My dad, Kenneth Monroe, was Northern Arapaho and born on January 10, 1957. He was raised by his grandparents and was a musician and enjoyed traveling. His creative, outgoing spirit kept him busy – he always wanted to do something.
When I was born, he settled down and stayed home to raise me.
On Valentine’s Day, 2005, I lost my mother’s father to cancer. My grandfather was an elder and believed one should accept and deal the hand one is dealt. He chose to deal with his disease without treatment.
Just five years later, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was in high school at the time and was devastated. For the next several years, I watched him fight the cruelest disease of any – lung cancer.
In the beginning, he cared for himself. He believed as my grandfather did. One was to accept the life they are given. I was certain, somehow, some way, we were going to beat the disease. My dad choose to battle without medication or chemotherapy. It was hard watching his health decline. I believe my dad was teaching me to learn and understand our Native American way of life, just as his dad taught him.
I moved away and started my own family. I attended radiology school and was buying my first home.
In 2012, I had to make a difficult choice. My dad’s health was failing, and he needed help. He was moving between nursing homes and hospitals and he just wanted to be at home. A family friend talked to me and let me know how proud my dad was of the life I was creating. And they let me know how desperately my dad needed me.
I didn’t want to live with any regrets. I quit school. My three children and I moved back to the reservation to take care of my dad. My dad had great pride, and I know it was hard for him to accept my help. Yet he needed me. He taught my daughter how to help change his oxygen. It was heartbreaking to watch as he fought for each breath. I would have done anything to get him better.
On July 15, 2017, he passed away, losing his battle with lung cancer. I was pregnant when he died, so he never got to meet his fourth grandchild. It has been just recent that I’ve been able to talk about my experience with my dad and his lung cancer.