It is a word we hear all of the time. Everyone knows someone who has or has had cancer. It comes in multiple forms, multiple stages. It affects people of all ages, genders, ethnicities- it does not discriminate. It claims the lives of so many. Yet, it is a word that you can easily become desensitized to.
I have always been aware of how scary cancer is. People in my stratosphere have lost their battles with it, but I was lucky enough to be removed from it. My family has dealt with a lot of obstacles, but cancer seemed to keep its distance from us.
Then, in August of last year, my Granny was diagnosed with cancer And all of a sudden the weight of cancer, the scariness and sadness of it all, finally hit me with full force. My Facebook loving, poetry writing, 69 year old grandma-who I never worried about, who was never sick, who I just assumed would be around forever- had cancer. And 2 weeks after her diagnosis,she was dead. She passed away in her sleep while I laid 3 feet away from her.
And then cancer become a constant on my mind. Everyday when I thought of my Granny, I thought of cancer. I thought of this fucking disease that I naively thought my family had dodged.
But like all wounds, time slowly heals. And you start to think of the hurt a bit less. And hours turn into days. And you realize that life will go on, but life won’t be the same.
Life is a roller coaster though, and every high is met with a low. My low? Finding out last month that my 49 year old father has stage 4 colon cancer.
It is one thing to lose a grandparent, but the pain and sadness you feel when losing a parent is in a whole other world. And let me tell you, this new world I am living on is crushing me.
My dad and I have had a difficult relationship. The first 18 years we shared were rough. He was not in a good place, and his ability to be a healthy, loving parent were inhibited. But, once I grew up and went to college, I was able to see my dad for what he was and accept that. No longer was I holding him up to unrealistic expectations of how a dad “should” be. Instead, I took what I had and made the best of it. And it worked. And he and I were able to be ok. And I slowly stopped fixating on the things we missed out on, and focused on the great things we would get to experience as the years went on. But now, I have been robbed of that opportunity. I think of all of the experiences that my Granny is going to miss out on and have to add my dad to that list, too.
I am so sad. A sadness I never knew I could feel. A sadness that eats away at my core. He is sick and is scared and is ruined and there is nothing I can do to fix it. All I can do is call him, make him a sandwich, and tell him I love him. But that is not enough.
As I pushed him in a wheelchair this past weekend, I wished the roles were reversed. I wished it was me and not him. I wished I could take it all away. And this isn’t because I am noble or selfless.
I wished I was the sick one because I don’t know how I am ever going to be ok after he is gone.