COMMENTARY: A survivor’s son honors his dad for Father’s Day

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been contemplating when the right time would be to write and publish something about my experience as the son of a cancer survivor.

Many Relay for Life events have been held in area towns recently — that seemed timely and appropriate. It seemed like a reasonable opportunity to use as a platform to further the discussion, but in reality, there was really only one option.

My dad suffered his first seizure on June 16, 1997. I was 6 years old at the time and unaware how this moment would irrevocably change my life.

The doctors in Waterbury would detect a tumor in his brain that has been there ever since — shrinking only to grow back again, a repetitious cycle that has become status quo over the last 18 years.

There was the second seizure in 2004, when I was in middle school, which led to my dad’s second brain surgery. That was followed by yet another growth relapse in the fall of 2011; only this time there wouldn’t be a third surgery. He was deemed inoperable by his team of doctors in Boston.

Waiting in a fearful dread

The battle wasn’t lost, I was told almost 2,000 miles away in Denver, but surgery would no longer be a combative strategy. That news left me shell shocked — more exhausted, reserved and angry than I had ever been before.

I waited in a fearful dread, expecting that the inevitable call would tell me to pack my bags and come home. And yet it never did.

Now, here we are, five years later — and celebrating Father’s Day 2015. My dad continues to press on as a proud cancer survivor, fighting every day in an unimaginably restless struggle.

He remains an unbeaten hero; someone who’s gotten to see his three children graduate from college and start careers of their own, despite living with the deadliest of diseases for almost two decades.

Resiliency and perseverance

What his resiliency has taught us is unquantifiable — an indescribable feeling that’s hard to tap into in such a short space.

But I guess that’s my burden as the writer of the family; to at least give it an attempt. After all, my dad has earned that and a lot more with his unwavering perseverance over the years.

He’s never once broken down and called it a defeat; and that’s because, to him, this seesaw battle against time — versus cancer — has never been about winning and losing. It’s always been about living, and living happily one day at a time.
(Article continues below)

'How proudly he wears a smile on his face.'

I don’t know how he’s done it for this long — I know I would have called it quits much earlier in the game, but what’s most remarkable to me, still even after all these years, is how proudly he wears a smile on his face. It must not be easy, but he certainly makes it look effortless.

Father’s Day is much more than how much my dad means to me — it’s a welcome reminder each year just how grateful I am that he’s still here.

I never thought this day would come, but I couldn’t be happier that it has arrived. Here’s to many more to come, Dad. I love you.

Steve Coulter works for Hersam Acorn, which publishes the Shelton Herald newspaper and website.