For forty years my mother and her father did not speak. A divorce resulted in my grandmother hiding my mom from my grandfather until she married (changing her last name). Both my mom and her father looked for each other over two countries – Belgium where they originated and Canada, their new home – from 1966 to 2006.
With the proliferation of technology, the search for each other became only more intensified. One night, my dad was inspired to Google his brother who had run away from home in the 60s. After that search came up empty, he switched to looking for my grandfather – he was the first listed in the results.
As the second biggest country in land mass in the world, Canada is 9.985 million km2.
The last time my mom had seen her dad, he was living in Vancouver on the west side of the country. When my mom found her dad, he was in Québec (the opposite side of the country in the east). At the time, he had a whole new family, two daughters, and one grandchild – not to mention his 11 siblings with their families.
Reuniting was emotional – neither parties thought it would ever happen. We met over Canadian Thanksgiving hiring a cabin. After a weekend full of smiles, hugs and tears we went our separate ways to talk over email, phone and occasionally in person at milestones in each other’s lives.
In my last year of University, my grandfather was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.
Being a ten-hour drive away, I would only see him one more time before he died. Years later, I met my partner’s aunt. She had recently been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and I was overwhelmed with the same feeling I had with my grandfather – a great sadness and a sense of uselessness.
As a problem solver, I felt the inability to stay still as someone was suffering. Here was this woman, full of life and purpose with two amazing children and a great husband set on loving life and following her favourite band, Styx around the world.
She would live three years fighting a brave battle until passing away in December 2015. It would be my second time watching someone I loved die of Pancreatic Cancer from a distance.
I actually thought she would be the one to survive.
The pain of losing someone so far away is excruciating. Living in Australia, we quickly became aware that we would miss her funeral in the time it would take to go home.
Being a part of Pancare in the fight against Pancreatic Cancer has been an important step in my grieving process. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of my family and see their story in someone else’s journey. It is hard work but knowing that one day there will be a higher survival rate, even a cure, keeps me passionate about the work I do.