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Cancer is like an oncoming car right before an accident. No one sees it coming, and no one can stop it. It kills people, destroys families, and ruins lives. It’s truly menacing, but like I said, it can’t be stopped.
The day my father was diagnosed with cancer, it was spring. The day was warm and cloudy. There was a warm mist swirling in the air, and I could see only about ten feet in front of me. I was still in middle school. Eighth grade. Just 14 years old. At the time I was at a Residential Treatment Center in Logan, Utah. So we met with a therapist twice a week. My therapist’s name was Heather, and she usually met with me on Monday and Tuesday. It was a Thursday, and Heather and I had already met twice that week, so when she called me that day I knew something was up. When I got to her office, she had a pitiful look on her face, and told me my dad was on the phone. He had something to tell me. I walked in cautiously, I had no idea what was wrong, but I was getting an awful vibe from everyone. Heather took my dad off hold, and told him I was now in the room. He took a deep breath and told me he has stage 2 bladder cancer. At that moment I started crying. I was so scared. A 14-year-old girl, who’s best friend just told her he had cancer.
“Daddy, are you gonna die?” I cried out with a sob.
“Sweetie…” He stopped, and thought about what to say next.
“Daddy!” I shouted at the phone.
“Sweetie, the doctors are going to take really good care of me, but they can’t guarantee anything. I don’t want to make you a promise I may not be able to keep.”
I was sobbing. My dad just kept repeating the same words. “I’m sorry, I love you.”
Six months later, he was cancer free, he had gone through chemotherapy, radiation, and gotten his bladder removed. The doctors were hopeful, and so was I. That September he took me to a concert at TD Garden. It was my first Fall Out Boy concert and boy, oh boy was I excited. Little did I know my dad was dying. A few months later, in december, he took me to another Fall Out Boy show, and he had to sit down the entire time. I had never seen my Dad so empty of energy. He was usually a fun, hyper, upbeat person. I knew something was wrong, and the next morning my mom and I took him to the hospital. They did a biopsy, spine down, and found nothing.
It was february of 2018, my dad and I were out for Chinese food, and he said to me, “Sweetie, do you have any aspirin?”
I replied with a sweet, “No, suck it up, you’ll be fine.”
30 minutes later he was on the floor of the restaurant unconscious. I immediately called 911, and then my mom. My mother was doing some shopping around the corner, so she got there before the ambulance. The hospital was a block away, so we decided that he’d get there faster if we just took him. We laid him down carefully in her backseat and sped to the hospital. When we got there my mom and I ran in and were yelling for help. A few nurses came out with a gurney and took him inside. They did a bunch of tests, but couldn't figure out what was wrong. Then I remembered he told me that he had a headache. I told the doctors, and they asked if he had a history of cancers or medical problems. My mom and I both responded with yes. He asked me if my dad had been touching or rubbing a specific part of his head. I told him he’d been pressing into the base of his neck. The doctor told us he needed to do an emergency biopsy. We just stared at them while they sped my dad out of the room. He looked like a corpse on a medical examiners table, about to be cut open. I started to cry from fear. I had adrenaline flowing through me, like the injections they were giving my dad. I could tell my mom was just as scared as me.
She said, “Honey, everything will be okay.”
I replied sharply, “You don’t know that!”
She sighed defeatedly. I could tell I had upset her.
“I’m sorry, I’m just really nervous.”
I was crying, and she just took me into her arms, and told me to fall asleep, because it would be a while. I didn’t even know how exhausted I was, and before I knew it I was asleep. When I woke up, my mom had her eyes closed, and she was snoring faintly. There were doctors talking outside of the room, and when I got up, one of them, a woman, came into the room and gestured for me to sit next to my mom. I sat, reluctantly, anxious to hear what the problem was. I tapped my mom to wake her up. Once she was awake, the doctor started telling us what was happening.
“Nancy, Jessica, I’m doctor McClain. I’m the doctor assigned to Bob.”
“Nice to meet you.” My mom and I said in unison.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you both this, but Bob has been diagnosed with another two tumors. Both of them are malignant, and both are in his brain.”
“Okay, well, is he okay?” My mom said.
“Yes Ma’am, he’s okay. He’s obviously in a lot of pain, due to where the tumors are. One is attacking his brainstem, which sends messages to the rest of the brain, and one is attacking his parietal lobe, which processes the pain.”
My mom then started to look very worried. We all stopped talking, to leave the final question looming in the air.
“Is it terminal,” I blurted out. I regretted saying it the moment I let the words out.
“I’m very sorry to say it is.”
She gave me and my mom a moment to comprehend the news, then continued.
“I want to let you guys know that his mind is going to start to fade. The tumor on his brainstem is slowly progressing, so he should be able to walk until the very end. However, the one on his parietal lobe is fast-moving, and I’m afraid will be the one to kill him. Would you like to know which parts of his brain will be the first to go?”
We both shook our heads. “Yes.”
