My Illness

Our CEO DAVID DRYSDALE shares some shocking personal news – and looks at the road ahead for Fathers Network Scotland and the Year of the Dad.

My Illness

David and ManauOur CEO DAVID DRYSDALE shares some shocking personal news – and looks at the road ahead for Fathers Network Scotland and the Year of the Dad.

Hello all

Late last week I was told that I’ve got a rare and aggressive form of cancer (which explains the back pain I’ve been experiencing over the last few months). I’m now in a bed in the Western General hospital in Edinburgh having been pumped full of morphine and chemotherapy drugs.

I had wondered whether I might get the cancer verdict and had thought how I would be with it: could I embrace it and take it in my stride? Yes, I thought.

And now I’m here and something has happened I never anticipated – I’ve lost control of my legs. In fact I’m paralysed from the stomach down. There’s a possibility I may never get my legs back – or my bladder. I’ve gone from always being fit, healthy & independent to being bed-bound & helpless in what seems like just a few hours.

So the embracing of this cancer isn’t as easy as I thought. I’m terrified and I feel grief especially when I think of how I may be saying goodbye to my wife, Misol, and my 7-yr old son, Manow. And can I do it in a good way?

And of course the intensive chemo and radiation that have been scheduled might do the trick – it’ll take the rest of this year and I’ll lose my hair and will be as sick as a dog from all the treatment (apparently). Do I have what it takes to get through all that?


Whatever happens, this has big implications for my work with Fathers Network Scotland.

I have nurtured this organisation from inception and it’s my personal pride and passion to be part of such a positive movement that is challenging unhealthy and limiting gender stereotypes – and helping men to step more fully into their role as fathers – at the heart of both their children’s and their family’s lives.

But right now I am all too aware that this role means putting our own families first and making sure we look after ourselves. I have discovered these last few weeks that unless I have my health I cannot look after my family – which includes FNS.

So my wonderful colleagues on the board of Fathers Network Scotland are taking over the helm while I contend with these challenges. I know they will do a great job – and you will be hearing from them very soon.

Year of the Dad2016: YEAR OF THE DAD

My illness comes at a time of unprecedented growth in our mission and reach. I’m so proud that we have recently heard we are being funded by the Scottish Government to collaborate on an exciting new initiative in our drive to build a father-friendly world: Year of the Dad.

Spanning the whole of 2016, Year of the Dad will be a national campaign celebrating fatherhood and the importance of fathers in child development and parenting, issuing a rallying call to services and employers to step up their engagement of fathers and embrace the importance of family-friendly, inclusive practice across Scotland and beyond.

Our society seems finally to be grasping that “dad-friendly” does not mean “anti-mum”. Quite the opposite: the vision of FNS is progressive, egalitarian and child-centred. Because supporting men to be better fathers will ultimately help women’s equality – and allow every child benefit from the love of more than one parent.

The work for Year of the Dad is starting now: so we will be in touch soon with more details, and to seek your ideas for how together we can make a difference to your place of work and the services you use. You can register your interest here.

I hope this will be our opportunity to come together to celebrate Year of the Dad – and show how important fathers are.


In the meantime, other exciting events are imminent. Next Tuesday 31st March, FNS will join with our partners at Family Friendly Working Scotland to present the first Scottish Top Employers for Working Families Awards.

We’ll be revealing the winner of the Fathers Network Scotland Best for All Stages of Fatherhood Award 2015, sponsored by Centrica and highlighting the great practice already happening in Scotland.

Then coming soon, we’ll be releasing new research we’ve conducted through the University of Edinburgh, looking into the work-life balance of dads. It includes some of the first in-depth interviews that have been done with dads in Scotland and will prepare the way for more research in 2016 and beyond.

I’m sorry that I now won’t personally be able to attend these inspiring events. But I wanted to reach out, let you know what’s going on with me, and ask for your blessing and prayers as I embark on this next step of the journey.

With gratitude & love (mixed in with some of that other stuff)