On October 15, 2011, my entire world changed. My father was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that developed in the tissues of his bone. Two days later, he was given an option – he could either fight the cancer battle through chemotherapy and radiation, or he could cut the cancer out of his body – literally – by amputating his left leg and hip.
I’m not sure how you would react in that situation, but hearing that your leg needs to be removed in order to survive seems like a pretty hefty conversation after only having two days to deal with the fact that you have cancer. But for my dad, it was a no brainer. He looked at my mom and said, “Well I guess we need to do what we need to do.” That statement in itself pretty much sums up my dad’s quality of life. He wants to grow old with my mom, have tons of grandchildren running around, walk me down the aisle at my wedding. He wants to live. A difficult decision didn’t really seem to be all that difficult for my dad. Life without a leg has become the new “normal” for my family. He’s not handicapped, he’s not disabled. Those labels implied that he is hindered or limited, and the way I see it, he’ll be able to do anything that you can do. Maybe even better.
During my first trip to Jackson Hole in February, I saw a group of men skiing on a chair-type single ski. It wasn’t until they were at the base of the mountain with me that I realized they were paraplegic, meaning that they had lost the use of both of their legs. I was amazed. Not only did they show no fear on the mountain, but they were up on some of the hardest trails available at one of the best ski resorts on the country. I remembered them when I found out that my dad was going to lose his leg and hip. If these guys could ski Jackson and there are amputees with better marathon times than those with legs, then my dad would be back to his normal routine in no time.
The fact that my dad is such an athlete is the thing that was the hardest for me to grasp during his time in the hospital. My dad had lost the use of his leg months prior to finding out that it was cancer, and was in excruciating pain twenty-four hours a day. This is the guy who taught me to ride a bike, spent hours upon hours into the darkness of night trying to perfect my free-throw, walked or rode his bike daily with my mom on the bike path and went to the gym five days a week. In addition to that, my dad was one of the healthiest people that I know. He didn’t drink, never smoked, barely ate red meat, took countless vitamins, and exercised daily. Knowing that cancer could happen to someone like him scared the hell out of me.
One morning, as I emptied my daily dose of vitamins from the pill box, I stared down at them in my hand and thought, “What does it matter if it’s all gone to shit anyway?” For a split second I thought that it was all for nothing. That living a healthy life didn’t matter to cancer, and that with the scary cancer statistics for my generation (1 in 3 women, 1 in 2 men) we were all going to get us eventually. And then the words of my dad’s surgeon popped into my head. “His healthy lifestyle prior to cancer has contributed to his miraculous recovery.”
We’re not immune to cancer. It doesn’t care if you’re male or female, healthy or unhealthy, young or old, vitamin popper or not. No one in this life is immune to it. Which makes me want to kick its ass even more.
I once heard someone say that “to honor the fallen, we must live our lives well.” My dad is going to recover from cancer and the loss of his leg, and I’d like to believe that for everyone battling cancer this is true as well. But in the meantime, I’m choosing to fight cancer by dedicating each and every single movement to those who are unable to do so right now. Each step, stride, pose, turn, etc will be a single dedicated to cancer patients around the world. I’m moving for the masses and I think you should move, too. The next time that you are feeling lazy, resisting going to the gym, or choose watching a movie over exercising, remember that you have two legs.
One of my best friends, Nicole, has completely taken this to the next level. On 2/20/12 she is running in the Aloha Run in Oahu and representing my dad and his courageous fight. She is asking for $1 per mile – that’s only $8 – and all donations go to my FAVORITE cancer organization, Stand Up 2 Cancer. So get involved, get moving, and visit her team’s website HERE.
Thank you ALL for your continuous love and support.