“Alright. First, his parietal lobe is going to be taken over, and he will start to feel extreme pain in his head. That’s when we’ll start having to medicate him. He will be a little out of it. After his parietal lobe, if he isn’t dead by then, his frontal lobe will be taken. He will start to lose touch of what is going on, and will eventually not know anything going on.”
My mom and I were both crying, so she stopped talking. I didn’t want to hear any more. Neither did my mom.
That night, after my mom and I left the hospital we got a phone call. My dad had woken up, and was stable enough for us to visit the next day. My mom and I went to bed, knowing that he didn’t have a lot of time. Neither of us slept much that night. I woke up at 6AM the next day. I had to go back to school. I was going to school in CT, two and a half hours away. My weekend home was coming to an end. My mom asked me if I wanted to visit my dad. I said yes.
When we got to the hospital, we walked in, not knowing what to expect. My mom and I cautiously walked up to the front desk, and the nurse asked us who we were visiting. We told her my dad's name, and she gave us his room. 47D floor 12. We took the elevator up, and when the doors opened at the 12th floor, it smelled like sickness and sterilization. I was overwhelmed by the smell, but I wanted to see my dad. We walked up to 47D and saw that he and another person were in that room. We knocked, and walked in. My dad had a huge smile on his face. He was obviously on a lot of medication. I ran over to him, and gave him a hug. He smiled, and told me I was his princess, and always would be.
We left after about an hour of talking to him. My mom gave me 50 dollars for school, and said so long. I got on the train, and after we left I immediately started crying. When I got back to school, one of our administrators picked me up at the train station. For about two months, my dad was doing fine. He was still sick, but he was okay. Then, when May came around, crap hit the fan.
It was May of 2018, and I was at school. The beginning of spring was good, I had good grades, and was doing well on my finals. It was Thursday, so classes were short. I was called out of my 2nd period class to the Main Office. My school advisor was waiting for me, and she rarely pulls me out during the school day, so I got extremely nervous when I saw her. She pulled me into an office, and told me that I needed to go home. My dad was dying. I just sat there shaking, staring at her, not sure what to say. She told me that she and I were going to go pack up a bag with enough clothes for a week, and I was going home on the 11:00am train. When we got to the train station, she and I got some food at a chinese restaurant next door. I got on the train, still trying to comprehend what was happening. I knew that my dad was sick, but I didn’t think he was going to die. He couldn’t die, I needed him. He was my best friend.
On the train, I started to understand everything, and I burst out crying. People were looking at me as if I was a crackhead. Then, a woman came over and sat with me. She asked me if I was okay, and I told her everything. My dad being sick, me being at boarding school, being homesick, and being pulled out of school. She hugged me, a stranger who had never met me. I cried into her for the majority of the train ride, and when I got to south station my mom was there to pick me up. She pulled me into a big sloppy hug, and whispered to me how sorry she was. By then I thought I was done crying. When she hugged me I burst out in tears again. She just stroked my hair, and told me everything was okay.
After I was settled down, my mom told me that we were going out to eat with my aunt and my dad’s best friend. We went to my favorite restaurant, called Bertuccis. When I walked in, the smell of breadsticks and pasta wafted into my nose. It was instantly calming, which was exactly what I needed. My dad's best friend David got there a few minutes later, however my Aunt was almost an hour late. My mom and I thought that was weird, so when she finally got there we asked where she was. She told us that she had visited the hospice my dad was staying at, and they told her that he was in a lot of pain. So she wrote off on them putting him into a deep sleep for him to die peacefully. At that moment, my stomach dropped to the floor and my heart stopped. I wasn’t going to be able to say goodbye to him. I had so many things I wanted to tell him, that I never would get to. It only took a minute for that sadness to turn into another emotion: anger. Deep, burning, fury towards my aunt. In my mind she basically killed him. Not the cancer, not the chemotherapy, but her. Aunt. Fricking. Ellen. The woman who took away my chance to say goodbye.
After she told me that, I walked out of the restaurant with my mom. I wanted to see him. See what she did. My mom brought me to the hospice, and I ran up to his room with my favorite blanket. I stopped at the closed door, and it took me a minute to gather the courage to go inside. However, when I did, I immediately regretted it. He was sleeping. Snoring louder than I’ve ever heard him. He looked at peace, however it was still incredibly hard for me to watch. I started to cry, and eventually I started to scream. I don’t remember when soft tears turned into tearing screams, but the hospice nurses came in, and I yelled and yelled asking them to wake him up. When they told me they couldn’t, I cried even harder. I had to be escorted outside, and they told me once I calmed down, I could go back in. I cried, and cried, and cried, and screamed. Once I calmed down, and was just sulking, I went back in. I went up the hospice stairs, which seemed steeper than ever, and put my blanket on him. I then walked back outside, got into my mom’s car, and made her drive me home. That was the quietest car ride in my entire life. That night, at home, we got a phone call. It was my Aunt. She told us that my dad passed away, peacefully, with my blanket still on him. To this day, I sleep with that blanket every night. And I cherish all the good memories I had with my father.