“If it’s cancer, I’ll do whatever necessary to fix it.” These were exact words from my father on a sunny but frigid Saturday afternoon in January. For a majority of the three preceding months, he suffered from irregular abdominal pain, sleepless nights and witnessed an unexplainable loss of bodyweight – 35 pounds. Enough that, for the first time since his teenage years, his bodyweight dipped below 200 pounds. There was something amiss, it was certain. In due time, a number of tests were performed, a couple of weeks passed, and whatever healthy hopes I held onto were swept away with tempestuous force. It was Wednesday, February the 4th, when he phoned to share the results. He called at 2:39pm and, again, the weather was chilly, but brilliant and bright, especially considering the bleakness of this winter. The call lasted 10 minutes. It’s contents, I’m not wholly able to recollect, but all the tests confirmed – he was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma aka the C word. I yet struggle to articulate the truth, but reality is, my father has cancer.
Straightaway, I welled with emotion. My thoughts edged toward monomania. Question after unanswerable question reverberated like booming thunder in my unending monologue. My father, to me, possesses the pillars of every archetypal hero. He’s the definitive man: courageous, moral, erudite, ambitious, etc. How could he, possessing such breadth, such development, be stricken with a sickness of this magnitude? Incredulous. Without preparation, I was forced to consider his life as finite. And I was ill prepared. Worst still, acknowledging my father’s illness compelled me to face one of life’s much deeper and less comprehensible canons – my own mortality; a truth, albeit nebulas, that is rarely breached in my mundane, daily thinking. Once more, I was left with ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ aplenty.
When the emotional gale waned, my personal lesson was at long last comprehensible. This lesson wasn’t about cancer, nor did it concern mortality. It didn’t center on anything melancholy. No, it touched on a different C word altogether – character. Just like the sun had beamed on the days that bore grim news, the character of my father shone bright, brighter than ever, in his first words to me, “I’ll do whatever necessary to fix it.” What prose could be more revealing of character? My, what a sublime revelation! In the wake of his darkest day, my dad, my coach, my hero, had a lively and most gallant approach to news that cripples nearly everyone (myself included). Now, more than ever, I revere him with the highest veneration. Wearing a Stetson hat and sporting an attitude that would rival John Wayne, he fast approaches his third of six scheduled chemotherapy sessions with radiant optimism. His spirit is one to behold and, likewise, emulate. There is no despondence. There is only hope.
In the two-month interim, I’ve been permitted substantial time for self-reflection. My early reactions probably weren’t entirely atypical. And in reality, I doubtless took multiple throws at each stage of denial. Moreover, I realize that the words I’ve written are less about him and more of a soul-searching exercise for me – one where I brood for untold periods of time in search of a greater lesson.
Now, while these ruminations are self-serving, they do absolutely nothing to raise money, awareness, and fund research designed at curing this disease. It is for this reason I decided to share his story. Please – I beseech you – donate to the cause! Do whatever necessary to help others, like my father, like Charles, like Tom, like Pam, like Leanne…all those unnamed heroes willing to undertake what’s necessary to convalesce. Paraphrasing Lincoln, fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of [disease] may speedily pass away.
How can you help? My friend and associate, Grant Scalf, from CrossFit Ktown has already started campaigning for the LLS (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society). He is also lobbying to be the LLS’s Man of the Year…and he has my vote. Please, share this story with those that may also feel compelled to do the same. Then, follow the link below and donate! Everything helps and all is appreciated.
CrossFit, our chase of fitness, and other trivial, by comparison, pursuits don’t merit much mention on topics like this one. But, through the lens of someone like my father, we are afforded considerable perspective while we, too, face our own set of ‘problems’. During this time of year, at the culmination of the CrossFit Open, I often witness dejection, frustration and other forms of self-loathing. It’s written on your faces. Should this be your case, might I offer a challenge? This month, this week, today, whatever your goal may be, whatever problem you face…will you “do whatever is necessary to fix it?” In the words of Edmond Dantes, I can only wait and hope…for Dad, forever.
UPDATE: If the things you think determine the quality of your mind, I posit your smile takes on the color of your thoughts. Witness the smile of my father, the stoic. My teacher and advisor – a cancer survivor. I love that he’s holding my mom’s hand while ringing victory’s bell. She, the grandest of all optimists, played every bit a herculean role during his convalescence. Fondly did we hope, fervently did we pray, and now, nearly 18 months later, this mighty scourge of disease has steadily passed away.