guest blog by PMC Winter Cycle rider - Tamara Cella
My dad was always my whole world. When I was growing up, waiting for him to get home from work was my favorite part of the day. The memories I have of my childhood revolve around the things we did together - whether it was listening to the radio at home, watching the Mets play or even just walking to the supermarket together. Being a Brooklyn native, who didn't drive, when my family moved to the suburbs, he'd frequently walk to the bus stop to head to Manhattan - and it was about a 2-mile walk, uphill. (I wish that was just the old cliche joke, but it's true!) I admired his work ethic, and his drive to provide for my family.
On September 11th, he was in Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. In what I thought were the most harrowing hours of my life - my mom, sister and I waited. We waited for a phone call. We waited to hear the doorknob turn. After about 10 hours of fearing and thinking the worst - he walked through the door, providing relief but also the much-needed reminder to never take life for granted. He said while he ran for his life and couldn't stop thinking about my mom, and about me and my sister.
The story should have ended there, that we all went on to live happily ever after - but it didn't. Several years later, we received the horrible news that he had colon cancer. Since he hadn't been to the doctor, had a colonoscopy or done anything for himself - he was diagnosed at Stage 4. Before his diagnosis, the only experience I had with cancer, was my grandmother who died from ovarian cancer when I was in high school. I was convinced colon cancer was his death sentence. Unfortunately, as optimistic as they tried to be, the doctors felt similarly.
My dad went through colon surgery, radiation, chemo, more chemo. He became a shell of himself. Then just as we had a glimmer of hope, the cancer metastasized to his lungs, and he needed more surgery and more chemo. Eventually, my usually plump, pasta-loving dad - was down to 130 pounds. His ribs were visible. His body was covered in sores. He was weak, tired and mentally exhausted.
I'm 38 years old, and my father has only raised his voice to me once. I saw that he was giving up, I was tired, emotionally exhausted and I snapped at him - the dad that I admired didn't give up, and he needed to get it together. In his helpless state, he snapped back at me. He was going to die. He knew it, I knew it and the doctors knew it. His oncologist suggested they try "one more thing" - which was taking him off his chemo and shifting his treatment. It was literally a Hail Mary pass with the ball in the air - and then it happened. Over time, his coloring came back, peach fuzz started to grow out of his head, he slowly put on weight and his scans were clear. He did it. Through a single last-ditch decision, my dad beat cancer. He wasn't supposed to. His doctors call him a miracle.
I just call him dad; the man who ran for his life to come home to us in 2011, the man with the insane work ethic and drive to provide for my family.
My dad was given a second (maybe third?) chance at life and I am forever grateful. That is why I PMC. Cancer isn't just about the toll it takes on the body, it's also the mental battle the patient and their loved ones face - and I want to use my dad's story to inspire others.