Sunday, March 4, 2018

For My Dad

My dad past away on January 18th, 2018.  

I knew things were going down hill when he stopped responding to my texts.  Dad was always keeping me updated with what was going on with the family back home.   I pretty much left home when I was 18 and only returned for a two year span prior to moving to Bellingham;  My entire adult life I have been out of the loop so his photos and updates always made me feel like part of the family.  Although, my mom has since taken over the role.

Dad found out he had pancreatic cancer in September 2015.  He went though chemotherapy, radiation, and the whipple surgery and by November 2nd 2016 he had his port removed from his chest and was ringing the cancer free bell.

"Ringing the Cancer free bell"
"Glad to be over with this journey"

Hopes where high, but we all know how cancer goes.
By July of 2017 six nodules were found on his lungs that ended up to be cancer that had spread, so the chemo and radiation began again.  This time it was much much harder on him.

Dad called him and I "Smith Strong" we were both going through our own health battles.  He would send me text messages like this:  "Just saw your YouTube video. U r UNBEATABLE!  Smith strong.  Hang in there Beck, one day will become one week, followed by one month. We all start with baby steps, but your goal is to beat this.   Thanks for the update and & yes I'll take a big bite out of Lyme for you today.  Love dad."

Dad would let me know that he was sharing stories of Lyme awareness to his nurses and others at the hospital when he would go for his chemo.  In fact dad was always sharing stories with people!  Growing up we'd lose him anywhere people were;  He loved sharing stories.   When I was really ill and undiagnosed with Lyme I knew something was terribly wrong with with me when I began to shy away from the public.  Attention seeking was a thing of the past, invisibility was the new me.  I'd hide from acquaintances in grocery stores, parks, and restaurants, attempting to be invisible in case I ran into someone I knew prior to my illness.  This was far from the Becky who moved to NYC at 19 to pursue acting.  I was afraid if I ran into people I knew they would see right through my performance and find out how sick I had gotten since the last time they saw me.  The reputation I had built up in Bellingham had quickly diminished as I sat home many evenings and weekends.  I felt ashamed because my illness had no name for the 4 years I went undiagnosed.  To the outside world I appeared lazy and unreliable, but inside of my world, I was dying.  I got the talking gene from dad, obviously.  With my current health improvements come joyful experiences with the public and a resemblance of the Becky that once was.

Dad was the person you'd call when you were making hard boiled eggs and you couldn't remember what to set the timer to right when the water started boiling.  He was the one who attempted a period talk with me after picking me up from high school several times for puking in the girls bathroom every month (years after I had gotten my period).  Dad was the parent that let me off the hook when I got into trouble and the one I'd always go to if I was in trouble.  

I'll never forget the burn I got as a child on my calf after riding on the back of his motorcycle.  Or the time our dog Gypsy got lost and we found her on the next street over.  Dad gave her, a mini Shetland Sheepdog a ride home on the motorcycle too.  If it wasn't for him we wouldn't have had so many dogs growing up!

My middle name is Denise after my dad, Dennis or Smitty to his close friends.  The closest to a son that he was ever getting.  I wouldn't say I fit the description of a tomboy growing up but I definitely gave the term a run for it's money. It wasn't until I got Lyme disease that I became high maintenance. Shit, I never even learned how to use a curling iron and curl my hair until I was 30 years old!  I rocked boy short hair for my senior year of high school and I'd dye it bright red or snow white black.  I never cared about looking pretty, I'd rather of had everyone in the the room laughing so hard they nearly peed their pants.  I was never any good at sports, but I love getting dirty.  Dad was probably content,  it could have been way worse, I could have been in beauty pageants or something. Ohhh, I was a very uncoordinated cheerleader my freshman year of high school...almost forgot about that one.

The reason behind my high maintenance!

Yeah soooo, about these photos.

Dad was Irish and loved everything Irish, he played competitive pool, worked with the Cleveland police officers, taught me to cook, change car tires, pack my clothes military style, in fact he was once in the military. He entertained my friends growing up and made fun of my mom, maybe too much.  Dad was the breakfast master!  His breakfasts were the BEST every Saturday he would make them for the fam!

He showed me a trigger point in my traps to squeeze really hard to get temporary relief from one can fix a headache like he did.  He was a true artist! He could draw and paint like a professional, no joke! I think at some point he made ceramic items too.  I did not get the painting and drawing gene...but my sister did.  Below is a leaf painting I made my sister paint for me in the early 2000's.

I'm sorry sister I had to throw this away along with all my other belongings prior to moving to Spokane from my multiple toxic mold exposures in the homes I lived in.  I cried and made sure to take photos.  

Dad taught Heather and I how to love and how to not be afraid of love.  Dad knew my biggest weakness even before I did and totally caught me off guard one phone conversation when discussing future career options. My father taught me my work ethic!  He worked days and nights to help support my mother, sister, and myself.  He is the reason why I was able to work so DAMN HARD and accomplish so many things over the last 8 years despite my symptom and disease list.

Dad used to tell me he got his strength to fight his cancer through me and my 8 year battle with Lyme disease but I don't see it that way.  Most importantly my father instilled in me a drive to want to better yourself.  He gave me the superpower to push through and keep going.  Whatever life threw at us, regardless of our health, we're Smith Strong.

I wish dad could have made breakfast for all my close friends who never got the chance to eat Smitty's Breakfast.

I would normally end this with dads favorite Irish blessing, the one that has been hanging on different doors our entire life.  But instead I'll end it with a poem by Jim Willis.  Dad knows why...

I loved you the best

So this is where we part, my friend,
and you'll run on, around the bend, 
gone from site, but not from mind,
new pleasures there you'll surely find.

I will go on, I'll find the strength,
life measures quality, not it's length.
One long embrace before you leave,
one last look, before I grieve.

There are others, that much is true,
but they be they, and they arent' you.
And I, fair, impartial, or so I thought,
will remember well all you've taught.

Your place I'll hold, you will be missed, 
your head I stroked, the nose I kissed.
And as you journey to your final rest,
take with you this....I loved you best!

Lyme and Cancer have no cure.  Those sick with Lyme disease have been denied medical help from doctors and insurance companies.  Most of us are able to find our way and we get better with time and $money$  Some die trying.  Antibiotics were not the answer for me and unfortunately for most suffering from Neuroborreliosis Lyme disease. Alternative treatments are helping me find my way back to the person I once knew.  Maybe it's time to start looking outside the Chemo and radiation box and find our answers for Cancer elsewhere because it just isn't working for most.  What is cancer and what is happening in the body when you get cancer?  Let's start there.

Dad, you will forever be in the hearts and minds of those who love you.

Love you and miss you,
Becky a.k.a Pumpkin