My dad, My hero

I have been meaning to write this post for awhile, but it seemed appropriate to wait until Father’s Day to write about my dad. And now that the weekend has arrived, I feel I must stick to my deadline, as any decent writer should.

My dad has been instrumental in helping me navigate through the crazy world of cancer. This is in large part due to the fact that he’s a great father, and I am lucky. But it’s a bit more complicated than just that.

When my dad was a teenager, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma – a rare type of bone cancer. Even after receiving radiation, the prognosis was not great for 5-year survival. Quite a lot for a young boy and his family to have to deal with.

For those who have met my dad and can do some basic math, I’m sure you’ve figured out that he survived those five years, and then some. And lucky for me, despite the odds, he was able to produce three good-looking, intelligent, witty, and modest young children.

Growing up, I never understood too much about my dad’s cancer, or how it might have affected his life many years after. Although I’m sure it was always a constant presence in his mind, it wasn’t really for us. It was something we knew had been part of his childhood, and that he had conquered, and that was all I really needed to know. Cancer was part of our family’s history, not present. Something occasionally referred to in the odd anecdote.

But five years ago, that changed.

In 2008, my dad was diagnosed with breast cancer. Did you know males can get breast cancer too? Well, now you do.

So as you can see, this breast cancer beast found its way into my family before it decided to take up residence in my own body.

My dad underwent chemotherapy (the same grueling combo that I was so lucky to experience) and surgery. He got sick, he lost his hair. You know how the story goes.

This was a difficult time for my family. As you can imagine, I was scared and confused. I didn’t understand much about cancer at that time, or breast cancer specifically. I didn’t like knowing that my dad was hurting, and that I couldn’t do anything about it. And since parents like to protect their children, there was a lot that they did not share with us. Bits and pieces of information would be communicated, but not everything. My parents always put on a brave face. Everything was going to be okay. Because it had to be okay.

After dealing with that whole ordeal, my dad was struck a third time with the Big C. This time, it decided to take a trip to his thyroid, which was consequently removed, along with the cancer cells. And now, of course, we hope that third time’s a charm. And that’s it. (Seriously cancer, leave my dad the F alone. I think you’ve made your point. Whatever that is.)

So my dad has had a pretty rough go, you might say. And despite being knocked down three times, he’s still alive and kicking. He does yoga, he meditates, he draws, he travels. He kicks ass. And as you might have guessed, he has become quite the role model for me, now more than ever.

When we discovered my cancer, it was quite the blow to my family. Seriously, hadn’t cancer already caused enough chaos in our home? Could we not get a break from it, of more than a few years at the very least? It seemed pretty unfair. And frankly, it still does. My family is awesome. We are pretty good people. We don’t really deserve to have our lives constantly threatened. But here we are. You could boil it down to bad genes. Or bad luck. It doesn’t really matter. This is the hand we were dealt, and that’s just the way life goes.

My dad and I have certainly bonded, in a most unexpected way. He is one of the only people close to me who can say “I know exactly how you feel” and I know he really means it. We now share this strange connection, this common history, that most fathers and daughters don’t have, and probably could not understand. He has accompanied me to almost all of my appointments with my oncologist, helping me understand my treatment and figure out the important questions to ask. He has watched me cry out in pain, and he has felt pain for me – as any parent would feel for their child, but also as a cancer survivor feels for one who has recently joined the club no one wants to be a part of.

Now that I know what it is to face cancer, and to deal with all of its ugliness, I see my dad in a whole new way. It is almost impossible for me to imagine going through this three times. Once has been quite enough for me. I am truly in awe of my father’s strength and determination, and his ability to keep going every day, after all he has been through.

Sometimes, I really lose faith in my “battle”. I read other blogs, I focus on statistics and numbers, and I get consumed by all the people who don’t make it, and I begin to wonder if anyone really does. And then I remind myself; I know someone who has survived. I know someone who beat the odds. And he just happens to share my DNA. DNA that may have possibly made me more prone to cancer. But may also make me more prone to surviving it.

I love you, Dad.

