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The Bow Tie

For nearly as long as I can remember, my dad would comment on how cool it would be to have a REAL bow tie. He once said that he thought being able to tie a bow tie was a skill that classy men had and seemed to be a dying art.

My dad didn’t own a bow tie when I was a kid. As my dad’s 50th birthday approached (January 28, 2011) I was in full-scale wedding planning mode and decided that I wanted to give my dad that opportunity to be the man in the tuxedo, tying a real, bow tie.

I searched a few stores and ended up in the men’s department at Macy’s. They had a wide selection of bow ties, including the classic, black satin bow tie. The cashier asked me while ringing up the bow tie, “does he know how to tie this?” He didn’t know who it was for, what it meant or any of the back story but I answered, “He will.”

Dad’s surprise party 50th birthday party had to be changed from a surprise party in Ohio to a planned party at my parent’s home in Pennsylvania because my dad’s cancer treatments were taking a toll on him, making travel tough. For his birthday, I gave my dad his bow tie and a link to a how to video on YouTube.

I’ll never forget that smile when he opened his bowtie

A week or so after his birthday, I received an email from my dad with several in-progress photos of him tying the bow tie. Read the rest of this entry

Treasure Your Father

Father’s Day is this weekend and it’s tough. Every holiday is tough when you lose a parent, but especially the ones meant just for them.

Last year, I thought Father’s Day was rough, but my dad was still here. Dad had been admitted to the hospital on the second day of our honeymoon and we had no idea until the last night of our cruise when we were back in range of U.S. cell towers. He was still in the hospital on Father’s Day, but I got to call him and talk with him. This year I can’t.

A couple of weeks ago, I ventured into the card aisle on a mission for birthday and sympathy cards during lunch. I like to think that I’m pretty good at shopping for sympathy cards, I know what words brought the tiniest bit of comfort to me and I know that glitter is never appropriate, it’s like fake cheer. While walking through the aisles of cards, I ended up in the Father’s Day section. I thought for about two seconds that I could pick up a card for my father-in-law while I was there… I couldn’t even pick up a card without feeling like I was going to burst into tears.


Reading with dad at a very early age

Although nice, none of the commemorative ornaments, Relay for Life luminaries or photographs can take away the ache associated with missing your father. No one tells you Read the rest of this entry

A Lesson from my Father

I wrote this back in 2007 about my dad’s outlook on life, cancer and other people:

…We found out that my father will probably never be cancer-free. 3-6 months out of the year he will probably be on chemotherapy. But they have not given him a time frame and his cancer tracers in his blood have been reduced by nearly 60 percent. I went to chemotherapy with my dad yesterday and spent some time with him. My father talks with the nurses and other people at chemo, they joke and get to know one another and when one of the nurses is having a bad day they talk to him and it seems to make a difference that he cares about them as real people. Everyone is surprised that he is still working close to full time while undergoing cancer treatment. When I mentioned it to him once he told me that if he didn’t have to go to work, he probably wouldn’t get out of bed some days. When he hurts he figures that he’s either going to hurt at work or hurt at home and at least at work he has a distraction. My dad hasn’t been given a time frame but as he says, “we’re all terminal.” He’s decided not to waste any days, even though the doctors tell him he could have many years ahead of him. There are two lessons in this that I have learned: sometimes we are stuck in proximity with people, so why not care about them? And don’t waste your days, you never know how many you have.

One of us said something funny

I had forgotten about that until it resurfaced recently… in a very timely manner. Around the holidays we’re often around a lot of people, whether in crowded shopping areas or seeing those family members that you see on special occasions or running into old acquaintances when everyone goes “home” for the holidays. You’re around people whether you want to be or not, you might as well care about them.

When I wrote that bit above, we didn’t know how many days my dad had. Four years later, his days ran out.. and he never wasted the time he had. This holiday season when you’re gathering with friends and family, don’t forget why you’re gathering. Go to be there and actually be with the people there.

I’m not trying to tell you that you may die tomorrow or anything like that. What I’m trying to say is, don’t waste your time.

Related Posts:

What I should have said at dad’s funeral

The C-word

Everyone has a story

My dad

The C-word

I’m pretty straightforward when people talk with me about cancer. It’s a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many and quite frankly it’s not a word that people talk about enough… except of course in October. This month is breast cancer awareness month, with all the pink things, pink ribbons and talk about boobs, I think we’re not only aware of breast cancer but that we think it’s stylish to “show our support.”

What we’re not aware of are the other things that people should know about cancer. In October it’s all pink, but what about the other months? How much dark blue did you see in March for colon cancer awareness (the closest to my heart gets top billing)? How about orange all through September for Leukemia? Anyone celebrate June 5th for National Cancer Survivors Day?

