Category Archives: Personal stories

Ann Walsh with the Lustgarten Foundation

Ann Walsh, Events Director, The Lustgarten Foundation – The Fight Against Pancreatic Cancer

From day one when I was first asked to join The Lustgarten Foundation in 1998, I was – and continue to be – amazed by the tremendous determination and dedication of the tens of thousands of extraordinary people who have joined us in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

At the time, there was little understanding of pancreatic cancer, and only a handful of researchers were studying this disease. Pancreatic cancer is the nation’s most lethal cancer. The overall five-year survival rate is just 7%. There are no early detection tests, no effective long-term treatments and, unless the cancer is surgically removed in its earliest stages, no cure. Yet, only 2% of federal funding is directed toward pancreatic cancer research. To help change these facts, The Lustgarten Foundation, based in Bethpage, Long Island, was established in 1998 by Cablevision Chairman Charles Dolan and Chief Executive James Dolan in honor of former Cablevision Vice Chairman Marc Lustgarten before he died from pancreatic cancer.

Today, I am so proud that The Lustgarten Foundation has grown to become the nation’s largest private funder of pancreatic cancer research. Since its inception, the Foundation has committed more than $110 million to over 175 research projects at nearly 60 medical and research centers worldwide in support of promising pancreatic cancer research aimed at developing an early detection test, improving treatments, and finding a cure. Recently, The Lustgarten Foundation established The Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratory on Long Island in partnership with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The lab is one of the few labs in the world focused exclusively on pancreatic cancer research. And due to Cablevision’s support of The Lustgarten Foundation, 100 percent of every dollar donated to the Foundation goes directly to pancreatic cancer research.

As events director, I recall my early days at the Foundation and the beginning of The Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk series. That first walk took place in Long Island, attracting just over 1,000 participants and raised more than $150,000. Today, the Foundation’s walk series now takes places in more than 30 locations across the country, uniting thousands in the fight against this disease. This is in addition to nearly 300 events run by volunteers throughout the year in support of the urgent need to fund more research to find a cure.

I consider myself lucky to have said ‘yes’ when invited so many years ago to work with the Foundation. My life has been transformed. The work is incredibly rewarding. The people I meet at the Foundation’s events across the country are always so inspiring and I am deeply grateful that every day I witness the hope that research brings to so many.

I invite you to see how easy it is to get involved and to learn more at curePC.org. Anyone can get pancreatic cancer, that’s why we need everyone to join us in the fight. Together, we can change the facts about pancreatic cancer.

Breast cancer surgeon, 55, dies just one month after being diagnosed w/ Pancreatic Cancer

A sad, unfortunate example of how deadly pancreatic cancer truly is:

Leading breast cancer surgeon, 55, dies just a month after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer

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Tributes have poured in for one of North Carolina’s leading breast cancer surgeons who passed away from cancer at the weekend – just 33 days after she was diagnosed.

Dr. Teresa Flippo-Morton, 55, succumbed to the disease on Sunday, little over a month since she learned she had pancreatic cancer that had spread to her liver.

Former colleagues and patients – some of whom credit her with saving their lives – have paid tribute to the skilled surgeon and married mother on a Caring Bridge page she set up after her diagnosis.

She treated an estimated 2,300 women with breast cancer after completing her training in 1991, Dr. Richard White, a friend and colleague at the Levine Cancer Institute, told the Charlotte Observer.

‘This is a massive loss for our community,’ he told the newspaper. ‘She was loved by her patients. She was loved by her peers. She was loved by her students.’

The West Virginia-native, who worked at the Levine Cancer Institute, started feeling abdominal and back pain at the end of April and a scan revealed a mass on her pancreas on May 5. Further tests showed that it had spread to her liver.

She took a previously planned trip to the United Kingdom before she returned and started chemotherapy on May 21.

Following the diagnosis, she set up a Caring Bridge page to keep loved ones updated with her treatment. The page has now been visited nearly 20,000 times.

