How many of you are struggling with cancer in some shape form or fashion? Are you fighting the disease yourself and getting really sick and tired of being sick and tired? Do you have a loved one who is fighting the disease and you would gladly take their place if you thought that bargaining with God would allow you to do this?
Let’s put it out there. Cancer really sucks. It zaps the life right out of a person. There’s no nice way to say the word Cancer unless you are born with that as a zodiac sign. I mentioned in an earlier blog that one of the women I go to church with is fighting cancer hard. If anyone can beat it, I believe she will. Up until my Dad was diagnosed, cancer wasn’t something that my family had to deal with.
Dad had gotten a little slower and he lost his voice literally. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s but the doctor who diagnosed him never did an MRI, he never ran any other tests. He just had him walk down the hall and said “Yep it’s Parkinson’s.” Four years later Dad was diagnosed with a Stage IV glioma of the brain. None of us knew what to think. This was a man who was very rarely sick and when the doctors told us what this was, Dad started crying, I was in shock, and my mom having a medical background in nursing took charge of his treatment.
Dad was a part of all the treatment options. He didn’t have a voice but I had said he could squeeze my hand once for yes and twice for no. That worked like a charm until he lost almost all function in his body. The doctors and staff treated him like a number for the most part. It was only after my mom was able to confront some of the medical personnel in a way that was professional but insistent did some of the attitudes change. I will never forget one of the physicians looked at me and tried to scold me in front of the other residents for having my father go through a procedure called the cyberknife. It’s less intrusive than chemo and helped to shrink the tumor. This doctor was so arrogant that wiping the smirk off his face was a pleasure when I said to him that since he was so insistent on putting a price tag on human life that perhaps he should find another profession since all he cared about was money. Every resident got silent. I then told the doctor that we were doing everything we could to get dad off of sugar because sugar feeds brain tumors. He didn’t realize what we were trying to accomplish.
Taking care of a parent is a struggle no matter how you look at it but when that parent loses mobility and the ability to speak for themselves, your voice becomes more critical than ever. Being plagued with a responsibility of knowing when to ask for help and when to do it yourself can become exhausting. Yet I wouldn’t have traded that time for anything. I asked Dad once what it was like for him. I asked him if it was like having a jigsaw puzzle in your brain with all the pieces scattered and not being able to place them correctly. He said that was exactly like what he was going through.
A couple of very dear friends helped me to take care of him those last few months. I had to go to the local Costco to get his medicine and they agreed to sit with him while I went to get the meds. I asked Dad if he was going to be ok with that while I was gone. This was before he completely lost his voice. He looked me dead in the eye and said “Sure. I’m in between a blonde and brunette.” We all busted out laughing. My Dad was a pastor but he had a sharp wit about him. He loved to joke about watching the girls with the short shorts just to get a rise out of my mom and me. We knew he was kidding so before anyone gets offended he just liked to joke around.
Dad asked more questions than anyone I had ever known and he was my biggest defender. If he was here today, I think one of the questions that he would ask anyone fighting cancer is what methods of treatment have you not looked into? Cancer not only exhausts the person fighting it physically and mentally but it can also be taxing on those around that person. It’s really important to keep up strength on all affected parties. Chemotherapy was not an option we chose. For the type of cancer Dad had, it would have put him in more agony than it was worth to both him and us but that isn’t true for everyone. It depends on the kinds of cancer you deal with. It’s really important to keep lines of communication open with your doctor and even more important to do research.
I recently lost a cousin to cancer. It’s been six years since I lost my Dad and now that I’ve lost her to that disease I can honestly say that my opinion of cancer is stronger than ever. Cancer really sucks. Its effects will linger to anyone that it touches and for those who are able to conquer it, I think that it’s a blessing. I know that there is always reasons for those who don’t beat the disease but it’s not always reasons that we have to like.
Thank God I had friends and family to help me through some of the rough days. I can’t even to begin to imagine those who don’t have a type of support group and how difficult their journey is. Keeping everything bottled up can make for a very tough time. I hope if you are alone in your fight that you reach out to someone to help you through the battle. Fighting the disease is hard enough when you have others to help you but when you fight alone, it’s an overwhelming feeling of overabundance and not in a good way.
I don’t have the answers. What I do have is a gratitude that cancer allowed me to see a glimpse of the good and the bad. The only good thing that came out of dad’s cancer was that it changed me forever. I no longer take any day for granted. I’m truly grateful for the people in my life and the opportunity to be able to write down the things that happened so that I can share with others what my journey has been like up to this point. Some of you have already reached out and given me feedback and I’m very grateful for that assistance. We only learn if we are willing to learn. Cancer took my Dad’s body. It didn’t take his spirit and I will not let it take mine either. No matter what my future holds, I refuse to let cancer rule my life. I’m aware of the risks of getting cancer. I’m also aware that I may also be fighting it one day. The choice is mine on how I live. The effects that the disease placed on my past have definitely shown me a future that I want to determine.
My friends, Darla and Debbie, who are professional caregivers showed me that we don’t have the guarantees in this world. But the time that we get with our loved ones we have to make count. And sometimes we have to be able to laugh when cancer isn’t a laughing matter. Sometimes we have to bawl our eyes out, other times we dance. The biggest thing is to live. Not with regret but live as if cancer had no effect on our time here on earth. I really hope all of you never have to fight any form of cancer. But if you do, don’t let it win without a fight. Every single one of you is worth it.