Over the past few years I have tried to convey to you, through these e-mails, what SWIM ACROSS AMERICA means to me and why it is such an important part of my year. Sometimes, though, it has been the words of others who better convey how cancer can alter the course of a life, in the blink of an eye. This year though, I'm going to tell you my story and how cancer took the life of my Dad at the incredibly young age of only 71.
In the Fall of 1996, I was a completely unencumbered 29 year old with "always something going on". This particular Friday I was making a quick pit-stop at my parent's home as I was headed to a buddy's farm for the weekend. As I blew through the house, grabbing what I needed for the weekend, I asked my Mom, "hey, how did it go with Dad's kidney stones"? (knowing that he had had them before and, while incredibly painful, they eventually passed) My Mom turned around to show me her face with tears streaming down, "they found cancer". It is true what they say, when you hear that word (cancer) time truly stands still; you are more aware of the world around you and "the important things in life" truly come into focus. From that very moment on, I knew the clock was ticking on my Dad. I was hoping I would have plenty more time with him, but now knew this was not guaranteed, so every moment I did have with him would be "quality time".
I was incredibly blessed to have another 5 years with my Dad and, while most of those years were great and he was healthy, twice over these years my Dad went through rigorous bouts of chemotherapy. Having a ring-side seat, watching someone go through chemo, is not something I would wish on anybody. The usual side affects did not spare my Dad; he lost his hair, had no energy, constantly felt terrible, and most dramatic was his weight loss as he went from about 190lbs to less than 130lbs. My Dad certainly wasn't fat, but he only knew how to make two meals: peanut butter on toast & peanut butter on an English Muffin, so he wasn't exactly the epitome of "in shape" and watching him lose 1/3 of his body weight sapped whatever energy he had left. He couldn't walk up the stairs without help and could only come down the stairs sliding on his fanny. On multiple occasions, as I would help him up the stairs and he would have to rest at the top, his eyes would well up and he would say, "I AM going to get better, won't I?"
When you battle cancer as long as my Dad did, you get to be pretty familiar with the hospital staff and, more importantly, with his oncologist. Dr. David Nanus, Head of Oncology at Weill Cornell Hospital, was my Dad's doctor and, over those years, because so much more than that, he became a dear friend. Dr. Nanus, not only took care of my Dad with a level to care & expertise which were second-to-none, but he gave my family five, mostly amazing years with him.
In the Fall of 2001, my Dad wasn't feeling his best, so back into the hospital he went for a battery of tests (as a man with cancer, you can never be too careful!) The myriad of tests took a couple days to complete, so my Dad had to spend a couple nights. On Wednesday, November 14th, 2001 a few of my siblings, along with my Mom, headed to the hospital to see my Dad and hear what the diagnosis was. At a little after 1pm, Dr. Nanus came into the room and, after exchanging some pleasantries with my Mom and all of us, he sat down on my Dad's bed, took my Dad's hands, but had nothing to say. Tears started to fill his eyes and time, immediately, started to stand still. He started to say something, but all he could muster was, "I'm sorry, Bob."
Without missing a beat, my Dad said, in his traditionally upbeat way "well, no reason to stick around here, let's go home."
At 9:30pm, just two days later, my Dad went to heaven.
These are the stories, these are the people, these are the reasons I swim in SWIM ACROSS AMERICA. For 17 years now I have been coming to you to ask for your support of me in the fight against cancer and this year, the fight goes on and I come again. It may be that I am getting older or maybe just more aware, but the stories of cancer and who it affects seems to become more prevalent as the years go on.
Swim Across America is an incredible organization which has raised over $10,000,000 since its inception 26 years ago. Team Clare, the team I swim for and named after my cousin, Clare Reynolds Joyce, who died of cancer at the age of 41, has raised over $1,100,000 of that $16,000,000. So, in reality, it is YOU who have raised all that money and I, and the thousands of cancer survivors who have benefited from the cutting edge treatments it has funded, could not be more thankful.
I understand that times are tough, but even the smallest donation will truly make a difference in the battle against this disease. I ask that you support me and Team Clare by clicking on the link below or sending a check to me made out to SWIM ACROSS AMERICA.
All tax deductible contributions can be made by clicking the link below or by sending a check made out to SWIM ACROSS AMERICA to me at the address below:
My sincerest appreciation for your friendship and support.
Have a wonderful summer