Brendan Hoffman never intended to be an author, but he had to keep a promise he made to his terminally ill daughter.
Hoffman put his own life on hold after Dawn was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma cancer, and given six months to a year to live. Before she died, Dawn asked her father to write about his feelings, his hurts and his anger. "Put it in a book," she told him.
Dawn died in August 2009. He said he had never written anything before, and never even thought of writing a book. But keeping his promise, he started writing. He began with Dawn's eulogy.
Brendan Hoffman with his daughter in 2008. She died in August 2009. (Submitted photo)
Hoffman now reaches out to other parents in his new memoir. "Daddy's Promise," is Hoffman's debut book, the result of spending 24 hours a day with Dawn for the last 10 months of her life.
Today is her birthday.
Dawn not only told Hoffman to write down his thoughts and feelings, but that the writings would help others.
"The conversations we had were priceless," he said.
A graduate of East Liverpool High, Hoffman resides in Ponte Vedra, Fla. with his wife, Cathy, and his golden retriever, Phoebe.
He said Dawn made him a much stronger person.
"She taught me so many things about life, myself and others." He said he truly believes terminally ill people have special insight as they face their final days on Earth.
"After she was diagnosed, Dawn saw things as they were and not as she wished them to be, and slowly but surely she began putting things in order," he said.
Hoffman hopes his story helps others who are faced with a cancer and their loved ones. "Cancer does not discriminate," he said. "I want to help others who have gone through or will be going through what we have faced.
"Yes, this cancer is going to end my life here on earth several years sooner than if I didn't have it. Though it won't take away what I have. I have a loving father and best friend. I have Cathy, my wonderful mother by marriage. I have my mother and Kristie who I love so very much. I have the two most beautiful children in the world in Tyler and Jordan. I have peace with God and myself. I also have something that is so important to me: I have love from all those I just mentioned. They love me.
"So you see, cancer didn't win. It can never take what I have. Please understand that I haven't given up on a miracle nor have I given up on life here on earth. I won't live my life waiting on a miracle. I'm going to live my life as if I don't need a miracle. I won't live my life in fear of death. I'm going to live my life as if I have nothing to fear. Yes, I will do whatever it takes to live. I'm going to do my best to do what it takes to be happy not depressed. So yes, I hate that I have cancer, although I love my life and those who are in it and make it what it is."
Hoffman has a sister (Colleen Shaw) and two nieces (Alisha Standish, Kim Plumm) who still live in East Liverpool.
Hoffman said the family - including Dawn's children Tyler, 11, and Jordan, 6 -will likely mark Dawn's birthday as they always have, by visiting her grave and placing fresh flowers there.
He said right after Dawn's death, he watched her children deal with the loss in very different ways.
"For the first year or so, Tyler wouldn't talk about her at all," Hoffman said. "Jordan would always ask, 'Where's Mommy?' She was just so little. Now Tyler talks about her and he acts so much like her with her humor and laugh. Jordan just says that Mommy is in heaven."
Hoffman said Dawn did do some writing of her own, but it is not to be shared - not just yet.
"She kept a journal and I have it locked up," he said. "She wants me to give it to her kids when they get older."