How cancer brought our family closer

My father is dying.

Not in the ‘we’re all dying, one day at a time’ dying, but in the ‘his days are numbered’ dying. In December 2017, he was diagnosed with stage 4 metastasized prostate cancer.

Our family had always been close-ish. The one thing that my sister and I had been taught since we were children was that you don’t need to rely on anyone to get through life. Nor do you need to depend on anyone for your happiness. Independence meant surviving on your own, no matter if you were in a stable relationship or not. It was a lesson I took to heart until today.

On a hindsight, I probably completely misunderstood what they meant as I look back on my childhood.

My parents’ marriage wasn’t perfect – it had its ups and downs, and when my sister and I moved out of the house, their lives seemed to be going separate ways. There were moments when I believed that the way their marriage was going, divorce would have been kinder. My father had his landscaping business and my mother was busy with her own projects. My sister lived in Halifax (she has since moved in the same city as my parents), and more often than not, called when things were going horrible. As for myself, I had my own life with my family and visited every so often.

On December 3rd, 2017, two days after my parents had seen the doctor, our family reunited to receive the devastating news that would forever change our lives.

At the age of 59, he had stage 4 prostate cancer. The prognosis? There were none since it had spread to his pelvic bones and lymph nodes. The cancer was so aggressive that his leg would swell to twice its normal size and blocked his sciatic nerve, making it almost impossible to walk.

Within days of his diagnosis, he was given and 5000$ a month medical regiment to control his hormones, his cancer and pain. To this day, I can’t even imagine the stress cancer patients without proper insurance that covers these treatments can hold on to hope. My father is lucky since his insurance that manages to remove that stress.

For months, the diagnosis was positive. His back pain was controlled, almost gone. His cancer hadn’t spread. And he was feeling healthier, all things considering. The prognosis was looking better.

Sadly, today, his cancer is ‘back’ and wreaking havoc. While some tests came back ‘normal’, others are getting worst. He needs to start chemotherapy to extend his life.

So how did this diagnosis help our family?

My father’s philosophy has become:

Don’t wait to live your life until it’s the last moment. Then it’ll be too late to do something you’ve always wanted to do and you’ll taste regret.

Death is not easy, even knowing that it can happen at any moment is worst. But it’s helped him to appreciate the small things, such as the moments he spends with his granddaughter. My sister and I. Every single moment he has with my mother. Ther laughter. The tears. The pain that wakes him up in the middle of the nigth and reminds him he’s still alive. This diagnosis has cemented their marriage in ways neither could have expected.

I’ve learned so much of their history – how they met, how they wish to spend as much time together as possible and take all those trips around the world before it’s too late. I’ve learned to take chances, leaps and not let fear reign.

My sister has let go of her anger at the world and appreciates every piece of happiness she can get. She and I are closer than ever even if we drive one another bonkers.

As for my mother. I can’t even begin to understand her grief and fears. I can’t begin to explain her strengths and her beliefs. This diagnosis has proven to her that my father is the love of her life and she will fight for his survival.

As a family, we’ve come to realize that things are nice to have but the time we have together is more precious than air. Our love for one another more important than our bank accounts. When one is in pain, we’ll ralye and support them while they go through this moment in their lives when all they see is black. This the worst time our lives and I wish I could say we’ll have the best happy ending ever- but I can’t. We can only hope for the best.

So tonight, when you get home, remember the love that surrounds you and the joy your loved ones brings you because that is our most prized possession.

For more information, statistics, up to date available treatments or to donate, visit Prostate Cancer Canada today at http://www.prostatecancer.ca/

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