She thanked her family and friends for her support as she started her treatment.

‘I am completely moved by the cards,letters, texts, emails, and posts to this site!’ she wrote from hospital on May 20. ‘I felt immediately the warm all-encompassing love and support from everyone.’

Others took to the page to express their thanks to her.

‘You have touched the lives of so many people in so many ways as you learned and then practiced your calling,’ wrote Lee Ann McGinnis on May 31. ‘Your openness and honesty this past month is a reflection of the integrity with which you have always lived your life. You are a blessing to us.’

Another added: ‘You are the most compassionate and gracious doctor that I have ever met. You have truly touched so many lives for the better, as you have touched mine.’

On May 24, Dr. Patrick Connor, a fellow surgeon who first met Flippo 25 years ago while he was on his residency, expressed his shock and sadness at her diagnosis.

‘It is so difficult to get one’s arms around how someone so kind, caring and smart who has spent her entire professional life dedicated to the treatment and care of patients with cancer is now fighting the battle from a different perspective,’ he wrote.

(click here to continue reading this article)

*credit verbatim via http://www.dailymail.co.uk *

Tracey’s story

Purple Hope is also about your personal experiences involving pancreatic cancer. Sometimes, that experience can be one that remains hard to digest. Please welcome Tracey. Tracey lives in the United Kingdom and would like to share her story – in her own words – with you all:

Hi my name is Tracey.

I’ve been divorced for 8 years and I have two girls, 11 and 15. I joined a dating site, and I met Bob – he is separated with three boys. We both work; I’m a registered child minder, also a companionship for the elderly. Bob is a paramedic. We’ve been chatting for a while, and decided to meet up face to face. Seeing him for the first time was special to me, as well as to him. We decided to take our relationship further, but not introduce each other to our children. We just wanted to get to know each other and not share it. As we are both middle-aged, it was lovely to have someone to look forward to seeing.

I started seeing Bob in February of 2013. We meet in Staines one afternoon. Had a meal in the Harvester, went for a walk and coffee in Costa, followed by going to the Cinema watching “I Give It A Year.” We both loved talking about our children. He was complaining about his back at the time and just had a lumbar puncture. He’d also been having some real bad headaches.

Just before Easter 2013, his sister and niece were killed in a car crash, and he had to identify the bodies. He went quiet on me. I was upset and spoke to a friend about it. She said that he probably needed space. Eventually he got back to me and said he was in a bad place at the time and just wanted to be on his own, but said he was sorry. Anyway, our relationship was back on track again.

During the school summer holidays, he took his boys away and rented a cottage in the UK. Bob fell ill with gastroenteritis and his back was still playing up. The boys made their own way home. Bob stayed in the cottage on his own, and packed up when he had to leave. When he got home, he started to get better. Then he went back to work.

He was only back at work for less the two weeks when he went into hospital with an inflamed gallbladder. They kept him in, doing loads of test. Then they had to unblock his bile duct. He was in hospital for a week, but he kept in touch with me and his best mate David. When he came out of hospital, he stayed with David as he wanted to talk about his illness. Bob said to me that he was scared because they had found lumps on his pancreas, which could be an issue. He was offered chemo, 3 times a week for six weeks, at the Royal Free Hospital.

Bob was given more or less a week’s notice to start his treatment. He went to see his son in university to spend the day with him, then his other sons, living with mum. Then he went to Royal Free to start his treatment on a Monday. He kept in touch with David and me all the way through the week’s treatment. I dealt with all the emotions he was going through; still only me and David knew what he dealt with (we only talked about his illness when he mentioned it as I supported him all I could). By Friday, he came out of hospital and said he’d been arguing with consultants.

I did all I could to cheer him up, as I knew his mind was cluttered with a lot of worries and feeling scared. We did have this conversation: Bob saying if he can’t pull this off, he wanted me to find another bloke; he wanted me to make sure he was a nice bloke. I said not in his time, as I wanted to be with him till the end.

