The Moment that Forever Changed My Life
As I start to write this post I am not certain that I will actually share it. Not certain if I can or if now is the right time… 9 months ago life as I had come to know it for the past 29 years was forever changed. My dad had been to the doctor, which wasn’t anything new, he had been in and out of doctors offices my whole life but no one could ever figure out what was wrong. This time was different though, he had been to the doctor and had planned a three way call with my brother, sister and I. Something was wrong.
He told us he had cancer, esophageal cancer in fact, and at that point they didn’t know much else. One of the most important people in my life had cancer, it was as if I was dreaming. I wanted to wake up, I wanted it to be some cruel sick joke. I wanted it to be a mistake. How could my dad, a man I love so much, the best dad anyone could ask for, how could he have cancer?
I always wondered how I would react in a situation like this. I had been blessed with a normal, happy and comfortable life up until this point. My reaction was to cry of course, which I knew I would, but also to immediately ask questions, take charge… so now what? What are you going to do? What are the doctors going to do? When do you start treatment? Basically I wanted to know how this was going to be fixed and how long it would take to fix. I wanted things to be normal again and now.
We found out in February that the cancer was here to stay and that it had spread. It was time to face the fact that cancer had become a part of our reality.
It has been a nightmare; an awful, sickening, heart wrenching, unbelievable nightmare. You never think this is going to happen to you and even though it looks sad and hard in the movies there is nothing that can prepare you for just how terrible it really is. My heart aches when I think of all of the other people who have had to battle through or who are currently battling through this hell with their loved ones. Words can’t describe it…
It doesn’t get any easier either, in fact it seems to get harder and harder and I have learned a lot. Some things that I wish I could unlearn and some things that I am so grateful for. The biggest thing that I have learned is something that I have always known but that couldn’t be more true than it is now: family is everything. Family is all that you have. I’ve always known and believed this and I have been blessed with a family who loves each other so much, who would do anything for one another and who is as close as close can be. I also am doubly blessed in that I now have my own beautiful little family with three boys who I love and who love me unconditionally. Without family there is no way I would be able to get through this. My dad, my mom, sister and brother are the strongest people I know and I am so thankful that we are all in this together. My husband has been by my side for every second of this being so strong even though his own heart is aching all the while. My boys have no idea what is going on and their happiness and laughter and love is the light that shines through this hell. I have learned that family is the biggest gift you can be given in life and if you are lucky enough to have a beautiful one you need to hold on to it like your life depends on it because when things get hard that is all that you have.
I’ve also unfortunately watched as peoples true colours really come through… sometimes it’s amazing and sometimes it’s ugly and heart breaking. I understand that it’s hard to deal with friends who are going through difficult times. I understand that it’s hard to know what to say. I understand that life does go on despite what people are faced with. I understand that life is busy. I also understand that these are all excellent excuses. Friends are the second most important thing in life. After family you have your friends. It has been very difficult to see that some of the people we held nearest to our hearts have been unable to show their love and support during this time. It has been hard to watch how the initial out pouring of support has dwindled and how people have moved on with their own lives forgetting that you are still stuck dealing with the turmoil that is now your life. I know it might seem that I am asking for too much. That I am not being understanding of the fact that everyone has their own life to live. Trust me, I get that. The simplest of actions, however, can bring a beacon of light and hope to these dark days. As simple as sending a text message, leaving a voicemail, dropping off dinner or flowers, stopping to give you a hug, or dropping off a coffee. I’m not asking for them to be right there every second of every day but I am asking them to remember and to show that they are there. I am asking for their offers of, “let me know what I can do” to be genuine. Maybe my expectations are too high, I can’t help it though that’s how I was raised. Our family has been plagued with uncertainty, but something I can be certain of is that if I knew someone I loved was dealing with this I would be there without a doubt for as long as they needed and for whatever they needed. To me that is the right thing to do and the only thing to do. It’s been very hard to realize that not everyone thinks that way, not even your closest friends. Amidst the hard there has been good too. We have some amazing people in our lives that have been here and continue to be here for us. I love them and thank them with my whole heart. Their support is so meaningful, special and heart warming. Some people will be there for you, some won’t. Let those who can’t handle it go and embrace the ones who can, it’s all you can do.
This journey we are facing is far from over. I’ve learned more than I can write in this post. Some things that are too hard to share… I don’t know what will happen or how we will get through. I know that it isn’t going to be easy. I know I will learn so much more and I will grow as a woman, a mother, sister, daughter and wife. I know that I will never be the same as I was before this moment changed life forever.
I have learned so much and it is hard to be vulnerable. When we speak our greatest truth we run the risk of either being inundated with love or being disappointed with people’s response. Without taking that risk, however, we lose the chance to experience love in its purest form. I leave you with this: kiss your mom and dad whenever you get the chance. Call your sister or brother to tell them that you love them. Spend an extra half hour listening to your grandparent’s life lessons, even if you’ve heard the same story a million times. Buy a coffee for the stranger behind you that seems to be having a rough day. It’s worth it – trust me.
And, oh yeah…. f$!k you cancer.