Father Figures: Ironman

“I’m currently battling terminal brain cancer and I’m not backing down. Despite my diagnosis I decided to attempt an Ironman triathlon and dedicate my race to my daughter.

A month after my second brain surgery I started radiation and chemotherapy… and I started training for Ironman.

My first radiation treatment left me feeling nauseous and fatigued but I made a promise to myself, so I pushed through the uncomfortable feelings and went to the gym and ran a mile on the treadmill. Each day I went in for radiation and chemo treatments I also went for a run.

After 5 weeks of treatment I worked myself up to running 20 miles a day. My radiation treatment was over, but my chemotherapy was stepping up a notch. So I stepped my training up.

I learned how to swim competitively and how to cycle efficiently. By the end of one year worth of chemotherapy I had trained my body to be able to attempt a full distance Ironman – 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and 26.2 miles of running… all in under 17 hours if possible.

Training while undergoing cancer treatment was difficult. Pushing my body to race 140.6 miles was extra challenging due to the many side effects of chemotherapy. However, if my daughter was going to see me knocked down by brain cancer I wanted her to see me get up, find strength and press on.

I wasn’t sure if my body was going to be able to make it the full distance, but for my daughter’s sake I had to try.

When I crossed the finish line in under 14 hours, seeing her made everything worth it. I had nothing to prove, but I had an example I needed to set.

At the finish line I looked my daughter in the eyes and said, ‘If I can do it, you can do it. Dream big and never give up hope. Find strength and press on.'”

– Jay Hewitt

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On Tue, Dec 1, 2020 at 10:23 AM Mike Julianelle wrote:
“I’m currently battling terminal brain cancer and I’m not backing down. Despite my diagnosis I decided to attempt an Ironman triathlon and dedicate my race to my daughter.

A month after my second brain surgery I started radiation and chemotherapy… and I started training for Ironman.

My first radiation treatment left me feeling nauseous and fatigued but I made a promise to myself, so I pushed through the uncomfortable feelings and went to the gym and ran a mile on the treadmill. Each day I went in for radiation and chemo treatments I also went for a run.

After 5 weeks of treatment I worked myself up to running 20 miles a day. My radiation treatment was over, but my chemotherapy was stepping up a notch. So I stepped my training up. I learned how to swim competitively and how to cycle efficiently. By the end of one year worth of chemotherapy I had trained my body to be able to attempt a full distance Ironman – 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and 26.2 miles of running… all in under 17 hours if possible.

Training while undergoing cancer treatment was difficult. Pushing my body to race 140.6 miles was extra challenging due to the many side effects of chemotherapy. However, if my daughter was going to see me knocked down by brain cancer I wanted her to see me get up, find strength and press on. I wasn’t sure if my body was going to be able to make it the full distance, but for my daughter’s sake I had to try.

When I crossed the finish line in under 14 hours, seeing her made everything worth it. I had nothing to prove, but I had an example I needed to set. At the finish line I looked my daughter in the eyes and said, ‘If I can do it, you can do it. Dream big and never give up hope. Find strength and press on.'”

– Jay Hewitt

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Father Figures: Twice the Dad

“I know Alfie questions if he’s a good dad every single day and I wish he could see himself the way I do.

Alfie came from a fatherless home and had to build his ideal dad characteristics on the fly; pulling pieces from his friends’ dads, tv dads, and other male role models he had growing up. Watching him grow and come into his own as a father has been a true privilege.

We are a ‘yours, mine, and ours’ family but you’d never know it from the outside – he has 5 children and nobody could ever convince him otherwise! He is their fiercest supporter in everything they do.

The fire in Alfie as he introduces our kids to his hobbies is contagious. I can’t help but get amped up myself when he’s teaching them how to paint miniatures, how to play a new game, or discussing the ins and outs of the Marvel universe.

Alfie, I wish you knew that you’re at least TWICE the dad you think you are.”