Over the weekend, he spent time with his sons and the rest of the time on his own; Bob was like that, he said it’s a man thing! He was due to go back to Royal Free on Monday to have his result from his blood test and to start the second week of chemo. He was rather quiet Monday. It was that day, the beginning of October half term, that he used the word cancer – pancreatic cancer.

He said that he’d made a choice. He’d be having End Of Life Care and was waiting for a nurse to go through the care package. Bob, being a medic himself, would rather have the quality of life. At that point, I had to be brave; of course, I cried and let out all my emotions, but not in front of Bob. Bob kind of went into business mode, and wanted to sort all his financial affairs.

Over the next two weeks, Bob sorted out his financial affairs. He was still only in contact with just David and me. Bob started to get bored and went back to work; he was on Clinical Desk duties. He was beginning to be his normal self. He wanted to make the most of his time and have fun. Before his illness had been diagnosed, he wanted the two of us to go away, a cottage somewhere in the UK. He already booked a skiing holiday in Austria for himself and his boys February half term (in my mind, I knew he was not going to make that). He got in touch with his holiday insurance and got it all sorted.

Bob talked about his illness to me, but I believed he talked to his mate David more in-depth. I believe he didn’t want to scare me. He said his time was limited – he would be seeing his last Christmas and, if he made it, to his birthday, 18th of March. He would be 51 years old then. He was planning to tell his boys after Christmas. He was back at work for a week, then went down with a infection and had to go into hospital to have IV antibiotics and a blood transfusion. From then on, he started to experience more pain. He was in hospital for a week. Then he had a week at home. Reality started to kick in for both of us, I believe. I just found all this was moving too fast.

Bob went back to work again. He was really trying to get his life back to some normality, and again he went down with infection, back into hospital for more blood transfusions. He was told his lumps had increased. They changed his medication as he was having problems with the pain. By this time we were in December, and he so wanted to see me. I saw him on 14th of December. I have to say, he had lost weight and was different, from his looks to his mannerism, and he looked tired. He decided he was going fight this illness, but admitted he was a rubbish patient – I think that due to being medic himself. It was great seeing him. We talked and he wanted to know what my plans were. He wanted me to start looking ahead for myself. I told him that I’d booked to see a show in March, and the holidays I’d booked for me and my girls. I’d also probably go on a walking holiday too. He said he was planning to spend Christmas with David and family. He also said he wished he’d met me a few years before.

When Bob walked out of my front door, he turned and blew kisses at me. He’d never done that before. A few days later, Bob was back in hospital, due to the pain he was having. The lump had increased again. He said again that he was going to fight this as he has this ‘Lady’ to take away. It brought a smile to my face. But due to his pain, he was going to spend a week in a hospice, for care. He told me not to worry. Of course I worried. All I wanted was to be with him, but I couldn’t.

Christmas Eve, he got in touch, saying he wanted me to have a lovely time tomorrow, and David was with him. He also said he was bed bound. He said he loved and cared about me. I was so upset to hear this. For the first of the New Year, I emailed David, just a few words, saying I was pleased he was with Bob and told him Bob was important to me, and wishing him peace.

A few days after, Bob just dropped me…just saying he had no choice and love and cares about me.

I was so shocked…I was so angry. I texted him that night, 20 times…200 times…I was heartbroken. I was in a state; I loved him, and the cancer had changed him. I just couldn’t shake the anger off me. I did a lot of crying, I was so confused. I got in touch with Cancer Research and MacMillian and had a rant with them; it helped. They tried to reassure me it’s not Bob, it’s the cancer. I’ve sent Bob cards to his address, as well David’s address, and a small letter to him with my details. From there I sent the odd text to Bob.

Unfortunately, I haven’t heard from Bob again.

~ Tracey

Jon’s story

Purple Hope is about your personal experiences involving pancreatic cancer.  Please welcome Jon OlsonJon hails from Nova Scotia and would like to share his story – in his own words –  with you all:

Pancreatic Cancer, like every cancer, is a horrible and vicious disease. Anyone who has had family members fight valiantly against this predator, or fought themselves, knows that it is something that can take on many different faces and descriptions.

