The fear of losing my family - that is a paralyzing fear. Something happening to Addison, or Derek, or my parents. That is a fear that makes my heart race and my hands shake. It's a fear that I don't have control over - I can't fix it, or fight it, or make it disappear with a couple double A batteries.
I have been maintaining a Caring Bridge website for my dad since he got sick - it's been a way to keep friends and family in the loop with his treatment and the ups and downs we have endured in the past six weeks. I try to keep it focused on dad, which after blogging shamelessly about myself for so long, is more difficult than it might sound. I focus on the positive, the medical details, the gratitude that I feel for the people - many whom I have never even met - who have come out to show their support in so many different ways.
That all being said - I am terrified. My dad is sick. My 66 year old dad, who climbs mountains, plays tennis obsessively, hikes and bikes and does EVERYTHING... has cancer. Six weeks ago, we thought he had slipped a disc when he was hiking with friends. It would have been inconvenient because it would mean another surgery and I was annoyed that he pushed himself so hard and got hurt just as they were coming back to Washington. I was annoyed at my dad. And he had cancer. Granted, I didn't know it until the next week, but I still feel guiltly for it. I feel horrible that I was irritated that he was going to be laid up during the one summer they had planned to spend at home and we wouldn't get to go to Hat or boating or camping because he'd be recovering. How selfish AM I?? I know that my best friend would tell me I didn't know, I had know way of knowing, and that I can't beat myself up for it (and I love you for that Tori) but the idea still rips at my heart. After the diagnosis, for a while, things still seemed kind of normal. We knew that dad's back was really messed up and when I checked him out of the hospital last time, I remember thinking - we can do this. He's the same person, he's still pretty strong, he's going to be the same person all throughout this process. I came back a week later and he could hardly move, he could hardly speak, and he couldn't do anything without help. My dad, my superhero... needed help. Then, I came back another week or so later to find him in the hospital, with tubes coming out of everywhere, unable to speak, thirty pounds lighter, dozing in and out of consciousness. That was the moment when I realized how bad things really were... are. So I did what I do best when I freak out - I took over. I got him whatever he needed from the nurses, I cheered him on to get him out of bed, I cleaned up when he coughed up phlegm from the pneumonia, I questioned the doctors, I held his hand, I paid bills. I did whatever I could to just DO something because sitting there and absorbing the enormity of the situation was too much for me.
Now I'm home and I'm two hours away from being able to do something that makes me feel like I'm helping in any sort of way and it's frustrating as all hell. It's everything I can do to not call mom or the hospital 50 times a day to make sure that things are okay. I'm set to graduate in four weeks and I have three horrifically difficult classes standing in my way but I can't focus on the research I need to be doing. I'm disorganized to the point of not knowing what assignments I have due or when (which is NOT like me) and almost to the point of not caring. I just want to pick up my house, my husband, and my daughter and set us all down right next to the hospital so I can be there whenever I need to be without the worry of $25 a day parking, horrendous gas prices getting over the pass, Addison needing a nap, school work, and the fifty thousand other things that I'm obsessing over at the moment.
I. am. terrified. of. losing. my. dad.
I know that he will pull through this - he has to. He is stronger than cancer will ever be... but he is my dad and I don't want him to even have to fight this fight. It's not fair - it's not supposed to happen to him... the star quarterback, the Vietnam veteran, the man who taught me how to ride a bike and shoot a gun, who walked me down the aisle at my wedding and told me during our dance together that as long as I was happy, all the wedding craziness was worth every penny, the man who has a secret handshake with my baby girl. This isn't supposed to happen to him.
I have cried twice since we found out about the cancer. The night my mom called and confirmed what we had feared, I sobbed on Derek shoulder for most of the night. And now, as I write this, I'm crying again. Maybe it's because it's the first time I've really let myself feel how terrifying this whole journey is. I don't know... I just thought that after everything that this family has had to endure so far this year, that somewhere along the line, we'd catch a break. Apparently, life has other plans. So, I will cry tonight and let it out. I will write my research paper tomorrow and I will drive to Seattle on Monday and be with dad as much as I can in two short days. And for now, that's all I can do. But if life feels the need to see how strong we are in this family, then fine. We can take it. We don't have any other choice.