The words seemed to spin around in the air – into my head and then my heart.
“I have cancer.”
That’s what my dad told me over the phone a few weeks ago. As the words began to uneasily settle down into my brain, I found myself flooded with questions, the biggest one being – again?
My dad had quite a fight with colon cancer four years ago. It was something that made me grateful I had previously reconnected with him after a couple years of being estranged. I used to often think, what if my dad dies and I wasn’t there for him? What if I never forgave him for the past?
He survived, and it was nothing short of a miracle given the size of the tumor and that it was found late in the game.
I guess I thought it was over with. That we wouldn’t be back here four years later with yet a different kind of cancer. Prostate this time. But yet, there I was on the phone with him as he delivered the news.
I started firing off question after question at him. He had very few answers. Given that our relationship is still a bit rocky from the past, I tend to shut down very easily from him. When our conversation ended, I did all I could do at that point.
I cried not only because I was scared, angry and still had many unanswered questions but also because of the things I am still holding onto from the past. It’s best described as a mix of resentment, hurt and guilt.
The guilt comes from the more recent years.
See, I can never quite keep those walls completely down. They are certainly smaller than they used to be but it’s amazing how their height can fluctuate. Despite his efforts in the last few years, I still find myself fighting off those mixed emotions and often focusing on the negative of the past.
Despite those struggles, I knew I wanted to be there for him however I could. Over the weeks following, my dad texted me with more answers to my questions. The thing that stands out the most with my dad through his second fight with cancer is that he is not one to be a victim. He takes it for what it is, and he fights it. He doesn’t ask for anything and he remains incredibly optimistic.
Yesterday was his first treatment session. I invited myself along so I could be there for him and meet the doctors. While in the waiting room of the cancer treatment center, the most amazing thing happened between the two of us.
We laughed together.
And, then it hit me. I hadn’t genuinely allowed myself to laugh with him in years. I was so focused on being guarded that even on good days when I was getting along with him, I was still very much this fake version of myself that wouldn’t allow myself to fully enjoy the moment.
Sure, I had laughed with him before. But it hadn’t been genuine.
It felt so amazing. It was like this additional weight had been lifted from me that I didn’t even know was there. I felt a sense of relief and ease as the afternoon carried on and we met with his health care providers. I left the hospital feeling different. I cannot describe it other than that.
I don’t know what God has in store for my dad. I am optimistic along with my dad and the medical staff that his chances of survival are good. I will hold onto that as he continues treatment over the next eight weeks. But mostly, I will hang onto that moment in the waiting room. I will let myself have as many more moments like that as possible with him.
I trust in God and that he has led us to this point for a reason.
And I will continue picking at that wall that tends to creep up even when I don’t intend it to.