A Father’s Gift

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When Andrés Renteria asked his daughter what she wanted for her 15th birthday, he had no idea that her answer would change his life. Pictured, Andrés with his daughter Alondra.

In late December 2012, I asked my oldest daughter, Alondra, what she wanted for her upcoming  birthday.

In our Mexican heritage, a daughter’s 15th birthday is often marked with a “quinceañera” celebration, and I wanted to do something special.

Being of modest means, I wanted to combine what I would spend on her Christmas and birthday presents to make it even more memorable. I had even saved enough money for a nice computer that she could use to further her talent in graphic arts.

“Alondra, what would you like for your 15th birthday?” I asked.

She replied, “I want you to quit smoking.”

“What?”

“I want you to quit smoking for my birthday.”

She wasn’t budging on this.

I replied, “That’s not a birthday present!”

And then she said, “I want a father for a long time!”

I said that quitting smoking was not enough of a present, and she said something
that still rings in my ears — something that changed my life.

“Then quit smoking and run a marathon.”

Quitting After 34 Years

On December 31st, at 9:23 p.m., the time she was born 15 years earlier, I smoked my last cigarette after 34 years of smoking. I was 45, and I had started smoking when I was only 11.

Andrés with his 3 children, Alondra (middle), Salma Rubi, and Diego.

I thought about having a cigarette often for the first 3 months after quitting. But the thought of breaking the promise I made to my daughter — and, really, my whole family — would erase the craving.

Almost 9 months later, in September 2013, I was ready to start working on the second part of my present. I set out to conquer running a mile.

I didn’t quite make it. It took me 10 minutes to run two-thirds of a mile, and I felt like I almost died from the burning inside my chest caused by all those years of smoking a pack a day.

But I did not give up. I took my 205 pounds to the treadmill and the elliptical machine, and slowly, I started gaining endurance and losing pounds. On December 26, 3 months after my first mile attempt, I ran a full mile, in 9 minutes and 23 seconds. Those digits, 9:23, matched the time of my daughter’s birth.

Lighter, Stronger, and Healthier

A friend suggested I sign up for a race to help me focus my training and give me a goal. So, I registered for a half marathon on the American River Parkway.

My co-workers used to laugh at me when I talked about someday running a marathon, but by March 2014, I was halfway there. I was able to complete 13.1 miles during training, and I felt ready to do the half marathon in April. My boss at the time suggested I should go on to run the Boston Marathon.

Andrés running the Boston Marathon in 2016.

I had already shed almost 40 pounds and was feeling a lot stronger and lighter. My former self had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and borderline diabetes, but my numbers were now healthy and normal. The fire inside my chest when I ran had faded away, replaced by a burning desire to not only run the California International Marathon in Sacramento, but to qualify for Boston, too.

Granting Alondra’s Birthday Wish

I finished the Parkway Half Marathon in just over 1 hour and 42 minutes, and then ran the California International Marathon in December 2014. When I crossed the finish line, I realized I had qualified for Boston with almost 5 minutes to spare. I had also transformed myself from a smoker into a marathoner, and I had granted my daughter’s 15th birthday wish.

Since then, I have run the California International Marathon every year, qualified for Boston each time, and run the Boston Marathon twice. This year, I was sponsored and supported by the Kaiser Permanente Roseville Emergency Department staff.

These days, I have set my sights on even longer races. I have run the 50-mile Tahoe Rim Trail race, and I’m planning my first 100-mile race in November.

I am alive, and I am healthy, thanks to Alondra’s birthday wish nearly 6 years ago. And at the finish line of every race I run, she is there. She hugs me, and she says, “Dad, I’m so proud of you.”

Andrés Renteria works in the Staffing department at Kaiser Permanente Roseville. He is married and is the father of 3 children. His daughter Alondra is now 20 and is attending the University of California Davis, where she is majoring in Art.

Need help with quitting tobacco? My Doctor Online has resources for planning, support, and information on the latest medications to help you quit. Kaiser Permanente offers wellness coaching to members at no additional cost to help with healthy changes, such as quitting tobacco, managing weight, and increasing exercise.

Discussion65 Comments

  1. True inner strength comes from love, love is not self centered, love is a commitment and sacrificing. The love for our family and our patients are the motivational strength that keep us going!

