Bittersweet

Six months without posting to my blog … I wish I could say I have just been too busy making shiny, happy memories with our new son, Teddy. While these past months have been filled with many beautiful moments, they have also been tremendously difficult.

My son was born the day before my father turned 50 years old.

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My father holding Teddy.

One month later, we were on a plane to Chicago for my beloved grandfather’s funeral. A month after that, my father was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.

Your life can change in an instant. A cancer diagnosis is terrifying and forces you to face the mortality of a loved one. For me, it was impossible to even entertain the idea of a future without my sweet daddy in it.

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From the very beginning we were doggedly optimistic. They had caught the cancer early and started dad on chemo right away. During his treatments, we looked for many ways to keep up dad’s spirits (and our own). We asked family and friends to send cards and gifts, to share favorite memories and photographs — anything to let dad know how dearly he is loved.

I started a campaign called Operation Johnny 5 and asked people to wear bowties or fake mustaches in support of dad.

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Our eyes were set on a CT scan in January, which would reveal if the chemo had worked, and we were stubbornly and fiercely optimistic. Dad’s blood work looked good; his cancer markers were low. Everything seemed to point towards a positive outcome. We went into the holiday season full of hope!

Just before Christmas, my sister got engaged. Another wonderful reason to celebrate. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were busy with multiple family celebrations, car trips back and forth, and presents galore. We tried to make the most of every moment, acknowledging reluctantly that it could be our last Christmas with dad. We made so many special memories, but even our best moments were tainted by the debilitating effects of the chemo on dad.

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We looked to 2015 with hearts so hungry for good news. When we found out that dad’s tumors had grown and the cancer had spread, it was devastating. We pushed forward immediately to a new kind of chemo, trying to rally hope again, but our momentum was derailed quickly.

While on a business trip to Charlotte, Dad took a turn for the worse. After vomiting blood, he was admitted to the hospital where it was discovered that an important vein had been blocked by the tumors. An emergency stent procedure was required to prevent a rupture that would cause him to bleed to death.

I spent three days in a hospital room with my dad, mom, and sister. We clung to each other, trying our best to grapple with this sudden brush with death. The procedure was a success. Our family and friends, near and far, let out a collective sigh of relief. Dad and mom were even able to leave the hospital in time to celebrate their 28th wedding anniversary … with a pizza picnic on my living room floor since they were too tired to make the drive home in one trip.

These were small victories but desperately needed.

Dad was able to have another chemo treatment, but that next week he was back in the hospital for severe dehydration and jaundice. Another week later, he was in the hospital again for severe pain. That was when the doctors confirmed our worst fears: the cancer was progressing aggressively. There were no longer any medical options to save his life. All they could do was keep him comfortable and give him more time.

It was Valentine’s Day weekend. They told us to prepare for 4-6 weeks. How can you possibly prepare to say goodbye in such a short amount of time? You can’t.

In the midst of our heartbreak, life goes on. Jobs and household tasks still need to be done. Bills must be paid. It all seems so mundane and pointless: the charade of pretending to be a functioning human being when you are falling apart inside.

Coming to terms with this tragedy was hard enough, but watching my mother’s anxiety about the numerous financial mountains she will face after my father’s death and even now during his last weeks has been unbearable. Even worse is seeing the heartbreak in my father at leaving her in that position.

My parents always put others first. For 15 years, my father volunteered as a volleyball coach. They put me and my sister through private school and contributed generously towards our college educations. Three years ago, they helped pay for our wedding. Then they helped us with the down payment on our house. If anyone ever came to them in need, they helped.

Two years ago, my mother had both her hips replaced, surgeries and rehab that cost them $22,000 out of pocket. All of these sacrifices were made while they were also paying for mom to finally finish her degree so she could pursue her lifelong dream of being an artist.

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Mom graduated from college in May 2014, and I have never seen my dad so proud. They thought they had time to build back their reserves and save more for retirement. Little did they know that dad’s cancer was looming in the future and would burden them with over $25,000 in medical bills.

As a fundraiser by profession, I knew I could do something to help. On Sunday, March 8th, I started a website for dad and mom on GiveForward. We raised over $11,000 on the first day. On the second day, we raised $6,000 more. By day three, we had raised 76% of our goal with 136 donations.

Seeing the gifts and heartfelt messages pour in from all over has been overwhelming. It is a testament to the life my parents built and my father’s wonderful ability to touch people’s hearts.

I can’t save my father. I can’t stop this cancer from taking his life. But I can make sure he knows he is loved and that his life was well-lived; and I can remove some of the worry from his heart about my mother’s financial stability after he is gone.