To me, pancreatic cancer is a thief.

Marylyn Key Olson, my grandmother who we all called Grammie, was an amazing and fantastic woman. She was born on February 15th, 1925. Like all of my relatives, I didn’t get to see my grandparents that often since they lived in the United States while I grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada. That being said, there were many visits that left lasting impressions on me growing up. We would always get excited knowing that she was making the drive from Portage, Indiana to Chicago and then hop on a plane to Halifax, Nova Scotia. When we were younger, it would only be a matter of minutes after leaving the airport that we would ask ‘Did you bring us any surprises’. Of course, our parents would always scold us but Grammie would always laugh and say that she did but would make us wait the entire 50 minute drive back home before she would even think about giving them to us.

She always supported us grandkids in whatever we were doing at the time. In my years at elementary school, I played whip-pitch softball in the summers. Grammie came to a few of my games whenever she was visiting but there was one game in particular that always stood out. I was playing catcher and I could hear her cheering behind the backstop every pitch. I don’t even know if she liked softball or baseball, but she always came regardless to support me.

As sweet as she was, I found out during one visit that she wasn’t one to be trifled with either. I was in Grade 7 and it was after school. I was heading out to hang out with a friend and I told Grammie that I would be back around 5pm. It turned out that my definition and her definition of ‘around’ were vastly different. I arrived back home around 5:40pm and as soon as I stepped into the basement, she was waiting. She chewed me out and made it known that ‘around 5’ meant ‘at 5’. My parents still weren’t home from work and aside from being scared of her, I was also scared that she would tell them and I would receive a second verbal barrage.

Like all great grandmothers, she never told.

The last time I saw Grammie was in the summer of 2003. She was up visiting us with my Aunt Linda and Uncle Doug. It was an emotional visit as she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer not too long before hand. She had made the trip up to say her goodbyes to me and my siblings.

When they were leaving, I gave Grammie a big hug and said, “I love you, Grammie.” They were the last words I ever said to her.

What really hit me at that time was watching my dad, Uncle Doug, Aunt Linda, and Grammie backing out of the driveway. Dad had to stop the car twice because he was crying along with everyone else in the car. Now that I’m a father myself, I could not imagine what it must’ve felt like to pull away from the house knowing that my parents would never see my children again.

My oldest brother, Aaron, got married in 2004 but Grammie was too sick to attend.

After a courageous battle, Grammie passed away on Wednesday, June 16th, 2004.

My niece Astrid was born in November of 2011. I married my wife on September 22nd, 2012 and our daughter Emilia was born December 6th, 2013.

Grammie never got the chance to meet those new additions to our family.

Arthur Hilmer Olson, my grandfather, was born May 17th, 1927. He served during the Second World War in the United States Navy on the U.S.S. Bache. Afterwards, he founded and was the owner of the Olson Funeral Home in Portage, Indiana. In 1968 he became the first mayor of Portage, a feat that my Uncle Doug would later achieve in 2000.

I never got the chance to meet him.

He passed away on October 3rd, 1981, two years before I was born.

Pancreatic cancer robbed my family.

It robbed me from meeting the man who helped shape my father into the man he became. It robbed my grandfather of the opportunity to meet the rest of his grandchildren, as only my brother Aaron and cousin David were born when he was alive. It robbed Grammie of her husband and robbed my father of both of his parents.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss Grammie and wish that I had been able to meet my grandfather.

Let’s keep raising the awareness of this vicious disease and sharing our experiences so that hopefully someday soon no more families will be robbed at its expense.

Jon's Grammie and Grandpa

Jon’s Grammie and Grandpa

~ Jon Olsen

Part Six: Dusk And Summer

I had no outlet for my grief after my father passed. All I knew was that I needed to honor his fight, his bravery, in some endearing fashion. I could not bear the thought that after everything he had gone through battling pancreatic cancer, then suddenly that was it. To believe his life ended that way betrayed what he had endured. There had to be more. I simply refused to use two of the coldest words in our language – the end.

