Friday, September 09, 2011

My Dad has Cancer

You never want to find yourself saying -- or in this case writing -- this, but many of us find it inevitable that someone we love will become sick, and sometimes the ominous "c" word comes up.

Yesterday, I found out that my father has cancer, and today it was made clear that his cancer is in stage 4. That basically means it has expanded beyond where it started, and is running amuck throughout his body. This also means there is a long road ahead to minimize the damage, and maximize his lifespan.

I never really thought about this, that some day my parents won't be around any longer. How silly that sounds, because it's so obvious. But hell... my dad's mom is still around (granted, she's 99, and the mere fact she's around is a miracle) but I've never considered how this would feel... knowing that I'll (most likely) outlive my parents, and will have to get along without them.

I've never really suffered a loss or grieved before. I'm not sure I know how. But I think, however it's done, the process has already started, and that alone makes me feel a little guilty. I mean... I'm supposed to be strong, thinking positively, keeping my chin up. It's not all about me, after all. It's not like I want any pity or sympathy. But I turn inward, and can't help feeling like I'm about to lose someone who has meant so much to me, the world will not be the same afterward.

I want Dad to be at my wedding (I've recently become engaged to a wonderful woman). I want him to be around when Colton gets married, and eventually has kids. I want him to see all that stuff in the future, and for us to be able to laugh and talk about all the things we talk about. I don't want him to go.

One thing I have to learn is acceptance. I have to learn that there are realities you can't change by wishful thinking. But that's so against my nature, I have to catch myself, and evaluate what's going through my head, and that takes a huge amount of energy. Sometimes, all I want to do is stop thinking about anything.

So I play video games. Or do sudoku puzzles. Whatever distracts the mind is good. Work stuff is good for that. Good thing my work-life is thriving right now. It provides ample distraction. But distraction isn't good if it shuts you down so much that you find you're shutting everyone else out of your life.

I made that mistake last week... Tami kept asking me how I was, and I was always "okay" which was obviously me putting on a happy face. The truth is, I didn't really know how I was. I had shut off so much that I couldn't make myself feel much of anything. That's such a weird feeling, or weird in that there is no feeling. Being numb.

Then last night I started a group therapy session that meets weekly. Interestingly enough, it was one of those coincidences, where the therapy wasn't supposed to be about what it ended up being about, but thank gawd it was there. Now I'm amazed at a few things I learned. First of all, what we're learning in therapy has a lot to do with crisis management, and dealing with intense emotions/urges/impulses. It turns out that often it's best to not "dive deeply" into your hurting emotions right away... they tend to feed on themselves and amplify. A lot of the folks in our group, though I'm not supposed to talk about anything specific, are struggling with issues that make them want to hurt themselves... so curbing emotional extremes is important.

I happen to be quite good at many of the techniques discussed in the group therapy session. For example, I'm very good at distraction. When you can distract the mind, it gets "a break" from the intense emotion, and can regulate a bit better, rather than go down the rat hole. I've found that I already do this. Puzzles are great, and I love online Texas Hold 'em poker (with fake money, of course... though if it was real money, I could probably retire by now, ha ha). Another technique is comparing/contrasting... or put another way, "counting blessings" -- and I've learned to do this since meeting Tami. Just hearing the other folks' stories who were sitting in the room was enough for me to see that my world wasn't the only one with a lot of clouds and rain.

So, that's me... I'm still here, and as far as I know, I'm still healthy. My Dad is sick, but right now he sounds and acts as healthy as ever. And I can hear the storm rolling in from the distance. It's time to be strong. But it's also time to prepare for the storm, and what it will do to me.


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