I Lost My Father To Lung Cancer One Year Ago And It Changed My Life Forever

by Tiffany McEachern

It was a gloomy, chilly morning when I arrived at the hospital right before my dad was about to head into the operating room to get his hip replaced. When he saw me, he laughed and said, "This almost didn't happen -- ask your mom about it." I gave him a kiss and, with tears in my eyes, waved goodbye.

In the waiting room, my mom told me how my dad's surgeon, who has done multiple surgeries on him, said there were concerns about dots on my dad's chest X-ray. Because of these concerns, he was hesitant about proceeding with the surgery.

Several hours later, the surgeon emerged with a smile and said everything went well; my dad was slowly waking up. Then, with deep concern in his voice, he said, "I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I think you need to see an oncologist."

Knowing my dad's smoking history, I immediately thought, "My dad came in to get his hip replaced and now his doctor is telling us he probably has lung cancer."

No less than a week later, we were sitting in the oncologist's office when we were told about Dad's stage-four diagnosis with lung cancer. Not only was it in his lungs, it had also metastasized to his bones and kidney. My eyes filled with tears; I felt like I was in a nightmare from which I couldn’t wake.

I knew the statistics; the chances of my dad being around for the next year were basically slim to none.

All I could think about were all of the important moments for which my dad wouldn't be around: 'He won't be there to help me negotiate when I buy my first car. He won't be there to help me move into my first home.'

My future husband will never get the chance to ask my dad for his blessing. My dad will never walk me down the aisle at my wedding. We will never have the chance to share a father-daughter dance. My children will never have the chance to meet their grandfather.

It was hard to be positive and optimistic when I knew in my heart that death was knocking on my dad's door, and it was just a matter of time before it kicked the door down. It could be months; it could be weeks; it could even be days. It was like a ticking time bomb without a countdown.

Then, as if I had blinked, on November 10, just one month to the day he was officially diagnosed, my dad passed away.

It has been a difficult year, to say the least. I experienced my first semester in graduate school, the first job I quit and the adoption of my first dog. I also experienced my first birthday without a hug and a birthday kiss from my dad, my first Christmas without his cheesy card and my first Father's Day with no one to receive my gift.

It's ironic how, though I was not diagnosed with lung cancer, I still feel the effects of it — and I will forever. I am left with a void in both my life and my heart that will never be filled. It was my dad who decided to pick up a bad habit, and it was my dad who damaged his body, but it is me who suffers the aftereffects.

People think that when they have a vice, they will be the ones to suffer. But, they don’t realize that their loved ones suffer with them because they have to endure the emotional pain.

Sadly enough, even with all of the warnings on tobacco products and all of the proven facts about how bad tobacco is for you, people choose to smoke anyway. I hope to one day live in a world where walking into a gas station and seeing a huge selection of tobacco products behind the counter is like seeing a unicorn cross the street.

CVS banning the sale of tobacco products is not only a step in the right direction, it also makes the thought of a tobacco-free country less far-fetched than it sounds.

The next time you itch to use it, think about your future and ask yourself, is this 15-minute fix really worth it?

Think about going through chemotherapy and having to sit in a chair, attached to IVs for hours on end while you're constantly throwing up because the chemo drugs make you so sick.

Think about your spouse who will become a single parent in your wake.

Think about your children's reactions when you tell them you have stage-four cancer and less than a 10 percent chance of living beyond five years. Even worse, think about the important moments and things you're going to miss as they grow up.

Think about your parents, when they are at your funeral crying, saying, "You aren't supposed to outlive your children."

Think about how, in 20 years, you're going to regret ever picking up your tobacco habit to begin with.