Saying the things, part II

This is a message that my dad sent after my post last week. (It was intended as a comment, but was too large to post as such.) The candid retelling of his own experience through the last year, and beyond, is too profound not to share...


Sara, you are a strong, intelligent, capable, and loving person. You need no affirmation from social media. The blog isn't for others (though it will--and I do say WILL--touch others hearts like mine) as much as it is for you.

And now comes my own "saying the things" that I've held in since your diagnosis. It started with a conversation with the Lord... "God, you've got to be shitting me! F’ing cancer again? Can't you just leave me and my family out of the cancer loop? Haven't I had to deal with this disease long enough?"

Yeah. Hearing you had cancer made the memory tapes play over and over again as an 11 year old boy watching his mother die of cancer...and as an adult watching my grandfather die of cancer...and my Aunt Marg die of cancer (all in the same family, no less). Then a month after Marg died, “Pop-Pop”, your mother's dad was diagnosed with cancer and died 9 months later. I honestly thought I might have shaken the cancer hound. Then it was my turn with a malignant melanoma on my head. Cancer wasn’t done. Other family members and close friends have been diagnosed with cancer, some treated with success, others I've stood by their bed as they took their last breath. Fourteen years after my step-sister Cheryl’s death, I had the hopeful thought that cancer was done with my family. But it wasn’t. It was your turn.

I was in no way prepared for that. The first thought that went through my mind (and I couldn't help it even after hearing the "success rate" for thyroid cancer) was this: "I'm going to lose my own daughter." (insert string of colorful metaphors here). Then on the day of your surgery while driving from Indy to Lexington, I got a text from Curt saying that it was definitely cancer and worse than expected. I felt like my entire body was shot up with Novocain. I was literally numb. I honestly don't remember much of the drive from Cincinnati to Lexington after that news. All I could think was, "It's bad...really bad."

My brain immediately vaulted to worse-case scenario. I began to think of how Mom and I could get positions in Lexington and move there so we could help Curt take care of the kids when you were gone. (It's sad that I even thought that.) I got to the hospital and found Curt and Tony in the surgery waiting room. I had seen that look on their faces before because I had seen in on my own face looking into a mirror as a child and as an adult. Tony had lost his wife and Curt his mother to cancer. I realized all three of us were in the same boat—that God forsaken cancer boat. I don't remember any conversations the rest of that morning except when the surgeon came out and met with us. He described what he had done and what he believed the prognosis was--very good. Even though I could see relief on Curt and Tony's face, I wasn't so easily sold.

I waited in your hospital room for you to arrive from recovery. When you did, I wanted to grab you and hold you tight, and not let you go—but you wouldn’t have appreciated that too much. You were able to muster a smile and talk with us. I was trying to be supportive on the outside, but on the inside, my guts had been through a blender. I was frightened of what the road ahead would hold for you, and if I could even go on, if it one day became a dead-end, no pun intended.

Since then, you’ve been through two more scans and treatments. And now the clock is ticking toward April when you will have yet another scan and blood work to discover if this…this…thing…this cancer will have been defeated. As much as I want to be hopeful that there will be good news, I am having difficulty trying to stay positive. But it’s not necessarily that you won’t be declared officially “in remission.” It’s that even if you are cured, when will the cancer beast next rear its ugly, nasty, merciless head?

The answer to that last question can only be, “Who knows?” In a way, for the last 49 years, I have been living with that question and answer. I don’t know who will next be diagnosed. I don’t know who will have to go through treatments. I don’t know who will be in remission…and who will succumb to this heinous disease. I have officiated at more funerals due to cancer than I would ever want to.

But I do know that on this side of eternity, life is not perfect. People I know and care about will be stricken with cancer. So you may be wondering what hope do I cling to in the days of facing the current and unknown future of “The Big C”?

It’s the verse from Romans 8:28 that has become my mantra: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
In spite of the fact that cancer has been woven into my life in a way I can’t unravel, I have certainly been blessed beyond all blessings imaginable with my family. The love and support we have for each other through the thick and thin of life is priceless. And that in itself is more ginormous than anything cancer can throw at me.

I apologize for my comment that has turned into its own “blog”, but I wanted to share with you and “say the things” I have never said before to you or to anyone else. There is, however, one thing I have said before that I need to say again…I love you very, very much Sara Elizabeth! XOXO Dad.

Thank you, Dad. I love you too.


em said...

Love you both so much. xoxo

Laura said...

Blessed to know you and your family.