Recently one of the most important people in my life passed away. My grandpa was the strongest, most kind, loving, generous person I know. And as with everything he did in life, his death taught us all a very valuable lesson. At age 83 he was diagnosed with stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma. It is a very fast moving and deadly form of the disease. The doctors here at the Huntsman Cancer Institute gave him less than 3 months to live. He was not deterred. He told the doctors that his diagnosis was unfair to his family and he was not going to lie down and take it. That was the kind of person he was.
He had made a decision that he was going to beat the disease, and in a way, he did. Together with my mother, who is in and of herself a force of nature, he started researching his disease and the best treatments. Because of his age he was not an ideal candidate for any of the treatments but he would not be stopped. He not only endured chemotherapy and radiation but then moved on to every single experimental treatment that they would allow him to complete. Through the whole thing he stayed strong and started numerous conversations with “when I beat this disease……”. Multiple times he got really sick and we all tried to prepare ourselves for the worst, but really, how do you prepare yourself to lose someone that is so important to you? Each time he made a comeback of epic proportions.
In February when he flew to the Mayo Clinic to do his monthly body scan he was told that treatments were no longer working. The tumors were spreading too fast. Again they told him he had 3 months to live. My grandpa held his head high and came home to his family. At that point he had over 300 tumors in his body 167 of them were in his lungs. He was drowning in cancer.
Of course we knew the diagnosis but he pretended like we didn’t. He chose to live his life instead of dwell on his illness. He went on family trips, cooked for the weekly Sunday dinner, and never missed one of his 14 year old son’s football games. 2 days before he passed away I went over to his house to see him. He was on oxygen and in a wheelchair but he sat with me and my sister and joked about my upcoming wedding and her going off to college. He was a notorious jokester and was incessantly ribbing my sister about her joining a sorority. He thought he was so funny and to be honest… so did we.
The next morning he slipped into a coma and became unresponsive. He would talk out loud to people that weren’t there and reach for things we couldn’t see. I have family all over the country and within 12 hours my entire family had gathered at his bedside. The hospice nurses told us even though he was unresponsive he could still hear us. One by one every one of my 20 plus family members went to his bedside and said our goodbyes… everyone but his 14 year old son. My grandpa did not let go of this life until his son finally said to him it was ok to go. That we would all be ok without him, not 10 minutes after that he let go and passed away. He was 86.
His strength and love of his family carried him for 3 years even though the doctors gave him 3 months. He beat all the odds and in his own way he beat the disease. I am proud to be such an amazing man’s granddaughter. Even in death he was a force.
In life there is so much to be thankful for, family being number one. Surround yourself with people you love and don’t worry about the rest. Live your life to the fullest and don’t take anything for granted. Be strong, take pride in who you are and don’t let any moments pass you by.