Dare to Tell – Day 33
When I was about 12 my dad got a second diagnosis of cancer. He had been sick as a young man but at 21, just before he went into the navy, it went into remission. I was about to go into 7th grade.
That summer, my mom was going through a rough time while he was in the hospital. My 3 sisters and I spent a lot of time with our cousins in Ohio.
I remember the night I was in my bed and I asked Mom “Is he going to die?” I wanted that someone would tell me. Everyone was talking around it. She just came out and said yes.
There was a lot of support for the family from neighbors and friends, but no one was talking about the issue.
My dad was going through a lot; he knew that he was dying. He had been told that they may be able to isolate the cancer by removing his arm. I remember watching him from the window. He was in the wood shed trying to chop wood with one arm. I guess he was trying to figure out if he could manage if he had to lose his arm.
In the end the cancer spread too fast.
I became a runner that year; it was my sacred place. I had an amazing coach, he took me under his wing, we never talked about what was going on but they all knew.
One weekend in the fall, my mom had planned with the hospice to bring Dad home. He had deteriorated a lot and we knew that the end was near. Dad had always said he wanted to die at home.
That weekend there was a big cross country meet with lots of schools. My mom said that I should go; I had her permission even though Dad was coming home. I knew that he was going to die, I knew in my heart. I’m going to run, and my Dad is going to die.
While I was running the race, I was very excited. I was the youngest on the team. My goal was to finish the top 50 and to win a shirt. I was thinking about him as I ran; it’s what kept me going.
There was pain going through the race, maybe there was some serenity in the end. I knew as I was running he was dying and as I finished he wasn’t with us anymore.
I got home and my family had gathered around. I don’t remember much, I went up to my bedroom and then mom and my aunt came to console me. Dad didn’t want a funeral; he wanted us to move on. There was no conversation, we didn’t talk about it. The next day we went to school.
There was no time for respite, we knew it was coming but when I reflect back on it, it would have been nice if we had taken some time. I took that with me my whole life. Whenever there was a challenge or a hurdle I just worked through it but I never stopped, never looked after myself.
It took me 30 something years to figure this out. I’ve learned resilience but you can ask for help and support, it’s not a weakness.
I think of my dad every day. My father had a terrible temper; we were all yelled at. But he was my dad. My sister admitted that she was relieved when Dad died. I get that but I don’t want to get it. It’s sad to me. It’s hard to admit and hard to remember that we had to walk on eggshells around him.
Mom always said that we should remember him healthy; but I do remember both sides of him. He yelled a lot more at me for some reason and I have always repressed that. I’ve told myself that he was a great dad and that he loved me; he was and he did. I prefer to remember the positive.
I think about how much he would have enjoyed meeting my kids. My mom always said that he would have been proud of me, but I never really got to hear those words from him.
I have no regrets about going to the meet. Running is a huge part of my life. When I have a big decision to make or a particular situation that I need to understand or come to terms with, I run.
Running is my creative time, it’s where I sort stuff out, it’s my release; it’s my sacred space.
Back then it was the decision to take care of myself, to do this for me. It’s a discipline, it’s resilience, it’s my life.