“Knowing, may be a blessing, but it’s a difficult blessing to bare at times.”
This was the phrase I said to a acquaintance of mine in the a car ride to smuggle greenery for a certain wedding, as I expressed to her my dad’s cancer diagnosis, and the reason I had returned to Southern California in the first place. Inevitably I gave her a reader’s digest update on his treatment…
Nearly a month ago I braced myself for a new update of how chemotherapy was favoring my dad. Since then, I feel more stable than I did after hearing how six rounds of chemo have favored my dad. Initially, I was in a fog, and admittedly suppressed the disappointment of the reality of the uncertainty. It’s not looking promising.
Back story: when my dad received news of his final diagnosis there were three cancer lumps on his lung; after the first three chemo sessions, doctors determined that the three had indeed gone down in size, but that unexpectedly a new (larger and faster growing) one had developed. So for chemo sessions 4, 5, and 6 doctors adjusted the chemo according. Well, much to our dismay, adjusted chemo hadn’t reaped the results any of us had hoped for.
Even though I felt the possibility of the worst on a grim July rainy evening when I heard on a cross country phone call, stage 4; lung cancer; terminal; and 12 months to live, all in the same breath before collapsing in a sorrowful agony, I’m finding there’s really not all that much I can do to prepare myself for this roller coaster of fateful cancer updates. It still fazes me – deeply.
With so much at stake at this point my dad asked the doctor, “You told me in July my life expectancy was 12 months at best. Given the treatment that I’ve gone through, can you reassess the expectancy?” With so many factors in play, (including the risk of his cancer spreading to other parts of his body, and the fact that cancer is dangerously close to his heart) the the doctor simply shrugged his shoulders. Not the kind of response to help calm nerves.
At this point, my dad and mom were given the option to participate in a cancer treatment study. The risk is, out of the three treatment groups he runs the risk of being in the placebo group; which would effectively do nothing to treat him. The other option was to continue chemotherapy, which would be more aggressive, and in turn make him increasingly fatigued, in more in pain and extra nauseous; not something any of have an easy time with. In truth, neither option, nor any option for that matter comes without a weighed emotional effect.
As it turns out my folks decided in December to continue chemotherapy for my dad at the end of this month. With time off of treatment that deems my dad exhausted much of the time, he now has a bit more energy to do things he’s always wanted to do. So him and my mom jetted out for Europe for two weeks, with destinations including Paris, and Rome. It’s a valuable lesson, as you look at the end of your life, what haven’t you done that you’ve always wanted to.
Indeed as I’ve confided this roller coaster of sorts to some valued friends they have said to me all the while, but more so since the last update, “take this time to really spend with your dad; you have that time that so many others don’t,” or “clear the air, or talk about things that need closure from your relationship with your dad,” or “write heartfelt letters to your dad – anything that you’ve ever wanted to tell him, but for whatever reason haven’t,” and “get to know your dad better; find out things about his life that you don’t know yet”
Which brings me back to my first statement of this post, “Knowing, may be a blessing, but it’s a difficult blessing to bare at times.” Am I grateful for this time to spend quality time with my dad; yes. Does it make the fateful and very possible fate easier; no. Am I eager to clear the air with my dad on certain issues; sure. Does it make it watching him suffer under treatment to stretch his life a bit longer easier; not at all. Do I want to write a heartfelt something to him; definitely! Do I appreciate seeing my dad overly fatigued and in pain as treatment side effects lingers; hell no! Nonetheless, I am blessed to have this time to make right with my dad, because the truth is so many others loose someone they love suddenly, without warning, and the grief of should’a would’a could’a often haunts.
As the continuation of treatment lumes ahead, there’s nothing that is more important than this time, right now.