Thursday, June 14, 2012

Learning to love (while still hating) my dad's cancer diagnosis

Published on KSL.com (click HERE for the link)

Me, my parents and my sister on Memorial Day weekend -- right before Dad began treatments
I was sitting across from my dad in a restaurant several weeks ago when he told me that his cancer (which had been eradicated a year ago) was back. As if that weren’t bad enough, a different kind of cancer had been discovered elsewhere in his body.

Dad then explained how devastated he had been at the diagnosis until the phrase “come what may, and love it” ran through his mind repeatedly. After an intense inward struggle, he had decided to embrace that concept and would be at peace with — would even love — whatever might come his way.

“I’m ready,” he announced with a smile.

I looked at him over taco salad and enchiladas, trying to let his words sink in — especially that one word that didn’t fit.

Love that my dad has stage 3 lung cancer? And will soon be undergoing aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments and surgeries? And that his hair will fall out? And that his golf game will surely suffer? And that his statistical chances of living beyond the next five years are suddenly 23 percent?

I cried and prayed and shook my fist at God (just a little). I acknowledged that it could be much worse but it sure could be better and that I most definitely did not like this.

Once the fist-shaking subsided, my kids came immediately to mind. From the second my first child took her first breath, love has been a given. But I certainly don’t always like them. In fact, I can honestly say that I hate some things that happen to or with them, some things they choose to say or do.

I even cry and pray and shake my fist at God (just a little) on account of less-than-ideal circumstances with my kids. Somehow, though, the word "love" always fits.

Come what may, I love my kids. There is so very much to love.

So here’s the short list of what I can love about my dad.

I love that he is a great man — honest, good, kind and faithful. I love that he cherishes my mom, his kids and grandkids. I love that he attends a staggering number of my kids’ extracurricular events, and that he calls and invites them individually to go fishing or shooting hoops or to lunch. I love when Dad frequently shares his stories, convictions and faith.

I am also glad for the cancer-related experiences that I can love — or at the very least laugh at.

Like when my parents and their friends went out to lunch, dubbing it Dad’s "pre-biopsy lunch." The very idea of such a lunch made me smile, but what made me laugh was when my mom, upon telling me about their party of sorts, inadvertently called it Dad’s "pre-autopsy lunch."

And I laughed even more when my brother (who lives on the East Coast and sees my parents once or twice a year) flew in for a surprise visit, knocked on my parents’ front door and was greeted by my dad. “Yes, sir?” my dad asked, very politely.

As luck would have it, Dad had just finished a chemotherapy treatment. So the fact that he didn’t recognize his own son was quickly and irrefutably chalked up to chemo brain fog (which, it turns out, is an actual side effect). Still, we all know that Mom will never in a million years — or even in five years — let him live it down.

Cancer or not, some stories are simply too good not to tell. And love. And laugh at.

I’ve decided that I don’t have to love Dad’s diagnosis. I even think it’s OK if I hate it sometimes.

But come what may, I can still love.

There is so very much to love.
Dad and my brother who surprised him at the door.

My parents with grandkids in Florida on spring break

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