I feel honored to have my monthly post here fall on Father’s Day! I would love to take this opportunity to share a little bit about my dad, and why he inspires such hope in me.
My father’s parents emigrated from Czechoslovakia in the 1920s and settled in New York. A few decades later, the desire for new surroundings struck again and they drove across the continent to live in Los Angeles. My father was twelve years old at the time, and the experience must have ignited in him a passion for travel. So strong is it at this point that I don’t even know how many countries he has visited, but I think it’s over forty. And he has set foot on every continent except Antarctica.
It’s quite likely that he might have had time to travel to even more countries, but on many trips he likes to return to places that he’s already been, and loves. He’s been to Greece at least a dozen times. Same with Thailand. And there are several other countries he’s returned to more than once, just because he liked it there and wanted to go back – or maybe he missed something the first time around. Or he wanted to return to certain countries to share the experience with any of his four children. Whatever the reason, he is a seasoned world traveler who enjoys planning his trips as much as he enjoys taking them. It’s what he lives for.
Just over two years ago, my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. Surgery was rapidly scheduled to remove the large tumor that had been growing for several years. Dad pulled through and started chemotherapy. The oncologist said that it looked like he got it all, and Dad felt tired but good. He flew to Peru and climbed Macchu Pichu, and then visited some out-of-state family members. We all felt confident that the cancer was gone. But about a year later, it returned, and this time it had spread to a lymph node outside the colon, so Dad’s doctor placed him between stages III and IV. It was worse than the first time, and we were scared. He had surgery again, and this time, the surgeon accidentally cut his ureter. A stent had to be placed on the ureter for several weeks, causing considerable pain, in addition to the usual post-op discomfort. All the while, Dad kept a very positive and hopeful outlook and continued to plan his trips.
But he worried us, saying things like he wanted to take his teenage grandsons to Thailand now rather than when they graduated, since he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be around. I told him he couldn’t think like that. Dad soon started his second round of chemotherapy, more aggressive this time (twice monthly IV treatments plus daily pills), which caused significant fatigue and cold sensitivity. Finally, when the treatments were over, Dad’s bloodwork showed that the cancer indicators had dropped. Feeling relieved and optimistic but not wanting another repeat, Dad decided to become proactive. He researched types of alternative cancer treatment and prevention and dramatically changed his diet to bolster his immune system post-chemo. He started drinking daily green smoothies and taking various supplements, determined to retain his health, to do everything possible to keep the cancer at bay.
And so far, so good. His latest tests taken just one month ago look promising. He continues to make his health a priority and maintain his positive outlook. I can’t put into words how inspired I am by his hopefulness throughout this whole experience. And I am hopeful too. I’m hopeful that this time he’s beat it, that he’s going to be around for much longer than he’d thought last year. No, Dad’s not going anywhere soon.
Except Thailand, of course. And Greece. Or maybe Peru again . . .
Wishing everyone a very Happy Father’s Day!
Tanya writes TeenAutism.