– Angela Sowl

Father Figures: Caretaker

“My husband John is father to our three girls. Ages 5, 3, and 1!

He is a grilling connoisseur, an avid World of Warcraft player, king to three beautiful princesses, and an amazing husband.

He is an only child and has taken on the role of caretaker of his dad as well. He has been working from home since Covid started and takes care of our kids while I work at the hospital.

I’m so blessed with how much he steps up for our family.”

– Amber Sroka

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Father Figures: Stronger

“My two-year-old James is stronger than I will ever be.

Two days after he was born, the doctors detected a heart murmur in our little guy. After some tests and imaging, it was determined that James had a ventricular septal defect (VSD), a common type of congenital heart defect.

However, James’s defect was rare. It was right next to his pulmonary artery and aortic valves which made it very unlikely for it to close on its own like so many do. We were also told that he probably will not grow, will have trouble eating, will most likely have a NG tube, and will need open heart surgery before he was four months old to save his life.

Mom and I were devastated. As brand new parents, we had just been told our perfect newborn wasn’t perfect; that’s how we felt, at least.

We felt the need to explain it to everyone he met, and felt ashamed of ourselves if we didn’t. We went to therapy, my wife and I sobbed for weeks. We lived in fear, wondering, ‘when will the symptoms start to show up?’

We absolutely dreaded the thought of open heart surgery.

As time went on, we never saw any signs or symptoms. James grew, ate, hit milestone after milestone. Tests started to come back more and more promising. We were told he may actually avoid surgery. We were ecstatic. Until his latest appointment with his cardiologist.

They found that his heart had enlarged past safe ranges and the pressure in his lungs was growing and could cause permanent damage if left untreated. All of a sudden, open heart surgery was a sure thing. Something that we had dreaded for two years was going to happen.

We got referred to University of Michigan’s children’s hospital and within a month we were there, preparing to send James into surgery. The hardest moment of my entire life was the moment when the nurses wheeled my son’s hospital bed away from me and told me I couldn’t go with him any further. I broke down, right there, in the middle of the pre-op lobby.

After about 4 hours, the surgeon came into the waiting lounge and delivered to us the best news we had ever gotten. James did amazing. His defect is repaired, there were zero complications, he is breathing, and his heart is beating on its own.

Our baby boy was perfect again.

It’s been one week since James’ surgery; he is recovering ahead of schedule and doing great.

I will never take being a dad for granted. James is the best teacher I’ve ever had, and he’s stronger than I’ll ever be.

It’s hard being a dad, especially when your two-year-old has a really big ouchie on his chest and doesn’t understand why. I figure, maybe if Dada has an ouchie too it won’t matter anymore. Dada’s ouchie is sound-waves of us singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ together like we do every night before bed.

I will always have your back, James.”

– Brenden Schlott

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Father Figures: Selfless

“My husband Tim Parrish (@timatreez) has not only been an amazing dad to our boys but has shown me a level of selflessness I didn’t know was possible.

After I went back to work when our first son was two months old, he changed his entire work schedule to ensure he could be home with our son during the day. He gave up so much to be a full-time dad – and then work a night shift.

When we had our second (rainbow boy) he once again shifted his schedule to ensure our family had him when we needed him most so I could go back to work and focus on my career.

When Covid hit, he didn’t get to stay home. He had to work – often around people without masks – and had to come home to an exhausted wife, newborn, and toddler. He never flinched. He jumped right into wrestling, running, jumping, baseball, and baby wearing.

When I eventually lost my job, he told me to take time off and focus on me for a while.

He’s by far the most selfless, loving, and dialed-in dad and husband and we are so lucky to have him. He deserves recognition more than anyone I know because he refuses to accept that he’s gone above and beyond!”

– Meg Parrish

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Father Figures: Our Own Way

“When I became a dad to my daughter Ayven, I thought my life was complete — she shares so much of my adventurous spirit and we have a great time together.

