I am a member of the Collective Bias Social Fabric community. I have been compensated to share my experience with you by Collective Bias and their client, MasterCard.
It’s everywhere. We all know someone who has it or has had it in the past. You fear your kids might get it, You worry that your parents or siblings will get it. Sometimes you even wonder if you will ever hear the terrifying word. You’re hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been affected by it in some way.
What am I talking about? If you guessed “Cancer”, you’re right.
I’m way too close to cancer. Way closer than I like to admit or think about. Cancer and I know one another just a little too well. I’d like to do anything in my power to stand up to cancer and squash it like the maniacal bug that it is.
It all started when I was 16 and my Uncle Noel was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. He was a cop and a heavy smoker so it’s not like it was a shock, but it was still frightening. He had one of his lungs removed and was told to be in remission. I don’t know the whole story, but the rumor is that they removed the wrong quadrant, or the wrong lung, and he ended up succumbing to cancer the following year. I didn’t make it to his funeral because we lived in Alaska and he lived in Florida, but I’ll always miss him.
A few years passed and my Uncle Quent was diagnosed with Stage IV Malignant Melanoma. He was treated and miraculously was in remission! He was supposed to stay current with PET scans to detect a relapse, but in true Quent style, he didn’t do that. The cancer ended up coming back with a vengeance. I was waiting tables at Bonefish Grill at the time, and he came in on Father’s Day with my mom and grandparents. He ate lobster. I’ll never forget that. My once very strong, handsome, and young uncle couldn’t even get the lobster meat out of the shell. He was shaking when he raised his fork to his mouth, and needed help eating and drinking. He wasn’t even undergoing treatment at that time because the cancer was so far advanced that he had been pronounced terminal. That was the last time I saw him alive. He passed away a couple weeks later after slipping into a coma for a few days. I’m not usually a very emotional person, and I am one of those crazy people who thinks that death should be a time to celebrate life rather than mourn death. I know my uncle would have slapped me on the back of the head had he known that I cried so hard at his funeral.
Cancer is such a disgusting monster and I hate that it has taken the lives of so many people I love.
We’re not even done yet, though. The most devastating loss to cancer for me, by far, has been losing Kevin last year. My mom met Kevin a few months after we moved to Alaska in 1990. I was 9. My sister and I left that summer to visit our dad in Florida, and when we returned, Mom had married Kevin and moved us to this little place 40 miles south of Juneau called Snettisham. There wasn’t much in Snettisham other than the hydroelectric power plant that ran the power for Juneau, a State-run Salmon Hatchery, three red houses (one with a green door), a Bunk House, a Long House, a duplex, and a few Quonset Huts. There were 17 people there including our family of four, and our food had to be sent in on a float plane once or twice a week depending on the weather. I was in 5th grade that year, homeschooled. It was one of the most magical years of my life. We experienced 7 feet of snow that winter and enjoyed sledding and cross country skiing often. We built snowmen and played in the snow. We learned to snow ski and when the snow melted, we learned to enjoy hiking, fishing, and using our imaginations. Kevin was a big kid and he taught me how to identify a bird by its call and instilled a love of nature that has never left.
We moved back to Juneau a year later and continued hiking, skiing, and laughing. He was there when I became a woman at the age of 11, told me about boys and listened to my boy-crazy tales. He took me to my first JDHS Drill Team try out and hugged me tight when I didn’t make the team that first time. I feel like I should go on record to say that I love my dad very, very much. It’s just that Kevin was, by all definitions, my “dad” during the school year, and my mom couldn’t have chosen a more perfect man to take on that role. He built a very solid place in my heart as the man who was around in my formative years. I never called him “Dad”, but I didn’t have to. He knew how much I loved him. They divorced when I was 14, but Kevin and I continued our relationship. We didn’t see one another all the time, but he was at all of my dance performances, we celebrated Christmas and birthdays together, and I would occasionally take my friends by DIPAC to see him. When I graduated high school and left Juneau, we were both horrible communicators, but every time I went “home”, I saw him and we got to spend lots of time together skiing, hiking, and eating the freshest salmon Alaska had to offer. His wife, Becky was always so welcoming in allowing us to spend time together. I’ll always love her for that. Last spring, I got an email that Kevin had been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. He made the decision to go to Seattle and seek treatment there. I called him immediately and told him I was coming to see him. He told me not to leave the kids and waste the money because he was going to be fine. That was Kevin, the ultimate optimist.
When he was done with treatment, instead of curing the cancer, it had spread to his liver. He talked about going to a research hospital, but ended up seeking treatment in Juneau. That treatment lasted a very, very short period of time before he was given a terminal diagnosis in August. I immediately knew I had to go home to say good bye. I hate funerals, and Kevin did too. I didn’t want to go “home” to see him after cancer took his life, I wanted to tell him one more time, in person, how much I loved him. I wanted to give him a hug and thank him for being such a great dad to me and for staying in touch for so long even after he and my mom divorced.
I booked my flight to go home and say goodbye 10 days after Kevin was told that he had 2-6 weeks left on his life. 30 minutes after booking my flight, I got word that Kevin had passed away.
I can’t even begin to tell you what happened to my heart that day. It imploded. I cried for weeks. I’m crying as I write this. And I’m not an emotional girl. At all. But losing Kevin to the monster that ate him from the inside out after a few short months killed me. He gave me so much life and made my childhood incredibly magical. Some of my best and most vibrant memories are with Kevin. Those can never be taken from me like he was, but I wish with every ounce of my being that I had made it home to tell him that one last time. I lost someone very important to me, but I have made it my mission to support every cancer foundation I can, in any way possible.
That’s why I’ve teamed up with MasterCard® to bring awareness to their “Dig In & Do Good” campaign. Every time you use your MasterCard® to pay for a meal $10 or more, MasterCard® will make a donation, one precious cent at a time, to Stand up to Cancer – up to $4,000,000.00. That’s a lot of cheese, y’all. Ever since I found out about this campaign, I’ve been using my PayPal MasterCard for ALL food purchases when we are out and about. I’ve also used it as a great excuse to be a lazy cook a few nights. I can’t bring Kevin back, but I CAN take a stand and do everything in my power to raise awareness and money for Stand up to Cancer. I love Stand up to Cancer’s mission:
Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) is a groundbreaking initiative created to accelerate innovative cancer research that will get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now.
Cancer is serious no matter what type you have. But there are a few types that aren’t generally diagnosed until the patient is terminally ill. Pancreatic cancer is one of them. The survival rate for patients with pancreatic cancer is alarmingly low and it will take a string of scientific miracles for that to ever change.
Isn’t it great that you can simply dig in & do good while stuffing your face with your favorite foods? I love that MasterCard has taken something as common as dining out and made it a simple way for people to stand up to cancer.
Use this as an excuse to eat out this week. Don’t forget to use your MasterCard to pay! Then tell the people at the table next to you and have them spread the word too. Help us kill cancer before it takes the life of someone you love.