This is the first time I’m reflecting on everything, so forgive me if my thoughts are jumbled.
When I was home during this last Christmas break, my dad complained of stomach problems. Nothing really out of the ordinary – he was spending a bit more time sleeping and we made fun of him for being in the bathroom for so long.
On December 30th, my stepmom Jen decided he needed to see his doctor after there was blood in his stool. They found nothing wrong, but decided to hold him for a colonoscopy just to be safe. I flew out to Seattle to spend the rest of my break with my sister, brother, and former stepmother Kathy. I was crying as I left the hospital for the airport because I hate hospitals and my anxious nature makes me think the worst of all situations. I waited nervously for updates in Seattle.
My dad texted me on New Year’s Eve while Kathy was at the grocery store. He told me he loved me, which freaked me out (he’s not the most affectionate man). He asked me if I was by myself, which freaked me out even more. I told him he was scaring me. Jen then texted me saying he was falling asleep because of the painkillers. She said she didn’t want to call me until someone was with me. At this point I was expecting the worst so I demanded that she call me.
Jen told me that they had found a large cancerous tumor on my dad’s colon and they would have to remove it by emergency surgery. At this I completely broke down. I asked dumb questions like What could have caused this? Jen told me that they didn’t know much at that time and to just be patient and pray.
When I called Kathy I could barely get out any words between my sobs. She immediately came home and rubbed my back while I cried. We spent New Year’s Eve watching Harry Potter and eating ice cream.
I was happy to be with my siblings when I found out the most devastating news I’ve ever received, but I wish I had been with my dad. I regret not trusting my instincts to stay in Kansas City until he was out of the hospital. Though considering my panic attack reaction when I did find out, I might not have been very helpful. On my flight home to DC I paid for wifi and spent hours browsing cancer message boards. I also wanted to be able to talk to my mom in case I started feeling panicked again.
I wanted to come home immediately to help out. Everyone told me this was not the best idea – I needed to finish my AmeriCorps year in DC, finish my lease, receive my education stipend, etc. To me, none of that mattered. Since I lost my dearest aunt of a sudden heart attack in 2012, I have vowed to spend as much time as possible with family. I will always regret not coming home immediately and having more time with him.
My dad’s surgery went extremely well, but unfortunately there were still many tumors on his liver. He has been having chemo treatments since January and the tumors have shrank in half. During the last week of July he will have another CT scan to reevaluate.
I decided to move home as soon as my service term ended. I am beginning grad school in the fall and looking for full-time work so that I can move out on my own. There are still some things that will take a while to get used to, such as my dad’s extreme sensitivity to cold and having to be careful when I hug him because I don’t want to hurt the port on his chest. I am not quite ready to take him to treatment yet but hopefully I can help out with that soon, as Jen has to miss work every other week to do that and I want to be able to help more.
I am hoping to start seeing a therapist soon because as you can imagine, this has exacerbated my anxiety to the extreme. I am constantly worried about him and I can’t stop thinking about what would happen if he were gone. I wake up crying uncontrollably in the middle of the night. My dad is the most important person in my life and I never, ever thought that I would lose him. I’m looking for any tips and suggestions about living through this and how I can best support him and my stepmom when I’m falling apart myself.
Thanks for listening,