Today, my dad turns 80. That we’re able to celebrate this unlikeliest of birthdays with him is testament not only to his strength and passion for life, but also to the skill and compassion of his medical team over the last 18 months.
One year ago today, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As the page turned on the calendar, I took a little bit of time to reflect on what I learned in 2013.
Today, we received an early Christmas present: the oncologist proclaimed my dad “cancer-free!” A CT scan showed no cancer remaining following eight weeks of radiation ending about a month ago, and several months more of chemotherapy. His final chemotherapy treatment last week brought him right to the ten-month point in his cancer treatment, which started in early February.
Today was my dad’s last day of radiation treatment. (And there was much rejoicing!) He’s looked forward to today since the day he first learned he would need radiation. IU Simon Cancer Center’s radiation treatment facility has a “rite of passage” that all recipients of radiation take part in upon completion. As the plaque pictured to the right explains, the patient gets to ring the bell signifying successful completion of the regimen, and the staff and family help them celebrate their accomplishment.
Reflecting on a few things: A meaningful anniversary, my dad’s treatment, my next race, and thanks long overdue.
During the early morning drive to Mission Bay Park for the San Diego PurpleStride 5K this past Sunday, my mom asked me if I was in “winning mode.” I chuckled, and dismissively said “No!”
Truly, I wasn’t. I wanted to get in a good run, sure, but I was there with my dad and participating in an event that’s taken on great meaning for me and my family.
I am excited to announce the founding of the John A. Braeckel Family Fund for Pancreatic Cancer Research. Gifts to this account support pancreatic cancer research in the Department of Surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine, and specifically the work of Dr. Michael House. Dr. House has been a light in an otherwise dark time for my family. Along with a host of other medical professionals, Dr. House gave my dad a good chance to be among the 6% that survive this “insidious” and “nasty” disease.
Maybe I’m not as “old” as I think. I mean, after all, I learned today that I can identify with a sophomore in high school.
Barely a teenager, Jack Andraka’s life was touched by pancreatic cancer when a close family friend passed away. Like countless others, including me, Jack was inspired to action. His is remarkable action.