Hanging onto hope

Cancer brings father and daughter closer


Freshman Makenzie Hofert’s father was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a severe condition that slowly runs its course through the body’s respiratory system. Makenzie refuses to stop hoping that her father will heal; she shares a special bond with him. Submitted photo

Story by Joseph Asher, staff writer

She closes her eyes to escape the reality of the world. Her heart jumps out of her chest, her skin turns pale and her lips began to quiver. Her cries flood the room, and her screams echo off the walls. Reading the text that changed her life and turned her world upside down, she goes blank, entering a state of complete numbness.

Her father, Nicholas Hofert, had opened up about the severity of his disease to her that night through the heart-wrenching text that left her numb. Nicholas’s disease, pulmonary fibrosis, a severe form of lung cancer. It was something no one saw coming, a total shock for freshman Makenzie Hofert and her family. It all started from a little illness, but it grew, slowly progressing into a life-threatening disease.

The initial stage of his disease was not initially seen as a danger, but as it progressed, it became more severe than expected.

“It started three years ago, but when he was first diagnosed we thought it was just a respiratory issue,” Hofert said. “At first, he just had trouble breathing, but then he went in to get another diagnostic. On this one they went in to do a biopsy, accidentally puncturing his lungs which caused the cancer to spread throughout his body.”

When Hofert heard about the cancer spreading, her reaction wasn’t in the form of tears, but rather an expression of befuddlement. She was confused as to how this could be. One minute she thought her father was fine, and the next he had cancer.

“At first, I was just a little shocked, so I wasn’t sad or anything,” Hofert said. “He said that he was going to be fine, but as it progressed, I started closing up and got really upset. Not talking about it was my solution.”

I try to spend as much time with him as I can, although sometimes I feel like it’d be better if I didn’t see him. But sometimes I think if I don’t, I won’t be able to overcome it.”

— Makenzie Hofert

Having a close relationship with her father is what added to the pain of Makenzie’s heart, leaving it vulnerable to the reality of what was happening. Makenzie and her father had a special bond. Watching her father steadily decay in front of her eyes is something that Hofert had trouble coping with.

“My dad and I have always been very close. I go on vacations with him, and I’m just around him more often,” Hofert said. “So watching him be in this much pain has been taking a toll on me, and it’s been really hard.”

Spending most of her time with her father is all Hofert has left to do, knowing that he may not have much time left. However, the thought of choosing not to see him in this condition has crossed her mind several times.

“I know he might not have much time left,” Hofert said. “And so I try to spend as much time with him as I can, although sometimes I feel like it’d be better if I didn’t see him. But sometimes I think if I don’t, I won’t be able to overcome it.”

Her life was immediately put on pause the day that her father had to move hospitals to receive better treatment in response to his disease worsening.

“About a week ago, he was moved from Little Rock to St. Michael Hospital,” Hofert said. “I can no longer swim in the mornings, my homework is now being put on the bottom of my list and I have to take care of him sometimes.”

This was seen as both a good and bad thing for Hofert. It taught her a life lesson and instilled responsibility.

“It’s not really a bad thing, but it’s also not good,” Hofert said. “It’s helped me realize how much people mean to me in my life.”

Stress doesn’t even begin to describe what Makenzie is going through. She not only cares for her father, but also takes on the care of her half sister, who is going through much more.

“My parents are divorced and she is my half sister,” Hofert said. “So she has no parental guardian except for her grandmother, and for her [grandmother] it’s really stressful because it’s her son. My little sister is having a harder time with it because she sees it everyday, so I go and help take care of her, which pushes my life back.”

I always say he is going to live, and I’m going to be able to share my life with him.”

— Makenzie Hofert

Dealing with the thought of her father dying is what pushes Makenzie to her breaking point. A life without her father is unimaginable.

“If he does pass, I have no idea what I’m going to do,” Hofert said. “I will probably leave school for a while, because losing him will be very hard. He means the world to me, and without him, I don’t know where I would be.

Hope is all that is left for Makenzie. She constantly reminds herself that her dad is going to make it through, and that she won’t lose him.  

“I don’t ever say he’s going to die,” Hofert said. “I always say he is going to live, and I’m going to be able to share my life with him.”