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Living With Cancer

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I was watching “Big Fat Liar,” when I heard the buzz of an electric razor carry from the bathroom to the TV room. I knew my dad was in there, so my curiosity led me into his room. The big-framed mirror hung in perfect position to see into the bathroom. I watched as my dad swung his arm back across his head with razor in hand. I knew he had been losing patches of hair, but I had no idea it bothered him enough to shave his head. I watched as my dad’s appearance faded away, and my new dad, my cancer patient dad, entered. Once he was finished, I scurried out and back to the TV room so that I could save him any embarrassment of me seeing him before he was ready. I don’t think I had ever felt so bad for him until then, not even when he first told me about his disease.

I can still remember him telling me to this day. I was playing outside with neighbors, like I always did, when my parents called me inside. I didn’t think anything of it, but when I got inside my parents faces screamed uncertainty. I could now see we were about to have a big talk, and they questioned if I was ready or not. I remember hopping on the couch, wanting to get this talk over with. I never would have been able to guess what was coming.
My mom started by announcing, “Dad had been feeling very sick for a while, and made the decision to go to a doctor and find the cause.” She rambled about testing and doctors, but I just searched for answers on my Dad’s face. He had a hard time looking at me, but at the same time he was anxious for my reaction. Once my Mom had finished, my Dad timidly said, “I have a disease called cancer.” In all honesty, I didn’t know what that meant. It didn’t seem appropriate to ask, not now at least. I scrambled for words but nothing came out, no thoughts or feelings. I was so indifferent to the subject, much like my parents pretended to be.

A few months passed, and my Dad began to go through chemotherapy. I had never actually been to the center, but it became very obvious to me that it affected my Dad greatly. After every meal he became nauseous, and balancing sickness and work just led to exhaustion. Even though my father’s cancer had consumed my family, we never really talked about it. This left me confused but at the same time part of me was glad, what if I didn’t like what I learned? I think my parents did their best to shield the effects cancer had on my family. It was probably a smart plan, but I found its flaw when family friends came to visit. The Wiggins, the Davis, and the Robinson families would rotate bringing dinner to my parents out of sympathy. It was nice until the food made my Dad sick, and he would have to excuse himself to face the consequences of mixing chemotherapy with food. That affected me. It’s literally watching someone suffer in front of your eyes but you can’t do anything about it. No matter how hard you try to make the torture as painless as possible, there is nothing you can do to ease the pain. I never seriously thought that I would lose my dad, but sometimes it was easy for me to believe he would never get better. I gained a new appreciation for my dad when he was feeling well or in a good mood.

I cant believe that six short months before he was diagnosed, I had screamed at my Dad for bringing me lunch at school in front of everyone. The painful memory re-emerged in my mind often as I watched my dad become pale and thin. The caring and involved father that I was blessed with brought me a Subway meal for lunch. My dad was the only parent bringing lunch to school, and the slightest of difference from the other kids embarrassed me. Hoping for acceptance, I told him to leave and made a huge scene about throwing away the sandwich like the brat I was. But I didn’t have to worry about that anymore because he no longer had the time or energy to bring me lunch. There were other memories that fluttered in and out of my thoughts. I couldn’t help but think about things I had done, things that only a horrible, ungrateful daughter would do. At night I would lay in the dark in complete silence, regretting the past and praying for the future. I wished for a whole new life, one where everyone in my family was healthy. A life where my actions made my parents proud not disappointed.

As more time past, the topic became less sensitive during dinner. Dad would fill me in on his progress, and I could tell he was feeling better. You could see how much my mom lit up when he would talk about how good he felt. We all knew that this train wreck of an experience was about to be over, but nothing was official. My father started to talk to his doctors about testing for a completely cured report, which is exactly what he got.
A lot of families probably would have made a big hoopla of this good news, but not us. My parents told me that dad had been declared cancer free after I got home from school on a regular Tuesday afternoon. Although this was the outcome that I had expected, in fact had depended on, I was thrilled! I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a tight hug. I didn’t need to tell him that his painful experience had made me so much more grateful for family; the change in my appreciation for my family was written all over my face. Now was my opportunity to be that new daughter I had prayed for the chance to be. My parents took notice of my positive attitude and my efforts around the house. I never had a big epiphany as a changed child, but the little things that I did to help out the people around me all added up and proved that I had a new outlook on life. I never wanted to act in a way I would regret ever again, because I don’t know if I would get the chance to apologize.





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