A Daughter’s Perspective On Her Dad’s Dire Diagnosis

My dad’s uveal melanoma diagnosis changed my view on life—both as a daughter and a nurse.

I have always been Jim Thurber’s little girl, for sure. We have similar personalities and senses of humor and a lot of overlapping interests. To my mom’s (and my husband’s) dismay, we both like to watch a lot of true-crime TV shows and documentaries. My mom was never a fan of video games, but my dad would let me watch him play DOOM on his computer, and we’d play Mario Bros together on the Nintendo.

We’re usually just on the same wavelength. Sometimes, I’ll be thinking that I want pizza, and suddenly, my dad will ask, “Does pizza for dinner sound good?” Things like that happen all the time. My dad’s always been a jokester, and even now, he uses humor to cope with everything that’s going on with him. A lot of people don’t understand why he would joke about being diagnosed with uveal melanoma, but I do, and I think the jokes are funny. And he’s always been “the glass is half full”-type of person, which I admire and try to emulate in my own life.

Communication is crucial for nurses

Growing up, I spent more time with my parents than most kids do because they homeschooled me. I think I got a better grasp of what adult life looked like from an earlier age. I was always with my parents in their business, so I got to learn what an engineer (my mom) and a surveyor (my dad) did. I learned how to answer the phones and take messages when I was in elementary school, and I started working with my dad when I was thirteen. Most kids only get glimpses of what their parents do, but I got to participate in it.

I was already in nursing school when my dad was diagnosed with uveal melanoma. The prognosis for this type of cancer is not good, but Jefferson’s treatment has extended my dad’s life, and he has been able to share in some important times in mine.  Experiencing dad’s care first hand has definitely influenced the way I approach nursing. It’s easy to forget how scary and overwhelming it is for people to be in the hospital or to be facing a new diagnosis. All of the beeping monitors and equipment and medications and medical jargon are a routine part of my job, but they are not routine for my patients. Seeing them become overwhelmed and struggle to understand certain things has served as an important reminder to me about how crucial it is to communicate with and educate patients and family members at every step of the way during their hospital stay.

Thanks to the entire care team

When I graduated from nursing school, I was the student speaker for my class. The student speaker is chosen based on recommendations from teaching faculty in addition to GPA. It was important for me to have my dad at the graduation because he was always my biggest cheerleader and believed in me even though most of the time I did not believe in myself. Having him at graduation was a way I could show him, “Look, I really was able to do what you thought I could!” It was something for my parents to look back at and know that all the hard work they did to homeschool me for 12 years and put me through college paid off.

My husband and I got engaged New Year’s of 2018, which was just after my dad’s second liver treatment, and we were not at all sure how everything was going to play out. My husband loves my parents like his own, so it was important to both us for my dad to be there for our wedding day. We made the decision that my dad would be at our wedding—even if it meant that we had to get married a month after our engagement in a hospital room in Philadelphia! Thankfully, the treatment has worked well, and we were able to have the wedding as we planned.

Portrait of Ginny with her parents on her wedding day
Ginny with her father Jim and mother Liz on her wedding day.

I would like to thank everyone at Jefferson for what they are doing for my family, and I do mean everyone. I like to say “teamwork makes the dream work” in health care. Everyone—from the physicians, nurses and nursing assistants, to patient transport, dietary services, environmental services, and engineering and valet parking attendants was great. They are all on the same team, working to provide care for patients and families. I am very thankful for all their contributions to caring for my dad—and giving us the gift of more time with him.

Jim Thurber’s diagnosis of uveal melanoma wouldn’t keep him or his wife Liz from Ginny’s wedding day. He asked his doctors for more time—and they gave it to him. Read his story here

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