Reporter sees devastation of cancer firsthand
September 27, 2005
Bladder cancer took my father’s life a week ago, and since then, it’s as though someone reached in and ripped my heart out. I made him laugh and he taught me life’s lessons.
In its many forms, cancer is such an insidious disease – not only because of its intrusive, cunning nature but because of its reach. As it spreads, cancer creates physical and mental devastation along the way.
My dad, Larry Wood, put up a long, hard fight in Gold Beach, Ore. First, he acquired colorectal cancer six years ago. A few days after logging five years in remission, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Surgeries, chemotherapy and a healthy diet didn’t stop it. This cancer was much more aggressive. It entered the bladder, abdomen, bloodstream and eventually was believed to have traveled to his brain.
My family’s main objective in the last week was the same as Curry County Hospice’s – manage the pain and end the suffering.
It’s hard to let go of someone you love. The conflict of feelings is overwhelming. I’ve not only been grieving for my own loss. I’ve grieve for my mother, who was married to him for 52 years. The one comfort I hold dear is that I’m not alone. It’s a a big club out there battling cancer. It’s difficult to find a person who doesn’t know someone who has either died or been afflicted with cancer.
Tell someone your father died of cancer, and many people commiserate. The kind words go a long way. But it doesn’t bring back my father. He was so full of life, and loved people. He was so considerate that he almost signed up for a cancer treatment trial in Portland, six hours away. Instead, he opted to spare the people he cared about the most by staying home.
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My father would want to see an end to cancer as we know it. So would my mother. I’ll never forget her haunting words: “I hate cancer,” during this ordeal.
As my own form of therapy, I participated in Redding’s Relay for Life over a year ago – when my father was alive. I wrote a little note on a paper bag illuminated by a candle. During the night of the all-day event, hundreds of lit candles lined the walking track, giving me warmth and comfort. It was quite a moving experience. I’d recommend it to anyone.
Cancer is actually used to describe about 100 medical conditions involving uncontrolled and dangerous cell growth. The cause can be genetic or environmental. It varies with each person and discriminates against anyone.
I’d like to say more money for research like the millions raised from the American Cancer Society’s Relays for Life would find a cure for this disease in my lifetime. I do know one thing. Doing nothing while the clock ticks doesn’t seem to be a viable option. So I’ll give more power to Zephyr Cove breast cancer survivor Judi Sparrow in staging South Lake Tahoe’s first Relay for Life next summer. As she puts it: “hope” is the reason for the relay, and I can live with that.