On a weekday in mid-October, I got a call from my mom telling me that my dad was getting some extra tests run after his doctor heard fluid on his lung during a regular check up. Though my heart stopped, the logical (possibly naive?) side of me took a few breaths and knew I needed to wait for more information. Since that phone call, there have been a flurry of different tests, sometimes feeling painstakingly slow to get results from, but this week we received the pathology results from tissue biopsy and we finally have an answer.
My dad has been diagnosed with Stage III Mesothelioma.
Cancer. Writing that knocks the wind out of me. Writing this right now has me in tears, as if it somehow makes it more real, but it is real. And I’m so broken inside. I’m sharing this with you because the love and support I’ve received as I’ve started opening up to friends about this is giving me the strength I need to support my family so if you are the praying kind, or the good vibe kind, I am in desperate need of them right now.
Mesothelioma is a super rare cancer, one I feel like I’ve become an expert in over the past month, since the doctor first told us he believed that is what we were facing. There are less than 3,000 cases diagnosed in the US a year. 80% of those cases are tied to asbestos exposure, which to our knowledge, Dad has no history of. For the past eight weeks I’ve been through a whirlwind of emotions from confusion and disbelief, to anger and heartbreak, and somehow even gratitude and hope. My dad is a really healthy guy who has always taken good care of himself and I’m trying to make sense of all of this without giving into the dark emotion of feeling like this all just really isn’t fair. But since when has cancer ever been fair?
As you can probably tell, I’m still struggling with wrapping my head around everything. Some days I’m OK and on other days I’ve broken down in tears in the middle of the grocery store. But this isn’t about me– except for the fact that my dad is such a huge part of who I am. And those words don’t even do our bond justice.
Some of you have commented that you feel you know my dad. Some of you read his articles and many of you see his comments on my posts. He is (and always has been) my number one fan, encouraging me to go after anything I want, believing in me, and keeping me grounded with solid, applicable advice along the way. We’ve always shared the closest of bonds and when people comment that I take after my dad, I wear that compliment with pride.
I talked with him for a while yesterday, because I would never share any of this without his OK. Talking to him is therapy in itself because it reminds me that cancer is what he has, not who he is. He’s still my dad- full of insight, strength, love, compassion, humor, and a dedication to a positive, grateful mindset.
So where are we now? My mom and dad have an appointment with a mesothelioma specialist next week and I am hopeful we’ll have more information and clarity after that.
I can’t share this heartbreak without also acknowledging the good I’ve witnessed during the past 8 weeks too. My belief that most people are good has been strengthened beyond belief. The outpouring of love, prayers, and support has brought me to my knees. Though I truly hate being on this side of compassion, I can attest that it is not overrated. From soup being delivered to my door, to my wonderful family offering to watch the girls anytime I need (which I did this past Monday as I drove into Atlanta to have dinner with my mom, dad, and brother), to text messages that just say I’m praying for you and you’re on my mind, to friends understanding last minute cancellations, to friends in the medical profession helping me decipher confusing medical jargon, to emails from some of you full of understanding and love, to a dear friend showing up at my doorstep in penguin pajamas, carrying apple pie and wine. I never knew my heart could be so broken and so full at the same time.
I don’t really know how to tie things up here, but do know that I am grateful. Grateful for my incredible family, grateful for your support and love, and grateful for having this space to share my life. So truly, thank you. And if you can you relate or are facing similar circumstances, please know I am desperately praying for strength for you as well. <3