They sat down on the edge of my bed and my mom said "we don't know much yet, but dad has cancer." Cancer. That word stung like a thousand searing knives. That word I had heard so many times in my life suddenly had a new meaning. I immediately burst into tears and just kept repeating "no" "how" and "why". I cried for days. The days turned into weeks and those weeks turned into months. I didn't tell my best friends for weeks because I couldn't admit it. I literally could not form the words in my mouth.
Over the next several weeks, more information came in. More news always felt like worse news. The tears continued to flow. I felt like I lived in a constant state of puffy, blood-shot eyes. The next 17 months were the worst months of my life. I watched the cancer ravage my dad's body, but never his spirit. When he finally took his last breath in the arms of me, my mom, and my brother, there was an eerie calm that came over the room. It is a feeling I don't know that I will ever be able to put to words. Our hearts shattered, but we knew my dad's painful battle was over.
What I didn't know is that my fight with cancer was long from over. I have felt pain and anger in my heart every day for the last seven years. It is a battle I still fight every single day. I keep waiting for it to get easier, but with each passing day, I believe more and more that it never will.
Cancer not only robbed me of my dad, but it robbed me of my future. It robbed me of all of the happiest moments in my life. Yes, I was accepted to and graduated from a great nursing school, but my dad wasn't there to see it. I started my dream job right out of college, but my dad wasn't there to celebrate it. I bought a house at 23, but my dad wasn't there to give me advice or help me with projects. Someday I will marry the man of my dreams, but my dad won't be there to walk me down the aisle and give us his blessing. My children will never be held in the arms of the grandfather that would have loved and spoiled them with every fiber of his being. All of the happiest moments in my life always bring me back to the worst and most painful moment of my life.
As if living with pain and anger every single day weren't enough, I also live in fear. There has been so much cancer in my family that I am just waiting for the day I'm told I have it too. I'm afraid of the diagnosis. I'm afraid of the battle. I'm afraid for my family that will have to watch me go through it.
Cancer has also forced me into solidarity. I can't talk about the pain and anger and fear. It makes people feel awkward and uncomfortable because they don't know what to say and they don't understand the extent of the words that come out of my mouth, so instead they shy away from the topic and I'm left to sit in silence. Or people try to hard. "He's with you in spirit." "Don't let the past control your future." "You can't live your life in fear." I know you're trying, and THANK YOU, but I'd rather you say absolutely nothing. Those bandaid phrases hurt and make me feel even more angry and isolated. I don't need you to say anything. I just need you to listen. I need you to give me a hug and let me cry. I know you don't get it, and I'm so glad you don't. I hope you NEVER understand what I'm talking about. I hope you NEVER fight the demons I fight every single day.