I was twenty when my dad, Tom Brown, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Like many men, my dad was a stubborn man who did not like to go to the doctor until things became too severe. He suffered from kidney stones, which meant pain and difficulty with urination was a norm. His prostate cancer went undetected until his doctor’s office suddenly could not find his records, prompting a complete physical. My dad’s prostate was so swollen, and he was in such bad shape, that the doctor stated if he had waited another week or two, he could have died. Surgery was instant and dad was sick on and off throughout the entire year. The original oncologist told my parents that all of the cancer had been removed, but failed to mention the need for radiation. My dad was able to get into another doctor for treatment, but could not start radiation and chemotherapy until his kidney stones were taken care of.
Throughout the years, Dad was in and out of remission, trying every treatment under the sun. Chemotherapy on several different occasions, radiation, spot radiation and even newer treatment methods that had shown some success.
As time went on, Dad’s cancer spread. First it started with his hip, but luckily with chemo-hormonal shots, it was maintained for a few years. With all the pain and exhaustion from the treatments, he did his best to stay positive. Our loved ones from social media may never have known how bad things truly were for him because he would ALWAYS smile for the camera! Times weren’t always so glamorous. Depression sank in and there were some dark times. I couldn’t even imagine everything that Dad was dealing with. I remember when my Dad wanted to end his treatments, but he continued to fight for his life, mainly for us, I’m sure.
It wasn’t until May of 2016 that we realized the treatments weren’t working anymore. The cancer began to spread again and this horrible disease was now in his ribs and lymph nodes. My dad was dying.
I will never forget taking a trip to visit friends out-of-state. My mom messaged me to say she was taking Dad back to the hospital because he was in so much pain. As much as I hated it for him, I wasn’t quite worried so much. Usually when this happened, they would do more scans to make sure the ‘terrible awful’ hadn’t spread more; the doctors would help manage his pain, and then they would send him home. Only this time, that wasn’t the plan. The cancer had spread to his liver and they now wanted to admit him to the hospital and then send him to hospice. Hospice! I was out-of-state visiting friends and I was being told they were sending MY DAD TO HOSPICE?!?! I rushed home that next morning.
Dad wasn’t quite ready. I remember telling him, “Just because they are sending you to hospice, doesn’t mean you are going there to die.” They said they would get his pain under control and then send him home for further hospice treatment. He knew it was his time. He had a talk with our pastor while still in the hospital, but our pastor didn’t share it with us until we were in hospice and knew his time on earth was coming to an end. Our pastor Doug shared their conversation. Dad told Doug to watch over my mom and make sure that she was okay. This was it. He was preparing to go HOME.
We had some really sweet, precious moments with Dad those final days as he was preparing to head to his Heavenly Home. We laughed as a family, and we cried as a family. His last night on earth, my brothers and I were holding his hands and talking to him, letting him know it was okay to go, and that we were going to be okay. Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds came on, and we sang that to him. He had not been able to talk to us for a couple of days by then, but I felt in my heart that Dad could hear us. As the next morning crept upon us, I watched my Dad take his last breath on earth. Prostate cancer had taken my Daddy away from me.
Over the last several years, my brothers and I have worked to raise money and awareness of prostate cancer. For my birthday last month, in honor of my Dad, I set a goal of $500 to be donated to ZERO through my Facebook Fundraiser. I doubted I would reach the goal, because even though I have a ton of friends, many of us are very guilty of scrolling right past those campaigns.
You can imagine my surprise when my goal was not only met, but surpassed! Every donation made me tear up, as I knew each gift was for such a great cause – to help and save many men.
There was a quote in a ZERO email I received the other day that said, “We’re doing this for our fathers, our grandfathers, our uncles, our spouses, our ex-spouses, for all men. And we’re bringing everyone together.” What a wonderful thing! It makes my heart so happy to be a part of this mission, this battle to end prostate cancer. I’m am doing this especially for My Father!