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Katie Kerl: Against All Odds

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Text by Katie Kerl, Copyright 2020

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AGAINST ALL ODDS

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As many of you know my father is my heart and soul. He has been dealing with cancer since 2009. Now most people hearing such news would stop everything and go right to the doctor for a treatment plan. Not my dad. At the time he was working 90 hours a week at Amtrak as a crane operator being sick. I could remember nights before he’d go to work. He’d basically be asleep at the kitchen table before he was ready to leave. I used to think to myself, “ how in the hell is he going to work like this?!” He always shocked me. It was like work brought him to life and continued to give him meaning through some really ruff periods of his  life. Not just sickness.

At the time the only treatment for cancer was chemo. He had just lost a brother to it and there was no way he was doing that. I never to this day fought him on any medical decision he made for himself regarding treatment. As time passed he continued to work and lived his life the way he wanted to.

He did not work all those hours for himself. He did it for me. My father solely lives for my happiness over his own. When I think about what that actually means; I’m not sure if there’s a greater compliment you can give another person. It’s very humbling.

Every time I fell down there he was picking me up off the ground and making sure whatever it was messing with my head booze , Boy’s , mismanaging money when I was younger; he didn’t ridicule me . He listened, not in a parental way he just listened, till whatever it was came out. Then we moved on with life. He always said it was ok to be down, cry but you do not do that too long because it changes nothing.

When I was a kid he had to gain seniority at Amtrak to hold a job in Philly . He’d be working in another state sleeping in a camper car all week. There was no such thing as per diem like there is now. Also, before they had machines doing the work today; these men in their twenties with families were doing it. They are now dying from breathing complications from all the broken up dirt and dust on the tracks in the 80’s.

From work experience alone my dad has seen more than enough for one person in a lifetime . The year he retired, that horrible accident happened where the train hit a piece of machinery and two men lost their lives. I remember that day and pleading to my dad not to go clean it up. I was immediately shut down and he said,  “I can’t Kate those were my friends, and now I have to go help my other friends clean this up.” He wasn’t afraid he just did it and didn’t complain once. They didn’t even clean the blood up from their fellow workers first before they sent them down there to repair the track .

That was the last year he worked . My father retired with 37 years under his belt. In that first year of being home his cancer worsened. He was forced to do radiation, and a battery of other tests. After spending a week in the hospital for his lungs. We couldn’t ignore it anymore. To say the summer was an emotional roller coaster is putting it lightly.

Doctors had opposing opinions it was very overwhelming. He got through that though like a champ. He never complained about it either. They put him on immunotherapy a chemo alternative, and steroids for inflammation. 

All of that really changed me . I was more of a destructive person when things went wrong. Realizing he’s going to need help at some point I was going to have to get it the fuck together. I had started writing these pieces , volunteering, and trying to do as many positive things as I can.

About a month ago we learned he has a new cancerous tumor in his throat. I’m very fortunate to have my cousin Mike continuing to help him  go to doctor appointments when I can’t take off work. I’m not sure how we’d be doing any of this without him .

I’ve never seen my dad worried about all this, but this time we were at lunch and he got very quiet. If you know my father the Kerl gift of gab usually gets stronger when we are nervous. He wanted a burger so we were sitting in 5 Guys. He looked out the window for a while and I had to ask a few times to get it out of him. He finally said to me,“ I just wonder if I’ve done enough.”

I immediately stopped eating and let my dad know that I’m aware what he’s going though is very scary. He’s going to question many things about his life. There were a few things I was going to tell him so that question is taken off the list.

I said you may not realize this, but you have the best life story and proceeded to make a list:

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You’re childhood was amazing growing up with 50-60 kids between one block

Every time you ever fell down you got back up even better just to prove a point.

You loved your job and were exceptional at it.

You lent tens of thousands to people who you knew couldn’t pay you back, but you did it anyway.

You’re very involved in our family

You own your house and car

You have a full pension from a 37 year career.

You Vacationed when you wanted to.

Took the time out to talk to my struggling ex with work when you were in fact getting sicker with this tumor. (My biggest fear at that time.)

There is not one person who came your way for help you refused.

You retired distinguished, and still see the men you worked beside in the union. You’ve known them longer than I’ve been alive.

You have given all of your time and energy to me, no matter the situation. You were the first to be on the scene of a SEPTA accident in your Amtrak vest before the first responders.

You paid me what I would have made working  every week when I was in a very serious accident, so I didn’t have to sit at home feeling sorry for myself not being able to work. ( You did get that back after my settlement lol) I still don’t know many parents that would have done that.

People want to be there for you because you have contributed so much positivity to their lives and you may not even realize it.

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DID YOU DO ENOUGH? You have done enough for ten people. You have exceeded what it means to be a father, a friend , co-worker, and someone to confide in. ALWAYS putting the ones you love above yourself.

Sometimes hearing things you forget about in stressful situations is very helpful. Cancer should not be in every sentence. It does not have to take over your entire being. My dad’s about to get a biopsy on the tumor in his throat, and we are going to go back down this road again. No one is ever prepared for this. There’s no way to be. You’re going to feel differently everyday.

Half the battle is mindset. Not letting your loved ones feel defeated, or feel as though they have one foot in the grave when they are in fact still alive. Talking about dying is ok, make arrangements etc. Do not make it your everyday conversation. Remind your loved ones,“ HEY YOU ARE STILL ALIVE!” Get them out of the house as long as they are able to. Make sure they are getting the proper nutrition to fight. Make the appropriate doctor appointments. If you do not like what they are telling you do not be afraid to get second opinions.

Part of me is convinced my father is Superman, and he’s my personal hero. If I turn out to be a quarter of the human he is I will consider myself very lucky to find that kind of strength inside me, as he does. I can’t wait to celebrate ending another round of radiation, or whatever this brings to our lives.  Thank you to everyone that continues to be there with us. Calls daily, and checks in with us. Support is the number one thing that makes someone feel better and David Kerl is a very fortunate man. You will never lose to cancer. You keep living, fighting , and helping others during your very long journey. That’s admirable, that’s what heroes do.

Thank you for being my Superman.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Katie Kerl was raised in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. She is currently living  in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia. Katie has a background in Psychology from Drexel University. She is a manager in the commercial/residential design field . Katie can be reached  on Instagram @kerlupwithkate 

For collaboration e-mail: Kate.kerl32@gmail.com

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To access additional article by Katie Kerl, click herehttps://tonyward.com/valentines/

This entry was posted in Affiliates, Blog, commentary, Current Events, Environment, Friends of TWS, Health Care, News, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Women.

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