Friday, October 7, 2011

My Dad

For those of you who do not already know, my dad passed away from esophageal cancer just over two months ago. I thought about writing on this blog a few times since then, but just didn’t have the strength to do so. There are no words to describe the pain, the hurt, and the absence that myself and my family have been going through. This is not how it was supposed to happen. This was not our plan. My dad is everything to me and we shared so much, including this battle of cancer. For over 30 years, he was my dad, my friend, my role model. He passed so much down to me… of Philly sports teams, love of Ireland, love of family, love of travel, love of country, and love of life. We shared everything and had so much in common…..down to our names. As the story goes, I was born six weeks early and in quite rapid fashion. My dad was still parking the car at the hospital the day I was born and when he got to the room where my mom was, he arrived to an early Christmas present: his second son who my parents were going to name Sean. But, in that moment, my mom looked at me and looked at him, and said that I had to be Danny, and from then on I was always Little Danny and always trying to follow the lead of Big Dan. So, it was somehow fitting that we were both diagnosed with cancer within three months of each other. For a father and son who had always shared the same loves and passions (we both cried together in awe when we finally made it out to a notre dame game and he also waited with me for hours after a Chicago Bulls game so that I could get a glimpse of the bus that Michael Jordan was on), we were going to share this fight and we were going to beat this together. In fitting with his humble character (I can say, without bias, that he is the smartest person I have ever known, even though he never graduated from college and never would admit his intelligence), he immediately focused his attention on helping me beat this Leukemia. He was almost relieved that the attention could be off him and he even often devoted some of his own blog to talking about my successes in this battle. We shared horror stories of our symptoms and our treatments, both shaved our heads, and often even went for treatments on the same day. Father and son went into this together and father and son were supposed to come out of this together. We all knew that his prognosis was much worse but we still always believed that we would win our fights together and we did not dwell on other possibilities, although I am sure he had accepted what was possible and was at peace with it. In the end, he may not have beaten cancer, but he certainly wrote the book on how to fight it. He set the example to me of how to fight this with courage, laughter, prayer, and positivity. He did everything that was ever asked of him by the doctors and then some. And, through all of the pain and terrible chemo symptoms, he lived. He and my mom went to Disney World….twice during his treatments, they traveled to Pittsburgh, Philly, DC, and wherever else family was having a gathering, Notre Dame was playing football, or there were friends to see. He danced with my wife at our wedding. He volunteered, sung carols at nursing homes, prayed, laughed, and LIVED. I am grateful that I had him to go through this with because he showed me how to do it. Even in his final hours on July 25th, he showed strength and courage. The last thing we asked him to do was to hang on and wait for my bother and sister-in-law, Joe and Sarah, to get to Hershey so say goodbye. The doctors were unsure he could wait that long, but he did…so our whole family could be together one last time on earth. And when they got there, my brother Joe was able to whisper the name of his first grandson into my dad’s ear. So, my dad was able to know his grandson (due in December) by name before he passed away and I know that we will see so much of my dad in my nephew. I cannot wait for this.

So this was not the plan. We were supposed to beat this together. He said many times that he would do anything to take this away from me so that I didn’t have to go through it….because he knew exactly how hard it was. Now we all have this void, this gap that will never be filled but we know that we must move on and must live life to the fullest….that’s what he wants. He always valued me beating cancer over him beating cancer, so that is what I am going to do. I am going to finish off this fight for us. I don’t have him to do it with anymore but I have him now to help me through it and I have him to do it for. That’s what he wants. I have my amazing wife, my mom who is a beacon of strength and love, my brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew!!!, my amazing friend, and my wife’s family. I would be nowhere without all of them. We have shared this grief as a family and we will continue to live life as a family, just like my dad would want. Hanna and I talk almost everyday about my dad and the things that remind us of him. I can’t turn on the TV, walk down the street, or watch the news without my mind being turned toward my dad one way or the other. But the thing that brings me closet to him is when I go to the hospital to get chemo or to hear news about my treatment. I know my dad was smiling when I got news a couple weeks ago that my latest bone marrow biopsy was negative. There was no sign at all of the return of any cancer. My latest spinal tap also confirmed those results. I am right on track to put this treatment behind me with one more year of chemo and treatments. There are still many unfortunate and painful side effects to the chemo which I live with everyday but that is okay. I am often afraid of what might happen but I won't let that fear take over. I will do everything asked and everything it takes to beat this and to LIVE while doing so….cause that’s what my dad did. For those of you who knew my dad as Meatball, Dan, Danny, Big Dan, Uncle Dan, brother, Mr. Lyons, you know a little bit about what I am talking about. You know this man was inspiring in such a humble way. I was blown away by your presence, your love, and your support at his funeral and afterward. Thank you so much. For those of you who never got to know him, I wish you could have, but I hope you can know a little bit of him through knowing me and my family. I will try to live my life with the simple joy and gratitude that he showed every day, right to the end. I will raise my children the way my parents raised my brother and I and my dad will be present through it all.

I will beat this cancer….for me, for my family, but especially for my dad, cause this was our fight together and we are still going to beat this together. I can’t do it without him and, even though he is not physically here, I know I am still doing this with him. I love you and I miss you everyday, Dad, and I hope to make you proud.

ALL will be well

Little Danny

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway” --John Wayne

Here we are at the World's to the Phils getting back there this year!