My father was my hero. In fact, as a single father raising a sassy and demanding future lawyer, I am fairly confident that he was a superhero in every sense of the word.
Despite working a stressful full-time job, my father enthusiastically (and successfully) took on the roles of chef, housekeeper, math tutor, and head cheerleader. He humorously mastered five homemade recipes, which, although redundant, were delicious and nutritious. After every dinner, he would wash the dishes and then help me with my homework. I struggled terribly with math, but he would review every problem with incredible patience and encouragement. Every morning I would wake up to the smell of eggs and a packed lunch that always consisted of a crustless sandwich, a banana, and a little note that typically said something along the lines of: “I Hope your day is great! I miss you!”
My father’s job required him to travel often, but he never left me behind. I was barely nine years old and I had seen the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Great Wall of China, and 30 out of the 50 states. I loved our adventures and felt so lucky to have a father who truly wanted to share every journey with me.
Yet, most importantly, he taught me how to be a kind, optimistic person. When I judged other children in class, he would remind me that the world would be boring if everyone was like me. When I cried, he would tell me that I was too beautiful for tears. When I lost faith in myself, he would restore my hope with a kind word, a warm chocolate chip cookie, and a glass of milk. He wasn’t just a father. He was my best friend and my biggest fan. He was my rock.
Shortly after I turned fourteen years old my father was diagnosed with fourth-stage colorectal cancer. For the first time in my life, I saw a tinge of fear in my father’s eyes. Without pause, I was determined to give back to him everything that he had given to me for so many years. With no close family in the area, I tried my hardest to be his rock. My cooking skills quickly developed from toasting bread to preparing five full (rotating) meals. My bicycle was put aside as I learned to (illegally) drive a car so that I could chauffer my father to his chemotherapy appointments. By day I was an eighth grade student and by night I was a pseudo nurse counting pills and draining biliary bags. When asked: “How did you do it?” The answer is always easy: Unconditional love.
My father passed away three years later. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him. He taught me how to be strong, how to be confident, how to love, how to be optimistic in a time of pain, how to respect my peers and elders, and how to just be happy no matter what life throws your way. Yet, the greatest gift that he gave me is a passion to spread the word about him and his story with the hope of saving even one life. If he would have gotten regular colonoscopy screenings after turning 50 years of age, his cancer would have been caught sooner, and he may still be here today. He is now my inspiration and motivation to educate and to spread awareness of the illness and to stress the importance of getting screenings. I truly hope that my dedication to this cause can save one daughter, son, mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, or best friend.