March 8, 2012 by Carin
Twenty seven years on March 10, 2012. Twenty seven years ago my dad passed away from Colon Cancer. I was eight years old and was in the second half of my 2nd grade year of elementary school. I don’t have many memories of him, but I know that I missed a lot without him being in my life and in the lives of my family. I remember the day we found out and it is forever etched in my mind as the day my life was vastly altered from what could have been to what it is now. My dad missed so much of my life and it still makes me sad and angry. He never saw me play softball, run cross country in high school, graduate from high school let alone college, complete any of my marathons and he never met my husband, walked me down the aisle and will never know my children. For all that I am angry in so many ways. But with that anger, I am sad for all the same reasons, so much was missed and so many experiences could have been better or worse with him, but none the less I wish he would have been around to share in them. I remember having friends growing up who would complain about their dads for being “a dad” and I would nod my head in agreement, but really be thinking “At least you have a dad to be angry with”.
The story I am going to share with you now is one very few people have heard, but it sums up the feelings of an eight year old girl who is facing cancer in the eyes and knowing it is going to get the best of her family.
It was a sunny day, winter and cold. It was the weekend because I was home from school. My mom had just asked me to empty the dishwasher, for some reason I hated this task and was refusing to do it. Probably whining to my mom and giving her more grief then she deserved at that time with all that was going on. Suddenly I heard my name being called from my parent’s room. It was my dad’s voice, weaker then it use to be. He was lying in bed, his new normal since his diagnosis the day after Christmas. He called me into the room and asked me to sit down. I was frightened not only for the lecture I was sure I was going to get, but of him. He wasn’t “Dad” anymore. He was a skinny, jaundice former shell of himself. I hadn’t spent a lot of time with him since he was diagnosed because he was tired a lot and it just seemed like we shouldn’t bother him. So as I sat there, he started to tell me how I needed to listen to my mother, help her out, be there for her, kind of what I expected but with more finality. I didn’t want to look at him and averted my eyes to the floor. He kept talking and if I remember right I zoned out a bit and started to think about what was really happening. My lip started to tremble and my eyes started to well up with tears. I snapped back to what he was saying when he asked me what was wrong. I then looked into his brown jaundice eyes and said “I am afraid you are going to die.” He then lost some of his composure and said “I am too.” He then opened up his arms and I went to him. He held me tight and we cried together. Nothing more was said. My dad wasn’t one to talk about his feelings, so for him to open up just a little like he did was huge. I don’t remember any more of the exchange we had, there probably isn’t much more to remember. I eventually got up and left the room and I am sure he went back to sleep. Within weeks of our exchange, my dad was taken by ambulance to the hospital for the last time and died that night.
My dad was 41 years old. There were probably many warning signs he ignored during the years leading up to his diagnosis. There have been so many what ifs and speculations throughout the years and trying to figure out what he was thinking or going through silently. We will never know. But it is 27 years later and there is so much new technology that could save a person with colon cancer or for that matter almost any other type of cancer. I hope if you, as a parent or spouse suspect something is not right with your body, that you take action and make an appointment with your doctor. Your family deserves to experience everything with you. Your children need their parents to be present for all those milestones, celebrations and ups and downs and the mundane everyday life. Please, don’t take your health for granted due to vanity or money. All the years that could be lost are worth so much more then what it may cost you.
As a parent now to two great kids it brings pain to my heart and soul just thinking of something happening to myself or my husband and missing out on all the events of our kids lives. They grow up so fast, experience, learn, change and grow so much so quickly. Know what my own dad missed out on and only brings the “what if” so much closer to home. If I think about the “what if” to much, it brings tears to my eyes and sick feeling to my stomach, so I try really hard to avoid those thoughts and enjoy what I have, but do everything in my power to make sure I am here for the long haul with my kids.
Lastly, I want to thank my mom. You did a great job raising me alone. You loved unconditionally and were the best single parent who gave so much. I know you wish you could have given more, but you were dealt a tough hand and you made the most of it. We had many fun times, some tears, but most of all, I had a mom who showed me love everyday.