I got the call.
The call nobody ever wants to get;
The call that in a split second can change your life.
The tightening knot in my throat that was pushing down the tears was threatening to burst and making it hard to breath.
I sat there mute while my mom told me “Your father is in the hospital.”
“They need to do a CT scan of his head, they think he had a seizure and there was bleeding in his brain.”
The tears silently streamed down my face. I was shaking and weak; I fell to the ground. I couldn’t comprehend. This can’t be happening to me, to my dad, to my family this is just a horrible dream.
My husband was on a business trip. I didn’t have those strong arms to comfort me.
I was alone.
The baby inside me started to kick to remind me that I wasn’t alone.
The world around me froze. Time stood still. The only noise was my shallow breath.
In and out,
In and out.
My cousin came come over to comfort me. A supportive presence while I cried on the couch.
I calmed down, sipping the apple juice from my cousin. I told her it was ok to leave.
I forced myself into bed. No use in waiting up, won’t hear anything until morning. I lay in bed as my tear soaked shirt pressed against my face.
I cleared my mind. No thoughts were better than bad thoughts. The soft hum of the T.V. distracted my mind long enough to let me go to sleep.
Time for school.
I didn’t want to go but I needed to distract myself. The day was a blur. I fought back the tears trying to immerse myself in conversations and everyday life. My favorite song on my iPod set the beat for my footsteps, as I focused on every word they sang.
I arrived home. The text from my mom read “ Dad just got out of surgery. They found a mass and removed as much of it as they could. They are going to run tests on it but they think it’s cancerous.”
The word didn’t feel right coming out of my mouth.
My dad might have cancer. My dad was so healthy and in great shape. He can’t have cancer. And we had to wait 10 days to find out more details.
10 days felt like a lifetime. When something has the power to change your life forever waiting is the worst. Little did I know from here on out it was just a waiting game.
The days passed by so slowly. Letting my mind wander was dangerous. I tried to emerge myself in everything I did.
Still waiting. My heart skipped a beat every time I got a text or phone call.
The morning of the 10th day I got a call from my parents. Time slowed down and sped up all at the same time. I reached for the phone slowly knowing this conversion would change my family’s life forever. Two life changing moments in a matter of weeks. Maybe if I didn’t answer the phone I would never receive the news and we could all go on living the same life.
All the possibilities flashed before my eyes; good and bad.
I answered the phone. My mom’s voice was weak with the mask of strong over it. Trying to keep it together.
The news was not good.
The knot was back my throat was on fire and the only way to put it out was to let the tears burst through.
“Dad has stage 4 Glioblastoma. If they had to tell how long he has to live they would say 12-18 months. They are going to start chemo and radiation soon. Most people that get this cancer at stage 4 are a lot older than your dad and they can’t ever find what causes it. But the one thing they all in common– is that they are upstanding men”.
Silence. I couldn’t respond to my mother’s voice. I just sat there in bed. Tears were streaming down my face and there was no use trying to stop them. The pressure in my chest was pushing me down and wining. I couldn’t move and didn’t really want to move.
My husband finally came home and just held me as I cried.
I couldn’t accept that this was real. This can’t be happening to my family. This can’t be happening to my dad. I wouldn’t talk to anyone besides my immediate family. I kept it all inside. If the words never escaped my lips then it wasn’t real. I knew this was crazy but I didn’t care. My body was in defense mode protecting my dad and family no matter what.
My body was glass and I was fragile. One touch and I would shatter into a million pieces.
My husband told me to talk about it. But I didn’t want to. I was fine. Or at least that’s what I told myself. If I push it way deep down maybe it will just go away.
After a few weeks and lots more tears I was able to talk about it with other family members. But the word “cancer” still never escaped my lips. My dad was just sick. And he would get better. I could never bring myself to say that my Dad was more than “sick”.
Everyone encouraged me to talk about it and not hold it in but I didn’t want pity or people’s saddened eyes bearing into my soul. I can’t imagine how my mother or father had these same conversations everyday. I know my Dad had accepted it, but I was still struggling.
The support I felt from my sisters and those that did know made it easier to bear. They were slowly building me back up and providing me with some armor to hold the broken pieces together. I can truly say that in a time of need support from loved ones makes a huge difference. And most amazing was the support from my Dad. He was giving out sympathy and radiating with a new purpose.
I can finally say it. But I still can’t believe it.
My dad has cancer.
I don’t cry as much anymore but sometimes my thoughts catch me in a moment of weakness and I just let it out. I’m trying to be strong and not so fragile.
I remembered a comforting quote from Lord of the Rings. It says:
Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
This quote helped me focus on the good. The time I have with my dad is precious and I need to take advantage of that and not sit around waiting for the worst to happen. I know he won’t be doing that.
My dad is a strong man. He is my hero. Someone I always looked up to. My dad can overcome anything and he taught me the meaning of hard work. I know my dad can fight this and come out victorious. He is a positive man and that has given me more strength that I could ever ask for. This experience has made my dad stronger and even though I have let this knock me over my dad is still standing tall and offering me his hand to stand up with him. I want to be like my dad. Full of love and a quiet strength that radiates out of him. This news has brought us closer as a family. We lean on each other and help each other hold our heads high in hope. I love my dad and family and I know we can get through this. He isn’t letting cancer define him, he is defining cancer with who he is.
The first round of chemo and radiation was successful for my dad. He went 6 months without any new tumors. But with this kind of cancer, it never goes into full remission. They give him a MRI every 3 months so they can catch any other growths should they show up.
In August, the news from the doctor wasn’t as good. 3 new small tumors showed up in the scan. This news threatened to break through my armor. My strength was wavering but I held it together. The waiting game was back on and the doctors set in place a new treatment plan.
It’s hard to talk about and I will admit I still stuff it way down inside and hope it never comes out. But in all this my dad remains the example, and offers more comfort than he requests.