My Father’s Example

I’m sure many of you have wondered where I was able to find the motivation to adopt and maintain the – how should I put it – chipper as fuck attitude about a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. I’ve been asking myself the same thing and it didn’t take me long to realize where came from: my father’s example.


My dad, Robert “Bob” Hornyak, died almost exactly a year ago from ALS. If the massive self-inflicted waterboarding campaign for ALS didn’t educate you enough, ALS is a degenerative nerve disease that basically shuts down your brain’s ability to communicate with your body. Essentially you slowly lose the ability to control the movements and functions of your body, both voluntary and involuntary. Eventually your mind becomes a solitary confinement prisoner in the deepest cell of your body’s dungeon, where nobody can hear you scream.

My dad was a very physical person all his life. He grew up milking cows, had a technical job, built our house, gardened, landscaped, was a craftsman multiple times over and was never content being physically idle. As you can imagine, the fact that he lost the ability to be productive, let alone move, was the most disastrous thing that could  have happened to his feeling of self identity and worth. Towards the end of his struggle with ALS, he could barely do anything at all for himself and relied completely on my mother (humanity’s #1 superstar), my sister (a quiet angel), and a slew of other caretakers.

My point is that his life totally fucking SUCKED for about a year, and guess how he handled it – like the world’s most badass boss, that’s how. Sure he had his down moments, as I will, but through the vast majority of his tribulations he held onto his dignity and positive attitude, and he never once complained. He was dealt a hand so shitty that even the dogs wouldn’t play poker with the cards, but he NEVER COMPLAINED. He never said “Why me??” He never cursed the heavens or damned his creator or lashed out at those around him or consciously did anything to push his suffering onto anybody else. He handled his trial like a saint.

I had the pleasure (not sarcastic at all) of providing him with care for about a week when I was home for the holidays, shortly before he died. It was the last time I saw him. I can’t claim to understand even a fraction of what my sister and mother went through, but I did get a glimpse of what needed to be done – and it wasn’t pretty. I’m glad I was able to help out (even though it was only for a small amount of time, due to my living 1,700 miles away) and talk to him during the last days of his life. I was blessed with the ability to gain complete closure with his departure as a result of the time I spent with him. I picked his brain, I asked him what he needed, I asked him if there was anything he needed to tell me, I asked him if he was proud of me, I asked him:

What do you want me to do,
to watch for you while you’re sleeping?

What do you want me to do,
to do for you to see you through?

The answers to those questions helped me release any negative feelings I had about his horrible situation and the fact that he was leaving us.

Now, a year later, as I sit in a mechanical hospital bed similar to his, I reflect on everything that he taught me during his ordeal and everything leading up to it. My attitude, strength of character, positive demeanor, good humor and will to persevere are my inheritance. This blog is dedicated to my dad because it wouldn’t exist without him.

For you, Dad:


23 thoughts on “My Father’s Example

  1. rjmiller13 January 28, 2015 / 5:32 am

    What a fine tribute, and how proud he must be. #Leucky to have such a great dad and role model.


  2. rjmiller13 January 28, 2015 / 5:37 am

    What a fine tribute, and how proud he must be. #Leucky to have a great father and role model.


  3. Jamie C. January 28, 2015 / 1:27 pm

    You are an inspiration!! Love you Jasy Face ❤


  4. Jean Martin January 28, 2015 / 2:23 pm

    I’m sure all of us who knew your dad’s story have been giving him lots of thought lately. What a great lesson he was able to teach you about positive attitude and facing adversity head on.


  5. Pat Albaugh January 28, 2015 / 3:30 pm

    What a beautiful tribute, Jason. You are doing him proud.


  6. Aimee January 28, 2015 / 4:12 pm

    What a nice tribute to your dad! “A box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you through”.. You have a lot of love to give Jason and a lot of people love you! Every morning and I can’t wait to hear how your day went , I laugh and have to grab tissues! You seriously rock! #leucky


  7. Samantha Mikesell January 28, 2015 / 5:37 pm

    This is beautiful. You are amazing Jason- thank you for sharing with us.


  8. John Deans January 28, 2015 / 8:36 pm

    the feels. all of the feels.


  9. Kath January 29, 2015 / 12:16 am

    One minute I’m laughing, the next I’m in tears. He is so proud of you, Jasy. Thanks for “punching my heart out” with this one.


  10. Berta Pavone January 29, 2015 / 8:39 am

    Jason, your dad was a wonderful sweet man & I see his strength & sense of humor just beaming out of you! He was very proud of you & loved you dearly! He is watching over you right now & telling you you are his son & you are going to kick this cancers ass!


  11. Pilz January 30, 2015 / 2:56 pm

    Great Song and you’re a true inspiration brotha! Let us know if Digital Beat Down can help with anything. Love ya dude!


    • Jason the Cancer Troll January 30, 2015 / 3:00 pm

      you guys should come candy stripe in the oncology unit hallway. what could go wrong??? 🙂


  12. Pat LaPier January 30, 2015 / 4:45 pm

    On one of my last long conversations with your dad was about his children. How proud he was of Jeff for the life he had chosen and he knew he would continue to do well, how your quiet sister met a new guy and it seemed to bring out her of her shell and how she seemed to be going in the right path where he no longer had worries about her. How well you were doing in Denver. He hated that the three of you were so far away but that you were all where you needed to be. It is true that my brother could never just sit around. He was always busy because he wanted to be but never too busy to sit down with you if you had a problem and needed his advice. He had a strength in him that was passed down to him from his father. When your grandfather was alive, he rarely sat still, he was working and busy all the time and Bob followed that. When he got sick, he didn’t wine or cry, life just went on. He was sad when Bob got rid of the cows which were like his other children……..he didn’t get mad or wine, he just ordered 900 baby chicks to replace them! The look on your dad’s face when he came home from work that day was priceless! You are a ” Hornyak” and we don’t give up!!!


  13. 0shelby0 January 31, 2015 / 10:01 pm

    Uncle Bob was an awesome man, the ONLY real father figure I had for many years (growing up) – and your words brought me to tears.
    You look so much like him and your attitude is abso-freaking-lutely amazing.


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