On the Bright Side, That’s Why They Call it an “Opinion”

On the bright side, there’s still a second opinion to be had.

Midway though another crying jag, Debra gently told me that I had to assume the best instead of saying that my dad was going to die (in four to nine months, if the first opinion is to be believed). She was incredibly kind and firm and in that moment I realized that I underestimated her. I thought she was the best person I could have married and I knew she was making me a better person, but it wasn’t until i heard what she was saying and how she was saying it that I realized she’s better than I knew. So on the bright side, I’m really lucky to have married up.

The thing is, I can’t do what she asks. My mother and sisters have moved to a mindset of utter denial. Oh, dad has 5 years at least! When dad is 80 we’ll all have a good laugh about this. Dad and I need to get an RV we can use to travel cross country. Mom. Dad can’t drive. Like, ever, said the doctor. On the bright side, she was just one doctor.

I can tell dad I’m looking forward to father’s day next year but that’s about all I’ve got. Science says that it will be amazing if he gets five years. Actual science. This thing, that people don’t actually survive, doesn’t have miracles. It doesn’t give me comfort to tell myself that the doctor is obviously wrong (sister 1) or that dad is strong enough to beat it (sister 2). He isn’t a healthy, young women. There’s no promise that he’ll be “an exceptional responder”. There is no evidence that this cancer will spare him when it takes everyone else. There is no bright side.

In front of my mother, in front of my father, I am determined. I can believe that he will fight (that he can fight, at least, though he may not choose to). I can believe that he will have the best medical care. I can believe that we will do everything possible to give him as many days as we can squeeze out of this cancer. I can believe that we will take care of my mother through this. I can believe that anything is possible even if I can’t assume it’s probable.

i’ve dug deep trying to reframe denial as hope but it’s not who I am. I am practical. I am driven. I am determined. I am losing my father. On the bright side, I haven’t lost him yet.

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19 Responses

  1. So many good wishes headed your way. For strength, for hope, for peace, and for shared happiness in the months to come. I am thinking of you.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope everyone finds a page to all be on together and I hear what you’re saying about your mom and sisters. I have some relatives like that. Magical thinking is a very powerful force and the narrative of “fighting” cancer is…. um…. not always useful. I also hope there are some good hospice services available for him- I’ve seen them make such a big difference in the last months or even years, not just at the very very end.

    • We’ve just learned there’s a waiting list for the hospices in the area. It’s so hard to reconcile getting on a waiting list with a seemingly healthy person.

  3. Sending you love and light and strength and million million hugs. Such a hard position to be in; that careful balance of hope and reality.

  4. My granny had a salty phrase about opinions (okay, all of her sayings were salty….) that can be summed up as ‘everyone has one.’
    Attitude is everything in situations like this and magical thinking sometimes DOES make a difference.
    Sending lots of good thoughts your way. xo

  5. So much of this resonates. I was the “realist” among my siblings when our mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. My sister maintained denial until the bitter end and then she completely lost it and honestly has never recovered. I am so very sorry about your dad. Cherish every moment that you can while you can. Maybe he WILL beat it. But for what it is worth, I think you are going to be the one to handle it the healthiest way if he does not. You and your family are in my thoughts.

    • Thank you. Even as I’m living it, I can’t imagine it happening. I should probably hold my sisters closer instead of feeling so frustrated. I hope I can do that. Any words of wisdom are welcome!

  6. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family…I’m a realist like you, but i never underestimate the power of prayer and lifting someone up in light…I’ll be doing both for your dad….hugs to you all…

  7. I’m so sorry. Thinking of you all.

  8. This is Tara– I’ve been through this. Talking to Aimee recently; very similar feelings I remember too well. Please know you can always contact me if you want to talk about anything. We are thinking of you guys….

  9. Oh, I am so sorry to hear you’re going through this, and I am glad Debra is there to support you through this tough time. You know you’re right, but I suppose your mom and sisters need their denial right now. Virtual hugs from WI.

  10. I’ve been trying to think of the right words to say, and not coming up with anything useful. I’m of a deeply practical disposition myself, and usually aim for “hope for the best, prepare for the at least reasonably bad” in my approach. (The danger is, of course, that sometimes I anticipate the worst more than I should…)

    I hope the prognosis is wrong. I hope that your dad gets better. More practically, I hope that you are all able to relish the time you have with your dad, however much time that turns out to be. Many, many hugs to you all.

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