In 1910, a young woman in Washington created a special holiday to celebrate her father, a single parent who made tremendous sacrifices to raise six children. Today, families everywhere celebrate Father’s Day by reflecting on the special bond between dads of all types and the kids who love them.
For Erik Morrison and his wife, Lindsey, the third Sunday in June is more than an occasion for sentimental greeting cards or breakfast in bed. Each June, they reflect on the anniversary of their family’s cancer journey.
“This time of year really hits home,” said Erik. “June 13th marked three years since Caroline’s diagnosis, and I can remember every little detail about her cancer journey since then.”
In 2019, when she was just two years old, Caroline began exhibiting posture and balance issues after returning home from a family vacation to Disney World.
“She was late to walk and probably didn’t start until about 16 months, so I didn’t really think much about it at that point,” explained Erik. “A few months later, I came home from a trip and really noticed that she had become weaker and had a hard time getting up from the floor.”
Initially, Caroline was checked for multiple sclerosis. When her results came back negative, a follow-up MRI was scheduled as a precaution. Erik remembers every detail of the day Caroline received her diagnosis and each milestone that followed, memories enhanced by the overwhelming trauma of her illness.
“It was a Thursday morning, and I had just landed in Denver for a work trip,” he recalled. “I’ll never forget the rush of texts and voicemails from Lindsey when I turned my phone back on. It’s just a feeling I’ll never forget.”
He clearly recalls the day Caroline received her port placement, the nine days she spent in the hospital with a fever, and the moment he learned that his little girl, who was still learning to explore the world around her, faced the possibility of never walking again.
Now a vibrant five-year-old, Caroline is doing much more than walking. With the love and support of her mom, dad, and her older siblings, she’s learning to thrive.
“She’s the life of every party, and she never meets a stranger,” said Erik proudly. “Anyone who meets her would tell you that she’ll bring a smile to your face every day.”
After her surgery, a family friend made a donation in Caroline’s name to Survivor Fitness, a scholarship-based program in Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga that provides cancer survivors with one-on-one fitness training and nutritional counseling.
“I firmly believe in what Meg and Aaron are doing,” said Erik. “Fitness is an important part of my life, and the service that Survivor Fitness provides is directly in line with my core values.”
Earlier this year, Erik accepted an appointment to the Survivor Fitness Foundation board of directors. As chair of its fundraising committee, he has his sights set on expanding the program nationwide.
“Anyone from Kingsport to Dyersburg who is fighting cancer should have access to this program, but it shouldn’t stop there,” said Erik. “There’s certainly a need for Survivor Fitness everywhere you can imagine, and we have the opportunity to really grow in the next five to ten years.”
Today, Caroline may recall a version of her cancer journey that’s very different from Erik’s experience.
“She vaguely remembers being sick in the hospital, but she clearly recalls eating a lot of Cheez-Its and watching Frozen on repeat,” he laughed.
Despite their own versions of the past, Erik’s grateful for the chance to spend future Father’s Days making new memories with the daughter he loves.
Erik Morrison is Vice President, Lease Purchase at Western Express. Originally from Maryville, he currently resides in Nashville with his wife Lindsey and their three children. Click here for a complete list of Survivor Fitness board members.