I have to admit that I have not spent a lot of time wondering, in either a cosmic or theological sense, why I have lymphoma (some day, as an academic in public health I’d like to figure out what actually caused the disease, but that is for another day). I will admit to a few moments of anger at God and the universe following my diagnosis, but it is not a question I dwell on. I do not feel particularly singled-out: many people get lymphoma and other diseases, and many people, unlike me, do not respond to treatment whatever the disease. Ends are almost always untimely, and I am thankful that mine remains far, far in the future (perhaps still far enough that I’ll even learn to love shuffle board and the early bird special). I have to be thankful for all that I have in the lymphoma context: a disease that seems to be treatable, an incredible team treating me, and an amazing support system that has gotten me through this in one piece minus the hair and about 15 pounds give or take a few.
But I have not been alone in my family in this journey through illness. As you all now know, if you’ve been following my blog at all, my father is gravely ill with kidney cancer. His remaining time with us seems to grow shorter with each day, and yesterday and today were the first days he was unable to get on the phone, having been in a deep, deep sleep for almost all of that time. My sister and mom are now left with the task of relaying my love to my father as I am stuck here in Philly for the moment. It is a horrible situation.
My dad’s had cancer for 9 years, and for the most part has never been really sick (except for a few treatments and the time he was misdiagnosed with bone metastases when it was really just a staph infection. That was fun.). He has been a remarkable patient, always confident in his chances, and surviving so far out on the “curve” for his disease that he is considered an outlier, or a miracle, or both.
That his most recent recurrence and the severe illness that has followed coincided with my treatment is both a terrible coincidence and a Yudell family nightmare. For my dad, even though he knew I was beating the hell out of this thing, I wished the timing of this were different, and that he never had to see a day of his life with me in treatment. Even more so, I wished I had a magic wand to make him better. For my mother and sister, having to worry about me in the hospital as they nurse my dad down in Florida is horrible. And for Jacqui and I, worrying about my dad down in Florida as we deal with me and my recovery is sad and lonely. Mostly I feel helpless because I can’t be there to help in my dad’s care, to offer support to my mom and sister, or to give my dad a hug and tell him in person how much I love him.
The good news of course is that my lymphoma is gone and that the chemo and neutropenic fevers were all for good reason. I just never thought that my life would take so many twists and turns at the same time. I still don’t feel singled out in some “why me” sense, but even with the arrival of the beautiful Sophia, and even with my lymphoma gone, my family deserves a huge break, and my father deserves better.