Dad on the far right circa 1975. This photo's as off-kilter as life seems to be these days...

Dad on the far right circa 1975. This photo’s as off-kilter as life seems to be these days…

My father has cancer. Not just any cancer, but a racquetball-sized tumor in his nasopharynx that is slowly overtaking his ability to hear, swallow and eat. The good news is that despite the aggressiveness of the growth, the prognosis is extremely positive. Odds are, he’ll be OK. Or at least the odds are in his favor – which means his future looks much more favorable than my mother’s did at the time she was diagnosed with lung cancer three and a half years ago.

Ah yes, cancer. To be honest, it’s a fucking pain in the ass. And I’m not even the one who has to go through the radiation and chemo. I won’t be losing my sense of taste, hearing and maybe the ability to swallow for a year. I certainly won’t be the one who may require a feeding tube, home healthcare and all the other bullshit administered by people who say things like, “on a scale of one to ten, how much pain are you feeling?”

And yet, I am feeling pain. It fluctuates – from a three to a five and maybe on my worst days, maybe a six and one quarter. Five years ago I was sailing through life, having largely avoided any of the nonsense that cancer brings to a family. And then, the smoking caught up with my mother. And now, who knows what’s caught up with my father (his cancer is ridiculously rare)? And here I am, the living cliché of the oldest daughter, trying to determine where he’ll live, what kind of care he’ll need, what his insurance will pay for and the big fat stinking lot of all of the crap you have to deal with when someone you love has cancer.

So there’s that. And I have to make sure I don’t completely screw up my job and lose a big account or let anyone down. And I have to make sure that my little family – my amazing husband and darling critters don’t get shortchanged of time and attention any more than they already do. And I have to navigate through the bullshit that defines sibling relationships (resentments, jealousies and issues of control). Oh, and yeah, I have to make my dad feel better: “No, you’re not a burden.” “Really, I’m happy to do it.” “Is there anything else you need me to do?”

If other members of this club are known as the “sandwich generation“, then I’m a freaking double-stuffed Oreo.

I’d like to feel sorry for myself, but I just can’t. I know people who are dealing with pain, grief and situations so terrible it would make me crumble after only a minute of trying to endure it.I have a loving husband and children. I have a roof over my head and friends who care about me. I have vacations planned, a rewarding job and as safe a place to live as could possibly exist. I have healthcare. Most importantly, I have freedom.

Good perspective to keep I think. As this ridiculous journey progresses, I only hope that I can keep it.

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been
the foresight to know where you’re going
and the insight to know when you’re going too far.

– Irish Blessing

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