I don’t have a lot of memories of my grandfather. He died when I was seven from cancer. I’m not even sure of the name of the type of cancer that slowly ravaged his body and thirteen years later took his life. I do know one thing about it: it ate away at the cartilage that padded the vertebrae in his spine so that every movement produced a grinding, chronic pain. And yet this is how I remember him:
I don’t remember him ever crying out in pain or even wincing as we grandkids piled on his back and rode him around the room. Smiles and laughter are the only noise in my faded sepia-toned polyester memory. But there was pain. In later years, long after my grampa had died, my dad would tell me stories about his father who lived for over a decade in excruciating pain and yet still worked full time as an engineer, took care of his family and served tirelessly in his church and community. One of my most sacred not-memories is my dad’s recollection of being at his dad’s deathbed. Where much of death is ugly, I am told there was great dignity and even beauty in his.
I wish that my grandfather’s illness was the only way cancer has touched my family. My father lost a brother to brain cancer and an uncle to colon cancer. On my mother’s side, exactly 50% of each generation has gotten cancer. (In my mother’s generation, her cousin died of colon cancer and her sister has had both thyroid and breast cancer.) When I asked her for an explanation – she is a nurse after all – she answered simply, “About 50% of people worldwide get cancer so I don’t suppose we’re that strange. The other half get heart disease and we’ve got a history of that too. So pick which one you want to worry about!” Haha. Medical humor.
So, while I’ve never personally had cancer I’ve certainly been around enough of it to put the fear in me. While it does keep me up some nights – I’ve had three benign tumors removed off my right ovary (one that even had a tooth in it but that’s a story for another day) – it has also motivated me to exercise and eat right. That and tell my children I love them about 100 times a day.
I’m guessing many of you have similar stories. Is there anyone who has not been touched somehow by cancer?
Today, October 2nd, is LIVESTRONG day and I’m adding my voice to thousands of other bloggers hoping to raise awareness (and, let’s be honest, money) for a cure for cancer. Fellow blogger POD let me know about this event, adding that we’re supposed to cook something yellow – the official Lance Armstrong color, natch – and post pics of our culinary masterpiece. After I laughed loud and hard about the irony of asking me to food blog, one more memory I have of my grandfather occurred to me: his favorite candy was lemon drops. He always kept a stash on his desk in his office and whenever I’d come in to visit him he’d draw smiley faces on the tip of each of my fingers with his felt tip pen and then send me on my way with a lemon drop in each fist.
Now it’s your turn: how has cancer affected your life? Are you a survivor? Anyone else have a crazy family history of the illness? Have a blog and want to join in? The day’s not over yet! (Unless you’re reading this post late and then, well, yes the day is over. But you can still totally blog about it!)