Trying to Make Sense of Cancer

The view from my dad's hospital room has become all too familiar recently.

The view from my dad’s hospital room — nice under other circumstances, but all too familiar of late.

Having a sick family member is a psychological tug of war, for lack of a better way of putting it.

As my dad enters his third week in the hospital, I obviously feel a lot of sadness for him, my mom, family and friends… even my dad’s cats. It breaks my heart to think about how one of the people I love the most in this world is essentially confined indefinitely to a medical prison on the seventh floor of the University of Minnesota East Bank Medical Center, unable — at least for the time being — to spend his well-earned retirement at the cabin or, for that matter, to even breathe fresh air.

But then I contemplate how illness is an inevitable part of life. I reflect on how there’s little I can do about the situation aside from being there for my parents as much as possible and on how unconstructive being sad is, even if it is inevitable to a point.

It’s not a dualistic thing. A mixture of sadness and resignation have characterized my mental state most of the time over the past month, along with moments of levity and optimism amid all the blood infusions and talk of blast cells. There’ve definitely been times we’ve shared a laugh, times I’ve listened as my pops has shared anecdotes from a life well-lived no matter what happens from here. (He’s written some songs on an acoustic guitar in the hospital and is in the process of recording them in his room during the fleeting moments when there isn’t a nurse or nursing assistant around. I’ve heard one of them, and suffice it to say it’ll be a fascinating demo.)

The whole experience, however, has been emotionally and intellectually exhausting. That’s obviously a very small burden compared to what my dad is going through.

So as he prepares for another round of chemo, I’ll likely continue the hiatus from blogging that began right around the time his health took a turn early last month. Right now, it just seems appropriate to devote most of my energy to being as present as possible and processing things rather than trying to write about them, though there may be times when I find writing therapeutic.

My focus has mostly been devoted to what’s going on in that hospital and trying to make whatever sense I can of it, both in the immediate and long-term sense, so I’m not as invested on day-to-day current events or politics as much as I usually am. (Sports have been a nice escape — watching Twins games on TV is one of my dad’s favorite pastimes. Thank goodness they’re in a playoff race for a change!)

My goal was to end this post with some pithy words of wisdom I’ve gained through this ordeal, but frankly, I don’t have any to offer beyond obvious cliches right now. So I’ll just say that your well-wishes and prayers are appreciated.

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