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By Caitlin Gambee, Get Your Rear in Gear Boston event chair

We were the perfect family. My mom and dad were incredible. They encouraged me to be who I wanted to be and that I could do anything I set my mind to! No goal was out of reach!

My dad was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer at the young age of 34. I was 6 and my sister Maggie was 3. He was given a year to live and thus Maggie and I had a brutal awakening to life and the possibility of our father not being a part of it.

Over time, we watched his massive 6’4” frame shrink. As children we tried to cope with the normalcy of our new lives – trips to the hospital were our new routine. Every time I saw my father throw up due to the chemo I tried to imagine he was getting rid of little bits of cancer that way.

It wasn’t long before he showed me the scars of his battle. His thin frame was constantly hooked up to a colostomy bag and a catheter. I could even see where the tumor was growing out of his back and his actual colon was coming out of his abdomen.

Caitlin and her dad open a present (a Barbie) on her birthday.

Caitlin and her dad open a present (a Barbie) on her birthday.

I was a daddy’s girl in every sense of the word. I recall the time that my mom walked in on my dad and me in the bathroom – both shaving our faces. I must have been about 6 at the time and I remember my mom yelling “Scott, what are you doing – you’re going to make your daughter cut herself!” My dad laughed as he told my mom that the razor safety was on the razor and that I wasn’t even shaving. I was so disappointed and spent the next few minutes try to figure out what a safety was and how I could get it off. Thankfully I couldn’t!

I wanted to be just like him though.

I vividly remember him walking me to school on my first day of middle school. No other kids had their parents there, but I was scared of being in a new school and wanted him to come. I laugh now as I remember him towered over all the kids as he helped me find my locker and get it open. He was larger than life.

Even as hospice moved into our home – I would talk with my Dad and plan things in order to slow the inevitable – like adding to the strawberry garden we were growing together. I hoped that if he promised to do something with me in the spring he would make sure to be there for it, no matter what.

He died in early morning March 9, 2000. Six long years he had battled this disease. He was only 41.

Caitlin (right) and her sister Maggie (left).

Caitlin (right) and her sister Maggie (left).

Every day I remember the lessons he taught me. He has taught me to not worry about the small things in life. He’s showed me that the most important things money can’t buy. He let me see that a person is defined by character alone, so be trustworthy, honest and hardworking.

He showed me how to love and how to laugh.

I Get My Rear in Gear because I’m a fighter, just like my dad.

Caitlin Gambee is the event chair for the Get Your Rear in Gear Boston event. She is blogging what goes on behind-the-scenes of planning a Get Your Rear in Gear event. A longer version of her personal story is also available at the Get Your Rear in Gear Boston blog.

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