  2. I cried reading this story. I lost my father when I was 24 years old to lung cancer. I feel like we were all cheated another 30 years of his life here on earth.

    I am so proud of you, Andres! Your family and friends need you around! Thank you for making the decision to quit and your daughter is so selfless for asking for that golden birthday wish!

    Wishing you guys all the love and health for years to come.

  3. Karamdeep Chahal

    This is an amazing story, very heartwarming and inspiring!! Your daughter is very caring and she asked for a gift that wasn’t easy but as a father you did it!! Kudos to you!! Keep it up!!

  4. Elle (Medical Social Worker)

    Such a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing. It had me in tears. I have had 20 surgeries and always wanted to run but something always came up. I’m willing to try again because you inspire me.

  5. Andres-I love reading your story! You definitely have been an inspiration to many of us in the Hospital Lab. Hope to run into you at the CIM!

    Natasha

    • I’ll probably be in the ICU or on a bed wing recovering from the 100-mile run, lol, but I’ll be thrilled to do the relay with you guys 🙂

      Andres

  6. Joyce Begines, NP

    I love this story. Nearly had me in tears. Your daughter saved your life. Congrats on your accomplishments.

  7. kuldip.k.shergill

    Very inspiring. Beautiful lesson for all of us for motivation. We as parents always think we know it all, and our children always have the insight and can steer us in the right direction. Congrats in your endeavors and God bless the family.

  8. Wow, I am truly inspired by your story! You are very fortunate to have a daughter who cares for you and she is just as fortunate to have a father just as caring and willing to give and change for her!

  9. What a fantastic story! It makes me want to get back in the gym and start exercising regularly again. Well done, Andres!

  10. Danielle Alleven

    This is a fantastic story. Kudos to you and your daughter for getting you started on your fitness journey. A priceless birthday gift for her.

  11. Andres,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story! You are an inspiration and a testimony that it’s never too late to start taking care of one’s self and make a change.
    Rita

  12. Gerardo Gonzalez Stationary Engineer Kaiser RWC

    Great job, Andres Renteria & Familia….

    There is an under-valued benefit that comes from putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Do things, make sacrifices, that others would not. Pay a price that most wouldn’t.

    Lace Them Up……
    Perfect Day For A Run….

  13. What a beautiful story of love and dedication! Congratulations on your journey and not giving up on the promise you made your daughter Alondra and making her birthday wish a reality. Not only did it give you a new way of life but also a lifestyle change for the best. I admire how you have never gone back to smoking and when those thoughts come to you, you think of the impact that it will have on your loved ones. Great job. Keep it up.

  14. I really love this story! It’s amazing what we do for our children. In this case, your daughter gave you a gift, the gift of a healthy life! Thank you for sharing. Hopefully, it will inspire others.

    – Melinda Shott

  15. Cindy delaRionda

    Such an inspiring story that brought tears to my eyes. What an awesome gift for your daughter and yourself! Thank you for sharing.

  16. Wow!! You have done three of the hardest things to do (in my opinion): quit smoking, lose weight (I have also done both) and, toughest job #1, be a great parent. You’re awesome!

  17. So proud of you for quitting smoking and for all the marathons you’ve run. It’s not an easy feat! Very inspiring story. I’m sure your daughter is really happy that she will have her father by her side for a very long time. Keep running those marathons!!

  18. You are such an inspiration!! It is wonderful to hear how much it meant to you to give your daughter her birthday wish and how much it transformed your life. You’ve made me consider additional ways to transform my life and others that may struggle around me. Thank you for sharing your story!

  19. I want to thank all of you in the Kaiser family for your kind words. I am not only blessed to have such an amazing family, but I am also extremely privileged to be surrounded by you and all of my fellow co-workers.
    I have to offer my apologies for not replying to each and every one of you individually, but be certain that all these wonderful comments reassure me that I am on the right path.
    I also want to offer my encouragement to those of you or those in your family who struggle with some type of addiction. There is support all around you, there are people who care about you and will not let you face the challenges and difficult road to recovery on your own.
    Just like my daughter Alondra had to throw my reality in my face to wake me up and made me realize what I meant for her, she and all of my family have been there for me all the way.

    God bless you all.

