I get a lot of flack from some people for accepting that I will, at some point, get cancer. When you have the sort of family history I do, I think it’s better to accept these sorts of things. I don’t fret about it. I don’t treat my body particularly one way or the other for it, either. Mind you, I won’t be happy when it happens but I imagine that I’ll accept it as some pest that must be exterminated rather than the end of the world. Obviously, I hope that, when I get cancer, it is treatable and that it happens once my son is grown and on his own. One of my biggest fears is that I die before my son grows up. Please, Gods, let me see him through the trials and tribulations of childhood and adolescence before I pass on. Please let me see him graduate college, watch him get married if he chooses, and meet my grandchildren. However, I know I have no say in the final design so I’m not going to stay up late wondering what will come. My will is written. My dying wishes are known. My desires for Elijah’s guardianship have been made known to those that it affects the most. What more can I do but try to lead a good, healthy life and enjoy what I have of it?
I bring this up today because my Dad is under the knife once again as I write this. He is having his cancerous prostate removed. Hopefully, this surgery is all he will need, but if not he’ll have radiation. Just a few weeks ago he had some cancerous skin cells removed and his lymphoma is a constant cloud over our heads.
My Dad has had some form or another of cancer for the past ten years, it seems. When I lived in Washington, it was easier after the first time to remain a little aloof about it. Yes, I worried. Sometimes I cried. But Dad remained strong through it all. The only way one can tell he is upset or pensive about the whole ordeal is the way he replies “Well, that’s life.” It’s not easy to hear over the phone but it’s plain to see in person the toll it has taken on him. Although still commanding and robust, it doesn’t take much to see how tired he has become.
Mom seems to take it worst of all. She wondered aloud the other day what would happen should the treatment not work one day. My parents are pieces of a whole. It’s hard to think that one day one of them might be without the other. It’s equally difficult to imagine that one day my brothers and I will be without them. I can’t help but imagine we will be adult orphans at some point. One of our sources of love and support will be gone. It seems only fitting to say whatever needs to be said as the words come about. We certainly are not the first people to suffer the loss of our parents and we won’t be the last but that won’t make it much easier.
Cancer certainly isn’t a death sentence these days. My Dad is proof of that. So is my Mom. In fact, it was the knowledge of their cancers that made it easier to deal with my ex-husband’s when he was diagnosed. When we finally got an answer for all his ails, it was a double relief for me. Not only was I thankful for the answer but I was also grateful to be familiar with, if not that particular kind, at least the general idea of it.
Every cancer is different, though. Every patient is different. What worked for others in the past may not work for my Dad, or my ex should his come out of remission, or mine when my number comes up. Maybe all it will take is an overnight stay in the hospital and we’ll all have some semblance of health again. Or maybe we’ll have to sit across from our perspective doctors some day and ask that wretched question “What next?” And maybe we’ll have to carry that knowledge home and tell our loved ones.
As I write this, I’m listening to my son in the other room. He’s woken from his nap and is playing with his toys. He is oblivious to what the adults are thinking about. I’m not going to be able to protect him from the “C” word forever. Just as scrapes and bruises are a part of his life, so is cancer. I wonder how it will affect him. Will it skip him? Will he be vaccinated against certain kinds? Or will he be unfortunate and be diagnosed one day? I can’t answer these questions any better than I can tell you how my Dad’s surgery is going in this very moment. But I can tell you I’m hopeful- and scared- and thankful for every minute we are given.