Plum woman documents late son's cancer battle
Michael Dunlap wanted to write the story of his battle with brain cancer.
But Dunlap, 24, of Plum, died before he could fulfill the desire to tell his story.
Dunlap's wish, though, was not forgotten.
Sue Ellen Dunlap, 58, of Plum, Michael's mother, recently completed “Love and Miss You,” the story of how Michael successfully underwent treatment for one brain tumor, was cancer-free for a few years and then battled a second brain tumor to which he succumbed March 27, 2011.
She began writing the self-published book “in earnest” in September 2011 after taking notes and gathering her ideas during a “difficult summer.”
“It has been a long year-and-a-half,” Sue Ellen Dunlap said.
“It was an emotional journey and a labor of love to publish his story for him.”
Sue Ellen Dunlap writes about Michael's first diagnosis of a brain tumor in 2007 when he was 20 and a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She details the “torturous” times of waiting for test results and ultimately receiving the diagnosis of cancer and Michael's treatments.
In the next part of the book, she writes about the diagnosis in August 2010 of Michael's second brain tumor as well as chemotherapy treatments and the emotions associated with Michael's deteriorating condition toward the end of his life.
Sue Ellen Dunlap also includes in the book the letter she wrote to Michael on the first anniversary of his death — March 27, 2012.
“My dear son, I want to thank you for letting me be your mother,” Sue Ellen Dunlap writes. “How proud you made me over the years. How many wonderful memories I will always cherish.”
Michael was nine credits short of obtaining his master's degree in English when he fell ill the second time. Michael wanted to follow in his parents' footsteps and become a teacher — in particular a college professor. Sue Ellen Dunlap is a teacher in the Riverview School District. Michael's father, Bill, 57, is a Gateway School District teacher.
Sue Ellen also includes passages that Michael wrote including emails he sent to his parents while he was at IUP.
Michael repeatedly tried to assure his parents he was OK and told them not to worry about him. Michael also writes in 2009 about his time in graduate school at IUP including playing hockey, one of his greatest passions.
The book also includes photos of Michael and family members.
Sue Ellen said she and her family members are living their lives “giving back.”
She said the family appreciates the support of those who helped out when Michael got sick.
She said her husband makes crosses and places them on the graves of U.S. Marine veterans at the Plum Creek Cemetery.
The Dunlaps also adopted a two-mile stretch of Route 286 extending from the park-and-ride in Monroeville to Pine Valley Drive in Plum in Michael's memory.
The Dunlaps periodically conduct cleanups along the stretch of roadway. The next one is scheduled for Saturday.
“We are trying to give back to the community and find ways to be helpful,” Sue Ellen said.
Any proceeds from the book will be used to purchase a bench at IUP in Michael's honor. Sue Ellen Dunlap also would use proceeds from the sale of the book to train the family's Irish setter to become a therapy dog for cancer patients.
“I'm not writing it to make money,” Sue Ellen said. I want to fulfill (Michael's) dream to have a story for family and friends.”
Sue Ellen Dunlap said the goal of her book is to be an inspiration to others who are going through difficult times.
“If I can inspire at least one person to realize when life is bad, there are things to look forward to,” she said. “Michael could have quit school after the first brain tumor, but he kept working toward his goal.”
Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates think Mercer’s defense deserves more credit
- Roundup: Study finds 35 percent in US facing debt collectors; JPMorgan paying $650K to settle CFTC charges; more
- Valley resident new CEO at Jefferson
- Woman who stabbed while naked in McKees Rocks believed to be in New Kensington area
- Rayburn businessman honored for charitable work
- Tech giants lead rush for profits in foreign countries
- China investigates Microsoft in monopoly case
- Most back Holy Family’s plan to house children who crossed border
- Home price gains slow for 6th-straight month
- Jimmy Dean moves beyond breakfast
- Market in neutral, awaiting economic news