Finally, my family can smile again

About this time a year ago, I sat down to write a column telling the story of how my grandfather served Missouri Southern as the Dean of the School of Business for 23 years. I proudly told of how he survived a brain aneurism about 11 years ago.

I never thought I’d be happier to write anything.

Then, just this week, I sat in a drab, cramped, freezing-cold room at the cancer center on the campus of Freeman Hospital in Joplin.

In May of this year, Dr. Keith Larimore’s son, my dad Lee, was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer.

The man never smoked. In fact, he had such an aversion to cigarettes that he didn’t mind asking a stranger at a restaurant to exhale in a different direction.

Wednesday, I watched Keith Larimore embrace his son after getting the news that after months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, a declarative PET scan came back clear.

It was one of those moments you wish you could record in your head and watch over and over again. There were simply too many elements of the moment to take in the first time.

A grandfather, having endured his own life-and-death battle, who had to watch his youngest son fight one as well, finally getting the relief of knowing that his boy was going to be OK.

I couldn’t help but think about my dad’s bond with his father in that moment.

They hugged, and my grandpa said through teary eyes, “You did OK, didn’t you?”

He did more than OK.

Then there was the bond between my dad and I. Your dad is always your hero. You never think of your dad as being someone who’d get sick.

But one of the toughest parts of growing up is realizing that your heroes, although they are heroes to you for good reason, are human and no more immortal than anyone else.

I found out that not only was my dad human, but that what his body was being subjected to made him lose hair, weight and energy just like it does everyone else.

As difficult as it was for my family and I to watch, I can only imagine how difficult it was for Dad to live.

Yet, because he lived it, and didn’t let it change him, he gets to continue living, and it looks like he’s going to get his old life back.

For the last few months, I’ve been asked every day how my dad was doing.

I was always able to tell them that his spirits were up, but the tone of the news from doctors fluctuated.

Now, not only can I tell them  he is happy, I can finally look them in the eyes, smile and tell them that he’s been given a clean slate.