My dad, Paul Leary, woke up on July 30th, 2012 with what he thought was a pinched nerve between his shoulder blade and spine. After a week of self-medicating with Ibuprofen, he went to see our family chiropractor. He did x-rays, which showed nothing unusual. Dad had some numbness and tingling going down his arm into his last two fingers on his right hand. Within a week, the strength in dad’s right hand and arm was significantly reduced. An MRI was ordered and that same afternoon, Dr. Steve called to inform my Dad that he had a tumor in his cervical spine. Dr. Steve had already scheduled an appointment for my dad with a neurosurgeon for the next morning. We saw Dr. Stroink at 8:30 a.m. the next day. She did additional tests in her office and informed us that dad’s spinal cord was almost completely compressed by the tumor. We were to go straight to the hospital, and she would operate the next morning. She didn’t want to risk him falling or having any kind of bump because it could have severed his spinal cord and we would have lost him right then.
After about five days in the hospital, we got the final results of all the tests and scans, and our lives were turned upside down. Dad, at the age of almost 52, was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic adeno carcinoma of the prostate. It had already invaded many areas of his body.
My daddy was a fighter. He went through numerous treatments and fought his cancer for almost four years. He even continued his work as a mechanic up until May 2016. Early June 2016, we went on our final family vacation together to Lake of the Ozarks. It was difficult because he was clearly uncomfortable and exhausted, but we got to spend that week playing Uno when he felt up to it and just being together. When we returned home, his health declined rapidly. On June 16th he agreed to hospice care. On June 19th, Father’s Day, he gathered all four of us kids around his hospital bed and told us that he was tired and didn’t know how much longer he had. It is heartbreaking to watch your daddy suffer and not be able to do anything about it. It is devastating to tell your daddy “We will be okay daddy. You can let go now.”
On June 28th, 2016 our Superman went to be with God. He took his last breath around 7:35 p.m. He was surrounded by his mommy, wife, children, siblings, and doggies. We sang to him, we prayed for him, and we told him it was okay to let go even though that was the hardest thing for us to do.
I fight prostate cancer for my father – my hero, my superman. It has now been two years to the day since he passed away and our lives will never be the same. I am so thankful to my ZERO family for all the love and support they have shown me over the years. They have given me the tools I need so that I too can help fight for a cure and raise awareness.
Over the years I have done a few things to raise funds for ZERO and awareness in my community – my biggest fundraiser was a Dodgeball Tournament. I have also worked with my brother to design t-shirts, which we have sold through a local print shop with proceeds donated to ZERO. My dream is to one day have the ZERO race come to Bloomington-Normal, IL. In the meantime, I think my next fundraiser will be a Trivia Night and Chili Cookoff – my Dad made a mean chili. 🙂