When you think of the word devoted, you think of my dad. Devoted first to his family - Marlene, his wife of 53 years, his daughters Darlene, Patty, and Lauren, his seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren (one of which he never met). Also devoted to his job as a steelworker for 30 years and a provider for his family. After retirement, Joe continued to work around the house - he couldn't sit still! He loved the outdoors more than anything. Cutting grass and hedges and keeping his house in tip-top shape were part of his daily routine.
Dad never complained much, but when a pain in his side wouldn't go away, he decided to see the doctor. It was just routine surgery, gall bladder and a cyst on the spleen. We would be home later that day. The surgery took much longer than we anticipated, and when we (my mom, my younger sister, and I) were called to the conference room, we began to worry. The doctor told us that after draining and removing the cyst on the spleen, a tumor the size of a cantaloupe was found (hard to picture when my dad was all of 5'2″ and 135 lbs). The tumor was removed and sent for biopsy. We would know in a few days. Dad was sent to a room, and we all dreaded telling him the news. Lauren, the youngest daughter, broke the news to Dad, and he was optimistic from the beginning. "Well, I guess I'll have to do whatever they tell me to do." The tests came back a few days later, and the oncologist told us it was Stage IV metastatic melanoma. Our lives changed forever in that moment. We were told Dad had about a year to live. This was July 24, 2009.
Dad continued to fight, going to chemo and radiation and all his scheduled appointments. He even made a few trips to Hillman Cancer Center where they went over his body with a "fine-tooth comb" trying to locate anything suspicious. They located one black mole on his back the size of this -o-, and still they were unsure as to where the cancer may have originated. By this point, Dad knew he had to do something to try and stop this horrible cancer ... if not for himself, then for others. How courageous! He donated countless vials of his blood to Hillman for further research on melanoma.
Dad passed away on May 17, 2010, at his home, surrounded by family and friends. His last breath was peaceful, and he died with dignity (which is just what he had wanted). He is now our ANGEL! "Those whom we have loved and lost are no longer where they were before, they are now wherever we are."
In Memory of Joseph "Joe" Vavrek July 29, 1932 - May 17, 2010
Patty VanDyke, daughter