Cancer. A word that puts fear in the hearts of all humans who hear it. Those stupid little cells that just won’t die. Those cells that want immortality so much that they are willing to sacrifice the life of an entire human being. Fuck them. Fuck them all…
You see, back in 2011, I lost my dad to cancer. He was diagnosed in 2009. Days after it was clear that my ex- and I were going to split up, my dad moved from Jacksonville back to Ft. Lauderdale (April 2009). When I saw him then, he looked healthy. I didn’t see him again until July, when I got a call saying he was in the hospital. I made plans to see him as soon as I could, and when I got to Ft. Lauderdale I saw a man who had lost 50 pounds in three months.
There is no way to mentally prepare yourself for what that looks like.
The diagnosis was colo-rectal cancer with a side of liver and lung cancers. Worse, he wasn’t working, so he didn’t have insurance. He qualified for Medicaid, but it took some months before he could start getting treatment. In 2010 he moved to Ohio and had to stop treatment until he transferred to their Medicaid system. This took some months… The doctors eventually recommended coloctemy, which Dad declined. The doctors told Dad that the chemo was no longer working, but Dad insisted in continuing treatment. (I still don’t understand why the doctors continued administering chemo, even if Dad insisted.)
Every time I called Dad throughout all of this, he minimized what was going on. “Strong like bull,” he’d say. “The cancer’s shrinking.” Pictures I saw through Facebook suggested he wasn’t getting better, but I thought it was the chemo working it’s evil magic. I knew Dad wasn’t feeling well on my birthday in 2011, because he didn’t call. He always called on my birthday…
My aunt confirmed my fears with a phone call the day after my birthday. She was blunt: “Your dad is dying.” She went into more detail. When I contacted my brother, who lived with my dad, he said my aunt was over-reacting. Since I didn’t know the extent of it, I finished out my semester which lasted another week. Then I flew to Ohio.
There was no denying my aunt’s diagnosis. The man who at one time weighed in at 300-pounds (his nickname was Heavy), and should have been about 185 when healthy, now weighed less than me (~150 lbs). For a 5’11” man, that’s not a good thing.
Pray to all the gods that you never have to truly associate the words “skin and bones” to a loved one.
Skeletal is not a fun word to use in association with the living.
A mosaic I made of Dad’s bass drum
Weeks later, Dad died. I had a dream at about the same time Dad was on an ER table being resuscitated in Ohio (despite his DNR). The dream was bright lights, and Dad surrounded by people all in white with white medical masks on their faces. I told Dad it was Ok to let go. He did, and I woke up. I laid in bed for a bit wondering if the dream was a premonition. Thirty-minutes after I woke my brother called me to tell me the news. I didn’t even pick up the phone right then, because I knew what he was going to say. When I rolled out of bed, checked the message, and called my brother back, my brother relayed that the ER folks had been doing CPR on Dad for about 30 minutes. They stopped when my brother and my aunt arrived at the hospital and ordered them to.
So what brings up this recollection of my dad’s last couple of years? My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. Again. She already lost one breast to it nine years ago. And yet the recent biopsy on her other breast still came back positive for cancer, and a more aggressive form of it.
My dad’s illness and death brought me back into closer contact with my aunt, and I love her dearly. I’m scared for her, and I’m scared I might lose her.
With that, I can’t just do nothing with my fear, worry, and frustration. So I’m going to run a race that supports cancer research. I’ll be running the Miles for Moffitt 5k on May 10. Though I’ll be running with Team Judy, Steph’s team that honors her mother who lost her life to breast cancer, I’ll be running in honor of my dad and my aunt.
My aunt on the Relay for Life toilet left on her front yard (05/2011). I think there is a fundraiser associated with this… 🙂
If you are interested in supporting me in this race and supporting cancer research, you can do so here. For every $50 donated, I will add a zany item to my running costume, and I’ll send you an autographed photo of me in my costume. 😀
Below is my fundraising costume from the 2012 Making Strides Against Cancer Race. I raised $250 with that costume, so help me beat that goal! And help to fund research to find treatments for cancer, so that we can keep more of our loved ones with us for the length of time they are supposed to be with us.