By Kristin Rubino
After three months of ER visits and testing, the doctor finally called with a diagnosis… “The bad news is you have cancer, but the good news is you have Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is slow growing and very treatable.”
Not the words I ever wanted to hear, especially about my larger than life father. My dad, Joe Staudt, is the standard by which all the guys in our family are measured. Through the eyes of his daughters, there was nothing he couldn’t do. My dad was tough but fair, intelligent yet approachable, hard working business owner yet always had time for his family, for coaching, for school projects, for a catch in the back yard, or to shoot hoops in the driveway. That was my favorite thing to do with my dad growing up… he was my favorite rebounder! My dad could fix any problem, cook dinner, paint nails, run a successful business for 30 years, employing 15 people (he gave us all our first job), teach us to ride a bike, throw a ball, and drive a car… you name it, he could do it! As I became an adult and a parent myself, I came to appreciate even more the type of person and father that he was. He was tireless in everything he did, sacrificial with his time and money, and had a true servant’s heart that was completely committed to his Christian faith and Jesus. Joe Staudt was the most well rounded, coolest dad, and greatest Granddad, who was the rock of our family and it was a privilege to be his daughter.
The Staudt Family Joe with two of his granddaughters
My dad was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in March of 2006, the same week that I gave birth to my second daughter, Emma. We were in the same hospital at the same time. After exhausting every possible treatment in medicine at that time, my dad’s last hope for a cure was a stem cell transplant. He had an incredible doctor at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and I was able to be his stem cell donor. The stem cell transplant bought my dad an extra year, but ultimately did not cure him. Experimental treatments were tried, radiation to the tumor was used, every resource available at the time was considered for his treatment, until his final visit with his oncologist when he said, “I’m sorry Joe! I have one more thing we can try, but I don’t think it will work. You have 1-2 months left to live.” That was the Monday of Thanksgiving in 2008. Joe went to church for the last time on Thanksgiving Eve and sat in a wheelchair with his family. The last song he sang in church was:
In All Things We Give You Thanks,
We Give You Praise and Thanksgiving
At All Times In Everything We Give You Thanks.
My dad was thankful for his experience with cancer because he leaned on Jesus the entire time. My dad said he had never felt at peace as much as the way he did during his battle with cancer. Joe knew the good news and the ultimate prize that awaited him… he was loved by the Creator of the Universe and my dad knew that when his earthly fight was over, he would get to rest in the arms of that Creator. The last month of my dad’s life was very difficult. He declined quickly. Watching a loved one dying is heart wrenching and life changing, but I will never forget the peaceful look in my dad’s blue eyes (they were green before his transplant and turned blue from my genes), as he laid in the hospital bed in his living room. He knew that soon he would take his last breathe on earth and be in the presence of Jesus. Joe passed away on Christmas morning, 2008. Watching a Christian pass away is ultimately a beautiful experience!
6 weeks before Joe passed away Joseph J. Staudt, 8.5.49 – 12.25.08
All during his time of treatment, my dad was supported unconditionally by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He received the patient financial aid that the organization offers to help with co-pays, hospital parking expenses, and prescription reimbursements. The staff of LLS showed compassion above and beyond what was expected. They cried when they saw my dad suffering and they rejoiced in any bit of good news he got along the way. My dad walked in the Light the Night walk two months before he died and was treated like a rock star. My dad fought the good fight. The story didn’t end as those left behind would have liked, but the world was blessed with 59 years of Joe Staudt. He has grandchildren who never met him, yet talk about him and recognize his pictures as if they had. His presence, Christian influence, support, and words of encouragement are missed tremendously on a daily basis. What I miss most though is that I cannot remember his voice. Cancer took away our rock. It erased the sound of his voice and left an enormous hole in my heart, and in those of his loved ones.
Joe’s final Light the Night Walk, Oct. 2008
Don’t let this continue to happen! Don’t let cancer rock the world of others! Join Team Alyssa and fight with us! We cannot stop until the medical field can say 100% of the time that although you have cancer… The GOOD NEWS is we have a cure!
A Note From Alyssa:
Thank you Kristin for publicly sharing your story, even though it was tremendously difficult. Thank you for opening up your heart to us. Thank you for your incredible example of dedication to the legacy of your dad. Thank you for letting me take this journey, of making something good come from tragedy, with you.
Please make a donation in support of my efforts, in memory of Joe Staudt, to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers, http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston16/adourte