Six months after he passed, I sat behind my computer and typed this sentence: I lost my father between dusk and summer. So began the telling of a myth.

Life is a series of stories waiting to be told. They are inside all of us to be poured like a good wine, a little at a time. Sipped. Savored.

Shared.

Some stories are real. Some embellished. Some take a life all their own.

Some simply possess magic from the start.

You just need to believe…

In honor of my father, I proudly donate proceeds from Dusk and Summer to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. Together, we can make a difference.

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Does Heaven await beneath the waves? One man needs to know.

When his dying father whispers a cryptic message to him, he has no choice but to summon his courage and begin the quest of a lifetime. It’s a race against time to realize his father’s wish and fulfill his own destiny; it’s a discovery of the unbreakable bond between father and son. It’s a journey of the heart that unfolds where only the Chosen exist – in the moments between Dusk and Summer.

“A poignant, metaphoric conversation between son and father. A story that will warm your heart.” –Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D., bestselling author of The Ditchdigger’s Daughters

The author will be donating a portion of the proceeds from this book to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

Dusk and Summer is available at:
Amazon: US |UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | India | Brazil
CreateSpace | Smashwords
Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes (Apple)

Part 5: A Saint Goes Marching In

Part 4: Lazarus

Part 3: Faith and Windows

Part 2: Phone Booths and Four Words

Part 1: Renovations; Shaken Foundations

November 1 – Purple Hope and Saints

Part 5: A Saint Goes Marching In

It was a gut-wrenching decision for me to make.

My good friend Chris listened patiently on the phone; I had called him when my father was released from the hospital and into hospice. For some time I’d been agonizing over writing a eulogy for my father. The thought of it haunted me every day. I remember our conversation clearly.

“I can’t do it, Chris,” I told him. “I mean, I want to write it now while I can, while I can still think clearly. But if I do, it’ll be like I’ve tipped the scales somehow, like I’ve given up. I’ll never do that to him.”

There was a long pause until my dear friend said simply, “I know you. You’ll know when the time’s right. You’ll figure it out.”

You’ll figure it out.

Life had come full circle. I knew writing my father’s eulogy would be a transcending and sacred moment, but the feeling that I needed to do it at the proper time overwhelmed me. I believed strongly that my psyche would be plugged into the universe, into all powers unseen. I believed that somehow I’d have a hand in dealing his fate.

My father battled out from the hospital not once but twice. He battled out from hospice, for God’s sake. His war became something of myth to me. This beast of a disease – pancreatic cancer – tore at him with teeth and claws, and while my father staggered from his wounds, he never gave an inch. His sword still sliced the air. He suffered so much, yet fought with a will I never knew could exist in any human being.

I shared Father’s Day with him. We went to a restaurant; he sat across from me. By then chemotherapy was no longer viable. His body could not tolerate it. Inner fortitude was now his only medicine. An oxygen tank clanged against the table; my father constantly poked at the tubes in his nose. He didn’t eat much of his pasta. He didn’t eat much of anything. But there was one part of the meal he really enjoyed. I ordered my father an espresso. I made sure to have a double shot of black Sambuca added to it. My mother complained, but I didn’t listen, nor did I care. My dad was going to have his drink come hell or high water.

There was one thing about our lunch that I’ll never forget. It actually happened after I dropped my parents home. My wife commented that my dad’s shoulders had become so thin, so frail. The funny thing was that I never noticed. Not once.

All I saw was how much bigger he’d become in my eyes.

It was my last Father’s Day with him.

Near the end, his body systematically shut down. It started with his hands. The very hands he’d made his living from, the very hands he’d used to help so many people over the course of his life, now betrayed him. He couldn’t hold anything in his grip; cups would slip from his fingers. It was so difficult to watch. He could barely walk on his own. Each breath of air was a battle within itself. My father was admitted into the hospital a third time.

