High Schooler Reflects on Father’s Cancer Battle

It was 2009 when Christian Ieyoub recalls being called into his parents’ room with the rest of his siblings.

As Ieyoub and his brother and two sisters gathered in the room, his mother, Caprice Ieyoub, quietly told them that their father had been diagnosed with colon cancer during a routine colonoscopy. Ieyoub’s father, Richard, sat solemnly while his mother reassured them, “everything is going to be OK, and we are so lucky dad had this test done.”

“I can still picture the dark, sad look on my Dad’s face,” said Ieyoub. “At the time, I was still only 8-years-old, so I believed my mother’s words, and I was completely oblivious to the battle my dad was about to fight.” In Ieyoub’s young mind, he understood his Dad had cancer, but he had no real comprehension of the severity of the situation.  A laparoscopic surgery was scheduled at a New Orleans hospital to remove the diseased colon section, and no further treatment was expected due to Ieyoub’s father’s history of three prior timely colonoscopies, no family history of cancer, and zero polyps.  For a few weeks, “life went back to normal,” said Ieyoub.

During surgery, scar tissue from a kidney donation to his brother 20 years earlier precluded the non-invasive technique and the colon resection unexpectedly required a more complicated procedure and a major 19-inch incision, which extended Ieyoub’s dad’s stay from the one night everyone had expected to eight nights.  Ieyoub clearly recalls with some embarrassment that his main worry that week was whether his parents would get home for his ninth birthday. Ieyoub’s parents were indeed able to return home the night before his birthday. The family celebrated together, and he and his siblings thought the scary experience was in the past.

The next day, however, Ieyoub’s parents again gathered them, this time to share even more devastating news.  What they didn’t tell their children was that the post-surgery pathology results classified the colon cancer as Stage 3C.  What they did tell them was that their dad would soon start a very serious chemotherapy regimen that would last for six months, and that while this would make their dad very sick, it would ultimately help him beat the cancer and get well.

Ieyoub remembers the never-ending prayers, food, and other support that helped his family push through his father’s sickness. A happy memory from this sad time was that his older sister, Nicole, left her own family and came for two nights every other week for their dad’s treatments. “She always scheduled a special treat for us during her stay, and we looked forward to it during the long days in between,” said Ieyoub. Despite the support, Ieyoub couldn’t help but recognize his dad’s rapid deterioration. “His hair began to thin and whiten, he lost weight, he lost energy, and the hardest part was watching him lose his interest and ability to be involved in our family,” said Ieyoub.

Ieyoub describes one night as he was lying with his father, who was particularly sick from a rough round of chemo. “As I laid next to my Dad, I held his hand tightly, and we just laid in silence,” said Ieyoub. When Ieyoub got up to leave, he heard his Dad lightly whisper, “you have no idea how strong holding your little hand makes me feel.”

Ieyoub describes that moment as one he will never forget. It was on that night he most clearly understood the suffering and pain that this illness caused his father. “My father saying that brought me joy, but it also brought me fear,” said Ieyoub, “that night was the first night I feared losing my dad.” In that one moment, a scary, tough reality hit a young, now 9-year-old boy.

Ieyoub credits his father’s cancer journey for many life lessons he’s learned. “Because of having to deal with such a life-threatening situation at such a young age, I realized how precious life really is early on in my life, and for that I am grateful,” said Ieyoub. Ieyoub recognizes that he cherishes every moment he has with family, and he sees value in moments that he knows his friends often take for granted.

Ieyoub, now a junior in high school, attends Catholic High. His father is now cancer-free, and currently serves in Governor John Bel Edwards’ cabinet as Louisiana’s Commissioner of Conservation. Ieyoub, and his six siblings, have enjoyed watching their Dad accomplish many things since beating his cancer, such as his induction in the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame last March.

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