My dad is my hero. He always will be. And I’ll always be his little girl, no matter how old I am. I’m reminded of a magnet that I gave to him on Father’s Day one year: “When all else fails, call dad!” Truth!
As I make final preparations to visit Capitol Hill to speak with Senators, Congressmen, and their staff about securing funding for all the men currently affected by prostate cancer as well as their families and those yet to be diagnosed, I think about my own dad and the journey that has led me to this important day.
In the summer of 2012, my life changed in three profound ways, all interconnected.
First, my parents decided to sell my childhood home where they had lived for 49 years in Youngstown, OH and moved 75 miles to be closer to my brother and I in Cleveland. Having my parents living within 5 miles from me after living more than an hour away from them for almost 15 years was wonderful. Second, I decided that I wanted to become a runner, and started training for my first 5K. Me, the girl who hated exercise and anything to do with sweating. Running quickly became an exciting challenge and new passion in my life.
And third, and definitely the biggest, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. My father, the man I looked up to and admired, had been given such shocking news. My parents learned of his diagnosis shortly before their big move. Thankfully, they both had decided to visit their doctors one last time before moving. My father’s urologist quickly connected him with one of the top rated urologists in Cleveland, and soon after my parents moved, my dad was scheduled for surgery.
With everything going on with my dad, I stayed the course with my training for my 1st 5K, and I supported my parents through my dad’s diagnosis, surgery and successful recovery. I found the ZERO Dash for Dads – now the ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk – and I instantly knew that it would be my very first 5K. What an amazing way to honor my dad and complete my goal!
In October 2012, I crossed my first finish line. My entire family, including my dad, stood at the finish line to watch me. What an incredible feeling of accomplishment for having run the 5K and a huge sense of gratitude for my father being healthy enough to be there to watch me. My initial interaction with ZERO, along with my love for my father, prompted me to want to continue to make a difference.
Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to attend my first ZERO Summit in Washington, D.C. where I was able to advocate to members of Congress and the House on behalf of my dad, and all the other survivors and those living with prostate cancer, as well as those who had lost their lives to the horrible disease. The experience was like none other.
Sharing my dad’s story with Senator Rob Portman and Congressman Jim Renacci, both from Ohio, last year are moments that I certainly will not forget. Those memories are what led me to join 100+ advocates again this year to visit Capitol Hill.
Joining with other advocates from my home state of Ohio, as well as many states across the nation, makes a powerful statement that we must be heard. Whether we are storming the Hill, or speaking with our local government officials, we can make a difference in this fight against prostate cancer.
I believe it’s our responsibility to share our stories with the decision makers so that they can better understand why funding is so critical for screenings, cancer research and to hopefully find a cure and have ZERO men affected by this disease.
I continue to participate in the ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk each year. This will be my 6th race! Each year, I have raised funds to get a sign along the course to honor my dad.
I’m beyond grateful that my dad is here with us today. He visits his doctor regularly and while his PSA levels were recently elevated for the first time since his surgery, we are hopeful that no further action will be necessary; we are truly blessed that his is a success story.
This September, my family will celebrate my father’s 80th birthday and five years cancer free! My dad is my hero. He always will be. And, I’ll always be his little girl standing in his corner, fighting for him and all men to hopefully one day have ZERO prostate cancer deaths and ZERO pain and suffering fro the disease.