My father, Alan Schwall, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) at the very start of my sophomore year in college -- in the fall of 2006 when he was only 51 years old. He always had knee issues, but the summer between my freshman and sophomore year at college, he developed a swollen leg/knee and other problems that made it hard for him to walk at times.
Further testing revealed that he had AML. At the time you think this can't be happening to MY dad, to MY family and you tell yourself it will be OK and he will respond to treatment. And for a few months it was as OK as it could be -- the chemotherapy treatment seemed to be working. But in the spring of 2007, chemo was no longer working and my father was too weak to receive a bone marrow transplant He was sent home to live out the summer. Unfortunately, he did not even make it that long and passed away in April of 2007, the day after his wedding anniversary with my mother.
To this day, I can't believe it was less than a year from diagnosis to his death. AML is a truly devastating disease both in severity and the speed with which it can take a life.
In his memory, I have become an active Light The Night participant, even having the opportunity to speak on local news stations and represent my father as the Memorial Hero for the Light The Night walk in Hartford County in 2013. I also recently joined Society Ties, the young professional's society of the New York City LLS branch, to further expand my volunteering and fundraising capacities for LLS. My dad was an incredibly caring and giving family man as well as a strong, selfless firefighter for the FDNY for 20 years.
My family has missed him all of the years he has been gone from us, but this year is especially tough as I am getting married and he will not be there to walk me down the aisle. My dad never had the chance to meet my fiance or watch me or my brother graduate from college and he will never meet my future family. I volunteer and fundraise so that no other girl and no other family has to know a life without their father.