Stand Up to Cancer Day – Remembering and Fighting

Today, February 4, is Stand Up to Cancer Day. Wendy Nielsen, a fellow blogger, has asked that her friends, family, fellow bloggers and readers send in photos of themselves like the one here. Please take a minute and look at her blog today in memory of those you love who have battled this disease. You can also follow @SU2C on Twitter. This is my story about how cancer touched my family.

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My father would never have been voted father of the year, not by a long shot – though his intentions were good, his behavior…not so much.  I always knew that he loved me, though he sometimes had a hard time showing it as I grew from a little girl to a teenager.  He was enchanting when I was a child – he was my big, strong, handsome daddy who would swoop me up in his arms and calm my fears when I had nightmares, who would watch Batman with me and take me with him on Saturdays to get the car washed.  But my father was a stubborn man. He had very little good luck and even less common sense, and it caught up with him.   He was a dreamer and a gambler, and he never listened to anyone. He always knew best.

Then, my children were born, and my father became Papa. When he was with my children, he was amazing. He got such joy from being part of their lives as they grew up.  He went to their sporting events, cheering loudly (very loudly!), and spent countless evenings at our house for dinner. For a while, when things were bad for him, he even lived with us. My son and my father had a particularly special bond, beginning with their shared birthday. When my father was battling cancer for the first time, watching my son play high school football was one of the few things he could find the energy to enjoy.  He gave so much love to my kids, and they loved him back so purely – because none of his shortcomings, his imperfections, or the mistakes he made had any bearing on them at all.  With them, he could just be Papa, free of the responsibilities of parenting – and so they got the best of him.

My father and my kids, 1992

My father and my kids, 1992

I finally got the best of him too.  Now that I was a mother, I could relate to him in a different way – and he finally could see me not simply as his “darlin’ daughter,” as he liked to call me, but as a grown woman taking care of my family.  One of the things I learned when I became a parent was how easy it is to make mistakes, to make bad choices, to miss the moment because one is too busy looking at the big picture.  This knowledge helped me to forgive the things that my father did wrong when I was growing up.

When my father was diagnosed with Lymphoma at 65, it was the beginning of  a difficult three years – for him, of course, but for all of us who loved him, too.  The disease took away what he prized the most – his physical strength. Always passionate about exercise – weightlifting in particular – his body had consistently been a great source of pride for him.  We did everything we could to help him, to be there for him, to love him.  When he died at the age of 67, it was the worst thing I’ve ever been through. I thought, of course, that my daddy would live to be very old – big and strong as he was. I was wrong.

I’m not a very spiritual person, but every so often I have a dream about my father that seems hauntingly real. I wake up from these dreams feeling sad, but grateful. I am so glad to have the chance to once again see his face, hear his voice, and tell him how much I miss him – how much we all miss him.

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My father and me, 1962


Fight pediatric cancer. Click here to meet Emily Magilnick, who’s mother June I’ve known for many years. Emily is a hero, battling cancer with optimism and lots of love around her. Her brother, Max is participating in a head-shaving fundraiser through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which focuses on pediatric cancer. Show your support by donating to Max’s fundraising campaign. 

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Emily Magilnick – fighting pediatric cancer.

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17 Responses to Stand Up to Cancer Day – Remembering and Fighting
  1. Haralee
    February 4, 2013 | 8:01 am

    A great post Sharon! Being a cancer survivor myself, it is an insidious disease that knows no gender, race or bountry. One of the women who hosts my web site, her son is a 5 year graduate of St. Baldrick’s.
    Haralee recently posted..A Tribute to A Dying Mom and a Living DaughterMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 4, 2013 | 8:10 am

      Congratulations on being a survivor. I know you continue to share information about cancer and women, and it’s so important for all of us to pay attention. Cancer strikes so randomly and tragically.

  2. Ginger Kay
    February 4, 2013 | 8:52 am

    I hadn’t heard of this campaign before, Sharon. My own father succumbed to lymphoma 16 years ago this month. With every year that passes, more of our cohorts are diagnosed with cancer. Have any of us not been affected by the loss or illness of a loved one?
    Ginger Kay recently posted..St. Valentine’s Day – Isn’t it kinda fun?My Profile

    • Ginger Kay
      February 4, 2013 | 8:54 am

      Correction: seventeen years.
      Ginger Kay recently posted..St. Valentine’s Day – Isn’t it kinda fun?My Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 4, 2013 | 9:05 am

      So sorry to hear about your father. My father-in-law also died of lymphoma last August – we lost both of our fathers to that strain of cancer.