All through my father’s battle with pancreatic cancer, our rally cry had been never drop the ball. I said it to him all the time. I wrote it on his hospital room’s blackboard in bold letters; the nurses knew better than to erase it. I still had my New Orleans Saints jersey hanging in his house. I did everything in my power to let my father know that he wasn’t alone in his fight. I channeled so much of my own positive energy into him. But there was one odd thing: my father never spoke our rally cry. I was the one always telling him never drop the ball. He simply listened.

It was a Saturday, and I arrived at the hospital as usual. About a week before, my father lost his ability to speak. He said some words, but they were incoherent ramblings. He often stared at a distant point on the wall. I made my way to his room, but this time, something was different. Horribly different. As I walked the hallway, I heard someone crying out in pain. I lost all sense of time; reality blurred. Oh God oh God oh God, my mind raced, please, don’t let that be him. But I already knew.

I entered the room to find my father moaning in anguish. His hands clawed the sheets. My blood froze.

Then a miracle occurred.

My father saw me, pulled himself from the bed, clutched my arm and said, “I’m giving you the ball now. You run with it.”

It seemed a scene scripted for a movie and even then, I might have had trouble believing it. I’m sure most people would as well. But it did happen.

They were the last full sentences he would speak to me.

My father never dropped the ball. He never dropped the ball. In his mind, he was running for that touchdown. Somehow, even in the end, my father had the strength and awareness to hand me the ball.

He scored. He found a way.

He figured it out.

And I realized all at once he had passed me the torch…

I then prayed to the Lord to take my father. He had nothing left to prove; the man was a champion’s champion. But I still had one thing left to do. I recalled my dear friend’s words and four days later, in the dying light of dusk and summer, I wrote my father’s eulogy.

When I finished, I honored him with a shot of his favorite drink, Johnnie Walker Black. Then for the first time since he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I sobbed.

I woke the next morning, Thursday June 28, 2007, and laid in bed for nearly an hour. I visualized my father in my mind’s eye. He was there, vivid, young. Whole. Healthy. As I’ve always known my father. As he will always be. He was walking the beach, gazing across the sea he so dearly loved. The sunshine was brilliant. My father was smiling. Yes, he’d scored that touchdown. And I know with every fiber of my being that I had made a connection with him that morning – I plugged into the universe as I knew I would – for not long thereafter, I received a call from the hospital that my father had passed.

I did not witness his death. On the contrary, I witnessed the miracle of his rebirth. For though his body faltered, his soul grew larger and larger.

I buried my father in my New Orleans Saints jersey. The very one I hung proudly in his house. My mother said in disbelief, “But he’s a Giants fan.”

I shook my head. “Yes, but he’s my Saint now.”

He filled that jersey like I never could. Talk about plugging into the universe: the Giants won the Super Bowl the year my father passed on. The following off-season, the Giants traded one of his favorite players, Jeremy Shockey, to the Saints. And as I’ve always held steadfast to my faith, the Saints won the Super Bowl the very next year. I flew to New Orleans to watch the game that weekend, proudly wearing a new authentic team jersey. As I celebrated our miracle championship amidst thousands of fellow Saints fans, I could feel my father watching me – and I knew he didn’t mind wearing my Saints jersey at all.

But what of my father’s identity, you may be wondering. What of the notion I believed he led some kind of superhero double life? Did I indeed ever learn the truth? I’d like to share with you my answer from a passage straight from my father’s eulogy:

“And so it came to my suspicions. After thirty-six years, I had to learn the truth. Two days after my father had given me the ball, I spent the morning in his room. I waited for the nurses to leave. I drew the curtain closed. And then, using the inner voice I always had, I looked under his bed…

There lay a dusty pair of boots. Across them, neatly folded, pitted with welding burn holes, a red cape. I took them gently from under the bed, and the sweet comforting smell of grease and diesel fuel and long, backbreaking hours of labor filled my nose. I hugged them close, leaned and kissed my father upon the head. Carefully, I placed them in a bag and hid them where not even my wife could find them. And they’ll stay hidden, until I have my own children, until I’m man enough to fill those boots and cape, until my kids know of the superhero their grandpa was, and until Superman can fly again.”

