This January marked one year since my aunt lost her battle with breast cancer.
It’s also four years of my father being treated for cancer.
And the cherry on top of cancer treatment, this past year my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer … for a second time.
We are no acquaintances to cancer or to the process.
Between my grandparents both being diagnosed within two weeks of each other while I was in high school. My aunt having breast cancer twice. My dad’s seemingly never ending battle with cancer. Plus the other close relatives to boot. We’ve been there and done that at this point.
Frankly, cancer has become coffee talk in our house.
Weekly discussions are about who has seen what doctor. What treatment plans have changed. Was there another scan? So on and so on. All in all, it’s just life for us.
Years ago it seemed like cancer would be a quick in and out situation. My father’s prognosis was so simple. It would all end so quickly.
He started out so well that we took a big family trip to Puerto Rico so he could see where his mother was from. He’s the only cancer patient I know who was allowed to travel like we did. Dad’s cancer was that cut and dry and simple. He was going to have this treatment and then it would all be over … at least until it came back and we’d start over again.
Yeah, thank you squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck for your lovely ability to return without an invite.
At the end of that first summer of cancer treatment, Dad was gearing up for his first (and now only round because it was so awful) of radiation. Something went wrong and our “handling it wonderfully” father suddenly had pneumonia and was on life support in ICU.
For weeks he was left in a medical induced coma to try and let his body heal.
For weeks we watched numbers on those machines barely inch their way into the acceptable range. Never in my life have I been so excited to see someone’s awful blood pressure rise to a still awful blood pressure range.
Eventually, miraculously, he got better. It was an act of God that he came out of that okay. (Well, as okay as someone can be in that situation. The time off chemo set him back and the surgery that should have already happened didn’t, allowing the cancer to grow when we were hoping for removal.)
One happy memory happened during those ICU days. It also shows just A) how sweet his nurses were and B) just how sure they were that he wouldn’t live.
We were scheduled to find out the sex of my first baby and Dad was still in a coma. Luckily, that week they began decreasing his meds and allowing him to wake up. The day came to find out the gender and my dad was completely awake. The best part being that his nurses allowed us to break the no cell phone rule and FaceTime during the appointment so he could find out first hand!
Dad carrying on about how he could see that it was a boy before the ultrasound tech is a moment I’ll cherish forever. Even if that moment took place somewhere I could stand to never visit again.
Fast forward 3 years. Many hospital stays. Many rounds of chemo. A new cancer drug being tried out. And missing holidays to try to not get him sick.
We still have him around.
That’s more than I thought I’d be able to say a few years ago.
Then again, I didn’t think this would be my attitude. I didn’t think I’d learn to be thankful.
It started out just being thankful for Dad being awake and for FaceTime. It turned into being thankful his voice sounded stronger.
This year we realized we were thankful for this past year and that he wasn’t admitted to the hospital once.
At Christmas, my mother and I were talking about this whole cancer journey. Yes, he still basically lives at that oncologist office. But he has a quality of life. He’s happy. He still has his sense of humor.
It’s been a rough few years, and more so for him than any of us. But his struggles have taught me to be thankful for what I have now.
I appreciate any day that I can call him and he is piddling in the yard with his chickens. I’m grateful for family gatherings.
Outside of just being more thankful in everyday life. I find I’m less negative.
I started this journey out with a much more negative mood. That changed though, now it’s more of a “he’s good so I’m good” attitude towards the situation.
Through this God has taught me to be content with what I have and not hope for extra. I’ve learned to love my people and not take them for granted. He’s also taken me down a notch on the attitude scale; I can have a positive happy attitude in an easily negative unhappy life situation.
This might have just been a case of Emily rambling, but I hope someone out there can relate. On the roller-coaster ride called cancer, it’s better to be thankful for each moment than dwell in the overall situation or possible unwanted outcome.