In honor of Father’s Day, this special blog post features PearlPoint staff members who are remembering their dads who faced cancer. Although they may be gone their strength, grace, and dignity remain a source of inspiration. Do you have a tribute for your dad?
Jen Hartman – Registered Dietitian
I was 13 years old when my father, my daddy, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. At 13, I really didn’t understand how much that word cancer would impact my life. That summer, Dad went through surgery to remove the tumor which was followed by months of chemotherapy. I watched him as he went through treatment; his full head of black hair disappeared, replaced by his Cleveland Indians hat. I watched as his hearty appetite of hamburgers, chili, and ice cream was replaced with chicken broth, lemon ice, and ice chips. I watched as the weight began to fall off, pound by pound. But somehow, even though those treatments and those side effects, he still found a way to laugh and make us laugh. Somehow, cancer brought out a spark in my dad. He fought cancer that year and beat it.
However, it was the summer before my senior year when Dad’s colon cancer returned. Dad went through multiple treatments and surgery over the next two years. His Indians hat returned to his sweet bald head, his clothes were suddenly too big, and those awful side effects started up again. But somehow, Dad continued to fight, determined to see his baby girl graduate high school, determined to see his sons graduate college. During his cancer journey, he never missed a basketball game, a track meet, a school event, any chance to support and see one of his three children he was always there, even on treatment days. His will to live was to be there for us. And through it all, he never complained, never gave up. And he always knew how to make us laugh. He really lived life treasuring each day, another day with his family. I will always cherish those years. My dad may have lost his battle to cancer on July 3, 2004, but I am grateful for our time together and will forever be his “daddy’s girl.”
I feel blessed to work for an organization whose mission is to help others in their cancer journey. Every day, I have the opportunity to provide guidance, support, and most of all encouragement to others who have been impacted by cancer and that is pretty humbling.
Jackie Russell – Office Coordinator
Even though it was almost 5 years ago that we lost my dad to cancer, it is still almost unbearable to think about. My dad was the rock in our family and is my hero!
I recall my dad complaining of stomach pains for several months and some indigestion which he had for as long as I can remember, so we all kind of shrugged it off. In late summer of 2007 my dad made a hole-in-one during a game with his golf buddies! While celebrating at lunch that day he realized something was wrong when he couldn’t swallow the hotdog he was eating. After many tests over several months we received the news that my dad had stage 4 esophageal cancer. My dad’s response was, “It is what it is” and he vowed to do his best to fight the disease. After many rounds of chemo and radiation my dad had surgery to remove the mass the following May. With clear margin reports and being told he was “cancer free,” we celebrated. During his recovery the biggest obstacle was regaining his strength and weight. We were very thankful to have a knowledgeable registered dietitian give us some very valuable tips.
By mid-September of 2008 my dad had a follow-up PET scan where they discovered the cancer had returned and spread to his lungs and other areas. He was given weeks to a few months to live. Around mid-October I moved in with my parents and truly understand what it is to be a caregiver 24/7. As difficult as it was to watch my dad wasting away and the humility that goes with that process, my memories now focus more on the courage and strength he showed our family as he faced his death with grace, dignity, and love. Never once did I hear him complain.