The first week of November is a little tough for me. My dad’s birthday is this week. Since his death from cancer many years ago, the ache of missing him never leaves, the tiny hole in my heart still empty. I miss everything that is him, even the faults. But every day I celebrate his life and focus on honoring my dad’s memory. Keep reading for some important lessons that he shared with me.
Honoring a strong, courageous man
My dad was diagnosed with advanced multiple myeloma less than a year after my bone cancer diagnosis. If my first cancer diagnosis shocked my family, my dad’s cancer diagnosis rocked us. My mom and he were the epicenter of our family unit. It was unimaginable to hear his diagnosis and shattering to hear how advanced his cancer was. But we rallied as my family does, led by my mom’s determination and strength (a daughter and husband in treatment at the same time!), to find a wonderful oncologist who knew of new treatment options for multiple myeloma.
And so the next six years were a series of ups and downs. New treatment options, remission, recurrence, new treatment options, remission, recurrence…..mixed in were bone marrow transplants, heart valve replacement, dialysis. Until no new treatment options. His body had grown tired by then, even with his spirit still strong. But he made the decision to do things by his choice, my strong and courageous dad. So as his final treatment ended, he reminded me that my smile could change the world and he knew his story and legacy would live on through my sisters and me, my mom, our kids.
His legacy of love and courage
One of my goals has been to ensure his legacy is full of love and courage. Continuing to share his story, not just his cancer journey, but his life and my memories of him is one way of honoring my dad’s memory.
My dad was many things to many different people. Husband, father, son, grandpa, uncle, brother, cousin, friend and more. He was at times tough on the outside, but a kind-hearted, humorous, softie on the inside. He was madly in love with my mom. Protective of my sisters and me, yet pushed us to be independent and capable of standing on our own. This was made easier knowing we had two amazing, loving parents behind us. He was loyal, smart, creative, talented, funny, impatient and imperfect in many ways. And I will forever be honored and grateful that he shared lessons, stories and love with me.
In honoring my dad’s memory, the following lessons weave daily into my life:
Kindness comes in many different forms, from a smile, sending a note, saying a compliment, buying a gift and more. And remember that the simplest acts of kindness, such as a smile and kind word, are free to give, yet so very valuable to receive.
Getting involved in the fight against cancer can save many lives. From volunteering at a cancer-fighting charity to contacting legislators to donating to charities, there are many ways to make a difference. Check out my guide to help you get started. Learn about some organizations that I support.
I was thankfully raised by two parents who often helped others, believing even small acts of kindness add up. My dad often told me that everyone can do something for others. It doesn’t have to be an expensive, big gesture because every little gesture adds up too. But basically, think outside of yourself. Strive to be part of the solution, not add to the problem.
Live without regrets.
My dad stressed this lesson to me. I used to be shy and not very open with my emotions. Being diagnosed at 21 and then watching my dad open up during his cancer journey pushed me to change. And I’m glad that I did. No one knows where life will take us, or quite frankly when it will end. I’m a three-time cancer survivor. I can’t begin to explain how much gratitude I feel to be alive. I don’t want to look back and think ‘I wish I would have said or done this.’ So take a risk – open your heart to an unexpected love, try a new activity, tell someone how you feel, choose a new career, say yes to that adventure. Maybe things won’t work out the way you hope. But you won’t wonder ‘what if’ and you’ll have the experience and lesson to lead you to something new. And maybe things will work in your favor and this unplanned path will lead you to all sorts of great outcomes full of love, happiness and more!
Believe in myself.
My dad always believed in my sisters and me, no matter what goal we set. I had so much self-doubt as a kid that his unwavering belief meant the world (I’m so blessed that both parents always shared so much love). I still struggle at times as an adult. It can be unnerving to step into the unknown. You have to sometimes ignore the doubters, even when that includes yourself, and focus on what you want, no matter how big or small. It may not be easy. But do it. Whether it’s the dream of opening your own business, writing a book, going on a big trip, sharing your feelings with someone, switching careers, leaving a relationship, whatever it may be – do it. Trust yourself.
Celebrating my dad today and always
As my family and I celebrate my dad this week and always, I ask you to help me in honoring my dad’s memory by spreading kindness to others [read my blog post for ideas!]. Consider doing a random act of kindness to brighten someone’s day. And cheers to my sweet dad on his birthday.