Then, six years later, my son Quinn was born. Doctors didn’t think Quinn would make it because he is missing 263 genes!

While Ayven easily excels in just about everything she tries, even the simplest daily tasks are a big challenge for Quinn.

While my son might never be able to do all of the active things Ayven and I do together (like go-carting, whiffle ball, and treasure hunting) he and I have found our own way of chilling together (he loves when I read to him or make up silly songs about why his tiny socks are always missing).

There is no ‘one size fits all’ guide to being a good dad. I just try to love my kids for who they are, and that’s been an awesome journey so far.”

– Brendan Blowers

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Father Figures: Looked After Him

“My daughter was sick about a week with high fever every night.

She recovered, but then my husband got sick and spent a few days at home resting.

This is how my daughter looked after him every time he said he had a fever and needed to sleep: books, her drawings, fruits, toys, and, of course, a crown of hers to cheer him up (preferably Anna’s from Frozen).”

– Saliha Gulle

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: Big Fish

“Looking back on my childhood I realize that my dad wasn’t a hard person to figure out.

If it was the wrong thing to do, he wasn’t going to be doing it. If he was doing something, it was the right thing to be doing at the time.

Among the many memories I hold in my heart about my dad, one stands out. It was a summer during the 80s and one of our favorite activities was fishing. Dad was roaming the yard working on his usual chores when I asked him if he would take me fishing.

He pointed to a big tree across the street and said, “When the sun touches the top of that tree come get me. We’ll get your brother and we’ll go fishing.” I’ve never known my dad to be a liar but for some reason I was skeptical that this would happen.

A little while later I looked over and the sun was sitting right on top of the tree. I pointed this out to him. He didn’t say that he needed a few more minutes to finish up. He stopped what he was doing and the three of us got in the truck and headed to the pond.

I don’t remember if we caught any fish that evening, but I do remember catching something better. Integrity. I recall thinking in my little mind that my dad is not going to lie to me. If he says he’s gonna do it, it’s gonna happen.

That has followed me from childhood into parenthood. It has been ingrained in me that I’m going to tell my kids the truth and if I say I’m gonna do something, it’s gonna happen.

That’s better than any fish you can pull out of the water.”

– Kevin White

Father Figures: Our Captain America

“This is Sgt. Greg Butera of the USMC. He joined the Marine Corps at 16 years old (his parents had to sign for him) and served two 9-month tours in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2011.

His battalion suffered heavy losses and terrible life-changing injuries, I really don’t think any of them came home unscathed in one way or another. He had been through a lifetime in 6 years in the Corps, and when he retruend, he wasn’t the same boy that left home 6 years before.

He really struggled finding his place even in his own family after becoming a civilian again. Everyone had expectations about how he would be and what he would do – and how would he handle his diagnosed PTSD.

He felt that everyone was afraid of him. Starting college was very hard. Sitting in literature classes with 17-year-old kids as a college “freshman” was very hard for him after everything he had been through. He stuck it out every single day though, and worked his way through his bachelor’s as a bartender, limo driver, and volunteer firefighter.

He even had to leave the hospital the day our oldest son was born to take a chemistry final. He aced them all and went on to earn an MBA while working full time and being the best dad and husband ever.

He was laid off from his company due to Covid-19, but after several months has an amazing new job. He never lets anything stand in his way. He truly is our Captain America and I am so unbelievably proud to be his wife, I wish I could marry him over and over again!

Semper-Fi @greg_butera!”

– Alexandra Butera

Father Figures: A New Addition

“After months of The wife and I waiting, we’re excited to announce the latest addition to the Marin family!

INTRODUCING little Ethan “ps5” Marin to the world!

Weighing in at a whopping 9.9 pounds and 14.9 inches it was a tough labour, with queues at 7am this morning but relatively quick and painless (apart from carrying Ethan to the car which almost broke dad’s back!).

