A teenager from Pennsylvania whose father died from colorectal cancer explains the impact it had on her life and how she has stepped into the field of advocacy to help others.
My dad was 45 years old when he was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer. I was 9 years old, and it felt like the end of the world. Watching him go from staying up late with me to falling asleep early on the couch because of treatment was really hard. My dad was genuinely the life of the party. He would have parties with hundreds of people, and he wasn’t shy or timid about being in the spotlight. He fought so hard for more time, and he was strong.
At first, my dad wasn’t really all that different. Although he wasn’t doing sales like he had in the past, he golfed all of the time, went out to dinner a lot and became an advocate with Fight Colorectal Cancer and began attending and hosting many events — where he was still the life of the party. But while he did all of this, he got a lot of treatment and went through a lot of clinical trials since he had a mutation that limited his treatment options.
For years, I knew my dad was fighting cancer, but he was determined to beat it, and he didn’t let it slow him down. When the oxygen tank showed up at home, he told me not to worry about it. But after a few years, I could tell the treatments weren’t working like we all hoped. He passed away when I was just 14.
Finding My Own Spotlight
My dad was no stranger to the cancer spotlight. As I’ve grieved him and found my own story within his story, I’ve found the courage to step into my own spotlight. When my local community hosted a TEDxYouth event, I volunteered to do a talk that I titled, “Growing Up Surrounded by Cancer.” It was one of the first times I had talked about what it was like to be a young girl watching her dad die of cancer. I got a lot of positive feedback after I gave the talk, and it made me want to continue speaking out — just like my dad did.
My dad was an ambassador at Fight Colorectal Cancer, and then he became a board member. Once he got involved, he was all-in, and he attended everything — the Cologuard ClassicⓇ, other ambassador trainings, research events and the annual advocacy event, Call-on Congress, which I had the opportunity to attend with him in 2018.
Although he’s no longer here, I want to keep speaking out and sharing my dad’s story. I want to share my story. My dad was on a mission to eradicate colorectal cancer, and I plan to carry that forward.
Helping Kids Whose Parents Have Cancer
When we think about people with cancer, we think a lot about the patient. But there is not enough emphasis on caregivers and how difficult the cancer journey is for them, especially the children of those with cancer. I want to help other kids who have parents who are fighting cancer. I want to show them that they are not alone. Also, I encourage all kids to look into Camp Kesem. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had.
It sucks that my dad is gone. I feel like his story will continue to be shared by the Fight CRC community and those who knew and loved him. Now, I feel like I have my own spotlight where I can share my story from a different perspective. I know it’s making my dad proud.
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