There are going to be good days and bad days. I’m not sure I will ever adjust to the new bittersweet taste of my life. This summer, the excitement of my son’s first birthday will be tempered by the absence of his grandfather, who would have been 51 the next day. In October, my tears will fall in joy and in sorrow when I watch my sister walk down the aisle without our father on her arm.

But today is a good day. Today, I feel less helpless and less broken because I have made a difference in my father’s life and my mother’s future.

My father and mother with my son.

My father and mother with my son.


How You Can Help:

We just found out that our fundraiser has been selected to receive a $500 donation from GiveForward if we reach our goal of $25,000 by midnight on Friday, March 13.

Please try to donate by Friday so we can receive these extra funds! If you have already donated, please share the website with your family, friends, offices, churches, etc. During this difficult journey, we are continually amazed by the kindness of strangers!

DONATE NOW

Share the webpage: http://gfwd.at/1DXiBOa

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14 thoughts on “Bittersweet

  1. So very sorry to hear about your Dad. Although I have not seen the Bach family in many years, I have fond memories of Uncle John and Aunt Bev entertaining me and my three sisters when they lived in Chicago near Midway Airport. (Your Dad would not have been born yet.) We had lost our Mom to cancer and they were very good to us. It is hard to lose a parent no matter the age. I will keep you all in my prayers.

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  2. I can’t even pretend to know what you are going through and what your family must be experiencing but I am heartbroken for you. This is a beautiful thing in the midst of something terribly sad. I’m praying for your family Lauren. xo

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  3. Lauren, sadness and grief are powerful and poignant, but the peace of love and the joy of family, friendships, and home are strong, too. Cling tight to those, and the former will be vanquished. Take care of yourself and your own. Walt Whitman offers this wisdom: “All goes onward and outward. . . . and nothing collapses, / And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier. . . . / I pass death with the dying, and birth with the new-washed babe. . . . and am not contained between my hat and boots, / And peruse manifold objects, no two alike, and every one good, / The earth good, and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.” Remember that all your CC family keeps you in the heart’s core.

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  4. I have just become aware of your journey with your Dad! I am so sorry to hear of his death and pray that you will find some peace. I didn’t know him, but he sounded like a good man. He instilled those deep family values that you have and will continue to share with your husband and son. I pray that you find some peace in the good times ahead even though they are tempered with the loss of your father. Sincerely, Tessie Andonaegui

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  5. So sorry for your loss. May you find peace in the beautiful memories of your father.
    “To live properly in God, is to live in an attitude of receptivity and generosity, receiving a gift from God and being always ready to give it away.” Fr. Robert Barron

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  6. Lauren, I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your father. Our family has been struck by cancer as well and I lost my mother years ago as a result. Mortality is a very tough pill to swallow. I don’t know your father but I do know you. He has left an AMAZING legacy in you.. You and your family are loved. Sincerely, Sean Abrams

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  7. Lauren, I am so sorry for your loss but so glad that you have pictures of your dad with your son so that he can know all about him.

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  8. Lauren,
    I am sorry to have this be such a belated condolence to you and your entire family. I am retired from the school system and just found out that your wonderful dad, John, passed away in March.
    Your father was an exceptional man. He always smiled, remembered people’s names and gave of his time. This you already know.
    I recall him telling me at our last meeting about your wedding. He was so happy and so excited.
    May wonderful memories of all the great moments spent with your father give you strength and allow for more smiles than tears each day.

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing your memories. Knowing that Dad lives on in the hearts of those who knew him means so much!

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  9. Hi…I got to your site by way of a recipe search, and as soon as I saw the top photo, it took my breath away. It made me think of my daddy, and a couple of my favorite photos of us together. As I searched your site, I read your last post, and again, the wind was knocked out of me. I lost my daddy to pancreatic cancer on January 23. We had lost my grandpa the month before. My daddy fought for 8 days shy of a year. Those months were excruitiating for him & our family, and the last almost seven months have been the hardest of my life. I’m heart broken & devastated missing my daddy. I know all of our circumstances are different & we face grief in our own ways, but I feel like somehow I was meant to find your blog today. My daddy was a strong Christian, and I’m thankful that he and my mom raised us in a Christian home. There is joy in his being heaven, but the hole in my heart seems permanent. I have three boys that miss their Pop so much too. I wish you comfort. ❤️

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    • I have been on hiatus from my blog; your comment was truly a nice welcome back. The weight of our sorrow is lessened when we know we aren’t the only ones to have suffered so deeply. Cancer leaves no one unscathed, especially not those left behind. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I hope you continue to find strength and faith and support in your loved ones and in the lessons your daddy shared with you.

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