(Part Six: Dusk and Summer soon to come)

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Part 4: Lazarus

Part 3: Faith and Windows

Part 2: Phone Booths and Four Words

Part 1: Renovations; Shaken Foundations

November 1 – Purple Hope and Saints

Part 4: Lazarus

My dad loved the ocean. I think it was one of the few things, if not the only thing, that brought him true peace. He used to be an avid scuba diver and explored many of the shipwrecks littering the bottom of the sea around New Jersey and New York. He gave up his flippers, however, after a close call beneath the surface of the waves. My dad said he knew he’d been a lucky man and wasn’t about to tempt lady fate twice. But that didn’t keep him away entirely. He owned several boats over the course of his life and loved to fish, loved to sail. Loved the ballad the high seas strummed in his ear. He told me once, long before he’d gotten sick, that when he died he wanted to be cremated, his ashes spread at sea. It wasn’t something I took seriously.

How could I? I’d waited all my life for my dad to be there for me. As I grew older, we finally grew together. The childhood I’d been deprived of was finally achieved as an adult. Once we both left the family business, things blossomed. My dad became my buddy. Sure, we clashed heads at times, but friends often do. Strange as this may sound, I saw a lot of myself in my dad and by recognizing that, I learned a lot about myself as well. I realized we were very similar and not just in a father/son way. It opened doors for me I never knew were there. In many ways I guess an innocent child with wide-eyed belief still existed within me then – I believed my father would be a permanent fixture in my life forever, much the way I believed that Santa really ate those cookies I’d left for him, the way I believed the New Orleans Saints would win a Super Bowl one day. Much the way I believed that my father led a double life as a superhero.

Faith. It’s an intangible, invisible beacon that guides me. Nearly every decision I’ve made has been based on the blind notion it will lead me where I’m meant to be. My faith, at times, has wavered. My faith, at times, has crumbled. But always, I have followed.

I never lost my faith even when my father’s chemotherapy stopped working.

I never lost faith after he required a wheelchair for lengthy walks and his muscles began their slow descent into atrophy.

I never lost faith through his first stay in the hospital, as the days dragged into weeks and weeks, and the doctor’s only offering of solace was a meager there’s nothing left that can be done.

I never lost faith as his stomach swelled hideously with cancerous fluid, and he was forced to breathe with the assistance of a tube.

I never lost faith during his second stint in the hospital, when eventually the doctor released him into a hospice, near death and a forgotten man.

Never drop the ball, I’d say aloud to my dad.

Never drop the ball, I’d whisper into his ear.

And I certainly didn’t lose faith after my father figured it out as he always had in life. Figured it out and battled his way out of hospice to go home. To keep fighting.

“Your father told me that if it wasn’t for you, he’d be leaving hospice the only other way…” his neighbor and good friend Danny told me.

I refused to believe that. My father rose twice after all had buried him, given up on him, not because of me, but because of the man he was.

There are many aspects of my father’s suffering I’ve suppressed. I’ve slammed doors shut inside my mind, trapping the horrors within. I don’t wish for them to escape. Scotch and wine tempers them sufficiently, until the next time they shriek and pound their fists. I witnessed my father agonize slowly from the inside out. No man or woman or child should endure such a fate. Yet through the suffering, and beyond anything I can ever hope to articulate, I witnessed a transformation.

A rebirth.

I learned the truth behind everything I’d ever wondered about him.

His identity would be revealed…

(Part Five: A Saint Goes Marching In soon to come)

Part 3: Faith and Windows

Part 2: Phone Booths and Four Words

Part 1: Renovations; Shaken Foundations

November 1 – Purple Hope and Saints