A smile and momentary pause 

It has been five months since my husband’s passing. Our kids and I have spent the past few days at Spring Training in Scottsdale, Arizona, watching our favorite MLB team play baseball.  The trip was in part a gift from a dear friend who understands cancer and caregiving. She made me promise not to spend her monetary gift on college tuition or bills, but to take the children on a trip.

This trip was the first vacation the kids and I have taken since 2011, the last time we were here. My husband could not join us because he was dependent on IV medication. Somewhere in the course of 1,000 plus consecutive days. Being tethered to an IV pole limits what you can do as a family.

I remember the stress and strain of being away from him in 2011. The worry of him getting another infection. How badly he must have been missing us. The guilt I felt being able to travel when he couldn’t. The grief I received from some who disagreed with my traveling with the children without him.  The prevailing sadness because he couldn’t be with us. We were a family on a trip, minus one, Dad.

This is nothing unique to families when a parent is ill. There over 2 million children in the U.S. today living with a parent with cancer. I have no idea how many minor children have lost a parent to the horrible disease. I suspect the number is growing. I do know it changes many things for these children.

Traveling on this trip has been different. We learned in 2011 how to include my husband. Photos. Texts. Live time chats with him. Game recaps.  Even though he wasn’t physically with us, we tried to include him as much as possible.

This time he was with us in a different way. Guiding us, making the trip seemles, and making sure our son was able to get the one signing he most hoped for, from his favorite ball player, Joe Panik. After signing a couple of baseballs for other kids, Panik turned and walked over to our son, as if he were being directed to include the boy on the end. It was the exchange of their smiles and momentary pause when I felt my husband telling me we did the right thing back in 2011. As emotionally difficult as it was then to take a four day vacation while he was struggling with cancer treatments, the experience brought us a profound sense of family this time. The five of us, still together.




Jeannie Gazzaniga Moloo PhD, MS, RDN cared for her late physician husband through 12 years of blood cancer treatments, including a stem cell transplant, while raising their three young children. She is an award winning registered dietitian nutritionist and former owner of a clinical nutrition practice where she advised clients on healthy eating to manage heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and gastrointestinal conditions. She is a Ph.D. in epidemiology, with an emphasis in preventive medicine and environmental health. For nine years, she was a national media spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics providing sound, science-based nutrition advice to media, consumers, industry, and researchers. She has been quoted in several publications including the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, and Parents Magazine, and appeared on ABCNews, CBSNews, NBCNews, NPR, and KYGO-FM.

Reader Interactions


  1. H. Mehdi says


    I hope God will give you the strength, courage, support, and love that I am sure you ll deserve and will receive because of who you are. Life is a journey that has its ups and downs, but with your personality you see the postives as negatives.
    I do wish you the best along with the rest of your family. You are blessed with good family bond on both sides which I am sure will give you the added strength to keep going forward.

    God Open HIS heavens to Nazir, and when someone leaves positives behind him, he is alive forever in people’s mind and heart.

    Thank you for sharing these personal stories with the rest of us.

    H. Mehdi

  2. Lisa Gazzaniga says

    Hi Jeannie, we think about you and the kids often. We’re so glad that you had a vacation with the kids. Hopefully, we can see each other this summer. Maybe we can get a gathering at the Scheaffer’s house.
    Love, Lisa, Mike, Caden & Sophia

  3. L.A. Jefferson says

    I just came across your blog from an article I read on a family caregiver site. My husband is not battling cancer, but an incurable lung disease. Since he was diagnosed in 2015, my son and I are going on a mini-vacation for the first time. I’m fighting the feeling of guilt that you felt when you and your kids took that trip in 2011. It is very hard leaving a ill spouse behind. But getting away is necessary for the children and the caregiving spouse of an ill-mate. I’m sorry for your loss and I thank you for sharing your experience with balancing life with cancer. God bless you.

    • Jeannie says

      Thank you L.A. My children and I took a couple of mini-vacations when my husband was ill. Each time it was hard because of the guilt and missing him, but I knew in my heart, our children needed to have these experiences like their friends were with their families. I wish you the best, Jeannie

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