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by Kate, Pete, and Sue Madler   |   September 25, 2019

Three Siblings Run Chicago Marathon to Honor Their Dad

Prostate cancer doesn’t just affect men – it affects entire families. That couldn’t be more clear as Kate, Pete, and Sue Madler share their story about the loss of their Dad, Herman Madler, to prostate cancer ten years ago. They will be running the Chicago Marathon October 13, 2019 in honor of their dad. They’ve each answered a few questions as to how prostate cancer has impacted their lives, and why they chose to run a marathon ten years after their Dad’s passing.


How were you and your family affected by prostate cancer?

Kate:
Our Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October of 2006. I remember because our son was 4-months old and Dad was holding him on his lap when my Mom told me. The news was a punch to the gut and beyond frightening. He lived the next few years as completely as possible. He continued to work and enjoyed time with his growing family. He attended my sister Sue’s wedding and was able to meet his next two grandkids, well, in a way he did, since he met Sue’s second child when she was pregnant. Dad told Sue she would have a boy and he was right, of course! Our Mom would call this a God wink. 

Our Dad always thought he’d live to 96. I used to get upset that he put a limit like that on his life. Oh, to have had him until 96! 

Pete:
I think Kate sums up the affect the diagnosis had on all of us and how we, as a family, handled the next few years. Dad made a point of continuing to work and living a “normal” life, though I believe we all felt we had more time.

Sue:
Our Mom and Dad had just visited us in our new home in Kittery, Maine a few weeks prior to receiving the call from our Mom letting us know of Dad’s  diagnosis. The initial news was shocking and heart wrenching, however I feel like the ramifications and impact it had on our family took time to process. My experience was a bit unique as I was living far from Chicago in Maine. Kate and Pete were able to “see” how Dad was doing since they lived close by and had almost daily check-ins and drop bys. I had daily phone calls which were special in their own way, although always tough as I wanted to be able to “see” for myself that he was okay. We had a lot of family change during that time with a wedding, home purchase, and new grandbabies. Balancing the excitement of all of this with this world of cancer around us was difficult. We had to make a conscious choice to ensure that we were present in the happiness of that time. I was pregnant with our second baby (Tierney Herman) when our Dad passed.

We had the most beautiful opportunity for each one of us to spend one-on-one time with our Dad in the days before he passed. I apologized for being slightly stressful for a father to parent (which of course he lovingly denied), and I told him that I wasn’t ready for him to go – that I needed him to be down here to meet our new baby. I will never forget him looking at me with a little extra sparkle in his crystal blue eyes and saying, “You don’t need to worry about that Suz, because I will be up there to meet him first, even before you.” We say in our family that our Dad made sure to send part of himself back down with our son, who we named after his papa. We didn’t get the time in years that we thought we would all get to share with our Dad, but he really continues to be a daily presence in all of our lives and we are so blessed and grateful for that. 


What is your favorite memory/personality trait about your Dad?

Kate:
He was one of the hardest working people you’d ever meet. He was smart as a whip. Kind. Creative. Had an infectious laugh. Loved a good Martini. Called pancakes “panacakes”. Gave a hug that could change your mood, and loved his family and friends with all of his heart.

Pete:
Playing catch with my Dad. There were plenty of family vacations and road trips, and I was even lucky enough to have worked with my Dad for a number of years. There are plenty of experiences to draw memories from but sometimes it’s the simple things that leave the deepest and most lasting impressions.

Sue:
I think I would have to agree with Kate – the hugs! He had these crazy strong arms and hands that no matter how much he scrubbed them, still showed the wear and markings of his hard work. He would give these hugs that would take any hard part of your day, and squeeze it out until all you had was calm again. He was an inventor and worked in the garage building his creations while always whistling a tune. He made a sign on the back of an old piece of cardboard that he had on display in his “workshop” (aka the garage). It was a quote from Albert Einstein and it read, “To invent something, all you need is imagination and a big pile of junk.” He was magic. His brain worked like magic. And I wanted to be just like him.


How did you guys come to the decision to participate in the Marathon?

Kate:
A friend from college has been running the marathon for 20 years now. He always asks if this is the year I’d try it. So for whatever reason, it seemed like a Carpe Diem moment. My brother and sister decided to go for it too! I won the lottery to enter and they did not. My brilliant sister found TeamZERO to partner with so that we could run as fundraisers for prostate cancer. Our Dad died on September 26, 2009 — ten years ago. Everything just fell into place with wanting to do something to acknowledge his amazing life and run the marathon as a family. A win-win of sorts.

Pete:
My sisters asked and I obliged, may be a way of putting it. Honestly, I had considered running a marathon many times in the past, but contemplating the extensive training and sacrifice required, soon pushed the thought from my head. I believe it was my sister, Sue’s, decision to choose TeamZERO as the charity to support, plus marking the 10-year anniversary of our Dad’s passing, confirmed that this year was the right time.

