Rarely do I get super personal in blog posts. It’s hard to since it’s almost impossible to monitor who reads what you write and you don’t want to offend anyone or anything like that. Not to mention, it isn’t nearly as fun to read stories like this. But they are necessary every once and a while, and I’ve recently seen some bloggers I admire posting increasingly personal posts, giving me bundles of courage to dive in. Today is that day that I feel like writing a personal, personal post. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Cancer has a special, fucked up place, in my heart. And my husband as well. And just about everyone else. When I was six years old, my father died of cancer. Sarcoma to be more specific. I don’t really know what sarcoma is. I try not to remember details, but I do know it killed him. I do know it left my mother without a husband, and me without a father. It left my grandma without a son, my aunts and uncles without a baby brother. It sucked. It thoroughly sucked, and that’s the only way I can describe it. I am inclined to say “I can’t even imagine the tragedy” but I lived it. Even so, it’s hard to remember that it happened, and wasn’t just some movie or unattached memory. I lived it. My mom lived it. We lived it together.
I don’t remember much. But I remember he made me happy. I remember he loved me, truly loved me. Even though I was young, I felt his love – I knew his love. I knew because of the tickles. I knew because of the Vikings games. I knew by the sound of his voice and the way he looked at me. I will never forget it. He wasn’t a perfect man. There are some things I remember that I wish I didn’t, like when my mom told me that my daddy probably was going to die, like when my own father forgot who I was. Some are stories that aren’t mine to tell. Some stories are just stories I don’t need to share with anyone, for some reason they feel just a little bit more special that way.
After that scary, tragic, emotionally charged day, week, month, year, life went on. Because life always goes on, it doesn’t stop for you. The world keeps spinning, people keep living their lives as if nothing has happened. As if the single most important person in your life hasn’t just up and left. The world continues as if there isn’t a gaping hole in your heart in the shape of your father, husband, son, or brother. I went on to first grade. My mom got us a house. Second grade. Third grade. Fourth grade. Fifth grade…
Six grade, the year my mom married my step father, Jeffrey. I call him Jeffrey, or my step father, because the word dad will always be reserved for my biological father. A sign of respect, loyalty, I’m not sure. I can’t call anyone dad other than Jon Bishop. But, Jeffrey is my father. Jeffrey is my dad, I just don’t call him that. He is my real father. There’s nothing fake about it. And I’m his daughter. But I’ve always felt the need to distinguish between him and my real, true biological father. Biological has always made it seem like I’m adopted or something. But Jeffrey has loved me even when he hated me, drove me to my first day of college, walked me down the aisle at my wedding, and has been my father longer than my real dad ever had the opportunity to.
And now I’m reliving it all over again. Jeffrey has cancer, my second father, he has cancer just like my first. He has Leukemia. A word I couldn’t even spell until a little over a year ago. And I hate that I know how to spell it now. L-E-U-K-E-M-I-A. But that’s the way it is. This is my movie, this is his movie, this is my moms movie, and my baby brothers as well. Unlike my dads, I will remember each and every scene of this movie. I haven’t decided if that’s better or worse. I will always remember the pang in my heart, knowing that the call from my parents was bad news, just knowing. I’ll never forget the sound in Jeff’s voice when he told me he had gone to the hospital and his blood results came back weird. I’ll never forget asking if he has cancer, and the tweak in his voice when he said “well, they think I might. But we don’t know. It’s okay, sweetie” and thinking No it’s not, I’ve done this before. I can remember how scared I was for my little brother. How scared I was for Jeffrey. And how heartbroken I was for my mother. I remember looking at Ryan, breaking down and silently apologizing for expecting him to know how to react to something like that, especially having lost his own mother to breast cancer.
But I also remember the relief that came with his diagnosis. This could be the reason for the two strokes/TIA’s he had the past year. Maybe there’s an answer there now. I remember finding out it wasn’t terminal. The relief that comes with this news is indescribable, especially after spending my entire life associating terminal with my father Jon. I thought, My real dad had terminal cancer. My real dad died. Maybe Jeffrey won’t die.
But it is still cancer. Cancer. A dirty word in and of itself, it doesn’t need ‘terminal’ pinned on it to be scary, to be terrifying. Many people know and understand this, many people don’t. People that don’t know this should consider themselves blessed, because they are. I wish I could live in a world where the six letter word didn’t send me into a whirlwind of emotions, where Jeffrey wouldn’t be reminded that he is sick, and my little brother wouldn’t be scared. That would be a nice world to live in.
Everything is okay right now. I’ve have learned to count my blessings more often, and be thankful for the things I do have. But there are a lot of things that could be better, health insurance for example, could be better and difficulties in that arena prevent a lot of necessary care for Jeffrey. This post isn’t a cheap attempt to talk politics, but difficulties with health insurance have nearly killed my step father multiple times. Something that a lot of people (again) are very blessed to not experience or know. Our health insurance system is really screwed up, people. But that is for a later time.
This is me being real. I’m terrified. Every day I am terrified. Even more than that, I am heartbroken. My heart breaks for Jeffrey, who shouldn’t have to be sick, and shouldn’t have to worry about everyone else worrying about him. My heart breaks for my mom, but most of all for my little brother.
I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone any of this. Except maybe my husband. I don’t want others worrying about me. I don’t want to cheapen the emotions of other people in the situation, or similar situations. But this is my blog, and this is me being real. I’m scared, and I’m hurting for my family.