Saving Becca

One year in a family’s battle against cancer

Bob and Becca have a relationship that other girls and their fathers envy. They’re alike in their high-spiritedness, and they can butt heads stubbornly until Sue intercedes. But there’s a camaraderie and affection between them, the same sense of humor and diligence, a touching respect.

He can’t get over that she’s growing into a woman before his stunned eyes. He started to worry last summer, when he’d pick Becca up after swim meets and see 18-year-old guys hanging around her and her girlfriends.

“I’d say, ‘Becky, who are those guys?’” says Bob, an affable man who likes to joke that his daughter looks more like him than ever now that she’s lost her hair. “And she’d say, ‘Oh, they’re just my friends, Dad.’ And I’d say, ‘Uh, Bec? I think they want to be more than your friend,’ and she’d roll her eyes and say, ‘You’re crazy.’” It was her obliviousness that worried him.

A few years back, unbeknownst to Sue, Bob started sneaking Becca out of the house for long motorcycle rides along the winding roads of Bucks County, and the two would howl with glee when they hit a bump. Sue used to ride with he husband, but after they had Becca and Bobby, she stopped; if they crashed, the kids might be orphaned, an unbearable thought. Sue eventually found out about her daughter’s clandestine outings, but, after a “minor confrontation,” she agreed to let the rides continue. Sue, though, still refused to accompany Bob until the kids are grown.

“I’ll bet she could use a ride right now,” he says, sipping his Coke. “When this is all done, maybe we’ll go for a good long one.”

He says this without complaint or yearning. After nearly 20 years of marriage, he knows that rough times pass, although the couple has never faced anything as daunting as Becca’s cancer. The social worker at CHOP told them that the stresses of having a child with cancer test a lot of marriages, but they’re not worried. “We had a strong foundation before this happened,” he says. “We’ll let this make us strong before we allow it to pull us apart.”

They’re still sweethearts. Bob, who grew up in Cheltenham, was a co-worker of Sue’s brother, who set the couple up on a blind date. They married two years later and settled in Warminster, Sue’s hometown, where she worked as a secretary until Becca came along. As Bob’s business began to flourish, they realized they had enough income to build a house with space for the kids and all their friends. They looked at 400 floor plans before settling on their dream home: four bedrooms, a couple of dens, extra bathrooms so no one’s jammed up in the morning crush to get out the door.

It’s impossible to imagine what such a rambling place might feel like without Becca’s overwhelming presence.