“There has been a saying that if a man lives long enough he will get prostate cancer. I have apparently lived long enough…The Doctor believes that my cancer can be cured…I am still evaluating options. I do not feel this is life threatening for the next few years but it needs to be treated in the near term. I will keep you posted with my situation. Dad.”
Those were some of my dad’s words in a January 17 e-mail to his five adult children. Funny how a man who struggles to CREATE > NEW FOLDERs on his computer to organize files that still reside in the default “My Documents” folder relies on digital communication to relate such important news. But with his five kids living in three states it is efficient. I’m sure my mom encouraged him to speak to each of us individually. I‘m also sure he insisted the news was not as big of a deal as she was making it. That’s my dad. Let’s not make a big deal out of a little thing like cancer.
The truth is I know it had to scare the crap out of him, but he’s the kind of man – a career Army Colonel who survived Korea as an infantry soldier and two tours in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot – who is going to put on a brave face and try to put his soldiers at ease. No whining. Don’t get me wrong. He is not the Great Santini, but he is a man’s man who graduated with honors from the old school.
While hearing “I love you” from my dad was not common growing up he has gotten better at it with age; and, none of us kids ever doubted it - ever. He always managed to get it in when we needed, with a less awkward approach, sounding more like, “You kids all know that your mother and I love each of you very much.”
The great news is that thanks to answered prayers, some doctors in California, and modern technology this is not a memorial. My dad, Billy – or Big D as he’s been dubbed when we talk motorcycles - finished the last of 45 photon radiation therapy treatments last week. He and my mom, who is facing some medical issues of her own, were home in Virginia in time for Fathers Day. This edition of my column is dedicated to them both.
An aside: My Southern, conservative parents have never been excited that some of us have tattoos. As part of his treatment, my dad had to get a few small dots tattooed on his lower half to help aim the photon beams. I couldn’t help but grin when my younger, also-tattooed brother, Kirk, welcomed Dad “to the club.”
“Gee, Big E.…” you are probably thinking, “That’s all very nice, but what does that have to do with motorcycles?” Everything! If it were not for my parents this column wouldn’t exist.
Our family grew up on motorcycles. Sift through any box of old Rutherford family photos that my dad, sentimental fool that he is, is trying to make my mom get rid of because they have too much junk and you will surely come across some weathered black-and-white photograph of my older brothers wearing long hair and sideburns (that I’m sure my dad only allowed after a long debate with Mom representing her clients and their inalienable right to fit in) riding their old Honda Trail 90s up some hill. Another black-and-white favorite is of my sister, Carol, racing her brothers on those old three-wheelers on a family vacation to Destin Beach, Fla. with my dad walking along side in his cool, now retro, windbreaker and aviator shades. Danica, uh, I meant Carol, still loves to point out that she is flying along in first place ahead of everyone. We’re still quick to point out that my dad is WALKING next her.
Then there is the old Kodak Instamatic picture of me astride my brand new Suzuki DS 185 dirt bike wearing the standard, white, Bell helmet of the day and wide leg jeans. It wasn’t long after that picture was taken that I tried to show off by popping a wheelie. I ended up on my back under that new bike as it sputtered and smoked with the rear wheel spinning, and my ankle beneath it throbbing. After making sure I was OK, my dad offered some thoughtful insight into the perils of riding recklessly and the sacrifices required to provide one’s son with a brand new DS 185. Oh, and if I recall correctly, he also fervently suggested that I “quit screwing around!” I righted the bike, stood firmly on my squashed ankle as if I didn’t want to cry like other kids who were not raised by a combat veteran, assured my dad the clutch had slipped, and spent the day riding around trying to shift gears with a probably fractured foot, a shift lever mangled into a corkscrew, and a clutch lever that faced due north instead of facing forward. There was no need to tell Dad about those that day, though. I’d fix those later.
I have shared stories before reminiscing about the great times our family has had riding motorcycles. Out of respect for my dad I have always left out the one where he broke his arm teaching one of us how to jump a hill (oops). We’ve ridden together in the dirt and the mud; to the rallies in Sturgis, S.D., Daytona, Fla., Laconia, N.H. and right here in Myrtle Beach; and just around town on a Saturday afternoon. I could go on, but there just isn’t space in this column. Suffice it to say, I would not be the rider, or the man I am today (for whatever that’s worth) were not for my parents. You know all of us kids love you and mom both very much.
Catching prostate cancer early is key in treating it. And according to the McLeod Seacoast and Urology Center, all black males, 40 and older, white males at age 50 unless they have a family history and any male with a family history of prostate cancer should have a screening. Genetics is a leading risk factor so know your family history. For more, call Adult & Pediatric Urology Center of the Carolinas at the Little River office, 399-3066, or the Loris office at 756-5186. Screenings are also available at the Atlantic Urology Clinics in Conway by calling 347-2450.