There’s a month/week/day for something all year-long. Stop just being aware of breast cancer in October and be aware of health 365 days a year. Take those special awareness events to try to understand a new illness and how it affects more than just the body. Do more this month than buy a pink coffee mug, find out the risk factors and preventative steps to take to reduce your risk of breast cancer. Next month educate yourself about lung cancer (and diabetes).

Everyone knows someone who is affected by cancer, for some of us it’s closer than for others. It’s sad when cancer awareness is stylish instead of supportive or proactive. Cancer awareness is not about wearing a ribbon and October is not all about pink, it’s learning and understanding at the very basic level what cancer is and how it affects people.

After my father‘s four years of surgeries, chemo therapy and fighting – I’m aware.

Fact: Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the US, with about 141,210 new cases and 49,380 deaths this year. {source}

Related Posts:

What I should have said at my dad’s funeral

My Dad

Go to the Doctor!

Seriously, it could save your life.

It’s the time of year when everyone seems to come down with something. And now I’ve started to see tweets and Facebook statuses about long-term illnesses that are being passed over as annoying.

It freaks me out to see people say things like:

  • “Day eight of feeling like death.”

  • “Two weeks and the migraine is still here.”

Diabetes: My Childhood Perspective

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has had type 2 diabetes. It freaked me out every time she gave herself an insulin injection. I hate needles and it made me hurt to see her give herself a shot in the stomach. I was also hesitant to kiss her goodnight because I thought I might be able to catch diabetes. After hearing someone say something positive about a blood sugar number of 75, I believed that to be the target level.

Then the commercials with Wilford Brimley came out and he called it “diabetus” and I got confused, wondering if maybe my whole family had been pronouncing it wrong all along.

As I got older, I learned that diabetes is in fact, not contagious (in the manner of the flu). That reduced my concerns and I learned some things about diabetes as I learned how to handle diabetic emergencies when I was a lifeguard.

Now that I have diabetes, I have a much different perspective. I know the differences between type 1 and type 2 as well as gestational and I’ve just recently learned about the existence of type 1.5. I’ve also learned that there’s a range for blood glucose readings, and that sometimes I won’t be within range and I can’t beat myself up for that.

I’ve also learned that the majority of people don’t know nearly as much about diabetes as I did before I was diagnosed. There are almost 19 million people with diagnosed diabetes, it’s probably important to at least know a little about it.

Oh yeah and it’s pronounced: dye-uh-BEE-teez

Invisible Illness Week

Although Invisible Illness Week is technically over (I’m new to blogging about my health so that’s my excuse), there still needs to be awareness that many of your own friends and family are living with an invisible illness. Invisible Illness Week was September 12-18.

I’ve seen this list of questions used by other diabetic bloggers and it really brings light to what this particular illness does to us. So here are my answers:

Read the rest of this entry

Cancer + Coursework

My dad just recently turned 50, birthdays for his have become more precious to our whole family recently.

In April of 2007, I dropped my dad off for a colonoscopy early in the morning before driving to school. In the weeks following that test, a rapid progression of event including a stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis, an invasive surgery, and the beginning of chemo therapy followed and then I found myself graduating from Perry High School on May.

I finally made my decision at that point in time to attend Malone College and commute from home in order to be there  with my family. During those weeks between the diagnosis and graduation my dad and I talked about my perfect attendance thus far and he said it wasn’t worth it just to go sit in the hospital.

Spending my first year of college so close to home was the right decision at the time. I was there to take my dad to chemo and there to cook for him when my mom was at work. But toward the end of my freshmen year, I realized that I wasn’t experiencing college, I was going to classes and experiencing cancer. I decided to transfer to Mount Union.

Shortly after my transfer my father took a job at a church near Pittsburgh, where he could work and be close to treatment options. We’ve pretty much exhausted everything and the doctors have replaced the word “cure” with the word “treat.”

However, once I decided to experience college I started learning more than when I just went to class.

Having a family member with a serious illness on top of attending school full time and working is a serious struggle at times. But at times you have to do what you need for yourself. Only a few of my professors know about my father’s cancer. I do not take perfect attendance nearly as seriously as I did in high school. When your family needs you, people will help you out, classmates with give you notes and professors often don’t count it against your attendance.

Some of the adjustment has affected my organization meeting attendances and I leave my cellphone on my desk in class and have no problems leaving to take a call.

It is possible to positively deal with both coursework and cancer at the same time. It’s a struggle, but chances are you aren’t alone. Everyone is in some way affected by cancer.