Thursday, September 3, 2009
Happy Birthday, Dad
Today is my dad's birthday. I had intended to write a similar tribute to the one that follows on Father's Day, but I was without power/internet/sanity for nearly a week then and plans changed. So indulge me as I take advantage of this once-yearly occasion to say what I wanted to say then.
I am very much my father's daughter. We have the same long limbs and solid torso, the same substantial nose, the same unfortunate skin. But in addition to the many physical attributes we share, we are also kindred intellectual spirits: voracious readers, inquisitive observers, and spirited political commentators. When I was younger, I remember thinking my dad was the smartest person in the whole world; I would ask him endless question not so much because I wanted to know the answers but to see how far his knowledge reached. It is one of my proudest accomplishments that, as an adult, I can hold my own in conversation with my father and even, occasionally, teach him a thing or two.
Words have not yet been invented to describe the extent of my father's generosity; he truly lives to provide for his family. And because of this, because of his giving nature, not only have I been afforded the opportunity to make some of my most prized memories--summers at the beach house, semesters in Europe, the wedding of my dreams (at which both he and my mother walked me down the aisle)--but also I have been given the privilege to find who I am, to follow my bliss, and discover my passions. Everything he has given me has helped define who I am; his example as parent gives me something to aspire to.
Over the years, my father has given me many gifts. And this year, he gave me the gift of empowerment, action, and knowledge. When he tested positive for the mutated BRCA2 gene on Christmas Eve last year, he insisted I follow suit. And I did. And the result I got -- that I, too, carry in every cell in my body malfunctioning code than thwarts tumor suppression -- was not a curse; it was a blessing. This knowledge has allowed me to taken steps to ensure I'll never get the breast cancers than have been plaguing women in our family for so many generations. When I learned my results, one of the first things I said to my dad was, "I want you to know I don't blame you. I'm not mad you gave this to me." I hope everyday he does not carry the burden of guilt.
My father and I made a new memory this Spring when he accompanied me to Orlando to attend FORCE's annual meeting; Dad was one of only a handful of men in a sea of women -- some bald from chemo, broken down by cancer -- but he was there as a previvor himself, supporting his previvor daughter, learning about the gene we had inherited. It was an overwhelming experience, but it brought us closer than we've been in years. Being bonded by BRCA, my dad and I formed a team. And there is no one I'd rather have on my side.
So on this, his 62nd birthday, I want to thank him for all he has given me (BRCA included). And I want to toast my father's continued good health. Happy Birthday, Dad. Here's to many, many more.