We’ve made a complete circle around the sun since my father-in-law passed. In the last year a lot has changed but the most surprising is how much remains the same.
My husband’s father was his best friend and from the moment they told us the cancer had returned I worried about the gaping hole that would be left in his life. He holds it close to the vest but I know it’s there. However, it’s not a gaping hole so much as a wound that keeps being reopened. It sneaks up on us without warning because the truth is that most of the time life is so… normal. We cook breakfast, take a shower, switch on the TV. Normal. And then a human interest story on the news highlighting a young girl’s discovery of what could become a cure for cancer brings tears. Tears of regret and tears of hope.
Regret that this discovery came too late for him, hope that it might help my husband and my children. Because I have a secret, nagging worry about them getting cancer. During the weeks leading up to my father-in-law’s death I was privy to many conversations between him and various doctors. The one that stands out the most is one in which he was giving his medical history. The doctor was going down his checklist of family members- parents, siblings, aunts, uncles. The answer was almost always the same. Cancer. I looked at my father-in-law; weakened and in pain (not knowing that the worst was yet to come) and my heart thundered in my ears. Is this the fate that awaits my husband? My children?
The idea that this genetic time-bomb is ticking away inside my family scares the hell out of me. Not because they might die- I am not so naive to think we’ll live forever. No, cancer doesn’t scare because it can kill. It scares me because of the WAY it kills. The level of suffering I witnessed in the last weeks of my father-in-laws life was beyond what I could have imagined. I don’t know if it’s possible to fully understand without experiencing it and to be honest I’m not even going to try. Mostly because a year later it still breaks my heart and I just can’t bring myself to say, much less write, some of the things I witnessed.
It’s a little bit amazing that after something like that life goes on but it does. Here we are, a year later, making breakfast, taking a shower, switching on the TV. Today there was a break in the normal to remember with sadness but also, thanks to Angela Zhang, to look forward with hope.