I always thought my father had nine lives.
My father had a few close calls with death during his life but he amazingly always seemed to come through. As a boy he was very sick with rheumatic fever, a very serious and sometimes fatal disease, but managed to recover.
During college he broke his neck after diving into a quarry, landing him in the hospital for six weeks. While serving in the Marine Corps my father took his shiny red Austin Healy out for a joy ride, when he rolled the convertible several times, miraculously walking away with barely a scratch on him. Shortly after I was married, he had open heart surgery to replace his aortic valve to restore the blood flow between his heart and the rest of his body. After my son was born, he conquered his prostate cancer through radiation treatment.
So when my father was diagnosed with an aggressive stage of colorectal cancer 14 years ago, I was convinced he would overcome that too. In my mind, he was the invincible, ever-strong “Gray Castle” (yes, that really was his name). This amazing man had a tremendous presence wherever he went. He walked with purpose, was a great conversationalist who always looked you straight in the eye, had the firmest hand shake and a gregarious laugh. He had a great presence in any room and made you want to be around him.
Sadly my mother and three siblings quickly discovered my father wasn’t as invincible as we always thought. In February 1999 my father was diagnosed with an advanced stage of colorectal cancer. His symptoms started around Christmas and he died three months later at the age of 67. My family learned the hard way that colorectal cancer can tragically end a life when not detected early.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. It is also one of the most preventable, beatable and treatable cancers when diagnosed early. It is estimated that 140,000 men and women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, resulting in approximately 50,000 deaths this year. While those numbers are down, they are still way too high for a disease that can be detected early by knowing risk factors and following screening guidelines.
As we celebrate National Men’s Health Week and pay tribute to all fathers this Sunday, please join the Prevent Cancer Foundation by encouraging fathers, grandfathers, husbands, uncles, brothers and sons to take care of themselves by eating healthy, exercising, not smoking and getting screened.
I also invite you to consider making a gift to the Prevent Cancer Foundation in honor or in memory of the special fathers in your life to support the prevention and early detection of cancer through research, education, advocacy and community outreach.
I miss my father every day but his spirit lives on in my commitment to our mission of saving lives through cancer prevention and early detection. Thank you for being part of our community.