Monday, November 12, 2012

November is Lung Cancer and Pancreatic Cancer Month

The fact that the Canadian Cancer Society recognizes these two types of cancer in November means a great deal to me, since my uncle Ronald died of pancreatic cancer a few years ago, and my father died of lung cancer nine years ago.

A bit about each of them:
My uncle Ronald loved music and devoted most of his life to conducting a church choir. I think he became interested in music when he learned as a child that he could sing anything he had to say with ease, instead of painfully stuttering his way through a sentence. late in life he took conducting classes to better apply his craft, and music meant the world to him. Unfortunately (or fortunately) he never had the good singers in town. Our hometown was a small place, yet there were two choirs for one church. Most of the good singers went with the better choir, since that one had a reputation for being a better choir. Although competition was fierce in that choir, I never once heard that my uncle ever turned away anyone who was interested in singing in his choir. Many of the singers were older ladies, well past their prime singing voices, if they ever had a singing voice to begin with, yet he graciously and gratefully accepted and welcomed them into his choir.

Over twenty years, we all sang at one time or another in uncle Ronald's choir. It was a family affair: My dad sang, me and my brother also sang, two of my uncles played music and sang, along with three of my cousins.

Then uncle Ronald got sick. The doctors discovered it was pancreatic cancer, and he wasted away for months, until God called him to help conduct that big choir in the sky.

My dad:
Family lore claims that my dad was born with a shotgun in one hand and a fishing rod in the other. He was a born sportsman. Through all his admitted faults, he was also blessed with having the patience of a saint. Given who he was married to (my mother was not known as a patient person) my dad needed all the Divine assistance he could get.

The man hunted and fished his entire life. Later on, I taught him to play golf. It immediately appealed to his competitive nature and he played for many years. He hated anything (and everything) from Montreal, I think just because he hated big cities. He loved to hate the Montreal Canadians every Saturday night. I think he also hated the Expos as much as he disliked the Canadians.

Be that as it may, I got a phone call one day from my mom. My dad was on the other line, as usual. They tended to have these endearing conversations between the two of them as I was forced to listen in... My mom announced that Dad had lung cancer. Lifelong smokers the both of them, I can't say I was shocked by the news. Dance with the Devil long enough, he'll come after you...

Dad refused any treatment. He wasn't convinced that they would do any good and he chose quality over quantity of life. He lived for almost five years after the initial diagnosis. From the distance of a whole province away, the only outward change I noticed was that he had shorter breath and maybe he drank a bit more whiskey. Personally, I would probably have been drunk until the Reaper came a knocking.

One night he and my mom went out to play cards at their best friends' place. They came back home a couple of hours later and my dad had trouble climbing the stairs to their second floor apartment. My mom called the ambulance and they took him to emergency. Two days later, he died in ER, still waiting for a room. Surprisingly, this was the only time he went to the hospital for lung cancer issues.

So, that's the human face of pancreatic and lung cancer, for me. Thank you for reading.

~ JT ~

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