Words to Live By

Today marks the beginning of my Dad’s third round of chemotherapy. (In case you missed it, he was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma which is a Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.)  I texted him this morning and wished him luck and cheerfully reminded him that after tomorrow, he is half way through his treatments. Three down, three to go.

Guys, I honestly cannot convey how proud of him I am. I didn’t know what to expect at the beginning of this journey with him and very clearly, he didn’t either. Through the process so far, I have reconnected with my long, lost half sister to keep her updated, worked on getting them to talk again and have been in touch near daily with my Dad. My Dad, that I went 2.5 years without speaking to once. Not on purpose mind you, we just…didn’t talk.  I honestly cannot fathom that the way things stand right now.

I text him and email him regularly. I call him every couple weeks to check in and man, is he just kicking ass and taking names. Considering that he is getting some pretty strong shit and has no insurance so sees the numbers quickly adding up, I can’t believe how strong he is.When I talk to him, other than a few days post white-cell-boosting-shot where he feels like he has an AWFUL flu, he is just…tired. That’s it. He’s not ill. He’s not bemoaning how he is. He is outside ‘trying to be productive’. He is shopping with his girlfriend. He is watching his friends all chip in to help him with firewood and cooking. Dad said yesterday that he almost forgot he was sick during the last couple days, he felt so good, until he saw or felt the massive port on his chest. I mean REALLY NOW!? He has cancer cells in his bone marrow for crying out loud and he’s just all “oh yeah, I felt so good I almost forgot I had cancer.” He has such an amazing attitude about it all. Stellar I tell you. I just cannot explain my pride to you.  I have that DNA in me. How can I ever think of quitting when I have THAT in me?

Just as an aside, cancer ain’t cheap folks. If you have insurance, or live in a country with a single payer system, please thank your lucky stars that you don’t have to heal and recover with hundreds of thousands of medical bills piled on top of you. It is a travesty, this system of ours, where one shot can cost $14,000 in one town, $7,000 in another and yet $4,500 in the same town but a hospital over. Or a whole $2,500 in Canada. I know, I digress but…ugh. My Dad. I worry.

I know I’ve written about Dad before on the blog.  Some of you might have even seen this piece that I am incredibly proud of. It’s just that our relationship continues to grow and morph into something I never could have possibly expected. A loving relationship with zero expectations.  Dad doesn’t expect me to call every 5 days or text daily. He doesn’t expect emails from me five times a week and doesn’t get bent out of shape if I don’t respond. I don’t expect any of those things from him either. We text, call or email when we are thinking of one another and it feels special that way. Nothing is ever a duty or a chore. It’s never something I have to do and because of that, it’s a joy. It’s a joy to text him or call because I know there are just no strings and no expectations attached.

That sort of relationship seems so rare. Even when you think something has no strings, there is guilt if you don’t keep the contact, or hurt when they don’t keep up with  you. It happens. I’ve had so much of that in my life. I treasure the friends that I don’t keep up with but when I call, they love me just the same and are happy to hear from me. This is what it’s like with my Dad.  He checks in before each chemo treatment to see how I’m doing so he has ‘good thoughts’ before he goes in. I am hoping I can help heal his relationship with my sister too, since the silence is purely due to issues with anxiety over expectations. When I spoke with her on the phone for the first time in over 20 years, she seemed shocked that I didn’t care about the 20 years. The truth was, I didn’t. What does it matter? I was just happy to talk to her and share our Dad’s struggles with her. Dad wasn’t expectant either that she rekindle her relationship with him. He was just happy WE were talking.  I spend a lot of time lately thinking about this relationship and how I can create or cultivate that freedom and that love in other relationships.

Just today, Dad and I checked in. He’s tired after the six hour treatment today. Naturally. He asked how I was and I was honest – I am anxious, tired and stressed. His response was so sweet guys, I have to share it with you. His words, knowing how soft he is, how loving and sensitive he is – actually brought tears to my eyes.

“Hang in there. Everything will work out with a little patience and understanding. It is all new. I love you. You will find your way.”

Thanks, Dad. I just love you a lot.

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