Nine years ago, Christy Soholt lost her father to cancer. This father’s day, she shares his story.
“My dad Larry was a third generation farmer, he spent his life tending to the land that his grandparents settled on in the 1930s. Dad had a love-hate relationship with farming. He carried on the family business because he was a loyal son, but it was a hard way to make a living.
Dad was quiet, forgiving, hardworking and generous. He could fix anything that was broken, he could close any gate, regardless of how far apart those darn posts were. He could invent and build anything and he even had a sixth sense of knowing exactly where everything was, despite there being no rhyme or reason to where that might be.
After such a hard career in farming, Dad and Mom took the big leap to retire, moving to Edmonton in hopes of finally exploring his true passion which was carpentry. He built himself a shop in the city to where he kept his dreams and plans of Adirondack chairs, picnic tables that converted to benches, bookshelves that I needed, decks that I needed, garages that I needed… And he really enjoyed it – for about 6 months.
After mom and dad returned from their dream retirement vacation to Australia and New Zealand, everything had changed. We picked them up at the airport and broke the news that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer while they were away. Exhausted and shocked and being the man that he was, Dad didn’t say anything. But he returned the next morning and started building my deck.
Just four months later, he was diagnosed with Large B-cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Then I became Dad’s tour guide as I showed him around the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. I was now an expert at the facility, as he was just beginning his own cancer journey. I knew the cancer journey all too well at this point, so I accompanied Mom and Dad to all their appointments and knew all the questions that should be asked. Having just finished treatment, I was positive I would be okay, and I was positive Dad would be okay too. I told him all the time. He would ask me what treatment was like, and we would compare notes about chemotherapy. The amount of paperwork and handouts he received inspired the patient journal as it is today. Mom was Dad’s support. I didn’t have someone with me through every appointment, but Dad did and it was incredible to witness that kind of caring and love.
His treatment was gruelling. When traditional chemotherapy was not working, he underwent a stem-cell transplant that had him in a sterile and confined environment for weeks. I visited all the time, never much being said but the time shared is so important. On one such visit, Dad raised his arm to scratch his head and for the first time in my life, I no longer saw the strength I knew him for. Just skin, hanging from the bone. Cancer and treatment had taken away his physical power. At that moment, I realized I idolized him for so much more than his strength. I realized his quiet demeanour was always anchored in genuine care for others. He was always giving of his talents, time, and whatever was needed to whoever needed it. I realized I was so much like him, and that he was my hero.
Dad passed away just four days after his 64th birthday, nine years ago. This summer, clinical trials are starting on a new type of immunotherapy that is showing incredibly amazing results for patients with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Just nine years later, a new treatment has emerged that could be life-saving, and he may have been eligible.
My Dad did not get to enjoy retirement. He did not get to meet my kids, to teach them his talents or expose them to his generosity. He did not get to grow old with his wife and spend his days building in his workshop. I know he was content that life had worked out in the right order, that it was me who had come out on the other side, and not the other way around. He would have told me ‘that’s okay,’ but this time it was not.
What I miss most about my father was that he was so giving. I was always asking him for help, and he never said no and was always willing. I talk about him to my kids, who never had the chance to meet him. Boy, he would have loved them. I tell them stories about all the things he could do.
I reflect on the man he was and dream about what could have been. I wish I had spent more time with him, asked him more questions, and really got to know him while he was alive. Life can happen so fast, and I appreciate days, like father’s day, that reminds us to remember the moment, cherish the ones we love, make time for the people that matter, and work to make it memorable.
For those who have lost someone, you may understand when I say that some days it feels like you spoke with them just yesterday, and other days you strain to remember what their voice sounds like. Sometimes we even forget why we haven’t spoken for so long. I think that’s why people say as long as someone you love is in your memory, they are never truly gone. I wish I could hug my dad, I wish I could get his advice, and I wish he could celebrate this day with us. But we will still celebrate him, and I hope he knows that.”
– Christy Soholt
Christy is the Manager of Legacy Giving here at the Alberta Cancer Foundation. When she joined the Foundation she helped create the Cancer Care Patient Journal. This journal, distributed to all 17 cancer centres across Alberta allows patients to record their unique experience and helps them maintain an active role in their care with tips, worksheets and pages for notes.
You never know whose life you could change simply by talking about your own, share your story today.