One Reporter's Opinion

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Celebrating Father's Day

From an article my dad penned the Thanksgiving after he'd been diagnosed with the cancer which would eventually take his life two years later:

Robert H. Wilson, (c) Danville Commercial-News, Nov. (?) 1988:

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Life has never seemed sweeter.

You see, I wasn't supposed to be alive this Thanksgiving -- much less be looking forward to Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays and other anniversaries yet to come.

So what if I have to walk around with a tube strung through my chest and medicine trickling into me from a battery-powered pump? It beats dying.

So what if the medical bills are piling up? They'll get paid -- eventually.

"Eventually" was a word that dropped from my vocabulary for a while. It feels so good to have it back again.

Five months ago, my death sentence was delivered by the surgeon who opened up my innards to see what was going on in there.

"Your husband is full of cancer," he told my wife in the surgery waiting room. "If I were you, I'd get in the car and take a long vacation."

The exploratory surgery found a mess of small tumors all through my abdominal area and a bigger one partially blocking my colon.

How long did I have? The surgeon said anywhere from days to weeks. (To borrow an old vaudeville line, "Doctor, you've got to be kidding!")

The surgeon's prognosis scared even him -- seelng that he was about my age.

My wife and I -- to say the least -- were devastated. We had so much going for us up until then.

We were expecting our second child in about six weeks. Now the doctor couldn't guarantee I would live to see it born.

Our first child was about to turn two. I was shattered by the thought that this light of my life would grow up without her dad -- without having any memories of me except old pictures.

My first-born son was finishing his freshman year in college. My oldest daughter had just graduated from high school. Now I wasn't likely going to be around to see them finish college, start their own lives.

I had always planned on spoiling grandchildren of my own someday. Oh well, so much for that.

To top it off, my wife and I were in the process of buying a new house -- an old house, that is, that we fell in love with as soon as we saw it.

Everything had seemed so bright. Then life for me fluttered away like a house of cards in a hurricane.

Forty-one is not a ripe, old age -- especially when it's you who is 41. I cried a lot -- especially when I thought of leaving my wife and kids behind.

But then the good things started to happen. Enter my oncologist, Dr. Ken Rowland of Carle Hospital, the first person to cast a little optimism over the gloom. He told to me to ignore what the surgeon said and to keep in mind that people a lot sicker than I was have survived. He talked me into going on chemotherapy.

Enter my parents, who headed for the hospital as soon u they heard and who convinced me they were not about to outlive any of their children.

Enter my siblings, who phoned, wrote, visited from their far-flung homes and offered their moral support. One brother even sent me not one but two copies of Dr. Bernie Segal's book, "Love, Medicine and Miracles," which extols the importance of attitude in surviving so-called "terminal" illness. (I guess my brother thought if one copy would help, two would help even more.)

Enter my in-laws, uncles, aunts, other relatives, friends and colleagues -- who urged me to get well, brought over meals for us after I got out of the hospital, helped us move into that new old house.

Enter those fellow cancer patients -- some of whom have died since then -- who told me I could make it.

All these people helped me remind myself that we are all in this together -- that, indeed, no man is an island even in the depths of despair.

And, of course, enter that new daughter, Emma, who is now almost four months old. Not only did I live long enough to find out if No. 4 was a boy or girl; I was right there in the delivery room to snap her picture as she joined the human race.

I have stared down the gullet of The Beast, and I'm still here.

I'm back on my feet, back to work and back in the swing.

I have always been a big fan of wildflowers, autumn leaves and the other beauties of nature. But never have they seemed so beautiful as this year. Never have I taken them less for granted.

The sunrises and sunsets have never been more awe-inspiring. The rivers and lakes have never sparkled more brightly, piggybacking a child at bedtime has never been more comforting. Thanksgiving has never seemed so aptly named.

I can't just stop and smell the roses anymore. I revel in them.

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One of the few articles I kept.

You know, those things never seem really important when you're aged 20 years, but knowing now what I know then, I'd sure enough have collected a lot more than I did.

That said, hope everyone had a good Father's Day. I celebrate with my memories.

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