On Oct. 4, 2009 my Father was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his throat.
Dr. Cullen, Dr. Suntha and their the amazing staff at Greenebaum developed a personalized plan that gave him a time to rest as well as put on weight in preparation for 8 weeks of radiation and 4 round of chemo.
My Dad, my superman, my hero-cancer! It was a shock. He assured us all he would be ok and that he was going to fight, win and would be ok. While that sounded great, I felt helpless. What could I do? Then I remembered hearing Brock talk about the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults at an in-service for Howard County P.E. teachers. Though I can’t remember what he was talking about (though I think it had something to do with Lance Armstrong!) I remember thinking it was a great idea for UCF to cater their efforts to young adults. I found Katrina’s information and signed up for Team Fight the day he started treatment. The support both financial and emotional, that I received from friends and family when I told them about TF blew me away. Many folks were happy to donate because my father was quick to assure that our family didn’t need anything. So to many, this was their way of helping him.
I raced three races in 2010 though initially I thought I was only going to do the Columbia triathlon in May. Having only competed in a few sprint tris, Columbia seemed like a big accomplishment. Though the weather was less than perfect, my Dad was at the finish line cheering me on. I was hungry for more. I finished in the top 10 in my age group in the Celebration tri in June and quickly signed up for the Half Full tri in October. Everyone thought I was crazy but I felt that it was something I had the motivation to train for and the ability to finish.
The Half Full Tri was an incredible experience. Everything about the event had a positive vibe about it. I loved starting the swim side by side with another participant. While biking, I met a rider who talked me through every mile as well as shouting encouragement to me as we charged up every hill. On the run, I started talking with a man who was competing for his friend. We shared stories and experiences and before I knew it, 5 miles had past. I was running his pace, way too fast for me, so I slowed down and fell in step with another person who shared another inspiring story with me. Four more miles down and only four to go. I let the last four be for my dad and ran them by myself. Every time I wanted to stop, my thoughts went to my Dad. Not that he would have cared if I did but in thinking of his weakness, I grew stronger with each step closer to the finish line.
The next day at work, a student of mine, whose Dad had raced in the HF, came up to me and told me that he heard my name being called at the race. I was confused so I checked the results and was surprised to find that I made the podium for my age group. Truly I know this was something that I would have not been able to do if I wasn’t racing in honor of him. Watching the strongest person I knew become physically reduced to such a weak state is something that has changed me and still inspires me daily. My father tells everyone in his weakest state, is where he became the strongest. I believe it’s all in the way he chose to look at things that made the difference. Looking at things Half Full; with more to give and more to gain.
*On April 14, 2011, he celebrated one year cancer-free!