this i believe

This I believe | Strength through cancer

March 1, 2014 

Cancer.

For most, hearing this word sends a shiver down their spine.

For some, it brings to mind a loved one who has passed away because of the horrific disease.

Cancer.

But when I hear this word, I think of a family brought together with a stronger bond of love than they would have ever otherwise experienced. Cancer changed my life, but it changed it for the better.

My family has always been extremely supportive of each other and we’ve always enjoyed spending time together, but we weren’t in the habit of sharing our feelings.

We didn’t kiss or hug before school each day or say “I love you” when hanging up on the phone. We didn’t see the importance of sharing our emotions regularly or affirming each other verbally.

But cancer changed that.

When my dad told me he had been given a diagnosis of stage- four throat cancer that had spread from his throat to his tongue and tonsils, I broke down and cried. I cried for days.

As the cancer took its course, my dad wasn’t the same. He was no longer the funny, outgoing and too-loud dad I was used to.

Instead, he sat quietly for hours every day in his favorite La-Z-Boy recliner.

Because of the chemotherapy and radiation, he had difficulty with not only his tired, rapidly thinning body, but also his voice. The amazing dad I hadn’t appreciated enough was fading away, and all I could do was wish for him to come back.

I started to wonder if this was the way he would always be or, worse, if the cancer would take its toll and I’d never hear his bellowing laugh again.

My mom, on the other hand, took the disease in stride and didn’t once stop or slow down. She pushed herself and continued working full days. She cooked and cleaned up after my siblings and my dad when she was at home. Not once did I see her cry and not once did she ever stop moving.

I knew my mom was doing her best to hold it together for the rest of us. I realized just how strong my mom really is and how much I’d underestimated that strength.

Thankfully, my dad got better.

Unlike so many others, I got a second chance to begin app- reciating my family. Before the disease, the love we had for each other as a family was understood, but wasn’t expressed. My family didn’t say “I love you” every night before bed.

But now I take every opportunity to say those words out loud. We realize it’s a miracle my dad is still here and healthy, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to begin treating each other as if the disease could come back at any moment.

Cancer.

It’s the horrific disease that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

Cancer.

It’s the horrific disease that has made my family stronger. I believe cancer cures.

Ellie Eastman lives in State College. Her essay aired Feb. 20 on WPSU.

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