Sue:
Kate called me and said, “If you run, I will”, and I called my brother and said “If you run, I will” ☺. Kate got in on the lottery, and my first thought was of relief that I didn’t have to run ☺, but then we found TeamZERO and it just seemed like a gift had been placed in our laps since the marathon is within a couple weeks of our Dad’s 10
th anniversary, and we felt like it was a great way to celebrate his life by raising money to support others. It will also be so fun to complete this crazy goal with all three of us together! 


What impact has doing this marathon in memory of your Dad, had on the relationship between the three of you?

Kate:
I think our Dad would have been really confused by our choosing to run a marathon since none of us are runners. What I think he’d be most proud of is the continued support we have for each other and our families in general. We’re really blessed. We’re not just brother and sisters – we’re the best of friends. My family looks for my Dad on the moon. We spy him there most nights. Now that the days are getting shorter and our runs start in the dark, it connects me and my brother who live close by, to my sister who’s running many miles away, knowing that Dad is shining on her too.

Pete:
Our common goal – to finish the race for our Dad – has obviously brought us closer. I just wish that the three of us were able to train together. Overall, it’s been a great experience so far, but I still can’t get excited for “long training runs” on Saturday!

Sue:
I think our Dad would be proud to see the three of us raising money for others. He was an incredibly humble man who was selfless and kind, and I think would be happy knowing that other families are getting support. Kate, Pete, and I have always been very close, and I can only speak for myself in saying that this experience has brought us together in a way that has been empowering, supportive, and healing. I think we all have been a bit grumpy in anticipation of the 10-year anniversary of us missing our Dad, and to channel that energy into something productive, has been so good for us. We text each other after runs, send funny messages about us dragging ourselves through the long-run Saturdays, and back each other when we need a day to rest. Personally, this experience has been a re-connection of sorts with our Dad. He is in my thoughts when I run, when I see a donation come in, and when people ask me why I am running. He is everywhere in our lives and always has been, but this race experience has just made him that much more in the forefront. I have heard so many stories from friends and others about loved ones fighting this disease, or having lost their fight to this disease, and while it breaks my heart as I can relate a bit to their journey, it makes me feel grateful that I am able to do something like this with my siblings, as our Dad feels so alive in spirit to us.

 

In the fight against prostate cancer – what do you think is the most important: Awareness, Money for Research, Support Services (just as some examples)? 

Kate:
Awareness for sure. Especially for men over 50. Our Dad was a private pilot which required him to have an annual physical. I still struggle with the idea that my Dad didn’t advocate for himself. Even though his brother died from prostate cancer in his late 40’s/early 50’s, my Dad 
never had his PSA checked until it was too late. How was that overlooked year after year?! A man has so many more options for treatment if it’s caught early. Those options go away when it’s not. Money for research – absolutely. I just read that cancer has surpassed heart disease as the leading killer. We need to get on it!

Pete:
All of these examples are important but Awareness, in my mind, is #1 because of the effect it can have on either prevention, or at least early diagnosis. Based on numerous studies we know that lifestyle, diet, hereditary disposition, environment, and other factors can increase prostate cancer risks, and at a much earlier age. The information/facts are known and available but men avoid discussing the subject of health and risks like nothing else. I don’t know how to break this cycle, but with all of the increasing communication tools at our disposal, we have an opportunity to increase awareness.

Sue:
I think Pete and Kate covered it best — awareness for prevention and early detection while continuing the research to stop this monster of disease. 


What is something you wish someone would have told you or something you wish you would have known before your experience with prostate cancer?

Kate:
I’m not going to lie. Ignorance was bliss. No one can tell you how heart-breaking it is to watch independence being slowly stripped away from your parent. To be consumed with wanting to know how long you have with them equaled to not wanting to know at all. Perhaps I’d have a different answer if my Dad’s diagnosis wasn’t terminal. But it was.

As a family, I wish the dialogue around my uncle’s cancer had not been as taboo as it seemed. Maybe it would have made my Dad feel less frightened by the idea of it, and he would have made different choices around his own health care. Mind you, I don’t know my Dad was frightened by cancer because we never talked about it — part of the problem. We have another uncle who was diagnosed with prostate cancer and another who’s being watched proactively — all of my Dad’s brothers! It is a REAL fear and concern that I have for my brother, my cousins, my nephew, and of course, our two boys. 

Pete:
I strongly believe that the “family” should be part of the treatment discussions. Be an advocate! And always seek a second opinion!

Sue:
Communication is key so keep an open dialogue and encourage your family members to advocate for themselves and seek options. I don’t know that there are proper words to help prepare someone else for this journey, but I am so grateful that we had, and have, a supportive family, wonderful parents, and amazing spouses, kids, and extended family that helped carry us through. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I would also say it takes a village to navigate cancer.