April is Daffodil Month – a time to recognize the toll of cancer on our families, our community, and our country.
Today, I made a statement about my father, who overcame so many obstacles in his life, but for one.
My father had a life of beating the odds.
Born in North Eastern Germany in 1939, Peter Furstenau grew up in the midst of war.
The odds of surviving war as a child are not good. When a gun was found by a group of children in the village, and it went off, the bullet went straight through Peter’s knee. He went on, later in life, to be a star runner and soccer player. Another time, a plane flew overhead, strafing with bullets the field where he and other children were playing. When Typhoid swept through the town, my grandmother thought she was not going to survive the fever, and she told 6 year-old Peter that he was to be responsible for himself and his younger sister.
Luckily, she did survive, and a few years later she recognized the tightening border between East and West Germany, and she took her two young children to West Berlin “for a picnic” – not telling them until they checked into the refugee camp that they were never going to return to their home in East Germany.
Peter kept defying the odds – getting a scholarship to a prestigious school in Lake Constanz, sponsored to come to Canada at 16 years old, using the trans-atlantic trip by sea, and the trans-Canada trip by rail to master English, graduating from high school in Sydney BC and then graduating from UVic in 1963. He went on to earn a Master’s and PhD, teach college, and become an architect of the university transfer program. He was an incredibly positive influence in the lives of thousands of students over his career, and he was a truly wonderful father.
Dad had a life of beating the odds, until, at 61 years old, he was — like one in two Canadians – diagnosed with cancer. Six months later, on October 16, 2001, one week before his 62nd birthday, he died.
As we recognize Daffodil Month and the work of the Canadian Cancer Society, let us hope that these terrible odds can be turned around so that families can hope to avoid the devastating premature loss of those we love so dearly.