Blindsided by the Diagnosis; the Story of Losing my Son

 In Patient & Family Stories

Losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare.

Terry Hoag never saw it coming. He had enjoyed a successful career as a human resource executive and, more recently, as an artisan. But no role will ever be more important to him than that of being a father. Alongside his wife, Carolyn, he raised two beautiful, bright children – son Pete and daughter Jessica.

But on August 17, 2005, Terry and Carolyn were hit with the worst news imaginable.

In 2006, exactly one year after diagnosis and six months following tumor removal surgery, Pete completed a 100-mile bike ride.

They were visiting Pete in Denver. “It was a Wednesday,” he recalls, “and I was sitting in their living room when Pete walked in, threw some MRIs down on the coffee table and said, ‘I have a tumor.’ It didn’t dawn on me that it was cancer. He was just in his early 30s.”

Biopsy results received two days later proved the tumor was malignant. “Pete’s degree was in molecular and developmental biology from the University of Colorado in Boulder,” Terry notes, “so I’m sure he understood better than any of us what was happening. We just kept clinging to hope.”

For the next five years, Pete battled valiantly with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer, but was determined to keep life as normal as possible for those around him. He scheduled his chemo and other appointments in such a way that those at the financial firm where he worked weren’t aware what was happening. Only when surgery to remove leg bone became necessary did his coworkers learn of the long struggle. Ultimately, neither the surgery nor clinical-trial drugs could stop the cancer’s progression. He passed on September 11, 2010.

“In the beginning,” Terry reflects, “you pray to God for a miracle. In the end, you pray for an end to their suffering. We didn’t know much about The Denver Hospice, but they were able to lessen his pain and brought so much compassion to all of us those last two months. And Pete was able to stay at home.”

“The day Pete passed, the hospice team was just great. They helped us with details, like calling the coroner. They also helped us through some financial matters as part of the follow-up. There are so many things that have to be done at a point where most of feel helpless.”

Seven years later, Terry’s appreciation for the care they received remains strong, as evidenced by his ongoing support of The Denver Hospice. He continues to inspire others with his art and create pieces in memory of Pete. Nothing will fill the void in his heart, but by focusing on the happy memories he had with his son, and by putting his love and time into art, Terry is able to heal.

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