After losing his daughter, local dad aims to help others through new book


GREENEVILLE, TN (WJHL)- After facing the loss of his young daughter, Andy McCall just released a book to help other dads.

The Greeneville High School football coach and second grade teacher said through his pain he hopes to be a support for others.

His daughter Penelope McCall suffered from a severe form of epilepsy, then in 2016 she got an unrelated cancer diagnosis.

Now, her dad has published a book called “Pigtails and Steel” about going through that experience from a dad’s perspective.

“I never felt like anything was geared right to a dad and right to a father and I was searching for that,” McCall said.

He started writing a blog as an outlet during Penelope’s battle with cancer.

“Nothing prepares you for losing a child or hearing that you’re 23-month-old little girl has cancer,” McCall said.

He reflects on mornings would leave the hospital at 5 a.m. to go teach class, coach football, pay bills, the daily demands that don’t stop when tragedy hits.

He wrote often from the hospital room.

“As much support as I had with school and football and our whole community I still felt alone at times and I just say with this hopefully another dad doesn’t feel alone,” McCall said.

When he and his wife Ellen said goodbye to their “Sweet P” he kept writing for a year and a half. Now he hopes those writings will help other dads.

“It’s okay to feel these things, it’s okay to be mad, it’s okay to be sad, and it’s as a man you don’t get to express that a lot and if I can express that for somebody else then it’s all worth it,” McCall said.

Just the first page gives you a glimpse in to the heart of this dad, “In memory of my little girl Penelope Claire. Daddy loves you.”

“First thing when I wake up what I think about is Penelope and when I go to bed that’s a last thing I think about,” McCall said.

He said he hasn’t read his own words yet, the wounds are too fresh. But he’s hoping his wounds help bring healing to others.

Portions of the book sale will go to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, a place the McCall family still holds dear, a place they called home for much of Penelope’s treatments.

You can find the book on Amazon by searching “Pigtails and Steel.”Copyright 2018 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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