  20. Awe…I’m still crying!!
    What an amazing & thoughtful daughter. How proud you must be of the both of you. Thank you for sharing.

    • I have to admit that quitting running and going back to smoking crossed my mind many times, but I was not going to disappoint the most important people in my life.

  21. What an awesome testimony. My older sister told my dad when she was little that “smoking is going to kill you” and my dad stopped instantly. I am 49 and have never seen my dad smoke and no one in my family smokes, either. The 9:23 is significant because it was “MEANT TO BE,” to know that you are on the right path and to provide you confirmation that you are doing the right thing. Such an inspiring story. Thank you and keep running … you get there much faster than walking, LOL.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Claudia. My dad quit smoking the year I was born after smoking almost 2 packs a day. Whenever I thought of giving up on running and going back to smoking, I would play in my head the story of how one day he quit forever, and I would think of the promise I made to my little girl … and that would give me strength to keep on going.

  22. What an inspirational story! Wow! That is an accomplishment to be proud of for you and your daughter to give you the motivation. I had such a good feeling after reading this.

  23. What an inspiring story! Such a beautiful testament to the power of a father’s love for his children (and of Alondra’s love for her father – at age 15 it can be hard to look past material possessions). Thank you for sharing.

  24. Andres – Thank you for sharing your story, and yet another example of the love a father has for his family.
    What you have done is a perfect example too of the capability of the human spirit.

    Run on my Brotha’ and know that al lot of us folks here at KP are proud to say we work with you !!!

  25. I love this story! My son asked my husband and I for the same thing on his 13th birthday. We smoked our last cigarettes the night before his birthday. He’s 19 years old now. We all know smoking is harmful to our health and that of others but sometimes you really need the motivation that works for you. We also started running because we didn’t want to gain the weight everyone said we surely would. We’ve run 1 half marathon, and dozens of 10Ks, 5Ks, and 5 Bay to Breakers. It feels great!

  26. Such a wonderful and touching story! Thank you so much for giving us this glimpse into your inspiring life and loving family!

  27. Priya Batra, PsyD

    An inspirational and beautiful story. Nothing like children to remind us that we are their worlds and that they deserve for us to be our best selves. Many kudos to you Andres and let Alondra know that your Kaiser community thinks that she is wise and beautiful.

  28. Great and touching success story. I love these stories about KP employees and members doing everyday wonderful things. Keep them coming.

  29. This wonderful, inspiring story brought tears to my eyes. It is a great example of how anything is possible when one puts his/her mind to it. What an awesome family health story!!

  30. Awesome story! Good for your you, Andres! I loved how the 9 min and 23 sec matched the time of day your daughter was born.

  31. Shrmila Horiuchi

    I’m soooo very glad this story is being shared! We parents need to be as mentally, emotionally, and physically fit as possible, to raise our children the best we can. Their role models are “us,” not sports players or entertainers. We’re around them every day and what do kids do best? They absorb and mock all that we do, so it’s up to us to pave the way. I’m very proud of Andres for honoring his daughter’s wish and very impressed with Alondra for being steadfast in what she wanted for her dad, her family, and herself! This family ROCKS!!!!!!!!

  32. Yes! Thank you for honoring your daughter’s birthday wish. Thank you for not poo pooing it. Thank you for giving it a go and then some! Thank you for not saying no.

  33. Elizabeth Nalley

    Brought tears to my eyes. Such an inspiring story. Just shows you should take small steps to reach your goal and beyond.

  34. Awesome, heartwarming story. Secondly, it shows the importance of setting goals and working with consistency towards achieving them.

  35. What a great story!!! I am truly touched by this piece. Good job, Andres. Way to go!! Alondra is a special young lady, may all of her hard work pay off and all of her dreams come true. May God continue to bless you all.

  36. Bob Griffith RN, Manager

    The staff in the emergency department collected money to help send Andres to Boston. It was really people helping people and Andres is a very kind, inspiring, and deserving gentleman!

  37. That is SUCH a cool story. Good for your daughter and her challenge. Even better for you, dad, for stepping up and exceeding her wishes. May you inspire others to give up the habit and start new healthy habits. I’m a marathoner and it teaches you endurance and the power to do anything!!

  38. This is a touching story, especially for a father like me. What a good role model. Keep it up and thanks for the nudge.

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