Tag: pancreatic cancer

Missing Dad: Ten Years

Missing Dad: Ten Years

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the day pancreatic cancer took my dad. It’s a marker I’ve thought about since the very beginning: where would we be at ten years? What would he have missed in that much time? What would we have missed? My dad is 

Eight Years

Last Saturday, the 16th, marked eight years since my dad died, and as is now typical each spring, April always makes me feel a bit…strangled. I can’t see the blossoms open on the pear trees in this valley where we live without thinking of walking out 

Because I Have to

One of my biggest regrets was that my dad didn’t hold Saoirse the day she was born.  I’ve told you this before, I think? Dad was there, all right, in my recovery room as soon as we were allowed visitors after her birth. He was bundled up in his winter coat with a scarf wrapped around his neck because the chemo made him so, so cold, but I didn’t let him hold her. He’d been at the hospital for twenty-four hours, waiting for me to have the baby who wasn’t in a hurry to come out, even though he was in pain and should’ve been at home, in bed, sleeping. I don’t remember if he was the first one to enter the hospital room after she was born, but he’s the first one I remember seeing. I made a point to remember that moment, remember his face, the way he carried his body, because I guess I knew I’d never see him greet another one of my babies. But I didn’t let him hold her.

The nurses had scared us, me and David. They’d told us she shouldn’t be in crowds for the first six months, that we should be diligent about hygiene, and that, under no circumstances, should anyone else but us hold her for the first twenty-four hours. So everyone who’d been there that night–my dad, who’d been there that night–filed into the room, excited and expecting, and we said, no. No, you can’t hold her, we said. We have to protect her. Regret filled my heart even as we said the words.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.  It is a horrible, horrible disease, this pancreatic cancer–one that would cause someone hearing of the diagnosis to respond with a low, pitying, “Oh.” I hated that “Oh.” That sound was a death sentence, a white flag, the click of a door shutting close. I remember Dad’s face when we first read the oncology report in the elevator at Johns Hopkins. I remember his face at the restaurant later (because we went to lunch even though my dad had just found out he was dying, because what else do you do?).  He stared at the table, and I realized I was seeing fear in my father for the first time in my adult life. I remember him telling me, a year later, when I was pregnant with his first grandchild and standing in the middle of my parents’ driveway, that he was okay with dying–he was just sad to be leaving his family.

I miss him as much today as I did the day we buried him, me holding my two-month-old in my lap, praying she’d stay asleep for the entire ceremony. He shouldn’t have endured so much pain. He shouldn’t have had to have been so scared. He should’ve been diagnosed with a disease, any other disease, where there’s more money for research and more public support and knowledge and better treatment and more, more…hope.

I can’t redo that day. I can’t take back my decision, or the look on his face, or the bittersweet feeling of holding new life while watching another fade away. I can’t bring him back to tell him how very much I loved him, and what he meant to me, and all the stupid mistakes I wish I could apologize for. But I can beg you to learn about this disease, to raise or donate money for research, to run the Purple Stride and wear the purple and and get in touch with legislators and benefactors, to pray for those affected by it.

Because it’s not death that we’re afraid of. It’s the dying part that sucks. And the thing is? It doesn’t always have to. Not if people advocate instead of wish, and give instead of look away, and act instead of ignore. Not if we step up to give the hope that isn’t always there.


Please visit pancan.org or knowitfightitendit.org for more information, and thanks for listening. I’m gonna go find a tissue.

Five Years

You know what I miss about my dad? Here’s a short list: He loved Japanese food. He loved Vietnamese food. He loved a good steak and potatoes. Um. He loved food. He’d randomly speak Japanese. He’d seen more of the US and Asia than I 

We’ll Try

David and I ran a 5K called PurpleStride this weekend, along with some very game family members who volunteered to push our children around–all 71 pounds of them, mind you–in a stroller on the coinciding walk.  The whole purpose was to raise funds and awareness 

Three Years

It was three years ago today, around 4:16 in the morning (yes, 4:16 on 4/16. We really should play that number in the lottery) that my father died in an ICU at Hershey Medical Center here in Pennsylvania. I don’t say “passed away” or “passed on,” or some other tidy little term for the ending of his life, because he didn’t just fade away. He died. Pancreatic cancer got its gnarled, evil hooks into him, and even though he fought it–fought it hard, fought it gracefully, fought it with more strength and class than I can wrap my head around yet–the cancer won. I watched my dad die. I wouldn’t recommend it. It was kind of hard.

I miss him. Every day, I miss him. My dad and I butted heads a lot (any of my family reading this right now probably just snorted their agreement), but my gosh, I loved him. He was my go-to guy for books, for talking about writing, for cooking. I remember what a hard time he had when I decided to turn vegetarian at the age of 12–he’d grown up on farms as a very poor foster kid, working harder than I ever have, slaughtering his own dinner. What was this nonsense about not eating the damn hamburger sitting on my plate?–but within years he was digging up recipes for tofu and urging me to try this stuff called Quorn he’d heard about as a meat substitute (Bless my dad’s heart, but Quorn is gross. I tried it, for him, but uhh). When he died, I felt like an extension of me just kind of fell off the planet. Not a good feeling, that.

Now, three years later, his first granddaughter Saoirse has entered the “Look at me!” stage. “Look at me, Mom!” she calls out as she does jumping jacks in the living room. “Look at me, Dad!” we hear, as she climbs up the ladder to her swing set. And I’ve realized now, as the children are getting older–as I’m fully and completely becoming an actual grown-up parent–is that the “Look at me!” stage never really ends. I see how well the girls behave while out shopping, and I think, Look at this, Dad! Look what I can do. I make a chocolate and wine beef stew (gagging all the while, mind you) for a Sunday night meal, and think, Man, Dad would’ve loved this. I write these very words and wonder what he’d think of them.

It doesn’t end, does it, that desire to make the people you love proud? I think Molly Wizenberg said it best in her memoir A Homemade Life, regarding her own father’s death from cancer: He could have taught me a lot of things,” she wrote. “We’d hardly begun.” Tomorrow we’ll take the girls to Arlington to visit the grave of a grandfather they’ll never know. It would’ve been fun, seeing the girls climb all over him. He’d be beside himself that I was packing away filet mignon and cheesesteaks when I was pregnant. And I seriously have a list of books that I wish–wish!–I could get him to read. It’s just, I haven’t gotten used to him being gone yet, and honestly, I don’t really want to. Because if I get used to him being gone, then that means that part of me is sort of lost, or not cemented, somehow. And I still need him here, in this world, with me, even if all I have left is a memory.

Look at me, Dad. Look what I can do.