Help increase screening and prevention for colon & rectal cancer.


Faces of Blue: Emily Donovan

By March 5, 2016Faces of Blue

In the Summer of 2012, my dad went to the hospital complaining of stomach pains. Although going to the hospital is scary, my siblings and I weren’t too nervous because my mom is a nurse and she assured us it would be okay. After an examination, the doctors came back and told us my father had a blockage in his colon, which was then determined to be colon cancer. We were crushed, devastated, and angry. How? Why? It wasn’t fair. My dad, my DAD! The most genuine and full of life person, his own body betraying him. My dad was strong though. He kept us strong. After my dad had surgery to remove the cancer polyps from his colon, he had to have a cough pillow constantly with him so he wouldn’t cut open his scar by coughing, talking, etc. He called his cough pillow “Wilson”, like the volleyball from Castaway. The nurses even drew a face on it for him. He kept us smiling the whole time, even though deep down, we all wanted to cry.

nh2013The first treatment was chemo. My dad made it through chemo with a smile on his face. 50 rounds later, the doctors told us everything looked good! We thought of cancer as a bump in the road. We turned our backs to cancer and continued on with a new outlook on life. We were so scared that the cancer was going to take our dad, so we all took advantage of the next year, knowing how scary it was thinking about how we could have lost dad. Not even a year later, during the summer of 2013, my dad had stomach pains again. The doctors told us what we thought was possible, but had hoped would never happen. My dad’s cancer had come back. Although this time, it was determined that the chemo wouldn’t cure the cancer but merely treat it. Again, we were crushed, shocked, devastated. Through this roller coaster of a treatment, my dad kept his head high. When it came time, my family and I took turns shaving my dad’s head in our bathroom.

IMG_6961My dad continued to live his life to the fullest. He truly lived up to his phrase, “it’s not live like you’re dying, it’s live like you’re living.” We went to New Hampshire, hiked, took walks, celebrated life, and just enjoyed our time. January of 2014 was when it all changed. With the cancer spreading and the chemo not doing much, my dad’s doctors had an idea. There was an experimental surgery being practiced that involved chemo being injected directly into my dad’s colon. We were scared, yet hopeful. A few days before his surgery, my dad turned to me and said, “without this surgery I could die. I am really lucky they are willing to try.” The night before my dad was scheduled to have surgery, he was rushed to the hospital with severe stomach pains. He had to spend the night. The next morning he went into the operation room to have surgery. When the doctors cut him open, they noticed the cancer had spread all over his body. They couldn’t do the surgery so he was sent home. He tried to go back to chemo, but his body rejected it. Our world was starting to crumble. He decided to stop treatment altogether. I came home from college and joined my siblings and my mother at our house by his bed full time. He slept, talked, and joked with us. Eventually, he did nothing but sleep. He had to take morphine to keep the pain down. My mom’s friend that was also a nurse moved in full time to help take care of him. My happy, caring, smart, strong father turned into a skinny, sunken, weak man that couldn’t even recognize his own children. It all happened so fast! It went from the hope of a new surgery to finding hospice care within weeks.

IMG_0343 (1)On February 11th 2014, my dad passed away in his bed next to my mom. That day was so surreal. I couldn’t believe it, but I was happy he was no longer in pain. The next day, February 12th, was my mom’s birthday. There’s more to my dad’s journey, but what I remember most is his bravery and strength through it all. He was the one telling all of us that it will be okay. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him. There isn’t a day that goes by that makes me wish that he was still here to see us and how far we have come and what we are doing. I just want to talk to him and tell him how much I love him and tell him all the things I never got to. My dad was my best friend in the world. Seeing him sick and dying was so hard. Rubbing his back while he vomited and helping dress his frail body is something I try to forget, although I know I never will. We keep his memory alive through stories, pictures, songs, and events like the Get Your Rear in Gear.

The phrase “Get Your Rear in Gear” means a lot to me. It means to live like you’re living and get out off your butt and get out in the world! It means live your life to the fullest because some people can’t. It means be healthy and active each day. The first Get Your Rear in Gear road race I did was after my dad passed. I cried the majority of the way and felt so winded and out of shape. Afterwards I thought about all the people like the dad going through treatment that would love to be able to run a 5k with their family. Some days my dad could barely walk to the bathroom. That road race and that phrase motivated me to get off my butt and get in shape. I recently just ran my first half marathon! Most importantly, that phrase means get tested. Be aware of your colon and your body. Get tested for colon cancer if something feels off. I would never want anyone to be surprised with a colon cancer diagnosis like my father was.

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