I Suppose I Should Give an Update on that Other Thing

My dad’s cancer.

He went through a whole bunch of tests to figure out where it originated and if it existed elsewhere. The first tests came back negative for other sites and inconclusive for a diagnosis. Later tests showed possible activity in near-by lymph nodes. Then they did a biopsy on the lump they could feel, from which they determined that he has melanoma. The doctors have still been unable to find a primary site on the surface of the skin, which his doctors claim is a good thing. He went for a second oppinion (at Dana Farber in Boston) and both doctors/hospitals came back with the same course of action: surgery to cut out both the definitely cancerous lymph node and a few more in the same area for testing and as a preventative measure. Then he will be on a heavy course of drugs, administered intravenously every day for a month at the hospital, and then three times a week for a year at home. Meanwhile, my dad can now feel more than one lump in his armpit.

My own internet research….granted, I am not a doctor… indicates to me that the prognosis for melanoma in multiple lymph nodes isn’t great. My mother, on the other hand, who had a very small cancerous spot removed from her leg and has been declared “cured”, seems to think “melanoma is no big deal; look at me.” Um, mom, yours was very different. She may be in denial; I’m not sure.

My dad had surgery this morning, and I spoke with my mother on my lunch break. He was out of surgery, but not yet awake. The doctor had told my mother that there was a lot more damaged tissue in there to be cut out than he had anticipated, and the doctors had been afraid to cut much more out, without damaging the functionality of his arm. Sounds to me like they didn’t get it all. And it sounds aggressive. He needs to recover from surgery (a week maybe?) before they can start the drugs, but the drugs are only supposed to clean up a few remaining cells, not whole tumors. If the drugs don’t work, or his body can’t tolerate them, the doctors will put him on chemotherapy.

To me, this situation sounds worse every time I hear about it. My mother is worried about how he is going to work during the treatment (he plans on it) and how their boat is going to get put away for the winter (My brother will take care of it). I’m wondering if I should move back home and apply to grad school in Boston, as he asked me to do last winter, which seems like a tremendous sacrifice. How do I balance my life and my needs with the needs of a family that hasn’t always been supportive of me? A couple people (including my therapist) have said that this time should be used for me (possibly single-handedly) to repair the family bonds. But I’m convinced it can’t be one sided; somehow they need to accept who I am, because nobody could ever live up to the expectations they have set for me. And now I’m whining about me, which makes me sound selfish. Where is the middle ground?

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1 Response to “I Suppose I Should Give an Update on that Other Thing”


  1. 1 MSeeker2 September 28, 2009 at 11:04 am

    There are some things in life you have control over & some things you don’t. Forgiving the past is something that is well within your means, but unfortunately cancer is not. Love ’em or leave ’em, they are still your family. Whether your father’s days are numbers or he leads a long life, it’s still an opportunity to somehow take steps to repair the family bonds. In the process you do have to realize that their complete ‘approval’ of you may not be part of the equation, so keep that in mind. There are no rights or wrongs, but you do have to keep trying (at least for your own sanity!). If for no other reason then do it for your Dad – you can’t predict his future & you may not have another chance. Just don’t worry so much about their ultimate acceptance; focus on everything YOU can possibly do. If you genuinely do your best, then at least you’ll be able to live w/ the outcome…


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