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LUNG FORCE Heroes

Melissa C.

It was July 21, 2014. My husband and I had just taken my two sons (5 and 7 years old, at the time) to the Museum of Science and Industry. We had a great day. When I got home, I got a call from my step-mother that I and my siblings needed to go over to our parents' house because they needed to talk to us. At that moment I knew what the news was going to be.

Just a couple weeks prior, my dad had what he thought was a cyst removed from his skull because he had been getting headaches. At that point they saw a spot on his lung. Of course, my dad was in denial and said there was nothing wrong. He was only 55 years old at the time, but had been smoking the better part of his life. When I got to the house our parents sat us down and told us dad had Stage 4 lung cancer. Even though I was 37 years old at the time, I broke down and started hysterically crying like a child, telling him I couldn't lose him.

He swore he was going to fight, but I knew this was not a battle he could win. In fact, just 8 months prior we received the same news that my mother-in-law also had Stage 4 cancer. She died just 5 months after her diagnosis and at the time it was the most horrible thing I ever had seen. I couldn't believe my dad was going to die. He was such a good grandfather to my boys, they had the most special relationship, that I knew could never be replicated. I tried so hard to have them spend quality time with him before he got too sick, but his condition deteriorated so fast.

The cancer was everywhere and was especially painful because it was in his bones. After his first chemo treatment he had a series of medical problems and surgeries and basically, he was in the hospital from that point until he went into hospice in early September. He lost his battle September 15, one day after my birthday. To this day, it still hurts me. I have this emptiness that can't be described. Part of me is angry because he smoked and that he didn't go into the doctor earlier to get checked out. Another part of me is just sad because I miss him so much.

I really try to keep his memory alive with my kids and am reminded often of what a silly man he was when I see those characteristics in my own boys. I am thankful I've had him in my life and I believe he is watching over me. I truly urge smokers to seek help to try to quit. If my dad had quit, maybe he would still be here making memories with his grandsons.

I don't think there is any bigger reason to quit than for family.

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Hero stories are the point of view of the Hero and not necessarily the American Lung Association. The Lung Association does not endorse any specific provider, facility or treatment.

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