Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dad's Cancer

It's funny how life will throw you ups and downs. It's amazing how we can control some things and have no control over other things. God grant me the serenity to accept the things.....
Rule Number 1: Some things can never be changed.
Rule Number 2: People cannot change Rule #1.

On Saturday morning I received a call from my 74 year-old father. He had a very somber tone on the telephone. I knew something was wrong. I thought immediately of my mother, who had been in frail health last summer. I was wondering if something happened to my brother Scott or sister Sarah. Then the words came out in their usual physician precision, but they had an air of somber like I've never heard uttered before. Dad said he had cancer, a malignant growth had been detected starting on his ear, which was previously thought to be basal cell stuff, harmless. He proceeded to state that there was a 1.6 percent of this kind of thing developing into a malignant problem. I could tell he was tearful as he spread the news, but I knew he needed to be honest with himself and to us. Tears started to well up as I asked him more about the condition. He said he didn't know how far the nodes had spread and that there was still hope of a recovery, but also pointed out that scenario may not be as positive depending on what they find.

As he was telling me this, I started thinking of all the good talks we have had, and the good times on the sailboat and the constantly receptive father he has been in my life. The only problem during my childhood is that I didn't consult with him enough. I thought of the limited time, that he may not see my son Ryan graduate and most probably will not see him get married, that he will be sad that his grandchildren's lives will forever be question marks to him and that he could only hope for the best. I told him that we would all support him and be positive and hopeful no matter what. I said I was worried about Mom and that I hoped she was able to cope with the news. Dad was the primary caregiver for Mom when she had the stomach problems last summer. Who would Mom turn to without Dad there, a frightening thought. After our tearful 25 minute call I found myself being very thankful for my father's positive outlook on life and in so many words I had told him that. Dad is so much a part of my life. From an early age he took interest in me. I remember watching the Green Bay Packers with him in the family room on our old Zenith black and white TV and talking about our idol, Bart Starr. We used to watch this show called "The 21st Century" with Walter Cronkite and dream about how great the future would be. (there is Dad's positive outlook shining through!) He would give me ideas to ponder like: Part of life is pain, and it's our mental outlook which is most important. Life gives back what you are willing to put into it. In life we are often defined by our performance, not only our thoughts but how we follow through with actions. The biggest thing with Dad was not his words of wisdom. He is a doer. Actions speak louder than words, walk the walk and talk the talk, etc.

I am also impressed by his love of politics, especially being a JFK democrat, politics which I share with him today. Dad said he crushed when John Kerry lost the 2004 election but was equally elated when Obama won in 2008. I shared his elation.

Dad is an Horatio Alger story. He was the son of a mailman, a gentle man named Carl, but who was known as Jack. (Grandpa Jack to me) Dad has his Dad's gentle kindness but combined with an intense desire to make himself the best he can be, to compete and show the world what he can do. Dad would tell me how he would stand up and put his books on the upper bunk bed in college and study so he wouldn't fall asleep. They called him "Johnny High Pockets." in high school because he wore suspenders with his pants stretched up past his waist. Humble and kind Johnny made quite a success of himself and told me a few years ago, that if he would have lived his life over again, he wouldn't change a thing.

I love you Dad.


ps. Dad is scheduled to see specialists at the Mayo Clinic next week to get a Pet Scan, chest film, some chemistry tests, ENT will do biopsy of lymphnodes, including sentinel node biopsy. They will inject some sort of dye to determine where the trouble spots may be. We are all a little on edge but cautiously optimistic. And I might add, we are all somewhat in denial that such a giant could be so mortal.