Sunday, July 20, 2008

Born To Survive

Today is my Father's 69th Birthday. On this day in 1939, he was born to David and Josephine Johnston, in Los Angeles, California. He was a fussy baby, not able to eat and sleep much. And for good reason––it was discovered he was born with an upside down stomach. Yeah, freaky.

But that was the beginning of a long and amazing ride in the life of my Father, David. He's the human form of the cat with 9 lives. He almost lost his life and leg in a motorcycle accident in 1962. A woman ran a red light coming down a hill in LA. My Father, going to work on a Honda 50 motor scooter, got hit by the car.

Thanks to my Mother, Mary, and the doctors at Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital they saved his life and leg. How did my Mom save his leg? She told the Doctors she would not let them cut it off. There had to be another way. FIND another way. And they did, by taking a bone out of my Dad's hip and grafting it to the end of his leg and top of the ankle. Amazing it could be done in '62. Especially since they had not done that kind of surgery before. 

The list of near-death misses read like a day in the emergency room––another life-threatening injury on the Hyperion Bridge, quadruple by-pass at age 45, a blood clot in his brain, Crohn's disease, hypo-glycemis, arthritis––and his most recent defeat-the-odds episode, cancer.

He's now on his third round of fighting prostrate cancer. He's already had it removed. Then, it came back and he beat it again with radiation. Now, his PSA levels are up again. "Im not ready yet, my Son." He always tells me that. And I believe him. I know what he's talking about.

When I was diagnosed with cancer last August, I first thought of my Wife, Teresa, and my Children, Adam, Ryan, Travis & Kaity. My GrandKids, Lucas and Eli were also on my mind. But telling my Dad and Mom, that was going to be tough. Even though they have been divorced since 1966, they were still the people who gave me life. Together. I wondered if when I told them––over the phone, separately––they would come together. Make peace. Be grown-ups. Funny thing to think about when it comes to your parents.

My Dad dropped everything. "I'm coming out. Let me know when I can be of help." He already was. He knew what I was going through in my mind, heart and soul. We talked about how hard it was going to be––for my family. The people who depend on me every day. The people who often look at me as the rock, the provider, the Man Who Can Handle Anything. It was a strangely comforting conversation.

My Mom, she tried not to cry. But she couldn't help herself. I was comforting her, telling her I was in good hands with some great Doctors. And I have so much love in my life, I will get through it. She would still cry, feeling somewhat helpless being so far away.

My Dad was lacing up the gloves, ready to fight, be in my corner and help my family out with his love and support. It was a tough time for all of us. At the time of my diagnosis, Teresa's Sister, Claudia, was fighting for her life as the result of breast cancer. A fight Claudia would lose only a few weeks later. The second Sister––Connie being the other––to die from cancer. My Step-Father, Joe, had also passed away from cancer. For everyone in my family––Mom, Sister Angie, Teresa, my Kids, my Brother Jeff and Step-Mom Wanda––cancer was related to death. Except for my Dad. I told him, "I'm going to get this outta me fast and I'm going to kick it's ass." He told me it was going to be tough, but I could beat it. He knew I could. And the love of my life, Teresa, knew I could too. Without her, I wouldn't be writing this. She is my strength.

Happy Birthday, Dad. You helped save my life. 

Survival. That's the greatest present to give and receive.

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