I have myself never experienced the physical and emotional pain of cancer, nor would I ever understand what cancer warriors and survivors go through on a day to day basis. Even survivors are still fighting, fighting the constant voice of "what if" in the back of their mind. Fighting the feelings that everyday may be their last.
Cancer is an interesting demon, because it has an effect on everyone around the affected. It tries to ruin families, crush marriages and stomp relationships. It's literallly the biggest butthead on the planet. It's like that bully that pinches you on the bus, except that there isn't a detention in the word big enough to stop it. Cancer took my dad 5 years ago and I still think about it everyday. Cancer changes everyone. It has definatly changed me.
My dad was dignosed almost 7 years go. I'll never ever forget that day. He went to the doctor for a pain in his side. He worked on cars, so it must've been a pulled muscle. Boy was he wrong. An X-ray showed that his liver was 3 times the size and covered in Mets. But they knew that it wasn't the primary cause. Further testing found cancer mets on his lungs but that wasen't the primary source either. A colonoscopy (done by our family friend and neighbor who is a gastro-intestinal physician) revealed the truth. Stage 4 Colon cancer. At the time that meant a 5% survival rate. His colon was almost totally blocked, so immediate surgery was required.
All of this resulted from what he thought was a pain in his side.
The colon surgery was done and with 3 months of intense recovery, in and out of the hospital for infections, he began chemo. We made jokes about his fanny pack chemo, and how fashionable and trendy he was. Even through the pain he smiled. But those smiles covered a grim reality. His liver was in bad shape, and still enlarged, and his lungs were still covered in mets. My dad was a total jokester, and he loved meeting people. This was the man who never used a drive thru window or an ATM, because he wanted to interact with the people that came into his life, even if they were doing something so small...like making a hamburger. Chemo was his stage, his platform for joke telling, and "firting" with the nurses. Everyone knew his name, and even though my mom would fake eye roll when he would make a silly joke, she was with him every step of the way. My mom and him became closer than ever, almost inseperable. In that darkness, they found their love grow so much deeper with every moment. This was the perfect love that they had aways wanted.
During his two year long fight he also found something else. He made his way to Jesus Christ. My dad had always been a believer, but as a recovering alcoholic, I think part of him didn't believe that he deserved Christ's unconditional love . For the first time in my life, at the age of 20 my family attended church together, and it was a time I'll never forget. The sermon was about Christ's love and to never waste the moments that you have here on earth. We all left in tears, knowing that we were all riding this sick cancer rollercoaster, and cherishing every moment as well as fighting for more time.
His liver continued to be a problem, so the virdict was that the only way for more "time" was more surgery. The doctor removed 60% of his liver and the recovery was horrible. When you have anything that affects your liver enzymes, it is common to have hallucinations. Two straight months of my dad seeing animals and dropping needles that weren't there, reminded us (though we joked about it later) that the wrath of cancer still had it's grip on him. Though he came back around (and we laughed about those moments where he said things unrepeatable on the internet) we knew as we saw his once 300 pound body turn into a tiny, sick, frail man, that cancer was sucking the life out of him.
I do not know what it feels like to have cancer, but I know what it feels like to fight something that you can't see. Cancer makes everyone competitive. Even me, who is relatively laid back and non confrontational. It made me question doctors and demand tests. It made me think constantly "what is the next step", pushing to fight harder and harder. But it was not my fight. It was my dad's and he was fighting a losing battle, and he knew it. He would often tell us "I'm going to die" or "this is the last christmas/birthday/anniversary" that we will have together. We would always tell him to "stop thinking that way" or to "be positive", but really he was trying to prepre us. He became so humbled by cancer, that he would cry at any moment, not because he wasn't ready to go (in a spiritual sense, in fact, he longed to meet his creator), but because he wasn't ready to leave us. Selfishly we pushed harder wanting him to stay.
Cancer is amazing. It truely is. It has the power to make everyone crazy. It makes you learn things that no one (except those who go to college for many years to study the medical field) would even think to know about. It made me demand extra bood tests, and to memorize medications. It made me ask for cell counts (white, red) as cavalierly as I would ask for extra katsup on a hamburger. It pushes you to grow up and to realize what is important. As a college sophmore I resented cancer, because selfishly I couldn't enjoy everything that college has to offer. But then I would look at my best friend. MY HERO. He didn't resent cancer, he didn't hate cancer, he didn't dwell on the cancer. He tried his best to enjoy his 2 year fight. Going to car shows and spending time with those he loved. Nausous, pale, skinny and frail he pressed on with a chuckle and a smile. While I was dwelling on cancer, he pushed me not to waste my time, and to get out there and live. When I would break down about how I was scared for him to die and that I didn't want to lose him he would look at me with a smile and sing "Que Sera Sera (whatever will be will be)". It wasn't our plan. It wasn't in our hands. Hell, it wasn't even in cancer's hands anymore.
My dad never gave up. He faught and was on chemo until the day he went into the hospital for low blood pressure. He kept fighting even in his last surgery attempt to prolong his life,a leg amputation because of a blood clot. I'll never forget those last moments with my dad before the surgery. I couldn't understand his words, because they were mumbled and a whisper, but by the grip on my hand with his and the tears in his eyes we both knew that this was the end. He continued to try to tell me something and I continued to hold on until the moment that we reached the OR,. My dad and I had a weird bond, a daddy daughter bond that only him and I understood. A wet willy, practical joke, pie in the face, stay at home dad, best friend bond. The type that stayed up with me all night when my first love broke my heart and dried my tears, the type of bond that critiqued all of my dance routines. He was more than just my dad, he was my hero and my best friend. So at that moment, before his last surgery, I knew in my heart that he was telling me to never waste a moment of my life ever again. You see, he never wasted a moment of his cancer, yet he knew that before the cancer he had. Unfortunatly he never awoke from that surgery and my dad passed away 3 days later, peacefully in a coma, no longer fighting and no longer in pain. Jesus took him swiftly and peacefully, because He is stronger than Cancer.
Cancer Sucks.And I Hate it. But as much as I hate to give anything so horrible any credit, it made me a better person. It made me a better daughter (to my mom), a better sister and now a better wife and mommy. It made me not "sweat the small stuff" and to try to get over things and not to dwell on negativity. It taught me to stop and smell the roses, and it taught me to embrace every moment, because any moment could be my last, be it due to cancer or an accident or something else. It taught me to love like Jesus Christ and to fully accept him as my savior, and to live and raise my children in a way that would be pleasing to Him. More than anything it taught me to face every challange and obstical with a smile, because there will always be road blocks and suffering (a "cancer"), but true strength and positivity can always power through, whether it be on earth or in heaven.
Those lessons will never bring back my dad or let him meet his grandchildren. 5 years later I am still bitter, and I still hate Cancer more than ever. SO yea, CANCER SUCKS.
- This post is dedicated to my daddy,my lare (and all of those others who are fighting or have faught cancer)
"Que Sera Sera,
What ever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que Sera Sera"