My dad’s legacy of fighting cancer

On this morning 16 years ago, cancer caused an irreparable crack in my heart. We said good bye to my dad after a courageous 6-year battle with cancer (ugh I still can’t write this sentence without crying). And on this day 16 years ago, I committed to continue my dad’s legacy of fighting cancer.

My dad’s story

My dad has been my hero since I was a small child. Always protecting, taking care of my mom, sisters and me, showing kindness to others, hardworking, sharing a goofy and soft side to those close to him, and so much else.

He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma less than a year after I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, my first cancer. Misdiagnosed for months, his cancer was fairly advanced. However, a dedicated care team, his stubbornness and new treatment options helped him live for six years. His journey is my inspiration and motivation in my cancer advocacy and life.

His death rocked my world, my entire family’s world. He was our rock, my my mom and him the foundation of our family. And as a cancer survivor, it was devastating to see him decline while my health thrived. I struggled for many years with survivor’s guilt (read Surviving the Guilt of My Dad’s Death). While it still creeps into my mind at times, I now focus on celebrating his life and continuing my dad’s legacy of fighting cancer and helping others.

In the days leading up to his death, we talked a lot about a many topics. Some included finding and embracing joy and love, even when it doesn’t look like what we plan and think it should; finding good people to be there when you’re in need; not settling because it’s easier in a comfort zone; and helping those in need (read Four Life Lessons from Dad). He had such a kind heart.

Helping others like my dad would
One of my favorite family pictures.

Many of you know the past three summers I have joined an amazing group of cyclists at RAGBRAI to bike across Iowa to raise funds for Livestrong’s cancer support programs (support services, fertility assistance, advocacy efforts, school programs and more). It has been one of my proudest moments, and each time I dip my tire in the Mississippi River at the end of the week, I know my dad is cheering me on.

Unfortunately, the pandemic forced the cancellation of the event (the right, safe decision). But, as we know, cancer hasn’t been canceled. In fact, more people are reaching out for support services during the pandemic – feelings of isolation and anxiety, postponed treatments, financial stress and more make programs like Livestrong’s even more critical. That’s why I’m still biking, although in Michigan, throughout July to raise funds for their programs.

If you would like to help my dad’s legacy of fighting cancer and helping others, please consider a donation to help Livestrong’s cancer support programs. If you can’t make a donation, please consider doing an act of kindness for another and raising a glass of cheer to my sweet dad in heaven (he did love his Budweiser!).

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