A Happy Childhood

by Michele C on May 28th, 2013

I had a pretty great childhood. You could say we were a family on the go. We didn't have alot of money, but any chance we could, we were loading up the camper and van and heading to the beach or the mountains, or anywhere fun. Fun - that is how I would describe my childhood with my family. Fun probably wouldn't be a word some would use to describe a childhood where a little girl grows up with a dad fighting cancer, but that was me and my childhood was fun.

My dad was awesome. Everyone that knew him loved him. He was 6'2", big and strong, and he loved to laugh and have fun. In fact, most of my memories of my dad involve laughter, not just hehe laughter, but full on belly laughs where you can't catch your breath. My dad loved his girls, my mom, my sister, and me. I was a daddy's girl and I was very protective of my dad. I grew up knowing my big strong dad had cancer and although he was so big and so strong, I guess I knew he couldn't fight cancer with his physical strength, so I was very protective of him.

My first memory of my dad's cancer is going with my parents to the doctor to have a spot looked at behind my dad's ear. I think I was in the second grade. I still remember the little pink coolots and white shirt I was wearing. I don't remember anything else about that appointment. My next memory of my dad's cancer fast forwards a few years to when I was around 12 and he was having his first surgery to remove basil cell cancer behind his ear. From that point on, all throughout my teen years, my dad was having surgery or radiation just about every three years to remove the cancer that kept popping up. Each time it popped up, it was deeper and harder to get to.

I think my dad ended up having eight or nine surgeries over the years plus radiation. Yet throughout this, my dad never lost his love of life and his joy. We were still going camping, still having fun, still living life, still making memories. I remember one time going with my dad to his radiation appointment, and him strutting (my dad didn't walk, he strutted) out of the room saying, "Let's go to the beach!" We had the camper packed up, the van gassed up. The only thing keeping us from hitting the road was that pesky radiation appointment. My dad was anxious to get on with living life. Although he had cancer, that wasn't what he focused on and because he didn't focus on that, we didn't either. We lived life, laughed, and loved right along with him.

My dad eventually lost his battle with cancer when he was 49. He was much too young to die in my eyes, but even though he was young, he didn't miss out on life. He lived his life and I don't think he had any regrets when he died. This may sound weird, but the hard part wasn't growing up with a dad who had cancer. This is the hard part - living life after he's gone, missing him even 16 years later, wishing so bad he could have known my kids. But I'm so thankful that my dad didn't let cancer stop him from living because I wouldn't have all of my cherished memories if he did.

Michele C. lives in the Northern VA area with her husband and two children, she is a paralegal in a Reston, VA law firm.

Posted in Stories    Tagged with Cancer, Long-term illness, childhood, radiation, Northern VA, memories, dad


sherry y - May 28th, 2013 at 6:12 PM
he still lives for me in the faces of my 2 beautiful daughters I see him in your eyes and hear him in your laughter. We had
the best!!!!!!!
Kim Henry - May 29th, 2013 at 7:33 AM
You brought tears to my eyes, I miss him so much! You're right the memories I have of Uncle Dave are such great memories! I talk of him often wishing that he too were here to meet the wonderful additions that we've made to our family. I remember once I could drive I would go visit Uncle Dave and Aunt Sherry and this was after Michele and Shannon had moved out. He was like a best friend. He always made you feel great! My jr prom I told my parents I didn't want pictures taken with my date instead with my two favorite men, my dad and Dave! He is truly missed but I know one day we will see each other again and that wonderful man will be there waiting with open arms. I love you guys!!
Becky P - May 29th, 2013 at 9:17 AM
It's funny, we were just talking about him on Sunday at breakfast, after church. My daughter sent me the link to this. I read it with mom and my sister last night. It's so true all you could do was laugh when you were around him. He didn't focus on the cancer, so you didn't.
Y'all allowed me to tag along on a lot of those camping trips, and they were so much fun. There are so many stories we could tell, and all of them would end with us laughing. I am not sure what God's plan was to take him so early, but I am blessed to have had him be such a big part of my life.
Your mom is right, I can see him in all of you! I am sure he would be so proud of you all.

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