Me and my dad, two days prior to my breast cancer diagnosis
Me and my dad, two days prior to my breast cancer diagnosis

23 thoughts on “My dad, My hero

  1. Hi Steph.
    Love your post about your dad. I would love to republish this post in my breast cancer digital magazine call Pink Bust. I feel my readers would find this very informative and inspiring. Would also love any photos of you with your dad. I read the article in the star “Father and daughter in charity walk share unlikely breast-cancer link” which sent me in search of you and a way to contact you.

  2. Your whole family inspires me Steph!!! You are all so brave and the love you all have for each other is what will get you all through the good, the bad, and the ugly. My whole family reads your blog and and they find so much strength from you (so do I) my dad was recently diagnosed with myelofybrosis (a rare bone marrow disease) the doctors gave him 5 years…..hearing about how brave your dad and you and your whole family are, give me so much Faith that he will show this disease who’s boss. Thank you Steph, for being the brave wonderful human being that you are. And thank you for giving me hope when I have been struggling to find some to hold on to. Much love to you always Steph xoxox Tara

    1. Tara – I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. Luckily he has a great family to get him through it. Your message was so sweet. I’ll be thinking of you guys. Big hug!

  3. I have to say that your writing is so damn emotional for me. I grew up with your dad. Our parents were not only first cousins but really lifetime friends. Your dad and I have known each other since we were babies. Through the years, as we have been following our journey, your dad has always been a very special guy. He once took my brother to the hospital when he dove into Aunt Loreen’s pool and shaved his scalp right off his head. Pretty straight and narrow, always with a great smile and chuckle, thats Todd. Your dad, is the greatest. And then he lucked out and married a very brave, beautiful and intelligent woman, your mom.
    I think you have the best DNA. You have your mom’s beauty and your dad’s longevity. You absolutely have their smarts. You also reflect their goodness.
    Enjoy your dad today Steph.
    Cousin Cheryl

  4. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. You Dad is an amazingly strong and incredible person and so is his daughter!!!!!!!!

  5. Soooo not the post I was expecting! It sucks that your dad had to go through all that, but he’s clearly passed on the kickass DNA needed to survive this crap. Happy Father’s Day to him 🙂

  6. Steph, your father is so… special and take each day as a special day which I know you do and how lucky you are to have such wonderful parents your brother and sister and your hubby. Hugs!!

  7. My brother had rabdomyosarcoma in his twenties, my sister breast cancer 8 years ago, my three first cousins all had breast cancer and yes all still alive some up to twenty years post treatment.
    So many survivors.

  8. Your best blog yet. You are so talented in the way you write. I’m so impressed. I know when you have a ‘subject’ to write about, it just flows. I’m sure many have said to you that you should write a book and you should! Your wit, outlook and intelligence needs to be shared with others! Your blog today is a wonderful tribute to your father and the bond you share. Enjoy your day with him tomorrow! Xxx Michele

  9. Dear Steph,
    What a beautiful column. As relatives who have known your dad since his childhood, we totally agree with you–he’s an absolutely awesome guy! We feel very fortunate to be a part of your wonderful, extended family!
    Hugs and more hugs,
    Marilyn and Bobby

  10. Dear Steph,
    What a moving, lovely portrait of your dad! I remember the day (I believe in 1971) when my brother Hank called to tell me that your dad had been diagnosed with cancer, adding that the prognosis was not very good. As you wrote, he beat the odds and has continued to do so. You certainly have inherited his and your mom’s determination. Your parents are two of the loveliest people I know and I always enjoy seeing them when I visit Toronto. Their love and the love of other family and friends are so important during this challenging time in your life. Thanks for sharing so much of your journey with all of us. Just as your dad was and continues to be, you too are an inspiration and a picture of resilience.
    Bobby and Marilyn

    1. Thanks Bobby. Seems like a lot of people remember that time in my dad’s life. I’m happy he had so many people like you to support him back then!

  11. What an amazing blog about your dad. What a strong role model you have. I am glad he is doing okay today, and you too! It’s amazing how much cancer shakes our lives upside down but we are still able to find the positives and make important connections. My mom had breast cancer 4 years ago and my dad prostate 2 years ago, so cancer has definitely invaded my family as well(and as you know I course now me). It definitely gives you a new perspective and outlook but good people to turn to

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