This post was written by LBBC volunteer Kathy DiGiorgio of Havertown, PA.
I’ll never forget the day I was diagnosed with Stage Ib breast cancer. It was April 2008 and I was 48 years old. In a moment my life was permanently changed. Little did I know, that many moments, beginning with the death of my parents (my mother seven years prior and my father six months prior to my diagnosis) strung together what would be the most dark and devastating seven years of my life. Ovarian cancer took the life of my mother and her loss seemed insurmountable. When my father developed mesothelioma, I wanted to give him the well-deserved, wonderful, loving support that he had given to my mother during her journey, and so he came to live with me. He remained with me for five years before the cancer took its toll. Little did I know that in as soon as six months later, the lessons learned from the life and death of my parents, helped to prepare me for the fight of my own life.
I can remember the day of my diagnosis so vividly. It was the day after my birthday. It was such a gorgeous day and I planned to spend it with friends. I woke up feeling peaceful and happy. As I was watering my flowers (that I had planted for the first time in 2 years!), I realized that the dark cloud of grief was finally lifting. Then just hours later, the phone call came… you, my darling, you have cancer too. One of my darkest fears became a reality.
How I missed my parents! The grief flooded back immediately. Even though I have a wonderful, loving and supportive husband and children, I felt alone without the support of my parents. Luckily, my Dad’s ordeal and how he dealt with it gave me the strength and courage to move forward. He dealt with his pain and fear so well. I knew he was dying and in pain. I lived with him – but he kept his head high and lived the time he had left the way he wanted. He visited friends, volunteered at his beloved Girard College, and loved us like nobody’s business. I was so sad and lonely and missed him terribly.
During the months that followed of surgery, chemo and radiation, I could feel my Dad’s hugs. I could hear his words of comfort. On one of my darkest days, the day I was told that I had to do chemo, I proceeded to do yet another load of laundry. While in that little laundry room, I could sense him all around me, I could smell the scent of his clothes even though they were long gone. He used to come home from his jaunts and as he entered the house would say, “Hiya Sweetheart. How was your day” and give me one of his bear hugs, albeit very, very weak bear hugs near the end. That afternoon, in that little laundry room, I could feel his hug, smell his smell and heard his voice deep in my heart saying, “Don’t worry, little Sweetheart, you’re going to be okay.”
Now that I’m 2 years post diagnosis, I try to emulate my Dad’s generosity and strength throughout each day. I volunteer at LBBC once a week on average. While there, I’ve slipped into the comfortable niche of fulfilling the educational material orders. While I’m stuffing envelopes and boxing pamphlets, I’ll stop and smile and think of my Dad. He used to volunteer religiously at the Girard College Alumni office. He spent his time there mailing info to the alumni, trying to raise funds for the association and just pitching in wherever they needed him. I chuckle to myself that I’m now paralleling his charitable acts in whatever way I can. I know that my Dad is chuckling along with me. His example continues to inspire me to stay happy and healthy and live the best life I can for as long as I can. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I love you always!
Have you lost a loved one recently? How have you been able to cope with the loss? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook page.