The summer before my sophomore year of college, I took my dad to his annual colonoscopy.
As he was waking up from under his anesthesia, the nurses called me back to see him, where he was in a room with other patients waking up from their procedures. My mom had warned me that morning that his Parkinson’s disease would make him take longer to wake up.
I was joking with him about how groggy he was when the doctor came in. The doctor sat me down and said, “It doesn’t look good. It’s probably cancer. Once your dad is more awake, I want to meet with both of you in my office,” but all I heard was “CANCER.”
I watched as it took three of my friends’ parents, one of my high school classmates, and other cousins and aunts. I was numb. That day we scheduled scans for the next week and more doctor appointments.
The doctor said he wanted to go ahead and do everything they could as soon as possible, so we did. Dad had scans done that confirmed he did indeed have colon cancer, and it had already spread to his liver. Doctors removed the cancerous part of his colon. Then he went through countless rounds of chemo to decrease the size of the cancerous spots on his liver so the cancerous part of his liver could be removed with more surgery.
That summer, my family became much closer. I had always been a daddy’s girl, but while I was in high school, we argued a lot. After his cancer diagnosis, we definitely grew closer again. I enjoyed being a part of my dad’s recovery: spending the nights with him at the hospital and going to his chemo appointments.
My dad completed more chemotherapy treatments, just in time so that he could be finished for our trip to Daytona Beach. But as soon as we returned home, the doctor told us that Dad’s cancer wasn’t gone. There were still some spots on his liver, so he went through more rounds of chemo and some radiation.
The cancerous spots decreased in size but haven’t completely gone away yet. He just finished his third round of treatments three years after his cancer diagnosis. After watching him endure so many rounds of chemo and radiation, eventually I started to feel a little frustrated.
Why couldn’t I have been one of those people whose family was totally unaffected by cancer?
This fall, my grandfather was also diagnosed with colon cancer. He took chemo pills and went through radiation.
My family thought that since we had already gone through so much chemo and radiation with my dad, we would know what to expect with my grandfather’s treatments. However, instead of really helping, his chemo and radiation treatments just seemed to hurt him more.
After numerous hospitalizations and a COPD diagnosis, Hospice moved my grandfather into my parents’ home. Over spring break, I got to come home and spend lots of time with him. During that week, he really perked up and stood up for the first time in almost two months.
My parents started to talk about the possibility of taking him out of Hospice because it really looked like he was going to get better. I left home the last Sunday of spring break and kissed my grandfather goodbye and he told me to “look out for the car behind the car in front of you” like he always did.
I was planning on coming back home just two weeks later to celebrate Easter with my family, so I didn’t think much of our goodbye that day. Just three days later, my grandfather passed away.
My sophomore year, I joined UGA Relay For Life soon after my dad’s first cancer diagnosis. Relay gave me a way to help in his fight against cancer. As an executive board member of Relay this year, I have become friends with so many others whose lives have been affected by this terrible disease. Many have lost family members to cancer and yet continue to fight for a future without cancer.
For a long time, I felt helpless against cancer. I can’t help but think that if my grandfather had just lived two weeks longer, I could have said a real goodbye to him. I Relay for that two weeks.
I Relay so that one day some girl can have two more weeks with her grandfather because I know how much that time would mean to me.