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just another 20-something stumbling through life, one mile at a time.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

true grit and inspiration

i am a daddy's girl, no doubt. my dad is one of the most amazing people i know, which of course, is something a lot of people say about their fathers. my dad is a lot of things: stubborn, quiet, handy around the house, forgetful, prayerful, strict. one thing everyone can agree on is that my dad is an honorable man. and in our society today, that is a rare quality.

my dad is a proud christian and his strong faith is very important to him. religion played a huge role in my household and i went to catholic school for 13 years. while i'm not a practicing catholic anymore, my parents did instill a sense of faith and spirituality in me that continues on in my adulthood. my parents still attend service every week and Bible study once a week. my dad is involved with two Bible study groups, and has daily devotions. others may not see eye to eye with him on religion, but they do respect him and his dedication.

like his faith, whenever my dad believes in something he wholeheartedly follows his convictions. he switched to a healthier lifestyle when i was young and was the first vegan i have known. we're talking about mid-90s in wilmington, ca. vegetarianism wasn't even that widely known, and there certainly were no options other than salad at restaurants. it wasn't a trend yet (not that my dad would ever follow a trend, let alone know of any current ones) but he wanted to "eat less crapola" and cut out all alcohol. he also started to learn more about eastern medicine, taking vitamins and herbs over prescriptions and OTC drugs. he even took up yoga for a while. basically the point is that he was trying his best to be healthy, mind body and soul. not to say he was the perfect role model, but he was on the higher than average track.

which is why last august was a complete shock to everyone: he was diagnosed with cancer.  it came from no where. one day my mom called to talk, and then mentioned my dad was having a little procedure the next morning but it' no big deal. she made it sound like he was just having a check up sort of thing. so the next day i didn't really think much of it until i got home and my roommate asked if i had talked to my mom yet. this immediately set off alarm bells. turns out she had jenny's email address and contacted her to check and see if i was home alone or not before she called me. instant panic. all of a sudden it clicked- my dad's appointment WAS a big deal and it did not go well. i called my mom to find out what happened, and heard the scariest words of my life, "the tests came back positive for cancer." my dad, my own superhero, was sick. with cancer. that ugly c-word no one wants to hear or talk about. the word we all wish could eliminate forever. i felt blindsided. this couldn't be happening!

it's 11 months later and my family has been very fortunate and blessed that my dad currently doesn't have any known cancer cells. due to the nature of his tumor, he has to undergo treatment for three years. in the beginning it was 6 weeks of weekly in office treatment, 6 weeks off. now it's every three months and of course routine check ups. he's been "cancer free" since december but there was a false alarm in april, so we can't take it for granted that he's cured. it's scary to think that any day it can come back and turn our worlds upside down again. it's a thought that, through rarely happens, does cross my mind and makes me to stop to reevaluate life. am i on the right path? am i making smart decisions? is my dad proud of me?

recently i won a spirit award for team in training. the community captain picks a team member who embodies the spirit of the organization: being part of a team, supporting, enduring, inspiring etc. she picked me because i trained last year and had to drop out of my event last minute, but still went to the race to cheer on my teammates. i was up at 5 am with them before they lined up the starting line, and encouraged them throughout the course (another captain had a car so we drove around sf). i'll admit it was hard not to be jealous of my healthy teammates who were running, but these people  had trained (and suffered!) with me too. i had to be there for them. and then i came back this year, because i need to finish what i started.  i was surprised to get the award (epsom salt and champagne, glass included) and humbled. i first joined TNT for selfish reasons: guaranteed entry to Nike. i gained a fantastic support group and great friends in the process, and now they were rewarding me with even more? gosh!

i told my dad about it as part of my training update. his response (via test) "that's my girl!" and told me i truly have grit and spirit. i jokingly replied that maybe i'm just a certain kind of crazy, and then my dad said "crazy people do the impossible." it was one of the most supportive, highly praising things he has ever said to me.  he said i have grit...the guy who has never once complained about cancer and who continued working as if nothing happened, despite working nights as a crane driver. he doesn't act like a cancer patient and most people don't even realize he's still undergoing treatment. after he sent that text i sat still for a moment thinking about how lucky i am to have my father, and how powerful his words to me were (and still are). crazy people do do the impossible, or what is generally considered impossible. like running a full marathon legally blind. it is a crazy idea, but who said dreams have to be practical?

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