Advice from a Marine’s Daughter

Reilly, her dad, mom and siblings.

The Ebbs family at the beach.

By Reilly Marie Ebbs

For the last 17 months I have watched my dad fight lung cancer. My dad is a 49 year old United States Marine Corps veteran who has never smoked a day in his life.  He served in the Gulf war for four years and while in Kuwait for nine months was covered in the fumes from the burning oil fields.  His doctors conclude this is where he got his cancer.

After months of coughing he was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell adenocarcinoma with barely two years to live. Fortunately, he has responded well to chemotherapy treatments, giving us hope that his prognosis will deter the two year expiration date.

I have always admired my dad for his immense strength, not only in the Marines but also at home with his family. He has always been our rock and continues in that role even in the face of something as overwhelming and unnerving as lung cancer.

My sister and brother were only seven and nine years old when my dad was diagnosed. After a very long and emotional night of processing this realization as a family, my siblings went to school where they were exposed to their classmate’s experiences and ideas of cancer. They came home terrified. Despite what the world was telling them, my parents always tucked them in at night, ensuring them everything will be okay.

I wish I could say that we have been spending more time together as a family since my dad’s diagnosis. The reality is that life goes on even with a terminal illness casting a shadow over our lives. It is not like the movies, where we can drop everything and spend tons of time together.  There are mounting medical bills, long chemo appointments and the dreaded side effects.  It’s the sad reality of this disease; it consumes health and precious time.

My advice to others in my situation would be to make memories.  It sounds cliché, but it’s been my family’s motto from the beginning.  Because in the end all we will have left are our memories.  Never take a moment for granted. When you feel weak, lean on your support system for strength. Sometimes I have a good day and can lift my siblings up, while other days I need them to support me.

While the rest of us have our moments, not once in these months have I seen my dad fear anything. I believe this strength and stability comes from his time as a Marine, always maintaining his courage and perseverance when faced with unimaginable situations. Now met with a different type of war, his valor carries our whole family and inspires us to push on.  Together we will get through this battle.

Learn more about veterans and their risk for lung cancer here.