My story with Fred’s Team starts even before my dad began chemotherapy for hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). It begins even before the word “cancer” meant anything more to me than a tragic disease. In October 2014, I ran in the Grete’s Great Gallop, a race presented by MSK’s Fred’s Team. Each runner received a T-shirt with the Fred’s Team motto “Imagine a World Without Cancer” printed on the back. I wore that shirt many times, and never thought twice about what was written on it.
I was home for Thanksgiving during my junior year of college in 2014 when my parents told my siblings and me that my dad had cancer. I returned to school shocked, scared, sad and in utter disbelief. A few days later, I grabbed a random shirt from my dresser as I headed to the gym. For the first time those five words printed on the back of the Grete’s Great Gallop shirt brought me to tears, because now, more than anything, I wanted to imagine a world without cancer. I wanted a world where my dad was not going to be poked, prodded, cut open, and flooded with drugs for years to come. I wanted a world where I wasn’t scared to hear what my mom had to say every time she called. I want a world where my greatest role model and influence isn’t fighting for his life every moment of every day.
It’s been just over two years of seven surgeries, two medical trials, setbacks, steps forward, and a whole lot of waiting rooms since my dad was first diagnosed. Through it all, I could never imagine a patient with more positivity and determination to conquer cancer than my dad. He always tells me how proud he is to be my father, but perhaps even more so, I’m proud to be his daughter. I’m proud to have a dad who would never dream of giving up even when he is staring the most difficult demon in the eyes. I’m proud to have a dad who continues to be the same generous, funny, strong, wise man he was before cancer took over.
I’m running the United Airlines NYC Half with my brother, Jason, on team “13 Mile MARKers” as a way to show my immense pride and eternal appreciation for the most important man in my life. And to my dad, I say: Every dollar I raise and every mile I run could never amount to what you mean to me. But it’s my own way of trying to show you. You are my motivation in each stride that I’ll take in that bright orange singlet, and I’ll forever be proud to have you in my cheering squad.