A Few Words On World Cancer Day | Jenngem

Today is World Cancer Day. I had never known anyone with cancer until November 2013, when my stepfather, Dan, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He hadn't been able to keep food down for months. Due to the lack of accessible healthcare, he didn't get checked out until months down the road of not being able to eat. After an initial endoscopy was done to see what was going on (we thought maybe harmless ulcers), they found a tumor, did a biopsy, and sure enough, it came back as cancer. Our worlds were turned upside down, especially my mom's. He had surgery in 2014, and they were able to remove the tumor. We celebrated, we were so excited!

But because they had to remove part of his esophagus and hook it to his stomach, a stent was needed. Initially, it was a metal stent that had to get changed every three months. Then, the doctors thought that a mesh stent would last longer. Fast forward to late June 2015. Dan wasn't feeling well AT ALL. He ended up at the ER, with a collapsed lung and not being able to eat again. The doctors did a swallow test to see why he wasn't able to eat, and found that the mesh stent that was placed in his esophagus, ate right through it, therefore essentially creating a hole that could not be repaired.

He was sent home to us to become comfortable. Suddenly, we were faced with having to say goodbye to one of the most incredible people that had ever been in my life. Despite having two grown daughters of his own, he took in my sister and I and treated us like we were his very own. Even going as far as tattooing mine and my sister's name on his arm, along with his own two kids. He left this world on July 9th, 2015.

My son had his first encounter with death. He was five. They were "buddies," Dan adored Syrus so much, and vice versa. Perhaps if he would've gotten checked out sooner, he may still be here. But then again, if my dad didn't stick a needle in his arm, he'd still be here, too. Sadly, I cannot look at the "what-ifs," and I can't look backwards. Cancer stole somebody who loved us unconditionally, and whom we loved unconditionally.

Life certainly hasn't been the same since you've left, Dan. But I really hope that we're all making you proud. We miss you so much. I keep one of your favorite hats hung up in my room. The Christmas card you gave me, the last thing I have with your handwriting on it, is pinned to my cork-board. The "special gift" that you gave me hangs in my closet. I cherish the memories of you and Syrus playing around, and how he would just contently sit next to you and play on your iPad. It just isn't the same without you here.

You taught me patience, resilience, when to speak up, and when to keep quiet. You were there for me at the roughest points in my life. I am forever grateful that I knew you for the nine years that I did. You were an amazing person, who everyone got along with. But, before I start crying, which I know you wouldn't want me to do, I'll just say this:

PLEASE, if you or someone you love is having strange symptoms and you do not know WHY, I implore you to visit your doctor or local hospital. Sure, I know that the bills can be hard to think about. But your life is irreplaceable, and there are people in it that need you to stay around. Early detection is the best protection. 

Please visit WorldCancerDay.org to see how you can help out!

I love and miss you, Dan.

Love always and forever,

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