Rob Delaney Pens Powerful Essay on Late Son’s Cancer Battle
Early this year, Rob Delaney’s young son tragically died. His 2-year-old son fought and lost a battle against a fatal brain tumor.
Now, eight months later, the still-grieving comedian has released the first excerpts of his book, which he had been writing when it looked like his son was going to make it.
This is heavy, powerful stuff, and very much worth reading.
On Medium, Rob Delaney shares pieces of the book that he has written about his late son.
“I may wish Henry wasn’t in the hospital and it may make me f–king sick that my kids haven’t lived under the same roof for over a year,” Delaney writes in one excerpt.
“But I’m always, always happy to enter the hospital every morning and see him,” Delaney says. “It’s exciting every day to walk into his room and see him and see him see me.”
“The surgery to remove his tumor left him with Bell’s palsy on the left side of his face, so it’s slack and droops,” he describes. “His left eye is turned inward too, due to nerve damage.”
“But the right side of his face is incredibly expressive, and that side brightens right up when I walk into the room,” he writes.
“There’s no doubt about what kind of mood he’s in, ever,” Denaley continues.
“It’s particularly precious when he’s angry because seeing the contrast between a toddler’s naked rage in one half of his face and an utterly placid chubby chipmunk cheek and wandering eye in the other,” Delaney explains.
He goes on to say that it “is shocking in a way that makes me and my wife and whatever combination of nurses and/or doctors are in the room laugh every time.”
“And when he smiles, forget about it,” Delaney beams. “A regular baby’s smile is wonderful enough.”
In contrast, he writes: “When a sick baby with partial facial paralysis smiles, it’s golden. Especially if it’s my baby.”
Delaney also speaks of the earliest signs of his son’s illness, which began normally enough — with Henry vomiting in 2016. Babies do that sometimes.
What made it worse was that he continued to do so.
“Henry was losing weight,” Delaney writes. “Every time he vomited I would freak out. I would feed him so gently, so slowly, and assume I’d done something wrong when he vomited.”
Delaney blamed himself over the medical mystery. “Why, if I’d been able to feed Henry’s ravenous, feral older brothers, couldn’t I feed him?”
“My baby was getting smaller,” Delaney writes. “And that is a f–ked up thing to see.”
“I would often start crying whenever he threw up,” Delaney admits. “I would try not to cry in front of his older brothers and fail.”
“And they’d ask why,” Delaney continues. “And I would say it was because I was scared.”
It was only after a friend suggesting seeing his child’s pediatrician that Henry, still a baby, was given an MRI.
The doctor already suspected that a mass might be forcing Henry to vomit uncontrollably, but did not say the word “tumor” until Rob Delaney said it first.
Henry ended up having drastic brain surgery — the one that resulted in his aforementioned lazy eye and partial facial paralysis. But it was not enough.
Delaney shares that he wrote about these experiences before his family got the worst news of their lives.
“The above was part of a book proposal I put together before Henry’s tumor came back and we learned that he would die,” Delaney explains.
Understandably, “I stopped writing when we saw the new, bad MRI.”
“My wife and his brothers and I just wanted to be with him around the clock and make sure his final months were happy,” Delaney writes. “And they were.”
He adds that he’s putting his writings out there for his intended audience — other parents of very sick children.