Dad and Bub are doing fine; mum is still recovering from the hit to the bank balance and the girls couldn’t be happy for their newest little brother as you can see..!”

– Jonathan Marin, from The Dad Gaming group
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Father Figures: Veterans Day

“In 2012, I was discharged from the Marine Corps.

The year prior, my unit spent most of 2011 fighting in Sangin, Afghanistan. Our unit lost 17 Marines and we had 191 wounded, ranging from gunshot wounds to triple amputees. My platoon lost two of those Marines; one was my roommate and another was a SAW gunner. I came home, tried suicide four times, and drank heavily.

Coming home, I met a woman. We dated, she got pregnant, and we got married in early 2012. The marriage ended a year later, and I coped with the divorce, ptsd, tbis, and nightmares by self-medicating. From 2013 to 2016 I fought for custody.

In 2016, I showed more maturity, stability, growth and sobriety than my daughter’s mom; in turn, the judge granted me full custody. Since then, I’ve been raising my daughter by myself. We’re happy, we have our own home, life is a lot better now. We have a chocolate lab!

For those struggling, remember to push through the dark for your kids. They need you and the world needs you!

(This is my daughter and me after a group of veterans took us to a Cowboys game. We got to go around on the field after the game was over!)”

– Zach Ceballos

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Father Figures: No Hesitation

“My husband Torren and I met in elementary school. We started dating in high school, broke up for a couple of years during university, and then got back together. He knows the quickest way to my heart is to tell me that it was always me that he loved.

My mom was fighting ovarian cancer at the time (she is doing well now) and we got pregnant quickly in the hopes of providing my parents with grandchildren.

Torren hadn’t planned on having kids at our young age, but he jumped in with both feet to fulfill my dream and provide my mom with more motivation to fight. Then we suffered a miscarriage, right after we got married.

I struggled emotionally in the aftermath. He was constantly by my side and showed a devotion few people experience in marriage.

After we got pregnant for a second time and had our daughter, Michaela, via emergency c-section, he jumped in with both feet again. He did the night feedings, despite working 14-16 hour days, and put every ounce of energy into his family.

I’ve since been diagnosed with endometriosis. There are periods each month where I need help to care for our daughter. Again, Torren jumps right in without hesitation and never makes me feel guilty. He makes it clear each day that Michaela and I mean everything to him.

This man is a tremendous father and husband, all while never having had an involved father figure himself as a child. He has stood by my side through every challenge and joy.

Michaela couldn’t have a better father and I couldn’t have a better husband.”

– Amanda Mullen

Father Figures: Cancer Free

“My son August is an anomaly.

At 5 and a half months old, August was diagnosed with anaplastic ependymoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that is extremely rare in infants. The tumor was found by chance after we took August in for what we thought was a virus

The tumor was wrapped around August’s spinal cord and brainstem, and there were a lot of potential complications. He underwent a 14- to 15-hour brain surgery to debulk the tumor as much as possible and, miraculously, August tolerated surgery well and the surgeons removed a large portion of the tumor and sent it to pathology.

Since August’s cancer was so rare in infants, a new treatment plan needed to be developed to control the growth of the tumor until he got closer to one year old.

August immediately began an aggressive treatment schedule consisting of several rounds of chemo and intense drugs. After four treatment cycles, the doctors performed another MRI and determined that the remaining tumor was above the threshold that they felt would be beneficial for his outcomes with proton therapy.

My son then underwent a second brain surgery to remove the remaining tumor growth. During that surgery, he suffered a brainstem stroke, making his recovery longer than anticipated. He had to spend 38 days in the ICU before moving to another floor for more recovery before he could start proton therapy.

August started proton therapy and continued to recover well during radiation. During the six-week course of radiation, he gained 6 pounds, started meeting milestones and began sitting up unassisted again. And now, August is thriving, cancer-free, and hitting milestones daily.

He will be two on November 30th!”

– Aaron Johansen

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