Friday, May 8, 2009

Daddy's Girl

For those of you who have a Daughter or are a Daughter, you're probably smiling right now.

Today is Kaity's Birthday. At 23, she's on her way to conquering the world. She's smart––a 2-time All-Academic All Conference in college, All-Academic All Region in high school in two sports. Beautiful inside and out––she's a Special Ed teacher––and very confident. (With 3 older Brothers, you can't be insecure and shy and have survived life in our house). She's an athlete––3 sports in high school, 2 in which she was All-District and 4 years of NCAA Lacrosse, Team Captain––an avid reader, a tutor and about the toughest person I know. She almost had the tip of her finger cut off at 2 years-old––while we were on vacation in Baja Mexico––had her nose broken, battles with poly cystic ovarian disease every day and can more than hold her own in discussions on the NBA, MLB, NFL and other sports. (She wakes up and watches ESPN Sportscenter every day before work). She's even had to endure me coaching her in two sports for many years, at the youth and high school level.

Yeah, I love her.

But what I love about her most is her love for her Daddy. At 23, she still calls me Daddy. When I was going through treatments for cancer, it really hit her hard. I could see the fear, pain and helplessness is her face. In her actions. I found out I had cancer right before she was going back to college for her Senior year––August 7, 2007. She didn't want to go. She wanted to stay home with me. She wanted to help Teresa take care of me. I even overheard a few conversations the two of them had. I knew she couldn't stay. I knew it would hurt her if she saw what cancer––and the chemo and radiation––was doing to my body on a daily basis. But one thing about Kaity, when she makes up her mind it's awfully hard to get her change it––just like her Dad.

I told her that she had to go to back to college. She was so close to graduating. She was getting ready to have one of the best years of her life. She didn't care. She wanted to be with her Daddy. I remember telling her this––the best thing you can do to help me beat this thing is to go to school. I told her nothing would make me happier than watching her walk across that stage and receive her diploma. If she didn't go back, she might never finish school. I didn't after my 3rd year of college. I never finished. I know my Daughter. She'd find something else to excel in. But being a teacher and coach meant the world to her--but so did her Daddy. She had to go back.

I told her to tell her Coach that I had cancer––I knew he would watch out for her at school. He thought she was a special person. He kept an eye on her. Thank you, Bruce. I know I told you that many times. But never enough. So off she went. Graduated with a stellar GPA. Graduated with all her classmates. Roommates/teammates. On one of the most beautiful days you could ever imagine. And you know what was the best part? I was alive to see it. I will never forget it. Thank you, Kaity, for the best present you ever gave me. 

No matter how old you get, you'll always be Daddy's Girl.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Skin In The Game

Skin. Many thoughts run through your head when I mention skin?

OK, now that you've had your own personal skin flick, let's talk about skin. My skin, to be exact. A year ago, almost to the day, I heard the word skin attached to the word cancer. As in, "we got all the cancer from the skin on your neck. Let this heal a week and we'll get the other skin cancer spot on your back taken care of, OK?" Damn right it's OK! Why not get that baby off my skin right now!

As if learning you have cancer THE FIRST TIME is not bad enough, it's even more devastating, disheartening, disturbing and down right scary to hear again. After fighting through head & neck cancer, I now had to get through skin cancer? Now for those who have never had cancer, any time the word "cancer" is spoken and especially directly related to you, it's like a gunshot to the heart. Even when you beat it, you always have this voice in the back of your head: is it going to come back? When? Where? Will I have the strength--mentally, emotionally and physically––to get rid of it?

I remember the look on Teresa's face when I told her––at the Skin Doctor's Office––that I have cancer. Again. She's been through this before, with her Sisters Connie and Claudia. They both did not survive cancer, as it spread and took their lives at too young of an age. Her look was one of fear and determination at the same time. I wish her eyes would've become projectors, so I could see what she was really thinking inside of that beautiful head of hers. (Kinda like a cartoon or a superhero––we would call her "Emulsion". For film buffs, you know what that means). I knew what her heart was thinking. Not again.

So now I watch my time in the sun. I'm a disciple of SPF. Floppy hats are cool with me. Long sleeve t-shirts? I'll take 5-6. The beach? Let me put up this umbrella first. Me, a SoCal kid, running in the shadows to stay out of the sun. Does this mean I have to body surf with a wet suit? I can live in that skin. Exactly, that's what I'll do.

I'll live with it.