The Hidden Warriors of Cancer by: Savanna Tate

Savanna & Steve Tate

Who Am I?

My name is Savanna Tate.  I live in Utah with my husband and high school sweetheart Steve.  We have 6 beautiful children, 3 of which are triplets and one that is our warrior angel, Hayes.  Having gone through childhood cancer with my sweet baby, I hope to shed light on childhood cancer with my new-found passion, the HayesTough Foundation.

The Hidden Warriors of Cancer by: Savanna Tate

The question I get asked often is, “What about your other kids?  How did they do through treatment and you being gone?”  Siblings of children with cancer are the forgotten heroes of the disease.  Starting in January of 2016 all the way through November, my kids were without a mom for almost 150 days due to overnight hospital stays with Hayes.  And on top of that, when both of their parents were around, the kids had to see constant worry on our faces and often times, tears from the supposed “rocks” of the family.   I could see that they often felt like they had to be strong for us.  What a frightening journey for them.

Sometimes in the quiet times at night, one of my children would open up to me or my husband about the fear they were facing.  They didn’t like seeing us sad, but more than anything, seeing us worried, scared them more than anything.  They had an overwhelming fear of losing their baby brother and when they saw our own fear for the same thing, they felt like their fears were validated.

At the beginning of our journey, I remember Hayes had been in surgery to remove the tumor.  The surgery was a success but the doctors had discovered tumors on his spine.  We decided the kids didn’t need to know about his spine.  “Why worry them unnecessarily?” we rhetorically asked each other.  We wanted them to feel the relief of finding out Hayes no longer had a tumor in his brain.  What we didn’t expect was that when our 10-year-old was at school, classmates that had heard the news from their parents, broke the news about the spinal tumors to Bo.  He came home from school devastated and scared.

From that point on, my husband and I approached the cancer situation, being honest.  We told our kids the truth.  We focused on the facts that the doctors were doing everything they could.  When they asked the hard questions, we answered truthfully.  We realized that our children know more than we give them credit for.  But, what they needed from us was reassurance that everything was going to be ok.  That we were a family and no matter what, we were always going to be a family.

I realized at this time that there are two distinctly different ways to react.  The pretending like everything was great, and the being just ok.  I feel like from the beginning of this journey, our whole family has been “just ok”.  It has been a miracle because we have been able to show our children that emotions of sadness and anger are normal and fine, but that regardless of what we feel and face, we will be ok.  We will be ok and the fact that I know that is another miracle.  I think there is something empowering about letting your kids realize that their emotions are all a part of the journey.

My biggest piece of advice for other parents facing hard things is to let your kids know that no matter what, life will go on and you will be ok.  Show them your strength but show them your vulnerability.   It is ok to say you are scared and sad, but let them know you are still their rock through the tears.  Nothing can shake that, not even the monster, cancer.