My parents got divorced when I was 3 years old, which is when I moved into my grandfather’s house with my mom and siblings until we got a place of our own. My grandfather, Fernando Gutierrez, became my hero, and my best friend. He did everything for my siblings and I.
Grandpa worked afternoons and my mom worked days. Therefore, my mom would drop us off at school and grandpa would pick us up and bring us to mom’s job. He went over and beyond to help us get back on our feet. My relationship with my grandpa was inseparable; we were like two peas in a pod.
I was 9-years-old when we found out grandpa had colon cancer, I really didn’t know much about it, but from the bits and pieces my mom would inform us on I knew it wasn’t good. My grandpa was given 6 months to live when he was diagnosed in 2004. I could remember the look on my mothers face when she told us the news.
My grandpa was ready for the rode ahead of him. He let my mother find a chemo doctor and even moved in with us, even though he did not want to give up his apartment. On chemo days he would spend it with us, and the days he didn’t have chemo he would go home. Grandpa continued to work, he didn’t let anything hold him back.
Six months went by and grandpa seemed stronger then ever. We would go to the park, pool, trips and even the zoo. He loved all animals, enjoyed hikes and nature and would always talk and tell us about history. He was such a smart man. I lived day-by-day enjoying every moment with my grandpa.
It wasn’t until November of 2006 that he started getting very sick and stopped working. He didn’t want to leave the house and had stopped his chemo treatments. He started to lose a lot of weight. Our family had planned a dude ranch trip on Thanksgiving; he did not want my mom to cancel it and ended up making the trip with us.
He enjoyed the ranch and watched us go horseback riding. He even shot some arrows in the bullseye. We took lots of pictures and have lots of memories. By then you could see he clearly was not doing well and his skin tone started turning yellow. He then wanted to stay in his apartment. My grandmother would watch over him day in and day out and we would visit him as much as we could.
On December 22, we went to go visit him and that was the last day I saw him. The next morning, December 23rd, I lost my best friend, my grandpa.
My grandpa never let cancer get the best of him, he fought and fought and was a very strong man. He worked everyday and didn’t stop doing what he loved to do just because of his illness. What I learned is to live life to the fullest and do everything that makes you happy because you just never know.
The phrase “Get Your Rear In Gear” has a lot of meaning to me. First it’s a reminder for everyone to get screened. It’s a phrase that holds a lot of meaning. It also helps spread awareness and get people educated by letting them know it can happen to anyone.
“Get Your Rear In Gear” is now very much a part of my everyday life at home. My mother Claudia Gutierrez is one of the Local Event Directors for NY. I help her hang up flyers and get the word out!