When Brian Hill noticed a GoFundMe page with a significant amount of money benefiting OCF, he contacted me to capture the #story.
Andrew Fabian wanted to raise money in memory of his mother, who had three oral cancers and eventually succumbed to the disease. While training for the Philadelphia Marathon, he considered a few different organizations to which he could dedicate fundraising efforts. The Oral Cancer Foundation stood out because they were the only organization in the oral cancer arena to be awarded the Guidestar “Great Nonprofit” badge for years.
Here is Andrew’s #story (written by Eva Grayzel):
As my breath steadies on the run, I feel connected to my heartbeat. My thoughts sprint away from the everyday stresses and center on the essence of who I am, why I’m here, and what I’m meant to do. It’s just at this moment when my mom visits.
I look forward to that space of time on a run because I miss her so much.
She died from a high-grade mucoepidermoid carcinoma lodged in her throat. She was a smoker for as long as I can remember. When her voice began to change, it was easy to blame it on smoking, laryngitis or seasonal allergies. However, when she started to feel pain in her throat, she was motivated to have it checked. I hear her voice of wisdom reminding me to pay attention to my body. No one knows me as I do.
The treatments were worth it! She lived a good ten years with minimal quality-of-life compromises. During those years, my three brothers and I graduated college, moved away from the nest, and married. As I hit my stride on an early morning September run, I think back on our mother-son wedding dance to “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart. Like the sun always rises in the east, this memory will always rise in my heart.
In 2018, her voice changed again. She didn’t wait for the pain, she went right back to her doctors, who gave us the bad news. Another cancer. A new primary. Treatment was much harder to endure: a laryngectomy.
With no voice box, she learned to speak again using her airway. She was determined. She still went to the gym, saw her favorite concerts, traveled, cooked family dinners, and had fun with my Dad. Thinking of her strength improves the length of my stride and coordination as I run.
Her health seemed to spiral downward when she felt that familiar pain again. The dreaded cancer was back. A recurrence just one year later. We figured she would bounce back from round three as she had done twice. But she knew what we didn’t. The devastation that treatment failed is a deep hole from which to emerge. She agreed to more chemotherapy because she wanted to be a part of the big moments in the lives of her four boys. Her bravery continues to oxygenate my blood and fuel my muscles to keep going.
We spent Thanksgiving at the hospital by her side, holding her hand, reminiscing, and crying together. I told her a secret that my wife and I were trying to get pregnant. She clarified her wishes: ‘Stay close to and support one another, always. Take care of Dad as he has always taken care of you.’
The day after Thanksgiving was an apropos day for her to diverge from the mortal realm. She knew how grateful we were to have her as our mom. She knew how much she was loved.
On my run, I remind Mom she will be with us during the big moments in our lives. We will never forget her and support one another no matter what.
At the Philadelphia Marathon this year, I will wear my t-shirt encouraged with the words we found in her bedside journal: ‘Be brave. Live your life.’ I know what bravery looks like because I witnessed it with my eyes on her.
Now, I am a father of two. I know just the kind of father and husband I want to be because my father showed me endurance through the obstacle course of life.
In memory of my mom and all cancer survivors, In honor of my Dad and all caregivers, please support my run at the Philadelphia Marathon by donating to The Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF). https://www.gofundme.com/f/andrew-runs-for-cancer-research?qid=f640a83cf24f666347f7000c855a696e
Most of your dollar goes to exactly where you expect it to go: Education, Advocacy, and Research. Learn more about OCF here: https://oralcancerfoundation.org/
Thank you for taking the time to know my mom. If you choose to donate, know your support will make a difference in the world of oral cancer.
Passion has power. After I felt Andrew’s dedication to making an impact, I suggested next year, he hosts an Oral Cancer Foundation 5K Run for Awareness in his Cherry Hill, NJ community. “I love that idea!” he proclaimed. Cherry Hill is only 2 hours from Bethlehem, PA, where I chaired a walk for seven consecutive years, attracting attendees from NYC to PHL. I offered to attend the organizational meeting and MC the event. If you want to join our efforts or compete in this run, sign up for OCF emails: https://oralcancerfoundation.org And, check this page for more information: https://oralcancerfoundation.org/ocf-walk-run-events/
#Story written by OCF Correspondent-at-Large Eva Grayzel)