Update 3 | December With Dad

Vicki, a stranger until several weeks ago said, “If you bring him to Las Vegas, I can arrange a UFC fight.”

Well, my dad is currently in the most significant fight of his life, so he might as well get some pointers to see how it’s done.

Dad seemed intrigued, so… “Let’s make it happen!” ✈️

He said he always wanted to stay at Paris Las Vegas, so this would be a great opportunity to check both boxes.

I figured if we were going to do this, it had to be VIP all the way. 😎

Airport limo…
Eiffel Tower room view…
Brunch at the Eiffel Tower restaurant with views of the Bellagio fountain… ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ 😁


Back to Vicki.  She and I connected via FB messenger and is now someone who seems like we’ve been friends for years. As if we picked up a text conversation that had simply been paused for a while.

This is going to be her first Christmas without her husband of 35 years who had passed away in his sleep.  😞

It dawned on me that this is going to be a lot of people‘s first holiday without their spouse/dad/mom/sibling/child/friend.

And it’s not as if the grief stops after one year.  (A reminder for me to be extra patient when out in public this season – you never know what’s going on in someone’s life.)

Vicki’s resilience as a wife and mother is incredible.

She’s a true proud mama bear of her son, Stephen Quinn: Despite being a quadriplegic due to a rare birth defect, he created a well-respected career within the UFC starting as an intern at age 14 and climbing the ranks to Director of Regulatory Affairs.

After enduring over 35 surgeries before he was 12 years old, Stephen recovered by watching sports.

(Stephen Quinn at work with the UFC)


My dad taught me to always aim to surround myself in life with inspiring people so that one day maybe I can be inspiring in my own way.  

Both Vicki and Stephen have made a lasting impact on me between her emotional support & kindness, and Stephen’s amazing accomplishments.

The experience that Vicki coordinated with her son was beyond a UFC fight… the true gift she gave me was quality time with my dad I’ll never forget.

A short Saturday to Sunday trip, we made the most of it.

We slightly increased pain meds for the evening fights, which is not sustainable long-term, but it allowed for a few hours of uninterrupted pain relief.

A little like Cinderella at the ball knowing reality was waiting at Midnight.

Fight 269 was SPECTACULAR.  I never really knew much about the fighting championships, but that night my dad and I left the arena as mega fans 🤩   It was incredible!!!  

The lights! 
The music! 
The cheering!

We witnessed one of the most unexpected wins by an underdog. Peña was up against the greatest fighter in the history of women's MMA, and a two-division champion.

My dad is currently in the ring with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, the reigning champion of taking down quite a few fighters.  I’m still putting money on my dad… he knows I’m always in his corner.

I haven’t had much 1:1 time with him since having kids seven years ago.  We text every day, but it’s not the same as when growing up.

Still, before his diagnosis in March 2021, we would see each other 5-6 days a week, although mostly with a handful of other people around.

Raising twins and a toddler while both parents are working full-time often “takes a village.”

Before Vicki’s offer, which seemed too unique to pass up, I never considered taking him on a plane alone right now given the circumstances.

And with what actually went on behind the scenes with flight delays, round-the-clock medicine/dietary restrictions, and unexpected pain management… maybe all the travel was a bit much for me to take on.

But we made the trip a success by focusing on all the things that went RIGHT.

He enjoyed looking at all the delicious sweets in display cases even though he couldn’t have them (sugar feeds cancer). 🍰

At one point Dad won $40  (Yay!)

Then the casino took it back (Boo 😂).  

We had walked across the street to a Starbucks when the pain started to hit him hard. We made it back to the room just in time to get medicine. Resting while watching the Army/Navy game, I heard him audibly groan. I sadly thought it was the pain, but it was just a bad play made in the game, Lol.

We were fortunate with the timing at Sunday morning brunch to get the best seat in the house at the Eiffel Tower restaurant.  

Everything felt so special – White linen tablecloths, multiple courses, perfectly blue skies. We spoke about how much his mom would have loved being there...

Anyone who’s been in a caregiving position knows to read between the lines.

These photos don’t show the dozens of pills/supplements/pain medicine that need to be ingested at specific times throughout the day.

Photos don’t show the moments when he closed his eyes wincing to sit down because the pain in his abdomen was overwhelming.

The photos don’t show tears. Trying to swallow the hard lump in my throat during the emotional arc of being SO happy & grateful in one moment, then realizing it won’t last.

Just like the cotton candy sky above the Eiffel Tower at magic hour lasting a magnificent 15 minutes… and then it was gone.

But photos *do* show the amazing highlights he and I will remember forever.

They show the best dad ever enjoying memories with his only daughter.

They show what we all hope to have in our life… someone who cares.  


The trip home got a bit rough. The only scheduled flight for San Diego was delayed 2 hours with no end in sight and pain medicine was not doing its job.

With only enough medicine and supplements for the next meal, my fingers were getting a little jittery wondering about the next steps.  Rent a car and drive the 5 hours?  

Then all of a sudden, I saw a pilot walking out of the Southwest terminal.  I knew those eyes.

Half covered by a mask, I checked the name tag to be sure:  James Shackel.  

Yup, he was family. I had forgotten that my father-in-law has a cousin who flies for Southwest. Turns out, he was going to be OUR pilot (!) and we boarded shortly thereafter.  

Seemingly a miracle, my Dad’s pain medicine finally kicked and his spirits were lifted… knowing that family was flying him home.

(Jimmy Shackel, Southwest Airline Pilot, also since deceased from cancer the following year.)

We are still very much FIGHTING this beast as his family & friends rally in support on a daily basis.

The original chemo stopped working a few weeks ago and now he is starting a new one today.  All prayers are welcome.

For all that is GOOD in the world… Feeling blessed & grateful ❤️