My Dad Has Cancer

My dad has cancer the thought bounces around in my head back and forth from subconscious to conscious second by second. My dad has cancer. I can’t help it. It’s a metronome melody that has committed itself to my cognitions. My dad has cancer.  

I stood on the side of interstate 75 examining my car that was just hit by a driver who did not stop. My dad has cancer. I hurried back in the car and immediately thanked God that it was not worse than what it was. Unsightly scratches and a busted taillight. My dad has cancer this was nothing in comparison. 

He asked me how I was doing. Fine? I told him confused by the random display of concern. My dad has cancer. Oh. You’re checking in because...Yeah, he would confirm. I didn’t know whether you wanted that or to be left alone because you know if it were me... My dad has cancer and I realized that it wasn’t just someone. Anyone. It was my dad. Technically my step dad, but emotionally the man who was in my life doing all the dad shit since I was 9 years old. And now my dad has cancer?  

I told my mom I had a feeling it was bad. Weeks prior I mimicked his symptoms of nausea, pain and discomfort. And when my sister utter the words... Dad has cancer I knew that I’d been feeling what he was feeling. I told my mom I could smell it. I couldn’t tell the difference between the pain of my hit and run, my general anxiety muscle spasms and the concern I had for my family. I worried about my mom taking on the stress with no outlet and irregular self care. I worried my sister would feel the need to thicken her skin to grow seemingly immune to the pain. I worried my other sister would run so far and so fast away from the pain that she would collapse in exhaustion too far from my arms reach. Our dad has cancer. 

It isn’t fair to make his diagnosis about me. As much as my dad’s cancer rocked us, I can’t imagine how often the thought crosses his mind  perhaps the mantra is double time; 2/2 versus my 4/4  staccato crescendo and with feeling. I haven’t had the nerve to ask him. And if I’m being honest I don’t know if I have the courage to see him lean into the reality of his diagnosis. My dad has cancer don’t i owe it to him to ask him what that means? What that feels like? 

I woke up this morning incapable of getting dressed. Frantic about whether my clothes were appropriate for work. What they communicated. My dad has cancer can’t I just wear yoga pants and a hoodie? I cry angrily tossing clothes around my closet cursing respectability politics and the notion of business profession dress. I’m spout out leadership theory that supports authenticity and extended that to personal dress. Who am I talking to? My dad has cancer and I can’t get myself out of my house. I don’t have cancer. What is wrong with me? I “just” have anxiety disorder. My dad has cancer . Unknowingly I’d entered the pity olympics.  

I don’t know how to feel or what to do or what to say. I don’t know when to cry or when to put on a brave face. My dad has cancer and we are figuring it all out as we go along. I have PTSD and anxiety disorder and I have to remember not to become so submurged in other things that I forget to manage my own illnesses.  

My body isn’t sore from the hit and run. My car...well my car might look how I feel. Scratched  a little busted, but still capable of moving forward, of completing my journey. My dad has cancer and you know what? I have everything I need to be able to handle what it means and will mean to me. Everyone will have their own process but I have faith in my ability to endure and persist through mine. Plus, my dad has cancer but he is still very much alive and here. And I won’t miss a single moment of relishing in that delicious and important detail. 


Jessica WilliamsComment