their passions.

    Monica McGuiness and Aaron Rodriguez spent two years traveling 80 miles to a hospital in Oakland, California, so their 8-year-old son, Devin, could receive treatment for cancer.

    They share their experiences with us tonight.

  • Monica McGuiness:

    Devin is my son. He’s 8 years old, and he is the brightest little boy ever.

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

    It was beginning in April. It was about a week.

  • Monica McGuiness:

    Before the hospital.

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

    Before the hospital trip.

    He was having — I got out the shower and I seen him trying to use the restroom, and it was hard for him. And then I told her, make a doctor’s appointment, because I think he has a UTI.

    So, they did the ultrasound, and that’s when…

  • Monica McGuiness:

    They found the mass.

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

     They found…

  • Monica McGuiness:

    But they didn’t know, like, what the mass was until we went to Children’s Hospital Oakland by ambulance. And then we stayed the night there.

    And then the very next day, they told us Devin was going to go in for a biopsy. And, you know, he went for his biopsy. And after that, they let us know that Devin was diagnosed with stage 4 embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma.

    He took the diagnosis, I guess, very well. I guess he doesn’t really — didn’t really understand. He just knew he was going to be, you know…

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

     That he was sick.

  • Monica McGuiness:

    That he was sick and he was going to get bald.

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

    It was really serious that he could — he can actually die from it. And that was the hardest thing to tell my son.

  • Monica McGuiness:

    Yes.

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

     He just got quiet. He just took it all in.

  • Monica McGuiness:

    Yes.

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

    And he’s a really strong little boy.

  • Monica McGuiness:

    He is.

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

    And he took it to heart, and that’s the day he started fighting.

    It was very hard just to see my son, that just, when I thought cancer, all I heard was death.

  • Monica McGuiness:

    His first question was, is my son going to die?

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

    … going to die? That was because everybody hears cancer, and everyone thinks death.

  • Monica McGuiness:

    Yes.

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

     We spent his birthday, New Year’s, Christmas, Halloween, Easter…

  • Monica McGuiness:

    I think all the holidays.

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

     … every holiday, birthdays, we spent at the hospital.

  • Monica McGuiness:

    They really made him feel comfortable, which made us feel at ease as well, because, when Devin is feeling good, we are feeling good

  • Question:

    What do you have to say to other parents who are going through what you went through?

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

     I can handle it one way. As you can see, I’m a crier. And she holds back.

  • Monica McGuiness:

    And, plus, you can’t really find somebody’s silver lining for them. You know, you can’t say, oh, everything’s going to be OK or they’re going to — they’re resilient.

    You know, we as parents don’t want to hear that. This is our child. He shouldn’t have to be going through this. He should be playing little league, and he should be going to school, instead of having to take the year off to get chemo.

    You know, try to explain to all of your loved ones and family members and friends what exactly childhood cancer is and what you go through as parents.

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

    As of three weeks ago, Devin is — no signs of cancer. He’s back to…

  • Monica McGuiness:

    He’s back in school. He’s doing really good, fighting with his brothers and sisters.

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

     Getting on our nerves.

  • Monica McGuiness:

    Getting on our nerves.

    It’s changed my life by appreciating my kids or Devin even in the bad times, when he’s on my nerves, because I missed that the whole time when he was going through treatment.

    My name is Monica McGuiness.

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

     Aaron Rodriguez.

  • Monica McGuiness:

    And this is our Brief But Spectacular take…

  • Aaron Rodriguez:

    … on childhood cancer.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we are so happy to hear that Devin is doing really well.

    And you can watch additional Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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