TODAY   |  January 30, 2014

Cancer-stricken dad writes napkin notes of love

A father battling prostate cancer tells TODAY he has been scribbling notes for his daughter every day since elementary school. Garth Callaghan, who has also had kidney cancer twice, noticed his daughter Emma started keeping them in a notebook. “It meant I would have a part of my dad with me,” she tells TODAY.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> with a story that has touched a lot of us here. every day, art has written notes on napkins and put them in his daughter's lunch. "you are off to do great things, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, get on your way," which i think is dr. suess . those messages became more meaningful as garth battled kidney cancer twice and is now battling prostate cancer . well, he has written enough notes so that his daughter will have enough to get her through high school . this started small, didn't it?

>> a week ago i was just a dad writing notes.

>> and years ago you were just a dad writing notes, thinking i'll put them in her lunch box as she was heading off to elementary school . you didn't know if they meant anythi anything.

>> i truly didn't know if they were making it out of the lunch box or if she was using them as her sleeve.

>> when you were diagnosed the first time with kidney cancer , i think, emma , you were in sext gra -- sixth grade, is that about right? you noticed she was tearing out the napkin and putting them in a notebook.

>> i found out she was tearing them out and dating them. i found out later that the reason she was doing that was she was trying to keep a piece of me.

>> what did those notes to you when you heard that diagnosis, emma ?

>> i guess they meant i would have a part of my dad with me, no matter what happened, this were always there.

>> you kept writing the note and now you're diagnosed with cancer a second time. and in some way they go from being inspirational to in some way a father keeping a promise to a daughter.

>> absolutely. last fall -- there's always been an implied promise in our household that she would have a note in her lunch, a hand packed lunch and a note from me. last year i read about this great guy alex sheen and he started this movement called promise cards and because i said i would. i was so touched by that, i decided to instead of making it an implied promise, make it a true promise , a true commitment.

>> so you said i'm going to write 826 more of these so she has one every day until the graduation from high school . they aren't mind boggling. just read me a couple of simple ones.

>> you know all those things you wand to do, you should go do them. this one you just read, it was a dr. suess one.

>> i like dr. suess , so do i.

>> emma , read me a couple of your favorites.

>> remember that guy who quit? neither does anybody else. and risk something or forever sit with your dreams. herb brooks .

>> i have a 12-year-old and a 7-year-old. you're 14 now. and what we're talking about here and the reason your dad has written the notes in advance is very difficult. are you okay talking about that part and have you two had this discussion?

>> we really hadn't had this discussion until this exploded last week. up until then emma didn't know i had written 826 notes out and that i had promised to do that.

>> emma , what does that mean to you?

>> it means a lot to me that he would think of that, even though he is going to be there, that he would make sure that i would always have them.

>> you know what, we heard about this story last week i think it was and really wanted to get you in here because we just think this is an amazing thing. it makes me look at my role as a parent a little bit differently. garth, thank you for sharing your story. it's very brave and i know it's something very personal. and, emma , i really appreciate you coming on to talk about these as well.

>> thanks.