My Dad passed away in June 2018 following a long, hard battle with liver cancer. Dad was a lot of things, all in all, he was my biggest role model; he was loving, selfless, humble and brave. But most memorably, he was a fighter. Anyone you might speak to who loved Dad as much as I did would agree on that, he was so respected and loved. Despite our parents divorcing and living separately since we were young, my brother Andrew and I have received nothing but unconditional love from them both.
Dad had melanoma when he was younger. Ever since, he was always strict about sun safety and leading a healthy lifestyle. He didn’t smoke, barely drank, didn’t party much when he was younger, followed a healthy diet and exercised a lot. He was also very protective of Andrew, my little brother, Alfie and I; and often reminded us how much he loved us. It was especially hard for him to come to terms at times with the fact that we were growing up and moving on in the world, but he supported us no matter what we did.
In 2015, during my HSC year, Dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer. It was hard news to take in, especially since I was so focused on my HSC, as well as battling mental health and bullying issues myself. However, neither of our battles stopped us from supporting one another. Time passed: I graduated Year 12, went to my school formal where Dad bought my corsage for me, got the mark I was after and was accepted into university. Dad also got the all clear and was cancer free.
“I love you so much my darling.”
The next year, 2017, Dad was diagnosed with liver cancer. I always thought that he would be able to defeat it again as he had done before, but little did I know that from here on, it wasn’t going to get any better. He decided to stop chemo in January 2018 when the cancer had spread and we were told he had 3-6 months left to live. I was a complete wreck about it and lost myself nearly entirely.
One thing that bothered me was how often Dad said ‘sorry’, as if the cancer was something he’d done on purpose, or that all the side effects from chemo were his fault, when for sure he didn’t ask to be diagnosed with cancer… that hurt me the most.
In June, as Dad’s condition deteriorated, we spent as much time by his side as we could. He had a photo collage I made for him for his 50th birthday hanging on the wall, which brought back a lot of loving memories. I wrote him a letter to tell him just how much he meant to me so that I was sure he would know how much I loved him before he left us. Dad’s last words to me before he fell asleep were: “I love you so much my darling. You make me so proud to be your dad.”
“It wasn’t just something I wanted to do, I needed to do it.”
I remember driving home to my Mum’s house the day after Dad passed away. I struggled a lot to sleep, but one night I remember noticing a big, beautiful star twinkling brightly and, though I’ve never noticed it before, now I see it wherever I am. It reminds me that Dad is always around.
Since Dad passed away, I have promised to be happy, strong, loving and healthy. One of the ways I have chosen to do this is by taking part in The March Charge. I love exercising and being outdoors – so did Dad – and anything that goes towards curing cancer is so important to me.
I’ve set myself the target of 70km for the month. On the 4th March, I ran for 51 minutes continuously in honour of my Dad – it would have been his 51st birthday. 6.82km later, I was exhausted, but super stoked. So far, I’ve completed 35.86km out of the 70km I aim to achieve and have raised $1344 – my goal is $1500. I still have 34km to go, but there’s plenty of time yet. For me, the March Charge wasn’t just something I wanted to do, I needed to do it. For Dad, and for a healthy future for Australians without cancer in sight.
Kelly is taking part in The March Charge this month, in memory of her dad. You can donate to her fundraising page online.