Cancer seems to be the “IT” thing nowadays, the “C” word that people hope to never hear and shocks the soul when spoken. For whatever reason, more people are being diagnosed with the disease today than they were ten years ago. Growing up, I didn’t know much about the disease, nor did I know of anyone who was living with, dying from, or who had died from cancer. I’m not sure if this is a result of my innocence and ignorance as a youth, or a result of the natural tendency of humans to keep their illnesses a secret in the name of shame or denial. But as far as I could see, I was living in a cancer-free world.
Then it happened: In October of 2003, cancer knocked on my door and hit my father; Freddie Jordan, Sr. He was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. At that moment, I didn’t know how serious it was. I was inexperienced and naïve about the unpredictable nature of cancer. I thought, “Oh, he’ll be ok once he’s treated, no worries.” But he wasn’t ok, and I could visually see that when I came home in 2004 for summer break. I noticed that he was much smaller than I remembered; and his behavior changed within the last few weeks before his passing. He was more irritable than normal. One time his legs began to swell and he asked me to pray for him. I was a little uncomfortable, being that we didn’t agree on many things. As I prayed for him, a warm feeling came over me and his swelling began to subside. I began to cry and that’s when I realized “IT” was real.
I came face to face with the reality that my father would soon be leaving his family. We didn’t talk about it; but then again, we didn’t talk about much (that’s another story). When I reflect back, I’m not sure what he knew or didn’t know about his own medical condition. What I do know, is that my father was a strong man with a strong amount of faith in God, and I have no doubt that his faith contributed to the remarkable amount of strength and resiliency that he demonstrated in his final days.
My father was a good provider and was able to utilize his many talents to generate supplemental income for our household. He was a talented seamstress, excellent cook, and willingly assumed the responsibility of managing the haircare of his four daughters. During my father’s final days, his ability to engage in his multitude of talents and to continue to provide for his family prevailed. He taught my siblings and I that adversity is a way of life and in order to “kick its butt” you have to “remain CONSISTENT, strong and not wallow in your pain/sadness past its time”. Despite his obvious appearance of being a dying man, life was normal- he made dresses for an entire bridal party that summer and continued to maintain his duties as the Head Deacon at church. He fought the battle, but eventually lost the war. On August 21, 2004, my father died of pancreatic cancer.
My family and I were devastated! We couldn’t wrap our heads around what happened or why. I was no longer inexperienced. My innocence was lost and I could no longer afford to be naïve- I lost my dad to cancer. CANCER! He was only 51 years old.
Losing a parent is one of the most heartbreaking and devastating ways to learn about the devious nature of cancer. But it has also fueled my journey. I wanted and needed answers, so I began to fully research and educate myself about this thing called cancer. Today, I’m putting my degrees, Health Information Management and Journalism together as a healthcare professional to focus on cancer research. I am writing this blog to share my knowledge, thoughts and experiences with cancer. I hope to bring awareness and shed light on the various forms of cancer, treatments, myths and preventative measures that we can all take to minimize our risk.
This is what I know: cancer isn’t a black or a white thing; it can happen to anyone of any race, any age, and any gender. According to the National Cancer Institute, over 1.5 million people, ranging from toddlers to senior citizens, have been diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and the number is still growing. No one is immune from being diagnosed or having a love one be diagnosed with cancer. So, let’s get serious about this thing, people! Every day, new information is released about this disease-clinical trials, stats, research, etc., and we should be talking about it!
Cancer is not always a death sentence, but we can’t begin to win the war without awareness and thoughtful conversation that I hope is generated through this blog. More importantly, no one has to take this journey alone. We can fight and beat cancer together, one day at a time.