January 15, 2010 was the day Allison Kjar’s whole life changed. She was at a fireman’s dinner with her family, including her dad, Keith, and his girlfriend, Mindy, who he had only been seeing for 2 and ½ months at the time. All was going well until a piece of steak her dad was eating got stuck in his throat.
They didn’t think much of it at the time. Keith went in to the doctor to have his esophagus enlarged, which is a typical procedure for men because they tend to take big bites when they eat. Instead of just a routine procedure, however, they found a tumor.
“You always think of the worst things first,” Allison said, when she first found out her dad had cancer. “My thoughts were oh my God my dad isn’t going to see me graduate or get to walk me down the isle at my wedding.”
Allison Kjar, 19 years old, is a sophomore at Morningside College. This blonde hair, blue eyed girl can always be seen on campus with a bright smile lighting up her face. She loves shopping, socializing with friends, and spending time with her family. In other words, she seems like a typical college girl. No one would guess that this friendly, caring person has been through some pretty hard times.
When Allison was in high school her parents got divorced. Allison and her 3 other sisters grew up with their dad, Keith, in Akron, IA. She has always had a close relationship with her dad, which has become stronger through these hard times. She learned not to take anything in life for granted, especially when it comes to family.
Keith was suffering from a rare cancer called Esophageal Cancer. It was already in stage 3. They began treatment right away. Four times a week he would travel to Rochester to get treated. This continued until Easter weekend in April when he was finally able to have surgery to remove the tumor.
The hardest part, Allison said, was telling people about her dad. At first they didn’t know how bad it was but having to tell other people put things in perspective.
“I was really emotional, I didn’t get much sleep,” she said.
After the surgery Keith wasn’t allowed to eat anything for two months. Instead he would put water in his mouth, slosh it around, and spit it back out. Then finally at the end of June he was able to eat pudding and applesauce. His first real meal was an egg.
“We took him out to eat at Perkins. It was a pretty big deal,” Allison said.
Allison has always been close to her dad but she believes that this brought their whole family closer together. Her dad’s relationship with his girlfriend became stronger. It was a big test for them after only dating for a couple months. They are now engaged and plan to get married sometime in the near future.
“It changed my relationship with God and my family. We grew stronger,” Keith said.
This experience also taught Allison to be very independent. She suddenly had more responsibilities, like taking care of her little sister, and basically being the mom of the house since her older sisters had all moved out. Despite that fact, her sisters all came home to help as well.
It has now been almost three years since Allison’s dad has been diagnosed with cancer, and he is currently cancer free. She sees her dad at least two to three times a week; it’s part of the reason she went to college so close to home.
“I can’t imagine not seeing him as often as I do,” Allison said.
After finding out her dad had cancer, Allison’s view on life took a drastic change. She realized it’s the little things that really do count and that anything can change in an instant.