I grew up in a loving household that was built on the foundation of respect and care towards one another. My family rarely argued and we enjoyed being in each other’s presence. I always felt lucky to live in a house where I felt so loved.
Growing up, my father was always by my side. He was energetic and filled my childhood with adventure. He did not have a particularly good upbringing, but he wanted to ensure that I did by being the best father possible.
I enjoyed growing up in an average household, until things suddenly changed. Doctors diagnosed my father with a form of cancer that was determined to be terminal. Being only eight years old, I found it hard to comprehend the seriousness of cancer. I thought things would continue to be normal and my dad could take medicine to get better. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that this was not how my father’s illness worked. My family’s focus quickly switched to trying to get my dad better; whether that was through chemo therapy, radiation, or bone marrow transplants.
Doing activities as a family became more difficult as my dad’s energy level began to fall. My family no longer concentrated on having fun family outings; we had to focus on spending precious time with each other. Our life was evolving, but I was still able to be in my father’s presence, which meant more than anything.
My dad fought cancer for eight years and never complained during his battle. He wanted to try any experimental treatment to prolong his time with my mom and I. These treatments were hard on him. His body eventually began succumbing to the effects of the illness. My father became dependent on my mother and I for daily tasks. This was difficult for him to succumb to given that he was an independent person, and he wanted to keep our family dynamic as normal as possible.
Having to help care for my father was not easy, but that did not matter because his comfort was my only concern. Seeing a loved one go through cancer made me have to grow up fast, but it also taught me valuable life lessons that I could not have learned anywhere else. I learned the importance of putting someone else’s needs ahead of mine, especially when they cannot care for themselves. I had to learn to be resilient. Having a parent affected by an illness is awful, but it is important to deal with the stressful situation appropriately. The entire time my dad was sick, I learned how precious time was. It is important to spend time with the ones you love, rather than wasting time worrying about meaningless things. These lessons have helped me grow into the person I am today.
The introduction of the Geneseo Student Code of Conduct claims that “respect of oneself and others, concern for the physical well- being of oneself and others, and concern for the community are fundamental to the development of self-awareness and interpersonal competence that characterizes a liberally educated person.” I feel as though I learned the importance of these values while my father was fighting cancer. By being exposed to these values from a young age, I have been able to carry them into my college career. Caring for those around you is such an important aspect of being a positive member of society; I am grateful to have learned this lesson at an early age.
Losing a parent never gets easier, but the valuable memories you hold close make coping less difficult. I will forever be grateful to have been given a father who genuinely loved me, even while battling a horrendous disease.