It's not something that you can easily deal with or explain to your young children.
It's not something that anyone in their right mind even wants to encounter in life, but it's just that ... life happens.
Jeffrey Crawley and Lucas Rainville are two single dads living in the Valley of the Sun, searching for another chance at life.
The two men's journeys have similarities and differences, but one thing they have in common is their fight with cancer, which has created a bond between them. It's all thanks to an all-woman organization called Singleton Moms in Scottsdale.
"In 2012, or I should say in 2011, I started getting these dizzy spells, just feeling real bad and I didn't know the reason why. I would go to work and I would be faint and just losing oxygen," said Jeffrey about him first finding out he had Stage 3 rectal cancer.
As expected, Jeffrey's life turned upside-down – from being a supervisor for the TSA to only having three years to live.
"I remember seeing a commercial. This commercial was about 'Do you buy insurance or do you buy food? Do you buy medication or do you pay your bills?'"
Jeffrey never thought he would face those decisions until the day he found out he had cancer.
"When you're faced with a decision of having cancer, people are desperate to do just about anything to survive," Jeffrey said, describing how his health troubles caused him to go broke.
His three daughters, one just 6 months old at the time of his first chemotherapy sessions, just ignored the fact he had cancer.
Jeffrey says that the worst feeling he felt throughout his cancer journey was not being a parent to his daughters. He felt hopeless.
After his 2011 diagnosis, he decided to go through chemotherapy and medications, but things became worse for Jeffrey in 2015. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer.
"So you're talking about a double whammy, you know. You're talking about being hopeful to making it through the first one. Now I got fourth stage liver cancer with six months to live. It floored me," said Jeffrey.
Jeffrey had half his liver taken out, and after lots of tears and contemplation, he decided not to go through chemotherapy or radiation this time around.
"I decided to go all-natural and organic," said Jeffrey.
Jeffrey says going all-organic has changed his life tremendously.
"I started off with organic lemon juice and organic baking soda, then I started juicing," said Jeffrey.
Jeffrey says he is now cancer-free thanks to a strong family base and eating organically.
A miracle? Possibly, or maybe his faith carried him through.
"I was a fire paramedic back in 2010. I was having some issues and I went to the doctor, and they found out I had colon cancer," said Lucas Rainville, who recently moved to Phoenix from South Carolina to try out a clinical trial at Virginia Piper.
Lucas was diagnosed with Stage 3A cancer. He went through chemotherapy, radiation and even had surgery where doctors removed half of his colon.
Anxiously, Lucas went back to work as a firefighter a year after his removal. But nine months into work, doctors found spots in his liver.
Lucas was prepared for the worst.
The worst came and doctors said that the cancer had spread to his liver. Lucas went through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery all over again.
He was clear after that, but life didn't stop there for him.
Lucas had to retire after his second cancer diagnosis, but he wasn't expecting a third fight with cancer.
Another nine months after his liver surgery, doctors found more spots in his lungs.
Currently, Lucas is diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.
But his cancer was the least of his worries. Lucas was more concerned of the well-being of his family.
"Yes, the cancer was concerning, but it was more of the -- I was the sole provider for my family, so what I am going to do in that situation?" said Lucas.
Thanks to his career as a firefighter, Lucas was able to get money from his retirement savings and he does contract work here and there to get by.
After doing some research, Lucas decided to move to Arizona to try out some clinical trials, plus it was easier for him to adjust to the dry climate.
"I was looking around (at) places to go, where I needed to be to get the treatments. That's why I came out here," said Lucas.
The clinical trial that Lucas is going through is an amino-based therapy drug with rabbit base protein, which is supposed to help block the cancer from growing.
At the moment, Lucas is still battling the cancer and doctors have not given him a time limit.
Lucas doesn't even think about the time he might have left. Raising his 6-year-old son is top priority and Lucas tries to provide a normal life for him.
"When he was first born I couldn't hold him, I couldn't touch him. I had to have long-sleeve shirts on, gloves and things like that, just little stuff like that, it matters. It's a big deal," said Lucas.
He says his son is used to going to doctor's visits, but that he does ask from time to time when his dad will be done with this.
"For him, this is just the life he knows. He knows I used to be a firefighter, but he wasn't old enough to remember me really. He remembers some things here and there, but he wasn't really old enough to remember me working," said Lucas about his son.
Lucas says that he took his health for granted for quite some time and now he makes his daily priority to be as healthy as possible, while battling cancer, to be there for his son as long as possible.
Lucas and Jeffrey's bromance
"We had the same type of cancer. We had the same type of situation of being a single parent and having that in common. I know what he has gone through and he knows what I gone through -- it's not sympathy, it's empathy," said Lucas about his friendship with Jeffrey.
Jeffrey said the first time he met Lucas, they instantly connected.
"I end up finding out that me and him have the exact same thing: third-stage rectal cancer, colostomy bag, we end up having fourth-stage liver cancer. Now, how often do you find somebody that has the exact same thing you have?" he said.
Both men's doctors bother referred them to an organization called Singleton Moms out in Scottsdale. They were hesitant because the nonprofit was mainly geared towards helping single moms who are battling cancer.
The men took the chance and until this day, they feel that was the best decision of their life.
"Because for months after the doctor gave me the information I was like, 'Nah, I'm not calling them. I don't want to be around that,' but the doctor kept saying, 'Jeffrey, I am telling you, they are a great organization," Jeffrey said.
"I grew up with two sisters, so that's kind of how I felt that place -- it's kind of like having a bunch of sisters around," said Lucas.
"We were only a few guys in a group of, you know, of a lot of ladies, and so that made us connect and made us feel good about each other," said Jeffrey.
The fathers now even trust each other with the care of their children. They both became comfortable enough to take and visit each other at their cancer checkups.
At the time, it was Lucas and Jeffery within the group of single women. But the women cared for them as part of the group.
"For the first three or four months after the fourth-stage liver cancer surgery, I couldn't get out the house, they literally would come by the house and clean up and bring groceries once a month," said Jeffrey.
"If I need help with babysitting or something like that comes up, they're more than willing to help. And it's the other mothers, you know, it's not just the people that are involved in the organization -- it's the people that they are helping. We all kind of help each other out," said Lucas.
"Singleton Moms was created to help single parents with cancer and deal with their day-to-day needs, housecleaning, bill pay, meals and also as a family to continue to create positive memories with one another," said Jody Farley, the founder of Singleton Moms.
Jody was influenced to start the nonprofit because one of her good friends died from cancer and was a single mom. Jody was amazed of the lack of help there was out there for single parents with cancer.
The nonprofit is now 11 years old, and during that time span, it has only helped 15 or 20 single fathers.
"Men and women, all of us have a difficult time asking for help. That's always hard, but I do feel in particular men have a hard time asking for help," said Jody.
Jody is really proud of that fact that Lucas and Jeffrey have made such a powerful impact in her organization.
"I really give them so much credit for being open to everything Singleton Moms has to offer. It's one of those things: 'Just try it. If it's not for you, that's OK," said Jody about Jeffrey and Lucas.
The organization is very thankful that Jeffrey and Lucas became a great example of how people going through harsh struggles can push through life together.
"It's not an area anyone wants to relate on at all, I mean at all. But the fact that they have found each other through Singleton Moms, and have been able to create this support system for each other, it warms my heart. I'm happy," said Jody.
Jody says that the nonprofit will soon be expanding its arms to single parents who have children with cancer. She says she eventually wants the name of Singleton Moms to change to include the new mission.
She also says that she hopes that Lucas' and Jeffrey's stories will be an icebreaker for any single father nervous about seeking help.
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