|"It's a bird, It's a plane, It's Superman!"|
Perhaps the most influential individual in my life has been my father, which I know many may be surprised at :-) Its funny how in life the same person can play many roles and during different stages of your life have different levels of influence. In fact the influence is always there whether one believes it or not. When I was a young kid growing up in the rural area of Williamsport, Ohio, I thought my dad was Superman. Although he rarely wore a cape and could not fly, he seemed invincible and to be the strongest and smartest man in the world. As a teenager, my dad no longer seemed that smart, or that strong. I was suddenly bigger (I am 6'6 250lbs and my dad is 6' 220lbs) and stronger than him, and of course at the age of 17 I knew everything. Then around the time I graduated college, my dad, although I was still much stronger and bigger than at that point, suddenly again seemed like a pretty smart guy. A lot of the things he told me from age 17-22 were spot on the money and I could have saved myself a lot of grief if I maybe paid a bit more attention. I would say that my dad, mom, brother, and the rest of our family are close, but over the past couple of months, despite being 5,000 miles away we became closer.
The reason we became closer was because during the last week of August, Superman lost his cape. This time it was not my teenage rebellion that ripped the cape away, but on August 23rd, my father was diagnosed with a form of throat cancer. It did not really hit home at first because many of my friends, friends of friends, and even some family members have had experiences with cancer. Its a tricky thing to discuss because almost everyone you talk to has been affected by it, and many have lost a loved one to the disease. I even lost an aunt about 12-13 years ago which had a profound impact on my immediate family. In early September, my dad had surgery at The Ohio State University Hospital to remove several of his lymph nodes on his right side. Because of our busy season at work (where I even worked more than 100 hours in one week) I was not able to make it to the hospital the day of the surgery. However I did stop by that night and again over the weekend to visit him and see how he was doing. One thing was apparent, was that cancer was Superman's true Kryptonite.
Although the type, form, and severity of the cancer could have been much worse it was still somewhat of a wake up call. My family again had a reason to call for no reason, to check up on each other, and to slow life down from the hustle and bustle of our personal and professional obligations. No longer did I find the multiple facebook messages, the emails, or random calls during the day while I was at work to be interrupting and the blackberry did not become as important anymore. I also had to contemplate whether or not I still go to Brazil for two months while my dad went through the hardest two months of his life, the 30 radiation treatments. After some intrapersonal discussion and thought, I quickly dismissed the notion that I would change my plans to head to Brazil for two months because its not what he would have wanted me to do. Despite the distance, thanks to a handy product called a Magic Jack, I was able to call home free of charge using my computer so I was able to stay in touch with my family over the course of my participation in the Corporate Responsibility Fellows Program.
Last week, rather than spending a vacation week travelling South America, I returned home in time for the Thanksgiving holiday so I could spend time with friends and family. One of the great moments that I returned home for, was my father's last radiation treatment which was the day before Thanksgiving. At the end of each patients' last treatment at Ohio State, they allow you to ring a bell which signifies you are cancer free and have completed your treatments. My older brother and I surprised our dad at his last treatment and got to see him ring the bell. Below is a video of that bell ceremony. I am sure he will not like being talked about in my blog or shown on the Internet, but I had to have proof for all of you that Superman is getting his cape back, one day at a time.