Why This 3.1 Miles Matters

In 2011, I got a voicemail from my Dad. He was going to attend a benefit walk in South Boston the next morning, and he invited Danielle and I to attend. He had already paid our registration fees. We just needed to show up.

Simple proposition, right? What son wouldn’t go?

But here’s the thing. At the time, my Dad had only been diagnosed with cancer 6 months prior. I think all of us were still in a weird haze. It was an uncomfortable feeling. For me. For him. For my family. None of us were prepared for this situation, no one knew for sure how best to react, what to do, or what to say. We just knew we were dealing with a serious issue, we didn’t know how serious, or at least it seemed none of use wanted to admit how serious it was, or maybe we just didn’t really want to accept it. Going to this walk meant possibly dealing with a lot of realities head on that I’m not sure I was ready to accept.

While a lot of thoughts went through my head, I am eternally thankful that my wife was unwavering in her decision. She was going. WE were going.

Looking back, it may have been one of the single best decisions we ever made.

It was a sunny, seasonably brisk morning along the water. We showed up. We got our t-shirts. We  shared some pleasantries. Asked a stranger to take a quick picture of us together.

And then we listened to the guest of honor, who just so happened to be my father’s doctor at the Dana Faber Cancer Institute. You could see a sense of pride across my father’s face as his doctor was introduced onto the stage. “That’s my doctor,” he said with small smile.

Hearing my father’s doctor speak about the strides being made in cancer research and about the increase in life expectancy for patients with Multiple Myeloma was incredibly inspiring. But at the same time, we were surrounded, shoulder to shoulder, with people who had recently lost loved ones.

I’ve thought a lot about this day. This moment. And it’s hard to describe with words. To this day, I haven’t been able to come up with the right ones despite a lot of effort in trying to find them.

Here was my Dad. Standing there. He had cancer. He was going through treatment. His cancer did not have a cure. And he was likely going to lose his battle well in advance of when any of us planned on him dying. The statistics were not in his favor. They were not in any of our favors. And yet he stood there, chin up, smiling.

We ended up walking three-in-a-row for 3.1 miles.

We talked about the weather. We talked about every dog that walked by. We noticed boats in the water. We talked about the Red Sox. For an hour, we walked and talked about seemingly all of life’s simple pleasantries. But we never once talked about his cancer, or how he was doing.

I blame part of that on me and being scared. The other blame goes to my Dad. He was hiding from the truth just as much as I was. But to him, that walk was about being thankful for his doctors, and showing  respect to everyone else going through the same struggle as him. I know he thought about the darker side to his cancer that day. I did. It was impossible not to.

But on that day, it didn’t need words. It didn’t need to be said. He had cancer. We already knew it, and saying it out loud wasn’t going to help. He was going to fight it, and we were going to be there to help him.

Fast forward to this weekend. It’s been 4 1/2 years since my father passed away. On one hand it seems like he left us only yesterday. At the same, I see my son who is now five years old, and I know so many holidays and birthdays haven’t been the same since losing him.

I am going to help support this event until the day a cure is found and people like my Dad are given a fighting chance to live out their lives.