My first experience with cancer was also the toughest.
It was two decades ago. I was 12, and I was still living in the Philippines. Just a few months after getting back from Taiwan (where he worked for a few years), my father was diagnosed with liver cancer.
The timing of the diagnosis was weird. It was less than a year since my mom had left for Canada to work. And my siblings and I just got our father back and was getting reacquainted with him.
I didn’t grasp the seriousness of my dad’s illness. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “cancer” before. The word felt alien and exotic, but also serious. Maybe even insidious. No adult sat me down to talk about it. And, in fact, my relatives didn’t tell my mom about my dad’s diagnosis until it got worse. I think they meant well—they probably thought my dad would recover eventually.
But my dad’s situation didn’t improve. It got worse—very quickly. The cancer only needed a few months to kill my father. It happened so fast that I don’t really have a lot of memories about the months leading up to my dad’s death.
On the day my father died, I was at school. Someone—as far as I remember, a young man who worked for one of my aunts—fetched me at school and briefly talked to my teacher. I was sent home. I knew as soon as I opened the gate of our house that something was wrong. My grandma and an aunt were weeping. Another aunt gave me a hug and told me that my father had passed away.
Seeing his dead body was weird. This wasn’t my first encounter with death (my grandfather passed away before my dad), but it was surreal to see his corpse.
Unfortunately, my father’s battle with cancer was just the beginning for our family. An uncle—my dad’s older brother—died of brain cancer just a few months after. My poor grandma had to bury two sons in one year. Another uncle had a brief battle with cancer, but he survived for a few more years.
But here’s the sad fact: my story isn’t unique. People die of cancer all the time. Everyday, children lose parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and, sometimes, even siblings to this awful disease. Everyday, parents weep for kids they’ve lost too early because of cancer.
That’s why this February, just for a month, I’m going dry to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society. I’m doing it for my family. I’m doing it for other families. Frankly, given my family history, I’m also doing it for myself because it’s very likely that I’ll end up with some form of cancer someday.
Would my little contribution help to this cause? I’m not sure. But I think doing something—even just a little something—matters. Treatment is improving. Smart folks are discovering more ways to prevent cancer as well. But the battle is far from over. So I’m going to do my little part to help.
Here’s my ask. If you could, please support my Dry Feb campaign by donating. Or join the campaign as well—after all, it’s just one month and detoxing is always a good thing!
Most of us fear cancer—for our family and ourselves. Cancer sucks. So what are you going to do about it?