Cancer manages to touch all of us

Record Editorial

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 3:40am
  • Opinion

1986 was an interesting year for me. In May Karen, my wife, and I were married. My Dad, then 47, decided to stop his chemotherapy several months prior to the wedding day to make sure he would have some hair for the event. That decision was a significant one for him, I’m sure. Being the photogenic family we are, hair was an important thing. Unfortunately, it was probably a decision that sped up the process of the cancer eating away at his body as he would pass away a little more than three months later.

I think it’s important to tell this story since cancer is still a major killer of our loved ones today. Research and prevention are the keys to winning this fight and there is no better way to help then getting involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. We can touch more on that in a minute. I think the story is a more compelling reason than just asking you to help.

In the early ’80s, my dad was shaving one day and felt a lump in his neck. I never really had the chance to talk to him about it but it must have scared the hell out of him, I know it would scare me. He went to the doctor and the worst was confirmed, it was a lymph node that indicated there was some form of malignancy in his body. He was a typical cop in those days, smoking several packs a day in his patrol car while rescuing stranded motorists on Interstate 90. Some people may say the cigarettes killed him and they are probably right. But with so many friends and relatives who have also battled cancer, never having smoked in their life, let’s not kid ourselves about the causes. Cancer is nonjudgmental and can strike anyone for a multitude of reasons.

Back to my family’s story. Dad went through that first round of chemo and radiation continuing to work when he could and finally got a somewhat clean bill of health. It definitely changed his outlook on life and I think the little things became a bit more important. I’m not sure of the timing but not much later he had another spot – on his lung and on his liver. It was back.

Dad was a State Patrol sergeant working in Walla Walla this time and I remember one visit vividly. He had gone through chemo a few days before and on that Sunday, it seemed to hit him very hard. He couldn’t keep anything down, he stayed in bed all day and it was obvious he was miserable. But that misery didn’t stop at the bedroom door. The entire house, let alone the entire family, was miserable for him as well. Watching that process tugs at every ounce of emotional strength a person can muster. It was tough leaving that day, heading back here to Puget Sound.

Not too long after, it was obvious the cancer was continuing to spread. Dad decided it would be better to be closer to family, I think, and he and Pat, my stepmother, moved back to North Bend. That was about the same time as the wedding and I again emphasize his desire to have hair for the pictures. Now keep in mind that even when he had hair he didn’t have much and, in fact, he used to comb it over the balding area on top from one side. It was kind of funny to watch on a windy day. But I digress, probably because I like to remember the fun things instead of the cancer days.

We did the pictures on a very hot May day and went on to the reception. It was great, watching him dance, enjoy the family and seem like his old self. But we all knew that he poured every ounce of energy into feeling normal that day.

In July we celebrated his 48th birthday. He didn’t seem to want to celebrate much but we kept harassing him as only family can and he gave in. We went to dinner and under the lights at the restaurant it was obvious that something was wrong. He was very yellow, which indicated that his liver functions were starting to fail. We tried not to mention it too much since we figured he already could tell from the inside that things were wrong.

It was downhill from there. At some point in late August it got to be too much to care for him. The decision was made to check him into the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital. I tried to visit him each day, driving from work in Everett down to spend a few minutes by his side. His 6-foot, 2-inch frame probably weighed as little as 120 pounds. He was doped up with morphine to kill the pain and didn’t open his eyes or speak. But I knew he could hear me and I carried on a conversation as if both of us were participating.

As the time drew closer we had our discussions about family, if his morphine wasn’t too strong. We talked about his eventual grandchildren, and his disappointment in not being able to see them.

Sitting at work, on Sept. 18, 1986, the call came. There was no need to visit the hospital that day, he wouldn’t be there.

This somewhat vivid story is replayed over and over by families around our Valley. It’s a cold reality that someone you know or are related to will get cancer and fight a similar fight. And as tough as a story like this is to write or talk about, it emphasizes that we can do more; we can get involved and, more importantly, we can support cancer research.

That’s one reason the Valley Record and Horvitz Newspapers is a gold sponsor of this year’s Relay For Life. To participate or put together a team, call Sue Beauvais at (425) 888-9666. The event will be held at Mount Si High School from May 31 to June 1.

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