For most young kids, summer vacation means care-free days of being outside, getting together with friends and enjoying some time away from school. But, for one De Smet student, a “normal” summer would forever have a new meaning, after his father was diagnosed with cancer in 2013.
Alec Dobson had a close relationship with his father, Dr. Jim Dobson, growing up. His best memories with him included the many fishing trips, helping him with his tree cutting business, and visiting him at his local chiropractic clinic after school. Alec describes his father as an outdoorsy family man, who loved what he did and loved being involved in their community.
It was late spring, when Jim was extremely tired and found it difficult to continue his normal activities without being short of breath. After a visit to the doctor and blood tests, Alec’s parents were very quiet and he immediately knew something was up. That’s when he found out that his father had been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. A ten-year-old at the time, Alec can remember feeling shocked, “I understood cancer, but I didn’t think it would ever happen to us.”
Shortly after his diagnosis, Jim was admitted to the hospital and began his first round of chemotherapy. As other families followed their kids to summer activities, planned camping trips, and fretted over back-to-school shopping, cancer changed what the Dobson kids considered “normal.” Jim and his wife spent the majority of the summer in the hospital facing countless blood tests, doctor’s visits, and treatments, while Alec and his older siblings stayed with their aunt. “My mom didn’t leave his side,” said Alec. “She always stayed so strong for him and for us. She has a big heart and has been so influential in our lives.”
Fast forward to November 2013, and the Dobson family had a lot to be thankful for. Jim finished treatment and was able to return home, plus they had a whole community offering their support, which was even felt by the youngest member of the family. “There was a big community fundraiser and our neighbors were really helpful the entire time,” said Alec. “My friends were always there for me and their families would invite me over to spend the night.”
Jim was able to return to work in early 2014. As summer rolled around, the family was once again thrown for a loop when Jim was readmitted to the hospital and had to start treatment again. “His white blood count came back really high and we knew this round was going to be even harder than the last since his body was a lot weaker than it had been the first time,” said Alec. “It was hard to see how the treatment affected him.”
On August 28, 2014, a young father lost his battle to cancer, but he has left a lasting impression on many people that knew him and loved him - especially his son. “I don’t know who I’d be without him,” said Alec. “I’d be a totally different person.”
Today, Alec is a 15-year-old sophomore at De Smet High School and is involved in wrestling and football. Even though his father may no longer be able to physically attend his sporting events and give him advice, his son can still hear the words he always told him – “keep your nose to the grindstone”. Words he would undoubtedly love to be able to hear from his father again.
As the De Smet High School students join together to raise money and awareness through “Bulldogs Bark Back @ Cancer”, Alec is just one of the many students who has experienced the wrath of cancer first hand and understands the importance of coming together as a community to support those fighting this disease. Alec has chosen to step up and share his story and give advice to others who may be going through the same battle. “Don’t be afraid to talk to others. You’re not in this by yourself; it helps to talk it through.”