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How Cancer turned my Dad into a Cowboy

Updated: Jan 1, 2022

Months before my Dad passed away I started making a book to document his brain cancer journey. I had planned to give it to him but was unfortunately too late.


The smell of chocolate pancakes and old westerns playing in the background as my Dad smiles, I close my eyes to see that. Sitting on the porch while the dogs jump into his lap and I play guitar as my Dad sings along. Driving along the skyline drive with the windows down as we pass the autumn leaves with the soft tune of  Willie Nelson songs playing on the cassette.

It is the simple moments of life with the ones we love we take for granted.

I remember where I was when I got the last phone call from my Dad. I was sitting at the intersection of Braddock Road  by the red light when my phone rang. At this time in my life I felt I was in a hurry. I was running late to my internship and was catching my Dad up on the lessons I was going to teach that day. I wish I was not in such a hurry and looking past the motions of life. A hurry to be there a hurry to be at the final destination. The world felt like chaos juggling classes, work, internships, friends and family. It was in those morning calls with my Dad that I was able to take a step back and reflect on my way to school. Life is like a train as we make different pit stops, new people come into our lives, some leave but we anticipate a final destination. The message from my Dad’s favorite poem has always stuck with me,“ However, sooner or later we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly out distances us” (The Station, Robert Hastings). It is those words I truly try to live by in relishing the moment I am presently in. There is nothing we can do to change the past but to learn from it and keep going. Today and everyday I think about you Dad.

********I'm posting this today as a way to tell my Dad's story in the hopes to inspire others to truly appreciate your loved ones. You never know when the last phone call or the last breakfast will be with someone. To cherish those moments while your loved ones are still here. This photo book series was one of the most difficult things I have ever created. It helped me create a space to heal and make something meaningful. *******



A letter from the book-

Dear Reader,
       Two years ago (April 2017) my Dad was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer, glioblastoma. He had undergone over 10 rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, physical therapy and clinical trials. Unlike most cancer patients his personality and humor remained the same but his style did not. After his first surgery he began dressing like a cowboy. His closet grew from  buying numerous cowboy hats, boots, vets and sheriff pins.This aspect of his style became an escape for him and I. We would honor this tradition by hosting a cowboy breakfast and both wear hats together. Cancer had truly enlightened my Dad to the cowboy lifestyle of freedom and grit through his newfound style.
This book begins from the day before his first brain  surgery. We went to his favorite hunting spots in the woods to enjoy the view. Before all the drugs, before all the treatments my Dad was able to be himself. His last wishes before surgery were to go to the woods on a hike with his daughter and wife. That was the last conversation with my Dad that was the most vulnerable and he was able to give me his honest advice. We both had no idea how the surgery would go but we treated it like it was his last.
           Our family was thankful he made it as far as he did. What was hardest about the process was watching the cancer decay the Dad I knew. Photographing the highs and lows was a way to tell his story. I wanted to document my Dad's changing styles of a cowboy and appreciation for his journey.

I love you Dad.


April 27, 1951- April 10, 2019


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