Steve Nicholls, The Fighter

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May 1, 2012 - Houston, Texas

February 25, 2011. The date will forever be etched in my mind as a constant reminder that my dad is dead. My father lost his fight with brain tumors/cancer that dreadful day. And what a fight it was.

 

He was diagnosed with his first brain tumor all the way back in 1987. I was just six years old at the time. I have only lived my life knowing brain cancer and cancer will continue to haunt me until my own dying day because it stole my dad away from me. Grieving is a process I just don't understand; I don't know if we are ever supposed to. How do we learn how to cope with losing someone so important in our lives at such a young age? I was barely 30 years old and my dad was just 52. It doesn't seem fair how we were robbed- him of life, me of him. Living life each day knowing that he will never be in it again ruins my very core, breaks my spirit, and punishes my heart. Destroys me entirely. I miss him dearly and wish I could have one last hug, see one last smile, one last anything. But I can't and won't ever have that. Accepting that fact is the hardest part of it all and I do everything in my power daily to reassure myself that it will get better. I might not have him, but I have to know that I will be okay. I must move forward and I must try more than everyone else to find fulfillment because I huge part of me has been taken away. Yet I'm not writing this story to be one of sorrow or hopelessness. I want this to be a sign of optimism to those battling brain tumors or cancer or any illness whatsoever, as well as to their families who are suffering just the same.

 

My father, Steve, went almost 24 years fighting this illness. My family and I stopped counting the number of tumors after his 6th stint of reoccurrance a few years ago. At that point, he had already had over 11 brain tumors, gone through 5 brain surgeries, gamma knife surgery, radiation, and seemingly every form of chemotherapy possible. It was unreal. Up until the few years before his death, he was still working full-time and relatively active. ("Relatively" is a testament to his love of a sedentary seat in front of the TV watching sports, not due to his incapability!) My father maintained his good looks, ridiculous sarcasm and bad jokes, and overall spirit as if he hadn't suffered one tumor in the past. He never once complained about his illness and never showed signs of weakness to me or my siblings. My dad was an inspiration. Allow we all knew at some point it would catch up to him, we marvelled at his strength to endure all of the pain. He fought hard and we fought hard supporting him. Although my father is now gone and I hurt every single second of every day because of his passing, I know that I am lucky to have gotten to spend time with him for those extra 24 years. While those years don't seem long enough to me, it is much better than not having him after just the one year post-diagnosis. So to all of those fighting brain tumors or have loved ones in that battle, cherish each day. Fight for every single second you have here on this earth. Make the most out of it. Love hard and show it. An illness like this is devastating to all parties involved and the only way to get through it is to find solace in one another. We all die sometime regardless of how early or late in life it is, so try and make the most of it before then. Love your life. Strive for your goals. Conquer the world. Be a fighter. Be like my dad.