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An awesome dad explains the 5 revelations he's had raising 2 girls.

'I didn't want to raise girls … until I did.'

An awesome dad explains the 5 revelations he's had raising 2 girls.
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Recently, someone asked me if I wished I had boys instead of girls.

Of course the answer was an emphatic, "NO." But did I always feel that way? I'd be lying if I said yes.

First, let's rewind a few years back. When my wife showed me the positive pregnancy test for our first baby in 2009, I blurted out, "Awesome! I just hope it's a boy!"


Fail.

I figured that if I had a son, I could teach him how to play basketball, throw a punch, and play in the dirt. With a girl, I'd be stuck playing dress up and other "girly crap."

Epic fail.

After a few weeks of “I want a boy so badly" talk, our world came crashing down. If you've followed my blog, Daddy Doin' Work, you'll remember that our first pregnancy didn't end well, and it was pretty devastating for us. After months of grieving, I realized that the only thing I ever wanted was to be a dad — not just a dad to a little boy. I cursed myself for being so stupid and immature, and I prayed for redemption — which I fortunately achieved. As the story goes, we got pregnant again in 2010, and there was no “I hope it's a boy" nonsense this time. As a matter of fact, tears of joy streamed down my face when the doctor told us we were having a little girl.

Since January 2011, my oldest daughter has introduced me to a brand of love that I never knew existed.

Me with Reiko (my 2-year-old) and Emiko (my 4-year-old). All photos here provided by me.

I truly believe that having two little girls has transformed me into a better, stronger, and smarter man than I would've been without them.

Here are some reasons why:

Revelation #1: Everything I could do with a boy, I can do with my daughters.

I can play basketball, teach them how to throw a punch, and play in the dirt. Yes, I know that's a big fat "duh" for many of you, but I'm a recovering knucklehead with minimal relapses, so please humor me. And yes, I'm going to teach them much more than those three things – but I promise you that I will teach them those three things.

Revelation #2: My daughters will use me as a benchmark for how men should behave.

The best dads I know (and I know plenty of them) view their day job titles as what they do, but their jobs never become who they are. They are dads and husbands first and foremost.

When I worked a full-time job in corporate America, I remember that after a day of sitting on conference calls, attending project meetings, and hitting aggressive deadlines, the only thing I wanted to do was rest when I get home. Then I thought about my daughters. I'll be damned if they looked at me and thought, “Daddy doesn't cook, give us baths, read bedtime stories, or change our diapers. He just sits around while Mommy does everything. Maybe that's how all men should act and that's what I should expect from a future husband."

Please know that I'm not a robot. Oftentimes I feel like grunting myself into unconsciousness after reading "The Cat in the Hat" for the ninth time in a row, or sometimes I'm so tired that I'll mess up a batch of chili so badly that it could fertilize your front lawn. But I do it anyway because I want my baby girls to expect their daddy to be actively involved – always.

Revelation #3: Being "girly" is just a myth.

Nothing better than a daddy-daughter pedicure date.

What does girly even mean, anyway? Would my kid be less girly if she dressed up as Spider-Man for Halloween instead of a princess? (That's exactly what she did, by the way.) Would she be less girly if she wanted to tackle little boys on the football field instead of taking ballet classes? Not to me.

That would be like saying a dude who can bench-press 250 pounds is more manly than a guy who sings songs to his kids before bed. I've learned that being a girl can be whatever the hell a girl wants it to be, and I will never limit my daughters when it comes to that. Additionally, I want to introduce my daughters to other women who are crushing it in male-dominated fields (executive leadership, sports journalism/broadcasting, coding, law enforcement, etc.) so they'll understand that it's possible to do anything their little hearts desire.

Revelation #4: Being loud is a good thing.

And by loud, I mean believing in something so deeply that they'll shout from the rooftops about it without worrying about what haters, naysayers, and other clowns have to say about them.

In a world where women are still fighting for equality, I want my girls to speak up in the living room, classroom, and board room in order to be heard. Forget the foolishness about being viewed as "pushy," "bossy," or "bitchy" for having an opinion or for taking a stance. Closed mouths don't get fed.

Revelation #5: I'm built for raising girls in today's society, or at least I think I am.

We couldn't resist a Disney moment.

Let's be real — girls have to deal with a lot of challenging things today. Pressure to be liked by others, pressure to have sex, body image, mean girls, teen pregnancy, rape ... I'm sure I missed some, but I'm getting depressed listing them out. I can't protect them from all of the ills of society, but I can ensure they'll have the confidence and smarts (both book smarts and street smarts) to thrive in this crazy world we live in.

Just like I'm fighting for dads to get a seat at the table when it comes to parenting issues, I want women to have a seat at the table when it comes to issues that affect them — and not just for my daughters, but for your daughters, too.

Yes, I'm sure I'd be just as happy if I had boys instead of girls. But there's something special about the bond between a dad and his daughters that cannot be explained, and I wouldn't change that bond for anything.

Now if you'll excuse me, the mall has a half-price sale on toddler jeggings.

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."