I have been meaning to write this post for awhile, but it seemed appropriate to wait until Father’s Day to write about my dad. And now that the weekend has arrived, I feel I must stick to my deadline, as any decent writer should.
My dad has been instrumental in helping me navigate through the crazy world of cancer. This is in large part due to the fact that he’s a great father, and I am lucky. But it’s a bit more complicated than just that.
When my dad was a teenager, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma – a rare type of bone cancer. Even after receiving radiation, the prognosis was not great for 5-year survival. Quite a lot for a young boy and his family to have to deal with.
For those who have met my dad and can do some basic math, I’m sure you’ve figured out that he survived those five years, and then some. And lucky for me, despite the odds, he was able to produce three good-looking, intelligent, witty, and modest young children.
Growing up, I never understood too much about my dad’s cancer, or how it might have affected his life many years after. Although I’m sure it was always a constant presence in his mind, it wasn’t really for us. It was something we knew had been part of his childhood, and that he had conquered, and that was all I really needed to know. Cancer was part of our family’s history, not present. Something occasionally referred to in the odd anecdote.
But five years ago, that changed.
In 2008, my dad was diagnosed with breast cancer. Did you know males can get breast cancer too? Well, now you do.
So as you can see, this breast cancer beast found its way into my family before it decided to take up residence in my own body.
My dad underwent chemotherapy (the same grueling combo that I was so lucky to experience) and surgery. He got sick, he lost his hair. You know how the story goes.
This was a difficult time for my family. As you can imagine, I was scared and confused. I didn’t understand much about cancer at that time, or breast cancer specifically. I didn’t like knowing that my dad was hurting, and that I couldn’t do anything about it. And since parents like to protect their children, there was a lot that they did not share with us. Bits and pieces of information would be communicated, but not everything. My parents always put on a brave face. Everything was going to be okay. Because it had to be okay.
After dealing with that whole ordeal, my dad was struck a third time with the Big C. This time, it decided to take a trip to his thyroid, which was consequently removed, along with the cancer cells. And now, of course, we hope that third time’s a charm. And that’s it. (Seriously cancer, leave my dad the F alone. I think you’ve made your point. Whatever that is.)
So my dad has had a pretty rough go, you might say. And despite being knocked down three times, he’s still alive and kicking. He does yoga, he meditates, he draws, he travels. He kicks ass. And as you might have guessed, he has become quite the role model for me, now more than ever.
When we discovered my cancer, it was quite the blow to my family. Seriously, hadn’t cancer already caused enough chaos in our home? Could we not get a break from it, of more than a few years at the very least? It seemed pretty unfair. And frankly, it still does. My family is awesome. We are pretty good people. We don’t really deserve to have our lives constantly threatened. But here we are. You could boil it down to bad genes. Or bad luck. It doesn’t really matter. This is the hand we were dealt, and that’s just the way life goes.
My dad and I have certainly bonded, in a most unexpected way. He is one of the only people close to me who can say “I know exactly how you feel” and I know he really means it. We now share this strange connection, this common history, that most fathers and daughters don’t have, and probably could not understand. He has accompanied me to almost all of my appointments with my oncologist, helping me understand my treatment and figure out the important questions to ask. He has watched me cry out in pain, and he has felt pain for me – as any parent would feel for their child, but also as a cancer survivor feels for one who has recently joined the club no one wants to be a part of.
Now that I know what it is to face cancer, and to deal with all of its ugliness, I see my dad in a whole new way. It is almost impossible for me to imagine going through this three times. Once has been quite enough for me. I am truly in awe of my father’s strength and determination, and his ability to keep going every day, after all he has been through.
Sometimes, I really lose faith in my “battle”. I read other blogs, I focus on statistics and numbers, and I get consumed by all the people who don’t make it, and I begin to wonder if anyone really does. And then I remind myself; I know someone who has survived. I know someone who beat the odds. And he just happens to share my DNA. DNA that may have possibly made me more prone to cancer. But may also make me more prone to surviving it.
I love you, Dad.