Sunday, 5 August 2018

The Progression of my Dad's Cancer

Leaving for university is both exciting and terrifying enough without adding into the mix the anxiety about the condition in which you're leaving your father undergoing cancer treatment and the uncertainty of whether he's going to be OK. I'm sure anyone whose parent has experienced cancer, or actually a whole range of difficulties would say the same that I'm about to, because to us our parents are superhuman (minus the capes most of the time) and are our light in the dark, rock in the ocean, words of wisdom blah blah blah... but my dad is the strongest person I know. Mentally that is.

This is my beauty of a father enjoying an ice cream. His hair doesn't usually look so Tin-tin

From the moment my mum picked up the phone
to receive the bad news he hasn't faltered in his mindset or determination to beat it, and that's unchanging today. So if I inherit even an once of that strength, all will be forgiven for him passing on asthma and my damn anaphylaxis (all of which is his fault). I'm not saying he's perfect, far from it, but throughout enduring chemo, radiation, daily hospital visits and several drug trials, even at this stage where the doctors seem to be stabbing in the dark to find that coveted final treatment he's not shown a weakness yet. He's swum and cycled when possible, enjoyed day trips with me and other family, driven all the way to Glasgow (9 hours) to visit and pick me up, gone through a divorce and carried on working on the days he can. No-one can say that's not superhuman.

So I suppose I'm writing this now in hope that it might just help. Because we're suffering bad times again. Trying to take each day as it comes and accept that there isn't always a logical next step or anything more we can do to help, but to be honest I just need to feel the need to share what's going on, because the anxiety is getting me down sometimes.

Our journey began the summer before I started my A levels and began by being told it was non-hodgkins T-cell lymphoma which probably means nothing to you like it didn't to me. All you need to know is it's cancer within the lymph node system, aggressive and a bitch. We were told he would start treatment immediately and it was likely to be quite a quick ride, in fact, he'd had it before in his 20s so we all took that in confidence this would be easy.

This progressed to the initial chemo treatment not working, next on the list being radiation, again, a commute away into London a few days per week. While my sister studied in London and I finished my A levels, the daily battle continued but in a sense our lives also carried on as normal because my mum also seems to have the superhuman gene and was supporting the situation pretty much solo, although this did eventually lead to a burn out and sadly caused her severe anxiety and depression which I'm happy to say she has nearly recovered from (aren't families lovely and complicated ey?).

After taking a set of drugs and attending hospital a couple of times per week for a relatively stable period of health while I studied my first year at university I arrived home for the summer just as things seemed to be taking a turn for the worse and I sit writing this in my local Costa Coffee (sorry Starbucks fans, I love you too) on 1st August 2018 pondering how to stay strong in the best way for our family. He's now suffering with an enormous lump of cancer at the base of his neck on his left side which has cut off some of his blood supply, the entire arm is numb so he can't drive etc. and causes considerable amounts of pain. And it continues to grow.

Just climbed a mountain with cancer. No biggie. Also check out his cool hat

This week we're given up on his current treatment, and have an appointment with a doctor at King's College Hospital in London to discuss any options left which might be worth a shot, so I'm awaiting news of what was said. We all carry on, we live our lives the best we can and have created a support system amongst ourselves. His sisters (2 in particular out of 6) have been fantastic, so of course we're not alone, but the frustrating thing is that no-one can provide what's most needed. A treatment.

I'm partly writing in search of comfort that other people are in the same position and can understand. So if you are, stay positive for me, like my dad has never faltered in, and please continue to fight this disease the best you can and take life by the balls. Because it may be a bitch, but cancer can also teach us a hell of a lot.

Yours sincerely, Helen xox

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