It is a homecoming of sorts for me tonight on many fronts. I grew up in the Lehigh Valley and tonight I return to the Bethlehem area for a special occasion, one that affects me personally, the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life.
I have been doing a lot of public speaking appearances over the past few years, but on a different level, in a different arena all together, local government. Tonight, I return to inspirational talk, cancer survival.
It will no doubt be an emotional evening not just for myself, but for everyone in attendance. Everyone will have their own reason for being there. Just a few miles away is the hospital where I was treated and cured of my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This will also be the first time that I have publicly spoken of my survival other than in written form since emergency surgery necessary for a late side effect. I am giving a survival speech tonight that of all the people that I need to hear my speech this evening, will not be there to hear it, my Dad. Just a few short weeks ago, he recieved news that he has lung cancer.
It was kind of a good news/bad news situation that should not really have come as a surprise to someone who has been smoking for over 57 years. He had a cough that has been persistant since the Fall. Annoyed with the fact that his doctor was ordering a CT scan, which of course costs money, just to check for a cough, seemed outrageous and unreasonable to my Dad. But as obvious as the answer to my Dad’s first question, “so Doc, what do you think caused this?”, the results for a CT scan for a cold were also quite obvious.
Fortunately, further testing (called staging) would declare that my Dad has no signs of further disease elsewhere. This is great news. He will have a great chance at remission, something a lot of 50, 40, 30, and even 20 year smokers do not normally get.
This will not be the first time my father will hear the word “survival”. He has been my stepmother’s caregiver since a tragic accident nearly decades ago. His own health path had him face a major heart attack. Now, he faces once more, one of the toughest fights he must take on for those that count on him. Most of us would consider ourselves fortunate if we ever only faced one crisis in our lifetime. Yet my father is now on his third crisis. But of all things that I hope that he recalls of survivorship, I have his blood. He has witnessed nearly every day of my twenty three years of survival.
The answer to my Dad’s question to the doctor, “smoking”. With a positive outlook on his upcoming weeks, and not wanting to take advantage of the opportunity, I am proud of my dad, that he has finally quit smoking.
So when I speak tonight, it will be in honor of a man who has demonstrated endless courage and stamina, a true survivor who must take on yet, another fight. You will get through this Dad.