Everyone says the same thing over and over: It all happened so fast, so out of nowhere. I thought those were things you said about a stroke, not about cancer. Cancer is supposed to be slow. It is supposed to give you a chance to say goodbye. And brain cancer is supposed to be the sort of horrible thing that happens to other people, a roommate of a cousin; a friend of a former boss, someone you once knew.
My DH and I both work in fields directly related to cancer. DH sits on a tumor board and every other Wednesday he cuts up brains. My dad himself was a cancer researcher. He trained neurologists. How ironic is that? Years ago I used to spend summers in his lab, working on drugs closely related to Temodar. But when the disease hit him–hit us–nothing helped. All any of us could do with all of our goddamn degrees was pick him up when he fell and buy an increasing supply of specialized medical equipment to help with his growing physical challenges. Most of it was only useful for a couple of weeks, because the situation just kept going downhill until whatever previous awful situation we had been in a few weeks ago generally looked quite good. Some of it never made it out of the box.
What do you do with an extra Hoyer lift?
My dad never lost his gentle kindness though, even when he lost everything else. It was the reason my mom married him. The nondenominational hospice chaplain told me it was good that I could find grace where it was offered. I honestly don’t have much use for a chaplain, but for some reason he’s always the one who calls back when I have questions for the nurse, so we’ve gotten to be friends a little.
I have looked up the signs of the end. I wait for the pallor, the mottling, whatever. I keep at my job through it all. I want another baby someday. I will need to save the leave. And yet I feel disloyal thinking of the future and making plans for life without someone I love. The thoughts burst in my head like papparazzi flashes. I think of fleeing the country and moving to a gated community in India; I go online and look at jobs and pick out houses and know that I am never actually going to go. I think of my uncle’s end, many years ago, and of my own end someday. I wonder how naive I was to think that my father might live long, that because I have so little other family and because my mom just had cancer he might be spared. I feel ungrateful for knowing that others have it worse, had less time than I did.
And because I can no longer help it, I write.