      • Ellen Dolgen
        February 4, 2013 | 11:25 am

        Sharon, thank you for sharing these details of your life. By doing so you are empowering others to be open, share and tune online to get more information and find camaraderie. You’re a strong woman. I’m sorry for your losses Sharon & Ginger. I did not know today was SU2C – I will tweet this to let my community know.
        Ellen Dolgen recently posted..Menopause Mondays: Forgetfulness-A Symptom of Menopause or Early Dementia?My Profile

        • Sharon Greenthal
          February 4, 2013 | 12:38 pm

          Thanks for sharing, Ellen. Losing a parent is difficult – losing a parent to such a horrible disease is heartbreaking.

  3. Carpool Goddess
    February 4, 2013 | 10:44 am

    Beautiful post, Sharon, and one I can certainly relate to. I lost my dad 31 years ago to pancreatic cancer, six weeks after he was diagnosed. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. And, my mother is a colon cancer survivor.

  4. Cathy
    February 4, 2013 | 11:20 am

    I lost my beloved uncle to Pancreatic Cancer this past July. My family and I flew to Texas to say good bye. He escaped Nazi Germany with my dad and grandparents in 1937; the brothers could finish each other’s sentences and loved each other dearly. My cousin snapped a photo of them embracing each other when they said good bye. I can’t look at it. My post “I hug you with my words” was in tribute to how he used to end his emails to me.

    Cancer touches all of us. Your post was beautiful and made me cry. I pray they start finding answers to this insidious and ridiculous disease.

    Blessing to all of our loved ones and ourselves,
    Cathy recently posted..For Devotees of Downton Abbey: Here are the Men of Downton Before DowntonMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 4, 2013 | 12:37 pm

      How wonderful that your father and his brother had such a close bond, even from such a horrific experience. There are times when looking at pictures of my dad can bring tears to my eyes, and times when I’m just glad to see his face.

  5. Susan Bonifant
    February 4, 2013 | 12:13 pm

    Sharon, this post will be with me for a while. I have walked the same path with my own father whose best parenting happened after I had my own babies. We almost lost him two years ago (in connection with prostate) and whatever conflicts I could remember went out the window for good. Thanks for sharing your story.
    Susan Bonifant recently posted..Pet sitters and other marchersMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 4, 2013 | 12:36 pm

      I will forever be so grateful to my children for giving me the father I always wanted. Letting anger and resentment go was such a relief for me. How lucky you are that your father is still here.

  6. enchantedseashells
    February 4, 2013 | 2:23 pm

    I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer just like Cathy wrote about losing her uncle. She lived with us and we had hospice come to our home until she died. We miss her every day! Your post was beautiful, Sharon.
    enchantedseashells recently posted..Another Grateful Monday along with a Sad GoodbyeMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      February 4, 2013 | 8:18 pm

      Thank you. I’m so sorry for your loss of your mother. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Janie Emaus
    February 5, 2013 | 7:27 am

    That was very beautiful. It happened much the same way for my brother-in-law (same age). Your father was lucky to have you as you were to have him.

  8. Shannon Bradley-Colleary
    February 5, 2013 | 11:18 am

    Hi Sharon — I just love the photo of your father and you in 1962. It looks like it was taken yesterday. Health is the great humbler. xo S
    Shannon Bradley-Colleary recently posted..Castrating an Unwitting Softball CommissionerMy Profile

  9. Tammy
    February 7, 2013 | 1:39 pm

    Sharon, It would seem that we led parallel lives. Or maybe it was just ‘that’ generation. My father wasn’t much of a dad to me when I was growing up, but I came to know him differently when my daughter was born. We formed a real relationship and a strong bond. My baby girl is 27 now, my father gone for four years now. Liver cancer took him too soon and way too brutally. A memory I’d like to forget, but I know that I never will. Nor will I ever forget him. Every once in a while I wake up in the wee hours of the morning to a strong smell of cigaret smoke. I smile and softly mutter “hello Papa”. Cancer is a bitch and it is my grandest dream to see it taken out in my lifetime. Hope is a good thing to have.
    Tammy recently posted..Are your best years behind or ahead of you?My Profile

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