Storytime | My Experience With Cancer
So this post is going to be a little different. I know that you’re probably used to reading the cute and fun stuff like my DIYs, adventures and constant weddings, but not this time. This time I wanted to write something more personal to me and be a little more real. I wanted to challenge myself to open up and to share. I tend to keep a lot of things to myself… and by things I mean the more emotional shit. I have a habit of bottling it all up and hiding behind a plastered smile even to some of my closest friends. So it’s storytime once again, which means no cute pictures or fun tips. Just me and my story.
It was the week of Halloween my freshmen year of college. I remember not knowing what to be and since Halloween is like four days in college, there was some extra pressure. I don’t remember what day it was, maybe Tuesday? I think I had gotten back from practice and was just chillin in the room across the hall with my friends.
That’s when I got a call from an unknown caller. I normally don’t answer my phone if it’s someone I don’t know, but for some reason I felt the urge to answer it. Well, actually I had my friend answer it. It turned out to be my dad’s wife (not my mom because my parents are divorced). So I took the phone and left the room so I wouldn’t bother anyone and proceeded into the stairway of T-hall (that was my dorm).
I don’t remember the exact conversation, but it was bad. My dad had a stroke, was rushed to the ER and after some tests/scans the doctor said it was probably brain cancer.
I remember crying a lot and at some point my friends came out into the stairway and sat with me. Then I had to call my step sister (who is my dad’s biological daughter) and my mom to break the news to them. Then I’m pretty sure I called my coach and told her I would have to miss practice. And lastly, I remember having one of my friends email all my teachers for me about missing class.
My parents have been divorced since my freshmen year of high school and it wasn’t pretty. I remember a lot of stuff from the months before they got divorced, but we won’t go into too much detail. All you need to know is that my dad was unfaithful and it really pissed me off. I’m pretty sure my mom forgave him before I did and for awhile (this is going to sound awful) I wanted karma to hit him.
Anyway, I did forgive my dad eventually and was “at peace” with the whole thing. Everyone makes mistakes, right?
He was a pilot, so when my parents got divorced I didn’t see him often. I was so used to rarely seeing him that when my dad broke the news that he was moving to California with his new wife, it didn’t seem to faze me. I just figured he’d get some flights to MN or I could fly out to see him.
the story continues
Back to the story. So the next day I went to my morning class… (looking back I have no idea why the hell I did that). Then I packed up and headed to the airport with my sister. From there, we went directly to the hospital.
He was in rough shape. He was weak and pretty loopy from all the meds. I couldn’t tell if he knew what was going on, but he acted like he was okay-again I think it was the meds talking. In the two days we were there we didn’t really learn much. We only knew the broad picture which was that he had stage three brain cancer and was going to receive a lot of treatment in the near future.
For the rest of my freshmen year I wrote him letters every Sunday to update him on life here and distract him from life in CA. I remember the one time he wrote back I couldn’t read his handwriting.
He retired as a pilot. Which killed him. It was the one thing he truly loved doing and now because of his health, he was forced to retire a few years earlier then expected. For Christmas I went out to see him and I drew this giant timeline of his career with planes and everything on it. I framed it and watched him cry as he opened it on Christmas Eve.
As for me, the whole thing made my freshmen year somewhat difficult and more stressful. I became more emotional and would cry easily at stupid things. In my dorm room I would silently cry myself to sleep on nights when I was somewhat stressed out. In my classes and at dance practices I found myself not mentally present and often drifting off to, well nowhere really.
Most of me was stressed out by the fact that he was all the way in California. I couldn’t drive to see him after class and check in on him. I never knew exactly how he was doing and I wanted to be there whenever the doctors came in. I had absolutely no control in the situation and as a Type A person, that really drove me nuts.
A tiny part of me felt guilty. Remember in the backstory when I said I had wanted his karma to come? Yea. That really did happen and freshmen year I felt guilty for ever thinking it. I knew that it wasn’t my fault that he had cancer, but I felt guilty for having that mindset about him and for wishing for something so negative, even though it was years ago.
the current state
It’s been almost two years now and it’s hard to say what’s going on over there (California). The last thing I heard was that he’s still receiving chemotherapy and luckily it hasn’t gotten worse, but I never really know exactly what’s going on. I think that’s because all dads need to be invincible. Ya know? It’s like you grow up thinking your parents are superheroes or something.
It’s weird because sometimes he seems fine and other times he acts like the world is ending. I haven’t seen him in over a year and so it's hard to judge what's actually going on.
I guess the thing that really scares me is the unknown. The questions and stupid ‘what if’ scenarios that I make up in my head. I’m scared that he won’t be there when I graduate from college. I’m scared that he won’t walk me down the aisle at my wedding to give me away. I’m scared that he won’t get to see my kids; his grandchildren. I’m scared of all the things he’s going to miss out on in my life.
For anyone who lost a parent too soon, I admire you for being strong. I haven’t even physically lost my father yet and I already feel like a slight mess.
p.s. It took a lot to write and more to share it, so I ask that you are respectful and considerate of my thoughts. I also hope that this has given you a little insight into my life on a more personal level.