Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Because it's the right thing to do . . .

By the time my dad was my age, he'd escaped death a few times. That's not poetic license; it's cold, hard, amazing truth. He was diagnosed just past thirty and it went something like this: "You have cancer. It's rare, it's incurable, it's metastasized, and the best we can do is cut all of it out that we can find and blast you with a bunch of radiation. But it probably won't work. You've got six weeks. Sorry."


He hung on, though. For a few years, he endured brutal, barbaric treatments until his doctors decided to try this newfangled treatment called "chemotherapy." It made all the brutal stuff before seem like roasting marshmallows and singing "Kumbaya" around the campfire. It required days in the hospital, he lost weight he didn't have to spare, his hair fell out. I was really little. It was horrifying to watch him rattle up the sidewalk after a chemo treatment, skeletal and frail but with a big, tired smile on his face to reassure me.


But he survived. And although the cancer specter loomed for years, it didn't come back. For TWENTY-FIVE years, he was clear. That's pretty much as close to cured as it gets. It was a miracle.


But those brutal treatments he endured exacted an extremely high price on his body. He suffered side effects that resulted in heart damage, nerve damage, and a combination of other problems that would make an endocrinologist weep. Yes, chemo saved his life, but it was a new protocol and he paid that price his whole life.


In November of 2005, he sat us down, now grown adults, and informed us calmly that a node in his throat had been biopsied and tested positive for cancer. It wasn't the same cancer as the one from years before. This was altogether different. It was non-Hodgkins lymphoma and his prognosis was good. Normally a slow growing cancer that isn't caught until it's in its advanced stages, his had been caught because he was screened so regularly for EVERYTHING due to his history. He was only Stage 1, maybe Stage 2. 


Heck, that was practically grounds for throwing a party at our house.


Except, he had to go through chemo again. And things got grim real quick at the dining room table.


I remembered the hell of his treatments when I was a kid and my brother and sister remembered the stories.


But we cowboyed up like we were taught, and when he came home from his first chemo treatment, we were waiting, braced for the worst. And yet, the day was already different. He'd driven himself for an outpatient treatment where he sat in a cushy chair and took it easy for a little while. And he drove himself home. And he walked in with a smile on his face. And he felt fine. And he ate regularly. And over the next few days he continued to feel fine. And his hair never fell out.


And we all began to relax. For him, with this cancer and this treatment, chemotherapy in the grand scheme of his health history, had become No Big Deal.


Know why? Faith, yes. Prayer, yes. Blessings, yes. And MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY. 


I often contribute to cancer research causes because I've seen what a difference 25 years of research can make. I figure with my family history, it's only a matter of time before I catch The Big C, so I do what I can to bank against that almost-certain future: I get the screenings my insurance will cover (2 moles removed last week, thankyouverymuch) and I donate to researchers who may one day make chemo obsolete or in the case of my dad, totally tolerable. AND effective. He got to end his sessions EARLY.


My editor at Covenant, Eliza, is one of these crazy people who looks at a mountain and says, "I'd like to climb that." Or in this case, looks at a 26.2 mile ribbon of road and says, "I'd like to run that." Why? I don't know why. I see a mountain and say, "That looks pretty" or a winding stretch of road and say, "I should keep that in mind for a Sunday drive."


But that crazy Eliza is going to run a marathon to help raise funds for cancer research. NO. They're trying TO STOP BLOOD CANCERS, like the one my dad had and beat. Because there was RESEARCH that led to an effective cure and a treatment that left him with some dignity. 


If you could, hop over to her fundraising site and throw a few bucks her way to help sponsor her and STOP STUPID CANCER. Please CLICK HERE and make a donation. Do it for me. Do it for anyone you know who has ever been affected by lymphoma, Hodgkins, or leukemia. Because those things suck and there will come a time when the research will outsmart the cancer and we won't even need a cure because we'll have the vaccine. So go ahead, click and donate. I did it.


Just as an added incentive, anyone who donates this week will be entered in a drawing for a copy Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (book #3 in the Hunger Games trilogy), courtesy of moi, because that book will be tres awesome and an awesome donor deserves an awesome book. I think Eliza will be able to tell who entered and I'll let you know who wins.


You can get more information here and here.


*My dad did pass away a few years ago, but it wasn't because of stupid cancer, so THERE, cancer. You didn't win.

20 comments:

Amie B said...

ok - this is the second post i've read today about a family member with cancer.

i've been having a really crummy week, and this sure puts things in perspective for me. i think someone's trying to get through to me - and his name's not karma.

now excuse me please while i wipe my eyes.

Kimberly said...

I'm with Amie. Big ole dose of self-pity squashing perspective. This was an awesome post, Melanie.

Susan said...

My nephew just beat leukemia, thanks to his mom who, beyond all odds, ended up being a perfect bone marrow donor match. I've seen so many people die from cancer, but like you, I've seen a lot of people kick it in the rear. Thanks for the heartfelt post.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I'm running my first 5K ever in September for a little girl with bone cancer. Seriously, cancer sucks. I am not a runner, but I will gladly run for this little girl and all of my family members I have lost to the stupid disease. Beautiful post.

L.T. Elliot said...

A post I needed. Thank you, Melanie. I'm so glad your dad beat it. I hope technology can get to a point that we can obliterate it.

Eliza said...

Chantele-- YOU CAN DO IT. I'm not a runner either, despite Melanie making me sound like a superhero (thanks, Melanie). I started running just less than a year ago, and my first 5k--for BYU's cancer research center--was terrifying. But I was glad to do it for the cause.

And now I can't stop. :)

Carolyn V. said...

Wow. It is so wonderful to hear when someone beats cancer!

A very good friend of mine recently found out that her husband has cancer. I feel so much for their young family.

Awesome post Melanie. Thank you.

Braden said...

That was a great post, Melanie. Very poignant and evocative. You must be a writer or something.

Kazzy said...

Your dad sounds like a real pillar-of-a-guy. What a great post and a great reminder that someday all of us will face something real, like this. Thanks so much. You rock.

Kristina P. said...

Fortunately, my life hasn't been truly affected by cancer, but I know how incredibly rare and lucky that is.

Will do.

Baak Talk said...

You really are an amazing writer Melanie. I can't wait to read your book. A happy reunion with dad awaits your future (the very FAR future).

wendy said...

That was an amazing story. Cancer sucks. I want someone to find a total cure.
so many people suffer because of it.
I am glad he was able to give his cancer an "in your face" attitude.
Strong man.

俊王王王王霖王王 said...

若有人問你成功時會不會記得他 試問若你失敗時他會不會記得你......................................................................

Debbie said...

So well written Melanie. And I do realize the strides that cancer research has given us. I don't know if anyone hasn't experienced a loved one with cancer. We should all give generously.

becca said...

Awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Yeah for the ones who Do Something.

becca said...

Oh, my goodness. Does she smile like that when she reads your manuscripts? What a doll. She'd probably want to be our best friend, too, huh?

That Girl said...

This is awesome.

Methinks you should make a button, so we can spread the word.

Hopping on over now ...

Eliza said...

Hahaha! Becca, thank you. I smile like that every time I get an email from Melanie! If you think her blog posts are good, you should read some of her emails. I already AM Melanie's best friend; she just didn't know until now.

Amber said...

Oh, Melanie, this was so beautiful, heartfelt, and real. Thank you for sharing this story.

Karen Peterson said...

I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for people who do this kind of thing. I'd love to donate, but will have to wait a week until I get paid again!