I don’t usually post personal things on my blog; if you follow then you know it’s mostly updates about my books or general posts about random things. Today, I’m going to break that personal silence because it’s November. And this month means something to me—or rather this month’s awareness means something to me.
Almost everyone knows someone who has suffered in some way from some illness or another. For those who haven’t experienced watching someone they love and care about battle whichever disease takes over, they should consider themselves extremely lucky. It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever witness—one of the hardest. The hardest is watching that disease win.
November is Lung Cancer awareness month. Lung cancer takes so many lives each year—too many lives. Approximately, 395 people will die of lung cancer every week. That’s just Canadian statistics. Too many people lose this battle, and nine years ago, my father was one of them.
Most little girls grow up thinking their fathers are heroes. I wasn’t one of them. I loved my dad; he was one of a kind in so many ways. But I didn’t grow up thinking he was perfect, I knew he had flaws and had done some pretty shitty things and to some they would have been unforgivable. I didn’t think he was the ideal man to measure all other men to. I respected him just as much as I loved him, though, and I would be proud to have my sons grow up to be half the man he was. But he wasn’t the type of man to put on a pedestal.
He let us grow into the people we wanted to be, not what he wanted us to be. He didn’t push his thoughts or opinions on us, he let us make our own choices, let us have our own beliefs—even if he didn’t agree with them, he never discouraged or belittled us. He supported us, mostly in silence since he wasn’t big on sharing his feelings. I’m definitely like my father that way.
No, I didn’t think he was a hero—until he started the hardest three year fight of his life. You never really know how strong a person is, even one that you’ve known your entire life, until you watch them battle and struggle to survive. It’s an image that will stay with you forever, almost haunting you.
I miss him every single day…but I’m also angry at him. It wasn’t “bad luck” he got cancer; it was from years and years of smoking—over fifty years of it. I am angry because he more or less did this to himself because of his choices. He didn’t ask to get cancer, but he also didn’t stop and try to make sure it didn’t happen. I’m angry and sad because my boys will never know how great of a man their grandfather was. They’ll never have the chance to toss a football around with him or learn to drive the old beat up Chevy he had. Every birthday, every holiday, every concert my children are in, they’ll miss out on having him there. There will be an empty seat at their graduation, at their wedding, at…everything. When they ask to see their grandfather I have to take them to a cemetery instead of taking them to the house I grew up in. They have to speak to a headstone instead of a person. They’ll never hear his voice, or his laugh that made everyone around him smile or laugh with him. My oldest son will never know how much he truly looks like his grandfather when his eyes crinkle at the corners and his entire face lights up when he finds something hilarious. They’ll never know how much he would have loved them.
And every person that has lost someone knows exactly what this hole feels like that’s still in my heart after nine years. It’s not something you can ever get over. And as much as I miss him, and as much as I would give anything for just one more minute, I’m angry he did this to us. To himself.
And this is the first time I have ever said that.
I’m not writing this to get the “I’m sorry for your loss” sympathies. That’s not what I need. I’m sharing this because what I need, what everyone needs, is awareness to how this disease will not only affect the person who has it but everyone who loves them. That cigarette you just have to have? That’s one more detail to your funeral your family is adding. That’s one more day that not only you lose but that they lose with you. That’s one more child you don’t get to walk down the aisle, or one more grandchild you don’t get to hold after s/he is born. That’s one more memory of you you’re making the people you love miss out on. Is all that pain you’re going to make them suffer worth it?
I’m an ex-smoker, and I deal with the cravings almost every day. I know how rough it is to quit. But this?
This is rougher. This is as hard as it gets. This is heartbreaking to me. This is something I will never put my children through if I can help it. This is our reality now.
November is Lung Cancer awareness month. Make someone aware. Not of the health risks or how they’re playing Russian roulette with every inhale—they know all that. Make them aware of how all the players involved in that game are going to be affected when it ends. Because forever in our hearts just isn’t enough.