This blog post is a very special, and personal one. My husband sat down and worked on his Relay For Life page tonight, and to my surprise, he shared his story on WHY Relay for Life is important to him. It was so inspiring to me, that I had to share it with you here.
As always- for the cure!
As always- for the cure!
I have decided after two years to join another Relay for Life Team. I have been active in Relay helping my wife and son’s teams, but I haven’t joined. Honestly, the memories are still very hard for me deal with. What I have enjoyed over the years is sitting back, and watching everyone fight to end cancer. Everyone always had a common goal. Last year at Relay they had a fight back activity where you made a pledge for the year of how you were going to fight for the cause. This took me back, because I have always been hiding while my family fights. So, my pledge for the year was that I would share my story of my family’s battle with cancer, and be more involved. I would hopefully let people who are out there that feel the same way know that is ok to hurt for the ones they have lost. Also, hopefully it will show them that it is right to fight for the cause, and stand with all the people that are willing to do it.
At age 7 I had my first experience with cancer. My mother had stage 4 ovarian cancer. This was a time when Chemo wasn’t really around. Through my mother’s strong will and stubbornness, she became one of a very few that survived this disease. She didn’t make it out of the fight without scars, to this day she has a wide list of health problems that she has been fighting with for the past 25 years of her life. At seven, I was very unsure of what would happen. I can remember walking down a lot of hospital hall ways, and being in the hospital room with a lot of families in them. Still having my mother here to this day is amazing.
My mom today.
The next experience with cancer was with my father five years ago. My father was the rock for my family. He was the one that we all turned to whenever there was a problem. One day, while working In Oklahoma City, I received a phone call from my mother saying that my father was in the hospital. My heart dropped to floor. I got to Arkansas as soon as I could. Once there I found that many test had been ran on my father, and they had found that he had stomach cancer that had grown to a 90% blockage of his esophagus.
This struck me very hard. I was torn, because my father was in pain, and my life was in a completely different state over five hours away. Once we got the plan from the same doctor that had treated my mother seventeen years before, I returned home. Over the course of a month I spoke to my family every day for updates, and tried to return to my life. One day, I called and talked to my father. He was very down, and told me his one fear was that if it did come time for his fight to be over, he would be in a strange place that he didn’t call home. This caused me to hurt for my father, so I made a decision that was difficult for me to make, even though I knew that I had go and be with him. My wife and I had just really started dating, and it is amazing that she stuck with me during this time, because I was so distant from everything in my life. I had to have a conversation with Cassi, and tell her I had to leave Oklahoma and return home. She was so supportive, and said that she understood. So a week later I left Oklahoma to help my mother take care of my father.
Cassi and I when we first started dating.
Once returning home we began our battle. By then chemo had completely broke my once strong father. He had gone from 195ibs to 90 lbs, and I think he lost weight every day after that. He was on a feeding tube because he couldn’t swallow any food. Just thinking about that is enough to kill me. My father didn’t taste food for the last year of his life. We tried a wide variety of treatments, he had chemo while hospitalized, chemo from home, radiation, and surgeries. None of these were successful. The time I knew that the outlook wasn’t going to be good we were at the doctor’s office getting him a chemo treatment , and he got up to go to the bathroom. After five steps, he went straight down into my arms. It was a downward spiral after that.
The family after dad started chemo.
My hope was gone, and I was a beaten man. The only thing that kept me going was that Cassi had decided that I shouldn’t go through this alone. She decided to make a huge leap in her and her two year old son’s life. She left her job, and moved to Arkansas. She helped give me strength, and became another care giver for my father during his last year. My mother, Cassi , and I worked in shifts taking care of my father .
He didn’t do a lot of walking the final three months of his life. I remember him falling, and my mother calling me at work, and me coming home to check on him. Once I got there I knew he was really bad, and close to the end. I told him that I was going to call an ambulance and I remember him being so mad at me- like I had betrayed him, because his wish was to pass away at home. I was crying when I told him these words, “I am not willing to give up on you yet , dad, and I am not willing to let you give up either. I give you my word, once they tell us it’s over; I will break you out of the hospital if I have to, and bring you home. I am just not willing stop fighting.” His response to this was, “Well fine at least shave me, I am not going to go anywhere looking like a mountain man that can’t even take care of himself.” He was always worried about being proper, and how he didn’t want people to see him as weak. So, I shaved his face, combed his hair, and we took him to the hospital.
Once at the hospital, the doctors didn’t want us to lose hope, so they kept up with the treatments and the other things for quality of life that they could do. We were in the hospital for almost a month until they finally said he would be lucky to survive a couple more days. I was the one that had to lean over while he was in the hospital bed, and inform him of what we had been told. In the edited words of my father he said “Stuff happens.” Than he looked me dead in my eyes, and said, “Son, I know I said I never wanted you to put life on hold for me, but I am glad you are here.” At that moment, I knew what we had to do, which was grant his wish and take him home.
Getting him home was not an easy task. We had hospice (which is a life saver please don’t miss read what I am writing- they help so many families, and I can’t thank them enough) but, hospice can only be there so much. There are so many people that need them throughout the city they work in, they came in for around an hour a day, and the rest of the time it is up to caregiver’s. I will spare you the details of all of the health care that my mother, Cassi and I had to do, but I would like to say that as a father myself, I will do anything that I can never to have my son do the things for me that I had to do for my father. Every day I close my eyes, and I can only remember the bad times while my father was sick. I struggle to remember all of the great things he had done. Every once in a while when I get ready for work, I hear my father’s voice saying “Make sure your shirt lines up with your zipper boy.” Or, “Slow down while you are shaving your missing to many spots.” and I smile.
My father survived for three weeks which was a lot longer than the two days they thought while he was in the hospital. During that time Cassi did a lot of reading for me about how to cope and deal with losing a loved one. She also researched things we could do to help make things easier for my father. The main thing she found was you always needed to make sure you said goodbyes, and let them know you loved them. This was hard for me and my father, because we were both non affectionate type people. But, two days before he passed I took the opportunity to tell him how much I loved him and that I promised I would watch over the family. He looked at me and said “I love you to, now stop this. I am having enough trouble right now without all this boo hooing.” I know this sounds harsh, but no sweeter of words could have been said by Jack Selby.
The last night was horrible. We had to hold my father down, and it was like watching World War Three was going on in his body. The only thing I really remember was telling Cassi to take Wes out of the house, because he shouldn’t see this. Then, I remember sitting next to the bed and feeling peace go through the house. I looked up, and my father, after a year of fighting, had passed.
My father passing away was not a total loss to me. First, it gave me my wife, Cassi. We got married on October 10th, 2010 (or 10-10-10, so I can always remember it.) She took the experience, and channeled her love for my father to Relay for Life. And, if I do say for myself, she is one of the biggest fighters for the cause I have ever met in my life. Her passion in turn, has rubbed off on our now seven year old son. His name is Wes, but you might know him as “Cancer Man.” Last year my son decided he didn’t want to just tag along with Cassi, and do Relay stuff. He wanted to do things to make money for himself. He came out of the end of the year as the top fundraiser in our area- at the age of seven. I will tell you, he could be a high school quarter back and throw the winning touchdown in the championship game, and I wouldn’t be as proud of him as I am for his fight against cancer.
I hope this encourages you all to donate to the great cause, and stand with us. Whether it to me, or someone you know, a dollar can help save someone’s life.