If you're a regular reader of this blog, or you follow us on Instagram (@maxinamillionaajourney, cheeky little plug) will know that both myself and my amazing partner, Max’s mam, Rachel, are not scared to open up about our feelings while we have gone through this journey. (It’s mam, not mum, because we are Northerners you see.)

We felt it was crucially important to document the struggles we went through as parents, as well as the good times. We want to give a true reflection of how unpredictable aplastic anaemia is, and even more so with the stem cell transplant process, to show that it's not all plain sailing. It can be a long process from admission, as we found out after finally getting Max home after 137 days in hospital.

I’m not going to self-diagnose myself with anything mental health related, such as depression or anxiety. Like any person, I have suffered from self-confidence issues and feelings of not being good enough many times throughout my life. These feelings can arise in any aspect of my life: whether it's my career, my studies, being a good enough friend or partner, and most importantly not being a good enough dad to Max, which has always been my biggest worry.

I don't think I’m wrong to say that a lot of these feelings stem from growing up without that father figure in my life. It's something I’ve struggled to cope with for many years and something I still struggle to come to terms with. A lot of my feelings of worry about not being a good enough father for Max, creep up to my brain from a deep rooted wound which is still being forced open by a mound of confusion and disappointment that I will never be good enough which is why I want to talk about this today.

Going through this journey with Max, making decisions as his father regarding chemotherapy, fertility preservation surgery, infections, SOOOOOO MANY INFECTIONS, and being present during those 137 days in hospital for both Max and Rachel - all this has made me realise...

I AM A GOOD FATHER. This experience, as incredibly tough as it has been, has shaped me into the man I am today. I am so much more mentally strong than I thought I was. Although I will still have days when I don’t feel good enough, I believe that’s normal. It’s just about being able to recognise and reflect on what we as a family have gone through, and how well we pulled up our big-boy-trousers and got on with the task at hand.

Self-doubt will always be there in every aspect of life, which have been created from negative experiences, but I feel I’ve finally learned how to turn those negative experiences into positive life lessons to grow stronger as a individual.

Until next time, Connor. X

Hi there, I'm Connor Gardner, dad to Max, sharing our family's story from a dad's perspective.

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AA voices

AA voices is a collection of blogs in which people affected by aplastic anaemia share the stories they feel are important, in their own words. If you would like to tell your story here, please get in touch with Ellie, our Comms and Fundraising Manager, by emailing [email protected].