On June 28, 2011, one year ago today, my dad was diagnosed with large cell B lymphoma. It was just two weeks after I was diagnosed with small cell B lymphoma, a less aggressive form of cancer.
Unlike me, my dad needed treatment right away—tumor removal and chemotherapy. I was instructed to “wait and worry.” And that’s still what I do, one year later.
Since last fall, after Dad’s third chemo treatment, he has gotten sicker and sicker. He has had so many visits to the ER that I think he has been more in the hospital than out since Halloween.
Now I’m not a denial kind of person. I do things deliberately, consciously. But with every new development of my father’s myriad conditions—bleeding ulcer, sepsis, pneumonia, pseudomonas, aortic stenosis—I go to a place of obliteration, denial, debauchery. I see in him my future, whether that’s rational or not. It’s fairly easy to go to that place. In fact, after his first serious incident, when he was barely still alive and hardly able to talk, Dad said to me, “Don’t worry. This won’t happen to you.” It was probably one of his last truly lucid, unselfconscious moments.
But Dad is a salesman. I am used to the games he has played. And I have learned that honesty, no matter how sincere my dad appeared, was never his actual policy. Love was. Hope was.
With each of his trips to the hospital, I became more social—going to bars, concerts, clubs, friends’ houses. I upped my daily beer to two sometimes.
My dad fell on Monday night and wound up back in the hospital. I had company Tuesday night and went out with friends last night and tonight. One year after his diagnosis, we are now discussing how to treat the heart attack that, apparently, caused his fall.
I suppose we all deal with these things in our own ways, and who can say one way is proper. Should I lie around crying? Rest assured I do plenty of that.
In winter of 2008, I had back surgery. The slow recovery and medications and lack of sunlight and exercise created a suicide incubator. The night I broke my tooth (trying to force myself to eat something) had me plotting my own death: by motorcycle exhaust in the leaky garage.
Maybe this method of social stress release is smart. Maybe the constant reminders of friendship and laughter and the great taste of food and ale are how I keep from getting swallowed again by the darkest thoughts I’ve ever had.
So—who’s up for bowling?