A daughter reflects her reaction as a teenager on her dad’s cancer experience.
It’s 11:40 am and I’m in a mall in Barcelona with my best friend. But my worry is also with me. It is 2009 and I am 19 years old. Deep inside of me I know everything is fine and it’s just my mind that is playing a dirty trick on me.
“My dad has not been feeling well lately,” I think while a cold sweat comes over me. “Look at this tie!” – my friend grabs my arm and looks at me, concerned – “Hey, it’ll be fine, just have fun for now”
But the phone rings and my mom is sobbing. She confirms what I was fearing: “It’s stage two, there is hope for him,” she tells me. I can’t speak a word, this is going too fast.
What an irony, being in the mall helping my friend to find a gift for her dad and there I am, not even daring to drop a tear, fearing for my hero.
When I take a look back, I’m able to see myself truly as a human being in its whole meaning, as all of my fears arose, even ones I thought I didn’t have.
I could have just blamed puberty and immaturity for it. However, I can say now looking back that my dad’s illness suppressed all of my virtues and highlighted my defects, with selfishness leading the way.
I go one day a few months later to see my dad. I can feel already the summer haze sitting on my shoulders. But then I remember it’s raining outside and this heat comes from my worst thoughts about my dad. “I’ll be back” – I whisper to my mom, then I leave the waiting room of the hospital.
The cafeteria is packed. All I think about as I order a beer is the number of people taking a breakand enjoying their meals. “This a place of sadness,” I remember telling to myself, “but they don’t have their fathers in the operating room right now.”
Later on I found out that some of them had their children getting shaved for surgery, others had recently lost their parents.
I couldn’t spend time with him. Instead, I would rather wait, whether it was good or bad. I could hardly see beyond my disgrace, as this is the way I was approaching the cancer my dad was going through.
Self-interest was taking over in my life and I was using it as an excuse to get through my pain. I decided to blindfold myself instead of carrying the weight of the situation.
Six years later, it still frightens me when I see that young version of myself, daring to make all those decisions and ignoring the impact they were having on my family.
But at that point, none of that mattered to me at all.
There I was, breathing fast just about to see him again. But this time it was going to be the worst version of my dad I had ever seen.
“He’s still under sedation, come in and say hi.” I hear my mom saying while I prepare myself to get in the ICU room.
I gathered up the mettle that I need and I see my dad with several tubes all over his upper part. My dad cries for more than five minutes. Right away, I leave the room, but I kiss him before I go and I dry his tears.
Two weeks later, the surgeon tells us he doesn’t need chemotherapy, as the tumor was very small. I have been having some banal conversations with my dad, just to amuse him or just to not think about his problem.
My dad tells me to come closer and I get up, slowly. I walk stumbling and then I reach the bed. My dad could smell the odor of alcohol that I had been carrying with me everywhere went.
“I know what you have been doing. You have to stop or one day you’ll be bedridden and I’ll be the one visiting you at the hospital”
He moves the oxygen mask aside now; he wants to ensure I’m going to listen to what he is going to say.
“Your sadness made me cry… You made a sick person cry, you made your father cry when he needed you the most.”
And then something happened. I could see disappointment in his eyes and this is a fact that still breaks my heart today. I didn’t speak a word and he understood.
We are all tested when we deal with our weaknesses and I chose not to be part of my family’s pain. And there is nothing I can say I learned from that, as I suppressed my feelings of feeling empathy for someone.
My dad has always been my arms and my eyes and he will always be. The cancer just proved to me that heroes exist. However, it also taught me that heroes often fail and most of the time, they need our help.