I have neglected in writing this out of fear that I may appear selfish to those in my family, or close friends of ours; a personal narrative of topics that affect so many people within our community of loved ones. Not only affecting them but heavily burdening the first man I ever loved - my father. I will just say it short and sweet - my dad has cancer.
Okay, I’ll let you process that.
Lord knows I had to.
My platform is and always will be the world through my eyes - that is the only story that I can tell. There is peace in knowing my story and working out my processes. When I think of how many hearts are breaking, I am immediately inclined to go pick up the falling pieces. If I do find an ounce of peace that I can share, I run to share it with many who are involved.
Lately, most of my days have been spent calling and caring for members that I love, if I am not leaning on my support system in Washington. I say the following only so that I may give myself permission for unapologetic self-reflection; writing this and future posts regarding this topic for me alone.
I pause. I have not many words to say. I have spent a week accepting my reality, my worst fear, and the one thing I knew would bring me flat on my face. You see, I have felt this coming for most of my life. I stuffed it down through therapy, having professionals tell me that I am only grieving the loss of my mother and so worried about abandonment that I would deeply worry that Dad would receive this diagnosis. I talked to friends about how I knew within the first year of mine and Will’s marriage, I would get that phone call. Even going as far to tell Will that I deeply felt like something terrible is going happen to one of our family members if/when we received international orders. Do I put that guilt on myself that I willed my father’s illness? Absolutely not. All I know is that my mother and I share this insane gut feeling about things, and usually, they come true. If I could even get myself on Google to look at what that gut feeling is, I would - but, since the news...I have sworn myself off of the search engine. That same desperate feeling that I would have to look through an ex’s phone to see if they were cheating on me - that is what drives my fingers to click the words I crave more information on. So, I don’t touch that app. Period.
I want to protect my father with his details of this, so that is another reason why I will not go into many topics regarding his private information. I can only imagine being so out of control of things - I would also guard the one thing I could, which is information being released. To that, I ask your prayers and good thoughts for his peace and tranquility - not to mention good health and happiness (if I could take a shot of vodka and yell “L’Chaim”, I would).
It’s times like these that I never thought I would call upon the strength of my ancestors - as dramatic as that sounds. For some reason, I heard the words I dreaded, I processed through my emotions, and I acknowledge the Jewish blood that runs fast through mine and my dad’s veins. I subconsciously called upon my cousins and great-uncle who survived the concentration camps and (like a true Jew) remembered the years that my family “sweated through the desert for forty years with Moses”. LOL! Desperate times call for desperate measures, but that last part makes me laugh as I remember the over-dramatic and grandiose representations that my father would display when he talked about Jewish suffering. I smile at the ridiculousness of his gestures as he would curl into a Yente position - actually looking like his grandmother, from photos. An entertainer through and through.
I feel like I have no tears left to cry, but your body has a way of reminding you that you always do. My lips are chapped - maybe expelled tears are the reason? I would love just one answer to life. I am literally days away from my move to Bahrain and found out this news the day before my husband left, ahead of me. I dread writing this next part because I know the guilt that my dad has. But if I can normalize emotions for just one person, I know he will agree that it is worth it.
When I first heard, an immediate panic attack lasted for around ten minutes on the floor of our kitchen, while my husband gathered information for me on the phone. I stared at the cabinet, rocking myself back and forth, yelling to the Navy (who definitely was not listening) “he can’t leave tomorrow”...over and over again. We sat together and the deeply voiced wails permeated the walls of our home - this was not my life...I was watching those “fucking cancer movies”.
While the intentions on all parts were pure and I do not hold my father accountable for any decisions he was making in the state he was; I was left in the dark from Friday until Monday - his sole choice. We were in the midst of our PCS as four days prior to the last bit of our goods were packed and shipped to a foreign land. I sat in what felt like the emptiest home, without my comfy bed to fall back on - returning to the words that will haunt me for years to come.
This is the part of this story where I cannot tell you that I processed it all, stood up, and said: “LET’S KICK CANCER’S ASS”. Nope! In the day before my husband left, I plopped myself on our last piece of furniture (that will be sold before I leave) and he laid on half of my body. He knew exactly where to place himself after years of telling him “I have anxiety! Lay on top of me!!!”, just to feel the weight of someone nearly squishing the thoughts out of my mind. Maybe I should buy a weighted blanket, but it took me half the day to actually realize that he had been doing just that. But, he knew all of the right steps, and he implemented them - like someone had given him a “Read This If Candice’s Dad Gets Cancer” book.
Not only did I find out he had cancer, but I was told there would be major news regarding his cancer to come out at any point, that afternoon. So, not only did I process...I waited for what felt like the fate of our family. I looked at Will and said, “I don’t think I can go to dinner with our friends tonight”. He said I could and that I needed to, “life goes on, regardless if he has cancer or not”. I let out a few more wails as there was no part of me that wanted to accept this reality.
By no means had I received a death sentencing of my father’s condition in that phone call. But, my reaction was years of worry and tears, telling my best friend at the moment, “I won’t have any parents left. My mom...that selfish bitch”. And that is probably where the universe laughed and said, “let’s learn a little lesson about your mother.”
See, my mom spiraled out of control after her father died of……..wait for it……….cancer! I have tried to wrack my head for years into understanding the psyche of someone who could not see that their children needed her - choosing her own pain and addiction over her family. But, by day three when I looked down and saw that my sweet animals had no water (for probably three hours) and that they were staring at me - I realized in that moment that I had not truly looked at them since receiving the news. I looked down at Tiki in sobs saying, “I’m so so sorry”. Hugging his deliciously soft neck, I realized, this is how she started. Right there, I promised myself no vices. I cut back my caffeine intake, as it hurts my anxiety on a good day, and swore off any sips of alcohol while my dad is going through treatment. If I was going to do this, I would do it correctly. I promised myself that if there would be any addiction, it would be to something that fuels my body. So, fitness was introduced and a return back to a desire for consciousness and awareness. I was subconsciously bound to see this diagnosis for the love that I had heard many say presents itself in the valleys of pain.
While I have many stories throughout this past week, it is part of my process to admit to the world that my father has cancer. It is also my duty to myself to tell everyone that I am more scared than I have ever been in my entire life. But, I am no longer afraid of anything. No move, no material item; nothing in this world can affect me like the words I heard on Monday morning. To that, I now live in willingness to see and an openness to receive tiny miracles of tenderness. I am so filled with love, understanding, and compassion. That type of awareness that can only come when you are brought back up from your deepest pain and fears. While I truly don’t know how long it’s been since I washed my hair, I do know that my dad is the strongest freaking Jew you will meet. He is one of the most stubborn men I know, and dammit...I am so proud that he is. That trait will carry him through his success.
So, we march on as a family and I am fighting through loneliness. But, pain is relative, I have been this lonely before, and I came back out of the pits of his diagnosis to feel the sunshine on my face - I just can’t wait to feel them with my dad by my side, again.
Travel will be put on hold, I will spend much time in Washington State, and I will honestly live in constant fear of the unknown. But, I realize that there is a difference between fear and being afraid - for I have no doubts in my father, no doubts in the amazing medical treatment that my family will ensure for him, and no doubts that life brings so much beauty in the worst times of your life.
This man has an army of people that love him, and he requests only one thing from you all - prayers.
So, THANK YOU - on his behalf.