When you have to go through it the first time, everything is hell. Imagine going through it not once but twice. My dad was diagnosed with colon cancer in the summer of 2015. I remember the day I found out vividly, as if it happened just this week; even though it did, again.
The first time, I found out the evening before my junior prom. I was with one of my best friends at a nail salon; finishing up our last few prom related errands before the night we had been anticipating for a while, to be spent with our lovely boyfriends. The weather was humid and sticky, just how I like it during the spring. Once my nails were finally done, (this was my first real trip to the salon, and I learned quickly that I don’t have the patience to sit still in a chair for as long as I did) I was told to sit under the heat lamp. I’m sitting there with my friend, laughing about the simplest things. Existing. Enjoying. I felt my phone buzzing, and I could tell by the look on the nail artist’s face that she would disapprove my answering, since my nails were not even close to dry yet. I picked up anyway; it was my mom after all.
I hadn’t been told what was happening, it was just a simple phone call to ask when I would be home, as most moms would do on any given day. An uneasy feeling painted my insides and as my friend dropped me off at home, part of me didn’t want to go inside. I hadn’t even been told anything was wrong, and I somehow already knew. I walked into my house only to see my mom and dad sitting on the couch, very calmly. It was then I was told the diagnosis, and I didn’t know how to feel. I felt extremely numb. I was numb until the furious car ride to my boyfriend’s house, where I just completely fell apart. There’s an odd beauty in getting away from something you don’t want to face, even for just a little while. You would think, “Hey idiot, your dad was just diagnosed with cancer, go get back in there and hug him or something,” but sometimes the best you can do for yourself is just disappear for a brief time to reflect and attempt to comprehend what really is happening. The fact that I was going to now live with a “parent with cancer,” life shuddered across my skin repeatedly. All I could do that night was melt into my boyfriend’s arms and just cry. I cried and cried and cried as if that would make the diagnosis go away.
Prom wasn’t easy for me. I almost didn’t go, since the news was still so fresh and relevant in my mind. (May I remind you that prom was not even 24 hours after I found out). I didn’t enjoy the process as every girl should; I needed to redo my makeup over and over since the tears just kept coming. Once I got to the dance, my boyfriend made it incredibly special for me, and cancer itself slipped my mind for the night, as well as the next day when we visited his family out of town for our post prom festivities. I got through my first prom, graduation (not my own, but the choir sang in it each year and I was a junior) where I sobbed the entire time; falling into the arms of my two best friends for support and comfort, and I eventually got through the entire summer to follow. Seeing my dad’s health decline; coming home frequently to nurses bombarding our house, listening to him get sick throughout the night, watching him drop all the weight and charisma, and sending him off back to the hospital in an ambulance only to be checked in for an entire month; I managed to survive off daily yoga, lots of running, and consistent writing, even if it seemed impossible to simply be OK at the time. It’s amazing what your body will do if you tell it.
Two years later, and it’s back. This time, I’m an entirely different kind of numb. Announcing a returned illness in someone you love is something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. You don’t want to tell anyone, but there’s people you feel need to know. Writing is my only outlet at this point, because I’m exhausted from explaining. Cancer can’t be anticipated, and once it gets going, it’s difficult to stop. I am thankful for technology, and for doctors, because they're hoping they caught it early again. As of now, we’re waiting. Waiting to discover if it will be just as poor an experience as last time. To find out if he’ll ever be able to just live as opposed to get poked and prodded with needles, and scanned multiple times a year for the duration of his life. Waiting to see if anything can even be done since it’s returned in an extremely risky spot. We’re waiting, and it’s fine, because it’s not like I have prom tomorrow, similarly to the last time. I just have a future; a time I see with my dad as a healthy individual. I’m praying for strength; for both him and I. For my family. Here’s to living off yoga, running, and writing. Let’s kick cancer’s ass a second time.