It was February, 2014, when the “C” word was uttered. My sweet daddy was diagnosed with Stage 4 Follicular Lymphoma. His Oncologist attributed this awful disease to Agent Orange exposure in 1969, while serving his country in Vietnam.
My daddy’s story is not an ordinary one. He entered the U.S. Navy in 1956 as a non-commissioned officer. While serving in Morocco, he was commissioned to the Officer Corps. The day he received his commission was one of the happiest times of his life. He was most proud of the hard work he applied daily to obtain his goal to become an Officer in the U.S. Navy.
Fast forward to June, 2014. My daddy rang the bell that hung in the infusion room of the Oncology Center. It was a proud moment and we just knew that daddy had kicked cancer to the curb. Smiles and clapping from all the other patients was a moving experience.
August, 2014, blood tests revealed the cancer was back, and more aggressive than his doctor had expected. What a enormous blow to my daddy. To my mother. To me. To our family. We do what we always do. We pushed the bad news aside and focused on the next steps.
After several stays in the hospital, my daddy told me that he would continue to fight. Even though he was emotionally and physically drained, he had the strength to keep fighting. Just another reason why my daddy has been such a huge role model, even at my age. My daddy lived his life, accepting of all, no matter their social class or color. He believed that life was black and white; no grey. Choices you made were either right or wrong; no in between. He always told me that you are only as good as your word and the true character of an individual would shine through with how they treated people and animals. So true!
My daddy cried at the movie “Terms of Endearment”. He was fluent in sarcasm, had quick wit and was happy with the smallest of things. His love for my mom, me and the family was shown. He was a man of action, not words. He believed in equality and told me and my siblings we could do or be anything that we wanted. He encouraged success. He loved tending to his landscaping and was a master at creating rich compost.
My dad taught me what a real man is. My dad and mom showed me what true love is. My parents did everything together. They enjoyed each others company. My mom spent every day and night with my daddy while he was hospitalized. I’m so very thankful to have found the same kind of love my parents have.
Monday, December 1, 2014, I was on my way to see my daddy at the hospital. Kenny Chesney’s song, “Don’t Blink” was playing on the radio. I had an emotional experience, and teared up as I thought about my daddy. When I arrived at my daddy’s bedside, I could not get the song out of my head. My daddy told me and my sister that his test results had come back and they weren’t good.
This was the beginning of the end. I wanted to slow down time. I was afraid to blink for fear I would miss a precious moment with my dad and mom. My daddy spent 23 years in the U.S. Navy. He loved his country and he gave all. He wanted to be transferred from the hospital to the Warriors Walk Hospice Care at WJB Dorn Veterans Hospital. On Thursday, December 4, 2014, my daddy had a room at Warriors Walk. He was surrounded by family and friends. Love and laughter.
On Saturday, December 6, 2014, my sweet daddy lost his 10 month battle with cancer. Follicular Lymphoma, caused by Agent Orange exposure, took my daddy from me and my family. I’m an advocate at heart and I’m mad. I’m mad that my daddy sacrificed all to honorably serve his country, and now he’s gone because of a horrible disease. My daddy’s fight has sparked a fire inside of me. Don’t be surprised if you see me advocating for veterans, especially those who are fighting a disease caused by Agent Orange exposure.
If you or anyone you know believes that (s)he may have been exposed to Agent Orange, please seek medical advice. Read the Veterans’ Diseases Associated With Agent Orange.
For those that have asked me what they can do to help, here are 3 charities to consider donating to:
WJB Dorn VA Medical Center
6439 Garners Ferry Road
Columbia, SC 29138
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
P. O. Box 4072
Pittsfield, MA 01202
Lone Survivor Foundation
2626 S Loop W, Ste. 415
Houston, TX 77054
Thank you for taking a moment to read about my daddy. I’m a proud “daddy’s girl” and he made me want to be a better person. My parents instilled in me beautiful character traits that I am ever so thankful for. I will continue to strive to be a better person.