Father and daughter posing at a restaurant.

Carly and her dad, Gary.

Ever since I can remember, my dad has been the goofiest guy with the biggest heart. At 6’4” it was hard to miss him when he entered a room and when he spoke, it was nonstop dad jokes. He was the life of the party and such a bright light in everyone’s life.

As a kid, my dad was always throwing us over his shoulder, playing games with us and making us laugh uncontrollably. He and my mom shared the most beautiful relationship and even into my adult years, they still seemed like teenagers in love.

Father and daughter posing for a picture.

Carly, with her dad, is dedicated to raising awareness about the disease.

Every time my dad would call me, he would put on this Darth Vader voice and say, “Carly, this is your father.” I eventually told him he had to stop leaving me voicemails like that because I did have caller ID, although I wish I had saved some of those recordings.

In January 2020, my dad sat me down and told me there was a chance he was sick. He didn’t tell me he was scared, worried or even upset – just that the doctors thought they found something, and he had to get some tests done. I remember not being able to look at him and focusing all my attention on the dog. I knew if I looked up at my dad, I would completely fall apart.

At work, I would seek out privacy and call my mom and dad frantically to see if there were any results on his biopsy. When I noticed their location on Find My Friends wasn’t at work or home, I would call in a panic. A few weeks later, we found out that it was stage IV pancreatic cancer. My dad kept saying he would be fine and he wasn’t going anywhere. He assured us that he would do whatever he had to do to get better.

It seemed crazy to us that he was so sick since he looked perfectly normal. The next two months were spent in and out of the emergency room, at chemotherapy treatments and doctors’ appointments. Although we were all tired, we knew this was all worth it to have my dad healthy and happy again.

There came a point when he was unable to walk anymore. My mom and I would help him into his wheelchair from the bed. We would try to make sure he was comfortable in every move he made. There were times he wanted to do things on his own and I so wish I could let him have that pride in himself, but we knew it wasn’t safe.

His speech started to slur, and he started making less and less eye contact with my siblings and me. He would still hold our hands and reach for my mom to be close to him.

The last real conversation I had with my dad is when he told my mom and me that when he got better, he wanted to take more time off work and really enjoy life. He said he wanted to take my mom away on vacation and spend time relaxing. He seemed so excited about the changes he was going to make in his life, and I couldn’t wait to be a part of that.

That March, we went to the hospital for an outpatient procedure and my dad ended up being rushed to the emergency room. He was transferred to ICU and after five days there, on March 17, 2020, my dad lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. At 56 years old, my dad’s life was cut short and we were all robbed of the rest of our lives with our favorite guy by our sides.

Since losing my dad, I have become super involved with PanCAN because I don’t want anyone to have to experience the pain that I had to go through. I don’t want anyone to lose their partner, son, dad, brother, cousin, etc. This disease is such a quiet killer. I want to do my part to continue my dad’s legacy and honor him every single year.

We’ve created such a strong team for PurpleStride Washington, D.C., in honor of my dad and, in a little over a year, we’ve raised more than $30,000. We’re not stopping anytime soon. My siblings and I have all gotten our genetic testing done and we will continue to take care of ourselves and make health our number-one priority.

To celebrate Father’s Day this year, I will be going with my siblings and my mom a few hours away to the beach. We’ll be eating my dad’s favorite local foods, sharing memories and enjoying a place that we had such special moments with him. That’s how we celebrated last year, and it definitely is a tradition we will continue.

Contact a Patient Central Associate
If you or someone you know is facing pancreatic cancer, contact PanCAN Patient Services for free, personalized support and resources.