When Cancer Happens…

I’ve been avoiding my blog for a while…. I’ve sat down to write so many times and couldn’t, because all I wanted to write about was something that wasn’t mine to share, yet. I felt a little like a fraud – posting happy things, and getting excited about the holidays when the truth was, while I am happy, there is a dark cloud that’s been looming. So here’s what’s been going on, I wanted to tell the story from the side of a child – watching a parent go through something unimaginable. Yet it is ALL around us; we all know someone that has been affected by it. It changes you, going through it…

One week ago marked my dad’s last day of radiation treatment; he rang the bell and has begun the healing process, hallelujah! This is something I haven’t talked about, but it’s something that has been weighing heavily on my mind and heart for a while now. We are so incredibly proud of him for his strength, bravery and perseverance during treatment, which included both chemotherapy & radiation. It’s a reason to celebrate!

Two years ago on Christmas Eve, we were driving to Verizon to renew our plans and upgrade to new cell phones. It was just my dad, brother and I in the car and it was going to be a busy day so we had to make it quick at the store. I was sitting in the back seat; probably scrolling through social media when my dad said that he had to tell us something and that there was no good time or easy way to say it. He told us that he had cancer. He had WHAT?! I remember my phone falling out of my hands and onto the floor of the car with a thud. I remember my eyes welling with tears and frantically blinking so those tears wouldn’t fall. I was 29 years old, and my dad had cancer. We got to Verizon and I caught my brother’s eye as we walked into the store – we were shell-shocked. But we pulled it together and went about our business, faces flushed and eyes bloodshot – I have no idea what those workers thought of us that day.

Christmas that year was hard – we struggled with sharing the news to those people closest to us but found reassurance in our parents’ solid plan for action. They had known for a while and had waited to tell us until they knew the course of treatment. At first I was upset they hadn’t told us right away… but the more I thought about it, I realized why. They did this because though my brother, sister and I act strong, we are worriers and over thinkers and we internalize our anxiety. My mom and dad knew that it would be comforting to know that there was a solid, smart plan in place and that we were going to get through this. And so, we did. There were a few months of extreme worry and spinning on uncertainty, but he did it – he beat it. Some necessary actions were taken, and some preventative ones too… but eventually we got the green light that the cancer was gone, and we all moved on, so happy to put it all behind us; just a blip on the radar of our long lives.

Fast-forward two years…

It still feels like yesterday in that car, and here we are approaching Christmas Eve – and we’re living it again, after wiping the slate clean.

It was October 2nd – a Sunday. We had had a full weekend of fun with Casey’s family – on Saturday we had found out that we would be welcoming a niece into the world in January and were overjoyed about it. That morning we had joined in on Casey’s great uncle’s birthday party – it was a great day, filled with lots of love. My mom had called early in the day and asked if she and my dad could come for a visit – as they did a lot on Sundays so I didn’t think anything of it. Dane was turning 7 months old that week and had just started to crawl so I was happy to have them come and watch how much he’d be changing. We were running late and my parents beat us to our house so they were watching tv when we got there. I remember that there was a weird tension, kind of hard to explain in words – it sort of felt like everyone was holding their breath. And then it came – the phrase that I had hoped I would never hear again. There isn’t a good time or an easy way to say this, but the cancer is back. Once again, the tears welled and my heart sank but I tried, for everyone’s sake to keep my shit together. As they had done two years before, my parents had been meeting with doctors and putting together a treatment plan – they had everything laid out and were at a point where they were confident. It’s a weird thing, when someone knows something heavy for a lot longer than you, and then you find out – the difference in perspective the two parties can have. Human gut-reaction is to freak out, right? Mine certainly is… but the fact that they had already had time to process, and were at a calm place with the news, was extremely comforting to me. They laid out the course of treatment, and emphasized the positive parts for us, and were rock solid in their choice of words.

When they left – I crumbled into Casey’s arms and let myself cry for a long time. I needed time to process it all and I knew I had to be strong for our family. There were a lot of ups and downs throughout treatment for me. I think the hardest part was being away from my dad, not being able to spend time with him and share our joyful little boy with him. Dane went through a patch for a while there where he was sick with just about everything you can imagine between stomach bugs to sinus infections and pink eye. Chemo and radiation absolutely kill your immune system and we couldn’t risk getting dad sick, meaning long stretches of not seeing each other.

Since I had started a new job the week after Labor Day, I still didn’t really know my coworkers well, and didn’t feel comfortable sharing such a personal piece of my life just yet so I internalized a lot of my worries, just like I typically do. I missed a lot of my old coworkers and their presence in my life – many who had been there for me during the first round with cancer and I found myself in a pretty dark place. At about week 3 of treatment, I still hadn’t been able to see my dad and so we planned a get together at our house, which ended up being cancelled (in hindsight, I don’t know why we just didn’t go to my parents house to make it easier – but they say hindsight is 20/20, right?) Well, when I got the news that they wouldn’t be coming down, something broke inside of me. I think all of those weeks of worry and holding it in just came rushing out. I remember feeling so out of control and I’m not sure I’ve ever cried as hard as I did that day. I couldn’t catch my breath and ended up sobbing in my closet for longer than I want to share. That day there was no ‘holding my shit together’ – only pure, raw emotion. But I needed to let it out, for my own good and sanity. That day was my worst day during the treatment process… since then it’s been a lot of holding strong and encouraging everyone in the family to keep going. I think the saving grace through it all has been our family text messages – every week we shared pictures and videos and words of encouragement, we were a team and would make it through this in one piece.

I have been blown away by my dad’s resilience through the process. He has always been my rock, but this has been a hard test to pass, and he’s done so with grace and positivity. We’re a week out of treatment and he’s getting stronger and better each day. There is still more to come in the new year, and more treatments and challenges, but we’re through the darkest days… and this Christmas we’re even more thankful for what we have, and WHO we have. We’re all looking towards the future and putting all of this behind us once again, just another blip on the radar of life.

 

 

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Wisconsin girl, blogger, wife and mama. Lover of food, red wine and laughs

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