On a sunny Friday in 2007, I drove up the coast to Ventura Harbor for a relaxing weekend with my dad and his wife, Virginia, on their boat. After I stowed my bag on board, we decided it was the perfect day for a leisurely drive to the local Farmer’s Market. But on the way, my dad’s cell phone rang and we all went silent. He was expecting the call – it was his doctor phoning with the outcome of a biopsy he’d had earlier in the week as a result of rapidly rising PSA levels in his blood, an indicator of prostate cancer.
My dad was driving and asked the doctor to hold on while he pulled over so they could talk. Though it was only a few seconds, it seemed like it took the car took forever to come to a stop on the side of the pretty eucalyptus-lined street. By now my brain was racing as fast as my heart and I tried unsuccessfully to calm my rattling nerves as my dad nodded, listening intently but saying little. The conversation was short, and I could tell by the tone in his voice as he thanked the doctor for the call that the news was not good.
As he hung up, I could tell he was holding back his emotions, but in his characteristically calm manner he quietly told us that as suspected, he had cancer. The upside was that the doctor felt he had caught the cancer early enough and was optimistic for successful treatment and recovery. He had scheduled an appointment first thing Monday for my dad to meet with an oncologist to discuss treatment options.
I could see my Dad was shaken, so I didn’t press him with questions and we drove on in silence. His siblings, my aunt and uncle, had died years ago of cancer, so this was a big blow. Although it was an uncomfortable moment, I was grateful we were all together when he got the news.
My Dad successfully underwent radiation treatment soon after his diagnosis and fortunately remains cancer-free today, thanks to an early diagnosis and the excellent care he received. It also helps that he has always tried his best to stay healthy – mentally and physically.
For the past few years since his diagnosis, my dad and Virginia have joined us at the Newport Beach Relay for Life on the field at Newport Harbor High School. It is our small way of supporting the American Cancer Society, and provides an opportunity to show our gratitude for the advances in medicine that help people like my dad survive a cancer diagnosis, and remember those who have lost their battle. One step at a time, it collectively moves us closer to a cure.
I am never so happy as when I walk that first Survivors lap with my dad.
This year, Relay for Life Newport Beach will celebrate its 10th year, and organizers have pulled out all the stops to make it a smashing success. e entire event. The 24-hour overnight event to benefit the American Cancer Society will be filled with all kinds of family-friendly activities, live music, delicious food, camaraderie and support for anyone who has ever been affected by cancer – and that’s just about everyone.
Don’t worry about walking the track at the Relay alone. At press time, more than 51 teams and 490 people had registered to participate in this year’s event. If you didn’t register in advance, no problem! You can register at the gate – and all survivors register for free – starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The event will conclude on Sunday, with the closing ceremony beginning at 8:30 a.m.
For more information, visit relayforlife.org/NewportBeachCa.
A Relay supporter becomes a survivor, here.
Lynn Selich is a freelance writer and public relations consultant residing in Newport Beach. She can be reached at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook at Lynn Selich-Columnist.